Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The future...

See the impressive Jamais Cascio hold forth about the coming panopticon society. Some familiar ideas, related vividly with cutting-edge news. and so on...

Let me highly recommend the latest (30th Anniversary) issue of the Wilson Quarterly. (wilsonquarterly.com) an issue entirely devoted to the "Future".

funky misc. stuff!

Here’s a guy who will remodel your home interior to be like a sci fi film. One of the surest ways I know to provoke a divorce, and to make sure you get the house!

Isolated trade fact: Average price of an imported T-shirt:
1996: $2.14
2000: $1.93
2004: $1.69
2005: $1.59

And some people still doubt there’s progress.

For those who have seen my article on “Disputation Arenas” -- you know that I am unimpressed with the techniques that have developed in order to turn the internet into a truly useful forum for appraisal of ideas.

That is what we were promised, right? Something vivid and sophisticated, that would help us to achieve what I call the age of empowered amateurs and what James Surowiecki calls the WISDOM OF CROWDS. What I call “accountability arenas” have gradually grown in sophistication and power to replace the arbitrary rule by kings. Ideally, the internet should become a fifth pragmatic tool of enlightenment civilization...

...and some people are seriously trying! Very hard. But it just isn’t going to be easy. To see just how onerous the task will be, try looking at this sample of the dispute adjudication process on the Wikipedia. It involved deliberate and/or well-meant defacement of entries on the “peoples’ encyclopedia” -- especially entries having to do with prominent politicians. The open source methodology of Wiki has been abused, above all, by congressional staffers! So much so that there is an effort underway to ban all Wikipedia entries originating from the House and Senate.

For a news article, see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/4695376.stm

In order to view the actual deliberations (fascinating!) go to:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Requests_for_comment/United_States_Congress

What’s especially interesting is to scroll down and see the cludged innovations that the sincere leaders of Wiki have been trying to establish, enabling wiki citizens to express opinion and vote - in an ad hoc manner - on measures that may protect their idealistic venture from vandals. I wish them well. They are trying to do the almost-impossible. But civilization has overcome obstacles before.

See a brief outline of the differences between Wahab’bi Islam (fostered by the r-oil house) and “humanitarian Islam, in The Globalist. Frankly, I doubt things are as clearcut as this rather tendentious article puts it. Still, it’s worth a skim.

A very interesting thing is happening in Europe, apparently.

Liberal-leftist-populist sentiment is turning against immigrants, yet they cannot bring themselves to admit thinking in nationalist or racist or prejudiced terms. Hence, the introduction of litmus-test questions whenever a newcomer applies for residence permits. One is: “Do you believe in complete equality for women?” If not, no permit! This illustrates what I keep saying. Life is too complicated to fit inside simple jargon-nostrums. It makes your head ache to parse out the portions of this that are liberal and pro-tolerance and the parts that are agenda’d by rationalization of, well, cultural or racial bigotry. You almost have to laugh, seeing oversimplifying dogmatists of political correctness twisting to justify their rising xenophobia... a xenophobia that has some reason! And yet, well. It ain’t easy being mature.

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41 comments:

fpoole said...

The rising xenophobia in Europe is of particular importance to me; I'd like to feel welcome as a citizen of Earth, even though I may not have a stereotypical "European" phenotype (or indeed any stereotypical phenotype... race mixing is a beautiful thing, and the Europeans could stand to learn what good comes of social cohesion), but I fear raising the animosity of xenophobic locals. While violence seems to be a rare thing, social coldness and isolation have been felt by those deemed "un-European" because of their ancestry in the past.

I do have some hope, though, having read many Eurobarometer polls and other data; the German Federal Statistics Office published survey data that indicates the majority of its young are quite open to the different peoples to be found in Europe today and in the future.

Tony Fisk said...

This talk of disputation has jogged my memory on an old article about Web Grafitti. The idea being that you link to a site, and then overlay the page with whatever imagery you care to spray... I mean *annotate*, it with.

I actually found a site for doing this , and had a play (see here)
Vivid, if not sophisticated (and with the given examples it's definitely hard to be mature!). But I can see some possibilities. Especially as browser support for Scalable Vector Graphics is becoming more widespread.

Don Quijote said...

Isolated trade fact: Average price of an imported T-shirt:
1996: $2.14
2000: $1.93
2004: $1.69
2005: $1.59
And some people still doubt there’s progress.


a few not so isolated facts:
GAP / Old Navy


* Mandatory pregnancy tests: women who test positive are immediately fired.

* Workers paid just 11.6 cents for each $12.99 GAP T-shirt they sew.

* Below-subsistence wages: the 60-cent-an-hour wage meets less than one-third of the cost of living.

* Exploitation of temporary workers, who are hired for three-month periods - and denied health insurance, holidays, severance, vacation.

* Limited access to health care: sick days punished with loss of two days’ wages.



U.S. Apparel Companies Hide Starvation Wages Behind Local Minimum Wage Hoax



So how are the workers producing those cheap T-shirts doing? is their standard of living improving with the dropping cost of imported T-shirts?

Network Geek said...

Oh, sure, now that my divorce is OVER I see the house remodeller! Perfect timing!

Long time lurker, first time commenter. Great blog, brilliant writer.

David Brin said...

Quijote, this is you at your best. I'll not bother arguing with you about the quasi-marxist ways in which globalization is the developing world's best friend and that liberals should be rooting for it at the top of their lungs. The reflexive antiglobalization stance is one more sign that imbecility is not a monopoly of the right.

Having said that, though, let me veer the other way and say that globalization would be EXACTLY as horrific as the left portrays it... if it weren't for the liberal activists who strive to empower DW workers to keep leveraging their positions, knowledgably, year after year. The successes of Japan and Taiwan and Korea will only be emulated elsehwere - other lands will pass through the painful intermediate stages with appropriate rapidity - if the international conglomerates are kept under relentless pressure, especially by folks like Project Witness.

Remember this. My immigrant ancestors sweated at sewing machines in New York City. They did not mind (much) so long as their kids were guaranteed high school and THEIR kids could be collegiate inventor/doctors/lawyers. Sure, some of those workers got their heads bashed organizing unions. Let's keep that from happening in Indonesia! March! Picket! Post exposes!

Still, the vital thing is the up-trend. If it's steep, things may be harsh, but unjust?

hmm... maybe, even so. Better to lean toward a little righteous outrage than to be complacent.

So keep yelling Quijote. I don't expect you to grasp any of what I just said, but you are needed here.

Rob Perkins said...

Quijote raises interesting points, and so do you David.

I'll offer something selfish, which is, I think, destroying what used to be entertainment so cheap that even in the Depression most could afford it:

Evening movie ticket prices at local Regal 16, circa 1999: $6.50 (matinee $5 or $5.50, can't remember)
Evening movie prices at the same location today: $8.50 (with $7.50 matinee and child prices)

over six years, a 30% increase, or 5% a year, over twice the rate of CPI inflation in the same period of time (I think.)

Never felt more justified sneaking in my skittles (tho I don't usually go to the movies to eat something, y'know)

Another interesting anecdote about globalization. Hewlett Packard used to make inkjet printers in the Portland OR area, not far from my home. Good work on the line for teens and part time moms through the temp agencies, which was the way they staffed their unskilled positions.

I have this second hand: They moved the manufacturing operation to Monterrey, Mexico:

-- They had to run their own HP bus from town to the manufacturing site (or they financed a city line, can't remember exactly that either)
-- They paid generous wages for the area, over twice the subsistence level

The end result is that they couldn't keep the positions staffed. The people who worked there would get their first paycheck, see that they could live off of it for six weeks, and quit. And reapply six weeks later.

