Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Ultimate Refutation of Karl Marx

Since most of my recent postings have been neutral or targeted at the right, it felt like time to do a leftward poke, just to keep that hand in ;-)

--- THE ULTIMATE REFUTATION OF KARL MARX ---

Bernd Skiera has lately written about ever-shortening reinvestment horizons. "Due to the shortening of product lifecycles, the development of new products is one of the biggest challenges that companies currently face." I’d like to share with you folks a riff that I wrote in response to that statement. Actually, this one phenomenon (shortening re-investment horizons) is of more significance than people imagine... in the realm of social-political theory. It is, in fact, the most decisive and fundamental refutation of Marxism.

Was any more refutation needed? The failure of the Soviet empire and all other Leninist experiments would seem to have been sufficient. But not in the eyes of many quasi-Marxist intellectuals and campus postmodernists, who claim (with some justification) that countless Marxian variants were never tested in real life. In particular, Lenin veered steeply off course, down a path that was exacerbated by Stalin & Mao, etc. A detour into personality-cult despotism and murderous paranoia that Marx probably would have disavowed. Hence --"The experiment was never really tried," they claim.

Of course, to non-Marxists, there appear to be plenty of refutations of his ornate dogma on a scientific level. e.g. the inherently competitive nature of humanity and the patent absurdity of the labor theory of value. Above all, old Karl’s complete misunderstanding of Darwinian evolution doomed him to Lamarckian-style thinking. Absolutely (and proudly) ignorant about biology or tribal anthropology, he simply did not have a clue about the raw material (human nature) that he was working with.

It is all-too easy to forget that Marx was brilliant in other areas. His work on the underlying process of capital formation was a huge leap forward... before he got sucked into the egomania of becoming a cult guru. Worst of all was the mental sin of *tendentiousness*... a belief that there is some teleological TREND to history. That is mysticism, not science. Still, true believers and excusers can -- and do -- wave all of this aside. True believers (of all kinds, not just Marxists) are great at armwaving away inconvenient inconsistencies.

But what they cannot wave aside is a decisively mistaken explicit prediction. One that is absolutely fundamental to the entire Marxian edifice. One of old Karl’s keystone assumptions... and one that has proved diametrically wrong.

Marx confidently forecast (and hence this is also of interest to any predictions group) that once the capitalization process was "completed" in any nation - the means of production established and all factories finally in place - there would be no further use for the (till then) necessary entrepreneurial/capitalist class. They could then (but not before) be eliminated by the urban proletariat, since capitalist-entrepreneurial skills would no longer be required. No more creative investment or reinvestment, hence no need for competitively motivated investment specialists.

(As one sign of the grotesque ignorance of today’s howlingly ill-educated leftists, very few have likely ever encountered the notion that Marx highly approved of capitalists! He saw their “historical role” as absolutely vital in forming the productive capital that all subsequent prosperity would depend-upon. True, he saw them as somewhat rapacious, greedy and shortsighted, but he did not hold that against them. Their role was to build factories! And then to be toppled once that job was finished.)

All of this may have seemed reasonable in 1848, when the world only had a few centers of mass production. Marx could peer ahead and imagine Manchester City duplicated everywhere on Earth -- a vast proliferation of steamdriven mills -- after which all human needs would be satisfied. Voila. Only, today, this entire notion is revealed as profoundly absurd!

As capitalization proceeds, we realize that rates of obsolescence ACCELERATE. Management of capital and investment becomes an evermore frenetic art, requiring increased, not declining entrepreneurship.

Now, let’s keep perspective here. I am NOT saying that capitalism lacks a whole slew of problems of its own. We are living through an era when the human-nature propensity for outrageous cheating by corrupt elites may threaten doom for the very same free markets that engendered them. (If he were alive today, Adam Smith, the “first liberal” would be tearing the guts out of every monopolist.) Moreover, just because it is proved that entrepreneurial investment is still needed at accelerating rates, this process does not have to be controlled by a ruthless plutocrat caste of oppressive and secretive exploiters.

Still, however the re-investment process is done, it remains an utterly dynamic process requiring leadership skills and ever-advancing proficiency at prediction/extrapolation, all motivated by the great efficiency-driver of profit. Moreover, it seems proved that this is best done along competitive market lines. (Find one counter-example.) The crux: there appears to be no “completion of capitalization of the means of production.” The very notion - fundamental to Marxism - is utter nonsense.

Alas, this fierce and absolute disproof of one of the great quasi-religious dogmas of all time goes without notice. The significance of the recapitalization curve would not have escaped an earlier generation, steeped in the old debates over Marxist theory. But today, amid a steady decline in the intelligencia, it seems not even to have been raised, allowing campus romantic-leftists - profoundly ignorant and unread - to keep dwelling on scenarios that are now, decisively, disproved.

Will they eventually take the blatant lesson and finally abandon Marx, along with the whole suite of vocabularies and assumptions that are as quaint as phlogostin, turning instead to the mature task of negotiating a trimmed-down and more scientific approach to world liberation? The same goals (universal peace and freedom and tolerance) could be approached from angles that are consistent with human nature and scientific fact, as well as hard lessons from the past. It could be done!

But watch. See what they consider more important. Clutching, indignantly, to comforting traditional rituals and dogmas and incantations will be far more important and precious than sacrificing favorite illusions. Lazy to a fault, they will neglect to do the very thing that Marx himself was bold enough to do... re-invent a movement that is badly, badly in need of some fresh air.


