Friday, March 23, 2012

Save Cato from the Kochs? Should we care?

Much in the news is an effort by the Koch brothers - coal barons David and Charles - to seize complete control over the Cato Institute, which has long touted itself as the leading libertarian think tank in the United States.  Staffers and fellows at Cato have been beating the drums of insurrection, calling for support and funds to stave off this blatant takeover by extreme-right oligarchs.  And many - even liberal intellectuals - have come flocking to the cause, offering support.

Is this just a case of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend?”  Or are there layers beneath layers?  Does it even matter?

First: fair warning.  Though I oft call myself "a type of libertarian," I'm not today's typical variety.  Yes, I tout Adam Smith widely and feel we'd all benefit - especially liberals - from re-immersion in the profound common sense of "the First Liberal."  Moreover, I am the only sci fi author who ever keynoted part of a political party's convention - the Libertarian Party - at which half the audience gave me a standing ovation, defending me from being lynched by the other half! (The latter, Rand-Rothbard half has - alas - taken over the movement, with calamitous consequences.)  Have a look at how libertarians might save their cause... plus some fresh ways that they - and liberals and conservatives - might view the political landscape.

But back to this attempted putsch to take over the Cato Institute, and the "brave resistance of its scholars."

== Who are the villains? ==

We start with the most blatant fact - that the Koch brothers, together with Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes, Grover Norquist and Prince Waleed, have been core promulgators of America’s current, lobotomizing Civil War, which has demolished the nation's traditional notions of negotiated pragmatism.  A big part of this has been the anti-future, relentless War on Science.

As their frenzy to degrade science metastacized, it turned into a campaign against every “smartypants caste” or knowledge profession in American life. Their other goal - destruction of the U.S. Civil Service - would then leave just one elite standing. The same elite that crushed liberty and markets in every other culture for 6000 years.  The same oligarchic elite that Adam Smith publicly despised in Wealth of Nations, calling it the  basic enemy of true capitalism and the age-old oppressor of mankind.

The damage that these half dozen men - plus a few dozen more - have done both to the people of the United States and to Pax Americana is too spectacularly consistent to have been anything but deliberate.

Ah, but having said that, is the Cato Institute really worth getting in a froth over?  I consulted and wrote for them a few times, back in the last century, before I came to see how shallow was their commitment to Smithian libertarianism or the fundamental goal of encouraging creative competition in society. In fact, parsing down their messages, we find that encouraging creative-competition is the very last thing on their minds.

Ignoring those 6000 years, during which markets were always destroyed by oligarchic cliques, Cato helped to spread the modern mythology that freedom is all-and-entirely about idolatry of unlimited private property.  Government and only government is inherently evil, anti-market or anti-liberty.  If you point to history... any history at all... or to the actual words of Adam Smith, they change the subject with stunning alacrity and truly awesome verbal agility.

In other words, the oligarchic right never had better whores than the intellectual courtesans at Cato.  Polysyllabic prostitutes eager to twist their tongues around fresh rationalizations for a new feudalism.

Read the article. Scan what percentage of Cato’s donors and board members ever gave to genuinely libertarian causes, as opposed to a Republican Party fast spiraling into aristocratism and know-nothing, anti-intellectual populism.

== Example: The "case" for privatizing Social Security ==

Take Cato’s relentless campaign to privatize Social Security. Funny thing about that. Both times that it came near passage... in the late nineties and 2005... it would have dumped 100 million naive sheep into the stock market just in time to re-inflate a failing valuation bubble, letting oligarchs dump half a trillion dollars in unwanted shares onto “greater fools.”

On both occasions, within a few years, most Americans' portfolio values would have been slashed in half.  (And maybe it should have happened!  The Democrats should not have prevented it.  The ensuing turmoil and anger - perhaps reaching French Revolution levels - might have “solved the oligarchy problem" for a generation. A bit (a lot) more severely than I'd prefer.  But at least there'd be no debilitating, lobotomizing, murdochian "culture war" by now.)

Let’s be plain.  The role model for this “privatization” (of social security) was the selling off of Russian state assets after the fall of communism, in which the shares distributed to each Russian citizen soon were snapped up by a few dozen savvy insiders who became today’s famous Moscow Oligarchs. Some of the richest plutocrats in the world arose from insider manipulation of the unwisely executed privatization of state assets... and NOT the creative-competitive delivery of innovative goods and services.  If you call such monopolist-moguls "capitalists" who deserve their vast lucre, then you add to the spinning in Adam Smith's grave.

