Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Guest Thinkers Contemplate Culture War and the Hijacking of Capitalism

Continuing in a political vein... I'll hand over the floor to a few Large Minds - some of them pals - offering them a chance to lay some politically redolent thoughts on you.

== Two Successful Capitalists Decry The Hijacking of Capitalism ==

Let’s hear from two fellows who are unabashed capitalists and acolytes of Adam Smith... just like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates (and me!)... starting with one of the world’s top/respected pundits on technology industry, Mark Anderson, CEO of the Strategic News Service:

“For me, there is no more poignant example of the Bush 9.11 era, and the need to get beyond it now. Like two slides, I picture, first: an army of soldiers surrounding bin Laden in the mountains of Tora Bora, and then being ordered by Team Bush to wait until the locals can get there and participate, at which point the enemy has escaped.

 “I compare that slide to the story of this year: after a year in secret investigation and preparation, Team Obama finds a likely target compound in Pakistan, orders in Seal Team Six via stealth choppers, uses overwhelming force, and shoots to kill. DNA samples are taken to confirm ID, and the body is dumped ignominiously in the ocean, with no propaganda pics for the enemy, and no burial process or site to rally round.” What a difference.  And yet, which man is called a “wimp”?”

(I will soon put up an essay appraising the different ways that democrats and republicans use military might and wage war.  You’ll be astonished by how stark it is, like night and day. Almost like two different species.)

Another guest voice is venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, a solid member of the 1%, explains the problem of wealth disparity:

"There can never be enough superrich Americans to power a great economy. The annual earnings of people like me are hundreds, if not thousands, of times greater than those of the average American, but we don’t buy hundreds or thousands of times more stuff. My family owns three cars, not 3,000. I buy a few pairs of pants and a few shirts a year, just like most American men. ....I can’t buy enough of anything to make up for the fact that millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans can’t buy any new clothes or enjoy any meals out. Or to make up for the decreasing consumption of the tens of millions of middle-class families that are barely squeaking by, buried by spiraling costs and trapped by stagnant or declining wages. ... Rich businesspeople like me don’t create jobs. Middle-class consumers do, and when they thrive, U.S. businesses grow and profit. That’s why taxing the rich to pay for investments that benefit all is a great deal for both the middle class and the rich."

Now, this one-percenter is a hero.  I like him and agree with what he says.  But still, just among us chickens, the point he's trying to make is a bit more complicated than it appears.  Supply Siders do not expect 1%ers to help the economy by buying stuff (which is high velocity stimulation), but rather by investing in new “supply” systems like plants and equipment and factories and inventions.

The irony?  This is exactly what Hanauer and other venture capitalists are doing!  Indeed, I believe that what they do - (starting new companies that create new goods and services) - should be rewarded with very low capital gains taxes.  It is risky and does a lot of good. And does that make me a supply-sider?

The problem is that the Supply Side cult as a whole is wedged. It envisions ALL one-percenters to be risk-taking primary investors in new enterprises and new employment and new productivity, like Hanauer. Instead most are passive recipients of dividends and capital gains from established stocks, and beneficiaries of immense tax-breaks. They do not use increased income to create new productive enterprises, or jobs. They use it to get richer. Period.

This is catastrophic during a depression, when you want money to be high velocity, not clutched tight or sitting in a vast scrooge portfolio, but passed from dockworker to barber to dentist to grocery chain to janitor to gas station. Supply siders tout the he lowest-velocity use of money, rewarding the least economically useful activity, which has never ever ever done what the supply siders claim it would do.

== Why Culture War? ==

Yes, Phase Three of the American Civil War has been foisted on us by powerful, cynical men for their own political and economic gain.  But there have to be deeper things going on.  Psychological drives that those men cleverly exploit.

Our next guest, researcher and science fiction author Dr. Charles Gannon, has offered his own diagnosis of Culture War and why so many millions of our neighbors nod along with Glenn Beck, marching willingly to enlist in the Great Big War on Science... and on teachers, doctors, journalists, civil servants, and so on, biliously hating every American knowledge profession.

(Go ahead and ask your crazy uncle to name ONE major center of American intellect and knowledge that isn’t under attack by Fox and co. Make it a wager!)

Chuck Gannon suggests that in this modern, dizzying age, people respond to that most primal of all fears: fundamental loss of control.

"In short, people are realizing more and more that they know less and less about almost everything in their lives. How many people understand what is going on with the euro and how that's part of a much bigger picture? How many understand ANYthing about how their smartphone works--not what it does, but how it WORKS?  What are the ethics of cloning? Of copyright? Of no child left behind versus the death of rigor and excellence?

"Head in hand, they feel the grey matter between their hands threatening to explode. And they want relief. And  they have their eureka moment. "I know! I will adopt a stance! And so what if I can't figure out my own stance? I can BORROW one! 

