Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The Solution isn't Left or Right. It's Citizenship

=== Either Read Adam Smith or Stop Misquoting Him ===


Adam Smith is often cited by people on the neoconservative right, who call him a founding father of modern markets and competitive/creative capitalism. That is correct so far.

Only, when pressed, you’ll find that none of these folks have ever actually read “The Wealth of Nations” or “Theory of Moral Sentiments,” or indeed, anything Smith actually wrote.


Hence, lately, I’ve been urging everybody - liberal or conservative - with an attention span greater than a gnat’s to actually crack open what truly are among the founding documents of our Enlightenment revolution. The Wealth of Nations -- is now available online.

 Published in the very special year 1776, “Wealth of Nations,” certainly does praise competition as the great driver of innovation, productivity, prosperity and human uplift. Smith derides the notion of an extensively planned economy as ultimately foolhardy -- a case proved relentlessly by the failures of Leninist-socialist states. Thus far, he seems at least compatible with an older breed of conservatives and moderate libertarians, like Barry Goldwater.
Transparent

Indeed, lest there be any confusion, try reading my book: The Transparent Society: Make Us Choose Between Privacy and Freedom? whose core point is that openness and transparency empower us to hold each other accountable, through democracy, science and markets.  Competition (that’s kept moderate and human) truly is the great, creative process. Just as a less gentle version propels evolution.


So, why do I maintain that today Adam Smith would be a Democrat?  Try reading his actual words. Smith says many things that would shock and inconvenience those oversimplifying dogmatists who use his name in vain.  For example, he knew that oligarchy was the great enemy of freedom and of competition, across 99% of human cultures and 5,000 years. Think about that, next time you are tempted by the (oligarch-subsidized) line that the only foe of freedom is civil servants.


=== Civil Servants are the Only Threat? Really? ===

All of which leads into my first suggested link... to the blog of Kent Pitman,  who in turn describes a most-disturbing trend, in Sociopaths by Proxy:

“At an extravagant hotel gilded just before the Great Depression, corporate executives from the tobacco giant R. J. Reynolds, State Farm Insurance, and other corporations were joined by their "task force" co-chairs -- all Republican state legislators -- to approve "model" legislation. They jointly head task forces of what is called the "American Legislative Exchange Council" (ALEC).

“There, as the Center for Media and Democracy has learned, these corporate-politician committees secretly voted on bills to rewrite numerous state laws. According to the documents we have posted to ALEC Exposed, corporations vote as equals with elected politicians on these bills. These task forces target legal rules that reach into almost every area of American life: worker and consumer rights, education, the rights of Americans injured or killed by corporations, taxes, health care, immigration, and the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink.

". . . ALEC apparently ignores (Adam) Smith's caution that bills and regulations from business must be viewed with the deepest skepticism. In his book, "," Smith urged that any law proposed by businessmen "ought always to be listened to with great precaution . . . It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it."

Have a look at the whole posting.  Very interesting stuff.  It is part of a long indictment of the current version of conservatism, from an entirely conservative perspective.


=== Who Generally Saves The Day? ===

Likewise, my complaints about the gun lobby come from the pragmatic middle, not any leftie slant. I am no anti-gun fanatic who fears and loathes firearms. Indeed, I have some extended experience with them.  Moreover I think that a balanced compromise would entail protecting a particular kind of weapon ownership to a very strong and permanently Constitutional degree. There is a level where the gun lobby’s fanatical overkill fear of a “slippery slope” is actually rooted in a valid concern about possible erosion of Jefferson’s “Insurrectionary recourse” and I think those on the left are fools to ignore this concern. Another area where Barry Goldwater and I might have gotten along... while both of us look appalled on recent changes to his hijacked movement. 


Still, recent crazed-mass-killer shootings, like the attack on Congresswoman Gabby Giffords in Phoenix and the slaughter of eighty young people in Norway brought out the loony-tunes arguments, again. “One bystander armed with a concealed carry pistol could have ended this,” Rush Limbaugh opined. “The problem isn’t too many guns, but too few!”

This argument has deep roots in science fiction, in an aphorism pushed by John W. Campbell that “an armed society is a polite society...” based on a romantic view of the Wild West that had no basis in historical fact.  But Robert Heinlein toyed with the notion in one of his best novels BEYOND THIS HORIZON. The assertion certainly has some romantic allure. And I freely admit that, if we were all armed to apply deadly force at an instant’s whim, there would be changes!  Very rapidly, in just a few bloody generations, we would evolve as a species to become more polite! (As the indignant nuts quickly wiped themselves out.) But one has only to live for a while in any slum on Earth to know how absurd the statement is, today in the real world.


Anyway, the mantra is especially inappropriate after one of these mass-killings by crazed gunmen, spraying bullets in all directions, slaying dozens. These events always end in one of three ways: 

(1) police intervention, 
(2) the gunman’s suicide or 
(3) the shooter being tackled by some brave bystander while he reloads. 

JEFFERSONRIFLE
The closest that such an event ever came to Limbaugh’s scenario and the only known example of an armed civilian shooting and stopping a mass-killer was... “a lesbian, defending a church that had rejected her."  (Read the article and be amazed that life keep spilling such ironies at us!)

Nevertheless, on reading further about that event, I see that she was actually on duty that day, as a part-time volunteer security guard.  Still a heroic civilian jumping into action.  But her status was not perfectly that of an armed-surprised bystander. The record is still clear. There has never, ever been a single case of an American bystander, armed with a concealed-carry weapon, who leaped in and used that weapon to bring down a crazed mass-shooter. Again - most such mad shooters have been brought down by un-armed heroic bystanders, who charged the gunman while he was changing ammo.


The crux? Recent horrific death tolls, in Norway and in the Arizona Gifford's Massacre, were all attributable to the huge ammo magazines that prevented heroes from taking action. Magazines that are indefensible for any conceivable reason except for mass murder.

Seriously. Other than the “slippery slope” catch-all... that ANY restriction will lead to total confiscation... is there any reason why the owner of a weapon shouldn’t have to change clips more often than once a day?

=== Final Political Note ===

Somebody get this book and report back about it? (Under comments.) The Ass Is A Poor Receptacle For The Head: Why Democrats Suck At Communication, And How They Could Improve. by Barry Eisler.  From the descriptions, it would seem that his complaint is valid.. but his advice may be the opposite of what I've recommended for years.

Look, I hold no truck with the argument that conservatives are bad because they aren’t liberals. That’s just stupid. And yelling liberal aphorisms is no antidote to conservative ones... or even crazed neoconservative ones.

No. The case should be made that the GOP has betrayed conservatism, betrayed libertarianism, betrayed markets and betrayed even their own rhetoric.  Give us Goldwaters and Buckleys again... noble conservatives who admired the human intellect instead of waging war against it…

...and we’d have a society that negotiates, again. And the pragmatic, problem solving result will include insights from a kind of ‘right’ that was often right.

==And finally...==

GreatestSFReadingLIst1. See NPR's selection of the 100 best science fiction and fantasy novels! The candidates include older works by Wells, Verne, Brunner, Dick, and Bester, as well as titles by Gaiman, Bear, Banks, Cherryh, and Butler...as well as a list of my own personal favorites.

2. I'm notorious for urging calm and compromise but on one issue I'm a loud fanatic - citizens need a full right to record all their encounters with authority. This is a fight we cannot afford to lose. See the latest: "Fifteen years in prison for taping police." I admire many cops and don't mind their new powers to see. But they must also get used to ours.

3. See: Our new gilded age - need any more proof than this? Now ask yourselves this?  Why is the federal government actively subsidizing the golden age of “corporate” or private or luxury-charter jet travel?  As the wealthy and corporate elite abandon commercial airlines in favor of elite VIP terminals - (the only people riding “first class” anymore are frequent flier upgrades) - the rest of us must endure declining service and TSA Hell. History shows that a mode of travel always deteriorates right after the rich abandon it. Should the federal government be subsidizing this change? 

159 comments:

sparecake said...

I voted for Earth, it's been one of my favorites for years! Got my mom to read it last year, even, and she really liked it too=)

Anonymous said...

If memory serves, that Smith quote is actually about Bankers (although by Smith's definition a Banker is someone who manages other people's money, so it could apply to most corporate managers too).

Carl M. said...

The main purpose of the Second Amendment is not to make insurrections easy, it's to keep the number of armed government employees down to something manageable. That's why the word militia is in the Second Amendment.

In the early days, we still had a significant portion of the citizenry exposed to attack by angry barbarians; i.e., Native Americans. An armed citizenry reduces the number of soft targets to guard. We still talk about "riding shotgun" to this day.

Well, today's terrorists are making life difficult by going after soft targets. Our options are to USE the Second Amendment as it was intended or have a police state. The Bush Administration opted for the police state. The 2A option would be to incorporate pilots, and maybe even the stewardesses as militia. Arming the pilots should have been a no brainer. Most are ex military, after all, and are already entrusted to operate a device far more dangerous than a machine gun.

Use 2A properly and you don't need to have an insurrection as you don't ever get a police state.

Marino said...

Carl M.

The 2A option would be to incorporate pilots, and maybe even the stewardesses as militia. Arming the pilots should have been a no brainer.


never heard the words "explosive decompression"?

monkyhead said...

There actually was an armed bystander at the shooting in Tucson.

Joe Zamudio was in a nearby drugstore when he heard gunfire. He released the safety and ran outside. He saw a man standing there with a gun, and immediately determined it was the shooter.

But it wasn't. It was one of the bystanders who had disarmed the real shooter.

Here's the story from Slate:
http://www.slate.com/id/2280794/

"The Arizona Daily Star, based on its interview with Zamudio, adds two details to the story. First, upon seeing the man with the gun, Zamudio 'grabbed his arm and shoved him into a wall' before realizing he wasn't the shooter. And second, one reason why Zamudio didn't pull out his own weapon was that 'he didn't want to be confused as a second gunman.'

"This is a much more dangerous picture than has generally been reported. Zamudio had released his safety and was poised to fire when he saw what he thought was the killer still holding his weapon. Zamudio had a split second to decide whether to shoot. He was sufficiently convinced of the killer's identity to shove the man into a wall. But Zamudio didn't use his gun. That's how close he came to killing an innocent man. He was, as he acknowledges, 'very lucky.'"

Paul said...

Carl M,
"The 2A option would be to incorporate pilots, and maybe even the stewardesses as militia. Arming the pilots should have been a no brainer. Most are ex military, after all,"

Remember when the airlines collapsed after 9/11? Locally, Ansett Australia went bankrupt. There was talk at the time of the Australian government buying Ansett out of receivership, tiding it over until the market recovered, a la GM.

Around that time, there had been some public concern over the Australian Air Force's ability to hold onto its pilots and ground crew, and the cost of staff churn.

So I put the two together and suggested that the Australian government indeed buy Ansett, but integrate it into the Air Force Reserve. Over time, all Ansett staff would be RAAF Reservists.

You'd dramatically expand the number of pilots, mechanics, fuellers, admin, freight aircraft, etc, for the RAAF to call up. Reducing their cost of training and retention.

If the airline was merely able break even, the savings on the Air Force side would be a large net gain for the government. Any profit above that is gravy.

But since this was just after 9/11, imagine the marketing effect of an airline where the pilots and cabin crew are all armed, uniformed, members of the RAAF.

But of course no one listens to me, and Ansett was put into liquidation, and they are still selling off pieces, and none of the creditors have been fully paid.

John Kurman said...

Ah, the old 2nd Amendment foofaraw. The 2nd amendment is not going anywhere. And as long as you ignore all the words before the comma, the 2nd amendment is crystal clear.

And the price we pay for that is a weekly or daily shooting spree or "mass shooting". (In case you do not think it occurs daily in the US of A google news the word "shooting". It's a bigger problem than just nice white folks in Tucson getting plugged.

But no, Carl, a "well-regulated militia" is a group of armed government employees. They are the armed citizenry paid by the government to serve in a militia.

To cite one of many examples, Shay's Rebellion hosted a hastily formed militia against an armed citizenry in revolt. As I recall, even the current Tea Party's hero, Sam Adams, felt all those armed citizens should all be hanged until dead, dead, dead.

As to gun laws, well, I'm from Indiana originally. I was practically weaned on guns.

I want to see stricter regulations in training. I want to see people shooting more often, not less, so that they can keep their skill level up.

Especially handguns. Shooting a rifle requires perhaps a annual or semi-annual brush up on skills. But shooting a handgun is a bit more like shooting arrows from the back of a horse. It requires constant practice. I don't see how a daily mandatory ownership practice (at the owner's expense of course) can be considered a restriction.

John Kurman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carl M. said...

@Marino: ever heard of a Tazer? A knife? Fragmentation bullets?

"Armed" can mean weapons other than a firearm capable of penetrating the fuselage.

Enterik said...

25 years hence and Holnist ideation is still proffered as valid basis for rational conversation. It seems it will be ever so.

Paul said...

John Kurman,
"I don't see how a daily mandatory ownership practice (at the owner's expense of course) can be considered a restriction."

What a reasonable compromise.

"But shooting a handgun is a bit more like shooting arrows from the back of a horse. It requires constant practice."

And being proficient with the longbow was once considered every nobleman's duty.

Stefan Jones said...

DB, you really need to stop using the term "neoconservative" when you're talking about "movement conservatives."

They are very, very different beasts.

The neoconservatives of the Bush era required movement conservatives to get into power, but they are now pretty much out of the picture.

'statiala': Heroine of Angus Crankhower's
epic puppet drama.

David Brin said...

Um... good point Stefan... Movement Conservatives... hm. Any of you want to comment on use of that term?

Carl made very good points about militia. JK please read my cited essay on the Jeffersonian Rifle and the insurrectionary recourse. There is a win-win solution to all this, by choosing JUST the right weapon to call sacred and making the others contingent on proved responsibility and skill.

Rob said...

The Swiss National Army is the epitome of "well-regulated militia". They're so well-regulated that every male born there is required to be trained and maintain competency. Effectively half of the able-bodied are under arms by law.

Is that what we want? No? OK.

Lots of directions to go with this, but I think the most cogent one is that if you want ownership of assault rifles and handguns to be legal everywhere, a competency licensing process is not unreasonable; Swiss people who can't show and maintain competency are simply not permitted arms. It makes me wonder why this is so hard to do...

Tacitus2 said...

Although there are certainly other factors in play around the world, I think it is also fair to assume that the reaction of the financial system to the recent Debt Ceiling deal has been.......well, words fail me.

Of course in any deal that makes everyone unhappy both sides can say "Hell with compromise, if only you had doubled down on (spending cuts/tax hikes/stimulus spending)."

For all the learned verbiage I do not get the sense that anybody in the current admin has the faintest clue what to do about the economy. And I don't see much more wisdom from any other quarter either.

