Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Can Libertarian Conservatism Find Its Way?

A fascinating article in Foreign Policy lays out how Ronald Reagan was actually far less of a war-lover or battle-hawk than any of the modern crazies who deify him, screaming his name to justify extreme nonsense.  In fact, both Bushes - father and son - were among the most war-eager presidents in US history, if you add up the number of times they leaped to hurl American troops in harm’s way, sometimes concocting reasons out of thin air.  By comparison, Reagan frequently expressed a deep reluctance to “start counting bodies.”   

This relates to something I have been saying for a long time - that the conservative movement badly needs a counter reformation, an insurrection by reasonable grownups who are brave enough to push back against the forces of bilious unreason and Culture War that have taken over an entire wing of the “left-right spectrum.”  Is there any hope that this might happen?

In the past I have praised John Mauldin as a conservative who “gets” the core fact that markets, enterprise and capitalism were among the top victims of the mad neocon era. Indeed, these bulwarks of the American cornucopia are not the cause of our problems; they have been betrayed and crippled by the same enemies that spoiled markets and freedom in 95% of human societies, across 4,000 years of recorded history.

Now I want to offer you some words from another true-blooded capitalist who sees this basic truth.  In his April 2008 essay, Michael Lewitt began with a quote from Adam Smith that should be etched into the brains of every Wall Street CEO and included in the oath of office of every new member of Congress. Moreover, they should propell every liberal to go out, read Adam Smith, and embrace him as one of their own.

the-theory-of-moral-sentimentsLewitt quotes Smith, who is best known as the author of The Wealth of Nations, but who wrote an equally important book two decades earlier entitled The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Smith wrote the following:

"This disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect, persons of poor and mean condition, though necessary both to establish and to maintain the distinction of ranks and the order of society, is, at the same time, the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments."

In Lewitt’s words: What Adam Smith pointed out more than two hundred years ago is equally true today – our society, fed by the media, worships wealth at the expense of other values that are far more important to a cohesive and healthy society. The entire mission of The Wealth of Nations was to try to recognize man for what he is – a social animal who is reliant on the good opinions of his neighbors – and to develop the optimal economic system to harness that human essence for the good of all mankind. Smith believed that system was a free market, and history has by and large proven him correct. But th e United States has strayed from a free market model to a system that privatizes gains and socializes losses.

Later in his recent posting (which alas is from a newsletter I cannot share in whole), Lewitt goes on: Much of the crisis could have been avoided had policymakers and investors operated under r ealistic assumptions about how markets and economies work. Several years ago, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan described the failure of interest rates to react in the manner he expected as a "conundrum." We now know that Mr. Greenspan was operating under a false set of assumptions about human nature, as well as a misguided understanding about how market participants behave. As noted in my book, had Mr. Greenspan been an acolyte of Hyman Minsky instead of Ayn Rand, he would have been less susceptible to such a fatal conceit. But beyond that, the real conundrum in modern markets is the continued reliance of investors and policymakers on two false mantras. The first is that markets are efficient; and the second is that investors are rational.

I would put it another way.  The libertarian wing of conservatism ought to be the portion that non-leftist liberals and pragmatic moderates could negotiate-with.  All three groups appear to be motivated by a shared set of general goals.  A dream of maximized individual opportunity and freedom.  An aversion to bossy accumulations of undue power. A belief that unleashed human creativity can solve a vast array of problems and that tomorrow could be better, as a result.  These commonalities ought to make for lively, good-natured debate over the details, e.g. whether to use the state or laissez-faire or a tuned-markets to solve this or that problem.

Why then, are most libertarians instead the most intransigent and obnoxious of fuming dogmatists, contemptuous of practicality or compromise, endlessly reciting nonsensical pseudo-religious catechisms from a dunce-prophetess and railing at the stupidity of their fellow citizens for having committed the unforgivable original sin known as Franklin Delano Roosevelt?

Cajoled by paid shills from the Cato, Heritage and American Enterprise “institutes,” most libertarians and libertarian minded conservatives have been duped into calling government an inherently satanic foe of Manichean dimensions. Indeed, they see civil servants as the only force out there that’s inimical to liberty, something that Adam Smith (mindful of 4,000 years of history) would have found laughable. While worshipping at an altar of private property (coaxed coincidentally by propaganda paid for by billionaires), libertarians thus turn their gaze away from the two desiderata that ought to be the movement’s core focus.

Freedom and fair competition.

These are basic underpinnings of true markets, democracy, science and justice -- and history shows that government can foster them as readily as hinder them.  Just as private wealth can undermine them, and has done so, in nearly all human societies. Only through dynamic confrontation can the private and public realms prevent each others’ worst excesses.  But that fact is too complex ever to be admitted by purists.

Freedom and fair competition.   If these twin pillars again became the main goals of the brighter-right, there would be a shift of tectonic proportions. Libertarians and libertarian-minded conservatives would sever all links to both populist know-nothings and plutocrats.  They would rescue what remains worth-saving, from their hijacked and shattered movement, and thereupon rejoin us at the negotiating table, helping a coalition of civilizaed adults in search of new, agile and creative ways to save civilization.

---------    addendum ------

neoconAnyone care to study this book and report back to us?  Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea, by Bradley Thompson, (from the Amazon review) explicates the deepest philosophic principles of neoconservatism, traces the intellectual relationship between the political philosopher Leo Strauss and contemporary neoconservative political actors, and provides a trenchant critique of neoconservatism from the perspective of America's founding principles... Thompson actually lived for many years in the Straussian/neoconservative intellectual world. Neoconservatism therefore fits into the "breaking ranks" tradition of scholarly criticism.

I am told the book is an analysis and critique of neoconservatism from a limited-government perspective.

--------  and a poetical interlude ------

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
 The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.


      - William Butler Yeats

I promise to be cheerier next time.

------- PS ---------

I go into much more details about libertarianism, its assumptions and the mistakes that have veered a promising movement off-track. (Note, the Libertarian Party once invited me as a main speaker at one of its conventions.  I think the fellows who invited me were fired!  Alas, so much for open thought.)

See  "looking past political totems" and... "maps of tomorrow"... and...the text of that infamous speech I gave, after which half the audience gave a standing ovation, while defending me as the other half attempted a lynching!

141 comments:

Tim H. said...

Half cheering, half hunting for rope, you must have found center.

Tony Fisk said...

A couple of counters to that Yeats fellow, from JAXA:

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Hayabusa has just performed what will be his last mid-course correction before his encounter with the Nullarbor plain on Sunday. A rather sad end, after what he's been through!

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;

Meanwhile, Ikaros has spun up and is deploying his solar sails according to plan.

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.


That's a pretty good summation of the last 6-7 months on the political field. In Australia, Abbott (on record as stating that climate change is a load of crap) has seized the reins of the 'liberal' leadership and killed the government Emissions Trading Scheme. Rudd subsequently cans the issue himself and his government has come under increasing criticism for poorly managed schemes, back-flips (from 'loss of conviction') and imposing 'great, big taxes'. With an election in November, his popularity has plummetted. The funny thing is, it's the greens rather than the liberals who've picked up the points. Some conviction remains, it would appear.

But then, the liberals no longer are 'liberal': as Malcolm Fraser noted as he finally turned his back on them.

David Brin said...

Wow! Great links Tony!

Tony Fisk said...

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;


...in replica handbags!!!

John's Secret Identity™ said...

The speech link gives a 404 error.

Pat Mathews said...

Spam alert! raoliming2, pushing knockoffs in your comments column.

Marino said...

"Why then, are most libertarians instead the most intransigent and obnoxious of fuming dogmatists, contemptuous of practicality or compromise, endlessly reciting nonsensical pseudo-religious catechisms from a dunce-prophetess "

Dr. Brin, don't tell me.
I found one of them (the disease is spreading, warn Atlanta's CDC...) on a blog run by a regional representative of the Democratic Party (the Italian one).
Well, the guy dared to write that paying a subsidy to Down children was an infringement on his liberty, as no one could be forced to make charity against his will.
Aktion T4 (the Nazi mandatory euthanasia program for disabled) by market forces?
And, of course, taxes are a form of Communist slavery, the article of our constitution stating that "enterprise is free but within the limits of human dignity" sounds as written by Lenin, and so on.

Mitchell J. Freedman said...

I'd love to be part of this coalition, but I don't know its particular public policies. I don't mean anything here other than basics:

Would this coalition have any place for someone who seeks Medicare for All?

Would this coalition have any place for someone who wants labor law reform (card check)?

Would this coalition have any place for someone who wants to see significant monies spent to revamp and improve the physical infrastructure of our nation as with a new WPA/PWA/CCC?

Would this coalition have any place for someone who sees the extremely poor distribution of wealth in this nation and thinks it is okay to have at least a discussion of public policies designed to directly ameliorate that extremely poor distribution?

I ask because, while I agree with civil liberties protections and I agree with transparency in government, and also agree that worship of money and wealth is a major cultural issue in America today, I also believe that if we are not seeking specific public policies that deal with the economic challenges faced by most people in this nation, we might as well sit in a cafe and sip coffee for a wonderful, but ineffectual philosophical discussion. In other words, it is not a movement.

Robert said...

And in a blow for partisanship politics and gerrymandering, Proposition 14 has passed in California. For people not in the know, Prop 14 would have an open Primary, and allow people to vote for whoever they want. The top two vote-getters would go on to the General Election, no matter what their political party affiliation. The hope is that this will encourage more moderates in the government rather than the radicalization that has occurred due to partisan primaries.

Naturally, both primary political parties are opposing the measure. In addition, the minor political parties are also opposing it, joining forces with their larger brethren. Their claim is that they would be forced off of ballots and that it would be unfair.

Myself? I'm kind of wishing we'd do this on a national level. You'd see a fairly quick death of partisan politics. Naturally, Republican and Democrats would be opposed to this sort of endeavor, even if it were put on a national referendum or the like.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin's main post:

The libertarian wing of conservatism ought to be the portion that non-leftist liberals and pragmatic moderates could negotiate-with. All three groups appear to be motivated by a shared set of general goals. A dream of maximized individual opportunity and freedom. An aversion to bossy accumulations of undue power. A belief that unleashed human creativity can solve a vast array of problems and that tomorrow could be better, as a result.


The older I get, the more convinced I am that the biggest threat to the Enlightenment is from within, and it comes from a subest of the rich and powerful who expressly (though clandestinely) OPPOSE the goals of a better future through problem-solving.

You (Dr Brin) have discussed previously how genetics and reproductive politics bring this situation about, but that doesn't negate my thesis. It merely explains it. That thesis being: A not-insignificant portion of humanity is not like "us" (Enlightenment believers) in thinking that improvement of the standard of living of humanity is a desirable goal. What they strive for is to protect their own RELATIVE standard of living above others. They will defend this RELATIVE position to the death with all their formidable resources, and care not a whit that we'd all (themsevlves included) be better off the other way.

Robert said...

You know, I just realized that the Harry Potter novels have institutionalized racism as part and parcel of its schooling. Think of it: there are four classes, each dedicated to one principle: bravery, knowledge, dedication, and ambition. As a result of this, each group grows disdainful of the other groups. Even Gryffindor, which is portrayed as a fairly liberal school, shows disdain toward both Slytherin and Hufflepuff, and looks down on Ravenclaw to some level (and the same can be said of the other groups in return).

This is on top of the "blood purity" racism that was rather blatantly flaunted in the series as it progressed. Though fortunately at the end of the series, three of the four groups united to work together. (It's a shame that Slytherin didn't as well; it would have been a rather uplifting scene to see even the "hated" children perceived of being part of the current hostile regime to rise up and join forces with their classmates (even if only in part) against a greater foe.

Possibly one of the greatest enemies of prejudice (especially state-instituted prejudice) is education. This is undoubtedly part of the reason behind Culture War's targeting of education and of school texts. In this, I see the rise of e-books to be a blow against the Culture War; currently, publishers will include such things as "Creationism" and the like in texts in equal light as Evolution because of fears of alienating customers in the Bible Belt and similar regions.

But if e-books and e-texts become the next big thing... then it would be simplicity itself to have several versions of a text, including one that includes nonstandard education beliefs for the Culture War groups... and more accurate versions for those of us who don't want these things taught to our children.

Though the best thing about e-books in classrooms is that one e-book could be used for dozens of texts. You'd not have massive bookbags full of texts weighing kids down. Instead, one e-book would have everything needed (with color printouts for anything that the e-book can't handle).

Rob H.

dmon said...

Way way OT, but this seems like exactly the forum to mention this. @Dr Brin, there is an interesting twitter trend, #corral, aimed at a collaborative design for an oil-spill solution. @Shoq, tweeter behind it, is seeking more big minds to get involved and I thought of this crowd first. The effort strikes me as fitting well with your age of amateurs framework.

OK now I'm going to go back to lurk mode and read your post.

David Brin said...

Tor.com has just posted a free preview of a novel that they think very highly of. I haven't read it yet, but some of you should go have a look and report back!

NoMoreNicksLeft said...

Cajoled by paid shills from the Cato, Heritage and American Enterprise “institutes,” most libertarians and libertarian minded conservatives have been duped into calling government an inherently satanic foe of Manichean dimensions. Indeed, they see civil servants as the only force out there that’s inimical to liberty, something that Adam Smith (mindful of 4,000 years of history) would have found laughable. While worshipping at an altar of private property (coaxed coincidentally by propaganda paid for by billionaires), libertarians thus turn their gaze away from the two desiderata that ought to be the movement’s core focus.

