Monday, February 18, 2013

Things only a zillionaire could do to save America

Mention George Soros anywhere on the far-right and you’ll get fulminations.  To Republicans, Soros is an aristocratic mastermind who swore to “spend whatever it takes” to end the Bush-Neocons’ grip on political power in America... a vile plutocrat, striving to trample the will of plain-folks, along with the populist GOP that protects them. Glenn Beck railed to his audience, calling Soros the "Great Oligarch" and a master manipulator "who toppled eight foreign governments." (The one thing Beck never mentioned, and that - tellingly and symptomatically - not one member of Beck's vast following ever asked, was "which eight foreign governments did George Soros help to topple?" Tune in at the very end for the amazing answer.)

1101970901_400Okay, after wiping away tears of ironic laughter, one is left wondering.  If George Soros - and other rich liberals - are so potent and determined, why have they accomplished so little?

On the right, you see plenty of men and women who have proved ruthlessly effective at translating money into power, directing vast resources toward politically effective ends. There’s Rupert Murdoch, controlling -- along with his Saudi co-owners -- much of the world’s mass media, from Fox News to the Wall Street Journal. His deep-pocket interests have been highly effective, funding everything from "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" (remember them?), to Carl Rove's Super-PAC empire, to the war on science.

Forbes_cover122412David and Charles Koch, a pair of wealthy and politically radical brothers have leveraged millions from likeminded investors, to wrest control over most of the nation’s voting machines and funded (with several hundred million dollars) the campaign to delay, obfuscate and render impotent any determined action to mitigate global climate change.  Not to mention foreign commodities moguls who have used deep fingers of influence to fare best of all, in recent years.  The list goes on and on.

Now, mind you, I am less enraged by all of this than you might think, simply because I view such behavior as the most natural thing imaginable!  We've had at least a million years in which human reproductive success was partly determined by males jockeying for status in tribal settings... followed by 6000 years in which 99% of all agricultural societies wound up being dominated by inheritance oligarchies, who strove above all to keep the masses in their place, ensuring that their sons would own other peoples' daughters and sons.  The chief outcome -- suppression of competition and free-flowing criticism -- resulted in the litany of horrifically awful statecraft that we call "history." 

Adam Smith and the American founders decried the toxic effects of oligarchyoligarchy, which has always been the chief enemy of markets, enterprise, science, truly-competitive capitalism and freedom. Populist or elected "government" - in sharp contrast - has almost no track record at actually harming those things.

Nevertheless, it is easy to see why we're attracted to tales about kings and wizards and such, and why so many of the rich strive to re-create feudalism. Isn't it what you'd do?

We are, indeed, all descended from the harems of guys who pulled off that trick.  We carry their genes. Wanting all of that is the most natural thing in the world.

No, to me the amazing thing is what a high fraction of the new billionaires actually "get" the enlightenment... the modern civilization that gave them all of their opportunities and to which they owe absolutely everything.  Maybe 50% of them -- the Musk-Gates-Buffett-Bezos-Page-Brin-Soros-types -- grasp the enormous goodness and clever dynamics, based upon relative-equality of opportunity, that brought them their great fortune! Half of them seem to get it; this is wonderful.  It gives me hope there'll be an ambitiously accomplished and exciting civilization for our grand-kids.

Can the Good Billionaires be as effective as the would-be lords? 

I explore this on the pages of Existence, wherein you attend a gathering of rich clans in the year 2048 and view them weighing how much of their gratification to defer, in order not to kill the golden-egg-laying goose.

All right, it’s hard to envision Steven Spielberg pulling shenanigans anywhere as effective -- in the short term -- as the Foxite war on science.  His films are designed to provoke thoughtful conversations, not reinforce bilious hatred of your neighbors.  It's a more wholesome endeavor, but those seeds take time to germinate. The Fox-approach is quicker.

Of course, the top endeavor for a rich person who wants to change the world for the better is simple.  Keep getting rich by delivering excellent goods and services. And when you've reached a certain, sane level of satiability with wealth itself, you can either give a lot of it away (your kids will never starve) -- or else start investing in new endeavors that are risky!  Then riskier still.

givingpledgeFor example, several of the tech-wave billionaires have invested heavily in the privatization of space exploration. Prime examples include Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk's SpaceX, Jeff Bezos's mysterious Blue Origin project, Paul Allen's Stratolaunch System, and Sergey Brin's Space Adventures. Recently, Peter Diamandis, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt and others have teamed up to launch Planetary Resources aiming to mine resources from asteroids... a topic I happen to know a thing or two about.

