Sunday, December 03, 2006

Fresh looks at Genesis... and at Aid to the Developing World...

I recently exchanged some emails with a pal over theological points in the Bible that need to be brought forward and evaluated for fresh relevance in modern times.

My favorite is the profound (and profoundly under-appreciated) moment in Genesis when God asks Adam to “name the beasts”... to me this is not only an allegory to science, but an implication that we were meant, all along, to be apprentices who would help to complete the process of creation. (e.g. by setting forth and naming everything in nature... and then?)

See my riff on Name the Beasts from Genesis, in Is Theology Compatible with Science, Progress and Sci Fi?

Joe Carroll wrote back that he had long pondered - “-- the "bit apple" logo of Apple Computer. I'm probably less of a religious fanatic than most people, but to me it does seem like a very explicit reference to "The Fall" and the resulting banishment from the Garden of Eden, and a suggestion that Apple views its role as tempting a new generation to "sample the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge." Have you ever seen any fundamentalist rants on this subject?”

Hm... WOW! I never saw that logo that way. yeesh.

I wonder. Of course this brings to mind the passage just before the allegory of the Tower of Babel:

“Behold, they are one people and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will be impossible for them. Genesis 11:5-8 (Revised Standard)”

Clearly the scriveners of Genesis... indeed, most of the Bible... seem to be saying that a jealous Creator did NOT want us joining Him in the Big Lab, learning His secrets and/or becoming skilled at His creative tools. Hubris, hubris, hubris... And yet...

... might that have been THEN? Times clearly have changed - witness the profound power and effectiveness of our science and engineering, which cannot have happened if they were outrageous sins. Especially since so many of us are able to appreciate the sheer beauty of things like Maxwell’s Equations... an appreciation that surely is (and feels like) a kind of worship.

Likewise, He no longer booms commands from the clouds and instead sits back, ambiguously enigmatic and silent, watching what we do.

Has He changed? Have we? Was it necessary for us to pass through a long and painful childhood -learning to stand up on our own - before being ready for adolescence and then true apprenticeship?

(And if so, what will our creative duties be?)

Either way, the Revelations junkies have simply got to have it wrong. The real universe is too vast and interesting to be enslaved to John of Patmos’s bummer LSD trip. Are there REALLY people who look forward to such silliness?

Apprenticeship sounds like a better destiny, much more worthy of a Creator who deserves respect.


==How Aid Money Flows into the Developing World==

TheProgressive Policy Institute compares how “aid” money flows into the developing world.

(1) Aid flows from governments, IMF & World Bank: According to the OECD, foreign aid from wealthy countries and multilateral agencies reached $106.5 billion in 2005. (It includes $27 billion in American aid, $55 billion from EU members, $13 billion from Japan and $2 billion from Australia and New Zealand. Norway was the world's highest giver relative to GDP.)

(2) Private charities: Data on donations from NGOs are not yet available for 2005, but according to the World Bank, worldwide private charitable giving to foreign causes came to $13.8 billion in 2004. As Europe to official aid, so the United States to private charity: American charities accounted for $6.9 billion, or fully half the world's overseas private aid

(3) FDI from businesses: The U.N. Conference on Trade and Development's annual FDI report, out last week, finds $780 billion in foreign direct investment from businesses during 2005, including $334 billion in FDI in "developing countries." But excluding places like Taiwan, Korea and China plummets it to $180 billion everywhere else.

(4) Remittances from overseas workers: Remittances to developing countries from overseas workers came to $230 billion: twice the value of all foreign aid from all countries, and roughly equal to the value of all FDI in poor countries combined.

Enlightening! But I have long contended there should be a fifth category.

5) First world purchases of consumer goods that give factory jobs to developing world workers. Putting aside the bad reputation of Addidas factories... and far worse exploitation seen wherever local lords control the process... there can be no doubt that more people have moved out of poverty through the “transition” factories of 1950s Japan, 1960s Taiwan, 1970s Korea, 1980s Singapore and Malaysia, 1990s China... and so on... than because of any other process.

Although I have never seen these numbers separated out, can there be any question that they would vastly tower over all other forms of “aid” (including remittances) combined? Indeed, the blatant pattern, from Japan to China, is inarguable. The only question is: “Can this kind of thing be called aid?”

It is not presently defined that way. Rather, credit is given to the miracle of the market place. And there is some truth to that. Certainly, it is hard to credit beneficence to grabby holiday shoppers, grabbing Malaysia-made Elmo dolls off the shelf at Toys R Us!

And yet, I believe a great injustice is being done. For this did not happen by accident. Decisions were made, more than 50 years ago, that set this cycle into motion. And it did not have to be this way at all. In fact, history shows that it is quite unprecedented.

At the end of WWII, America bestrode the world as a behemoth. Garish Soviet armies and their new atom bombs offered the appearance of bipolarity, but only in narrow spheres. For example, as the era’s “pax” imperium, the United States established the rules of international trade. And, worth-noting, it did NOT do as other empires had done, when they had a similar dominance. Instead of mercantalism - favoring homeland factories - the secretariats of George Marshall and Dean Acheson established trade patterns that permanently favored factory production in the smoldering ruins of Europe and Asia. (In part simply by shrugging off the protectionist mercantalism of those countries, allowing consumer-driven purchasing to follow cheap labor and investment, wherever it might lead.)

The results are ultimate repudiations of the left’s anti-globalization fetishism. A blatant and clear escalator that carries populations from exploitation factories to middle class within a single generation, a rate so staggeringly quick and successful that all else is tweaking and commentary. NECESSARY tweaking... because the civilization cannot abide outrageous exploitation of either people or the planet, and remain either decent or wise! Still, the first-order effects of decisions made by Marshall and Acheson are simply stunning an utterly inarguable.

Which provokes wonder. Why is this different way of looking at trade-based development never discussed, but rather, taken for-granted? If measured by standard definitions of sacrifice or generosity-based selflessness, the American consumer can hardly be deemed philanthropic. (Though the very same people seem to be the most personally-generous on the planet, in their non-consumer role.) Grabby, materialistic and toy-loving, the culture seems superficially contemptible.

But, given a little far-sighted wisdom at the top, almost a lifetime ago, the cumulative effects seem to point in another direction, entirely. At the one thing that - above all others - may be responsible for saving the world.

84 comments:

Anonymous said...

But what was the cost? That's the true question here. As the jobs and factories scurry after cheap labor markets and lax environmental laws, what are we doing to this planet?

For that matter, are we in effect strengthening the governments that hate the U.S. and want nothing more than to destroy us and our way of life? By enhancing the prosperity of these nations, their governments are in turn enhanced and have not lessened their loathing of the United States. Instead, they continue to hate us and indeed may hate us more because they are now dependant on us to purchase their oil and their goods.

If worse comes to worse and the U.S. economy collapses under its own weight (built on a foundation of sand), what happens to the rest of the world? What happens when the primary market of so many of these factories is no longer solvant? Might these countries then take this new infrastructure and use it to launch a final strike against their hated foe (us) who has "betrayed" them again by no longer being a market for their goods?

Even worse... what happens if the ecology itself collapses, if we start seeing a massive dieoff of ocean life and then land-based life as a result of the poisoning and pollution caused by our economic expansion world-wide? Some scientists believe that the enhanced and devastating hurricane season a couple years ago was a precursor of what will come due to global warming. If it does... and super-storms start tearing across the globe, making sea travel treacherous and near impossible, and air-travel ni-impossible... what will happen to the world economy then?

Just to take a cynical look at things. ;)

For that matter... what can we do to help strengthen the foundation of our own economic structure? We can't necessarily do anything about the weather (though small steps enabled by the EPA if the Supreme Court rules that they must take those steps may help lessen any problems or even ultimately hold off that scenario in its entirety) but we can work to reform the abuses found within our own economic system to keep any crashes minimal. But what do we do first? What can we do first?

Rob H., Tangents Reviews

David Brin said...

No one is more aware than I am, of how tight the race is. The Earth's slender surplus may give way. We may replicate Easter Island. You think the author of EARTH doesn't know this?

But Easter Island is the right comparison. It was IGNORANT and neurotic and terrified people who did that, not calm, knowing and satiated ones.

The world's population was scheduled to reach 15 billion and then collapse. Now it seems aimed to peak at 9 billion and then taper gradually. Is that better? I doubt anyone would deny it!

But HOW did that happen? By yammering and lecturing at the people of the world to stop having babies?

Three factors did it. 1) wealth/satiation, 2) education, 3) empowerment of women. And yes, the left pushed for the last, and somewhat for #2. But #1 has been paramount...

...and I refuse to let dogmas stop me from noticing what has worked! If buying $%#@#$ toys at Walmart has turned billions of angry impoverished hyper-breeders into hopeful/vested parents of treasured one or two kids, then yay Walmart!

Yes, we need to CITOKATE walmart - personally, I despise old Sam on a dozen levels - but OTOH.,..

...to HELL with New Puritans who turn their backs on the world's top source of hope, just because it doesn't fit their image of niceness! We need to use tools and use them fast.

And accept that the present US trade deficit is probably the most sacred thing going on!

Stefan Jones said...

As usual, The Onion has a humorous, twisted take on the overseas labor situation:

Chinese Factory Worker Can't Believe The Shit He Makes For Americans

'FENGHUA, CHINA—Chen Hsien, an employee of Fenghua Ningbo Plastic Works Ltd., a plastics factory that manufactures lightweight household items for Western markets, expressed his disbelief Monday over the "sheer amount of shit Americans will buy."'

* * *

". . . the most sacred thing going?"

CITOKATE! Calling something "sacred" or a "miracle" is a bad rhetorical device. Calling something sacred means setting it off limits to judgement and doubt. Calling something a miracle means you shouldn't bother finding out how it happened, or that it might have a dark side.

As recently as a few months ago, war hawk conservatives who had bought into the administration's talking points smugged about the "miracle of the purple finger," referring to the Iraqi elections. Free and fair elections were supposed to fix everything; they were an indisputable sign of Progress, and suggesting otherwise was a slur against the people in photographs holding up inked fingers.

Of course, we know that there are other factors at work in Iraq -- externalities -- that when taken into account suggest a much more grim situation.

If something seems to good to be true . . .

* * *

The remittances figure is the most interesting thing above. The money sent back ends up directly in the hands of common folk, who spend it locally, developing local businesses.

Demand side economics!

Stefan Jones said...

Chronicles of Waste, Part X:

A few weeks back, whilst tossing away a bag of dog crap, I spotted a computer in a dumpster.

Not old junk. A maybe five year old top-of-the-line HP desktop. Pentium IV, 1.8 MHz, 768 Mb of RAM. Except for not having a hard drive, in perfect running condition.

I turned it into a PVR; I just finished watching an episode of Dr. Who it digitally recorded for me on Friday.

This morning, I spotted another cast-off. A very nice, rock-steady, bright and clean HP monitor. Works perfectly.

Chances are this perfectly good, functioning hardware was cast off as a result of the upgrade cycle. Something slightly better comes along -- a 2.4 MHz processor, a flat screen monitor -- and perfectly good, functioning hardware gets trashed. Hardware that even if it were broken was discarded heedlessly, given that they were full of potentially toxic metals.

This sort of thing cannot go on forever.

Painful externalities and inconvenient truths. Don't dismiss them.

Don Quijote said...

Chances are this perfectly good, functioning hardware was cast off as a result of the upgrade cycle. Something slightly better comes along -- a 2.4 MHz processor, a flat screen monitor -- and perfectly good, functioning hardware gets trashed. Hardware that even if it were broken was discarded heedlessly, given that they were full of potentially toxic metals.

I have done that a couple of times myself. A new flat screen cost a couple of hundred bucks, uses less energy and takes a whole lost less space.

As soon as flat screen TVs drop in the $500 to $600 range, I 'll be replacing the ones I have...

Now on to Dr Brin,

ROTFLMAO...

That was the finest piece of propaganda I have read all day.

At the end of WWII, America bestrode the world as a behemoth. Garish Soviet armies and their new atom bombs offered the appearance of bipolarity, but only in narrow spheres. For example, as the era’s “pax” imperium, the United States established the rules of international trade. And, worth-noting, it did NOT do as other empires had done, when they had a similar dominance. Instead of mercantalism - favoring homeland factories - the secretariats of George Marshall and Dean Acheson established trade patterns that permanently favored factory production in the smoldering ruins of Europe and Asia.

It was what was required to prevent the spread of Communism, and I am not even sure that our help was strictly necessary.

Now how do you account for Central America, the region in the world in which the US has had the most influence for the longest amount of time. Why is it not the wealthiest, most egalitarian and democratic part of the world?

PS. I am still waiting for that list of country...

Stefan Jones said...

P.S. The hardware I find that I don't use goes to relatives, Goodwill, or Free Geek, a Portland based charity that refurbs old computers for schools and nonprofits.

Free Geek responsibly recycles older gear that they can't reuse.

Tyler August said...

Of course, there's the worry that the Earth's slender surplus can't support 9 billion at the level of wealth required-- most studies say it cannot support six billion; it's become almost a reflex for the BBC to state that we'd need more than 3 Earths for everyone to live a Western lifestyle. Naturally, that doesn't take into account gross gains in efficiency that new technologies will give us, further exploitation of renewable resources, et cetera... but! Oh, yes. It is a very fine line we skirt indeed. Terrifyingly fine.
A good number of the intelligent people I know are learning trades as hobbies on the side, and silently evaluating far out of the way patches of land with good soil and wind coverage. Is it fair of us to spend our resources on ourselves like this? Likely not, the appeal is of lifeboat ethics. It seems a small percentage, but does anyone know if this is becoming a widespread phenomenon? And if it is, is that comforting because more people are waking up to how hairy things could get, or worrisome because predictions markets tend to work out pretty well?
Probably just a personality type thing. Those of us who are planning farms now would have been doing the same in the 50s, only with an eye to the nuclear issue instead.
Unfortunately "ignorant, neurotic, and terrified" still describes a great many people in the developed world--what else is a God-fearing Christian? (No offense ment to any Christians reading this, but most of you would agree that Christ wasn't about fear, anyway)
At least the trend seems to be once again AWAY from letting these sorts of people run things. We'll see in 2008.

As for heavy weather, (which there's likely no way out of, at this point--we can only scrabble soften the blow) increased storms won't stop world trade; there have been designs for submarine cargo-carriers for decades (which interestingly enough, could use far less power than comparable surface ships by using buoyancy control and hydrodynamic shapes to "glide" and "anti-glide" as a prime mode of forward propulsion)

As for the neo-puritans telling us not to have babies--there IS a subset of the population who will listen to that reasoning, and they do have a point. So why the vehemance? I can't say I agree entirely with their reasoning, but tossing doom-and-gloom around does serve its purpose...

