Wednesday, April 09, 2014

It’s not the “One Percent”

First, before getting into the “one percent” matter…

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I have heard few interviews on NPR that were more cogent, intelligent or rich in wisdom and knowledge than this one, with Bruce Levine, a professor of history at the University of Illinois, who is author of The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution that Transformed the South and Confederate Emancipation, Professor Levine deals handily with the edifice of completely made-up rationalizations we hear fermenting these days: e.g. that slavery was declining in the South during the lead-up to the U.S. Civil War (phase 1).

Not one of the excuses offered by apologists -- like Judge Andrew Napolitano -- stand upon anything more substantial than wish-fantasies and fairy dust.

Listen to the audio interview. This is a wise and knowledgeable fellow. An example of why those waging war on science had to expand their campaign to encompass and reject history, economics, journalism and every other clade of knowledge in American life.

== It’s not the “One Percent” ==

Okay, I have a bone to pick with you “progressives” out there. Sometimes you can be as lazy and simple-minded as your opponents.

99-percentStop referring to "the one percent!" It is a trap. Indeed, it may be a polemical trick, foisted on us all by a conniving oligarchy that does not want to face the ire of a united citizenry.

Those chanting “we’re the ninety-nine percent” only thus empower Fox-pundits to respond that "most of the one-percenters are small business owners, or hard-working doctors and dentists who are demonized by the left for their well-earned success, stigmatized for providing valued goods and services."

And that's completely true!

Look, you polemical liberals out there, do you really want three MILLION of America's most productive, innovative and hard-working people to be driven into the arms of the real oligarchs, by tarring them with the same, simplistic brush? Guilt-by-association?

There's a word for that. It is "stupid."

one-percentIn fact, according to this article in the Atlantic it is the top 0.01 percent—that's the uppermost one percent of the top 1 percent—that's leaving the rest of the top percentile behind, in the dust along with the rest of us. “While nine-tenths of the top percentile hasn't seen much change at all since 1960, the 0.01 percent has essentially quadrupled its share of the country's wealth in half a century.”

Alas, what this article leaves out is discussing the one-percent of THAT clade… or the 0.0001%ers. Those are the folks always to scrutinize. Even the father of modern market enterprise capitalism (Adam Smith) said so!

They aren't all bad, just because they are rich! Indeed, the Silicon Valley billionaires and other entrepreneurs who developed goods and services by working closely with thousands of skilled and free-thinking engineers – these men and women know that it is a relatively flat, well-educated and open “diamond-shaped” society – dominated by a vibrant and empowered and knowing middle class – that creates the kind of opportunities that let them succeed in a positive-sum way. Getting rich while making us all richer. Guys and gals like that are sensitive to how it all would get ruined – will get ruined – if we follow the age-old human pattern. Into feudal-inherited-oligarchy.

Interestingly, those open-market-friendly rich men and women are mostly democrats.

ClassWarLessonsHistorySo. Shall we get mad? Chant and wave torches and polish our tumbrels? No, we must recall enough history to remember this is an old, old problem. Those who are meddling in our politics and hiring propagandists to restart the American Civil War, they are acting entirely according to human nature, spanning thousands of years. It is not morally culpable that they are too stupid to rise above basic, pre-sapient instinct. Alas though, it does mean that those obeying ancient-harem-seeking instincts are not as smart as they think.

By doing all of this, they in fact prove a fundamental of nature. That all good things are toxic, when too concentrated. Water, food, oxygen… wealth. It is one thing about which Adam Smith and Karl Marx absolutely agreed.

In order to save and preserve a system in which each of us can get rich -- by providing competitive-creative goods and services – even very, very rich (so long as it is fair) – then we may have to put some kind of limit upon the number of "verys."

== Obscure… but related ==

Speaking of very… this is very interesting, if too radical for our present world to experiment with… except maybe in a sci fi novel… Geo-libertarians hold that all natural resources – most importantly land – are common assets to which all individuals have an equal right to access; therefore, individuals must pay rent to the community if they claim land as their private property. They simultaneously agree with the libertarian position that each individual has an exclusive right to the fruits of his or her labor as their private property, as opposed to this product being owned collectively by society or the community, and that "one's labor, wages, and the products of labor" should not be taxed.

This is one example of the many alternatives that used to be discussed by the Greatest Generation… before we Boomers took over and made everything simplistic, reflexive, emotional… and admit it… not one of you has ever actually read Adam Smith or Karl Marx. If your life depended on it, could you describe accurately what they said? Or even define what “left” and “right” mean?

Really?  Well… this blog does attract the erudite.  But those few of you are very very rare.

== And re transparency ==

With rising public interest in what developers refer to as the “privacy economy,” researchers from the MobiSocial Lab at the Stanford School of Engineering have announced at SXSW a new type of social network, called Omlet that allows users to control their own personal data. Omlet “shields users from the monetization of their personal lives.

83 comments:

Berial said...

Once you start getting into such small percentages as the .01%, why not just put the actual number up there.

Unless my numbers are way off .01% of the US population is only around 32000 people.

Myles F. Corcoran said...

I would say that 32,000 - if that were to be the figure - would be too large - unless we include their whole families and those who administer their doings close up.

I would think the actual number closer to 0.001% - or about 3000 people - and even that number seems a little high if we are only including the USA.

We ask: Who gains when the people believe government is against us. We think - the oligarchs. Nothing new.

Myles F. Corcoran said...

I would say that 32,000 - if that were to be the figure - would be too large - unless we include their whole families and those who administer their doings close up.

I would think the actual number closer to 0.001% - or about 3000 people - and even that number seems a little high if we are only including the USA.

We ask: Who gains when the people believe government is against us. We think - the oligarchs. Nothing new.

David Brin said...

But "one percent of the one percent" is too good a catch phrase to pass up. And those 32,000 include a lot of folks - including youths - whose values might be tweaked, getting them to side with and speak up for the half of the aristocracy that is anti-oligarchy.

Above all, the .01% contains a lot of folks who know the dirt of the 0.001% Think about that.

Carolyn Meinel said...

I dispute the guess made by Mr. Brin that no baby boomers studied Adam Smith or Karl Marx. In 1963-64, the library at Palo Verde High School in Tucson, AZ included the works of Adam Smith, as well as Marx and Hegel, for example Das Kapital by Karl Marx. This latter book was replete with anecdotes to support his theories. I read this book and many others, for example, Wealth of Nations by Smith, for a research project for the class "American Problems" taught by Ida May Knowles.

That year, some of us seniors formed a political club. We had a representative of the John Birch Society give a talk. The debate that followed caused a furor that resulted in my being called to the principal's office to elucidate upon my comments.

This is one of the experiences that led me to believe that many of us baby boomers, those of us who were politically active beginning as teenagers, did study these seminal works of political science.

Jumper said...

Executive pay advisory services. Here's a random example. Smells like fish.
http://www.barneyandbarney.com/board-advisory-services/
It's a scam.

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

AJ Snook said...

Thanks for this reminder. Making it as black and white as the 1% vs. the 99% is too simplistic. Difficult problems require complex answers (and informed/educated problem solvers). How about the idea of voting with our wallets? Why has this not been able to catch-on in light of all of the glaring information available to us about oligarchs and their practices?

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin,

If I recall, the "99%" slogans came out of the Occupy Wall St movement back in 2011. And at the time, it was a kind of wake up call that we shouldn't be making war between the "working class", the "middle class", the "privileged class", the "poor", etc. That we really all do look alike to those wielding the power. "We are the 99%!" meant "We who aren't rich enough to buy off the system are all on the same team."

Yes, now you can quibble about the appropriate percentages, but at the time, I think "99%" made the point in a way that few other sound-bite-sized slogans could.

LarryHart said...

and locum, if you care, there's a response to you concerning things we ought to be doing on the previous post.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

They aren't all bad, just because they are rich!


Oh, I've always said so.

I like the picture that was shown in an article--I think it was a response to Charles Koch's WSJ editorial--of a woman holding a sign that says "I don't care that you're rich. I care that you bought my government!"

I don't have anything against people (legitimately) earning and keeping or spending lots of money. I do have something against them using that money to cheat.

locumranch said...