Yes, that's the top thing they can do. Innovation.  Risky entrepreneurship.  That and setting an example with real philanthropy, by signing the Gates Pledge.  Nevertheless, given that so much of our future depends upon the political process, can we afford to leave that arena to be meddled in by just the New Feudalists?

Do Friendly Billionaires Matter in Politics?

Let’s be clear.  Our present electoral divide won’t depend on the whim of a few  moguls.  Nor is Culture War all about “rich vs poor” - not yet. Historically, most nations were wracked by class struggle - and we may yet revert to that age-old pattern - which could become an especially dangerous schism, when the poor will be technologically empowered.  (It's an IQ test for the uber-wealthy: do you actually believe you can rebuild lordship in the coming era, when the prols will have smart drones and desktop bio labs and all that stuff? Really?) But such times may be averted.  Indeed, many of today’s affluent are loyal to the mobile, competitive, egalitarian and rather-flat society our parents made, after World War II.  One that rewarded innovative commerce, without entrenching permanent castes.

So, let’s suppose there are a lot of wealthy, frustrated enlightenment fans out there.  With so much hanging in the balance, what’s a rich dude to do? Heck one great option would be to start a competing company to, say, make honest voting machines. Surely you can get that ready in time to win some contracts for 2016? Or else, organizations that perform poll watching and electoral process-checking could absorb large donations, in time to do a lot of good.  Though these groups are officially neutral, we know who would benefit, if elections proceed transparently and fair.

Likewise, the political caste will never rouse itself to do anything about gerrymandering. But a privately funded campaign against that foul practice, even as little as 20 million dollars, could start an avalanche of public anger over this blatant crime. In the short term, this would help both parties to back away from radicalization and elect more rational pragmatists. Kill gerrymandering and you will be well-remembered as a dragon-slayer.

philanthropyBut it's my role to look in directions that are more, well, unconventional.  So let me bring up one idea, from a general compilation of Concepts for Billionaires: Horizons and Hope: The Future of Philanthropy, that's been in circulation for some time.

Obliquely political: Defend Science

Nothing more perfectly manifests the Crisis of the West more than the current "war on science." As President Obama clearly and repeatedly emphasized during his 2013 State of the Union address,  research and technological advancement have been responsible for much of the skyrocketing wealth that then empowered America and other nations to attack ancient evils of poverty, racism and ignorance. Indeed, one thing a mere millionaire could do, that would transform attitudes, would be to set up a second National Debt Clock,  next to the first one Only let this one show what the debt would be if the USG had charged a minimal 5% royalty for inventions we all paid for. Rockets, jets, communications satellites, the Internet, pharmaceuticals, Telecom, boomed... Do you doubt we'd be in the black? An unbeatable polemical zinger that would cost less than a million dollars to erect. 

A more expensive and enduring effort is being set up by veteran lobbyist Jim Lantry -- First in Science -- a new pro-science super-pac that aims to raise $100M in order to support candidates who are enthusiastic about scientific research. It is regrettable that such an unseemly measure should be necessary.  But the war on science - propelled largely by Fox HQ but also by science-hostile elements of the Left - has made it necessary.  Arnold Toynbee said that civilizations collapse when they fail to support their "creative minority." If you are a wealthy person who does not want to see that collapse, consider taking part.

A Henchman's Prize

Here's another item from my big list of possible projects:  Horizons and Hope: The Future of Philanthropy

I've long wondered why some billionaire who is worried about our open society doesn't pony-up and offer truly substantial  whistleblower rewards. One action that could be especially well-targeted, during the next month or so -- while having immense publicity value -- would be to announce a great big prize for proof of massive cheating or dirty tricks, in time for the evidence to matter, before the next round of elections.

For best effectiveness, one would couch the idea in nonpartisan terms.  Offer a million dollars to any conspirator who turns coat and steps forward with - say - solid evidence that either party has engaged in a systematic effort to deny the vote to a thousand or more people in any political constituency.  Plus five million if the evidence leads to rapid, public plea bargains or convictions.
Yes, five million dollars is a lot of money.  But note that the larger sum is paid upon conviction, in which case it's a small amout to buy a scandal-tumult of huge proportions. Perhaps big enough to transform politics in America.
Sure, people will see through couching it in nonpartisan terms.  (Though a Republican co-sponsor could be found.)  But even that implication would be useful, highlighting what everybody knows -- where that kind of cheating is coming from.