They had to move the operation overseas, with the attendant extra shipping times just to keep the factory staffed.

Don't know how that dovetails with Quijote's or Davids comments about globalization, but I thought it was interesting.

Evan said...

Regarding the exploitation of workers in the development, while I can't speak for all corporations or nations, but in many cases in China the people doing the exploitation are Chinese themselves. You see, there's evil greedy people everywhere. Though I'm no fan of the multinational, the myth of the "noble savage" perpatrated by anti-free trade groups is equally disgusting. Many multinational corporations have strict and fair labor policies regarding the production of their goods, but the factories that they outsource to in China do everything possible to get around the regulations in order maximize profits. The local owners "coach" people what to say when inspectors come, limit their access and generally do everything in their power possible to keep from receiving an honest report. The problem is not globilization, it's people. At least with globalization SOME people get rich, and then we can just wait for the money to trickle down, right?

DemetriosX said...

Re: cultural litmus tests

I must say that the people being interviewed in the link DB posted on this topic are spinning things harder than a plate balancer on the Ed Sullivan Show.Europe was engaged in genocide against Muslims ten years ago?!

Anyway, as far as I know this test was instituted by one state in Germany (Baden-W├╝rttemberg) and it applies to those seeking citizenship, not residency. You can read more about it here (with a somewhat satirical on-line version of the test). And one wrong answer does not mean rejection. They're looking for a whole pattern of memes and questioning the applicants willingness to accept the terms of western society or at least the integration of their children.

This decision triggered a massive debate about the whole thing and the test will probably be declared unconstitutional. The issue got shoved out of the news by the Danish cartoons, but the courts are working on it.

This hardly equates to an anti-immigration movement. Now there is a big discussion going on in Germany considering integration of immigrants to German society. The focus is primarily on Muslims since a large part of immigrants to Germany come from Turkey and there have been some problems with forced marriages and "honor killings" of women who westernized more than the men in their families liked. This coupled with the riots in France and now all of the violent reactions to the Danish cartoons has a lot of people worried about how well immigrants are integrating, but except on the extreme right (and we're talking people who would think that Pat Buchanan is a commie,)there is no anti-immigrant backlash.


Integration is important. A democracy can only function if its members share a certain number of cultural assumptions. Immigrants to America had to accept that along with that education for their kids their kids were going to become Americans. Some immigrants to western Europe (mostly Muslim, but not all) are having problems accepting that their kids will be Europeans and they are taking drastic measures to prevent that.

Don Quijote said...

So keep yelling Quijote. I don't expect you to grasp any of what I just said, but you are needed here.

While I am not the brightest guy in the room, there is no need to be condescending.

Don't talk to me about poverty, both my parents were born in houses without running water or electricity.


As for free trade, it's nothing more than a way for your Klepto buddies to drive down wages and make more money. Do you think that the price of a Volkswagen goes down because it's manufactured in Mexico instead of Germany?


A few stats:

The numbers of people living on less than $2 per day has risen by almost 50% since 1980, to 2.8 billion—almost half the world’s population. And this is precisely the period that has been most heavily liberalized. (World Bank, Global Economic Outlook 2000)

Recent evidence suggests that the numbers of people living on less than $1 per day is growing in most regions of the world (with the notable exception of China). (World Bank, Global Economic Outlook 2000)

In 1980-1996 only 33 of 130 developing countries increased growth by more than 3% per capita, while the GNP per capita of 59 countries declined. Around 1.6 billion people are economically worse off today than 15 years ago. (United Nations Human Development Report, 1999, p. 31.)


Wages of unskilled labour declined by ~25% between 1984 and 1995. Unskilled wages in the US have fallen by 20% (in real terms) since the 1970s. (UNCTAD 1997)


Trade liberalisation statistics

Please sir, can I have more?

Don Quijote said...

For my amusement David, why don't you make a list of countries that have become wealthy following free trade policies and not Mercantilist policies, a list of the twenty wealthiest countries in 1900 & 2005.

Francis said...

David,
Remember this. My immigrant ancestors sweated at sewing machines in New York City. They did not mind (much) so long as their kids were guaranteed high school and THEIR kids could be collegiate inventor/doctors/lawyers.

The problem is that your situation isn't the case in some of the abuses that Quijote doccumented. In his case, the wage has dropped below survival - and at that point you can't invest for the future and your kids are caught in the same trap you are.

Rob, for cheap entertainment, there's now the telly... (And in Britain, number of TVs appears to be negatively correlated with income).

Mark said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mark said...

The numbers of people living on less than $2 per day has risen by almost 50% since 1980, to 2.8 billion—almost half the world’s population.

The world population in 1980 was 4.5 billion. The current population is 6.5 billion, an increase of "almost 50%". I'm not seeing a whole lot of information in this statistic.

Thane Walkup said...

The problem with free trade, as it currently stands, is that it isn't free. It's been a long time since I looked into this, but the original economist who posited the idea of free trade included in his original idea that labor needs to be as free as capital to move between borders - just as those who own the means of production should have the right to move their factories to wherever they can get the best deal, those who provide the labor should be able to move themselves freely to a locale that allows them to get the best deal for their own labor as well.

Yes, I know this is an inherently unrealistic idea. So is completely unfettered "free trade" as it is being sold today.

Rob Perkins said...

I'm aware of the telly (obviously the radio also existed during the Depression) but these days I don't see a lot of infrastructure investment in ways to get TV entertainment for the price of a cheap TV.

Instead, the trend is toward *expensive* TV's, with off-air "free" programming falling under possibly-unconstitutional use restrictions (do-not-record stipulations embedded in the signal, for example), and requiring the investment of that more-expensive receiver.

So I don't even see the cost of Telly going down at all, as I stare at my Dish Network satellite bill and wonder if it's still even worth $50/month...

Eagle75 said...

I've followed the anti-globilization hubub with some interest since about 1997 (when I was graduating from college). I went from being of the opinion that it was a lot of fuss about nothing, to a position similar to Dr. Brin's, next thinking that there was a some injustice in the globilization process (but the anti-globilization protesters were very ill-informed and unable to express a very cogent objection), and am now of the opinion that globilization has a great deal of injustice and strong indications that it heavily favors a kind of global kleptocracy.

I still think that anti-globilization protesters are largely incoherent and vastly uninformed concentrating too much on side issues, like genetically engineered crops, which lose them points because they are mostly very, very wrong and many of these products are the very best way to solve problems like hunger and famine. But the more I read about globilization the more concerned I become about the objectives. A relatively "poor" nation for example may not be eligible for certain types of aid and investment unless it opens up to foreign competition on, say, grain. Farmers in a third world country simply can't compete with industrialized food producers in the developed world. So, cheap foreign food floods the market and local farming villages no longer can sell their products in their own country. They can't compete in the global market either. Eventually, their agrarian villages become economically untenable. This results in a flood of cheap labor to the cities, where their government's deals have gotten them some sneaker and tee-shirt factories in ex-change for opening their grain market to competition.

So, entire communities are uprooted, long-standing social and community bonds and norms are shattered, and folks who were often relatively wealthy by their own standards become paupers living in crowded cities all fighting for a few "good" jobs in factories bought at the expense of their entire way of life. Sounds like a good deal to me. The problem is that so many in the west are able to convince themselves that such people are "better-off" because they live in a city instead of in a farming village and because they work at a factory instead of tilling the earth. Smacks of cultural chauvanism to me.

