Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Conspiracy Theories... Plus Rightwing Loonies

First, just for the core community here... I have a help request for some techies, having to do with things like web page design and speech-to-text. I'll elaborate down below, in comments.


Blazingly Partisan Political Gleanings

Here are a few items I had set aside.  First, something that is not actually partisan. Rather, it is my Primer on Supply Side Vs Demand Side Economics.  The IEET has reposted one of my popular articles showing how the Left-Right "political axis" simply does not correlate with the actual issues that we face.  And that it is time to take a pragmatic, outcomes oriented appraoch, when it comes to determining whether a longstanding economic dogma should (at last) be relegated to the dustbin of history.  Hey, Marxism deserved to go to the trash heap.  See why the same has to be done to "supply side" voodoo.  

And now the choice, unabashedly stuff, skewering the villains in "Culture War."

Anderson Cooper's must-see birther interview: CNN anchor coolly takes down Texas State Rep. who asks why we don't "know anything at all" about the president. I was pleased, till I realized Cooper was leaving out the most devastating fact that exposes “birthers” as raving loons.  The fact that there were announcements of Barack Obama’s birth in the Honolulu Advertiser, way back when. You can find them in the paper’s archives, and in moldy piles in garages all over Oahu. We are dealing with Heinlein’s “Crazy Years” folks.  We are dealing with bona fide, real-deal insanity.

Read this about the inevitability of Class War.     Eek.

Heck, while we’re at it... Michael Shermer lays out characteristics of a conspiracy theory:

1.    Proof of the conspiracy supposedly emerges from a pattern of “connecting the dots” between events that need not be causally connected. When no evidence supports these connections except the allegation of the conspiracy or when the evidence fits equally well to other causal connections—or to randomness—the conspiracy theory is likely to be false.


2.    The agents behind the pattern of the conspiracy would need nearly superhuman power to pull it off. People are usually not nearly so powerful as we think they are.


3.    The conspiracy is complex, and its successful completion demands a large number of elements.


4.    Similarly, the conspiracy involves large numbers of people who would all need to keep silent about their secrets. The more people involved, the less realistic it becomes.


5.    The conspiracy encompasses a grand ambition for control over a nation, economy or political system. If it suggests world domination, the theory is even less likely to be true.


6.    The conspiracy theory ratchets up from small events that might be true to much larger, much less probable events.


7.    The conspiracy theory assigns portentous, sinister meanings to what are most likely innocuous, insignificant events.


8.    The theory tends to commingle facts and speculations without distinguishing between the two and without assigning degrees of probability or of factuality.


9.    The theorist is indiscriminately suspicious of all government agencies or private groups, which suggests an inability to nuance differences between true and false conspiracies.


10.    The conspiracy theorist refuses to consider alternative explanations, rejecting all disconfirming evidence and blatantly seeking only confirmatory evidence to support what he or she has a priori determined to be the truth.


The key element in conspiracy theories is self-flattery... the thing Glen Beck sells above all.  The notion that he and his viewers are in on the real poop, they can see what their stupid, stupid, stupid neighbors are too... well STUPID ... to see!

I call it the MENSA Effect, since I have never known a brainy under-achiever who did not cling to one form of conspiracy theory or another, from UFOs to Kennedy assassinations Spare Change to "we're living in a simulation."

(This is not to say that watchers of Fox News are MENSA-types! Far from it! They leave the thinking to Beck.  But the emotional need is the same.)

BTW my favorite conspiracy passes all of Shermer's tests.  It is entirely plausible that certain brilliant trillionaires who havs stated OPENLY that they wish to see a collapse of Western Civilization may have entered into alliance with another foreign billionaire who openly despises democracy, to openly fund a propaganda machine that has relentlessly and openly promoted the re-igniting of the American Civil War.

Motive, means, opportunity... and deadly effects. I do not blame the victims of the conspiracy... the consumers of Fox News... for falling for the propaganda.  The people I blame are the liberals and "blue americans" for seeing this awful phenomenon, bemoaning it, but refusing to connect the dots.

In this case, the weird hypothesis... the one beggaring the imagination and beyond all plausibility ... is that there is NOT a "conspiracy" going on.  And yet, I have met no one... not a single person... who is willing to even try the notion on for size.  The notion that powerful men are doing exactly what they appear to be doing, pursuing goals that they have openly admitted they desire.

==and now politics==

Heck... want more? A fascinating... and not entirely unsympathetic... perspective on Glen Beck.
   
