Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Will the world’s middle classes rise up, in a “Helvetian War”?


 My 1989 novel Earth is credited with a fairly high predictive score.  In fact, fans maintain a wiki to track its successful "hits" - including little things like the World Wide Web and wearable augmented reality "google goggles." See: Earth-related predictions.

(They also track some embarrassing "misses"... ah well.)

Set in the year 2038, Earth portrays citizens in that near-future era looking back upon a brutal struggle that took place in the 2020s.  The Helvetian War was unlike anything we've seen since the French or Russian Revolutions. A radical rising by a fed-up world middle class, pushed against the wall by cynics and the corrupt connivers.

What they seek - and attain - is not socialism, a discredited foolishness that arose out of silly abstractions that bore no relationship at all to real human nature. Market economies have out-performed socialist or communist or oligarchic ones so overwhelmingly that only delusional fools - or would-be oligarchs - should prefer top-down, bureaucratic control instead of the fluid productivity that we get out of creative competition. (Does that make me sound like a right-winger? Silly.  Broaden your memes.)

No, the new radicalism that may be demanded in the 2020s -- especially by emerging middle classes in the developing world -- is to give all people a chance to compete fairly, free from parasitism by their homegrown kleptocrats and from the rising global variety. Free from the secret, conspiring control of a caste that Adam Smith himself called the oppressors of freedom and market economics across 6000 years.

"All for ourselves and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind." --Adam Smith, in The Wealth of Nations

Now, in that context, consider this headline. $21 Trillion hoard hidden offshore by global elite.

Yes that is a "T" and not a "B." Just sit there and consider that number.  Then think about my prediction that the world's middle classes will become radicalized, perhaps in the 2020s, or even sooner.

The study in question estimates the staggering size of the offshore economy and how private banks help the wealthiest to move cash into overseas havens. Russian, Saudi and Nigerian oil barons top the list, followed by US and British bankers and then drug lords and other criminal enterprises.  The totals amount to as much as the American and Japanese GDPs put together.

With US tax rates at their lowest levels in 60 years, and taxes on the rich at their lowest levels since 1920, it would seem that they still aren't low enough for today's super wealthy.  Consider the GOP's potemkin rally in Tampa, in this context.

See also this angle: This hidden wealth costs western democracy governments $280 billion a  year in lost tax revenue. That's annual.  An amount so huge that infrastructure repair and boosted science could coincide with cuts in the actual tax rates for law-abiders who aren't part of the secret Lords Economy.

Want to see where this might lead?  Try reading Earth.

== Is a World Middle Class Even Possible?

In fact, it is more than possible. If by "middle class" you mean having a clean home with electricity and sanitation, a washing machine and access to transporation, plus kids who are in school with adequate food, clothing and books, then that already includes two thirds of the Earth's human population, a fact that is seldom mentioned by either left or right.

Why is this good news ignored? Because of the Paradox of Progress.  It's all a matter of deep personality. The reflex of folks on the right is to avert the gaze from problems to be solved and to resent nagging to solve them. The reflex of the far-left is hypersensitivity to perceived problems. To rail for solutions - but to deny that any past attempts at improvement ever worked! The right is suspicious toward the whole notion of "improvability" of either humans or society. The left wants improvability, passionately, but insists it has never happened yet.

Both extremes are - in effect, completely crazy.

Amid ongoing debates over progress, there is a third group. Those who seek to improve the human condition and who admit that steady improvements have already taken place.  These are called "liberals" - a very different breed than leftists - and to them the question of whether development has taken place inevitably gives way to practical discussions.  How to foster a speedup of already ongoing progress.   Pragmatic progressivism eschews dogma in favor of asking: what has worked and what hasn't?

What's becoming clear is that some parts of the world are doing better than others.  In 1970, South Korea had a lower per capita GDP than Ghana.  Today, all the nations of East Asia have left all African nations in a cloud of dust, and that includes China, which had a thirty year hiatus under Maoism.  Today, Latin America has large areas that are burgeoning -- e.g. Brazil -- and sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing its most rapid rate of growth (outside of certain hell-holes) since colonial kleptocrats gave way to local kleptocracies in the 1960s.

Still, the African acceleration is only impressive compared to previous stagnation. And some regions that have tried -- under pressure or tutelage from international development agencies -- to reform their laws and civil society, have failed to make them sufficiently competition-friendly to invite much new investment, or to give vibrant locals a level playing field against conniving local elites.

== What do the professionals say? ==

Two interesting perspectives offer a glimpse at just how difficult the problem can be.

In a fascinating and vivid audio-visual presentation, Owen Barder explores the implications of complexity theory for development policy. He explains how traditional economic models have tried and failed to understand why some countries have managed to improve living standards while other countries have not. Using complexity theory, he shows that development is a property of a system, not the sum of what happens to the people within it.

While Barder is both interesting and informative and is on-target in his range of criticisms - (do watch the video!) - in the end he winds up sounding like a lot of "complexity" fans.  Okay, so the problem is complex.  Thanks for telling us that.

For balance, have a glimpse at an interesting, if a bit depressing, appraisal of the likelihood that creative-competitive capitalism can ever take root in MENA -- the Middle East and North Africa -- despite formal legal reforms.  The problem is an ancient one... oligarchies of a few at the top, engaging in what Adam Smith called "rent-seeking," using informal connections and conniving to bypass the new "civil society reforms" and still maintain their advantages, thus repelling or driving out investment in new competitive enterprises.

It is a standard pattern that this World Bank report deems fairly hopeless to overcome in this region, though others are doing better... while the United States slips ever deeper into the classic oligarchic pattern that Adam Smith loathed.

So, shall we commit seppuku and give up?  Of course not.  There is enough light erupting all over the Earth to encourage belief in progress, not only that it can happen, but that it has.  And that tech-driven transparency will help, when citizens can record and expose local corruption with the touch of a cell phone.  And that -- far better than chiding -- is good enough reason to persevere.

== So, will the world's new middle classes rise up? ==

As I portrayed in EARTH... and explore a bit in EXISTENCE... there are two types of uber-rich.  Those who are loyal to the Enlightenment Experiment that empowered their rise and (in effect) gave them everything they have... a diamond shaped social structure in which even with their billions, they - and their children - will keep facing fresh competition from a lively, vibrant population of educated and confident citizens...

...versus a portion of the new-aristocracy that simply does not get it.  Who think - as oligarchs did in 99% of past human cultures - that they are superior NOT because of this year's latest goods and services, but because wealth inherently means lordly merit.  Such folks aren't at fault for having this reflex.  We are all descended from the harems of guys who pursued power tenaciously and darwinistically.  The reflex is in our genes.

But it's a poison. Our Enlightenment Experiment achieved more human progress in just four generations than all the preceding feudal societies combined.  Its founders, like Adam Smith, recognized the oligarchic tendency and denounced it.  They knew that the foolish "uber" types would keep trying to pound our diamond shaped society back into a pyramid, promoting "rent-seeking" income (like dividends and capital gains) ahead of the wages earned by creative and hardworking people with their hands.

Inevitably (and history bears me out) all this conniving will have just three possible outcomes.

1- They succeed.  The Enlightenment Experiment comes to an end. (In Existence I explore the rationalizations they might give, to excuse such a backward shift, some of them very clever!)

2- The middle classes - uniting in common cause with knowledge professions like science - could enact yet another mild, moderate, incremental, American-style revolution, of which 1776 was only one example. So was the first U.S. Civil War and Teddy Roosevelt's progressive era, and FDR's New Deal, in which oligarchy gets stymied just enough to keep freedom and creative competition and entrepreneurial markets and  transparency and divided power and opportunity and social mobility going, while maintaining the allure of competitively-earned wealth as a reward for delivering cool things into the world.

3- Paris... 1789.

ClassWarLessonsHistoryHere is the chief difference between the good/smart/tech billionaires and the fools who now use Fox News to push an idolatry of property that has always, always, always been the enemy of competition.  The smart guys -- the billionaires in Silicon Valley for example, or Warren Buffett and Bill Gates -- want option number two. If need be, they will join the world's middle classes and help keep our looming "helvetian wars" mild.

In sharp contrast, the ones who are pushing the United States into Culture War... indeed, the lastest phase of the American civil war ... actually think they are very smart.  But their efforts, if successful, will only lead to outcome#3.

They aren't as smart as they think they are.

     =====     =====     =====

== See also: Class War and the Lessons of History

and Libertarians and Conservatives must choose: Competitive Enterprise or Idolatry of Property

137 comments:

Tom Crowl said...

Just a huge compliment for this whole article!

We must all fight for that 2nd possibility... real change, but wise and pragmatic change.

The Enlightenment is under threat and the future is not guaranteed.

I'm not religious... but I keep thinking what Jesus meant by "the meek shall inherit the earth"...

In my mind it wasn't that some GOD was going to come down and say:

"You guys really know how to worship! SO... I'll take care of everything from now on... so PARTY TIME!"

But maybe he meant something more along the lines of inheriting a responsibility...

Dwight Williams said...

In Canada, the local chunk of that "dead money" - called such by the Governor of the Bank of Canada in recent days - adds up to C$ 526 billion.

Both the aforesaid Governor, Mark Carney, and our federal finance minister Jim Flaherty - not exactly a friend of the Enlightenment by my lights at present - are now calling for a loosening of the corporate purse strings.

Inclined towards both hope and fear at this point by such news...

Dennis Jernberg said...

Re socialism: State socialism is a contradiction in terms, which is why it always failed. If socialism is even possible, it will have to be crowdsourced and democratic. I've been thinking about this for years, so I thought I might mention this...

As for the revolution, it looks to me like the plutocratic and theocratic factions are tempted to pull #3 in order to succeed at #1 and put a stop to #2 (which is not so much revolution as continuing evolution). In fact, years ago I decided to base my own story on just that scenario...

Mitchell J. Freedman said...

keeLI always wonder, since we invade places like Panama and Grenada at the drop of a hat, why not invade the Cayman Islands, open up the books a la Wikileaks and start grabbing the money?

You know, Imperialism for the rest of us...:-)

Mitchell J. Freedman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mitchell J. Freedman said...

Somehow I had a hard time getting that comment on, so I repeat it here:

I wonder why we don't invade the Cayman Islands the way we invaded Panama and Grenada?

You know, imperialism for the rest of us? :-)

David Brin said...

MJF... that is pretty much how part of the Helvetian War goes in EARTH.

David Brin said...

Switzerland is a lot tougher....

spacechampion said...

Can the 99% just crowdsource a near-universal healthcare insurance for themselves? ie. start a co-op insurance company, every policy holder is a shareholder?

reformed tourist said...

Outstanding post. My only comment on first reading is that I no longer have as much confidence in the ability of the body politic to shed preconceived biases long enough to recognize who/what the "enemy" really is. The inordinate success of the professional opinion-makers (corporate media et al) has reinforced the hoary scapegoat meme well beyond what Goebbels, Lenin, hell, lets throw in Charlemagne and all the rest ever dreamed of. The "suspension of disbelief" has led to "we make our own reality" to the current "...not running our campaign based on fact-checkers." Nevertheless, I have to hope such a realization becomes possible and do my part to make it so.

Dennis Jernberg said...

@spacechampion: In a libertarian system, opting in would have to be voluntary, and there will probably be a variety of social-welfare networks to choose from. If anything, it would resembled a modernized form of mutualism.

Thomas said...

You don't have to invade any country, just do what was done to Iran: shut them out of the international banking system. All those trillions will just be numbers in a computer.

Ian Gould said...

That estimate of hidden wealth is based on this report:

http://www.taxjustice.net/cms/front_content.php?idcat=148

I haven't read it all yet but the first few pages don't strike me as especially credible.

Ian Gould said...

A couple of quick examples that $20 trillion is ALL offshore investment - the amjortiy of which is invested in the US and other major developed economies where it IS taxed.

The thrust of the report is that money from the developing world should not be exported to the developed world but invested in those ocuntries - which rather undercuts the claim that this money would yield hundreds of billions in tax revenue for developed world governments.

Andrew Kieran said...

When I argue for Scottish independence people disagree with me half the time, often thinking I'm being unreasonable or calling for dangerous and unprecedented change.

When I've had a really bad day and am arguing for the wholesale extermination of the ruling caste of society people almost always enthusiastically agree with me.

I guess the first option is actually possible and the second option, well, I guess folks are so angry at the rulers, but they don't see any other way out than bloody war by guillotine.

Either that or people just like excitement and peaceful constitutional change by the ballot box us just so meh. Let's get the blood pumping, get out the pitchforks and go toff hunting. Why could possibly go wrong?

Oh yeah, plenty

Ian Gould said...

So let's start with some basic data;

"What does global inequality mean for the poor? An illustration of global income disparities
adapted from UNDP (1992 and 2005) helps to contextualize the extremity of inequality that
faces an incredibly large number of poor persons. In Figure 7, global income distribution
resembles a “champagne glass” in which a large concentration of income at the top trickles
down to a thin stem at the bottom. Overall, this provides a powerful graphic in terms of the
scant amount of income that is available to the poor on a global scale. In particular,
approximately 1.2 billion were living on less than $1.25 per day in 2007 (22 percent of the world
population) and about 2.2 billion on less than $2 per day (or about 40 percent of the world
population).5 An alternative way of viewing the “champagne glass” is to compare the top
percent of world income earners versus the bottom. In doing so, we find that the wealthiest 61
million individuals (or one percent of the global population) had the same amount of income as
the poorest 3.5 billion (or 56 percent) as of 2007."

http://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCEQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.unicef.org%2Fsocialpolicy%2Ffiles%2FGlobal_Inequality_REVISED_-_5_July.pdf&ei=nDM_UO7GGo2biQeW44DQCA&usg=AFQjCNHWKoBeqv2r7O2z0jqVxhSr2JNJUg&sig2=-hXC72g9l_OQ-7lapGQOhg&cad=rja

Economists frquently define the middle class as the three middle quintiles of the population - i.e. excluding both the poorest 20% and the richest 20%.

So, at a minimum, to achieve a "middle class world", we need at least 80% of the population to "having a clean home with electricity and sanitation, a washing machine and access to transporation, plus kids who are in school with adequate food, clothing and books,"

That's probably achievable- at a level most of us in the west woudl still consider wildely unacceptable, at an income of around $2,000 per capita (equivalent to a wage rate for those in the workforce of around $8-10,000 per annum after we make allowances for dependants.

So roughly speaking we need to triple or quadruple the income of people receiving between $1 and $2 per day (approximately the second-lowest quntile of global population income distribution0- and we should obviously seek to increase the income for the poorest quintile by an even great amount.

Each quintile represents around 1.4 billion people.

So if we say we want to increase the income of everyone in those two quintiles by, say, US$1600 per annum (which would take people currently earning ca. $1 up to around the $2,000 perannum level) we're talking about $4.8 trillion per annum.

