Saturday, June 04, 2005

The Left-Right Axis Redux: More on the War of Ideas

==Left vs Right: A Failed Axis? ==

Back to the issue of whether the "left" has run out of "ideas".... I am one of the leading proponents for abandoning the left-right axis, it is hard for me to say what are the leading ideas of the left. But let me try with a four-state metaphor.

Capital "L" Left = loony mystical platonists who want power over us so that they can (for our own good) ensure rule by philosopher kings who ERADICATE class differences.

Capital "R" RIGHT = loony mystical platonists who want power over us so that they can (for our own good) ensure rule by philosopher kings who EMPHASIZE class differences.

lower case "l" = left . To me, this stands for an emphasis on problem solving techniques that utilize the 'left hand' of negotiated COOPERATIVE CONSENSUS, including (but not entirely) the utilization of tax-gathered resources to be applied according to politically determined policies, always heeding the human tendency toward institutional calcification.

lower case "r" = right . To me, this stands for an emphasis on problem solving techniques that utilize the 'right hand' of COMPETITIVE CREATIVITY, within a market that generally responds to consumer desire... but that has also been tuned by consensus policies that strike a balance, avoiding excessive meddling while encouraging markets to heed overall civilization needs.

At long last, we are gradually finding out what the left and right hands are good for. What functions they perform with skill and which are best left to the other. With this increasing knowledge and sophistication arising, why should we RIGHT NOW start heeding the maniacs who want us to abandon pragmatic problem solving and pick just one hand?

(In fact, the lefty yearning for communitarian cooperation is just as simplemindedly moralistic as rightwing fundamentalism. It ignores what we have learned about EMERGENT PROPERTIES IN NATURE. How what looks like competition at one level is actually highly cooperative at the next or higher level. Markets are one example. Ecosystems are another. A gazelle being killed by a lion does not want to be told about competitive synnergies or the Circle of Life. But if a liberal can recognize that transcendance, why can't he see how it works in markets?)

Ayn Rand wants me to lop off my left hand and Marx wants the right amputated. They can both go to hell.

What I will not concede is that the right has been doing better at solving problems. When I see the Insurance Industry completely revamped so that it CAPITALISTICALLY provides the vast array of services that people depend on from government, from the FDA and OSHA to medical research (Barry Goldwater wanted to begin this adventure) then I will admit that the right hand has truly started showing off new ideas.

Alas, I am falling ever farther behind.

==Losing the War of Ideas?==

A number of people have pointed out this article in Nature this week on the role of Oxytocin (the "Hug Drug") and trust...

-- Fred Turner suggested "mass oxytocin sprayings of the Middle East?"

StandOnZanzibarIt is absolutely eerie how this follows the story line contained in one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time - STAND ON ZANZIBAR, by John Brunner.

Phil said: "An honest person would have to acknowledge that we (liberals) are getting whupped in the world of ideas."

Well, kinda... in that liberal-enlightenment pragmatism always gets whupped when they allow the battle to be OVER so-called "ideas."

While I have made clear that I admire Locke, Smith Hayek and Franklin, I admire them precisely *because* their ideas served the overall goal of liberating practical men and women to solve problems. The general processes they recommended always revolved around reciprocal accountability... ensuring that no person or group could ever again do what both aristocracies and socialist rabble rousers always try to do - monopolize power and transfix the population with incantations.

Incantations... oops, I mean "ideas"... tend to whither when practical people are free to raise their hands and say "yes... but..."

I do not need 'liberal thought" to make me favor equality of opportunity (while opposing artificial equalizing of circumstance).

All I need is the blatantly obvious fact that we were wasting staggering amounts of human creative potential when people were repressed because of presumptions having to do with race and gender and class. The fantastic success of pragmatic "liberalism" at spurring us to take on these devils is so overwhelmingly more important than any other event of the last century that the burden of proof is on anyone who disses "liberals."

Likewise, I do not need to be a Gaian mystic (like the ones I portray in EARTH) in order to know that my great-great-grandchildren will be in deep, deep trouble if we do not make ecological matters an intrinsic part of the economic cost of goods.

"Socialism collapsed because it did not allow prices to tell the economic truth.

"Capitalism may collapse because it does not allow prices to tell the ecological truth."

--Oystein Dahle, former Vice President, Exxon, Norway



==But one more set of referrals==

SevenDaysInMayGo onto Amazon and see if you can find a copy of JITTERBUG by Mike McQuay (1984), a somewhat paranoid novel about a future world devastated by a horrible disease controlled by terrorists. It is so creepily on target that I doubt you'll find a copy. Certain interests have probably bought up all the used copies floating around. If only someone would reprint.

As a contrast, also get your hands on that old chiller SEVEN DAYS IN MAY. (Or at least the Frederic March Kirk Douglas Burt Lancaster movie.)

 What a reversal. Nowadays it is the officer corps, under siege, undergoing purges but staunchly defending our constitution tooth and nail against a presidency gone out of control.

33 comments:

Rik said...

You must have seen the discussion somewhere about The Ten Most Evil Books (ever), but some rightwing publication. It includes Locke, Dewey, Keynes & Marx, Betty Friedan and Hitler. I find it extremely funny. The discussion on Brad DeLong's website wanted to include Ayn Rand for some leftist version, the reason being the morale of the book: You Must Obey Superior Men.
As for mystical platonists, I think with Plato it is just the same as with Nietzsche. Everyone knows it, but has anyone really read it? In his day he may have meant something else than what is ascribed to him.
. . .
About strategies (let me continue): what if a particular candidate for the presidency based his/her entire campaign on education reform? Think of it as a carpet... Start pulling on a seemingly innocent thread and you unravel the entire weaveworld. A start perhaps?

Anonymous said...

(In fact, the lefty yearning for communitarian cooperation is just as simplemindedly moralistic as rightwing fundamentalism. It ignores what we have learned about EMERGENT PROPERTIES IN NATURE. How what looks like competition at one level is actually highly cooperative at the next or higher level. Markets are one example. Ecosystems are another. A gazelle being killed by a lion does not want to be told about competitive synnergies or the Circle of Life. But if a liberal can recognize that transcendance, why can't he see how it works in markets?)

This is so similar to what I've been reading in Ken Wilbur's books. He speaks (at great lengths) of the levels of development an individual or a culture must go through on its way up the ladder (and makes a point that you can't skip stages. For example, you can't go from Viking raid-and-kill to Enlightenment rationalism without first having been tamed and civilized by an old-time rule-based *government*.)