Why emphasize "conspirator"?

HENCHMENThis is where the word henchman comes in.  Those most likely to have the goods -- real evidence -- will be people already deep inside.  Ironically, a henchman is probably venal and psychologically primed to jump ship, if offered the right combination of inducements -- both cash and introduction to people who can offer some immunity.  (Rep. Henry Waxman has been responsible for recent strengthening of whistleblower protections, for example.)  This qualifier also keeps out a flood of mere rumor-mongers, who have other places to go.

There are many other possible whistleblower prizes.

But there’s a catch.  Any such program must be carefully phrased. A billionaire will have to fight past his or her own attorneys, in order to do something like this.  One doesn’t want to be held liable for enticing unproved or false allegations, or slander.  (There might be a discreet application process and a committee to vet claims, while police and prosecutors are given their full due.)

Still this sort of thing has one advantage -- it could be set up and unleashed quickly.  And it appeals to the avaricious spirit that has driven so many dirty tricks operatives, ever since the days of Nixon and Donald Segretti.  Remember, tempting rats to betray each other ought to be easy, if you use the right cheese.

And all it might take is just one.

============================================================

FOLLOWUP:  Have you guessed yet (or looked up) the eight foreign governments that master-mogul-manipulator George Soros "toppled"? How telling that (to my knowledge) none of Glenn Beck's viewers or listeners even roused themselves with God's greatest gift - curiosity - to ask which governments those were.  But you know, by now, what those toppled governments were, right? They were...

... the communist dictatorship of Poland ... the communist dictatorship of Czechoslovakia ... the communist dictatorship of Soros's birthplace Hungary ... the communist dictatorship of Lithuania ... the communist dictatorship of  Estonia ... the communist dictatorship of  Latvia ... the communist dictatorship of Romania ... the communist dictatorship of  Bulgaria...

... and that's erring on the low side. Some credit Soros with having major effects in Yugoslavia, Belarus, Ukraine....  Yep.  It is pretty clear why Glenn Beck never likes to get specific.  Facts kind of interfere with the narrative.

This is a heavily revised version of a posting from  roughly 2004.

40 comments:

locumranch said...

I recommend "Who Rules America?",
by G. William Domhoff, if you're really interested in the politics of power from a sociology perspective, synopsis available at:

http://www.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/

Best.

Robert said...

There you go again, Dr. Brin.

Maybe, just maybe, there are no grand conspiracies. There are petty billionaires who are trying to control things to their own benefit, sure, but there is no grand neocon or oligarchical organization out to rule the U.S. or the rest of the Western world.

I mean, you're not alone in this mindset. I've long tangled with the conspiracy-minded on both sides of the spectrum. It seems that intelligence and imagination breeds a knee-jerk need to create conspiracy where there is no actual widescale effort. This is true for those who refuse to believe we landed on the Moon (Apollo missions, that is), those who think 9/11 was a government conspiracy by the Shrug and his crew, voting machine fraud, and so on.

If two people know something, the only way to keep it a secret is to kill one of them. There is no way that your conspiracies could exist in the world. Someone would have squealed. It would be on Wikileaks or the like. That it isn't? Shows that either the uber-conspiracy people can brainwash their minions into perfect loyalty (in which case your henchman bounty is useless) or that there is no conspiracy.

Rob H.

locumranch said...

Classical sociology, especially Mann's "IEMP" model, agrees with you, Robert.

Conspiracy theories tend to contain multiple untenable psychological assumptions (ie. universal secrecy) which lead them to be wrong on the key issues.

Best.

David Brin said...

Bah. I am not claiming there's a grand conclave where all the world's oligarchs meet and chant in unison while ritually killing a victim with paper cuts by gilt-edged bonds. But we do know that the Koch boys plus a dozen cohorts DO hold annual meetings to dole out hundred of millions, and yes that's hundreds of millions through shells to try to manipulate power in America, and there are similar groups in Europe. In Japan and Korea its not even secret. Why bother?

Given 6000 years of history, are you really going to guarantee us all that it extends no farther than that? What we see is fearsome, manipulative and anti west.

But that's all there is and all there CAN be and any ponderings that there may be added layers we DON'T know about? Any such talk is on the level of faked moon landings.

Alfred Differ said...

