Thursday, February 06, 2014

A Plague of Outrage

A while back, I referred to this book: The Outrage Industry: Political Opinion Media and the New Incivility” by Jeffrey M. Barry and Sarah Sobieraj.  An interesting rumination on how political disagreements unfold in American media can be found in Salon Online: How Right-wing Media Spiraled out of control, excerpted from the bookSkim past a lengthy and somewhat tendentious introduction about Michelle Bachman, and head to the meat, where the authors suggest that our current Era of Outrage is rather unprecedented and driven by deliberate incitement in media that are out of all proportion or control.
Especially interesting is a historical survey of how TV news used to be a forum for consensus and how shows like William F. Buckley's Firing Line encouraged debate that was constructive and mostly civil:
plague-outrage"Firing Line emerged in the context of these dramatic and often divisive events. The program was a one-hour debate-style public affairs show hosted by conservative William F. Buckley, during which Buckley posed challenging questions of the day to high-profile guests ranging from Hugh Hefner to Noam Chomsky. The interviews were interesting, with a more adversarial tone than found in network news and yet markedly more civilized than today’s cable news analysis shows. Questions were thoughtful, answers tended to be substantive, and those involved treated one another respectfully. Disagreement was ever present, but disparagement was rare.
“Firing Line” is noteworthy not only because it created space for extended exchange of political opinion on television, but also because it aired for over 30 years. “Agronsky and Company,” which debuted a few years later, but had less durability, also began to offer opinion-laden public affairs programming on television with a recurring slate of combatants who would reliably disagree with more personality than was typical of other news-based content of the time, though still in a far more respectful manner than is characteristic in similar formats in the outrage era."
Outrage-industryIt is an interesting essay by Berry and Sobieraj -- a chapter from their book -- though I might demur from some of its assertions… e.g. that there was not an Outrage Industry in earlier eras.  One has only to look at the almost uniformly noxious press that fomented treason in the South before the Civil War. (Newspapers that drifted from the Slave-o-crats' party line were burned.  Indeed, the principal complaint and grievance mentioned in nearly all documents declaring secession was fury over the stubborn refusal of Northern states to quell freedom of press and close down abolitionist papers.)
Other periods saw the swell and fume of "yellow journalism"  that stoked bitter rage and stymied sober debate. Indeed, one of these intervals encompassed the first two decades of the American Republic.
Still, the authors' point is well-made. We boomers grew up in a golden age of journalism that, ironically, was undermined by the generally wondrous advances in electronic media that have freed us to wander out of the paternalistic firelight of journalist-professionals.  Inevitably, along with the good aspects (e.g. being able to research any topic independently and gather points of view from all over the globe) we have also seen wretched things like the consolidation of millions of rivetted followers, stoked on monochrome opinion and hate, via subsidized cable and radio "news." Systems that create, in effect diatribe-based  "nuremberg rallies". Given the addictive allure of indignation -- and freed from any Fairness Doctrine requirement to show all sides -- we had all the ingredients for a genuine plague of outrage.
Have a look and then grasp that this destruction of adult discourse in the United States was almost entirely deliberate, sabotaging the political negotiation and problem-solving systems that had served the republic for two centuries.  There is no clearer case of treason.
== A case in point ==
NeoConservativeDavid Frum is far from the cleverest of the high-IQ-but-dingbat students of Leo Strauss who came to be known as "neo-cons" in the late 1990s and early 2000s,  members of an arrogant-triumphalist wing of conservatism who thought they ruled the roost, amid the dawning years of the George W. Bush presidency. In those heady times, especially right after the events of 9/11 filled them with a bracing sense of mission and empowerment, men like Paul Wolfowitz, Paul Nitze, Richard Perle and Kenneth Adelman concocted grand rationalizations for why America should rush to do what it had sworn never to do again, after Vietnam -- plunging into vast, decadal, land-wars of insurgency in Asia. Two such wars, pouring arterial gushers of national wealth, prestige, honor and lives into distant desert sands. Wars that left the battlefield s owned by bitter foes of the U.S.
It was the coterie of neocons who provided grand, Straussian incantations, proclaiming for America a sense of imperial mission -- not the mild-consensus Pax Americana designed by Marshall, Acheson, Truman and Eisenhower, but an aggressively-resolute, romanesque imperium, unashamedly applying Manichaean power to transform the world any way their dear leader - George Bush - desired.