What I saw very clearly but what he never, ever says, is that the stages alternate between cooperative and individualist.

Just my $0.02

Pat Mathews

Frank said...

David Brin said:
"But if a liberal can recognize that transcendance, why can't he see how it works in markets?"

I think the Leftys and Rightys both are fixated on the distopian nightmares that would arise from the absolute application of each others ideals on society. The only way to force them out of this fugue of paranoid polarisation is by showing them that the electorate doesn't want them that way. Therefor a third party, running with a kind of middle way politics that suits the countries moderates, should be created. That will stir things up a bit.

But perhaps not now... This Irak war (and who knows where or how soon the next one will be starting) is making people crazy. Even the ordinarily moderate are afraid to be moderate, let alone the people who just want to send a message of disapproval to their otherwise prefered public servants.

(before you ask: no, I can not create this Third Party myself as I am not a U.S. citizen. Heck, I don't even live there)

Ken said...

"Likewise, I do not need to be a Gaian mystic (like the ones I portray in EARTH) in order to know that my great-great-grandchildren will be in deep, deep trouble if we do not make ecological matters an intrinsic part of the economic cost of goods."

Our great-great-grandchildren will be in deep, deep trouble if the state of ecological matters on this planet isn't by that time completely irrelevant to the vast majority of humanity. There's only a limited amount of energy stored here - we'd better have built up considerable infrastructure elsewhere and either moved there or started routinely imported most of our energy here before we lack the fuel for liftoff.

Protecting the environment is less important than becoming progressively more independent of the environment.

"Capital "R" RIGHT = loony mystical platonists who want power over us so that they can (for our own good) ensure rule by philosopher kings who EMPHASIZE class differences."

Nonsense. What the right is after is doing away with all manipulation of class difference by force (either the emphasizing of class difference by previous kings, or the eradication of class differences by today's leftists) and let people go wherever their talents and efforts take them.

"What I will not concede is that the right has been doing better at solving problems. When I see the Insurance Industry completely revamped so that it CAPITALISTICALLY provides the vast array of services that people depend on from government, from the FDA and OSHA to medical research (Barry Goldwater wanted to begin this adventure) then I will admit that the right hand has truly started showing off new ideas."

Why is this a criterion for success? Where do you get off saying that "services" such as forbidding the use of new medicines for years are so vital that pure capitalism can be judged a failure if it doesn't provide them? You're assuming the same thing that your supposed enemies do - that people need to be controlled and protected from themselves for their own good.

The fact that a pure capitalist system wouldn't have anything like the FDA, or prescription requirements, or controlled substances, or any of that other parental guidance strikes me as a valuable feature, not a bug.

"Nowadays it is the officer corps, under siege, undergoing purges but staunchly defending our constitution tooth and nail against a presidency gone out of control. "

How exactly are they doing that? Which supposed efforts of the President to destroy the constution are the officer corps opposing, and how are they doing so? "And isn't any effort to staunchly defend our constitution tooth and nail against a presidency gone out of control" about 70 years late?

Joel said...

Dr. Brin: I think I've formed a vague idea of the Neocon plan for our future, but something you've said doesn't click for me yet. You've hinted that someone will benefit from purging officers...here's an excerpt from Wikipedia's article on Soviet snipers: During World War II the Soviets found that military organizations find it hard to replace experienced non-commissioned officers and field officers in a war. Clearly, this is the resource our military-industrial complex can least afford to lose, if it was the weak link for such a resource-poor nation as Nazi Germany. But I'd like to ask you, winks and nudges aside, who has the desire, discernment, and wherewithal to purposely degrade our officer corps? Seriously, qui bono? I don't expect many Soviet snipers are expecting an invasion any longer.

On a lighter note, I'm glad that recruiters here have finally noticed the irony in the "army of one" ad campaign, and are have a found slogan ("strength for today, strength for tomorrow") that refers to practical benefits of military service rather then paying lip service to individualist ideals. Still, an army of one is what we'll have, if current trends continue.

David Brin said...

sayeth Ken: "Nonsense. What the right is after is doing away with all manipulation of class difference by force (either the emphasizing of class difference by previous kings, or the eradication of class differences by today's leftists) and let people go wherever their talents and efforts take them."

Um, yes, that is what rightists SAY they are up to. Is there even the remotest scintilla of evidence that this is what they are ACTUALLY doing?

So, they are a whole new species of human. Immune from temptations to abuse power. Oh no they won't do what aristocrats have done in EVERY other culture that ever developed metallurgy and agriculture? Right?

Um... is it PERHAPS a little naive to assume that those with all the money and influence and power will just happen - this time - to refrain from using all that influence to maybe... er... cheat a little and get MORE? The way every single other aristocracy ever did?

The way YOU AND I would be tempted to act, if we were in that position?

Simply staggering. We all contrive our own just-so stories about how OUR side is the virtuous rebels against authority. Today, right-wingers create vague fables about a leftist agenda... without ever actually citing one. The worst controlling-meddlesome-socialist measure they can cite was an attempt WAY BACK IN THE LAST CENTURY, by Hillary Clinton to see to it that all children had health insurance. Oooh. How evil.

(Frankly I do think it was misguided and badly designed. But that's not what we're talking about.)

Meanwhile, the neocons-apocalypts-kleptocrats hold every rein and thread of all branches of government. Nearly all media are controlled by a half-dozen billionaires... yet THEY are still somehow the rebels?

Marvelous. Simply marvelous.

As for the Insurance Initiative, you completely miss the point.

No surprise there. Libertarians rail at the FDA and OSHA - demanding instant dismantling... and it just won't work that way, ever. Dismantle first and trust markets later, that's the ideological prescription. Funny thing, the people never buy it.

The people want SOMEBODY checking drugs and workplace safety. If you sincerely believe in market alternatives, then GET THE RIGHT HAND BUSY AGAIN! Goose the portions of the market that are SUPPOSED to do things like that! The obvious answer is insurance companies.

This model -- start competing with government services FIRST and dismantle the govt portion later -- is exactly what happened in one of the great de-regulation success stories! Parcel Post was replaced by Fedex, UPS etc in exactly the way I recommend. On the other hand, NO GOVERNMENT AGENCY HAS BEEN ELIMINATED IN THE WAY PURISTS KEEP YAMMERING FOR.

Barry Goldwater wanted to alter market forces so that the insurance companies, now lazy fat cats, would have to compete with each other at last and do some of the things that these lazy companies COUNT on the FDA, OSHA etc to do. Brilliant idea. But Goldwater got no support from the GOP. And none from libertarians, who blinked in confusion and could not grasp what he was talking about.