My paper losses today exceed the price I paid for my house.

(but I live way below my means and that was in 1986, so no tears.)

Tacitus

David Brin said...

Tacitus, this is a reaction to the clear proof that we are engaged in outright civil war and are thus ungovernable.

Tacitus2 said...

David

Ungovernable is to admit defeat.

The markets are indeed saying that our current way of doing things is not working.

Something will change.

Tacitus

Oh, and to clarifiy, it was a "fixer uppper house"! My retirement fund has seen worse days. And Better ones.

anagory said...

Gavin Kennedy's blog is a great resource for those who are concerned about the abuse of the memory of Adam Smith, especially the many misunderstandings of the Invisible Hand, and what that is all about.

Stefan Jones said...

I bought stock today. Well, a dividend stock fund. Could have done better by a point if I'd waited until later in the day, but this is retirement investing so it has many years to recover.

AHEM:

Making More, Contributing Less

Millionaires’ Tax Rates Have Declined While Everyone Else Contributes to Deficit Reduction

"So what’s causing the tax bills of the wealthiest to drop? The average millionaire will pay $136,000 less this year because the Bush tax cuts are still in effect, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. The Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 lowered the top marginal rate from the Clinton-era 39.6 percent to 35 percent. They also dropped the rates on capital gains and dividend income to a historically low 15 percent. (Capital gains rates had already been cut from 28 percent to 20 percent in 1997.)

That move was a boon to millionaires because they receive more than 60 percent of all income from long-term capital gains and nearly 40 percent of all income from tax-favored dividends.

And it was a super-boon to mega-millionaires and billionaires. IRS data show that the tax rates of the richest 400 Americans declined from 29.9 percent in 1995 to 18.1 percent in 2008, largely because that exclusive group derives two-thirds of its income from capital gains."
* * *

Tony Fisk said...

Only 10 votes?? Sadly, some good authors had to miss out.

What on earth* is a 'movement conservative'? (Sounds like 'moo cow', which might be appropriate if it hails from the lone star zone!) I will keep plugging for 'self-servative' as I think it is more encompassing and descriptive of the outlook as a whole, as well as cutting them out of the herd.

Strange days. I spent an inordinate amount of time last night up on a roof fending off hordes of zombies... on pogo-sticks!

But there is good news! If you feel this universe is becoming too strange for you to inhabit, we now have evidence that others exist.

*Yes, it got a vote

rewinn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stefan Jones said...

Here is how Conservapedia defines Movement Conservative:

"A movement conservative is one who supports all or nearly all conservative principles with a coherent philosophy, and who advances broad conservative goals both individually and through teamwork. This is contrasted with cafeteria, or single-issue, or self-serving approaches. Movement conservatives, unlike cafeteria conservatives, understand that since conservative philosophy is a coherent whole, it is untenable to discard part of it without discarding all of it. "

And you know, that's not a bad superficial definition. But notice:

" . . . it is untenable to discard part of it without discarding all of it."

This is why Republicans who make any attempt at moderation, or who don't toe the party line in every particular, get labeled "RINOs".

And why the useful, common sense parts of conservatism are given equal weight with batshit crazy stuff like believing the greenhouse effect is a conspiracy of greedy scientists, or that there must be absolutely no abortions every anywhere without exception, or that the founding fathers wanted the U.S. to be a christian theocracy.

Neoconservatives were arrogant, elitist, triumphalist fools. Movement conservatives are populist, demogoguing, anti-intellectual triumphalist fools.

Ya know, there were conservatives, in the Bush years, who objected to that administration's foriegn interventions, and to the runaway spending. They were there! They spoke up . . . in tiny, peevish, mumbled voices. I suppose these might be the fabled "paleoconservatives" who once roamed the earth. Movement conservatives, during the Aughts, gleefully supported Bush even though he ran up great debts because, well, they're not very smart.

But they're tenacious. They never, ever give up. They've got great big piles of money behind them, because their ideology will if followed to its end result in a state unable to check the power of corporations.

And the damage that is done along the way to our culture, our communities, our schools, and the domestic economy . . . well, those things don't really effect or matter to the super-rich, do they? They've got their own schools, their own planes, their own tony enclaves. They can buy their way out of legal trouble. Their wayward youth won't have to fret about abortions being illegal.

Carl M. said...

@John Kurman: daily practice in order to be able to shoot a pistol? What are you talking about, stunt shooting? Long distance pistol shooting?

I admit that keeping the hands steady with a lightweight pistol like a Glock is tricky. I tend to get worse with practice. Give me a good solid Dirty Harry gun, however, and it's pretty darn easy. (It was actually appropriate that Vanessa Kensington used a bigger pistol than Austin Powers. The big gun kicks less. It's just a pain to lug around.)

Tony Fisk said...

" . . . it is untenable to discard part of it without discarding all of it."

Sounds like as good a recipe for 'sitting duck' as I've heard anywhere.

No wonder the movement's been hijacked.

dertrop: grunge german version of F-troop

Pappenheimer said...

If I could reach back to correct Paul's comment about longbows: they were not noble weapons, but yeomen's (free and fairly prosperous men's) weapons. Militia weapons, in fact, used to great effect by well-trained infantry against mounted nobility. This may be why they never caught on across the Channel, where it was considered dangerous to give middle-class men time off to practice the art of killing their 'betters.'

Mitchell J. Freedman said...

The list does not contain Pohl/Kornbluth's "Space Merchants" or "Gladiator-at-Law." Almost as bad, it does not include George Schuyler's "Black No More" nor Anthony Burgess' "End of the World News."

Therefore, the list fails.

Marino said...

@Carl,
what if the terr wears a bomb with a dead man switch?

Marino said...

Dr. Brin,

JK please read my cited essay on the Jeffersonian Rifle and the insurrectionary recourse.

I had. And I come from a country that did insurrectionary recourse for good in 1944-45, and that had some fanatics who tought that it was time to walk that path again, in our Years of Lead.
---
Sorry, insurrectionary recourse doesn't fly. At its best (for the rebels), it devolves into a civil war (see Lybia), unless the whole chain of command collapses (Russia, 1917 or Italy, 1943).
And the worst civil war happened in former Yugoslavia, where armed popular selfdefence was standard military doctrine in case of invasion, and arms were easily available.

I've seen more effect from peaceful and unarmed general strikes. Just my two €cents...

Paul said...

Marino,
"what if the terr wears a bomb with a dead man switch?"

Too Hollywood. Real suicide-bombers tend to keep things simple. Often they don't even have button-triggers, just two bits of bare wire, connect the wires to complete the circuit.

Pappenheimer,
Re: Crossbow
Colour me corrected. For penance I'll go back and read Tacitus2's blog.

From Wikipedia: "Their skill was exercised under [Edward Longshanks], who banned all sports but archery at the butts on Sundays, to make sure Englishmen practised with the longbow."

So in addition to John's reasonable compromise of requiring daily practice in lieu of licensing for all bearers at their own expense, we should also ban all rival sports on the weekend.

Enterik said...

DavidBrin and Tacitus2,

Some contemporary psychohistorians have applied Principle Component Analysis to Congressional Roll Call voting behavior. Each individual legislator can be summarized as a single false average of all their votes for and against a parties official position. This holistic value for the idividuals relative position on the conservative-liberal (republican-democratic) "spectrum" can be compared to rest of Congress. Since roll call votes have always been recorded historical data all the way back to the first Congress has been analyzed. The conlcusions gleaned from this analysis are noteworthy.

From the end of WWII to around 1992 about 25% of each the Republican and Democratic party elected overlapped in voting behavior. During this time impasse were frequently brokered by these individuals. Starting in 1992, the Republican Party elected legislators "retracted from the middle" becoming more consistantly "Republican" in their voting behavior, culminating in the party switch of Arlan Specter when the overlap officially disappeared.

During this time the Democratic Party experienced only a very mild idealization and still remains somewhere around 25% "moderately Democratic".

The magnitude of this Republican idealogical retraction from "biconceptual" individuals is highly correlated with an increase in the internal US GINI index (r=0.93) and coincides with the dramatic increase in the use of filibusters in the Senate.

The simplest interpretation of these data is that Congress has lost half it's compromisers and that legislation that benefits the majority of the US populace has been stymied resulting in an increase in wealth concentration.

Viewed through this lens, I would say that the Amdinistration's apparent imperative to compromise is exactly what our country needs to replace the acrimonious partisan stagnation.

I also believe such good faith efforts reinforce the underlying liberal morality of the Democratic Party, so it should not be seen as a capitulation or weakness by party members (even though it is).

The simple fact is that the Republicans are stakeholders, and though they seem to bargain in bad faith, the vector of national policy should include that expression. It is a necessary political consideration that the Administration no doubt believes hampers their very concrete economic policies.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

Although there are certainly other factors in play around the world, I think it is also fair to assume that the reaction of the financial system to the recent Debt Ceiling deal has been.......well, words fail me.


Especially since the debt deal was supposed to INCREASE confidence. Instead, as Paul Krugman mentions, now that Obama has caved into accepting the austerity-now framing of the debate and given into almost everything the Tea Partiers were asking for, it's like the markets woke up and said "Wait a minute, this won't help the recession and umemployment! In fact it makes them worse!"

Also, the exact same "well duh" scenario seems to be playing out in Europe.


Of course in any deal that makes everyone unhappy both sides can say "Hell with compromise, if only you had doubled down on (spending cuts/tax hikes/stimulus spending)."


I don't listen to right-wing talk because I hate having to disinfect my brain, but I have no doubt they are claiming the deal to be a runaway socialist victory.


For all the learned verbiage I do not get the sense that anybody in the current admin has the faintest clue what to do about the economy.


I certainly don't disagree with that assessment. Candidate Obama showed such promise that he would surround himself with advisors who actually understood reality. President Obama has sadly failed to follow through on that.


And I don't see much more wisdom from any other quarter either.


Here I disagree. Paul Krugman? Jared Bernstein? Robert Reich (sp?)? They've been pretty much spot-on in forecasting exactly what would happen every step of the way for the past two years. The problem isn't that no one understands what is happening. The problem is that those who actually make decisions don't LISTEN to the ones who understand what is happening.


My paper losses today exceed the price I paid for my house.

(but I live way below my means and that was in 1986, so no tears.)


I don't wish you ill. I'm sure my paper losses are substantial too (I haven't checked yet). I'd like to think the corporate masters who are funding the Tea Partiers are hurting even more, and that they are having a hangover's worth of buyer's remorse.

Unfortunately, I'm afraid a powerful contingent is looking at a 500 point market drop as a fire-sale of a buying opportunity, and looking at unemployment as a source of cheap labor, and looking at defalation as a way to increase the value of their holdings. In other words, this is exactly the outcome that they WANTED to bring about. Another transfer of wealth upward.

LarryHart said...

A bit more direct quoting than is usually polite, but these recent Krugman blog posts emphasize that some economists really HAVE understood the fundamentals all along:


August 5, 2011, 8:51 am
Liquidity Trapped
Some readers may recall that back in 2008, when I began writing about the dangers of a liquidity trap and all that implied, I got a lot of angry pushback from the usual suspects. The liquidity trap is nonsense, they said; printing money is always inflationary; someone, I think Alan Reynolds, referred to “liquidity claptrap.”

But that’s where we are, you know: BNY Mellon Deposit Fee: Life in the Liquidity Trap. Banks are starting to pay negative interest on large deposits.

...

August 4, 2011, 6:45 pm
Minus 512, 2.4 Percent
OK, OK, we always need to bear in mind Paul Samuelson’s line about how the stock market had predicted nine of the last five recessions. Still, the markets do seem to be telling us a couple of things:

1. The world looks a lot more like the way it’s viewed by the Krugman/Thoma/DeLong axis (hey, I like it) than as viewed by, say, the WSJ editorial page.

2. Policy makers have been worrying about the wrong things, obsessing over deficits when the real problem was lack of growth.

There are intimations that this could turn out to be more than a mere market plunge; European stresses are starting to make some nasty financial ripples that suggest a possible mini-Lehman event, although I think — I hope — governments and central banks will head this off. But if you had any doubts that we were on the wrong track, this should resolve them.

Tacitus2 said...

LarryH

I don't listen to "Right wing" media either. But I have seen some commentary that I deem creditable that suggests that the debt ceiling deal really did not do much helpful. In particular it does almost nothing to address the Fedgov's future health care costs. As this is a sphere where I feel I know a few things I can agree. If the bucket has a gaping hole in one side, neither pouring water in a little faster, nor patching a few pinholes on the other side will fill the bucket.

But I think the agonizingly negotiated deal of last week will rapidly become an obscure historical footnote.

Strange times ahead.

Tacitus

Tim H. said...

A interesting "Keynes vs Hayek" piece here:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-14366054
I'd say both economist's ideas have seen a lot more omission than commission recently, Obama's stimulus was weak enough to be reminiscent of a teen's attempt at cleaning.

EastwoodDC said...

Link #3 is broken. That looked interesting too.

Marino said...

Paul,
you wrote:
Too Hollywood. Real suicide-bombers tend to keep things simple. Often they don't even have button-triggers, just two bits of bare wire, connect the wires to complete the circuit.
----
I was thinking in the context of a plane hijacking, where taking control of the plane, either from propaganda or for staging anothe 9/11, is the aim of the act, and when you get armed pilots and stewardesses. Not simply a guy who blows himself off.


Knowing that they would meet armed response by the crew, terrorists would "learn" and use or threaten to use deadman switchs to prevent armed response. Airplane security back to square one...

LarryHart said...

Tacitus:

I have seen some commentary that I deem creditable that suggests that the debt ceiling deal really did not do much helpful. In particular it does almost nothing to address the Fedgov's future health care costs. As this is a sphere where I feel I know a few things I can agree. If the bucket has a gaping hole in one side, neither pouring water in a little faster, nor patching a few pinholes on the other side will fill the bucket.


If I'm disagreeing with you at all (and I'm not even sure of that), it's only about the fact that the inadequacy of the debt deal should come as a surprise to anyone.

I would have preferred a clean debt-ceiling bill. You may (or may not) counter that the national debt is too high, but the debt ceiling bill really only raises the debt by the amount that we've ALREADY COMMITTED to spending. The way to put a lid on debt is by limiting the purchases on your credit card, not by limiting the amount you'll pay the credit card bills when they come due.

I sense that you blame the Obama administration for the inadequate deal, where I tend to blame the uncompromising Tea Partiers who forced the deal by hostage-taking. However, I'm certainly not disagreeing with your assessment of the deal AS inadequate.

The only thing that surpises me is that anyone is surprised by the outcome.

Paul said...

Marino,
"where taking control of the plane, either from propaganda or for staging anothe 9/11, is the aim of the act, and when you get armed pilots and stewardesses."