And if those lunges into middle-eastern quicksand happened to be exactly what Osama bin Laden and every enemy of the U.S. wanted us to do? Especially a certain petro-kingdom whose influence over the Dear Leader was near-total, and who also provided most of the 9/11 attackers?  No matter.  It is a tragedy of human existence that (as we also saw among the communists) high IQs and the ability to craft polysyllabic conjurations offer no protection against irony.
neoconservatives-steinfelIt can be hard to look back a whole ten years or more to the heyday and then sudden collapse of neoconservatism, but in retrospect we can see it as a shining era for the last intellectuals of the American Right. At last, they had their revenge upon those Che-tee-shirt-wearing leftist students who had trashed their offices and driven them away from real universities, into the welcoming arms of faux-academies like Heritage… where they willingly crafted whatever rationalizations that were asked of them.  In those heady times, they could ignore the grave spinning of Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley, as every principle of true, erudite conservatism was handily reversed.
Sic transit gloria. By 2004, the neocons had been tossed aside like used tissue, as their nerdiness grew vexing to Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch. Verbose concoctions -- even crazy ones -- no longer fit the narrative that all smartypants types are enemies. From scientists to teachers, medical doctors, journalists, economists, civil servants, law professionals, skilled labor, professors… name one exception… the populist, know-nothing theme on Fox and Right-Radio became hate all elites except the rich.  And yes, that applied even to intellectual courtesans of the no-longer "neo" right. Most of whom slunk away into obscurity, once more --
-- but not David Frum, who has spent recent years inveighing against the lobotomization of his movement.  Far from converting to liberalism, Frum has been among those on the American right with the guts to stand up to Rupert Murdoch, joining others at The American Conservative in appraising what went wrong, how it all got hijacked, and how to rescue something from the murdochian flames.
left-right-war-ideasFrum's latest sally is interesting, an appeal for the reader to look back to the roots of the "left-right" axis and terms like "liberal" and "conservative. In particular, he points to the debates between English parliamentarian Edmund Burke and Anglo-American polemicist Thomas Paine. Frum argues that gradually (I would say recently, and in large part because of the neocons) the entire meaning of Conservatism has undergone a process of reversal, so that many of the virtues professed by Burke are now rejected utterly, in Tea Party America.
I do not endorse all… or even most … of the insights offered by Mr. Frum.  But I found them interesting and a welcome (if brief) look back to days when "conservative" and "intellect" weren't antonyms.
== Conservative media in turmoil ==
Continuing on this… I oft remark that Arizona and New York are drawing copious electricity from coils arranged around the spinning in the graves of Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley Jr., both of whom growled and denounced the trends that were hijacking their beloved -- (and once-upon-a-time intellectual) -- movement.  Now it seems that New York can crank up their power draw a bit…
"The National Review magazine, longstanding house news organ of the establishment right, is facing a lawsuit that could shutter the publication (originally founded by Buckley with money he inherited) permanently. According to The Week, a suit by a climate scientist threatens to bankrupt the already financially shaky publication and its website, the National Review Online (NRO)."
So are we stuck with Fox News to represent the undead, were-thing that has taken over the American right?
The_American_Conservative,_July_2012_issueAs I mentioned above, have a look at the manifesto of The American Conservative, a journal that appears to be trying hard to resurrect the notion of a US conservative movement that argues constructively with their liberal neighbors, without kowtowing to a far right that is controlled by plutocrats and worshippers of aristocracy.
The American Conservative will not be a liberal's cup of tea! Indeed, it still lapses often into rants that betray its roots in a co-founder… one Patrick Buchanon. I do not promise more than one article in ten will rise above baloney.  But even that ratio 'be a blessing,' nowadays… and some of you, propelled (as I am) by curiosity and a desire to hear all sides, will drop in, now and then.
There are embers and glimmers of sanity among our neighbors over there!  Don't denigrate.  Help our "ostrich conservative" friends and neighbors to lift their heads and gradually move away from Fox-induced mania. Help fan the flames of a rebellion against the monsters who have hijacked the once intellectually cogent movement of Buckley and Goldwater.
== More on Divisive Politics ==
righteous-mind-haidt
What's behind this modern plague of political wrath? Jonathan Haidt, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business, best known for his “moral foundations” theory,  has applied science to  appraising why differences in personality and choice of moral foundations affect the more superficial political leanings of liberals, conservatives and libertarians.  It's actually quite fascinating and sufficiently neutral that most liberals and conservatives nod and say "yeah, that's me."