OdinsEye2k said...

Dr. Brin -

Re The sweatshops of the third world:

I've tried thinking about this from another point of view (and please let me know if I am drawing a false equivalence), but I can't help thinking of some of the words of NASA public relations folks that always make me slap my forehead in wonder.

Namely, rather than arguing the merits of exploration, science and off-world resources, these folks say that NASA should be supported for its technology development. Now, technology is usually directly purposed (yes, the science learned in building a tech does have knock-on effects elsewhere), meaning that if you really want a given technology, you should probably invest in the problem you really want to solve. It has always seemed strange to me that folks that point to NASA's tech development as justification for the $10B/year budget, rather than justifying NASA's core mission.

Similarly, I find it odd that a tangential benefit to the current free trade arrangements (namely that people scrape together enough savings from Dickensonian wages and hours to ultimately enable their children or grand-children to rise out of the industrial warrens) is touted as a main justification for the way these deals are structured. Why not design the deals so that *both* sides benefit from the kinds of work rules (minimum amount of paid vacation and sick leave, maximal hours at a given job) we enjoy here in the States?

Dig it - We go for real competition, with a requirement that foreign-built and foreign-invested factoreis have to respect environmental and safety standards, and that workers are not seen as units that can be disposed of after ten years (when the hours grind their health down to zero). Even after all of that, we still see the fact that the cost of a given third-world worker is a small fraction of that of a Western worker (since the standards of living are so different), until the two sides equalize in productivity and material standards of living.

It is like I have heard from a progressive union rep: he understands that his workers are more expensive than the non-union folks, but believes in competing on superior training and commitment to the work and trade. The same difference should apply to different countries, with different levels of pre-standing material and social capital balances the different levels of wage commanded by these different levels of people investment.

Stefan Jones said...

To heck with reframing Genesis.

What folks really want to know are the religious affiliations of comic book characters.

David Brin said...

Stefan, Citokate accepted, conditionally. “sacred” means inarguable to you. It does not mean that to me, since in my tradition argument IS sacred. Likewise, I cite the ‘miracle’ of the Enlightenment not because it cannot be questioned, but as a token of how *unlikely it was.

Once again DQ misses the point. Notice how he attacks the “miracle” of the elevation of half the world through trade by saying that it had impure motives, like defeating communism.

Har! Missing the whole irony and point of my rant... that it DID NOT HAPPEN BECAUSE OF THE PURITAN NICENESS that lefties demand. (And hence, to them, it doesn’t count.) Even though it has done more to uplift billions than every socialist economic action.

(I distinguish crappy socialist economics with socialist SOCIAL actions, like universal education, liberation of women etc... these were HIGHLY effective and in fact helped to prime the engine of capitalism...

...which leads to a point I have stressed over and over. We must abandon “left-right” in favor of finally - scientifically - figuring out which tasks government is good at and which are best left to market forces. JUSTICE cannot be marketized. Ensuring that all children have a chance? That must be socialistic (in part). But generating wealth and ending poverty has been PROVED to be best done by unleashing labor to find work (and protecting its right to negotiate in a decent labor market.)

Now DQ, please (and courteously) get BENT with your demands for that “list”. Your polemical device is rejected and all further uses of it will be trashed. You know damned well that I have listed and listed. Your excuses for removing nations from the list are all specious and have been thoroughly repudiated. Japan lay in ruins in 1945. Taiwan was a sharecropping agrarian society having been allowed ZERO industry by Japanese overlords. DITTO for S Korea, except that it also lay in ruins in 1953 and NEITHER of them were built up industrially by US aid.

Malaysia (counter to your image) is a HUGE industrial success story. SIngapore and HK had mucho trade in 1950 but little industry. The story is sequential, and perfect. And now has moved on to India and China. Excuse please but it is simple neuronless stubbornness that allows one to look at this and go into complete denial.

Central America PROVES the point! It was deliberately kept an agrarian sharecropping society, in which we helped local bullies stay overlords above a permanent peasant class.

Grrrrrr. Haven’t you even READ Karl Marx? Don’t you have a clue how he approved of industrialization, even the brutal Dickensian phases, as THE necessary step toward the creation of a sophisticated urban proletariate??????? Um.... duh?????

I swear, lefties just ain’t what they used to be.

Once upon a time at least thay cracked open a book.

---
Tyler, nine billions will kill this planet if they demand American style lifestyles at american resource costs. The New Puritans say “fine, then everybody give up the lifestyle!” Ignoring that this is how human beings WANT to live and it’s how women got their freedom.

The solution is to offer a more modest, Dutch scale, version of that lifestyle at 100X levels of efficiency,

Odin’s Eye, I totally agree that sympathetic westerners should HELP people in developing nations to ensure that the Dickensian factories are as nice and also as environmental as possible and that the process of self-uplift by selling americans toys DOES take place in just one generation. (An astounding fact, by the way. In all of the aforementioned cases, one generation was exactly what it took.)

Look, the liberals here all want globalization to go well and maximally benefit workers while minimally harming the Earth. Our negotiating position is NOT helped by loony “allies” who screech at globalization IN PRINCIPLE, railing that 3rd world workers should stay on the farms where they have been brutalized by local lords for 2,000 years.

Read the sci fi of Eric Flint (e.g. “1632”). A real union man, like my brother and my father. The AFL-CIO saved America (with some help from FDR) and I am sick of apologizing for them. The neo feudalists are going to learn a harsh lesson if they think they can bring back lordly rule without hearing from the movement again. Moreover, it is the model for developing nations.

Communism sure wasn’t. Nor was life under local tyrants.

Rob Perkins said...

Calling something sacred means setting it off limits to judgement and doubt. Calling something a miracle means you shouldn't bother finding out how it happened, or that it might have a dark side.

David pointed out that his tradition makes argument sacred. Consider the negotiations in Genesis regarding Sodom, between Abraham and God. The sign-seeking of Gideon, who got what he asked for. Or Job, poem that it is, which is almost all argument. Nathan scolding King David with a parable. Examples abound.

The Mormon position on "sacred" and "miracle" is very similar, and it's really too bad that the loudest Christians aren't also on board with that sort of thing, since it doesn't diminish belief in the Bible to look at it without a literalist-inerrant viewpoint.

"Sacred" doesn't mean setting it off limits to judgement and doubt. It permits the full range of doubt and question, but insists that the dialogue for the doubt is not subject to participation by people predisposed to not believe.

The further I get into any system of thought, the more I doubt. But it's on the details, rather than the fundamentals.

Additionally, "miracle", It simply means, "I don't understand it today, but there you are, and we're fortunate!" When we consider something like water-into-wine or a 99-year-old woman conceiving, we do one or both of two things: 1) We figure God works miracles according to natural law (Joseph Smith Jr. insisted on that point, actually), and/or 2) question the document which reports the miracle. ("as far as it is translated correctly")

In that way we're totally open to things like "having a devil" really meaning "suffering from bipolar disorder or schizophrenia etc etc" without getting off the subject of the miracles in question.

I could go on, but half the readers are probably already bored. :-)

reason said...

rob perkins
"but insists that the dialogue for the doubt is not subject to participation by people predisposed to not believe."

Raised eyebrows ("this sounds like you are saying you can talk to me as long as you don't ask any nasty difficult questions!")- the rest seems fairly innocuous.

Francis said...

Now DQ, please (and courteously) get BENT with your demands for that “list”. Your polemical device is rejected and all further uses of it will be trashed.

David, with all due respect. The polemical device of asking for counter-examples is one of your favourites and I trust you will now have the cintegrity to cease using it if you do not have the courage to face it when it is used against you.

tc said...

Dr. Brin wrote, Clearly the scriveners of Genesis... indeed, most of the Bible... seem to be saying that a jealous Creator did NOT want us joining Him in the Big Lab, learning His secrets and/or becoming skilled at His creative tools. Hubris, hubris, hubris... And yet...

You probably already know this, but Genesis is the result of four different traditions. I think the earliest story of creation came from the Yahwist tradition -- it’s poetic and psychologically perceptive. Different Genesis passages have their roots in one of the four traditions, and each had a specific point to make.

Some writers/story tellers were more true to the developing understanding of just what Abba (affectionate form of Creator) intended for us. Some were socially conservative and didn’t want social change (for the usual list of reasons); others were more sympathetic to ideas we’d call progressive. I’d tend to interpret the Babel passages as written by the former. Plus, I don’t think we have the full context of the event, so we can’t gauge its full meaning. It seems more to me to be a warning against arrogance as opposed to a warning about understanding and engineering. But I’ve been wrong before.

I think your more broad point is:

... might that have been THEN? Times clearly have changed - witness the profound power and effectiveness of our science and engineering, which cannot have happened if they were outrageous sins. Especially since so many of us are able to appreciate the sheer beauty of things like Maxwell’s Equations... an appreciation that surely is (and feels like) a kind of worship.

I know that if I were a chemistry teacher, I wouldn’t let the students play with volatile stuff right away.

And if so, what will our creative duties be?

The answer to that might just be, “What do you want them to be?” By the time we get to ask the question, I hope we’ll be mature enough to give the right answer.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

Three factors did it. 1) wealth/satiation, 2) education, 3) empowerment of women.

Honesty forces me to also mention:

4) HIV/AIDS. According to the UN Population Bureau data I have read, that shaved 750-1000 million souls from the peak. It might not have mattered had it not:

a) started in Africa, the continent with the highest childbirth rate;
b) had a ten-year dormancy period, so that people were contagious for years before they knew they were sick;
c) been a venereal disease, a very successful survival strategy on the part of the virus,
d) been curable only if you were rich or smart... once again, attacking those who are most likely to be unrestricted reproducers.

Notice that I am not saying any of this is good! It is one of the most immense tragedies of our time. Nonetheless it drives me batty to see people die... not just because of the drug-manufacture costs... but even when costs are provided for, the drugs can't be delivered regularly, or people won't take the regimens on schedule, or they refuse condoms because they marginally reduce physical pleasure, or they reject the West in favor of seeking cures by deflowering virgins and propitating nature spirits with empty rituals.

The social engineering in some ways is much harder than the physical engineering. Selection pressure will in some ways fix these matters, for the survivors will be those that listened to the warnings. Since one of those is listening to the woman's insistence on safe sex practices, women's empowerment will benefit. And the resulting local labor shortage may do for once-darkest Africa what another plague did for Europe, six and a half centuries ago... force respect for the now-scarce labor. The Great Project... the elevation of the whole globe out of the Agrarian Age to a sustainable industrial-informational plane... continues.

But it won't be pretty, and in the short term, it won't be heartwarming.

Rob Perkins said...

Raised eyebrows ("this sounds like you are saying you can talk to me as long as you don't ask any nasty difficult questions!")- the rest seems fairly innocuous.

(regarding "sacred")

Not at all. It simply means that if I'm not sure that you're going to be satisfied with any answer, I don't have to play; antagonistic questioners are not interested in the answers quite nearly as much as in toppling the applecart. We have a nearly 200 year old body of experience dealing with the indignant gadfly, though most people are either marvelously uninterested or kind and respectful, or both.

Anonymous said...

The story of the Tower of Babel was no doubt in response to early critics of the creation story of Adam and Eve. Those early critics undoubtedly questioned how mankind came about from two people if we spoke so many diverse languages even at that time (undoubtedly each tribe/clan of pre-humanity that was evolving into humans had their own language... *ponders* I wonder if wolves and other animals have trouble understanding others of their own species from different parts of the continent? Is animalistic behavior/language genetic in nature or learned? Or a combination of the two?

Anyway, to explain away different languages the early Creationists would have used the story of Babel for two reasons. First, it explains away the language differences (it's an act of God). Second, it's a warning: don't question your elders/God's representatives or you too will be struck down by God for your arrogance.

And yes, I suspect that when the Old Testiment was coming into creation that there were critics and naysayers even then. ;)

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Francis, sorry, but that’s absurd. It is one thing to answer challenges. It is another to answer them and answer them and then do it again, only to have a disputant say “See? I win because you never answered!”

That is called “attempting to establish a fact by declaring it.”

Moreover, despite my anger, I DID go on to list more than enough examples in the succeeding paragraph.

I confess that I was testy. I leave it to the group mind as to whether I should declare regrets over how I expressed it. Personally, I considered it a collegial, sibling-style snarl at somebody who has proved (repeatedly) to have a thick enough skin to take it well and move on.


As for AIDS, I see us being spared the soul test of seeing a silver lining. There isn’t one. The death rate is high enough to be horrific and horrifying, without really affecting population rates very much. In fact, Africa is NOT tapering off precisely because of the grinding misery that is exacerbated by AIDS. When people are miserable, but fed, they breed.

We should rejoice in one poignant way. We aren’t tempted to envision an “on the other hand” bright side. Let’s just fight this thing, as the enemy it is. (I know this is what you believe too. I am just expressing it differently.))

BTW, human traits are obstinate. They take many many generations to shit... as (I believe) that they shifted over millennia when we invented beer... but not much in any one horrid culling. One reason eugenics never took hold. Thank God. I think.

David Brin said...

BTW, if I am required to answer challenges (as I have) then here's one. Globalization critics go and read Marx about the absolutely necessary stage of industrialization and capital formation. Read how cold-bloodedly he WELCOMED the exploiting dickensian factories as the birthplaces of a sophisticated and organized and well-developed urban proletariat!

Marx was right about many things but he never imagined FDR! Or that the proletarian revolution would be prevented NOT by repression, but by giving the workers goocies like houses and roads and schools for their kids.

It is absolutely absurd to look at the world and deny this has happened in a single generation in countless places!

What is NOT absurd is arguing how to keep it going and maximize the transparent benefits while preventing the entrenchment of a super-elite.

These are pragmatic goals that are far better achieved with law and organization and pragmatic detail, than railing that people ought to stay at earlier levels of Marxian development. What an absurd position for lefties to take!

Don Quijote said...

Once again DQ misses the point. Notice how he attacks the “miracle” of the elevation of half the world through trade by saying that it had impure motives, like defeating communism.

Half the world? you must be joking...

Apart from the EU (The new member states are in the process of being brought up to western European Standards), the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea & Taiwan ( I'll give you Singapore & Hong Kong), the rest of the Planet is not by any stretch of the imagination wealthy or industrialized. The population of all the countries, I have listed barely adds up to a fifth of humanity. Got quite a ways to go before you get to half of the world.