Why do I bother? The drug high of railing against FDR (it's been 70 YEARS for $%#$$% sake!) is just to addictive. The LP could have rescued us from Bush. ALl they had to do was do to him what the feaking GREENS did to Gore in 2000. That's all. Instead they wear tinfoil hats and sit in a circle jerk, accomplishing zero.

Sayeth Joel: "But I'd like to ask you, winks and nudges aside, who has the desire, discernment, and wherewithal to purposely degrade our officer corps? Seriously, qui bono? I don't expect many Soviet snipers are expecting an invasion any longer."

I have made pretty clear who I believe has suborned our ruling establishment. They get their way 100% of the time. Every night their propaganda network gets free atrocity footage to use in a campaign for jihadrecruitment from Morocco to Mindanao. Their OFFICIAL dogma is a dedication to bring down Western Civilization by any means, and they don't even bother trying to hide that fact. On a day when no american civilian was allowed to fly, several of their paymasters were shuttled home in champagne comfort. They are financing death for our soldiers every day and bleeding us dry with both deficits and oil prices, while commanding policies that eliminate research into alternative energy & conservation.

And if you think I am paranoid, try coming up with ANY other explanation for the appointment of BKerrick to be our guardian of nationalHomeland safety. A man whose sole qualification was to serve for 5 years as a personal bodyguard for a certain royalhouse.

There are no other conceivable explanations, this side of the twilight zone, for that smoking gun.

Ambi said...

I wonder if it's possible that a libertarian group assembles an agenda that focuses on what the people want and won't get from Democrats and Republicans, being moderate on other topics, and then starts to campaign around the nation. Not just in the swing states and districts, but also in the red and blue ones, where people can vote for them and don't risk changing the outcome to a candidate they don't want. The libertarians probably wouldn't win, but they could show their strength and force the big parties to change their positions.

Frank said...

@Ambi:

Why a libertarian group ? Libertarians are not necessarily moderates. Do most Americans even know what the word 'libertarian'
means ?

Actually, wouldn't a simple poll suffice ? Any tv-station could stage something like a 'Great National Opinion Poll Show'. Rent a bus and travel trough the country. Then report on a weekly basis the results of a set survey in a particular city. Invite some (national) politicians and local citizens on the show to discuss the figures and of course the actual questions people were asked to give an opinion to.

In a real democracy everybody is a politician. Don't let any government forget that.

Ken said...

"The people want SOMEBODY checking drugs and workplace safety. If you sincerely believe in market alternatives, then GET THE RIGHT HAND BUSY AGAIN! Goose the portions of the market that are SUPPOSED to do things like that! The obvious answer is insurance companies."

Insurance companies are supposed to stop us from taking medicine for our own good?

"This model -- start competing with government services FIRST and dismantle the govt portion later -- is exactly what happened in one of the great de-regulation success stories! Parcel Post was replaced by Fedex, UPS etc in exactly the way I recommend. On the other hand, NO GOVERNMENT AGENCY HAS BEEN ELIMINATED IN THE WAY PURISTS KEEP YAMMERING FOR."

Well, the old bogeyman "predatory pricing" - which has never been spotted in the wild in a capitalist economy - actually exists in the government sector, where the price can be set to zero indefinitely and taxpayers eat the losses. This is why public schools still have students, for instance.

Besides that, how are insurance companies supposed to compete with the FDA? The FDA has already eliminated vast swathes of drugs using an overly paranoid criteria - the drugs that are left generally are safe. What's missing is a whole bunch of drugs that would also be safe enough and effective enough that some people would benefit from it - the FDA has consigned them to oblivion, and there isn't a thing that insurance companies can do about it (other than setting up a black market), and the people that need or want them and can't get them are basically screwed.

And by the way, the USPS still exists. Public schools do too. Outcompeting them doesn't get rid of them. So "getting the right hand working again" isn't doing the trick either.

reason said...

Ken,
are you really a Liberal trying to discredit Libertarians as thickwits? Or are you just on (FDA non-approved) drugs today.
The point DB was making - why does the FDA exist? Because before it existing snake oil salesmen went around making all sorts of crazy claims about dangerous products and there was no independent authority to check them out. People wanted assurance that products were safe.
There is an alternative of course - public liability insurance. If the insurance companies refused to provide it for products that had not been verified it could provide an alternative to the FDA. But as David suggested, they should show they are up to it at first.
As for the third (libertarian) alternative - asking every laymay to evaluate the evidence themselves - come on, be serious. I'm pretty well educated and I would prefer that there were trustworthy independent experts to do it dor me! Let alone Joe and Jane Public. And there are thousands of products out there, I just don't have the time.

Nate said...

Okay, let's say we junk the FDA. Then what? Companies put drugs out for sale without having to go through all the testing and stuff. Let's say PharmaCo releases a new wonder-drug, that's supposed to instantly make you thin, but 1% of the population is fatally allergic to it. How does "The Market" resolve this? Their drug's a hit, but thousands of people die because they were allergic to it, so then... what? Their families sue PharmaCo? PharmaCo gets a reputation for unsafe drugs and fails? PharmaCo develops a test for allergies to the drugs? Whatever happens, the people are still dead.

It's an extreme case, yes, but if something like that happened, how long do you think before the public would demand the creation (or re-creation) of something very FDA-like? It's the same with Social Security, get rid of it or "privatize" it, and then when the market goes down and people's grandparents end up poor, the public would demand the creation of something like Social Security again. So you'd have another, probably more complicated, giant federal beuracracy. People just don't have the time to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of every possible drug, that's what doctors and other experts are for, and one of the things government is well-placed to do.

USPS still exists because FedEx and UPS haven'tout-competed them. Nobody else has been willing to compete on the arena of delivering letters, daily, to every house in the country, something that USPS is mandated to. If USPS wasn't doing it, lots of places wouldn't have cheap daily mail service. Which might have good points in it would cut down on junk mail, but would have a lot more bad points. There's not enough money to be made in running basic infrastructure for the nation like the daily postal service for a company to be interested in competing there. The strongest competition USPS has there is email, but even that is different.