It 'ought' not to be "the one percent" but it is. Fox's argument that "most of the one-percenters are small business owners" is specious, based on an extremely flexible definition of 'small business' which defines "79% of all firms in the US' as 'small businesses', including the likes of McDonald's, Toyota and General Electric, wherein only "4% of all firms in the US (are believed to) have more than 10 employees".

http://www.forbes.com/sites/marccompeau/2011/10/22/defining-small-business/

Hook, line & sinker, it's a reeking crock of mathematically accurate misdirection that many swallow whole even when they ought not.

A tricky term is 'Ought'. Signifying 'duty', 'obligation', 'desirability' and a paucity of alternative, the term 'ought' is frequently misused to imply causality ...

As in 'wealth ought to indicate value', 'merit ought to confer status' and 'life ought to be fair' even when it's 'not'...

So goes the logical progression of Ought, Aught and Naught. :P



Best

Robert Dale said...

I think there is some merit to this. "Speaking of very… this is very interesting, if too radical for our present world to experiment with… except maybe in a sci fi novel… Geo-libertarians hold that all natural resources – most importantly land – are common assets to which all individuals have an equal right to access; therefore, individuals must pay rent to the community if they claim land as their private property." This is plain stupid. "They simultaneously agree with the libertarian position that each individual has an exclusive right to the fruits of his or her labor as their private property, as opposed to this product being owned collectively by society or the community, and that "one's labor, wages, and the products of labor" should not be taxed." Are the "small business owners, or hard-working doctors and dentists" incomes totally independent of the society in which those incomes are earned. These people need to pay rent to the community for the most precious commodity required to make a good living. Civilization. Their hard work is for naught if there are not patients and customers and infrastructure and regulations. Stop pretending there is merit to libertarian philosophy. Its a naive utopian pipe dream which ignores the fact that unregulated humanity is selfish, greedy and tends to hoard. Selfish hoarding diminishes us all.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

A tricky term is 'Ought'. Signifying 'duty', 'obligation', 'desirability' and a paucity of alternative, the term 'ought' is frequently misused to imply causality ...


If that's the semantic problem you have with the concept of "Things We Ought to do Anyway", then I strongly suggest you think instead of "Things that would be beneficial to do anyway." It's a counterargument to the meme of "Wasting money/food/energy is a good thing unless you can prove beyond a doubt that we're actually running out right now." Dr Brin cautions that if we are running out soon, conservation is necessary, and even if we're not running out, it still doesn't hurt and still saves money to conserve.

In all my years reading this blog, I never took him to be saying that conservation (for example) is something one must do to please the (real or imagined) moral authorites.

Jason said...

David, you know I've read Smith and Marx...that's what St. John's does!

And you know I read your blog, too - for shame.

Cheers,

-Jason

LarryHart said...

Robert Dale:

Are the "small business owners, or hard-working doctors and dentists" incomes totally independent of the society in which those incomes are earned. These people need to pay rent to the community for the most precious commodity required to make a good living. Civilization. Their hard work is for naught if there are not patients and customers and infrastructure and regulations.


Dr Brin should give you Post of the Day for that one!

What sort of society should we be as technology reduces the amount of human labor and drudgery necessary to keep the system in fine working order?

In my view, we should become a society in which more people can live well while doing less work.

In the Republican view, it would seem, we become a society in which fewer and fewer people have a right to live.

Tacitus2 said...

Sorry to have missed the previous thread's discussion on airships.

The problem with their wider use has always been, and will always be, their inability to maneuver against high winds. This would for instance make them useless in searching the Indian Ocean.

Now, if you want to see some airships that defy the laws of physics there is always the sort seen in the Girl Genius comics.

Although just how Agatha Heterodyne keeps her, um, airships so...uplifted is a mystery.

Tacitus

David Brin said...

Carolyn M I had similar experience. Indeed, pehaps just as MANY in the Boomer gen read the sources. But they are a far smaller % of college grads. In the 30s & 40s generation, no one could graduate college as dumbass ignorant about core readings as the average boomer with a degree is today.

Yes Jason, I know YOU have read the Great Books! But you are a Gen-Xer, right?

Tacitus… TOWED airships can also ignore most moderate winds! Their biggest deficit is infrastructural…. Making a clear path from coast to coast that offers no obstructions to the towing cables!

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Tacitus… TOWED airships can also ignore most moderate winds! Their biggest deficit is infrastructural…. Making a clear path from coast to coast that offers no obstructions to the towing cables!


I thought the question before the court was "What benefit does the towed airship provide over just riding the train itself?"

matthew said...

Um, because a ship can tow many airships against the wind? Ok, maybe if we redesigned tow ships to not get pulled under? Hmm, some math to do here...
All of that aside, the main use for airships is in an east to west global train, using the jet stream as free motivation. 10,000 airships all hauling cargo containers counterclockwise around the globe as seen from above the north pole. And in the southern hemisphere, going the other way. Making trip after trip around the globe with very little transport costs.
Until global climate change stops the jet stream, that is.

lr said...

To answer Larry's question about the relative benefit of transporting cargo in a towed airship over cargo transport in the train itself:

None or negative

Cargo weight & relative airship bouyancy are immaterial. Only the momentum, mass & velocity of the towed object matter: p=mv.

And, most likely, a towed airship would exhibit excessive drag, act like a parachute and make transport by airship much less efficient & more expensive than the train alone.

Duncan Cairncross said...

It's difficult to imagine an airship being towed at decent railway speeds
(150mph+) not to mention the effect on the train as it negotiates the bends in the track

Then there are the tunnels!

Changing the subject
I have just watched an episode of UK TV - Bluestone 42

It's very funny -
But the funniest thought was to imagine it being broadcast in the USA

Not going to happen I expect

Sandymount said...

David,

as someone persuaded by the Austrian economists one can certainly call the wealth earnt by the 'Cantillon effect' of monetary policy unfair. Namely, the first users of printed money get to buy assets at prices that increase before the greater masses appreciate the debasement of money.. think Bank traders.

But why should we cap the wealth of the top 0.1 or whatever per cent? As a non zero sum guy, whats the problem? If they earnt it fair and square, they did so by increasing the pie not taking stealing other peoples slices or even reducing the pie? And this sense of unfairness or that a certain amount of inequality is 'too much' can be encouraged by people like yourself and the press to give the masses a not hard to provoke outlet for their envy?

Secondly, Nassim Taleb speaks a lot about the changing world we live in. More Extremistan, less Mediocristan.. hence it is to be expected that there will be longer tails, eg. the wealthiest will be massively so, but, that such distribution will become very unstable..think AOL /Yahoo/Google etc... zero to hero to zero.

Yours,

Praxeologue.

Alfred Differ said...

Ocean searching with airships would probably have to be done at altitudes in excess of 15km. Maybe 20km. If you get high enough at temperate latitudes you can get above a lot of the wind. The airships get very large, though, and you have to be better at managing the lift gas to avoid having it slosh around inside the envelope while at low altitudes.

For towing purposes, the main advantage I see is the ability to transport large cargos that don't fit on the tracks. It's like those cargo container ships. Take a good look at them and you'll see a similar idea. If they could shrink the hull width near the water without shrinking it up higher it would make sense for passage through canals and fuel usage. Unfortunately, they'd be top-heavy and tip over unless they could use buoyancy to help.

As for air drag, you beat that with long cigar-shaped hulls. Pay attention to how air flows over the skin and you can do even better. The airships aren't all that bad with respect to drag.

Paul451 said...

Ir/etc.
Re: Dragged dirigibles.

By eliminating the weight on the rails, you reduce the infrastructure mass; bridges/etc. [In the real world, it wouldn't balance the cost or difficulty of allowing free passage. Getting rid of all tunnels, overpasses, power-lines, etc, along the entire route.]

Duncan,
Re: Steering led balloons.

While the traction engine allows you to eliminate engines (and fuel) from the airship, there's no reason not to have flight-surfaces for manoeuvring.

Paul451 said...

Sandymount,
"But why should we cap the wealth of the top 0.1 [...] If they earnt it fair and square, they did so by increasing the pie not taking stealing other peoples slices or even reducing the pie?"

Yes, if.

And if they didn't earn it fair and square? Then they increased their proportion of the national wealth at the expense of the bottom 99%%? Especially the bottom 50%? Is it then okay for people to be pissed off about that? Is it now not "envy"?

In the US, thirty years ago, before the conversion to the supply-side religion, the top 1% had just 9% of the nations pre-tax income, and less than 20% of the national wealth. Today they have 25% of the national income, and about 40% of national wealth.