...which leads to a point I have stressed over and over. We must abandon “left-right” in favor of finally - scientifically - figuring out which tasks government is good at and which are best left to market forces.

That's easy-
Government
- Education, Health Care, Infrastructure, Research & Development, Defense & Industrialization.
Private Sector
- Manufacturing, Marketing, Distribution.


Now DQ, please (and courteously) get BENT with your demands for that “list”. Your polemical device is rejected and all further uses of it will be trashed. You know damned well that I have listed and listed. Your excuses for removing nations from the list are all specious and have been thoroughly repudiated. Japan lay in ruins in 1945.

In other words, you can't think of a single nation that has successfully industrialized under the Neo-Liberal free Trade system that you support.

Taiwan was a sharecropping agrarian society having been allowed ZERO industry by Japanese overlords. DITTO for S Korea, except that it also lay in ruins in 1953 and NEITHER of them were built up industrially by US aid.

Bull, They were both massively subsidized by the US government & military for a couple of decades.

Malaysia (counter to your image) is a HUGE industrial success story.
So when will I be seeing Malaysian cars & motorcycles on the roads?


Central America PROVES the point! It was deliberately kept an agrarian sharecropping society, in which we helped local bullies stay overlords above a permanent peasant class.
The way we would have kept South Korea & Taiwan if it had not been for the Chinese Communist Threat.

Amy said...

There may be truths to the yin/yang cycle, even when it's applied to the level of prosperity of a country. Wealth corrupts (people ditching perfectly good computer hardware and monitors is a good example of that). Looks like US has started to go downhill while countries like China has started to go up. Who knows...perhaps in a few decades China will even surpass the US today. Just speculation.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

Dr. Brin wrote:

In fact, Africa is NOT tapering off precisely because of the grinding misery that is exacerbated by AIDS. When people are miserable, but fed, they breed.


Oh drat, good point. Does the UN Population Office factor that in? Or is that too esoteric a point for them? All the projections I've seen make the same broad assumptions about the deceleration of fertility worldwide; they never entertain region-specific hypotheses about the variation of fertility. (I suppose it would be politically awkward to do so, but there's politics and then there's science.)

Another point that should be made about Marx was that Russia, China, and almost every Communist country became one *before* industrializing, not *after*. Therefore Marxist theory can't possibly apply to their societies! (They might in Russia NOW... but I don't know a single country that industrialized, had a Marxist revolution, then became an information-level society. It Just Doesn't Happen.)

Now if Marx never imagined FDR... what did Adam Smith never imagine?

St. Peter's UCC said...

I think there is great support in the stories of Judaism and Christianity for the idea that humankind (and, other-kinds?! :-) are co-creators with what/who/whichever Creator there may be. The natural world seems to tell the same story; finding ourselves in a universe/Creation of a size and complexity we cannot create (someday?!), slowly but surely we begin to work creatively on our own. Cool.

----

The Left-Behind crowd has spun John's "Revelation" in to their own apocalypse, missing the point entirely. John writes within an ancient near-eastern tradition of apocalyptic writing, but SUBVERTS the reader's expectations. John envisions a lamb (apparent weakness/love) defeating the lion (obvious strength/violence) in battle. He sees Jews and Christians worshipping together, without losing their unique identities, and offers some tantalizing hints that the circle of inclusion could stretch even wider (where traditional apocalypse sees salvation for only a very few).

John's vision is his particular experience and expression of Jesus' message of peace between humankind and God and servanthood/sacrifical love as the path towards eternal meaning*. It's weird, and symbolic, but it doesn't reverse Jesus' message.

*Well, at least until the Big Crunch/Rip/Freeze.

----

David, any particular reason you use "He" for God? Is your use in the original post ironic? (Its context, such as "...jealous Creator did NOT want us joining Him..." leads me to wonder.)

Nate said...

When did anybody say anything about "keeping people frozen at earlier levels of development," Dr. Brin? Most of what I've seen has been criticism of the way the current international trade system HASN'T worked to bring people up. The lessons learned during the West's industrial revolution don't seem to have been applied at all. Not to worker conditions, environmental controls, or anything. We haven't been using the technology and experience we have to leapfrog over the dangerous Dickensian factories. We've mostly just been replicating them. At least lately. Even with all those counted in, companies could easily still pay less, since the cost of living is much lower in some of these countries. AND they'd be helping to build a domestic market over there for the same kind of cheap plastic crap we buy. Though hopefully we'd stop making so much of it cheap plastic crap.

And the biggest support I think places like Japan, Europe, and South Korea got was the US military for protection. That way they didn't need to spend nearly as much on military, and that money could then go to private investment, public infrastructure, and all the other things to help industrialize.

OdinsEye2k said...

Another battle between the hierarchical folks and a fuller democracy:

So, usually in the "scientific" management of factories and production, there is an advocation of bringing jobs down to the lowest common denominator, or radical "de-skilling." The thrust of this idea is to be able to draw in any kind of labor to fill your factories, rather than going through lengthy training programs. However, this also is a construct of the viewpoint of hierarchy, where there are bosses and factory floor serfs. When a job is thought to be "easy" to perform (I am now dealing with perception rather than reality), it is also easy to continuously threaten and browbeat your work force that only a sliver of approval serves as the line between work and starvation.

Also, in the philosophy, there is the idea that the professionals and managers (disclosure, I am an engineer, which makes me a professional) belong to one echelon while the "hands" down on the floor or just as exchangeable as the machinery that they work with.

Now, while this can make a CEO feel good to be above the rabble (and of course, there are those great social benefits of being on top of the stack), it remains very unproven that the "deskilling" viewpoint is really the best way to lay out a company.

Take Toyota, for example, whose processes and profits have been the envy of the auto industry. Many other industries would also like to learn a thing or two about the Toyota Production system. What is this amazing system?

Democracy, believe it or not. Floor workers are treated as more or less equal members of the company, and routinely invent ways to make their jobs easier and more productive. After seeing something done a hundred times a day, a person with a modicrum of initiative (and real incentives for doing so, rather than an "atta boy" from someone earning twenty times your paycheck) can usually think up some useful CITOAKE for the company. Change is deeply embraced, and workers tend to move around to cross-fertilize different parts of the manufacturing process with things they have learned elsewhere.

Good businessmen have understood this dynamic for quite some time, I believe, and there are market rewards out there. As I said at the beginning, many people that don't get it are still interested in Toyota's success.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

@ St. Peter's UCC:

John.... envisions a lamb (apparent weakness/love) defeating the lion (obvious strength/violence) in battle. He sees Jews and Christians worshipping together, without losing their unique identities, and offers some tantalizing hints that the circle of inclusion could stretch even wider (where traditional apocalypse sees salvation for only a very few).

Huh wha? I thought standard rhetoric for many centuries was that John foresaw "the conversion of the Jews" as part of the millenium. Whence comes this idea that they won't lose their unique identities?

I do agree that John's Revelation is more inclusive than the standard "You will all burn!" apocalypse. Flood mythos from millenia before invariably spared only one family.

Stefan Jones said...

Salon article about the contentious issue of workplace safety and rights standards in China:

The Chinese sweatshop paradox

Note that there's not the slightest suggestion about banning or limiting trade.

adiffer said...

DQ said earlier...

Government
- Education, Health Care, Infrastructure, Research & Development, Defense & Industrialization.
Private Sector
- Manufacturing, Marketing, Distribution.


Oof. Shoot me now.

R&D in government hands? I could live with some public funding especially at the basic level, but my own experience in the modern tech market says innovation would die a quick death without the private/greed motivation to fuel it.

Education in government hands? Maybe as a fall back, but I can't find it in me to trust them enough to do it right. How many boys and girls get trained to be CEO's instead of fry cooks who take orders?

I could go on. Good luck finding an arrangement for everything most of us will like. Certain functions won't be controversial and the remaining ones should probably be split and run as competitions.


When it comes to unintended consequences of post-WWII decisions, my favorite is the education impact in the US that came from the GI Bill. Who thought it was a good idea to college train a bunch of back-country kids? We owed them something, though, right? Ha Ha... the US economy had to figure out what to do with them all afterward and boy did we. Boom in a single generation.

Stefan Jones said...

Over at Making Light, a passionate rant on the importance of citizen-journalists in an age when the professionals covering politics seem to be suffering from "Stockholm Syndrome."

"Why I Blog"

Doug S. said...

Normally I agree with our esteemed host, but I do believe that he has failed Don Quixote's challenge:

Make a list of countries that have successfully industrialized (population greater than 10 million, GDP Per Capita of 15,000 and a GINI coefficient lower than .50) since the 60's other than South Korea & Taiwan.

Don Quixote claims that South Korea and Taiwan were able to successfully industrialize because of massive investments by the US military, and therefore did not become prosperous because of globalization. He gave specific criteria to determine "successful industrialization." You can argue that the criteria that he gave are inappropriate, you can list countries that meet his criteria, or you can concede defeat.

So far, you have mentioned:

Singapore (population of 4,480,000)
Japan (had been industrialized prior to WW2)
South Korea (US military presence)
Taiwan (US military presence)
Hong Kong (population of 7,041,000)
Malaysia (per capita GDP of 11,201)
India (per capita GDP of 3,320)
China (per capita GDP of 7,198)

Therefore, none of those countries actually meet Don Quixote's criteria. Do you wish to argue that his criteria are flawed?

Francis said...

adiffer:
R&D in government hands? I could live with some public funding especially at the basic level, but my own experience in the modern tech market says innovation would die a quick death without the private/greed motivation to fuel it.

And my experience says that the profit/greed motivation does almost nothing to fund basic research. It is very good for technical research once the basic principles have been established but that is a different matter entirely.

Education in government hands? Maybe as a fall back, but I can't find it in me to trust them enough to do it right. How many boys and girls get trained to be CEO's instead of fry cooks who take orders?

Given that current research in Britain actually demonstrates that state schools do better on average than private ones at adding value (i.e. the increase between successive SATS is greater for state than private), I'll ask how you are basing your assumptions. Besides, how many CEOs can there be, and how many fry cooks? The world actually has more need for the latter and under any sane market principle would pay them simmilar amounts in any but outstanding cases (the prestige of CEO-dom being treated as a huge bonus).

Don:
So when will I be seeing Malaysian cars & motorcycles on the roads?

Don't know, don't care. The car market is not an issue - it is vastly subsidised and over-supplied. What you very likely have is Malaysian built chips in your computer. Had you set your threshold at $10,000 rather than $15,000 Malaysia would have passed your test.

David:
Francis, sorry, but that’s absurd. It is one thing to answer challenges. It is another to answer them and answer them and then do it again, only to have a disputant say “See? I win because you never answered!”

In which case, we should probably keep score between you and Don Q - count the number of challenges you throw at him and count the number he throws at you and say you only have to answer 1 for 1.

That is called “attempting to establish a fact by declaring it.”

Something you appear to be doing with globalisation.

Moreover, despite my anger, I DID go on to list more than enough examples in the succeeding paragraph.

Not one of which answers Don Q's challenge (although Malaysia comes close).

Central America PROVES the point! It was deliberately kept an agrarian sharecropping society, in which we helped local bullies stay overlords above a permanent peasant class.

The problem is that I look round and I see Central America as far more representative of the results of globalisation than I see Malaysia. In fact, amongst the advantages Malaysia and China have is that the trade isn't free and there is a lot of centralised planning with the goal of industrialisation (hell, Malaysia runs on five year plans).

Don Quijote said...

Oof. Shoot me now.

OK! 38 or 45?

Education in government hands? Maybe as a fall back, but I can't find it in me to trust them enough to do it right. How many boys and girls get trained to be CEO's instead of fry cooks who take orders?

K to 12 is run by the local County/City (ie. government), State Universities (SUNY, CUNY, University of California, etc) are run by the States and most of the Elite Colleges would probably go out of business if it wasn't for the massive subsidies they get from the government. Now we can and could argue as to which level of government should run the schools, but their is no denying that the government runs the schools.

R&D in government hands? I could live with some public funding especially at the basic level, but my own experience in the modern tech market says innovation would die a quick death without the private/greed motivation to fuel it.

Have you looked at the NASA's, DARPA's, or the NIH's budget, who do you think finances these organizations and what do you think they do if not R&D.


Now I would personally like to see all that R&D GPLed so that the tax payer get full value from the investment.

Hawker Hurricane USN(ret) said...

"R&D in government hands? I could live with some public funding especially at the basic level, but my own experience in the modern tech market says innovation would die a quick death without the private/greed motivation to fuel it."

My own experience in R&D is purely "Military-Industrial Complex", where the government pays vast sums to private industry to get equipment that doesn't work as advertised... You've heard of hardware, software, and liveware? In government contracting we talked of 'Vaporware': the great equipment we were promised that never actually showed up.

Off topic:
It's that time of year again, and I'll ask that those of you who live near military bases to 'adopt a serviceman' for Christmas dinner. It means a lot to some kid far from home to know that someone cares about him. Contact the local USO or Armed Services YMCA if you want to help...

Steve Browne said...

Looking at Genesis along the lines you suggest, I've wondered about that passage, "God created man in his own image. Male and female created he him."

That can't mean physical image, that goes against that graven image clause in the decalog. What if the writer meant, conscious, self-aware, reasoning and creative? That we, like God, are sentient beings?

Lenny Zimmermann said...

Just a bit of CITOKATE direct from the scientific community regarding the Easter Island story...

Abstract available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6WH8-4MC71V1-2&_user=10&_coverDate=11%2F17%2F2006&_rdoc=1&_fmt=summary&_orig=browse&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=3ebfd6af67c1d56620657180df7b5317
(I put that link on my name above, if that saves someone the cut-and-paste time, or the link ends up being too long to copy it out. ;))

"Rethinking Easter Island's ecological catastrophe", by Terry L. Hunt

In this paper, I review new and emerging Rapa Nui evidence, compare ecological and recently acquired palaeo-environmental data from the Hawaiian and other Pacific Islands, and offer some perspectives for the island's prehistoric ecological transformation and its consequences. The evidence points to a complex historical ecology for the island; one best explained by a synergy of impacts, particularly the devastating effects of introduced rats (Rattus exulans). This perspective questions the simplistic notion of reckless over-exploitation by prehistoric Polynesians and points to the need for additional research.

Obviously it's not a direct denial of the popular story that it was human overuse of ecological resources that cost Easter Island so dearly, but it appears to be a refutation that making such a claim is really the whole story and it really needs to be looked at more closely before we can really declare that as being anywhere near the case.