That may sound daunting but we're talking about a global economy of ca. $70 trillion growing on average at around 3-4%.

If we directed half the growth in world output to the poor for five years that'd be achieve - and the rest of us, on average, would continue to get richer just more slowly.


Ian Gould said...

Now if we agree that eradciating absoute poverty and creating "a middle class world" is both deriable and feasible how do we do it.

Well for starters, we throw out a lot of the standard ideology of both right and left in te developed world and challenge a lot of accepted wisdom in the developing world.

1. Elimate ALL tariffs on exports from the developign world to the developed world over two years; followed by elminatign all tariffs in trade between countries of the developed world within five years and elimaiting all taraffs - everywhere and in toto - within ten years.

2. Elimate all agrcultural subsidies in the developed world within five years.

3. eliminate all food and fuel subsidies in the developing world
within two years replacing them with direct cash payments to the poor that are double or more the value of existing subsidies. (This will hurt the rich and middle class in the developing coutnries who between them currently get most of the benefit from these subsidies. too bad.)

3. Adopt a Bihar-style anti-corruption campaign across the entire developing world together with advanced welfare ssytems based on information technology as used in Brazil.

4. Enact a global wealth tax - backed by the threat of confiscation of any assets on which the tax can't be shown to have been paid. Use half the funds raised around $500 billion a year for direct cash transfers to people currently earning less than $1 per day. (Wtih the understandign that this money will start to taper off after five years and be elimimated after 10 years.)

5. Use the other half of the momey raised to set up a sovereign wealth fund for each of the Least Developed Countries - match contributiosn from those countries into their funds. The quid pro quo would be that the funds would be overseen by multinational boards of trustees with the capital only accessbile durign major disasters and with the bulk of net earnings required to be used for assistance for the poor.

6. Make access to all this international funding contingent on democracy, equal rights for women; liberal economic policies and a cap on defense spending of less than 1% of GDP.

Tim H. said...

Ian, I suspect your six-point plan would be halfway implemented, the first three points already are popular with the oligarchy, with the exception of compensation for missing subsidies, and serve them well in evading environmental and labor standards. The second three would serve to ameliorate the effects of the first, so they're doomed.

Buck said...

In the spirit of 'what worked before?' I note that Adam Smith saw in his own lifetime the progression of Scotland from feudalism (including the warrior-caste Highlanders) to capitalism. Most people would argue that Scotland was a unique case, but isn't Dr Brin arguing that the factors which motivated human beings in 1750 are pretty much the same factors motivating humans today?

WatchfulBabbler said...

And some regions that have tried -- under pressure or tutelage from international development agencies -- to reform their laws and civil society, have failed to make them sufficiently competition-friendly to invite much new investment, or to give vibrant locals a level playing field against conniving local elites.

In terms of economic dynamism, the worst thing any country can do is pay attention to the neoliberal economic consensus of open markets, open borders, and open competition. Development theory is the theoretical dead-end of economics, driven more by ideology and inertia than data (largely because the analytical universe is so small).

Examples of successful integration into the transnational economy, such as South Korea and Japan, are notable precisely because they did not follow neoliberal practices: they shielded their markets from foreign competition, fostered infant industries, limited movement of funds abroad, and plundered foreign intellectual capital and property. They then -- in contrast to unsuccessful protective states -- turned around and forced their domestic industries to compete in the global market, which resulted in competitive, aggressive companies that brought in export revenue and drove domestic consumption and prosperity.

In Africa, the ultimus inter pares of economic zones, the past few decades have been characterized by TANGO-driven neoliberal policies that have scoured away local industry in favor of a desperate drive to build export revenue via commodity extraction and monocrop agriculture -- both of which are vulnerable to trade and capital shocks, and neither of which provide significant local employment or revenue. Local elites benefit either through institutionalized corruption (I would argue, based on evidence from East Asia, that corruption is a symptom of underdevelopment, not necessarily a cause), or from being embedded in the transnational economy through a Western education and background. Generally, there is limited opportunity to join the elite through domestic industry, though a few counterexamples (arguably telecommunications being the most prominent) exist.

As a result, local investment opportunities and value are limited, causing local elites to move their money abroad into more favorable investment climes (even in the absence of political risk), constricting available domestic capital even further in a negative feedback spiral. The belated recognition and limited rollback by TANGOs of orthodox neoliberal mandates have, over the past few years, begun to ameliorate the damage done.

To really spark growth in the global middle class, developed-world trade barriers (implicit as well as explicit) will have to be dismantled, and developing-world barriers enacted to protect infant industries, allowing domestic skilled workforces to develop. That's going to be a hard sell in any country and any economy, but especially hard right now.

At the same time, we're running up against limits in energy production and key global commodities that, while not really causing economic effects yet, would become critical if global consumption rises significantly. If the developing world were to see a sustained economic boom, we would face not only scarcity costs but increases in extractive costs due to improved environmental regulation and labor force scarcity. (To be blunt, that Eastern Congolese tantalum ain't gonna mine itself.) So there's a countervailing interest in not improving economic conditions in commodity producers, just as British mercantilism prevented the American colonies from developing domestic industry.

Hans said...

David,

You've stated that the right and left both suffer from irrational behavior. I see plenty of anecdotal evidence of this among the right, but I've not personally witnessed the behavior you've attributed to the left (lack of recognition of progress).

Myself, I get frustrated at how slowly things seem to progress: I know people who share these frustrations. But none of them think that progress doesn't happen. Just that its slow, and often uneven.

So, my question is, where is evidence of this disbelief in progress? Can you point me to any instances of this actually occurring?

I've considered researching this myself, but I'm not even sure where to start (Google what?). So, even a pointer in the right direction to start would be appreciated.

Thanks,

Hans

PS When I asked you about liberals with guns, you answered that you knew this anecdotally, which I considered to be a perfectly acceptable answer.

Robert said...

I have. Usually among the feminist community. A former friend of mine (she no longer talks to me after I made the mistake of being bluntly honest one too many times... I miss talking to her but learned the important lesson of diplomacy in truth-telling) hated when I talked about the need to take baby steps. You inch forward, gaining more and more rights, to avoid catching the gaze of the Far Right. As soon as you leap forward to gain equality, the Right rears back and does everything in its power to squash those rights. Thus in my eyes it is far better to slowly gain rights, get the rights you have ingrained into society, and slowly gain more rights. It's not fair. It's not just. But it's effective.

And my warning is being prophetic. Look at the Republican mandate. They want to eliminate women's medical rights. They want to eliminate voting rights. If they get into power you'll see the laws preventing the South from gerrymandering to their heart's content eliminated, as well as voter protections. They'll then start eliminating the rights of various groups to vote, and pass laws preventing lawsuits to protest these measures. They'll do their best to squash protests. In short, they'll wage war on the majority of Americans who are not White Males... and then undoubtedly start stripping rights from THEM as well to try and return to the ideal core: what our Founding Fathers originally envisioned: male white landowners only being able to vote.

This is the dream of the oligarchy. They want this so badly they're willing to risk Brin's Helvetian War to ensure they remain in power.

Rob H.

TheMadLibrarian said...

I'd say an example of the irrational Left is the newage folks who scream Frankenfoods! whenever the subject of genetic engineering of food crops comes up. They completely blow off the fact that we've been doing it for thousands of years, just not in a lab. Genetic research should be done cautiously, prudently, and advisedly, but it should be done.

TheMadLibrarian
24 evainedo: several varieties of sparkling water

infanttyrone said...

Robert,

(Male) People of Color >> 15th Amendment
Women >> 18th Amendment
Voters between 18-21 >> 26th Amendment

Granted there was long-term popular pressure preceding each of these changes, but their passages created new rights that would graph more like a noticeable step function than the more linear-looking chart suggested by your gain-a-bit, ingrain the gains into society, then gain-a-bit-more approach.

Are you really suggesting that prior to equation changers like Roe v. Wade or Brown v. Board of Education the Far Right was like an old-school National Guard unit, doing the equivalent of just getting together once a month to dress up and practice ? And that they only reared up from their low-energy states as each Big New Threat showed up on their radar ?

I doubt that the "gaze of the Far Right" has strayed more than a moment from the subjects whom they wish to subjugate or keep subjugated. They sleep about as often as rust does. You aren't likely to lull them into a false sense of security with incrementalism the way you might sneak up on a careless Mom in a game of Mother-May-I.

I agree with you about their overall goal, and I might score their degree of progress toward it even higher than you do. Considering the reports of DHS and other agencies stockpiling 1.4B rounds of ammo, they might be willing to risk a Helvetian War, but they don't plan to lose it.

BTW, I assume we mean more or less the same thing when we say Far Right. There are plenty of principled conservatives (well, more back in the day than right now) that I think of as the Old Right, in the sense of Carl Oglesby's statement that "in a strong sense, the Old Right and the New Left are morally and politically coordinate". This more recent bunch of Congresspersons-of-negotiable-virtue, think tank tramps, and media presstitutes just seem like social climbers trying to get to the top of the ladder and become the Oligarch/Pimp's "bottom bitch".

I am curious to know what sorts of examples you offered your former female friend in support of your incremental strategy.

Robert said...

To be honest? I couldn't tell you what strategies I suggested to her, as this was 15 years ago. I suspect my comments were mostly "try to avoid overreaching because you might end up with nothing. Small steps that succeed are better than losing what gains you've got."

Though let's be honest. I'm a white male. I'm not discriminated against (no matter what certain naysayers might claim) and as such I'm not directly harmed by women and minorities not having the same rights I have. So yes, I could understand that my urging "slow and gradual" might not be popular. Though if you want a parallel, look at what Dr. Brin was saying about the gay and lesbian community and their efforts to gain gay marriage rights.

And I do not count conservatives with a small "c" such as myself and Tacitus in my comments about the Oligarchical Right. There are two groups of reactionaries out there. There are the Oligarchs who want to reclaim their "god-given right" of power over everyone else. And there's the "threatened white male" (which includes some women as well, though I'm curious as to if their beliefs are shaped by their family and spouses' beliefs, or are naturally their own) who view rights as a Negative Sum Game: if Gays/Immigrants/Women get rights, Whites lose rights to a greater extent.

Perhaps my greatest victory has been in convincing my conservative friends that the Republicans are as bad as Democrats. It's been incrementalism, mind you... but maybe in time they'll go one of two ways: deciding Democrats aren't as bad as the current crop of Republicans, or not vote at all. (Though I must admit, I'd be tickled by a couple of them taking a Third Path: running for office under the Republican ticket. If they did somehow get in... maybe they could create a grassroots foundation of resistance against the Oligarchs.)

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Brin posting as anon from the World Sci Fi con in Chicago.

I am all in favor of communities like LGBT indulging some indignant political pressure to push things forward. My suggestion about tactics was not to use 'baby steps' but to find the red flags that keep your opponents united and eliminate the ones you don't need, so that you can break up your enemies' alliance and have victory.

This could have been done if the LGBT community compromised on the least important aspect of gay marriage... the word "marriage" itself.

Had they consented to call gay maggiage "garriage" along with gusband and gife, it could have been a wink/nod/titter inside joke, knowing that the pretense would fall away in a few years. Meanwhile, HALF of the conservative americans in the opposing side would have then shrugged and dropped out and let every legal and other aspect of marriage become contractully available.

The response that 'WE SHOULDN'T HAVE TO COMPROMISE!!!" IS the clearest example of sanctimony poisoning affecting the left, as fully as the right. Progress matters. Tiny temporary verbiage nuances do not.

As for the left denying progress, just experiment. Start talking about the steep declines in violence since 1945 and the declines in % poverty rates in much of the world. Watch the aanger build. Talk about how racism and sexism were driven into disrepute...

...tremendous accomplishments of past decades of libralism. What you'll receive is boiling rage.

David Brin said...

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/drink-less-more-billionaire-tells-152654355.html

sociotard said...

Remember Dr. Brin's question, about what would happen to the generation after Atlas Shrugged? I think Gina Rinehart, Australian and world's richest woman, might have an answer:
http://www.cnbc.com/id/47859258/Millionaire_Parents_Say_Their_Kids_Are_Unfit_to_Inherit

Robert said...

Sadly the science post didn't have time to thrive so I missed out on posting these articles. So I temporarily pause this sociopolitical thread for Science!

The Kepler Space Telescope has found 41 new alien planets, verifying them by how they gravitationally tugged their fellow planets.

Also, there's an interesting article suggesting the Big Bang was in fact a phase change from multi-dimensional space to the current three-dimension plus time universe we live in. The interesting thing about this concept is that the universe could possess cracks in its structure that light might bounce off of. Though I must admit some curiosity as to what would happen if matter should come up toward one of these space-time cracks.

And speaking of curiosity, we have some more high-definition pictures taken by the Curiosity rover.

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

They also track some embarrassing "misses"... ah well.

All in the interests of balance, you understand!? (also: curse you, Kepler!)

I can't help but feel we saw the opening salvoes of the 'Helvetian' uprising around this time last year.

(I find there's an eerie parallel between the credit freeze of the GFC and the paleolithic destruction of the mammoth steppes. I may get around to writing a story about it, one day)

Meanwhile Jamais Cascio has posted some thoughts about twitterbots, flash trading and corporate cyber warfare (not to mention elections).

Alex Tolley said...

@The Mad Librarian:

I'd say an example of the irrational Left is the newage folks who scream Frankenfoods! whenever the subject of genetic engineering of food crops comes up. They completely blow off the fact that we've been doing it for thousands of years, just not in a lab.

Can you provide examples of inserting new genes from different species that has been done for "thousands of years"?

David Brin said...

Alex, in fairness,I do not mind rightists expressing SKEPTICISM toward government, bureaucrats and obnoxious campaigns for too-rapid "social progress" that disrupts beloved traditions.

That is their personality and were they to bring that skepticism to a negotiating table, it could add to our net wisdom.

Likewise, I do not mind leftists expressing SKEPTICISM toward capitalism (which can easily go sour), the wealthy and obnoxious campaigns for too-rapid "technological progress" that disrupts nature's tested wisdom and also beloved traditions.

That is their personality and were they to bring that skepticism to a negotiating table, it could add to our net wisdom.

WHat I despise is the way both personalities seem driven to howl and grump and growl and hate and spurn negotiation in favor of purist dogmas and righteous incantations.

Libertarians should be in this mix, in their own way, but they are crazy too.

Only liberals... those who are clearheaded enough to distance themselves from leftist rants... have in mind the notion of being pragmatically guided by facts and outcomes. They changed their minds over things like the ICC & CAB and welfare reform and respecting the military and many other tweaks. They are the only ones sitting at the negotiating table.

As Obama proved time and again.

===
a friend just wrote to me:

I mentioned you in an autonomy research planning meeting today:

John: "We can't even predict this stuff a year in advance, let alone twenty. Nobody predicted anything like an iPad twenty years ago."

