Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Asides: on Pax Americana, Libertarians and where the #$#! are our Roosevelts?

Mid-week, let's pause to get a few points out of the way. Below I will have some things to say about current American politics -- about "Galt's Gulch in Chile" and about... "The Roosevelts."

But first... clearly my most provocative stance is to defend the period -- post WWII -- called  "PA"… or Pax Americana.  It's a topic wherein I think we can distill what is loony about both sides in the current, re-ignited US civil war... as well as simplistic and comfortable cliches that are clutched by many of our friends, overseas.
War21Century-PaxPA has lasted all our lifetimes, since WWII saw the passing of Pax Brittanica… the “British Peace.”  "Pax" referred originally to Pax Romana or the Roman Peace that kept the Mediterranean placid and open to commerce for 600 years. Pax Sinica refers to similar epochs across China and east Asia. Pax Hispania was the greatest empire the world has ever known, in which Columbus's discoveries -- then Magellan's -- led to a "peace" that preached its own absolute goodness while it spread deliberate genocide for 400 bloody years. But at least there was no hypocrisy.  
Here is the crux. With the likely exception of Pax Hispania, almost every pax era has been better for average people on planet Earth than almost every era without a pax empire, when competing kingdoms would send armies slashing and burning and looting across each others’ territories. The Chinese, for example, admit that the First Emperor Chi'in, who unified the five warring states, was something of a murderous madman. But he also made it safe to travel and trade and paved the way for the Han Dynasty renaissance. He was hell on scholars and dissenters, but made things better for average folk who just wanted to live out their lives, pay taxes, practice a trade and be left alone.
Are there costs, whenever there is a ruling imperium? You bet! When the First Emperor crushed the Five Kingdoms, peace then reigned… along with brutal tyranny and a collapse of the vibrant, cultural competitiveness that had prevailed, before. Minorities had plenty to complain about, under Pax Parthia, Pax Alexandrine, Pax Romana, Pax Mughal etc, and homogenization under a single oligarchy is often harsh on progress. (So harsh that it might help to explain why few or no alien species made it to the stars.)  Indeed, it was when the nations of a divided Europe -- circa 1400 to 1900 -- vigorously competed that humanity made some of its greatest, if morally mixed, strides -- including strides toward both liberal enlightenment and industrial grade genocide.  

This is not a matter for taking sides, but for being open-minded about many pros and cons, so that understanding might help us to navigate a future course, between the Scylla of violent chaos and the Charybdis of stifling empire. Those of you out there who leap to just one, simplistic stance on all of this, making grand and righteous declarations, may thereby feel good, but you understand little about the complex morass that is human history.  And thus you are no help at all, in steering us toward better days.

== The current pax ==
china-us
Where Pax Americana is different is in having operated under a mythic system that -- even when it was only hypocritically paid lip service -- at least spoke repeatedly that there should be no empires. Indeed, while American commercial interests may have been predatory, during the weak end-days of the Chi-ing Dynasty, U.S. policy was always on China's side, at least officially, demanding that European and Japanese powers give back the colonial "concessions" they had wrested from the weakened central kingdom. Not one other nation in all of China's long history ever stood up for her that way.

Does imperfection disqualify everything? de Rochefoucauld said "Hypocricy is the homage that vice pays to virtue." Indeed, though betrayed often, the moral stance against empire has been relentlessly conveyed in American propaganda -- e.g. Hollywood films, which portray "empires" as bad things and tolerance of diversity as the greatest positive virtue.  Indeed, those of you who are now seething in anger at me, for daring to say good things about PA... um, have you thought of where you got the value system by which you judge these things?  Can you name another major culture that preached "by all means criticize the center of power!"

Ironies abound. The best that PA can preen about is that it reduced most of the bad outcomes of a pax era. Rigid domination, imperial mercantiism and repression of diversity. A priesthood with a lock on "truth." Outright and barefaced conquest.

We are talking human nature here... what groups of people do when they find themselves in a position to dominate. Go on now and name for me one people, across all of time, who behaved well when tempted by such power. One. We can wait here if you like, all day.  The real enemy is that temptation, which seems rooted in our natures.

But it can be controlled.

My assertion has been that: 

(1) The ratio of good deeds to bad - by Pax Americana - is stunningly better than any other pax power across time…

(2) Should we expose and dissect and atone for wretched events like Vietnam and Allende -- all the way down to negligent crimes of poor supervision, like those exposed in Iraq by WikiLeaks? Absolutely! I am Mr. Transparency.  And criticism is the only known antidote to error (CITOKATE.)

But these crimes, while calling for fierce retrospection and learning, do not alter the fundamental fact, that outcomes have been vastly better, under the PA system designed by the greatest human of the 20th Century, George Marshall.  

Average humans today live in more peace than at any time in the history of our species, as shown in Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, with only a few percent ever experiencing personal and direct contact with war in their lifetimes. One top benefit: Pax-protected world trade has uplifted 2/3 of the world’s children out of poverty.
(3) That propaganda campaign about tolerance and suspicion of authority and individualism may have been hypocritical! Nevertheless, it engendered people like you who are generous in your citokate-criticism and who push for exactly those values! Memes that you express, even as you fume at me for praising the pax that taught you all those values. While never once pausing to realize "Hey I am part of an organic process!  And any other empire would have killed me for this, by now."

(4) Combine all this and there may be a unique opportunity -- that we might actually tip into an era when pax law is no longer needed. An era portrayed in Star Trek, when the very idea of one dominant power is viewed by all as repugnantly retro and archaic.  No other culture ever preached that eutopian notion, though you illustrate it right now, as you seethe at these words. 
Here is more about Pax Americana: Pondering Pax Americana and the Government Shutdown.
== Basics ==

It merits reiterating. Was PA awful at times? Sure... except compared to every single other nation that was ever tempted by such power. If you make that comparison, PA is day to their night. Moreover, you know it.

Was PA drooling-insane-stupid under both Bushes? Sure. So much so that you have to wonder if that Saudi-owned family did it on purpose. (The wretched irony? That the phrase "Pax Americana" is only uttered nowadays by right wingers, who eviscerate its promise at every turn, with almost every immoral and incompetent act of foreign and domestic policy. Meanwhile the liberals who are PA's true spokesmen, glower at the one thing that made their dreams possible. Oh, we are weird, all right.)
Should Pax Americana be replaced with something grownup, at last, bringing an end to all empires? Sure! That's the idea!

Would Star Trek be better? Yep! 

Do you have a better idea? We'd all love to see your plan. But please, one that is only half impractical preaching but also looks at what progress has been made, so far, and how that progress happened.)
Will the end of all empires come, if PA simply goes away? Or prematurely stops enforcing peace? Baloney. Before you prescribe nothing as a replacement to the current pax power, please find for us, across 6000 years, a lasting era when that prescription worked well.
PA is the only empire that ever had as its (hypocritically uneven) policy "there should be no empires." And that hypocrisy has one saving grace...
...it will make itself come true.  
== Too-big means get-smaller ==
And now a couple of politically redolent items: The Federal Reserve is pushing the biggest U.S. banks to shrink so that they're less of a risk to the financial system. Fed proposals include imposing additional capital requirements for the eight largest banks — including JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America — that exceed the levels mandated by international regulators. “Capital surcharges" would increase in proportion to how risky the regulators deem a bank to be.
Which leads one to ponder...
ken-burns-roosevelts
Ken Burns documentaries are always a great buy, for your viewing time. His most recent — “The Roosevelts” -- focuses on Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor. Terrific. Fascinating stories. 