This November, the future House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) rode the Tea Party rhetoric to power, promising to gut “business as usual” on Capitol Hill. Touting an earmark ban and public access to bills as clear moves toward transparency, Boehner seemed demonstrably clear on another accountability issue – congressional ethics. “I think the American people expect that their members of Congress should be held to a high ethical standard,” he said in August.  In spite of that expectation, Boehner is threatening to axe the Office of Congressional ethics.

Established in March of 2008 after the Jack Abramoff scandal, the Office of Congressional Ethics is responsible for “launching investigations of wrongdoings by House Members” in order to “stiffen the spine of the House ethics committee.” Operating as an inspector general of sorts, the OCE has “won praise for reviving the House’s notoriously moribund and secretive ethics process.” Despite strong conservative support for OCE, “GOP leaders are gearing up to kill the fledgling” OCE.

Okay.  Reminder time.  Cyclically, regularly (and always) keep checking on the Fox News Boycott.  You have a right to make your purchasing judgements based on many criteria.  Including a list of those who advertise with Glenn Beck.

"I hope we shall... crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country."
Thomas Jefferson

48 comments:

David Brin said...

okay here's the thing. Some of you know I've been poking at my invention for some time.

(To learn more, here's a link to my Google Tech Talk, in which I clearly had too much caffeine(!) offering a big perspective about problem-solving and "discourse" in the modern age: http://tinyurl.com/yy7yxm
The accompanying slides are at: http://www.slideshare.net/davidbrin/presentations

Anyway, I have this bright guy completely rebuilding my demo, from the ground up, and cool progress is being made. But some ancillary things need doing that I'd rather not distract him with:

1. I need to slap together 6 or 7 web pages for the URL I've bought. Basically they're meant to welcome people to the demo, demand a password, and pass folks on to another page that queries them for profile info... and that info goes to a simple database that can exchange data with the Demo.

Fairly simple stuff. A guy who knows recent HTML should be able to dash it off. I can pay a few hundred on completion or pay in gratitude when the demo is up and running, and being kept up-to-date as things develop..

2. Anyone know a lot about the current best speech-to-text software? I am looking to attend a high tech conference and would like a microphone to take the speaker's words down and transcribe them into a running document that folks can see on their laptops via their browsers.

Is that possible... and turn-key... in this day & age?

Let me be clear... I don't care (!) if the speech to text makes mistakes! People will be listening to the real guy on stage. What I want is for the scrolling transcript to give folks sentences they can generally point to or copy/paste etc in real time, on their laptops. Is this possible?

Okay, them is the two items. Anybody know anybody who could help? Much thanks!

The Great and Powerful Oz said...

As a lifetime Mensa member and now a former fan of yours, screw you!

Ilithi Dragon said...

Speech-to-text: Nuance's Dragon Naturally Speaking dictate software is one of if not the best professional speech-to-text programs available on the market, from what I understand (and it was the program used by a transcription company I was looking at working for a while back). It also scores awesome points in my book for the name, but that's just me.

It does come at cost, ranging from $100 for the base version to $800 for the top-end Legal Edition.

Microsoft Windows also has a speech to text program that comes with windows by default it's part of the ease of access suite.

It's free Easter you do not have to pay for anything, but I'm not sure of that quality I need not want some testing has eaten C8 is not providing and hot and entirely accurate a transcription. The new plants dragging dictates of Carnegie that preferential option depending on how clearly the windows program can transcribe your voice mine has not been properly calibrated to my voice so that may be part of the problem. Either way you want some experimentation and nothing else it's a free program so it doesn't cost anything.

In Windows 7, Start > All Programs > Accessories > Ease of Access > Windows Speech Recognition.

Thomas Sobieck said...

That Mensa fellow needs to lighten up.

rushmc said...

The propaganda drones may be the target of that "conspiracy," but they are certainly not the victims. Well, not exclusively. The whole world gets a seat at that table.

Mike Galos said...

The speech recognition built into Windows Vista and Windows 7 is absolutly first rate and already included.

The big quality varience in any speech recognition system is primarily tied to having a really good microphone and to a lesser degree, having the system trained to the voice of the speaker. The latter may not be possible with the multiple speakers at a conference but if you can't get a good microphone your error rate will be a problem with any software.

David Brin said...

Jeeez... I was a MENSA member for many years... and left because of the prickly, short-tempered lack of humor that we just saw displayed here.

