Friday, February 09, 2007

DARK & LIGHT SCENARIOS: Swinging from optimism to pessimism to hilarity

As you all know, I often test-run concepts here before posting them permanently at davidbrin.com. For example, my recent thoughts about how the incoming U.S. Congress might change the nation's way of doing business. Many of these unconventional proposals may sound good to reasonable people from all sides, including both conservatives and liberals.

Now for something much darker, cynical, and paranoid! Come see a chillingly plausible way that powerful forces may try to affect our politics by using the age-old trick of blackmail.

Speaking of suggestions... for those wanting to see some serious action out of Congress: Energize America is a comprehensive and compelling 20-point plan developed by informed citizen activists to wean the U.S. from its fossil fuel addiction and provide the U.S. with Energy Security by 2020, and Energy Freedom by 2040. Definitely worth all our support. A great start on implementing the energy portion of my list of suggestions.

And for you “voting process” nitpickers, the Center for Range Voting web site,started by a Princeton math professor, takes mathematics and technology applied to the problem of truly responsive democracy. Always an interesting topic.


---- PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS

Yes, we have started (already?) thinking about the crucial 2008 election, with its historical goal - rescuing Western Civilization from genuine monsters. To that end, I believe we should try to tune our efforts for maximum probability of success. And that means tuning down culture war. Finding candidates who can - while powerfully expressing modernist-progressive policies, nevertheless reach out to moderate/sincere conservative Americans and thereby leave the fanatics isolated, marginalized. The best possible outcome for America and the world.

As I’ve pointed out, the current democratic front runners are all US Senators. In most cases, they seem generally admirable people. Solid folks who are liberal in the best sense of the word and not really “leftist” in any meaningful way. Nevertheless, some, such as Hillary Clinton, carry divisive baggage that they never earned. Tragic, but true. And as a pragmatic matter, the prospect of another decade of “culture war” fills me with dread. As for Edwards and Obama and several others, I have to ask, “What did you ever accomplish, that qualifies you for such a role?”

So - in order to clear the slate and look a little harder - I came up with a slogan - ”No senators!”

Yes, that may strike some as bigoted or unfair. But I respond that this time, we simply cannot afford to take chances. Only one person in a hundred years has gone from the Senate directly to the White House... and JFK barely succeeded. Moreover, he proved to be a very (ahem) uneven individual, for example, completely maladroit at actual arts of administration.

No, let’s face facts. the title “senator” is a political kiss of death. Moreover, governors appear to be - by temperament AND training AND experience - better suited to both win and manage an executive office like the presidency.

Please try “no senators” on for size. Roll it across the tongue.

So who? Like many people, I had been fascinated by former Virginia Governor Mark Warner, whose popularity in his home southern state was built upon genuine people-connection, without sacrificing fealty to liberal progressivism. (Well, 1990s liberalism that balances budgets.) So it was with some worried puzzlement that I - and many others - greeted news that Warner was dropping out of presidential contention. “spending more time with my family” is a standard nostrum for “it’s none of your damn business.” Still, the novelist in me comes up with scenarios (see above.) In any event, it’s a disappointment.

Alternatives? Bill Richardson of New Mexico is a rare governor with genuine national security and foreign policy experience. Former Energy Secretary, UN Ambassador and member of Congress. Also a Hispanic and someone able to relate to “red” America on a cultural level, nullifying the resentment of “cityboy snootiness” that underlies so much of the hatred of liberalism. I also like General Clark. Ponder the possibilities.


---- OTHER (HUMOROUS!) POLITICAL RIFFS


1) The latest Armageddon Buffet is online and ready for gourmands to gorge upon. http://www.armageddonbuffet.com/

2) Any Stephen Colbert fans out there? Like many others, I am fascinated by the gorgeous consistency of his shtick, maintaining the seamless image of an obstinate and troglodytic (but vastly more charming) Bill O’Reilly clone. Frankly, I have never seen a comic/satiric act performed with such dedication and unfailing dependability...

That is, until I suddenly remembered. Hannity’s sidekick and purported “liberal” voice for Fox News... Colmes! OMG! The fellow we had all taken for a dunce and foil for Hannity, deliberately chosen in order to NOT be his match or ever hold up reason in a good light, was not chosen by Rupert Murdoch because of defects, but because he is a genius! He has been doing the Colbert thing for years, in the opposite direction and without the humor, but with dedication and utter persistence, never receiving the plaudits or any of Colbert’s fun. Oh, what unsung brilliance. The Colbert/Colmes effect. Stephen really owes a debt.

And Finally.

3) I have further pondered the possibility of a satirical YouTube skit, doing a “round” using the names Bush and Clinton ad nauseam. Remember the funny “this land is your land” routine that got so much attention during the Kerry-Bush race? If done right, flashing pictures of Bush Sr then Bill C, then W, then Hillary, then Jeb, then Chelsea, then Jenna... with a timeline boundcng around at the bottom of the screen... it could be wonderful!

REAGAN-BUSH,
REAGAN-BUSH,
BUSH, CLINTON,
CLINTON, BUSH,
BUSH, CLINTON,
CLINTON, BUSH.


Actually, it’d have to be scripted a bit more complicated than that, in order to milk the humor. Id envision first doing it up to the present, ... then repeating the refrain and taking it slightly farther with a question mark leading to Hillary.... Then AGAIN, pushing even farther in time to Jeb, as the singers start to look panicky, yet unable to stop....

But stop is exactly what I will do, right now.

82 comments:

Jose said...

I'm not an American so I don't get a vote but I'm rooting for Gore with a stronger than ever Internet grassroots behind him taking the White House in '08.

BROKEN LADDER said...

The Hugo Award selection system currently uses Instant Runoff Voting. I have approached them about the benefits of Range Voting over IRV, and why they should work to get Range Voting. Unfortunately, their responses were somewhat hostile, and based on misconceptions, like the belief that Range Voting doesn't behave nicely under strategic voting - on the contrary, the margin by which it outperforms IRV actually increases as more voters become strategic.

A recommendation by a recipient of the award may carry more weight. I believe that IRV's "popularity" is simply due to the fact that it's 137 years old, and has been marketed heavily. The Center for Range Voting just began in 2005. Just like relativity confounded intuitions, so does Range Voting. But in both cases, that intuition is refuted by extensive scientific experimentation and analysis.

Clay Shentrup
Seattle, WA
206.203.6619

Stefan Jones said...

I bought a copy of "An Inconvenient Truth" last week, but I've put off watching it because I don't want to get depressed.

Not over the thought of ecocide, but over the "what might have been" factor.

This was reinforced by an interview with Al Gore that ran on "Fresh Air" today.

Wouldn't it be nice to have a president who could get through a press conference without saying "The American people gotta understand," and who could think without Karl Rove's lips moving?

David Brin said...

Stefan, by fascinating coincidence, my family and I watched "An Inconvenient Truth" just tonight.

Naturally, it motivated the kids, though my eldest - a fanatically anti-Hollywood, anti-polirtical-party 14 year old engineer who has read Tuffte's great books on graphs and statistics - declared a few of Gore's graphs to be "loaded." (Who RAISED this kid???) Still, even he came away sober and angry.

The one thing I feel all of "our" people have missed in all these confrontations is "dares." I think somebody should stand up and DARE the limbaughs and Imhofs and such to make flat out bets. Because they are betting humanity, they should have the guts to say "if I prove wrong in five years, my side has gotta eat crow."

A variant on predictions registries and reciprocal accountability. But done right, it can be a direct assault on their manhood. "put up or shut up."

Moderate progressives have got to be willing (at least a few of us) to get MACHO in pushing reasonableness! It is a style that is deeply respected in "red" America and it overcomes the "intellectual" image that Gore never could shrug off, in "AIT".

Gawd would I like to make Michael Crichton stake 10% of his income against 10% of mine....

tacitus2 said...

Dr. Brin
Although I make allowances for a writer of imaginative fiction, I still think it is a bad policy to describe your political opponants as non-human. "Genuine monsters"..."troglodytes" This is not helpful, and potentially dangerous. The "other side" is composed of very real humans, and to believe otherwise will hinder you in your efforts to understand them. Taken further it leads to the same cheapening of regard for human life that allows that hack Lucas to slaughter "imperial stormtroopers" willy nilly, because you can't see their faces and recall that they have feelings too. I was going to say that they also had grieving mothers, but he wrote them out of the picture.
Disapprove of Rove and Cheney. I am more conservative politically than most here, and I regard them as incompetents. But don't start down the path where those you disagree with are regarded as less than human. It eventually leads under the archway that says Arbeit Macht Frei.

Tacitus2

ps I would enjoy a pair up of Obama and (perhaps) Richardson. Versus Guiliani and (hmmmm, probably a woman...Hutchinson or Snow?)

Stefan Jones said...

I doubt that Rush or any of his ilk would ever take the bet. They're not into accountability or fair fights. They don't have to be; their audiance is the Some of the People you can fool all of the time. They're running on grudge-juice, and until they start a 12 Step program for that kind of thing there's no use trying to help.

Hope lies in the fact that you can't fool all of the people, all of the time. Eventually, the message gets through.

I mean, take a look at this!

White House now denying it ever denied global warming.

Alas, it's TOO LATE for them. Bush and Marburger have always taken a tepid "we don't know enough line" in public statements, but while winking; the actions of the administration betray a virulent opposition to the very idea of global warming. (Poster boy of the effort: George Deutsch). And the public knows it.

Run, Al, Run!

BROKEN LADDER said...

Gawd would I like to make Michael Crichton stake 10% of his income against 10% of mine....

Hah! No kidding. How is someone intelligent enough to make a career like that for himself, able to downplay what even many conservative pundits are starting to take seriously?

Well...I could answer my own question. On my lunch break today, I ran into some kids on a street corner in downtown Seattle, offering Lyndon Larouche "literature". Their big schpiel centered around how we need to grow the population, and we can't trust the scientific conspiracy about global warming. I then served them some mercury-laden sushi from the Pacific Ocean (nyuk nyuk).

BROKEN LADDER said...

Taken further it leads to the same cheapening of regard for human life that allows that hack Lucas to slaughter "imperial stormtroopers" willy nilly, because you can't see their faces and recall that they have feelings too. I was going to say that they also had grieving mothers, but he wrote them out of the picture.

Well, when you abridge the liberty of others, you invite whatever self-defense they might happen to wage against you.

Luke said...

I greatly enjoy the blog David. I just made an attempt to

Luke said...

solve a minor problem by inventing a couple words to fill the he/she and him/her holes in the English language. I'm wondering if there is some major forum of writers somewhere that could be enlisted to put them into general usage? We don't have a Shakespeare alive to singlehandedly pepper our speech with neologisms anymore.

Oh, and for the curious my inventions are ze to replace he/she and zimmer to replace him/her. Also note that the possessive his/hers can be written zimmer's

BROKEN LADDER said...

Warren D. Smith is a Princeton math Ph.D., not a professor.

And Luke...it's called Esperanto buddy. Lernu ĝin tiel baldaŭ kiel ci povas, ĉar ĝi jam enhavas vortojn kiel tiujn ci deziras. Ĝi povas esti ĝini aŭ ĝiĉi, anstataŭ "he" aŭ "she".

Ĝis relego,
Clay

David Brin said...

Tacitus, you and I share values that are inherent in the enlightenment. We know (and I may know better than you do) how much damage bilious rage and a de-humanizing of others can do. Historically, the all-too human tendency to oversimplify and caricature groups of others has often led to tragedy and spirals of civilization-ruin. Indeed, overcoming such embedded human nature reflexes is what the Enlightenment is largely about.

And yet, I deeply disagree in this case. My aim is to fire up a community whose very calmness and reasonableness makes them TOO calm and reasonable to notice that they are trying to argue (calmly and reasonably) with genuine enemies of civilization, who seek to end calm reason... forever.

What is at stake is not a panorama of normal “politics.” You know that I am eclectic in that regard. As an ornery contrarian, I remind lefties of the value of markets and remind libertarians that markets are destroyed by aristocracy! I want an array of solutions. Only that eclectic spirit will Positive-Sum us to a better tomorrow.

But just because anger and wrathful indignation can be addictive and poisonous human states, that does not make these fundamental aspects of human nature TOTALLY irrelevant. There is a time for wrath and militancy. Some groups utterly deserve to be disparaged as groups, because of their shared and inherent qualities... and because those qualities threaten the very existence of our grandchildren. Or because (for reasons that are rooted in human nature) these groups would turn our grandchildren into slaves.