Terry: "David Brin did. I'm re-reading his novel Earth from twenty years ago, and he has what he called "reading plaques" in them. They're pretty much identical to iPads, just with a different name."

So, dude: Good technological prognostication there! Better than predictions by any venture capitalist I've met, and I know several top-notch ones well. They don't even attempt more than a couple of years out.

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

It's been over a decade since I read Earth, so please forgive my hazy memory. However, I remember that I had some problems with it then. I'll try to dig them up from the underbrush and hopefully make a few cogent points.

My problems with this thesis center around the viability of your proposed 'transparent society'. I offer three fundamental reasons for why I skeptical. #1: criminalization of cameras; #2 asymmetrical data analysis and data distribution; #3 organized disinformation campaigns designed to confuse and thus diminish public involvement.


Problem #1: Tyrants reply upon asymmetrical power, so they will want control over their own cameras while denying that same right to the populace. You argued in the book that cost reductions developing technology would ultimately make that impossible. That is, the increasing returns of technological development would drive the cost of cameras down to a threshold so low everyone would own them, and ultimately use them for records keeping. We are arguably at that point now. Cameras are so small they can be embedded within cell phones, storage is digital and also small enough to be hidden, the resulting image and video data can transmitted across public networks in a one-to-many manner just as you predicted would be necessary. So, what has been the response by authorities to this shift?

An unstated and constitutionally illegal war on public photography by authorities has been the response throughout the United States and Great Britain. To photograph buildings and even friends on public grounds is to now risk censure and censorship by police. To photograph police conducting public business is to risk a beating and potentially jail time on trumped up charges. To photograph elected public officials conducting public business at the local and state level has resulted in arrest and beatings. Yet the US Supreme Court has made it clear that such photography is constitutionally protected through repeated rulings. Therefore, the authorities of the state act lawlessly on this matter with impunity.

Your argument that photography and records of public conduct is constitutionally protected relies on a state willing to restrain itself within legal boundaries. And yet, elected officials and police continue with an unstated and clearly illegal campaign against photography. Even if cameras became so small they could not be detected, say hidden in clothes, jewelry, or eyeglasses, the next step for authorities would be to criminalize simply witnessing abuse of authority on the presumption it might be recorded using other pretexts. When the state breaks free of such restraints, and state lawlessness becomes the norm, constitutional protections are nothing more than Potemkin Village panderings for a public who knows what unstated limits and boundaries cannot be crossed. This breakdown in rule of law across western society is real today. See: 'Indefinite Detention' and 'Executive Kill Lists.'

[cont...]

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

Problem #2: Asymmetrical organization, analytic tools, organization, and access to data distribution. Even if problem number #1 were resolved - that is, assuming ubiquitous access to camera technology deployed and running 24/7 across the population - the general public would then face a tremendous problem of tagging and identifying important data from the sea of cruft to then promoting important data upward into the public sphere. This is not a problem that can be solved by simply adding more viewers to tag incoming data streams. For ubiquitous cameras implies more data than can be manually interpreted.

This is the traditional problem governments have faced in surveillance based police state societies. They simply could not hire enough spies to track everyone. They could not hire enough analysts to comb through the reams of data provided by those spies they could hire. And, through that sieve came disorganized and unreliable data, which ultimately caused bad decision-making that led to poor outcomes. The police state operated manually does not scale. This is why transformative technologies such as facial recognition, speech recognition, and ubiquitous cameras under central control are so dangerous.

But only governments and other large institutions can deploy such advanced technology due to the high investment and labor costs as well as organization. The public, disorganized as they are, is unable to match the analysis advantage that government - or corporate - institutions hold, simply because the public approach to data analysis can neither organize nor afford a technical based solution, nor can a manual approach be scaled up. This creates an 'analysis asymmetry' whereby institutions again hold supremacy over the general populace. See: 'Trapwire.'

[cont...]

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

Problem #3: Paid shills, privately funded trolls, and other disinformation agents who exist to discredit damaging information at the behest of institutional authorities. We see this today with the transformation of Internet trolling from a individual endeavor as a game to its use by governments and corporations through public relations partners as a means to manipulate public opinion. It works. See: 'Pentagon sponsored sock-puppet management software contracts through Operation Earnest Voice (OEV).

I think these are fundamental problems to your proposed middle class revolution. It is reliant on the principle that a transparent society with ubiquitous data collection and dissemination could provide a decentralized check against public lawlessness, organized and individual. Yet organized institutions will retain an advantage that ultimately leads to the same state-corporate tyranny both Adam Smith and Marx warned us of, due to power asymmetries inherent division of organization levels. I don't think technology can solve that fundamental problem.

This is exactly why community organized social media and comment forums fail. The presumption that self-organization bottom-up can lead to rational outcomes with appropriate systemic tweaks due to network effects and feedback systems, and that prior failures with such approaches were due to poor incentives. The question of whether such a system is possible at all is never proposed. Perhaps it really isn't possible, at least for human beings. A depressing result, but at least one that ought be considered. If so, the technology you propose as a solution may well be the shackles that bind us instead, leaving humanity with no means for a response to the very real risk of institutional global tyranny by automated surveillance and analysis.

[end]

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

addendum: I found this blog due to your comment to Lofgren's article, "Revolt of the Rich," over at American Conservative. Of course I had recognized your name as well. Thanks for the link here and for your posted insights to that article. -M

Ian Gould said...


7:30 AM
Anonymous WatchfulBabbler said...

"In Africa, the ultimus inter pares of economic zones, the past few decades have been characterized by TANGO-driven neoliberal policies that have scoured away local industry in favor of a desperate drive to build export revenue via commodity extraction and monocrop agriculture -- both of which are vulnerable to trade and capital shocks, and neither of which provide significant local employment or revenue."

That's an interesting assertion - I'd like to see evidence fto support it.

Certainly industiral output and employment in South Afrcia has been growing consistently.

I'm currently looking, without much success, for industrial output and employment figures for Subsaharan Africa as a whole.

This list, while by no means complete or authoritative suggests that 8 of the 30 countries with the fastest rate of growth in industrial output are in Subsaharan Africa,

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2089rank.html

I will close with two observations

1. As I've epxlainrd here at length,claims about the role of protectionism and state direction in the economic development of East Asia are generally inflated or just plain wrong. If I ahve to revisit that argument I will but i'd prefer not to.

2. There's currently an obsession with the role of manufacturing employment much as there used to be with agriculture. Most developed economies only have a smalle proportion of theri workforce (20% of less) employed in manufacturing. THe lucrative and important industries tese days come under the hopelessly broad category of "services".

Ian Gould said...

http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NV.IND.TOTL.ZS/countries?display=default

World Bank data on industrial output as a percentage of GDP for subsharan Africa doesn't appear to display a significant long-term trend either upward or downward. (Since African economcis have been growing strognyl for the past decade, constant industrial output as a percentage of GDP implies strong growth in industrial output.

Click on the download button on that page for a longer data set.

Ian Gould said...

While there does't appear to be godo data on industrial employment in subsaharan Africa as a whole, those countries for there is data suggests constant or increasing percentages of the workforce working in industry - and that's with rapidly growing workforces.

http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.IND.EMPL.MA.ZS?display=default

http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.SRV.EMPL.FE.ZS?display=default

Now i'm perfectly willing ot accept that these data are wrong - if I'm shown an equally or more crdible source that shows something different.

Tom Crowl said...

Slightly off topic but worth sharing:

An interactive presentation of the Drake Equation both showing various estimates re various elements as well as allowing you to plug in your own numbers....

Drake equation: How many alien civilizations exist?
http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120821-how-many-alien-worlds-exist

(could have already been posted here somewhere before and I missed it.... but if not here it is..)

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin,

Shouldn't this post open with "My 1989 Novel..."?

Predicting the internet phenomenon in 1999 just isn't as impressive a feat.

:)

David Brin said...

. Maynard Gelinas I appreciate your cogent and well-argued points against transparency solutions. Alas I am at worldcon and unable to reply in detail except:

1 - you assume reciprocal vision or sousveillance has to be perfect in order for it to work. Nonsense. So long as whistle blowers are protected and reciprocality has some unpredictability, then SOME upward light goes a very very long way. Look how terrified tyrants are of any shining at them at all.

2- proof of this? Us. I swear, you grouches have no historical perspective at all. YOU are a product of the confidence that arises from having grown up mostly free. How did that happen? The tools our founders and ancestors used amounted to mostly - methods of reciprocal accountability. (That the Fox-oligarchs are tearing down, but such attempts occur often; we must foil them.)

3- Two new factors, tech and NGOs, make the forward trend toward more transparency seem very plausible. Citizens will gain access to small recording devices to catch corruption ... as they NOW CAN with police encounters. And combos of millions of citizens can join NGOs that have enough heft to swing with the big boys.

Can... not will...it is up to us. So tell me, do you pay dues to the Electronic Freedom Foundation? Or are you just a useless grouch?

Have you actually read The Transparent Society? Or are you pleased talking at max while knowing at min? Just asking. You re welcome here.

David Brin said...

Larryhart thanks for the catch! It was 1989! More impressive I guess ;-)

Jumper said...

I mentioned before I see these "reputation" companies as a threat to transparency. Now I know someone who works for one. He doesn't like his job. Says they do things he finds shady, such as editing Wikipedia articles, and making consumer issues very hard to find, substituting glowing reviews of companies which perform very poorly actually. I think the internet will find workarounds, but it's an arms race.

Ian Gould said...

It just occurred ot me that probably everyone or nearly everyone reading this post is part of the global rich David wants the global middle class to declare war on.

The global middle class isn't the westerner making $40-50K a year.

It's the Chinese worker making $5K.

Robert said...

You're equating monetary wealth with class. That's a fallacy. You see, a family of four that makes $20,000 on the East Coast would be considered poverty level and would have troubles making ends meet. That same family in the Midwest may very well live comfortably with their own house and lot of land. Regional differences make money go further. That is why a number of older people tend to retire outside the U.S. where their limited resources will actually go much further. It's also why a number of illegal immigrants come to the U.S. - they work as hard as they can for a decade while sending as much money as they can back to their home country... and then head back home and live in some level of comfort.

To more accurately equate it, you have to use what the "Economist" calls the Big Mac Index: the amount of money that would be needed to buy a Big Mac in each country. You'll note that the Big Mac Index of China is quite different than that of the United States. Thus their lower middle class starts at $5,000 American dollars. It doesn't mean they are living in squalor with this being considered the "new middle class." It means their cost of living is quite different from our own.

Rob H.

Robert said...

Here's a link to the Big Mac Index so you can see for yourself:

http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/07/big-mac-index

As you can see, Big Macs are much less expensive for the Chinese. ;) Something about undervalued currency...

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Ian:

It just occurred ot me that probably everyone or nearly everyone reading this post is part of the global rich David wants the global middle class to declare war on.


I'd characterize Dr Brin's position as warning of a war rather than of inciting one.

And it's the upper class who is waging class-warfare by changing or ignoring the rules in ways that give them a monopoly on the means of survival that rightly belong to the commoms--then pretending that it's all about our "envy", as if the cry of the 99% is "We want your stuff!" rather than "Geez, leave some for the rest of us!"

Charles Dickens wasn't advocating the Reign of Terror when he wrote "A Tale of Two Cities", but he did warn that such a thing was the inevitable outcome of the French aristocracy's treatment of the populace. I see Dr Brin as making a similar argument.

LarryHart said...

Appropos nothing else...

Just time for my yearly lament that the six consecutive months with fewer-than-seven letters in their names are coming to an end, and it's time for the long slog through the six consecutive months with seven-or-more letters in their names. Sigh.

(At least for English speakers in the Northern Hemisphere)

Lorraine said...

I sometimes get sick of the notion that the middle class is uniquely qualified to hold leadership accountable. They aren't in the majority, even in America, unless you use the American definition of middle class, for which almost everyone qualifies. Poor people have plenty of reasons to demand transparency, and are screwed over plenty by the lack of it.

Also, if it's true that "information wants to be expensive," then radical transparency is a sort of socialism, or distribution of wealth; one I'm not ashamed to demand. Of course perfect competition (the good side of capitalism) is said to imply perfect information.

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

Dr Brin, thanks for your reply. Understood that time constraints prevented and will prevent a more thorough response. Though what you were able to write is more than enough for me to respond back. Hope you sell plenty of books there! Lol And my apologies for this excessively long reply in kind.

Because it's so relevant to this discussion, WRT your final question on whether I've read 'The Transparent Society', I ought to admit upfront that I haven't. I've only read Earth - a fictionalized expression of how such a movement might take root and ultimately bloom. Further, as I had written in the previous comment, even that was some time ago. So I suppose it's fair for you to claim that I'm arguing and counter-arguing straw-men here.

However, I'm sure it will reassure you (cough!) that I've just gone to Wikipedia and read the entry on your book. From there I found Schneier's Wired critique, where he made similar points regarding power asymmetries. On the one hand, I'm pleased to have come to similar conclusions with someone so well qualified as Schneier. On the other, now I wish I had done so before he published. lol. I've also read your rebuttal as well before writing this comment, just so I'm not hopelessly lost further repeating points already addressed. So, like plowing through the intricacies of a university course on Huck Finn after having only read its Clift Notes, I'll strive to make original points based on a minimal understanding of your book. Haven't you taught uni? Kids do this all the time. lol

---

I'll paraphrase your main points just to make sure you know that I understand them - and if I don't, to give you a hint at where I've become confused.


Brin:

1) The assumption that surveillance reciprocity between the general public and elites as a condition for a viable check against leadership abuse is false. Even just some whistle blowing is enough of a check to prevent tyranny.

2) Historical perspective. You don't say it in the comment, but I assume you're referring to the transformative nature of the Enlightenment upon human society, as
that's what you discuss in your rebuttal to Schneier.

3) Technological advances in size reduction allow for recording without notice are currently being used to catch corruption. The model I (Brin) propose is already on view today.

[cont]

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

Regarding Point 1), 'information collection, analysis, and transmission reciprocity is not a requirement'

As I see it, the question here is whether a public must sift through volumes of data to check for sustained and organized elite abuse of government and corporate social institutions, making the task too difficult for a disorganized public to successfully achieve. Or, whether individual - ad hoc - revelations of abuse could spark a fire under a public such that they then demand systemic reform that would prevent such future abuses, which I think is your view.