And what libretarians may be after is the elimination of enforcing class stuff, but what the Right is after is blatantly not. The tax giveaways to the rich (which the rest of us will be paying off the loan for), the elimination of the inheritance tax (which was created in part to specifically prevent the creation of generations of monied aristocrats like happened in Europe), and the general push to shift risk from society onto the individual (which favors those with the resources, at the expense of those barely getting by as it is), plus the declines over the past many years in economic mobility (as reported in the WSJ, Washington Post, and numerous blogs) are all favoring the rich, at the expense of the rest of us. And the country as a whole.

The essence of aristocracy isn't just having more money than someone else, it's the difference betwen everyone else and you. Most aristocrats would prefer sharper differences, rather than everyone living better. When everyone lives well, how can you tell the aristocrats?

Nate said...

And in support of my thesis about aristocrats, I offer this article from the NY Times, Richest are Leaving Even the Rich Far Behind.

It's part of a whole series of articles about class the NY Times seems to be running. Good for them.

Jacare Sorridente said...

The fact that a pure capitalist system wouldn't have anything like the FDA, or prescription requirements, or controlled substances, or any of that other parental guidance strikes me as a valuable feature, not a bug.

Others have touched on this, but I would like to reinforce their points. Unrestrained market economy is good for no one but the completely unscrupulous. Where there is no accountability for wrongdoing then everyone is potential prey for the devious.
When have we come closest to an unrestrained market economy in world history? The East India company is a very good example of what inevitably comes to pass in such complete Laissez Faire economics.The robber baron textile, food and train magnates are another good example. Our current information-age society would provide a small amount of immunity against such occurrences, but the "net of a trillion lies" would hardly be a guaranteed innoculation.

Dr. Brin's suggestion of letting the left and right hands do what they do best is a far saner approach. The real difficulty is in how one can shake loose the current elites so that more rational minds may prevail. I am very sceptical of the ability to effect such a change through the current two-party process. I think that a new third party must be brought into existence if real change is ever to occur. Ross Perot showed that such a thing is possible. Howard Dean showed that the internet can be used to powerful effect in the political process. It is my opinion that with the help of a few powerful voices a new party could be brought into existence which would shun the excesses of both of the current dominant parties and whose very nature as a moderate third way would force rational compromise on all of the important issues.

Anonymous said...

It is not true that Bernard Kerik's only qualification was to have been a bodyguard for the Saudi royal family - he was also police commissioner for New York City during and after 9/11, so presumably he had practical experience with modern security needs, especially those of big cities.

Some problems with your theory that the Saudis are blackmailing upper level US officials into pursuing a certain Iraq policy in part because this pumps up Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups in concordance with a goal of "destroying Western civilization": (a) As you yourself stated, the Saudi elite likes visiting Las Vegas and educating their kids at Harvard, and if they destroyed Western civilization there wouldn't be a market for their oil; so, destroying the West would not be in their interest. (b) One of the things Osama bin Laden likes to rail against the most is the Saudi monarchy. He wants to replace it, and all other existing Muslim states, with a caliphate, which would have little use for the House of Saud in its power structure, and to that end he has bands of armed guys running around inside Saudi Arabia having shootouts with the security forces. So, pumping up Al Qaeda is not in the Saudi elite's interest either.

Now, Saudi Arabia certainly did have an interest in having Saddam Hussein's regime knocked over, as they were constantly worried he would move in and make a grab for their oil fields; that to me is a reasonable reason for them to support the Bush II Iraq policy. (Plus they and other Gulf royal houses were cheesed off at him for defaulting on his Iran-Iraq war loans.)

On a side note, you regularly state that some US president should have a summit meeting with Iran's leaders as a way of building support with the Iranian people and countering the Sunni Arab states. The problem there is that the first thing Iran's president would say is "OK, to show your good faith, stop supporting Israel in all the ways you do", and that would be the end of the discussion. Unlike Nixon-to-China, giving up support to Israel would not be politically viable compared giving up support to Taiwan.

balrog666 said...

Most everyone agrees that the left/right axis is a meaningless political descriptor. Most use a social vs economic freedom index instead a la the libertarian standard.

But after you rightly trash it, you keep using the terms. You should stop that. Intelligent conservatives hate being lumped in with the religious fundamentalists - those crazies may vote Republican, but that's only because the Democrats are preceived as worse. In fact, scratch a fundamentalists and they will invariably turn out to be a an inveterate socialist clown.

balrog666 said...

Next time: preview the spelling.

David Brin said...

Responding to a few of you bright interlocutors.

sayeth Ken: "Insurance companies are supposed to stop us from taking medicine for our own good?"

And you are unable to see the biases embedded in your own question? All right now. Slowly. Carefully.

You apparently prefer "rigthanded" or market solutions to perceived human problems, right?

(In fact, I do too. Any sensible person does, since governmental solutions incur an automatic danger of bureaucratic calcification and laxity. Recall I was a keynote speaker at one libertarian party convention. So I 'get it.' But "lefthanded solutions" have their place, especially when the market has been jiggered to ignore human needs.)

All right, your fundamental orientation has some general validity. Does that mean it is valid to declare general anathema toward public institutions that your fellow citizens have relentlessly approved for generations. Don't you bear a burden of proof , that they are morons? It is my contention that you are conflating two statements:

1 - market solutions should be found for certain problems that are currently addressed only by government

2- we should peremptorily dismantle institutions like the FDA, OSHA, FTC, SEC because they are evil, do no good, or are unnecessary "solutions" to non-problems.

As a libertarian philosopher, I totally agree with #1. As a common sense pragmatic American who despises overly simplistic, self-righteous ideologies, I have to say that #2 is flat out loony. (Moreover, it never works. People don't buy it.)

Non-problems? Have you any idea what food was like before the FDA? Or workplaces before OSHA? Or the stock market before disclosure requirements were enforced? (Bush's new SEC Chair appointee is a man after your heart. He wants to demolish all supervision. Let those "in the know" manipulate trades all they like.))

Sorry, human nature does not work the way you perceive. People rightfully perceive that aristocratic corporate owners will emphasize profit, and in order to do so, corporate heads will often be the last ones to notice issues of product or consumer or worker safety.

The classic answer is that the market will solve such problems through caveat emptor. Word will get out, which companies put out dangerous products and which are hazardous to work for. Alas, this blithe and simpleminded faith in unregulated markets has been proved flat out wrong. Evidence = 4,000 years of human history.

Example: Consumer Reports Magazine. Do you subscribe? It is just about the only clear attempt to make that process happen and most Americans haven't even heard of it. Corporations routinely attack it. They do not WANT the sort of informed consumers that the magazine produces. If we had a vigorous (nonhypocritical) right in this country... REALLY believing in markets ... there would be push to get a hundred magazines like that one, competing with each other. And all kids would get free subscriptions till they were 21.