Cheney and Bush et al may be incompetent thieves... or competent thieves who are incompetent at statecraft... or they may be the “manchurian” traitors of the darkest thriller scenario... but one thing is clear. They are not you Dad’s conservatives. Before he began spinning in his grave, Barry Goldwater denounced these guys. They are the worst threat to America and the West since Communism. And failure to speak out and denounce these horrors may be the worst mistake that conservatism ever made..

But that’s the point. Our present struggle is NOT over left-right but over positive-sum thinking vs zero or negative sum madness.

As for pairings, well, I’d be willing (reluctantly) to see Obama on the ticket. He has accomplished nothing whatsoever, but his ability to communicate is desperately needed. But not in the LEAD spot on the ticket. That is simply absurd. Richardson-Obama... I could support that. Senators have made fine vice presidents.

Oh but what has me positively drooling is the next tier. Eliot Spitzer as the blatantly obvious Attorney General, plunging like a hot knife through the culture of corruption. Wesley Clark restoring our armed forces and readiness. Hillary C at State, dispatching Bill to grab elbows in every capital and charming every nation in the world. (The way he charmed Bush’s dad.) And Al Gore as Secretary of the Future. Michael Dell at Commerce and Bill Gates at the UN.

Stefan, yes, they have no shame. All we can do is replay clips of Sen. Imhofe calling global warming a “big lie” and Michael Crichton and the whole zoo. Deleting Earth studies from the NASA budget and “Earth” from the NASA mission statement... and so on.

Use these things on your ostriches! Suddenly, climate change is real. Suddenly CEO ripoffs are a problem! Suddenly there really are disturbing income disparities! Dare them to show that these facts were recognized before Nancy Pelosi became Speaker.

Broken Ladder, see my STAR WARS ON TRIAL where I point out that the “no mothers” thread runs all through fantasy. StarWars clones and robots have no mothers, either. Neither do orcs, in LOTR.

Don Quijote said...

Gawd would I like to make Michael Crichton stake 10% of his income against 10% of mine....

Alternet - Jonah Goldberg's Gambling Debt: Will Tribune Company Pay It?

Right-wing pundit Jonah Goldberg made a bet two years ago that by this time Iraqis and Americans would agree the war was worth it. Time to pay up.

BROKEN LADDER said...

remind libertarians that markets are destroyed by aristocracy!

No, markets are destroyed by socialism.

David Brin said...

Broken ladder, let us make a bet. I will bet that I can name ONE HUNDRED cases of aristocratic castes restricting free markets, for every SINGLE case that you can name of socialism doing the same thing.

The blinkered view that you express is an artifact of a very narrow window of time, during which a weird ideological religion - Marxism - folled millions of people into thinking they could get all of the advantages of cooperation without paying any attention to humanity's basic nature as COMPETITIVE beings. Leftists still do this today, calling competition somehow evil, what a crock.

In fact, of course, communist revolutions quickly devolved into hierarchies and new aristocracies. The Soviet Nomenklatura acted JUST LIKE Czarist elites. BOTH types of domineering castes shared almost identical behavior. Both types squelch competition and markets, because they want no challenges from below.

Seriously, the incredible self-hypnosis of modern libertarians, ignoring the lessons of history, never ceases to amaze me. Find me the market systems that truly flouished under empires and feudalisms of old. Socialism is an amateur! The kings, and cronies of the king, have always been capitalism's great enemies.

Or... can it be that you have never actually read Adam Smith?

BROKEN LADDER said...

Richardson-Obama... I could support that. Senators have made fine vice presidents.

Something tells me that if we did that, it would delay the privatization of schools, social security, etc., and cause an increase in taxes. So...count me out on that ticket.

BROKEN LADDER said...

Broken ladder, let us make a bet. I will bet that I can name ONE HUNDRED cases of aristocratic castes restricting free markets, for every SINGLE case that you can name of socialism doing the same thing.

Every country that has ever existed and used taxes to provide any sort of social services, is an example of socialist intervention in the free market. Good luck trumping that.

And even if aristocracies have intervened in free markets more than socialism, so what? The point is, any kind of intervention in the free market is bad. If aristocracies damage free markets, that's not an indictment of free markets, it's an indictment of aristocracies.

The blinkered view that you express is an artifact of a very narrow window of time, during which a weird ideological religion - Marxism

Woah...what?! When I was a kid and my mom first explained taxes to me, when I was maybe 7, I didn't become furious because it made me think of Marx. I didn't even know who Marx was. I just knew that an abridgment of one's freedom was wrong.

Seriously, the incredible self-hypnosis of modern libertarians, ignoring the lessons of history, never ceases to amaze me.

The lesson from history is, whenever freedom is impinged, it is bad. It is socialists who fail to learn from history, from Russia, to China, to Cuba, to India. How did we cheer when the wall was torn down in Berlin, yet many now contemplate electing someone like John Edwards as President - even after he's expressed his desire to raise taxes so that government bureaucracy can provide "free" (well, not free, but paid for with stolen money) tax care?

How did this government have the money and power to go to Iraq and commit the atrocities it did? Tax money. Same as in Vietnam. We should have learned from history.

Find me the market systems that truly flouished under empires and feudalisms of old. Socialism is an amateur! The kings, and cronies of the king, have always been capitalism's great enemies.

I think the problem here is terminology. You're using a very narrow definition of socialism, whereas by "socialism", I mean almost any interference in the free market, so long as it is essentially conducted under the auspices of necessity - roads, schools, defense, etc.

Let me be more clear then - my argument is not that socialism is worse than any other brand of interference in the free market. The point is that interference in the free market is non-utilitarian. It is generally irrational and harmful.

And remember, I care a lot about utilitarianism - I wrote this.

BROKEN LADDER said...

Did I really just say "tax care"? Ugh...I meant, "health care".

Doug S. said...

That's a very weird definition of socialism. If I hold you up at gunpoint, steal your money, and use it to buy a car because I think it would be good if I had a car, that's socialism? If I'm a despot, and I hire an army to collect taxes and use it to buy luxuries for myself and my supporters, that's socialism? I'd call that corruption, not socialism. What David Brin is saying is that more markets have been ruined by the wealth-seeking of a few than by any kind of scheme to benefit "society in general."

Also, what is your opinion of the theory of Pigovian taxes?

Also, governments aren't the only ones that screw with the free market. Organized crime is perfectly capable of doing the same thing, and so would any organization who, say. happened to be sitting on two thirds of the world's oil reserves.

ColonelZen said...

Mr. Brin. I'm curious as to what, as a leading futurist, you think of nuclear power.

I've read some of the articles, including some you've cited on "renewable" energy sources. But with my rather dated scientific knowledge I seriously doubt that however heroic the efforts any combination of renewable energy technologies can give this world what it needs most desparately - power to provide a comfortable standard of living for all the world's peoples.

I tend to see the US's current adventurism as little more than a desparate attempt to maintain access to the dwindling reserves of oil. Shameful.

Workable fusion might be discovered next month ... or it might not happen for another fifty years.

The only *real* solution I see is nuclear power and lots of it. Western commercial reactors have an amazing saftey record. (I gravely misdoubt the alarmist scenarios constructed around TMI; Chernobyl - an abysmal primitive design pressed into economic service for political reasons - simply should not have been allowed to happen - I've no idea what did happen as to recrimination but people should have been hanged for allowing it to happen) and even a handfull of catastrophic failures per century is better than the cold slow death of civilization I forsee without it.

I doubt the US any longer has the political will to do what is needed - a crash program, NOW, to begin construction of new plants - and a lot of them - doing things "right" involves planning for
displacement of ALL non renewable carbon energy sources in the next 50 [ideally less] years with additional surplusses to account for growth of the population and economy. If we wait until heating oil is rationed and have nationwide scheduled brownouts to conserve it will be too late.

Are any countries actually doing this on a scale that could make a difference? A brief bit encounter with google turns up an OK for new construction in England and discussions of new plants in China, and even the Bush administration has sent up a flyer but no nation I'm aware of has announced any program - or even plans to discuss such - on the scale I believe the situation calls for.

Are any of our wonderful crop of wannabes in preening discussing this at all? Any suggestions on how to aid (other than what I'm doing here and now) to get it into political play?

-- TWZ

OdinsEye2k said...

Broken Ladder,

Neoclassical economics of the Chicago School have already been tried (actually, at gunpoint) down in Chile before. The results had not turned out to be good.

One story source:

http://www.gregpalast.com/miracle-cure-but-the-medicine-was-bright-red/

Markets are not natural. They are human-made systems, and so there is no God to anger with how we decide to tweak them.

Further - what is optimal? Resources settling near those with the most power to wrest them to themselves? Fantastic - you've just described every barbarian society ever seen on this planet.

Is the optimum true democracy and freedom? I would like to hope so. The freedom from fear, the freedom from want, the freedom of speech and the freedom to believe what you will are all excellent places to start.

Also, let's look at optima in health care since you are so eager to paint Edwards as a Red. We spend time-and-a-half to double what the Europeans do on health care ($4000 per capita v. $2500 per capita) and get worse results. Our life expectancy is lower, our child mortality is higher and so forth.

The private "optimizers" are filled with waste. There is a standing army, on both sides between insurers and doctors, that battle each other over who is to pay for what. This gives the private system something like a 25-30 percent overhead rate versus Medicare's 10 percent rate.

Further, there are insurance profits, which take another bite out of what could be spent to actually healing people. Take note that insurance has nothing to do with healing people - it is just shoveling paperwork around. And it's not even paperwork that helps the doctors deal with you!

Private systems suck at infrastructure, while public ones tend to suck at innovation (mostly because they tend to choose victors *before* the contest is run). Take roads and electricity for example. If these things were deployed, the rural "heartland" would be suffering from greater problems in keeping population than it already does.

On the other hand, public systems gave us the current spacecraft stagnation, and just about any procurement disaster you can think of.

It's all about picking the right tool for the job. Many sides (including myself) get stuck pulling out our respective hammers a little too often.

David Brin said...

Sorry, Broken Ladder, but (with respect) you is being absurd.

1) Facing a positive plague of treason and monstrous betrayal of every single quality the civilization stands for, you cover your eyes and ears and shout “Nah! The dems are just as bad because they might raise taxes!”

The ability of some people to ignore a tsunami while complaining about the rain always astounds me. Clinton reduced secrecy, reduced the federal payroll, reduced the number of federal rules and paperwork, balanced budgets and paid down the debt. But not a single libertarian will ever say a single good word about him. He kept our foreign adventures short, effective and cheap, but no conservative will mention it. He doubled the border patrol while W slashed it, but the neo-nativists think W is a hero.

Dig it, there is not a single issue in which even a dem from the left wing of the liberals would not be better than these madmen. If you fixate on some fantasy, like unleashing 100 million clueless Americans to be fleeced like sheep of their retirement, well, you are welcome to argue for that. But you are fixating on a single-issue fantasy in order to ignore the house that is burning around you.


2) “And even if aristocracies have intervened in free markets more than socialism, so what? The point is, any kind of intervention in the free market is bad.”

Sorry, Broken, but this is silly on about twenty levels. Shall I count them?

a) First off, you are right that GAR = Guided Allocation of Resources has been the operating economic policy in 99% of human societies since the caves. GAR stifles human creativity and the spectacular productivity of market competition. It is stupid, whether implemented by marxists or by feudal lords or by a small clade of secretive robberbaron golf buddies.

Do I sound libertarian? Well, I think of myself as one.

But a sensible one! It is positively loony to say that “ny kind of intervention in the free market is bad” because markets have ONLY HAPPENED where Enlightenment civilization intervened to make them possible! Libertarian mystics who claim that markets are “natural” are the loopiest people on the planet. They cannot point to a single example, in mankind’s long, dark past, of makets appearing “naturally”.

Markets -- really creative and open ones -- are anything BUT natural. Rather, they are human built productivity machines! It took 4,000 years of hard trial to learn how to build them, brick by brick and YES! Law by law. To prevent the natural pattern of human-on-human predation, from always ruining them.

b) Look at how you swerve and writhe! You claimed that markets were destroyed by socialism and not aristocracy... whereupon I PROVED YOU 99% wrong!

So what do you do? You redefine aristocracy as another form of socialism!!!!