Hardly. There are those who would seek to steal my possessions, liberty, even my life who have nothing to do with the government. But I'm on more or less even footing with them... they're nothing special just as I am. I can tolerate this?

And let's look at the bogey men that the left always uses here: corporations. I know of no corporation that was born hatched from an egg or born from a womb. Sure, people team up and cooperate sometimes, even for nefarious purpose... but only with the help of government can they call it a corporation.

The government has no legitimate power to create artificial legal persons who are immortal and hold a high status. It has no legitimate power to continue to recognize them in its offices and courts.

You've helped to create the very entities you are so "scared" of. And now you offer to put leashes on them and domesticate them. Even if you could, which is a very big if, why should I trust you to have a pet Godzilla monster at your beck and call?

I know it's a scary proposition... a nation without corporations, why, who would make all our cheap plastic Walmart trinkets?!?!

Do not fault the libertarians.

Carl M. said...

Government is not the ultimate evil. It is, however, a moral compromise even at its best. Taxation is theft -- with compensation.

Imagine if the cable company could provide high speed internet to everyone half price if they were able to force all residents to participate. They could ditch the marketing department and various gatekeeping hardware and focus on providing the service. The result would be great for those who want high speed Internet service, and not bad for those sitting on the fence. It is blatant robbery for those with no use of same.

This, in a nutshell, is government at its best. At its worst, it grows corrupt and/or bloated and forces people to buy services inferior to what the market could provide.

Anyway, here is my take on what would happen if libertarians focused on the positive. Enjoy.

David Brin said...

I sure as hell will fault the libertarians, for being useless ninnies and totally ineffectual at politics!

Any bunch who proclaims that all citizens are free and sovereign and should be empowered to decide... and who then turn and spew contempt at those same citizens for repeatedly voting for the current mixed-economy state... such people are bizarre fellows, unable to even notice their own contradictions!

The LP's failure to rise above 1%, even in 2008, when the GOP was exposed as a nest of vipers? You don't see that as reason to diss the whole movement?

The people are rejecting you! And with good reason, because Ayn Rand was a monster and the movement is dominated by her followers... instead of the moderate, pragmatic, genial libertarians like Barry Goldwater, who used to speak for the movement.

Also, you are opposing a strawman. Corporations-as-people is a very iffy concept and corporate misdeeds are rife. But the real conspiratorial center is not corporations, it is the same social grouping that destroyed freedom in every other society.

Till guys like you actually look at history and recognize the enemy... the enemy Adam Smith despised as the perpetual ruiner of markets and freedom across 4000 years, you guys will be hopeless.

(PS... randomly choose a decade and a continent, across 4,000 years. Who were the oppressors? CHose another time and place. Another! Keep rolling dice and doing wiki lookups. DO it 100 times randomly. Find me the decade when civil servants were the oppressors!)

Stuart said...

Larry Hart said:
That thesis being: A not-insignificant portion of humanity is not like "us" (Enlightenment believers) in thinking that improvement of the standard of living of humanity is a desirable goal. What they strive for is to protect their own RELATIVE standard of living above others. They will defend this RELATIVE position to the death with all their formidable resources, and care not a whit that we'd all (themsevlves included) be better off the other way.

This reminds me of a short story by Roger Williams. It takes place in a world controlled by a benevolent AI with godlike powers to grant every human's material wish for eternity. In this world, with no money, need, or want, someone sets up a casino. In order to enter the casino, which has incredible cachet, you must agree to abide by its rules, else be kicked out forever. The rules are set up to debase the participants, providing a differential for some people to win at the expense of others.

A Casino Odyssey in Cyberspace

ppnl said...

The link to the infamous speech did not work for me. Anyone have a link?

David Brin said...

Which speech?

My Libertarian speech is at:
http://www.davidbrin.com/libertarian1.htm

with special emphasis on part 3
http://www.davidbrin.com/libertarian3.htm

DAGGATT ALERT!

Russ chimes in with this:

There was a minor scandal (which should have been a major scandal) a little while back when it was revealed that the big banks like Goldman paid the exchanges to get order information some number of milliseconds prior to execution. It essentially allows the computerized program-trading of the banks to "front-run" their clients. (The relevant fact wasn't so much that their computers were closer but that they actually got an advance peek at the order info.) I don't see why that isn't criminal behavior. But if it isn't, it sure should be.

I strongly believe that one of the best things we could do for our financial system would be to impose a small (e.g., 1/4 of a percent) tax on trades. It would have essentially no impact on the average buy-and-hold investor but it would render the vast majority of the high-speed, high-volume stuff uneconomic. And that is the hot money that fuels volatility in the markets. It is also the source of about 3/4 of the earnings of banks like Goldman. It adds no value to society and is essentially theft (or, if you prefer, a very large tax on the real economy). It is also estimated that it would raise at least $100 billion/year to help reduce our deficit (I had a conversation about this with my friend (Senator) Maria Cantwell recently.)

The two other things we should do is outlaw proprietary trading by banks (the "Volcker Rule") or reinstate Glass-Steagall (as Maria has proposed). And we should have an absolute cap on the size of banks. Academic work shows no efficiencies above about $100 billion in assets, but go ahead and take the cap up to $500 billion. The only way to end too-big-to-fail is to prevent banks from getting too big. The big banks have an unfair advantage in their cost of capital because the markets assume an implicit federal guarantee above a certain size - which just makes them even bigger and more deadly. You can do something similar by having a tax on bank assets that kicks in around $100 billion and becomes steeper as asset size increases (until it becomes essentially prohibitive).

Tacitus2 said...

I am mulling a longer post, but the assertion that there has not been a time when civil servants were oppressors caught my eye.

Setting aside for the moment any linkage with 2010 USA.

For much of history, and even today, over much of the planet, you can't get civil servants to just do their jobs. There must be some degree of "baksheesh". The Roman empire had notoriously corrupt tax collectors. The medievil Church (the defacto government often) sold indulgences. In how many times and places is/was it necessary to hand over chickens, vodka or sex to get the necessary paperwork in order? Clear down to Rod Blagoyavich, there is no shortage of examples of corruption among those who hold local power.

I think it is far more pervasive than secret cabals at the top.

I do not view government as evil. But I think we are undergoing a period of re thinking the relationship of citizen to government.

You can find a few loons who want to live in a cabin somewhere, but mainstream conservative thought acknowleges that it takes a govenment to do some things (national defense, police and fire services, ets). And those things should be done as well and as efficiently as possible.

Some other things, government may not do so well. Subsidizing the arts was a topic here a while back, to give a good example.

Tacitus2

Via-Media said...

Re: the Maps for Tomorrow: PoliticalCompass.org has developed a two-axis model for better framing where individuals fall in their socio-political thought.

The horizontal axis measures the economic position on a scale from "left"- a controlled economy- to the "right"- pure laissez-faire, hands-off economy.

The vertical compass measures political control, from the "top"- authoritarianism- to "bottom"- traditional libertarianism.

Interestingly, Hitler and Stalin are placed almost exactly in the same place as on the Maps for Tomorrow graph.

The PoliticalCompass website also has an extensive questionnaire to allow each user to plot their own place on the graph. Not 3-dimensional, but comparable to Dr. Brin's model w. a lot of supporting tools...

rewinn said...

Cheery news: my hometown (and the 747’s) found a way to raise its high school graduation rate that doesn't involve big big money, jingoistic attacks on laxity, or cutting academic standards; they just applied basic management skills to the project of earning a high school education:

1. Close tracking of each’s student progress toward the goal.

2. If you’re not on track (flunking a course or missing too many classes) a staffer finds you by any means necessary, (e.g. tracking down truants via Facebook) and works out a plan to get back on track (pretty much the same way my gym gets me to re-up every year...)

3. If a lot of people fail a particular course, take a look at it. (“One of the classes that 30 percent of students failed was a former graduation requirement called Infotech, a technology-skills class. The problem was that many students knew the material before they started. "They were just so bored silly by the class that they weren't coming”)

4. If you don’t graduate in your fourth year, you’re automatically signed up for the next year.

5. There's more ideas like that but ... did I mention they didn't cut standards? In fact, they added a third year of math to the graduation requirements!

True, the world sucks. But sometimes being smart works!

rewinn said...

Of course, I'm not a product of that system, so it can't be blamed for my failure to check links before publishing.

Try "Once shamefully low, Everett's graduation rate soars"

NoMoreNicksLeft said...

Any bunch who proclaims that all citizens are free and sovereign and should be empowered to decide... and who then turn and spew contempt at those same citizens for repeatedly voting for the current mixed-economy state... such people are bizarre fellows, unable to even notice their own contradictions!

Screw you, you lousy hack. I have no contempt for people who vote for this or that, this is their right. They can live however it is that they want to live... I have and deserve no hold over them.

But how you think it is that they deserve the right for me to decide how to live... I'm just, *there are no words*.

I suppose I shouldn't be shocked, to read your worthless fiction you're always fantasizing about humanity becoming some collective organism. In this goal of yours, I wish you the best success... but I don't want to belong to your people-hive. This doesn't mean you can't become the hive-people that you've always wanted to be, just realize that if you fail to leave a place for individuals to exist, I promise to become the people-hive's cancer. I swear this. And I doubt you'll have any gravity-laser doodads and benevolent earth goddesses to chemo me away.

I sure as hell will fault the libertarians, for being useless ninnies and totally ineffectual at politics!

You're faulting us for being bad liars and propagandists? For schmoozing and cheating?

The LP's failure to rise above 1%, even in 2008, when the GOP was exposed as a nest of vipers? You don't see that as reason to diss the whole movement?

Yes, we should magically overcome 100 years of ballot access laws, when big media is solidly behind the UniParty.

Christ, you're not this simple David. You've shown *some* cleverness from time to time. Even if the "two" parties were distinct at some point in the past, they have more to gain by collusion than they have to lose. It's a power-sharing arrangement. As long as two parties can make sure there is never a viable third, the absolute worst they ever have to worry about is 2nd place. Which gets you 40% of Congress and governorships, with a promise of 1st place in the next 2 decades.

If a third party ever gets so much as a foothold, this arrangement is gone, and you risk your party being 5th place, or 9th place, or more likely... not placing at all. Better to allow the other party to win than to give any space to a third party. And they don't even have to conspire... without consciously realizing this, the members of both parties act in ways that are perfectly compatible with this theory. They probably couldn't even understand it if you explained it to them.

There will never be a third party success short of a bloody revolution.

If you want to blame us for this, sorry... this is on everyone else who allows it to happen.

And with good reason, because Ayn Rand was a monster

Ayn Rand was a kook who hated libertarians and made no secret of the fact. You're only about 9 events away from winning the Fallacy Dodecathalon, David.

You can blame us for having some things in common with her, I suppose, but why not toss in "both Ayn Rand and libertarians breath air!" just to make the list longer.

Corporations-as-people is a very iffy concept and corporate misdeeds are rife. But the real conspiratorial center is not corporations, it is the same social grouping that destroyed freedom in every other society.

Moot. Even if you're right (and you're wrong), why let them have the big guns that are corporations? Why let them hide behind 20 different ownership schemes and shell companies? It's a practical approach that would let us know the real names of your fantasy villains.

David Brin said...

Tacitus, please. I get your point that the petty corruption of petty local mandarin bureaucrats was probably a pervasive irritation in most urban societies. But most people lived on the land, where high and low justice was dispensed by someone a bit more aristocratic, the local lord. WHich was preferable? I'll take the guy who took a civil service exam.

===

Oh, here's afollowup riff on Ayn Rand:

Rand was totally consistent in just one thing. All of her philosophies and novels revolved around what we in sci fi call the "slan" effect... catering to the wish fantasy of the reader to be an undiscovered, latent homo-superior, with talents that need only the right conditions to flame alight and amaze the world.

Orson Scott Card masterfully utilizes this "ubermensch" imagery in every story, and his fans lap it up. Among libertarians, the conceit is that "government" is the original sin that satanically prevents the typical LP member - a classic Mensan under-achiever - from bursting forth and replicating John Galt's behemoth stride.

It is THE classic theme of romanticism, which had allied itself with the enlightenment at first, so long as entrenched kings were all-powerful oppressors. But as soon as democracy actually happened, and romantics saw that it consisted of bakers and blacksmiths arguing endlessly with merchants and farmers, the romantics decided that exceptionalism, nostalgia and contempt for the masses was the real deal.

The stunning (and tedious) persistence of the same characters runs through Rand's work.

* the rich, cynical SOB who plots to stir up populist rabble to keep down competition from the rising demigod

* the rich, cynical brilliant fellow who needs to be awakened by the demigod into joining his struggle to create the New Gods

* the New God himself, who deserves to ravish and take any woman he wants

* the swooning woman who yearns to be ravished by a New God,

The last part is Rand at the core. It is called Hypergamy... the need of some women to settle for nothing less than the very topmost alpha. Absolutely everything Rand did or wrote revolved around it. Nothing else is needed to explain all her convoluted rationalizations.

Sure, she despised decadent establishment types who might stir rabble to block the path of the New Gods. But she aimed only to replace the old aristocracy with a new one.

Note also, she never follows the logic of reproduction. There are almost no children, no generations, no families. The bio-logic of aristocracy demands that the New Gods conspire to make their sons gods, too, and to (here's the hypocrisy) squelch all possible upstarts who might compete with junior! It happened everywhere and it is the core cancer at the heart of Randism.

The grandchildren of John Galt will be just like the entrenched aristocrats she hated. She never follows the logic, because it repels her. But it is there. The real enemy of freedom.

The hero, in fact, is no individual demigod... though creative people deserve honor and rewards! The hero is our shared invention, a PROCESS of competitive-but-fair creativity. A process that Rand understood far less well than even Karl Marx, who, though a dingbat, at least tried.

