Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Fairness on the Public Airwaves

In a previous political posting, we ran through a long list of political addictions – nostrums and catechisms that believers return to decade after decade, despite their having been relentlessly and decisively disproved. Like the notion that a seventy year Drug War can cure chemical dependency, or that a fifty year trade embargo on Cuba ever did a scintilla of good. Or an utter insanity called Supply Side (Voodoo) Economics, or SSVE, that never made a single successful prediction, not even one, ever...

...or – indeed – some of the almost-as-absurd incantations nursed by the much-smaller but still dangerous very-far-left. Like anti-vaxxing and other hostilities to science, that approach 5% as silly as climate denialism; (yes, that silly.)

Normally, even the most obstinate human would start to shift away from such disproved nonsense. That is, if they were exposed to the disproof!  Alas, so many of us scrupulously avoid looking in directions that might offer up such evidence we’re wrong!  And there are evil men who cater to this weakness in human nature.

Which brings us to today’s topic.

== Should we hear any disagreement… at all? ==

Probably the most destructive administrative act in the last 50 years, and the root cause of almost all of America’s current problems, was based in a Reagan era action: 

“It was called the "Fairness Doctrine" created to prevent the American people from receiving misinformation in the guise of fact. Over 60 years later, the Fairness Doctrine is a thing of the past and the American people are worse off because of it.” 

Take a look at: The Repeal of Fairness: How Ronald Reagan gave us FOX News and other Bias Sources from the Examiner.

This history of the doctrine shows that its elimination led to today’s utterly polarized media, in which our fellow citizens stare at hate-drenched lie-festivals … rallying the faithful… without ever catching even a glimpse of another side.

While the Left has its own echo chambers that strive to copy the lucrative Fox – captive audience – business model, there are no masters of propaganda better than the crew led by Roger Ailes.  Indeed, MSNBC teeters on bankruptcy, because dedicated leftists are only a small minority of the Blue Constituency. 

The larger portion — moderate liberals — get bored by constant uniformity and wander off to find a variety of news sources. Indeed, their guru - Jon Stewart - swivels and skewers assumptions in all directions, while welcoming smart opponents on his show.

They are the ones who do not need a Fairness Doctrine.  They feel an itch on their own, to sample from a range of perspectives. 

But the far-left and entire-right are dogma junkies. Those portions of the populace need to be exposed to occasional rebuttals, lest they become shambling zombie-marrionettes to the hypno-lobotomizing propaganda puppet shows they stare at, endlessly nodding as stoked-up hate and fear levels just keep on rising.

There is a reason that the merchants of fear-and-loathing despise any talk of a restored fairness doctrine. Indeed, they would fight against it more furiously than anything else, even fair tax rates for oligarchs...

...because even just one minute of rebuttal per hourwould destroy their scam.  

Oh, we would still disagree, debate and fuss… there would still be liberals and conservatives and libertarians and such… but the purity of utter spite might give way to argument, comparison of evidence, some concessions in both directions, and even the horrible thing that the puppet-masters fear most. 


== How bad is the lie tsunami? ==

A new survey by the Tampa Bay Times’ PunditFact, looking at the veracity of cable networks, found that Fox News won (or lost) first prize for having the most falsehoods studied.  According to PunditFact, Fox News’s on-air talent were mostly-false, false, or “pants on fire” 60% of the time.  

MSNBC ranked second in falsehoods, at 46% of the time.  

And CNN ranked a lowly (or uply) 18% level of falsehoods – meaning, CNN did a pretty good job getting it right.  

As validation, the Economist, also a generally conservative journal, did its own survey of truthfulness, coming to very similar ratings. 

And hence this open challenge. Do you doubt I could do that one-minute rebuttal, myself?

I’m quite serious. Give me one minute per hour on Fox… or one per three hours… hell even one minute per week… and I would leave the Fox lie machine a smoldering ruin. You know I could do it. So could many of you. 

Want an equal chance at liberal media? Well, rebuttals already happen over there. Even on MSNBC. But sure… have at!

Alas, the masters of propaganda will fight to the death against any “fairness” on publicly owned airwaves, even though the principle was deemed totally righteous by our parents, in the Greatest Generation. The puppeteers know that the Ailes-heimers sickness they impose on millions would dissipate like a bad dream, and so would this phase of our re-ignited Civil War...

...setting us back on the path of non-demonizing, practical negotiation and vigorous, but reasonable argument. 

On that day when the fever breaks, we will regain a conservatism of intellect (I want it back!) and on that day, Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley can stop spinning in their graves.

== Don't even pretend that truth evasion is equal ==

Oh, for those of you preaching the cynical line that “the parties are just the same, equally captured by Wall Street and equally corrupt,” dig this well.  

Democrats have long supported the Fairness Rule… meaning that they do not fear rebuttal...

...while Republicans sought to destroy it, and would go into actinic fury if they saw any hint of its return.

 Let's reiterate: one side does not mind its partisans hearing contradicting views and evidence.  The other side desperately dreads it.

Think about that. WHY is the right terrified of letting their troops hear any rebuttal at all?

Nothing better shows that the matter now is not “left-vs-right”... but honest/sane versus dishonest/insane.

Go on, spin out the rationalizations! It’s “freedom of speech” to keep half of a country hypnotized and hate-stoked with relentless, easily disproved lies. Just like the way southern whites, before the Civil War, had only newspapers to read that were owned and run by the plantation caste, having burned-out every other voice, loyal to Union and reason.

Go ahead and cry out “it’s simple competition and supply and demand!”  As you defend the same monopoly-oligarchy that was the top enemy of flat-open-fair enterprise for 6000 years. The exact and diametric opposite of "competition."

Sorry, these flailings may reassure you. But deep inside you know. 

This deliberate lobotomization of American political discourse is nothing less than treason.