"I will shop amongst the bazaar (bizarre) of demagogues and choose the one that says the things I like best. And the details--well, they're only details. Someone else will think about those--and besides, I'm fed up with details. (Secretly, where they can't even hear it: "all those details I don't understand make me feel stupid....")

"I suppose, at some level, it has ever been thus. However, I think the Tofflerian Waves and Culture Shocks geometrically amplify the discomfort. The distance between the haves and have nots is growing, yes--but I think the separation between the knows and know-nots is growing just as fast. It is not that they ARE stupid, but they feel that way. 

"And in a culture which panders to couch-potato passive consumption of media and goods, dumbs down the critical reasoning component of schools (and life), and in which an integrated view of "reality" moves further and further beyond the reach of even the most cognitively proactive folks, they hardly have the role-models or encouragement, or preparation to FIGHT through the tides of uncertainty in their lives and set sail upon the high seas of perpetual indefinitude that is the modern world."

Worth pondering.  Thoughts anyone?

== Call the GolgaFrincham B-Ark! ==

Our next guest, my cousin Jonathan Baskin, has some pretty cool insights into the pathetic world of Public Relations spin-doctoring.

“The public relations industry's trade association is running a campaign to come up with a new definition for PR. I can see the problem, since social media technologies have democratized the tweaking, spinning, and obfuscating of the truth that used to be the exclusive purview of PR professionals. In an age when anyone can be an expert on anything, every opinion is as valid as the next and no fact need go unchallenged, contradicted, or ignored. The mediascape has become a truth free zone. You’d think the PR people would have died and gone to heaven, but there’s no money to be made when nobody needs an intermediary to peddle access through those Pearly Gates.

"We’re all PR people now.”

== Good News? ==

In 2010 there were 34.3 births among every thousand girls between the ages of 15 and 19. That’s down 9 percent from 2009. And it’s the lowest number in nearly seven decades of reporting. The figure comes from a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called Births: Preliminary Data for 2010. [Brady E. Hamilton, Joyce A. Martin and Stephanie J. Ventura] And it’s filled with interesting stats. For one, teen births have hit that record low. And that statistic includes more good news – birth rates are at record lows for all ethnic and racial groups, and even for younger teenagers.

The number of births to unmarried moms also declined. And pre-term births declined. The trend towards lower numbers is general - the birth rate fell overall by 3 percent. It’s also down for women in their twenties and thirties, according to a recent article in Scientific American.

So...let's see. In addition to all this good news... crime has plummeted. So has illegal immigration. (See below for details.)

The Soviets are gone and the terrifying muslim world is democratizing. Osama's dead.

Federal taxes consume less of the national income than at any time since 1950.

Tax rates are the lowest in 80 years.

So why are these the areas people scream about?  Instead of all the ways things have genuinely gone worse? Oops.  The long list of ways things went worse during the first part of this century.

== A Prediction I wish Never Came True.... Has ==

Shock! As retreat of Arctic sea ice releases deadly greenhouse gas.  There are truly vast amounts of hydrated methane ices on the ocean floors.  As temperatures rise, these will be released. And methane is far more powerful a greenhouse gas that CO2. Predicted in my novel EARTH.

== And finally... some political potpourri ==

* Said it before and I will keep saying it: I want a second “clock” set up next to the National Debt Clock, showing what our debt would have been by now, if the US government had been allowed to collect royalties, like a business, on its own inventions. Like the Internet, communications satellites, weather satellites, pharmaceuticals, microchips, weather forecasting, aeronautics and jet engines, and so on.... All were given to businesses and the world for free!

And that’s not a subsidy? Not socialism? Or better -- is it proof of the value of a mixed social contract, in which vigorous entrepreneuialism and competitive creativity have been fostered by a generally benign and responsive government? Do you doubt that the Alternative Debt Clock would be in the black and running backward?

If nothing else, it would graphically repudiate those now proclaiming that neither science nor government have any value.

* It's 1999. America rides high, making so much $$ off innovation we use WalMart to uplift a world middle class. Our Pax is unchallenged. A rich, scientific people. What mistakes would an enemy lure us into making, to change all that? Repeat Vietnam? Repeat our Civil War? Wreck our science and expert classes? How about all three? Read The True Cost of 9/11, by Joseph E. Stiglitz.

* See a vastly detailed and deeply disturbing article in Bloomberg about the Koch brothers -- getting richer with secret Iran sales. Seriously, read at least the first ten paragraphs or so.

* Think Adam Smith would have approved? Goldman-Sachs manipulates the world's aluminum supply AND makes money renting the storage space.