Whaaaaaa? I have pointed to THE pattern that ruined past markets of human talent and creativity, and you blithely shrug it off! But it won’t work. Because when disparities of wealth and power grow too large, human beings WILL use that power to turn themselves into lords and shut down competition. This is universal. It has happened every $#$%#*! time society allowed it to happen. And it is the ultimate refutal of libertarian mysticism.

But it does NOT refute pragmatic libertarianism!

If you have an open mind to fresh ideas about all this, drop by:
http://www.davidbrin.com/libertarianarticle1.html

And then my four-part series at:
http://www.reformthelp.org/marketing/positioning/models.php

(Hey, does anyone know the link to my “GAR vs FIBM” rants? Broken really should see them.)

c) Impingement on freedom is bad, we agree. But to stare in just one direction shaking your fist at just one type of enemy, when most freedom-destroyers come from other directions, is not defense of liberty. It is dogmatism.

d) Moreover, note this. only one civilization ever created anything near like a cornucopia productive, open competitive and creative market system. It was the same one that produced most of the libertarians that ever existed, in all of history! SO why are libertarian mystics so angry and resentful and hateful and UNGRATEFUL to the only society that ever came close to what they want?

Dig it. A civilization is COMPLICATED. And some of what gave us these markets came from (shudder) government. When I meet a libertarian whose obsession is NOT on maximizing freedom, but instead on railing at at government in principle, then I know I have met a fool.

When I meet a libertarian who talks joyfully about how far we’ve come and then fizzes with ideas about how to enhance freedom whether with some tools of government or without it, then I have met a fellow who knows what it’s all about.

FDR was a long time ago. Get... over... him... Can the mysticism and join the people who are trying to fine tune the machine.

---

TWZ, I favor fission power as a “bridge” to reduce greenhouse emissions and get us across the next few decades. But 90% of our efforts should go into conservation and renewables.

BROKEN LADDER said...

That's a very weird definition of socialism. If I hold you up at gunpoint, steal your money, and use it to buy a car because I think it would be good if I had a car, that's socialism?

Well, would that be under the general auspices of providing for the public good, like I said? Nope.

BROKEN LADDER said...

governments aren't the only ones that screw with the free market. Organized crime is perfectly capable of doing the same thing

I generally do not distinguish between government and mafia, except that mafia does not operated under the general pretense of serving public interest.

As for Pigovian taxes, I am against any taxes, so that should answer your question.

Joel said...

Personally, I'd like to see a montage of recent political activities set to the tune of Bad Religion's "Hooray for Me...". If someone has the talent to do one, maybe they can spare some effort for the other?

BROKEN LADDER said...

Neoclassical economics of the Chicago School have already been tried (actually, at gunpoint) down in Chile before. The results had not turned out to be good.

Mythinformation. Let's set you straight.

Friedman did not criticize Pinochet's dictatorship at the time, nor the assassinations, illegal imprisonments, torture, or other atrocities that were well-known by then, although later, in Free to Choose he said the following: "Chile is not a politically free system and I do not condone the political system...the conditions of the people in the past few years has been getting better and not worse. They would be still better to get rid of the junta and to be able to have a free democratic system." Friedman defended his role in Chile on the grounds that the move towards open market policies not only improved the economic situation in Chile but also contributed to the softening of Pinochet's rule and to the eventual constitutional transition to a democratic government in 1990. He also stressed that the lectures he gave in Chile were the same lectures he later gave in China and other socialist states. In the 2000 PBS documentary The Commanding Heights, Friedman also noted that this criticism was misdirected and missed his main point. Friedman advocated that freer markets led to free people, and that Chile had an unfree economy which led to the military government, which then implemented open economy policies. These policies led to the end of military rule and a "free society".

Markets are not natural. They are human-made systems, and so there is no God to anger with how we decide to tweak them.

On the contrary, markets have been a part of history for hundreds of thousands of years. It's called trading. Various primates will even exchange food for sex - talk about the oldest profession.

You're right that there is no God. But when "tweaking" the market means stealing my property, you anger me plenty.

Further - what is optimal? Resources settling near those with the most power to wrest them to themselves? Fantastic - you've just described every barbarian society ever seen on this planet.

The classic socialist fallacy of confusing the quality of a society with the quality of its economic/governmental system. Resources will always settle near those with the most power to wrest them to themselves, whether those with the power are small terrorist militias, or the working class of a society, who enact self-serving socialist laws by comprising a "majority". The only path to freedom is for society to come to an agreement on a free system, where the use of force against others is publicly unpopular, such that it is near-universally considered to be a crime. Until society comes together in support of freedom, we will see the bourgeois trying to steal from the proletariat, and the proletariat trying to steal from the bourgeois. They'll never stop the madness, and start playing in a fair system. It's two sides fouling each other and bribing the refs.

Is the optimum true democracy and freedom?

Liberty makes democracy obsolete. What is there to vote for, but some menial things like the use of public spaces. With private schools, roads, police, etc. everyone will vote with his utility.

I would like to hope so. The freedom from fear, the freedom from want

Having freedom doesn't guarantee that you won't be afraid, and won't be in need. It just guarantees that you have a fair chance to conquer your fear, and make a living that will lift you from the pains of want.

the freedom of speech and the freedom to believe what you will are all excellent places to start.

Now, THESE are freedoms.

Also, let's look at optima in health care since you are so eager to paint Edwards as a Red. We spend time-and-a-half to double what the Europeans do on health care ($4000 per capita v. $2500 per capita)

This common socialist fallacy results from a misunderstanding of economics, and the meaning of "cost". If more money exchanges hands in the US, because say a doctor charges you 200$ for a 10 minute exam, that does not mean more resources were depleted. It just means more of your money changed hands, and became his. Looking at actual value, private health care is more efficient. One thing that brings up the cost in the US, however, is government regulation that says a hospitals must treat those with no insurance, thus causing enormous expenses to be incurred when those with no medical coverage show up in the E.R. Take away those regulations, and health care gets cheaper, by a lot.

and get worse results. Our life expectancy is lower, our child mortality is higher and so forth.

Those aren't "worse results". We have some of the best health care in the world, and people frequently come to my Seattle hospital from Canada, because our doctors are the best. Of course life expectancy and child mortality are apparently "worse" in the U.S., because unfit mothers who did not plan and save for their pregnancies have less access to stolen taxpayer money than in places like Europe. Of course, anyone who doesn't like that is free to donate his money to charities to help provide care for these people if they want to. That's what a free country is all about. If you want charity, you can pay for it. If I don't, I can go to my favorite vegan restaurant and have a delicious dinner instead. I can't make you pay for my new guitar any more than you can make me pay for your social engineering projects.

The private "optimizers" are filled with waste.

But far less waste than socialist systems.

There is a standing army, on both sides between insurers and doctors, that battle each other over who is to pay for what. This gives the private system something like a 25-30 percent overhead rate versus Medicare's 10 percent rate.

I work in the insurance department at Swedish Medical Center, so I see this stuff every day. So your case is, if stealing can make an economy more efficient than fair negotiation, then let's do it. Well, don't ever come near my house in the dark of night and steal from me. I'm giving you fair warning.

Further, there are insurance profits, which take another bite out of what could be spent to actually healing people.

If the insurance companies wanted to spend more of their money healing people, they could. What they choose to do with the money they make might not be the same thing you would choose to do. If you don't like it, go start your own insurance company, and make it a non-profit. Stop supporting robbery, and do something positive.

Take note that insurance has nothing to do with healing people - it is just shoveling paperwork around. And it's not even paperwork that helps the doctors deal with you!

If it weren't for insurance, how would I have afforded a 50,000$ surgery that I had in 2002? This is typical socialist hand waving, with a total ignorance of real world economics.

Private systems suck at infrastructure, while public ones tend to suck at innovation

Hah! How could you ever think that a private system would suck at something, and a system that takes its money by force (and therefore isn't under the watchful eye of the consumer) would NOT suck? That's nonsense. Government isn't good at anything.

Take roads and electricity for example. If these things were deployed, the rural "heartland" would be suffering from greater problems in keeping population than it already does.

Private roads are maintained at a small fraction (less than 50%) of what's spent on public roads. So, wrong again. As for electricity, I'll bet you that private companies can deliver better towers, poles, power lines, etc. than any government entity. Nothing that the consumer drives with his pocketbook and trump a sluggish system that is driven by a horrendously bad voting method (plurality) with infrequent elections.

On the other hand, public systems gave us the current spacecraft stagnation, and just about any procurement disaster you can think of.

Government sucks with these things, just like it sucks at everything else it has ever done.

It's all about picking the right tool for the job. Many sides (including myself) get stuck pulling out our respective hammers a little too often.

With a free market, consumers will always demand the best hammer that a wise entrepreneur can produce. A free market isn't a hammer - it's a hardware store.

Don Quijote said...

Are any countries actually doing this on a scale that could make a difference?

BBC - France's nuclear option

The rest of western Europe has been turning its back on the nuclear option, on economic or environmental grounds.
But France, which already produces more of its electricity in nuclear plants than any other country in the world - nearly 80% - may be on the verge of a big new commitment.

...

The country's 58 nuclear plants are run by the state-owned Electricite de France company (EdF), and have an average age of 18 years.


MSNBC - Nuclear energy's French connection

That’s because Areva, an atomic energy giant owned by the French government, appears to be better positioned than any of its competitors to benefit from growth in the U.S. nuclear industry and increased federal spending on it.

Does that answer your question?

Tony Fisk said...

(Hey, does anyone know the link to my “GAR vs FIBM” rants? Broken really should see them.)


Try here

I've been hearing of all sorts of democrat nominations, but no republican contenders, as yet. (Have the alpha nerocons been a little too efficient in their machinations?)

BROKEN LADDER said...

“Nah! The dems are just as bad because they might raise taxes!”

No, they are bad because they will (might?! please) raise taxes, and engage in more devastating economic intervention than even this monster we have now has done.

The ability of some people to ignore a tsunami while complaining about the rain always astounds me.

So I should ignore the rapist because he's better than the murderer? Jesus.

Clinton reduced secrecy, reduced the federal payroll, reduced the number of federal rules and paperwork, balanced budgets and paid down the debt. But not a single libertarian will ever say a single good word about him.

I think he was, relatively speaking, a very good President. He was no Reagan, but on the other hand, he was no FDR either. I have heard plenty of Libertarians (including one who has worked on the Brownback and Dole campaigns) speak highly of Clinton. But...what does that have to do with Obama? Obama is no Clinton. He's an unabashed socialist who has called free market economics "social Darwinism". Pejoratively. The only two presidential candidates I could fathom right now are Ron Paul and Al Gore, if that helps break your stereotyping assumptions a little.

He doubled the border patrol while W slashed it, but the neo-nativists think W is a hero.

I'm against any and all immigration restrictions, tarriffs, etc. so don't preech to me like that's a good thing. What business is it of the government whether someone comes to this country. If you buy or rent a place to live somewhere, you have the right to live there. That is between you and your land/landlord, not a government.

you are fixating on a single-issue fantasy in order to ignore the house that is burning around you.

If you think I haven't ranted ad nauseum about this administration, you're nuts. You keep parroting the same broken logic, that if one side is bad, the other must be good, or that I at least ought to stop complaining. Why can't I hate both the murder and the rapist, even if I know one of them's going to win?

Sorry, Broken, but this is silly on about twenty levels. Shall I count them?

I don't think human freedom is silly. I take a more mature stance that it is the most fundamental aspect of human dignity that exists.

Do I sound libertarian? Well, I think of myself as one.

No, you don't, not in general at least. You sound like a raving socialist anti-freedomist.

But a sensible one! It is positively loony to say that “ny kind of intervention in the free market is bad” because markets have ONLY HAPPENED where Enlightenment civilization intervened to make them possible!

Markets are what happen without intervention. If I see a man trying to intervene in a woman's free life by tugging on her purse as she cries desperately for help, and I club him over the head with a hammer, that's not intervention. That's stopping intervention. Freedom was what existed before the intervention. Don't call it intervention when someone intervenes to prevent intervention. It's a case where the effects cancel out.

Libertarian mystics who claim that markets are “natural” are the loopiest people on the planet.

Yeah, well, that's a pretty obvious fact going back hundreds of thousands of years in our past. Many species have markets - a male produces a nice nest, or offers something in exchange for a mate. A chimpanzee accepts some food in exchange for sex. You are trying to deny one of the most basic facts of humanity - that practically everything we do is part of a market. People haven't been self-sufficient and lived without bartering since well before recorded human history. Get in touch with reality man. This is lunacy you're spouting. You wrote a book on science that got published?! Dear god.