Only… I find my own thoughts drifting  -- and as I watch this series I can only contemplate our parents in the Greatest Generation... who overcame the Depression, crushed Hitler, prevented a mad Soviet Empire from world conquest, built a vibrant/free/open/flat/fair capitalism that created so much wealth that we could then afford to take on ancient, bad habits like racism, sexism and environmental neglect.

That generation... so admired by folks on the American Right... try asking your Fox-Watcher... "which human being did the Greatest Generation of Americans -- and indeed, nearly everyone on Earth -- adore, above all others?"

Watch them go goggle-eyed and choke. But make them say the name. Aloud.

== And finally? ==
Galt’s Gulch Chile? One common theme that spans from leftist-hippies to followers of Ayn Rand is the notion of anarchic utopianism — that those who have free spirits and the right ideology can create an ideal community, free of the ills they perceive in our complex, compromise-ridden civilization. On rare occasions, these communities have thrived… ironically those that have been run patriarchally by brilliant administrators, replicating feudalism-of-old, with a patina of egalitarian catechism. But most such experiments swiftly collapse. As in the case of the AnyRandian ideal community described here.
This is not the only libertarian dream community in the works. Perhaps more sturdy, but still problematic, are seasteading efforts propelled by Patri Friedman and Peter Thiel.
LIBERTARIANS-PROPERTY
In the end, however, this is tragic for us all. Libertarianism might have served as a rational and pragmatic counter-balance to the other utopian tendency, to try solving all problems with statist approaches. It might also have held true to the sane vision of Adam Smith - to do what is needed in order to maximize the number of skilled and capable young competitors in a flat-fair-open society. 

Instead, it has been hijacked by solipsists who never, ever mention the word “competition” anymore, in their obsessive defense of towering accumulations of PROPERTY, never noticing how this serves the proto-feudal wishes of the oligarchs who were denounced by Adam Smith, and have always been the greatest enemies of markets and freedom.



62 comments:

Tim H. said...

FDR was given an opportunity to shine because of the folly of Coolidge and Harding and the insufficiency of Hoover's efforts, without the depression and war, FDR might've been like Clinton or Obama.

David Brin said...

Indeed. Teddy Roosevelt lamented that bad times make great men. TR was our only president to be great in GOOD times.

Cogent folks look at Bill Clinton and see the exact same situation. Clinton could easily have risen to any crisis. His greatest gift to us was competence that prevented his opportunity for greatness.

So? FDR was what he was, when we needed it. And for friends of capitalism to hate the man who SAVED capitalism is insanity.

Alex Tolley said...

The Pax Americana was a period, especially after WWII, a time when US corporations literally took over the world in terms of dominance, literally eliminating their competition. The Marshall Plan, which was a good thing, nevertheless provided markets for US corporations to dominate. By the 1960's Europe in particular was almost in despair at US dominance. The UK tried to protect itself via trade inside its commonwealth, but that proved a temporary mitigation. Europe formed the EEC. Yes the PA was a force for good, but let's not pretend that it created a vibrant/free/open/flat/fair capitalism for anyone other than the US. Politically, it is very doubtful that the PA benefited citizens outside the US much, especially with the anti-communist policy that installed right wing governments wherever there was a risk more socialist governments. Chile is perhaps the poster child of that policy. Vietnam is arguably more vibrant now under communist rule than South Vietnam ever was.

Around 1980, it was expected that the world would be multi-polar around 2000 (World report for President Carter). That didn't happen. Instead we got an emerging hyperpower in the US, who dominated global affairs via its idealogy mediated through global organizations like the World bank. The PA may have been very benign after WWII, but it has morphed into a much less benign one, especially by the 1980's. What looked like a welcome hand over from the Pax Britannica after WWI is far less certain today, especially looking forward.

Having said that, we can see what a Pax Sinca would be like if it becomes the next global power, and it isn't pretty from an western enlightenment POV.

I suspect a multi-polar world might be a more interesting place to experiment in that the uni-polar world just prior to the expansion of China and possibly India.

David Brin said...

Alex what does it feel like making so many grand statements that are diametrically opposite to blatant facts?

Sure, there are cheating oligarchs all over the place and we have to keep using accountability and etc against them. But do you actually see US corporations' share of world commerce RISING? Oh yeah, sure, we've had a trade SURPLUS with the rest of the world for 60 years. Or... was it the opposite?

In 1945 the average USAn was vastly richer then anyone anywhere else in the world. Funny how relative wealth disparities have plummeted in that regard (while rising steeply WITHIN the US.)

Your instinct to criticize is valid. To suspect cheaters? Sure.

To leap for a simplistic and blatantly wrong first-grab interpretation... naw. You can do better.

Rob said...

The more I read about the long history of China, the clearer it seems to me that they had several models for ways of life which created marvelous prosperity and peace.

Almost all of the previous five dynasties/eras of unity fell because of mercantilism or inhumanities inflicted in a return to a feudal system which exploited common people, rather than supporting and lionizing them, as every variant of Confucianism appears to demand.

It's been interesting to discover that common thread matches the lenses David looks through.

Pax Sinica, if not corrupt, would be alien to our American ideals of hyper-individualism, but our own system's potential for abuses on our common people could make such a Pax look better to them than what the West offers. We're already in the 15th year of an era where American poor do not recover from recessions.

David is right about American 20th Century history; it was a tone-deaf Pax hegemony which nonetheless reversed more atrocities than it caused. (19th Century American power flexing was not; the conquest of the Philippines was not according to American ideals, and TR facilitated it.)

But if his claim is that we have to keep doing what was done that was right in the 20th to befriend and lift our neighbors, then I think he's still right. The Chinese are a marvelous, ambitious people, worth befriending.

locumranch said...



Nice post.

I agree that, as tyrannies go, Pax Americana has been fairly benevolent and/or not overly malicious, yet a very real danger still exists as being a 'good loser' has never been a US character trait, that the USA (in the waning days of its imperium) will pull a 'Sampson' and pull the entire temple down upon itself & its inheritors, in a futile attempt to prevent inevitable balkanization and the rise of the New Confederacy.

We can only hope that the USA chooses to go gently into that goodnight, or its Pyrrhic victory will be devastating.


Best

Tim H. said...

Dr. Brin, FWIW, I think Obama would be up for it if the bovine byproduct hit the rotary air circulator in a large way. Our current political system is massively risk-averse, witness the media dogpile on Dennis Kucinich in 2008, we only get the possibility of change unintentionally, as with TR, or in desparation, as with FDR.

Alex Tolley said...

@DB - It would be helpful if you read what I actually said, not what you think I said. I can be just as pissy about being misquoted as you can be.

1. That US corporations were perceived as a threat to Europe was layed out in a famous book "Le Defi americain" (1967) by Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber. As with all these journalistic scribblings, one can probably consider this as the peak or early decline of the issue. Netrvertheless, it provides a taste of European (and UK) thinking at the time. I'm old enough to remember the UK thoughts on this issue at the time.