To the main point. If you sincerely wanted market alternatives to the FDA, OSHA etc, you would follow the example of the miracle of Parcel Post and look for what kind of company could protect peoples' health WITHOUT paternalistic intervention by government. The obvious sector for this is the insurance industry. They used to do it, y'know. And they still do in the area of industrial fire prevention. But otherwise? They have become lazy fat cats, taking in premiums and providing their customer with no services at all.

sayeth Ken: "Well, the old bogeyman "predatory pricing" - which has never been spotted in the wild in a capitalist economy - actually exists in the government sector, where the price can be set to zero indefinitely and taxpayers eat the losses. This is why public schools still have students, for instance."

How on god's green earth does this follow from the paragraph it answered?

In fact though, you show the typical libertarian fallacy. You blame government... and never follow the money to those who would CONTROL GOVERNMENT FOR THEIR OWN ENDS.

I mean yeesh, do you honestly believe that there is some race of evil aliens called "bureaucrats," under whose iron grip we suffer? And "businessmen" are a separate race of victims?

Top bureaucrats and political appointees are involved in a game of musical chairs, moving from regulatory positions to a fat cat board of directors slots and back again. They see to it their pals are appointed into positions that regulate their companies, and reward them handsomely when they "retire from public life."

The utter naivete of blaming the tool, instead of the hand that wields it, is appalling...

...as is a willful refusal to look right at the best example of positive instead of negative deregulation. The rise of fedex & ups viz Parcel Post. Yes there is still a Post Office. If you try to eliminate it, you will make urban america happy and drive all rural people into becoming democrats. (The USPS is one of ten thousand ways that "blue" America subsidizes an ungrateful "red" America.)

So please. Go ahead and try.

---

On the topic of deregulation. Here's a poser. Which political party has been responsible for more DEregulation in the last 30 years? And how successfully?

Democrats: Trucking, banking telecommunications, airlines, the Internet, parcel post.

Republicans: energy, savings&loans, cable TV

Results? Dems have done far MORE deregulating. And we have all benefitted from each example. As for the three that the GOP "deregulated"... hm, let's see. I wonder who benefitted. (Tell me... how much cable TV "competition" do you get?)

Oh, I am in favor of all sorts of deregulatory experiments. I offend my dem friends by speaking up for voucher experiments and charter schools and weird libertarian notions about insurance companies replacing govt paternalistic bureaus.

But anyone who thinks that "social security reform" is anything more than a drive to get 10 $Trillion of naive money into the stock market - in order to inflate prices and sell off dog stocks - well, anyone who swallows it is too naive to be allowed to drive.

--

But Nate, careful what you say about "libertarians". There are many who don't wear tinfoil hats. I dream of a "moderate left-handed party" and a "moderate right-handed party" -- the dems and libertarians - taking turns. One rushing to solve problems and pain and the other then calmly adjusting market forces so people make a lot of money making the problems go away.

But Nate "most aristocrats" is unfair. I'd say 2/3 of the American wealthy 'get it'. They want our diamond-shaped social structure. They are loyal to a civilization that's been good to them and helped them get rich. They are willing to pay to keep it going and don't mind if bright kids from the ghetto compete with their kids on a level playing field. Warren Buffett "the smartest investor in history" is a good example.

Alas, these rich people aren't the frat boys running things right now.

--

Anonymous - I never said that desert sheiks don't enjoy Las Vegas. By all means read McQuay's JITTERBUG. The hijackers were given lumps of cash and told to go a-whoring and drinking to taste the pleasures of paradise before martyrdom. I expect when they rule us they will keep Disneyland.

Osoma rails against his king? BFD. (1) it could be a ruse. (2) So? Their radical cult is the BASIS for his beliefs. He took them at their word and then took it farther, so? If his kind wins, they will be less hypocritical.

No Disneyland.

As for Iran, since our "clever" Condi has never even TRIED to hold out an olive branch, we don't know what conditions they would apply. In any event, we can always say no. But watch WHEN she rattles the saber. It is always timed to drive Iranians back into their mullahs' arms.

Nate said...

Dr. Brin said:

But Nate, careful what you say about "libertarians". There are many who don't wear tinfoil hats.

I didn't really say anything about Libretarians, since I flirted with the whole libretarian thing when I was younger, like many geeks, but the Libretarian party itself is home mostly to the fundamentalist stripe of libretarian, the more mainstream ones used to be Republicans. Which is how I'd classify some of my good friends, though now that the Republican Party has been hijacked by religious fundamentalists and parasitic fratboys, I'm not sure they have much of a home.

Dr. Brin also said:

But Nate "most aristocrats" is unfair. I'd say 2/3 of the American wealthy 'get it'. They want our diamond-shaped social structure. They are loyal to a civilization that's been good to them and helped them get rich. They are willing to pay to keep it going and don't mind if bright kids from the ghetto compete with their kids on a level playing field. Warren Buffett "the smartest investor in history" is a good example.

Alas, these rich people aren't the frat boys running things right now.


Hmm. Perhaps I overstated it, and should have said "many," or perhaps there's a difference in terms. I don't think all the wealthy are aristocrats, though aristocrats are practically defined by having wealth. Though defining aristocrats as the "bad" wealthy doesn't help things either. Excuse me while I type out loud to try and define things.

Much of America's wealthy aren't aristocrats, in large part because they (or families a generation or at most, two) ago weren't wealthy. So they have direct memory of how they got where they are now, and aren't likely to try and destroy it. Aristocrats, I'd speculate, are usually born into wealth, so that them on top and everyone else underneath seems to be the natural order of things. They are rich not through accident of birth, luck, or hard work, but by some inner virtue, or because that's how the world is set up. They are different from everybody else.

And so what's important is their difference, not their wealth. The fact that they live better than any king in history doesn't satisfy them, because middle-class Americans ALSO live better than any medieval royalty. When those differences get blurred, it's an assault on their identity.

Hmm, having said all that, I see what I mean by "aristocrats" is basically Romantic wealthy, who justify their wealth through old-fashioned Romantic notions, as opposed to Modernist wealthy. Where to draw the line on defining "wealthy" and if American wealthy are or aren't mostly Romantic, are things I don't know enough to get into.

Ken said...

"Non-problems? Have you any idea what food was like before the FDA? Or workplaces before OSHA? Or the stock market before disclosure requirements were enforced? "

Yes, they all sucked. As did practically everything else in our low-energy, manual-labor-intensive, low productivity, low-technology economy.