* Evidence for influence of the Saudi Royal House in American affairs has piled high, such as the way President George W. Bush openly spoke of having been “partly raised by” Prince Bandar bin Sultan and walks with him holding hands - a friendliness that showed whenAmericans were forbidden to fly for two days after 9/11, but every well-connected Saudi was rushed out of the U.S. and away from the reach of FBI interviewers, on luxury charters at taxpayer expense.

Lately, we’ve seen how Rupert Murdoch’s top partner at News Corp. and Fox is Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, whose direct sway at Fox is not related in a recent article by Accuracy in Media.  But connect the dots.  The same media empire that is drumming up Culture War and spite toward all American scientific or intellectual castes... and the same one that pushed for the US to get mired in a decade of draining land wars in Asia. Hm.

* Wow, this was more interesting than I expected it to be. "On Debt, Democracy, and all that..." by Michael Hudson
 * “Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have promised to complete a nearly 1,950-mile fence to secure the U.S. border. Michele Bachmann wants a double fence. Ron Paul pledges to secure the nation's southern border by any means necessary, and Rick Perry says he can secure it without a fence — and do so within a year of taking office as president.”

Meanwhile, the actual rate of illegal immigration is plummeting.   Many sources, including the Pew Hispanic Center, agree that the number of illegal immigrants in the United States peaked at 12 million in 2007, but then dropped by almost 1 million through 2009, and has largely held steady since then at about 11.1 million. Border Patrol apprehensions of illegal immigrants have also fallen sharply. In fiscal year 2011, which ended Sept. 30, the Border Patrol captured 327,577 illegal immigrants on the southwestern border — the lowest total in four decades.

* President Obama recently gave a speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, the same place where, back in 1910, Theodore Roosevelt said: "We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well-used," Roosevelt said, but added: "We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community."

Describing what he called a "new Nationalism," Roosevelt said it "regards the executive power as the steward of public welfare. ...It demands of the judiciary that it shall be interested primarily in human welfare rather than in property, just as it demands that the representative body shall represent all the people rather than any one class or section of the people."

* And finally, from Scientific American: “The Horn of Africa is in the midst of its worst drought in 60 years: Crop failures have left up to 10 million at risk of famine; social order has broken down in Somalia, with thousands of refugees streaming into Kenya; British Aid alone is feeding 2.4 million people across the region. That's a taste of what's to come, say scientists mapping the impact of a warming planet on agriculture and civilization.”

38 comments:

The Vagabond said...

What strange times these are. I returned to my home town to work at a proposed science center seven years ago. The science center stalled, so I needed to find work. Locally, that means supporting the FIRE economy. Coming from a science center background (I taught basic astronomy) and going into this economic arena has been like a trip down the rabbit hole. One of my colleagues once said "this isn't like rocket science", to which I replied, "no, that'd be simpler." You said "wedge", I'd say upended; the entire fiasco is tilted.
That's about all I can really say.

Rereat; when Scooby has to make a hasty exit.

David Couzins said...

I admit the solution to illegal border crossing that I put in my novel is unique...but it would work. Also, is the war on science really that intense? I am a Christian but believe in Evolution and that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old, not 6,000. To me, Science = "Man figuring out how God did it." Isn't that sentiment in the vast majority?

The Vagabond said...

Hey D.C.,
Down here in The South, I'd say that the war on science and reason is in full swing. Constantly, we hear in some of the more regional areas where the local school board wants to either add creation/ID science to the curriculum, or to have the language of evolution removed. Some states have come back with level headed rules to keep science in science; still, on the local level, the shenanigans continue.
This isn't even counting climate science. The South, as well as goodly chunks of the Midwest and of course Texas are awash in oil money. Locally, our economy is two pronged; my aforementioned FIRE (Finance, Insurance & Real Estate) and as a transportation hub. Both are strangely tied to the belief that not only is oil not the culprit, that our culture of "mandatory motoring" (such a great term) must not be impacted in any way. I live in Jacksonville, Florida, a town that Detroit must have loved simply for the illogical way in which it evolved, making the horseless carriage necessary for even the most mundane of tasks. The other thing that The South plus Real America© (that undefined region encompassing The South plus large chunks of the Midwest as well as other rural areas) have is a very strong evangelical/fundamental Christian belief underlying many aspects of life, even if not carried out in practice. I am cynical enough to believe that politicians and the powerful of all sorts are more than happy to exploit. I've seen it at work in my own family. The war on science is real, and has very little to do with science.

Norgalms - When galms are excluded.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

The problem is that the Supply Side cult as a whole is wedged. It envisions ALL one-percenters to be risk-taking primary investors in new enterprises and new employment and new productivity, like Hanauer. Instead most are passive recipients of dividends and capital gains from established stocks, and beneficiaries of immense tax-breaks. They do not use increased income to create new productive enterprises, or jobs. They use it to get richer. Period.