Calm, confident minds shrug off stuff with a chuckle.

Brendan said...

And it was only the very small sub-set of "underachieving" Mensa minds you disparaged. Any true Mensa qualified people would realise it didn't refer to them.(Unless they are an underachieving Mensa nutjob;-) )

Sociotard said...

I still love the description Scott Adams gave of Mensa parties. They were generally at his house, because he was one of the few with an actual job. He talks about one person who was a poet, whose ambition was to one day "write some of them down".

Rob said...

David, Speech recognition technology is very good today but it still has to at least be trained to a normalized accent. Google Voice, for one application of the technology, is tuned to American Standard English, and thus can't even begin to parse what Indian accented callers are leaving in my voice mail.

In short, it depends on your audience. Nuance's legal edition probably contains a much larger and specialized dictionary of words.

As for HTML, look into SquareSpace; I think they have theming and design tools that would let one of your kids do what you need if you wanted to involve them.

Rob said...

Oh, and I can think of one plausible explanation for Fox News that doesn't include a foreign conspiracy to incite civil war.

Fox is chasing ratings, because ratings produces higher advertising revenue. If one considers that to be the sole focus of the company, over any other purpose, one doesn't have to attribute to malice; they're simply airing the most outrageous, attention-getting stuff, as much as possible.

In short, Fox "News" is actually Fox "Gossip"; possible facts offered primarily for entertainment purposes.

Explains everything, and permits the Saudi shareholders and Murdoch to have the cold businessman's focus without also stoking a conspiracy theory. And they can even plausibly claim their shareholders demanded it that way!

Honestly, I'm a little more concerned about the NBC/Comcast merger, than the screamers at Fox.

Tim H. said...

Something depressing on the economy here:
http;//www.ginandtacos.com/2011/01/26/the-canard/
Not so much class war, some wealthy people found a profitable thing and they're going to ride it into the ground rather than give up ANY money at all. Never seems to occur to them that the nation at the end of that road will not be able to support very many billionaires, or much of anything else.

Tony Fisk said...

I think Clay Shirky(?) started making noises about the lack of online discoursing recently.

1. I need to slap together 6 or 7 web pages for the URL I've bought. Basically they're meant to welcome people to the demo, demand a password, and pass folks on to another page that queries them for profile info... and that info goes to a simple database that can exchange data with the Demo.

Just to be pedantic on the specs, html and css will handle text and layout, and input form. For database storage, you'll probably need a backend scripting language (if it's going to impact on the actual demo, I'd choose depending on what your fellow is familiar with) Javascript and AJAX is only needed for refining the user interaction.

As for speech to text, I've heard Naturally Speaking is the top contender, but only on windows. This listing might help for Macs

Carl M. said...

Your supply side article was semi-strawmanish. Yes, there are Republican politicians who misuse the Laffer Curve as you describe. But the actual supply side economists say something considerably more nuanced and reasonable. Some education below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIqyCpCPrvU

John Kurman said...

Now, now, be nice to the Mensa members. They may be a little slow and plodding and not very playful to those of us in the upper .0002 percent, but they're still kind of cute to watch sometimes.

(tongue firmly planted against cheek)

LarryHart said...

Am I the only one who thought that MENSA guy's post was meant to be funny?

Robert said...

Possibly. I didn't see any signs it was meant to be humorous, but then I've an off-center sense of human (or is that off-kilter?) in any event. ^^;;

Though I did find it amusing that someone calling himself "The Great and Powerful Oz" was taking umbrage.

Rob h.

Jonathan S. said...

Hey, I take offense!

Speaking as a brainy underachiever (and former Mensan), I don't cling to any conspiracy theories of any note! (I've always believed in the adage that one should never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.)

[note for the humor-impaired: tongue so firmly planted in cheek, it is in danger of creating another opening in my face]

lutingsi: a variety of pasta shaped like little lutes

David Brin said...

Rob, your explanation for Fox News would hold if they were screaming endless untrue things that amounted, overall, to no-net-harm. For example about celebrities. Or UFOs. Or attacking incompetent politicians of all stripes. But that is not what's happening. Have you been watching that cesspool? The common denominator on all shows is not sensationalism, it is anti-intellectualism. When the tsunami of lies is monolithically directed toward all centers of elite expertise, from science to civil service to academia, mainline journalism, law, teachers... Jeez, man, what does it take to wake you up?