2. Oh yeah, sure, we've had a trade SURPLUS with the rest of the world for 60 years. Or... was it the opposite?
No, it wasn't opposite. See actual data:
http://www.nber.org/chapters/c11297.pdf table 3.19
As I said, the US ran trade surpluses after WWII. It wasn't until the 1970's that trade deficits started. I wonder what happened around 1970? hmmm.... And when was the Marshall Plan set up to help rebuild Europe - certainly not around 1970.

Yes, the rest of the world has been catching up since the 1970's. There are a number of factors responsible for this.

In 1945, the US was the only major developed nation that hadn't had its industrial infrastructure reduced to rubble. It made perfect sense to use that capability to restore destroyed economies, allies and axis alike. WWII had decimated per capita wealth in Europe c.f. Piketty) although primarily in the wealthy, rentier class. The US also had the perfect anti-policy to look at too - fairly vindictive French war reparations after WWI that arguably inevitably pushed Germany to start WWII. Nobody really wanted WWIII... with nukes.

Economic history is a lot richer than Pax Americana.


Perry Willis said...

Imagine a world in which the U.S. did not conquer an empire in the Spanish American War, and in which Teddy Roosevelt did NOT advise the Japanese to emulate our example.

Imagine a world in which the U.S. did not intervene in WW1. Imagine a world where that war ends in stalemate and the Kerensky government survives in Russia. That would be a world with no Nazi Germany or Soviet Union -- no Stalin, Mao, North Korea, Vietnam, etc.

Imagine a world where the U.S does not overthrow a democratic government in Iran in 1953, or destabilize the democratic government in Lebanon, as the CIA did in the late 60s.

It seems to me that a world where the U.S. didn't try to impose its power around the globe would have turned out better than what resulted from our meddling.

As for your comments about libertarian utopias -- I quite agree with you.

atomsmith said...

@ Perry Willis

Counterfactuals are fun, aren't they!

Perry Willis said...

@atomsmith

Yes, counterfactuals are fun. They're also the only way to really learn anything from history. Mere recitations of what happened are sterile. Humans made choices. Were they the best choices?

I think it is surprisingly easy to answer such questions when it comes to the decisions politicians have made about going to war. I think the choices they made were almost always bad.

atomsmith said...

@Perry Willis...



All you know is which disasters of the 20th century would have been averted in the world you imagine, while, conveniently, no new disasters are imagined.


> They're also the only way to really learn anything from history. Mere recitations of what happened are sterile.

The implication here, that the only alternative to inventing alternative histories is "mere recitation" is rather silly.

> I think the choices they made were almost always bad.

Undoubtedly. We should thank our lucky stars they weren't worse!

Perry Willis said...

@atomsmith -- I agree that other disasters could have resulted. It seems unlikely to me that they would have been worse than what actually happened.

They key point is this -- it was wrong for the U.S. to conquer an empire in the Spanish-American War, and there was no good reason for us to be involved in WW1. These judgements can be made without reference to the consequences, but the consequences cast the decisions made in an even worse light.

Perry Willis said...

BTW -- Winston Churchill made much the same analysis about our involvement in WW1 during an interview with the St Louis Dispatch in the 1930s. His conclusion -- no U.S. involvement would have meant no Hitler and no Soviet Union.

Alex Tolley said...

Winston Churchill made much the same analysis about our involvement in WW1 during an interview with the St Louis Dispatch in the 1930s. His conclusion -- no U.S. involvement would have meant no Hitler and no Soviet Union.

I did not know that. Certainly the US came in very late to WWI. (They did somewhat better in WWII).

What was the reasoning behind Churchill's analysis. I've always understood that the French were the main problem in their insistence on punitive war reparations. Reading Kindleberger's "The World in Depression, 1929-1939" I was given the sense that even after the Depression started, the US was not the main, or even the best, player in understanding how to overcome the economic collapse. The French were still demanding Germany pay reparations in full, preferably in gold, while the UK was trying to handle them with some diplomacy and look for acceptable solutions to prevent Germany's collapse.

Jonathan S. said...

Why are you so certain the Kerensky government would have held on, had the US not gotten involved in WWI? I fail to follow the chain of reasoning.

For that matter, what leads you to believe that there would have been a stalemate?

David Brin said...

Locum is right that large, semi-sapient beasts, like empires are impulsive and dangerous. Vietnam and Allende are tywo examples of when smart leaders talked themselves into very stupid and vile things. Now picture when stoooopid leaders (or demoniacally smart) called Bush and Cheney deliberately repeated all of the mistakes of Vietnam.

So yes, the end days of Pax Americana could be dangerous, especially if PA feels desperately threatened by what I call "WCN" or "Whatever Comes Next." (It's one way to engage Americans into conversation without speaking the nauseating words "world governance." A huge topic. Especially since I see WCN looming at us very rapidly from an unexpected direction.

Alex I not only read Servan-Schreiber when his book came out I am friends with his son. And yes, Euros feared dominance by highly competitive US corps. So? Many european companies thereupon learned lessons and became competitive! As American auto companies had to be smacked hard by Toyota etc before they were willing to wake up and regain competitiveness. Your point is still off kilter with your examples.

Of course the US ran a trade surplus till 1970! Duh? With half the world's industrial capacity, people needed stuff... to rebuild their own infrastructure and invest in new productive capacity. Whereupon, those counter mercantilist trade flows BENEFITED non americans who worked hard.

But yes, maybe you do get it. Marshall/Acheson/Truman wanted to do the opposite of Clemenceau in 1919.

Perry W. Your tale is utterly absurd. No USSR? The Leninist uprising would have happened earlier and swept defeated nations like France and Britain. Your obsession on the Philippines is just weird.

Alex Tolley said...

There tends to be a a lot of rose tinted appreciation of one's own country empire. For example, the British Empire is usually favorably viewed by Britons. But talk to an Indian and you get a very different picture. Read economic history and the appreciation rapidly starts to become negative, to the point where one wonders how it could ever have been considered a "good thing".

This is probably very similar to the the US experience. Americans are so insular that they have very little appreciation of how they are perceived outside their borders.
The last big positive was the engagement in WWII, which was only brought on by the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor 2 years after the German invasion of Poland and may have been precipitated by the US control of commodity trading. After that it has been a sorry series of bullying tactics and ill-advised ideological wars. I do think the US probably kept the USSR out of greater European expansion, although it is also possible that some of the "threat" was due to the USSR's fears of being similarly invaded. The hypocrisy of the US facing down the soviets over the Cuban missile crisis (missiles within reach of the US mainland) while simultaneously having nuclear bases on the Eastern European borders (and later missiles) should be noted.

If we start the Pax Americana at the end of WWII (although the transition was in the inter war 1930's) it didn't take long before the uglier side of US foreign policy started to become evident and it is unarguable that the huge US military buildup started just after WWII that has continued without winding down after the Cold War ended and our supposed peace dividend (c.f. Bush snr) never materialized.

Perry Willis said...

Here's the chain of events...

The war is unpopular in Russia. The Czar loses power because of this and abdicates on March 15, 1917. Three weeks later the U.S. enters the war on April 6th, and issues instructions to its diplomats in Moscow to offer inducements to the new Russian government to remain in the war. Please note -- this new government was NOT the Soviet Union. That comes later, because...

At the same time...

Germany is looking for a way to balance the entry of the U.S. by trying to take Russia out of the war. They do this by sending Lenin back to Russia about ten days after the U.S. entry. These events are connected.