Likewise, the percentage of wealth of the bottom 80% (eighty freakin' percent!) has fallen from about 18% to less than 10%. Non-home wealth, from 8.7% of wealth to just 4.7%.

Real median income was flat or falling, meaning that the majority of people gained nothing from GDP growth or productivity increases.

Effective income tax rates for the wealthy were dropped from 50% to less than 20%. Did the nation, the overwhelming majority of people, benefit from that change? The above figures say no.

So must we persist policies that have failed all but a tiny handful of people?

Mark said...

Like many, I think the 1% was a very effective campaign to highlight income inequality. The campaign worked and is the reason we are even having this conversation. Yes, 1% is a bit too large, but it isn't nearly far off enough to be "stupid". It has done far more good than bad.

I also read something today that showed the 0.5% earn less from work than from other sources. That is a pretty reasonable defining point as well.

Hans said...

When you say: "It is not morally culpable that they are too stupid to rise above basic, pre-sapient instinct." does that mean it's not their fault?

Tony Fisk said...

'The one percent of the one percent' isn't that catchy. We want something like 'la creme de la creme', only with less flattering overtones.

Hmm. What about "l'ecume de la creme"? (scum of the cream, but it sounds like something else as well ;-)

Airships, as Francesco Di Lana envisaged them.
Plus solar panels...and decent battery storage.

Jumper said...

Perhaps one could trade goods quite well with an airship. You go where the wind takes you and set down when the time is right. Wherever you are, you are going to beat the price of traders who burn more fuel. I guess their motto will be "Go east, young man!" (Jet stream.)

David Brin said...

Sandymount there comes a point where the aristocrats have enough wealth to buy political and administrative outcomes and to crush potential small competitors. This is proven in several ways: (1) it is what happened in 99.9% of human societies and generations and (2) reductio ad absurdum -- are you telling me that you cannot imagine a degree of concentration of wealth that you would NOT find toxic? No level at all? How about 0.000000001% owning 99.999999%?

Seriously?

Hans said...
When you say: "It is not morally culpable that they are too stupid to rise above basic, pre-sapient instinct." does that mean it's not their fault?
Good question! Answer: there is a difference between seeing a recurring human failure mode and acting vigorously/militantly to prevent it… and getting all righteously indignant because some humans are doing what human tend to do. I refuse to let Murdoch and the Kochs force me to hate them. They are stupid men with short horizons who have convinced themselves (aided by flatterers and sycophants) that they are "geniuses."

The smarter, self-made tech billionaires can see beyond their noses and perceive where all this will lead, if 6000 years of class war resumes, with a crushed middle class re-radicalized and capable of concocting biological agents.

Feudalism will be a bad bet, no matter how assiduously these fellows bribe their way toward lordship.

Sandymount said...

David,

if the wealth has been gained from 'aristocrat' like process, or what we might call today crony capitalism/lobbying/Central Bank support/links to financial sector then regardless of any inequality metric that you might think is 'too much', sure, it is wrong. It is largely a zero sum gain, they didnt 'create' wealth, they transferred it. It's cheating and to the extent the government and its monetary system enables cooption that should be changed. This is classic libertarian stuff.

But do I think in principle that some level of wealth inequality is 'too much'. No. As a non zero sum guy, you know that the only way such wealth could be earnt would be through countless positive sum transactions, meaning to say, that wealth would only be there if greatly more had been created.

Rather than obsessing about inequality, how about focussing on absolute metrics. Even the UN, a famously left institution puts out staggering data, see here http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/poverty.shtml or maybe consider Pinker's book, the Better Angles of our Nature documenting the collapse of violence.

I think my absolute safety and material well being far more significant things to worry about than how rich the richest man is compared to myself.

Isnt it obvious, a la Nassim Taleb's work, that in a globalising world the tails will lead to more extreme wealth. A US executive 30 years ago might have run a corporation selling mostly to US citizens, today, it is probably more global. Same with popstars to use Taleb's example... 200 years ago being the singing star of Blackpool was a big deal, today, you can become a hit overnight on Youtube with 10s of millions of views. Extremistan vs Mediocristan.

Another thing to bear in mind is that the top 1% or 1% of 1% or whatever changes. There is this notion that the rich stay rich but data does not bear this out. Even corporations dont stay the same..just look at the members of the Dow Jones 100 years ago. Where did all those 'rich stay rich' companies go?

Tom Crowl said...

RE: "you know that the only way such wealth could be earnt would be through countless positive sum transactions, meaning to say, that wealth would only be there if greatly more had been created."

Is this a serious statement?

Assuming you're not kidding and you're serious about understanding how the world works... I'd suggest you look into that statement.

Jumper said...

Reductio ad absurdum
http://www.thenation.com/blog/178417/one-rich-guy-who-owns-everything

Duncan Cairncross said...

RE: "you know that the only way such wealth could be earnt would be through countless positive sum transactions, meaning to say, that wealth would only be there if greatly more had been created."

That is actually correct
The problem is that the wealth was created by many millions of people working together and discovering how to do more with less
Then a tiny minority (who often had nothing to do with the process that created the wealth) have glommed onto that wealth

In the USA worker productivity has doubled in the last 30 years
Their pay has NOT increased

Having worked in industry I will guarantee that that improvement has been down to the actual workers assisted by various engineers and junior management

None of whom have benefited from their improvements

All of which has gone into the pockets of the 0.01%
Very few of whom actually contributed

Robert said...

For your enjoyment, Dr. Brin:

A cartoon of Freud, Nietzche, Carnap and Marx playing Monopoly. It ends about as you might image. ;)

Rob H.

Robert said...

@Tacitus: Underwired corsets and mad science. Also, Phil Foglio's drawing style is... not meant to be uber-realistic. Not with those eyes and facial features! ;)

If someone drew Agatha in a realistic anatomistic style, she'd probably be smaller up top, and less perky. Actually, that might be an interesting thing to try and draw... been ages since I pulled out the drawing pencils....

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Sandymount, you are clearly intelligent and articulate… and stunningly trapped in uni-directional rationalization.

Sure, you know the right verbiage: wealth that has been gained via positive sum activity that generates vastly more wealth for all… that is the fundamental moral justification for all of the great Smithian competitive arenas… not only markets but also democracy, courts and science, which harness human competition for the good of all.

But you fool yourself if you think you are actually supporting that system, while ignoring 6000 years of human history, during which all those systems were destroyed by cheaters and cheating…

… of the sort described by Adam Smith, himself. You ignore the fact that cheating is the BASELINE SITUATION. And it always arises out of wealth disparities. Precisely and always, because strength enables cheating and cheating WILL arise when it is not thwarted.

Ignore all that! Notice, you name only kinds of cheating that are related to "big government" and never the raw power that came - in 99% of cultures - from simply owning everything. And thus you reveal your blinkered political bias.

Yes, I am Smithian and support the right of creators like Elon Musk and Jobs and Bezos etc to retain wealth earned by organizing battalions of skilled people to create positive sums!

So? All of them (almost ) are democrats! Because they see the need to keep up regulated synergies to keep the system healthy, as Smith recommended!

Meanwhile, you imply support for Supply SIde "economics" which has never made ONE successful prediction and has been used as a rationalization-incantation for organized theft and an oligarchic putsch.

Sorry, your rationalizations are all valid! But we can see them being used as incantations in support of a return to feudalism.

Tacitus2 said...

Robert,

finally someone noticed the Airships reference.

Regards the 1%, or the .01% I think it is important to know who they are and what they are up to. Not always easy, and I expect more from y'all than a reflexive chorus of "Koch, Koch".

For your consideration, from the far right wing New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/10/business/doctor-with-big-medicare-billings-is-no-stranger-to-scrutiny.html?action=click&contentCollection=Politics&region=Footer&module=TopNews&pgtype=article&_r=0

Nutshell..the two top physicians billing Medicare in 2012 clocked in at nearly 40 million dollars charged. 40. Million. For two individuals and their money generating practices.

Not surprisingly they have both donated heavily to politicians, presumably in hopes of "considerations" as health care reform is undertaken. And as provisions of the law are repeatedly revised or just ignored.

This is the face of corruption.

Tacitus

locumranch said...

The tendency to moralise is irrational as well as universally irritating.