There can never be a real conversation on this issue when each side's language implicitly contains different assumptions.

The supply-siders are firm in their belief that you and I want to "soak the rich" or "punish the rich". EVERY argument they make in favor of supply-side (or at least AGAINST REMEDIATION of supply-side) is predicated on the assumption that what drives us to impose taxes on the wealth-hoarders is envy and irrational anger--that we see what they have, and decide to use government to grab it for ourselves.

I (and you too, I presume) am coming at it from an entirely different direction. Taxes are the price of a functioning society, and that society is of benefit to the rich as well. To me, taxation is not "punishment" any more than my grocery store "punishes" me by insisting that I pay for food.

But nothing that you or I or Thom Hartmann can say to them is able to lift the blinders. All they hear is "You want to plunder what rightfully belongs to those who earned it."

Hans said...

David Cousins,

Go read PZ Myers blog entry on believers believing.

http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/12/14/a-common-atheist-delusion/

He is a bit asinine, but is spot on in his analysis, particularly the part where he talks about people's religious beliefs informing their policy support.

In any case, David Brin asked:

"Worth pondering. Thoughts anyone?"

My answer to that is, I'm glad I'm a sailor.

Regards,

Hans

Daniel P. Schreber said...

I think that closing the border is only one half of the 'conservative' agenda.

Part two would be sending 'those people' back to where 'they came from' and keeping them out.

J said...

ref. The Vagabond:
FIRE economy = Finance, Insurance, Real Estate

David Brin said...

David Couzins... you will love my youtubed riff on science friendly theology! http://tinyurl.com/3lbyybv

Daniel P. Schreber There are two republican policies toward immigrants. The vast unwashed - their base - hate the furriners. But the owners of the party only pay lip service to that. In fact they want cheap labor that can't unionize or vote for democrats. That is why every republican president savagely CUTS the Border Patrol as his first act in office. (Bush had to boost it back, after 9/11.)

Democrats are also duplicitous. They TALK kindeness to illegals, but always tighten the border. The gates THEY open are LEGAL immigration, which they spread open wide thirty years ago. Legals can unionize and soon can vote. It is an amazing sitch that NOBODY discusses.

Robert said...

Here's a little something that is going to be kept silent by Fox and Friends... Militia groups in Phoenix have mobilized to protect the Occupy Phoenix movement from government shutdown. That's right. Armed conservatives who were so afeared of losing their guns and bibles are now out in force with their guns in hand to protect their liberal brethren's right to protest and speak their mind.

There is a parallel here to Egypt: the Coptic Christians protecting Muslims while they prayed... and then in turn were protected by Muslims while THEY prayed. Sadly, the East Coast is so anti-gun that any militia group that tried to show up and protect their fellow American protesters would probably be attacked with violent force and considered armed and deadly terrorists. Still, it would be an absolute delight to see this coalition grow... with Right Wing Militias protecting the rights of the Left and Center to Occupy America.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

David Brin said...

Yipe! See China's wasted, never built giant amusement park. Ironically, I portray a giant amusement park in SHanghai in 2055, in my next novel!
http://finance.yahoo.com/news/china’s-deserted-fake-disneyland.html

Z said...

I like the notion of the counter-dept clock. I've been reading some clever analysis of late that makes compelling cases that essentially all the diseases of capitalism, like corrosive income distributions, can at root be traced to differential access to/payment for common resources, whether natural or cultural, relative to other classes, institutions, and generations. To construct a toy, in the modern era, granting oil companies access to reserves is viewed on a continuum of doing good by enabling companies to sell fuel to the citizenry, and opposed on the other as a ratchet towards environmental disaster- but very rarely does anyone consider the notion that the finite mineral resources of the planet represent a common resource for which there is equal entitlement but capital confers differential access in the form of expensive drilling. In such a case, you'd expect oil companies to be compensating everyone for the oil they're taking out on their behalf with dramatically higher royalties- not to mention the royalties for using the atmosphere as a dumping ground and denying unborn generations access to that same oil. Same with a piece of public infrastructure like a road- the notion of companies that depend on roads making profits simultaneous with road infrastructure growing unsafe from lack of maintenance means that the appropriate usage taxes aren't being collected. The same logic can be applied to basic research, the Internet, fisheries, employers and an educated populace, patents, whatever. It's all really an expansion of Georgism and Piguvianism, but it's an illuminating conjecture.