The new Russian government, which is eventually led by Kerensky, continues the war, with U.S. financial promises. But the Russian war effort continues to go badly. More and more troops mutiny and defect to the Bolsheviks, who are promising to end the war. Eventually the Bolsheviks have enough strength to wage their own counter-coup six months later in October. The new government's commitment to continue the war was what made the Bolshevik revolution possible. Without that there would never have been a Soviet Union.

Why did the new Russian government remain committed to the war? There are multiple reasons, but the key one was renewed confidence because of their new ally, the U.S. Financial promises from the U.S. also played a role. U.S. entry into the war was also an inducement for the Germans to send Lenin to Russia. Thus...

Without U.S. involvement Russia would likely have left the war earlier, or the war as a whole would likely have ended earlier, with a negotiated peace. This too was Churchill's analysis. The radio talk show host Larry Elder also once discussed this scenario with Henry Kissinger, who likewise thought it very likely.

As for my supposed obsession with the Philippines -- I think it's important because it was important to the Japanese, and informed their plans of conquest in China. I recommend "The Imperial Cruise" by James Bradley for a deeper examination of this.

locumranch said...



Off subject.

According to a recent announcement by the eggheads at the World Health Organisation, those who are trying to reverse climate change are wasting their time:

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-29788754

Predicting a global human population of 12 Billion by 2100, the WHO expects catastrophic environmental debasement due to population alone, even if we enforce a global One-Child Policy or some other catastrophe kills off 25% of our total population in the immediate future, meaning that the occurrence of a climate change catastrophe (one that kills MOST of the human race in one fell swoop) may be our last best shot at long-term species survival.

Makes you wonder about the long-term viability of Pax Americana.


Best ;)

matthew said...

Here is a transcript of the major policy speech that Putin just have. Be warned. http://cluborlov.blogspot.fi/2014/10/putin-to-western-elites-play-time-is.html?m=1

It sounds like he wants a return to a bipolar world. Russia cannot be a pole on its own, but this does sound like an invitation to nations to join it as the counterbalancing force.

David Brin said...

Sorry Perry, that is just a story. A what-if that might make a good parallel world scenario, but without anything compelling about the "of course that woulda happened." Indeed, without Russia, Germany starts its 1918 offensive in 1917, conquers France which turns embittered and likely communist, bitterly fighting a German occupation from the Pyranees to Minsk. oooooh what a better world.

Sorry Alex, but you need to get out more. Compared to all other pax powers, America is spectacularly more popular... or rather less-hated. Not withstanding our recent latin maniac, most folks around the world express resentment, but it is ankle deep. People know it's been a mostly benign world.

Locum your numbers are weird. Very few calculate 12 billions. Most see tapering at nine.

David Brin said...

Interesting article about the wild popularity of one US president in one S American nation:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2014/10/30/360126710/the-place-where-rutherford-b-hayes-is-a-really-big-deal

And a whole branch of the Amazon, in Brazil, is named for Teddy Roosevelt.

Alex Tolley said...

Locum your numbers are weird. Very few calculate 12 billions. Most see tapering at nine.


There was a recent Science paper that calculated that the population growth in Africa which resulted in the much higher number of 12 billion. Whether the African population can actually support the extra billions is arguable.

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/news/press_releases/2014/human-population-09-18-2014.html

Alex Tolley said...

@DB Compared to all other pax powers, America is spectacularly more popular... or rather less-hated.

Your [biased] US opinion? But what is your evidence?

I spent the first half of my life in Britain, educated during the decline of Britain still basking in the afterglow of the Pax Britannica. It took a lot of discussion with non-British nationals to understand the hatred that Britain evoked and the reasons behind it. Economic history hammered in the nails to that particular coffin.

That you think hatred for America is shallow suggests to me that you either really don't understand this issue at all, or you haven't paid attention. I think you are also still basking in the glow of WWII, and the "greatest generation", cognitively dissonant about what has happened since then. I find the previous US president's absurd remark "They are envious of our freedoms" (paraphrased) not dissimilar to your own. The cultural arrogance is understandable but breathtakingly wrong.

And we haven't even started on the nations that are not traditional US cold war allies.

The only way to look at any "Pax" is to look at who benefited and who didn't, and at what price. Historical counterfactuals are fun but ultimately useless, so there is little point in speculating about what might have happened differently, outside of fiction. By and large, US allies plus Japan and Germany benefited from the US Pax. Any claim that China benefited from the Marshall Plan after WWII is ridiculous as China was a cold war enemy until Nixon. China didn't even start to become a more modern nation until after Mao Zedong and the reforms of Deng Xiaoping. This is quite clear in the GDP stats of China: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deng_Xiaoping#mediaviewer/File:Prc1952-2005gdp.gif US involvement in Latin America and the Middle East, to name but two regions, has been non-beneficial to say the least. As the US share of global GDP has declined, trade policy has been increasingly bullying in order to benefit US businesses, rather than mutually beneficial. As with the UK, armaments deals are a big part of that policy, the consequences of which are fairly obvious. Currently the US is trying to strong-arm IP trade rules that principally benefit the US. It really hasn't taken long for the US to drop the mask of a benign Pax and show its true imperial ambitions.



Tacitus2 said...

"And a whole branch of the Amazon, in Brazil, is named for Teddy Roosevelt."

If I remember my TR lore correctly, he and one of his sons explored that branch of the Amazon and darned near died in the process. An interesting father-son situation. Who could ever live up to such a father?

One son, Quentin, dies as a World War I pilot. Another, Teddy Jr. was the only General to come ashore on D-Day, dying of a heart attack a short time later. And Kermit....the most tragic. He and dad explored the Amazon together. He trekked across the wastes of Central Asia. He volunteered to fight in the British Army before US involvement in WWII and actually seems to have gone on a commando raid here and there.

But he struggled with drink and shot himself to death in Alaska in 1943.

His son, Kermit Jr. later engineered the coup that put the Shah of Iran in power in 1953.

Dynasties....seldom do they turn out well.

Tacitus

Perry Willis said...

David, if my analysis is just a story then so is your counter-analysis just a story, but I think my story has better facts behind it.

It took until 1918 for the Germans to develop the tactics they employed in their 1918 offensive. They didn't have them in 1917. And even in 1918 they were only temporarily effective. The idea that Germany was going to defeat France is pure fantasy.

You might be on stronger ground if you asserted that the mutiny of French troops in April of 1917 might have become more severe, but it was already pretty damned significant and led to no German advantage. In addition, the way the mutiny was quelled is informative. French officers promised no more grand offensives until the arrival of more tanks and American help. In other words, the French adopted a defensive posture. This was a recipe for stalemate which was only broken by the advent of U.S. troops. All of that feeds back into my analysis. We made a bad situation worse.

But even if that were not true, we had no good reason for getting involved in the first place. The German's submarine warfare hardly qualified as such a justification given that we were cooperating with the British blockade.

American policy in the first half of the 20th century was simply disastrous, and it didn't get much better in the second half of the century.

Alfred Differ said...

US non-involvement in WWI would most likely have led to a German victory with them dominating Eurasia at a huge cost. The impending Russian collapse is what forced the US hand. We had to get involved to prevent someone from running the table.