David Brin said...

Gawd I just read the first paragraph of that twerp. Did he really think anyone would read past such an awful lead-in?

Irrespective of his other dismal traits, you'd think a guy would allocate his own time better. Or at least act interesting enough to sucker in readers.

rewinn said...

Actually, in Washington State we have at least a theoretical possibility of viable 3rd-party candidates (or, more likely, coalition candidates) with the advent of the Top-Two Primary.

Basically, anyone can be in the primary (subject to a fee and maybe a signature requirement) and anyvote can vote for any candidate. The Top 2 vote-getters in the primary advance to the general. Parties are still free to endorse anyone they want. In the general, any party can endorse any candidate. It's perfectly free association and maximum effective voter choice.

If a minor party were clever enough to nominate a genuinely popular person, they'd have a fair shot at knocking off one of the major parties in the primary (See: Schwartzeneggar). Then the major party that lost would have to decide which candidate to endorse, or be irrelevant. No wonder they hated it!

The major parties disliked losing their bi-opoly on a realistic chance in the general, and the minor parties wanted to remain quioxitic, pure and ineffectual ... or perhaps spoilers. Now the minors have to be grown-ups and decide if they want to stop complaining about the unfairness of it all, and try to actually win a primary, where they'd have a chance because there are so many candidates running ... I am not fond of the Tea Party but they've spent the last few weeks showing that major party candidates can be defeated in the primary.

So let the Libertarians and the Greens and the CPUSA and the Oath Keepers step up to the plate: win a primary like the Tea Party did and see what happens.

Robert said...

Tacticus, your argument is flawed by one fundamental element: industry is as flawed (if not moreso) as government in terms of corruption and ineptitude. One telling story I recall is the chap who does Dilbert stating that no matter how bad he makes the pointy-haired boss and the situations they get in, someone inevitably writes in and states "yeah. My Boss is just like that" or "wow, you managed to describe my company to a T!"

If anything, private industry is more corrupt than government because private industry is larger than government. Thus there are more people in which to be corrupt and more situations where corruption can occur. Part of this corruption lies with the connections that management needs to build with other managers in order to even become management. How many managers are promoted from the rank-and-file these days after showing competence and ability? (Though this is understandable seeing that just because someone is a good worker doesn't mean they'd be a good manager.)

Thus business majors build connections in college and at the country club and the like and get jobs in various companies and have a foot in the door of the Old Boy Network (which is not to say there are not corrupt women in there - the OBN is just a term these days and contains far more than just old white dudes nowadays). And if the manager is inept or an idiot? His/her connections help the manager stay in power... or get promoted or sideways promoted. They don't get fired. Not unless they piss off someone above them enough that their contacts won't save them.

Mind you, this can be true for government positions as well. But due to the growing transparency in government and the ability of media and private individuals to find and report graft and corruption in government, it is growing far more difficult to be genuinely corrupt in government... and the inept rarely go anywhere.

Pretty much the largest area of corruption and graft in the government is in the Legislature branch; the people we elect have such a need for money to get elected that they are beholden on various industries to get elected. But so far as corruption goes, this is fairly minor compared to pyramid schemes and the like that prey on so many people in the private sector these days.

So keep your eye on government. Report when you find graft and corruption. But know this: private industry has far more potential and possibility for corruption and ineptitude than government due to its obfuscatory nature and sheer size.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Rewinn, that's the system California just voted-in Tuesday. Some coincidence!

I cannot understand why the 3rd parties fought it. Were they getting anywhere the old way? Yep, quixotic and ineffectual, you called it.

Robert, Making "government run more like a business" has long been a refrain on the right. I always took it to mean "more like the lean mean GOOD side of business." Your posting made me realize... the neocons meant something else entirely.

Tony Fisk said...

Fair point that regulatory authorities originate with governments, not companies.

The thought of lese majeste being emulated by the greater and lesser spotted poo-bahs puts a new spin on the term 'supply-side economics'! (is *that* how it's meant to work!?)

Ikaros has successfully deployed his sails and is even generating power. Plus, there's cake!

Anonymous said...

re: proposition 14 in California... but it is just a US adation of the French two-turns runoff voting. OK, in France it's a real election, not a primary, but it will work the same way on the long run.
In France it in fact made bipartitism stronger, as the smaller right or left party had to ally with the larger one on the second vote (and liberal conservatives ended up merging with the neo-Gaullists while the Communists lost most of their vote to the Socialists). OTOH, it made both parties less hidebound and more inclusive, and it seems a bit effective in winnowing party leaders reducing the incumbent's rent.

Ilithi Dragon said...

@Mr. Anger Face:

Ooo, the last time I've seen vitriol that bitter, I was in a Star Trek vs Star Wars debate with peripheral members of a militant VS community that promotes ad hominem, harassment, etc. as a primary tactic and 'first choice' weapon... Yeah, you just won a bunch of hearts and minds here. Come back and try again when you can talk without sounding like a toddler's temper tantrum.


@Rewinn: I didn't know Washington had enacted a Top-Two system! Damn, now I'm seriously half-tempted to move to the west coast... I laughed with glee when I first heard of Prop 14 passing in California.

@Rob: That is EXACTLY the point I have been trying to get across to so many of my relatives and other people I work with or interact with. Sure, government can be corrupted, but private business is no less prone to corruption, and in fact far more prone to it for all the reasons you mentioned, and also because the whole thing revolves around money.


I have always head-desked whenever I've heard the phrase "make government run more like business" because the way so many businesses are run is just plain crap.

Tacitus2 said...

Robert
You can't call my brief note an argument. I was simply pointing out that over the four thousand year time frame that Dr. Brin challenged another poster with, that there have been many times when local officialdom has been voracious. (in his riposte, David cheats a little and expresses a preference for officials who have passed a civil service exam, which applies to about 2% of that time span).

It certainly is getting harder for government to cheat. All hail the blogosphere and even those media outlets we personally find annoying!

But it is still depressingly difficult to rid ourselves of civil servants who do not deserve their sinecures. One issue that will be much to the fore in the years ahead will be the outsized influence of governmental employee unions.

Although even there, their candidate took it on the chin in
Arkansas this week....

Tacitus2
unwisely posting before morning coffee

Tony Fisk said...

In other news (or is it?):

It's been a while coming, but
SCO vs Novell: judge finds in favour of Novell

All you Linux are not belong to us

LarryHart said...

NoMoreNickelsLeft said"

And let's look at the bogey men that the left always uses here: corporations...

The government has no legitimate power to create artificial legal persons who are immortal and hold a high status. It has no legitimate power to continue to recognize them in its offices and courts.

You've helped to create the very entities you are so "scared" of...

Do not fault the libertarians.


That's an interesting position for a libertarian to take--closer to my own position than typical. I'm not arguing with (most of) your sentiment here, but understand that you're departing from the current public face of libertarianism. For instance, are you distancing yourself from Rand Paul, who accuses the Obama administration of stomping its jackboot on the "upturned throat of BP"? Libertarians generally support corporate power, I believe out of the mistaken notion that being pro-corporate is the same as being pro-business and therefore pro-"free enterprise". Corporations have as much (sometimes more) money and power with which to game the system and cheat, but because they are "private" rather than "public", you guys generally give them a pass.

The part I disagree with you on is the implication that, because corporations are chartered by government, they are somehow agents of the left. Once chartered, corporations have no obligation (in fact, have an obligation NOT to) to act in anything like the public interest, or even in the interest of the government. They act selfishly (as libertarians do), sometimes sociopathically (as...ok, I won't go there) by design. Governments have been chartering corporations at least since Queen Elizabeth I and the East India Company, and "government" was hardly "leftist" in 1600.


I know it's a scary proposition... a nation without corporations, why, who would make all our cheap plastic Walmart trinkets?!?!


Again, the pro-cheap Walmart trinkets argument is one generally made by the right, not by the left. Check your premises.

John Kurman said...

@T2 RE:corruption

I don't think you've made an argument against the institution of government. There can be no doubt that public and private enterprise practice myriad forms of corrupt practices. But your examples are all of individuals utilizing the system for personal gain. You've identified the pathology of organizations - inefficient flow of information (i.e. lack of transparency).

But even the most kleptocratic of regimes must make allowance for a certain amount of social altruism towards its citizens - else it will be overthrown. Corporations are under no such restraint. They're only allegiance is to shareholders, and thus...but that's not the point.

Exclusively examining the flaws of government is akin to the child's rationalization "But Billy got to do it!" and so really doesn't excuse any organisation from wrongdoing.

Ah, but let's get back to the flow of information. Which sphere of operation is more likely to get caught? My bet is government. It is under more scrutiny, and is in most cases less able to hide improper actions. Better the devil you know, and all that.

I think people overestimate the influence of Rand. Libertarians that I have dealt with are philosophically like infantile authoritarians, and yet they are operationally liberal. They've developed the (granted stereotypical) Republican pathology of "Screw you, I've got mine", and naturally assume that everyone else thinks the same. (A case not of social contagion, but homophily - and there's a good social experiment to rid the world of the word "meme", but that's for another time), and as such they are acting Randian without ever knowing who the heck she was. (Again, social contagion or homophily?)

And yet, in one of those weird cognitive illusion build into our system, they can recognise that what is good for one is good for all. Taxation as theft but with compensation is not, by definition, theft. Especially when those monies extracted are force multiplied through government into so many services that go unrecognised - roads, water, infrastructure, etc.

True, private enterprise may be more efficient (is it?) at providing services, but the motivation of provision is secondary! Profit and power is foremost. Take literacy. It is agreed (I think) that high literacy rates are a good thing. This could be provided through required public education or by private institutions. Which is less likely to be abused? Which is more likely to be equitable? Which is more likely to produce higher rates? The market? Or the mandate? It's time to recognize that those old canards about the market are that - they are neither rational nor efficient. You may not like this restriction on your liberty, but at least you can read (and I doubt most could read under market-driven education).

(Rambling now). I've always thought that those silly political maps were that. I'd rather see a political map based upon responsibility and obligation. Where (socially) do you want the point of control - from the individual to the state? Where do you feel the most abuse can occur?

The "right" to anything has always left a bad taste in my mouth - given that it is the altruistic behaviors of our fellow humans from whence these "rights" flow. Much better to present them as "you have a responsibility" which we have codified as law.

Democrats really screwed the pooch the phrasing the healthcare debate as a "right" to good health. Rather, it is our community obligation to keep each other healthy. Good for me. Good for you. Good for all of us.

Jacob said...

Hi Tacitus2,

Wouldn't it be better if Anti-Government forces were all about removing civil servants who didn't deserve their position rather than getting rid of position completely?

That is a conservative movement I would support.

The whole "government is bad" without specifics rings false to my ears. I'd be happy to work on any point of action for improvement, but not general calls reduction.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin, where has Russ Daggett been posting lately? His blog still seems to have a March 30 entry as the most recent.

And sorry for "engaging" that Nickels guy in a reasonable conversation. In my own defense, I had only read his intitial post at the time, not the invective-filled attempt at suicide-by-cop ("I vow to be a cancer to you--what are you going to do about it?") he posted later.

Robert said...

One thing I can't quite figure out is why some neoconservatives (I specify neoconservatives as Tacticus is a true conservative and hasn't indulged in this form of juvenile behavior) insisted that any opposition (verbal or otherwise) to the Shrub's policies and invasions was UnPatriotic and UnAmerican and all of that... and yet the moment the Democrats gain control of the government they're shouting out for civil disobedience, secession, and refusing government.

Don't they grasp that the purpose of democratic government is not to enforce their will, but to enforce the will of the majority (so long as it doesn't restrict the rights of minorities - one reason that governments exist is to protect the minority from the majority). And we've not seen the Federal Government stomping on the rights of individuals that much. I don't see new anti-gun laws. I don't see laws against property ownership or the like. So why are they whining? Because they lost? Because the will of the majority decided that neoconservativism was the wrong path?

They told liberals (and those of us who were not neocons) to suck it up and live with it. Well, what's good for the goose is good for the gander as well. They should suck it up, accept the will of the Majority... and stop being UnPatriotic and UnAmerican in their complaints and statements of outright rebellion.

Please note, I don't hold conservatives to this. Conservatives are a different breed that were ignored and trashed upon by the neocons as much as liberals and moderates were during the Shrub Years.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

One thing I can't quite figure out is why some neoconservatives ...
insisted that any opposition (verbal or otherwise) to the Shrub's policies and invasions was UnPatriotic and UnAmerican and all of that... and yet the moment the Democrats gain control of the government they're shouting out for civil disobedience, secession, and refusing government.


The Bush ass-kissing was the exception. Remember during the Clinton years "opposition to a sitting president during wartime" was seen by Republican congressmen as an example of doing their patriotic duty. As a general rule (meaning: irrespective of who is actually in power), I tend to agree with the notion that "loyal opposition" is a good thing, and that it shouldn't be regarded as un-patriotic or unAmerican, since it is UNIQUELY American, or was in 1788 anyway.

I find it wryly amusing that GOPpers agree with me, but only when Democrats hold power. In 2001, after eight years of hearing Limbaugh harranguing the president, I looked forward to seeing how he would have to treat a Republican in that office. What I did NOT expect was for him to go completely over into toadyish obsequience. Conservatives like to blast Doonesbury as "liberal biased", but Garry Trudeau does not roll over like that for Democrats.