Alaska is a pretty screwy state, but they have one thing going for them and that's the citizens dividend- that forty years ago someone bothered to charge enough for mineral royalties to fund a mutual fund to pay back to the populace. It's certainly not enough for a minimum income or the like, but it's a start. What a wonder it would be if instead of having sociopathic corporations muscling around the broke public sector for the resources it contains (which includes favorable regulation,) they simply paid for their negative externalities, and the positive externalities they absorb and thus exclude from others, and the citizenry got paid in the deal (especially if a sovereign wealth fund is part of the deal,) averting effective demand collapses, managing any extant or future technological unemployment, alleviating poverty, smoothing the Gini coefficient...

Of course it's not so simple. But it's a model that doesn't show up on the table too much. Governments are common-managing, externality-resolving machines- but somehow, that gets lost in the shuffle between left and right.

PhaseTransit said...

An even deeper myth about capitalism is its purported benefits in terms of growth. Yes, there is a correlation, but there has never been an analysis of the externalised costs of capitalism (eg the social and environmental costs) much of which has yet to come home to roost. if it all comes back to destroy our civilisation what use growth? What use capitalism?

We are sold the idea that capitalism has provided us 'all this' - my hands sweep 360 degrees. But there has never been a summary of the net value in the capitalism experiment. Had we all stayed at home practising subsistence agriculture and local economics who could say that we would not have developed better socially and avoided many of the massive costs of what Joseph Tainter characterises as the hidden inherent cost of complex industrial society. That cost may well decimate our species, will that cost eventually prove capitalism to have been a foolish idea?

We don't know either way, and this should be our response to anyone who believes that capitalism, wealth disparity as a motivating force, and complex industrial society itself, are better than the alternatives: we are still in the experiment, there is no control condition, prognosis is not good, so why would we cling faithfully to this one option over all others?

Tom Crowl said...

As Dr. Brin has suggested mutual accountability is the guarantor of freedom (I paraphrase, love to get your exact quote)

Authoritarianism AROSE because of an inability to scale the bonds and feedback systems that can hold together a group of hunter-gatherers: an immediate awareness of mutual interdependence and a proximity limiting excessive concentration of wealth or influence.

Survival was (and is) dependent on the individual and collective decisions made by the group.

Money IS a store of 'decision rights'.

I contend that a simple political micro-transaction and its networking is a fundamentally necessary tool for scaling representation.

So I developed a method and have patented it...

Here is a condensed synopsis of the business model sent to an interested VC I'll be meeting with after the New Year. (My first such meeting so I have much to learn.)

------------

"I'm assuming you already have understanding of the mechanism behind the Pooled-User-Determined-Account... i.e. a sort of online-based cash card making possible a simple, one-click microtransaction (and importantly not only a microtransaction)... in the political area (and not only in the political area).

It is this capability that stands at the root of a very valuable network.

(With your experience you may be familiar with Clay Shirky's well considered arguments re why he believes Internet micropayments haven't and won't gain traction. His arguments are good but DON'T apply in this context.)

Its a reasonable expectation that with this capability in place as a neutral utility and for any of a number of possible motives... almost everyone... or at least a very significant percentage... will at some time decide to utilize this account and this network for those dedicated purposes.

Bootstrapping it into existence is obviously a critical question, but from a strict business standpoint the first question must be: Is it a capability worth building at all?

First, I believe this leads to a large and importantly a persistent user-base.
And because the system can handle other transactions as well I believe it can anchor the user to the system for other Internet transactions.

This alone makes the capability a very valuable commodity... even were it only offered in a licensing situation to an existing pay system that wants to enlarge its base of users.

But this is not the optimal configuration.

By orienting itself in its inception as a dedicated account for political and charitable contribution... a 'donor network' can be catalyzed that will capture a significant portion of the charity and campaign services sector (especially in auditing, tax, regulatory compliance, FEC reporting, data-mining, polling and various other technical services) and that it can further dominate the corporate/charity sponsorship market.

This network then becomes THE target for a multitude of interests that want to reach it.

These aren't the only potential monetization sources but I believe form a strong core.

There's another hook which I believe is important... and while it could seem a negative for an investor... I believe it's actually an advantage.

From the beginning... and under some suitable formulation... a plan whereby the User-base essentially "owns" 50% of the enterprise with a pre-designed exit strategy for founding investors upon maturation of the network via buyout by the user-base. This may be a bit unusual but it can cement both the catalyzation of the network and help secure monetization. And, for the excessively ambitious... lead to an ability to undercut other paysystems by its ability to monetize OUTSIDE of the transaction itself... and so come to dominate the entire Internet transaction landscape. (Might as well think big!)

P.S.It may be worthwhile to add that should the public finance of all or part of elections be considered... it's best implemented via this network.

Tom Crowl said...

Wanted to add a quick note in praise of Mr. Gannon's observation that much of the anti-intellectualism arises out of a reaction by the general population... to the "perpetual indefinitude that is the modern world..."

Of course the world has always been in a state of 'perpetual indefinitude'... its only our awareness of the fundamental nature of this 'criticality' that has changed.