And make no mistake, this timing was no coincidence.  The "let's privatize social security!" movement only gained its full head of steam... propelled by the Kochs and other eager-funders... after they witnessed how well things went over in Russia.  It was their role model. And Cato led the charge.

Okay, so now we should weep and gnash our teeth, because these guys now face final takeover by the Kochs, who effectively owned their brothel already and are now simply ending the pretense of independence? The hypocrisy? Because the dukes' court apologists might now have to drop the play-act... and admit - like Blanche Dubois - that their gentlemen callers actually owned them, all along?

Don't bother, fellows.  Try this instead. Go out into the market you claim to love, and get actual jobs, delivering goods and services.

Weep for Cato. Crocodile tears.

38 comments:

Paul451 said...

(From the last thread...)

Rob H.,
Skylon's a weird one.

REL has a single idea, a new type of heat exchanger, around which they have imagined an entire space-plane being built. Their entire history since 1989, however, has been about building a prototype heat-exchanger. Not a single component of the rest of the proposed hybrid air-breathing/LOx rocket-engine has been built. And the rest is just... Alan Bond's own personal masturbatory fantasies.

(Skylon itself is a truly awful design. Engines on outriggers? Given how the Sabre engines are meant to work, a single engine hiccup would result in total loss of vehicle.)

"though a problem with the Skylon is that it isn't intended for more than low orbit"

REL has planned a whole infrastructure of space stations (OBS) and orbital tugs (FLUYT), all the way to Mars (TROY). (But again, wank wank wank.)

(Still the US has wasted billions on scramjet research. I figure Europe can pour a few million on hybrid air-breathing rockets.)

Re: The actual article. Koch vs Cato.

As with the Republican Presidential candidates, I guess I'm just hoping they do each other enough damage to reduce both their influences. Now if we can just get Grover Norquist's friends involved in a joint hostile takeover of Fox with bin Waleed against the Murdochs...

Paul451 said...

sociotard,
Re: Employees demanding Facebook passwords.

Facebook itself has weighed in...

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/facebook/facebook-legal-action-against-employers-asking-for-your-password/10768

...noting that giving anyone else your password is a violation of their TOS, and promising to take legal action against employers who violate people's privacy (a worthless threat, they only have standard to act against the employee who gives up their password, punishing the victim. But hopefully it is enough to scare off most of the employers, or at least give the employee enough confidence to say "Sorry, that's a violation of Facebook's TOS, I could get sued.")

(Senator Richard Blumenthal is drafting legislation that would make the practice illegal. It must be an election year?)

(via slashdot)

Paul451 said...

Oops, I meant "they only have standing". As in, "they only have a legal claim against"...

David Brin said...

Quick aside:
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Smart Mobs! As portrayed in my next novel.

Join one of the teams and earn cash (or, more likely, some cool cred.) http://crowdscanner.net

Alex Tolley said...

I would argue that the wholesale privatization of British national assets during the Thatcher years in the 1980's predated the Russian experience and would be a more likely source of inspiration for the US oligarchs, especially given Thatcher's acceptance by US conservatives.

rewinn said...

Perhaps some enterprising chaps could Kickstarter a truly Libertarian AI, so that non-Libertarian but open-minded liberals would have someone with whom to have a helpful debate.
The AI need not be some fully-automated, Turing-Test-Passed software; a Mechanical Turk solution hiring out-of-work keyboard artists willing to write according to genuine Libertarian philosophy might suffice and, perhaps, be curiously appropriate. But where to get the funding?

David Brin said...

Alex, the Thatcherite devolutions merely made speculators richer. It wasn't what privatizing social security would have been... a wholesale gang rape of the entire middle class. For that you need Russia for comparison.

Tony Fisk said...

This sounds a bit like Gina Rinehart putting the moves on Fairfax media. (Fairfax being the only real alternative to News Ltd. in Australia)

A video doing the rounds infers that it was Lord Monckton who first aired the idea (a la Faux News). Interestingly, it seems to be quite separate from Murdoch.

Ian Gould said...

To continue our non-debate about the unique merits of western civilization:

I give you the Bhakti movement.

Bhankti was the predominant form of Hinduism in the 14-17th centuries.

In part a reaction to Islam's universalism and relative egalitarianism, Bhakti rejected caste and rejected elaborate ceremonies.

The Bhaktiteachers wrote in the vernacular languages and popularized translations of the Gitas and other Sanskrit classics.

They rejected the doctrine of works and taught that salvation lay a direct relationship with God and with treating others correctly.