And because of 9/11, that can never happen again. People know that if they surrender the plane, they will be killed. If they shoot the terrorist, they might be killed. Game theory says shoot.

9/11 was only possible because of the 1970's style hijackings ("fly me to Cuba!") which taught airlines to not fight back; just cooperate, land the plane, wait until the authorities negotiate your release.

Now you can't do that kind of hijacking anymore. Even if you tried to, everyone will assume it is a 9/11 suicide-plot, and will fight like wild monkeys to stop you killing more people on the ground.

The only possible air attack now is a standard suicide bomber (a la the shoe bomber), deadman switches are redundant.

(That said, if I were a terrorist today, I'd be looking at hiring a freight aircraft in a developing country with weak security and then [REDACTED]

John Kurman said...

Carl M,

No, I'm not talking about plinking at bottles and cans. I think more along the lines of what you suggest firearms are basically for? Remember? Training at being part of a well-regulated militia? One that, as Hamilton put it, requires a "tolerable expertness in military movements", in other words, training under a very difficult tactical situation with the possibility of being shot back at? I can take down defenseless bottles, cans, and paper targets all goddam day, but operating under fire? I've no experience, but I suspect my sidearms skills would be not quite up to snuff. That's what I'm talking about. I don't know your situation, but I am hugely disdainful of the weekend paintball types who make all that noise about "takin' on the guv'mint".

Christopher John Chater said...

Republicans and Democrats are both to blame for hindering the market. I agree with all your points in that respect. The Barry Goldwater's of America, however, are still around. Ron Paul is the modern day Goldwater. Just like Goldwater, he's a libertarian who has been laughed at, called a kook, and then feared by the mainstream political frontrunners. His predictions about the problems associated with bigger government have all come to fruition. Generally Libertarians subscribe to the Austrian School of economics. Peter Schiff, Nick Gillespie, Judge Napolitano, and many others endorse the Nobel prize winning economists for proving that government intervention doesn't help the economy. "The Road to Serfdom" is a good read, or just watch a youtube video to get the gist.

As far as gun control goes, it's nearly impossible to convince anyone on either side of the ideological track to just look at the facts.
Public shootings are rare. But what about when an old man drives into a crowded market? Happened a few years ago. No one wanted to ban cars. 40,000 people die a year from car accidents, not a peep from anyone. 10,000 deaths a year for guns, but those deaths are intentional, versus death in auto accidents are even more random and meaningless. Why not ban bad food? Statistically people are more likely to die from a heart attack. Not a peep.
Countries where gun legislation is tougher often have higher violent crime rates. UK has the highest violent crime rate in Europe, trumping America.
Murder is already illegal, but hasn't stopped anyone.
The core issue of violence in ghettos can be attributed to the socioeconomic problems, not because of guns. Go into any ghetto in the world were guns are illegal and tell me there is no violence there: Mexico, Brazil has more gun laws and four times the death, China/Hong Kong toughest gun laws in the world (last month a depressed man shot 6 people, including three judges in a courthouse in Hunan Provence.) Try surviving in a Chinese ghetto. In my opinion, guns are the symptom, not the problem. But like so many other things, most have already made up their minds on this issue.
Good post.
Thanks for opportunity to comment! Keep up the good work!

TheMadLibrarian said...

John Kurman, our paintball team actually participated in a military exercise, playing the part of an untrained "insurgency". Our team was put inside a building and allowed to fortify it with whatever was there. Half an hour passed, then someone on the outside must have given the word; we were overrun and taken out by trained Marines within about a minute.

OTOH, we also were challenged to a match by a local militia type group. Our team was used to working together, whereas the militia was so suspicious and unaccustomed to supporting each other that we were easily able to divide and conquer. And that is the difference training, even casual, can make.

TheMadLibrarian

hosess: owning a hose

LarryHart said...

Paul:

The only possible air attack now is a standard suicide bomber (a la the shoe bomber), deadman switches are redundant.


And keep in mind that, as horrible as a plane bombing is for those unfortunates on board that plane, it does NOT give the terrorist the opportunity to turn the plane into a missile against a city.

The more hysterical-minded keep asking why we don't secure trains the way we do with airplanes, and my answer is always that no one is going to drive a train into a skyscraper.

RandyB said...

It's funny how that Adam Smith quote was edited by Kent Pitman.

Smith was writing about how the laws for regulation of commerce have (very intentionally) interfered with the free market against the public interest -- and for the oligarchs.

How is that an indictment of free market conservatives who want to reduce those regulations? It's not.

If anything, it is free market conservatives who should be citing that quote. In full, of course, without the ellipsis.

David Brin said...

RandyB there are no freemarket conservatives. It is an extinct breed. There are only oligarchs, their paid shills and propagandists and the marching morons who parrot oligarch subsidized lines from AEI, Heritage, Fox and the Saudi Royal House.

You think I exaggerate?

Dig it. It is possible to call the monsters who have hijacked conservatives TRAITORS TO LIBERTARIANISM. That is not an attack from the left. I almost never, ever, attack them from a lefty persepctive... guilt trips and political correctness and all that.

Nearly all of my attacks are from the perspective of one who deeply believes in competition, which should be the core libertarian focus, instead of helping monopolist cronies avoid it.

What do you think my book The Transparent Society was about? Empowering us to hold each other accountable by helping us all KNOW each others strengths and weaknesses.

The enemy of 5000 years is still with us. It is THE enemy. And it ain't pathetic little civil servants.

RandyB said...

David,

Maybe so but what I see from your source is opposition to the *removal* of regulations. Let's face it: You're citing somebody about regulation who looks favorably at the Center for Media and Democracy. They're not by any means free marketeers.

BTW: You need to get your terminology right. Conservatives might be quoting Adam Smith, but neoconservatives would not be. There's a major difference.

David Brin said...

Neoconservatives CLAIM to be conservatives, therefore they give lip service to free market nostrums. True, they are lying hypocrites.

Arguably, one of the three hidden reasons why we were plunged into land wars of attrition in Asia was in order for the Bushites to sign emergency over-rides of national contracting laws that normally require competitive bidding. Those regulations were there for good reasons! But they had emergency override clauses for "war time" that allowed Bush-Cheney to simply give ten billions at a time in crony contracts to family friends.

Now tell me, how many such wounds does it take before you admit that lying cheating position-abusing oligarchic scum -- of the kind who ruined freedom for 5,000 years -- return into view as an enemy of market competition.

And one resumes a wary willingness to give poor civil servants a little slack?

Sheesh, sure, some bureaucracies go bad! The Civil Aeronautics Board and ICC were "captured by big rail and big airlines and turned into competition destroying monsters. So? Guess who deregulated them away, wiping both bureaucracies out of existence?

The Democrats. Fought tooth and nail by the industries and gopper pals. Dig it, the GOP TALKS deregulation. But they only DO it in two places -- Environment and worker safety... and the finance industry. The latter? Huge de-reg... just a few years before nation-rape raids on all our pocketbooks.

gee wiz.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Christopher

Some of your numbers are wrong

"Countries where gun legislation is tougher often have higher violent crime rates. UK has the highest violent crime rate in Europe, trumping America."

Homicide
USA - 5.4 / 100,000
UK - 1.4 / 100,000

"The reported US violent crime rate includes only Aggravated Assault, whereas the Canadian violent crime rate includes all categories of assault, including the much-more-numerous Assault level 1 (i.e., assault not using a weapon and not resulting in serious bodily harm)"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_the_United_States#Violent_crime

As a result of practice America is the world's best at saving gunshot victims - that figure of 5.4 would go up if you were looking at people who would have died in any other country!

RandyB said...

David,

No-bid contracts didn't start with Bush-Cheney. Halliburton had no-bid contracts during the Bosnian conflict. There's even a quote somewhere by Vice President Gore bragging how well the system worked. I think it was part of his "reinventing government" plans.

I'm not a believer that wars are still started to help out political friends. There are more big business interests that don't do well in wartime. Even Halliburton missed out on opportunities that evaporated because of the wars. They'd have made a lot of money doing deals with Saddam Hussein. (I think they actually did make money with Gaddafi.)

"Now tell me, how many such wounds does it take before you admit that lying cheating position-abusing oligarchic scum -- of the kind who ruined freedom for 5,000 years -- return into view as an enemy of market competition."

I'll admit it right now. It's asking a bit much to blame the GOP for 5,000 years of oligarchy, but I'm willing to criticize their mistakes, cheap shots, fakes, etc.

That doesn't mean the Democrats are any better. Getting rid of the ICC and CAB was nice, but are similar feats part of their platform today? I don't think so.

David Brin said...

Bah. You are talking past the point. If a failure mode was responsible for 99% of the tyranny for 5,000 years, the burden of proof is on you that the skyrocketing wealth disparities, monstrous oligarch-funded propaganda machines, purchased elections and purchased courts aren't part of the same phenomenon!

You just did what all high-IQ conservatives have been doing for years... arguing by assertion and qualitative example.

Sure, there may have been some emergency over-rides in Bosnia. Are you seriously comparing the magnitude of ANYTHING in Bosnia to what happened later?

Geez, look at the comparison of Clinton's War to Bush's at: http://www.davidbrin.com/neocons.htm
Criminy! CHeap, fiercely effective, not a SINGLE US life lost and Europe given its first peace in 4000 years... versus a ruinous, bankrupting morass in the "land where empires go to die."

Bush sent 12 BILLION DOLLARS IN RAW CASH to Iraq, all of which simply vanished... but you probably are still fuming over one thousandth as much that might (never proved) have been siphoned from the earlier "oil for food " program under Clinton.

THE SCALES ARE DIFFERENT to a degree that's meaningful. Important.

Again, see
http://www.davidbrin.com/neocons.htm

unsub said...

David,

I wasn't comparing the wars other than to say that no-bid contracts had become normal operating procedure for large-scale operations. The Bush administration didn't invent them.

On the cash missing in Iraq, you're clearly right. Buying an attempt at "peace" in a corrupt mess of a country was a terrible mistake. But once the war started, the options are too few.

(As it is now, it looks like Iraq might very well ask us to keep our troops there for a little longer.)

I don't know how you can expect anything other than skyrocketing wealth disparities when the economy is evolving.

Technological progress is great for those ahead of the curve. They will increasingly make more money. I don't know how you can disagree with that part of it. Meanwhile, those whose jobs are stuck in the 20th century will make less money -- if their jobs still exist at all. I don't know how you can disagree with that part of it either.

Aside from the abuse of the term "neocon," I do like your Neocon file. There's plenty to disagree with but I can see it was written in 2004. I'm reminded (partly by the Buchanan reference) of Charles Lindbergh's speech at the America First rally. He got a lot of criticism over it later but I remember thinking that so much of it was true. But that doesn't mean I agree with the conclusions. Same here.

RandyB said...

Sorry, but that "unsub" was me.

I mistakenly typed the "word verification" code into the name field.

David Brin said...

Please grasp my frustration. Step back and see the degree to which you smart but ostrich conservatives are willing to go, in order to maintain the New Rationalization:

"I know my side has gone crazy and has nothing good to say, but democrats are worse and they are all awful so what can I do but keep my old loyalties?"

That IS the rationalization, my friend. Boiled down. And it is wrong wrong wrong.

The right response is "I and other smart conservatives hate the bastards who have hijacked my movement! Turning it into the worst curse ever to happen to capitalism, enterprise, competition, freedom or America in a long time. I am angry above all FOR THE SAKE OF SANE CONSERVATISM and I will be part of a movement to win it back from monsters."

It is complete bullshit to shrug off the tsunami of corruption that accompanied the Iraq invasion when that was clearly one of the chief REASONS for the invasion! (Note, I sneer at lefties too, who said "we went into Iraq for the oil!" What oil? We got no oil! The Saudies got to sell us higher priced oil because Iraq got removed from the market. THAT was another effect of the trumped-up, deliberately stupid war.)

You ignore that getting us mired into a decades-long, draining, empire-ruining land war of attrition in asia is EXACTLY WHAT ANY ENEMY OF AMERICA WOULD HAVE WANTED.

As for your cynicism that disparities of wealth are automatic, I can only say hose-hockey!!! I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s when CEOs only earned a few dozen times what factory workers did. That is still true in the dynamic countries of Asia and Latin America. Those 10,000 oligarchs DID NOT INVENT THE INTERNET. They invented interlocking directorates and appointing each other to boards in order to vote each other mutant compensation packages.

That is not enterprise capitalism, it is crony lordship of EXACTLY the kind Adam Smith decried. And it should make you mad, especially when they start buying judges and elections and YOUR whole political party.

Again, not a single indictment of mine comes from a left perspective. Every single one is something you, as a conservative, should be saying, about the utter betrayal of your movement, by monsters and traitors.

Jacob said...

Wealth going to the top has little to do with technological progress. It is based on how much individuals can siphon for others. While this isn't inherently bad, it is getting pretty excessive in some quarters.

RandyB said...

David,

Sorry, but we're just not going to agree.

I can agree with you on a lot of things. Not here.

But this isn't the 1950s. I seem to recall that you didn't begrudge Bill Gates for his wealth. Wall Street is another story but even here (exempting the outright thieves) I can see rational reasons it's different now. We are a much richer country than we were back then.

More importantly, those at the bottom are less connected to those in the middle, and those in the middle are less connected to those at the top. In the 1950s, removing the bottom ten percent would have hurt the livelihoods of those at the top. I don't think that's as true anymore.

I understand you won't agree, but that difference of views why it is we disagree. If I thought it worked the same way you do then I might agree.

Giulio Prisco said...

Today Smith would probably have figured out that the "free market" is not free but dominated by big players in BOTH the private sector AND the public sector, which collaborate behind the scene because they have found that this is in the best interest of both.

The enemy is both greedy large corporations, and greedy and/or control-freak civil servants. They work together against the rest of us.

PS voted for Earth, I think it is your best.

LarryHart said...

RandyB:

I can agree with you [Dr Brin] on a lot of things. Not here.


I don't know, it seems to me that you ARE agreeing with Dr Brin on what's going on with the economy. Your disagreement is one of value judgement. You think things are just fine as they are, and he doesn't.


But this isn't the 1950s. I seem to recall that you didn't begrudge Bill Gates for his wealth.


Bill Gates is wealthy because he created increased value for all of society. Even in Ayn Rand terms, he deserves his wealth. That's how GOOD capitalism works. A positive-sum game.

The oligarchs Dr Brin are decrying get their wealth by EXTRACTING value from society in a zero-sum game. They get rich by making everyone else poorer.


Wall Street is another story but even here (exempting the outright thieves) I can see rational reasons it's different now. We are a much richer country than we were back then.


That explains why the top is richer than before, not why the bottom 90% is poorer. Doesn't that in itself suggest something out of whack? We're a richer country than ever, but most citizens have to work more for less, while that increased wealth all trickles up to the top?