The usual argument I see against Soros is that his motives are money focused and any liberal who thinks otherwise is delusional. I've seen the same argument used against Buffet. In fact, I'm not sure some can distinguish between the two. 8)

I suspect the neo-cons are as close to conservatism as the modern liberals are to classical liberalism. Soros does appear to be a classical liberal, thus he confuses people who equate liberalism with the leftists. Classical liberals aren't collectivists and aren't even close.

A rich classical liberal certainly would be inclined to topple eastern-bloc totalitarian governments. That such a person would be related to Popper or the other Mont Pelerin folks shouldn't surprise anyone. Confusing such a person with leftists or certain libertarians is silly, though.

Anonymous said...

The correct link for Who Rules America by G. William Domhoff


http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/about.html

locumranch said...

Thanks Anonymous.

DB's talking about Bohemian Grove-like organizations where members of a socially cohesive upper class congregate, which could represent either a non-secret conspiracy or the formation of an upper class policy consensus.

http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/bohemian_grove.html

Best

Randy Winn said...

It's pretty silly to say none of this is happening because the only way it could happen would be to have a conspiracy; that "because" is simply false.

Communities of interest don't have to meet together to work together; they don't even have to like each other or be trying to help each other; they could be actively trying to thumb each other in the eye and steal each other's lunch money ... but the end result is still joint rulership over the masses.

After all, do you really think the Kings and Princes of the Middle Ages got together in a grand conspiracy to keep the peasants in line? Oh there may be occasional Bohemian Grove meetings and so forth, but the game doesn't depend on any of that.

Hank Roberts said...

> solid evidence that either party
> has engaged in a systematic effort

As finally decided by a 5:4 decision in the Supreme Court?

Ian said...

"The usual argument I see against Soros is that his motives are money focused and any liberal who thinks otherwise is delusional.'


I realize you aren't the one making this argument Adiffer but my response would be:

1. So?

2. How exactly do you gt a monetary return on giing away hundreds of millions of dollars worth o food and medcines?

Jumper said...

Hmm. So pro wrestling is real, right? Because too many people would have to be in on the "conspiracy." Someone would squeal.

Ian said...

But jumper many people have squealed including Vince McMahan and the entire management of titan sports Entertainment.

Virgil Bierschwale said...

I'm impressed because you get it.
There is nothing wrong with them fighting to be King of the Hill.

Hell, I admire them for it.
And I despise the ones that could dethrone them for doing nothing.

Here is a link to a article I wrote a long time ago titled "Soros, you are in for 250 Million. Charles & David Koch, it’s going to cost you 250 million each to call"

http://keepamericaatwork.com/archives/189611

There is one thing that you have not mentioned that could be created for a few million and it would change the balance of power by putting the people in charge of the global news media

http://keepamericaatwork.com/archives/210197

Paul451 said...

(From the last thread.)

Rob H,
"Having talked with some conservative friends, I've come to realize that many of these people don't believe in democracy. They see nothing wrong with gerrymandering districts to give rural regions all the power. [...] They state the U.S. is not a democracy, but is a republic. And thus democratic governance is not something to be pushed... and efforts to disenfranchise the minorities and urban populations are just fine."

If you push a bit more, you'll start getting a whole bunch of out-of-context anti-democracy Founding Fathers quotes. It's a meme amongst the Right, kind of creepy to hear people with so little respect for their own right to vote.

David,
So what were the few examples of bright-promise ruined by bureaucrats? Ancient China? Maybe Ancient Egypt at a couple of points? Who else?

howie said...

"Things only a zillionaire could do..."

How about a rebate for investments making homes and buildings carbon-neutral? The purpose would be to hasten the day when green power is profitable and affordable for most home and building owners.

Some eligible improvements:
- solar installations
- geothermal
- efficiency measures
- battery backups?

Benefits:
- clean power
- green jobs (manufacturing, installation, construction, etc.)
- distributed power generation (better resilience in the system)
- give the industry a boost, to try and keep ahead of the climate change 350 PPM "red line"

The US spent about $56 billion on solar in 2011.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-01-12/clean-energy-investment-rises-to-a-record-260-billion-on-solar.html

Gates is worth about $65 billion.

Maybe a few billionaires could work together on a two-year project offering a 50% rebate on projects that would not happen otherwise. I even have a meme for it; "Green Shot," hearkening back to the successful and inspiring "Moon Shot."

Of course, I'd support public funding for a similar project, but it seems unlikely to get through the House!

Jon roth said...