Carl I will watch the Cato Institute Laffer video, but if it is like most of the brothel-stuff from Cato, I expect disappointment.

Fact, the Rooseveltean tax code needed to be reduced for modern times. But it resulted in a combination of flattened social structure, low debt and vigorous entrepreneurship that has never been matched. All three traits veered into bad territory under Reagan's "revolution." They resumed heading back into good territory under Clinton, then spiraled into hell, as soon as the GOP gained full control.

Good lord. Experimental evidence trumps "oughta" incantations.

Capitalism has never survived the emergence of an obligate, all-powerful oligarchy. Adam Smith called it THE enemy.

Is there a level of wealth disparity that would radicalize you? Name a figure. Do.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Fact, the Rooseveltean tax code needed to be reduced for modern times. But it resulted in a combination of flattened social structure, low debt and vigorous entrepreneurship that has never been matched. All three traits veered into bad territory under Reagan's "revolution."...


The Randroids will, of course, counter that the very flattened social structure you (and I--make no mistake) celebrate is in fact achieved via an onerous burden placed upon the deserving productive class to benefit the mooching poor.

Unfortunately, the gap between the two sides of the aisle is that unbridgeable. What you (and I) consider to be a statement of an unqualified good (flattened social structure) is seen by them as an evil liberal/socialist construct.

So the short answer is no, there is no number to be placed upon wealth disparity that they would agree is a bad thing. To that side of the aisle, wealth disparity is a good thing.

They have no problem with the logical endgame--a small uber-wealthy clade buying and therefore "owning" the means of human SURVIVAL (never mind "means of production") and then negotiaing on "equal terms" with the rest of humanity over the price they will exact in exchange for any food, water, or air, and the only legitimate function of "government" being to protect THEIR food, water, and air from the rest of humanity.

The only part I don't get is how people with such a philosophy can in any way claim to be patriotic or to "love America" in any meaningful sense of the terms.

(And yes, I still owe you a post-mortem--several in fact--on "Foundation's Triumph")

Robert said...

I read the article on Beck your link led me to. He seems to be close to believing your favorite conspiracy theory, complete with Saudis. To stop playing into the hands of that particular conspiracy, though, he'd have to break with the Holy Ones, which is not going to happen.

On a more general note, I've enjoyed your Ostrich posts in past blogs. I'm an old-style Midwestern Republican who believes in a sound currency and a balanced budget, is almost, but not quite, isolationist, and has a very strong libertarian streak. So you might like what I told my father in 2004: "I can't stand Kerry either, but this is an emergency!"
Sounds just like you...

Jack said...

Hey
Looks like the conspirators are meeting at Davos as we speak.
I ran across this bit just after I read your blog

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-super-rich-at-davos-40-years-of-disaster-2011-01-25?dist=countdown

Though I'm a brainy underachiever, Mensa never attracted me. It may have to do with the many "does not play well with others" I've received in my life.
Jack

Tacitus2 said...

Ah, not in the mood for conspiracy talk today.

So lets toss a thread hijacking slab of raw meat to the carnivores!

Bon appetite.

Is Sci-Fi becoming more conservative?

Tacitus

David Brin said...

Guys look at this:
http://www.jokeroo.com/bin/player.swf?5f9f_f369

"The Randroids will, of course, counter that the very flattened social structure you (and I--make no mistake) celebrate is in fact achieved via an onerous burden placed upon the deserving productive class to benefit the mooching poor."

They are essentialists. Mystics seeking the drug high of indignant purity through absolute moral dogma. I can dip my toe into that realm and taste the sick drug high. What they can never know is the attraction of our outcome-oriented belief in pragmatic, negotiated progress through mixed-diverse methodologies. But it is our approach that has worked at that is the heart and soul of bona fide enterprise. Theirs has wrought nearly all of the monstrous crimes in the world.

I extoll the flattened social order not as a "good" in its own right but as one sign of a society's health, simply because is means we are unlikely to be afflicted by the failure mode that Smith attacks and that ruined most societies -- that of oligarchic hedgemony.

I do not think flattened social order are by themselves unalloyedly good. They MIGHT - as Vonnegut shows in his wonderful story "Harrison Bergeron" be a symptom of fetishistic leftist "levelling" -- in which case I rediscover my libertarian side and take up arms!

But when flattened social strata coincide with vigorous opportunity for empowered young people to COMPETE with each other and the mighty, from a relatively level playing field, amid vigorous entrepreneurship, and joyfully creative rivalry, then yes, a flattened social order is a clear sign of health.