Anonymous said...

Revelation can, in fact, be read as agreeing with you about apprenticeship. Rev 3:31, "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne." Clearly a doctrine of progression, although you're more focused on collective than individual progression.

Max Wilson

ERic said...

So, with Brin's argument that globalization has positives, I'm curious what his perspective is on the Trans-Texas Corridor. Not sure how many folks outside the leftie Texas universe know about this plan, but it stands to have a massive effect on how the US and Mexico interact economically. My understanding of it is that decision makers are working on creating what is in effect a concrete and steel Mississippi River through the center of the US.

I've also seen reports of groups of similar such nebulous US, Mexican and Canadian VIPs having discussions on the next step of NAFTA. Which would compete with the EU.

Now, I'm not an expert by any means. I just absorb what the leftie fearmongers are telling me and ignore the righies because they are certifiably insane AFAIC.

So I can only present what sort of future they're warning against: one where the US, Canadian and Mexican governments are subsumed by an overarching North American one.

It seems obvious that what's driving this is an economic protection against the power of the EU.

I've generally been concerned about exactly how much the US, Mexico and Canada should work together.

Obviously, at some point, economics requires that laws get in line with each other. But at what point do we then lose what was the US? At what point have corporations (non-elected entities) set the rules, and we've ended up with fascism?

I'm rambling here, mostly because all I have are questions. I have been loving reading y'all's discussions and feeling like a lowly student, yet wanting to partake.

So, there's my poorly-thought-out contribution.

Rather than talking about the past, let's take Brin's and his opponent's suppositions and project them into the future.

How do we deal with a unified North America?

It's easy for me to see a simplistic positive outcome: reduction in illegal aliens. In other words, a wealthier Mexico.

But that was the expectation out of NAFTA and the maquiladoras (sp?). And as far as I know, it's been 20 years (a generation, right?) and Mexico hasn't made that one-generation leap.

Or has it?

As good a place to stop as any.

Rob Perkins said...

Looking at Genesis along the lines you suggest, I've wondered about that passage, "God created man in his own image. Male and female created he him."

That can't mean physical image, that goes against that graven image clause in the decalog. What if the writer meant, conscious, self-aware, reasoning and creative? That we, like God, are sentient beings?


What you're describing there is imagio dei, which is a very old idea, not at all incompatible with most Christian exegises.

Of course, if you cast aside Talmud and Aquinas and just try to understand Genesis as Genesis, without synthesizing Exodus or other bits of Torah into it, more than just imagio dei is possible from "created in His own image."

Tyler August said...

Just to toss this out there, an example of globalization gone wrong I witnessed of late: paper mills in Northern Ontario are operating with a fraction of the workforce they used to; most of them are no longer producing paper. Instead, they stop at the "pulp" sage, decant and ship to China, where Chinese mills, lacking anything near the environmental regulations, using coal power instead of renewable resources (paper mills here are almost exclusively hydro powered, and take a goodly amount off unusable bits of wood, too) and treating workers like disposable cogs... and manage to outsell us even with costs of shipping across the Atlantic. From an environmental perspective as well as a nationalist one (why do Chinese workers have more onus to those jobs than Canadian ones? Do we have to roll back the clock a hundred years and give up all those victories hard won by our labour movement to compete?) it is a travesty. But a simple carbon tax would set all equal and give some better balance. How about it? Carbon tarrifs on all goods would give the developing world more incentive to develop in a cleaner direction--and we'd apply them internally, of course. Not an original idea, I'm sure, but not one I've seen here. I think it could address most of the issues lefties have with globalization... except the whole exploitation of the workers thing, and as Dr. Brin noted, that's something Marx welcomed, because he didn't expect the workers to take it sitting down. Really, someone needs to go give the Chinese and Indian business leaders a course on Fordism, and how it built America. Once they realize that their own workers are at least a big a market... shouldn't things turn around a little?

eric,
Why should supra-national integration be something to fear? What characteristically American values do you expect to lose from such a thing? Why do you have to lose what was the US?
The only reason would be if the kleptocratic American government set it up that way--in any such partnership, the USA would be dictating the majority of the terms, being the far more economically powerful of the three. But I wouldn't worry about it--the Canadian people, as a whole, really don't like your country, and wouldn't support any government that called for such integration. The current right-wing government will fall next elections for being seen as too close to the US Republicans--not even all the broken promises and general disdain for the public; the number one beef Canadians I've talked to have with our current Prime Minister is that he's perceived to be too much a friend to GW Bush. So, the Liberal party is expected to retake parliament. Which is good, because they are, in fact, rather liberal. Public perceives them as more able to stand up to Uncle Sam, at this point.
NAFTA... eep. Nobody likes NAFTA. Talk to a Mexican, they've got a list a mile long of examples where Free Trade with the USA was a one-way affair, and someone 'stateside was able to pull strings and and have a protectionist levee put in place. Alot of Canadians have a similar number of complaints, but Canada is a developed country; Mexico is not. The not-free Free Trade and big businesses with a vested interest in keeping the border divide might have something to do with why it failed to get rid of said economic divide, but that's just another student's opinion.

St. Peter's UCC said...

@ Catfish, read:

http://www.crosswalkamerica.org/files/BVB_Revelation_regular-margin.pdf

Basically, John's vision includes the "144,000" - 12 x 12,000, representing the Jews - and a separate uncountable multitude of others representing Christians (at least, maybe more!). Because he mentions Jews and Christians together, worshipping, it seems that for John Jewish identity persists (i.e., Jews do not need to convert).

@ Steve - I interpret along these same lines, along with many self-identified "progressive" Christians. Like Rob says, there's a long tradition of this.

Max's comment reminds me of something a prof. said once about the "angels with flaming swords" that guard the gate to Eden after Adam and Eve are cast out in the second creation story of Genesis.

Brubacher said that the guardians mean that the only way to God is forward - the way back is impassable.

ERic said...

Tyler
Why should supra-national integration be something to fear? What characteristically American values do you expect to lose from such a thing? Why do you have to lose what was the US?

My answer would be in your last paragraph: NAFTA... eep. Nobody likes NAFTA.

The biggest problem that I'm aware of with NAFTA is that under it, local laws do not apply to corporations.

There's no reason for us to expect that any supra-national integration would be anything more than a supra-national corporate agreement that supercedes national/international law. If that were to be the case, well, then, so much for democracy.

I know I'm stating an extreme situation here. As with everything, the more likely outcome is a balanced one. I would expect international law to become more robust, for a future US administration to sign on to the World Court and for a new level of checks and balances to keep things stable.

...or did I totally miss the the ironic/sarcastic tone in your comment? Now that I reread it, are you agreeing with me?

Doris said...

David: I recognized the Genesis reference in Apple's logo the very first time I saw it.

Animal languages: Whale songs travel thousands of miles through the water. Whale language might be fairly uniform.

NASA's $10B/year budget: Iraq costs about that much per month. NASA is a better deal.

Population: When villages in India were electrified, the birth rate dropped. After dark, there were things to do besides procreate, such as read, listen to the radio, watch television, play chess....

adiffer said...

yes I've looked at NASA's budget. I'm not all that impressed even though I do have a personal love for planetary science. The bulk of their money goes into reduction of political risk in the projects they fund and not to the basic science. The cost of space access is a function of the context of the funding source.

I see a day coming when there will be fewer fry cooks than CEO's. Show me how to automate the CEO's job and I'll reconsider. The US publically funded school system still tends to train people to think like employees instead of employers.

I'm open to debate for the proper split as long as it is fair and well thought out. There is a lot of room for improvement in the current arrangement, though, without anyone having to get hot and bothered about it. 8)

David Brin said...

I’ve just returned from another trip to Google. Great place to work - amazing free restaurants, for example - and very bright folks. Bright enough to invite me and Doug Engelbart (inventor of the mouse) to come and talk about our ideas for how to make the internet smarter...

...but, alas, not quite enough to get the full range and scope of the possibilities. Well, well. When it comes to pushing for paradigm shifts, even a nudge is better than nothing at all. Nudges can eventually start avalanches. It is (comparitively) a very bright place.

---------
Nate on what planet are you living? Sorry, but when the exploited factory workers in Japan and then HK, Taiwan, SKorea and so on only stay exploited for ONE GENERATION, um doesn’t that disprove your plaint about how “the current international trade system HASN'T worked to bring people up” ????

In fact, the blatant facts are DIAMETRICALLY opposite to your claim. Try reading history in the west, where capitalization enslaved the prol classes MUCH longer than they were enslaved in each of these asian countries. Likewise the extended period of ecological rape. Sure, we need to pressure China. OTOH they are on schedule to have environmentalist kids within that one generation. That is our chief hope.

Alas, you guys keep missing the point about this “anti-globalization” mania of a dismally ill-educated and rather stupid-reflexive left. This process is far better UNDERSTOOD AND MANAGED than it is railed against. Especially since the railers (a) are ignorant even of the intellectual history of the left (!!!!!!) and (b) screech against development, instead of guiding it...

.....and thus the factory workers they claim to support WANT NOTING TO DO WITH THESE LEFTIES!

Go on, try it out. Go to Manilla (a place still early on this curve) and march outside an Addidas factory telling the company to go home. Tell us how it goes. See how quickly the workers pound you to a pulp.

---
Catfish is right that very few Jews consider Revelations to be anything other than a raging hate-fest.

---
“Don Quixote claims that South Korea and Taiwan were able to successfully industrialize because of massive investments by the US military, and therefore did not become prosperous because of globalization. He gave specific criteria to determine "successful industrialization."”

SPecific criteria that weasled like mad, and utterly contemptibly. SKorea and Taiwan got NO significant economic benefits other than US military backing. Both were rid of all industry by Japanese overlords and SKorea was pounded into sand by 1953) I dare/defy anyone to prove this utter nonsense.

Probably the same folks who blame the US trade embargo for the utter grinding poverty in Cuba today. (Oh, I see, trade is vital... when it suits you!!!)

As for population over 10 million... you cannot recognize a convenient polemical trick like that for what it is? PRECISELY designed to remove names from a list. I invite others to citokate my rejection of this specious sophistry. But, barring a mass vote, I call it what it is. Damned polemical bullshit. Writhing and twisting to avoid an inconvenient FACT...

...that trade and close economic ties with the west PRECISELY corelate with ONE GENERATION movement through a temporary phase of factory worker exploitation, followed by a generation too well-educated and free to oppress anymore, resulting in the factories fleeing (with their magic) to other places.

How about my counter challenges, hm?

* Chart countries that are economically tied to the US by export-driven factories... vs those with zero ties like Zimbabwe, Sudan, Burma.... Yum!!!

*FIND ME THE LEFTIES WHO HAVE EVEN READ KARL MARX. Of all the dopey, hypocritical nonsense.

----
Francis, you and adiffer are confusing the R (in R&D) with the D.

Dynamic companies can do the latter, when not led by rapist ass-jerk CEOs. But they do very very little pump priming R.

---
Anyone who sees “Central America as far more representative of the results of globalisation than I see Malaysia.” obviously has a very very weird definition of “globalization.” Come on, where are the figures. Let’s see comparisons of the fraction of GDP that involve the creation of value added products for export.

What the HELL are you doing? You know damned well what globalization means, as part of the industrialization of the world. You also know DAMN well that I oppose the rape of poor populations by primary producers in commodities like agriculture and diamonds and metals and lumber.

Industrial development is the ALTERNATIVE to this! If you stop addidas, you keep people on the rubber plantations. Oh, please grow up!

More thoughtful thoughts by ERic about why globalization hasn’t worked well in Latin America... except perhaps Brazil... lead to some controversial recent studies that suggest culture may be at work. Many maquiladora factories had to close, because companies would work hard to train workers, who then stared at their first pay checks and quit in order to live off it for a couple of months. I do not know how reliable these studies were.

But many maquiladoras have closed. Moved to China.

Tyler thanks, you are giving us information about PROBLEMS with globalization, stuff we can address through Citokate.

But remember, Marx ddid expect the workers to “take it lying down” for a very long time. Many generations of worsening conditions WHILE the process of capitalization (building all the means of production) would be finished by a greedy but very smart investor/capitalist class. Only THEN, upon completion of capitalization”... (a concept that everyone now considers hilarious, since retooling and re-capitalization is NEVER complete)... would the abused workers simply take over. Marx even saw it as a relatively bloodless process, since, by then, the actual owners would be very few.

___
StPeters... sorry, Revelations tells of ghastly punishments for the Jews who do not convert.

Nate said...

On a completely different tangent, the editor of CBSnews.com basically admitted that he and his site lied about Gingrich and the rest of the Radical Right for 12 years. Good Riddance to the Gingrichites

Some quotes:
"This is a story I should have written 12 years ago when the "Contract with America" Republicans captured the House in 1994. I apologize."

Yeah. Apologizing 12 years later's gonna cut it. Or not.

"Really, it's just a simple thesis: The men who ran the Republican Party in the House of Representatives for the past 12 years were a group of weirdos. Together, they comprised one of the oddest legislative power cliques in our history. And for 12 years, the media didn't call a duck a duck, because that's not something we're supposed to do."

Um. Isn't that exactly what journalists ARE supposed to do?

"Politicians in this country get a bad rap. For the most part, they are like any high-achieving group in America, with roughly the same distribution of pathologies and virtues. But the leaders of the GOP House didn't fit the personality profile of American politicians, and they didn't deviate in a good way. It was the Chess Club on steroids. "

Somebody has obviously never met anybody from a Chess club.

Seriously, what the HELL? "We knew these guys were lying hypocrites and crazies for at least a dozen years, but it wasn't our job to tell people." And during those twelve years, they were busy chasing after any lurid tales about Clinton, attacking Al Gore as a liar, and attacking John Kerry's war record. Sheesh. Teresa Neilsen Hayden has a longer post including this and other failings of our journalists on her blog.

Don Quijote said...

But many maquiladoras have closed. Moved to China.

Why pay a Mexican worker $10.00 a day when you can pay a Chinese worker $3.00 a day?

SKorea and Taiwan got NO significant economic benefits other than US military backing.