--Blackmail and other asides--

Highly varied responses to my previous posting about the danger of blackmail in public life. Some people complain about the length of my blog-missives, which are often full-length essays, seemingly archaic in an era of clipped, micro-rants. But I refuse to be hurried. Some ideas deserve detailed appraisal. And this one -- suggesting that unscrupulous enemies of the West would seek to entrap and blackmail public servants -- badly needs wider exposure.

Capsule summary: Nowadays many people worry about “corruption” and politicians “selling” their services. But if rich and powerful forces out there really are conniving and cheating their way into influence, it is far more effective, long-lasting, and economical to lure decision-makers into well-photographed compromised situations than it is to keep paying and paying for every favor. Public servants (especially Washington neophytes.) need to stay vigilant for entrapment, ESPECIALLY by “friends.”

Those who are already trapped ought to contemplate the “algebra of redemption” and keep their eyes open for opportunities to change their role. To be the heroes who stand up, fight back, and are forgiven everything.


-- Other matters --

Robin Hanson (world expert on prediction registries) has a new blog. Says Michael Vasser: “It has replaced www.marginalrevolution.com as my choice for "best thing on the web" (imago.hitherby.com still deserves honorable mention).”

* Speaking of provocative but sometimes cogent blogging. The December Armageddon Buffet is now online. Also, while I am not always a big fan of Truthout, this article by Richard Clarke is terribly important.

* The drive by the Christian right to take control of military chaplaincies, which now sees radical Christians holding roughly 50 percent of chaplaincy appointments in the armed services and service academies, is part of a much larger effort to politicize the military and law enforcement. This effort signals the final and perhaps most deadly stage in the long campaign by the radical Christian right to dismantle America’s open society and build a theocratic state. A successful politicization of the military would signal the end of our democracy.

Author Chris Hedges goes on to offer yet more-chilling insights: “Erik Prince, the secretive, mega-millionaire, right-wing Christian founder of Blackwater, the private security firm that has built a formidable mercenary force in Iraq, champions his company as a patriotic extension of the U.S. military. These mercenary units in Iraq, including Blackwater, contain some 20,000 fighters. They unleash indiscriminate and wanton violence against unarmed Iraqis, have no accountability and are beyond the reach of legitimate authority. The appearance of these paramilitary fighters, heavily armed and wearing their trademark black uniforms, patrolling the streets of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, gave us a grim taste of the future.”

50 comments:

reason said...

David,
on the whole I agree wholeheartedly. But surely true believing marxists are a shrinking breed.
But neo-classical dogmatists are no better. There are major issues not just with how production is organised but with how consumption is organised and with the relationship between economic, social and political life in general. At the moment, the horse of economics is driving the cart of social welfare. It should be seen as a tool not a purpose.

reason said...

David,
this whole screed reminds me very much of the evolution/ID "debate", with evolutionists constantly having to remind the other side that they are not "Darwinists". A "Marxist" is already labelling himself as being stuck in the intellectual past. It is time we went beyond labels and started just talking about ideas.

Don Quijote said...

Still, however the re-investment process is done, it remains an utterly dynamic process requiring leadership skills and ever-advancing proficiency at prediction/extrapolation, all motivated by the great efficiency-driver of profit. Moreover, it seems proved that this is best done along competitive market lines.


Big League Inequality

The New York Times (Bob Herbert) reported yesterday that the 93 million non-farm production and nonsupervisory workers in the U.S. saw their real earnings go up by $15.4 billion between 2000 and 2006. That's half of the Wall Street bonuses paid by just five firms in 2006.

Capitalism, Communism's best friend.

Nate said...

Well, I'm not sure how much "ever-shortening product lifestyles" are a natural outgrowth of things, and how much is a deliberate choice. Planned obsolescence. The six month lifespan of "fashion". Many things we use are designed to last only a while, then be replaced by something New and Shiny and almost identical. Because there's less profit in making something well that lasts decades than there is in making something cheaply that lasts six months so people have to buy a new one then.

Even with things where there's technological reasons for replacement every so often, like computers, for most purposes we've reached the point of diminishing returns. Does that new 3 gig computer do word processing and email and web browsing that much better than my four year old 900mhz machine? Not that I've noticed. There's things where all that power is useful and needed, but not in most applications. But you can sell people a new computer by showing bigger shinier numbers.

So I'd be a little reluctant to say that the constant quest for new products proves that much. Though I suspect even without the constant stupidity of Wall Street and the "MUST DO BETTER NEXT QUARTER" pressure that short-circuits almost all long-term thinking, there'd still be a lot of new stuff made, because people like novelty. I'm not sure what that means for the prediction of Marx's, but I don't think the turnover of new stuff is quite as fundamental as you make it out to be, it's more of combination of pressures, some specific to our particular brand of corporate capitalism.

And I suspect the reason most "campus communists' are so goofy is because everyone's been told for the last like fifty years, over and over and over and over that "Communism bad! Marx bad and wrong!" So the only people who read Marx are the people who are honestly curious, and probably don't adopt it, or people who want to call themselves communist just to piss off their parents and their parent's suburban friends.

Nate said...