But what boggles my mind is how quickly and seamlessly the righties change the tune with a change of power, as if no one is supposed to notice their expressed values have done a 180. Like that scene in "1984" where a rabble-rouser against Eurasia switches his invective to "Eastasia" in mid-sentence and goes on as if he's been railing against the latter all his life.

Chris D. said...

I'm with you. However, as someone who's been an active Democrat in the party and as a candidate, I've been stymied as to how you raise money for such an approach. I really believe that corporate person-hood is killing democracy. If I were a Senator, I would have only one question for Ms. Kagan: "Can an organization be a 'person'?"

Also, Michael Lind has done great work on Strauss and the virulent strain of Trotskyist-style conservatism in America. See here and then here.

Also, I'm currently reading Jennifer Burns's "Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right." Only a few chapters in but fascinating so far.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin says of Ayn Rand:

Note also, she never follows the logic of reproduction. There are almost no children, no generations, no families. The bio-logic of aristocracy demands that the New Gods conspire to make their sons gods, too, and to (here's the hypocrisy) squelch all possible upstarts who might compete with junior! It happened everywhere and it is the core cancer at the heart of Randism.


The flipside of that same coin is that she is able to ignore the whole idea of human reproduction because she implicity (and perhaps unconsciously) ignores the inevitablility of human death. The story of "Atlas Shrugged" seems to presume that once Galt, Dagny, Midas, Judge Naragansett, and company assume their rightful positions as architects and motivating forces of a perfect society, that both the individuals and the society will naturally continue in perpetuity.

Tacitus2 said...

Into the fray..
John Kurman: I am not, God Forbid!, opposed to the institution of goverment. As I mentioned, there are a few Ted Kaczinski types out there, but lets ignore them. For the rest of us, we are charged with working towards "a more perfect Union". i.e. making our government better. Mindless conservatism fails, then, because the world is changing, and a style of government that worked great in 1830 would not work today. Nor would the 1930 version, sorry Progressive daydreamers.

Of course, there are measures short of insurrection by which citizens respond to segments of government becoming self serving. When people decide that the public schools do not deliver results commensurate with our financing of them, they vote with their feet. (for the record, my kids attended public).

Jacob: damn right, we need to make it easier to oust unworthy public servants. Its actually easier to get rid of the elected ones than the unelected type. And I have no problem with amply compensating the harder working, more efficient type once the herd has been culled.

Wandering a bit off topic to make a point, I have been unable to ascertain the fate of the 13 Minerals Management employees caught up in the coke-n-sex scandle of 2008. Even if they were quietly booted, that's not good enough. We can't put severed heads on pikes anymore, but public shame for abuse of the public trust works for me. Sorry for the assumption of guilt, even weasles deserve due process I guess.

Robert: there is something of a tradition of holding off on criticism of the Commander in Chief as he deploys our troops overseas. Not always perfectly honored, probably shouldn't be.

Domestic policy is more of a free fire zone. Trying to push through measures that the public substantially opposes will get you plenty of heat. Obama on health care, Bush on privatizing Soc.Security. Bush stood down; Obama did not, and his party seems likely to pay for it.

It is possible for the media to either over or underplay such criticism, but that is another topic, and the word limit looms.

Tacitus2

Stuart said...

Larry Hart said:
Once chartered, corporations have no obligation (in fact, have an obligation NOT to) to act in anything like the public interest, or even in the interest of the government. They act selfishly (as libertarians do), sometimes sociopathically (as...ok, I won't go there) by design.

I used to work for a profitable division of a large unprofitable multinational media corporation. When the parent company's stock tanked, they boosted it by downsizing us - the profitable ones.

I used to think of investment as a transaction where you become partial owner of a company that provides a service people are willing to pay for, but now I think of it as a betting game where you win by being the first person to pull your money out before everyone else does.

Stuart said...

Oh, yeah -- the point of the above post: Corporations even have incentive to act against their own sustainable best interest.

Stuart said...

Continuing: Our division was reliably profitable, but not growing. Our parent company had already grown as large as it practically could. The only way it could generate further "growth" was by reducing overhead at the expense of reliable profitability.

Growth is rewarded by the stock market. Reliable profitability is not. Therefore, our parent company was incentivized to eat itself. That's a system that needs to change.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

Robert: there is something of a tradition of holding off on criticism of the Commander in Chief as he deploys our troops overseas. Not always perfectly honored, probably shouldn't be.


It wasn't honored during the 1999 war in Yugoslavia. Mind you, I happen to think that a vocal "loyal opposition" is a good thing, and I wasn't upset with Republicans for taking on that role as such. But I believed that by doing so, they were implicitly agreeing with me that a "loyal opposition" is an important part of the American dynamic, and most certainly NOT un-American.

When the Republicans as a party--and many of the very same congresspeople--started mouthing the line about it being treasonous to oppose "a sitting president during wartime" when it was Bush's turn...y'know, that might have been when I first went down the road of believing that the current Republican party (not "conservatives" in general--I still might BE one of those some day) needs to have a stake driven through its heart, its head severed, and the body parts buried at separate crossroads.

LarryHart said...

Stuart:

Growth is rewarded by the stock market. Reliable profitability is not. Therefore, our parent company was incentivized to eat itself. That's a system that needs to change.


I first became aware of the stock market in the 1970s, and even that recently, the "value" of owning a stock seemed to have to do with the fact that it paid a dividend. Selling the stock at a profit was icing on the cake, just as selling one's house at a profit is, but the POINT of home-ownership is to have a place to live, and the POINT of stock ownership used to be that it provided an income stream.

I'm not sure when the POINT of stock ownership turned into "finding another sucker willing to pay more than you did", but our economy is certainly the worse off for it.

Robert said...

I've a simple solution for the stock market then. And it involves a tax cut so Republicans will look stupid when they gripe. Institute a tax break for dividends... and a tax increase for the sale of stocks (especially with the microsales). Have the two balance out, but basically give a significant cut for dividends to encourage people to hold onto stocks for the dividends instead of selling them for a quick profit.

Rob H.

rewinn said...

The stock market and the housing market, just like the market in tulip bulbs before them, have a legit function but, in the abscence of reasonable regulation, turn into gambling houses and worse, not do to individual malignity (although there may be some) or gummint intervention (although there may be some of that too) but because that's the way markets work.

The solution is to put referees on the field, either in the form of regulators who can never be bought off or automatic features such as the STET (Security Transaction Excise Tax) to which Robert alluded.

(The "worse than gambling houses" aspect refers to the impact of unregulated money-like instruments on the real economy. I don't see anyone seriously tackling the still-existing dangers of derivatives.)

@Tacitus - I'm not sure that your analysis of Arkansas' primary is correct. The corporatist Democrat,Senators Blanche "Walmart" Lincoln, was backed by the entire official party (including President Obama, Bill Clinton AND the mysterious deletion of dozens of polling sites), but squeaked out a narrow victory over the relatively populist Halter only by suddenly discovering some pro-financial-reform ideas.

Tacitus2 said...

LarryHart

Memory is an odd thing, so I may be misremembering. But I recall being critical of Clinton's rather tentative approach. After the UN troops stood aside at Srbernica and let civilians be slaughtered I felt that a air war only would not dissuade the bastards.

Who's to say how history would have changed with a more assertive approach? But looked at as an isolated affair, Yugo was well run and had a good outcome.

Arkansas can take care of itsself, but some sources claim labor dropped 10 mil on a losing campaign.

Tacitus2

David Brin said...

That "Nickel" troll actually seemed to hover around some very good points. He might even have made a good blogizen here (we need a few more libertarians). His rant against corporate-personhood was strangely cogent and yet weird in its implication that (a) I'd disagree and (b) this is a crime of the ... left?

But I did not read very deeply. Personality trumps all, and I do not want to touch this guy's with surgical gloves and a biohazard suit.

John, the essential trait of government that makes accountability more likely is that accountability is right there in the mission statement... whereas corporations are morally pathological from the git-go, in solely feeling responsibility to raise shareholder value. Indeed, one of the things anti-guv folks complain about is the sheer amount of paperwork in guv that has to do with accountability measures and reporting.

Tacitus, the conservative meme that currently makes the MOST sense is thoroughly spanking the teachers' unions. The rest of the labor movement is barely on life support and I consider the populist teaparty lower middle class redders who screech about "union influence" to be jibbering loons. But a techer who has been hated by 20 years of parents at a school really should be fire-able.

Larry, do not expect Justice. John Stewart is dismissed as a liberal stooge. But he and Colbert have more conservative and other oppo guests on their shows - plugging their books and getting in their licks - in any one week than liberals or skeptics appear on Hannity, Limbaugh and Beck combined, in a year. (Heck, that was true even when Colmes was around!) This is not just about left-right but manhood. The Faux-ites are cowards, pure and simple.

Tacitus, my comparison of Clinton's wars vs Bush's is still relevant. See:
http://www.davidbrin.com/neocons.htm

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

That "Nickel" troll actually seemed to hover around some very good points. He might even have made a good blogizen here (we need a few more libertarians). His rant against corporate-personhood was strangely cogent and yet weird in its implication that (a) I'd disagree and (b) this is a crime of the ... left?


That's what caught MY attention too in his first (not nearly so insane) post. "Here's a libertarian who actually opposes corporate power." Almost felt like common ground.

Libertarians do seem to think that any departure from rational laissez-faire trade is the fault of "the left". It takes some extreme mental gyrations to argue that the John Roberts Court, by being judicial activists, are somehow advancing the goals of world socialism. But that's what one is forced to do when one presumes that "abuse of power" is "leftist" by definition.




But I did not read very deeply. Personality trumps all, and I do not want to touch this guy's with surgical gloves and a biohazard suit.


Don't blame you. On another comics site I post at regularly, his first post might have been greeted by claims that he's a breath of fresh air. And the joke over on that other site is that every time someone says that about a newbie, the newbie inevitably turns out to be a troll.

Sorry if I brought that curse over here. :)


This is not just about left-right but manhood. The Faux-ites are cowards, pure and simple.


The funny thing is, THEY think WE are the cowards precisely because we don't shoot first and ask questions later--because we believe that violence is the last resort of the incompetent. But of course, you're right. To throw out a paraphrase from that "Dark Knight Returns" comic once again, the neocons might well rant:

"Of course, we're cowards!

We've always been cowards!

We HAVE to be cowards!"

Finally, Dr. Brin, in case you just missed my question earler, where are you finding new articles to quote Russ Daggett from? I've been checking his blog regularly, but March 30 seems to have been his most recent post.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi All

Private industry v Government

I had worked in private industry for 30 years, I have almost completed my first year working for local government

It's weird
- all of the rate-payers are my boss

I don't think I ever encountered a shareholder!!

But I do encounter rate-payers!

Who makes the decisions is much clearer - the elected members decide
(Not that the decisions are better!)

I am on the assets side, water supply, sewage, buildings

I have been very impressed about the efficiency relative to private industry

We seem to get away with about 60% of the cost of industry

On a separate topic
What is it with Teachers Unions in the USA?

We have strong teachers unions here (NZ)and in the UK but they are not seen as a problem.

Could it be that the problem is the lack of legal protection that employees in America have that is the actual problem?

David Brin said...

Larry, Russ Daggatt is a friend and he shared that last bit with me by email.

Duncan, The teachers' unions evade accountability and enforce tenure with a savagery that often means we simply cannot fire bad teachers. Ever.

Sure, there should be protections. A teachers who is hated by parents for five years straight at one school should be given another three at a faraway school with no rumors of him. And I do not like basing such things on test scores, alone. But dang.

Tacitus2 said...

I come from a family of teachers, so it pains me to criticize their union. But, yeh...

But for real audacity, putting Andy Stern, recently president of SEIU, on the Deficit Reduction Commission. Well, fox (old definition), henhouse.

Tacitus2

soc said...

Sorry to intrude on this discussion by bringing in something from the last, but I thought it was interesting.

Saudi Arabia gives Israel clear skies to attack Iranian nuclear Sites

The Saudis are panicked by Iran's nuclear program and are willing to shut down Saudi Arabia's air defences in order to allow Israeli jets to pass through on a bombing run.

rewinn said...

"...Arkansas can take care of itsself, but some sources claim labor dropped 10 mil on a losing campaign."

Some sources say that those sources are the corporate wing of the Democratic Party, or the Democratic Party wing of the Corporate Party: take your pick!

If you win all your fights, you aren't working hard enough.

David Brin said...

The Saudis know that such Israeli raids would likely accomplish little and hurt Israel.

Bytowner said...

If the Israelis do it wrong, which I admit seems a distinct possibility right at this point given the last couple of weeks in particular. Scary. A different government in Yerushalayim/Al-Quds, and we might have a different story here, yes?

David McCabe said...

According to another source, the Saudis deny that they practiced standing down their air defense system.

rewinn said...

Pardon me for an excess of cynicism, but sometimes attacks on other countries may be carried out to shore up the attacking government's internal political situation, rather than to improve its actual security. (*cough* Iraq *cough*)

The genius part of the deal is that air raids always or almost always do even more to shore up the target nation's current government. Everyone wins! (except for the dead)

However, I read the articles differently. Their idea that Iraq, which is in theory sovereign over its airspace, would cooperate with an air raid on its BFF Iran is just silly. Someone writing those articles has SOH - or perhaps is just helping out with a disinformation campaign designed to shore up the governments of all parties involved.

David Brin said...

My main web site at
http://www.davidbrin.com
has been rather inactive for 4 months (!) due to technical problems.

But we are back in business! Please drop by and see the latest news... and keep referring folks!

David McCabe said...

New Untapped Minerals in Afghanistan worth $1 Trillion.

John Kurman said...

RE: Vast Afghan resources.