They cannot point to a single example, in mankind’s long, dark past, of makets appearing “naturally”.

Hah! Except for in all over recorded human history, pervading every last vestige of our existence!

b) Look at how you swerve and writhe! You claimed that markets were destroyed by socialism and not aristocracy... whereupon I PROVED YOU 99% wrong!

Ummm...nooooo. Again, you're not a big fan of reality, so let's get back to it. The vast majority of market interference in recent human history has been under the general auspices of socialism. We have to go back a long way before the scene is dominated by maurading bandits who simply rape and pillage with virtual impunity, and do not require some sort of perceived legitimacy to maintain power. At one time in the distant past, you would have been 99% right. Today you're maybe .1% right.

So what do you do? You redefine aristocracy as another form of socialism!!!!

I never "redefined" anything. That is what any realist knows that socialism is. When you tax, under the claim that you need that money to provide for the public security, or for roads, or schools, or whatever, that is socialism. I've never heard anything contrary to that in all my countless hours of pouring over LewRockwell.com, and talking to Libertarians at the Libertarian National Convention. Maybe you think Libertarians hold a slanted view of what socialism is. Well fine. Then stop calling yourself a Libertarian, you anti-freedomist socialist.

Whaaaaaa? I have pointed to THE pattern that ruined past markets of human talent and creativity, and you blithely shrug it off!

Where did you do this exactly? I didn't see any such thing.

when disparities of wealth and power grow too large, human beings WILL use that power to turn themselves into lords and shut down competition.

Only the consumer can decide how large that disparity is to be, and whether there shall be competition. Microsoft is a monopoly, and my beloved BeOS is defunct, because that's what the consumers wanted. That's why I'm stuck with the least terrible OS I can find - Ubuntu Linux.

This is universal. It has happened every $#$%#*! time society allowed it to happen.

Ah, what did you just say? Repeat that. Allowed it to happen. That's right. Thank you. Good day sir.

And it is the ultimate refutal of libertarian mysticism.

Nope, it's the ultimate example of how, in a free market, people are responible and answerable to their bad decisions. It's a wonderful tribute to the perfection and beauty of free markets.

But it does NOT refute pragmatic libertarianism!

If by pragmatic, you mean "semi-socialist", then please get out of my party.

If you have an open mind to fresh ideas about all this, drop by:
http://www.davidbrin.com/libertarianarticle1.html


I don't have an open mind to anyone else making decisions about my bank account, or whom I sleep with and for what price, or what drugs I grow on my own property, or how much I pay workers at my business, or whether I wear my helmet or use my seatbelt. I take the responsible adult stance that those things are my decision to make in my own life, as an adult.

And then my four-part series at:
http://www.reformthelp.org/marketing/positioning/models.php


Why Libertarians need to embrace socialism, yadda yadda.

(Hey, does anyone know the link to my “GAR vs FIBM” rants? Broken really should see them.)

Oh right, like you're going to offer some brilliant new refutation of the value of freedom, that no socialist before has ever made. Please. Don't think for a second that you're that original.

c) Impingement on freedom is bad, we agree. But to stare in just one direction shaking your fist at just one type of enemy, when most freedom-destroyers come from other directions, is not defense of liberty. It is dogmatism.

I shake my fist at Republicans too, of course. But the things that they do are easy to get around. If I want to smoke some pot at home, I do it. If I want to pay a few sorority girls to come be my harem for a night, I do it. If I want to hire illegal immigrants to shampoo my dog for 50¢ an hour, I do it. But how the heck do I get out of paying social security? The restrictions on freedom that Democrats set up are harder to evade, hence I spend more time fantasizing about their being hung from bridges than I do with Republicans. Republicans are just an annoyance that I laugh about inwardly. They are so cute with their Biblical literalism, creationism, and other assorted nonsense.

d) Moreover, note this. only one civilization ever created anything near like a cornucopia productive, open competitive and creative market system.

Well, we were damned close at one time, until the fed screwed it all up, and lead to the New Deal - the single biggest tragedy in our history.

why are libertarian mystics so angry and resentful and hateful and UNGRATEFUL to the only society that ever came close to what they want?

Because it's already been irrevocably dragged into socialist territory, and this society isn't doing a good job fighting to take it back.

Dig it. A civilization is COMPLICATED.

So, stealing and other abridgements of freedom are good? Not sure what your point is supposed to be here.

And some of what gave us these markets came from (shudder) government.

Government isn't where markets came from, government is what destroys them. Without government, all you have is the market.

When I meet a libertarian whose obsession is NOT on maximizing freedom, but instead on railing at at government in principle, then I know I have met a fool.

My obsession is 100% with maximizing freedom. Let us pray that every last IRS employee leaves his toaster on as he tucks his family in and drifts to sleep. Let every police officer who ever busted someone for drug possesion do the same. Let them all rot for what they've done, along with every last vestige of their genetic record. They are worse than cancer.

When I meet a libertarian who talks joyfully about how far we’ve come and then fizzes with ideas about how to enhance freedom whether with some tools of government or without it, then I have met a fellow who knows what it’s all about.

I've got some ideas. Let's all buy weapons, and head to New Hampshire, and then seccede from the U.S., and fight to the death if they try to stop us.

FDR was a long time ago. Get... over... him...

Tsk tsk. As if the effects of the atrocities he commited do not terrorize us today.

Can the mysticism and join the people who are trying to fine tune the machine.

"Fine" tune? You are simply out of touch with reality. We are nowhere near even remotely tuned, much less ready for fine tuning. We have serious presidential candidates running on a platform of free health care. We are in no man's land. It's sheer insanity. We don't have time to "fine" tune. We need to raise up our arms and fight this thing. To hell with compromise. Let not a living socialist breathe.

michael vassar said...

David Brin:
Clinton was great, as presidents go, but lots of libertarians (including yourself) say so.

Broken Ladder: Why not just accept that there's no such thing as "government" thus nothing to get rid of. Then you can get on with the fact that YES, if you are confronted with the choice between a murderer and a rapist picking up a gun, with no other practical options available, then your only sane option is BY ALL MEANS, OPPOSE THE MURDERER WITHOUT EQUIVOCATION DESPITE THE CONSEQUENCES. People who refuse to choose the lesser of two evils while instead aggressively berating them for their imperfections (usually exaggerated) are WILLFULLY SIDING WITH EVIL.

Noam Chomsky is typically my exemplar of this sort of siding with evil actually. I definitely think that without the sociopathic 'critique' of Chomsky, Nader, and the modern far left we wouldn't have the current monsters in Washington. (we might have ordinary semi-monsters, like the first Bush, but that's a much much more minor problem).

Of course, as David knows, I'm a bit of a hypocrite myself. I just can't stop rooting for the good guys even though I know full well that the natural outcome of their experiment is universal destruction, but after all, blogs are for ranting.

OdinsEye2k said...

Wow. I honestly must pick my jaw up from the floor on that one. There's some crazy stuff there.

So, the Friedman argument for his success is that his keel-hauling of the Chile economy angered the people so much that they overthrew Pinochet? By that definition, the Russian Soviets were pretty successful in Eastern Europe as well. Well, in the words of Colbert then:

"I believe that a government that governs least governs best. And by that standard, we have set up an excellent government in Iraq."

Taxation is theft. Property is theft. Both are nostrums so childish as to be worthless. If you want to be simplistic, property is people with guns saying you can't access a given part of nature (land, forests, mines, whatever), even though there is no axiomatic right of one over another to a given area other than the power to deny access. Meanwhile, taxation is people with guns saying that you've got to part with a part of your property for them to use their guns to control it.

And I have no idea on how to descramble your argument on health. First, you talk about how money doesn't represent real value (okay, might be willing to go with that for a short argument), and then I talk about what a health system should value, namely life and life spans, and you then argue that those too are irrelevant!

But, don't worry about the abstract above - I got the gist of your real argument when you talked about "pregnant women" and "bad choices" - Reagan's old Welfare Queen model. The nice old man that taught us it was not only possible to ignore those in need, but to actively despise them.

I would assert that you have no real problem with aristocracy, because you believe that it is natural. One group is meant to rise to power naturally as the best and fittest.

Of course, in that line of argument, I am sure you would have absolutely no problem with a system that takes 100% of inheritence and redistributes it across the society, restarting the race to become a self-made man. Right? After all, in order to truly be self-made, you must have the same starting position (or worse) than all those around you. No fair letting daddy save you from all your mistakes and bad choices.

And yes, I admit that in this case, I also reveal my true core - we are indeed actually debating morality. But the beauty of the libertarian argument is one further - if we believe that the State of Nature is actually one of freedom and unknowing mutual benevolence, then we don't have to discuss what type of system we wish to build. That argument is completely bypassed by saying "do nothing and God (sorry, the invisible hand) will sort it all out." Although even Smith and wiser economists like Veblen saw problems with trusting nature's course.

Finally,

I've got some ideas. Let's all buy weapons, and head to New Hampshire, and then seccede from the U.S., and fight to the death if they try to stop us.

Well, maybe not New Hampshire, but I hear Somalia is quite the libertarian paradise this time of year. No real government to worry about - just lots of local warlords and tribes engaging in Darwin's favorite game.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Brin?

You just realised what the HANNITY and colmes gambit is about?

Colmes is the only regular broadcaster on any cable news channel who wears glasses regularly.

What more needs to be said?

Nate said...

Woah. Okay, wow. That's some impressive ranting.

Of course, there's some things I wonder about. Like the part about how we get society to "near universally" recognize violence as practically a crime. So, um. Who enforces this crime? What cops, if taxation is theft? Everybody around? Mob justice? That's descending into anarchy again. Now, I have nothing against anarchy, personally, I think it'd be great, but the problem is it doesn't work with people. And funnily enough, the ideal ending of most modern libertarians and modern socialists is almost identical anarchies.

And "use of public land" is no minor matter, as anybody who's ever been to any town hall meeting knows. Though I wonder how there'd be public land in a libertarian world, since property is an oh so fundamental right. SOMEBODY'D own it, so it wouldn't really be public.

And having private companies competing for some kinds of natural monopoly services would seem to me to make a lot more waste. Like, for instance, roads. You'd end up with three roads leading somewhere, when one was all that was needed. Or you'd end up with one road leading somewhere where the people don't have the capital to build another.

Libertarian economics falls apart once force enters the picture, because then it just becomes who can hire the bigger guns, or has the bigger guns.

tacitus2 said...

My, my, a far ranging thread.
Dr. Brin, regards my previous post and your response, I guess this a just a place to agree to disagree. I feel that describing your political foes in terms that suggest in/sub humanity is invariably wrong, you suggest (and if the flawed medium of internet postings has caused me to misinterpret, I apologize) that in a good enough cause it is acceptable.
Points of respectful difference of opinion:
1. The opposition to the status quo has been far from tame. We conservatives often described B.Clinton as a lecher, but never as a puppet or smirking chimp (again with the non human stuff!).
2. Describing your opponents in these terms might fire up some "base", but is an impediment if your goal is building bridges to the rather sizable part of the electorate that you need/want to reach.
In the end we are all who we are, an amalgam of our heritage, our experiences past and present. I am not convinced of a dark conspiracy. I deal with regular folks on a regular basis, and even those with whom I disagree politically are civil, honest small town citizens. You spend quite a bit of time thinking on future issues, and write fiction. If a developing Haliburton/Riadh/Soro cabal seems more likely to you than to me, I'm ok with that.
Pragmatically. I had two elected representatives who had competitive elections last cycle. One a quiet, thoughtful guy who is a little to the right of me politically, but works hard and does a fair amount of good for his constituency. The other was a flaming nutcase who I regarded as an embarresment to my GOP. I was among the first public and finacial supporters of a democratic candidate to oppose the second guy, and I am pleased to report that the loony incumbant was ousted. The more reasonable fellow won reelection.
Two little races in a midwest state. But a state where the two major parties split about 50:50, and the upset victory I backed tipped the balance of one chamber of the legislature. And one of my patients is the local GOP chairman, so we chat about this stuff regularly.
I give you credit for keeping open a fairly positive venue for discussion, but can you really say that posting your (rather good) stuff on Kos does as much to change the landscape?
Tacitus2

David Brin said...