Sadly, it appears that in most cases the only way a developing nation can get any aid is to face exactly this kind of "compromise". The only real winners are the global super-corporations and mega-rich who own the corporate farms with new markets to export to and who own the production processes that just got access to tons of cheap labor. Perhaps I'm just not looking hard enough but these results seem to be the rule rather than the exception.

Francis said...

True freedom of movement is impractical - but without it you can not have a true free market. Freedom of movement and where to work is what the poor have and the rich have freedom of movement of capital. Spot which one we currently have... (And although I agree that truly free borders are impractical, 100 years ago they were a hell of a lot freer than today even in terms of absolute numbers if Nial Ferguson is to be believed (and even capital was a fair bit freer)).

And the real problems with GM crops and globalisation are the whole idea of "Roundup Ready" (i.e. you can damage the environment three times as much by drenching your crops in a certain pesticide without them being affected) and the rent-seeking behaviour which first bans farmers from storing seeds and secondly sues them (and wins in Canada) if the GM crops blow into their field and thereby contaminate the crops the planter planted (see Monsanto vs Schmeiser for details). In short, the problem with GM isn't the idea - it's the execution.

Don Quijote said...

This results in a flood of cheap labor to the cities, where their government's deals have gotten them some sneaker and tee-shirt factories in ex-change for opening their grain market to competition.

At which point, if they are Mexicans they cross the border illegally into the US where they displace the local unskilled & semi skilled labor force.

OdinsEye2k said...

Hey all, long-time reader, first-time poster. Obligatory: Dr. Brin, haven't read any fiction of yours yet, but I generally like the cut of your jib.

One thing that may be overlooked in globalization (that I haven't heard about) is how fair the trade is from a neo-classical standpoint. In other words, the theory is that one a company makes windfall profits, another will enter the market to steal these away. Prices keep falling (or, they might even pay the better workers better for their own factories) until there is no longer these windfall differences between cost of production and market price.

Or even a possibility for the workers to slowly get together and make their own goods?

However, is there really a fair way for this mechanism to work as globalization is currently set up? Or is there too much back-room, monopolist style deals between large corps and the shipping co's to distort the market and guarantee massive profits?

I think this is a worthwhile way to further ask the free/fair trade question demanding the immediate conversion of the world to our living standards. It is the core question of whether this is a fair game or whether it is rigged to the benefit of those who would restore the pyramid over the diamond.

OdinsEye2k said...

The tone in that post seems a bit off - sorry for the pedantry on the basics.

But the main question I guess is - where is the competition? Who is getting that differential between $1.50 and the $13 of the store? It can't all be stocking and shipping.

David Brin said...

WARNING! HERE COMES A LONG, LONG DAVID BRIN SIDE RANT!



First, apologies to Quijote. Although I believe you have just illustrated my point, I had no right to patronize you in public that way. Perhaps one reason that I pick on you is because of an itchy sense of imbalance that I feel, in an era when there is so much that’s despicable going on over at the far right -- in effect a well-organized attempt to impose aristocratic rule atop western civilization. After ranting and imprecating about THAT, ad nauseum, I may feel a need to poke the other way, now and then. Or else... more likely... I am expressing a deep frustration that the far left can keep proposing the same utterly absurd tactics of small-tent coalition-limiting, when we’ll need a Big Tent if there’s any hope to destroy the neocon alliance.

Look, I think these recent rants about globalization really show something. Those of us who accept standard political dogmas derive benefits and pay steep costs.

The benefits are explained at: http://www.davidbrin.com/addiction.html

Among the costs? A near complete inability to perceive evidence contrary to standard doctrines. “Political” discussions become a reciprocal hurling of so-called “statistics” that are seldom attributed to primary sources. Even when they are, they stand alone, each serving as a single bullet, bereft of context or meaning. And easily blunted by bullets of the other side. Take the following

“Statistic”: The numbers of people living on less than $2 per day has risen by almost 50% since 1980, to 2.8 billion—almost half the world’s population.

Debunking: ”The world population in 1980 was 4.5 billion. The current population is 6.5 billion, an increase of "almost 50%". I'm not seeing a whole lot of information in this statistic.”

(In fact, this “statistic” is an incredible piece of easily disproved nonsense. No one could live in Europe, North America (any of it), East Asia or most of SE Asia on $750 a year, except perhaps in the very worst slums. Even in the most impoverished countries of South America, someone this poor would be in the lowest tiers, not the demographic middle. Three billion???? I defy you to find those three billion. Where do people GET this crap?)

Or take silliness from the other side, the huge tsunami of “statistics” cited by Michael Crichton in STATE OF FEAR... a turgid novel that is, alas, GWB’s sole briefing paper on global warming. How are you to sift from such a tendentious morass the genuine puzzlers (that merit serious study and response from global climate experts) separating the legitimate issues from all the exaggerations and the outright lies? Which of us will bother? We don’t have Disputation Arenas, so nothing is ever solved and the party lines remain where they were.

Hence, instead of displaying modernist agility and a willingness to adapt in a century of rapid change, the True Left prefers dogmas as rigid as their neocon foes. As rigid as they did before 1947, for example (returning to the topic at hand) decrying a process of globalization that would do more good and much less harm if it were GUIDED, instead of simply demonized.

(Think! What would the fat cats like better? To have liberal directors and advocates and lawyers streaming through the board rooms, examining every labor and environmental practice, tweaking/meddling endlessly? Or to have all those do-gooders marching outside, screaming oversimplifications that deprive them of credibility, leaving the management of globalization solely in the hands of the fat and greedy?)

Never, ever, do you hear anti-globalization fulminators (AGFs) offering positive steps or showing the slightest awareness OF WHAT WORKED IN THE PAST.

TELL ME what measures eased labor exploitation and environmental depredation in the homelands of the AGFs? (In Europe, Australasia and North America?) Did our grandparents burn the factories down and return to the fields? (By the way, it is TOTALLY B.S. to claim that my grandparents didn’t get their heads cracked and lives threatened during the Wobbly era. You (whoever said that) take it back!)

No, they worked, organized, built political power and gradually addressed these issues through LAW.

And do NOT try to distract by pointing to Bush Co attacks upon labor and enviro law in the US. I am as outraged about that as you are, possibly more so. Yet, it only illustrates my point. The battle for decent LAW is never ending. And oversimplifiers just aren’t helpful.

No. It shows one thing -- what worked in the developed world is the only thing that will work in the developing world.

LAW.

If you kick Addidas out of Indonesia, the workers are free, free, free, FREE, FREE... to go back to the farm... which is where they came from of their own free will in the first place, in order to get jobs that let them send their kids to high school. Du’uh!

But wait! How about this instead! Sneak micro-cameras into the factories and catch every abuse. Help the workers organize. Agitate for international and local laws that let Addidas make its profit, but also will force them to ramp up working conditions and benefits. Du’uh! (Oh, ads start with Walliemart, here in the states!)

Oh, this is useless. Because reason and compromise and incrementalism are not on the table. Because the impulse on the far left, that distinguishes it from true liberalism, is the penchant for ANTI MODERNISM! This means that law and incrementalism and pragmatism are the enemy, every bit as much as the neocon exploiters are.

If Bushco hates scientists, the far left hates engineers. If Bushco hates tort lawyers, the left hates entrepreneurs... (even though Karl Marx sang their praises!) While pragmatist reformers like WITNESS and the Sierra Club (liberals, not leftists) strive for the incremental improvements that can let developing countries have the benefits of globalization while gradually diminishing harmful effects, the far left wants all the people in those factories to go back to their nice villages and their wonderful multicultural dances and lovely multicultural ignorance and pastoral pre-machinery lives. “No! Don’t wear T shirts and drink Pepsi! That’s so wrong! Don’t you have a nice beaded sarong?”