My political question would be: Why now? Why the timing of this news? Why this bright and shiny object thrust into the gaze of the American Magpie?

It sure smells like a media chess move to me, and a not particularly subtle move.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus:

Memory is an odd thing, so I may be misremembering. But I recall being critical of Clinton's rather tentative approach. After the UN troops stood aside at Srbernica and let civilians be slaughtered I felt that a air war only would not dissuade the bastards.


From my point of view, you're not really disagreeing with me. I'm not sure if it seems that way to you or not. To clarify my point: I have no problem with Republicans in congress (during the Clinton years) exercising their right and responsibility to point out LEGITIMATE REASONS for not jumping on the president's bandwagon, even "during wartime".

What I ask, and what the Bush-era Republicans expressly disavowed--is that it works the same way when the other party is in power.

If asked which of the two ways of doing business ("loyal opposition" or "deference to the President") I prefer, irrespective of who is in power at the time, I prefer the former. That's what congress is supposed to be THERE for. It's not a good monarchist system, but it's a good American system--most definitely not UN-American.

So I'm not saying you didn't have good reasons for being skeptical over the Yugoslavia war, or even that congressional Republicans didn't. I'm countering that the progressives and (small number of) congressional Democrats who had "reservations" about going to war in Iraq ALSO had good reasons for thinking so. The way you defend your position on Yugoslavia proves that you understand that point of view.

All I'm asking is an acknowledgement that "thinking the President's policy might be wrong and might cause actual harm" is not treason when Democrats do it unless it's also treason when Republicans do it.

Tacitus2 said...

So acknowleged.

Obama has a bit of a tougher job to boot.

Imagine if after a grinding, unpleasant war in Yugoslavia we had elected some chap named Miroslav Slobogrowski.

Our president has a difficult balancing act for sure. There is, for the time being, a need to pursue an effective war while simultaneously reaching out to segments of the world that have reasons to dislike us a great deal.

Not that approval ratings are the basic currency of foreign relations. Were that true I guess we would have Sally Fields as Sec. of State: "You LIKE us, you REALLY LIKE us!"

But it is better to be liked than hated, at least as it applies to rational nations. I imagine that N.Korea and a few other places prefer us to be nasty to them.

Again, as I see conservative criticism of Obama on matters of war, it is that he dithered too long before committing to a more vigorous Afghan campaign, and that his heart did not seem to be in it. The first seems objectively true, the second is of course just an opinion.

Tacitus2

On another topic, my criticism of the Debt Reduction Commission should be tempered by acknowleging that Rep. Ryan (R-WI) is on it. One of the few Congresscritters to actually propose some ideas worth discussing.

Anonymous said...

unfortunately, there seems to be a web problem since I can't find your speech at:
http://davidbrin.com/libertarian1.html

Anonymous said...

I did find the speech on archive.org:

http://web.archive.org/web/20080802164136/http://davidbrin.com/libertarian1.html

Anonymous said...

David Brin said: Tor.com has just posted a free preview of a novel that they think very highly of. I haven't read it yet, but some of you should go have a look and report back!

Could you give those of us who are unfamiliar with the TOR.COM website some clue which novel (and author? ) that you are referring to?

David Brin said...

The link is

http://davidbrin.com/libertarian1.htm

Not html

Some browsers may not see htm?

I doubt there's any "American greed" in the announcement of Afghani resources. Yes it is a ploy. To suggest to Talibans and corrupt officials that they might get a LOT richer by shaking hands all around and letting the Americans pull out

Dances With Cages said...

This may be old news to many of you but I'll just point out that even Republicans in Congress now are nearly unanimous in admitting going into Iraq was a mistake.

Remember when Republicans were claiming that opposing the Iraq war meant that you were a traitor to the USA?

http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/2010/03/18/gop-congressmen-most-republicans-now-think-iraq-war-was-a-mistake/

In a Thursday panel at Cato on conservatism and war, U.S. Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) and John Duncan (R-Tenn.) revealed that the vast majority of GOP members of Congress now think it was wrong for the U.S. to invade Iraq in 2003.

David Brin said...

Idiots. SHould anyone trust them, ever, with a burnt match? Every "I was wrong" is in complete isolation and to be shrugged away. "I was wrong about Martin Luther King." and so on.

Never "there's a flaw in my thought processes."

Robert said...

I found a couple news links of interest, both on the political and on the scientific front.

First, an article on the various Tea Party candidates suggests they are just continuing the disasterous policies enacted by the Republican Party under the Bush Administration. In short, the Tea Party is for tax cuts, an elimination of Capital Gains taxes, and reducing the role of the Federal Government, but not a reduction in the budget except in minor inconsequential ways. Some things they want to do is have a flat tax and privatize Social Security... eliminate National Health Care with the exception of Medicare which should remain as-is, and basically various minor things that would do nothing to reduce the Deficit.

Of the Tea Party Candidates, only Rand Paul wants to reduce the Deficit. And he's got other baggage which counters that positive point. The rest? Seem to want to return to the ways that led us to the Financial Crisis of 2007-2008... and then sit back and let things fall apart and resort naturally... which would allow certain rich to get richer and everyone else become poorer. Rank-and-file Tea Drinkers seem to have little to gain from allowing Tea Party policies go through; it seems to be less of an anti-government push than an anti-Democrat push.

Admittedly, I may be not seeing the gems hidden among a lot of chaff here... but probably the only reason Republican congresscritters are concerned about the Tea Party is because they're afraid they'll lose their elected positions because the Tea Drinkers feel the current breed of Republicans are not proper little neoconservatives.

----------

On a more positive and scientific note, the Hayabusa spacecraft reentered the Earth's atmosphere with its possible cargo of asteroid dust and fragments. The container that may contain samples has not yet been opened; they are going back to Japan first to do the unveiling, especially as it's unknown if they recovered anything at all. In some ways, this suggests that manned expeditions are better for visiting such bodies as asteroids and the like; we have hundreds of pounds of lunar material because we sent manned expeditions to the Moon. I can't help but think that if we'd sent men to an asteroid, we would definitely have brought back samples instead of the ambiguity of the robotic mission and not knowing how much of the mission was a success.

----------

Finally, new estimates of water on the Moon suggest the amount present is two orders of magnitude greater than previously thought. However, the lunar water is likely locked up in the interior of the Moon. The article also admits that this extra level of water does not make water extraction on the Moon economically viable. Still, I can't help but think that Heinlein was right once again... and that his novel "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" may eventually come true in some form of another with eventual colonization and mining of lunar water trapped under its surface. It's just it won't be used to grow wheat for India. ;)

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Okay, I didn't say this. I am just passing it along;

Did you know that the words "race car" spelled backwards still spells "race car"?

That "eat" is the only word that, if you take the 1st letter and move it to the last, spells its past tense, "ate"?

And if you rearrange the letters in "so-called tea party Republicans," and add just a few more letters, it spells: "Shut up you free-loading, progress-blocking, benefit-grabbing, resource-and-tax-sucking, hypocritical assholes, and face the fact that you nearly wrecked the country under Bush."

How weird is that?


Hey, I am still in favor of reaching out to ostriches. But as time goes on...

Robert said...

Dr. Brin, you're starting to sound bitter. ^^;;

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

...waitaminute, "Sal Tuscany" is really "Santa Claus"??? With an embarrasing left-over "y"?

But I actually like your way better. Yeah, it's getting hard to continue reaching out to "honest conservatives" after reading my friend's latest blog in which he asserts that Obama is "surrounded by synchophants who were forever telling him that he's a sort of God." Good thing Bush was never like that, I guess.

And because I have good reason to be disappointed in some aspects of President Obama's performance, he thinks those posters of Bush's face going "Miss me yet?" are somehow profound. It's like he and I don't even inhabit the same universe.

LarryHart said...

Robert:


Dr. Brin, you're starting to sound bitter. ^^;;


I've always been an optimist, but we seem to be presiding over the death of our home world due to the express policies of unfettered capitalism, and now they're blaming the "socialist" presdent for not doing a good enough job of stopping them.

Is there a rational response OTHER than bitterness? 'Cause I'd like to know what it is.

Robert said...

Easy. Refuse to give them the sense of victory. Stay upbeat. Believe in the best and work toward it. Neocons want Progressives and non-neocons to be defeatist and embittered. They want us to give up. Then they walk back in and take over.

So things aren't rosy. That doesn't mean there won't be surprises that end up in our benefit. That doesn't mean that other Americans might not look at what the neocons are trying and say "fuck that" and vote them out of office. One vote matters. Especially if that one vote is joined by millions of its brethren.

Bitterness leads to despair and a sense of "why do I bother?" It leads to people not trying. For every person who tries, who refuses to bow down to bitterness and defeatism... who smiles at the neocons and says "I see what you're trying to do. You won't win," there are a dozen who quietly look on... and realize that maybe, just maybe, you're right.

I'm a cynic. But the thing is? I see the trap that cynicism is. I realize that sometimes you have to grin and bear it... and work through and around the obstacles. Because defeatism is not an option. Not ultimately.

Rob H.

Pat Mathews said...

Looking Past Political Totems and your speech gave us "Error 404." I saw a link to your speech in the comments, but thought you'd like to know.

Pat

DFB said...

Speaking of foreign policy, please comment on the storm swirling around Wikileaks. Apparently, the U.S. DOD is tracking down the founder of Wikileaks who has admitted to having a military video from a massacre that happened in Afghanistan. It is similar to the one it posted a few months ago from Iraq. Both had been classified and leaked from the same military source who has said he was disgusted by his role helping the Iraqi gov't track down political dissenters. That source has also admitted he gave 250,000+ diplomatic cables to Wikileaks demonstrating just how despicable our government's actions are. The MSM have not picked up on this nor have many commenters. It seems right up your alley and in line with some of the issues you addressed in Transparent Society, although from another angle. See:
http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/06/conscience/
http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-06-15/wikileaks-founder-has-garani-massacre-video-according-to-new-email/
http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-06-10/wikileaks-founder-julian-assange-hunted-by-pentagon-over-massive-leak
http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-06-13/pentagon-seizes-adrian-lamo-computer-files-in-bradley-manning-case/
http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-06-08/state-department-anxious-about-diplomatic-secrets-bradley-manning-allegedly-downloaded/
http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-06-11/daniel-ellsberg-wikileaks-julian-assange-in-danger/
http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/06/wikileaks-chat/
http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/category/bradley-manning/
http://twitter.com/wikileaks/

Corey said...

If anyone here thought that the years from the Great Steamroll of 2006, to the 2008 democratic victories in Congress and the election of Obama, would signal the death of the Neocon movement and their allies, then they were fooling themselves.

These things signaled nothing but the beginning of change in America for the better, not some total defeat of anti-progressivism and anti-intellectualism in America. That's something that'll be won over decades; it won't come from a single political election

This is a nation where one in two people think that the Earth is 6,000 years old, that people rode on the backs of saddled dinosaurs, that the worldwide scientific community are part of a conspiracy to push The Global Socialist Agenda with lies about global warming, where many believe that Ronald Reagan played a unilateral role in the fall of the USSR (and most of these people have never even *heard* of things like Perestroika), and where people muster the ignorance to march down the streets in protests against health care reform with signs that read "keep government out of my medicare" (I'm not making that one up, by the way...).

Such an ingrained political culture of pride in ignorance, suspicion of all forms of education and expertise, downright hate of all forms of government, a short-sighted and selfish refusal to consider the common good, and even a simple refusal to acknowledge the role of society in our lives (due to a gripping fear of collectivism) are all things that are just going to have to whittled away, slowly, by constantly working to show people that this isn't the 19th century anymore, and our politics need to reflect that.

In the meantime, we win the victories we can. Just recently, a bill by Lisa Murkowski was just defeated that would have stripped the EPA of its ability to regulate CO2, even after the Supreme Court explicitly authorized it to, and let's not forget both the notable steps to reform our health care, or the absolutely massive reform of student loans. There is good news to be had, and reason to be hopeful, even if this nation isn't going to change overnight.

rewinn said...

Despair is indeed a potent weapon; if you can get the other guy to give up, you win!

LarryHart said...

Robert (and Corey too):


Easy. Refuse to give them the sense of victory. Stay upbeat. Believe in the best and work toward it. Neocons want Progressives and non-neocons to be defeatist and embittered. They want us to give up. Then they walk back in and take over.


That's good advice for someone who is feeling defeatist and embittered because Republicans are getting votes.

I was speaking as someone who is feeling defeatist and embittered because the oceans might stop producing oxygen and start coughing up Nitrogen Sulfide instead. How is "not giving them the satisfaction" going to make a whit of difference?

Ok, I'm being intentionally overdramatic, and in truth, this sort of worry is not affecting my day-to-day, but only because I purposely keep from thinking about it too much. I've also gone perversely into a kind of "optimism" over the destruction of our habitat, such as "Well, at least I don't have to worry about outliving my money."

But the thing is, life is about to start sucking more than it did before. And it's because we did things the way THEY said we should. Thirty years of Reaganomics and supply-side and deregulation and corporate personhood have brought us to the brink of disaster. And they have the gosh-darned NERVE to say the fault lies with socialist "big government"? For what...not doing enough to stop THEM?

LarryHart said...

rewinn:

Despair is indeed a potent weapon; if you can get the other guy to give up, you win!


You also win if you destroy the other guy's livelyhood and oxygen supply. Just sayin'.

David Brin said...

I'll comment on the wikileaks affair soon.

rewinn said...

@LarryHart - Certainly there's plenty o'reason to take the situation seriously. If in our short-sightedness or greed or whatever, we have killed our Mother, well, at best we will soon have a better understanding of The Great Silence.