All the regulations and interventions in the world wouldn't have produced a noticeable fraction of the benefits that flowed from relentless improvements in productivity, technology, and wealth that came from generations of people trying to make big bucks or make a name for themselves introducing new and better things, and other people freely deciding which ones were worth buying and which ones not.

That process of improvement was well underway in the bad old days of the 19th Century. People may have been poor, but they were richer than before and kept getting richer still. Medicines were mostly crap, and people were desperate to try anything, but the advent of real medicine that really worked eventually gave them alternatives that they never could have had before, snake oil or no snake oil.

The fact that we rightfully look back on the 19th Century with horror only shows that subsequent reforms haven't completely halted the march of progress, not that our policies are better than theirs.

"The classic answer is that the market will solve such problems through caveat emptor. Word will get out, which companies put out dangerous products and which are hazardous to work for. Alas, this blithe and simpleminded faith in unregulated markets has been proved flat out wrong. Evidence = 4,000 years of human history."

What 4,000 years of human history shows us is that kings and rulers will seize on any excuse to regulate markets to the advantage of themselves and fellow elites, and average people will tend to stay poor as a result. 200 years of human history shows us that when rulers are prevented from doing that, and individuals are left to trade, work, and profit freely, everyone gets richer over time.

Now the problem is, how do we indefinitely block rulers from throwing monkey wrenches into this process for the benefit of themselves and their fellow elites? The representative republic seemed to do the trick for a while, but its "half-life" is not as long as one might have hoped.

"How does "The Market" resolve this? Their drug's a hit, but thousands of people die because they were allergic to it, so then... what? Their families sue PharmaCo? PharmaCo gets a reputation for unsafe drugs and fails? PharmaCo develops a test for allergies to the drugs? Whatever happens, the people are still dead."

Of course other people who would have died from obesity-related causes are still alive. But they're not nearly as easy to count, so people think that regulation is safer. And, without the FDA, people would know that newer drugs and less extensively tested drugs are more likely to have unforeseen side-effects. Without being able to evaluate the particulars personally, they can still judge whether the general risk of a beta drug is worth the benefit that the drug offers, and should be allowed to do so.

Which means that, yes, individuals are good at judging what's best for themselves, but not so good at judging what's best for strangers. We've long known that kings suffered from similar lapses; now it's obvious that ordinary voters do too.

"I mean yeesh, do you honestly believe that there is some race of evil aliens called "bureaucrats," under whose iron grip we suffer? And "businessmen" are a separate race of victims? "

Some "businessmen" are in fact a separate race of victims. Others pretend to be businessmen competing to provide value while in fact rigging the game in their own favor. Regulation is one of their favored tactics - lots of regulations can be dressed up as "protecting the consumer" while carefully designed so that favored "businessmen" have a much easier time complying with them than upstart competitors.

Which is why (a) all regulation should be at least suspected of being a plot by those very "businessmen" to eliminate competition and enrich themselves at our expense (I can't think of one that doesn't "just so happen" to work out that way) and (b) unfettered consumer choice leaves consumers much less vulnerable to expolitation than any scheme to limit choice "for their own good".

Anonymous said...

Of course, what Ken conveniently fails to take into account in his "consumerist utopia" is that some consumers don't have the option of picking and choosing products based on effectiveness or safety or personal choice. Some people have to eat Scrapple because it's all they can afford; some people have to take the "beta" drugs becasue they can't afford the alpha. So what you're basicly proposing is that poor people have to be the test subjects for new drugs. All hail the "free" market!

Look, Ken, the closest thing to truly free-market capitalism that I've ever heard of is the laissez-faire capitalism of the "bad old" 19th (and early 20th) centuries. What we saw was the end-result of unregulated markets: monopolies. The anti-trust laws are there because people figured out pretty quick (well, quick for a mob the size of America, that is) was that the "power of the consumer" doesn't mean jack when dealing with monopolies; at that point, the only power the consumer has is not to buy the product, which works fine until you're talking about something like food, or water. Or oil. And that was the thing that sunk laissez-faire capitalism: modern production methods require oil, and Standard Oil could set the price as it chose. And it chose to set the price high.

Really, this shouldn't be too tough to understand. Capitalism's strength is that it relies on human greed, but "free-market" zealots don't seem to understand that greed has a down-side. Regulated capitalism's the best bet in town, but unregulated capitalism's as bad as communism.

Just ask the workers in the factory towns, circa 1910.

Anonymous said...

So, I suppose your not responding to my statement about Bernard Kerik means you accept that he had other qualifications besides "Saudi bodyguard" and therefore his nomination is not the "smoking gun" you claim it is?

Saying Osama bin Laden's opposition to the Saudi monarchy, a longstanding and documented pattern of behavior, "could be a ruse" sends you further into conspiracy-nutcase-land. If that's a legitimate tactic for discrediting evidence, then one can seriously propose that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated by the Bush administration as a way to increase its power, and that its declarations of horror and sorrow over the event and resolve to get the perpetrators were a ruse.

You're talking about a completely different level of "ruse" when it involves encouraging gangs of armed men to run around inside a country having shootouts with the police!

As to bin Laden's ideology simply being the logical extension of the Saudi elite's ideology, ergo what he wants they want, that dog won't hunt either. Some years ago there was a web site with a list of quotations asking readers to identify whether each one came from Al Gore's Earth in the Balance or Ted Kaczynski's Unabomber Manifesto. It was apparently quite difficult! Kaczynski's radical anti-technology beliefs can be considered a "logical extension" of Al Gore's environmentalism, but that doesn't mean the Vice President advocates sending letter bombs to people to blow their hands off. Similarly, just because Osama bin Laden believes in establishing his caliphate by any means necessary, it does not mean the less-radical Saudi elite wants to blow up buildings and kill the soldiers of one of their staunchest allies - they are probably quite happy to have their Islamic paradise in Saudi Arabia while letting Westerners wallow in decadence (and keep buying their oil). So saying "bin Laden's ideology is just a logical extension of the Saudi elite's, so pumping up Al Qaeda is in their interest" is not a valid argument, especially when it's clearly not in their interest to have bands of jihadists fomenting chaos in their country.

You of all poeple should know that what one person calls "hypocracy" another will call "pragmatism and a willingness to compromise".