Tacitus, you speak with maturity. And while I doubt that I will stop calling the Bushites names, I will try harder to keep emphasizing how narrowly I define that inner circle. Your citokate is welcome, even if not obeyed.

I must demur on one point, though. There is simply no comparison between the mild and tepid way that Democrats have dealt with these fellows (so far) and the BILLION dollar witch hunt that we were subjected to, by your conservative pals, during the nineties.

Please ponder. A billion dollars spent pursuing a failed land investment in which the Clintons lost $80,000, and a lie about some nookie in a hallway. A billion dollars and a howling firestorm of hatred, plus (yes) namecalling that the Clintons were “muderers” (Vince Foster) and leading the “most corrupt administration in all of history.” We were promised “as soon as decent people re take the Executive Branch” that “indictments will flow!”

Um, what indictments? Even after all resources of the Bush Administration Justice Department were focused on finding a “smoking gun”... and after many FBI agents were divereted from anti terror duties to this futile effort (weakening us before 9/11..... the “most corrupt” administration turned out to be the LEAST corrupt in all of history, with not a single conviction or indictment, even, for malfeasance of office.

Whereas, in contrast, since 2001, secrecy has skyrocketed, professional prosecutors are fired right and left (imagine if BC had tried to do that, even once!), the GOP has used a monopoly of power to stonewall investigations, and STILL the cronies are starting to land in jail.

Please, I speak often to conservatives like you. Unlike many democrats and libertarians (I consider myself to be BOTH!) I also posit and avow to the smartness and patriotism of many decent conservative Americans. I think that all three trains of thought have much to contribute. And yes, Barry Goldwater is a hero of mine.

And yet, I am getting tires of the waffling. This country is invaded, conquered, being raided, robbed, gutted and ruined by people who should make all decent conservatives not only ashamed but outraged!

I am not exaggerating, even by an iotum. Moreover, it is conservatives who have a chance to make the biggest difference, right now. Not only in saving America, but sacing their own movement from the opprobrium that will fall upon it, when the smoking guns start tumbling out of every window and door of our benighted government.

Doug S. said...

Government isn't where markets came from, government is what destroys them. Without government, all you have is the market.

This statement is wrong as wrong gets. It's wronger than "The earth is flat." It's wronger than Aristotelian physics. Without a reasonable government, resources are allocated to those with the best army. Is that what you want?

To quote Larry Niven:
"Anarchy is the least stable of social structures. It falls apart at a touch."

You can't take the potential for the use of force out of the picture. Without taxes to fund a police force or an army, how do you propose to keep the proverbial barbarian hordes from kicking you out of your house and raping your wife? How are you going to keep the guy in the next town from dumping toxic waste in your water supply?

I suppose that you could hire a "private" army, but then all you have is the choice of which army gets its share of your property. If anyone who picks up a weapon to enforce their will on others is a government, you're always going to have a government. You can try to have the least restrictive government possible, but a government that can't protect itself is going to be overthrown or conquered.


Well, we were damned close at one time, until the fed screwed it all up, and lead to the New Deal - the single biggest tragedy in our history.


That's also ridiculous. Slavery, not the New Deal, was the biggest tragedy in United States history. It didn't end until after over 600,000 people died in a bloody civil war.

Doug S. said...

One more thing. Even if you define socialism as "any attempt to use coercion that is intended to improve the common good", I'd bet that corruption - defined as "any attempt to use coercion to enrich oneself" - still trumps socialism as the number one destroyer of markets in history. If Saddam Hussein, Louis XIV, and Genghis Khan were socialists, I'll eat my hat!

David Brin said...

Guys, calm down. Broken Ladder has made clear that he is a Platonist and we should be polite to our guest. He believes in pure essences and thus, the gulf between his way of thinking and our way -- here on a discussion site that is explicitly devoted to pragmatic modernism -- is a gap that’s daunting and wide.

We won’t persuade him to budge from a purist rigidity that he views as sacred, the way a monk views self- abnegation and prayer. All we can do is “pragmatically” study how the platonist purist mind veers and rationalizes, in order to sustain whatever essence has his devotion. History and facts do not matter. The essence is everything.

Hence, challenged to give a single example of a genuine open and fair past market system, he announces that there has always been “trading.” Even though trading is to s sophisticated and creative market what the metabolism of a single cell is to a conscious human being.

The dilemma that dogmatic libertarians writhe to avoid is that aristocrats, who already had wealth, were the primary market distorters in those past trading societies, NONE of which ever had a scintilla of the fairness and productivity of our markets, today.

The platonist libertarian MUST hate government, rather than love freedom. Because (1) hatred feels better than grateful enthusiasm and (2) if the emphasis were on the latter, he would have to notice all the myriad ways that the former has been used, as a tool, to bring about the latter! An emphasis on actual market performance and on freedom would force a libertarian to notice that things have steadily gotten BETTER. That today’s markets are better than any that came before. And that countless fine-tunings of markets have for the first time prevented natural human predation from ruining them.

The platonist holds up a theoretical ideal that has absolutely no precedent in all of history - virtuous anarchy -- and assures us that it would work perfectly, if only we would tear down all of the tools and solutions erected by better men and women than us, and instead cast our destiny down a prescribed, theoretical path.

Ironically, were he to turn his sense of TIME around, he might see how such virtuous anarchy might happen... IN THE FUTURE! As we progress through awkward, intermediate phases.

Do not get me wrong. The “libertarian” theme that I push is reciprocal accountability. A MUCH better and better-proved method of achieving an end to government than simply preaching a virtuous “renunciation of force” by people who are genetically no different from Romans and cavemen!

Moreover, let me say that I yearn to use RA to gradually reduce government. Indeed, there are many things that “government” has done that seem to be pushing us AWAY from effective freedom and productive markets. BL is right to point to the space programs and nonsensical insurance systems. (Insurance should have been the natural commercial alternative to many government based welfare programs.) I am perfectly willing to listen to CITOKATE about this or that government failing or bad law. Indeed, I yearn for private, amateur and alternate approaches to a myriad problems, so that government can start to “wither away.”

But while the libertarian in me yearns to move ahead and believes there are ways (e.g. RA) to do so, incrementally...

....the historian and pragmatic guy in me KNOWS THAT MARKETS ARE NOT NATURAL!

PREDATION IS NATURAL. CHEATING AND BULLYING AND THEFT ARE NATURAL.

Idealists like BL deliberately turn their gaze away from the relentless tales of GAR and aristocratic nastiness that have always accompanied accumulations of power and wealth. These are fundamental enemies of the libertarian dream of freedom for all.

BL, you REALLY NEED TO UPDATE YOUR VOCABULARY.
Go and study up on ‘GAR vs FIBM” at:
http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2006_06_01_davidbrin_archive.html

People like this are the reason the Libertarian Party - which should by now have rescued us from GOP madness - has instead self-marginalized in order for guys like this to feel virtuous and never, ever face the pragmatic problems of power. The “Reform The LP” movement at www.reformthelp.org is slogging uphill to fix this.

BL, Adam Smith would laugh in your face. He had to deal with market-ruining actions by Louis XIV and the English Kings and cronied aristocracies and THOSE are the forces he saw ruining both markets and freedom. You can redefine the cronies of Louis as SOCIALISTS? REEEELLY? Wow, your spine curves better than mine. Likewise, to imagine that there were ever markets, under kings of old that were more creative and productive than ours are, right now, is simply stunning.

Hey, this is my blog and I make the rules. You have taken over the comments section here, and I do not object. But you must pay a price. I want to know whether you are capable of reading new ideas and PARAPHRASING THEM... EVEN IF YOU DISAGREE WITH THEM!

So go to
http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2006_06_01_davidbrin_archive.html
and tell us what “GAR” anmd “FIBM” mean

Come back when you can tell us the difference between those views of the world and show us how GAR by a narrow class of billionaires is somehow better than GAR by a narrow class of communist commissars. I’ll tell you this hint, right now. Adam Smith would say there’s no difference at all.

“No, you don't, not in general at least. You sound like a raving socialist anti-freedomist.”

Oh, now you are getting just plain nasty. And insulting, based on nothing whatsoever except your own hurt feelings. Anyone who disagrees with you is BY DEFINITION the very opposite of a right thinker. You have nothing to learn.

Okay, I’ve scanned the more extensive rant, that BL posted and I’ve had enough. This is not just a Platonist. I am afraid we are dealing with a screecher. Such people cannot question their assumptions. All they can to is hurl insults at the strawmen that they erect in their own minds.

Too bad, there is a broader vocabulary than he will allow himself to perceive. But romantics need narrow vocabularies. We see it in religions of all kinds, and the purist-essentialism of Plato, Rothbard, Rand. While Smith and Hayek bleed.

Enough. No more wasted time.

Blake Stacey said...

If the New Deal was "the single biggest tragedy in our history", then the Marshall Plan and the GI Bill must have shook the Cosmos more heavily than Lucifer getting booted out of Heaven.

Blake Stacey said...

So says the man:

You know what a miracle is. Not what Bakunin said. But another world's intrusion into this one. Most of the time we coexist peacefully, but when we do touch there's cataclysm. Like the church we hate, anarchists also believe in another world. Where revolutions break out spontaneous and leaderless, and the soul's talent for consensus allows the masses to work together without effort, automatic as the body itself. And yet, sena, if any of it should ever really happen that perfectly, I would also have to cry miracle. An anarchist miracle. Like your friend. He is too exactly and without flaw the thing we fight. In Mexico the privilegiado is always, to a finite percentage, redeemed—one of the people. Unmiraculous. But your friend, unless he's joking, is as terrifying to me as a Virgin appearing to an Indian.

— Thomas Pynchon (1965)

Nate said...

One other thing, Dr. Brin, about Obama's lack of experience. He was a state senator from '96, and worked as a community organizer, among other things. Perhaps not much in the way of foreign policy experience, but far more than the current occupant of the White House. Then again, I have more than the current occupant of the White House, at least from when he first took office.

I'm trying to avoid jumping on any bandwagons for presidential candidates yet, like you said, it's a year and a half away. And, honestly, there's many candidates the Democrats are running that I'd be happy to see as President. The one I'd most like has said he's not running so far every time he's been asked, that being Al Gore. Ah well.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

That Pynchon quote is beautiful. Whatever species BL is describing, it isn't H. sapiens. Or any other species of the class Mammalia. Or any species at all where theft is possible: if it's possible, it happens. It sounds much more like an insect hive to me, where the drones quickly negotiate communal tasks amongst themselves and otherwise act as independent agents.

Thanks, but I'm not interesting in living the life of a honeybee. And please note that a honeybee drone's vacation from evolution is made possible only by being (a) sterile and (b) a near-clone of her sisters.

------

But there's no need to resort to a change in species to refute BL's paradigm. It's quite easy, and a trick I'll demonstrate for everyone. Amaze your friends by styming the Platonic anarchist-libertarian in his tracks!

"If I see a man trying to intervene in a woman's free life by tugging on her purse as she cries desperately for help, and I club him over the head with a hammer, that's not intervention. That's stopping intervention."

I see. So let's say three people rush to club the miscreant. None of them could take him alone, but together, they do so. Then they think, gee, we should make a deal (by negotiated agreement, in accordance with anarchist-libertarian principles) so that the next time this happens, the intervention can be stopped more easily. And we'll need mutually-agreed-on rules, so we all will know and act when freedom needs defending.

Behold: free government is born. For what is every legislature, from a small town meeting to the US Congress, but an ongoing negotiation on what rules should be enforced and how? What is every executive but the club with which we enforce the rules? And what is every court, but the error-checker that makes sure the rules actually make sense and are being followed?

Government is not the enemy of libertarianism; it is fundamental to its very essence. What is needed is not no government but good government: government that increases freedom.

Behold BL, who doesn't believe that a free government can exist. According to his rhetoric, he would literally rather fight and die than accept any open-ended compact... such as the United States Constitution. Not even the Greek polis will do for him, because he won't accept being out-voted. It's either a straight dicker with him personally, or no deal.

In any age, from Stone to Information, this strategy results in dying as an outcast loner. It's not a zero- or negative-sum strategy, but getting any positive-sum juice out of it is so slow that everyone will just give up on you for being so obstinate. The only way around that is to be in a society of near-clones of yourself, at which point you're the beehive I described earlier.

Carl said...