Yes, that’s a horrid exaggeration... but sift for the grain of truth. It’s there.

(Reiterating an earlier rant. Romantics of the left and right are almost identical deep down. One group wants a return to feudalism. The other wants a return to ancient “tribal” wisdom. There are differences, but far less than they would have us think. Both despise the techno-modernist future. And they are both utterly delusional.)

Statistics? What deceit. Instead of such bullets. what I have learned to do is look for CONCEPTUAL GRENADES that are much harder to dispute. Like these.

1. Have you visited Japan? Korea? Taiwan? Hong Kong? Singapore? Are you telling me they are no richer today than they were in 1945? Have you seen Shanghai and nearly all of Malaysia? Much of Thailand and Vietnam? Have you been to Canton and Bangalore?

Add up the populations of these places, and tell me how the percentage of people on Earth living in poverty can have gone UP, as the left claims. I’d love to see the numbers. Oh, and the development rates in China are now higher than in all of those earlier examples. And yes! It is a filthy, uneven process of corruption and theft, mansions and tenements, roads and schools and skyrocketing pollution and increased caloric intake and vaccinations and labor exploitation and steadily rising education and university attendance and burgeoning local activism AND WHAT RIGHT HAS ANYBODY IN THE PAMPERED TERTIARY WESTERN ECONOMY TO LECTURE AT THEM THAT THEY SHOULD NOT TRY TO DO FOR THEIR KIDS WHAT OUR GRANDPARENTS DID FOR US?

Yes, we ought to lecture at them HOW to avoid mistakes. How to be more fair, to introduce accountability and divvy progress more evenly, to safeguard some nature, to learn from our experience. And we need to make them listen! I am equally contemptuous of 3rd world indignation junkies who scream “don’t preach at us, just give us what you’ve got!” Being ethnic doesn’t make them any more wise than anybody else.

But that’s pragmatism speaking, yet again.

2. Yes, progress has been less rapid in South America than in East Asia... and it’s been calamitously reversed in Africa. But note this correlation.

IT IS PRECISELY THE ECONOMIES THAT HAVE JOINED GLOBALIZATION AND ENMESHED MOST CLOSELY TO OURS, THAT HAVE DONE BEST. Want less globalization? Go look at Cuba, Burma, North Korea, Northern India. Then look across Africa, where ONLY the worst parts of globalization (resource extraction and cheap food imports from Europe/America) have wrought horrific harm without bringing any of the benefits.

3. I have spoken earlier and shown stats about rates of war and violence since WWII. But you do not need the stats. Anyone who thinks we now live in more violent or oppressive times is either a dingbat or a Bushco apologist. (Note, it is fear of a more violent world that Bushcos are using as their excuse to throw a putsch against the open society. And you’d play into that?)

Dig it. Never before has such a LOW fraction of the population had experience of war! And yes, the same holds for poverty. And if this statement causes outrage on the left, I have to ask... WHY?

Think.

Why does the notion of progress and accomplishment raise such fulmination and rage on the far left. Just as they reject the idea that racism and sexism and gay-intolerance in America have declined beyond even Martin Luther King’s dreams? Isn’t this what they’ve been fighting for?

The reason that they reject the notion of accomplishment has nothing to do with facts. It is psychological, emotional. And tragic. For because of this reaction, the left has made itself useless at GUIDING the changes that are taking place in the world around us. Drugged on indignation, they cannot be pragmatic. And thus, they are of no practical use to helping progress continue. Because the people of the developing world do not have time for theories. They want to talk to practical people. They want tools.

Don Quijote said...

Even in the most impoverished countries of South America, someone this poor would be in the lowest tiers, not the demographic middle. Three billion????
Prcentage of the population living under $2.00 a day

Honduras 44
Ecuador 40.8
Trinidad and Tobago 39
Peru 37.7
Guatemala 37.4
Bolivia 34.3
Paraguay 33.2
Venezuela 32
Mexico 26.3
Colombia 22.6
Brazil 22.4
Panama 17.6
Argentina 14.3

That probably accounts for the never ending flow of illegals jumping the border.

I defy you to find those three billion. Where do people GET this crap?)

According to Wikipedia

50.3 % of India's population lives under $2.00 a day, 46.7 % of China's population lives under $2.00 a day and 52.4% of Indonesia's population.

Now according to the CIA world fact book

there are 1,306,313,812 Chinese, 1,080,264,388 Indians and 241,973,879 Indonesians.

Now using my trusty spreadsheet, I come up with 1,288,353,629 individuals living on les than $2.00 a day.

Now that 's just picking three Countries, if you add the people in Sub-saharan Africa, South East Asia, Pakistan, Bangladesh living on less than $2.00 a day it won't take any real effort to find 2 Billion living on an income of less than $2.00 a day.

List of Countries by GDP

You'll observe that every country on the list below Senegal has a real GDP per Capita less than $750 per year.

Take off your Rose Colored glasses and take a really good look at the world around you. If you were not born in the US/Canada, the EU, Australia/New Zealand, Japan/Korea/Taiwan the odds are you are going to live in poverty.


As for Cuba, compared with it's neighbors (Haiti,Dominican republic, Jamaica) it's practically paradise.

Francis said...

David Brin wrote:
“Political” discussions become a reciprocal hurling of so-called “statistics” that are seldom attributed to primary sources. Even when they are, they stand alone, each serving as a single bullet, bereft of context or meaning.

Indeed. People often call them isolated facts, "isolated trade facts" or "conceptual bombs" - the latter choice being completely bereft of meaning or quantifiability, thereby rendering them effective at closing debates but not so effective at winning them.

(In fact, this “statistic” is an incredible piece of easily disproved nonsense. No one could live in Europe, North America (any of it), East Asia or most of SE Asia on $750 a year, except perhaps in the very worst slums.

Such beliefs only show your lack of experience with the world. Don Quijote's response was the correct one here - link actual evidence rather than a romantic assertion that something is not possible - and the actual evidence points out that more than 50 countries have a GDP per capita of less than $2/day. That means that the average person in more than one country in four is living on less than $2/day.

Statistics? What deceit. Instead of such bullets. what I have learned to do is look for CONCEPTUAL GRENADES that are much harder to dispute.

Ah, the tried and true methodology of the anti-modernist romantic. Can't deal with the wider picture so take some points that look good and support their case and present them with little context. They are very hard to dispute because they present far less evidence even than an out of context statistic.

Add up the populations of these places, and tell me how the percentage of people on Earth living in poverty can have gone UP, as the left claims.

Strawman alert! Strawman alert! The left claims that numbers living in poverty are going up, which isn't the same thing (as your debunking showed). As for numbers, perhaps you'd care to argue with the CIA world factbook figures presented. Or perhaps you'd prefer to generalise from a personal experience of an insignificantly small quantity of events rather than take the evidence as a whole. (Incidently, I have no doubt that wealth is increasing in Canton, Shanghai and Peking - but that's only the coastal strip of China and the countryside isn't seeing the improvements).

IT IS PRECISELY THE ECONOMIES THAT HAVE JOINED GLOBALIZATION AND ENMESHED MOST CLOSELY TO OURS, THAT HAVE DONE BEST.