More importantly, those at the bottom are less connected to those in the middle, and those in the middle are less connected to those at the top. In the 1950s, removing the bottom ten percent would have hurt the livelihoods of those at the top. I don't think that's as true anymore.


The only thing I disagree with there is wondering how you can perceive this as a good thing. Are you really looking forward to French Revolution II? Because the condition you describe is exactly what led to 1789.

Tacitus2 said...

An example of bipartisan no-bid nonsense:

http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/52231522.html

High speed rail being sort of a progressive article of faith, with the initial blessing of a R governor. In its own way much more damning than the proposed no bid power plant sale that generated quite a few b.t.u.s earlier this year. I suppose the Spanish gov. paying for the then D governor to come over was just them being nice.

David sees a big picture and extrapolates downward from it. He may even be right in his evil oligarch scenario.

You can also work upward from the (somewhat punky and unstable) foundations of our political system. It looks a little different from that perspective.

And lets just specify to save bandwidth, no lives were lost, no Saudis enriched, and the amount of money wasted was small. But one small example of many. They add up.

Tacitus

David Brin said...

Tacitus, the difference is that you and a free press can FIX some of the awful dopey mistakes like you mentioned.

Randy, you are not arguing, you are shrugging and dismissing.

I am no lefty-leveller. I am glad Gates and his kind got rich. I know bunches of them and those who got rich by innovating and delivering goods and services... or (like Buffett) helping others to deliver goods and services ... deserve to enjoy wealth.

By the way, these are exactly the sort of billionaires who have joined the Gates-Buffett pledge to give half of it away. Or who signed Gates and Buffett's open call to "Raise our taxes!"

But I am a pragmatist who looks at history and sees how every renaissance before ours ended... with a plutocracy taking over and shutting down competition. USING their wealth to make it impossible for others to compete against them, especially against their kids... who never delivered any goods or services.

There is a huge clade of such people who got their wealth the old fashioned way, by inheriting it or simply clipping dividends and passive capital gains. And DIG THIS... the tax rates for passive wealth gushers like that is 15%. The lowest it has been since 1933. And you don't think THAT has anything to do with rising wealth disparities?

Pewrhaps, with dividends taxed at 15%, you might pick some OTHER issue to worry about than picketing to save the idle rich from having to pay for wars they fomented and bailouts they armtwisted Washington into giving them?

Your contempt for the poor is duly noted. Your contempt for the middle class, the great generator of wealth and services and innovation, is also duly noted.

As LarryHart noted, these people aren't grateful for the nation that protected their wealth, enabled it, educated their workers, provided the infrastructure, financed the science and technology... like the barons of 1789 France, their only priority is NO TAXES ON THE RICH!

And you are part of their populist rabble stirred up to shout AGAINST your own self- interest.

RandyB said...

Larry,

You misunderstand me.

While I believe the wealth accumulated by those at the top is usually a good thing, I do not at all think it's a good thing that those at the bottom aren't keeping up. It's a disaster.

The difference is that you apparently think it's connected that some people are very rich and others are poor. I don't. It's not completely disconnected yet but it's getting there. Businesses needed labor in the old days. Now they get more of it overseas or through automation. That naturally leaves some people out. That's where I think the problem is.

So, I don't see it as a matter of wealth disparity getting worse. When you're counting heads and assets to see how bad the wealth disparity is, you can't count those who aren't in the game. That would be like blaming wealthy Americans for the poverty in Haiti.

In other words, the problem is different, and so the solutions should be different.

ell said...

Chater wrote: "Why not ban bad food? Statistically people are more likely to die from a heart attack. Not a peep."

You haven't been paying attention. People are trying to ban junk food from school cafeterias and vending machines. Politicians are trying to discourage it by taxing it for the whole public. Seen a food pyramid lately? Various health organizations rail against bad food. What do you mean, "not a peep"?

RandyB said...

David,

As I just said to Larry before I spotted your latest message, I see this as a completely different kind of problem.

I'm not opposed to raising taxes on anybody as long as it makes economic sense. President Obama's plan is a political game. The only part of it that might make economic sense would be if he raises taxes on the $250k+-earners in order to politically justify raising them on the tier below that. IIRC, that's where the real money is right now.

I will agree that raising the capital gains rate might eventually make sense, too. But there were good reasons when it was lowered. Raising them might do more harm than good. It shouldn't be raised simply to score political points. That is what oligarchs do, after all.

Prior to the recession, the bottom 90% was not getting poorer. Health care costs (a different argument) may have eaten into their raises but they were getting them.

I think I answered your other points in my response to Larry, but you or somebody can challenge me if I didn't.

Tacitus2 said...

Well David, when you're right, you're right. We elected a governor who specifically said the "done deal" high speed rail plan was a wasteful political boondoggle that he would eliminate as part of his overall plan to put our state on a solid financial footing.

Chap named Walker, you may have heard of him.

Teasing aside, I see the reform of our political system coming from the states up. Sadly it will come as some states take effective action and others go bankrupt.

Tacitus

LarryHart said...

Randy B explained:

While I believe the wealth accumulated by those at the top is usually a good thing, I do not at all think it's a good thing that those at the bottom aren't keeping up. It's a disaster.


Well, I perceived you as saying that it was ok for more people to become poorer because the rich didn't require their services any more. I (and Dr Brin) see that as a disfunction that needs fixing, whereas I THOUGHT you were defending it as the way things ought to be.

If that still represents a misunderstanding of your position...well, I never claimed infallibility.


The difference is that you apparently think it's connected that some people are very rich and others are poor. I don't. It's not completely disconnected yet but it's getting there.


I think the oligarchs are trying their best TO connect it. What else is the point of pushing austerity during a recession/depression but to insure that we CAN'T jump-start the economy, that unemployment stays high thus depressing wages, and that deflation sets in, increasing the value of the debt those people already own, while reducing the amount of wealth left over after those rent payments are made? What else is the point of the otherwise-inexplicable push to resume the friggin' GOLD STANDARD during a depression, but to guarantee that the wealth that those oligarchs already own is part of a fixed-size pie that can't grow as more non-gold value is created?

It was popular during the Reagan years to claim that "A rising tide raises all boats." Nowadays, the rich and powerful seem to insist that they OWN the tide, and that no other boats have any business rising with them.


Businesses needed labor in the old days. Now they get more of it overseas or through automation. That naturally leaves some people out. That's where I think the problem is.



Two different issues.

Overseas: Sure, goods are cheaper if we buy them from (literal or metaphorical) slaveholders, but it is VERY shortsighted to treat "free trade" with forced labor and environmental recklessness as a good thing.

Automation: This has been a pet peeve of mine for a long time now. Automation should be FREEING humanity from the need to do as muc work for a living. Instead, our economic system says that the only way TO earn a living is by working hard.

When food is scarce and requires hard work to produce, then "No work, no food" makes a certain amount of sense. When food is plentiful and cheap, and the producers of value admittedly don't require human labor in their operations, why should the unneeded workers be condemned to poverty and starvation?


So, I don't see it as a matter of wealth disparity getting worse. When you're counting heads and assets to see how bad the wealth disparity is, you can't count those who aren't in the game. That would be like blaming wealthy Americans for the poverty in Haiti.

In other words, the problem is different, and so the solutions should be different.


Agreed, but see above. I think we have different ideas of what sort of solutions need to be different. But I'm keeping an open mind that we are not as far apart as I thought.

David Brin said...

Randy, you are back to at least slightly arguing, instead of shrugging. Still you provide no evidence at all for this:

"The difference is that you apparently think it's connected that some people are very rich and others are poor. I don't. It's not completely disconnected yet but it's getting there. "

It is a false dichotomy. The poor are a separate topic and unlike lefties, I do not think poverty is universally a product of malignancy. The difference between a Smithian liberal and a socialist-leftist is that the socialist-leftist will tear down anything standing in the way of levelling outcomes.

The Smithian liberal wants to equalize STARTING conditions, so that all children grow up fully fed, fully educated and ready to compete. He does not mind some adults failing in the competition that follows, though life should be filled with copious second chances.

The state that takes taxes from the rich and restricts their right to make inherited lords of their kids... that state is the great innovation of the pragmatic enlightenment, when it uses those taxes to do what F Hayek (darling of the Austrian school of economics and hero of conservatives) said should be the top priority... MAXIMIZING the number of skilled, knowing and ready competitors. The roads, schools, infrastructure and civil rights that liberals gave us INCREASED COMPETITION!

You should want that.

Finally, you conveniently left out the middle class, which does fine under democrats and fades under republicans. Period. Always. Forever. Live with that.

Robert said...

Interestingly, Standard and Poor specifically stated Republican refusal to increase revenue sources as a reason for the U.S. losing its AAA rating. It stated also about political brinkmanship and the like, but laid this on the door of the Republican Party. And every time a Republican tries to claim it was the Democrats fault, all the Democrats need to do is play that one quote.

So in essence, the Republican Party ultimately lost the Debt Ceiling debate. They pissed off a lot of Americans, failed to placate their hardline base, caused the U.S. credit rating to fall due to their actions, and damaged the economy... and also had their one fundamental cornerstone, the refusal to raise taxes, specifically stated to being a primary cause for the lower credit rating. In short, Republicans cannot effectively use the economy as their means of pushing Obama out of office.

They don't have much of a leg to stand on when it comes to foreign policy either. Obama has raised the opinion of the world about the U.S. compared to Bush, and has even worked to make sure the U.S. isn't in center stage over the Libyan crisis, while he's slowly winding down the war in Afghanistan. People don't want us in Afghanistan any longer, so Republican efforts to use the Afghan War against him either mean urging a rapid pullout (which is against Republican policy) or building up troops there, which is against what the American people want.

Pretty much the only chance Republicans have is if someone pulls off an assassination of Obama (or at the very least cripples him to the point he's not able to lead). But that would make Obama into a martyr... and that would leave a really really bad taste in the mouths of Republicans who want him humbled and cast out.

(Please note, nice Federal authorities, I'm not calling for the assassination of any world leaders, especially our own. I'm speculating on events and their end results. The absolute last thing I'd want is to see ANY politician harmed physically.)

There's but one thing that gives Republicans a chance: the elections are still a year and some months away. If voters forget about what Republicans did, if they remain quiet and don't provoke another debt ceiling crisis, and cooperate with Democrats, voters might forgive and forget.

But I honestly can't see this current crew of Republicans playing nice, especially as the Tea Party would vote them out in response.

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...

Robert

If you skip through your link to HuffPost financial to the original S and P statement

http://www.standardandpoors.com/ratings/articles/en/us/?assetID=1245316529563

You will see a rather blanket inditement of our political system, including both Congress and Administration. They specifically say they are not taking a position on the mix of revenue and spending cuts needed, but pretty much do say that the recently enacted plan ain't it.

Spin of it what you will.

The odd notion that only harm coming to the President could keep him from a second term is creepy, and appears to be at odds with his current approval ratings.

But we agree, it is a long time to November.

I am not going to start making a case for or against his re election until I have a chance to see the alternative.

Tacitus

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Randy

You said

"Businesses needed labor in the old days. Now they get more of it overseas or through automation. That naturally leaves some people out. That's where I think the problem is."

The same market forces effect Germany and Scandinavia
They don't have the same problems

My diagnosis is that the problem is that the "power" or control has moved to the top or been bought in the USA
- Money is too important in your democracy
- Killing the unions didn't help either

David Brin said...

Tacitus that is a wise overall attitude.

Still, come on. Remember the "mavericks"? McCain was the very most reasonable, moderate and intelligent guy the gop could come up with. A guy who seemed capable of distancing himself from the PERFECT record of nation harming misrule from 2001 to 2008.

What did he do?

The maverick immediately surrounded himself with the complete GOP brain trust. No outsiders or exceptions. The core group shifted sideways out of AEI and Heritage and the Bush White House.

And then McCain did what every GOP presidential candidate except Reagan has always done. Appointed a horror, utterly unqualified, to be his running mate.

Seriously, you have enough data, already, to glance over at the GOP field and judge the plausibility that any of this will change. You have seen that GOP declarations in favor of competitive enterprise are always, always lies and that only one item is on the agenda, keeping capital gains and dividends taxes below 15%.

Whatever you think of Obama, you know that Citizens United is a poison pill that this supreme court crammed down the country's throat. If he is defeated, corporate buying and selling of our elections will be permanent.

Above all, if the GOP is smashed flat, perhaps guys like you can then stand up and take it over again. I'd like that. I like and respect you. I'd like you to be powerful in your party. We could negotiate.

Admit that negotiation cannot happen with the fevered thing, as it is.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

Interestingly, Standard and Poor specifically stated Republican refusal to increase revenue sources as a reason for the U.S. losing its AAA rating. It stated also about political brinkmanship and the like, but laid this on the door of the Republican Party. And every time a Republican tries to claim it was the Democrats fault, all the Democrats need to do is play that one quote.

So in essence, the Republican Party ultimately lost the Debt Ceiling debate. They pissed off a lot of Americans, failed to placate their hardline base, caused the U.S. credit rating to fall due to their actions, and damaged the economy... and also had their one fundamental cornerstone, the refusal to raise taxes, specifically stated to being a primary cause for the lower credit rating. In short, Republicans cannot effectively use the economy as their means of pushing Obama out of office.


From your lips to God's ear. Republicans have FOX News and a year to spin this however they want.

But I hope you're right.

The really funny thing (it WOULD be funny if it wasn't happening to us) is that the whole hostage-taking thing was over the threat that if the US defaulted on its existing debt, our credit rating would suffer and interest rates would go up. So now, because the ransom WAS paid for the hostages (austerity and no tax revenue), our credit rating suffers anyway.

The next time the Republicans threaten to let our economy fail unless we do as they want, we should call their bluff. Yes, I know that outcome would be bad, but how is it any worse than the outcome when we give in to them?

LarryHart said...

duncan cairncross:

My diagnosis is that the problem is that the "power" or control has moved to the top or been bought in the USA
- Money is too important in your democracy
- Killing the unions didn't help either


Yes, the problem of money IN THE ELECTORAL PROCESS seems to be the root cause of the current disfunction.

It's kind of a red herring to get dragged into a discussion about whether or not the wealthy deserve their money. The problem is when personal wealth is used to buy politicians. Our system is designed so that representatives are motivated to get votes, and this is SUPPOSED to make them responsive to their constituents. When it instead forces them to be responsive to their campaign donors...well, the system no longer functions as designed. It's not going to fix itself from within, either. It really is time for some sort of revolutionary solution.

Now, "Revolution" covers a lot of ground. It can be as innocuous as the FDR administration. It can be along the lines of the American Revolution, which freed the colonies but wasn't (long-term) all that harmful to England itself. OR, when the populace has no other choice, it can be the full-fledged "off with their heads" French Revolution variety.