The position I took on power asymmetry assumes an iterative positive feedback of technology to ultimately achieve what Admiral Poindexter called 'Full Spectrum Dominance'. That is, through the intelligence gained by new surveillance and automated analysis technologies, combined with precision military deployments, a totalitarian state could achieve scale up to vastly larger populations than were possible before - potentially even successfully ensnaring the entire world in a new kind of stable tyranny. This position is based on two fundamental presumptions:

1) A totalitarian state has not been possible to sustain beyond a threshold population and geography that is smaller than the world, as seen in historical size limits to totalitarianism from city-states through to large kingdoms and ultimately continental empires. Beyond a certain population and landmass size, central organization crumbles from excessive administrative and military costs to sustain order. Thus, despotism as a political model failed due to its inability to scale up rather than on ethical and ideological grounds as Enlightenment philosophers would presume.

2) Democratic states, due to their inherent decentralization, were thus better suited to scale up beyond the size of despotic regimes due to reduced administrative costs and overhead. The Post-Enlightenment shift to the nation-state was forced upon European powers due to the requirement of spending ever-larger slices of the state budget on military organization and weapons technology to check against competing states. The administrative inefficiency of despotism was thus weeded out due to this arms race. Thus, post-Enlightenment nation-states found it impossible to both sustain order in a totalitarian model and defend against the competitors so they all transitioned to a democratic model for cost and national defense reasons.

(Unaddressed is whether a democratic state as envisioned currently could scale up globally as well. The failure of the UN suggests not. That is, a fourth level from the global top down to the ‘nation’ to the ‘state / province’ and finally the local township may not be viable administratively. Interesting question.)

[cont]

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

However, from these assumptions it follows that were world elites to discover new technology that made global administration efficiently possible they would act to quickly consolidate that power. Further, were it possible to avoid a democracy and instead organize a global tyranny, where they sit atop the pyramid, this is obviously the goal they would attempt to achieve. For, “It’s good to be king.” (or privileged) But despotic rule is – by definition – rule of men and not rule of law. For while laws may exist in despotic reigns, there is no limit to the despot’s power. Which was the very point of establishing the Magna Carta (limits on the power of a King), and arguably a necessary preliminary step to Enlightenment political philosophy.

So, I counter-argue that for your position to hold out, any technologically based future society would require a bare minimum 'rule of law' and not ‘rule of men’ consistently enforced across all strata of society in order to sustain popular demands for redress. That is, in a feudal system based on the prerogatives of royalty, elites are held to different legal standards as the general population. This inconsistent application of law makes for a rigged game between ruler and peasant that limits the viability of transparency as a means for achieving some measure of 'power-parity'. For even if peasants knew that a royal had committed some terrible atrocity, their ability to act upon that knowledge either through organization or even simply mass revolt is so constrained as to make the option unviable.

This kind of power disparity in application of law is still found in certain portions of the world today. For example, in Saudi Arabia, a woman was recently jailed with a sentence of 500 lashes over a minor business dispute with a royal family member. There was neither transparent legal process nor any redress for the convicted. It is also seen in even more crass ways in total social breakdown with ad hoc application of law between warlord and peasant, say in Somalia. At these levels we assume that the gross power disparity is one of training and access to weapons between disorganized peasant and warlord. But scaled up to civilization based around 'full spectrum dominance' the inherent power of credible threats of violence of institution against individual remains the same. The only difference is the quality of information available at the top for viable suppression efforts, which in the past given poor intelligence required massive and overt human rights violations as a ‘message’ to the populace. A more surgical mechanism using modern technology might avert that requirement.

So, for me the question is not whether ad-hoc free expression that disseminates abuse of power could spark organized revolt of the masses (unequal information disparity still adequate to the task), but whether a new form of totalitarian central power could prevent the underlying organization that would have to form in order for such a successful revolt to take place regardless of the level of information transparency.

(Another interesting question to ask is thus: could a totalitarian society form that meets your definition of an Transparent Information Society? That is, could the levers of raw power remain as a means of control no matter the availability of information? I don't have an answer to this, I simply think it's worth considering.)

[cont]

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

Regarding point 2) 'historical precedent'

I touched upon this in a comment to Lofgren's excellent article.

I think the main error here is in assuming that elites are playing by the same rules of post-Enlightenment political theory as do you and I. Rules that led to the prevalence of democratic capitalist states valuing individual liberty, free exchange, and market efficiency as goals we think are worth striving toward, attaining and sustaining but perhaps world elites would trade off given the possibility of world dominance. A stark reduction in global GDP output might be perfectly acceptable given such a trade-off. It may not be a rational decision, but then people are not the rational actors that economic and sociology theory would assert us to be.

In that comment I discussed the division between the '49 post communist revolution of Mao's Stalinism, versus a post 1980s introduction of a kind of ‘market Leninism’ by Deng Xiao Ping, as a marker of China's successful transformation toward a global model for civilization that world elites aspire. That is, the suppression of markets seen in Stalinism and then Maoism (derived from Mao's reverence for Stalin) was lifted by Deng, who sought a 'third way' that freed the flow of goods both for export and for domestic consumption within a classical market, while at the same time retaining a Leninesque 'dictatorship of the proletariat' and tyrannical social control domestically. When Deng successfully suppressed the student protest movement in Tianenmen Square in 1989, and yet still retained power throughout China - instead of causing outright rebellion - his brand of leadership seemingly became an almost defacto standard by which western elites aspired to emulate. World elites remembered the recent history of western student demonstrations of the 1960s, which represented a credible threat to the western power base.

This is in stark contrast to Russia, which through Gorbachev's Glasnost implemented liberalized economic reforms, along with social reforms, that led to a complete breakdown of the Soviet Union. Deng showed that economic liberalization was not tied to social liberalization, and that the violent power of the state could be used to crush student and populist uprisings without sparking greater populist revolt. Deng was the Chile experiment under Pinochet writ large; a deployment of the neo-liberal model scaled up to a population of over a billion people. And it has held together for at least the last twenty years (about as long as the Qin dynasty itself). Using China as a model for western polity represents a Trotskyite-like aspiration for internationalist expansion of this model. That's what I meant by the comparison to Trotsky.

---

The question is thus posed, how is Leninism / Trotskyism, or Stalinism not Post-Enlightenment, given that these ideologies were formed centuries after the Enlightenment transpired?

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

So, let's assert that Enlightenment political ideology is really based at its foundation more on Aristotle's political theory than Plato's, in that Enlightenment philosophers agreed with Aristotle in the division between what he defined as ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ political systems. That is, Aristotle’s definition of 'Government of One' exists on the 'bad' side of the spectrum while his 'Government of Many' exists on the 'good' side. This is a value judgment. One that western thinkers (mostly) all happen to support, but it is not some axiomatic rule of the universe. Plato certainly didn't support this division. As far as he was concerned, the division of society into a pyramid was a part of human nature and thus it was the responsibility of those 'Guardians' at the top of society to rule. Hopefully with benevolence, sometimes with overt lies to the populace, though, hey, breaking a few eggs to make an omelet is also a necessity or else society goes hungry - c'est la vie (to rephrase a horrid cliché).

The development of Enlightenment ideas from Locke, Smith, Hume, Rousseau and the rest between Burke, Mills, and even Marx/Engles really does rest upon this Aristotelian value. That is, no one who has read Marx would argue that he openly supported the creation of a totalitarian state meant to suppress the populace, in the same way that no one who has read Smith would argue that his thesis promulgated international free trade to the exclusion of the domestic labor populace earning the necessities of life. Smith openly supported labor organization, openly called for trade limits and tariffs where it is in the best national interest, and openly expressed serious concern about the damage that excessive accumulation of wealth has upon both society and the individual's moral compass (see not just Book I Ch 7 of WoN, but also his lessor read Theory of Moral Sentiments). In the same vein, Marx and Engles argued for a democratic take-over of the means of production, wrested from the hands of the wealthy. Not even Ricardo, that purveyor of Comparative Advantage, would have taken such an extreme position, as has been the consequence of modern ‘Free Trade’ agreements. These Enlightenment political and economic philosophers did not argue for a totalitarian dictatorship and supremacy of the state, supposedly acting in the interests of the workers. Such ideas were for Lenin, Trotsky, and ultimately Stalin to develop, after the Bolshevik Revolution.

(off topic: I find Marx's critique of capitalism remarkably derivative of Smith's. Marx's, and particularly Engles' proposed solutions wander off into crazy-land though)

The point here is that Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin developed classical ideas of a polity based fundamentally on Plato's supremacy of the state, and that those ideas eschew the Enlightenment value system that places the rights of the individual on a scale of social relevance to be balanced against the necessities of the state. Enlightenment theory constrains the state to a form of rule of law meant to protect the individual, whereas, individual rights are thoroughly irrelevant to a Platonic state. For Plato, the (often only short term) success of the state is all that matters.

[cont]

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

So, let's assert that Enlightenment political ideology is really based at its foundation more on Aristotle's political theory than Plato's, in that Enlightenment philosophers agreed with Aristotle in the division between what he defined as ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ political systems. That is, Aristotle’s definition of 'Government of One' exists on the 'bad' side of the spectrum while his 'Government of Many' exists on the 'good' side. This is a value judgment. One that western thinkers (mostly) all happen to support, but it is not some axiomatic rule of the universe. Plato certainly didn't support this division. As far as he was concerned, the division of society into a pyramid was a part of human nature and thus it was the responsibility of those 'Guardians' at the top of society to rule. Hopefully with benevolence, sometimes with overt lies to the populace, though, hey, breaking a few eggs to make an omelet is also a necessity or else society goes hungry - c'est la vie (to rephrase a horrid cliché).

The development of Enlightenment ideas from Locke, Smith, Hume, Rousseau and the rest between Burke, Mills, and even Marx/Engles really does rest upon this Aristotelian value. That is, no one who has read Marx would argue that he openly supported the creation of a totalitarian state meant to suppress the populace, in the same way that no one who has read Smith would argue that his thesis promulgated international free trade to the exclusion of the domestic labor populace earning the necessities of life. Smith openly supported labor organization, openly called for trade limits and tariffs where it is in the best national interest, and openly expressed serious concern about the damage that excessive accumulation of wealth has upon both society and the individual's moral compass (see not just Book I Ch 7 of WoN, but also his lessor read Theory of Moral Sentiments). In the same vein, Marx and Engles argued for a democratic take-over of the means of production, wrested from the hands of the wealthy. Not even Ricardo, that purveyor of Comparative Advantage, would have taken such an extreme position, as has been the consequence of modern ‘Free Trade’ agreements. These Enlightenment political and economic philosophers did not argue for a totalitarian dictatorship and supremacy of the state, supposedly acting in the interests of the workers. Such ideas were for Lenin, Trotsky, and ultimately Stalin to develop, after the Bolshevik Revolution.

(off topic: I find Marx's critique of capitalism remarkably derivative of Smith's. Marx's, and particularly Engles' proposed solutions wander off into crazy-land though)

The point here is that Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin developed classical ideas of a polity based fundamentally on Plato's supremacy of the state, and that those ideas eschew the Enlightenment value system that places the rights of the individual on a scale of social relevance to be balanced against the necessities of the state. Enlightenment theory constrains the state to a form of rule of law meant to protect the individual, whereas, individual rights are thoroughly irrelevant to a Platonic state. For Plato, the (often only short term) success of the state is all that matters.

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

[apologies for the double posts - this is due to the comment size limits imposed by Blogger]

As it turns out, the Chinese have gone through similar historical divisions in their thinking on what constitutes a proper polity, though they never really tried outright democracy. For example, based on the thinking of Confucius and Mencius, Li Si developed a form of strict 'legalism' for the Qin dynasty that promoted extreme punishments for relatively minor offenses. The Qin dynasty, though the first to unify China in 221BC, lasted a very short time. And strict legalism was discredited as a result. The Han Dynasty (~200BC - 200ad) was a centralized empire that attempted simply to reconstitute and hold the nation together after the collapse of the Qin by strong economic and agricultural policy (feed the peasants and they won't revolt, don't be too arbitrary in handing down cruel punishments). But it was the Tang dynasty (~600ad - ~900ad) where freedom of thought and literacy flourished, and I would argue that Tang is China's best historical comparison to western society post-Enlightenment. Though by no means are the lessons of Tang relevant to China's current leadership, nor world elites. Still, Tang collapsed and is remembered as a golden age not to have been repeated since. The same could happen to us.

What I’m arguing is that China currently strives toward the peak of Han as a cultural ideal, just as world elites seem to be striving toward the peak of Imperial Rome (not, say, Julius but instead, say, Augustus). Enlightenment values are a hindrance to such a state. Those who would implement such a tyrannical polity stand outside the typical 'left/right' spectrum often seen today as the totality in the spectrum of possible political views. For the 'left/right' divide is a very recent – post Enlightenment - concept that originates in French Revolutionary parliamentary seating of the National Assembly. The difference in values that 'left' versus 'right' represented was physically on display by where one sat in this assembly. From there, western society has penned political value systems within this dichotomy. But given that this occurred in post-revolutionary France, conceptually this 'left/right' dichotomy eschews what came before it: feudal tyranny.

Prior to this, I believe you noted, the majority of human history records tyrannical societies based on the presumption of a divine king's privilege. There are some egalitarian hunter-gathering and nomadic exceptions, but then again not all hunter-gatherers or nomads were egalitarian either. Thus, the norm of human society since recorded history began has been to be crushed under the weight of tyrannical 'rule by one'. Socrates notes this truth as well.

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

Regarding Point 3) The potential of new technology and NGOs

I discussed this in my last comment. To paraphrase, access to the relevant technology is only part of what's needed to sustainably develop a flourishing 'Transparent Society' as you envision. That technology, as I agreed, is basically here today: Cell phone cameras, tiny yet vast digital storage, a one-to-many network widely accessible.

However, access to this technology doesn't mean that the data couldn't be intercepted by automated state censors, that those who collect and disseminate such data then surveilled by and jailed by the state as political prisoners, or that the state couldn't use psychological warfare techniques to overwhelm signal with noise in the data stream and thus confuse the populace with garbage. Just as the you point out that the proposed technology for 'sousveillance' (as you call it) exists today, so too do those counter-revolutionary technologies exist that I have listed. Just look at the multi-billion dollar NSA center being built in Utah today, which will be used entirely for domestic US warrentless surveillance.

I humbly suggest that perhaps you underestimate the risk that a lawless state using the same technological innovations for surveillance you propose for a population to check the limits of the state. And I think this is where Schneier was going with his critique.

As for NGOs, whether corporate or non-profit, I don't see how they face different risks from an individual in a lawless state. Either the NGO has a connection to this new 'stateless royalty', in which case it enjoys privileged child status from its benefactor, or it does not - in which case it had better not anger the wrong member of the elite or else: Bad. Things. Happen.

----

In conclusion:

I think that world elites seek to return to a so-called 'natural state' of tyrannical polity, and have organized a plan to achieve their goals. They eschew Enlightenment values of individual rights for a social organization based on supremacy of the state, and prefer a combined neo-liberal market structure with Leninist 'iron-fist' state dictatorship over the proletariat. (not 'of'). Trotskyism as an ideology is simply a means to establish this revolutionary mindset internationally, not to sustain a 'constant revolution' once implemented.