Here we hit one of the crunch issues. What exactly do you mean by "Globalisation"? The anti-globalisation protesters mean free trade across all levels (name one contry that has industrialised through free trade after Britain kicked off the Industrial Revolution - I can name hordes who industrialised through protectionism and subsidies) but free trade only for capital. They also mean the incredibly damaging Supply Side policies enforced by the World Bank and IMF (again, name me a success here - the poster children are Chile (kept afloat by the Copper monopoly) and Argentina (and we know how that turned out)). The pro-globalisation lobby means integration and the way things should be. They also mean the way that the third world is not allowed to be protectionist - but the EU and America both manage to swamp third world farm goods by subsidising their farmers massively. (Don't get me started on the EU Common Agricultural Policy).

In short, the supporters of globalisation tend to react to the way things should be - the romantic position. The anti-globalisation movement tends to react to the way things actually happen and look at the empirical evidence - a much more modernist approach (although (a) AFAIK there is no viewpoint so sensible that it won't attract the insane and (b) I often disagree with the methods of making the point).

They want to talk to practical people. They want tools.

The problem is that uat the current level of development and automation, you need tools to make the tools to make the tools that will allow you to be remotely competative.

David, there are very few people I have met who can rant without coming off as ideologially blind idiots. Based on the above, you are not one of them (which I know isn't true). Now stick to the logic and analysis rather than the ranting please.

OdinsEye2k said...

David Brin wrote:

"Add up the populations of these places, and tell me how the percentage of people on Earth living in poverty can have gone UP, as the left claims."

The stats have already been posted, but a pretty good explainer is the fact that family planning and wealth are correlated. Hence the poor multiply rapidly, while we well-off folk have 2.1-2.5 kids a woman. Percentage wise, the poor continue to increase, even as some of them become not poor.

Most of the losses I've seen are in Africa, about the only part of the world making *negative* progress. Although I think you've already identified the cause of this one - to the poor there, everyone is the enemy. There is no connection except through the local warlord. Those that leave for education often acquire a taste for first-world life, leaving the rest behind.

So, in response to others, I think that labor is somewhat mobile. However, it is certainly not mobile at all levels (the professionals being the most mobile), and possibly not in all directions. The US has been very willing to "brain drain" the world (to our benefit and those coming here), but there is greater xenophobia elsewhere.

"But wait! How about this instead! Sneak micro-cameras into the factories and catch every abuse. Help the workers organize. Agitate for international and local laws that let Addidas make its profit, but also will force them to ramp up working conditions and benefits."

This statement has hurt my brain for a long time. Not because anything inherent in it is fallacy, but because of the problem it implies.

With multinats, you have this kind of anti-security dilemna. Instead of neighboring countries and states getting into an arms race, they get into a de-regulation race. Who can provide the cheapest workers and the weakest environmental controls?

Even in the US, where people overall demand higher standards, we still get this North-South "Right to Work" type competition for low wages and controls.

Now, Southern California and parts of Colorado have begun to figure this out a little. They realized that little guys grow faster add a lot more jobs to economies over time. The corporate guys are great because you can publish a headline saying "10,000 jobs moving in," but they will try to keep you on a short leash. Little guys need capital and other resources badly enough that you can stipulate more conditions on their operations.

But how to do this globally? As it was said earlier, it takes time to learn to make the tools that make the tools. I don't know if that option is available.

Finally, I would personally like to see the "GDP per capita" metric scrapped in the press. It's a fun but meaningless statistic when measuring relative misery. The distributions are more important to consider (lop off the top 2% in this country, and then show me economy-wide gains).

redkitty said...

I feel compelled to reiterate that centrism can be as knee-jerk as any other proclivity (one suspects that the itch Mr. Brin feels is his own patella twitching). In particular, incrementalism is not always equivalent to pragmatism. This should be evident to anyone who takes an honest look at the state of health care in the U.S. after half a century of conservative, incremental policy. In comparison, other nations have taken more radical approaches with more successful outcomes on a variety of metrics.

By the way, since labor and unions have been mentioned, it might be also be illuminating to contemplate the course of unionism in the U.S. since the pinko lefty radicals were purged.

Don Quijote said...

The anti-globalisation movement tends to react to the way things actually happen and look at the empirical evidence - a much more modernist approach (although (a) AFAIK there is no viewpoint so sensible that it won't attract the insane and (b) I often disagree with the methods of making the point).

In general, they do not have access to Capital, the Mass Media or Power, they make do with what they have and it ain't always pretty.

By the way, since labor and unions have been mentioned, it might be also be illuminating to contemplate the course of unionism in the U.S. since the pinko lefty radicals were purged.

The prgmatist modernist have been very busy the last fouty years selling them down the river, and now they wonder how they are going to stand up to the Fascist running the country.

redkitty said...

Neglected to add that I'm in complete agreement that the problem of immigration/assimilation issues for liberal sensibilities is "interesting"... in the proverbial Chinese sense. This one makes my head hurt too.

Also, my current favorite example of an issue crying out for a radical solution is actually the gay marriage dispute. Although the doctrinaire Left position casts this in terms of religious intolerance, I think the religionists (for once) are correct. Viewed as a religious institution, marriage is clearly a heterosexual affair, and always has been. If you want to change that, you should be arguing with your fellow religionists, not expecting the government to intervene.

The real social problem here is not so much intolerance as it is the conflation of religious and civil institutions, which is a result of the historic back-scratching between church and state. In other words, instead of agitating for the state sanction of gay marriage, activists should be pushing for a stronger dose of church/state separation. Give civil unions all the legal weight and leave "marriage" to the churches.

This approach could also have a stronger justification in terms of social equality. Gay activists argue that they should have the same legal privileges as straight couples. This is fine as far as it goes, but why should those privileges be confined to people in sexual relationships? Or to couples rather than groups, for that matter?

While I can't deny that taking this tack would be politcally difficult, the same could be said for the very concept of church/state separation.

Rob Perkins said...

I do not consider a country where the access to running water is a hose at the street to be paradise.

David Brin said...

Sorry to have dropped the fascinating discussion on globalization - you are all free to continue it here under comments.

Of course it may have seemed that I was excessively ornery and contrary about the extent of global poverty, which remains a dire issue, even in countries like China and India that are experiencing sharp economic upturns. And yet, notice that the reflex by our resident lefties was - again - to seek succor in statistics, which are easily deflected, rather than addressing blatant trends, which are not.

Trend#1 - the relentless story of cascading wealth-generation that follows in the wake of those hated “addidas” factories, that exploit cheap labor first in textiles then other products... the core elements of globalization.
Those factories used to be called “Dickensian” because Dickens inveighed (rightfully!) against their horrific downsides when England was the land of cheap exploitable labor. (Never discussing the products of those factories, which e.g. gave poor people inexpensive clothing for the 1st time in history.) What's ignored is that those factories had to LEAVE England! Why? Because the working class there got rich enough to choose NOT to work in such places anymore!
My immigrant grandparents in the New York garment industry were next, then the mills moved south, then to Japan, then Korea and Taiwan. Then Singapore, then Malaysia. Now into a huge labor sink that should last a while, China. One quarter of the population of the world.
It would be one thing if the quasi-slavery that we saw in each of these phases were permanent. If it lasted more than a generation. In that case, one might be justified in calling it systematically evil exploitation. But if it lasts in each place for JUST one generation, then isn't the OTHER model just as valid?

The model of heroically hard working - if ill educated - people working very hard as our grandparents did -- and yes being exploited -- in order for their children to get electricity and school books and uniforms and calories and diplomas so THEY would not have to work as hard? Doesn't it dishonor these people JUST to call them victims, when in fact they are (in every country) the generation of heroes?
Because in EVERY case it has only lasted a generation, before the textile mills move on -- leaving behind a new generation of high school graduates in a fully fledged middle class, with roads and power lines and harbors and infrastructure that the mills left behind -- is it possible that this process deserves some respect and study, scrutinizing it for ways to maximize the good while minimizing the bad, instead of simply getting off on the indignant oversimplifying rush of opposing it?