Climate change: another divisive topic. See this fascinating discussion of how the rapidly changing Arctic will provoke a cascade of secondary effects, from conflicts over resources in the Arctic Shelf to shipping changes to the release of trillions of pounds of methane from melting permafrost.  There are no Naval officers who deny climate change. All are aware that conservatism no longer connects to our strategic needs at any points of overlap.
Welcome to the future? See: The Poor Deserve Equal Protection by the Law:  "Businesses and economic elites in developing countries left frustrated by incompetent police, clogged courts and hopelessly overburdened judges and prosecutors are increasingly circumventing these systems and buying their own protection. In India in late 2010 the private security industry already employed more than 5.5 million people — roughly four times the size of the entire Indian police force. A 2009 World Bank report showed roughly the same ratio in Kenya. The largest employer in all of Africa is a private security firm, Group4Securicor, and in Guatemala, private security forces outnumber public police 7 to 1."
Do we want that for our world?

32 comments:

Jim Baca said...

If l hear the word "shocking" utter forth from the right one more time I may lose it.

srs said...

I think you mean Buchanan, not Robertson as a founder of American Conservative

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Guys
Just finished reading
"The Big Kahuna"
http://www.bigkahuna.org.nz/

Really interesting take on taxation and redistribution - all from a New Zealand perspective but IMHO applicable elsewhere

Basically a flat tax on all income including on "average return" on capital along with an "Unconditional Basic Income"

I found it very thought provoking especially his breakdown of the initial reasons for taxation and redistribution and then designing a mechanism to perform those functions
Rather than nibbling at the edges of our current system

Mitchell J. Freedman said...

I too respect American Conservative magazine. There is at least one article in nearly every issue that is well argued, constructive and makes sense even to someone like me. :-)

The NR, on the other hand, seems to have fallen out of control during the mid-Clinton era. It would be ironic if Michael Mann's lawsuit succeeded in destroying its economic foundation considering its cultural and political foundations were so damaged by the likes of Lowry, Goldberg etc. It was not so much the viewpoints changed, but the level of snark rose while the intellectual quotient present in the articles declined. They were simply no longer engaging in the way Ernest Van den Haag and Richard Brookshier were.

Robert said...

Here's an interesting article for you, Dr. Brin, from investor Jeremy Grantham concerning Tesla motors, peak oil production and peak oil demand, the mining industry and phosphorus, and fracking's possible role in increased earthquakes. Well worth reading.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Very interesting Robert!

Keith D. Halperin said...

Heard an interesting thing on The News Hour:
Mitt Romney received 59% of the white vote, yet lost by 5 million votes. Meanwhile the House Republicans are increasingly becoming the "White Male Caucus". With the national Country Club Wing no longer able to dictate to the Tea Party Wing funded by our “friends”, even with their gerrymandered districts, what's to keep the Republican Party from becoming increasingly unable to do anything except obstruct for the next 14-18 years until it becomes no longer a national party of influence in any way?

I’ve also heard it said that the Neocons would have been far more effective in getting things done if they had been former Stalinists and not former Trotskyists.

Alex Tolley said...

@Duncan
Basically a flat tax on all income

How do they handle the problem of differential relative consumption to income between the wealthy and the middle class? The wealthy want flat taxes as it ensures that income redistribution is lower than with a progressive tax.

Anonymous said...