OXFAM

Countries now considered ‘developed’ would not enjoy their current standards of living if it had not been for aid. After World War II, 16 western European nations benefited from grants from the USA worth more than $75 billion in today’s terms – grants which underpinned their economic recovery and hence created today’s peace and prosperity. US aid also financed mass education and imports of essential goods to South Korea and Taiwan, laying the foundations for their rapid future growth, while European Union Structural Funds have supported growth in Spain and other southern European countries.
CBO - The Role of Foreign Aid in Development

n the 1950s, South Korea under Syngman Rhee received massive amounts of foreign aid (see Figure 5). In 1997 dollars, Korea received a total of $23 billion in aid between 1953 and 1960. The average annual amount of economic aid over that same period was $1.8 billion. Rhee followed an inward-looking, import-substitution strategy of industrialization. The result was modest economic growth.

In the 1960s under President Park, Rhee's successor, South Korea received the same amount of aid overall--$23 billion in 1997 dollars--but less economic aid. The average annual amount of economic assistance fell to $1.3 billion.


You can find the Numbers for Taiwan in the other thread.

Nate said...

Guys, George W. Bush is still President. For all we want to talk about globalization or whatever, it DOESN'T MATTER. Nothing we suggest or want to see get done will get done until at least 2008. If then. Yes, we can argue and pound things out so we know what to do then, but even then, we're still just dudes on a blog. Even our esteemed host.

And the other thing I found is a quote from Thomas Jefferson, from one of the links in the Making Light post.

"Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties: 1. Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes. 2. Those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depository of the public interests. In every country these two parties exist, and in every one where they are free to think, speak, and write, they will declare themselves. Call them, therefore, Liberals and Serviles, Jacobins and Ultras, Whigs and Tories, Republicans and Federalists, Aristocrats and Democrats, or by whatever name you please, they are the same parties still, and pursue the same object. The last appellation of Aristocrats and Democrats is the true one expressing the essence of all."

There's the division. I'm pretty sure we're all on the same side here, so it'd do us good to make sure we remember that.

Doug S. said...

Ah, disputing the criteria now! Much better! Don't just scream, paraphrase and debate!

I know my Economics 101. I believe in comparative advantage. Free trade is good. Peter Drucker also described the process by which abject rural poverty (subsistence farming, etc.) is supplanted by not-as-bad urban poverty (sweatshop labor) which eventually begins to change into something that looks a lot like prosperity. If working in sweatshops wasn't better than the alternatives available, sweatshop owners wouldn't be able to find workers.

Environmental issues are still troubling, though; pollution caused by burning coal in China often ends up creating smog in California. The governments in many developing countries have yet to become functioning democracies, so proper regulation of industry may not be enacted or enforced. If the local sweatshop owner can hire thugs to beat up union organizers or dump poison into the local water supply while the law looks the other way, you have a problem.

David Brin said...

Absolute doggie doo! DQ defeats himself! The aid figures he mentions are less than ONE PERCENT of the receipts from ANY ONE YEAR of South Korean exports to just the United States alone!

Indeed, while wriggling like mad, and never once addressing my challenge about Marx, he finally finds himself returning on topic (almost by random walk) and letting us get back to comparing the actual amounts of money available for development from various means... see the PPI data!

And we return to the simple fact that funds for the capitalization of infrastructure and means of production in these countries has come ALMOST ENTIRELY from commercial investment in export oriented industries.

Doug, face it. We are going to have to talk among ourselves about how to help 3rd world union organizers and help developing world environmentalists and how to help speed up the development process and keep it more fair than the exploiters want it to be...

...in order for the One Generation rule to stay active.

But we liberals are going to have to do it without help from lefty flakes. So caught up in indignant rants, they aren't even bothering to read Marx anymore! Ignorant as a stone, they only know "capitalism = bad."

Gawd what dopes.

adiffer said...

A decent split for socially beneficial activities requires that we look at the players in more detail. Afterall, the private sector isn't soley represented by large corporations led by blind fools. The non-profits and private citizens play an important role.

I'm reminded how private money moved the basic research that lead to the Pill. A woman being able to turn off her fertility for a short time is a big deal for humanity. Private money kept that research moving against a strong and steady headwind.

In the world of physics I think it is clear few private funders are going to care whether or not the neutrino has mass. However, current patent law allowing life forms to be monopolized commercially creates the economic incentive for biomedical companies to play in the game. They care about the distinction between research and development and know they must do both to maximize shareholder value, but even the basic research can create a capitalizable asset. While I think the current patent/copyright regimes is seriously broken, they demonstrate how one can create a private motivation to perform a action normally reserved for public entities. They are also poster children for transparency.

Don Quijote said...

Absolute doggie doo! DQ defeats himself! The aid figures he mentions are less than ONE PERCENT of the receipts from ANY ONE YEAR of South Korean exports to just the United States alone!

Not in the fifties and sixties when Korea received that Aid.

You said that Taiwan & South Korea received NO AID, you were incorrect.


And we return to the simple fact that funds for the capitalization of infrastructure and means of production in these countries has come ALMOST ENTIRELY from commercial investment in export oriented industries.

Compare the amount of aid South Korea received with what the Philippines.

...in order for the One Generation rule to stay active.

What "One Generation Rule"?

But we liberals are going to have to do it without help from lefty flakes.

Then the world is in real trouble...

I believe in comparative advantage.
So do I, when dealing with Bananas.

If I can Duplicate an American Factory in China that will produce the same output with cheaper labor & minimal regulations, what does comparative advantage mean other than a run to the lowest possible common denominator?


Free trade is good.
Yes, it is. But where have you seen Free Trade lately?

Don Quijote said...

R&D courtesy of Uncle Sam,

New Solar Cell Breaks the “40 Percent Efficient” Sunlight-to-Electricity Barrier

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alexander Karsner today announced that with DOE funding, a concentrator solar cell produced by Boeing-Spectrolab has recently achieved a world-record conversion efficiency of 40.7 percent, establishing a new milestone in sunlight-to-electricity performance. This breakthrough may lead to systems with an installation cost of only $3 per watt, producing electricity at a cost of 8-10 cents per kilowatt/hour, making solar electricity a more cost-competitive and integral part of our nation’s energy mix.

If this is accurate, we should open-source the technology and have the private sector manufacture & distribute these new solar cells.

Don Quijote said...

Globalization early twentieth century style:

AlterDestiny - Tuesday Forgotten American Blogging: Sam Zemurray

Rob Perkins said...

Many maquiladora factories had to close, because companies would work hard to train workers, who then stared at their first pay checks and quit in order to live off it for a couple of months. I do not know how reliable these studies were.

I have it second-hand that there has been at least one of those incidents. I commented about it here, while also commenting about how marvelously satiable I think the Mexican people are.

So here's an irony: In order to keep those people working at the fair wage the Left demands demands demands that American companies pay them, they actually tried to drive consumerism! "You could... y'know, buy a TV with that extra money" and so forth.

Baby and bathwater, on the same trajectory...

St. Peter's UCC said...

I think the "ghastly punishments for Jews who do not convert" are more a matter of misguided, self-serving Left-Behind-style interpretation than a part of John's vision. (To be fair, in my view many (most?) Christians have missed the point of Revelation from the start, which is the same as the gospels; that stewardship of all creation and sacrificial love will eventually triumph over fear and violence.)

John's Revelation is a piece of apocalyptic writing, but it's a subversive one, turning readers' expectations upside-down when the lamb defeats the lion. C.S. Lewis got it completely backward.

Ex: In chapter four, John sees 24 elders - representing 12 tribes (Jews) and 12 apostles (Christians) - all singing the song of Moses (Jew) and of the Lamb (Christ) (chapter 15), all in white and wearing crowns.

John does make a distinction regarding a Jewish fringe, who he considers not to be true Jews, who turn Christians over to the authorities for punishment (page 15 of the article linked above).

Anyway, I should be clear that I don't read Revelation as future-prediction or end-times (what nonsense); I read it as John's vision of the spiritual battle he found himself in, and his conviction that love would eventually outpace violence/military strength/coercion. If I'm wrong, and that is NOT the message of John's Revelation, than his vision doesn't belong in the same book as the stories of Jesus.

Blake Stacey said...

Smile, people. Here's a wonderful xkcd strip about Google.

Nate said...

I'm gonna link another Sterling Newberry post, 'cause it impressed me, and some of what he said covers the current arguments here.

"It is also time to realize that free trade fundamentalism - the belief that just pursuing larger trade volumes to the exclusion of all else - does not work as advertised. The reason for this is simple, our trade policy isn't free trade, and we can't trade goods and services if we are busy building nuclear powered aircraft carriers, replacing M-1A1 tanks and slapping up McMansions to flip. Wanting free trade without having something to trade is like wanting to eat steak without having any teeth."

"That the Democratic Party, the left and the progressive movement have identified the parts of the vicious circle of the Republican era is a first step forward towards solving the deep problems of the age. However, alone, the pieces are not enough. Balancing a budget, without having something to invest in, does no good by itself – it is only creating a fictional surplus for some Texas Governor to give out as a tax cut for the rich. Without fiscal responsibility, there is no investment to create the better jobs at higher wages. Without better jobs and higher wages, there is no way to get the demand for new goods and services. And around it goes. No one piece, by itself, solves the problem.

It will only be by turning a cacophony of points of view, into a interconnected ecosystem of politics, economics and society, that the Democratic Party will be able to turn the words "New Direction" into something other than an election slogan."

The rest really should be read.

David Brin said...

Here's the latest trade fact of the week from the Progressive Policy Institute.


"A Tenth of Haitian GDP Comes From Garment Exports"

Garment workers in Haiti, 2004: c. 25,000
Garment workers in Haiti, 2006: c. 12,000

What The numbers Mean

Among the rivers of clothing flowing into the United States from the world's poor countries, Haiti's is a small brook. Poorest of the western hemisphere's 35 nations, Haiti is the 30th-largest supplier of clothes to the United States, and the simple skirts, T-shirts, blouses, and sweaters stitched annually by its 46 garment firms are its largest urban industry.

Studying the world's garment industries in 2004, the U.S. International Trade Commission reported that Haitian garment workers were earning, on average, about $4 for each eight-hour day's work.

As 77 percent of Haitians -- 6 million of the country's 8 million people -- live on less than $2 per day, the figure implies that Haiti's 12,000 garment workers are in the top fifth (or even the possibly the top 10th) of earners, and their salaries can support extended families of 10 or 15 people. In total, the 46 companies running factories dotting Port-au-Prince bring in about $400 million a year in export money, which is about one-tenth of Haitian GDP.


Is this sweetness and light? No.

Should project Witness send cameras so these workers can document any abuses? Duh.

Is this just about the only hopeful news that any of you have heard from that hopeless isle since... ever?

It is small potatoes, an anecdote. ANd textiles are always the most brutally exploitive of first phase industrialization stages. e.g. as in New York garment workers during pre-WWI (where my own ancestors sweated horribly while scrimping to send kids to school; see Doctorow's RAGTIME).

The One Generation Rule only applies when there is ENOUGH of this kind of thing, all at once, as in Malaysia. The Phillipines has been uneven and so it is taking longer. I have no expectation it will happen in Haiti, alas.

Still, again, I defy all the lefties; show us your lefty erudition. Not one of you has remotely accepted the challenge to even begin discussing Marx or the process of capital formation. Every citation of Central America only proves utter ignorance, because that kind of exploitation is the old-fashioned, land-based kind that supported feudalism and that Marx saw capitalism RESCUING people from!

The unbelievable ignorance of the left toward the intellectual wellsprings of their entire movement never ceases to amaze me.

As LIBERALS seem unaware that the true founder of THEIR movement was Adam Smith.

OdinsEye2k said...

I guess I count as a leftie, although I've only read the Manifesto, not Capital.

So, which part to discuss? Labor theory of value? How wage-work divorces people from the products of their toil? The bit that predicts conglomeration as the capitalists force each other into the prole class?

Smith, I have not read (only so much spare time out there), but I have heard about the tension between his moral view of the world and the results that he expounded in Wealth of Nations.

Erudition's a tough sell sometimes though. I watched Dr. Paul Krugman on Fox News today. It's brutal to watch such a sharp guy get kicked around by mis-attribution, outright lies and hostile interviewing. Irrelevant, but just a random reaction.

Finally, with the Haiti thing. The opportunity presented to the workers is a good thing in comparison to the fate severed by the resource-rich areas.

Although (Yes, this is a liberal trait, we always want to improve! Sometimes too much.), when I added up the wages from the numbers given, they add up to about $12.5 million. Quite a ways off from the $400 million that the products command. Something that takes a far better economist than myself is understanding the inevitability of that capital remaining in-country to be re-invested, versus being siphoned off as an even cheaper source of labor is found.

However, even with the siphoning off, it is true that people in poorer nations tend to save much more than here (no one has seen fit to start a consumerist culture yet) and also share with families. There is potential, even at the very low level for re-investment (beauty shops, small merchants, etc.).

David Brin said...

I guess I count as a leftie, although I've only read the Manifesto, not Capital.

Not on two counts.
1- you seem a pragmatic reformer. Vigorous and critical, perhaps, but willing to see anyone offer solutions.
2- you are better educated than most lefties about the historical roots and yet willing to admit ignorance. In contrast, genuine lefties know almost nothing and think they know everything.

You strike me as a liberal.

So, which part to discuss? Labor theory of value? How wage-work divorces people from the products of their toil? The bit that predicts conglomeration as the capitalists force each other into the prole class?

Show off!

Actually, Marx was very very mixed and the Labor theory of value was him at his looniest! It is pure tripe-theology without a scintilla of basis in the natural world or in natural law. Or economics, for that matter.

The other things you mention have some correlates with reality. But they are details that miss the point. Indeed, the just-so story of capitalists sending buddies down to the prols simply did not happen on a large scale in any locale, for several reasons.

1- wealth expanded more prodigiously than Marx ever imagined

2- the need for a dynamic entrepeneurial class does NOT go down as factories are finished, nor does the need for investment diminish. Indeed, the turnover obsolescence of capital QUICKENS as society develops! Something that is diametrically opposite to everything that old Karl believed! An utter repudiation/disproof.

3- he absolutely never, ever expected Franklin Delano Roosevelt... or indeed that people would actually READ him in the west and get scared into enacting genuine labor-friendly reforms. I elsehwere cite how this makes KM the classic sci fi author of all time! For writing the most potent "self-preventing prophecy."

So why do I cite him, if so much of what he wrote turned out all wrong?

Because there were TWO Karl Marxes! First there's the accute observer who invented concepts like capital formation. He OVER-MYSTIFIED the trends that he observed and suffered from outrageous tendentiousness. But he improved our awareness of some general processes prodigiously.

OTOH the religious mystic of later years who behaved EXACTLY as a religious prophet, became increasingly detached from citokate and any grasp of reality. Especially when he tried to extrapolate observations into systems, and then systems into Predictions.