And in different, and worse news:
Afghan war needs troops
"... As a last-ditch effort, President Bush is expected to announce this week the dispatch of thousands of additional troops to Iraq as a stopgap measure, an order that Pentagon officials say would strain the Army and Marine Corps as they struggle to man both wars.

Already, a U.S. Army infantry battalion fighting in a critical area of eastern Afghanistan is due to be withdrawn within weeks in order to deploy to Iraq."


Bush and his administration are willing to forget about Afghanistan and lose it, to stave off admitting they screwed up and failed in Iraq. They're sacrificing the war against the people who actually attacked us to throw a plan-less, pointless, "surge" into Iraq.

That's the biggest problem with the whole transparent society idea right now. Accountability. Even though the Bush Administration has been wrong on EVERYTHING, and it's public knowledge, there's nothing we can do to stop them. It's replicated on a smaller scale with pundits, even when a pundit is wrong on almost everything, they still manage to keep their jobs. (Now, the ones who manage to be wrong every time should be given a special job where they write columns, which are given to government officials, who do the exact opposite.)

But seriously. We're abandoning Afghanistan, where we had a chance of doing all the stuff about transforming a country as a model of security and peace and whatnot, and getting rid of a regime at least as ugly as Saddam's, that really was sheltering terrorists. All so Bush and company can try and put off the inevitable collapse of Iraq until they leave office so the Republicans can blame "those darn liberals and protesters" and make up comforting fictions about how we were winning until our hands were tied, just like they did with Vietnam.

Rob Perkins said...

people who want to call themselves communist just to piss off their parents and their parent's suburban friends.

Heh. I think I was 27 before I realized that my parents and their friends did that to *their* parents and friends.

So... the only thing that could actually accomplish would be to make the previous generation chuckle with nostalgia...

OdinsEye2k said...

One question in my mind is how do we delegitimize these types of religious holy warriors?

I have a problem with my liberal friends in that we tend to be tolerant of religions and culture. Thus, we tend to say that al-Queda uses a perverted version of Islam when it could be argued that the "kill em all" variant is just as legitimate as the more peace-loving brand.

But, we have the same problem in Christianity. If you focus on Old Testament and Revelations God, you could pretty easily develop an equally vile cult (one would argue that Tim LaHaye is accomplishing just this). I actually shocked my aunt with the worlds that came from my mouth when I heard cousins were reading that Left Behind garbage.

As Dawkins would say, a Presidential candidate that states on the campaign trail that we must show Poseidon our love by sinking a sub destroyer every once and a while would be institutionalized. But, you have a candidate say the most ridiculous things in the name of Jesus and people say "isn't that great, isn't he is such a down-to-earth, God-fearing man?"

I tend to say to folks when they talk about how wrong Islam is, I go with "yes, in general I agree - now look at those people in the megachurch down the street in the same way."

As revealed truths go, we are currently in much less danger from End of History man than All Too Familiar in History man.

It's also worth noting that someone like Veblen would have cracked both Smith's and Marx's skulls together for believing in divine forces and things that just had to be.

Patrick said...

David,
Your blog-missives are fine in length, no worries.

This one in particular spoke right to me. One of my degrees is in the Philosophy of Law and Morality, a sub-department which was filled with communist post-modernists just as you described. As a staunch capatalist I felt a little isolated and often was the only one to argue with Rawls and against Cohen.

We discussed the Marxian super-abundance and the training I had in my other degree (Biology) taught me to view the entire concept with suspicion. It seems to pre-suppose an end to innovation and variation. It always seemed to me to follow that old (and mythical) quote from the patent office circa 1900
"Everything that can be invented has been invented."

Neither Marx or most of my classmates seemed to catch on to the fact that without universal conformity that sort of surplus would never happen. In the end there are always limited commodities whether they are end products like the basic textiles Marx was thinking about, or even the capabilities and services of people.

I once argued in class that even a superabundance of material goods would simply result in a competitive market for personal services as the differing abilities of people became the most important commodity.

You are absolutely right that the best refutation of Marx is reality. Marx's ideas didn't work, and are based on predictions that didn't pan out.

Patrick said...

Damn - I hate to post twice in a row, but I want to respond to OdinsEye2k.

For a while now I have wanted to be able to publicly ask and demand a reply of fundamentalist christian politicians to the following two part question:

"'What is your personal position on the idea of imminent Rapture?', and 'Do you believe it is your duty to hasten the Rapture while in office?'

I think the majority of Americans (though not all, see the Obama Keyes race) would be reluctant to elect someone who avowed an intention in hastening the end of the world.

False Data said...

As capitalization proceeds, we realize that rates of obsolescence ACCELERATE. Management of capital and investment becomes an evermore frenetic art, requiring increased, not declining. entrepreneurship.

It seems to be a recurring assumption in a lot of future predictions that current trends will continue, that you can trace the curve on out. The same assumption underlies the "singularity" idea and its variations, for instance. It was also the basis for many 1970's predictions that by today we'd be overpopulated and undernourished, or Freeman Dyson's prediction based on increases in transportation speeds that, by today, we'd be able to travel anywhere in the globe at the speed of light.

Clearly, the trend can't be "evermore" frenetic: it must eventually be bounded by communication speeds and the rate at which the managing entities can assimilate information. It's a good refutation of Marx, but it's not going to increase forever. Instead, it's probably shifting towards a new equilibrium point, maybe driven by marketing and accounting rules, or by planned obsolescence as Nate suggested.