They also rejected tradition as a source of dogma in favor of reason and direct exegesis of the original sacred texts.

They were also deeply critical of traditional Hindu rulers and rejected the idea of the innate superiority of the Kshatriya and
Brahmin classes.

They were, in short, a hell of a lot like the European Protestant movements that played a key role in European modernization.

When the British conquered India, they had a huge manpower problem. They needed local troops and administrators.

In other words, along with the Muslims, they needed the Kshatriya and Brahmin classes - and to secure their support they assisted them in suppressing the Bhakti movement, killing its leaders, burning their writings; and destroying its principal temples.

This was of a piece with the general British policy in India.

See, Indians were innately backward and incapable of progress so what had to happen was a return to the "Good Old Days" of the Mughal empire including a massive expansion of the rights of local rulers and landlords at the expense of the majority of the Indian population.

David Brin said...

It is easy to romanticize might-have-beens. Indeed, there have been many crimes and false starts and ruined bright beginnings. And the west has made its climb toward decency on generation after generation of hypocritical or criminal or exploitive acts.

And I still say, show me the noble others who resisted such temptations while they had great power. SHow me those that taught their children "criticize us!" Criticize your parents generation's hypocrisies.

As Ian and Hypnos are doing now.

David Brin said...

Having said that, I found your take on the Bhaktis fascinating.

Ian Gould said...

David,

you'd probably find the Ikko sect of Japan even more interesting but they're of less direct relevance here because they were crushed by internal Japanese forces rather than by the alliance of westerners and local oligarchs.

The Ikko taught the absolute equality of all men and women and elected their own leaders - and some of those leaders were women.

They weren't a minor or marginal force either - they controlled a large part of central Honshu for about a century and were finally destroyed by the alliance between Oda Nobunaga and Tokuguawa Ieyasu in a series of military campaigns spread over 20 years.

Senkoku Japan in gernal is extremely interesting.

you've got a wealthy, rising, merchant class; peasant armies equipped with muskets (and in the case of the warrior monks of the Ikko driven by ideology rather than simply the ambition of some warload) and rapid technological and social change.

All the stuff that led to the Enlightenment in Europe.

The reason it didn't happen in Japan comes down to one man: Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Toyotomi was a peasant who rose through the military to become the effective ruler of Japan who reunited the country after a century of civil war.

He was a sumbol of the rapid social change going on all over the country - and realised that if he could rise from the commons to rule the country, somebody else could also - and displace him or his heirs.

So he devoted much of his reign to establishing a rigid social structure; disarming the peasantry; subordinating the Buddhist sects and monasteries to central control and preventing the merchants from getting political power to match their wealth.

The point I'm trying to make here
is that much of what we've been told is uniquely Western existed outside the west.

Put simply, there was no enlightenment in Japan because Toyotomi succeeded where the Hapsburgs failed.

In closing here's a quote from the Bhakti Saint Madhvacharya to a king who tried to stop him preaching in his kingdom that you should appreciate:

'I worship that Father who illumines the entire universe; and so do you. Why should I fear then either your soldiers or you?'

Ian Gould said...

'SHow me those that taught their children "criticize us!" Criticize your parents generation's hypocrisies."

I show you Nichiren, founder of Sun Path Buddhism which later produced the Ikko.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nichiren

"Nichiren criticized other Buddhist schools for their manipulations of the populace for political and religious control. Citing Buddhist sutras and commentaries, Nichiren argued that the Buddhist teachings were being distorted for their own gain (see the compilation of Nichiren's exchanges with government leaders and Buddhist practitioners in "The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin" 1999).

Some groups[who?] today characterize Nichiren's efforts as an attempt to reform the Buddhist schools of Japan. Through his writings, it seems that Nichiren was not trying to reform other sects. Nichiren stated this clearly, in his Risshō Ankoku Ron (立正安国論?): "Treatise On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land"[3]), his first major treatise and the first of three remonstrations with government authorities. He felt that it was imperative for the sovereign to recognize and accept the singly true and correct form of Buddhism (i.e., 立正: risshō) as the only way to achieve peace and prosperity for the land and its people and end their suffering (i.e., 安国: ankoku). This "true and correct form of Buddhism", as Nichiren saw it, entailed regarding the Lotus Sutra as the fullest expression of the Buddha's teachings and putting those teachings into practice. Nichiren thought this could be achieved in Japan by withdrawing lay support so that the deviant monks would be forced to change their ways or revert to laymen to prevent starving.