Our reason for getting into WWI is strictly geopolitical. We put up with all sorts of provocations before our entry and supported our objectives from afar. The geopolitical reality, though, is the only empire that can challenge our dominance in the world is one that owns the entirety of the northern plains of Europe. WWI, WWII, and the Cold War were about preventing the formation of such an empire. There is no way the US could have avoided involvement. What we COULD do is protect our interests through proxies for as long as we could. That explains us picking sides in WWI and WWII BEFORE entering the wars.


Regarding population peak: Most of the recent material I've read has us peak somewhere between 10 and 11 billion. Getting to 10 billion by mid-century is already a done deal short of a massive epidemic.

atomsmith said...

@ Perry Willis

> I agree that other disasters could have resulted. It seems unlikely to me that they would have been worse than what actually happened.

So out of the infinite possibilities, reality chose the exact worst. I find this the unlikeliest proposition so far. Unless you're proposing a new quantum mechanical law, it is just a hubristic failure of imagination.

Alfred Differ said...

Alex Tolley:

>>Your [biased] US opinion? But what is your evidence?

What I point to first is immigration. We’ve got plenty of people breaking our laws to get here. That might leave behind the people who strongly dislike us and create a statistical selection effect in some places.


>>I spent the first half of my life in Britain, educated during the decline of Britain still basking in the afterglow of the Pax Britannica. It took a lot of discussion with non-British nationals to understand the hatred that Britain evoked and the reasons behind it. Economic history hammered in the nails to that particular coffin.

My mother grew up in and around London and can tell much the same story. Her choice was to leave when she married an American airman. There may be hatred elsewhere, but Americans tend to love the British. Literally. 8)

I think it is a mistake to think too much about the ignorant approach many of us have toward our self-image. Our previous President displayed this or played to it with his comment about them being envious of our freedoms. David isn’t sucked into that ignorance like so many others are. Looking at the results as you suggest is the best way, but that’s what David has suggested too. Both of you are doing it.

My own view with respect to outcomes is that we are still too close to the end of the Cold War for people to realize just what the US has done to the world. I have little doubt that our Pax will survive the century largely because no single empire owns Eurasia and the Chinese and their regional competitors have been pulled out of Hell. What we’ve really done, though, is accidentally demolish traditional cost structures that effectively prevented people from expressing themselves on a large scale and educating themselves in detail. This ‘accident’ is the result of our effort to win the Cold War without killing everyone and poisoning the Earth. The fact that we didn’t do it alone doesn’t change the fact that we enabled it. Our Moon Shot pales in comparison.

David Brin said...

Alex you accuse ME of cherrypicking? You define Marshall’s “plan” only as the 1940s aid to Japan and Germany… and thus conveniently exclude other parts of the plan, which sent a cascade of jobs — first grueling textile work, then assembly, then high tech — to nation after nation, Japan then Korea/Taiwan, then Malaysia/Singapore, then China and now Bangladesh… with each wave allowing millions to escape peonage on tenant farms to get cheap apartments where children had a light bulb and school books and a fridge…

It is staggering to me that so many of our peers can actually convince themselves to ignore that deliberately planned aspect of Pax Americana, which is THE greatest accomplishment of the 20th Century, even exceeding the one where we saved the world from an insane communist empire.

B ut the people of those nations know it. It is completely natural to hate the impierial pax of your era! But there is a limit to how much people hate their own #$#! customers, whose Walmart cash flows finance their kids being in school and being able to afford rapidly rising life-quality.

Gandhi’s biggest complaint was that Pax Brittanica DESTROYED native Indian industries and jobs. Marshall/Acheson/Truman/Ike were determined not to repeat that mistake, as they were determined not to repeat the Versailles mistakes of 1919. The EFFECTS are utterly inarguable, yet you maintain what is diametrically opposite to facts.

“Currently the US is trying to strong-arm IP trade rules that principally benefit the US. “

What utter, unadulterated crap! US IP has been stolen hand over fist and every single fruit of our engineers’ creativity is stolen. IP may not be perfect, but patent law ended 6000 years of disaster when the only way a creative person could benefit from invention was to keep it secret! That is why we lost advances like the Bagdhad Battery and the Antekithera Device and Heron’s steak engines.

Now IP thievery is forcing our most brilliant companies to avoid th patent offic and go back to secrecy. Elon Musk files no patents ’because they would just get stolen.”


Dig it, We should not get our panties in a twist over SOME IP theft! We were IP thieves 100 years ago. But when innovators cannot benefit AT ALL from their innovation, because certain mercantilist nations make theft the whole basis of their rise upward? Resisting THAT is “strong-arming”?

Oh…. I am done here.

David Brin said...

Jiminy C. I cannot grok this. ONE country gave the world environmentalism and all the propaganda AND the science that backed up a transformation of human attitudes toward the planet. Yet Alex blames that nation for trying to strike a balance between present day needs (getting all children into homes and schools and especially all girls the power to control their bodies).... efforts that never once gained the slightest momentum till Pax Americana.

what utter malarkey

sociotard said...

David, I think "Heron's Steak Engines" is my favorite typo of the day.

raito said...

"What utter, unadulterated crap! US IP has been stolen hand over fist and every single fruit of our engineers’ creativity is stolen. IP may not be perfect, but patent law ended 6000 years of disaster when the only way a creative person could benefit from invention was to keep it secret! That is why we lost advances like the Bagdhad Battery and the Antekithera Device and Heron’s steak engines."

David,

I agree that patent law works better than previous systems. The guild system, for example, was both good and bad. On the good side, they kept the knowledge going. On the bad side, there was less incentive for innovation, and little cooperation between disciplines.

But I have to quibble with your choice of examples. It's by no means clear that the Baghdad Battery was a battery, nor that its workings were kept in secret, even if it were. The Antikythera mechanism is odd. On the one hand, it's been asserted that these sorts of things were moderately well-known in their period. On the other, we only have it as an example. That's hardly evidence of secrecy.
And Heron's Steam Engine? The guy wrote books on what he learned and he was a teacher. And I don't think I've ever encountered anything suggesting that his books were suppressed so that someone else could make money off his knowledge.

Duncan Cairncross said...

David, I think "Heron's Steak Engines" is my favorite typo of the MONTH.

David Brin said...

Eeep... The IMAGE of those steak engines of antiquity is horrifying... and now you guys are in on the secret of how I get some of my best ideas. Just type real fast! The ideas will come.

Contemporaries report Heron used steam power to perform some amazing things. The anthekithera was rare precisely because such skills were kept secret. I deem the Bagdhad battery to be entirely plausible. In any event there and many other examples show why a civilization should find ways for innovators to benefit from invention other than keeping it all secret. Today's IP thieves are forcing us back into that era.

Paul451 said...

Glass and steel are probable better examples. High-end glass making was a national secret on a par with Cold War nuclear weapons research. Steel-making was discovered and rediscovered dozens of times before Bessemer & co documented it properly.

And both of those inventions would have been immediately useful, feeding into the technology and knowledge of those eras.

OTOH, Heron not only lacked suitable materials to scale up his haemolipile engine to larger scales, his contemporaries wouldn't have seen the usefulness of such an engine in order to carry it through the "start up" phase in order to develop it.

In contrast, in James Watt's era, everyone could see the point of both stationary and self-propelled steam engines. (For example, England dug its lovely canal network to increase the capacity of horse-drawn loads. Their economy was crying out for rail.)