Daniel Duffy said...

Before we go any further, can we get past that old Red State vs. Blue State shibboleth?

If you look at voting patterns by county its actually more like Red Rural Area vs. Blue Urban Areas. That's why you will find cool, weird and liberal Austin deep in the heart of Texas, and far right wing fanatics like Timothy McVie hail from rural Michigan.

If a state is Blue it is only because it has one or more large dominant urban areas that overwhelm rural voters. A perfect example of this is Illinois, where Chicago swamps al th evoting down state to Cairo, making it a Blue State in national voting (though in terms of counties, Illinois is about 90% Red). The reason Indiana next door is a Red State is because it has no city equivalent to Chicago in voting weight.

As America gets more urban over time and rural areas continue to die off, this does not bode well for the GOP. It also explains their reliance on gerrymandering as a means of staving off extinction.

Daniel Duffy said...

The audience for Fox News and right wing radio (older rural whites) is falling steady, a decline that was noted at least as far back as the 1990s:

With fewer children, schools will be closed and consolidated. As the population drops, the Postal Service will close post offices. Government at all levels will reduce staff. Elks Clubs and American Legion posts will close, as will movie theaters and barber shops. Churches with dwindling memberships will be unable to support a pastor. In many towns the clinic or hospital will close, owing to a lack of patients and an inability to retain doctors. The effects of reduced economic input will ripple through the local economy -- particularly in rural areas, where people depend on one another. As the cutbacks continue, the value of real estate will plummet. Adding to the problem, in fifteen years Baby Boomers will begin to retire. Many will move to Omaha, Wichita, Denver, or even Texas. WOOFs (well-off older folks) will seek easier climes, and houses in many small towns will go begging. A similar fate awaits commercial property.

The colleges throughout the region will also suffer from declining birth rates. College and university enrollments will be high over the short term, because of the comparatively large number of children born during the "echo" years. In recent decades college towns have been insulated from the ebb and flow of the economy. By 2010, however, enrollments will decline substantially.

Without doubt the decline in births will gradually drain the life out of the region. Children are the key to holding society together. Any village, town, county, culture, or other social unit is just one generation from extinction. Without more children, the aging social fabric will fray and finally fall apart.

Economists and sociologists teach that there are critical masses -- minimum numbers below which essential "synergisms" break down. These synergisms build and sustain communities. A community built on a hundred births a year cannot remain cemented if births drop (and stay) below fifty a year. The areas in which births have declined by more than half are destined to undergo profound changes within a generation. For some communities the changes will begin within a decade.

Laurent Weppe said...

"Like the notion that a seventy year Drug War can cure chemical dependency"

I'm not convinced that drug war's advocate ever wanted to cure chemical dependency: they just wanted to maintain the illusion that they were dedicated fighters. I think it's Montesquieu who noted that when the state fails to stop crime, the first reflex of the ruling class is not to review its laws nor its methods in enforcing them, but to simply crank up the severity of sentences and the suffering inflicted upon the few criminals and bystanders accused of abetting them unlucky enough to be arrested in order to maintain the illusion that the institutions are ruthlessly competent.

Lorraine said...

I don't much like the equal time provision of the Fairness Doctrine because it seems to be based on the assumption that there are exactly two sides to every issue. I'd rather see more bandwidth reserved for low-power (low-budget) media, as editorial independence and money are inversely proportional.

Unknown said...

We are no longer in the pre-internet broadcast media age. Lots of independent sources exist, as well as comments.

What i would lke to see is reputation ratings against any item to indicate its value to the consumer. I don't know how that would be done, but even attaching historic truth ratings would be a start.

sociotard said...

a cry out for an end to 'hearing both sides'

Provided for citokate and all that.

Unknown said...

It takes longer to debunk lies than to produce them. This facilitates noise polluting the noosphere. Rating this material would reduce the effort to downgrade it and show up the people who repeat that junk, lowering their own reputations. This transparency could reduce the absurdity of "shape of the world differ" arguments.

Anonymous said...

My problem with a rating's agency, or group, is that it doesn't seem to matter to a large group of people.

I can't count the number of times that 'friends or family' will toss around something on their Facebook feed that is ALREADY on sites like Snopes as untrue or hoaxes. They NEVER check the veracity of the stories they propagate, and EVEN IF I can get them to agree that particular story is untrue, (sometimes they will decide Snopes is a political site dedicated against their politics) they will CONTINUE to pass on stories from the same source and never come to the conclusion that maybe the source is suspect, because it KEEPS PUTTING OUT LIES. They continue to believe them because it's putting out lies they WANT to believe.

Would ratings agencies do any better when the subjects would be even less exact than 'hoax' or 'complete untruth' but 'kinda true but mostly exaggeration' or a twisting of the truth?

Unknown said...

@Anonymous - I don't disagree with your point, because it is well known. Education and experience are good antidotes and I hope (but am not assured) that they will eventually win out.

Having said that, I like information transparency and the ability to read more sources of news and analysis, be able to comment at will and engage other readers (so much better than writing a letter to the editor).

But even with my background and education, I know I can be mislead. So any system that works more like scientific citations, but rating rather than views, would be desirable. I shouldn't need to have to spend any time trying to validate an article, but rather it should be obvious. Otherwise I am forced to accept reputations which I may be wrong about. Newspapers are notorious or misleading, allowing the halo effect on all their journalists, good and bad.

In some cases there is noting to be done, and people will be dittoheads. Where the facts are the same, but opinion on interpretation or policy can differ, then ratings mean little. What I want to reduce is factually incorrect information to be eliminated so that we can clear away this noise and focus on the real arguments from the same data.

LarryHart said...

Daniel Duffy:

can we get past that old Red State vs. Blue State shibboleth

Well, no one except me uses the term as it was originally used in the 2000 election. It refered specifically to a presidential election and the electoral college.