And one other thing: if you think the Saudis have incriminating pictures of our government officials partying in their Vegas hotel suites, then it's probable that we'd have similar pictures of their sheiks. Where do you think pictures of that sort would be more devastating: in a country with a longstanding tradition of forgiving people for their mistakes and letting them get on with their lives, or one where it's considered OK to stone adulterers to death and chop thieves' hands off? Who has better blackmail fodder on whom?

Anonymous said...

I like the points you make about L vs. R. Your earlier discussions make the observation of Republicans as Romantics--and I have to say it fits with my own experience and helps to make sense of people who can't be reasoned with.

Personally, I see myself as a Little "l" and a Little "r" and it explains why I've been all over the place politically.

For the sake of fairness, I'd like to add one more category; "L" and little "l" for Libertarians.

Big L Libertarians have a romantic notion of pure anarchy or simple Darwinism. Motivated by a sense that any meritocracy would place them firmly at the top of the food chain, they like to stay above the fray or occasionally rant on talk shows like Neal Bortz. The net effect is that they vote Republican, or throw their vote away on Libertarian candidates.

Little "l" Libertarians, see value in open discussion and don't think anyone has a monopoly on the truth. These moderate Libertarians usually vote for anyone who is going to intrude on their lives the least and occasionally rant on blogs like David Brin's website.

...all the best people. This site seems to have some of the more interesting and thoughtful discussions. My best compliment is that some people here could change my mind.

biggianthead (at) mac.com

David Brin said...

Here'san olive branch to Ken. Ken's FINAL paragraph actually made sense. Now if only we can get him to take that paragraph and follow the threads...

ALL human generations see their freedom threatened by cheaters and connivers. My biggest point in The Transparent Society is that our recent success has all been based upon ACCOUNTABILITY, which makes markets and democracy work... and which all cheaters fight like hell to evade.

If those cheaters see opportunity in rabble-rousing, they will be commie commissars. If they see it in manipulating a capitalist system they will do that. If you are for freedom and markets, you will not let insipid ideologies freeze your notions of where the cheaters will strike next because exploitive predators are imaginative. (The left is impotent now. That's the only reason it's not much of a threat. But wait.)

Yes, I agree that we should have a policy of erring on the side of less regulation. Do you credit Al Gore at all, that he was the first US leader ever to reduce the number of federal rules? Or Clinton for erasing deficits and welfare reform? Must I repeat that democrats deregulated more industries than the GOP has ever PROPOSED deregulating.

And the industries they DID deregulate all did so in ways that raped us and handed our wallets over to cheaters....

Moreover, it should be no surprise that a clade of predators have colluded to grab the government and feed on our necks (and our childrens") like vampires. If you want agile markets, you'll spend the rest of your life fighting would-be cheaters and parasites of ALL kinds.

Markets are not "natural". They are fragile but powerful wealth generating machines... human inventions that must always be guarded and fine tuned...

... and re-tuned to cover all costs. Including the horrible deferred cost of environmental degradation that we are passing on to our kids. HALF THE TOPSOIL ON THE GREAT PLAINS IS GONE! Who will see to that problem, hm?

Sayeth Anonymous "So, I suppose your not responding to my statement about Bernard Kerik means you accept that he had other qualifications besides "Saudi bodyguard" and therefore his nomination is not the "smoking gun" you claim it is?"

No, I ignored it as utter BS.

This wasn't the 1st or last time that a mayor's bodyguard with underworld connections became a "police commissioner". What on #$$#@# does that have to do with subtleties of international terror, espionage, diplomacy, technology, inter-agency management, contract management, interstate commerce, constitutional law, and a myriad other areas of expertise about which he knows as much as the Man in the Moon? YOU could name two dozen more qualified people, and you don't know those subjects either! (I know I could name a hundred.)

BK is a smoking gun, fellah. Writhe and evade. It won't work. No scenario other than subornation even remotely explains it.

Much better is your clever analogy, saying that:
* Wahhhabism->Osoma
is the same thing as saying
* Al Gore environmentalism->Ted Kaczinski.
Very clever.

Except.... AL Gore is a modernist and Kaczinski is a rabid anti-modernist. The extrapolation is a lie. Yes, they see similar eco-problems - as can anyone with three neurons to scrape together. But the two men are absolute and diametric opposites in personality and purpose.

Now, you go and show me the same thing between Wahhhabism and Osoma. Show me how they are diametric & opposite. Go on. I'll wait.

"Where do you think pictures of that sort would be more devastating: in a country with a longstanding tradition of forgiving people for their mistakes and letting them get on with their lives, or one where it's considered OK to stone adulterers to death and chop thieves' hands off? Who has better blackmail fodder on whom?"

Like you & Rush forgave Clinton? ;-) Hell, I never said that blackmail is the only explanation. It is not the only method of subornation available to enemies of the west who have unlimited wallets. Your effort to focus on it alone evades the blatant fact that our leadership clades acts AS IF it were suborned.

In any event, your paragraph makes no sense. The sheiks have never pretended not to party like mad over here. They control their country with an iron grip. Complain about their parties, who would dare?

Well, Osoma dared. I agree. The better theory is that he is a Wahhhabist who actually believes.

Anonymous said...

You ask what the police commissioner of the most populous city in the US, who held that job during and after the 9/11 attacks, who undoubtedly had to coordinate among scads of different agencies during the response, might have as qualifications for the the DHS leadership job, which involves, um, multi-agency responses to terrorist threats? Perhaps more than the governor of Pennsylvania...

My point was not that the Saudi elite and Osama bin Laden weren't both Wahhabists or that they held opposite views. I was saying that just because one group espouses a "more extreme" or "less hypocritical" version of another's ideology, it doesn't follow that it's in the second group's interest to support the first, or to encourage others to act so as to give them support.

I see the smiley after your crack about Rush, but I'll let you know that I'm a registered Democrat who voted for the Democrat in every presidential election where I was eligible (starting with Clinton in '92). I certainly forgave Clinton - heck, I actually didn't need to, I knew it was an irrelevant witch-hunt. But I'll also point out that President Bush was largely forgiven for his "party hearty" past by the American people. (In fact, I think both of them are good examples of the "virtuous demagogue" that I think is the Achilles' heel of your transparent society proposals.)

Nate said...

Some unfounded speculation, on the L-R axis, and moderates, and similar.

I suspect that part of the problem in politics in the US is because there's not a vocal, visible, extreme left with any power. Moderates need the extremists, to give them someone to contrast themselves to, and appear more reasonable than. And the extremists are needed to keep trying to pull things their way, both to balance out other extremists, and to force action.