David Burns said...

"Elon Musk files no patents ’because they would just get stolen.” "

He files them, then he open-sources them.

Stealing an idea is an elegant crime.

Is Brin actually arguing that secrecy is either feasible or advantageous? I thought he was the transparency guy.

David Brin said...

D Burns you aren't listening. IP was a major improvement on the secrecy that prevailed before, but it requires actually honoring the pledge "if you reveal your discovery you'll be happy with the rewards of openness."

IP theft that is a nuisance is one thing. To steal all the crown jewels and render innovative US companies and inventors bankrupt is killing the goose that lays golden eggs.

Elon opens his Tesla patents. Not his SpaceX ones.

Paul451 said...

Antikythera is an interesting one. I suspect the reason it's such a one-off is that the maths behind it was lacking. It was purely empirical, the work of a mad genius, not something easily taught.

And the maths would have been the sort of thing that was spread. People tended not to keep maths a secret. There just wasn't the theoretical basis to allow less skilled contemporaries to develop that kind of "calculating machine" for other purposes.

IMO, the printing press did more to break the silos of secrecy than patents.

What advantage is there for software patents, drug patents, "method" patents, etc?

[Jeff Bezos has a patent on "a method of landing a rocket on a barge", what is served by that? Would no-one else have thought of that?]

IMO, you could eliminate 99% of patents and actually improve the rate of innovation. "Patents" should go back to being like Royal Patents, monetary awards given retrospectively to the inventors of a limited number of highly useful and highly original inventions. A government funded Nobel for inventors.

David Brin said...

Paul I really must add glass and steel to my lists. They are - as you say - much more crucial and transforming examples of where past habits of secrecy destroyed progress.

David Burns said...

@Brin
"Elon opens his Tesla patents. Not his SpaceX ones."

So you retract your statement, or was I not listening?

"IP was a major improvement on the secrecy that prevailed before"

Yeah I get that. But secrecy is getting less feasible and less attractive, I read all about it in this book titled "The Transparent Society".

@Paul451

"People tended not to keep maths a secret."

Cult of Pythagoras I guess is why you say "tended". Also Newton and calculus. But yeah, that's over, if it ever was a thing.

Developing a new drug costs a lot of money and involves large risks. Maybe it would cost less if regulation's hand were not so heavy. Software and method patents are pure scam and counterproductivity, barriers to entry for the little guy. Competition!

"[Jeff Bezos has a patent on "a method of landing a rocket on a barge", what is served by that?"

Well, if he ever wants to land his rocket on a barge, the patent trolls will leave him alone. Probably.

David Brin said...

Mr. Bruns, secrecy is extremely attractive. The purpose of The Transparent Society was to point out that it isn't wise. That enlightenment methods are dependent upon ... light.

locumranch said...

The obstetrical forceps were invented by the Chamberlain family at the end of the 16th Century, and their existence & use was kept as a proprietary family secret (a very profitable one) for almost 150 years before the existence of OB forceps became common knowledge, leading many to honour & many to condemn the Chamberlain family for inventing and then delaying the release of this noteworthy & lifesaving invention on the moral grounds of 'negligence by omission' rather than 'negligence by commission' even though the existing Physician Code of Behaviour [The Hippocratic Oath] did not & still does not recognise this type of inaction (negligence by omission) as either a lapse in professional ethics or a moral failure, raising the question as to whether society has the right to compel any individual to sacrifice their personal interests in order to benefit society as a whole.



Best

locumranch said...



If you read the Hippocratic Oath (original version)**, you will quickly see (1) that 'secrecy' and 'Do No Harm' are the primary responsibilities of the ethical physician and (2) that 'Do no harm, or through inaction, allow others to come to harm' (one of Asimov's three laws of Robotics) is a modern (progressive) accretion that violates the spirit of the Hippocratic Oath, just as the very idea of universal 'Transparency' represents a violation of individual ethics in & of itself, leading one to conclude that society does not and should not have the ethical right to force any individual to sacrifice himself for the good of the many as this basic ethical lapse leads invariably to tyranny.

Best
____
**The original version of the Hippocratic Oath is available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/greek/greek_oath.html


Best

David Brin said...

very cogent locumranch.

Paul451 said...

David Burns,
"Developing a new drug costs a lot of money and involves large risks."

That's a common myth. In spite of the highest profit margins around, drug companies spends only a small amount of their R&D budgets on actual original drug research. Most is spent on developing manufacturing systems, and developing variants to bolster or bust patents. (Once you have one candidate patentable molecule, you need to churn through hundreds of variants and patent all of them, or else a rival company will create a small variant of your drug to get around your patent. This creates an expensive Red Queen Race between patent-holders and patent-busters, all of which is worthless to consumers and healthcare providers.)

The off-patent generic drug industry thrives without patents. So patents aren't required to make current drugs available. Likewise, eliminating patents wouldn't eliminate the more fundamental University-level research that underlies most medical breakthroughs.

The first question is, "What do we get from drug patents?" I think the answer is: a small amount of original research, along with drug testing. I certainly agree that safety and efficacy testing is a major cost. Essentially, the gap between University-level research and proven drugs ready for manufacture.

The next question is, "Is there an alternative funding model that gives the same benefits but avoids the damage done by patents?" There have been proposals (from outside the industry, natch) to replace all bio and drug patents with a 10-15% tax on all drugs, including over-the-counter supplements and pain-killers, which would be used to directly fund drug development work, and to directly fund safety and efficacy testing. Afterwards, any proven drugs would be available to all manufacturers, just as existing off-patent generic drugs. The resulting lower price of healthcare would free up even more funding for research and testing.

An advantage of the direct funding approach is that candidate drugs for diseases with few sufferers, or only poor/3rd-world sufferers, would be more likely to be funded through development and safety and efficacy trials. Whereas today they are more likely to be shelved after discovery as "not profitable".

Jerry Emanuelson said...

Any alternative model for funding drug development needs to preserve competition and to make sure that the very best molecular form of a drug is on the market, not just the ones that have a current patent because of some otherwise negligible (but patentable) molecular modification.

One possible way to do that is to automatically allow all patented drugs for human use to be manufactured and sold by any certified drug maker, as long as something like 10 to 20 percent of the wholesale (to the pharmacy) price of the drug is paid as a royalty to the patent holder. (Routing this fee through government is a bad and very costly idea.)

This would greatly reduce the cost of new drugs while rewarding the patent holder. The rewards to the patent holder would still be extremely great if a drug were extremely popular and effective.

(Proposals like this have been discussed for years, but have gain little traction, except in particular special cases, because of disagreements between nations on patent policy. If the United States were to lead on this, though, it is likely that the rest of the world would follow.)

It would probably be beneficial to separate research and development, safety and efficacy testing, and manufacturing into different entities.

To prevent skimping on quality, any drug manufacturer found to be selling an impure or misformulated drug that causes demonstrable harm should be banned from selling that medicine for a fixed number of years.

Under such a system, drug patents should probably be valid for a greater number of years than they are now, but it would be more feasible to allow longer drug patents because of the much lower cost of patented drugs due to all of the competition and the lower markup from the date of the introduction of the product.

Also, the patenting of trivial modifications of natural, non-patentable substances should not be allowed.

LarryHart said...