A "Red State" is not just a state that happens to vote Republican in this particular election. It is a state who is so certain to cast its electoral votes for the Republican that neither candidate need waste time campaigning there.

The idea being that the battle for the election is waged in the states that are neither Red States nor Blue States. Campaigning in the Red States or the Blue States is a waste of time and resources, because you're not going to change the outcome there.

The term "Purple State" makes no sense, because if the state could go either way, then it does make sense to fight a campaign there. A "purple state" is not just a mix of red and blue, it's the diametric opposite of what a Red State or a Blue State is.

Sorry, I know that wasn't really your point, but it's one of my "things".

LarryHart said...

Daniel Duffy:

As America gets more urban over time and rural areas continue to die off, this does not bode well for the GOP. It also explains their reliance on gerrymandering as a means of staving off extinction.

And voter suppression. Don't forget my favorite. :)

Radio host Norman Goldman thinks we should get, like, 500,000 New Yorkers to move to (for instance) Wyoming and flip the state blue.

Jumper said...

I tend to divide people into those who get news on TV vs those who read. If they do actual reporting, I read about it fairly deeply on their websites. (We can do that with the internet.) I can retain quick reading faster and as well as talking. I think this strategy works better. There is no shortage these days of informed opinion, although one has to have savvy to develop a set of alternatives.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Just a thought on fairness

It's difficult to define "fairness"
How about having a system where information that is known to be inaccurate - or just plain wrong - attracts a fine

So if you say something "wrong" you get busted and at the end of the year the "Media Scorecard" could be published

Maybe not a "fine" maybe a requirement to pay to charity - or the party that was damaged by your misstatement

David Brin said...

We can get first order Fairness just by polling major news guilds and asking them to nominate the savviest questionners that would inconvenient the other sides.

Lorraine why am I not surprised that you would come up with one more excuse rationalization to evade the principal OUTCOME of a fairness doctrine, allowing one minute per hour of "That utter lie you were just told is disproved shit." You know it would devastate the fox machine… so you'll concoct anything to distract and prevent that.

Unknown said...

@Duncan - people have a right to say what they like - we just need ways to avoid tripe. I wouldn't want any penalty that would result in censorship

Duncan Cairncross said...


Do people have a "right to say what they like"
In the context of a news service?

Can they tell lies?

You guys have your "First Amendment" - but does it include the right to lie?

If there is a penalty (fine) associated with a lie

Is that actually infringing on free speech?
You are permitting the speech

Just penalizing the lie

LarryHart said...

@Duncan Cairncross,

First of all, I seem to recall a recent court case in which a FOX News reporter had been fired for refusing to lie as ordered, and the court upheld the right of the employer to fire the reporter. "Truth" was no defense.

In real life, the problem with trying to legislate restrictions on lying is that an authority is then required to arbitrate on what constitutes a lie. In order for such rulings to be anything but self-serving and partisan, there have to be basic facts that all rational parties at least tacitly agree to. In the current political discourse in the USA, there are no such things. For a large percentage of the population, we've truly entered "1984" territory in which two plus two equals whatever FOX News says it is.

David Brin said...

Alex what on Earth made you bring up that red herring? Punishment for lying? Who raised that?

The airwaves and cablewaves are a public good and we have a right to demand that media that are publicly chartered should allow one minute per hour of REBUTTAL by high level and prestigious opponents. That is a very different thing.

IN FACT, IT CAN BE EVEN BETTER TODAY, with that minute featuring both internet links by the rebuttal person but also to a neutral fact-checking agency!

Let's face it. Every attempt to squirm out of this or to rationalize some reason not to do it boils down to weaseling/lawyering/incantation, attempting to divert from the straight-out fact...

...that one "side" in our civil war is terrified of their troops being exposed to even one minute per hour. What kind of citizen can make excuses for a situation like that?

Pachydermis2 said...

I agree that having an "unrestrained" rebuttal to any clearly partisan news source would be a good thing, and would enhance the reputation of same. Hell, it would probably make the initial point more valid in the eyes of non devotees. I would have no problems with anything short of "Jane, you ignorant slut", but enforcing civility might be a problem.

Regards problems, I think the fairness issue is thornier than it looks at first glance.

Consider selection bias. Whatever your point of view there are assuredly more pressing issues in the land right now than the inflation level of footballs. What are we not discussing right now for this use of media energy?

Selection bias is a big part of the problem with what some would like to define as "fairness judges" such as Politifact. They do some good work, sure, but debunking anonymous email chains is pretty easy.

Some feel, and I am among that number, that there is a home field advantage for one variety of viewpoint, one shared by most journalists. I recall a few years back that their "Lie of the Year" was that Obamacare would be a government takeover of healthcare. I was one of the commentators they quoted in discussion of this point, indicating that a defacto takeover by eliminating non approved forms of health insurance was a significant possibility. I considered their assertion debatable by honest minded folks, but by no stretch a lie of the year. (Note that two years later Crow was on the menu as the L of the Y was that you could actually keep your health plan if you liked it).

And on a deeper level there are many ways that a negative impression can be created. Jodi Ernst is a rising star among the GOP. Media outlets have taken to giving her the photographic "Crazy Eyes" treatment of late:

I have little to say regards Fox News, never watch it. I think trying to enforce fact checking on network news is a waste of energy on a dying enterprise. It is the wider electronic world where the action is, and any enforcement of "Truthieness" there is an alarming notion...


David Brin said...

Tacitus it is a shame you never tune into see what millions of people stare at for maybe 6+ hours a day, on Fox. It would enrage you that this undead and monstrous thing has hijacked conservatism.

If YOU were representative of the movement, negotiation would happen and many positive conservative goals would be won, in tradeoffs that allowed the best liberal ideas to also move forward... in parallel.