It is the first Karl Marx who is relevant to the discussion of globalization. The one who saw that feudalism rescued primitive peoples from chaotic violence and allowed them to engage in agriculture, at the cost of all freedom or ownership of their lives.

That Monarchy rescued slightly more advanced people from slavery of feudalism (except the peasantry), engendered cities, and laid seeds for the bourgeoisie... at the cost of increasingly violent wars.

That industrial bourgeoisie rescued advanced people from monarchy and established limited types of "rights"... mostly for themselves, but establishing principles and styles of interaction that are capable of mediating complex enterprises among large numbers of people... at the cost of stealing some labor to use as capital forming investment. And at the cost of even bigger wars. Beneficiaries... peasants liberated from residual feudalism to come to factories. Losers, skilled craft workers forced into those same factories.

Whereupon, when all the capital is "completed" and most of the capitalists have driven each other down into the proletariat, the few remaining owners are quietly and calmly ejected from their offices by an educated and empowered proletariat....

Whew, what a story! Of course, Lenin and Mao had to come up with Aquinas-level excuses for why communist revolutions happened in the LEAST developed lands and not Britain or Germany or America... and then there's the inconvenient fact nothing else followed Marx's future projections, in any way or at any level...

...And yet, there are large swathes in which old Karl had some genuine insight. Like the way that factories finish off brutal rural feudalism and while exploiting prols do boost them up to higher levels of education and sophistication .

Now throw in some things he didn't expect, like inclusive democracy, general rights, a modicum of labor law and universal free education.... and you get the "one generation" cycle seen in Japan, then Korea and Taiwan, then Malaysia, and now China.

I am no Polyalla. I know it will take a giant worldwide effort to make this trend ACTUALLY save the world and end poverty. And it will take a helluva lot more than just selling crap to Americans via Walmart.

But that is the core thing that's going on, boys and girls. And it is the reason why the US trade deficit is one of the greatest things that any nation has ever, could ever, or will ever do for the world.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Brin,

Long time reader, but never have time to respond and most of the responders do so well anyway, that any contribution I could make would seem insignificant. First, please allow me to say that I've been a long time fan of your sci-fi (Uplift series in particular) and only wish I had more time to read more. In fact, it was while pointing a friend to your works that I stumbled across your website. I was pleasantly surprised your political analysis and views resonated with my own, more or less. Love the science/future links. :)

The majority of the responses on this topic were directed to the trade/economic portion of your post, so I'll be a bit of a "contrarian" myself and ask about the Genesis portion. I found your ideas about "apprenticeship" intriquing, not to mention somewhat enticing. As a scientist (also trained in physics), I rather liked the idea. However, in my opinion, before assigning attributes and motivations to some entity, it would seem useful to establish (or at least provide rationale for the assumption of) the entity's existence. This assumption seems to have been implicit in your post, and I was simply wondering how you came to accept it, if in fact, you had. Perhaps simply a degree of possibility? I'm sure you can guess where I'm coming from. But to give context, I remain open to the possibility of a god, but being currently unaware of any phenomena that requires one, I have no theistic belief. I am certainly aware that science has not answered everything. For example, we don't yet know exactly how life started. But there do some plausible naturalistic possibilities to explore. There are other examples of course, but I'm not trying to convince anybody one way or the other.

As your background has, at some basic level, some characteristics common with my own, I'd be interested in hearing your (or anybody else's) thoughts.

Thanks for listening,
Tim

Francis said...

David,
It might be a good idea to understand what you are reading before criticising. On the difference between research and development, adiffer had grouped them together as research - therefore I referred to basic research to describe what you refer to as research. Once you clear up the terminology, we are in perfect agreement here.

Regarding the rest, you miss my perspective entirely. Central America is, as far as I can see, more representative of the results of free trade than Asia is. And most Asian countries (and in particular China) have developed through means that are anathema to what is normally meant by globalisation - protectionism and subsidies (I'm ignoring Hong Kong here because it is a special case).

For that matter, I can only think of one country in the entire world that has managed to industrialise through trade alone. And that is because we started the Industrial Revolution. Everyone else (Europe, America) who industrialised in the 19th Century was highly protectionist in order to do so and I can't think of a 20th century country that has not either had strong subsidies, strong protectionism or usually both in order to industrialise. Both these methods are inherently anti-globalist and anti-free trade. Or rather both allow the countries in question to gain the advantages of free trade through exports without taking the downside and being blown away by the more efficient already industrialised groups.

And for all your claims, the subsidies that Don Q has mentioned amounted to 5% of GDP at that time - a not insignificant amount in relative terms even if the absolute values are low.

I can't think of a country that has industrialised without being able to use trade and globalisation but I can't think of one (other than Britain which really is a special case) that has industrialised without protectionism and anti-trade and anti-globalisation measures.

So to sum up, I see the normal result of globalisation as looking more like Central America than an industrial country and I still maintain that view. But this is the normal results of any system of government and commerce throughout the ages. The only exceptions I can think of are countries with relatively benevolent governments that are not completely in hoc to the people that put them there and that have been able to weight (or been the beneficiaries of weighting) international trade for long enough to industrialise (of which a necessary pre-requisite is international trade).

And I am well aware theat the logical consequences of the more extreme versions of the fairtrade movement are that everyone gets paid a nice middle class salary, moving everything back to nice middle class areas and preventing industrialisation. But the logical consequences of no movement of this type are company towns, company stores, and "Sixteen tons".

Don Quijote said...

"A Tenth of Haitian GDP Comes From Garment Exports"

And according to your "One Generation rule", in 2030 or there about Haiti should be an industrialized country with Democracy and the Rule of Law and all that good stuff...

ROTFLMAO!!!

And this is going to happen despite a measly 1.3 Billion national debt, a 52% literacy rate, 280,000 AIDS patients, massive deforestation, massive environmental problems, the fact that it gets hit by a hurricane every other year, a track record of good governance and our little habit of overthrowing the locally elected government when ever we don't like it.

That trade you talk about is the equivalent of putting a band-aid over a shotgun blast to the chest and calling it surgery.

ERic said...

In relation to all of this, an Alterdestiny blog post pointed me to this article about Milton Friedman and Chile. It has some good points, I think, about one Free Market approach to improving Third World economies.

OdinsEye2k said...

Eric,

I'll see your Friedman and raise you a Bremer:

http://www.harpers.org/BaghdadYearZero.html

There is a new branch of economics, known as evolutionary economics, that allows us to step outside the dry ideologies of rigged markets versus state intervention.

A major irony that is pointed out in evolutionary tracts is that companies are internal hierarchies that are judged by a ruthless market. However, this market requires true competition.

The real market miracle is the evolutonary engine, which has three parts:

-Generation of alternatives
-Selection
-Amplification of successful designs

Now, in cases like Iraq and Chile, it could be argued that step one was never allowed to happen, where all the alternatives were bought up in a fire sale.

rushmc said...

Interesting thoughts, per usual, but I have to take exception to the following, which seems sloppy and erroneous:

"...witness the profound power and effectiveness of our science and engineering, which cannot have happened if they were outrageous sins"

The official line of the fantasy is that sins are ALLOWED to happen, and certainly looking around us we see them happening all the time, everywhere. Not sure what you were getting at here, other than expressing your desire to believe that our science and technology are NOT sins. I don't believe that they are, but I think there's a better case to be made for them than "if they were, they'd have been denied us" (like the Tower of Babel, presumably?), even for those who believe there is a Denier-In-Chief.

P.T. Galt said...

Dr. Brin:

I have to disagree with your valiant but IMO futile attempt to force the ultimate archetypal Feudal Lord (the biblical God) into a modernist mold. I have a radically different interpretation that IMO fits the text itself far better (sorry, this is long):

Speaking to the church leaders and theologians of his own day, Jesus said:

“Ye are of [your] father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” –John 8:44

To begin our quest for the true identity of the Evil One, let's go to Genesis and see who's the liar and the murderer.

The scene of the crime is the Garden of Eden. We have our gallery of suspects: Jehovah, the Serpent, Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve we can rule out, since they were humans—in fact, the victims. That leaves Jehovah and the Serpent.

The very first death threat uttered in the Bible was given by Jehovah. "In the day you eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil which is in the midst of the Garden, you shall surely die." That's Jehovah's claim. OK, perhaps Jehovah isn't threatening them with death. Maybe the Fruit of Knowledge really is poisonous, and he's just warning them of the danger. We'll find out as we proceed.

What's the Serpent's claim? "You shall not surely die! For Jehovah knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." To the Serpent, the Fruit isn't poisonous, but astoundingly beneficial, and Jehovah is hiding this truth from Adam and Eve because he's afraid "their eyes will be opened."

Two contradictory claims. It shouldn't be too hard to tell which of the two is telling the truth.

Eve and Adam eat the fruit. Suddenly, they become aware of their nakedness. Think about that. Adam and Eve had no more self-awareness than animals, until after they eat the Fruit. And here's something else interesting: The Serpent is described as more "clever" or "subtle" (i.e. intelligent) than the other creatures Jehovah created. The Hebrew word for ‘subtle’ is awroom [Strong’s Concordance #6175]. It is derived from awram [6191] "to be (or make) bare, used in the derivative sense (perhaps through the idea of smoothness), be crafty, prudent, deal subtly." (from Strong's--IMO it could also have to do with "uncovering" i.e. discovery)

The word ‘naked’ [6174] is also derived from this root. This is the word used of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. ‘They did not know they were naked.’ Using the other meaning, it could also say ‘They did not know they were clever’. They did not know they could use their minds to survive and flourish. They did not know they were sapient beings. When the Serpent gave them the Fruit of Knowledge, they became aware of both their minds (cleverness/intelligence) and their bodies (sexuality, self-awareness).

The word for ‘serpent’ in Genesis is ‘nawkhawsh’ (5175). It is derived from the root word ‘nawkhash’ meaning ‘to hiss’ , i.e. "whisper a magic spell, prognosticate, certainly, divine (verb--see Gen. 44:5, Joseph’s divination) enchanter, (use) enchantment, learn by experience, diligently observe." (quoted text from Strong's Concordance, emphasis added) Now, we modernist sci-tech types usually have a rather low opinion of 'magic,' but for the moment, consider the contrasts between Magicians and Clergy, within the context of knowledge people possessed at the time the Genesis account was written.

The practice of "magic" assumed that there were certain spiritual operating principles, and that if a Magician learned what those principles were, he or she could use them to gain knowledge and/or affect reality. Do certain things, and certain results follow. As Heinlein put it, "One man's magic is another man's engineering." In other words, "magic" as practiced in ancient times was an attempt to develop a science and technology for dealing with the "spiritual" realm. We can say that it didn't work, but at least they were on the right track. Our sciences are descended from ancient magical practices. Alchemy: Chemistry. Herbology: Botany and medicine. Asrology: Astronomy. Sacred Geometry, Numerology, etc.: Mathematics. The Magician was also able to deal with spiritual reality on his or her own, through the use of his or her own intelligence.

Contrast the way of the Magician with the way of Clergy. The Clergy claim that the way to get things done is to seek to appease a Deity and the Deity's power will do what needs doing. Humans are fundamentally dependent on the will of the Deity. Clergy have an inside track to communicating with the Deity, knowing what is required to appease it, relaying its messages back to the people, etc. For Clergy, power-politics is the predominant cosmological principle. The way to "make it" in reality is to know who is Lord, and do their bidding. Obey, and you have good harvests, healthy children, etc. Disobey, and here come the locusts.

It is no wonder that Clergy loathe Magicians and, if given the chance, will have them burned at the stake.

God (and his priest Adam) represent the Clergy model. Right from the start, you have "Obey my orders and you'll get to munch free fruit. Disobey me, and you die!"

The Serpent (and his priestess Eve) represent the Magician model. He begins by asking Eve a question. "Did God say you could eat of every tree of the Garden?" He's employing the Socratic method to get her to see the bars of Jehovah's cage for herself. Then, instead of commands and threats, the Serpent offers a testable hypothesis: "You will not die, but when you eat the fruit, your eyes will be opened and you will be as gods." He never even asks Eve to eat the fruit. He just tells her the truth about it and lets her decide for herself. He does not threaten to bite her if she doesn't eat it. Instead, he offers her value.

Once Eve takes a closer look at the fruit, she realizes that it is pleasant to the eyes (beauty), desirable to make one wise (knowledge) and good for food (physical nourishment and pleasure). In other words, the Fruit is symbolic of all the elements of the good life. Notice further that the Serpent isn't trying to "rule the world." He never issues any commands, asks for worship and praise. Never has a crusade or jihad ever been waged in his name. In fact, he treats Eve respectfully, as an equal. Or perhaps as a potential "apprentice" in learning and using the secrets of nature.

So Eve eats the Fruit, and sure enough, she doesn't die "in the day" she does so. Neither does Adam. Later in the narrative, he (women don't count in the Bible) is attributed an astounding life-span of nearly a thousand years. Given that "day" in Genesis is supposed to really mean "day" (as any fundamentalist Creationist will assure you), we have no choice but to accept that Jehovah's claim--that knowledge is poison--was falsified. In fact, Jehovah himself acknowledges the truth of the Serpent's claim:

"Behold the man (women don't count) is become as one of us, (and here I thought there was only one god) to know good and evil: and now, lest he put out his hand, and also take of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever: Therefore, the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden...and he placed at the east of the garden Cherubims (a type of spirit being) and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life."

So, rather than bringing humanity's death, eating the Fruit made Adam and Eve "like gods" just as the Serpent said, and not only that, it opened the way to immortality for them. And so, to prevent humans from completing their ascent to divinity (it was a Rise in the Garden, not a Fall), Jehovah responds with what would soon become his old stand-by: violence.

Look again at the two claims.

Jehovah: "In the day you eat the fruit, you shall surely die."

Serpent: "You shall not surely die! For Jehovah knows that in the day you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you shall be as gods."

Jehovah himself endorses the Serpent's claim and reacts with fear and wrath not to prevent Adam and Eve from dying, but to prevent them from living forever.

"But Adam did die, because as a result of his sin, God denied him access to the Tree of Life, which he was free to eat from before."

(the usual Christian interpretation)

That's quite an interesting admission. Adam did not die because he ate the Fruit of Knowledge. It was not poisonous; nothing about the Fruit of Knowledge itself caused them to die or prevented them from living forever. Had Jehovah just shrugged and walked away, Adam and Eve would have been immortal. Jehovah, using violence, insured their deaths. In other words, slow-motion murder.