Somewhat off topic, but this article seems to have a "David Brin"-like view of nostalgia: http://chronicle.com/article/Misguided-Nostalgia-for-Our/137285/

Alfred Differ said...

Ian,

So?

Heh. Yah... I tried that one. I learned how much they mistrust profit motives and they were supposedly conservatives. It seems we all have the genetics of the progressives. 8)

As for the monetary return on gifts, it does happen... or can. Put on your conspiratorial hat for a moment and let your imagination run. A true conspiracy buff knows in their hearts that if a conspiracy can be imagined it can also happen and just might be. I'm not saying there is or isn't since I have no evidence thus no clue. What I do have is enough evidence to strongly suggest Soros is a classical liberal and it is QUITE in character for such a person to use their property as they see fit. Rational economic choices as an economist might define have nothing to do with the reality of decisions like these. I WANT is enough to explain an action. 8)

Sadly, they have a good defensive incantation. I don't see how to penetrate it yet.

Ian said...

Scientists propose a multi-megawatt space-based laser system to deflect asteroids.

As the authors point out, such a system could also be used to accelerate solar sails.

In a neat bit of timing, DARPA announced the other day that they'll be testing 150 kilowatt laser systems on fighter aircraft within two years.

So it should be possible to build such a system modularly using off-the-shelf components.

I think I also read a proposal somewhere to use space lasers to boost the power output from satellites' solar cells

David Brin said...

I just inserted the following into the main body of this blog:

Nothing more perfectly manifests the Crisis of the West more than the current "war on science." As President Obama clearly and repeatedly emphasized during his 2013 State of the Union address, research and technological advancement have been responsible for much of the skyrocketing wealth that then empowered America and other nations to attack ancient evils of poverty, racism and ignorance.

Indeed, one thing a mere millionaire could do, that would transform attitudes, would be to set up a second National Debt Clock, next to the first one Only let this one show what the debt would be if the USG had charged a minimal 5% royalty for inventions we all paid for. Rockets, jets, communications satellites, the Internet, pharmaceuticals, Telecom, boomed... Do you doubt we'd be in the black? An unbeatable polemical zinger that would cost less than a million dollars to erect.

A more expensive and enduring effort is being set up by veteran lobbyist Jim Lantry -- First in Science -- a new pro-science super-pac that aims to raise $100M in order to support candidates who are enthusiastic about scientific research.

It is regrettable that such an unseemly measure should be necessary. But the war on science - propelled largely by Fox HQ but also by science-hostile elements of the Left - has made it necessary. Arnold Toynbee said that civilizations collapse when they fail to support their "creative minority." If you are a wealthy person who does not want to see that collapse, consider taking part.

psikeyhackr said...

And our economists do not tell us how many trillions we have wasted due to the depreciation caused by planned obsolescence. But buying more junk gets added to GDP.

A high technology society with economists who can't do algebra. They manage to not talk about the NET Domestic Product.

Jonathan S. said...

Has anyone actually done the calculations for the Second Debt Clock? I'd be interested to see the results...

walterzuey said...

I don't think it's random that the schism between philanthropic and misanthropic jillionaires is highly correlated with their participation in high-tech industries vs extractive ones. An African warlord holding a gun to someone's head saying, "dig me a diamond" probably isn't pining for free and just societal reform. The anti-science disinformation campaign has been primarily funded by those who extract resources from the ground that subsequently impose a pollution cost on everyone. Cleverly, they have suffused their interest with the anti-evolution anti-scientists and voila a drone army that sneers at science to their own detriment.

The best investment return would seem to be gained at the local educational level. Science education is the great liberator of minds, and don't think the opposition doesn't realize it.

Jim Geary

David Brin said...

Jim Geary that's a very good point.

Alfred Differ said...

The 'national clock' I would like to see is the one that counts what we would have been paying by now if the feds (or whoever you want to blame) hadn't devalued the dollar through inflation in the last century. Combine that with another clock showing the wealth lost to those individuals who cannot play the currency exchange game on a large enough scale to defend their wealth from these shenanigans and it should be an eye opener.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

All right, it’s hard to envision Steven Spielberg pulling shenanigans anywhere as effective -- in the short term -- as the Foxite war on science. His films are designed to provoke thoughtful conversations, not reinforce bilious hatred of your neighbors. It's a more wholesome endeavor, but those seeds take time to germinate. The Fox-approach is quicker.


In other words...

"IS the Dark Side stronger?"

"No. Not stronger. Quicker. Easier. More seductive."