And, Sandymount does just that when he suggests that Supply-Side Economics 'ought to' work or when he claims that inequality 'ought not to' matter in a positive-sum economic model. He 'moralises' by insisting that the world 'should be' different that it is and, by moralising, he indulges in non-empiric thinking.

David is right to correct this type of moral fallacy, to 'slap him down' for ignoring 'the fact that cheating is the (human) BASELINE SITUATION (which) always arises out of wealth disparities (because) cheating WILL arise" where disparity exists.

Yet, David commits the very same moral fallacy on a frequent basis: He states that 'cheating' is "the BASELINE CONDITION" but suggests that cheating is somehow uncommon in situations of equality; he favours a Smithian 'Free Market' even though this approach has been shown to promote economic inequality; and he insists that 'competition' is some sort of magical panacea that either creates or is created by equality.

But, the world is the way the world is, not the way we wish, 'ought' or 'should' it to be. Humans cheat. They desire advantage; they compete for advantage; they gain advantage; and then they protect their advantage by the institutional and/or hierarchical medium.

We believe this system 'fair', when we find such an outcome to be personally satisfactory but we call this 'cheating' and 'corruption' when we realise that 'advantage' is merely another term for 'inequality'.




Best

LarryHart said...

Again, I assert that righteous outrage over some possessors of wealth using it to cheat the system is being willfully conflated with "envy". Envy is not the dynamic here. I don't wish I had a mansion or a yacht or a Lear jet without having to earn that stuff--I wish I had a functioning society that didn't measure an individual's right to the means of survival by how monetarily valuable he is to those who somehow get to claim private ownership of the means of survival.

Producers of value should be able to accumualte wealth and acquire lusuries with that wealth. They should not, however, get to take personal possession of the commons. If this assertion is not taken as axiomaic, then "freedom" and "liberty" are just a bad joke--the freedom of the slaveowner to engage in the practice of enslavement. That would mean the South has risen again indeed.

Hans said...

Where you say: "The smarter, self-made tech billionaires can see beyond their noses and perceive where all this will lead, if 6000 years of class war resumes, with a crushed middle class re-radicalized and capable of concocting biological agents.

Feudalism will be a bad bet, no matter how assiduously these fellows bribe their way toward lordship.",

I understand you to mean that there are better ways to fix problems than violent revolt.

That said, what point does "pre-sapient behavior" become morally culpable? At what point should our anger guide us?

n.b. Normally, pre-sapient behavior in pre-sapient beasts is dealt with not by assigning moral culpability and proceeding, but rather by assuming pre-sapients are legal minors, and proceeding. Such animals are either confined or destroyed. Is it right that sapient should be free of moral culpability due to a pre-sapient behavior?

PS Rockin those captchas now!

LarryHart said...

Hans:

"Feudalism will be a bad bet, no matter how assiduously these fellows bribe their way toward lordship.",

I understand you to mean that there are better ways to fix problems than violent revolt.


I thought he meant something more like There are better ways to enjoy your wealth than inciting violent revolt.

David Brin said...

LarryHart paraphrases beautifully. There are times when I consider him to be the most adult of us here.

That would normally be the encomium for Tacitus as I suspect he is in many ways the most paternal in a "father knows best" kind of way... That he has trouble generalizing ti political abstractions/

Alas though,Tacitus. If anecdotes of what appear to be statist cheating-via-democracy inspire your normal conservative instincts to hold bureaucrats accountable and to reform the system so that such cheating abuses become harder and more rare… I am with you! Hurrah for such conservatives. Alas that is not the meaning of such anecdotes today.

Instead, "THIS anecdote means ALL government is impossible and corrupt and ALL government must be demolished to make way for untrammeled oligarchic rule!"

When a side's political arguments are never based upon statistical comparisons but entirely on anecdotes… anecdotes... anecdotes… anecdotes... anecdotes… anecdotes... anecdotes… anecdotes... anecdotes… anecdotes... anecdotes… anecdotes... anecdotes… anecdotes... anecdotes… anecdotes... anecdotes… anecdotes... anecdotes… anecdotes... anecdotes… anecdotes... and more anecdotes…. and JPEG SNARKS!… and Fox'isms…. then why should we listen?

You would dare to compare any of these outrageous anecdotes to any single day of Haalliburton theft during the Bushite ere? Any hour?

David Brin said...

To be clear, I was saying that it is stupid to recreate class resentment in an era when middle class techie-folk will have access to asymetrical recourses. The only reason terrorism has not burned down the world by now is that 99% of folks don't WANT to burn it down!

And the number of nines increases as you go higher in tech skill. That can change and it is in the best interest of elites to keep that clade very very content.

Elon (whose hand I shook today) is an example of those positive summers who are very eager for the diamond structure to thrive.

Oh... I skimmed locum today, smiled, shrugged and ignored. Maybe soon I'll be the adult here!

Anonymous said...

Paul451 said...

"Dragged dirigibles.
By eliminating the weight on the rails, you reduce the infrastructure mass; bridges/etc."

With a fairly conventional train, you NEED that weight to balance the huge wind forces, to prevent the train from being tipped over or pulled off the tracks, or simply skidding in place while trying to pull into the wind.

One possible solution might be a train that is locked onto a cog track. Rather more expensive and better anchored track is required, but the train just needs to be powerful, not super heavy.

With cogged track and a lighter train, tunnels might not be needed - just climb over mountains. Bridges would need less support (but more tie-downs). It requires a massive investment in new track that will probably not be able to a share right of way with conventional track.

That doesn't solve the windstorm problem, and it's still probably hugely uneconomical compared to a train.

Generally, it makes more sense to just put the motors and fuel on board and recover at least the advantages of free flight, and eliminate the huge investment in tracks.

A real innovation might be some sort of rapid fold-up method, to let it land and ride out storms it can't avoid.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Guys
There is a concentration on the free enterprise end game.
The "purchase of the levers of power"

When people have enough power and resources to buy the political power and to lock in their gains

IMHO this is very important BUT it misses a more fundamental point.

If you have money it becomes easier to get more.
And that is without "buying the levers"
Just having resources make it easier to get more.

If you modeled the free enterprise system with exactly equal "players"
Chance will favor some of them at the beginning,
Those who are favored by chance will tend to accumulate more, the system will continue to move resources towards those initial winners until they will own the game.

It similar with Poker - if a group of similar skilled players sit down and one has much deeper pockets in the course of a series of games he will simply fleece the others

It is important to identify and stop those who are "buying the levers" (Koch Bros) but simply stopping that from happening will not fix the problem

Anonymous said...

@Robert Dale:
"These people need to pay rent to the community for the most precious commodity required to make a good living. Civilization. Their hard work is for naught if there are not patients and customers and infrastructure and regulations."

True enough.

Except most who create and maintain civilization get paid their share of "rent" directly by their employers or customers, in proportion to the value of the contributions of the former, as judged by the latter.

And except that pretty much no one objects to having and paying for enough government to sustain civilization. Certainly not libertarians. (Not even the anarchist faction - they just believe "enough" equals "none"!)

You've used a straw man argument, apparently to disguise that you want government to do more than maintain civilization.

Why are you embarrassed to admit that? Most are quite open about it these days. It's not like we're in the 19th century when people believed willing dependency was immoral, and saw the needs of the unwillingly dependent as an opportunity to demonstrate virtue through charity.

The Geo-libs offer a reasonable basis for moral taxation. "All property is theft - but that's OK as long as you pay rent to the rest of us". It would be a good justification for a basic income for all, as robots take over jobs and leave many unemployable.

Robert said...

@Tacitus: My apologies for not commenting earlier on your Girl Genius comment (seeing I'm the resident webcomic reviewer, though I do need to rebuild the website thanks to those oh-so-wonderful Russian hackers and their effing malware that Google Analytics can detect but can't find). I've been taking breaks from Contrary Brin as Dr. Brin has been getting on my nerves of late. When I start losing respect for him, I realize I need to take a step back, stop reading for a bit, and then when my own batteries have recharged then return to the fold.

And Dr. Brin, your comments about Tacitus are tainted by your own tendency toward conspiracy-thought. Take the parachute incident. You're so apt to state the skydivers faked the whole thing rather than watch the entire article and learn specifics. This shows a tendency of you to blame. It is easier for you to blame than to locate all the data and then extrapolate a more accurate result. It's gotten to the point I wonder sometimes how you're able to come up with your prediction registry... but I suppose if you throw out enough theories, some will stick.