Some deregulation and some targeted experiments in helping a larger fraction of kids reach adulthood as skilled-empowered competitors.


I keep telling you. YOU sane conservatives should be the angriest folks in America.

Unknown said...

@Duncan - free speech does allow you to say what you like. But you are correct that it doesn't prevent consequences. One can lose one's job for saying a truth or a lie.
However if there was systematic fining for "lying" I think there would be a case for calling this censorship. Clearly scientists falsifying results face severe penalties. Politicians lying about policies, not so much.

A broader issue is whether this would do much good. The Kochs could support a lot of lying by funding the fines, much as right wing groups buy the books of their favored supporters to ensure high sales are reported.

If there was a cost to lying, gaming that by being more careful about how one lied would become an art. We would get interminable arguments over what "is" means for different contexts.

Would David's idea work? One problem is that the liar would demand a rebuttal to the rebuttal. Biased reporting could probably lessen any rebuttal. If I was running a biased news org I would ridicule any rebuttal, perhaps with another lie.
( "How crazy was that? The usual libtard disinformation that sane folks know is wrong. Now back to ....."). Remember that the most effective communication is not just to the head, but to the heart and the gut. What is true can be quite complex and nuanced, and difficult to communicate. Short cuts like sound bites abound as a result to bypass this. Slogans are another example.

Alfred Differ said...

If a lie leads to harm to an individual, I can see where that individual could sue for compensation. If this happens often enough, we should criminalize the original act IF we can figure out how to write the law in a way that doesn't require arbitrary decisions. If we aren't creative enough to do that, we should leave well enough alone and let the people with standing do what must be done.

I have no issue with a fairness doctrine until we get into the details of who gets to judge what counts. If we empower government to do that, I'm not convinced yet that we aren't doing MORE harm than the lies themselves are doing. I'm super leery of having government decide what kind of content is a lie and only slightly less worried when they decide on a class of content that could harm us when people lie about it.

When I watch Stewart, I think of him as the person doing these rebuttals. Many other people are already doing them too. You-Tube is full of them. Rather than force them into a limited time-slot on the same network issuing a lie, I'd much rather see someone else organizing them into a reputation based ranking and then offering them to opposing networks as competitive content.

What is happening at FOX isn't a market action/failure with a clear negative externality. They are doing what their customers want and what many of the rest of us don't want, but until the shooting starts the harm being done is very subjective.

locumranch said...

David does a fine job pointing out the ubiquity of falsehood in contempory society, but fails miserably by confusing conceptual 'fairness' with that of objective reciprocity, 'fairness' being a false term that literally implies that all issues are either 'white' (light of complexion) or unfairly black.

Any child can tell you that the term 'fair' is used to signify advantage (partiality) rather than 'equality' in common usage, "that's not fair" being the standard cry of the juvenile who fails to exert their will over others, "that's not fair" being the rallying call of the self-identified victim who fails to get their own way.

In effect, a 'Fairness Doctrine' is a moral construct that allows a cooperative to seize advantage with impunity, allowing one group of rats to band together in order to steal another's cheese while forbidding the victimised rat(s) to reciprocate in kind.

It is groupthink, McCarthyism, the politically-correct agenda, the tyranny of the masses and (new) democracy in action. It is the repudiation of equaliity; it is the death-knell of reciprocity; and it is the rejection of the biblical precept of 'an eye for an eye'.

Or, if the above comments are 'too abstract' for ya:

Stop assuming that your light-skinned values are the world's; stop masquerading as the 'middle' when the middle class is history, dying & almost dead; stop imposing your 'scientific' will on others; stop pretending that your overt partiality represents 'fairness'; and, above all, stop ordering your EQUALS around before they reciprocate in kind.

By the by, Danial Duffy's take on the declining state of the rural red states is the best I've seen in a while, it's 'spot on', but hardly a cause for blue state celebration, for as the red states go, the blue states will follow, and the same goes for for rural Europe, Great Britain & Australia. Ask yourself who will FEED you when those rueal zones -- those bastions of aging white conservatives -- collapse?? "Not I," said the Little Red Hen, "I've retired".


David Brin said...

I've grown fatigued enough with locum's reflex predictability and spasmodic hostility that I'm just skimming, anymore.

Alex your objections would be persuasive were the aim to achieve any verifiable concept of "fairness." But that word is misleading.

What is needed is just "hypnosis splitting." Even shaking up the trance with ONE minute per hour of "that's an outright lie" would save America, and I am willing to negotiate almost any way to achieve that...

...picking the rebuttal people from all news outlets and randomizing them out of a hat! Pick them from student clubs all over the country. Hell, even random would do good...

...though surely there's a way that we can get guys like Jon stewart or me on, regularly enough that the nuremberg rally's rhythms get rocked.

The extreme example I often give... year after year Beck and Limbaugh and Hannity ranted that "Soros toppled EIGHT foreign governments!" to suggest that Soros is a powerful oligarch meddler... (to distract from RMurdoch, who is orders of magnitude worse.)

If I had one sentence... ONE... I could devastate that narrative AND show the Fox audience how dullard accepting they are and that one sentence would demolish part of Beck's standing forever.

When one sentence can do that, you understand why those SOBs are so desperate to never allow it to happen.

A.F. Rey said...

Hey, David, it finally happened. The top-two primary system has elected a moderate in a heavily-Republican district, as you predicted.

Newhouse’s victory over Didier in Yakima may be the clearest evidence yet that a top-two primary system can work to marginalize, rather than incentivize, the political fringe.

As Young Frankenstein said in the movie, "It!" :D

Jumper said...

What does a corporation granted monopoly - over a frequency, or internet cables - have to do to get its monopoly taken away?

locumranch said...

Lose monopoly?? Can't be done short of revolution.