Regarding unelectable senators: a major reason that Senators cannot get elected to the presidency is that their voting patterns are so hard to understand. Due to the rules of the Senate, you have to vote against things you support in order to get what you really support.

Here is an excellent possible application of Range Voting. Should the Senate adopt Range Voting, they could vote in a way that actually reflects what they stand for.

Instead of the awful amending process, where Senators vote in favor of bad amendments in order to kill the overall bill, the Senate could consider all permutations of a bill in parallel (original, with Amendment 1, ...). Many shenanighans would become obsolete. The views of each Senator would be far more transparent.

We might have an ort of accountability.

redkitty said...

Tacitus2 - " I deal with regular folks on a regular basis, and even those with whom I disagree politically are civil, honest small town citizens."

And your point is? Just what do you imagine the bulk of the WW2 Nazi Party consisted of, creatures from PlanetX? I mention Nazis specifically since you've already made that historical reference, although strangely enough you seem to be saying that pointing at the fascists in our midst and calling them out by their true names is the thing that leads to "Arbeit Macht Frei!". No doubt in some alternate universe that makes sense...

(Yes, I know the above is a bit unfair. Because I'm well aware of the set of right-wing memes about one-sided "civility" that you are operating from, I chose to react to what you actually implied, rather than what you likely meant to be saying.)

And Dr. Brin? You may choose to define the opposition narrowly. Perhaps that's even necessary and wise in the short run. Perhaps. But I will find it difficult to make common cause with "honest,decent conservatives" like Tacitus2 here until they can admit that it was THEIR support for guys like Nixon, Reagan and Bush that led us down this path. That, in fact, conservatism is a deeply corrupt ideology with predictably bad consequences. Lacking that kind of realization, they'll just turn around and drag us right over the cliff again. I'm weary of that cycle.

Brin - "...romantics need narrow vocabularies. We see it in religions of all kinds, and the purist-essentialism of Plato, Rothbard..."

I once plowed through an attempt by Murray Rothbard to justify private ownership of real property (land) within a purist libertarian framework. In essence, his argument boiled down to "I can't actually justify this, but without it my whole philosophy falls apart so we must make an exception to the rules".

CJ-in-Weld said...

Broken Ladder said:

"Liberty makes democracy obsolete. What is there to vote for, but some menial things like the use of public spaces. With private schools, roads, police, etc. everyone will vote with his utility."

Heh. What other mystical worldview held that the state would wither away?

And just for fun, here's John Scalzi's take on three branches of political thought, including libertarians:

http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/002984.html

Carl said...

redkitty:

The private ownership of land presents philosophical problems, as does the full public ownership of land. Either option compromises natural rights.

The reality is that natural rights are going to get compromised as population density goes up.

I favor having most property be private, some public property be public for roads and parks, and a Georgist land tax to keep the few from hogging the right to private property at the expense of others.

See "Really Natural Rights" at www.holisticpolitics.org.

Both the Marxists and the Rothbardians get the relationships between land, capital and labor wrong.

Rob Perkins said...

(Yes, I know the above is a bit unfair. Because I'm well aware of the set of right-wing memes about one-sided "civility" that you are operating from, I chose to react to what you actually implied, rather than what you likely meant to be saying.)

And in doing so, constructed your own strawman to beat on.

If we're going to respect each other...

Rob Perkins said...

http://www.scalzi.com/whatever/002984.html

I was marvelously entertained. I think I'll go play some GTA3 now... ;-)

Lenny Zimmermann said...

Personally i think the real problem with "libertarianism" is that, once again, a word has been stolen. You see it would have been easier to call the philosophy liberalism, except that somehow, over centuries, the meaning has changed for that word. So libertarianism seemed the next best thing, except that over the past few decades THAT word now seems to imply an anarchistic viewpoint. It seems to me that what BL is arguing for is not libertarianism, or classical liberalism, at all but rather he is trying to argue for anarchy.

I've always though libertarianism was accepting that anarchy was not a likely sustainable state for mankind anytime in foreseeable future (and maybe even a bit further ahead then that), and as such it accepted that government was, in effect, a "necessary evil". That it seemed to be the best way, again for the foreseeable future, to pragmatically accept our all too human shortcomings to try and maintain something of a level playing field to foster competition and innovation. Unless we really can come up with something better, but that whole foreseeable future thing keeps standing in my way. As such I find it FAR preferable to constantly work, incrementally, to make what attempts I can to improve our liberties... piece by piece. I just think that, if nothing else, it is quite possible we hit a point of diminishing or even negative returns if we push out government to almost or even completely nothing. I don;t know for certain, but I'd sure like to at least get that far to find out (although I doubt we would ever get so far in my lifetime.)

However, to disagree with Dr. Brin's statement "That today’s markets are better than any that came before." I would have to at least say that there are plenty of examples where that may not be true. Health Care, for instance, is at least one market where I have to stand by BL and his ilk when they suggest that government regulation, in particular, has made that industry and the health insurance industry (as they are so inextricably linked)
a farce of any kind of free market.

BTW, for OdinsEye2k, the health indicator of life expectancy, in particular, is not a particularly
good indicator because lifestyle choices also play a heavy role there. The quality of healthcare here is quite good because we have a more innovative system overall then our European counterparts, who often lag a bit by taking American innovation and applying that into a socialized practice... there are some advantages to not being the front-runner, but I'd suggest we're still better off being a front-runner in research. Such innovation helps the whole planet raising ALL of our life expectancies.

Lenny Zimmermann
Libertarian and LRC Member (http://www.reformthelp.org)

Lenny Zimmermann said...

Oh, for redkitty;

Libertarianism does not necessarily go hand in hand with private property. I would say that it is a prevailing tenet for most libertarians, but there is also the Georgist philosophy that views all land-based property as part of a commons. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgism for more info. I can't say I can really present it properly as I tend to focus more on practical politics over property rights issues and our current government would seem to favor, generally, a private property stance. I'm still mulling over the Georgist philosophy to see if I think it might work, but it's not on the top of my reading list right now. ;)

Michael "Sotek" Ralston said...

On the proposal of range voting for the Senate (because nitpicking over categories of Libertarianism or whatever doesn't really appeal to me right now) ...

Thinking about it, I really like it, except that there's one minor problem.

All the permutations? First, you certainly mean all the combinations (since 1&2 is the same thing as 2&1, unless there's something wacky going on) ... and that still explodes in complexity. It doesn't take too many amendments to make the number of distinct combinations get to the point where simply recording votes on the various forms of the bill would literally take longer than, to pick a timescale, the length of a Senator's term.

You'd have to come up with a way to group the amendments or else you wind up with some severe problems. Otherwise, I like the idea!

RandomSequence said...

I think broken ladder clearly enunciates the difference between serious libertarians and the rest of us:

Of course life expectancy and child mortality are apparently "worse" in the U.S., because unfit mothers who did not plan and save for their pregnancies have less access to stolen taxpayer money than in places like Europe.

I have a visceral sensation of disgust to statements like that; I'm sure that Broken Ladder has a similar response to propositions of taxation.

In my experience, discussions like these go around in circles --- we are taking about such an essential schism in world view: whether we, as a society have a responsibility, to the limit of our ability, to protect the weakest members. Not just from outright violence, but from systemic issues.

Such a basic disagreement isn't really conducive to logical debate, because we are talking about differences in axioms of meaning, as basic as x & y -> x, just not as easily formalizable. See it in term of what is "socialism." You can see folks talking past each other, not just due to differences in definitions, but in context.

Are all taxes "thievery"? Is it realistic to posit an achievable world, where the only use of violence is to counter illegitimate violence? Where property can continue to exist without a constant, coordinated effort to create it, ultimately supported by violence? What is a natural "market"?

All these questions, I propose, are unanswerable, as a set. They are axiomatic propositions, reflecting a whole world view, just as my view that we have a responsibility to care, insofar as we can, for new born infants as a society, if necessary by taxation, etc. We really can't argue each other out of such positions; at best we can analyze each other, and maybe negotiate temporary alliances.

In short, the difference is that market forces will solve problems like the maldistribution of food: sometimes the solution is famine. Whether that is acceptable or not depends on your mother's milk, not on any logical disagreement.

David Brin said...

Catfish said: "Government is not the enemy of libertarianism; it is fundamental to its very essence. What is needed is not no government but good government: government that increases freedom."

This is what I have been trying to explain for years. Moreover, the best libertarians, like Hayek, get it. Indeed, even Rand got it, when it came to simplistic matters like adjudicating the use of force... though she was too arrogant and stupid to realize that predation can take a myriad forms and therefor adjudication may require a myriad solutions.

See my libertarian article for what I think is its cleverest core idea... that we are gradually evolving as Locke thought we might, from an IMPLICIT SOCIAL CONTRACT in which ignorant peasants are better off with an educated king ruling them, but with an implied right to kill him if he oppresses...

...toward an EXPLICIT social contract, in which all sovereign and supersmart citizens - armed with powerful tools of reciprocal accountability - re-negotiate anew their deal with each other and a withered, remnant state that they simply do not need as much, anymore.

Not only does this dream PERFECTLY prove my overall libertarian credentials, it is also the long range utopian dream of Marx! And Christian utopians etc. Ah, but it is the TIME ORIENTATION that matters, far more than anything else, testifying to the personality of the dreamer. I perceive this progression of the social contract as in progress as we speak. Complex government is an awkward and clumsy step along the way. But an important one that should inspire some degree of wary gratitude... while we wage total effort at keeping the momentum always forward. Toward a state that withers gently, not because it is evil, but because it gradually does its job.

Always, what drives all this boils down to personality. Even though they share the same pro-freedom goals, on the surface, zero-sum libertarian mystics simply cannot view things this way. They cannot view the present situation as evidence of progress because it does not feed the engine of resentment and indignation addiction. They must hate the bogey man of government, far more than they love the goal of universal freedom.

---
redkitty, look. I do not disagree with you that "conservatism" is a rather threadbare movement. Let us say you strip away all the theocratic fundamentalism, all of the recent neocon foreign adventurism, and all of the kleptocratic thievery of the recent mad "red" cabal. What you are left with is a few major zones that - while much more honorable in the Barry Goldwater sense - are still troublesome.

1- libertarianism... fine, I lean that way too. Suspicious of too much government? Let's talk. Still, such people should either fix the LP or admit that Bill Clinton balanced budgets. Either way, there is no attraction left in the GOP.

2- suspicion of change and nitpicking grouchiness... I cannot say that such people are always wrong. Traditionalists can often offer excellent citokate. Indeed, for many years they pointed out very blatant flaws in the welfare system, flaws that were destroying famliles and undermining the humanity of those supposedly "helped" by handouts. Liberals were wrongheaded to dismiss such citokate too blithely... and eventually right to pass the Welfore Reform Act. Still, this conservative citokate - which useful - gets little credit for creativity.

As I have said before, if you name 50 great American accomplishments of the last 100 years, you'd be hard pressed to come up with five that originated in the GOP, or that (indeed) they did not fight tooth and nail... only to later claim "well, that was obvious all along!" while putting pictures of Martin Luther King on their walls.

And yet, all of that is aside. It still gives us no right to disdain or dismiss the tens of millions of salt-of-the-Earth fellow citizens who call themselves "conservative." Millions of them - despite their lack of a clear vision for progress - strive daily for progress through their own personal efforts, delivering honest goods and services and performing professional skills. A majority of our civil servants (except teachers and social workers) and military and intelligence officers fall into this category. If they were troglodytes, we'd be doomed.

These "decent conservatives" must be looked upon as the fellow citizens they are, and persuaded to re-invent their movement, pulling it out of the filth where it has wandered. They must be talked to, not screamed at.

RandomSequence said...

David,

I think the underlying empirical problem of libertarianism (as opposed to cultural) is the underlying metaphor of the "invisible hand." Adam Smiths hand is an early premonition of maximizing/minimizing functions, a la physical chemistry or neural nets.

Like in a Monte Carlo simulations, you wiggle around randomly, trying to follow the local gradient to a minimal point -- which would be the point of maximum efficiency in the metaphor. But for problems in physics, for this to work, the function must be near equilibrium, and the space must be ergodic. The former is definitely false for economic systems, and the second is unknown for economic systems.

Additionally, the time required to find the minima is unknown in general for such a solution. And if too few samples are taken, you can become trapped in sub-optimal solutions, some type of meta-stable state.