Jim Baca said...

You are on to the thing on gerrymandering. This would be fertile ground to work in, but someone would really need to work on making it understandable for most folks. It is one of those thing that most people just don't get. Kind of like the Supreme Court's Citizen United case.

Alfred Differ said...

A LOT of California voters got it when it comes to gerrymandering. We took the power away from those who had it before through our initiative process.

I'm not so sure this is hard to understand. What is hard is believing that something can be done about it. California has proven that we can but the story isn't well known yet.

David Brin said...

California & Washington & several other blue states. Not one red one tho....

Ian said...

I'd really appreciate people's thoughts on this

http://phys.org/news/2013-02-nuclear-reactor-basement.html

"How would you like to replace your water heater with a nuclear reactor? That's what Joseph Zawodny, a senior scientist at NASA's Langley Research Center, hopes to help bring about. It would tap the enormous power of the atom to provide hot water for your bath, warm air for your furnace system, and more than enough electricity to run your house and, of course, your electric car.

If your thoughts have raced to Fukushima or Three Mile Island or Chernobyl, let me reassure you. Zawodny is not suggesting that you put that kind of reactor in your house. What he has in mind is a generator that employs a process called Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions. (The same process is sometimes called Lattice Energy Nuclear Reactions. We'll just call it LENR.)"

Just another media beat-up?

Tim H. said...

An interesting thing that could be accomplished with great wealth, build a full size polywell, to see if Dr. Bussard was on the right track. Another would be to develop a standardized residential power backup system sufficient to keep the furnace working after an ice storm cuts power, something a home owner could plug in, once the host wiring and controls were installed. These could be done for less money than some firms have expended to remove the taint of departed CEOs.

Ian said...

But what if a billionaire doesn't thin kAmerica needs saving/

Anonymous said...

The usual criticism if conspiracy theories is that it would be very difficult to hide the conspiracy. Too many moving parts. But, of course, the Kich Bros, for example, are NOT successfully hiding their conspiracy at all. We know about the 'Kochtopus' because Peopje are squealing. Their attempt to take over the Cato Istitute, for example, was public knowledge because those opposed to it squealed to the press.

Tim H. said...

Ian, that's likely what's going on with some of the billionaires, or possibly, they're so focused on their immediate interests they aren't noticing the interconnectedness of the global economy, that is, misfortune can be difficult to isolate. In fairness, to contemplate a global economy, I don't see how it fashion.

Paul451 said...

Ian,
LENR is decended from cold fusion. It's... well, it's a mix of genuine well-meaning physicists like Zawodny swearing blind that they are getting micro-watts of excess heat in their test-tubes, and companies claiming to be producing kilowatts or megawatts of excess heat from their secret patent-pending process and this time is totally not like their last company which claimed to run a car engine on water.

In other words it's probably crap, and if it's not crap, these people aren't the ones who will get us out of the crap because they are too far down the rabbit hole, Alice.

Alfred Differ said...

oof. As soon as I saw 'lattice' and 'nuclear' in the same sentence I had a flashback to a cold fusion seminar at school where the speaker pointed out that the palladium used was refined in an inert atmosphere... of helium. EVERYONE in the audience groaned and that was the end of their interest in the subject. Later mentions got them angry in the sense of a duped person who catches on and feels stupid about it. 8)

David Brin said...

Heck I'd settle for a billionaire starting up a company to sell to a million homeowners a box that would let them use their OWN DAMN ROOF TOP SOLAR CELLS during a power blackout. SHould cost $100. I'd buy one in a shot.

David Brin said...

onward

Bubba Muntzer said...

On the one hand we're descended from people who acted in their own interests. On the other there are certain rich people who saw the benefits of acting in the interests of others and created for us a flat society.

The contradiction is solved by acknowledging that it wasn't benevolent rich people who created the flat society but your feared prols organizing to further interests they had in common. The rise and fall of flatness exactly coincides with the rise and fall of union density in the US.

Stop pleading with people who have no intention, consciously, unconsciously, genetically or otherwise, of giving up the control they have over the means to make a living and get to know some prols. We're not that bad.

Nancy W McClure said...

Some of the ideas don't require a zillionaire. They're small enough to be achieved by a lot of smaller donors.

For instance, gerrymandering is evil. Is there an organization that's fighting it nationally? Is the only mechanism public education and pressure on legislators? I hope we could do better than that. Where could I donate $100 to help the fight?

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