What happens when the trend gets near that new equilibrium point, and the direction of the curve changes yet again? Beats me, but "interesting times" always seem to cluster around the boundary conditions.

Michael "Sotek" Ralston said...

False Data: Yeah, the trend is going to change eventually. All trends do, even if only to achieve a steady-state.

Of course, it still refutes Marx, which is sort of David's point.

David Brin said...

Stirred up some interest with this one, it seems. So let’s blaze thru some answers.

@reason: you would be surprised how much nostalgic loyalty to Marx there is in troglodyte campus lit/english/philosophy departments. Sure “marxist” is replaced by “postmodernist” or “liberation theory.” But the sullen and tenacious adherence would impress any religious true-believer. Again, Marx himself was an innovator. These reactionaries are not.

Proof. They all, nearly universally, despise science fiction. Wrap your mind around that. Supposedly utopian believers in scientific processes for advancing unprecedented change -- utterly loathe the one genre willing to explore fresh ideas how to... oh, yeah, fresh... ideas...

@Don, you are a hoot! The statistic that you offer is IN ITSELF devastating and terribly important. (ALL OF YOU SKIM UPWARD AND COPY/CLIP IT TO SHOW EVERYWHERE!)

And yet, in the context of this discussion, it is pure distraction. I made clear my belief that the fight to keep capitalism sane and on track is a fierce one upon which our civilization utterly depends (and at present there are signs that we are losing.) Nevertheless, capitalism on its worst days has delivered more human progress and hope and improvement of general conditions that communism did on its best days.

No, I take that back. I am impressed with Castro’s very first years. Bloody and horrid and unnecessarily oppressive. But the wretched poor finally got a chance to stand up. Alas, he blew every chance to turn it into a REAL revolution, owned by the people. Sorry guy. You don’t get away with evasion/distraction here.

@Nate, you are doing something similar. It is absolutely silly to ascribe accelerating capitalization curves to “planned obsolescence.” True, if we amortized product costs in sane ways that included ecological costs and money borrowed from our children, the frantic pace would probably slow a bit, but only a bit. You miss entirely the part that is about relentlessly improved efficiency and productivity. Today, every factory worker produces more than the entire city of Bristol, in Marx’s time.

Moreover, these things matter. The arrival of cheap cell phones in the developing world is said (by experts like my cousin) to be the biggest technological liberator since mass produced textiles. And when all those cells have cameras, then effect upon freedom will be overwhelming.

Alas, you also miss my point re reading Marx. Apparently, NOBODY is actually reading poor old Karl anymore. The staggering levels of ignorance about the actual theories can help to explain why campus dopes are able to romanticize him, to this day, despite utter refutation of his every forecast.
@Nate, yes, of course Bushco is abandoning Afghanistan (a success that was planned under Clinton) in favor of Iraq (a debacle entirely spring from the insane fervid brains of neocons.

@Odin whew! Choice rant.

@ Patrick, to see a mind experiment in superabundance effects, see Heinlein’s prescriptive utopia BEYOND THIS HORIZON... the 2nd half, after you get past the gun-nut crap that John W. Campbell imposed. In that future, material needs are abundant so “food, of course, is free.” (So much for RAH’s undeserved rep as a fascist!) OTOH, when it comes to things like ART - that are inherently personal and service-like - the economy remains rambunctiously and unashamedly cutthroat capitalist. Best of both worlds. Socialist toward basic needs. Utterly competitive re innovation.

Oh, re: Obama fetishism, let me give you a preview of a coming rant that I am planning, re the 2008 presidential race. Advice to the democrats. No senators, please. NO senators. Please. No senators No senators No senators No senators No senators No senators No senators No senators No senators No senators No senators No senators No senators !!!!!!!!!!!

Look at history. We have to win this one. We have to. It is too important for ego. so No senators , please.

David Brin said...

Oh... here's more...



Oh, while we are on the topic of people obstinately clinging to stupid ideas, drop in on the 2006 Darwin Awards, the somewhat questionable and yet transfixing site that evaluates newsmakers who managed to remove themselves from the human gene pool during the previous year, through acts of outrageous stupidity... like two teens who crawled into a giant helium display balloon in order to giggle over the resulting squeaky voices.
http://darwinawards.com/darwin/darwin2006.html

Ah, but these acts of individual (or small group) self-destructive stupidity are trivial and harmless, compared to the harm wrought by romantic-dogmatism. Our propensity to not only passionately believe gross oversimplifications about human nature, but to use those oversimplifications as excuses to hate and oppress others... all while feeling marvelously virtuous about the whole process.

Hyper-religiosity has an unmatched record at this. Followed by Great Leader aristocratism. Both of those horrors are on the rise again, along with fierce tribalism. Including the utterly senseless neoconservative undercurrent that boils down to “hate liberals!” and all else is just rationalization.

Still, Marxism ranks up there as one of history’s great delusional trips and a vehicle for delivering truly vast amounts of undeserved death. Perhaps, if we have time, we will see this kind of insanity “darwinnow” its way out of the gene pool. But I am afraid there will be lots more delusion and pain, along the way.


The Caltech basketball team recently won a game for the first time in 22 seasons. Yeehaw!!! Gotta start a bonfire in some intersection.

Strange factoid. Tech has the highest PERCAPITA participation in varsity athletics of any university. None of the teams are very good (says former captain of the fencing squad). But we get cool letterman jackets that say CALTECH. I mean. Cool.

wkwillis said...