"They have no problem with the logical endgame--a small uber-wealthy clade buying and therefore "owning" the means of human SURVIVAL (never mind "means of production") and then negotiaing on "equal terms" with the rest of humanity over the price they will exact in exchange for any food, water, or air, and the only legitimate function of "government" being to protect THEIR food, water, and air from the rest of humanity."

This is why Rand's characters never have children. Because the instant inheritance enters into the equation, she and her readers must realize, "Hey! I have just instituted the old enemy. Within three generations, maybe just one, Dagny's kids will be the Old Money Oligarchs I hated in the novel."

David Brin said...

Robert, thanks for the remark. Yes, it is an emergency when the sole hope of enterprise capitalism is the democrats. I hate that fact and relentlessly preach that we must keep a wary eye cracked toward our allies on the left, while fighting this monstrous were-creature that has hijacked conservatism on the right. But we must start by accepting that the mad lefties do not now run the liberal movement. Pragmatists do. Democrats are still willing to negotiate.

The Davos article starts: ". Invitation-only club for the Super Rich and friends since 1971. Feel-good mantra: “Committed to improving the state of the world.... But they’re failing. In 40 years the Haves got richer. Have-nots got shafted. Something’s terribly wrong. When it comes to global economics, Davos is a disaster."

Well... first off, I am not convinced that Davos attenders are the real illuminati. They are rich, but they also attend seminars on philanthropy and peacemaking. I doubt the real monsters are there. Secondly, the world's MAIN "have-nots" have been doing TERRIFIC in recent years! China, India, Latin America, even parts of Africa. It is the middle classes in America and Europe who are getting shafted. The reason is simple.

In China etc, the rich can get a lot richer by creating factories and infrastructure that let them exploit cheap labor. Ironically, this is not so horrible. Despite nasty edges where exploitation becomes horrific, in general the workers benefit at a steady pace, sending their kids to school and eventually reaching the threshold where they can unionize. Marx described the process pretty well. The capitalists may be labor-value thieves, But they do CAPITALIZE... meaning create productive capital. In Marxian terms, they are doing their historical duty, even while getting pig rich and stealing from the nation.

These factory owners are VASTLY better than the aristocracies they replace. Those that exploit farming serfdom, or those who take all the wealth out of developing nations through corruption and stash it in Swiss accounts. May all such drop dead.

At the other end are oligarchs whom Marx also described ... and who were hated by Adam Smith. "Rent-seekers" who are too lazy to invest in risky enterprises, new idea or productive plants and equipment. They do NOT do what the Cato Institute and Laffer said they would do with extra money. They do not invest it in increasing the "supply side" of the supply/demand curve.

Instead, they use their position and power to capture regulators, legislators, propaganda mills and tweak the system in order to maximize VAMPIRE-style financial parasitism.

Sound familiar? We just lived through the latest such raid and the fact that none of them are in jail will encourage them to keep doing it.

No, the Have-nots have been doing well, because the Old Lords have been replaced by true capitalists, in India, China etc. It is the developed world's middle class that has been raped... as the capitalist caste in those countries is replaced by...

... the new Old Lords.

David Brin said...

Tacitus, that article was very badly written. It focuses on a single panel, three of whose members are clearly right wing dopes who make Jerry Pournelle seem the sage in the room.

Indeed, Jerry often comes off that way. Because, though he remains the same conservative he always was, he openly admits that the movement has been hijacked by monsters.

FARfetched said...

Living among Fox-watching pod people, I can say with some confidence that a prime motivation is to feel superior to someone, preferably a group easily identified (say, by skin color).

David Brin said...

Skin color is officially de-emphasized by the likes of Beck. Indeed, by creating a Big Lie fiction that he is ML King's rightful heir, he infects that same hypocritical deceit into his viewers...

...and thus actually does good!

No. Fox News holds no special truck with skin color racism, and only promotes anti-hispanic feelings as part of general populist lies about immigration.

Their hate campaign is against all members of a technologically complex civilization who actually UNDERSTAND that complex civilization. Such people are easy targets, because the 25% who watch Fox are already in a state of simmering resentment toward smartypants. So it is trivial to drum it up further. Tho the real aim is to undermine all castes who might question the rising oligarchy.

Tim H. said...