But seriousness does not preclude a positive attitude; to the contrary! IIRC Tacitus does or did ER work, and we might profit from commentary from him or someone else in the field as to the right attitude with which to confront a serious problem with the maximum possibility of success.

Tacitus2 said...

If I were to use the terms Democrat, Progressive and Bleeding Heart Liberal interchangably you would take me to task, and rightly so.
So please use a bit more focus in your politcal opining. Republican, NeoCon, Tea Partier and Conservative are not synonyms.
It might help if ya'all actually defined Neocon. It seems to me to be a sort of catch all label for those who you do not like politically.
Of course, you are all constituionally entitled to hold whatever political opinions you choose, but if the goal is serious discourse, more care would be in order.
We have serious issues as a nation. They deserve serious discussion.
Tacitus2

Tacitus2 said...

Oh, and I am in the ER now, so apologize for choppy posting.

In my world there are three kinds of crisis.

1. Looks bad, but is going to turn out OK irregardless of most decisions I make. People, and planets, are pretty tough.

2. Looks bad, and is going to turn out badly, again, irregardless of what I do. Out of hospital cardiac arrest with prolonged down time is a good example.

3. the rarest of cases, a situation that will turn out well, or badly dependent on my immediate decisions.

I would break these down as roughly, 94%-5%-1%.

So don't screw up the stuff that would turn out OK in almost all cases. Easy. Don't flog yourself over the ones that were going to die no matter what you did. And do not, repeat NOT, fail to recognize the rare case that is like on TV, life and death.

Tacitus2

Tacitus2

LarryHart said...

Tacitus:

If I were to use the terms Democrat, Progressive and Bleeding Heart Liberal interchangably you would take me to task, and rightly so.
So please use a bit more focus in your politcal opining. Republican, NeoCon, Tea Partier and Conservative are not synonyms.
It might help if ya'all actually defined Neocon. It seems to me to be a sort of catch all label for those who you do not like politically.


Fair enough.

I can't speak for anyone else here, but to me, "necoconservative" has always correlated to the aims/goals of the Project for a New American Century. Until very recetnly (2008 maybe?) that group still had a web site up, and Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Scooter Libby were all signatories to it (though NOT George W Bush). And their main point seemed to be a push for American empire.

In a way, it was American Exceptionalism writ large, and I find it hard to fault their enthusiasm. Dr Brin here discusses the good side of Pax Americana. But the neocon version seemed to rest upon the twin pillars of:

1) Suppressing dissent through military action

2) An institutionalized "wishful thinking" summed up by that famous Grover Norquist quote where he accused liberals of living in a "reality-based world" and he said that as a pejorative. "We're an empire now, and we make our own reality."

Basically, it's a term I use for a philosophy that the New Deal as exported to Europe and Japan via the Marshall Plan was a mistake, and that they would prove it by remaking Iraq.

LarryHart said...

Also...

Here on the internet, I tend to indulge an impulse to be overly dramatic, and the difference between straight argument and over-the-top acting might not always be apparent.

I don't mean to imply actual despair to the point of giving up.

However, I also don't mean to imply that "someone will fix this" is a good enough reason to let anyone get away with doing whatever damage they do while pursuing their own short-term interests.

What I have been getting visibly angry at from the right-wing side is the fact that, in the face of obvious failures of laissez-faire capitalism causing real and lasting harm (the fincancial meltdown, and now the volcano of oil in the Gulf of Mexico), they continue to extol the "virtues" of laissez-faire capitalism and bemoan the interference of "socialist" government. It's not so much the mistakes in the past (even the recent past) that get me as the institutionalized refusal to learn from those mistakes.

Tim H. said...

The handling of the gulf oil leak highlights a weak point in Obama's approach to business, trusting in the expert consensus to deal with, in this case, deep offshore drilling. The administration wasn't thinking about the pernicious tendency of "suits" to override sound engineering in the pursuit of immediate profit. The error was in timing, leaning on BP now can't make the leak not have happened, in fairness, Obama has had other things on his mind the last couple of years. Also, a hypothetical Kucinich administration would have had a better notion of what needed cleaning up, but might have caused more heat than light as entrenched interests struggled to maintain their position.

Ian said...

It looks like the Hydrogen economy may not be a pipedream after all - at least for certain niche market.

http://www.gizmag.com/at-last-an-affordable-portable-pocket-size-fuel-cell/15425/

John Kurman said...

RE: the "volcano of oil". I noted that there was a fundamental unease in the Prez's demeanor in his speech last night. Could be me, but I suspect he's sitting on something it would better we all know about now. As a firm believer in Murphy's Law (actually, believer is a mild term. ML goes beyond fact, it is a fundamental physical principle), I think we should now prepare for the worst. Let's assume that the entire well casing is screwed, the whole thing goes kablooey, and that the reservoir will bleed out. 2-2.5 billion barrels? What can we do? Anything?

Robert said...

Okay. First, Tacticus, I consider you a Conservative. Not a neocon. Not a Tea Party chap. A Conservative. My best friend is a Conservative as well and I respect him (and you, for that matter) immensely. (I'm sort of a middle ground... I consider myself a "Social Libertarian" in that I believe government should stay out of the affairs of individuals, but should regulate industry and financial businesses as they've proven incapable of operating without oversight.)

Conservatives are people who believe in smaller government, lower taxes, and reduced government spending. Their philosophies are logical and a needed break for the exuberance of the Liberal Caste. Sadly, there are few Conservatives in government these days.

Neocons are not Conservatives. They espouse lower taxes for the rich, higher taxes for everyone else (because the poor need to pay their fair share - it sounds good in principle until you realize that the rich got rich by climbing onto the backs of the poor, acquiring their money, and utilizing their services, often for lower wages than their services are worth), no government oversight on industry, and a confrontational policy toward other governments. We've seen the end-result of neocon policies: the rest of the world turning against us, the near-collapse of the banking industry, wide-scale endemic recession, and the gap between rich and poor widen (and the slow extermination of the middle class).

The Tea Party is a conglomerate of small grassroots groups that are being devoured by a large group empowered by the Neocons. In essence they appear to be the people among the middle class who were hurt the least by the Neocon governments. Some of the smaller groups do have some decent Conservative beliefs, such as smaller government and reduced government spending. The majority of them, however, are anti-Progressive, anti-Democrat, and want to bring the Neocons back to power. While I am unsure as to if the actual majority of Tea Party members feel this way, the vocal minority within it are revealing this belief structure. And the problem with this vocal minority is that they are becoming the driving force of the Tea Party movement.

So trust me. When I say a Tea Drinker (Tea Party follower who blindly follows the pack) or a Neocon, I am not talking about true Conservatism. I'm talking the thieves and the anti-patriots who find no problem in destroying the nation (and the world) in order to get ahead. Conservatives would look at the global warming issue and suggest tax breaks for those businesses that cut emissions (but only once they cut emissions - an incentive, as it were) and tax cuts for those new businesses that work in solar and wind power (and other Green industries).

Neocons would give gas companies tax breaks and collect on profits from stock sales before the petro industries eventually collapse, while they move on to something else.

And Tea Drinkers would vote the Neocons into office because they're not Progressives.

Rob H.

Robert said...

And on a completely unrelated note but a rather nifty note (for those of you who enjoy computer games at least), Valve revealed a teaser trailer for Portal 2; for people who have no idea what Portal is, it is a rather innovative puzzle game that utilizes a "gun" that creates wormholes to allow the heroine to maneuver through various rooms and avoid obstacles. The sequel looks to be well worth the wait.

Rob H.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Curse my inability to watch video at work!

And yes, Portal is one of the greatest games of all time, filled with excellent and innovative gameplay (hint: Think with portals), and brilliant dark humor (I have the Portal Song taped to my office wall).

I am definitely looking forward to Portal 2, which is supposedly a full game compared to Portal 1's tech demo. *squee*

David Brin said...

1 - The oil is gushing through a hole in the Earth's crust a mile beneath the sea. How there came to be such a hole, penetrating another mile of rock to a vast chamber of petroleum, is a matter to discuss - and what to do to the men who cut safety corners during such a brash and arrogant - though possibly necessary at some level - enterprise. But anyone who thinks that Obama could just do something that hasn't been done yet ought to explain what it could be.

2 - neoconservatism is superficially about replacing enlightenment systems and internationalism. Regular old conservatism would replace them with isolationism. Neoconservatism replaces it with imperial triumph of the will.

But it's not about that. Not at all. The consistent aim and operative process was to line up all excuses and resources toward the undermining and destruction (as far as possible) of the United States Civil Service. The mess at Mineral Management and the oil gusher is just one outcome. But the fundamental aim is to remove the USCS as an obstacle to the emplacement of a genuine rule by oligarchy.

Which is ITSELF only superficial window dressing! Those who are truly behind neoconservatism, in funding Fox and the AEI and Heritage and the lot -- the money sources at the very pinnacle -- seek a complete reversal of the Enlightenment and destruction of the United States of America.

We've gone over my reasons for -- well, believing this seems a bit strong. I don't really. I just think it is a scenario so utterly plausible and consistent with all known facts that it is a sign of bona fide insanity that no one will even broach or discuss it... not even to compile evidence to prove it wrong.

Robert said...

Here's an interesting article, and one that reflects on your own comments about the two casts of rich in the United States: Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are asking U.S. billionaires to give away at least half of their wealth to charity. So far, four families have agreed to this: real estate and construction billionaire Eli Broad, venture capitalist John Doerr, media entrepreneur Gerry Lenfest and former Cisco Systems Chairman John Morgridge. The amount they are pledging has not been announced, though from the general gist of things, I suspect it's at least 50% else there'd not be a reason to mention them. ^^

It will be interesting to see who pledges to do this... and who refuses. In all likelihood the tightwads will be the ones who are trying to destroy the Progressive movement and return to an oligarchy in the U.S. and the world.

Rob H.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Fascinating...

I would say 'Ready-made boycott list', but then I wonder how many billionaires who would shun the idea on their own, will jump on the bandwagon so as to not look like they would shun the idea...

Either way, it's a win-win-win: Either they reveal themselves or cut their assets in half, and billions of dollars go to charity and aid.

Mishose: What happens when you drop a 'pistol handle' hose on the ground handle-down, and it sticks on, soaking you, your dog, your new inlaws, and the inside of the car they just stepped out of.

Tony Fisk said...

Reminds me of a quote by WA mining magnate Lang Hancock:

I help the poor by not being one of them.

(I wonder how he'd have reacted to the pledge;-)

Corey said...

Rob H, that was a great summary of the difference between conservative and neocons.

Of course, I would add that while 'Neocon' and conservative are not presently (and hopefully never will be) synonymous, but Neocon and Republican pretty much are, because like it or not, the Neocon mindset pretty much dominates the party. There are very, very few politicians left still serving in the GOP at the national level who are either reasonable and willing to reason with the Democrats to actually run the nation, or even hold a non-Neocon point of view.

Most of those the GOPers who were like that have been voted out. New Hampshire's Jeb Bradley comes to mind (replaced in 2006 by Carol Shea Porter). He wasn't the best congressman who ever served, in my opinion, but he was a good moderated balance of viewpoints, and seemed to want the nation to head in the right direction on a number of issues, like energy.


@Tacitus2

Honestly, if I was a conservative, I wouldn't want people thinking that everyone who held my point of view was some neocon nutjob either, but I think you should be more worried about getting the GOP back from them than about a definition that links the GOP and Neocons together, because it's only a small, unvocal minority of politicians LEFT in the GOP who stop that association from being 100% accurate.

Tony Fisk said...

Personally, I use the term 'selfservative' to distinguish neocons and wingnuts in general from traditional conservatives.

zents: bizarre ads for natty apparel?

Tacitus2 said...

If anybody out there is campaigning on a platform of increased military intervention overseas I have not heard of them. As to the other hallmarks of neoconservatism, if you are not prepared for an honest discussion of the role of taxation in our society you are AWOL from the most important issue of the day. I can appreciate input from a variety of sources.
The real question is whether our political system is capable of sustaining moderate politicians. A partisan media driven world tends to make it hard for them to get past primaries.
And I think the role of the Tea Party is to be determined.
The definition Taxed Enough Already was after the fact, but if a platform of spending reduction and keeping taxes where they are until the deficit starts to budge, well, it is an appealling notion.
Conservatives do not despise government, but do feel that if you overfeed it it will consume all available resources, often deploying them inefficiently.
Its late.
gotta run
Tacitus2

matthew said...

"Conservative" - your uptight next-door neighbor. Cooks a mean bar-be-que, enjoys a beer on a hot afternoon, gripes that you haven't mowed the lawn this week.

"Neocon" - Not smart enough to be a cool geek, but wants to be one of the rich 'In'-clique. Currently in minimum-security jail for embezzling from their employer.

"Tea Partier" - Po' White Trash, jerked around by the man yet again. Can you say redneck?

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Robert said...

Isn't it ironic then, Tacticus, that one of the first things that Obama did when he got into office was push through a tax cut for over 90% of Americans? Well, except for those of the upper middle class and above. Yet Obama is believed to be taxing everyone to death, while the Republicans who pushed tax cuts for the rich and dregs for the rest are seen as anti-tax gods. Even now Conservatives and Tea Drinkers are stating that Obama is going to tax them to death... when taxes are lower for everyone than it was under the Reagan administration.

Go figure.

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...

Robert
You could say that some of the no taxes for middle class and under is a bit of sophistry. The mandate to purchase health insurance for instance is not a tax, but is something the government says you have to pay lest penalty strike you. But not a tax, nopers. And the fees on medical devices, bandaids, sun tanning etc are not direct taxes, but certainly will fall to us all. Well, I don't tan I guess.