Their former model of dictatorship was Chile under Augusto Pinochet, but it transferred to China under Deng Xiao Ping after he successfully suppressed the student revolt of 1989, sustaining a political dictatorship, combined with successful market reforms that led to massive GDP growth for decades on end. It should be noted that the west has seen stagnant GDP growth in contrast over much the same period. In the United States, the elite class promulgating this viewpoint would call themselves NeoConservatives, while in the European western world they are NeoLiberals.

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

Interestingly, US NeoConservatives also promote an ideology of anti-intellectualism, anti-science, and anti-art and free expression that holds many similarities to Stalinism and Nazism. See the promulgation of anti-science ideas under Stalin by Lysenko as a contrast to NeoConservative promotion of Creationism, or Mao's insane Great Leap Forward attempt to forge steel with peasants in local farming collectives as an ideological expression of Maoist Marxism rather than following the advice of specialists involved in forging steel. For a comparison to Nazism's anti-art and free expression, see the promulgation of Art Deco and suppression of modernist art forms under Hitler (as well as Stalin). In the United States the NeoConservative attack on the arts is obvious and clear.

However, Elites will not face repression of this sort. Such a political system is meant for populations to live under, not for the elite, who will enclose themselves in walled communities where they'll enjoy a privileged and private lifestyle filled with freedoms others lose. At least, I think that's the goal. Tyranny has a funny way of shackling the elite by their own ideologies in due course. I suspect that ultimately it won't turn out that way should they attain their short-term goals.

And finally:

I'm really sorry about this total wall of text. It's not fair to you given your time limits and schedule. I don't expect you to respond point by point (or even to respond at all if you can't be bothered). Perhaps one of the other commenters might be willing to chime in, if some think the discussion is of value. In all honestly, I come here not to insult or unthinkingly challenge, like that bull tearing apart a china shop, but because I had read Earth some time back and by serendipity found your link in a comment to Lofgren's article. So please do take this as written with all due respect. For in no way do I write this with the hope that elites might successfully achieve the goals presented herein. Like you, and probably everyone else here, I come from that libertine perspective which values freedom of expression above all. And I fear for our future, for I like my freedom.

Best,
-M

Tim H. said...

I'm sure others will have more comment, but the thought occurs to me that we're not so much seeing a class war as a throwing down of the ladders by the decadent offspring of founders of fortunes. They have little clue about making new wealth, so all their effort is bent to restrict competition from would-be founders of new fortunes, which feels like the equivalent of class warfare.

Virgil said...

Amen....

I wrote the following before reading your article.

http://keepamericaatwork.com/?p=207332

I think the fight for #2 is well underway, we just haven't called it that yet

LarryHart said...

To me, the sort of "class warfare" going on now is less of a shooting war and more of a cold war. Someone here used the phrase "Cold Civil War", and I think "Cold Class War" might also be appropriate.

One of the causes of the cold conflict seems to be rooted in perception. F Scott Fitzgerald famously said that the rich are different from you and me. The outspoken class-warriors on the rich side seem to really believe that the rest of us envy their success and use government as a tool to confiscate it from them. Whereas I belive that my side's complaint is that the rich are using government to turn over the commons to themselves and then despoiling it.

Once you've grabbed all the land for yourself, you can't credibly admonish others to grab more land themselves if they want it so badly. Before YOU took it all, such a thing was possible. Now, it is NOT.

When I perceive that all the food, all the shelter, all the water, all the oxygen...basically the means of survival is all in private hands, I'm not saying I wish that I was the private owner instead of them. I'm saying that they need to leave some planet for the rest of us.

Not everyone WANTS to spend their lives working hard enough to be a billionaire, and that's fine, but in a country as blessed with land and resources as this one, one should NOT be required to make the binary choice between "filthy rich" or "dirt poor." One should have the option of working hard enough to earn a comfortable living and then kicking back awhile to enjoy it.

infanttyrone said...

JMG,

So, for me the question is not whether ad-hoc free expression that disseminates abuse of power could spark organized revolt of the masses (unequal information disparity still adequate to the task), but whether a new form of totalitarian central power could prevent the underlying organization that would have to form in order for such a successful revolt to take place regardless of the level of information transparency.

I suppose a "revolt of the masses" in response to documented abuse(s) of power is always a possibility.
I think in the near future we are more likely to see small-scale actions performed by people working solo or in groups of two or three.
I am surprised that we have not heard of someone who was denied medical treatment strapping on a vest and blowing up their insurance company's CEO or COO. It could easily happen on a golf course, or if collateral damage was not a concern, at a symphony or opera or other public event. But the meme of the Bucket-List-with-a-Vengeance is slow to spread.
Give it time.

For a funnier version of this, try the link below.
My guess is that if he were still alive, Mr. Hicks might have evolved this bit to "Put 'em in the Movement."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmj4wlyPFYA

The availability of affordable drone aircraft moves the set of retaliatory options of non-elites into a place where willingness to face immediate death is not a mission requirement.

infanttyrone said...

JMG,

So, for me the question is not whether ad-hoc free expression that disseminates abuse of power could spark organized revolt of the masses (unequal information disparity still adequate to the task), but whether a new form of totalitarian central power could prevent the underlying organization that would have to form in order for such a successful revolt to take place regardless of the level of information transparency.

I suppose a "revolt of the masses" in response to documented abuse(s) of power is always a possibility.
I think in the near future we are more likely to see small-scale actions performed by people working solo or in groups of two or three.
I am surprised that we have not heard of someone who was denied medical treatment strapping on a vest and blowing up their insurance company's CEO or COO. It could easily happen on a golf course, or if collateral damage was not a concern, at a symphony or opera or other public event.
But the meme of the Bucket-List-with-a-Vengeance is slow to spread.
Give it time.

For a funnier version of this, try the link below.
My guess is that if he were still alive, Mr. Hicks might have evolved this bit to "Put 'em in the Movement."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmj4wlyPFYA

The availability of affordable drone aircraft moves the set of retaliatory options of non-elites into a place where willingness to face immediate death is not a mission requirement.

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

infantryrone:

I suppose a "revolt of the masses" in response to documented abuse(s) of power is always a possibility.

I think in the near future we are more likely to see small-scale actions performed by people working solo or in groups of two or three.

I am surprised that we have not heard of someone who was denied medical treatment strapping on a vest and blowing up their insurance company's CEO or COO. It could easily happen on a golf course, or if collateral damage was not a concern, at a symphony or opera or other public event.

But the meme of the Bucket-List-with-a-Vengeance is slow to spread.

Give it time.


To start with, this kind of terrorism is immoral and criminal. So I would oppose it on principle even were it effective. But I also happen to think it ineffective as well. And I think Dr. Brin would agree.

From a Transparent Society standpoint, the purpose of documentation and dissemination of misconduct is to shame and banish from institutional office those who commit crimes or other injustices. By shedding light on the facts and preventing secrecy, the populace can organize to respond. But for this to work relies on a presumption of law and order. So to step outside the law and engage in extrajudicial killing, particularly terrorist acts that might kill innocents as collateral damage, would - I think - be to violate the tenants of the philosophy. It's also destructive to social cohesion.

From a tactical standpoint, random terrorist violence only provides authorities with a greater rationale to squeeze the police-state ever tighter. The state commits more military resources toward counter-insurgency, which gives those opposing state sponsored injustice using legitimate means less breathing room to operate.

So, not only do I view terrorism as immoral but also counterproductive.

Just my opinion. -M

David Brin said...

I am away at worldcon in CHicago and hence cannot respond in detail. But clearly Mr. Gelinas is welcome here. I found points that I might argue with, but his lengthy missives are certainly erudite and worth reading in detail.

My new novel in fact refers to the Tang era in China.

Good luck to all and back to normal soon.

Oh Robert Silverberg says hi

David Brin said...

Well it's my blog so I will repost here a piece by Alan Dershowitz about Romney's asserstion folks and especially Jews should have " buyer's remorse".

Of course the biggest lie of Mitt's speech was ' we tried to help the president and cooperated and gave him plenty of chances for his plans to work..." Can your pants burn sun hot WHILE your nose stretches all the way to outer space?

===

Alan M. Dershowitz

No "Buyer's Remorse" For Voting For Obama


by Alan M. Dershowitz
July 29, 2012 at 3:00 am

Republicans are trying to woo away Jews who voted for Barack Obama in 2008, hoping they have experienced "buyer's remorse." I, for one, have experienced no such remorse. I have gotten from President Obama pretty much what I expected when I voted for him:

...a pragmatic, centrist liberal who has managed -- with some necessary compromises -- to bring us the first important healthcare legislation in recent history, appointed excellent justices to the Supreme Court, supported women's rights, eliminated the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, maintained the wall of separation between church and state, kept up an effective war against terrorism and generally made me proud to be an American who cast my vote for him.

Even with regard to his policy toward Israel, which has generated much of the impetus for this "buyer's remorse" campaign, President Obama has kept his promises. During the last campaign, I and others urged candidate Obama to go to Israel and visit Sderot, which was being shelled by rockets from Hamas-controlled Gaza. He then went to Sderot and while standing in front of the lethal rockets that had inflicted so much damage -- physical and psychological -- to so many children and adults, this is what the candidate said:

"I don't think any country would find it acceptable to have missiles raining down on the heads of their citizens. The first job of any nation state is to protect its citizens. If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same."

And when the Israeli Defense Forces finally had to respond to the rocket terror with Operation Cast Lead, President Obama supported Israel's actions and his administration condemned the Goldstone Report as deeply flawed and biased against Israel.

Now, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is visiting Israel. I'm glad he is, because support for Israel must always remain bipartisan. No presidential election should ever become a referendum on support for Israel. Certainly the upcoming election will not be, because both candidates strongly support Israel's security. Each candidate must earn the vote of each citizen based on the totality of their records, and must not take the support of any group for granted.

The Obama Administration has worked hand in hand with Israel in developing the Iran Dome, David's Sling and Arrow Defense capabilities. It has approved the sale of F-35 stealth fighters to the Israeli Air Force. It has conducted large, joint military exercises and has coordinated intelligence operations with Israeli secret services. (there's more)

LarryHart said...

In a sane world, it would be the voters who went with the Tea Party in 2010 suffering buyer's remorse. In fact, most of the econimic problems they condemn President Obama for not having solved yet are being actively exacerbated BY Tea Party Republicans. Once again, to misquote Ronald Reagan: Republicans are not the solution to the problem; Republicans are the problem.

High Arka said...

The ability to record "local corruption" with a cell phone is meaningless if the world is without concern to react to it, or without the power to react to it.

For example, David, you are possessed of the technology to allow you to scroll through the descriptions of, say, a thousand children turned into mangled chunks of bolognese sauce and bleached bone, for the crime of living next door to someone who once talked to someone who might have been a terrorist according to this guy who wanted to get paid cash for information from coalition forces.

Yet, your modern education and savvy has already provided you with the tools for rationalizing why it is necessary for those children to be killed. You're far too enthralled with advances in record-keeping and message-transmission to reject mass murder.

Princes have always been able to cite great increases in productivity and trinkets to keep the laborers, jesters, and middle managers believing they were living in an exciting modern age. The technologies will always keep improving, but if humanity remains only as intelligent as you, the suffering and murder will continue to exist alongside it forever. The Animal-Farm rationalizations you use to call for no substantive action--various forms of "the harvest is bigger and better every year"--have ever been the words of those who want this cycle to continue.

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

Dr Brin,

Thanks muchly for accepting me into your discussion community. As an addendum to the last comment opposing terrorism, I just wanted to say that I didn't want to seem to have been speaking for you or as any kind of authority on the 'sousveillance' theory you've been developing. Rereading that I felt a twinge of writer's remorse at having stooped to a bit of mind reading there.

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

LarryHart:

Regarding the Tea Party: I think this movement is a tremendous opportunity for a potential Left-Right collaboration through Occupy. THAT is the nightmare scenario for US finance and Dem-Rep party elites. Alone the two movements can be divided on race, political values, and social issues. But, like Ron Paul forming an alliance with Dennis Kucinich (before Kucinich was gerrymandered out of his district), the two movements hold underlying philosophical views in support of personal liberty and rule of law that *could* unite them.

Yes, I realize that the Tea Party has been co-opted by Koch financing and PR firms. But the base - the people - are still a force to be reckoned with (as seen by the Paulite walkouts during the RNC convention clown show).

If the parties are the problem - both of them - then leftists libertines will have to unite with rightist libertines to forge an alliance against general government corruption. Speaking as a Leftist, I might even be willing to trade some social issues for this, such as a constitutional amendment banning abortion rights (I support abortion rights) for a constitutional amendment requiring public hand counts of paper ballots and banning all private political donations whether corporate, union, or individual in exchange for funding candidacy off the public trough. Because money is not speech.

My leftie friends would hate me for proposing such a trade-off, but I bet giving up a major social issue for a major political issue might just be the sugar that could forge a working left-right populist alliance.

Robert said...

I'd be tempted to create a series of parody political ads if it weren't for the fact most of my friends are Republican! What would I point out? Would I go after the Republicans for hypocrisy, maybe talk about the Empty Chair Syndrome and the fact all the Shrub did was sit on his [chair] while the country burned, or how Republican policies caused the massive recession to begin with?

Nope!

I'd point out the biggest flaw to the Republican ticket: their promise to ban pornography as detrimental to the sexual health of millions of young American males! Pornography is an integral part of the Internet, after all. The very second thing uploaded to the net after military protocols was pornography. It's an American Tradition that Republicans want to strangle in the womb!

So yeah. We need some parody ads with young men with pixilated faces lamenting the Iron Chasity Palm Guards they're forced to wear, faux internet experts warning on a massive crash in internet revenues without porn paying its fair share, and fake porn actors/actresses complaining that Republicans are outsourcing their jobs to China and encouraging the Bootleg Pornography Market. ;)

(On a slightly more serious note, given that this IS a position that the Republican Ticket took up, I'd not be at all surprised to see the pornography industry sending lots of donations to the Democratic party.)

Rob H.

Ian Gould said...

@ Meynard Grelinas

"Their former model of dictatorship was Chile under Augusto Pinochet, but it transferred to China under Deng Xiao Ping after he successfully suppressed the student revolt of 1989, sustaining a political dictatorship, combined with successful market reforms that led to massive GDP growth for decades on end."


I think there's a fundamental misunderstanding by many in the west about developments in China over the past 30 years or so.

Mao-era china was a totalitarian state. The governemnt didn't just censor your political expression it told you where to live; where to work; what to study; what to wear; what to eat.

For about 20 years after the supresion of the 1989 democracy movmeent, china placated the peopel not just by delivering economic growth but by eliminating most of the authoritarian controls on people's every day lives.