Highly complex systems (like weather and civilizations) are only predictable to a certain degree. There is no 'stable and perpetual' formulation... no Left or Right 'ideology' that will provide a perfect roadmap for all situations... and bring us sunny days forever.

Our political mechanisms must embrace and encourage a 'granularity' of decision... a 'crowd' of individual thinkers rather than a 'mob' looking for emotional release.

But this isn't what our parties seek.

Its time for our politics to catch up to our physics.

Time is short.

LarryHart said...

Z:

What a wonder it would be if instead of having sociopathic corporations muscling around the broke public sector for the resources it contains (which includes favorable regulation,) they simply paid for their negative externalities, and the positive externalities they absorb and thus exclude from others, and the citizenry got paid in the deal (especially if a sovereign wealth fund is part of the deal,) averting effective demand collapses, managing any extant or future technological unemployment, alleviating poverty, smoothing the Gini coefficient...


I've argued back to the Randroids who claim business owes nothing to government that in response, governments should charge businesses for the services governments provide protecting business interests. For example, charge oil companies a couple of trillion dollars for conducting a war in Iraq.


Of course it's not so simple. But it's a model that doesn't show up on the table too much. Governments are common-managing, externality-resolving machines- but somehow, that gets lost in the shuffle between left and right.


You make a good argument for governments insisting that all corprations chartered to operate within their influence be subject to the "Three Laws of Corporatics" (derived from Asimov's Laws of Robotics). I'm still tinkering with the wording, but essentially:

First Law: A corporation may not externalize its costs of doing business onto the surrounding community or environment.

Second Law: A corporation must act according to its chartered mission statement to the extent that doing so does not violate the First Law.

Third Law: A corporation must maximize its profitability to the extent that doing so does not violate the First or Second Laws.

LarryHart said...

See above...I'm still playing with the wording of the Three Laws of Corporatics, and the Third Law especially requires some thought. I'm not happy with "maximize profitiability", but was going for something along the lines of Asimov's Third Law requiring a robot to protect its existence. Also, to make clear that corporations would continue to maximize profit, but WITHIN THE CONSTRAINTS of the First and Second Laws. The point wasn't to add "maximize profit" as a new law, but to show where that law belonged in the pecking order.

Then again, to accommodate non-profit entities and other such corporations whose shareholders aren't after profit first, perhaps the Third Law should be about "fulfilling sharholder expectations" rather than explicitly about "maximizing profit". If the two are the same, so be it, but they wouldn't be required to be.

Thus, the revised Third Law would be...

Third Law:A corporation must act to fulfil the expectations of its legal owners and/or shareholders to the extent that doing so does not violate the First or Second Laws.

I like that better.

As I say, it's still a work in progress.

LarryHart said...

See above...I'm still playing with the wording of the Three Laws of Corporatics, and the Third Law especially requires some thought. I'm not happy with "maximize profitiability", but was going for something along the lines of Asimov's Third Law requiring a robot to protect its existence. Also, to make clear that corporations would continue to maximize profit, but WITHIN THE CONSTRAINTS of the First and Second Laws. The point wasn't to add "maximize profit" as a new law, but to show where that law belonged in the pecking order.

Then again, to accommodate non-profit entities and other such corporations whose shareholders aren't after profit first, perhaps the Third Law should be about "fulfilling sharholder expectations" rather than explicitly about "maximizing profit". If the two are the same, so be it, but they wouldn't be required to be.

Thus, the revised Third Law would be...

Third Law:A corporation must act to fulfil the expectations of its legal owners and/or shareholders to the extent that doing so does not violate the First or Second Laws.

I like that better.

As I say, it's still a work in progress.

Paul451 said...

Larry,
Asimov's three laws were woven into the physical construction of the positronic brains of his robots. They physically could not break the laws(**) and even making them think too hard about it would cause irreparable damage.

(** except when they did.)

It's not enough to devise your three laws, the hard part is devising a business structure that forces corporations to obey the three (or five or twelve) laws. It must not be possible to function as a business without obeying the laws.

(smaketer: Heroin advertiser.)

sociotard said...

David Brin:
(Go ahead and ask your crazy uncle to name ONE major center of American intellect and knowledge that isn’t under attack by Fox and co. Make it a wager!)


I don't think I've heard Fox attack the US Officer Corps.

David Brin said...

I put culture war's roots in a slightly different place. In most of Red America the local High School is the center of life. Every June, the graduates hug and swear to keep in touch...

...and the best and brightest shake off the dust and head for the Blue cities as fast as possible. It is this implicit rebuke, repeated yearly for a century, that must lie at the core of festering resentment.

In fairness. "ayndroids" works better than "randroids" no? Slightly less directly insulting.