Ah, but that would be hated pragmatism. Reform, instead of romantic revolution. That would entail labor and environmental LAW... the very thing that worked in OUR lands. Oooooooh, we can't have that! Much better to march.

Trend #2 - utterly ignored is the point I made about the psychological need to ignore progress.

Let’s be clear that I am clearly not the one operating on reflex from a simple script! If someone were to contend the world is hunky dory, I would strip off my “rose colored glasses” so fast you’d be knocked over in the backwash! No, it is the person who can only see one side of things who is wearing tinted glasses!

The thing that Quijote and people of the left will NEVER address is the hypocrisy of demanding (for the last hundred years) that reforms be made, yet never ever admitting that many HAVE been made... and perhaps many of them have worked wonderfully well. And indeed, that BRAGGING about the success of liberal reforms in the past might add credibility to liberalism and prove vastly more effective a technique than relentlessly berating our civilization and citizens for their evil ways.
Indeed, you cannot get them to discuss this point, let alone even grok that the words that I have just typed are parsable, that they have meaning that can be allowed into consciousness.
(Note, insult will be taken, but the actual issue that I just raised WILL NOT BE ADDRESSED. Watch.)

The reason is simple. Leftism and liberalism are not the same things. At all. Not even remotely.

Liberalism is the heart and soul of modernism.
It changed the world, bringing labor and environmental law, more than half curing us of racism and sexism, spreading tolerance and science and education and home ownership and small business entrepreneurship and universities and the internet.
To call these accomplishments “leftist” is like saying that democracy is all about majority rule. It utterly utterly misses the point.

As in 1947, liberalism simply has to shuck itself of these useless ranters.

But this is not 1947. The need to distinguish liberal-vs-left is nowhere near as desperate as the need to wake up millions of genuine american conservatives to their duty to reject the far right. The monstrous alliance of kleptocrats-fanatics -neocon mystics and would be feudal lords who are so vastly worse than anything on the left that it is not even remotely funny.

Francis said...

David Brin wrote:
Of course it may have seemed that I was excessively ornery and contrary about the extent of global poverty, which remains a dire issue, even in countries like China and India that are experiencing sharp economic upturns.

One of the points about countries like India and (particularly) China that are experiencing economic upturns is that they have not bought into the current model of globalisation proposed by Milton Friedman and the Chicago School of Economics and enforced by the IMF, World Bank, and the WTO.

And yet, notice that the reflex by our resident lefties was - again - to seek succor in statistics, which are easily deflected, rather than addressing blatant trends, which are not.

Except that you have singularly failed to dismiss any of the statistics available. The best you have managed to do is use someone else's rebuttal that only shows that the situation is remaining approximately constant. Instead you resort to "blatant trends" - blatant to whom? And you also dismiss statistics that you can't imagine to be right - despite the evidence disagreeing with you.

The problem with blatant trends is what is blatant depends on who you know. Has George Bush been good for the economy? If your income is in the top 1% of the US - and so is that of everyone you know, the answer is blatantly "yes". If you and your entire factory have been closed down, the nearby farms are having problems shipping grain through New Orleans and the price of gas has rocketed at the pump, the answer is just as blatantly "no".

A "Blatant Trend" is just a good anecdote - and the plural of anecdote is not data.

Trend#1

Agreed. I have no problem with buying goods made in sweatshops as long as those sweatshops are honest but unpleasant rather than making an attempt to resemble the Congo Free State. Also, just because the sweatshops our ancestors got prosperous through were Dickensian doesn't mean that the next iteration of this process needs to be as bad. That's called progress :-)

Trend #2 - utterly ignored is the point I made about the psychological need to ignore progress.

Because, in my experience, it refers largely to the lunatic fringe.

Let’s be clear that I am clearly not the one operating on reflex from a simple script!

When you can find someone who admits to operating on reflex from a simple script, I will accept that that statement means something. Until then it is effectively meaningless.

If someone were to contend the world is hunky dory, I would strip off my “rose colored glasses” so fast you’d be knocked over in the backwash! No, it is the person who can only see one side of things who is wearing tinted glasses!

And once again you are beating up strawmen. The script you are accused of reading from is the Centrist Script - the one that says "The extreme left talks rubbish and the extreme right talks rubbish. Therefore I will stay right here in the middle and because I can see some of what the left sees and some of what the right sees, my viewpoint must be fair and balanced." In order to see more than one side of the picture you need to wander around, sometimes looking over the shoulder of the extreme left, sometimes looking over the shoulder of the extreme right and sometimes wandering all round the object or clambering all over it. Occasionally the extremists on the left are right and very occasionally the extremists on the right are right. A stopped clock is right twice a day.

I do not recall ever seeing you take a course that placed you on the extreme on either side - even when (as in the row over "Intelligent Design") it is a fight between exasperated and frustrated modernism and a romantic and reactionary movement which is mendacious in the extreme, and has the stated goal of overthrowing secular society.

The thing that Quijote and people of the left will NEVER address is the hypocrisy of demanding (for the last hundred years) that reforms be made, yet never ever admitting that many HAVE been made... and perhaps many of them have worked wonderfully well. And indeed, that BRAGGING about the success of liberal reforms in the past might add credibility to liberalism and prove vastly more effective a technique than relentlessly berating our civilization and citizens for their evil ways.

Either you deliberately chose to ignore me, don't count me as a leftist, or you haven't been paying attention. To take two examples I know I've done on this blog (there are many more elsewhere), I've given a history of 19th Century Liberalism and the improvements it has made, and I've praised the NHS to high heaven - it was founded in 1945 (and yes, I know it is less than perfect) (there is also plenty more I've said elsewhere).

(Note, insult will be taken, but the actual issue that I just raised WILL NOT BE ADDRESSED. Watch.)

*raises one eyebrow sardonically*

Liberalism is the heart and soul of modernism.

Define what you mean by Liberalism and then we'll talk. It means very different things on the continent to in the US, with Britain (as usual) being balanced between both positions.

Actually, in Britain it worked itself out of a job in the early 20th Century, almost died of neglect as an ideology and then got re-imported from America and the Continent. In Britain, Liberalism was about removing entrenched privelige (of which the first manifestations were about reigning back the power of the King) and in doing so it smashed slavery and the Aristocracy and gave the vote to the poor - who then formed the Labour Party. The Whigs were therefore a victim of their own (incredible) success, rendering most of their ideology redundant (in their last government, they managed to force through the Parliament act - preventing the Lords from blocking the Commons).

This time, when you reply, some actual engaging with responses rather than continuing to beat the same drum despite many of your points having been shot to ribbons would be nice. (An acknowledgement you were wrong about the $2/day would be a good start. As would defining what you mean by globalisation - I've already pointed out that the anti-globalisation lobby and the supporters of globalisation mean different things).

Don Quijote said...

It would be one thing if the quasi-slavery that we saw in each of these phases were permanent. If it lasted more than a generation. In that case, one might be justified in calling it systematically evil exploitation. But if it lasts in each place for JUST one generation, then isn't the OTHER model just as valid?

A simple question for you David, how many countries that were not industrialized prior to WWII have succesfully industrialized since the end of WWII?

I can only think of two countries Korea & Taiwan and one city-state Singapore.

Tony Fisk said...