Though no doubt Tacitus' skin is far thicker and he doesn't need my defense, especially as I'm not nearly as conservative as he (or as other friends of mine).

Rob H.

Sandymount said...

I am not sure we really disagree on the problems but the solutions.

When I read 'feudalism' I think of who is doing the feudalising and what counts as 'feudal' behaviour. Broadly, anyone involved in coopting the current system for parasitic or zero sum (or worse) gains and this includes the darlings of both Republicans and Democrats. If I am read as criticising Democrats that does not mean I am therefore a supply sider/Republican. I'm neither. Sadly my ballot box doesnt have an option for 'classical liberal'.

I am not American but notice Americans always try to read into ones comments if you are a Rep or Democrat, or a supply sider/Keynesian etc... but the world is much richer than these false dichotomys.

David I am not sure if you are suggesting that because some successful business people are Democrats it somehow lends authority to that party. There are many who are Republican and one could argue that the more market oriented one is, the less likely you are to be involved in politics at all. Meaning, you wouldnt expect to see that many free market types in government and the corollary, one would expect some big business types to be very friendly with big government, just look at the growth of Lobby industry. Its a lot easier to keep your profits high by pushing for sugar subsidies/low interest rates than actually competing on the open market etc.

I find this perception that we live in a supply side/overly capitalist world odd when government has never been as large. Spending is roughly 30-50% GDP across most developed nations, debts are closing 100% GDP, and unfunded liabilities (which will never be honoured because they cant) make it even higher. Add the eral but not measured cost of snowballing tax law, regulations and so on, subsidies to oil, finance sector etc.etc. We are living in a new kind of big government/crony/welfare state feudalism. It needs a catchy word?

Are the voters across the developed world really any better than the big corporations when they vote themselves leaders who promise them goodies they can never deliver?

We moved from feudalism, monarchy, liberal democracy... I would like to think we evolve towards some kind of small government, classical liberal/libertarian world where there wont be a massive monopoly of force agent to be coopted by all sides but realisitically, I dont expect it.

As a classical liberal I see the 'feudalism' across history but was revolution really because of inequality justly earnt? I cant think of many (any?) incidences of justly earnt massive inequalities that sparked revolutions in history.. usually it is exactly the opposite, the people revolt at the excesses of unjust inequality.

Paul451 said...

Tacitus2,
"Not always easy, and I expect more from y'all than a reflexive chorus of "Koch, Koch". [...]
the two top physicians billing Medicare 40. Million. For two individuals [...]
Not surprisingly they have both donated heavily to politicians, [...]
This is the face of corruption."


And just to put that in perspective, in the last Federal election, the Koch bros (since you brought them up) spent more than ten times what these two physicians earned in their entirety. [Most of it hidden behind a web of PACs, NFPs, and LLCs. Actually managing to outspend Karl Rove's entire "Crossroads" dark-money network.]

If you think "donating" a few hundred grand out of $40 million buys you political influence, how much influence does "donating" $400 million buy?

If you think these two physicians are corrupting politics (and they clearly are just crooks buying protection), then how could two people spending nearly 500 times as much over the same period not corrupting politics vastly, staggeringly more?

Do you not have a sense of scale?

Paul451 said...

Sandymount,
You are still regurgitating the same memes and talking points without really listening to what anyone has said to you.

The old reasons for defending capitalism don't apply any more in the US. A "rising tide" no longer "lifts all boats". You need to understand that things have changed. The increase in wealth of the uber-wealthy in the US now comes at the expense of the overwhelming majority.

It used to be different: Once upon a time, median household income tracked increases in the national GDP and median wages tracked productivity. When the US did better, the overwhelming majority did better. When productivity increased, so did real wages.

That ended about thirty years ago. Since then, income for the bottom 90% has been flat, and is now falling. Since 20 years ago, the income for the bottom 90% of the top 10% (those between 10-1%) has been flat or falling. And since ten years ago, the income for the bottom 90% of the top 1% has been flat, while that for those in the bottom 90% of the top 0.1% has been growing more slowly. Seems a rising tide doesn't even lift all yachts any more.

As I asked you before, why should the majority persist in policies that have failed all but a tiny handful of people?

"There is this notion that the rich stay rich but data does not bear this out."

On the contrary, there is much to suggest that while intergenerational mobility in the US did indeed increase during the fifty years that income inequality fell, it has dropped again in the last thirty years since income inequality has risen again. And intergeneration mobility is likewise substantially lower in the US than it is in countries with less income inequality. I think there is a strong reason to believe that income inequality itself reduces meritocracy.

"just look at the members of the Dow Jones 100 years ago. Where did all those 'rich stay rich' companies go?"

For fifty years from the end of the Gilded Age (and the reason for the end of the Gilded Age) until the beginning of the Reagan Era, deliberate policies reduced the scale of economic inequality of the Gilded Age. That halved the share of wealth of the top 1% from 40 percent of the entire national wealth to just 20 percent. It also increased the share of wealth for the bottom 80% up to nearly 20 percent.

That dramatically increased intergenerational mobility, which increased the strength of meritocracy amongst each income level. The brightest and most talented of the middle class could compete with the children of the wealthy, the brightest and most talented of the lowest class could compete with the children of the middle class. Meanwhile the dullards fell, unprotected. Under those circumstances, you would expect a dramatic shift in the make-up of indexes like the Dow.

Paul451 said...

Robert,
Re: parachuting meteors

While I disagreed with David, (fraud was less likely than an honest mistake, and in this case a misinterpretation of debris falling from the 'chute opening was also the most parsimonious explanation), you still haven't addressed my main point. Why should have I accepted a billion-to-one explanation when you aren't willing to even consider a much more likely explanation? Indeed, why are you angered by anyone suggesting a more likely explanation? Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

For the record: The original Norwegian investigators themselves now also consider rock-falling-out-of-parachute to be the most likely explanation.

"I think all of us feel confident about the conclusion and won't work more on this individually either – although here I can only speak for myself. It was shown how a pebble packed in the chute could reappear well above the chute, and there is no strong evidence against a small size, so this has been easy to accept." - Midtskogen. Via Universe Today.

[The analysis also allows for it to be a half-metre wide rock about 18 metres from the skydiver. That is a substantial bolide, especially if it was a mere fragment off the main body as originally claimed. The full bolide would have lit up the sky. Even if the skydivers hadn't seen or heard it, anyone on the ground watching the skydiving would have seen it (and heard it, and possibly been filming it.)]

Tacitus2 said...

Robert

A certain lingering nostalgia notwithstanding I have adopted the same stance to Contrary Brin. I wander by once in a while but consider the atmosphere uncongenial.

It reflects an unfortunate current tendency among the progressive side of the political spectrum...those who are not "Of the Body" are not just wrong, they are stupid, racist, etc. Their speech is not something to learn from, it is something to shout over. It is an unfortunate mindset - minds set in stone in fact.

Anecdotes and scale. Hmmm.

Just as our passionate host toys with an idea of sinister manipulation from above I toy with an alternative theory.

I see corruption from below. I see crony capitalism. I see politically motivated prosecution and investigation. I see a press that is mostly uninterested.

Leland Yee, who had a fair chance to become California's Secretary of State. He is an anecdote. Chris Christie and the Bridge is ongoing front page news.

But you raise a fair point. How many data points makes a picture as opposed to a pile of anecdotes.

Perhaps I could be supplied with a number.

But there is probably no point in this or any discussion here. A carefully crafted alternate point of view would be shouted down by grossly misstating my point and slamming down four lines of insulting repetition. It is kind of like the oft thrown gauntlet of "show any metric that does not demonstrate Democratic virtue". I don't mind the bartender being judge and jury, but most of us eventually wander off to saloons we find to be more friendly.

Tacitus

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Robert, Tacitus,

Looking from "the outside" I don't see
"an unfortunate current tendency among the progressive side of the political spectrum"

I see an incredibly massive case of blindness from the other side

After the last decade or so of Republican shenanigans I am amazed, flabbergasted, that anybody would even think of voting for them

Every time I think - that's it they can't possibly get worse - they get worse!

Tacitus2 said...

Duncan

Don't feel bad. Although I peruse the BBC regularly my understanding of the politics of UK and Dominions is quite imperfect.