So, what have we seen here? Jehovah lied. That is self-evident in the narrative. Eating the Fruit of Knowledge did not kill Adam and Eve. It had the exact effects the Serpent said it would, a fact Jehovah carefully chose to hide from Adam, and which he later did not even try to deny. Everything the Serpent said was true. That also is self-evident in the narrative.

Furthermore, the Serpent did not kill Adam and Eve. He never threatened them or harmed them in the least. He simply gave them the gift of truth about the Fruit, and about Jehovah. And one more thing: he gave them freedom. He did not command them to eat the Fruit, or threaten to punish them if they didn't. As he promised, the Fruit was not poisonous or unhealthy. To the contrary, Eve acknowledges that it was "good for food," and her account is never contradicted.

Who killed Adam and Eve? Who took violent action to insure that they would die? Jehovah. Again, this is self-evident in the narrative.

Remember that bit about the Devil being "A liar and a murderer from the beginning?"

Dr. Brin, if you absolutely must find some way of "saving" Christianity for the modernist era, I suggest you go Gnostic. The Gnostics rejected the god of the Old Testament for the barbaric tyrant he is clearly portrayed as being (note that Jesus was not talking to Satanists in the quote at the start of this, but to orthodox worshippers of Jehovah), and viewed him as a subordinate deity who cut himself off from the greater God (an ineffable cosmic deity closer in character to that of the Enlightenment Deists) and the Goddess Sophia (Wisdom) who created him.

Anonymous said...

Re: Nate's posting a fair ways up, he mentions some CBS exec saying it wasn't their job "as the media" to call a duck a duck. Nate says he thought that was precisely a journalist's job.

They're both right. Journalists have the task of calling a duck a duck; the media have a rather different job of alternately entertaining, appeasing, and inflaming the public with fluff and propaganda. It would be wise to remember the difference.

And now for something completely different.

Inspired by the article linked below and by recent readings here and elsewhere, I've come to a notion that the early 21st century will increasingly involve determining a new way to apportion the business of society among four sectors: the traditional private sector, the traditional governmental public sector, the traditional private charities, and a growing personal sector of individuals acting largely autonomously, with either grass-roots adhocracy or even less organization, which is becoming increasingly enabled by the Internet.

The article linked below suggests shifting the bulk of the cost and risk burden in pharmaceutical clinical trials to the public sector, and gives some fairly sound reasons for doing so, but this goes beyond that. The personal sector is what performed above and beyond the call on 9/11 but was hamstrung after Katrina, and is still largely responsible for open source software. It may eventually be the best source of information, software, and art.

It's generally recognized in economics that public goods -- nonrivalrous and difficult to meter -- are underproduced by the private sector. So far the major ways to produce them are: government; private sector motivated by government-granted monopoly; and private charity. But the personal sector is emerging as a potent supplier without any formal mechanism (and in fact the use of one would move a project out of the personal sector and into one of the other three anyway). Between things like open source and creative commons, the 9/11 and Katrina themes recurring here, and recurring stuff here and at Techdirt regarding crowdsourcing and even "open source intelligence", it looks like a lot of public goods, even readiness and defense, can be partially supplied from this new sector.

This sector may be crucial in the third world too, combining with private enterprise and public charities. Generally, the worst underdeveloped areas have piss-poor governments that won't be much help at first. But individual action can conserve, apply small-scale efficiencies, and virally spread a form of education; with some aid from charity, this sort of action can cheaply put simple hand-operated water-filtering wells in e.g. arsenic-polluted parts of Bangladesh. People well enough to work can begin local entrepreneurial activity or work for multinationals. Once business and trade enter a region, it's in the interests of the business owners to stabilize the region politically, and improvements in government may swiftly follow. This may lead into Brin's "one generation" pattern mentioned earlier in this thread, in turn.

I think the division of labor into these four sectors, as well as the determining of how to shift different kinds of work and problem-solving to the sectors that do them best and cheapest and keep them covering for and watchdogging each other, warrant further exploration (here or elsewhere). For example, all the sectors except private charity may be involved in national defense via citizen-sourced intelligence and tip lines, ground-level citizen resiliency (the true first responder is usually a citizen that dials 911 and administers CPR, not someone in a uniform who rode in on a vehicle with flashing lights and sirens!) not hamstrung by the "professional protector caste", the latter doing what it does best (keeping secrets from the enemy, maintaining law and order, and serious combat with the enemy), and private enterprise supplying tools and technology (the industrial half of the infamous "military-industrial complex").

http://www.againstmonopoly.org/index.php?perm=886089000000000658

Tyler August said...

Directing this one mostly at David (not Brin), for his "fair trade good, free trade bad" tirade-- for one, it seems to me that "fair trade" is designed to preserve the unique cultures of underdeveloped areas by giving them absolutely no incentive to develop. Look, quaint handmade trinkets from the natives; it's authentic because they still live in huts! *cough*
A little medicine-money is better than nothing, I suppose... but since we're 'preserving unique cultures' in our free trading, we don't bother pointing out where to buy Western medicines, do we? No... cannot expose our revenue source to Western ideals; they might become less quaint and marketable. (And the West is full of evil Gia-hating capitalists, anyway)
Okay, so this is the most cynical view I could possibly take--but I can almost guarantee that somewhere, it is happening in the name of "fair trade."
I'm contrasting this against your statement that "the logical consequences of no movement of this type are company towns, company stores..."
Right, so, what's the problem with that? Debt bondage and "Sixteen tons" is not an automatic consequence of the company town, if there's a labour movement able to stand against it. At least in Canada, Northern Ontario mine and mill towns being again my example, when a town went from being a 'company town' to something more private and free, the quality of life seems to invariably have dropped. Fordism means you take _care_ of your work force. Living in a company town meant you had a movie theatre, bolling alley, and distractions to keep you out of the bars when it wasn't really profitable to run them in that town, because the company wanted you to work on time in the morning. When the companies decided that running luxuries for the worker was cutting into the bottom line, they sold off what small luxuries they'd been subsidizing for the workers, and they generally went out of business. The town loses its movie theatre, bowling alley, or what have you... and maybe somebody opens up another bar. Things go downhill from there.
The system you're looking to discourage, David, is the one which industrialized this part of my country, and it seems unfair to deny that modernizing force to developing nations. If a 'fair trade' principle had been applied to Northern Ontario, we would have a few hunters and trappers, native bands whittling out beads in long houses and maybe a small tourist economy. The environment might have benefited, but... there's another point. Allowing the company to feel responsible for its workforce (Fordism again) encourages good environmental practise! If you're exploiting the worker, you don't care if he dies in 10 years from effluents you poured into the river he drinks from. If, however, the worker is an _investment_, then the company will want to keep him hale and healthy for as long as possible to get the maximum return on that investment. Which means ensuring the environment the workers live in is not a stinking death hole-- view Sudbury, Ontario as an example. It was probably the most polluted and polluting city in Canada; INCO (the mining company responsible) payed the brunt of the costs for the cleanup, and all of that to clean up their emissions, no court-order required.

Don Quijote,
Now, imagine how wonderful Haiti would be _without_ that trade revenue. Right. If that textiles trade were going to head off to China, the lefties (I hope!) would be kicking and screaming, ja? Against Globalization, of course.
When it comes down to it, a country has to stand on trade, sooner or later. Making that as big a part of the development process as possible only makes sense; just throwing money at a country doesn't help them learn the know-how or give them the tools to operate in the global market.
At the very least, brutal transition factories--or better yet, Fordist company towns--would help Haiti in a very real way by keeping violent young men (the sort who caused all the recent chaos) off the streets, and sending them home too tired to topple anything. Also, they'd have some change in their pockets to buy their daily bread.

ERic said...

OdinsEye2k,

Thanks for the Harpers link. Just scanned it so far. Yeesh. I knew some of that, but the reminder is... helpful. And sad. The vast majority of Americans will never have a clue as to what really caused the Iraq Disaster.

...then again, thinking about sweatshops and a generation down the line, who knows what that part of the world will become.

Right now, it looks really ugly. But 40 years ago, so did Vietnam/Laos/Cambodia. I guess one accidental benefit of it is that all that oil's not getting drilled right now, so it'll be available a little longer giving the world a few extra years to wean ourselves of it.

David Brin said...

WOW! You guys have been busy! I am proud to be provocative and many of these comments are richly filled with cogency or at least well-considered thinking.

Alas, I can only answer a few.

----
Tim, I definitely do NOT assume the existence of God. Personally I believe it is sacreligious to do so!

Ahem, if that ain’t the most unusual bit of theology you have EVER seen, I will eat my hat... and then try harder... after all, this is “contrary Brin...”

Seriously, I want you to try this experiment. Go outside and look up at this glorious universe. Then POLITELY ask God for a sign to prove his existence. If a million people do this, stats suggest that some ambiguous event will coincide... a phone will ring, for example. But overall, we can be pretty sure nothing definitive will happen.

Now the reflexively religious excuse this away by saying that God wants us to believe as a matter of faith. What silliness, when the “faith” we hold is almost always the one our parents taught us. That correlation ought to be worrisome to anybody. Especially if those who sincerely believe the wrong thing are damned for it! What an outrageous proposition. I’ll not have anything to do with a Creator who operates under such rules. A four-year-old on a playground is more just.

Especially when zealot hypocrites posit that He once upon a time DID offer proof-miracles... and indeed, they base their “faith” upon testimonials that specifically cite those long ago (but unverified) miracles! Say what? Does that make ANY sense?

Face it. It is just plain wrong to damn millions for sincerely reciting the wrong incantations, when you could just open the sky and give a shout in an impressive way... and you betcha we’d all (most) start reciting the right ones, right away!

So no... damnation just ain’t a real deal. Not for wrong incantation. It just makes no sense and isn’t a scintilla fair. The crator of the Eagle Nebula would not think that way... even if the deity of John of Patmos and Paul of Tarsus would.

Ah... but what if the experiment that you just performed was theologically TELLING? What if it is a sermon? A sermon preaching AMBIGUITY?

“Figure it out for yourselves!” That is what you are hearing... or at least what I hear... every time some missionary rings my doorbell and I drag them out front, face the sky, and demand proof. (It scares the $%#*! out of them, by the way. I highly recommend it.)

It is the sermon preached by EITHER a craftsman God who wants skilled and rambunctious and rather uppity apprentices... or else one who is absent... but here is the point. Our behavior must be the same, whichever of these explanations is true!

Ambiguity is consistent with two kinds of deity. And I intend to live my life in a way that fits either. That fits both.

---
Francis YOU are missing the point. You seem to think that we had no say in the trade patterns that benefitted Japan etc. But we were (and remain) the empire! EVERY other “pax” dictated the world trade patterns and so did we. We just dictated very different ones than the usual mercantalism.

The anti-mercantalist trade patterns established by Marshall and Acheson were THE reason why developing nations were able to set up protectionist export driven economies. Are you seriously unable to notice that we have NEVER really retaliated against these countries, on any major scale? Yes, as they developed, we forced gradual declines in protection. But along a smooth arc that was always in favor of their development.

I am stunned by the inability of people to notice clear patterns.

Sorry, but 5% of the Korean GDP is trivial. A fingernail next to industrial investment and export drive)n capitalization. (Even a few factories in Haiti now provide TEN percent of GDP. And of that 5% to Korea, most of it was for clearing rubble caused by our bombs and helping their military. Feh!

Dig it... the USSR poured BILLIONS of aid into Cuba. Vastly more than we ever poured into Korea. It was their TOP foreign aid gambit, suuposedly to prove socialism to the world! If aid alone could lift a society, that would be the one! And yet, wow, go figure. Cuba is dirt poor.

Agh! I keep asking lefties. WHAT DO YOU PROPOSE INSTEAD? Ignorant of Marx or their OWN intellectual wellsprings, they spurn capital formation. And lo! Aid hasn’t worked so well. (FIND ME THE EXAMPLES OF AID-LED DEVELOPMENT!)

Socialism ain’t so hot. (Ah, Zimbabwe, lovely!)

SO? What’s the big plan, then? You guys diss MY list of success stories... WHERE ARE YOURS? Let's see where your methods (what are they?) have lifted the same billion people of the industrialized east asia. or the THREE billion who are rising up in China and India.

Likewise, your portrayal of Latin American commodities-slavery as typical of globalization is - (forgive me and I like you) - absolutely loony. Local slaveholders whip peasants into producing raw commodities... and spend it all on palaces instead of infrastructure... and you call THAT globalization. Yeesh. Go ahead then. But it ain’t what I am talking about and it ain’t what Marx called “capitalism”. Just like DQ, you are waving away facts that you don’t like, simply by redefining words.

Like his contemptible posting that followed yours. Twisting and putting words into my mouth that mean the DIAMETRIC OPPOSITE OF WHAT I SAID. He is warned. If he keeps this lying shit up, I will ban him and I mean it.

David Brin said...

Saw this on a list:

Some Top Super-Heroes

Superman
Methodist

Spider-Man
Protestant

Batman
Episcopalian/Catholic (lapsed)

Wonder Woman
Greco-Roman Classical Religion

Captain America
Protestant

The Hulk
Catholic (lapsed)

The Thing
Jewish

Daredevil
Catholic

Wolverine
former atheist

Elektra
Greek Orthodox

ERic said...

So, Dr. Brin. What do you think of China's approach to Africa? The New York Times article quote in the linked piece sounds a lot like what you're advocating.

Anonymous said...

P.T. Galt: That was a truly inspired and amazing discussion. There's only one problem with it. I already had no reason to support Christianity as it is! *grin* I'm going to save that discussion and give it to some friends and family (with your name on it for documentation). I wonder how they'll respond....

Rob H.

Rob Perkins said...

To begin our quest for the true identity of the Evil One, let's go to Genesis and see who's the liar and the murderer.

(Referencing a passage in the New Testament in which Jesus accuses Pharisees of something.)

Oh good grief. If that's the best you can do, it's no wonder people can't be convinced away from believing in the stuff that's said to be in the Bible.

At any rate, the Gnostics were incantatory mystics, no better at modernism than most.

Now the reflexively religious excuse this away by saying that God wants us to believe as a matter of faith.

Buh?

Chapter and verse, then, if you please. Unless you're talking about exegises I can't abide?

What silliness, when the “faith” we hold is almost always the one our parents taught us. That correlation ought to be worrisome to anybody. Especially if those who sincerely believe the wrong thing are damned for it! What an outrageous proposition. I’ll not have anything to do with a Creator who operates under such rules.

Nor would I. A four year old *might* be more just, but I think that depends upon the four year old.