Moderates have no real power if they can't point at extremists and go "If you don't deal with me, you'll be dealing with him." And in the US right now, there effectively IS no extreme left, no matter what scary stories Rush and the Republicans come up with. Demonizing a random college professor, or say a filmmaker is fat, doesn't give a left. So right now we have one party that's nearly all "moderates", and one that used to be "moderates" and extremists on the "right". So without "left" extremists with any influence or voice, the "moderate left" is compromising with the extreme "right", until the "moderates" are farther to the "right" than the "moderate right" used to be.

So while you can lionize moderation and compromise, the extremists are necessary, to balance each other and force people to think and change, and defend the things they find important. When you only have extremists on one side with any influence, things get all skewed out of proportion.

And if you try to just get rid of the extremists, all you do is redefine the extremes as closer to the "center". And you encourage things to stagnate.

Anonymous said...

To quote Mr. Brin...
"If those cheaters see opportunity in rabble-rousing, they will be commie commissars. If they see it in manipulating a capitalist system they will do that."

This matches my own thoughts on Lenin, Stalin, Hitler and Franco... that what mattered to these men was NOT the ideology that let them sieze power, but the power itself. Like the NeoCons, many of whom have roots in the far left Stalinists of the late 1960's. They saw that they couldn't get at power as psuedo-communists, and so embraced psuedo-capitalism... and were successful.
And to end with a different quote...
"Republican philosophy might be summerized thus: To hell with principles, what matters is power, that we have it and they do not."
The leftist who dared say that was Pat Buchanan.
HawkerHurricane

Doorintosummer said...

Ayn Rand wants me to lop off my left hand and Marx wants the right amputated. They can both go to hell.

Snort! Great line.

Bruce Hayden said...

To start with, your suggestion that the right is dominated by an aristocratic ethos is frankly silly, and your constant refrain about the country being run by "frat boys" is just as much so. Maybe the later is due to having belonged to one such in college, and not finding myself as part of that elite, or knowing that a lot my frat boy friends are out there on the lunitic left right now.

But also, what this ignores is that the Left is just as much enamored with their own competence to run things, if not more so. The ethos there seems to be that of giving control to those with the best paper credentials. Facetiously (since I am not sure I can make smileys work :) ) this blindness may be a result of your own doctorate.

Now getting to the FDA. Yes, a century ago, the people were being exploited by patent medicines and the like. But jumping from that to what would happen today without FDA oversight ignores the fundamental change in information that has occured since then, and in particular, in the last decade or so.

The basic problem with your suggestions of horribles is that they are based on an assumption of ignorance. But we have seen recently with the Internet that this is almost invariably not the case. Information gets out and moves through the Internet and into the mainstream in record time - often in the space of hours.

Some instances of note. The RaTHerGate scandal made national news well within one days' news cycle. The bloggers found that the memos were almost assuredly written using Word 97 or later, for any number of technical reasons. This made it to talk radio and Fox news the next day.

Something just as remarkable happened a couple of nights ago on Fox. Cici Connolly made a claim that our soldiers had committed over 100 homicides in Iraq. Brit Hume was able to issue a very quick correction, that 100 had died in custody, but about 1/4 of them from an insurgent mortar attack, 1/4 were justifiable (i.e. attempting to escape, attacking guards, etc.), 1/4 from natural causes, etc.

So, positing that we need the FDA because of a lack of knowledge ignores what has happened to the spread of knowledge in that last century.

Today, I heard on the radio about a suit against the maker of Viagra that it caused the plaintiff to go blind. His attorney is trying to get class action status in Texas. And I have no doubt that if this is a real problem, he will be able to find enough other victims or alleged victims to make a go of it - probably very quickly, and through the information media we have today.

Anonymous said...

"So, positing that we need the FDA because of a lack of knowledge ignores what has happened to the spread of knowledge in that last century."

No.

It's true that we have a tool for effectively spreading information, but it is harder than ever to be sure that that information isn't bunk.

How many emails have you recieved from friends and relatives over the years, warning you that freezing water in plastic bottles will doese you with dioxin, or that using underarm deoderant is just asking to get breast cancer?

People pick up on these nuggets of grass-roots nonsense, distrubute them as fact, create web pages, and etc.

Then there's professional nonesense; stories and factoids spread by corporations and think tanks and bogus populist "astro turf" groups. This disinformation is called F.U.D., for what it is intended to promote: Fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

Microsoft has used F.U.D. to attack Linux. The Global Climate Coalition and ExxonMobil uses F.U.D. to cast doubt on the voluminous evidence for anthropogenic global warming.

You mention a radio show about a Viagra lawsuit. How about this radio story:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4696609

It is a report about documents showing how Merck uses highly paid doctors to promote their drugs to other doctors . . . and what they do to these consultants when they begin to have doubts about a product. (In this case, Vioxx, which was recently pulled from the market but which was linked to heart problems for many years.)

Getting rid of the F.D.A., which while far from perfect at least has the potential to be an honest broker, is exactly what drug companies want. With their economic clout, legal teams, and PR expertise, they can pretty damn well say anything they want and get away with it.

firefall said...

Before getting too excited about Oxytocin, & John B's excellent ideas, go read lil Stevie King's "The End of the Whole Damn Mess" - in his latest collection of short stories - for another view on the idea

Ken said...

"Getting rid of the F.D.A., which while far from perfect at least has the potential to be an honest broker, is exactly what drug companies want. With their economic clout, legal teams, and PR expertise, they can pretty damn well say anything they want and get away with it."

I would have no problem with an FDA that limited itself to acting as an honest broker. What I object to is an FDA that routinely forbids people to buy medicine. No one should have that power, because no one on Earth can be trusted to use it for everyone's benefit.

The power to try and sell medicine, and argue as convincingly as you can that people should buy it, is far more acceptable, especially if it's widely distributed. And the right to play devil's advocate, also widely distributed, is a good thing as well. But in the end, free citizens must be left to exercise their own judgement.

fpoole said...

"Ayn Rand wants me to lop off my left hand and Marx wants the right amputated. They can both go to hell."

A quote for the ages.

keats27 said...

No offense, Mr. Brin (I loved
Startide Rising btw), but
the objections you raise are nothing (read miniscule and ridiculous) when compared to the gross misuse of our intelligence
community and military by two Presidential administrations (see operation Desert Fox and Iraqi Freedom) with absolute impunity. Seemingly Defense industry, Israeli and Energy lobby interests outweigh even the conscience of the American Public and the willingness of the press to point out the obvious.