DQ: Offering stats? Point to David! Try offering a trend with those stats on poverty (ie: use your sources to compare the percentage of the population living in abject poverty in 1980 and 2000, plus a few other points, if you're feeling industrious. How do you define poverty? By daily wages, or by minimum level of subsistence? Whatever, I do agree that the number is way too high)

As to your question. You are taking on the 'one generation only' argument?
1. Nominate which countries have commenced industrialisation since WWII, and when. I would add China and India, and the Phillipines (the list had better be longer than Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore)
2. Define successfully. Is it when/whether the 'dickensian sweatshops' move on?

Francis: Ah! But do you consider yourself a leftist or a liberal?
(Or a scriptless wanderer?;-)
FWIW, you come across as a well reasoning liberal.

Yes, David is a bit slapdash, and he could be a little more explicit in his concessions than stating he 'seems to be ornery and contrary on global poverty'. He's also covering a lot of ground.

David Brin said...

Thanks Tony. Yes, I am being VERY slap dash! I hereby refuse ever to be quoted out of context on ANY of this, as any one paragraph might make me look positively loony!

The problem with blatant trends is what is blatant depends on who you know. Has George Bush been good for the economy? If your income is in the top 1% of the US - and so is that of everyone you know, the answer is blatantly "yes". If you and your entire factory have been closed down, the nearby farms are having problems shipping grain through New Orleans and the price of gas has rocketed at the pump, the answer is just as blatantly "no".

And I am supposed to disagree with this? Well tough. I don’t disagree at all. Yet so what!

You use distraction, pointing in a direction that has nothing to do with the thing you pretend to answer.

I have no problem with buying goods made in sweatshops as long as those sweatshops are honest but unpleasant rather than making an attempt to resemble the Congo Free State.

Again, exactly how is it that you expect me to disagree? Good extremum, by the way. So? How do we SO this? We do it by ensuring that globalization is maximally open. If workers must slave for low wages, at least give them minicams and web sites to post safety violations! Show their tenements so the megacorps must invest in worker housing and sanitation. Ensure that corrupt local officials take minimal mordita so that 20 cents of your sneaker cost actually builds the road and school and school bus and another 10 cents goes to school books, so mom & dad can grouch in 20 years about how hard they worked for spoiled grandkids to get a college education.

I do not recall ever seeing you take a course that placed you on the extreme on either side - even when (as in the row over "Intelligent Design") it is a fight between exasperated and frustrated modernism and a romantic and reactionary movement which is mendacious in the extreme, and has the stated goal of overthrowing secular society.

What an utterly bizarre statement! Find a person anywhere in the world who is a more radical modernist! You fall for the insane calumny that “moderates” are therefor wishy washy and I reject it utterly. I am FOR hugely radical increases in aggressive research of sustainable technologies. (Sound lefty? Well it isn’t!) I am for multiplying micro loans in the developing world 100 fold, in order to unleash local capitalism. Is that lefty or righty or simply an expression of confidence in human potential?

Damn straight I see things as radically polar as anybody on the left-right axi4‘

David Brin said...

My last point got cut off... so let me resume....


Damn straight I see things as radically polar as anybody on the left-right axis! But I see the fight as orthogonal to that axis and at least I’m bringing some originality to the table!

(Note, insult will be taken, but the actual issue that I just raised WILL NOT BE ADDRESSED. Watch.)

*raises one eyebrow sardonically*


Excellent! I knew that if I made it a genuine dare, it might actually provoke some of the thinking I’ve seen you do on other occasions.

As for the $2 a day, I still cannot see how it could even remotely be possible. I could dlag stats back and forth but that was never the issue! The issue was whether the trends in globalization show genuine human progress and huge positive momentum. Both are obvious to anyone, without recourse to a single statistic. Go tell it to the Japanese, the Koreans, the Thais, the Malaysians, the people of Bangalore.

And don’t you DARE accuse me of obstinacy while you refuse to concede THAT point.

Don Quijote said...

As for the $2 a day, I still cannot see how it could even remotely be possible.

For a writer, you really really lack imagination.


Go down to Mexico, stay away from the tourist areas, and take a good look around.

That's a country with a GDP per capita of ~10k and a really bad income distribution.

Now after you have taken a good look around, let your imagination flow and imagine a reaaly poor country like China or India.

Don Quijote said...

Go tell it to the Japanese, the Koreans, the Thais, the Malaysians, the people of Bangalore.

A. Japan has been an Industrialized and wealthy country since the turn of the twentieh century.

B. Bangalore is a city of 6 million in a country of over a billion.

C. Thailand, the country must be paradise cause it's known worldwide for it's sex tourism trade.

D. Malaysia, a country headed in the right direction, and that may become another Korea.

E. Korea, one of the few country that I know of that has successfully industrialized in the last fifty years.


The issue was whether the trends in globalization show genuine human progress and huge positive momentum. Both are obvious to anyone, without recourse to a single statistic.

Go tell that to the Salvadorans, Haitians, Dominicans, Nicaraguans, Guatemalans, hell pretty much every one south of the US border. I am sure that they keep voting for leftist goverments cause the future is so bright, they have to wear shades.

reason said...

David,
I think your argument with Quijote is going in the wrong direction, but not exactly in the way you think. I don't think it is the left-right thing. Don Quijote correctly identifies lots of valid problems, but is not rigorous in discerning the causes or (more importantly) in identifying (provenly) effective solutions. Your examples (research into alternative technologies) and micro-credit exansion (both excellent ideas by the way but I am not clear about the implementation details) are a start to cut through this pointless quarrel.

Just say we agree (mostly) about ends, now lets talk about means.

But your comment on subsidised research brings me closer to what I consider one of the great puzzles to be solved in the 21st Century. How best to encourage science? It really worries me.

My father was a scientist (in Australia) and he was greatly concerned about the changes he saw during his lifetime, changes that superficially seemed sensible at the time but I think are potentially disastrous. The Bush Administration didn't invent this problem, they have just made it painfully obvious.

My father worked basically all of his career for an organisation called the CSIRO in Australia. This organisation played a great role in developing Australia, especially when Australia relied on mainly agricultural exports. Its brief was to investigate problems (such as poor yields, parasites, producing products in a way to exploit market openings etc.) brought to them by industry ministries and find solutions for all players in that industry. Products were liscenced but not for profit. The beneficiaries were widely dispersed.

Then came the takeover by the accountants. Cost effectiveness became the key which meant that coincidental sidelines were not persued, employment became unstable and therefore potentially corrupting pressure (including pressure to be dishonest) became greater, and sponsored research favouring big industry with private commercial patents at the end became common. Many feel that the once internationally renouned CSIRO has been gutted and is now just a subsidy for big business.

The recent "free-trade" agreement Australia and the US is an extension of this trend. Many critics of this agreement have contented that its main effect is just to extend the life and scope of US Intellectual Property rights. And Intellectual Property rights are a big problem. They confer a monopoly. They favour a rentier class at the expense of everybody else. And they can and do inhibit progress.

I really believe that knowledge and information must be free, to as large an extent as humanly possible. Researchers should be insulated from outside pressure as much as possible. (Hence the historical developed but now largely abandoned idea of tenure). But progress and research and development also need to be financed. How to do this equitably and effectively is a very difficult issue. I would like to know what other people think of this. I really think it is a huge and largely ignored problem now.

StGabe said...

It seems to me that, as with the discussion I got involved with a long time ago about postmodernmists, Dr. Brin may be working too hard to make enemies out of people who probably agree with him on many points.