Tacitus

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

A certain lingering nostalgia notwithstanding I have adopted the same stance to Contrary Brin. I wander by once in a while but consider the atmosphere uncongenial.

It reflects an unfortunate current tendency among the progressive side of the political spectrum...those who are not "Of the Body" are not just wrong, they are stupid, racist, etc. Their speech is not something to learn from, it is something to shout over. It is an unfortunate mindset - minds set in stone in fact.


Weird. Because from my side of the aisle, this is the Republican pot calling the Democratic kettle black. "Something to shout over" is the Tea Party in a nutshell (remember the 2009 town hall meetings?). And when right-wingers like Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn are being primaried from the right and derided as "liberals", you really think the right considers anything they don't already profess as "something to learn from"?

Words fail me.

Tim H. said...

Looks from here that the .01% (Or whatever miniscule percentage you favor.) could stand to draw a lesson from pro sports, level the game to preserve it. This may seem liberal/progressive to some, too bad, long term success requires support from more than a single point of view, conservatives will be needed as ground control, if nothing else.

Tacitus2 said...

LarryHart

If words indeed fail you I am saddened. I have always found your perspectives to be worthwhile. I guess this is the problem of our political system in a nutshell. But rest assured, I will always treat your opinions with respect and give them answers as honestly as I can.

The elected officials who voted contrary to the opinions of a significant number of their constituents deserved to hear about it at Town Hall meetings. Most of them no longer hold such events. Do you consider this Progress?

You and I could have a long and interesting discussion on what is happening in Wisconsin right now. The concept of "John Doe Investigations" is hopefully alien to most of the country, but basically it amounts to politically motivated prosecutors having broad legal powers to demand both information and silence from anyone they consider in need of investigation.

Round One netted a couple of Walker aides guilty of petty theft and one lady who got the hammer put upon her for making a small number of campaign related phone calls and emails on government time. This btw is illegal and should be punished. It is also nearly ubiquitous in modern politics.

Having failed to do serious political damage to their real target in round one, a second John Doe investigation is underway. This looks at possible coordination between political candidates and outside groups in the tumultuous recall election. Purportedly it was looking at activities on both sides. But frequent leaks - a normal feature of the proceedings - have not shown a single hint of any investigation other than of conservative groups. I can assure you, the incredible blizzard of ads and messages we got from both sides were manifestly coordinated. But...the Star Chamber will only look in one direction. This is a public message to potential conservative donors and candidates. It says, this is what we will do to you. It is why I personally will never run for office.

On a funny note, one of the Democratic legislators who tried to derail the political process by skipping to Illinois was in the news recently. A judge told him that emails released under Freedom of Information requests cannot have the senders redacted. It appears that quite a few of same were public employees on public time coordinating political activity!

I oppose corruption at all levels. But what I see locally suggests that only certain types are being looked for in the system's default mode. Other examples, er 'scuse me, anecdotes are not hard to find.

As to GOP officeholders facing primary challenges, I say great. From the left and right. A bit more of that on the Democratic side would be welcome. Of course it would take courage beyond the ken of modern man and woman for a Democrat to run on a pro-choice platform. Or for a Wisconsin Democrat to run on a fiscal responsibility one.

Off line the rest of the day. My dad is not doing well and I must visit.

Tacitus

Tony Fisk said...

While I have thought that, so far, the Australian conservatives haven't been as mad as their American counterparts, I have also noted that they have been catching up, rapidly. Malcolm Fraser resigned from the Liberal Party because, in his words, it was no longer the party of Robert Menzies, but a conservative party.

OK, that's not grounds for insanity in itself. The Kool-aid quaffing comes from little things like... not having a Science portfolio, touting a mystical incantation called 'Direct Action'* rather than pricing carbon emissions, pumping up the debt so we can have an austerity budget.

Like Duncan, I cannot see why so many people vote for such dunderheads, other than to avoid voting for the dunderheads on the other side. A case of the merely incompetent vs. the inexcusable.

Tacitus wanted a few more oligarchs than Koch Bros (at $100 billion apiece, you have to admit there aren't all that many!). For interest's sake, Australia can offer up a few more than Rupert. We have Gina Rinehart (daughter of mining magnate Lang Hancock) who started buying up Fairfax News shares after Lord Monckton advised her board that a pet news outlet had worked wonders for conservatives in America.
We also have Clive Palmer, one of those charming rogues that Queensland specialises in. He's formed his own party to advance ... well, Palmer, plus whatever else seems good on the day.

Anecdotes, all.

*One of the few concrete things in the Direct Action plan is to fund a 'Green Army' of otherwise unemployed to work on conservation projects. This smacks of a rant Charles Stross made recently about a similar thing in the UK. He called it something a little more blunt, though: slavery.

David Brin said...

Robert, we have missed you. And we value you. And I am sorry that dwelling in this -- one of the oldest and brightest online communities -- sometimes requires a thick skin. I am trying to learn better tact.

But seriously, this is a place where we can relax and use our elbows, like men, at a bar or on a hike. Fer cryin out loud, the roughest stuff here is very mild and only once have I ever held a lasting grudge. (and you know it was deserved.)

I hope your skin gets slightly thicker while I get marginlly nicer. we value you.

David Brin said...

Tony, the trends in Australia and Canada... toward US level insanity... are deeply disturbing to me/

Gator said...

Re billionaires. NPR had an interesting series on food stamps recently.

Walmart does not pay its rank-and-file employees a living wage. So they get food stamps. Which are promptly used at Walmart. So Walmart has created a new version of the company town, but this time it's subsidized by the Federal government. And the Walton family is at the top raking in the profits.

Sound fair?

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2 on liberal bias:

Leland Yee, who had a fair chance to become California's Secretary of State. He is an anecdote. Chris Christie and the Bridge is ongoing front page news.


I think the fact that Christie is a leading contender in the next presidential race has something to do with that.

If the prominence of a story about Chritie as bully and cheater is evidence of liberal bias in the press, what about all the previous months when Christie was the media darling?

Tac, I always enjoy your missives, and contrary to your beliefs, I do find something to learn from in a thoughtful conservative perspective. But jeez-louise, I am sick and tired of hearing how supposedly-victimized conservatives are when they own the USSC, they control congress, they've got governors in most states, and their views prevail on most corporate media outlets. If you feel yourself unwelcome on one blog, how do you think I've felt everywhere in polite society since the GWBush years?

LarryHart said...

@Tacitus2

Sorry, I didn't know about your father or I'd have laid off the politics. You may recall, I lost my own dad in 2011.

Many years ago, when I used to argue politics with a Canadian comic book writer (Dave Sim) who insisted that the world is run and ruined by liberal feminists, I often had to remind myself that his experience as a Canadian was very different from mine. I think something similar goes on with your experience of reality in Wisocnsin vs mine in Chicago. Very different perspectives as to the state of reality.

I try to remember that what I personally perceive as "the way things are" isn't the view that everyone else perceives, and that this sometimes leads to disastrous breakdowns in communication. I humbly suggest you keep the same in mind.

LarryHart said...

Gator:

Walmart does not pay its rank-and-file employees a living wage. So they get food stamps. Which are promptly used at Walmart. So Walmart has created a new version of the company town, but this time it's subsidized by the Federal government.


I forget who it was who pointed out that Wal-Mart is the anti-Ford in the sense that Henry Ford increased his workers' wages making them prosperous enough to become his customers, while Wal-Mart pays their workers little enough to make them only able to shop at Wal-Mart.

On a slight tangent, but relevant to the ongoing discussion: Is it acceptable for the CEO of a corporation to attain wealth by deliberatly ruining the company and selling its stock short? I'm sure a libertarian argument could be made defending such a thing, but it seems self-evident that such a system is disfunctional. And that seems to be an apt metaphor of what is wrong with our current political/economic system.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

The elected officials who voted contrary to the opinions of a significant number of their constituents deserved to hear about it at Town Hall meetings. Most of them no longer hold such events. Do you consider this Progress?


No, and more's the pity.

But please understand how it sounds to my ilk when you condemn liberals for having a hive mind and shouting down opposing viewpoints rather than listening to them--the implicit implication being that this characteristic is not shared by conservatives. When I point out a mainstream example of how conservatives operate in just such a fashion, you excuse those doing the shouting down on the grounds that those with opposing viewpoints deserve to be shouted down.