But really those who say Obama will lay on the tax mojo are just doing the math. You can't spend forever, and the promises to "bend the health care costs down" is looking increasingly risible.

The serious tax increases lie safely beyond the 2012 election, some suspect. A more reasonable fear than David's dark cabals.

Now me, I am ok with paying taxes. I could at need even pay a few more. But I think we are misapportioning our societal resources, and some of what I fork over gets squandered. More radical types feel that most of it is.

Tacitus2

Tim H. said...

Cutting spending has become a fairly thankless task, between "Deathco" projects subcontracting in as many congressional districts as possible and the servants of Mammon with their malignant outsourcing meme have unwittingly made government jobs desirable to a degree that would have been unthinkable 40 years ago. The "Tea Partiers" would be well advised to focus on economy rather than tax cuts, I suspect we will see the usefulness of tax cuts decline. What I'm waiting to see (Not holding my breath!) is if some Republicrtter will grow a big enough pair to vow to accomplish Obama's goals, mostly, for less money.
"dontsou", won't cross an attorney's lips.

Corey said...

Tacitus, while I fail to see how government is intrinsically any more likely to misappropriate money, when watched by its citizenry, than any other entity (keep in mind, there's no multibillionare CEOs to deal with), I completely agree that there are places where government IS being wasteful.

Take our military budget, for example. We nearly out-spend the planet, and yet we certainly can't out-fight the planet. That begs of the question of why it is our military gives less dollar-for-dollar than others. Well, first it's because there's no drive to get rid of inefficiency with ~$680 billion a year, and secondly, there's no drive to focus on actual important projects.

That $680 billion doesn't go towards making us safer, it goes towards the most inefficient production scheme in the world at our AH-64 Apache plants, where 19th century manufacturing methods are combined with a complete lack of mechanization, making each aircraft take 10 times longer and cost far more than it ever should. It's going towards the F-22 Program, for an air superiority fighter that we literally will never have a use for, because the only air force in the world that poses enough of a threat to us it is that EU's combined airpower. It's going towards the $50 billion ballistic missile defense system on the west coast that Bush ordered that, according to tests given to his predecessor (back when Clinton was considering the same system), can't actually shoot down missiles!

We managed to kill the F-22 program, and get back a measly portion of all the waste in the military, but remember that it was the GOP fought tooth and nail to keep making them. Our military budget is so big, that it necessitates itself, because it creates the waste that then requires us to spend to much to maintain a competent military in the first place!

Yes, by all means, we should be cutting spending (though not everywhere; the space program could use a rough quadrupling or so :D), but let's start with the most needed places first, the places where we don't actually get any benefit, and then let's reallocate that money to starving sections of government like the space program, and THEN we can start talking about tax cuts. Dollar for dollar, the returns on technology and infrastructure spending give far more return than tax cuts are going to, especially if it's cuts to who the neocons want to give it to.

Corey said...

As for requiring insurance, it has nothing to due with taxation, and can't be counted as a tax just because it might require some people to spend money.

The reason health care insurance is required is because we operate on a risk pool system, and people were leaving the risk pool (especially the healthy ones), which was making insurance more expensive, which was in turn causing more people to dump or get dumped from the system, which continued in an upward cycle of cost, and a downward cycle of the number of insured.

It has nothing to do with government *wanting* people to spend more, which is why it's hardly fair to call it a tax, and it wasn't something that was "Obama's doing" either; it simple had to be done, and would have had to be done regardless of who was in office, because our system was spiraling out of control. In return, steps are being taken to make sure it's a realistic thing to ask of people.

rewinn said...

I'd like to see a comparison of the amount of money we (or "The Government" if that term makes anyone feel better) spends to protect our access to resources that are traded on the world market vs. the amount additional we would pay for those resources in the abscence of that spending.

For example, carrier battle groups to protect our access to oil have a very high coolness factor, but it's hard to see how they pencil out as a profitable endeavor since the oil is sold into a world market anyway. Should a cartel seek to deprive us of those goods, we could fairly easily bribe an alternate supplier; at any rate, we wouldn't be able to shoot the cartel into supplying us without rather serious damage to our political and economic ideology.

We do have huge sunk costs into military infrastructure, but I'll bet the USS George H W Bush would make a "heck of a" oil skimmer.

And if this makes me a partial Libertarian, I'm not gonna go "EUW!"

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2 said:

If anybody out there is campaigning on a platform of increased military intervention overseas I have not heard of them.


I'll grant you that one with some reservation. Because you would seem to be correct that an OVERT policy of military adventurism has fallen out of fashion. It seems to me, however, to have gone "underground" a bit. No one actively campaigns "Let's invade more countries", but it's still political suicide to suggest standing down in Iraq or Afghanistan, and the belligerance toward Iran and North Korea gets amped up every time the news stations get worried we might be losing our taste for war.

Remember, it was not all that long ago that John McCain was singing "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb bomb Iran" and that his campaign considered it a good thing to threaten war with Russia over South Ossetia.


As to the other hallmarks of neoconservatism, if you are not prepared for an honest discussion of the role of taxation in our society you are AWOL from the most important issue of the day.


Agreed, but "honest discussion" is key. Cutting government spending is a good long-term goal, but doing so in the middle of a Great Depression might not be the best timing. Similarly, paying down the debt and THEN giving tax breaks (letting people keep more of THEIR money) was an idea I would agree with, but ANTICIPATING the surplus by giving the tax breaks first--and then insisting on keeping the tax breaks in place even when the deficit soared and then two major wars were launched--was a plan flawed from the very beginning.

Differnt circumstances call for different responses.


The real question is whether our political system is capable of sustaining moderate politicians. A partisan media driven world tends to make it hard for them to get past primaries.


The primary system seems to be essentially flawed. Ideally (to me, anyway), each party should pick the candidate that balances "representing the platform we want" and "who we think can win the general election." Forcing the candidates to win a popularity contest with their own radical base doesn't serve that purpose. Neither does having "open primaries" where anyone (even members of the other party) gets to choose the party's representative.


And I think the role of the Tea Party is to be determined.
The definition Taxed Enough Already was after the fact, but if a platform of spending reduction and keeping taxes where they are until the deficit starts to budge, well, it is an appealling notion.
Conservatives do not despise government, but do feel that if you overfeed it it will consume all available resources, often deploying them inefficiently.


Dick Cheney said "Reagan showed us deficits don't matter." What Reagan really (or "also") showed us is that tax cuts don't matter in the sense of controlling spending. Borrowing almost automatically makes up the difference. So it's a discredited policy to shrink government spending by cutting off tax revenue. If you want to lower government spending, you have to stop spending the money. THEN, if surpluses pile up that should be returned to the taxpayers, taxes should be cut. But Bush put the cart before the horse (lowering taxes in 2001 because surpluses MIGHT emerge), and we've been paying for it ever since. Or rather, NOT paying for it because we're ringing it up on the national credit card instead.

I'm sorry, but no one who argues that "tax and spend" is bad but "borrow and spend" is good deserves to call themselves "conservative".

Robert said...

I apologize for going off on a (scientific) tangent here, but I initially sent this off to a friend of mine who's studying astronomy and physics, and then realized that Dr. Brin might also find this question and line of thought interesting:

I was recently thinking about black holes and Stephen Hawking's belief that black holes evaporate over time... and something struck me. No, not an apple. ;) Would have been appropriate though. ;)

If I understand the general gist of Hawking's theory correct on Hawking radiation, particles and anti-particles form around the event horizon of a black hole. If the anti-particle is drawn into the Event Horizon, then the particle streams off, revealed as "radiation" from the black hole. At this point, the anti-article combines with some of the mass of the black hole, turning it into energy and thus reducing the mass of the black hole by one particle.

The problem is this: do particles (and anti-particles) retain their attributes inside of a singularity? There is of course the possibility of "quark stars" existing in which the gravitational force is stopped by the quarks not allowing themselves to be compressed further. But at some point, enough mass should build up that even quarks are compressed into collapse... and thus a true singularity forms (assuming of course that quark stars do exist as an intermediary step between neutron stars and singularities).

As the mass of the singularity is no longer composed of particles, would not an anti-particle that falls into the singularity likewise be crushed beyond matter/anti-matter aspects, which means that the end result of Hawkings radiation would be a slow increase in the mass of the larger black holes? And thus, would not Stephen Hawking's hypothesis concerning black hole evaporation be incorrect, at least when it comes to black holes of a certain size?

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Tacitus has a point. Obama is both a tax-cutter and a tx-raiser, depending on your polemic.

The key is the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. Somehow, back in 2001 or so, a few heroic Democrats managed to stand in the Neocon Tsunami and wring one concession. Aside: That was the THIRD giant tax-gift to the rich that the gop passed under Supply Side Theory - the assumption that the money would then be invested in plants and equipment and new "supplies" of goods and services, an assumption that proved to be devastatingly and diametrically wrong, in every possible way. (The result of the gift was simply to make the rich obscenely richer. They "invested" the money into real estate and bank speculation and Ponzi schemes - very little went to factories or R&D.)

What was the concession wrung by democrats? That the cuts would all expire in 2010. The neocons shrugged. They assumed that Supply Side Paradise would arrive by then. There are quotes of goppers predicting the Dow at 25,000 by now and poverty virtually eliminated. And Democrats would be extinct and God would be in the classroom and Social Security privatized and the IRS curbed and the civil service cut in half and peace would reign worldwide after total victory in the War on Terror... and the Bush Cuts would be made permanent and extended much farther, by acclamation.

But soft. None of that happened. The 2010 expiration left the dems in the enviable position of not having to vote to raise taxes. In fact, they voted to CUT some aspects of the expiration. Mostly for the middle class. But since most of the Bush cuts had been for the rich, the dems even cut some of the expiration for THEM. Hence, the GOP claims BHO presided over a tax increase and the Dems claim a decrease. Where's the truth?

It's a decrease for us, a net increase for the aristocracy.

-----
Actually, you guys know that I am strange for a liberal (and strange for a libertarian). For one thing, I don't mind military spending much. I mind what these furshluginer WARS have done to us! But the Pax Americana umbrella enabled the whole world (most of it) to relax and develop in peace. Also, the military is where we've maintained a hard R&D push, while letting it slacken everywhere else. Indeed, for those two reasons, the F22 had to go. It advanced neither aim.

---

Rob H, I don't think it matters that the anti-particle annihilate when it re-enters the Black Hole. The point is that the proton left. It departed, taking with it some mass-energy.

Mark Pantoja said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Pantoja said...

wow, what a great post. often times i find myself sympathetic to the libertarian philosophy, but find their dogmatic rhetoric and alliance with "fiscally conservative" republicans and neocons distasteful and hypocritical. and now i can see some of the logical fallacies and false premises taken to the extreme that has lead to such hypocrises.

my question then is: is a conservative reformation of the libertarian movement even viable? what's in a name? should not those who understand that markets are inefficient and that investors can be irrational, and still strive for the "dream of maximized individual opportunity and freedom" just go off and start their own movement/party? i mean, it seems to me that the libertarian movement just really doesn't WANT a reformation.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin said (of the Bush tax cuts):

What was the concession wrung by democrats? That the cuts would all expire in 2010. The neocons shrugged. They assumed that Supply Side Paradise would arrive by then.
...
and the Bush Cuts would be made permanent and extended much farther, by acclamation.


Although I do remember the facts as you present them, my recollection of the reasoning behind the 2010 expiration is a bit more cynical.

I seem to recall that the GAO estimates the cost of legislation over the next ten years. The Bush tax cuts cost the treasury so much revenue that they would not have been supportable. So they did a trick...having the tax cuts expire after the NINTH year, so that the estimated revenues in the TENTH year (fiscal 2011) would be at the pre-Bush tax rates. That reduced the estimated effect of the legislation, even though everybody (wink, wink) "knew" that by 2010, for the reasons you describe, public pressure would force Congress to extend the tax cuts.

It just didn't work out that way. So the cynical neocon trick turned out to be on them, because the tax cuts now expire this year (before the midterms) UNLESS affirmative action is taken by both houses of Congress. A filibuster doesn't do the GOP any good.

The tea-partiers and those right-wingers who like to portray Obama as evil for "cutting" taxes now when they will have to go up later to pay for health-care...they might pause to recall whether they opposed this cynical strategy when employed by Republicans in 2001.

LarryHart said...

Mark said:

should not those who understand that markets are inefficient and that investors can be irrational, and still strive for the "dream of maximized individual opportunity and freedom" just go off and start their own movement/party?


I think there's something to be said for the "dream of maximized individual opportunity and freedom" as an intrinsic good, regardless of reprecussions. It's one of the founding American myths, and I have a lot of respect for libertarians who favor that ideal.

But I think the notion that "maximized individual opportunity and freedom" somehow guarantees the best socio-economic outcomes for all is a discredited theory.

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David Brin said...

Libertarianism would do an instant turnaround, if enough members of the movement actually read Adam Smith and bothered to study a little history...

...and ask themselves who were the oppressors of freedom and the ruiners of markets, in every human civilization till 1900.

If they face the fact that conspiratorial/aristocratic oligarchism is the standard failure mode (it even applied to the USSR!), then they would have to ask themselves: "am I really as much anti-government as I am pro-freedom?"

If it is the latter, then they will see their role as QUESTIONING big government (which is fine! welcome to the negotiating table)... instead of railing at it as some demonic, manichean monster to be screeched-at, at all costs and under all circumstances. (Thus helping the aristos enfeeble the only real obstacle to their resumed feudal power.)