An interesting thing for the Randroids to ponder, "How many fleas can a dead dog support?". They ignore the interconnectedness of society at their peril, and are as likely to retain usable wealth without a working class as a tree is likely to flourish without soil.

LarryHart said...


This is why Rand's characters never have children. Because the instant inheritance enters into the equation, she and her readers must realize, "Hey! I have just instituted the old enemy.


Well, I'm not sure she wouldn't just have her characters treat their own children the way your Holnists did in "The Postman". From memory: "That's the REAL American democracy. My own sons must kill to become Holnists, or else scratch dirt to support those who can." Likewise Randian heroes would have no special consideration for unearned benefits for their own children.

Not that I can read Ayn's mind at this late date, but I can see how she COULD have reconciled her heroes' philosophy even with their having children.

Rather, I believe, Rand's protagonists don't reproduce because at heart, she's writing adolescent fantasy which sees no need to recognize the inevitability of death, and therefore, of the need for a civilization to extend beyond the lifespan of particular individuals. At the end of "Atlas Shrugged", everything is in its place as it always should have been. Dagny will run railroads, Rearden will create metal, Midas will finance everything, and Galt will provide unlimited energy--presumably forever, like a pantheon of gods. The reich will last 1000 years.

I'm not sure she exactly thought it through that far, but I think it's fair to say that she purposely avoided any question of what happens when these individuals inevitably age and die. Only mature literature recognizes such issues. Adolescent fantasy (superhero comics, action films, etc) stop the action well before such inevitabilities with "And they all lived happily ever after".

But as Alan Moore's "Watchmen" reminds us, "Nothing never ends."

LarryHart said...

Tim H:

An interesting thing for the Randroids to ponder, "How many fleas can a dead dog support?". They ignore the interconnectedness of society at their peril, and are as likely to retain usable wealth without a working class as a tree is likely to flourish without soil.


I've always wondered about the Randian notion that, unlike evil paper money which exists at the whim of bureaucrats, gold represents "objective value". Were Hank Rearden to crash his plane on a deserted island, his gold bars would be among the most useless comodities in helping him to survive.

Money is ONLY valuable to the extent that other people are willing to trade goods and services for it. That's why people who have lots of money and are willing to put to waste the society which provides all the value FOR that money--they're literally insane.

Carl M. said...

David: confiscatory taxation to offset rent-seeking is like arbitrarily throwing negroes in jail because certain ethnic minority neighborhoods have high crime rates. Morally unacceptable in my book. Fine the criminals, eliminate subsidies, charge for government services rendered and tax ground rent instead. That is justice.

I oppose outrageously high income taxes in part because they lock in a caste system. High income is how you GET rich. Wealth is how you stay rich.


The biggest opportunity to apply the Laffer Curve today is with the poor. The effective marginal "tax" rate for those making the transition from welfare to work can exceed 100%. mises.org documented it a few months ago.

A flat 30% no-deduction income tax coupled with a per citizen rebate of about $2500/year would be close to equivalent to what we have today. I might go for creating a top bracket of 40% for those making a truly rich income in order to balance the budget and up the [p]rebate so we could eliminate federal welfare entirely.

But I would prefer to move to something more akin to Henry George's single tax idea -- with deductible, along with some fee for service taxes. Wealth taxes are way more progressive than income taxes (and they better approximate fee for service government).

Tony Fisk said...

Money is a promissary note.
Gold is a promissary trinket.

Both may be ascribed a certain intrinsic value based on their physical properties and what we can use them for.

It is the economic system that places a value on them (as a representation of wealth that is difficult to counterfeit)

Hank Rearden crashing his plane on a remote island has just left this economic system for another in which it is nutritional value that is difficult to counterfeit.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Carl M

I started reading your comment - with a touch of here we go again - until you mentioned Wealth Tax,

Go for it! - a wealth tax and David's transparent ownership would be a superb system

Target described, How the hell do we get there?

David Brin said...

LarryHart said:”Randian heroes would have no special consideration for unearned benefits for their own children.”

Hm... well I’d find this more credible if Rand ever actually engaged the issue. As-is, her absolute aversion to ever mentioning reproduction or the love & care of children or the role of generations in human life seems clear and decisive evidence for mental deisease, especially in someone who purports for thousands of pages to be the wise arbiter of human custom, ethics and society.

Barring explicit denial from her own mouth, one can only presume that she has no problem with the overwhelming drive that dominated every human society, to maximize reproductive success by ensuring that your own sons will be lords.