Is it any wonder I find it frustrating that the political winners accuse my losing side of unfairly rigging the game?

Peace.

locumranch said...

Those who talk about 'Anecdotes & Statistics' lack a sense of scale.

The 'US Golden Age' so often referred to, 1945 to 1980, infamous for the oft-quoted 'rising tide that lifts all boats', the 'diamond-shaped (class/income) population distribution' and the so-called vindication of Smithian Economics represents a statistically-irrelevant ANECDOTE at best, a historical aberration that endured for either a mere 35 years or Less Than 15% of US history (depending on how you choose to look at it) whereas income inequality, political oligarchy & the intergenerational lack of economic mobility represent the statistically-significant NORM.

Shame on you, most of you, for relying on 'Old Fart' Anecdote & statistically infinitesimal samples, for your shameless moralising, for telling us how our political, social & economic system 'should', 'ought' or 'is supposed to' work, when you really mean that the world 'should' or 'ought to' remain exactly as it was when we were young (with the possible addition of Andreyev jet packs, Flash Gordon rocket ships & Dick Tracy wrist radios).

Sandymount has the right to be confused about the changing face of US politics. Rather than being left liberal or right conservative, it has become 'generational', the Old vs. the Young, wherein the Old, who are 'conservative' in the sense that they want to perpetuate the US of their childhood, tend to support liberal left social policies & the Youngish, who are liberal only in the sense that they favour political reform, tend to support old-school libertarian right policies.

See this psychological study by Craig & Richeson on the coming precipice of 'Majority-Minority' America:

https://www.evernote.com/shard/s4/sh/64195603-7f2b-420d-a16e-fcb623f1f2ac/8a3dac9c59b3799cf2a4c7839b99b36f

This is a 'conflict' that us 'Old Farts' (I include myself, of course) should, must and will inevitably LOSE so we can 'Win The Future' (WTF?) because what is Old must always make way for the New.

Best

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Shame on you, most of you, for relying on 'Old Fart' Anecdote & statistically infinitesimal samples, for your shameless moralising, for telling us how our political, social & economic system 'should', 'ought' or 'is supposed to' work, when you really mean that the world 'should' or 'ought to' remain exactly as it was when we were young (with the possible addition of Andreyev jet packs, Flash Gordon rocket ships & Dick Tracy wrist radios)


Again, you're hung up on the words "should" and "ought" as if anyone is saying that the system violates God's law or natural law unless it conforms to thus and such a structure.

Whereas, what I'm hearing is that the system "should" or "ought to" work a certain way in that it functions best that way, and tends to go off the rails otherwise.

A small example--after bank regulation was put into place in the 1930s, the normal cycle of bank panics disappeared. Banks became a "safe" place to deposit money, which made saving more attractive and simultaneously made money available for investment. A win-win all around. That situation lasted until the Clinto-era deregulation, which led back to the cycle of bank failures. What purpose does it serve to point out that 1935-1999 was a historicl anomaly, and that the cycle of bubbles and bank failures is the historical norm? The fact is that the anomaly period worked well enough to prove that it can be done that way. The system "should" work that well, not becuase doing so is inevitable, but because doing so is preferable to the alternative.


Rather than being left liberal or right conservative, it has become 'generational', the Old vs. the Young, wherein the Old, who are 'conservative' in the sense that they want to perpetuate the US of their childhood, tend to support liberal left social policies & the Youngish, who are liberal only in the sense that they favour political reform, tend to support old-school libertarian right policies.


Hmmm, interesting theory, but I'm not sure you've got the details right.

Even restricted to the baby boom, the "old farts" cover people who came of age in the 1950s through the early 1970s. That's hardly a monolithic period to want to "return" to. Old farts (myself excluded) tend to vote Republican (or at least Republican voters tend to be old farts), which belies your theory. And young people may be libertarian, but they're also for things like saving the environment and know that global warming is real. They're also not wedded to the Second Amendment the way old farts are.

If anything, the division seems to me to be urban vs rural, rather than young vs old.

Tacitus2 said...

LarryH

I was too quick in my response regards Town Hall meetings. You probably had some specifics in mind. The only such event I ever attended was entirely civil. That is how it should be. Politely tell your Congressperson how badly they screwed up.

On another matter, the GOP does not own Congress or the numerous statehouses. They are the temporary residences of people who were elected by majority vote of their constituents. Remember that consistent polling indicates that roughly twice as many folks self identify as conservative as compared to liberal.

Regards the Supremes, well, I am not qualified to comment on the level of law they hand down. I don't find all their rulings palatable. But they are the Law and should be obeyed except in instances of flaming injustice, like perhaps The Fugitive Slave Act. I don't find Roe v. Wade or Citizen's United to be such. Efforts to subvert either are not laudable.

And David I don't feel unwelcome here, just that being here may not a productive use of my time on earth. One never knows the length of that.

All for now. Tough day. Larry, I did remember about your dad. As you will recall, dementia and extreme age are not fun.

Tacitus

Jumper said...

Krugman points to this paper on hidden offshore wealth:
http://gabriel-zucman.eu/files/Zucman2013QJE.pdf
Wonky.

David Brin said...

WOw Jumper that is quite an article. WHere does Krugman discuss it?

It seems to validate everything I have said, since EARTH.

Tony Fisk said...

Krugman appears to be discussing it here.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

One thing that I find striking, every time that I see any kind of economic chart (such as the one referred to by Tony Fisk above) is the remarkable and unprecedented economic stability during the period that the world was guided by the Bretton Woods monetary system.

Bretton Woods was in effect from late 1944 until late 1971. I complained strongly about the flaws in Bretton Woods at the time, but it was the most successful monetary system that the world ever had.

There were other factors involved in the 1944 through 1971 economic stability, but the immense success of the Bretton Woods system is far too often ignored.

Another factor that is too often ignored is the remarkable accuracy (and predictive ability) of the particular style of generational changes that is described thoroughly and with great accuracy in William Strauss and Neil Howe's 1991 book, Generations.

Jumper said...

Except the Swiss seem to be more cooperative than Luxembourg or the others.
The article's implications on trade balance are very interesting.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

I was too quick in my response regards Town Hall meetings. You probably had some specifics in mind. The only such event I ever attended was entirely civil. That is how it should be. Politely tell your Congressperson how badly they screwed up.


But also listen to him (or others in the audience) explain their reasons for what they did. Regular folk may not like the idea of a mandate to buy insurance (for example), but they may like the idea of universal coverage. I'd love to hear a congressman honestly explain what had to be traded and compromised in order to address a real problem. That may lead to better consensus-building, which is how democracy is supposed to work ("ought" to work, locumranch). Mitt Romney's "My job is to get 50.1% of the vote" is a disfunction.

Tea Party-esque shouting down is meant to intimidate, not to educate. I don't like the fact that congressfolk have curtailed Town Halls to avoid the non-productive posturing, but I'm sure the congresspeople in question figure there are better uses of their time on earth, much as you do.

Consistent with my posts of yesterday, I fully realize that you are going "No, the Tea Party doesn't do that. You're describing the unruly behavior of liberals at politially-incorrect Republican congressmen." Understand that the shouting matches I heard about in 2009 were by Tea Partiers, and not simply local residents, but those bussed in by FreedomWorks.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2 continues:

On another matter, the GOP does not own Congress or the numerous statehouses. They are the temporary residences of people who were elected by majority vote of their constituents.

Remember that consistent polling indicates that roughly twice as many folks self identify as conservative as compared to liberal.


Remember also that consistent polling indicates that some 5 million more Americans voted for Democrats than for Republicans for House seats in 2012. The GOP holds onto the House only because of gerrymandering. And yes, I fully realize Illinois is gerrymandered by Democrats. I'd be happy to give that up across the board, but not to give it up in blue states while red states gerrymander to their hearts' content.

As to the "center-right country" thing, I personally think that's a semantic matter. More people probably have a good connotation of the word "conservative", linking it with "patriotic" and "American" and "liberty" and "Christian" and such. I think a large majority of Americans agree with my position on many individual issues, but don't like the word "liberal". If their ear hears the polling question as "Are you a good American or a socialist who wants the terrorists to win?", they're going to respond accordingly.