All these problems suggest that, at best, the invisible hand is a good rule of thumb, but is not a known law, useful to building a society out of in an engineering sense. Leading me to doubt that ultimately government will wither away, just change form as higher levels of organization take place.

Carl said...

randomsequence: The invisible hand metaphor mentioned by Smith was about local price equilibria. While this is a limited concept, it is still beyond the mental capacity of many -- especially those on the left. (Yes, the left too can resist science.) It is usually the left that calls for price controls. (But not always; Nixon gave in to this temptation.)

As for jumping out of local equilibria into deeper ones, that is the job of entrepeneurs and innovative companies (and organizations). Schumpeter and Drucker wrote much on the subject.

David: Republicans too are capable of good ideas. Read Forbes magazine; it's full of them. (And yes, it has some bad ideas that progressives should resist.)

Unfortunately, the GOP has had to rely on squishes (like Bush) to attain majorities, so they rarely get a chance to implement their better ideas. (School vouchers!)

Some good GOP ideas that actually got implemented:
1. Ending the draft (Nixon).
2. Paying enlisted service men a market wage in order to boost armed forces quality (Reagan).
3. Getting on the other side of the Laffer Curve. (Reagan. Yes, they went too far given the size of government spending, but it's worth noting that we haven't had a truly serious recession since the Reagan tax cuts.)
4. Taking the cold war to the Soviets. (Reagan) Yes, this had some messy consequences, including some that we are still cleaning up, but compared with dealing with the Soviets, it was worth it.
5. Getting rid of the Interstate Commerce Commission.

Bush's recent proposal to change how we give tax exemptions for medical insurance is an excellent idea.


BTW, I am not an all around cheerleader for the GOP. I have pointed out Clinton and Carter's accomplishments to Republicans. It's just that the smugness was getting a bit thick.

And yes, the Democrats are behind more government innovations -- both good and bad. And boy, there are a bunch of bad ones in the mix.

David Brin said...

I believe that one problem is that libertarians flounder around the dges of comprehending reciprocal accountability, without actually looking it in the eye.

They rightfully are suspicious of top-down hierarchy, then refuse to face the fact that top-down hierarchy is the inevitable outcome of anarchy and fear and ignorance.

Indeed, they nurse their own ignorance desperately. Never reading Locke, who is the founder of the notion of reciprocal accountability, they instead plunge down the paths of Rousseau, the ultimate romantic, who blamed society for ruining our natural state of nature -- make that natural perfection of untouched markets. Never realizing or acknowlwdging that this is PRECISELY the path taken by romantic Marxists.

(You could not slip a razor between the two groups, at this level. Libertarians who do not read Adam Smith, refuse to acknowledge that Smith called rich elites the very worst enemies of markets.

(Just like latter-day romantic Marxists who never read Marx, who will ever let themselves learn that Marx himself respected markets and capitalism, deeply, and saw them as absolutely necessary for human development.)

In contrast, the neocons are followers of Hobbes, who deeply believe that hierarchical control is the only thing separating us from savagery.

It is this trio - Hobbes, Rousseau and Locke - who symbolize the deep-down personality differences that underly our suface ideological confilcts. Hobbes and Rousseau see romantic perfection awaiting the RIGHT resolution of a zero sum game... with the ultimate solution being a return to mankind's "natural" condition.

Locke, the inventor of the Enlightenment and founder of the liberalism of Franklin and Smith, sees the time flow of wisdom very differently. We can pass through imperfect phases while getting better. Indeed, the fact that we CAN get better through gritty processes of hard work, knowledge-accumulation, spreading freedom, fair competition and uncoerced cooperation...

...not only is his model positive sum, but it is far calmer and more optimistic. And deeply contrary to most indignation.

It offers few of the attractions of oversimplifying romanticism. In fact, it has just one advantage.

Reality.

RandomSequence said...

Carl,

But that's the point. There's no reason to believe that there's even a local equilibria, in the physical sense. Maybe a dynamically stable state, but NOT equilibrium. It's a far-from-equilibrium state. And I don't know of good research about searching for any "optima" inside that envelope. If anything, you're very likely to have a non-ergodic system in that case, where just wandering about blindly is unlikely to find anything close to what you're searching for.

It was a good intuition from Smith, but centuries later we're still stuck with it. The metaphor doesn't hold, as much as folks would like it to. We need to advance massively in understanding non-equilibrium conditions to have any genuine understanding of what economic systems can do spontaneously.

When biologists can understand how proteins function, then maybe you'll have the mathematical tools. But in the meantime, we work with rules-of-thumb, which means any dogmatism is insane, and a combination of systems, on an empirical basis, is the best we can hope to do.

And that's where all the economic schools fail. They each act as if economics was a science, in the way that physics or chemistry is. But its simply not -- economics is at bottom simply intuitions placed into mathematical formalisms, creating the illusion of science. When someone comes up with something like a 1/r^2 law for economics, then they'll be unto something.

If economics were a science, it would predict data from the known to the unknown. You could set up a model, and predict to a given accuracy the economic consequences. Then, such institutions as the stock market would be limited to betting on the inherent noise in the system. But that's not what I see: I don't see even the predictability of the weather. I don't see back-predictions of the collapse of the Roman Empire. I see a monkey throwing darts.

David Brin said...

Carl, try the exercise. From combatting German and Japanese fascism to the containment of communism. From moon landings to civil rights to womens’ rights to GI Bills to fostering public universities....

II have offered this bet for years, and my conservative friends seldom rise to the challenge. A few (in fairness) mention the Interstate Highway system - a mixed blessing but a bold accomplishment that was shared, bipartisan between the best GOP president, Eisenhower and a democratic Congress.

The other top GOP idea was Kissinger’s brilliant chess move reaching out to China. I have to give that full marks. Moreover, it stands in sharp contrast to the blithering insanity of Condi Rice’s diametrically opposite stupidity toward Iran.

As for the examples you mention, I have to tell you that I take your four examples very un-seriously. I was of draft age in those days. I’ll give Nixon some credit for ending the draft... as I will credit him for offering a national health care plan MUCH more ambitious than Hillary’s was!!! (The dems torpedoed it because in 1970 they wanted even more. Damned fools.)

But today I have to tell you that I have deep deep doubts that the all volunteer army was the way to go. With every passing day I worry more.

Sorry, the Laffer curve is a joke, pure and simple. A rationalization. It began the era when the right can sing with a straight face:

“Bad times? Cut taxes for the rich!
Good times? Cut taxes for the rich!
Deficits? Cut taxes for the rich!
Surpluses? Cut taxes for the rich!
Savings up? Cut taxes for the rich!
Savings down? Cut taxes for the rich!
Peacetime? Cut taxes for the rich!
Wartime? Cut taxes for the rich!


I’d be amused, except that the final one is damned treachery. The first time in our history that the elites would not step up to help pay for a war fought by other peoples’ sons. Bastards.

As for the modern hagiography of Ronald Reagan, I can only shrug at the idolatry from the right and console myself that he wasnot deliberately evil, like the present monsters. He was not the devil portrayed by the left, nor the demigod worshipped by the right. What he was was a gambler.

Who rolled dice with all our lives by PUSHING the USSR as it entered its time of crisis. A gambit that could JUST AS EASILY resulted in a spasm war as in the toppling of walls. We live in the parallel universe where (partly thanks to Gorbachev) it worked. So I say let the goppers give him all the credit for bluffing a speedup of the end game...

... even though George Marshall and Dean Acheson deserve credit for the strategy and game plan itself. Just remember, there is a parallel universe where Reagan is NOT a hero. One just as likely as this one, where he fried us all and the survivors put his picture at the bottom of every urinal.

Nate said...

I'm pretty sure Bush wants a war with Iran, because that'll take the domestic pressure off his massive failures in Iraq, or at least so he thinks. It would be an unqualified disaster, though. It'd drive most Iranians to the radicals on their side, by proving what they've been saying about "the Great Satan" right. It wouldn't stop or even really slow any nuclear program (whose threat is also overrated, I think), and it'd put our army on the ground in Iraq under attack from Iran AND from the Iraqis who Iran would send weapons to.

But, looming disaster aside, two things. One of history, where "Only Nixon could go to China" because Nixon and his ilk (plenty of whom are still in power) had spent years calling anybody who wanted to talk to China commies and traitors and worse.

The other... Crap. I forget what it was. It must not have been that interesting, then.

reason said...

Carl..
a personal question.

aside... I like some of your ideas a lot by the way. Personally I find the appeal to religion very offputting (not being a fan of religion myself) but I can understand why as a political ploy you might want to do it (but warning it might backfire - the religious think they are all the same but their differences run deep).

How do you personally react to extremists from your own stable like Broken Ladders? In same ways you must be angrier at them than the rest of us (without a committment to the Libertarian label) are.

Carl said...

reason: I used to be as radical as Broken Ladder. I can't get mad at someone for being where I used to be. (I can get mad at the L. Neil Smith's out there who mix that radicalism with incredible amounts of rudeness.)

Was a big fan of Rothbard. Then, I finally grokked the essential unprovability of the various a priori natural rights theories -- realized that moral axioms are essentially aeasthetic axioms, and are thus subject to trade-offs, marginal utility analysis, etc.

This led to my holistic approach to politics, and the recent attempt to get the LP to embrace it a bit. Odds are pretty good it won't. A new party is likely in the future.

David: The Laffer Curve is real. The Republicans abuse the concept, however. The 70% top rate that existed before Reagan was on the right side of the curve. In the 1986 tax reform, the top rate was cut below the maximum of the Laffer Curve. Bill Clinton probably got us closer to the max than anyone.

As for the GI Bill, once upon a time you didn't need a university education for a great many jobs. Then the left destroyed lower education with look-say reading, lack of discipline, over centralization, busing etc.

It is the left that gave us the SUV craze. Before CAFE (corporate average fuel economy standards), people with families bought big cars.

It is the left that made the Great Depression Great. Previous bank panics produced a period of deflation, including lower wages, and then the economy picked back up. The New Deal included many measures that kept unemployment high. It wasn't until the Fed seriously got into inflating the currency via open market actions to finance the war that the market price caught up with the artificial wage rates pushed by the government (as well as inflated away much of the debt burden).

randomsequence: Local equilibrium theory is incredibly useful in physics and economics. Just because it is hard to predict the weather, doesn't mean physics has no predictive power.

Adam Smith's economics predicted the gas lines that resulted from the price controls of the 70s. It predicted the unemployment that results from high minimum wage laws and other artificial wage boosting measures. It predicted the California energy crisis under Gray Davis, and the destruction of passenger rail when the ICC was created.

Smith also predicted the widening wealth gap caused by government deficit spending, BTW.

Blake Stacey said...

OK, who saw this coming?

Teenagers Misbehaving, for All Online to Watch, New York Times 13 February 2007.

Schoolyard scraps, spectacular skateboard spills, puppy-love quarrels, goofy antics like placing a slice of American cheese over the face of a snoring buddy, and bruising stunts like hurling one’s body through a neighbor’s wooden fence — these and other staples of suburban teenage life have taken on a new dimension as online cinéma vérité. Instead of being whispered about among friends and then fading away, such rites of ridiculousness are now routinely captured on video and posted on the Internet for worldwide perusal, and posterity.

“Teens have been doing inappropriate things for a long time, but now they think they can become celebrities by doing it,” said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Schneider Children’s Hospital at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.

“In the past, you’d brag to your friends in the locker room about doing something stupid or crazy or daring,” Dr. Adesman said. “Now the Internet provides additional motivation. But these things can just as easily lead to criminal prosecution as broad celebrity.”

Read the rest and contemplate the cushy job reporters have these days, downloading YouTube videos while propped up in bed. Even money Dr. Andrew Adesman was interviewed via e-mail. . . .

reason said...

Carl...
I agree with some of your points, others I strongly disagree with (gross oversimplifications especially wrt Great Depression).

But it is interesting how people come to doubt their particular ideological position. I would have thought the easier to see problems with extreme Libertarianism were pragmatic (and your website is very pragmatic) not theoretical. Just goes to show.

OdinsEye2k said...

Random Sequence,

Yes! Someone else who understands a part of the farce that microeconomics can be! Someone else who recognizes the scam that Walras played on an entire discipline, and Veblen tried to warn against.

It is very hard to demonstrate that we are anywhere near an equilibrium in many cases, which is the necessary condition to use near-equilibrium approximations. What we have are vague intuitions - people will pick up a large number of cheap things more readily than a small number of expensive things, all factors being equal.