The irony is that the powers that be are doing everything they can to prevent the less-bloody forms of revolution from happening, thus almost insuring the French variety.

Enterik said...

Psychohistorian Allan Lichtman (and geophysicist Vladimir Keilis-Borok) correlated statistical pattern recognition algorithms to antebellum popular vote data for POTUS with coeval domestic and foreign policy environments.

With data up to 1980 being used in the training set, the popular vote count has been correctly predicted since 1984. Bush the greater's victory was predicted while he was 17% behind Dukakis and Bush the Lesser's re-election a year in advance. The 2008 GOP loss was predicted something like 18 months in advance.

The algorithm consists of a set of 13 true-false statements in relation to the incumbent party's candidate. If five or fewer are false the incumbent party wins.

Currently, there is only one statement that is certainly false, due to midterm losses in the House there is no Democratic Party Mandate. We might also assert that Obama is neither Charismatic nor a hero.

On the other hand there are some definitely true statements...the incumbent party's candidate is the incumbent POTUS, there will be no serious contest within the Democratic Party, the economy is not in recession, per capita economic growth exceeds Bush's 2 terms, major policy change has been legislated (Affordable Care Act), there is no sustained social unrest, there are no white house scandals, there are no foreign military failures. That's 8 out of 13 statements.

Only 3 remain plausibly in contention...does the assassination of Osama bin Laden count as a foreign military success, or does the tide of revolution in North Africa count as a foreign policy success? Will there be no significant third party challenge? Mitt Romney (or any other GOP nominee) are not charismatic?

Even if all three are false the DP is still predicted to win with Obama as their candidate. But I suspect those things happening over there will be favored by the electorate en masse, there will be no third party contender of Perot-like status and Romney will not be deemed as sufficiently charismatic. Thus it seems like 11-2 in favor of Obama's re-election.

The interesting side note to all this is that the electorate in the aggregate is basically pragmatic in the factors influencing the final vote tally even if they are a little sloppy in attribution.

Jacob said...

I'm going to have to agree in detail with Tacitus on the S&P thing. In context, the line was saying Republicans were going to resist any revenue increases. The S&P made two assumptions. 1) That significant spending decreases would not happen. 2) That Democrats would not be able to override Republican's anti-tax agenda.

The underlying problems aren't exclusive to Republicans, but S&P was just dropping the rating based on likely outcomes. If Republicans grew up/cast off their chains/pick your metaphor, they could fix everything using actual conservative values. However, no one expects that is a likely outcome.

rewinn said...

@RandyB
"...When you're counting heads and assets to see how bad the wealth disparity is, you can't count those who aren't in the game. That would be like blaming wealthy Americans for the poverty in Haiti."

Are you seriously telling us that the unemployed, the poor, the infirm and the elderly are not Americans?

Because if you're not, your entire argument collapses. Love us or hate us, we are in this together; there is no significant segment that is not "in the game".

rewinn said...

@DrBrin wrote:
"...unlike lefties, I do not think poverty is universally a product of malignancy..."

I may not be a good lefty, but I'm a solid progressive and I see no reason to think that poverty should be solely the result of deliberate or careless human action. No doubt poverty is very helpful for the Aristocracy, e.g. in disciplining the work force; however it seems to me to be fallacious to reason from this that *all* poverty is deliberate. To the contrary, it is not only easy to imagine a society in which no-one tries to impoverish another, and yet poverty (in either absolute or relative terms) persists, but it is hard to imagine a society in which poverty, once created by transitory events, e.g. natural disasters, thereafter spontaneously disappears. Such a self-repairing society may be very desirable but doesn't it smack of Intelligent Design to think that such must be the "natural" state of humankind, out of which poverty arises only due to malignant action?

Jonathan S. said...

Hey, Dr. Brin, I found one! Finally!

http://www.komonews.com/news/local/127082543.html

"Citizen Takes Down Gunman After Shooting In Skyway"

SKYWAY, Wash. -- Police say an armed citizen helped arrest a man who shot another man late Saturday in the Skyway neighborhood south of Seattle.

King County sheriff's Sgt. John Urquhart said the victim was shot just after 9 p.m. during an argument in the parking lot of the US Bank branch at 12610 76th Avenue South.

A man not involved in the dispute who was using the ATM at the bank pulled out his own gun and pointed it at the shooter, Urquhart said.

Urquhart said the man is licensed to carry the weapon and also had handcuffs with him, although he is not a member of law enforcement.

By the time police arrived, the Good Samaritan already had the suspected shooter cuffed and disarmed.

"That's very unusual, very surprising, and not recommended," Urquhart said of the citizen who intervened. "This guy did a great job, but we don't recommend doing that. You certainly do that at your own risk."

The man who was shot was taken to Harborview Medical Center with serious injuries, but he is expected to survive.

Investigators are looking into whether a dispute over drugs may have prompted the shooting.

LarryHart said...

rewinn:

Such a self-repairing society may be very desirable but doesn't it smack of Intelligent Design to think that such must be the "natural" state of humankind, out of which poverty arises only due to malignant action?


Poverty resulting from scarcity would seem to be a natural state of things.

Poverty admidst plenty, on the other hand, seems (to me) at best to be the result of non-feasance of society to do the job OF society.

Let's not willfully conflate two different cases as being the same thing:

1) Everyone has their own plot of land to tend, and some put a lot of work into producing a bountiful harvest while others slack off all summer and find themselves tending weeds come November.

2) Some wealthy and powerful interests have laid claim to ALL of the plots of land, and they will only allow those who will become willing slaves to eat, while everyone else, including those willing to be slaves but not needed AS slaves are left to starve.

The rightist argument always pretends that we're in situation 1), but I think 2) is much closer to the true situation in the developed world. Whether we agree or not about which situation we are in, we should all be able to agree that solutions designed around the one case don't really apply to the other.

Robert said...

I read your recent comment on Facebook and decided to click on one of Crack's links on the bottom of the article. I thought you'd be amused by #2 of this seeing that you basically touch upon this with the short story "Lungfish." =^-^=

http://www.cracked.com/article/192_6-insane-laws-well-need-in-future_p2/?wa_user1=5&wa_user2=Weird+World&wa_user3=article&wa_user4=recommended

http://www.cracked.com/article/192_6-insane-laws-well-need-in-future_p2/
?wa_user1=5&wa_user2=Weird+World&wa_user3=article&wa_user4=recommended

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...

David Brin said:

"Seriously, you have enough data, already, to glance over at the GOP field.."

I will put this in the category of questions politely asked requiring an answer.

Using the most recent and generally fair national poll (Pew, July 28) of GOP aspirants.

1.Romney 21%. Has always left me a bit cold. Is an east coast R and hence a bit to the moderate end of the spectrum (?). Exec experience moderate as well.

2. Perry 12%. Lots of exec experience. Does Texas correlate to the US as a whole? Will be painted as stupid based on college grades. I suppose BHO will have to release his transcript at last! Need to ponder him further.

3. Palin. 11%. Not going to run. Interesting symbol and about 95% less evil/stupid than portrayed. But irrelevant. Bachman also at 11%as she is Palin-lite same comments apply other than that she is running. In her case the 5% stupid is sufficient to disqual.

4. Guilliani, Cain, Gingrich, Santorum. Novelty candidates. When we as a nation can elect a guy with no exec experience and an islamic name to Pres, well anything can happen. But the GOP has in conventional times not gone for the very dark horse.

5. Pawlenty 3%. Sad. He is actually a decent guy and generally moderate. Could be a good pres but seems to be spinning the wheels.

6. Not in the race. I really like Christie but not experienced enough yet. Also I think his health is/would be an issue. Daniels has the record to contend but would be savaged by the attack dogs. Short! Marriage issues! There will be several others up and coming in 2016, Rubio and Nikki Haley for instance. Long past time for a woman as P or VP.

A few side thoughts. I do not consider J.Biden much of a VP choice myself. A plagerist with neuro issues.

And no, David, you would not enjoy negotiating with me in the least, but after staggering away from the table with pockets empty you would find me standing by to purchase you a beer!

Tacitus

another time my thoughts on what could make a second Obama admin better than the first, and better than some of the above.

Robert said...

I look forward to your comments on improving the Obama administration for Mk. 2 - especially as I see some strong parallels between Carter and Obama (what is it about college professors that makes them lackluster Presidents? Though it seems Obama learned form some of the mistakes of his predecessors and did everything in his power to try and avoid repeating some of them...).

Mostly I'd like to know how we could save the Republican Party from itself. But I don't think that's possible any longer. It saddens me, as my late brother was Republican... but he'd probably disown the current crew as monsters who sold their souls for 30 pieces of silver.

Rob H.

rewinn said...

@Tacticus - you skipped the most traditional Republican in the race: Barack Obama.

But then, I voted for Nixon ...

@LarryHart - excellent point. Conflating all kinds of poverty only obscures the path to solutions.

LarryHart said...

rewinn:

@LarryHart - excellent point. Conflating all kinds of poverty only obscures the path to solutions.


Thanks.

My current thinking is heavily influenced by "The Grapes of Wrath", which I read in high school (1977) and finally re-read again just a few months ago.

In the book, which was written during the 1930s dust bown era, you had millions of starving ex-farmers AND millions of acres of food literally rotting on the vine for lack of ability to pick it fast enough. Two problems which should cancel each other out to zero, but for an economy that could not manage to put the one to work harvesting the other.

To me, the fact that such a state is possible is WRONG, both morally and technically.

And I'm afraid we as a society have willfully walked right back into the 1930s with eyes wide open and knowing all the reasons why it happened before, just because we can't agree on handling things a different way.

Back in '77, that book seemed like something my father might have cared about, but with no relevance to our more enlightened economy. But it's amazing how smart the old man grew in the interceding 30+ years.

David Brin said...

Let's take a break for Simple cause and effect. In 1998 we were paying down debt, with almost exactly the same set of entitlements and costs. What is different today?

Two trillion dollar land wars of attrition in Asia and the Bush II tax cuts for the rich.. which, we were assured, would "pay for themselves."

Those two things account for all of the deficit. Period. They were also deliberate and specific decisions made by the worst ruling caste in American history since Buchanan screwed us in the 1850s.

The same ruling caste that "maverick" John McCain invited wholly into his campaign and to be his "brain trust."

Why would anyone listen to anything further that those morons? Idiots (or else much worse) who also said "the Iraq intervention will be brief and will pay for itself."

====
Jonathan's example of an armed bystander catching and arresting a man who shot another man in Skyway WA is a good one. But please excuse me for quibbling again. This follow bravely stepped in, all right. But the perp had shot ONE other guy with a pistol. It wasn't a "mass-shooter" spraying bullets at everything and everybody in sight from an assault rifle with an endless magazine.

Eep... read this excerpt: "Urquhart said the man is licensed to carry the weapon and also had handcuffs with him, although he is not a member of law enforcement."

He carries HANDCUFFS around? Urk We are talking about a real batman wannabe here! I wonder how many long hours he patrols the dark city, where evil never sleeps.....

===
Jesus said the poor will always be with us and essentially shrugged it off. Because for 99% of human existence poverty was a vast sea surrounding islands of surplus. Now, poverty is a bitter LAKE surrounded by middle class comfort. Now it is possible to even imagine draining the lake.

====
Geez Tacitus, you are really willing to distract from the big picture by examining these guys in nitpicking detail?

Romney denounces his own health care bill in order to suck up to the loons. Perry... you want ANOTHER Texas-macho guv who has never voluntarily read a book and who prays for BoR scenarios to pour fire from the sky?

Likewise Palin & Bachman. YOU may not be inherently damned, in their eyes. But I am. I hear Bachman has read a book. Are you proud of a party where that is a sign of high intellectual accomplishment?

You tell us not to nitpick the GOP candidates, yet nitpick Biden, who has foreign policy cred out the wazoo, is respected by international heads of state and all his former Senate colleagues and who has a long track record of legislation... because one of his aides lifted some words one time?

I'm not running Biden for prex. I won't claim you should vote for him. I don't like him that much myself. But recall my statement. That he was GENERALLY QUALIFIED. And that ALL Dem VP picks seem generally qualified. Because all the top dem candidates consider that fact to be relevant.

Wouldn't you?

Gopper front runners almost NEVER consider that factor, when picking their veep. Reagan was the only one. He picked Bush Senior. A man I personally utterly despise, who was responsible for one of the worst stains on American honor in a century...

... but he definitely was qualified. The only GOP veep choice who was, in 80 years.

That long list means something, Tacitus. It includes even Eisenhower, whom I admire, but who could have chosen a decent, moral man, instead of saddling us with Nixon. It is a matter of fundamental personality.

David Brin said...

Look at these ten charts showing America's historically super-low tax levels.

Then ask "who is behind making low taxes for the rich the top issue? The only thing that matters?" Who is financing that message?

Oh, right. Got it.

(Make your friends see these charts.)

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/06/low_tax.html

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues
then
/2011/06/low_tax.html

Tacitus2 said...

"Geez Tacitus, you are really willing to distract from the big picture by examining these guys in nitpicking detail?"

Sure, why not. But I am not trying to distract anyone. Asked to render opinions I have done so. Mine. For what you think them worth. Perhaps I misinterpteted your actual interest in said opinions.

"Romney denounces his own health care bill in order to suck up to the loons"

Perhaps our frequent Mass. contributor can weigh in on how the Romneycare experiment has worked in the real world. Surely you believe in experimentation and results?

"Bachman has read a book. Are you proud of a party where that is a sign of high intellectual accomplishment?"

Bachman has a law degree. And as far as I can tell, William and Mary is not some fly by night diploma mill. She has assuredly read many books. You know this to be true, so your snark is unworthy of the rest of your position.

"You tell us not to nitpick the GOP candidates, yet nitpick Biden"

I told you no such thing.

Although my comparison of Biden to R VPs could have been a bit more nuanced. I see him as sort of a D.Quayle type. Minus the merciless harassment when JB says dumbass things. There are websites devoted to the wisdom of JB. Paper qual? Sure.

Sigh. It seems unlikely that either of us will have a Damascene Road moment, but lets keep our discourse on a useful level.

Tacitus

rewinn said...

Let me speak from my law school experience in pointing out that the issue with Representative Bachman's William and Mary degree is more nuanced than simply a question of intelligence.

First let us note that Bachmann's JD degree is from Oral Roberts, a Soviet-style diploma mill that her supporters generally avoid mentioning in favor of William and Mary reference. (Internet rumors to the contrary, that LLM program, while it appears no longer to be offered, seems to have been in existence at the time she says she was there; no need to demand a birth certificate equivalent.)