Based on prophecies made in several sutras,[4] Nichiren attributed the occurrence of the famines, disease, and natural disasters (especially drought, typhoons, and earthquakes) of his day to teachings of Buddhism no longer appropriate for the time."


Nichiren declared that women could attain enlightenment. Considered against the backdrop of 13th-century Japanese society, his doctrinal position on women was revolutionary.[33][34] Within Japanese society, women were seen as second-class citizens who, from a legal perspective, were no more than property. The majority of Japanese Buddhist sects discriminated openly against women,[35] and many of their views bordered on outright misogyny.[citation needed]

Nichiren, on the other hand, espoused individual empowerment, saying that "faith, not gender, is the primary determinant [for enlightenment]… physical differences do not hinder Buddhist salvation in any way".[36] While his Japanese contemporaries rarely even wrote to women, approximately one fifth of Nichiren's extant works were addressed to women while an estimated 30% of his Gohonzon recipients were female. One of his often quoted passages states: "There should be no discrimination among those who propagate the five chararcters of Myoho-renge-kyo… be they men or women."[37]

Nichiren's writings contain both his doctrinal position on women as well as practical advice to female believers. He viewed marriage as a complementary partnership,[38] and when speaking of motherhood, he nearly always mentions the role and obligations of fathers in the family unit.[39] Nichiren's views on the enlightenment of women were based on the Lotus Sutra, and contained in his clear statement: "Only in the Lotus Sutra do we read that a woman who embraces this sutra not only excels all other women, but also surpasses all men"

duncan cairncross said...

David, Ian

Your take on - might have been's - reminds me of Jared Diamond's reason - why the Europeans - and not others

Because Europe was fragmented by mountains - rivers
No single state could arise
Meaning that any state that tried to stop progress would be overtaken by its neighbors
A multiple experiment with competition

No Toyotomi Hideyoshi could do more than stop one state

The larger units in the East were separated from competition and vulnerable to internal ossification

David Brin said...

You guys miss the point. You two are not brave exceptionals, criticising your own civilization. You are NORMAL. You represent the norm of your generation... and mine before you.

THat has not happened before.

Ian Gould said...

"You guys miss the point. You two are not brave exceptionals, criticising your own civilization. You are NORMAL. You represent the norm of your generation... and mine before you.

THat has not happened before."

I'm 51 David I think we're more of the same generation that of different generations.

Ian Gould said...

Duncan I haven't read Jared Diamond but there's precious little sign of ossification in, for example, Ching China.

In the 18th century, (prior to the Qianlong Emperor's dotage), the empire doubled its geographic extent and more than doubled its population.

While military expansion stopped at that point, economic expansion and population growth continued.

Prior to circa 1600, the economic growth rate of the entire world had averaged around 0.5-1% per annum.

Then in western Europe economic growth edged up to 1% or more per annum. There's a bunch of reasons for that including some that people generally overlook -like the introduction of new world crops such as potatoes into economies that were still primarily agricultural.

(That was also a big factor in Ching China actually - growing crops like eggplant, capsicum and chilis on land unsuitable for rice production.)

It took the Europeans a couple of centuries simply to catch up with the more prosperous Asian societies.

Then around 1800, European economies accelerated again to 1-2% per annum growth.

So its not so much that the Asians "ossified" as that they didn't match the economic acceleration seen in Europe.

Ian Gould said...

One final note for now:

Based on the best economic history we have, David (not on some romantic notion or political correctness)your claim that the average Chinese or Indian commoner was worse off than the average western European or American prior to circa 1800 is simply wrong.

As I mentioned earlier, anthropological studies show lower levels of malnutrition and micro-nutrient deficiency diseases such as scurvy and rickets in Chinese an Indian populations than in European populations.

Up until ca. 1800, Japanese and Chinese commoners lived longer than their European counterparts, ate better and earned equivalent or higher incomes.

I'll refer you here to Kenneth Pomeranz's The Great Divergence.

http://www.amazon.com/Great-Divergence-Europe-Making-Economy/dp/0691090106

Alex Tolley said...

@ David Brin
"It wasn't what privatizing social security would have been... a wholesale gang rape of the entire middle class."

Don't forget that Thatcher started the state pensions privatization scheme around 1984. It ended up a disaster. But I agree that it wasn't wholesale gang rape as pensioners had a choice (I think).