Laws of corporatics... the 2nd law implies that the state... via democratic-deliberative processes ... can alter or co-specifiy some of the terms of the charter.

I would add. "Any rights exercised by a corporation cannot exceed, in scope, influence or duration, those exercized by a living human citizen."

David Brin said...

Sociotard, the officer corps is the exception that I first mentioned years ago.

Though in fact the genrals and admirals hated Bush and defied him in 06, forcing Rumsfeld out.

sociotard said...

I acknowledge that you excepted the officer corps, but did not in your article. As phrased, it would give the 'uncle' an easy out.

In other news, I was wondering if the resident comet expert / scifi author could say how well he thinks this will work?

Nasa develops space harpoon to take samples from comets

To study the composition of comets, NASA scientists have engineered a space harpoon that would collect rock samples and return them to Earth for study. The harpoon's tip would be fired from a craft hovering near the target comet and after penetrating the surface and collecting mineral samples, it would return to the craft. The concept of a harpoon is meant to get around landing a craft on a comet's surface, which typically has a very irregular geography as well as extremely low gravity.

The study of comets has been instrumental in our understanding of life in the cosmos. In 2002, NASA's Stardust mission found an amino acid, glycine, which is used by living organisms to create proteins. This supported the theory that perhaps some elements essential to life were delivered to Earth from afar. Scientists also hope that by better understanding the composition of comets, we might better understand how to destroy one if Earth was in its trajectory.

David Brin said...

Yep

To gather material from asteroids or comets (re my doctoral thesis!), the agency is developing a sample-collecting space harpoon which could be projected "with surgical precision" from a spacecraft hovering above the target.

Seriously, this is what I would have done with my life, if you folks hadn’t bribed me into the arts, instead.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-16183378

sociotard said...

Don't those things have any kind of spin? Because if it does, it seems like retraction could be more of a problem than they seem to mention. (I'm imagining the asteroid spinning and wrapping the tether around itself like a belt and towing the probe in while engineers panic)

But then, I'm the one betting that Curiosity will end in a flaming crater. "Hey, these two small projects worked well. Lets send a big project requiring a radically different landing apparatus next!"

Robert said...

Considering the spin on comets and the like, you'd need to do one of two things: attack from a pole (assuming it's not tumbling as well as spinning), or have the spear actually be a penetrator missile that pushes into the comet and then ejects the sample in a container from its rear when it is in the proper positioning for retrieval. Then the ion-powered craft would pick up the sample and head back home.

Well, that's how I'd design it at least. And I'm not an engineer.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Most bodies appear to rotate about 10 hrs.

Curiosity is trying new things... because that's what we ought to do.

sociotard said...

Trying new things is experimenting. Most experiments fail. That is okay.

Curiosity is trying something new, while hogging a huge ammount of our remaining Pu-235. If Curiosity fails, we will have gambled away a valuable scientific resource.

rewinn said...

Theories in Re Officer Corps and why GOPnews (a.k.a. Fox News) tends not to attack it even though it's highly educated:

1. Our military, very appropriately, stays pretty much out of politics and so is no active threat to any political faction.

2. Our rightwing generally claims the military is their domain (even though this is especially not the case among the officers) so, in a fine demonstration of the art of politics, generally feels no need to attack it, so long as it is no active threat to their propaganda.

3. Officers serve at the pleasure of the Executive and so, if their sense of duty impels them to tell the Executive something contrary to the propaganda, they can be dismissed. Notable examples are General Shinseki, who warned against trying to hold Iraq with way too few troops, and the heroic JAGs who upheld our Constitution by defending Gitmo suspects. Both were neutralized by being turfed out of uniform (although Shinseki must feel some measure of satisfaction in being called back to repair the VA). In contrast, General Franks got the Presidential Medal of Freedom for leading not one but two Potempkin invasions (looked good up front and later turned to disaster).

4. There are places where the officer corps' practical turn of mind is producing results contrary to rightwing orthodoxy, e.g. the national security threat posed by global warming. It would be interesting to monitor how they are shoved aside although if we can take any hints from the practice of procuring useless, overpriced or dysfunctional military gear, the politicians will win easily (e.g. "Q: What is the only feature of the Osprey that fulfills its requirements? A: "Having components sourced in enough Congressional districts to prevent defunding.")

LarryHart said...

Just came across this line from Kurt Vonnegut's "Jailbird". The protagonist is descibing a conversation with his new wife in 1949. She's an Austrian Jew who survived a Nazi concentration camp.


I asked her once if she had ever sought the consolation of religion in the concentration camp.

"No," she said. I knew God would never come near such a place. So did the Nazis. That was what made them so hilarious and unafraid. That was the strength of the Nazis," she said. "They understood God better than anyone. They knew how to make Him stay away."