It is an error to suppose that Post-JD programs are comparable in intellectual rigor to JD programs or to graduate degrees in the sciences. While the struggle for class rankings within JD programs is legendary, Masters programs in Law appear to eschew such matters, the assumption evidentally being that the degree itself is the credential, not a "Top 10%" ranking. I have never heard of anyone boasting of class rank in a post-JD program. You don't get into an LLM program by being smarter than all the other JD holders; you get into the program by wanted to get an advanced degree that most other lawyers don't want to bother with.

Of greater relevance to contemporary politics is that while it may be that Bachmann possesses a brilliant intellect that is not evidened in her public speech, but if so, one may wonder whence her lack of tether to commonly understood historical facts. It is my observation that once one has been admitted to law school, being either willing to lie with a straight face or to be an out-and-out loon is not a disqualification. To the contrary: a willingness to blurt out any argument in support of one's position with an air of utter sincerity and certitude may be seen as a strong point; this is where the argumentative professions (law, the clergy) may differ from the scientific professions.

Imagine, if you will, an ER run by the doctor who can most loudly assert which of the Four Humours is most important in assessing trauma, and you will understand the fundamental corruption (...in the technical sense...) of the legal profession (...and I say this as a lawyer...).

The number of attorneys with obvious mental health problems would suggest that a law school's first interest is to collect your tuition and its second interest is to encourage students to be able to make contributions as an alumni; both of these goals would be twarted by any sort of sanity check. However would it really be any better were Bachman to be as sane as you or I, and still to speak as she does?

===

P.S. For obvious reasons, I support Dan Quayle for the GOP nomination in 2012.

sociotard said...

Oh look, more Dire Warning Science Fiction. I have to say though, this one might be one Brin would like. The tech in question is immortality. People stop aging at 25. So everyone, even the poor, get to stay young and beautiful.

But the Aristocracy controls it. They get to live as long as they like, and the poor die way early.

http://www.intimemovie.com/&rct=j&q=in%20time%20trailer&cad=rja

Jacob said...

"Surely you believe in experimentation and results?"

The Experimental Method is a wonderful thing. We should be using it to implement change in Healthcare. It goes along well with many 'small c' conservative themes too.

We should have a national package of plans from which states/regions select that which best matches the desires of their people.

Universal Health Care, Pure Market, and a prism of Mixed Market options should be available. Plans designed around integration, population mobility, and other factors. There should be a plan available for any idea that has even 5% of the population interested in it.

We could just "let them do it anyway", but that doesn't make sense for three reasons. 1) National policies get in the way unless they are designed to work together. 2) Economics of Scale make a national organization of local empowerment more effective (and take less tax dollars). 3) States simply aren't doing it in a way that lends to a positive future outlook. (Perhaps due in part to 1 and 2)

I do not see Republicans using the valid aspects of conservative philosophy to propose solutions. I just see them being resistant to government rather than trying to reform it into an effective machine that accomplishes locally Liberal and Conservative desires.

Tacitus2 said...

ReWinn, a lawyer! Excellent.

Look, I already said Bachman should not be Pres. If 5% (or 10 or 25%) of the nutty stuff she spouts represents her true opinions that's sufficient for me.

But to say she "read a book once" is insulting and I felt cheapened Dr.Brins overheated but not entirely unreasonable position.
Between Quayle and Bachman I would also vote for Danny boy, but would hope for better options.

You may demur, but I think the insistence that all Republicans are defacto stupid, racist, religiously infatuated, etc does our political system no good.

Oh, and I can speak from experience, in a trauma case the Sanguine Humor (blood) is always the most important!

T

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

You may demur, but I think the insistence that all Republicans are defacto stupid, racist, religiously infatuated, etc does our political system no good.


I think you unintentionally made an ironic point. If you are talking about the "insitence" by LIBERALS that all Republicans fit that stereotype, then I agree it is both foolish and lazy to presume so.

But there is a different "insistence that all Republicans are defacto stupid..." at work. That is, the Republican primary voters THEMSELVES seem to "insist" upon their candidates being defacto stupid, racist, religiously infatuated, etc, or to at least do a very good job of pretending to be so. And as John McCain just proved, Kurt Vonnegut was correct to warn ("Mother Night") that you are who you pretend to be, so be careful who you pretend to be.

Regarding that second sort of "insistence", you are still correct in the assertion that it does our political system no good, but it's not coming from the left.

David Brin said...

Tacitus: "But to say she "read a book once" is insulting and I felt cheapened Dr.Brins overheated but not entirely unreasonable position."

Then I apologize. "Read a book" is often used as a metaphor but I retract it.

What I do not retract is the dare to find a modern large-scale clade of skill, knowledge and professionalism that is not either under direct attack by Movement Conservatism or (like the officer corps) under more subtle pressure. That means something, Tacitus. Where are the Goldwaters and Buckleys, who could hold their heads up and converse as equals with scientists and historians?

And I await the name of one GOP VP nominee, other than the despicable Bush SR, who was qualified - on paper - to be president. That criterion never, ever enters into it.

Gee whiz. Who is the Fox News blonde lady who always always pretends, on the air, to be stone cold stupid and to not know the meanings of words. John Stewart outed her. She graduated Summa from an Ivy League School. It is an act, a good one. But the fact that she feels it necessary....?

David Brin said...

Someone tuck the ten charts site away and offer it back to us, next year, when we can use it?

http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/06/low_tax.html

http://www.americanprogress.org/
then
issues/2011/06/low_tax.html

RandyB said...

Larry,

"Well, I perceived you as saying that it was ok for more people to become poorer because the rich didn't require their services any more. I (and Dr Brin) see that as a disfunction that needs fixing, whereas I THOUGHT you were defending it as the way things ought to be."

No, of course it's never okay. But it is natural for it to work this way.

"I think the oligarchs are trying their best TO connect it. What else is the point of pushing austerity during a recession/depression but to insure that we CAN'T jump-start the economy, that unemployment stays high thus depressing wages, and that deflation sets in, increasing the value of the debt those people already own, while reducing the amount of wealth left over after those rent payments are made? ..."

You're assuming that everyone believes jump-starting the economy works as advertised. Not everyone does. The purpose of government austerity measures is to free the real economy. FDR's New Deal was a colossal failure. President Obama's series of stimulus packages haven't helped yet. Meanwhile, Germany today is doing much better without a stimulus package.

You can still believe in jump-starting the economy if you like. A lot of people do. But it's wrong to assume that those who disagree with the theory are only saying that for nefarious purposes.

I don't know how it's possible to fret about oligarchs without being suspicious of politicians using massive government funds and claiming it's to stimulate the economy.


"Automation: This has been a pet peeve of mine for a long time now. Automation should be FREEING humanity from the need to do as muc work for a living. Instead, our economic system says that the only way TO earn a living is by working hard."

I personally believe it'll work out very well in the long run. People will be glad not to have ordinary factory jobs, just as today we're glad not to be working out in the fields. It's the medium run I fear.

RandyB said...

David,

The poor do count when measuring wealth disparity.

Besides that, I was mostly in agreement until you got near the end.

If you really want to prevent an aristocracy then the pre-Bush estate tax (with a cap of $675K) is not necessary for that, and its loopholes are not what you'd want at all. You said in a previous thread that it doesn't bother you that Buffett's kids remain millionaires. It's the billions, and the power that comes with that, that bothers you. I doubt that you'd oppose the oft-cited (and abused) "family farm" scenario being protected. So, a tax that kicks in much later is what you should want.

But a far worse problem is the loopholes. The super-rich will plan their estates for years. This should really bother you because the very people and institutions who promote the inheritance tax (insurance and lawyer lobbies) are doing it specifically because they want the loopholes to stay. Isn't this the danger Adam Smith was warning about in the very paragraph that?

I left out the middle class for brevity's sake.

Yes, I've heard about those stats where the economy fares better while Democrats have the White House. Surely, you must realize it's more complicated than that. For example, President Obama would like to keep blaming the Bush administration for the way things are today. Are you saying he doesn't have a point at all? (Actually, by this date he probably doesn't -- poor example -- but my point remains.)

You also need to consider who controls the Congress. Doesn't the Republican Congress get any credit for the economic boom in the late '90s?

Then there's national policies and natural events: Wars, Katrina, oil prices, etc.

Individual presidents matter, too. President Nixon famously said, "We're all Keynesians now." In 1980, the first President Bush had once called Reaganomics "voodoo economics." There aren't steady DNC and GOP policies. Putting them all on the same graph just doesn't make sense.

BTW: Warren Buffett disagrees with Obama's political talk about corporate jets.

And sorry about the length of this post.

David Brin said...

Calling FDR a collosal failure is dogma. Litany. And utterly countered by fact.

It is true that by prematurely trying to erase deficits in 1936 he staunched a vigorous recovery. When he was forced, by WWII to become a real Keynsian and go all the way, the result was the biggest boom into superpower status and skyrocketing middle class the world has ever seen.

Like the 50s & 60s booms? FDR level tax rates.

RandyB said...

Duncan,

"The same market forces effect Germany and Scandinavia
They don't have the same problems
"

Very interesting point but the economies of Germany and Scandanavia are not nearly the same as the U.S.

I'll have to mull this over, though.

RandyB said...

Rewinn,

@RandyB
"...When you're counting heads and assets to see how bad the wealth disparity is, you can't count those who aren't in the game. That would be like blaming wealthy Americans for the poverty in Haiti."

Are you seriously telling us that the unemployed, the poor, the infirm and the elderly are not Americans?

Because if you're not, your entire argument collapses. Love us or hate us, we are in this together; there is no significant segment that is not "in the game".


***

Certainly not in a moral sense. I'm simply explaining what I think the wealth disparity comes from.

In other words, it's not a case of the rich robbing from the poor. It's that the poor are being ignored.

LarryHart said...

RandyB said:

For example, President Obama would like to keep blaming the Bush administration for the way things are today. Are you saying he doesn't have a point at all? (Actually, by this date he probably doesn't -- poor example -- but my point remains.)


And yet, it was perfectly natural and acceptable on the right-wing talk side to blame Clinton for everything for eight years.

Just sayin'

LarryHart said...

RandyB:

You're assuming that everyone believes jump-starting the economy works as advertised. Not everyone does. The purpose of government austerity measures is to free the real economy. FDR's New Deal was a colossal failure. President Obama's series of stimulus packages haven't helped yet. Meanwhile, Germany today is doing much better without a stimulus package.


I'm tempted to dismiss anything after "FDR's New Deal was a collossal failure" as gibbering nonsense. But if you mean that he was led to believe that the top priiority of 1937 was to balance the budget and that the Great Depression then went back into a double-dip, I'll agree with you.

I don't see why you think it's a model we should follow again, though.

President Obama's stimulus packages haven't helped yet because they were too small. Krugman and his ilk predicted exactly how that would go, including the fact that it would be politically impossible to get more stimulus when needed. So yes, the stimulus didn't work, but not because the idea was wrong--because it wasn't tried seriously enough.

And Germany weathers the recession better because they subsidise part-time employment rather than layoffs, and because layoff doesn't equal "uninsured" over there. People can make slightly less money in a recession without being completely bankrupted.


You can still believe in jump-starting the economy if you like. A lot of people do. But it's wrong to assume that those who disagree with the theory are only saying that for nefarious purposes.


I think Supply-Side economics has been so thoroughly debunked by the facts on the ground over the past 30 years, that no one who has paid attention for any length of time can "believe" that theory. Therefore, I conclude that anyone giving it lip service is being disingenuous for a reason. And when the reason seems as obvious as "They personally benefit from depression and unemployment"...well, then the onus is on you to prove that I'm wrong.

Robert said...

I'm afraid I'm not a good judge about the Massachusetts health care system (seeing that I suspect I'm the Massachusetts Poster in question) as I mostly ignore the Massachusetts health care system. I need to prove I have healthcare. So I fill out paperwork once a year to prove it. That's the extent of my input in this topic.

I do know that if I could go back in time to Nixon's time, I'd do two things to change the future. First, I'd try to convince Teddy to accept Nixon's health care suggestion and remind him that Social Security started small but grew... and then I'd talk to Nixon and try to convince him to ignore Ellsworth (I think that's his name) and his revelations about Vietnam as his going after Ellsworth started the domino effect that led to Watergate. You keep Nixon from being upset about Ellsworth, he probably won't pull the dirty tricks on the Dems, would have won the election anyway, and would not have been forced to resign.

I have to wonder how that would have changed the Republican Party. By not having their President go through Watergate, and by having Spiro kicked out due to corruption, you could have started a process where the Republican Party started cleaning house and eliminated by necessity its corrupt elements that would transform into the Neocons. Literally, Watergate gave them cover to transform into something twisted... and prevented the Republican Party from undergoing the evolution Democrats went through in shedding their own loon element.

And we'd have government health care at a much earlier period of time. And it would have been a Republican mandate. ;)

Rob H.

RandyB said...

David,

Unemployment stayed over 10% until Pearl Harbor. After that we had a war budget reach as much as 40% of GDP. That's quite a jump-start while forcing millions of men to enter the military for only a small salary. Our current wars haven't reached that commitment of men or resources. (They haven't even reached the level of the Reagan years, let alone the Vietnam years.) It'll be hard to get to that kind of a jump-start.

Even for those economists who believe FDR simply didn't spend enough, you're conceding it was a failure until the war, and that if jump-starting works, it really requires massive deficit spending beyond what was ever done before.

But in defense of the theory, I'll add that the New Deal was more than just massive spending, and concede that it might theoretically have worked if it didn't also add so many other business restrictions.

RandyB said...

Larry,

Not believing in jump-starting doesn't automatically mean one does believe in supply side economics.

It hasn't really been debunked, though. As I think I've said before, most of the Bush tax cuts were not supply side economics. Regardless where on the Laffer Curve one puts those at the top (and I phrase it that way to acknowledge that the slope of the curve is disputed), the math definitely does not work for the middle class when compared to Clinton's rates. Laffer himself said he just thought it was nice to reduce rates for the middle class, and not that it would increase revenues from them.

Besides that, there is agreement here that if a jump-start works, it would require much more spending. So, even if you do expect conservatives to secretly agree with the theory, there's plenty of reason to disagree that it's possible under the present circumstances.

Paul said...

Enterik didn't provide a link to the Allen Lichtman stuff, so google to the rescue:

http://ww2.gazette.net/stories/05272011/policol193154_32542.php

IMO, there is a public perception of a military loss in Iraq/Iran/Libya. And the death of some of Seal Team 6 effectively erases the win on Bin Laden. Likewise, the perception of economic failure overrides any actual numerical growth in the US economy. So three additional "Keys" against Obama.

But once the Republicans actually settle on a candidate, Obama regains the charisma Key, by comparison. Right now, he's effectively running against himself-circa-2008. Come 2012, he will have a real opponent.

Lichtman gives 10-3 Obama. Overwhelming win. I say 8-5, much closer.

rewinn said...