Being able to own your own home; to travel abroad; to marry without prior permission from your employer; to choose the course you studies at University; to work where you choose. To westerners who've had these freedoms their entire lives these thigns sound trivial. to chiense they're anythign but.

Add in, for example, the fact that in a little over a decade China has gone from criminalizing homosexual acts to considering legalizing civil unions.

Even China's courts are, in general, subject to far less political intereference than previously.

So from a Chinese perspective the past 20 years have been a time of ongoing liberalization.

Chinese people want political freedoms too, just as much as other people, but, for much of the postpTienanmen periof it was possible to genuinely believe that political reform would come in time. Because every year, indeed every month, brought greater freedoms elesewhere and the Party kept promising democratic reform.

The last 2-3 years may prove to be a watershed where the Chinese people started demanding political reform but the idea that the Chinese were bought off purely by improvements in their material standard of living is simply wrong.

LarryHart said...

J. Maynard Gelinas said to me:

Regarding the Tea Party: I think this movement is a tremendous opportunity for a potential Left-Right collaboration through Occupy. THAT is the nightmare scenario for US finance and Dem-Rep party elites. Alone the two movements can be divided on race, political values, and social issues. But, like Ron Paul forming an alliance with Dennis Kucinich (before Kucinich was gerrymandered out of his district), the two movements hold underlying philosophical views in support of personal liberty and rule of law that *could* unite them.


I'm not sure if you expected this, but I agree wholeheartedly, as does my favorite radio host Thom Hartmann. During the height of the OWS news cycle, Hartmann used every opportunity to reach out to Tea-Party critics of OWS to convince them that their goals were very similar.


Yes, I realize that the Tea Party has been co-opted by Koch financing and PR firms.


And that's the biggest obstacle to your suggestion. Too many Tea-Partiers believe what they're told--for example, that the dearth of American jobs is caused by deficits, or that GOVERNMENT bureaucrats will form death panels to save money, but INSURANCE COMPANIES don't do that right now.


But the base - the people - are still a force to be reckoned with (as seen by the Paulite walkouts during the RNC convention clown show).

If the parties are the problem - both of them - then leftists libertines will have to unite with rightist libertines to forge an alliance against general government corruption.


Yes, if the sleeping giant that was awakened as the Tea Party could be turned away from the dark side, the results could be interesting.


Speaking as a Leftist, I might even be willing to trade some social issues for this, such as a constitutional amendment banning abortion rights (I support abortion rights) for a constitutional amendment requiring public hand counts of paper ballots and banning all private political donations whether corporate, union, or individual in exchange for funding candidacy off the public trough. Because money is not speech.

My leftie friends would hate me for proposing such a trade-off, but I bet giving up a major social issue for a major political issue might just be the sugar that could forge a working left-right populist alliance.


Here I differ with you on the details, but agree in sentiment.

I'd be hesitant to give up civil rights in exchange for process concessions. But I'd focus concessions on the issues the Tea Partiers claim to care most about--deficts and taxes. Maybe extend the Bush tax cuts in exchange for NOT "paying for" those tax cuts with spending cuts during a depression. Or a mutant version of a balanced budget amendment that would allow exceptions in bad economic times (call it the "Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat amendment).

Devil in the details and all.

LarryHart said...

High Arka:

The ability to record "local corruption" with a cell phone is meaningless if the world is without concern to react to it, or without the power to react to it.

For example, David, you are possessed of the technology to allow you to scroll through the descriptions of, say, a thousand children turned into mangled chunks of bolognese sauce and bleached bone, for the crime of living next door to someone who once talked to someone who might have been a terrorist according to this guy who wanted to get paid cash for information from coalition forces.


HA insults our host as usual, but there is a point in there.

Awareness of human suffering is a necessary condition for addressing it--not a sufficient condition. For awareness to matter, the group being made aware has to CARE about the problem. And much of that has to do with a sense of community with those who are suffering.

The discussion we had a while back about private fire departments, where Tacitus (correctly) mentioned that the guy who chooses to live 50 miles away on the side of a cliff can't expect public fire protection--he's removed himself from any nearby community. It's a whole different thing from the local fireman who comes to MY house having to watch my NEIGHBOR'S house burn because he's contractually obligated to only help paying customers. That one violates the most basic values of humanity within a community.

That's just one example. I can think of many others, and I might write an essay about this topic when I have time. But I think it's more important than we've been giving it credit for.

LarryHart said...

And to follow up on what I just said about community--that seems to me to be what this election is about once all the bluster and rhetoric is boiled down:

Are we a community, or a collection of loosely-associated enclaves?

Are we a "we" society or a "me" society?

john_m_burt said...

So, our options are 1776, 1848 or 1789?

Dion Kenney said...

"Does that make me sound like a right-winger?" No, it sounds like you are relying on circular reasoning: "Market economies having outperformed other economies" is like saying "clowns are more clownish than non-clowns". It is certainly true, but not necessarily the intent of other social organizational structures. Bhutan's evaluation of "Gross National Happiness" and Bentham's "felicific calculus" address the issue of "purpose of economies" as opposed to either "fairness of economies" (communism) or "performance of economies" (capitalism).

That point aside, excellent article and your larger point about kleptocracy, corruption and a dangerously discontented middle class are powerful and spot on, regarding the larger dynamic of social unrest.

High Arka said...

Larry, it's this one's belief in David's humanity that keeps her coming back to a place where she's called cruel names and substantively ignored.

David is thoroughly vested in this system, and knows that he couldn't handle a Socratic line of inquiry as to its rightness without calling it unfair/boring and quitting, as he did earlier. He makes his living selling justifications of the imperial state targeted at the formally educated middle class, so it's also economically unlikely that he'd be able to stand against it, but there's still hope.

Tyrants have been slaughtering, torturing, and impoverishing people for centuries. David is part of a long and socially-exalted tradition of court scholars explaining why this is not only necessary, but good. Men like him are the greatest obstacle to stopping these terrible wars.

infanttyrone said...

JGM,

First, to concatenate something that Chrissie Hynde sings with the opposite of what Brother Dave Gardner was fond of saying:
Don't get me wrong...I'm not preachin' for it.
I am forecasting - not apologizing or condoning.

Since 1972 I have seen the theoretical possibilities for the sort of Left/Right collaboration that you, LarryHart, Thom Hartmann and others have seen and hoped for.

From a Transparent Society standpoint, the purpose of documentation and dissemination of misconduct is to shame and banish from institutional office those who commit crimes or other injustices. By shedding light on the facts and preventing secrecy, the populace can organize to respond.

Nice concept...I think Michael Moore has been working at this for over 20 years now. In Japan's culture he might have been able to get a few people to resign in disgrace...but in the US his targets just shrug it off. Somewhere, there is probably a doctoral thesis being written on the shame differential between US and Japanese oligarchs.
From the reporting of Matt Taibbi and Nomi Prins I get the impression that, at least on Wall Street, shame is not in good supply, as it is not a typical component of the sociopathic personality. And from Taibbi and Eliot Spitzer I get the impression that the US Justice Department is not likely to prosecute big-time Wall Streeters even if the evidence is handed to them by a congressional committee.
http://current.com/shows/viewpoint/videos/too-big-to-prosecute-eliot-spitzer-and-matt-taibbi-decry-eric-holders-wall-street-fraud-inaction/

WRT the populace organizing to respond, the dispersal actions coordinated against OWS in many cities show us the lay of the land. If OWS had been able to get Tea Party folks to join them, maybe the mace & batons would not have been used. Maybe next time.

But for this to work relies on a presumption of law and order. So to step outside the law and engage in extrajudicial killing, particularly terrorist acts that might kill innocents as collateral damage, would - I think - be to violate the tenants of the philosophy. It's also destructive to social cohesion.

Whether based on DOJ's inability to prosecute Wall Street fraud, the OWS attacks/evictions, or any of the Tea Party's concerns about extra-Constitutionality, it isn't hard to support the contention that in many important respects "law and order" are in nearly as short supply as is shame at the top of Wall Street org charts.
I can't provide sources to back it up, but there is a popular truism to the effect that the average US family is one major medical malady from bankruptcy. In a culture where financial success is tied so closely to personal worth, I think this nearness to ruin is more corrosive to social cohesion right now than a rash of extra-judicial killings might be in the future.

infanttyrone said...

(Cont.)
JMG,

From a tactical standpoint, random terrorist violence only provides authorities with a greater rationale to squeeze the police-state ever tighter.

For more than a few decades we have had random acts that might be characterized as having been committed by "Terrorists Without a Cause". Think of the University of Texas tower shootings, those at Columbine, and other school tragedies. Think of the phrase "going postal". These were, at least in part, random acts that did little to squeeze the noose tighter.
Non-random acts of violence could give the authorities a rationale for ratcheting up a variety of police practices. The recent spate of Keystone-Kops-level "domestic terrorist cells" being aided/goaded/entrapped by authorities makes me think that the police-state is not waiting for serious, authentic adversaries to emerge in order to escalate their level of reach and our level of fear.

The state commits more military resources toward counter-insurgency, which gives those opposing state sponsored injustice using legitimate means less breathing room to operate.

This is true as long as the state in question is willing to tolerate "legitimate means" and is capable of being influenced by reasonable opponents. I'm not a "struggle scholar" so I can't give you a basket full of examples, but reviewing the history of the African National Congress' fight against apartheid makes me believe that governments do not meet the above characteristics, at least not at first.
Sometimes (Ireland also, maybe?) it seems like it takes decades of violence to make one side blink and realize the time is right to declare victory and sit down for discussion and negotiation with those legitimate means-ers who carry attache cases filled with nothing but paper.

I'm not saying violence is always necessary or even that it always works. Sometimes the police-state wins, and sometimes by virtue of the mechanisms and relationships you have described. But not always.

David Brin said...

Koch joins Buffett?
Koch said he thinks the U.S. military should withdraw from the Middle East and said the government should consider defense spending cuts, as well as possible tax increases to get its fiscal house in order — a stance anathema to many in the Republican Party.
“I think it’s essential to be able to achieve spending reductions and maybe it’s going to require some tax increases,” he said. “We got to come close to balancing the budget; otherwise, we’re in a terrible deep problem.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0812/80483.html#ixzz25LjcBAJF

Alas, this may be very bad news. Koch may now be so sure his clade will win their putsch over the middle class that now he's turning his attention to the health of the thing he is conquering.

See it in EXISTENCE



David Brin said...

A nasty vicious insane troll, I will not ever respond to Arka.

If necessary I will do what I did to the similar bozo from 3 years ago. In fact, I suspect it is that jerk coming back under an assumed name. I ask that you all do the same.

Reasonable folks from left and right are welcome here. We argue. That is an outright insane liar.

Ian Gould said...

"Nice concept...I think Michael Moore has been working at this for over 20 years now. In Japan's culture he might have been able to get a few people to resign in disgrace...but in the US his targets just shrug it off. Somewhere, there is probably a doctoral thesis being written on the shame differential between US and Japanese oligarchs."

Except that in Japan those resignations are normally a small fish making a symbolic gesture on behalf of his group. They in turn make sure he's looked after.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

“I think it’s essential to be able to achieve spending reductions and maybe it’s going to require some tax increases,” he said. “We got to come close to balancing the budget; otherwise, we’re in a terrible deep problem.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0812/80483.html#ixzz25LjcBAJF

Alas, this may be very bad news. Koch may now be so sure his clade will win their putsch over the middle class that now he's turning his attention to the health of the thing he is conquering.


Maybe. Or maybe he really IS worried about the deficit, and finally realizes it can't be eliminated on the backs of the poor.

infanttyrone said...

OK, time for some Sunday funnies (alas, only in B/W).

Of course the biggest lie of Mitt's speech was ' we tried to help the president and cooperated and gave him plenty of chances for his plans to work..." Can your pants burn sun hot WHILE your nose stretches all the way to outer space?

Short answer...evidently, yes.

How could this be ?
Maybe something to do with the special underwear related to pressboard and natural ester.

http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/login.jsp?tp=&arnumber=6032833&url=http%3A%2F%2Fieeexplore.ieee.org%2Fiel5%2F94%2F6032798%2F06032833.pdf%3Farnumber%3D6032833

As to the Pinocchio issue...hopefully others here will have an angle on that.

Although I do seem to recall a prior post & thread that featured ideas about space elevators...so if someone can isolate and contain the heat-in-the-seat (of his pants) problem, maybe Mitt's nose could be a national or even international treasure.

The Candidate with No Strings (as if...)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAykOz1gWi4

LarryHart said...

From the Koch article:

He also brushed off a question about whether there’s too much money in American politics, saying, “Well, it’s a free society. And people can invest what they want.”


It seems to me that even someone for whom the above dynamic works well can recognize it as a harmful social dynamic. Paying off politicians to pass laws which then pay off more for you may be a self-sustaining system, but it's not a functioning democratic stewardship of the nation. More like legalized rape.

Ian Gould said...

http://www.tedxsanaa.com/pages/

TED comes to Yemen.

Somehow this sums up the contradictions of the 21t century for me.

Ian Gould said...

Mentally ill climate denalist Chris Monckton (that's not an insult, it's a statement of fact. Monckton suffers from Graves's disease whih is known to cause bipolar disorders and delusions) claims to have discovered a cure for Herpes, HIV and multiple sclerosis.

"2008-present: RESURREXI Pharmaceutical: Director responsible for invention and development of a broad-spectrum cure for infectious diseases. Patents have now been filed. Patients have been cured of various infectious diseases, including Graves’ Disease, multiple sclerosis, influenza, and herpes simplex VI. Our first HIV patient had his viral titre reduced by 38% in five days, with no side-effects. Tests continue."

http://www.ukip.org/content/latest-news/1675-christopher-a-man-of-many-talents

Personally I find these claims just as credible as any of his writings about climate change.

High Arka said...

Dr. Brin is right, guys--when someone espouses a viewpoint that is not generally accepted by the group, it's best to ignore them. Engaging them or thinking about the things they say only causes ungood.

The more things change.

max said...

"...If by "middle class" you mean having a clean home with electricity and sanitation, a washing machine and access to transporation, plus kids who are in school with adequate food, clothing and books, then that already includes two thirds of the Earth's human population, a fact that is seldom mentioned by either left or right."

This is in of itself an interesting redefining of the middle class, one i like.

But it's a lot more striped down and lean than the idea of "middle class" that currently exists in the west or even in did in England when the middle class was conceived.

It's always had an aspirational note to it. The historic middle class has always aspired to be upper class. Upward climbing is embedded in all of the classes. In us i think, as humans.

How do you [i don't really] see a revolutionary movement of any kind building itself around the idea of having just enough and not too much more? In the wealthy nations, less often than they do now?

Of all the practical obstacles this seems to me to be the largest one to any wide spread unity and change peaceful or otherwise.

max said...

I should add, If you don't see it as that, I have to wonder if a middle class revolution would be such a good thing for the planet or us.