Not exactly where Dr Brin was going in the story "Thor Meets Captain America", but sort of along similar lines of thinking.

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

It's not enough to devise your three laws, the hard part is devising a business structure that forces corporations to obey the three (or five or twelve) laws. It must not be possible to function as a business without obeying the laws.


Well corporations only exist because they are chartered by governments. I was envisioning a legal (constitutional?) requirement that any corporate charter is subject to the Three Laws. "Unable to function as a business" would be the result of legal action.

Of course, it would be better to construct a system in which it is physically impossible to operate as a renegade, but I'm not sure how that would be accomplished.

David Brin said...

Just went through the last year's delayed reading of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. Here are my favoites.

http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2254#comic
http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2223#comic
http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2458#comic
http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2328#comic
http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2439#comic
http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2307#comic
http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2434#comic
http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2431#comic
http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2411#comic
http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2409#comic
http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2382#comic
http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2324#comic
http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2323#comic

grasps the singularity!
http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2184#comic
http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2138#comic

Mini sci fi stories:
http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2302#comic
http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2305#comic

re METI:
http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2457#comic
http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2331#comic

Paleo Cloning
http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2306#comic

Unfinished story... eventually the words enter the Oxford!
http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2295#comic

Fascinating:
http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2260#comic


But even better.... Buy his books!

Robert said...

I was reading an article concerning impending rules from the EPA that would require coal-burning power plants to reduce mercury emissions and I was struck by a sudden dichotomy that any canny Democrat would use against a Republican candidate (like, shall we say, Barack Obama against whoever he faces). Republicans claim to be pro-life. Yet they are against regulating emissions of a known neurotoxin (mercury) that results in between 6,800 to 17,000 premature deaths and causes brain damage in fetuses.

So in other words, Republicans are all for allowing coal companies poison our air and water with mercury which can result in spontaneous abortions, miscarriages, and mentally-retarded infants... but insist that women can't have abortions legally.

Just saying....

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

So in other words, Republicans are all for allowing coal companies poison our air and water with mercury which can result in spontaneous abortions, miscarriages, and mentally-retarded infants... but insist that women can't have abortions legally.

Just saying....


Unfortunately, that argument won't sway the Republican voters. Their criteria for whether to support a position or not usually depends on whether it is anti-communist, whether it is pro-Christianist, or whether hippies, liberals, and atheists would hate it.

The pro-poisoning positon is religiously neutral, and passes the other two tests.

The anti-abortion position is business-neutral, and passes the other two tests.

Therefore, no cognative dissonance in supporting both.

Robert said...

It doesn't matter what the staunch conservative does with his vote. The people I'm after are the moderate-conservatives and the moderate-moderates who are looking at Obama and suffering from buyer's regret. And pretty much the only candidates that would be considerate toward the environment are Jon Huntsman (who unfortunately doesn't have a prayer, though considering a certain comet recently survived a plunge through the Sun's corona, we can't say a "snowball's chance in hell") and maybe (ironically enough) Newt Gingrich (who "National Review" rated poorly due to his protecting the EPA from Republicans during his tenure as Speaker).

Rob H.

David Brin said...

onward

Chip Overclock said...

LarryHart: I think the term you're looking for in your third law is "maximize shareholder value". That's the nomenclature used in the business world for what I think you mean. Shareholders are the owners of the company, which in a publicly owned corporation would be the stockholders. "Value" is nicely ambiguous, making allowances for shareholders that expect the stock price to go up or for the company to pay dividends, or in the case of a non-profit for the corporation to succeed in its mission. Generally speaking, corporate officers have a fiduciary responsibility to maximize shareholder value.

Karl said...

"The irony? This is exactly what Hanauer and other venture capitalists are doing! Indeed, I believe that what they do - (starting new companies that create new goods and services) - should be rewarded with very low capital gains taxes. It is risky and does a lot of good. And does that make me a supply-sider?"

And really we (theoretically) have a system in place to do just that- if you put your money into actual capital investments like that (or, as otherwise put: business expenses) you deduct that money from your income and only pay taxes on the portion that you choose to sit on. Ideally, the top bracket tax should collect nothing at all. Not because it somehow makes revenue at that level less appealing, but because it provides a invisible hand conceptually similar to Smith's metaphor that directs people who make that much revenue to reinvest it into wages and growth to produce future revenue rather than making it a more profitable decision to take the money out and sit on it. (Sitting on it here includes using it to fund loans, because while loans serve the same short term purpose as direct investment, in the long term, the burden of paying back the loans creates far more drag than paying a dividend on profits- especially in tough times when revenue becomes tight. Imagine where we'd be if people got pay raises instead of easier access to credit cards and other loans in the 80s and up through the late 2000s)

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