@Tacitus
"...Sanguine Humor (blood) is always the most important!"

OK, that made me laugh!

It also demonstrated the existence of a Fifth Humor, which is extremely important in internet-based discussions: Humor itself.

====

@RandyB wrote:
"...Unemployment stayed over 10% until Pearl Harbor..."

This is not probative of the thesis that the New Deal was a failure. Why don't you set an objective standard for "success" and then we can discuss whether (A) it is reasonable and (B) the New Deal met it? It appears that you are setting the standard that dropping unemployment 2% or more a year is not success - is that really a reasonable standard?

It also appears that you are arguing that supply-side economics "hasn't really been debunked" because it has never really been tried. Is that really reasonable? The Marxists say the same thing, and with very similar types of evidence. Can both supply-siders and Marxists be right?

Paul said...

David,
"In 1998 we were paying down debt, [...] What is different today? Two [wars] and the Bush II tax cuts for the rich.. [...] Those two things account for all of the deficit. Period."

You also have to allow for the reduction in revenue due to the economic downturn itself. (Just being pedantic.)

Re: Batman's handcuffs

He took down the perp without firing a shot. So Batman yes, Rambo no. If he wants to patrol the streets, more power too him.

(But I agree with disqualifying it as The Example.)

"Who is the Fox News blonde lady who always always pretends, on the air, to be stone cold stupid"

Steve Doocy?

Tacitus2,
"but I think the insistence that all Republicans are defacto stupid, racist, religiously infatuated, etc does our political system no good."

But they make it so gobsmackingly easy!

rewinn said...

"... it's not a case of the rich robbing from the poor. It's that the poor are being ignored."

If only that were the case. Since you supply no evidence to back up your thesis, it's not really necessary for me to produce anything to debunk it other than the simple fact that that real wages have fallen steadily even as productivity increases steadily: we work harder for less and the money flows to the top. Much of this is because workers who object are easily replaced from the vast reserve of the unemployed, whose wasted capacity to work thus contributes to the wealth at the top.

Being ignored (that is, keeping wages in parity with productivity) would be by comparison delightful!

Tim H. said...

Supply side economics might've accomplished something if it was done in the absence of "free trade", as it was, the investment monies were dissipated around the world instead of creating jobs domestically, each of which would have been taxed at a higher rate than investor incomes. The investor class has some incentive to find excuses to create more, and higher paying jobs here, nothing would stimulate the economy better, and it would relieve political pressure to raise their tax rates. The fact that this hasn't happened yet suggests illogic.

Robert said...

Complaints that the New Deal didn't lower unemployment below 10% is disingenuous. Unemployment in the U.S. rose to 25% during the Great Depression, and went down to 14.3% until Roosevelt tried to balance the budget, at which point it jumped to around 19%. So in short, the New Deal resulted in unemployment dropping by over 10%. How in the world is that a failure? Seriously.

And those statistics aren't pulled out of my ass. They're taken from Wikipedia. Now, you can claim Wikipedia is false... but it is under review from historians and other people who pride themselves on accuracy. Thus if it were erroneous then someone would have fixed it.

Did Obama's Stimulus Plan work? Well, unemployment managed to remain under 10% during the plan. It snuck back up over 9% after the plan was cut short by Republicans insisting on eliminating the stimulus as "tax and spend" despite the fact half of it was tax cuts. Which in fact they don't want to extend... because they're not Republican tax breaks.

In short, Republicans are only for plans that Republicans put forward. If Democrats take a Republican plan and put it forward it becomes poison. (This could be part of why the Republican party has gone so far right. Democrats see the writing on the wall, embraced Republican ideals... and force Republicans to go further Right because they can't dare agree with Democrats. It's self-inflicted insanity. It's also childishness - it's like shouting "I know you are, but what am I?" and then insisting that the other side is 'doodoo heads' after they agree with you and changing what they said initially so they're not "lying.")

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Tim H:

Supply side economics might've accomplished something if it was done in the absence of "free trade",...


Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't Supply-Side economics say that the way to get businesses to build factories and hire workers is to give them money?

How is that different from saying that the way to get lazy poor people to work is to give them welfare checks? To that, the same right-wingers who support Supply-Side will argue "Welfare gives people an incentive NOT to work!"

Why doesn't "giving money to the rich WITHOUT them having to build productive infrastructure" give those rich people an analogous incentive NOT to build factories and hire workers?

RandyB said...

Larry, Rewinn, Robert,

Please allow me to restart the main point.

I brought up the New Deal after Larry said the oligarchs don't want to jump-start the economy because they actually prefer unemployment to stay high.

I made a mistake arguing the New Deal vs. the Laffer Curve as though they were precisely the same thing as jump-starting the economy vs. supply side economics. It simplified things to say that for one post but it's not enough for a full debate. And it really doesn't matter.

For our purposes here, it doesn't matter whether or not you believe the New Deal could have worked. The Laffer Curve doesn't matter either right now. They would matter for other arguments, of course, but not for judging motive. What does matter is that people do have the right to believe jump-starting the economy is not the best solution in today's conditions.

You can believe they're incorrect without believing they're lying about their beliefs.

I will certainly agree you can also believe they are lying about their beliefs. (I take that position myself about other people on other subjects.) But the problem here is that there are responsible economists who don't believe jump-starting is the best thing right now. I don't think you can call them all liars.

Robert said...

It depends on what they consider to be who would benefit. If the economists believe that the Oligarchs should rule and they are creating their economic models with the assumption their Lords will smile upon them and give them money, then of course they don't want the People to succeed.

But if an economist believes in the nation or the world over the oligarchs, then they aren't going to claim stimulus is a bad idea. In fact, most economists are stating "we need more stimulus."

Of course, when 99% of climate scientists claim global warming is happening due to carbon dioxide that is a result of human activity, people disbelieve them. So it's only natural people will likewise refuse to believe economists who claim stimulus is a good thing.

Even if the economists (and climate scientists) are right.

Rob H.

RandyB said...

Robert,

Two problems with that:

1) It isn't 99% of economists who think a massive stimulus would be a good thing. With this deficit, I don't think it's a majority.

2) You're ignoring a third alternative to belief or disbelief in global warming: It is also possible to believe global warming is happening, and that it is man-made, but that the heavy cost of the proposed partial-fixes would outweigh whatever value they might have to humanity. (Adam Smith's warning could apply here, too.)

David Brin said...

Didn't mind targeted tax cuts. For R&D for startups and venture capital. For capital equipment and factories. For job creation.

That's not "picking winners and losers." That is seeing to it that "laffer" tax breaks actually go into expanding supply, rather than 99% of it going into what A Smith disparagingly called "rents".

Especially now. We need money to go to places where it will be spent at high "velocity". The poor & middle class spend. The rich do not. Duh?

Biggest problem with the stimulus? It worked at saving companies, who now have fine bottom lines and cash in the bank... and who aren't spending or investing or lending or hiring.

Instead, the oligarchs have pushed companies to waste their cash BUYING STOCK so prices will go up. In effect pumping up the value of the top stockholders. Another toplevel economy rape.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Biggest problem with the stimulus? It worked at saving companies, who now have fine bottom lines and cash in the bank... and who aren't spending or investing or lending or hiring.

Instead, the oligarchs have pushed companies to waste their cash BUYING STOCK so prices will go up.


Which is exactly what I mean when I say that Supply-Side has been debunked. Never mind whether the Bush tax cuts were supply-side or whatever. The point is that when the "job creators" have tons of cash to sit on, they...SIT ON it. They don't create jobs. They don't produce value. They wait until there is some productive use to PUT that cash to. And the only way that is going to happen is when DEMAND increases.

Again I ask--why does it make sense to think that giving owners more cash will cause them to create jobs and build infrastructure when it does not make sense to think that giving unemployed people money will cause them to get jobs? Why are those two not analogous situations?

RandyB said...

Larry,

Buying back shares doesn't directly make the price go up. Market capitalization stays the same. The price can go up is because it changes the price/earnings ratio, which makes the stock appear more attractive.

Basically, it's not productive for a company to hold onto excess cash if it's not going to make money with it.


"Again I ask--why does it make sense to think that giving owners more cash will cause them to create jobs and build infrastructure when it does not make sense to think that giving unemployed people money will cause them to get jobs? Why are those two not analogous situations?"

No, it doesn't make sense that way. It only makes sense if producers see an improving business climate. So, it doesn't debunk supply side economics unless you think presidents with those ideas didn't also want to improve the business climate at the same time.

But the same could be said of a stimulus. Increased demand is not going to create permanent new jobs if that increase is seen as temporary.

Tim H. said...

Randy, the problem I see is we're stuck in a self-reinforcing, negative spiral, few are hiring because of low demand, which is low because jobs are scarce. Business folk can't really untie that Gordian knot without alarming investors. A keynesian stimulus should push the economy past that, not sure if one smaller than WWII would suffice. BTW, if Hayek had been remembered during the bubble, we might not need Keynes now. Invoking Hayek now is just "Bassackwards".

Robert said...

That's odd, Randy, because that's contrary to what is happening. You're forgetting two aspects: the rule of scarcity and the psychological aspects of stock prices.

When something is scarcer, prices go up. Even when there is enough of something, prices still go up. There is plenty of oil to go around but prices are high because oil speculators are buying up oil to drive up prices. This is despite the fact that there are no oil shortages. Likewise with stocks. There are fewer available stocks out there, so stock prices go up.

Next, there's the psychological aspect. Investor Y sees that Stock X (or oil futures for that matter) are being purchased. They think "I want in on this game" so Y tries to buy some of the remaining stock, driving up demand and increasing costs. But the purchase the stock was driving by Company X buying back their stocks to increase stock prices so there was no real reason to buy the stock. There wasn't a financial report suggesting that Company X was doing better than expected, or a new product being released. No, the only reason to buy was someone else (Company X) was buying.

In short, it's a shell game. And there is no true value being generated by this shell game. When Company X decides to dump its shares, Investor Y is suddenly out money because they bought at a higher price than the stock is "worth" in theory.

You have to understand: my job is to write abstracts for a number of journals. This includes business journals. I was HIRED for my job several years back to rework the abstracts of hundreds of business journals, ranging from the early 1900s on down the line. And while that aspect of my job is done I still work on business journals periodically. I'm not some complete amateur here. I have some knowledge of what I'm talking about.

Rob H.

Ian said...

"“One bystander armed with a concealed carry pistol could have ended this,” Rush Limbaugh opined. “The problem isn’t too many guns, but too few!”"

Maybe the US should start arming its prison population.


Prison rape and other forms of violence against other prisoners would go down because the weaker prisoners could defend themselves and we're reliably informed that gun ownership lead to a more polite and selfdisciplined society so it would make life easier for guards too.

elogrog: how the morlocks keep their herds stupid and placid.

Robert said...

That could work... if you had smart guns that wouldn't fire when pointed at prison guards and visitors that have a chip implanted into them. They could use the guns on each other, but guards would only be at risk of ricochets and the like.

But seeing that we don't have smart guns and the like that are up to that level of sophistication just yet... ;)

Rob H.

Ian said...

"This may be why they never caught on across the Channel, where it was considered dangerous to give middle-class men time off to practice the art of killing their 'betters.'"

Or maybe the continentals simply preferred the crossbow which had much the same noble-killing abilities and required less practice.

Enterik said...

LarryHart queried, "...it does not make sense to think that giving unemployed people money will cause them to get jobs?"

Larry,

I think the real issue is how can our society best support it's intrinsic demands? Once demand increases, so will opportunity for employment.

The unemployed, underemployed and undercompensated that make up, at least, the bottom economic quintile of our society live in a constant state of unmet needs. Frequently, these unmet needs visit greater cost upon society than if we had merely given the underclass the money to meet basal level needs that all of us slightly better offs take for granted.

I can guarantee, with almost unit efficiency, that any money given to the poor will be spent almost immediately. It will generate demand and those with the know how and credit access will expand supply to meet real demand.

Ian said...

"On the cash missing in Iraq, you're clearly right. Buying an attempt at "peace" in a corrupt mess of a country was a terrible mistake. But once the war started, the options are too few."

The problem wasn't the strategy but the tactics.

Rather than buying peace by bribing clan leaders, the occupation forces should simply have given every Iraqi family several thousand dollars to do with as the will.

This would have raised living standards and kickstarted numerous mall businesses, meaning any Iraqis were simply too busy to take part in factional nonsense

rewinn said...

"...the occupation forces should simply have given every Iraqi family several thousand dollars ..."

10 million families at 5 thousand per - is that 50 billion?

By today's standard: Chump change!

Is it too late to try that in Afghanistan? Couldn't we hire every Afghan male of military age at $1000/year for about 10 billion?

Tim H. said...

Ian, rewinn, that idea is probably too much like the right thing for it to happen, but it's about time "Trickle down" was exchanged for "Percolate up", the cash would end up at the top, eventually, but it would do much good on the way up.
"cycen", designer lubricant for the discerning cylon.

rewinn said...

@RandyB - would it killya to admit that the New Deal actually worked?

Look, this isn't some contest to "win". It's a search for the truth. Sometimes I have to change my mind. It's like putting on new shoes: never something I enjoy, but usually a good idea.

Ed said...

Those that like to quote Heinlein's armed society as a polite society always ignore that the society in Beyond this Horizon is a very violent society. If you offend someone with an act or by word you might have to back that up by pulling your gun and defending your honor. I think it's a classic example of taking a piece of fiction and trying to shoehorn it into your worldview.

RandyB said...

Rob,

That doesn't mean what I'd said was wrong, but I'll concede I may have missed David's point last night.

I understand what you're saying. I had allowed that there are some effects when I used the word "directly." I just didn't think it's the primary factor for buying back shares. I think the P/E ratio is the more important. (It may not even be the most important, as the WP article gives other reasons as well.)

Ultimately, the share price should go up, but that's because the market situation called for it.

The point I had missed was where David had said it's wasting cash. This is perfectly true except that it highlights the problem, which is that some of these companies don't believe they have better things to do with that cash right now.

RandyB said...

Rewinn,

"@RandyB - would it killya to admit that the New Deal actually worked?"

Nope. There's plenty of room for debate on the New Deal but you shouldn't believe it's universally celebrated.

Would it kill ya to admit there are economists who say it didn't work?

FDR's policies prolonged Depression by 7 years, UCLA economists calculate

Herbert Hoover tried some of the same stuff. It didn't work for him either.

Robert said...

There is cause and effect evident here. Look at the statistics: Before the New Deal, 25% unemployment. Right when Roosevelt ended funding for the New Deal and tried balancing the budget, it was around 14%. When the budget was being balanced it jumped up to 19%.

In short, government spending helped reduce unemployment. Prematurely ending that funding resulted in a jump in unemployment. The New Deal existed to put people to work, which would stimulate the economy. It succeeded in putting people to work. It did not sufficiently stimulate the economy so that once funding was withdrawn the economy could pick up the pace. But that is mostly because it was not a gradual reduction.