I think there are a lot of valid concerns about free trade here and they are largely being conflated with irrelevant extremist viewpoints. Dr. Brin, you seem pretty locked into the viewpoint that progress must be happening and unwilling to question where it may not be which is at least as bad as ignoring what successes of free trade there have been. Personally my largest problems are where the process has become corrupt, which seems to be more often than not, and where economic advantage of the empowered trumps a fair introduction of free trade. I think there are a significant number of cases where progress isn't being made. You want to argue that we shouldn't tell people not to industrialize and develop as we have but I think others have made the point well that often there is not a lot of choice involved once trade borders open and that the manner and direction of development is forced by market realities that have little to do with the individuals living in the relevant country.

Until we can find fair ways to introduce free trade I'm not sure we should. It's not a matter of having a bias that says that these people are better with their "tribal wisdom". Some people think that but conflating that mentality with anti-globalization is a vast oversimplification. To me it's just a matter of not forcing them to go to the city either. We need to find better, incremental ways to ensure that they can go to the city if they want to and they can stay with their "tribal" ways if they instead choose that and that either way they will be economically empowered and have at least a modicum of control over what "free trade" does to their lives.

To the extent that countries are already globalized I agree that the emphasis should indeed be on helping workers organize, publicizing abuses, and educating consumers about where the things they buy come from. I also agree that this is an arms race and that it will be an uphill battle to fight against corrupt officials in countries who have every reason not to regulate or allow worker organization. It's better to try to get globalization right before we unleash it on people.

Francis said...

David Brin wrote:
And I am supposed to disagree with this? Well tough. I don’t disagree at all. Yet so what!

You use distraction, pointing in a direction that has nothing to do with the thing you pretend to answer.


No. I am pointing out that your methods of approaching the situation are only appropriate for preaching to the choir (or to people who haven't actually thought about the issues). You actually need statistics because conceptual bombs are both near meaningless and painted with a ridiculously broad brush. I am aware that statistics will then be abused (I'm a professional statistician so I'd have to be stupid not to spot that) - but (as was demonstrated in the David Irving/Deborah Lipstadt libel trial) that they are giving statistics to abuse means that you can nail them on exactly how it is being done.

Almost everyone on every side can produce conceptual bombs. Without some sort of disputation arena, there are two possible results against a prepared opponent - it fizzling (as yours pretty much has as you are aiming at the wrong target) or disbelief (as you have attempted to do with the $2/day figure).

The other weakness with "conceptual bombs", of course, is that they are much easier to make up and pull out of thin air than sourced statistics.

So? How do we SO this? We do it by ensuring that globalization is maximally open.

By "Open", you appear to mean "monitored". Along the lines of your transparent society. I thoroughly agree that this is a good idea - but it is not happening fast enough (and a side effect of Free Trade and Globalisation is that factories move to the area that gives them the best terms). Incidently, monitoring is what killed the Congo Free State - journalists with the new photographic equipment arriving, being horrified, and instead of simply writing about the barbarities being able to send pictures back home.

Again, it depends on just what you mean by "Globalisation" - what is being protested against (and what you are failing to engage with) is the current practice of globalisation enforced by the WTO, the IMF, and the World Bank.

What you are proposing is a mixture of the theory and some of the sort of measures the saner protesters (there are some definite luddites in there) actually want. (The other set of measures they want are to cut the Market Fundamentalism out of the three organisations named - which is a goal I think you don't disagree with).

What an utterly bizarre statement! Find a person anywhere in the world who is a more radical modernist! You fall for the insane calumny that “moderates” are therefor wishy washy and I reject it utterly.

To the first comment, I might come pretty close (and I've got a few years yet before I reach your age...).

To the second, I was raised a Quaker - of course I know it isn't true. Most wishy-washy people are moderates. Not all moderates are wishy-washy. And it's irrelevant to the accusation anyway. The accusation is that you've taken a look round and come to the conclusions that the far left is insane and the far right is mad, bad and dangerous to know. (I won't disagree with either of these veiwpoints btw). What you have then done is dismissed them and come to the conclusion that they are both always wrong - a form of psychological rigidity rather than wishy-washyness.

You then do wander around on an extra axis but you treat the extremes in any mainstream debate you are not a specialist in as if they have the plague and start out by ruling them out.


The issue was whether the trends in globalization show genuine human progress and huge positive momentum. Both are obvious to anyone, without recourse to a single statistic. Go tell it to the Japanese, the Koreans, the Thais, the Malaysians, the people of Bangalore.
[Emphasis mine]

Here we get back to a difference between the pro-globalisation lobby and the anti-globalisation protesters I have repeatedly mentioned. What exactly do you mean by "Globalisation"?

There has definitely been progress some of it concurrent with this recent rise in globalisation. The contention made by the anti-globalisation protesters is that the countries which are gaining most are those which are telling the IMF, WTO and World Bank to screw themselves and are remaining Mercantilist, Socialist, and putting restrictions in place on the flow of capital. The big three mentioned by Tony Fisk (China, India, the Philipines) are all largely ignoring the methods prescribed by the globalisation advocates (I don't know much about the smaller ones).

You have continually failed to address what you mean by "Globalisation" and to provide any evidence that the methods the protesters object to are working.

As for the $2 a day, I still cannot see how it could even remotely be possible.

I'm afraid that says more about you and your experience of the world than it does about the world itself. It is clearly possible as (sources earlier in the thread) the average person in more than 50 countries lives on under $2/day. I don't see how [insert one of many results from Quantum Theory here] - but when the empirical evidence says that something happens, that I can't see how is my problem.

To deny that a problem exists when the empirical evidence says it does is a very rationalist and romantic viewpoint.

And don’t you DARE accuse me of obstinacy while you refuse to concede THAT point.

Of course not. What I am going to say is that your definition of globalisation appears to be "whatever happens" - in which case your attacks on the anti-globalisation movement are completely missing the point they are trying to make (which may not be the best communicated, but I digress).

Progress is happening. Globalisation is happening. Your entire case appears to be using this correlation to imply causation - whereas using a narrower definition of Globalisation, there is quite a bit of evidence that progress is happening despite globalisation.

Francis said...

Before I forget:
I knew that if I made it a genuine dare, it might actually provoke some of the thinking I’ve seen you do on other occasions.

Three years ago I thought the way you do on this subject. Since then I've done somethinking...

Don Quijote said...

Washington Post - Trade Brings Riches, but Not to Mexico’s Poor

While the percentage of poor Mexicans is about the same now as it was in the early 1980s -- a little more than 50 percent -- the population has grown over the same period, from 70 million to 100 million. That means about 19 million more Mexicans are living in poverty than 20 years ago, according to the Mexican government and international organizations. About 24 million -- nearly one in every four Mexicans -- are classified as extremely poor and unable to afford adequate food.

...

But what has become painfully clear in Mexico is that free trade -- most famously NAFTA -- has failed to lift the country out of poverty.

Starting with Miguel de la Madrid, president from 1982 to 1988, a succession of Ivy League-educated presidents bet on a formula intended to create prosperity for all. They advocated opening Mexico's markets, making government smaller, and decreasing its involvement in agriculture and industry.

"There was heavy reliance on a rising tide carrying all boats," said Guerra, who served as spokesman for two presidents in the 1990s. "Well, free-market policies have done nothing to alleviate poverty."

Instead, such policies have helped the upper classes and widened the divide between rich and poor. Studies show that the richest 10 percent now control about half of the country's financial and real estate assets. Most of those who are extremely poor live in rural areas. Government figures show that more than 40 percent of Mexicans in rural areas earn less than $1.40 a day, unable even to feed themselves decently. As a result, people are bailing out of the countryside as if it were a ship on fire.


Another succes story brought to you by the Pragmatist Modernist.