One hundred people gather in an auditorium. They find themselves at odds, so they hold an election. One group wins a 55% majority. All goes well. It is democracy in action. The winners institute a 'fairness doctrine' in order to build consensus. The losers are disenfranchised as politically irrelevant (Forget you, Beck); their minority opinions are ridiculed as ignorant, unenlightened, unequal and regressive (Take that, Fox); and they are increasingly isolated by diplomas, armbands, water fountains, ghettoes or a rural location.

Pithy potential conclusions to this post include:
(1) 'Meet the new boss, Same as the old boss'; or,
(2) 'Pink is the New Brownshirt'; or,
(3) 'Blue Agenda Urban Alles', or,
(4) 'We will, we most certainly WILL, get fooled again" (my fave).


David Brin said...

All right. Completely off-meds now. I am going back to not reading his stuff. Someone tell me when he shows some cogency again.

locumranch said...

Seriously, now. David and I agree on many things (content). What we don't agree on his conception of 'positive sum' (wherein the game is mutually beneficial to all players), mostly because I seem to define 'outcome' differently than he does.

Cooperation, IMO, is almost always postive sum assuming a common goal. I agree that competition can be positive sum, assuming that the outcome is defined as the game itself (wherein all players 'get better' at the game by virtue of playing the game because 'outcome=game'), but it can also be zero sum if the outcome is defined in terms of status (winning or losing) instead of in terms of the game itself, or negative sum when competition absents itself from all rules or any type of cooperation.

This is why our opinions differ so much on politics: David & I define 'outcome' differently. David (IMO) tends to define positive sum politics in the outcome-based terms of consensus, uniformity of opinion, a common goal and focused effort, while I find that definition reprehensible, having seen too many evil examples of consensus in history (ignorance, witch hunts, pogroms, inquisitions, fascism, etc), so I prefer to define positive sum politics in terms of the game itself, meaning that I prefer form (fractious political bickering) over outcome.

This is why I despise conformity. To paraphrase Monty Python (argument sketch), an argument isn't just contradiction, it is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition. Again, IMO, David appears to believe that the positive sum purpose of history, politics, science and human progress and what-have-you is the establishment of agreement, consensus and propositional uniformity, yet I beg to differ:

The positive sum purpose of the human condition is to 'Prevent Consensus', since the establishment of agreement, consensus and propositional uniformity is 'The End of the Human Argument', including the end to history, politics, progress, science, meaning, and everything else that makes life worth living.


sociotard said...

Interesting article on how Obama diverted funds to blue and swing states:

David Brin said...

locum I understand your positions. They are not what I deem to be crazy. It is not even the fact that time and again you demonstrate absolutely ZERO comprehension of the meaning of "positive sum"...

...and I mean zero. Truly zero, indicating that something organic must be at work... something that I found utterly fascinating and illuminating!

No, none of that offends me. No, the only reason that I go cold turkey and stop reading you for lengthy stetches is the simple fact that you strawman... and ONLY strawman.

I have never once seen you paraphrase a single one of my positions accurately. Generally, you pose a caricature that bears zero overlap with anything I say or believe.

The one common trait is that your strawman is an opinion that is deeply stupid and immoral, so that you can have the joy of shooting down something stupid and immoral.

And this was an utter waste of time, because you truly haven't a clue what I am talking about... and I guess never will.

Acacia H. said...

So what you're saying, Dr. Brin, is that attempting to get Locu to comprehend what positive-sum thinking is... is in fact a zero-sum proposition? ;)

Rob H.

Jumper said...

Or the 55% say "We're kicking you off the air at that frequency which will be auctioned off, because demonstrable lies (not opinions) are not a public service."

Alfred Differ said...

Does locumranch know enough game theory to have seen this yet?

Example Game:

Person A risks 10 or 20
Person B risks 10 or 20

Assume A and B do NOT know each other.

Bet takes the form of (a,b)
Payoff takes the form of (a,b) as well

If Bet(10,10) then Payoff(9,9)
If Bet(10,20) then Payoff(13,24)
If Bet(20,10) then Payoff(24,12)
If Bet(20,20) then Payoff(22,22)

For example, if A risks 10 and B risks 10 they each get back 9 and lose 1.

If a game like this exists, what would you do as player A?
Would you do anything different if you were player B?
Would you do anything different as either player if you knew some background information on the other player?

David Brin said...

Robert I never claimed that nature of human civilization or human psychology were inherently positive sum. Indeed, PS is an EMERGENT PROPERTY, UNDER A NARROW SET OF CONDITIONS.

In fact, yes, the overall context is zero sum. See my posting last week or so about competing memes. The overall enlightenment worldview cannot co-exist with fiercely zero or negative sum cults. Either they will fade, in the face of rising satiation and success and calmness and education and positive sum successes...

...or the PS enlightenment experiment will be crushed by the relentless pounding of its worst enemy. Fear.

Acacia H. said...

Um... you do realize I was being tongue-in-cheek about Locu and in instructing him to properly comprehend positive-sum thinking, right? I'm not quite sure where you got the topic of your discussion from my (rather pitiful) attempt to be witty.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Robert of course I understood, but I was in a pedantic mood. And what seems so obvious to you that it can be treated wryly is in fact and tragically UN-obvious to a very large part of humanity.

I will spell it out, over and over. And still, those who read every word will include some who scratch their heads and don't get it.

Jumper said...

Speaking of Hofstadter (we were, no? That's who first exposed me to game theory) I scored his old book The Mind's I recently, having given it to a friend who lusted after it in the early '90s. I recommend it highly to all here.

Treebeard said...