When they admit (grudgingly) that this mixed economy that FDR designed is the one that outproduced all others and produced more libertarians than any other society, then maybe some of them will admit that incrementalism and tweaking and pushing for market-based solutions and joyfully embracing progress is a better approach than raging solipsistic sanctimony.

Ah, but the latter provides an unparalleled drug high of righteous indignation. And THAT HIGH is what most of them are in it for, Reason be damned.

Robert said...

And here's an interesting article about sea life fleeing the oil slick zone and going into the coastal regions. One of the concerns is that all of the oxygen could be used up in the water, leading to fish asphyxiating. And once again, I have to ask this: is anyone considering using compressors to pump air into the ocean water to oxygenate said water (both in oiled regions where bacteria may be devouring oxygen while working on oil and in coastal regions)? It's the same basic principle as used in fish tanks across the world. While it's not exactly viable on a huge scale, doing it in several regions (especially those with a lot of sealife in them) may help.

Rob H.

Robert said...

I think I've figured out the Republican anti-intellectualism bit here. If knowledge is power, but power corrupts, does that not mean that knowledge corrupts? Which of course means ignorance is bliss!

Rob H.

Ian said...

"But really those who say Obama will lay on the tax mojo are just doing the math. You can't spend forever, and the promises to "bend the health care costs down" is looking increasingly risible.

The serious tax increases lie safely beyond the 2012 election, some suspect. A more reasonable fear than David's dark cabals."

The expiry of the Bush tax cuts and the rising revenue and lower welfare spending resulting from economic recovery are unlikely to make further major tax increases necessary.

Anonymous said...

Ian,
I can say with total sincerity, I hope you are correct.
And for the record, I think the Bush tax cuts should expire. When your nation needs you to chip in.....do it.
Will Obama have the guts to say and do this? Failure to do so will, imho, show him to be a Chicago wardheeler more interested in re-election than the national good.
Although it must be said, he will get heat either way.
Better to get heat for doing the right thing.
Its the kind of act that moderates and independents can respect.
Tacitus2

Tacitus2 said...

(computer may have eaten my prev. post, maybe not. sorry if double posted)
Ian
I hope you are correct.
We could use a few best case scenarios breaking our way.
And for the record, I support expiration of the Bush tax cuts.
Really, if you believe the nation is in fiscal peril, pony up. At least these are open, transparent taxes, not stealth ones.
It will say much about Obama's character, the way he rules on this contentious issue. But if you are gonna get crap either way, take it for doing the right thing.
Tacitus2

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin says of Libertarians:

...they will see their role as QUESTIONING big government (which is fine! welcome to the negotiating table)... instead of railing at it as some demonic, manichean monster to be screeched-at, at all costs and under all circumstances. (Thus helping the aristos enfeeble the only real obstacle to their resumed feudal power.)


Unfortunately, the Randroid wing of libertarianism is perfectly fine with aristocratic barriers to freedom because arsitocrats are private individuals, and thus just as deserving of the freedom to do what THEY want with THEIR property as anyone else is. Thus, Rand Paul is able to accuse the government of infringing on BP's right to risk despoiling the Gulf of Mexico. Perversely, the despoiling of the enviornment is part of the company's "freedom", whereas any attempt to protect the environment is improper "force".

I suspect many of them would see feudalism itself as simply an example of the lords' proper use of their own property, and the "contract" between lords and serfs as being free trade.

LarryHart said...

Passing along from Bill Maher's "New Rules" segment:


Which brings me to this: I don't care if it takes steel domes and robots with saws. I don't care how much cement, mud and garbage has to be shoved down the hole, something has to be done to plug up Louisiana Senator David Vitter. David Vitter is a "values Republican" who a few years ago got caught "valuing" hookers more than his wife. And this week, he finally found a place to draw a line in the now s**t-brown, flammable sand of his home state. He told President Obama, "You must not stop drilling because it will hurt growth.'"

Yes, David Vitter says a moratorium on more drilling could potentially be devestating for Louisiana. Only a Republican can look at a dead ocean and say, "Boy, I sure hope big government doesn't turn this into something bad."
...

Corey said...

Tacitus, I agree with you on Obama as far as future policies with taxation goes, but I would also add that it would seem to be the action he would take.

Obama is much more of a moderate than many people credit him with. As David Brooks is fond of saying, he's not the man that partisans on either side make him out to be, and for the very reasons that I expect him to do the right thing when needed. If he doesn't, then I'll be looking for someone else to win the Democratic primary in 2012.

Tacitus2 said...

David
That horrid right wing site Instapundit linked to your admonitionary video on going off to college!

Nice work!

errr...time to update the photo on the official David Brin site?

Naaahhh.

Congrats

Tacitus2

David Brin said...

Thanks. Folks! Go help my "advice to new graduates" video go viral!

"I suspect many of them would see feudalism itself as simply an example of the lords' proper use of their own property"

Sure. That is why I START with a DARE to explain who were the oppressors in (roll dice) 560 BCE Europe or 1340 CE Japan, etc. WHo PREVENTED MARKETS from functioning and acted in all ways to repress any possible competition from below?

We need it to be clear... private property worship and belief in the market benefits of competition are NOT the same thing! Indeed, in most historical contexts, they were in frequent conflict.

Libertarians need to fish or cut bait. Their current hypocrisy and dullard refusal to read or think has rendered them useless in the fight for EITHER competition or freedom.

David Brin said...

Just sent this to my conservative but smart and non-neocon investment guru friend:


You said "Keynes argued that governments should run surpluses in good times, which is conveniently forgotten by most government spending types."

I agree! The true measure of democratic party rule is not whether Obama is currently running deficits during a recession. That is being true to his Keynsian roots. No, the test is whether Democrats will sincerely attempt to buy down debt during good times.

Here, there is a huge datum on their side of the ledger. The 1990s. While some earnest pre-neocon Republicans in Congress helped, it is certainly a credit to Bill Clinton and his party that they set in course a serious buy-down plan.

This willingness to modify policy based upon conditions must be seen as credibility-building. Moreover, failure to vary doctrine is one of the biggest flaws in the other party's Supply Side theory. When the sole objective in good times is the very same as in bad times - to dispense largesse upon a top clade "in order to stimulate capital formation," you've got to worry.

(If for no other reason than the fact that it is - at root - an incredibly MARXIAN theory! I have yet to see that bare fact pointed out, when addressing neoconservatism, but it is consistent with the Trotskyite roots of many of its members.)

Note, this flaw is separate from the more systematic problem of supply side theory - its failure of prediction. In fact the enriched top clades did NOT invest in productive capacity or research, which was the main justification for Supply Side. Oh, some did. But most engaged in manipulative rent-seeking, precisely the complaint of Adam Smith. (And again, falling into Marxist patterns. Not a sign of a good theory!)

Look, I am an equal-opportunity critic and I lay into the left, as well! In particular, I am not contending the Keynsians are perfect!

Only that their behavior seems consistent and sincere.

---------------------
As for Europe, we Americans find it bemusing for the French to feel so-o-o-o daring, by raising the retirement age to 62!

I lived there a couple of years. What I found most pathetic is the dismal, nationwide attitude toward work. They find it bizarre that Americans actually LIKE their jobs (often) and identify with them. (The worst thing you can to at a party, in Europe, is to ask another person his profession!)

Well, we're going to Paris and Rome, so I guess the low Euro is good for us.

All best!

david b

Tim H. said...

Just had a look at drdemento.com, and the broadcast show is over. He plans to do streaming shows for $2 each over the net instead. The show was down to 5 stations at the end, I wonder if it didn't have something to do with him not allowing the show on 'net radio?
It would seem to be a small matter, but it's an ugly world out there sometimes.

rewinn said...

"Go help my "advice to new graduates" video go viral"

Is this the preferred link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJTo9qXAcnc ?

Anonymous said...

As for Europe, we Americans find it bemusing for the French to feel so-o-o-o daring, by raising the retirement age to 62!

I lived there a couple of years. What I found most pathetic is the dismal, nationwide attitude toward work. They find it bizarre that Americans actually LIKE their jobs (often) and identify with them. (The worst thing you can to at a party, in Europe, is to ask another person his profession!)
david b


Dear Dr. Brin. Please do not use europe if you actually mean a single european country and your experience there. I noticed this in an earlier post in which you made a similar statement about retirement and work ethic on the old continent. Retirement age is quite different in the members of the EU, for example 67 here in Germany. Also asking about your profession is actually always the first thing you are asked on any party (at least on the parties ive been :). Job identification (usually) is high, maybe too high and clinical depression after loss of it is not uncommon (which is also fostered by a notorious lack of optimism in this nation).

Enjoying your blog very much...

Jacob said...

Hi Rob H.

If you are interested in Republican Anti-Intellectualism I suggest you read A Conflict of Visions by Thomas Sowell. He is a conservative who works for the Hoover Institution. I thought it was a great book for understanding the right.

He says that the reason for anti-intellectualism is based in the fact that humans are limited. No one (other than god) can understand all the factors involved in the complex world and therefore shouldn't be trusted to make decisions. The same goes for Judicial Activism (A form of intellectual decision making).

The book is great and I understand where they are coming from now. I still disagree because they came to the wrong conclusion. Namely that Intellectuals are no more likely to be correct than any other common man. Rather they should be trying to set systems in which informed individuals are watching each other for failings of hubris, group think, etc.

Btw, I don't recommend his book Intellectuals and Society. Every single section starts out "Intellectuals are wrong/dangerous/mistaken because...".

Regards,
Jacob

Tony Fisk said...

Excuse me, what do you do here?

(The worst thing you can to at a party, in Europe, is to ask another person his profession!)

These two remarks wouldn't be related, would they?

David Brin said...

Tony, my advice to new college students is obviously a very American attitude. That is not to say that curiosity is absent in Europe, or that students there should not take my advice - they should! But the European Baucalaureate degree takes 3 years instead of 4 precisely because it is a specialized regime of study, without the full year of breadth requirements of a US bachelor's degree. That regimen clearly is based upon a value system that is very different.

Anonymous, I am sorry that two thoughts seemed to mix in your reading of my remarks. I spoke only of France re retirement age and hating work. Re Europe I ONLY said "don't ask professions at parties." That is a separate matter. And perhaps it doesn't apply in Scandinavia. But in much of Europe, it is considered rude to bring up work at parties - a genuine cultural difference with americans.

"(Sowell) says that the reason for anti-intellectualism is based in the fact that humans are limited. No one (other than god) can understand all the factors involved in the complex world and therefore shouldn't be trusted to make decisions. The same goes for Judicial Activism (A form of intellectual decision making)."

Sorry, this is an example of right-wing intellectuals saying obvious things and then using them to entice unwarranted extrapolations.

The new Know Nothings are waging an anti-intellectual war against expertise only one of whose branches is the Great Big Denialism Campaign. Indeed, I very much doubt that Climate Change has anything to do with the actual agenda. The Denialist movement is so profoundly illogical... its core aim is to prevent "precipitate" public policies whose overall effects would be desirable, even if global warming turned out to be entirely false!

No, the clear aim is to create a populist rage against one set of social elites -- ranging from civil servants to scientists to military officers -- in order to distract public ire from another set of elites.

The logical justification chain is very simple.

(1) We all know that intellect does not always translate into wisdom. We have all known smart and knowledgeable people who were nevertheless unwise. One can fairly say "Mere knowledge and intellect do not necessarily make you wise."

It is a simple - if utterly fallacious - step to imply (without ever saying it explicitly) that:

(2) Intellect and knowledge make a person unwise. Hence we need pay no heed to the people who know the most stuff.

Members of this movement will furiously deny making this fallacious logical step, but it is redolent in the neocon movement, from top to bottom.

It was there when the Bush-Rumsfeld team over-ruled all advice from the US Officer Corps and ran roughshod over them until they had to rebel.

It is seen in the fact that (according to a poll last year) only 5% of scientists still consider themselves Republican... a staggering indictment, that is met only with shrugs and snarling dismissals of the relevance of pointy-headed intellectuals.

It is seen in the way Fox News reporters who graduated from Ivy League schools Summa Cum Laude nevertheless pretend not to understand the meaning of three syllable words - and it's inherent in the charming but insidious humor of the Red Neck Comedy Tour guys, who relentlessly imply that there is something earthier, more manly and real about being flat-out, bone-dumb stupid.

It is precisely the populist trick that worked in 1861, getting hundreds of thousands of poor southern whites to march and die to protect the interests of their feudal lords. It worked before.


Anonymous said...

Anonymous, I am sorry that two thoughts seemed to mix in your reading of my remarks. I spoke only of France re retirement age and hating work. Re Europe I ONLY said "don't ask professions at parties." That is a separate matter.

Thanks for the clarification. Guess i misread. Blame it on my poor English skills :(

And perhaps it doesn't apply in Scandinavia. But in much of Europe, it is considered rude to bring up work at parties - a genuine cultural difference with americans.

Hmmm, let me think about that, maybe make a list :) Might be a protestant work ethic vs catholicism tradition distribution thing.

Tony Fisk said...

I was just 'stirring the possum', David. I think your advice is sound, and wish I'd taken it thirty years ago! (I've never really done 'fierce', though)

For the record, Melbourne University has started re-structuring its curriculum on the broader American model.

toppie: a young, formerly upward mobile professional.

spacechampion said...

Interesting experiment to create a viewer-funded (initially Kickstarter, now a PayPal link on the download page for the first episode) science fiction series delivered via torrent networks: http://vodo.net/pioneerone

It's hard to talk about the story itself without spoiling it.