There is most certainly a need for a real conservative movement to counteract the relentless antics of International Progressivism, both domestically and around the world. For example, have you seen the not-so-subtle propaganda google is pushing lately, directed at the usual suspects: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-jDJdkpsOdHc/UvRL6Pwyc6I/AAAAAAAACU8/iwHMs7jhAu8/s1600/Google+Homos.png

The reason America has so many enemies around the world is because of this kind of arrogance toward other cultures, whom it apparently believes wants and must adopt all our values. Dr. Brin seems to be on board with this kind of "neoliberal imperialism"; for example, he recently admitted that Hollywood is essentially a propaganda machine whose mission is to transform minds on a global scale to think just like us. Apparently google is on board with this agenda now too. What incredible arrogance!

This is why a conservative movement is so necessary, to counteract this kind of constant imperialist meddling that is producing so much unnecessary hostility toward America around the world.

Who wants a neoliberal, progressive-fascist-corporate imperial America fighting wars around the globe and monitoring all its citizens for some fanatical minority's agenda? Not me, and certainly not most Americans I know. If this goes on, surely another revolution is in our future!

Glen Filthie said...

It takes two to tango, Mr. Brin. As a conservative I am on the opposite page. I remember better days of worthy liberals, totally unlike the feral liberal scum of today like Barak Obama, Michael Moore and Nancy Pelosi.

You say we are uncivil and impolite - tell that to your Occutards Of Wall Street that fornicate, urinate and defacate in public parks as they 'protest'. You say we 'need to have a national discussion about guns' where the 'conversation' is one where you talk, and we are not allowed to speak. When we DO get to speak, we are accused of intolerance, and intolerance will not be tolerated! It goes on and on.

Sometimes fights need to be had. Contrary to the elderly hippies and pasty faced peaceniks, violence often DOES solve things. Now would be a good time for the leftwing dim bulbs of your readership to think long and hard about which end of the political spectrum owns all the gun.

Incivility, hippy? You ain't seen NOTHIN' yet.

Tim H. said...

Glen, BHO, liberal? YGBKM! Anyway, what's left of contemporary conservatism, once you subtract the would be tax evaders?

Duncan Cairncross said...

Alex said

"How do they handle the problem of differential relative consumption to income between the wealthy and the middle class? The wealthy want flat taxes as it ensures that income redistribution is lower than with a progressive tax."

The "Unconditional Basic Income" provides a degree of "progression"

Everybody get it - then is taxed on all other income (including the putative income from wealth)

This effectively means that you start with a negative total tax rate which goes to 0% at about $33,000 earned
(Which becomes $33,000 + $11,000 = $44,000 income minus $11,000 tax)

With the effective tax rate increasing asymptotically towards 30%

- saying that the numbers were for New Zealand where the differential between the rich and poor is not as fierce as in the USA

In the USA you would almost certainly need a progressive tax - but it would probably only start to increase at some very high number
Say flat (30%) until $400,000 ???
+ 10% until 800,000
+ 20% until $1,600,000
+ 30% until $3,200,000
+ 40% until $6,400,000

Duncan Cairncross said...

"Now would be a good time for the leftwing dim bulbs of your readership to think long and hard about which end of the political spectrum owns all the gun."

Not sure how much "owning all the guns" counts when matching rednecks and lawyers against all of the technical types that tend to be "leftwing"
Knowledge is a weapon in itself and it seems that the "conservatives" are disarming themselves

Randy Winn said...

I call Poe!

David Brin said...

Sitting in a $%#$! airport waiting for a delayed flight home. Cranky and tired, I shouldn't respond, but...

Keith H… The neocons were used up and thrown away like tissue paper when no longer useful to the Oligarchs. The Oligarchs thought they could do the same thing with the Tea Party but that populist movement now frightens them.

I do NOT believe the can't about a "fractious Republican Party. Both "sides" still take their marching orders from Roger Ailes, repeating his every issued talking [pint every day. And he takes his message from a dozen billionaires and a certain royal petro-family. The Fox strategy of waging war on all "smartypants" intellectual or knowledge castes in America and demolishing the American genius for pray attic negotiation is utterly identical from TP "radicals" to so-called Boehner "realists." I see no sign whatsoever that the "realists" mean a single pragmatic word they utter.