Russia was able to take such liberties because they instituted a "free market" economy without strong institutions to create rules and manage them. In the US, we have the institutions, but as you have stated elsewhere, conservatives have been undermining their credibility and dismantling them for decades. Rather than a "Wild West" scenario like Russia after 1989, we have a more gradual fall into the mess. But we can reverse course, at least for now.

Paul451 said...

Ian,
"you'd probably find the Ikko sect of Japan even more interesting but they're of less direct relevance here because they were crushed by internal Japanese forces rather than by the alliance of westerners and local oligarchs."

If I can play Brin-fanboi for a moment, isn't this what David has said in this post and almost all of his political writing? That for 6000 years this always happens. I wonder if you're reacting instinctively against a perceived racism when you hear "Western Civilisation is special", taking it to mean "no other people could have produced the Enlightenment, therefore we deserve control/power", when he merely meant, "no other succeeded, therefore this rare success must be ferociously protected". Every other attempt lost to the oligarchs or became one, and if we relax, this attempt too will fail, is failing, and people should be pissed off about it.

"Toyotomi was a peasant who [became] the effective ruler of Japan [...] He was a sumbol of the rapid social change going on all over the country - and realised that if he could rise from the commons to rule the country, somebody else could also - and displace him or his heirs."

Again, isn't that exactly what David has been saying, over and over and over? The tendency of the would-be oligarchs to undermine any rival powerbase, leaving only themselves. And they do that to preserve their legacy of power for their off-spring, ie, to limit competition against their children. And that this is happening in the US right now (and spreading).

"So he devoted much of his reign to establishing a rigid social structure; disarming the peasantry; subordinating the Buddhist sects and monasteries to central control and preventing the merchants from getting political power to match their wealth."

See? Undermining rival elites. And if he hadn't, it's likely a handful of the wealthiest merchant families would have eventually done the same thing, for precisely the same reason. (Or religious control would have emerged, a la the Catholic Church, or someone else's military would have unified rule and then the highest commanders would fight to become the new Imperials, a la Rome, or, or, or...)

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Ian

Jared Diamond's
Guns Germs and Steel
Is an excellent read - I must get another copy - I lent mine out...

The book is an answer to - why the Europeans?
And includes information on domesticated species as well as political effects

To rephrase - and link to David's point

Europe as a mess of competing states partially separated by barriers but still massively interlinked provided multiple experimental area's that eventually produced the agricultural and industrial revolutions
The multiple nature prevented David's "capture" and stall problem.

The question now is - do we still have enough "separation" to prevent a capture event from stalling the whole world

David Brin said...

Ian said to DB: “your claim that the average Chinese or Indian commoner was worse off than the average western European or American prior to circa 1800 is simply wrong.”

Would you please - Ian - show me where I said that? Or said anything even remotely like anything that could even remotely be considered likely to make you think that I said that?

I respect you (!) so I really would like to know.

Paul451 said ro Ian: “I wonder if you're reacting instinctively against a perceived racism when you hear "Western Civilisation is special", taking it to mean "no other people could have produced the Enlightenment, therefore we deserve control/power", when he merely meant, "no other succeeded, therefore this rare success must be ferociously protected". Every other attempt lost to the oligarchs or became one, and if we relax, this attempt too will fail, is failing, and people should be pissed off about it.”

Precisely. If I felt is likely that the current rise of Chinese mercantilist commercialism would not only raise people out of poverty, but also lead to individualist reciprocal accountability and self-reinforcing positive sum games, I would be MUCH more relaxed about the current decline of western world leadership.

Indeed, the greatest saving grace of Pax Americana is the implicit underlying assumption that it should be the LAST great pax empire. And discussion of Whatever Comes Next (WCN)) should be much higher on our agenda. I believe we’ll start seeing the outlines of WCN in a couple decades. (Alas, the preliminary glimmers that I perceive so far are deeply deeply worrisome.)

There is no way WCN will be sane or “star-trekky” unless it is heavily influenced in design and assumptions by western memes. e.g. the meme that:

“Whatever is not specifically disallowed, by lawful openly deliberated process... is automatically allowed.” Instead of the standard meme:

“Whatever is not specifically allowed is automatically forbidden.” If you want this latter meme to dominate - as it did in most cultures - then by all means, let’s neglect to keep the west strong.

David Brin said...

News flash!!!!

Dick (Tin-Man) Cheney finally gets a heart!!!

rewinn said...

@Dr Brin:
While I share your concern that Chinese mercantilist commercialism may be unhelpful towards, if not hostile to, individualist reciprocal accountability and self-reinforcing positive sum games ... and in addition is perfectly compatible with the interests of America's 1%, making a potentially unholy alliance indeed ... it seems to me that the solution is not reforming the unreformable, but growing everyone else. Don't India and Latin America, for example, have great potential as incubators of freedom?

sociotard said...