Not settling for your striped down model of middle class, a global revolt by and for them i suspect would not lead to an Enlightenment led model, but a Consumption and eEntitlement led one.

Jumper said...

Attempts at "Socratic" communication are often failures. I have seen this time and again. There are lots of reasons for it; mostly because the ground rules are only suggested and not spelled out clearly from the beginning. One reason is that no one commonly points out the error-multiplying side effects of the form as a whole. so I personally only use Socratic methods after announcing in a preamble that I am embarking on such.

There are too many additional assumptions. One arguer may think the sudden interjection of a "devil's advocate" proposition, which is not tagged, is a natural form of advancing an argument, but I can attest that confusion often results. Such unstructured forms only sow chaos. And in chaos, many unworthy memes can be planted. Whether they survive or not is interesting metaanalysis but not much advancing the discourse.

So to hell with Socratic dialogs, I say. There are other methods which are fruitful.

Such as stating a postulate, providing references which carry weight with the group,or a clear argument why the references should be respected; and even showing how the arguer has tested his or her own postulate and the results of the self-test.

max said...

Sorry, extra e in Entitlement unintentional. And in case it was not obvious and i seemed to be coming out of left field, i'm not following the thread of conversation, just commenting on your initial post David.

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

Hi Ian, thanks for your reply. I'd like to respond to this as I disagree with much of what you wrote. Material in italics is quoted from Mr. Gould's comment.
Mao-era china was a totalitarian state. The governemnt didn't just censor your political expression it told you where to live; where to work; what to study; what to wear; what to eat.
This is somewhat true, especially for peasant farmers who were tied to local farming communes. It was not true for most city dwellers and the political intelligentsia of the party, who were typically tied to a city but at least had access to urban life. Assuming one didn't offend upper party members, that is.
The Mao years were periods of stable stagnation punctuated with years of starvation, due to his The Great Leap Forward policies, and terror, due to his Cultural Revolution policies. From '49 - '53 Mao retained an alliance with the Soviet Union until Stalin's death. But Mao had a personal dislike for Stalin's successor, Nikita Kruschev, which led to a breakdown in state relations. Prior to that, Stalin had provided a range of technical assistance to Mao. After Stalin's death, Mao's increasing resistance toward Soviet relations led him to deport the technology specialists.
The Great Leap Forward policy was developed as an alternative to retaining Soviet technical assistance. He had hoped to leap past first the Soviet Union in industrialization and then ultimately the west as well, but without the industrial infrastructure in place to do so. This led to him trying to forge pig iron and steel in small communal farms, rather than centralized foundries, under the presumption that the proletariat should always be able to exceed bourgeoise technocrats in quality and quantity. It failed miserably, which caused both a precipitous drop in steel production and a drop in farm output - causing mass starvation.
Ultimately, Mao was ousted from executive leadership as a result; retaining only a pro-forma 'party leadership' position. Liu Shaoqi, with his subordinate Deng Xiao Ping, took over as executives. During this period, just as during Deng's reign starting in the 1980s, market reforms began and starvation ebbed off. Most call this a period of 'liberalization', though the nation was just as totalitarian in its exercise of total population control as under Mao.

[cont]

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

Within due course, Mao became unhappy with being out of power and denounced the new leadership under Liu Shaoqi as being 'counter-revolutionary'. This led to Mao's Cultural Revolution, which was nothing more than an internal coup d’état based around Mao's prestige and full access to national media as party leader. He incited a civil war between the generations, inspiring the young to destroy the ‘Four Olds’ (old customs, old culture, old habits, old ideas). The youth were encouraged to rebel against the old party leadership, which led to public shaming and even executions. Youth groups began to rebel against one another, devolving into internecine warfare, each trying to prove their greater reverence of Mao. This finally led to a collapse of the party and then general society, which allowed Mao to retake the reigns of executive leadership.

Good sources on this history are:

- Cambridge Illustrated History of China, Ebrey (chapter 11)

- Chinese Civilization, Ebrey (companion sourcebook; see section VIII, particularly ‘The Communist Party’ – speech by Li Shaoqi; ‘A Young Man Arrives at the Organization’; and ‘The Red Guards’)

- Encyclopedia of China, Perkins (entries on the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution as well as Mao)

- Son of the Revolution, Heng / Shapiro (first person account of survival during the Cultural Revolution)

[cont]

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

For about 20 years after the supresion of the 1989 democracy movmeent, china placated the peopel not just by delivering economic growth but by eliminating most of the authoritarian controls on people's every day lives.

Being able to own your own home; to travel abroad; to marry without prior permission from your employer; to choose the course you studies at University; to work where you choose. To westerners who've had these freedoms their entire lives these thigns sound trivial. to chiense they're anythign but.

Add in, for example, the fact that in a little over a decade China has gone from criminalizing homosexual acts to considering legalizing civil unions.

Even China's courts are, in general, subject to far less political intereference than previously.

So from a Chinese perspective the past 20 years have been a time of ongoing liberalization.

You assert this dichotomy of complete totalitarianism under Mao and liberalized reform under Deng, and where I think this goes wrong is in presuming that some market liberalizations equal social liberalization as well. I challenge that assertion.

On the claim of property ownership, nobody ‘owns’ property in China but the state. This remains true to this day. When someone ‘buys’ an apartment, they purchase a 99-year lease to control the property, but the state retains official ownership. Western style property rights are simply not recognized.

On the social front Mao stridently opposed the One Child Policy that had been proposed by other members of the party leadership. He did so on the presumption that a larger population equaled a stronger China. From his perspective, this was true because it increased his potential army. But population increases also suggested an aggregate GDP increase, which had been the case in all agrarian societies beforehand. He did not grasp that China had reached a population limit and that to continue following traditional agrarian birth rates would lead to mass starvation and ultimately social unrest.

Thus, the ‘One-Child Policy’ was only implemented after Mao’s death in ’76, with Deng being a partial architect and strong supporter of the policy (he took over in ’78). The point here is that I can’t imagine a more restrictive social policy that intervenes into the personal affairs of individual life, yet it occurred under what you called a ‘liberalized’ environment due to policies by Deng Xiao Ping and mostly continues to this day.

- See: Encyclopedia of China entry on One Child Policy

- See: Chinese Civilization; Ebery (96. ‘The One Child Family’

On matters of business, market liberalization is also arbitrary – with revocations of business charters and state intervention into private enterprise still a common occurrence. For examples I point you to:

See:

- ‘The Challenges of Launching a Start-Up in China: Dorm99.com’ (Harvard Business Review)

- ‘Wanxiang Group: A Chinese Company’s Global Strategy’ (Harvard Business Review)

- ‘You’ll never be Chinese’ (Great story about a westerner who started a publishing firm only to have it shut down by the Chinese government.
http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/politics/mark-kitto-youll-never-be-chinese-leaving-china)

Finally, your claim that under Mao individuals couldn’t choose their own course of study – those few who gained entry to university – is highly suspect. Though that’s a minor point of contention.
Your thoughts?
-M

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

infanttyrone:

First, to concatenate something that Chrissie Hynde sings with the opposite of what Brother Dave Gardner was fond of saying:

Don't get me wrong...I'm not preachin' for it.
I am forecasting - not apologizing or condoning.


Fair counterpoint. Perhaps my response unfairly characterized your comment by assuming the worst.

WRT Michael Moore, I wont defend him as I think his material consists primarily of polemics and is not serious. Naomi Klein and Matt Taibbi are another matter. Klein's "The Shock Doctrine" is a particularly good analysis of the strategy at work. Taibbi, though also a polemicist, does better research than Moore. He's also funnier.

WRT the populace organizing to respond, the dispersal actions coordinated against OWS in many cities show us the lay of the land. If OWS had been able to get Tea Party folks to join them, maybe the mace & batons would not have been used. Maybe next time.

On dispersal tactics, two sources:

A trove of documents released today by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in response to a FOIA request filed by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, filmmaker Michael Moore and the National Lawyers Guild Mass Defense Committee reveal that federal law enforcement agencies began their coordinated intelligence gathering and operations on the Occupy movement even before the first tent went up in Zuccotti Park on September 17, 2011.

http://www.justiceonline.org/commentary/dhs.html

Suppressing Protest: Human Rights Violations in the U.S. Response to Occupy Wall Street. (Global Justice Clinic of the NY Law School)

http://www.chrgj.org/projects/docs/suppressingprotest.pdf

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

David Brin wrote:

My new novel in fact refers to the Tang era in China.

On Tang culture, I'd like to recommend:

How to Read a Chinese Poem - a Bilingual Anthology of Tang Poetry

By Edward C. Chang

BookSurge Publishing, 2007

It includes both per character (simplified and traditional) translations to English as well as complete translations of each poem, and pinyin to help with Mandarin pronunciation.

Top notch stuff. -M

Ian Gould said...

Maynard, thank you I'm well aware of the history of the PRC.

I'm also aware that exactly as I stated previously, virtually all Chinese (not just farmers) were assigned housing by their work unit; couldn't marry without their work unit; couldn't change clothes; even relatively affluent workers fortunate enough to have a home kitchen (or more likely access to a communal kitchen) were expected to ear their evening meals with the work units several times a week.
Entry to university was effectively impossible for a member of the Five Blacks. (for others reading this: the Five black classes were the families of former Guomintang mmembers; of Nationalist soldiers; of business owners and rich peasants etc. They were in contrast with the Five Red Classes of People' army veterans and so on.)

Even for a member of the Five Reds entrance to University was dependent on the approval of your local Party branch and the selection of courses was heavily restricted.

Now there were obviously variations over time in the extent ans severity of social control but it was pervasive.

Finally, can I say that I reject the idea that the Chinese have simply been bought off by material inducements.

Lorraine said...

@Robert, haha, couldn't help but remember something RAW wrote:

One of the most insidious things the CIA Communists did when they took over Unistat was to change the Constitution.

The original Constitution, having been written by a group of intellectual libertines and Freemasons in the eighteenth century, included an amendment which declared:

A self-regulated sex life being necessary to the happiness of a citizen, the right of the people to keep and enjoy pornography shall not be abridged.

This amendment had been suggested by Thomas Jefferson, who had over nine hundred Black concubines, and Benjamin Franklin, a member of the Hell Fire Club, which had the largest collection of erotic books and art in the Western world at that time.

The Communists changed the amendment to read:

A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the citizens to keep and bear arms shall not be abridged.

All documents and textbooks were changed, so that nobody would be able to find out what the amendment had originally said. Then the Communists set up a front organization, the National Rifle Association, to encourage the wide usage of guns of all sorts, and to battle any attempt to control guns as "unconstitutional."

Thus, they guaranteed that the murder rate in Unistat would always be the highest in the world. This kept the citizens in perpetual anxiety about their safety both on the streets and in their homes. The citizens then tolerated the rapid growth of the Police State, which controlled almost everything, except the sale of guns, the chief cause of crime.

Ian Gould said...

"Thus, the ‘One-Child Policy’ was only implemented after Mao’s death in ’76, with Deng being a partial architect and strong supporter of the policy (he took over in ’78). The point here is that I can’t imagine a more restrictive social policy that intervenes into the personal affairs of individual life,..."

In that case I have to assume you've never met anyone who was Struggled Against; forced to under Self-Criticism; Sent Down or sentenced to Re-Education through Labor.

Brendan said...

David,

I know you have said before that it is a waste of time heading back to the moon, but what do you think of the LiftPort Group's plan to build a space elevator on the moon? They think it can be done with current tech and a space elevator would get over your complaint about the gravity well being too energy prohibitive to deal with wouldn't it?

They have a kickstarter going which is funded to the stretch goal of a trial lift on earth of somewhere over 3K high

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

You're not being very nice, Ian. Touch a nerve there?

On marriage:

I've dug through my copy of Faribank's and Ebrey's work. With regard to marriage under Maoist China, I found nothing to indicate that local work units held control over private marriages. I did find a range of source documents on "The Changing Course of Courtship" in the Ebrey companion source-book which illustrated shifting values in courtship via texts published in 1964, 1975, 1978, and 1989.

The most relevant text here was published in '64 and provides recommendations to dating couples that experience scorn for such public displays of affection as 'walking down the street together'. The pamphlet recommends that, "We must clear away the remnants of feudal ideology in our minds and treat the relationship between the sexes correctly...", "...young men and women in love must be particularly careful to balance well the relationship between love and work...", "...and one could never have improper sexual relations."

The text also opposed arranged marriages by family, as had been custom throughout China for millennia. And it is noted in the Ebrey primary text that Maoist policy was to promote 'love relationships' - or coupling by personal choice - over arranged marriages. It does not claim that the state arranged marriages instead.

On Work Units:

These remained in place throughout the 1980s and 1990s and some were even in place all the way through past the early 2000s. That was long past Deng's exit from office.

In "Son of the Revolution", Liang Heng discussed how his father, an editor and reporter, had been reassigned from his city job and sent to a farm work unit as punishment for angering party officials. Ultimately, the father was struggled against and sent to a prison until finally being released. Heng, twelve to thirteen year old boy, wound up homeless on the streets in the midst of internecine conflict by varying Red Guard factions. He wandered to Beijing and was then part of a Red Guard parade witnessed by Mao.

Certainly, shifting work units were used as punishment, which implied some central control over the daily lives of party members. But work units were also heavily decentralized, with local party leadership given a great deal of leeway (unless a higher party official specified otherwise). Peasants were simply directed to work on whichever farm they were assigned, as I noted previously.

The Five Blacks:

These were criteria imposed during Mao's Cultural Revolution. You're assuming that policies in place during that period were imposed across the entire Maoist period, which is not the case. And while it's certainly true that landlords and large agricultural land holders faced confiscation of land during land-reform post '49, it's not true that at that time those who acquiesced to party demands faced the same kinds of trials as those who were targeted during the Cultural Revolution.

Further, the Cultural Revolution was a period of tremendous social instability and random violence. Mao had all sorts of various groups pitted against one another, to be accused of a so-called counter-revolutionary crime bore no relationship to intentional guilt or even rational outcomes.

The Cultural Revolution was a time of *civil war*.

----

All this said, I'm no academic or professional 中国通. I've taken some university level asian studies and Chinese language courses and kept my texts. But I have honestly tried to keep this discussion polite and bound to sources. I ask that you do the same in kind. -M

Ian Gould said...

"You're not being very nice, Ian. Touch a nerve there?'

In as much as I know people who were tortured in various ways both physically and mentally during the Mao era (and before you mention it I also know people who were involved in the 1989 Democracy Movement and were jailed afterwards.)

So, yes when you appear to minimize their mistreatment it touches a nerve.

I'm currently away from home of business for a couple of days so I don;t have access to my own library to research references. So I'm relying here on both my recollections from my Asian Studies Degree and subsequent reading and on my recollection of conversations with various in-laws, friends, fellow students and teachers.