As for the "anonymous" coward, what a laugh! You hypocrite! You DARE to talk to us about imperial adventurism? Afteryour imbecillic "side" betrayed both libertarianism and mature conservatism by plunging g America into TWO exhausting, multi trillion dollar land wars of insurgency in Asia? That plus a dozen other treasons relegate you and your "side" to utter non-credibility, which you reinforce with every denialist screech at science and at the genuinely flat and open and transparent and fair capitalism and liberalism that Adam Smith represented.

I despise the crazy far-left! They are imbeciles. But the ENTIRE right has betrayed Goldwater and Buckley and Burke and has plunged into stark gibbering insanity. And I look you in your anonymously cowardly eye and say that yes… I mean you.

At least Glen "Filthie" offers us a pseudonym! But I'll listen when you can name ONE clade of knowledge in Aerican life that is not attacked by Fox daily.

And name ONE unambiguous metric of US national or middle class health that did not PLUMMET under both Bushite eras.

David Brin said...

I despise the #$#@#! spell auto correct. "pray attic" was supposed to be "pragmatic" !

Why do fools make things worse?

Paul451 said...

Alex,
Re: "Big Kahuna" tax reform.

There's also a deemed income rate of 6% on the value of major assets like property or fixed business assets. That "income" is taxed at the same 30%. So 1.8% annually on the total assessed value.

Tim H. said...

Another though on "Big Kahuna", in the absence of means testing, government could shrink. Possibly an opportunity to find out if the GOP is merely making "Happy noises" about shrinking government.

Alex Tolley said...

@Tim H. The way the GOP end up shrinking government depends on what is being shrunk. If it is associated with welfare, then straight cuts to programs and personal are done. Similarly with regulations.
But where the service offers profits, privatize to extract them (under the propaganda that private industry is always superior).







Alex Tolley said...

re: "The Big Kahuna"
Scanned it quickly. I think their heart is in the right place. I just doubt the efficacy of the prescription. The UK tried wealth taxes - but the problem was that the wealthy found ways to hide it from the tax collectors, much as they do in the US today. The UK's tax laws allow for citizenship but separate residency, which is why so many wealthy Brits are "tax exiles", living abroad for more than 6 months a year. Loopholes. The low flat tax rate does reduce the incentive for avoidance and evasion, which is good.

If you look at the slides starting at 17, you will see that while tax rates (described as contributions) look equitable, the issue of wealth accumulation is not. Just because the King pays 20% tax, about the same as all his subjects, doesn't make the system "fair" is terms of opportunities.
Maybe if the lens is about stopping tax dodging, rather than real fairness, then perhaps that is the best that can be done politically as almost all sectors of society benefit (according to their chart in slide 21)

Robert said...

There is one reason why we're not seeing a massive move against the oligarchs right now. The cost of manufacturing has dropped. Thus while the effective salary of poor and middle-class workers has declined in the past 50 years, we also have computers available for a fraction of what they cost even in the 80s. You can get good-sized televisions for a fraction. And food is subsidized so people aren't going hungry.

So there is the illusion of wealth for the poor. This illusion may very well continue once three-dimensional printing does away with the majority of non-service jobs... assuming that printed products cost less due to the reduced manpower.

This may very well work for residence as well. If it is possible to build a house for $10,000, then you may very well see printed buildings which allow the poor and former middle-class to own their own homes despite the fact they are making a fraction of what they used to. It'll be a poor man's pseudo-utopia while the oligarchs who end up owning 99% of the wealth are the ones with the high-end toys, the medical treatments giving them eventual immortality, and probably the stars.

The question becomes: how long will this last? Well, with environmental changes ongoing, those printed houses will be put up to the test. If they fail that test, you have a large displaced population. Food is the next problem: unless 3D printing allows the creation of food from simple carbon (coal mines suddenly come into vogue for the concentrated carbon they provide) then when climate change starts reducing the output of farms, you'll see food riots.

So eventually things are going to fall apart. The smart oligarchs will be in areas that are inaccessible to the rest of us. The dumb ones and the poorer oligarchs will be torn apart by the masses.

locumranch said...