@locumranch:

raising the question as to whether society has the right to compel any individual to sacrifice their personal interests in order to benefit society as a whole.


This is the one issue I actually (gulp!) agree with Ayn Rand on--that society's best method of handling this is not to attempt compulsion, but to make a deal for compensation that keeps "benefiting society" and "self-interest" alligned rather than conflicted.

This notion that society needs the good-will cooperation of the creative types makes so much sense that I feel it is the single item of Rand's philosophy that drags followers into accepting all of the baggage she includes with it. I don't agree that all benefits from an invention belong solely to the inventor--that any benefit to society at large is theft. But I do think the win-win of "You raise society's standard of living, and society reward you appropriately" is the best option.

Alex Tolley said...

Once again you put words in my mouth I didn't say. Maybe it is time for me to get all self righteous? Let's be clear, the Marshall plan wasn't some gratis aid, but rather an investment against further chaos in Europe and loss of US security, particularly with regard to Russia. Your argument that the US trade balance wenty negaitive for 60 years was undermined by facts, which you bobbed and weaved by shifting the goal posts.

Quick question. Foreign aid ______ the domestic trade balance?
a) improves b) worsens c) has no effect on.

Theoretical answer is c. Why? Because loans and grants impact the current account balance, not the trade balance.
Practical answer is a. Why? Because aid is usually tied to agreements to purchase domestic goods and services, improving exports and creating a net trade surplus.

Arguments that European aid negatively impacted US trade are not only disproven by facts, but by economic logic. Europe primarily traded within its borders and there was huge pent up demand that needed supply. Aid helped rebuuild that supply to meet EU demand, not exports that competed with the US economy. It was exactly that pent up demand that US corporations exploited so successfully. I reiteratre, the worsening US trade balance since the 1970's was due to other factors that you seem apparently unaware of, or ignore as they don't fit your argument.

Your defence of US IP and attempts at fact free refuting of my comment that the US is strong-arming trade partners over IP shows that you have not followed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) story...at all. Despite the focus of your following remarks, IP is not just patents, but includes copyrights, trademarks, etc. Your argument that patents are important is a strawman argument, because nowhere have I said otherwise. I'm not forgetting that as an author you benefit from increasingly lengthy copyright protection, that the US wishes to impose globally.

Finally, you conflate ideas such as environmentalism with the Pax Anericana. There is no connection at all - it is an idea that can sustain itself without need of the Pax. But is was a poor choice of example as US corporate lobbying has sought to dismantale the EPA, unwind "onerous" domestic envronmental laws and corporations have exported jobs to countries without such laws that reduce untrammeled profits.

When I see the US actually use its power to curb global warming, foreign pollution, and ensure women's freedom around the globe, then I will accept the argument that this is due to the Pax Americana, but not before.

Alex Tolley said...

raising the question as to whether society has the right to compel any individual to sacrifice their personal interests in order to benefit society as a whole.

Well that depends on the impact of personal interests. If they harm society, then yes compulsion is warranted. The issue then becomes what is "harm" and this is where ideologies and perspectives can differ.

After all, Asimov eventually created the 0th Law of Robotics, because the short term removal of physical harm caused long term social harm

Alex Tolley said...

@Paul451c
In spite of the highest profit margins around, drug companies spends only a small amount of their R&D budgets on actual original drug research.

That isn't really relevant, as the costs are not in the R but in the D, especially phase 3 clinical trials. Drugs do fail even after marketing stars, so the costs of development are more like VC investments, the winners have to cover the losers too.

Having said that, Pharma in the US is extremely profitable. It has become very accepting of unneeded human suffering by refusing to offer drugs at reduced prices to poor countries, refuses licensing agreements and uses a number of ploys to stave off generic competition after patent expiry. One of teh above mentioned TPP provisions is to prevent countries from circumventing those patents.

Alex Tolley said...

IP may not be perfect, but patent law ended 6000 years of disaster when the only way a creative person could benefit from invention was to keep it secret! That is why we lost advances like the Bagdhad Battery and the Antekithera Device and Heron’s steak engines (sic).


What about all those inventions that we don't have on the market after patents were invented? There are few inventions of antiquity where the secret was lost until modern times could reinvent (reverse engineer?) them, e.g. Roman concrete.

While the Antikythera mechanism was a complex device for its time, just how universally useful was it? Certainly not as useful as an accurate clock would have been. And what would pre-moderns use a battery for, especially without light bubs, motors, etc which are more important inventions, and which apparently they didn't have.

A red herring argument in support of patents. Oh and who invented patents and when? The Venetians during the Renaissance. Later extended and built upon by Britain, even before the Pax Brittanica.

And while we are on red herrings. Women's suffrage. Happened all over the European world after WWI, well before the Pax Americana got going. How could it be that other countries accepted it before it was "forced" on them?

greg byshenk said...

David, while I am more or less in agreement with you regarding the Pax Americana, there is at least one aspect of your defense that I find questionable.

In some cases you seem at least to suggest that -all- of the developments of the late 20th century were a product of the Pax, and I think that this is difficult to justify. Certainly counterfactuals are a problem, but I see no reason to believe that developments in science and technology (for example) would have ceased in the absence of that Pax.

David Brin said...

Alex may I ask why you bring “foreign aid” into it? Grants and assistance have had a very small effect upon world development, compared to the commerce engendered by non-mercantilist trade flows under the American Pax. “Foreign Aid via Walmart.”

Just FOLLOW the flow of textile mills from the US north to the US south, then to Japan, then Korea, Taiwan, then Malaysia then China and now Bangladesh. Staying in any one nation for only a decade or two before the workers get un-poor enough to get fed up with conditions and demand better…

…which they find in the ASSEMBLY plants that always follow the textile mills by about a decade. These flows FAVOR movement of jobs around the world. Diametrically opposite to the pattern under mercantilist empires like Pax Brittanica and all the others. It developed the world. And it was PA that did it.

“Arguments that European aid negatively impacted US trade are not only disproven by facts” who gives a $$# about this strawman? After 20 years, when their nations had rebuilt, they were competitive, period.

Your remise re IP is senseless. If Chinese companies think our trademarks are valueless stop stealing them. If they are valuable then stop stealing them!

What silliness. Nations that are creative deserve to benefit from creativity. I am entirely glad and proud that we are at last standing up to outright theft. They can go invent their own trademarks.

Dig it, I despise patent trolls and adjustments are called for. But the world needs an economically viable US to keep buying the crap of developing nations for at least another 20 years. We will NOT be able to fulfill that vital role if every penny we make from creativity is immediately ripped off.

How convenient! Environmentalism has nothing to do with Pax Americana! Even though the whole movement started as America, spread through American media and memes and never would have gained traction without us. While Alex primly separates off government, I am talking civilizations.

Oh… the Zeroth Law of Robotics leads to the longest and most stifling oppressive regime in the history of sci fi.

David Brin said...

Alex may I ask why you bring “foreign aid” into it? Grants and assistance have had a very small effect upon world development, compared to the commerce engendered by non-mercantilist trade flows under the American Pax. “Foreign Aid via Walmart.”

Just FOLLOW the flow of textile mills from the US north to the US south, then to Japan, then Korea, Taiwan, then Malaysia then China and now Bangladesh. Staying in any one nation for only a decade or two before the workers get un-poor enough to get fed up with conditions and demand better…

…which they find in the ASSEMBLY plants that always follow the textile mills by about a decade. These flows FAVOR movement of jobs around the world. Diametrically opposite to the pattern under mercantilist empires like Pax Brittanica and all the others. It developed the world. And it was PA that did it.