Acuvox said...

World middle class overthrow of the Masters - Yes. We live in a finite world, so WEALTH = POVERTY. There is no possible moral justification for creating a billion dollars of poverty, so any system that allows creation and maintenance of billionaires is inherently immoral. OTOH, the middle class is smack in the middle of un-sustainable extractive economy. Starting with cash crops and water-born sanitation, and continuing to clearing crop land for excess floor space and bluegrass lawns and flower beds, pavement for personal motor vehicles and mining the material to build their convenience lifestyle, all of this must change.

max said...

" There is no possible moral justification for creating a billion dollars of poverty, so any system that allows creation and maintenance of billionaires is inherently immoral."

simplistic baloney. The creation of wealth does not have to mandate poverty, appropriate taxation of the wealthy can always be used to offset the imbalance. The solution is not simplistic thinking, but sophisticated management.

Likewise...

"the middle class is smack in the middle of un-sustainable extractive economy. Starting with cash crops and water-born sanitation, and continuing to clearing crop land for excess floor space and bluegrass lawns and flower beds, pavement for personal motor vehicles and mining the material to build their convenience lifestyle, all of this must change."

Yes it does, in part by encouraging a reduction in consumption but also we have ample room to create a much more efficient and effective use of resources while still allowing for a great deal of individual mobility and freedom. The problem is our tools and systems are antiquated and the status quo is over invested in maintaining them so. A challenge no question, but more than doable. Easily more doable and achievable than a successful hostile revolt and radical and by necessity likely tyrannical imposition of a change of social norms means and ways.

Robert said...

Here's a topic Dr. Brin will enjoy (it's undoubtedly been mentioned before): Uplift of foxes. Specifically, the Russian fox domestication program which found that foxes that become domesticated through breeding start sharing some specific traits that other domesticated animals have in common... including floppy ears. And it seems adrenalin levels have something to do with coloration.

Anyway, enjoy!

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Back from Worldcon 2012 in Chicago. Basically a pretty good worldcon... though hampered by the fact that (oops) Dragon con the big media con was the same day in Atlanta. I saw very few top level pros. Though I got a chance to have lengthy talks with a few. The fans were very nice. Mostly sweet and I encountered no jerks. Interesting panels covered some cool stuff.

Brendan, naturally, over the long run, we will go back to the moon and yes with space elevators. In fact, a FAR SIDE space elevator is something we must build soon! Over the course of the next 150 million years it could (in theory) gradually lift the moon, and thus the Earth, to a new orbit as the sun gets warmer!

In the short term? A totally useless ball of rock. It offer nothing to a cash-strapped,, resource limited early 21st Century civilization, even if we end the war on science and tripple all research budgets.

Acuvox, sorry, but we here all believe in one form or another of the positive sum game. WEALTH=POVERTY is pure zero sum thinking. And while it may have been somewhat correct in 99% of human cultures, it is not only wrong today, but fantastically, immensely utterly and totally wrong.

Oh, sure, there are many of the wealthy who are pushing for a return to zero sum thinking and wherein their luck means bad luck for others. They are as stupid as any other zero-sum thinkers. But most of the tech rich and entrepreneurs and innovators are positive summers.

read NONZERO by Robert Wright. Seriously.

There is nothing wrong with the middle class. It made miracles like YOU! The problem is unsustainability. We must increase energy efficiency 50 fold. We must demand pre-recycling be included in product costs. We must all eat less meat and hope tissue culture will soon take care of the rest. And we must keep finding ways to ensure that development brings MORE children into clean homes with sanitation and lights and schoolbooks.

But your overall propounding is flat ot wrong.

Yes Robert I had read about the Russian foxes. Canines are the most amazingly maleable of all mammals.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin,

In "Earth", did you really envision the Helvetian Wars as having took place in the 2020s? Both times I read the book, I tried to place the time-frame, and it seemed to me that the choice was somewhere between 2000 and 2010.

I'm not going to argue with the author, but just wanted you to know what it seemed like to a reader.

David Brin said...

Hm... Well... I guess I am saying 2020s so they'll still be in OUR future....

K.S. Park said...

I'm sorry, but David Brin is sounding like a self-delusional technocrat. Fact of the matter is, the world we are living in is much simpler than he thinks. The world did not succeed because of science, the world succeeded because of oil and when we run out of oil, that will be the end of modern world as we know it. No amount of science is going to replace oil.

We are eating up the world's natural resources at a level that is unimaginable. This problem is only going to get worst in ten years when we add another billion people to this planet as human population is also growing at an exponential rate. There is no solution to the world that's running out of resource. No amount of science can solve this problem.

Robert said...

Except you can turn coal into oil. Also, natural gas can be used in place of oil. And methane is also useable as a fuel. And come to think of it... if we get to a period of oil shortage, we know how to build batteries and electric vehicles, have plenty of uranium and other radioactive materials that can be used as fuels for nuclear power, and STILL continue.

That's not to mention various technologies being researched for biofuels, including synthetic oil.

So you put entirely too much importance on oil. We've long been out of the time of cheap oil. And the longer oil companies try to rape us for profits, the faster we start researching alternatives. Modern society will continue... and flourish... without oil.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Can you believe this guy?

Koch said he thinks the U.S. military should withdraw from the Middle East and said the government should consider defense spending cuts, as well as possible tax increases to get its fiscal house in order — a stance anathema to many in the Republican Party.

“I think it’s essential to be able to achieve spending reductions and maybe it’s going to require some tax increases,” he said. “We got to come close to balancing the budget; otherwise, we’re in a terrible deep problem.”


Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0812/80483.html#ixzz25LjcBAJF

David Brin said...

KS Park - completely separate from whether or not you are right (you are not) is the fact that your premise is so devoid of hope that it does not even suggest that some social or political solution might conceivably work. And since billions will not die without dragging others down with them, it means a virtually extinction level event.

At this point, it really is a matter of personality. We each think the other is delusional. My delusion - that it won't be easy at all but there's a chance, if we all work hard and pull together - may be the optimism that Oswald Spengler called mind-treason...

...while yours may be a convenient was to wallow in the righteous pleasure of cynicism, which lets you playground sneer at all the folks who are pulling together, while having an excuse not to lift a finger to help.

Hm... let's see. If you are right, then we all die. You and me. and all of us, but I get to be distracted with all my futile efforts while you sneer "I told you so!"

If I am right, then you are a useless parasite, hindering those who will save the world despite your useless, cynical ass.

Either way... you're the jerk. Sorry. But that's peeling things down to the essentials.

Anonymous said...

Dead money, No it is just being put to better use else where in the world. Taxes are a weight on job creation. Taking from the rich and giving to the government is very ineffient and just plan crazy just look at the EU. Try reading some Ludwig Von Mises.

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

Ian:

You're away on a business trip getting offended by a stranger on an internet forum out of solidarity with personal friends who lived through the difficult periods of the Cultural Revolution and Student Protest years in China. The expression of that offense is a semantic debate over the definitions of "liberalize" as it relates to the shift between Maoist and post-Maoist PRC social policy.

Do I understand this correctly?

I was never much interested in post communist revolution Chinese history. I like the old stuff. But I've got to say, given that we share a somewhat esoteric interest, and given that it's clear I've been citing from assigned AS material, don't you think we have more in common than not? Is this debate truly Mortal Kombat worthy?

That said, any cites you have to offer are welcome. My wife is a professor and I have access to library resources. If you have a cite I think is cool, I'd be willing to dig just out of curiosity.

It's 3:30am where I currently live, time to crash. -M

High Arka said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
David Brin said...

I am deleting the asshole liar who keeps trying to come back here. I have checked a couple of linguistic cues and some of you older denizens of this blog can tell who the lunatic is, coming back under an assumed name. He does it once a year or so.

If I let a few through, just treat him the way you would a creaming old wino, screeching at imaginary things.

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

This is interesting.

WRT the Anonymous hack of Starfor emails that Wikileaks has released, this blog entry quotes a discussion over the threat of Tea Party organized RW terrorist groups in the aftermath of a 2010 capital hill Tea Party protest to the Health Care bill.

At the time anti-gay epithets were screamed at Congressmen Barney Frank, and another congressman claimed he was spit upon. The Stratfor staffers compared this type of conduct with that of Nazi Germany and suggested that an earlier Obama Justice Administration report detailing the risk of right wing extremist terrorism was - in fact - a valid concern.

http://politicalgates.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/stratfor-founder-george-friedman-slams.html?spref=tw

Ian said...

The Economist has two recent articles of interest;

1. The majority of people living in absolute poverty don;t live in the Least Developed Countries. They live in middle Income Countries with a per capita GDP of between $2,000 and $8,000 (with India being the most obvious example.)

http://www.economist.com/node/21561878

2. In the past decade, for the first time in history, not only did the percentage of people living in absolute poverty decline but the absolute number of people living in absolute poverty declined. (That's a whole lot of absolutes, I know.)

That's primarily due to the decrease in absolute poverty in China. but the largest decrease in percentsge terms was in subsaharan Africa.

"If China accounts for the largest share of the long-term improvement, Africa has seen the largest recent turnaround. Its poverty headcount rose at every three-year interval between 1981 and 2005, the only continent where this happened. The number almost doubled from 205m in 1981 to 395m in 2005. But in 2008 it fell by 12m, or five percentage points, to 47%—the first time less than half of Africans have been below the poverty line."

http://www.economist.com/node/21548963

The percentage of Africans living in poverty is now lower than in South Asia.

High Arka said...
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rewinn said...

Thinking of the "creaming old wino" (Freudian slip I assume? but possibly accurate!) ...

PURE SPECULATION: Is there something in some of us that resists good news, e.g. Ian's comments on poverty levels?
I don't know whether it's that we've been disappointed so often before, or that the sheer magnitude of other problems overwhelms our capacity for hope, or that some sort of psychological apoptosis impels middle-aged men (in particular) to suicidal frenzied charges against each other (... with flint spears in the old days, with tl;dn postings in the internet equivalent thereof ...) as a way of clearing out space for the next generation ...
... maybe the "Troll" gene, however difficult it was on individuals, had adaptive value for the species as a whole at one time.

rewinn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J. Maynard Gelinas said...

I'm sure everyone here is aware of the recent VoterID requirements that have been passed by Republican state legislatures, primarily targeting swing states. Below is an article about how that impacted one person as an example of how it will likely impact many more. Republicans claim it simply prevents voter fraud while Democrats are essentially calling it a new Jim Crow.

What I wonder is: Why don't Democrats counterintuitively help pass these laws? Then fund a bunch of legal NGOs to go out and help every citizen throughout the country get an ID, whereupon they make a big public relations push to do away with *voter registration* altogether. Why continue registering citizens to vote if they already can immediately prove citizenship? As for felons, don't these cards have mag-stripes? States already keep felon lists, why not handle that task at the polling station automatically?

Talk about a nightmare scenario for the Republicans.

----

http://www.alternet.org/93-year-old-woman-who-marched-dr-king-has-jump-through-hoops-vote-because-gop-voter-suppression

Although the Republican effort is not exactly a secret, few Americans are discussing it with the urgency it deserves. The nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law says that since the start of 2011, 16 states—which account for 214 electoral votes—have passedrestrictive voting laws. Each law is different: some curb voter registration drives; others require new and costly forms of identification; and still others insist that voters produce government-issued photo IDs at the polls. The Brennan Center also points out taht:

[…]

“[T]he scope of the suppression movement and its potential impact are staggering ... as many as 11 percent of eligible voters—roughly 21 million Americans—lack current, unexpired government-issued photo IDs. The percentages are even higher among seniors, African-Americans and other minorities, the working poor, the disabled and students—constituencies that traditionally skew Democratic and whose disenfranchisement could prove decisive in any close election.”


[…]

Consider the  case of Viviette Applewhite , a 93-year old resident of Pennsylvania. She marched with Martin Luther King Jr. but cannot get a photo ID because all her papers were stolen from her purse. On three occasions she has tried to obtain a birth certificate from The Pennsylvania’s Division of Vital Records. Although she paid the fees, she never received one. Now, a newly engaged lawyer has been trying, once again, to obtain her birth certificate. On July 25, 2012, however, the Pennsylvania court  upheld the law that may very likely prohibit her from voting. (Editor's note: A day after the court decision, the state issued her a voter ID card.)

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Alfred Differ said...

I rather like the Stratfor approach to analysis. I've yet to see them engage in doom-saying for the sake of the pleasure of being right. One doesn't have to agree with every fact they quote or trend they predict to benefit from the fact that they get it right often enough to matter.

I also like the way the impact of the Enlightenment can be seen in statistical data at gapminder.org. Take a peek at the standard animated graph they have showing percapita income versus life expectancy dating back into the murky depths of our data. When I watch the animation I ask myself which of the countries were direct beneficiaries of science and liberty and it is obvious. Early adopters benefited early, but even nations that shun our experiment have benefited. That data for the late 20th century makes that incredibly obvious.

http://www.gapminder.org/world/#$majorMode=chart$is;shi=t;ly=2003;lb=f;il=t;fs=11;al=30;stl=t;st=t;nsl=t;se=t$wst;tts=C$ts;sp=5.59290322580644;ti=2011$zpv;v=1$inc_x;mmid=XCOORDS;iid=phAwcNAVuyj1jiMAkmq1iMg;by=ind$inc_y;mmid=YCOORDS;iid=phAwcNAVuyj2tPLxKvvnNPA;by=ind$inc_s;uniValue=8.21;iid=phAwcNAVuyj0XOoBL%5Fn5tAQ;by=ind$inc_c;uniValue=255;gid=CATID0;by=grp$map_x;scale=log;dataMin=282;dataMax=119849$map_y;scale=lin;dataMin=12;dataMax=83$map_s;sma=49;smi=2.65$cd;bd=0$inds=;example=75

David Brin said...

Another blog soon. This one stirred things.

High Arka said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jumper said...

Unless you can find quotes for all those words you put in David Brin's mouth, I would say you have much to apologize for.

David Brin said...

onward... maybe the dolt will be too stupid to sniff us out at the next post...

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

LAPD Revises Terror Policy but Still Labels Photographers as Potential Terrorists

http://www.pixiq.com/article/lapd-revises-terror-policy

reason said...

Anonymous
"von Mises" is one of the aristocratic enemy. He is also an idealist (in the Socratic sense) and so the enemy of the pragmatic materialism that people here support. Quoting the enemy hardly wins you points.

And your post shows you don't understand money at all. Money is a token that can be exchanged for access to real resources. Real resources MAY be used more "usefully" (i.e. to do things that people with money can pay for according to the definition of von Mises) elsewhere - but money itself is not (how can it be "used" it is not destroyed by being passed from one to another). Money is created by lending, and lending is based on a view of the future (that may or may not be mistaken).

Anonymous said...

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