But, it is very difficult from these tendancies to derive optimal policies from first principles. That is why I tend to be rough on those that attempt to push inhumane policy based on the "science" of economics, where consensus is yet to be reached, and there are many "guerilla" movements hatching. Evolutionary, behavioral, developmental, and so on and so forth.

Markets are not optimal creations because they harness some logic of convergence to a natural ideal. They are the social equivalent of genetic algorithms - the tool we use because we are too dumb to utilize a less messy scheme. Markets give us better results than human pre-selection, but only because they kill off many of those that guess wrong.

The reason the social contract is a good thing is to allow people to go into the market machine and watch their ideas die, but be able to live and try again another day. We want to select on ideas, not people.

Small quibble with Carl,

The energy crisis in CA can arguably be seen as due less to natural restriction of supply (especially considering that much of the activity occured during CA *winter,* often a low point in electrical demand) and more of illegal cheating by power companies. I've also hard people suggest that Davis' state of emergency could have been used to force power plants back online.

Carl said...

odinseye2k: In California the left tried to get people to use less electricity without allowing consumer electricity prices to rise.

Result: shortage.

The liberals are trying the same thing where I live.

If you want people to use less electricity, jack up the price. It's that simple.

And I'll give Al Gore a big credit on this one. He has recently called for replacing the Social Security labor taxes with a carbon tax. This would definitely work to reduce carbon emissions, at a rate far faster than required by the Kyoto Protocol. If Gore opts to run again, I'll very likely vote for him, for this alone. (It would take something improbable like Ron Paul winning the Republican nomination to make me change my mind.)

Some more example of Smithian economics at work:

* The government builds high speed toll free highways out of the cities. Result: people move out into the exurbs.

* The government subsidizes rural electricity distribution. Result: death of wind power and other alternative energy for a couple of generations.

* The government subsizes remote mail delivery and now phone and Internet delivery. Result: encroachment into the wilderness, and decay of inner cities. (Many other factors involved for the inner city one.)

Classical economics can be applied to further modern liberal goals, but there are many liberals who resist economics as strongly as the conservatives who resist global warming predictions.

RandomSequence said...

Carl:
Local equilibrium theory is incredibly useful in physics and economics. Just because it is hard to predict the weather, doesn't mean physics has no predictive power.

I agree with the first part. Equilibrium theory is extremely useful in physics, near equilibrium. Physics has great predictive power, when the math is properly used, building up from well-defined, self-consistent systems, such as the family of partitions. You don't have that in economics.

Your example of the gas-lines, all I can say is: well, maybe. Or not. Because in economics you lack the rigor of physics. You can also see this all the time in biology, where half-ass application of physics sometimes guesses right, but for no good reason (a stopped clock, and all that).

The example of weather was specifically chosen as an example of where we know that equilibrium theory fails. That's the beauty of physics, you can actually know what you don't know (I will know channel Rumsfeld). You simply don't know the limits in economics.

I think reason has it right on the money. We need to abandon simply minded adherence to century old philosophers. If the goal is self-sustaining economic systems, that use a minimum of force, then we need to go beyond these ancient "approximations," which aren't even approximations in a physical sense, where you know the degree of approximation.

We need to look at a number of different fields, cybernetics, anthropology, science of religion (as opposed to religion per se), maybe even meteorology for new basis for understanding non-equilibrium systems. We know the market works reasonably well under a small range of conditions; we can argue back and forth all day about the conditions that it fails, what it's metastable states are, how we can build a system that doesn't get trapped in local minima, etc.

If the goal is freedom and prosperity, we have to recognize that we didn't reach the end-point of our tactics back in the 18th century, any more than physical theory should be centered on Newton. At best, there were some reasonable guesses made, which we can almost guarantee were mostly wrong.

michael vassar said...

random sequence:
If you want predictions from economics, look to the tax system. Talk to a smart thoughtful person unaccustomed with economic thinking about what they would do if designing a tax system from scratch. Then use economic tools to take their proposals apart and predict what the outcomes would be with far more precision than was possible with their implicit model.

OdinsEye2k said...

Some more example of Smithian economics at work:

* The government builds high speed toll free highways out of the cities. Result: people move out into the exurbs., etc.


I'll agree with each of these. I guess the part I was talking more about was trying to use marginal returns to find "optima" for things like wages, etc.

Trends we are good at identifying. That is actually one of the foundations of system dynamics - if you sit enough people down for a time, you can often tease out all of the various feedbacks and interactions in a system. It's just that people have biases toward localism and are *really* bad at dealing with feedback and complexity.

On the liberal side, this is often a weakness in not considering the hazards like regulatory capture ... how to get money out of the system is a constant problem for us to figure out.

To go crazy on the metaphor, it's kind of like trying to hold the Borg down with a battle-mech - you've only got so long before they adapt and learn how to control the thing.

David Brin said...

Yeow. It was time to post another entry, but the intellectual level you guys have been displaying makes me loathe to interrupt!

I confess to finding it interesting that some "georgist" libertarians see the flaw in accumulation of elite lordship, and try to solve it by limiting land ownership. Likewise, Carl's unconventional willingness to see incentive/disincentive use of the tax system (though carefully done) shows the kind of pragmatic openmindedness that libertarianism badly needs.

My own radical idea is far less radical and confiscatory than georgism, and yet VERY radical in its immediate potential for upheaval. It is simply this. Declare by worldwide treaty that all people must, within a year, publicly avow what they claim that they own.

Moreover, if a ship or factory or tool is owned by a company, that is owned by a holding company, etc... such chains of ownership can be no more than three layers deep, before arriving at actual human beings.

Yes, just getting everybody to claim what they own will expose a lot of ambiguity and start a million (billion?) lawsuits rolling along. Nations would have to grapple with (and possibly streamline) their adjudication procedures. In some cases, utterly outrageous disparities of hidden wealth would be revealed and subjected to local or national law.

But note. No actual socialization, confiscation or nationalization or redistribution is called for, in this act! All that happens (at first) is that world democracies and markets get information in order to work better.

Of course a lot of property would go unclaimed, a sudden boon to governments and taxpayers...

There. My radical "transparency" idea. In fact, those who scream at it would be hard-pressed to actually justify rejecting it on any reasonable grounds.

Feel free to continue this discussion, either here or underneath the next posting.

RandomSequence said...

reason: I would have thought the easier to see problems with extreme Libertarianism were pragmatic (and your website is very pragmatic) not theoretical. Just goes to show.

That's what I was getting at up-thread. The problem is one of culture, not of empiricism. Theory is terribly important, because it's how we interpret the data. It's very easy for a theory that is wrong in a number of specific ways (particularly not self-consistent) to arrange any arbitrary set of data. And so you can't undermine it with facts, you have to attack the axioms.

In biology, for example, folks have a tendency to stick everything as a sum of exponentials, and think they have an "explanation" or "theory." Of course, with enough exponenentials, any data set can be described. It's even worse: multiple exponential decompositions are not unique, without data errors smaller than most real data sets.

I have the feeling that this is a general problem, which often appears as a cultural disconnect where people are talking past each other.

OdinsEye2k said...

Moreover, if a ship or factory or tool is owned by a company, that is owned by a holding company, etc... such chains of ownership can be no more than three layers deep, before arriving at actual human beings.


That's an interesting idea ... in this scheme, you would have no problem with partial ownership, would you? For example, I would imagine that a factory-line wrench owned by Lockheed-Martin would be x% owned by each shareholder?

Fortune would probably be one of the first places to go for this, since they try to estimate net worth all the time.

Carl said...

Regarding equilibria of wage rates: still classical economics has much to say. Adam Smith had much to say on how to lower the rates of profit while boosting wage rates.

Later, John Maynard Keynes, put forth proposals designed to nullify the equalization mechanisms described by Smith. We live with these nullifications to this day, with the result being widening wealth disparities despite the income tax and a cornucopia of welfare schemes.

Smith noted that wages and profits are part of a trade: employers/capitalists provide capital in return for labor. Supply/demand theory would indicate that whichever of these factors is in short supply would receive the higher price.

Smith observed that as a market economy matured, savings accumulated, which lowered real interest rates, and thereby lowered profits. More capital chasing the same labor pool boosted labor rates.

Fast forward to the 20th century. Keynes claimed that this mechanism was causing depressions, that there was too much savings chasing the same pool of investment opportunities. So Keynes called for a set of price support programs for the rich, with some welfare programs thrown in to make it seem progressive:

* Deficit spending is a subsidy for those who have money to lend.

* Social Security discourages savings by the working class, reducing the total savings pool.

* Government pure research programs create new investment opportunities, helping to support higher capital costs.

* Inflation is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it produces a temporary jubilee for debtors (until the markets discount for inflation). On the other hand, it is a subtle mechanism for lowering real wages (which does reduce unemployment) until unions discount for inflation (which carried out indefinitely leads to Latin American economies).

While I don't believe it was part of the Keynesian program, the creation of the SEC was part of the New Deal. Yes, the SEC has damped down some of the criminal activities that were going on on Wall St. during the 20s. It also made the cost of capital MUCH higher for start up businesses.

If you really want to take big business down a notch, create a viable penny stock market that allows new businesses to be floated withtout requiring angel investors, venture capitalists and investment banks.

Savings accumulation cannot do its full magic if the capital markets are restricted to the rich.

Michael said...

Glad to see you here Carl. I've been promoting your site and approach for a while, and your take on Keynes is exactly what mine has always been (though note that mercantilist "capitalists" had been promoting many of Keynes's policies for years, and had invented the indignation at falling rates of return that he formalized and justified).

Likewise David's proposal probably needs to be worked out in a bit more detail not to be horribly destructive (ditto Georgist proposals, but the amount of work required is probably 1% as much) but with the right details added seems likely to be incredibly productive and beneficial. I really think this is one of the best places on the web for good new ideas.

Great job all!

reason said...

Carl,
I'm also fond of your website, as it is an approach that will attract a lot of moderates.
But please (apart from toning down the colours!) finish the bits that are not finished (they are bits I'm really interested in) and give a chance for feedback (or just set up some blog pages). Surely you want some criticism - CITOAKE and all that?

Doug S. said...

Random comment:

One of the problems with economics as a science is that it is very difficult to perform experiments. After all, you can't just go fool around with a country's monetary policy just to see what happens. On the other hand, technology seems to be offering a solution to this problem. It seems that MMORPGs would be a great laboratory to perform economics experiments; the programmers can create whatever kinds of conditions they want, and then turn the players loose! It seems like a gold mine of opportunity - I wonder if some graduate student somewhere happens to be working on a dissertation on the economy of World of Warcraft?

Hawker said...

Doug S.

Revealing my geekiness, I play World of Warcraft (WoW). And I've seen some 'robber baron' type activity.

Take wool. Fairly easy to acquire, needed by certain characters, useful to all, good resale. A character with enough resources can 'corner the wool market' at the auction house by selling wool for a set (artificially high) price while buying any wool that shows up at a lower price. It's amusing to watch. And easy to avoid, since any given auction can only last 24 hours, and nobody can stay online ALL the time...

RandomSequence said...

Doug S:

Simulated worlds are a great ideas for experiments. Is anyone funding that?

But the basic problem is still that the math is nasty. Nobody has yet found general solutions to these problems. First guy to do it get to be Newton 2, and revolutionize almost every field, from biology to economics, and ultimately politics (usually have to wait 100-200 years for that trickle down, though).

In the meantime, we may get a few specific solutions, and a whole bunch of rules-of-thumbs, that are useful (biology lives on it), but won't give you a theoretical structure to engineer.

Carl said...

Reason: adding a comment area would be a good idea. One of these days...

And I do have a couple more articles in the queue -- religion oriented, so you might not be interested. (Sidenote: the religion articles are the hardest ones to write. Once I am done with them, the remaining articles should come more rapidly.)

As for a blog, I write a biweekly column for a local paper. These articles then get reprinted at freeliberal.com.

cronodas said...

Just thought I'd add a little levity to the discussion here.

I Blog Alone

- Doug S., using his Google account

Ed said...

I love Colbert. His performance at the correspondant's dinner last year showed how powerful smart comedy could be.

toduro said...

Off topic, but I thought that the comic might amuse many of the readers here:

http://xkcd.com/c224.html

Hank Roberts said...

Betting on climate change: there are climatologists waiting and willing to take bets.
http://www.google.com/search?q=stoat+bet+climate