“Arguments that European aid negatively impacted US trade are not only disproven by facts” who gives a $$# about this strawman? After 20 years, when their nations had rebuilt, they were competitive, period.

Your remise re IP is senseless. If Chinese companies think our trademarks are valueless stop stealing them. If they are valuable then stop stealing them!

What silliness. Nations that are creative deserve to benefit from creativity. I am entirely glad and proud that we are at last standing up to outright theft. They can go invent their own trademarks.

Dig it, I despise patent trolls and adjustments are called for. But the world needs an economically viable US to keep buying the crap of developing nations for at least another 20 years. We will NOT be able to fulfill that vital role if every penny we make from creativity is immediately ripped off.

How convenient! Environmentalism has nothing to do with Pax Americana! Even though the whole movement started as America, spread through American media and memes and never would have gained traction without us. While Alex primly separates off government, I am talking civilizations.

Oh… the Zeroth Law of Robotics leads to the longest and most stifling oppressive regime in the history of sci fi.

David Brin said...

Paul is much more cogent. Yes, IP law needs adjustment. For example, some nations have required licensing as you propose. If you cannot make a deal for a licensee, then you MUST license for 20%. I am all in favor of reforms like that! A patent that squelches is doing the opposite of what patents are for.

Greg, I do not claim PA is responsible for all science. But the shelter given to world scientists from fascist and communist oppression mattered.

As did the vast expansion of US universities, which for a while had half the world’s students and still include 80 of the 100 best on the planet. The US 4 year baucalaureate unquestionable graduates more agile thinkers than the highly specialized 3-year European/Asian model and many countries are trying to reform in that direction. I could go on but frankly…. Just look around.

David Brin said...

onward to next posting

Paul451 said...

Alex Tolley,
"That isn't really relevant, as the costs are not in the R but in the D, especially phase 3 clinical trials."

Read my comment again, safety and efficacy trials are included in the proposal.

Re: Roman concrete.

There was no "secret" to Roman concrete that was "lost". The Roman engineers never knew the real "secret". They had, by sheer luck, a source of high-quality naturally occurring cement (pozzolanas?) and lime. Once they exhausted the accessible high-quality stuff, they lost the ability to make it. The actual recipe was widely known, and pre-dates Rome, but normally led to low quality cement (only useful for mortar or render) unless you had good quality feed-stock. Only in the 18th and 19th century did chemists start to realise what made good feed-stock and even then, there was a load of empirical experimentation and luck in finding good sources.

Jerry Emanuelson,
Have a look at how many changes and conditions and should/shouldn't's you require for drug and bio-patents to be acceptable to you. Isn't that a sign that the whole thing is broken?

So bite the bullet and just end it. Look at what we'd lose by ending it, then find another way to get that directly.

"Any alternative model for funding drug development needs to preserve competition"

Patents aren't about competition, they are a monopoly right. By eliminating drug and bio-patents and pushing drug discovery to a govt funded research level, you effectively turn all new drugs into off-patent "generics", and that encourages competition. Slight changes in formulation to gain market advantage, improvements in manufacturing, etc.

David Brin,
The mandatory 20% licence idea was Jerry's. I don't think it goes far enough. I'd like to strip patents from whole classes of invention and discovery (the latter which is not supposed to be patentable anyway, and yet...) And even for areas where inventors should be rewarded, I think the patent system is a clumsy tool and could be replaced by something much less harmful.

Alex Tolley said...

@Paul451. Re pharma dev costs. It was you who was rebutting Burn's assertion ("Developing a new drug costs a lot of money and involves large risks.") that drugs cost a lot to develop. Your rebuttal led with "R" is minor and then added that the costs were "D" associated. So your rebuttal wasn't a rebuttal at all. You didn't mention trials which are the main costs prior to marketing.

I stand correct on Roman concrete. I have a bad meme that needs to be removed :)

Alex Tolley said...

@DB.
You are now arguing that the Marshall Plan is responsible for movement of production of textile mills around the globe? Now you are grasping at straws. A similar pattern happened to Britain as mills were established in India. Yes that India that you seem to think lost its textile industry to Britain. It did - hand weaving was replaced by machines owned by British companies. This is well documented in A Farewell to Alms: A Brief Economic History of the World (Princeton Economic History of the Western World) by Gregory Clark. Clearly no equivalent to the Marshall Plan was responsible here.

Mercantilist empires like Pax Britannica You have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. Britain ended mercantilism and promoted Free Trade to build her empire. I suspect that you are mixing up the situation pertaining to the period around the Revolutionary War with the next century when the Pax Britannica was evident after the defeat of Napoleon and ended with WWI.

You persist in the false belief that the US trade deficit is due to being out competed by countries that were rebuilt by the Marshall Plan and became more "competitive". This is false. The US trade deficit is due to decreased savings. You will see that the US trade deficit improved dramatically after the 1990 recession when savings increased. The concern in the 1980's was the "twin deficits" which were not independent but linked by by economic relationship: Savings - Investment = Exports - Imports.
Thus the trade deficit is also a measure of confidence by foreign investors in the US as a place to buy assets - companies, real estate, treasuries.
AFAIK, the only clearly obvious period when US terms of trade were poor was when Reagan encouraged the upward revaluation of the USD making US goods uncompetitive until the USD "collapse" after the Plaza Accord to reduce its value.

The Chinese are stealing our secrets! The modern version of Reds under the beds. And so? Maybe the best solution is to stop US companies relocating manufacturing to China where those secrets can be easily had, instead of the PRC having to hack US computers. But the problem lies in your unstated belief that China is exporting to the US and worsening the trade deficit. But are they? For one refutation The “Made in China” Fallacy

In the meantime, US extensions to copyright and patents isn't theft. No sir, that is rightful US property...forever. I'm surprised you haven't suggested charging for all that free scientific research the US has developed.

Well if you want to claim environmentalism as a civilizational impacting US idea under the Pax Americana, then you need to answer my assertion concerning the US undermining that very same "consciousness". Or does the US get a pass because it "invented" the idea?

Paul451 said...

Alex Tolley,
"You didn't mention trials which are the main costs prior to marketing."

As I said, read my comment again. I included safety and efficacy testing as a part of the proposal to nationalise (or socialise) the costs of development.

Examples:
"along with drug testing. I certainly agree that safety and efficacy testing is a major cost."

"which would be used to directly fund drug development work, and to directly fund safety and efficacy testing."

"candidate drugs for diseases with few sufferers, or only poor/3rd-world sufferers, would be more likely to be funded through development and safety and efficacy trials."

To go further, from analyses I've read (long time ago, no refs), only about 10-15% of drug company costs are related to actual drug development, even when you factor in the required FDA trials (and equivalents in other regions). Most of the rest is manufacturing R&D, and a huge amount of marketing (both direct to patient and marketing to doctors), both of which would apply to generics as well (an industry that thrives without drug-patents).

The "huge cost and risk" of drug development is exaggerated by the companies' lobbyists in order to justify existing and expanded bio-patents (patents on discovery, patents on DNA, patents on obvious variants), and to resist efforts to push down drug prices.