Isn't "positive sum" dependent on who is doing the adding, and how they're weighing the summands? This whole idea seems ill-defined, politically loaded and full of assumptions. What I might consider vital in my summing, you might not even believe exists (e.g. metaphysical notions like "god"), and vice versa. Was America positive sum for the native tribes? Was the Enlightenment positive sum for the Church? Was the civil rights movement positive sum for segregationists?

There are always going to be winners and losers when societies change; the trick of course, is that the winners define these changes as positive. Hence our relative lack of weighing of, say, the bones of all those tribes and cultures that our great civilization has buried on its upward surge toward the stars, or the Singularity, or wherever it is we're headed.

Jumper said...

LarryHart said...


"Positive sum" is in the eye of the participants. If you and I can agree on an interaction in which both of us (each by his own standards) ends up better than we were before, then that arrangement is "positive sum". As opposed to me being better off by taking away from you, which is zero-sum.

No one is looking at a single entity such as "America" and declaring it, by some Divine Math, to be "positive-sum". Dr Brin's point about the Enlightenment is that it encourages looking for positive-sum solutions, not that it eradicated all other types from the face of the earth.

TCB said...

I took a keen interest in the Fairness Doctrine some time back (everything David Brin says about it is the flat-out truth).

Ronald Reagan wiped out the Fairness Doctrine (i.e. the general rule calling for opportunities for rebuttal) but the other thing he did was to cut a deal with the oligarchs who owned the media conglomerates. Instead of fighting against The Media, a strategy Nixon had gotten so badly burned by, Reagan essentially bought them off.

This involved relaxing limits on how many media outlets a company could own, in one market or in total. The situation was already bad, with a about 50 companies controlling most of the US media by the 1980's, but at least there was variety and competition. Reagan loosened these ownership rules (designed to prevent one company from getting a stranglehold on the press in a given city and using it to, as Brin says, hypnotize the public) and set us firmly on the path to our modern corporate propaganda state: now six corporations own 90% of all US media. In exchange, the corporate media nodded dumbly every time some right-wing hack sang the praises of Saint Ronald.

(Spoiler alert: he was a shit president. But his powers of clouding men's minds? Masterful).

Anyway, if you look to see where the Fairness Doctrine was actually written down, you find that like Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, it's not QUITE as clear as everybody recalls. Rather, it's an informal term which covers several different regulations. The rebuttal rule was merely the most noticeable.

I'm just old enough to remember how it was, back then in the '60's and '70's. At the end of the local TV news, which bent over backward to report with minimal bias like real journos are supposed to, the station manager would often do a five minute editorial, CLEARLY designated as the station's opinion on the new bond referendum or road project or what have you.

Then, very often, a citizen of the community would get five minutes to offer a rebuttal to the editorial of, say, the previous day. It was embarrassing and beautiful. The citizen might be a school teacher, the head of the Knights of Columbus, a housewife or a plumber, but always wearing his best ugly suit or dowdy dress, stuttering and stammering about why the station's views were wrong (in those days, most people didn't find themselves in front of a video camera very often!) Like I said, usually a cringe-fest, but by god it was real equal time on the same station right before dinner, seen by the same thousands of viewers, thousands of fellow citizens.

The corporate lords stole equal time from us. Now, if you want to rebut a lie they tell to millions, you're supposed to blog about it... to ten of your friends. If that.

And it was beautiful because that was real democracy.

Paul Shen-Brown said...

Negative sum thinking:
We have this many bananas in our basket. Every banana you eat is a banana I can't eat.

Positive sum thinking: Hey, bananas grow on trees! If we can invent agriculture, we can grow more bananas, and there will be plenty of bananas for everybody.

Chimpanzee thinking: Bananas mine! You want banana, I beat you up!

Bonobo thinking: Okay, we shared the bananas equally, but I'm really hungry! Can I have one of your bananas? I'll make love with you again if you let me have another banana.

Conservative thinking: Them benaners is mine I tell ya! I earned um! I stole um fair en square, cause I's smarter an better an a harder worker than those bums over there, an they don't deserve ta have eny of my benaners! It ain't faaaaaiiiirrrr!

Liberal thinking: Bananas for everyone! Anyone want a banana? Here you go, have a banana! Have a banana! What, we're out of bananas? Oh crap, what are we going to eat tomorrow? Hey, don't get mad, I didn't know we could run out of bananas! Make love, not war, man!
Zero sum thinking, as Dr. Brin said, is clearly motivated at its base by a sense of fear. It requires more of an innovative spirit to seek out positive sum solutions to zero sum limitations. On a large scale, this is the difference between a Jacksonian democracy and other, more paternalistic institutions.

On the subject of fear, NPR just started a new show called "Invisibilia" about the invisible forces that shape our lives. They had a fascinating episode about fear in which they interviewed a person with a rare disorder that destroys the amygdala, the structure in our brains that processes fear. It turns out to be nothing like the character from "Firefly" (if you have seen this show) who had her amygdalas surgically removed in some evil government experiment to create a perfect soldier. The show is well worth a listen. Go to the link I'll paste below and find the episode called "Fearless."

But don't count on education to fix this. The education system has been making zero-summers for a long, long time and it will continue to do so until some things about the system are altered quite dramatically. Hopefully I will have time to rant about this later, maybe this weekend.

Jumper said...

I don't see rubbing out indigenous people as particularly an enlightenment action, seeing how it went on for 10s of thousands of years prior. Few liberals deify Custer. I will again recommend the Dan Simmons book I linked to.

Also above I mentioned Hofstadter and Daniel. C. Dennet's book. I have a sneaky feeling David is quite familiar with their work, as he paralleled much of their thinking in Kiln People, a book I enjoyed very much for it's humor, which sort of obscured the deep issues he tackled in it. I suspect a lot of fans missed it, and they shouldn't.

Jumper said...

One more thing about positive sum maximization:

locumranch said...