The so-called 'Outrage Industry' and divisive politics are the inevitable outgrowth of the Mythos of Competition, the irrational belief that the ritualized warfare of competition is somehow 'socially beneficial' even though it is inherently destructive and divisive, leading to a general breakdown of polite discourse, social order & civility.

In the pursuit of Almighty Competition, the task at hand is eventually forgotten, whether or not that it was originally intended to be social, political, intellectual or athletic, only to be superceded by preliminary and/or post-game macho emotional posturing designed escalate, provoke and incite competitive confrontation for its own sake.

Analogous to the increasing brutality exhibited at professional sporting events by players, hooligans & associated agencies, the escalation of the so-called 'Outrage Industry' is the fruit of the same poisonous tree which converts William F. Buckley-style intellectual superciliousness into no-holds barred Jerry Springer-style political combat, leaving us with a competition between two choices:

We either repudiate the self-destructive competitive mythos & step back from the nearing brink OR we descend in chaos with brother turned against brother, so we might as well accept the inevitable.

We can't let those oligarchs win. Rah Rah Rah. Go Team.


Best.

Tony Fisk said...

As frustrating as they can be, useless-friendly spell checkers and other eggcorn generators can be sources of merriment.

There was a time when English Catholics thought it very 'pragmatic' to have a 'pray attic'.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

So eventually things are going to fall apart. The smart oligarchs will be in areas that are inaccessible to the rest of us.


Only if they're willing to do without servants. Otherwise, some of the 99.9% will have to be there with them.

Jonathan S. said...

According to a lot of the right-wing "pundits", I'm a raving left-wing loony (because I still believe in things like the separation of church and state, and the value of science in decision-making).

And anyone who thinks I'm totally disarmed, and that only the right-wing lunatic fringe owns weapons, is in for one hell of a shock if they ever decide to try to hold a coup...

Tacitus2 said...

Contrary Brin has suffered in recent times from the incursion of various trolls claiming to be conservative but spouting some rather toxic stuff. I have seen some of them often enough to identify them by "style" to use the term loosely.

Well, free speech and all, but I hope serious participants will not be distracted.

Five points to Tony Fisk for the reference to secret hideouts in stately Catholic manor houses!

I was unavailable for the recent income equality discussion but did have a thought.

Part of conservative reluctance to just keep forking over more money to the government is the belief that the amount of "good" done by government action is less per dollar expended than that done by non governmental philanthropy.

The stupidest proposal floated by the current admin some years back was to scale back tax deductions for charitable contributions. That idea went nowhere fast.

Even among liberal folks there is some appreciation that just giving lots of money to Uncle may not be the way to go. Example: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Conservatives give a higher proportion of their incomes to charity than other political persuasions. And would probably be willing to give more.

Now, I see many problems with this path. Not a few "charities" are scams. I have no idea of how we would sort them out (and btw, this is why the IRS showing differential scrutiny to some types of organizations really troubles me). But perhaps a tier of Class A charities could be closely monitored and given full deduction credit. Doctors Without Borders. Planned Parenthood even.

On a strictly tax basis I guess Class A status should be reserved for organizations that primarily assist Americans, basically doing things (better) that the government otherwise would have to do. But there is so much suffering in the wider world that I don't guess that would be moral.

Thoughts?

Tacitus

Duncan Cairncross said...

Tacitus said
"Part of conservative reluctance to just keep forking over more money to the government is the belief that the amount of "good" done by government action is less per dollar expended than that done by non governmental philanthropy.

The stupidest proposal floated by the current admin some years back was to scale back tax deductions for charitable contributions. That idea went nowhere fast."

I would like to see some numbers here
There are a lot of "Charities" in the USA that actually contribute a vanishingly small amount of their income to actual good causes

An overall calculation of the "efficiency" of "charities" would be very interesting

I suspect that it would be so small that it would reveal that just using the tax deductions for Government welfare would do massively more good

Never mind the rest of the money

"Conservatives give a higher proportion of their incomes to charity than other political persuasions"

But they get the Tax break - and their charities can be things like;
Their Schools, Their Opera Houses,
Their Political Organizations

David Brin said...