Carl, I never minded the gradual reduction of Rooseveltean tax rates. But, as a pragmatist, I see outcomes as the goal. I want enough capitalist profit incentive to propel creative alliances of go-getters to invest in lots of new enterprises. If that is going on, gangbusters, I got no problems with taxing those who have maximally benefited from the creation and maintenance of a peaceful, lawful society that educates their workers and pretects their wealth. Nor is it at all healthy to simply ignore accelerating disparities in wealth and the influence that it causes.

In my opinion the fairest of all solutions is the inheritance tax, which should be damn near total. The kids did NOTHING to provide the goods and services that earned the wealth. Given decades of warning, Dad can set up conditions that will leave Junior in great shape, with plenty of capital to manage and start his own rise up the ladder. Beyond that, Carnegie was right about inherited wealth being a curse.

With warning, Dad can choose almost ANY cool project or beneficial use of the capital and never wind up paying the govt a red cent. Indeed, this is THE way govt might eventually wither away! If need after need is taken care of by dying rich guys. e.g. the govt doesn’t build buildings on university campuses, anymore. That major expense is handled by alumnae now. Wiped off the agenda of the taxpayer.

But I do not insist on any “solution.” I am ready to negotiate... after we see all the facts. My radicalism is simple. Show everybody on planet Earth exactly who owns what. Register it all, Every acre, every house, every tanker whose ownership is hidden behing twenty nests of shell companies. Reveal every path to the real owners. Let the lawsuits commence! Let poor nations get back the TRILLIONS robbed from them by corrupt elites.

We would not have to raise taxes a bit, and the deleveraging of debt would be OVER!

But you haven’t answerred my question. IS there a level of wealth diaprity that would make you as redical as Adam Smith was, when he saw 1% owning 90% of Britain?

rewinn said...

Perhaps a problem with a "pragmatic, outcomes oriented approach" is a lack of conscensus as to what is a good outcome.

It is very difficult to get an ideological libertarian or any species of corporatist to admit it, but most of them are perfectly o.k. with a "Bring Out Your Dead!" distribution of wealth. I don't think that it's merely that they fantasize that they'll be the kingly ones (...although no doubt that's part of it ...) so much as a willing disconnect between the ideological purity that comforts them so, and the real-world outcome therefrom. It's how a man who would not kick a cat will willingly consign a 100,000 children to death from diarhhea, and still sleep soundly. You see this sort of thing in tobacco addicts all the time (...and in Marxists too, if you can find one; pretty rare critters these days, perhaps they should start a captive breeding program.)

I would classify the disconnect between fondly held belief and heavily evidenced factual outcome as a defect in the "design" of the human brain, although it would be interesting to discover whether this feature had adaptive value a million years ago. Human minds seem poorly adapted for modern society, IMO; let us hope we can at least paper over the defects with tools like this newfangled internet thingy.

rewinn said...

BUT on the plus side, Sarah Palin just gave us a NEW reason to halt space exploration and technological advances in general: it bankrupted the Soviet Union!

(At least our great nation is still #1 in Know-Nothings!)

Tony Fisk said...

Nope. Australia had Pauline Hanson first!

David Brin said...

Rewinn, it is BECAUSE I AM A (genuine) LIBERTARIAN that I demand that aristocracy be placed first, among the historically proven enemies of liberty, markets and human dignity.

So-called "libertarians" (and I exclude Carl from the "so-called"!; he is the real McCoy!) who have never read Adam Smith and ignore the role of oligarchy in suppressing liberty, are simply flatout ignoramuses.

Re Palin... ouch!

Finally, see this:
http://appellateblog.blogspot.com/2009/06/appellate-judge-asks-supreme-court-to.html

http://appellateblog.blogspot.com/2009/06
then
/appellate-judge-asks-supreme-court-to.html

Read it. I never thought about this. The slave states controlled the presidency, congress the courts, the US Marshals... who regularly faced armed militias of local, angry northerners. Bands of southern irregular cavalry rampaged across northern states, barging into homes, ransacking basements at gunpoint, tearing into walls, hauling off neighbors you had known since childhood, on one kidnapper's word that they were "escaped slaves."

Any romantic who says that the South seceded for "states rights" or because they were "invaded" is an idiot who does not know... they owned the government and used federal power against northern states, invading those states at will for TEN YEARS before Fort Sumter.

A stunning story that needs telling.

David Brin said...

onward

Ian said...