To respond to Paul_SB's analogy,
it's not a contest between "counting our bananas in a basket" or "growing more bananas", it's about putting all our bananas in the SAME consensual basket.

Experience has taught us conclusively that the power of consensus is invariably abused, from the Roman Republic to a decadent Empire, the NAZI economic miracle to wholesale atrocities, Japan's Meiji restoration to the Pacific conflict, and the 4th Estate to the Hearst & Murdock propaganda machines.

Consensus (whether of the Roman or 'Enlightenment' variety) is an effective, twitchy & dangerous juggernaut that has the power to change the world for either the better or the opposite, a fact that many positive sum believers like David prefer to suppress:

The Great Space Race of the 1960's & 1970's that gave us the Moon, microwave ovens, satellites and velcro?

It was a proxy war between the USA and the USSR that produced enough armaments to sterilise the entire globe (and then some) and took us to the verge of thermonuclear war.

This is why almost every consensus seems to mutate into the antithesis of liberty and why the most liberal human governments tend to govern least. This is also why I view our Brave New Consensus with such trepidation:

"I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."


Acacia H. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Acacia H. said...

Here is an example of Positive Sum Economics that certain parties would consider Negative Sum.

Let us say there are 1,000 people. 100 possesses 40% of the wealth, 5,000 of them possess 40% of the wealth, and the remaining 4,900 possess 20% of the wealth.

Now let us say that through a system of taxation, economic development and growth, and government programs, the economy grows by 100, but wealth is redistributed. The 100 wealthy people sees his share of the wealth decline to 20%, but his effective value actually increases due to the economic growth. The 5,000 that had 40% of the wealth grew to 45% of the wealth... and their effective value grew significantly. Finally, the last 4,900 people saw their share of the wealth increase from 20% to 35% and had a significant increase in their value.

If you ask the wealthiest people, they would call this a negative sum because while their wealth has increased and their effective wealth is higher, their percentage of the wealth declined. They would decry this as unfair and would demand the system be torn down.

Even worse to them, they are no longer effectively 100. 100 of the people in the middle class gained enough wealth that they could in essence be considered of equal value to the wealthy 100, while owning part of the 45% of the middle class.

So if you ask the 100 wealthiest? This economic policy was negative-sum because their percentage of the wealth has declined even as their effective wealth increased. If you ask the 9,900? It was positive sum because their effective wealth and percentage of the wealth increased.

So. Is it positive-sum? Zero-sum? Or negative-sum?

Here's one thing to consider. I used percentages here rather than set numbers. Thus it's easy to claim this is Zero-sum. If instead I said "the economy is 100,000,000 dollars at point A, with 100 people owning 40 million, 5,000 people owning another 40 million, and the remaining 4,900 owning 20 million. Economic and tax policies see the economy grow to 10 billion dollars, with the wealthiest 10 owning 2 billion of it, 5,000 people owning 5 billion, and 4,900 people owning 3 billion...

All at once it becomes positive sum.

Rob H.

Jumper said...

Blind consensus for its own sake is indeed asking for trouble, and no enlightenment thinker calls for it.
If one wants to preserve demonstrable lies simply for the sake of preserving non-consensus, however, it's madness.

Unknown said...

I will spell it out, over and over. And still, those who read every word will include some who scratch their heads and don't get it.

"What we got here is a failure to communicate." - Cool Hand Luke

David Brin said...

I read one sentence. It was enough:

"it's not a contest between "counting our bananas in a basket" or "growing more bananas", it's about putting all our bananas in the SAME consensual basket."

No... that is your jibbering loony strawman interpretation, allowing you to smugly feel superior to all of us by cramming into our mouths a meaning that is diametrically OPPOSITE to what any of us actually believe.

The sad thing is he keeps doubling down on ths method, and claiming he grasps concepts that his brain is apparently unable to even compute.

Duncan Cairncross said...

The comment about positive sum leaving out "others" to whom it is negative sum is cogent

It is too easy to make a change that seems to benefit everybody but actually harms somebody

Not to say the positive sum does not exist (It does) but care does need to be taken to check all of the outcomes

I have seen this in the context of improvements in a work situation that reduce the work for one department but increase it in another

- The solution (at Cummins) was to REQUIRE the engineers to formally discuss any changes with the other departments
(Engineers have a tendency to "know" what other people need without asking them)

"What we got here is a failure to communicate." - Cool Hand Luke

Acacia H. said...

My point was to show how policies can benefit everyone and yet have certain parties crying foul because they don't want to share the wealth. If you reduce the population in my example to 100 (which I had originally done), then you have one wealthy person with 40% of the wealth (let's say a total wealth of 5 million dollars so Thurston would have 2 million dollars)), 50 people with 40% of the wealth (each thus having 40 thousand dollars), and 49 people with the last 20% of the wealth (a little over 20,450 each).

The economy grows by a factor of 10 (thus 50 million dollars), but wealth is redistributed. Thurston now only has 20% of the wealth, which comes to 10 million dollars), the middle class has 45% of the wealth or 450 thousand each), and the last 49 now have 35% (over 357 thousand each). Thurston's wealth has increased five-fold. But he will claim he was jipped because of wealth redistribution. He will claim that this was a zero-sum game.

What Thurston wants is to now own 85% of the wealth of the nation, with the middle class with 10% and the poor with 5%. The middle class in Thurston's world would have 100,000 dollars each, and the poor would have 51,000 each. Hey, the poor and middle class have more money, it's "fair."

But the effective economy isn't better off because Thurston isn't going to be spending most of his money. 15% of the money is in circulation. Maybe 20% if Thurston is a big spender. And that's the important thing. With the wider distribution of wealth, the effective wealth of that society is higher because more people have more money to spend. If a handful of people have 90% of the money, then the working economy is in fact 1/10th of what is on paper.

Rob H.

Alfred Differ said...