I like the multi-tiered approach offered by Tacitus. Or else limit amounts to categories. I don't mind a floor of tax-free status to churches, for example. The first 15,000$ of a poor pastor's income. The first two square meters of floorspace per paid parishioner. let those be tax free… and even $5000/year in donations by parishioners.

But that's enough to guarantee that the state can never crush or squelch religion. Above that, churches should have to pay for civilization, same as everyone else.

==
locus's lack of reference to history remain's a blight upon his cogency. The benefits of flat-fair-open competition are too myriad to count. Including the biggest, that we can sic elites against each other and thus remain free.

===

Question. is anyone out there in a position to research… from public records… what Edward Snowden's political party registration was ten years ago, before he ever got involved with intelligence agencies and all of that? In some states, party registration is a matter of public record. I'm curious for some interesting reasons.

Contact me separately, if you like.

Randy Winn said...

If we want to continue using tax policy to encourage charitable giving (not a proposition I endorse, on the grounds that of you're going to do expenditures, you should do so openly .... But I digress...) I suggest treating contributions of labor the same as contributions of money and good. Why not? It would encourage a lot of unemployed or retired people into the charitable workforce, where their work stocking shelves at thrift stores(for example) are just as important as the donation of last decade's sports wear.
There would be ramifications, of course. I note as a data point the decade I volunteered at such a store which was kept afloat by volunteer labor, this saving the taxpayers of the community the taxes that otherwise would have to be paid for the purpose the store supported. An additional subsidy was in the form of work study, ostensibly to teach tomorrow's engineers how to count change and tag frocks, but in reality transferring those wages by means of work into the support of aforementioned public purpose. It might have been more efficient to simply find the purpose and cut out the middle beings, but that would be politically hard

locumranch said...

Indeed, the benefits of 'flat-fair-open competition' are too myriad to count as long as we remain cognizant that -- after the use of socially progressive modifiers like 'flat-fair-open' which imply a 'flattening' of hierarchy, the absence of social inequality & a lack of distinction between the so-called 'winners & losers' -- we are no longer talking about 'competition' in a strict sense.

Instead, we are now talking about 'cooperation', defined by some as competition's diametric opposite, so I find it distasteful, intellectually dishonest and hypocritical when progressives like David pledge allegiance to a Free Market flag, all while singing competition 'tis of thee', even though they mean the opposite.

I can put this more succinctly with a Game Theory analogy (in order of descending civility):

(1) Human Cooperation, being the most civil**, is a Positive Sum game because it favors equality for all by elevating all of its adherents to winner status;

(2) Mixed Competition, being less civil, is a Zero Sum game because of its divisive need to create inequality by separating winners from losers; and

(3) Pure Competition, being most uncivil, is a Negative Sum game because it devolves quickly into anarchy as its so-called 'players' cannot abide by any laws, thereby eliminating the distinction between winners & losers.

Therefore, Competition can only be said to be socially beneficial in its impure (mixed) form and too much emphasis on the 'Competition is GOOD mythos' can only serve to destabilize our society, leading us down the the entropic slope toward the unalloyed evil that is Pure Competition, remembering always that ideological purity in any form (whether that form be social, political, intellectual or genetic) is ALWAYS destructive and undesirable because 'purity' is an inhuman assumption in & of itself.

** As evidenced by the repeated failure of the Communist Ideal, Human Cooperation (being inherently impure) can never hope to achieve full social equality, meaning that the distinction between Mixed Competition and Human Cooperation is largely an arbitrary one, just as the benefits of Cooperation mixed with Competition are "are too myriad to count".


Best

David Brin said...

" the absence of social inequality & a lack of distinction between the so-called 'winners & losers' -- we are no longer talking about 'competition' in a strict sense."

That is diametrically opposite to true. In fact, those are the only circumstances when you DO have actual competition.

Sports leagues, from kiddie to professional, go to herculean lengths to at least create the appearance of a level playing field, because fans wander away when blowouts seem inevitable. As they are if there aren't rules and rules and rules.

For 6000 years competition was the FIRST thing destroyed by cabals of winners who proceeded to cheat like hell in order to stay on top.

Think.

David Brin said...

onward… to next posting….