People buying things is what stimulates the economy. If someone doesn't have a job and has no money coming in then they cannot stimulate the economy. And if business refuses to hire them because they are unemployed (which is what is currently happening with the long-term unemployed) then they cannot be used to stimulate the economy.

The solution is simple: government job programs. But Republicans refuse to do this. They see it as "spreading the wealth" instead of letting their Oligarch Masters retain everything. And it's amazing how blind Republicans are. They claim Austerity works. Except in every nation which has embraced Austerity, things have gotten worse. So then - how is Austerity a good thing if it makes things worse?

What is your answer to this?

Rob H.

Enterik said...

Rob H,

I'd like to point out that there is one government jobs program that just about every Republican I know supports.

One that gives job training, room and board, subsidized college, lifelong healthcare, cheaper rates on mortgages, advantages for civil service employment...

...of course, I am speaking of the US military, perhaps America's most consistant Works Progress Administration and socialist endeavor.

RandyB said...

Rob,

I don't necessarily disagree with the first part of that. I just don't consider unemployment moving from 25% to 10% to be a success.

You're leaving a few things out. Saving the banks must have helped a lot, and its effects needs to be included when looking at unemployment. I don't recall how long that took but FDR started working on that immediately.

It's interesting that you're using the New Deal as your starting date. The real argument is about stimulating the economy with spending (I'll concede I've been sloppy with my terms here). The attempts at stimulus spending started under Hoover (as did tax increases on the rich).

I will add a point for your side: Seeing as how FDR's New Deal was more than just spending, it could be argued that it might have worked if he'd used only spending programs. But then we need to ask why it didn't help Hoover.

Robert said...

So. You don't consider putting tens of millions of people back to work so they can afford food, rent, and other such necessities to be a success? I suppose what you'd want is for FDR to have spun straw into gold and then told a certain fae critter his true name to chase him off to be success instead?

Do you honestly see what the hell you just said? You just said that having tens of millions of people working due to a government program is not a sign of a successful government program. This during a period when private commerce proved INADEQUATE to get the economy running!

In short, you're stating that because Democrats came up with a program it's a failure. Doesn't matter how good the program is, doesn't matter what the program does, doesn't matter if it does everything it is supposed to, it's a failure. I suppose that the Moon Landing program was ALSO a failure in your eyes because it was conceived by Kennedy (who was a Democrat)?

Rob H.

RandyB said...

Rob,

Putting tens of millions back to work is excellent -- all other things being equal. The question is still whether or not they'd have had better results without a stimulus.

Why couldn't we just use your rules to judge Hoover? He spent a lot. In fact, it was so excessive that in 1932 FDR ran against him on a balanced budget platform.

Let's try your rules: For all we know, the unemployment rate could have reached 35% if Hoover's policies hadn't been in force. Perhaps his programs also saved millions from the bread lines. Was Hoover supposed to have spun straw into gold?

Well, I judge Hoover on his results, not what might have been. He had years to make things better.

Look at what you just said: "This during a period when private commerce proved INADEQUATE to get the economy running!"

That's the problem right there. Things should have gone much better if that private commerce hadn't been made inadequate in the first place. Instead, both presidents had tied commerce up in knots.

And note: Hoover was a Republican. He was a good and decent man, and did other good things, but he resisted the advice of those who told him it's better to let the economy shake itself out.

David Brin said...

Hoover was a good and decent man, agreed. So was Wendel Wilkie and Dwight Eisenhower and Barry Goldwater... all Republicans I admire.

Heck, Robert Dole was a throwback to an era when courteous disagreement and readiness to negotiate were possible. The last time we had an election between adults.

But even when you had a GOP led by an honorable conservatism and by sane adults, (I happen to believe those are compatible!) you still get a basic trait... obstinacy.

If dems are flighty and jump about manically, gops cling to cliches, assertions and nostrums that are long past obsolete. FDR swore to balance the budget, that screwed up his keynsian solutions, so he adapted. Hoover tried hard to adapt but clung to long to his belief that the lords of finance knew what they were doing . (Sound like today?)

rewinn said...

@RandyB - contrary to your implication, I have *never* denied that the New Deal is not "universally celebrated". Remember, I started out as a conservative Republican; I fully understand the mentality and reasoning of those who wish to reverse the New Deal. I was a True Believer too.

However, those who argue that the New Deal's works programs prolonged the Great Depression are simply arguing against the plain facts. In particular, the study you cite is to the contrary (did you actually read the article?) Its case against the New Deal has nothing to do with job creation via government demand; its case is entirely based upon the value of anti-trust policies. Are you seriously saying that to get out of the today's Republican Great Depression 2.0 we need to have much strong anti-trust policies, breaking up current market oligopolies and so forth?

Well, ok, that is fine with me. I think that's a great idea. It may well be that increased market concentration is bad for the economy, since it enriches the few at the expense of the many, therefore lowering overall economic demand. If that's what your favorite economists want --- the breakup of the great Trusts --- I'm totally behind you on that!

"Behind you" in this context means, "The minefield is over there. You go first."

J said...

Regarding ALEC - PLEASE sign the petition:
http://www.change.org/petitions/expose-and-abolish-the-american-legislative-exchange-council-alec

RandyB said...

David,

Yes, except up to the point where you said Hoover had "clung to long to his belief that the lords of finance knew what they were doing."

Hoover's lords of finance advised that he let the economy shake itself out on its own. But instead, he chose not to take that advice, and took the activist route instead.

RandyB said...

Rewinn,

Yes, you're right. I read that piece a long time ago, saved the link, and didn't read it again today in its entirety.

But if we go to spending then I still have to ask, why didn't it work for Hoover?

His budget went from $3.1 billion to $4.7 billion.

Keep in mind that this was originally about whether people are lying when they say the stimulus is a bad idea. I don't have to prove that a stimulus is worth doing. I only need to show that reasonable people can disagree.

David Brin said...

I am fine with people claiming things "would have been even worse" but for the small keynsian measures that Hoover took. Fact is, they were too timid by far.

Left out of all this, the PSYCHOLOGICAL effects of FDR, which were overwhelming. The Greatest Generation voted with their feet and ballot pens. They nearly erased the GOP from the map. It wasn't till Johnson both fell for the lure of a land war in Asia and pushed civil rights, that the GOP got an opening for its southern strategy...

Were our fathers wise? They knew FDR better than we do. They adored him.

rewinn said...

"...why didn't it work for Hoover? His budget went from $3.1 billion to $4.7 billion...."

* USA GDP 1929 - about $960B
* USA GDP 1932 - about $720B
* Difference in demand - about $240B

Datasource: http://www.usgovernmentspending.com

rewinn said...

"...this was originally about whether people are lying ..."

I don't care whether an anti-stimulus person is lying. I'm much more interested in what works.

RandyB said...

David,

Yes, the psychological effects were superb. He knew how to use the power of government.

Just imagine the howls if Bush or Obama had funded a Federal Theatre Project to literally sing the praises of the president.

RandyB said...

Rewinn,

* USA GDP 1929 - about $960B
* USA GDP 1932 - about $720B
* Difference in demand - about $240B


Yes, I'll give you another concession. The federal government was much smaller in those days. Even after the days of FDR, domestic spending was much smaller than it is now.

Maybe it could be said that we've been in a perpetual stimulus for decades.


"I don't care whether an anti-stimulus person is lying. I'm much more interested in what works."

Fine, but that's a different argument.

rewinn said...

@RandyB - "...The federal government was much smaller in those days...."

Precisely. A drop in private demand on the order of $250B cannot be met by an increase in public demand less than 1% in size. That's why Hoover's efforts failed while FDR's succeeded. Top marks to you, sir!

===

Does not the theory of supply and demand require that, for economic activity to occur at a desirable level, demand exist at a sufficient rate? There is a slight asymmetry: a supply of something for which there is no demand generates no economic activity, but a large demand for something for which there is no supply can be counted on to give rise to entrepreneurs seeking to produce it. Let us therefore increase demand, and rely upon the human spirit to supply the rest!

Ian said...

"10 million families at 5 thousand per - is that 50 billion?

By today's standard: Chump change!

Is it too late to try that in Afghanistan? Couldn't we hire every Afghan male of military age at $1000/year for about 10 billion?"

Iraqi families are larger on average that families in the developed world, so I'd think it as more on the order of 6-8 million families and I had in mind a one off payment on the order of $2-3,000, so on the order of $20-25 billion

Iraqis are extremely ingenious and entrepeneurial people - they had to be to survive sanctions and the Stalinist bureaucracy of the Baathist era. An injection of private demand on that scale would probably have kickstarted an economci boom.

Why the US doesn't pursue a similar policy in Afghanistan mystified me.

Currently, a private in the Afghan National Army gets around $400 a month (IIRC) while reportedly the Taliban pay as much as $1,000.

Also, why isn't the US buying up the Afghan Opium crop and simply outbidding the TAliban and the other drug dealers? (Other than the fact that many of the other major dealers are part of the Karzai government, obviously.)

RandyB said...

Rewinn,

Not precisely.

I found the official numbers here:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2012/assets/hist01z2.xls

(Note thats a .XLS file.)

The numbers aren't that much different.

It reached 8% of GDP in Hoover's last budget. Whether FDR added to that, I don't know, but the one before had risen to 6.9%. So, it's been rising. FDR would raise it to 10.7%. It wouldn't beat that until 1941.

I don't think that's a sweet spot but you can believe it if you want to.

Robert said...

Here's an interesting blog post concerning Obama's refusal to declare a Villain (ie, the Republican Party) concerning the ongoing issues in Washington and Republican refusal to help get anything done:

http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2011/08/on-naming-villain.html

http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/
2011/08/on-naming-villain.html

I have to think that, given Obama's continued refusal to point fingers and specify blame, that other Democrats are going to have to take up the wardrums and start beating them against the Republican Machine. Obama might be entirely too... nice to succeed against the hate-machine that the Republican Party has become. They will use every dirty trick in the book to take down and destroy Obama... and laugh at his attempts to take the high road.

Rob H.

rewinn said...

"...It reached 8% of GDP in Hoover's last budget. Whether FDR added to that, I don't know, but the one before had risen to 6.9%. So, it's been rising. FDR would raise it to 10.7%. It wouldn't beat that until 1941. I don't think that's a sweet spot but you can believe it if you want to."

... is a complete non sequitur to ...

"...A drop in private demand on the order of $250B cannot be met by an increase in public demand less than 1% in size. That's why Hoover's efforts failed while FDR's succeeded. Top marks to you, sir!A drop in private demand on the order of $250B cannot be met by an increase in public demand less than 1% in size. That's why Hoover's efforts failed while FDR's succeeded."

... and therefore requires no response.

To ignore the entire concept of supply-and-demand in favor of some sort of ideology-driven argument about government share of GDP unrelated to actual solutions to actual problems is ... boring.

RandyB said...

Rewinn,

You were saying that FDR's spending was so significantly more than Hoover's. I was giving you the actual numbers. You can take of them what you like.

I'll even concede that FDR's going from 8% to 10.7% is greatly more significant than most people recognize. But that's also true when going from 3.4% to 8%.

Naum said...

In 1933, when Roosevelt took office, unemployment was at 25%. By 1941, the start of Roosevelt's third term, it shrunk to under 10%. Employment increased from 38 million in 1932, to 44 million in 1936, and in 1941 rose to over 50 million. While not all of FDR's New Deal initiatives were successful, his administration ushered in an era where the size of the middle class mushroomed, and an America where most all willing to work could provide for a family on one income.

rewinn said...

@RandyB -
Your response is still not responsive. One last recap:

1. You asked why Hoover's program failed while FDR's program succeeded.
2. I provided numbers showing that Hoover's increase in public demand covered less than 1 per cent of the drop in private demand.
3. I paid you the respect of assuming that you could draw the obvious inference.

rewinn said...

To get back for a moment to OP's comment "...citizens need a full right to record all their encounters with authority. ..." let me recount an anecdote. Last year, I was pulled over by the Seattle police for being stupid: I'd forgotten to replace my license tags. The first words the officer said was "We are being videorecorded."

Now, this was an inherently low-stress stop (...if that's not an oxymoron...) but the words were reassuring. I would not want my every moment on file, but having this interaction with a police officer on tape meant we would all be on our best behavior. I can't help wondering if, in the long run, our public servants can't be reassured that even when they are working along (as this officer was) they are protected by the video more than they are harassed. This is, of course, an entirely different point than the civil liberties point, but perhaps it will make it easier to win on the latter.

Enterik said...

Rob H. opined,

I have to think that, given Obama's continued refusal to point fingers and specify blame...[snip]

I am convinced that Obama's idea of Change(TM) is a departure from the non-productive partisan rancor and gridlock that has mired our country for decades.

When it is time for Obama's re-election the campaign will be able to point to a consistant pattern of Republican hostage taking and bad faith negotiations. Obama will point to a steady stream of domestic and foreign policy advances even in the face of Republican obstructionism.

I believe enough of the unafiliated/moderate/centrist voters will appreciate the rational goal oriented leadership to carry the day.

More importantly, the style POTUS Obama manifests conveys a coherent underlying liberal morality without reinforcing the regressive memes of the conservatarian message machine. In so doing Obama is influencing the thinking of the persuadable voters of the mythical center for the better.

RandyB said...

Rewinn,

"3. I paid you the respect of assuming that you could draw the obvious inference."

Exactly.

Rob said...


Homicide
USA - 5.4 / 100,000
UK - 1.4 / 100,000


Switzerland - 1.2 / 100000

The problem isn't presence of firearms, it's misuse of firearms, coupled with desperation related to poverty.

rewinn said...

Rejoice! More Citizens United fallout!

Cameron Casey wanted to invest a million dollars in the Romney campaign and why not? He and Mitt were both scions of Bain Capital, which specializes in enriching its members by selling off America. Having a President overseeing the process could net a solid return!

But those pesky campaign finance laws limited Mr. Casey to a few thousand dollars. No problem! He incorporated "W. Spann LLC", gave it a million bucks; W. Spann LLC gave that million to "Restore Our Future"; and, no longer needed, W. Spann LLC dissolved.

I don't mind the Aristocracy buying our government so much as I object to their being so obvious about it. Can't we have a little subtlety? But at least we can take comfort in knowing Mr. Casey is an actual human being, and not an entity such as General Dynamics, and an American, not a Saudi or Chinese billionaire.

Although ... they may be next!

David Brin said...

Rewinn... eek!

Rob, much of America's violence arises out of culture, not desperation. Canadians are just as armed but use the weapons sparingly.

David Brin said...

onward

cartier said...

Agreed with David Brin.

gfive said...


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