Man, that horse isn't just dead, stuffed, and mounted, it's fossilised as well.
Okay, we get it, we get it. Communism doesn't work and socialism does. Whatever you say...
But wait for genetic engineering and the New Soviet Man!

wkwillis said...

Man, that horse isn't just dead, stuffed, and mounted, it's fossilised as well.
Okay, we get it, we get it. Communism doesn't work and socialism does. Whatever you say...
But wait for genetic engineering and the New Soviet Man!

Blake Stacey said...

Who gets off mounting dead horses — necroequiphiles?

Sorry.

Derive another reading of the text, one in which it is interpreted as referring to itself. In particular, find a way to read it as a statement which contradicts or undermines either the original reading or the ordering of the hierarchical opposition (which amounts to the same thing). This is really the tricky part and is the key to the whole exercise. Pulling this off successfully may require a variety of techniques, though you get more style points for some techniques than for others. Fortunately, you have a wide range of intellectual tools at your disposal, which the rules allow you to use in literary criticism even though they would be frowned upon in engineering or the sciences. These include appeals to authority (you can even cite obscure authorities that nobody has heard of), reasoning from etymology, reasoning from puns, and a variety of other word games. You are allowed to use the word "problematic" as a noun. You are also allowed to pretend that the works of Freud present a correct model of human psychology and the works of Marx present a correct model of sociology and economics (it's not clear to me whether practitioners in the field actually believe Freud and Marx or if it's just a convention of the genre).

— Chip Morningstar, "How to Deconstruct Almost Anything" (1993), bold emphasis added.

OdinsEye2k said...

Well, to add a non-Senatorial feat to the mix:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2007/1/10/121412/832

I don't know how long this will stay in effect, but when you consider the guy is working with his bare hands, that's pretty darned good.

Anonymous said...

"Who gets off mounting dead horses — necroequiphiles?"

That would be a sadistic beastialic necrophiliac.

Speaking of beating a dead horse...

Of senators and Presidencies...
Last senator to be elected President was JFK. Since then, we've had 2 VP's and 4 governers. So, who are the governers and VP's with thier hat edging toward the ring?

Don is correct, the best arguement for communism is the excesses of capitalism. And the best arguement AGAINST communism is communism.

Patrick said...

(wow 3 in a day)

David - I thought I would pass along something you might want to mention along with CERT training.

The Chicago area Red Cross annually does a $5 Adult CPR training en masse. 2000 People trained in a basic life saving technique. This year it is on 3/10.

http://tinyurl.com/wh4kb

I don't think it is a national program, though I may be wrong.

Doris said...

Nate wrote: "That's the biggest problem with the whole transparent society idea right now. Accountability. Even though the Bush Administration has been wrong on EVERYTHING, and it's public knowledge, there's nothing we can do to stop them. It's replicated on a smaller scale with pundits, even when a pundit is wrong on almost everything, they still manage to keep their jobs. (Now, the ones who manage to be wrong every time should be given a special job where they write columns, which are given to government officials, who do the exact opposite.)"

I wonder if the reverse psychology manuever would actually work. My sister was such a predictable contrarian that our parents were able to manipulate her. The tactic stopped working when she did so many 180-degree shifts in too short a time that she noticed she was contradicting herself.

David Brin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
David Brin said...

Sounds delightfully dizzying! Of course, speaking as a PROFESSIONAL contrarian...

...whose influence in the world has probably been self- diminished by the number of times I have deliberately shouted "But!" in the faces of people I maybe should have flattered, instead. Can't do that, tho. Insane I guess.

Yes, folks, I was about to speak up Bill Richardson before the Darfur thing hit. His assets: HUGE foreign policy experience. Liked by allies. Plays well in the West and could help split it from the Olde South. Hispanic element don't hurt.

And about as charismatic as a recycling bin. Sigh.

Still. We're ready. Him & Wesley Clark. I am available for a first date. Convince me. Please.


*(A paranoid aside. Seeing Richardson on the horizon, would the r'oils really let him get a Darfur peace as a feather in his cap? Or... swivelling 180... suppose they arranged this to make him look good! (Since the dems are due for their "turn.") Should we get even MORE paranoid? Ooooooog. It's painful being me.)*

David Brin said...

Oh, yeah.

And no senators. Please.

matthew jones said...

I worked for Bill Richardson's House campaign back in my NM collegiate days. I'd love to see him run for president - I have a pretty high opinion of him.
I did a double-take when I heard that "NM Governor is in Darfur to try to negotiate a peace settlement." I've never thought of the NM Governor's Office as being a foreign-affairs-type of place before Richardson was there... First going to N. Korea, now Darfur, as *Governor*?
However, my fave NM politician still has to be Gary Johnson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_E._Johnson). Now, *there's* a ticket for President.... Richardson / Johnson.
heh.

Fhydra said...

Woah, David. Just because history has a thing against senators doesn't mean you have to.

Besides, senators don't do so bad when they go from Senator to Vice-President. Five senators since JFK were elected to vice-presidency so far: LBJ, Hubert Humphrey, Walter Mondale, Dan Quayle, and Al Gore.

Not saying they were all the most qualified canidates, but don't assume they'll poison every presidential ticket they're in, alright?

Rob Perkins said...