I saw "Hunger Games", and I think I can recomend it. It made me cry.

Brutal empires just make good cinema.

Ian Gould said...

Time in short supply at the moment but anyone who thinks there's anything innate in Chinese culture that prevents thriving free market capitalism needs to visit Hong Kong, Taiwan or Singapore.

A quick summary of my position: secularist/rationalist liberal/democratic scientific/technological, egalitarian/meritocratic and capitalist societies (try making an acronym out of that) are nt an inevitable result of human cultural evolution because there's no telology involved but there are powerful forces pushing in that direction.

Kim Stanley Robinson makes the argument in The Years of Rice and Salt that the world would have evolved to something quite similar to our current state of technological and social advancement even if most of Europe had been wiped out by the Black Death.

I disagree with him about a number of particulars but I agree with his general thesis.

Ian Gould said...

One news morsel before bed.

Computer simulations of magnetically-confined inertial fusion, suggest we may be a lot closer to workable fusion reactors than previously thought.

Sandia Labs will test the simulation experimentally in 2013.

http://www.physorg.com/news/2012-03-nuclear-fusion-simulation-high-gain-energy.html

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sociotard said...

regarding computer simulation fusion:

Humbug.

A scientist performing a detailed simulation of fusion is as close to making a meatspace model as a middleschooler making out with her pillow is to actually reaching second base.

Computer simulations are nice, but reality is universally messier and more complicated than the simulations.

No, fusion is the power source of the future and always will be. I would wager a nice $20 bill that 50 years from now fusion will still not be a commercially viable power source.

Tony Fisk said...

Meanwhile, guess who's currently at the deepest point in the world's oceans? (second visit in over fifty years.)

BCRion said...

sociotard,

Exactly. This may be obvious to some, but I should state it anyway to those not familiar with scientific simulation. Our ability to characterize things that are well understood experimentally is pretty good. Making small extrapolations to what we already know works quite well too. When it comes to new regimes of physics either not demonstrated experimentally, or not measured well from existing experiments, simulations become much more questionable. Sometimes we get lucky, but more often than not, our necessarily approximate models of reality show themselves to be too approximate for the regimes we wish to understand.

Note that this comes from someone who writes scientific simulation software for his paycheck. I'm going to adopt my usual "wait and see" attitude here.

As an engineer (albeit a computational one), one thing that bothers me about the whole fusion debate is that people assume once we know how to produce a burning plasma efficiently, we will know how to build an economical reactor for power production. I see the whole Q-value (energy out over energy in) greater than 5-10 as the beginning of an even more difficult problem. There are unique issues to fusion reactor design on the materials side that are quite tricky. With today's technology plus the ability to make a burning plasma, fusion would easily most expensive power on the planet -- in other words, not practical.

David Brin said...

Rewinn is right that if Brazil and India and much of Latin America and Indonesia etc get rich too, they will experience their own tensions between oligarchy and enlightenment, and several may choose enlightenment.

Ian, no one is saying that the Chinese are incapable of industrious capitalist development. But lacking the saving graces of Rooseveltean enlightenment systems, the resulting systems are likely to follow the patterns predicted by Marx, which have already played out in the "privatized" Russia.

As for this: "Kim Stanley Robinson makes the argument in The Years of Rice and Salt that the world would have evolved to something quite similar to our current state of technological and social advancement even if most of Europe had been wiped out by the Black Death."

You are only half right. KSR suggests parallel development. But he also shows that only the Iroquois offer that world any hope of enlightenment-style governance.

Jumper said...

Fitzgerald: "The West really is different."
Hemingway: "Yes, they have more coal."

David Brin said...

Onward to the 2nd of 3 political postings.

reason said...

I just did a quick scan of the comments and Cato is mentioned exactly once and Koch exactly once. (Ironically as an addendum on the end of a comment to related to a previous thread.) I thought that was the topic?

Tony Fisk said...

... not an uncommon occurrence here, reason (although one of my comments alluded to the post wrt another takeover)

Still, your observation answers the question: 'do we care?'

rewinn said...

I'm not sure that I agree with the sentiment, but I totally enjoy the cleverness of @Jumper's:

'Fitzgerald: "The West really is different."
Hemingway: "Yes, they have more coal."'

And who knows? it may express A truth even if not ALL truth.

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