"The Randroids will, of course, counter that the very flattened social structure you (and I--make no mistake) celebrate is in fact achieved via an onerous burden placed upon the deserving productive class to benefit the mooching poor."

Pardon the distraction but did people see the recent reports about how Rand received social security and medicaid payments in her later years?

http://www.patiastephens.com/2010/12/05/ayn-rand-received-social-security-medicare

Jumper said...

I finally admitted I really don't have enough knowledge or data to figure out many conspiracy theories. I assign levels of probability and accept my lack of omniscience. Although I do notice things such as motive and opportunity.

I happen to wonder about your hypothesis, David. I have for some time. (And how come no one says "conspiracy hypothesis?" Does that rarity tell us something?) Give us a hint about that billionaire, too.

My conspiracy hypothesis is that pro wrestling is faked. Some say it's impossible, too many people would have to be in on the scam, and the truth would come out.

Yes, that last bit was tongue-in-cheek. Also, I hope, thought provoking. Somehow.

Jumper said...

p.s. I enjoyed your points about the SOTU speech. Because I'm not a politician, I can say I have noted a malaise in this country, related as you point out to hope for, and optimism about, the future; and progress. We need that can-do spirit again. Badly.

rewinn said...

@Dr. Brin
"...it is BECAUSE I AM A (genuine) LIBERTARIAN that I demand that aristocracy be placed first, among the historically proven enemies of liberty, markets and human dignity."

Quite right, and if I implied otherwise I apologize; by "ideological libertarian" I meant those to whom it is a religion that (much like Marxism) needs never be squared with inconvenient facts such as you produce. I have tried (and failed) to get some the "ideological" Libertarians to discuss your essays, only to get from them responses that are structurally identical to those of creationists fitting the observed size of the universe to the literal text of Genesis. It would be amusing were it not to have tragic results.

Anyway, good luck keeping the fire of Reform Libertarianism alive despite the crusades of the Orthodox.

Brian said...

If you're still looking for someone to code the website, please contact me at dev@signalsready.com. As another commenter mentioned, it's a little more involved if you have to store data, but I can discuss that with you.

As far as compensation, my son is attending a science and math magnet school that may be on the chopping block due to budget cuts in our district. I'd code your site in exchange for some minimal help with making people aware of how important these kinds of schools are. Think of it as striking a blow against the opposition in the war on science. Nothing big, just a tweet or a note to someone you know that could publicize the issue.

The school is Kealing Middle School. No need to publish this comment if you're not interested or have already found someone.

Thanks,
Brian

Anonymous said...

"The biggest opportunity to apply the Laffer Curve today is with the poor."

Mmm.Kool aid!

Mike said...

The common denominator on all shows is not sensationalism, it is anti-intellectualism.


Anti-intellectualism has always been a means to ridicule or divide groups of people. Fox news is doing nothing new, and nothing extraordinary. What is extraordinary is the level of reach they have when compared to previous generations of spiteful media. The other thing that is different is amazing ability of the viewers of Fox News to support policies that are clearly against their own economic interests.

What's the motivation for a conservative individual making 40K in the south to agree with not raising taxes on those making 250k a year AND support the elimination of services that he or she uses.



Fact, the Rooseveltean tax code needed to be reduced for modern times. But it resulted in a combination of flattened social structure, low debt and vigorous entrepreneurship that has never been matched. All three traits veered into bad territory under Reagan's "revolution." They resumed heading back into good territory under Clinton, then spiraled into hell, as soon as the GOP gained full control.


Read Robert Reich's book, Aftershock -- The next economy and America's Future -- http://www.amazon.com/Aftershock-Next-Economy-Americas-Future/dp/0307592812

There was no reason why the income tax rate of the 50's, 60's and 70's should have been reduced. Rich people still got rich during that period, just not as obscenely.

Capitalism has never survived the emergence of an obligate, all-powerful oligarchy. Adam Smith called it THE enemy.

Is there a level of wealth disparity that would radicalize you? Name a figure. Do.


Unter times of stress and great disparities of wealth capitalism becomes fascism.

Mike

Matt Crawford said...

I had trouble verifying your Jefferson quote from primary sources. (Of course it's all over the googles, but so are lots of errors.) It turns out that Mr. J.'s spelled varied a bit and in his letter to George Logan he wrote "monied," not "moneyed."

"I hope we shall take warning from the example [of England] and crush in it's [sic] birth the aristocracy of our monied corproations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws our country."