Does "no senators" extend to the Republican offering as well?

If so, then the choices are (among those with an exploratory committee) Jim Gilmore, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Tommy Thompson.

Among Dems, it's Dennis Kucinich, Tom Vilsack, and unless wiki is out of date, noone else has filed.

Of that group Giuliani is the most interesting, to me. I wonder who else will step up...

And what if both parties front a senator or former senator?

David Brin said...

Richard Nixon was also a senator who became VP.

VPs are almost automatically given their party's subsequent nomination. In some cases this was logical and appropriate (e.g. Al Gore) and in others just silly (e.g. Mondale.) But the record of SUCCESS by VPs is dismal. Only one in a lifetime actually made it. Bush Sr.

LBJ doesn't count because he was promoted by a bullet. He was also by far the best qualified of the bunch.

Nixon doesn't count because he lost, then earned party points and came back 8 years later as a GOP elder statesman. woof.

But senators are the worst. They lack administrative experience, They convey a sense of bluster and lack of gritty substance that comes from running a whole state.

Carter may not be viewed as a success, but he stepped into a nation in total confidence-sollapse and restored to the people their sense that they owned their government. Then he CHIDED us! Political suicide. In retrospect, he is well liked.

This whole "no senators" thing works double for the GOP. Because most of their senators are pure monsters. Complete raving loons and evil, to boot. In contrast, Hillary would probably be a half decent president, if we could put her in a box and prevent half the country from seceding the moment she stood at that podium. We just don't need more culture war, whether she earned her rep or not.

Frankly, Guv Ahnold seems determined to singlehandedly fight for a sane GOP. Alas, he cannot be the nominee.

Nicq MacDonald said...

Matt:

Richardson is one of America's top diplomats- and New Mexico's governorship, being that of a border state, is a position that involves some of measure of diplomacy- though not necessarily with the Sudanese!

Richardson is more charismatic than a brick, at least- and look up his "cowboy" campaign ad on YouTube- genius! Best gubernatorial campaign ad I've ever seen. Positive, funny, memorable, and I love the line at the end ("Next time, let's make a space movie..." a not-so-subtle reference to the NM Spaceport)

His problem is that he doesn't have a solid stance on immigration. We need a serious immigration reform package of some sort, and he could trounce if he made one a major part of his platform. Imagine, Richardson, the bridge between white American and hispanic America... with Barack Obama as his running mate. Crikey!

I'd like to see a Republican beat that. Any Republican.

Don Quijote said...

I'd like to see a Republican beat that. Any Republican.

GW Bush AWOL Coked up over-privileged Air Reservist defending the borders of Texas against the Vietnamese Invasion Vs John Kerry, Vietnam vet, war hero(Silver & Bronze star).

Need I say more...

The press can & will swift-boat any & every Democratic candidate.


Gore for President. I hope he has learned his lesson & doesn't forget that payback is a bitch.

michael vassar said...

Thanks Dave

By the way, with respect to "it seems proved that this is best done along competitive market lines. (Find one counter-example.) The crux: there appears to be no “completion of capitalization of the means of production.” "

I strongly agree with the general sentiment, but I would suggest the Emilia Romanga Cooperatives of Italy
(http://www.christianitytoday.com/bc/2006/004/5.26.html)
as my "one counter-example". Surely there are other small and obscure exceptions as well (a few Kibbutzes for instance, or Japan if that doesn't count as capitalism, and I'm not sure it should), rarely scalable, so far. Still, it seems premature to assume that our economic system has in any respect assumed terminal form.

It also seems plausible that molecular nanotechnology would/will bring about the "completion of capitalization of the means of production.", though possibly with massive undesired consequences, and quite plausibly concurrent with a complete transformation of the present capitalist class into one of feudal overlords or something worse, (or, of course, the most probable outcomes of all, global genocidal war followed by omnicidal GAI)


By the way, where did the info on Blackwater come from?

Doug S. said...

Yeah, a state governor probably makes a better choice for President than a Sentator. However, which of these people would be a reasonable President? It seems that many of them have yet to prove themselves.

David Brin said...

Re the listed guvs:
Strickland in Ohio is our hero if he can start putting Deibold guys in jail. State law and state rights. Rah!

Exactly as Eliot Spitzer did as AttyGen in NY state, when he shocked (shocked!) the kleptos by pointing out that Wall Street also happens to exist in his state. So law can apply to piggie thieves, even during a whore federal regulatory apparatus. Indeed, in part because of Spitzer, the SEC woke up and started re-acquiring cojones, lately. Hands down, if I could simply press a button, Spitzer would be my choice.

Most dem guvs are too bluestatish or have funny names. That’s not stopping Vilsack. But Blagojevich? Yipes!

Yup, Richardson looks good. What's the URL for that cowboy ad?

I still like Clark.

Jim Zoetewey said...

I went to school (K-12) with Erik Prince (of Blackwater) and knew him a little. I'd no idea what he was doing with his life.

Bizarre.

Don Quijote said...

Most dem guvs are too bluestatish or have funny names.

Cause Brin isn't a funny name and California isn't bluestatish.


If we had any sense we would select our Presidents based upon the State they represent.We would never elect anyone from Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana or Texas to the Presidency in that those states are poorly run, whereas Minnesota, New Hampshire, Vermont or Massachusetts being fairly well run should be great sources of Presidential Timber.