Regards the Supremes, well, I am not qualified to comment on the level of law they hand down. I don't find all their rulings palatable. But they are the Law and should be obeyed except in instances of flaming injustice, like perhaps The Fugitive Slave Act. I don't find Roe v. Wade or Citizen's United to be such. Efforts to subvert either are not laudable.


I used to have a feeling of awe and reverence for the USSC. That went away with "Bush v Gore", and my disillusionment has only been verified ever since. It didn't used to make sense to label USSC justices as "-D" or "-R". Now, that labelling is totally necessary to understand anything about their rulings. And that is just so wrong.


And David I don't feel unwelcome here, just that being here may not a productive use of my time on earth. One never knows the length of that.


You never know how your influence works until later. I never changed the mind of that Canadian comics writer, Dave Sim, on political issues, but when I'd catch him using a phrase in print that I had given him, it was kind of worth it.


All for now. Tough day. Larry, I did remember about your dad. As you will recall, dementia and extreme age are not fun.


No one should have to go through that. I'll never forget my mother, from whom I couldn't conceive of these words passing her lips, stopping in mid-sentence, eyes in the distance, blurting out "We wouldn't let a dog suffer like this!"

My heart goes out to you.

Tacitus2 said...

LarryHart
Some interesting points in your last.
To some extent the relative strength of the GOP nationally is systemic, we will always have more rural states that in recent history trend red. Every state gets a minimum of one Rep and of course gets two Senators. Also, gerrymandering is not a good thing but Democratic voters do display some historic "concentrations" in large coastal cities and in college towns. Even well intended efforts to compensate for this will be difficult.

Your assumption as to what I was thinking was in one instance understandable but incorrect. Regards a tendency for political speech to be suppressed I had in mind the recent ousting of the Mozilla CEO for a years before political donation. Also with the recent Wisconsin recall uproar some instances were counter protesters were shouted down, plus the whole vibe of occupation of the capitol, drums, horns etc.

I still respect the judicial branch. Their apparent increase in activism cuts both ways politically and to some extent fills a vacuum left by an ineffective legislative branch. Feel free to call the Republicans obstructionists. I consider the Democrats to be insufficiently concerned with unintended consequences and rather too fond of crony deals.

Thanks for you kind thoughts on my dad. On the upside I can tell him the same stories every ten minutes or so. Got a good laugh out of him three times yesterday describing what we have to eat for breakfast when in the UK!

Tacitus

Tacitus2 said...

Back on topic; the 20 richest folks in America (2011)

Rank Name Net Worth Age Residence Source

1 Bill Gates $54 B 55 Medina, WA Microsoft
2 Warren Buffett $45 B 80 Omaha, NE Berkshire Hathaway
3 Larry Ellison $27 B 66 Woodside, CA Oracle
4 Christy Walton & family $24 B 56 Jackson, WY Walmart
5 Charles Koch $21.5 B 75 Wichita, KS Diversified
5 David Koch $21.5 B 70 New York , NY Diversified
7 Jim Walton $20.1 B 63 Bentonville, AR Walmart
8 Alice Walton $20 B 61 Fort Worth, TX Walmart
9 S. Robson Walton $19.7 B 67 Bentonville, AR Walmart
10 Michael Bloomberg $18 B 69 New York , NY Bloomberg
11 Larry Page $15 B 37 Palo Alto, CA Google
11 Sergey Brin $15 B 37 San Francisco, CA Google
13 Sheldon Adelson $14.7 B 77 Las Vegas, NV casinos
14 George Soros $14.2 B 80 Westchester, NY hedge funds
15 Michael Dell $14 B 46 Austin, TX Dell
16 Steve Ballmer $13.1 B 54 Seattle, WA Microsoft
17 Paul Allen $12.7 B 58 Mercer Island, WA Microsoft, investments
18 Jeff Bezos $12.6 B 47 Seattle, WA Amazon
19 Anne Cox Chambers $12.5 B 91 Atlanta, GA Cox Enterprises
20 John Paulson $12.4 B 55 New York, NY hedge funds
(it appears #12 got left off, well, it ain't me)
And their political contributions:

Which political party they donated to:
D = Democrat
R= Republican
I= Independent

1. d
2 d
3 d
4 r & d
5 r
5 r
7 r
8 r
9 r
10 d, i, r
11 d
11 none
13 r
14 d
15 r
16 r & d
17 d & r
18 d
19 d
20 d & r

Sources are Forbes 400 list and Opensecrets.org

Tacitus

locumranch said...

Jerry E's reference to Strauss & Howe's 'Generations' goes a long way toward explaining growing US political inconsistencies, including the divide between 'conservatism' & the political 'right' and 'liberalism' & the political 'left'.

As I tried to explain before, the political views that we often describe as 'conservative' amount to little more than a generational 'resistance to change', while the term 'political right' is most often used to describe support for an established (fixed) hierarchy, partially explaining the growing tendency of the geriatric demographic (which also corresponds to a racial, 'rural' or 'red state' demographic) to favour a type of 'conservativism' that enshrines social programs like Social Security & Medicare traditionally thought of as 'liberal'.

In comparison, the political views that we most often describe as 'liberal' amount to little more than the generational expression of 'youthfulness' (optimism, individualism, a desire for change, etc), partially explaining the largely 'libertarian' (or classically conservative) views of the Hippie generation which favoured individualism & personal freedom, while the term 'political left' is most often used to describe support for systematic social paternalism.

In this sense, the traditional labels of 'Left' and 'Right' no longer apply to US Politics because the generational demographic which is the most 'resistant to change', the 'Old Guard' is also the most 'liberal' in that it supports the systematic social paternalism of the established hierarchy, while a more youthful demographic (which favours 'liberal change') is also the most classically 'conservative' insomuch as it wishes to dismantle the fixed (established) hierarchy responsible for perpetuating social advantage, paternalism & economic inequality.


Best

David Brin said...

Tacitus said: "Remember that consistent polling indicates that roughly twice as many folks self identify as conservative as compared to liberal."

Um… try thinking that through, my friend. Since millions more American citizens voted for aDemocratic Congress… (and legitimate-president Albert Gore)… and gerrymandering and voter suppression are central GOP tenets, do you really want to talk about the public will?

Think about your assertion in that light. There are MORE people voting for democrats… yet far fewer identify themselves as "liberals." Um does that not mean that democratic voters are less dogmatic? Less motivated by them-versus-us crazy-blinkered monomania?

MSNBC tries to copy the Fox business model… and skates along near bankruptcy… as happened to Current TV… because it cannot draw enough millions of transfixed, staring, nodding dittohead eyeballs. Because a majority of democratic-voters don't LIKE to be captive-shill partisans.

Try working these things out, my respected friend.

David Brin said...

Tacitus thanks for the summary of rich folks and their political affiliations…. which pretty much perfectly matches my past assertions. With the exception of Michael Dell, the self-made tech billionaires donate democrat and invest in the diamond shaped society that made them and that engendered the engineers and scientists who made them rich.

Those who mostly-inherited or exploited sweetheart deals to extract resources from public lands, or gambling or cable monopolies… pour it into the Republican Party.

This list leaves out Rupert Murdoch and the Saudis and foreign sovereign wealth funds, all of who are lavish in support of the GOP.

Which leaves the smartest man in the world. Warren Buffett. People who bet against him have always, always proved themselves to be plain old dumb.

onward

Tacitus2 said...

David
You are on to the next thread but I can't let your lecture go unanswered. Note that there are also these beasts called moderates. Note as well that I was using the term "self identified". Also that the Supreme Court, highest law in the land, disagrees with Your Brin-ness on the legitimacy of President Gore.
And, what you consider voting suppression others view differently.
You of course are welcome to your views. And welcome specifically for the list of rich dudes (mostly).
Tacitus

David Brin said...

Tacitus, I am forced to knuyckle under the power that the dogmatic majority on the Supreme Court crams down our throats. But I am free to call it monstrous.

And there is a pragmatic side… that the United States is unambiguously VASTLY WORSE OFF after the eight years of unalloyedly horrific misrule under the Bushites.

Alas, you utterly misread my point about "self-identify" and you seem obdurately unable to parse it. Please read it again.

The fact that fewer people self-identify as "liberals" does NOT support your side. It proves that your opponents include many tens of millions of folks who despise labels… almost as much as they despise the undead monstrosity your party has become.

The party you oppose is the party of folks who think for themselves. Your own statistic indicates that.

onward