Honestly, the definition of "faith" you're using is just so weird to me. It feels like strawmanning. I have no idea how many people actually proceed along those lines.

'Course, the last time I offered someone the LDS concept of faith, he turned it down because the definition was found in the Book of Mormon. The subject itself is so closed to so many people that it's hard to help them see another point of view, even if only to provide comparisons.

But here's a notion: Only four of the first five "books" in the New Testament were actually written for the sake of people who had not converted to Christianity.

Is it possible at all, based on that, that the use of Romans and the other epistles, including Revelation as a bludgeon to scare non-believers is actually entirely inappropriate?

As far as walking onto the street and asking God politely for a sign, if you're scaring missionaries with that, perhaps it would be a kindness to mention that Gideon did no worse with his dew-laden fleeces. Asking politely is not sign seeking. :-)

Rob Perkins said...

@Rob H

If they know what they're talking about, they'll respond that as with any complex set of egregious fallacies, the conflation of context in P.T. Galt's pseudo-apologetic is so far beyond absurd that it simply doesn't deserve the bits needed to transmit it. Talk about your just-so story...

Hint: the fallacy is equivocation; combining an unsupportable exegesis which does not match surrounding context to draw an equivalence with a document several centuries younger, written in an entirely different language with no fewer than four intervening historical cultures between them. There is also the use of prejudicial language, the introduction of ideas not developed for centuries after John was penned.

In other words, a sophomore at Moody's could sweep the story aside with contemptuous ease, *without even introducing new doctrinal ideas proceeding from different premises*. Not that contempt is a Christian virtue, but there you are. :-)

Francis said...

Likewise, your portrayal of Latin American commodities-slavery as typical of globalization is - (forgive me and I like you) - absolutely loony. Local slaveholders whip peasants into producing raw commodities... and spend it all on palaces instead of infrastructure... and you call THAT globalization. Yeesh.

I call it Supply Side Economics - which is a part of globalisation. For one thing, the globalisation provides the markets that make this methodology pointful. For another thing, not to include it under the heading of globalisation is to bias the sample by removing the negative effects - and you can make any system appear to work that way (of course, it's sometimes how drug trials (and homeopathy trials) work, but I digress).

Go ahead then. But it ain’t what I am talking about and it ain’t what Marx called “capitalism”. Just like DQ, you are waving away facts that you don’t like, simply by redefining words.

David, here lies your biggest communication problem. You are a polemicist not a disputant. If you wish to criticise the left for its objection to some concepts (as your goal appears to be), you MUST first accept their definition of those concepts. Otherwise you just talk past your target audience (which is more Don Q than me - I'll happily take either side in this argument) and your entire screed is something "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

If, on the other hand, your goal is to fire up the base and pat on the back everyone who agrees with you, you are going the right way about things. But from reading you, I don't think that that is your goal. (I know all about the temptations here because they are something I fight within myself).

Socialism ain’t so hot. (Ah, Zimbabwe, lovely!)

You say Zimbabwe's socialist, I say that Iraq's a democracy. This could get silly.

Being more serious, I would prefer to live in a well-run socialist country (that would be Scandinavia and possibly New Zealand) to a well run capitalist one. Unfortunately, socialism is much harder to run well (in part because there are many more opportunities for corruption in an average one) and I'd prefer to live in an average capitalist country to an average socialist one.

Agh! I keep asking lefties. WHAT DO YOU PROPOSE INSTEAD? Ignorant of Marx or their OWN intellectual wellsprings, they spurn capital formation. And lo! Aid hasn’t worked so well. (FIND ME THE EXAMPLES OF AID-LED DEVELOPMENT!)

Aid alone does not and almost can not work. What it does is either pump priming or patches up the worst problems. (Unfortunately contemporary aid from the EU and in particular America is often worse than useless - it is given as food (valued at producing market rates, thereby skewing the aid statistics) and has the effect of taking what little money there is out of circulation as people live on food aid and the local farmers go broke).

What I'd suggest starts with taking the CAP and US farm subsidies out and shooting them. Then reigning in the WTO (its restructuring has a point but is being used as a Sovreign Specific (which is one of my major objections to current implementations of globalisation)). Then capping any and all subsidies and protectionism at a level inversely proportional to local/national GDP and giving every person (and no corporations) the same number of carbon credits per year to trade/use.

In short, make the system actually work and with a skew towards the poorest rather than the somewhat weak implementation that currently exists.

David Brin said...

Your absolutely trashy and unsupported insults in the first half of your remark are partly made up for by pragmatic and worthy suggestions in the last few paragraphs.

Needless to say, the first few must have been you channeling some other guy, a complete dope.

I have dealt with HUGE examples and evidence as plain as the hand in front of your face. Cuba as the extremum of aid recipients who wind up dirst poor and more than a billion east asians who worked hard in export industries and wound up rich. And while my tone may have been ascerbic at times, I have certainly been VASTLY more a disputant and less a polemcist than you, matey.

Indeed, I chuckle that your ultimate suggestions wound up being liberal in the sense of Adam Smith, denouncing artificial RESTRAINTS upon free trade. har.

P.T. Galt said...

Rob Perkins said...
To begin our quest for the true identity of the Evil One, let's go to Genesis and see who's the liar and the murderer.

(Referencing a passage in the New Testament in which Jesus accuses Pharisees of something.)


Wow. Impressive scholarship there. Way to cite a source.


Oh good grief. If that's the best you can do, it's no wonder people can't be convinced away from believing in the stuff that's said to be in the Bible.


You're completely missing the context in which I wrote my post. Dr. Brin dropped a few hints about how he would take "a fresh look at Genesis" apparently in hopes of convincing people that the biblical deity who is portrayed fairly consistently as hating and punishing human efforts at gaining scientific knowledge now wants us to become his "uppity" apprentices, based on no argument I could see apart from the fact that we don't see "God" smiting people anymore. A fact which fits Richard Dawkins' model just as well (and the latter is clearly more parsimonious).

As I saw it, Dr. Brin was looking for a way, any way to "save" Judeo-Christian belief for a modernist age by proposing that the biblical deity thinks we've grown up enough now to accept us as his apprentices rather than his slaves.

My point here was, if you absolutely have to remake "Judeo-Christian belief" to shoehorn it into a Modernist perspective, the Gnostic variant is already halfway there.

At any rate, the Gnostics were incantatory mystics, no better at modernism than most.

True, the Gnostics were incantatory mystics, and they also had a contempt for the material world that puts them well outside of the Modernist camp. But remember the context. We could take the God of the Hebrew Bible, and attempt to completely redefine his character so that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is now the Democrat of Democrats and Modernist of Modernists... Or, we could pick a starting point that's a few light-years closer to the goal.

"Gnostic" means "knower," which indicates that unlike ol' Jehovah, they were at least in favor of knowledge. They sought "God" through direct mystical experience rather than through dogma and faith. Which puts them closer to experimental science. At least some Gnostic sects also recognized women as equals. In other words, the Gnostic tradition requires considerably less plastic surgery to become Modernist than fundamentalist-literalist religion does.

Hint: the fallacy is equivocation; combining an unsupportable exegesis which does not match surrounding context to draw an equivalence with a document several centuries younger, written in an entirely different language with no fewer than four intervening historical cultures between them. There is also the use of prejudicial language, the introduction of ideas not developed for centuries after John was penned.

In other words, a sophomore at Moody's could sweep the story aside with contemptuous ease, *without even introducing new doctrinal ideas proceeding from different premises*. Not that contempt is a Christian virtue, but there you are. :-)


Sure, but your "sophomore at Moody's" would happily do all of those things when it supports his position, e.g. claiming that Gen. 3:15 is a prophecy of Jesus' crucifixion.

Furthermore, my post was not intended as a technical monograph for Biblical Archaeology Review. I was applying the same standards of interpretation used by most pastors and evangelists, all of whom happily leap back and forth between the New Testament and the Hebrew Bible as if they were all parts of the same book written by the same "Author." My point was to show that using that same methodology (which obviously is not the methodology used by Bible scholars), it is possible to show that the character of the "God" of the Bible more closely matches the common perception of "the Devil." How you could think of that as an "apologetic" is beyond me.

P.T. Galt said...

Perhaps we should take a step back and ask if it is worthwhile or valid to "remake" religion as Dr. Brin (apparently) suggested in the first place, or if we ought to join with Dawkins, Sam Harris, et. al. in dumping it altogether.

As I read Dr. Brin's comments (and they were pretty sparse, so I could be reading them wrong) he was assuming a "yes" answer. That we should find ways to re-interpret the Bible so as to recruit Jehovah to the Modernist cause. I see that as an impossible task.

The only reasons I can see to even try "rescuing the Bible from fundamentalism" is if: A) The Bible is true and Jehovah really has changed his mind about being a celestial tyrant, or B) Most people, for whatever reason, want some sort of religion bad enough that even "if God doesn't exist, it would be necessary to invent him," and it has to be within the pale of Judeo-Christianity since that's what's familiar in the West.

The latter has shades of "contempt for the hoi polloi" that Dr. Brin tends to rail against. On the other hand, over half of Americans apparently believe that Universe is less than 10,000 years old, even though a sophomore at any high school worthy of the name ought to be able to sweep Creationism aside with contemptuous ease.

Anonymous said...

RE: Rob Perkins

Be that as it may, it is still an inspired and amazing post. It came up at four pages, was intelligently written, used segments from the Bible to good effect, and even suggested a possible (and indeed probable) conflict that existed for early man: the power of the shaman/village wiseperson vs. the power of collective religion.

The truth or falseness of the argument does not in any way lessen the fact that it is well-written. Indeed, it doesn't matter one way or the other to me, seeing that I do not believe in the Christian mythos. (At this point of my life, I'm a borderline Agnostic, unsure if I've found personal proof of the Divine or if said "proof" is nothing more than self-delusion meant to bring about feelings of self-worth and self-empowerment. And as it's personal, there are no equations or physical manifestations to show others so I won't go into detail about it.)

If we are to go by what we can see, touch, hear, smell, and prove with math and science, there is no God. The Bible is a series of parables meant to create a sense of meaning to the greater world around us and also an inaccurate history.

However, you have to remember this. Faith is dependant on knowledge. If you do not know that what you believe is true, then you do not have faith in it. Thus those who believe in the Christian mythos know in their heart that what they believe is true. That truth is subjective to their own beliefs... but it is still true to them. Likewise, those who believe in ghosts or in magic have faith in them. And those who believe in math and science have faith in these notaries. ;)

After all, what proof do we have that existance is real? But that's a matter for philosophers to debate about.

Rob H.

grendelkhan said...

As for the Apple logo, the original logo showed Newton under a tree; Sadie Plant (in Zeroes and Ones) says it's a reference to Alan Turing, who committed suicide with a poisoned apple (hence the bite), but that's likely apocryphal.

Anonymous said...

P.T. Galt gives an unusual interpretation of the Genesis Fall-of-Man story. I don't understand why he attempts to tie John 8:44 into the Fall, since the John verse is a metaphor. Even Biblical literalists don't take Jesus's metaphors literally. If Jesus had wanted to make the point that P.T. Galt is making, he wouldn't have disguised it in a theological argument about another matter.

Why was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden? If God did not want Adam or Eve eating it, couldn't he have planted it on another continent? Obviously it was a test of some kind. The traditional view is that humankind failed the test. However, being a slightly heretical Christian myself (what fun is having faith if I don't speculate with it?) I wonder whether test of eating the fruit is not a legalistic pass-or-fail test but scientific measurement test.

Galt shows that Adam and Eve not knowing they were naked could also mean that they did not know that they could uncover truth. He or she also points out that the word for serpent could also mean observation. And the Bible blatantly labels the forbidden tree as a tree of knowledge.

Perhaps God had wanted to create a curious species. And the tree was a test whether humankind was interested enough in knowledge to die for it. And once they proved that they were, God gave them the tools to go out and gather knowledge.

Of course, as any Bible scholar knows, the important themes in the Bible are repeated often, and the Bible puts no emphasis on research. There is the case of Gideon, performing both an experiment and a control to verify a divine sign (Judges 6:26-40), but that is a choice of Gideon rather than God. Imagination is criticized in the Bible, because it is used in the sense of imagining and believing ideas that are not true. On the other hand, the Bible does have much to say in favor of reverence for truth and studying the truth.

P.T. Galt challenges, "Contrast the way of the Magician with the way of Clergy." Sure. However, those two professions have varied over the millennia. Sometimes the magicians were shamans with real knowledge to aid people, other times they were illusionists who impress with tricks. Sometimes priests were ritualists who appeased fickle gods with sacrifices, other times they were teachers of a time-tested moral code. The Christian priests have been the latter. Galt's argument seems an effort to tar Christians with guilt by association with the pre-Christian priests. Come on, it's easy to belittle us Christians, for we have made plenty of mistakes over the centuries, so why resort to rhetorical tricks? However, we Christians have a record better than average in supporting scientific knowledge. The Christian respect for truth created a solid foundation for the blossoming of science in Europe. Nowadays some Christians, such as the advocates for Creationism, are in opposition to parts of science, but I believe that is less a battle between Christianity and science, and more the battle between romanticism and progressivism, which David Brin has described many times in this blog.

In a followup comment, P.T. Galt said, "As I saw it, Dr. Brin was looking for a way, any way to 'save' Judeo-Christian belief for a modernist age by proposing that the biblical deity thinks we've grown up enough now to accept us as his apprentices rather than his slaves." I believe P.T. Galt has properly pegged half of David Brin's purpose. He want modernism and Christianity on the same side. In other postings, Dr. Brin has advocated "big tent" politics of making friends instead of enemies. The Creationists are siding with the romanticists. Let's stop them from dragging all of American Christianity to that side, because Christians are a giant cultural bloc in the USA.

The other half of Brin's purpose is given in his opening line, "I recently exchanged some emails with a pal over theological points in the Bible..." Some of his friends are Christian and they want to see how modernism fits into Christian belief and life. Interpretations of Genesis are good for a stimulating discussion of Christian beliefs, but the Gospel is better suited for discussions of Christian life. Let's go back to John 8. Verse 32 this time: "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." In the following verses, he talks how sinners are slaves to sin, but believers are family instead of slaves. Consider this: slaves are supposed to have blind obedience, but family members are supposed to talk to each other and work out common goals. This fits in well with Brin's modernist principles.

Erin Schram

Doug S. said...

I support Dawkins and Sam Harris. There's no need to cling to the Bible any more than there is a need to cling to Homer's epic poems.