Fhydra said...

Gah, Youtube's down and I messed up the link. I'll try again.

Cowboy Ad

reason said...

DB - Perhaps, if we have time, we will see this kind of insanity “darwinnow” its way out of the gene pool.

ummm... Doesn't that mean no more humans? As far as I can see the open minded humans are just as vulnerable as the ideologues. Or do you think we should start setting up a refuge somewhere like in the Chrysalids?

reason said...

Seriously though, I'm not sure the problem is in the hardware (although it partly is) but in the software.

We automatically need both curiousity and conservative modelling in our psychs and it is the balance between the two that is crucial and delicate. As "curiousity killed the cat" a dangerous environment tends to select against it. So paradoxically putting security high on the agenda encourages innovativeness.

OdinsEye2k said...

"Most dem guvs are too bluestatish or have funny names. That’s not stopping Vilsack. But Blagojevich? Yipes!"

And with that, I give you Barack Hussein Obama. I don't expect that to not be repeated and played up by the fifth-graders at Fox News who think anthrax being mailed to major reporters (Olbermann) is funny.

Spitzer has potential to be a good developing asset. If he shows integrity as governor, I'd put him in a bucket with Feingold as the competence and clarity group.

Still going with Gore for the win ATM. And hopefully, he might revive the Clinton policy of purging radical elements from the armed forces. Back in the day, it was things like Aryan Nations, but I would think Christian Embassy would fall under the same rubric.

SpeakerToManagers said...

Hillary would probably be a half decent president, if we could put her in a box and prevent half the country from seceding the moment she stood at that podium

Ah, but there's a great 1st term strategy buried in there. Run Hillary for VP, not Pres. That makes any Democratic President impeachment-proof. No matter how badly he pisses off the Republicans, they won't dare do anything that might leave Hillary running things.

But back to our main topic ...
You miss entirely the part that is about relentlessly improved efficiency and productivity.

I keep hearing this, and I don't buy the "relentlessly" part. Certainly there have been improvements, but the whole discussion reminds of the idea of "internet years" that the Vulture Capitalists were beating us all over the heads with. In general, when things went four times as fast as before, we simply got four times as many mistakes made. And my comparison of how the high-tech industry capitalized itself in the '70s versus the '90s (first hand, I've been in the business since 1976) is that there was a lot more success for a lot less effort in the '70s, which has to be at least one measure of efficiency. Unless, of course, you're only counting the success of the guys who started the dotcom companies, which is about like measuring the economic success of a pyramid scheme by how much the guy at the tip gets away with.

Also, what's efficient about making several hundred billion dollars disappear from the economy in the space of six months?

Or look at another measure of efficiency, the one the economists use: dollars of value produced per hour of work producing it. It's no secret that gains in that area have often been made by simply cutting pay, or number of employees (without changing the amount of output required). That looks good on your company balance sheet, but what it does long-term to an economy ("would you like fries with that?") isn't efficient in any way that makes sense to me.

Nate said...

Dr Brin said:
@Nate, you are doing something similar. It is absolutely silly to ascribe accelerating capitalization curves to “planned obsolescence.” True, if we amortized product costs in sane ways that included ecological costs and money borrowed from our children, the frantic pace would probably slow a bit, but only a bit. You miss entirely the part that is about relentlessly improved efficiency and productivity. Today, every factory worker produces more than the entire city of Bristol, in Marx’s time.

Planned obsolescence may have been the wrong term to start with. Because a lot of it's not planned to go obsolete exactly, it's just next year around, to keep their numbers up, companies have to come up with something just a little bit different to convince people to buy the new one. That's not relentlessly improved efficiency. Look at cars, for example. With the recent exceptions of hybrids, most new cars aren't any more efficient than cars made over the last 20 years or so. So if somebody replaces their car with a brand new one, there's no real change there. There might be down a chain of used cars, but the new car's not really any different. The same with fashion. It's not a matter of ecological costs I was talking about, but the matter of if the new was really any different, or if it was just different enough to replace the old. Heck, in some cases, the new ones are WORSE. Think of giant poorly insulated McMansions.

Moreover, these things matter. The arrival of cheap cell phones in the developing world is said (by experts like my cousin) to be the biggest technological liberator since mass produced textiles. And when all those cells have cameras, then effect upon freedom will be overwhelming.

The spread of cheap cell phones is amazing and great. I wasn't saying that everything new is bad or unnecessary, just that a lot of it really ISN'T any better than what's there, so the reinvestment isn't marching relentlessly.

Other notes: I'd totally vote to re-elect Al Gore in '08. But then again, a lot of the Republican field is almost as crazy as the current guys in power, just look at what's become of John McCain.

And somewhat OT, but related to current events and my last post: Speaking of the crazy side of Republicans, apparently Bush's "surge" hasn't made anybody happy. But Josh "Tacitus" Trevino seems to have joined the side of the Right that thinks the problem with Vietnam was we didn't commit enough horrible atrocities. So he's not happy because Bush's "surge" wouldn't be enough to commit massive atrocities like putting the entire Iraqi population into concentration camps and stringing the country with blockhouses and barbed wire and bombing anybody who broke the wire.

This fits right in with Bush's entire conduct of the war, Not Losing. That's the goal now, even when Not Losing doesn't involve winning, no definition of what winning would be, and just hanging on and getting thousands more soldiers and Iraqis killed, for no purpose.

Patrick said...

Entirely OT (not that I'm not enjoying this, and Blagojevich is easy enough to say when you get used to it).

Thought everyone would like to see this post from slashdot which has some information on a new whistleblowing wiki.

All we need next is some way to reward people.

Doris said...

David wrote: "And about as charismatic as a recycling bin. Sigh."

If you want a recycling bin to gain charisma, put a basketball hoop over it. Who can resist tossing an aluminum can through a basketball hoop?

David Brin said...

Clearing my "to post" file, I came across the following riff that I THINK I already posted here... but maybe not. I'll do it now, under comments, just to be sure, since it has to do with Accountability Arenas.



While the general notions of criticism, accountability and openness are mothers' milk ("criticism is the only known antidote to error = citokate)...

...I must demur that it will be enough simply to open all knowledge and open all pathways for creative critique and modification via open source. This has (so far) been the ideological emphasis of EFF and Open Source Movements and Creative Commons and all that, and I am a fellow traveller. BUT I part company with the utopians who believe that these necessary conditions are also SUFFICIENT.

Howard Rheingold etc seem to believe that "smart mobs" will arise our of a fecund stew of free inquiry and shouted opinions... 99% of which are crap, but pearls float upward in shit. Sorry, I do not see that happening. Instead, we seem to fling apart into a million little interest groups, each of them becoming MORE homogeneous and dogmatically rigid over time!

Picture ten million little Nuremberg rallies. That's the internet today. Scads of talk and opinion. Nothing is ever repudiated or disproved. No "bad product" is ever abandoned.

Elsewhere, I analyse how accountability was harnessed in the four older "arenas" that have proved so successful in the west... markets, democracy, courts and science. It turns out that each of these has a a PHASE similar to what goes on on todays internet. A CENTRIFUGAL phase... but it is followed by a very well-organized and ritual-laden CENTRIPETAL PHASE in which there is a "call to battle" that cannot be refused.

Companies must bring products to market. Scientists must publish. Disputtants must show up in court. Parties face elections. There is (as yet) no similar culling process for opinion online. Indeed, the very concept is seen as anathema.

I have been striving to invent online systems that might turn the opinion shitstorm into something more like discourse. I have yet to run into more than a couple of people who even share my opinion that there is an unfilled need.


As I said, I think I already riffed on that.

Have I left my BLACKMAIL screed up center-top long enough? Is there a chance in heck that anyone, anywhere will act and make a difference? Why am I bothering? Some bigmouth pundits get to rant at national audiences. I have you guys. Make a difference.

SpeakerToManagers said...

have been striving to invent online systems that might turn the opinion shitstorm into something more like discourse. I have yet to run into more than a couple of people who even share my opinion that there is an unfilled need.

To be fair, I think this issue is starting to bubble up to the surface of people's minds. The hassle over Wikipedia's political biographies shortly before the election, for instance, raised some hackles, and a tiny bit of consciousness. On the other hand, the most cogent suggestions for fixing the problem involved some sort of moderation, and as we all know full well, that doesn't scale worth squat. But I think there's beginning to be a vague feeling that maybe there is a problem there. We may be only a few years away from the perception of the need :-(

The reason that very few people have thought of anything like accountability as a solution is that it involves distributed systems rather than centralized ones, and they scare most people ("But who's in charge?" No one, of course, as if that was a bad thing!). But that's part of my "centralization is a religion, and I don't belong to that church" rant, which will have to wait for another time.

Anonymous said...

Our brilliant leader:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/11/world/middleeast/11prexy.html
He put it far more bluntly when leaders of Congress visited the White House earlier on Wednesday. “I said to Maliki this has to work or you’re out,” the president told the Congressional leaders, according to two officials who were in the room. Pressed on why he thought this strategy would succeed where previous efforts had failed, Mr. Bush shot back: “Because it has to.”

Anonymous said...

Angering our natural allies in Iraq:

U.S. raid on Iranian consulate angers Kurds
http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/01/11/iraq.main/index.html

David Brin said...

A riff on another discussion, re Marx:


> > Now you are getting quite close to describing the
> labour theory of
> > value, which somebody further up claimed to have
> discredited.

I think the point is that in a society of physical abundance, if the scarcest commodity really does become the human attention span, then this commodity will be much more evenly divided AMONG human beings than other things (like farmland) ever were.

If that happens, then something very close to Marx's labor theory of value may come about as an emergent property, simply because labor and attention can amount to pretty much the same thing.

I gotta wonder if this has been discussed before.

Waparius said...

On Marx and material abundance - has anybody noticed the Fab@Home site? It amounts to a do-it-yourself 3D printer, similar to the PC kits they used to sell in the 70s and 80s. Of course there's always the problem of getting your raw materials, but it seems like another interesting step forward.

Tony Fisk said...

Jamais Cascio, in a lighter moment, recently described the wonkafabber variant of Fab@Home.

King George is clearly opting for doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome. (if brute force isn't working, you're not using enough of it). Is he just mad, or is he into chaos theory?

The scenario I'm seeing from that discussion on Christian Embassy and Iraqi 'surges' is that, with the last US army reserves safely dispatched overseas, the Lord's blackshirts are well placed to enforce policy in the next domestic crisis. (I doubt they have the manpower to get control outright, though.)

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Spitzer has evaded a possibility of blackmail?