>We have this many bananas in our basket. Every banana you eat is a banana I can't eat.

That's actually zero-sum thinking. Its the game that most people think applies in the labor economy and in much of the commercial market. It can be modeled as a partition of a fixed amount of treasure.

Negative-sum thinking is something you run into in markets when the thieves are able to steal enough to make the participants care. Each player starts to devote treasure to protecting the other treasure they have. This investment counts as sunk costs of doing business and eats away at the principle. If you have locks on your doors and windows, they count since you could have kept that money and made more money on it if you lived in a neighborhood where people wouldn't rob you blind.

Unknown said...

"We have this many bananas in our basket. Every banana you eat is a banana I can't eat."

A +ve sum economy is where I have bananas, toy have fish and we trade to maximize our relative desire to eat fish and bananas. We also specialize in finding bananas and catching fish so that there are more fish and bananas to consume that if we do not specialize.

OK this is a narrow economic view, and doesn't account for externalities, but that can be added.

If you assume that no amount of economic rearrangements will improve everyone's lot, then we might as well live in a Rousseauian condition of nature. I don't buy that for a minute and it should be obvious that isn't the case.

Now of course if you put -ve utility to any economic arrangement, you can suggest there are no +ve sum games, and that is a valid argument, but that opens up a whole can of worms, including whether even life itself is a +ve or -ve sum game in a non-living universe.

LarryHart said...


My point was to show how policies can benefit everyone and yet have certain parties crying foul because they don't want to share the wealth.

Even simpler--a percentage of people are sadists who are only happy if they are hurting someone else. Does society protect other people from them, or present them with victims to facillitate their happiness. Because under those circumstances, it is logically impossible to make everybody happy.

David Brin said...

Duncan the fact that minorities can be harmed by actions of a majority is well understood and enlightenment societies have long striven to take it into account.

We do not have majority rule. If we did, our culture/civil war would be over. What we have is sliding scale minority veto, in which the minority can black actions depending upon the PRODUCT of their numbers and their passion.

51% can get their way, if the 49% simply shrug with indifference... or bargain for some small tradeoff.
But 33% can block something wanted by 67%, if their objection is passionate and vigorous. As the racist minority blocked civil rights bills till the JFK assassination made the majority equally passionate.

Even smaller minorities have recourse to civil disobedience and other Gandhi methods, providing they are willing to spend a night in jail. And a night is all you get for a sit in or blocking traffic, because judges and the law now take this sliding scale into account.

The passionate anti-abortion 33% do NOT get their way because Roe-v-Wade is the fait accompli, status quo. But they CAN block the Infrastructure Bill and any other positive political action.

Laurent Weppe said...

"So if you ask the 100 wealthiest? This economic policy was negative-sum because their percentage of the wealth has declined even as their effective wealth increased"

Then your 100 hypothetic people are drooling idiots.
Then again, dynastic transmission of wealth along inbred offsprings tends to product drooling idiots.

locumranch said...

You'll get no argument from me about the existence of positive sum games. The question remains, however, if any particular game qualifies as 'positive sum' by your own 'a rising tide lifts all boats' criteria in the absence of hard endpoints.

The Stock Market can be thought of a 'positive sum' game (as can the housing market) but only if we assume 'bullish' unidirectional growth, otherwise it reveals itself as a sucker bet for approx 80% of its participants that lose everything in crashes like that of '29 and '89, etc.

The same is true for a Social Contract (esp the American experiment wherein every contributing member gained by participation) that has transformed itself into something OTHER-than-positive-sum by a series of exceptions that favour one gender, race, religion, class and occupation over another, leading to the following question:

Can any game be said to be positive sum, assuming rampant social inequality, sporadic rule enforcement and an unfair field advantage??

Is defending your country 'positive sum' when only 1% of your countrymen (the soldier-class) are asked to lose everything (health, home, hearth, future, life) to protect the interests of every other non-combatant??

No, I think not -- It is NOT positive sum -- Definitely NOT positive sum.


Paul Shen-Brown said...

Alfred, you are absolutely right about negative sum vs. zero sum. I just slipped up there - my bad! That was pre-caffeination. Negative sum is subtractive/reductive, destroying the resources that are available.

When Loci questioned the "communal" nature of the bananas, he demonstrated one of the hallmarks of zero-sum thinking. The seagulls from "Finding Nemo" work just as well.

Laurent, I agree on the 100 drooling idiots, but I don't think inbreeding is the key there. It doesn't take more than a generation for them to start drooling. If you raise a child to believe that he is God's chosen, smarter, more refined and genetically superior to 99.whatever % of the rest of humanity, they start drooling pretty quickly. The pattern of conspicuous consumption first noted by Veblen sets in right away. And, I am afraid, positive-sum scenarios can be hijacked by the upper crusties easily, which is why a democracy has to be hyper-vigilant in balancing the power of wealthy elites. Few of them ever really believe that the guillotine will ever meet with their necks, so they will drain society dry in the name of their individual freedom and superior breeding, superior talent (as with the nouveau riche) or whatever the justification of the day happens to be.

Larry, what you said about sadists and "the pursuit of happiness" makes a cogent point. The Marquis De Sad's happiness is the joy of privilege. When we all have equal rights, then upper crusties like him have to pursue their happiness in other venues.

LarryHart said...


Can any game be said to be positive sum, assuming rampant social inequality, sporadic rule enforcement and an unfair field advantage??

Thomas Paine argued explicitly that those who, in the name of general progress, are made personally worse off than they would have been in a state of nature, are owed compensation by society--not charity but compensation, or essentially "rent".

I'll somewhat agree with what I think you're trying to get across--that the notion of a rising tide lifting all boats ignores the very real segment of society whose "pursuit of happiness" is directly tied to the sinking of boats. We can either decide as a society that those people don't count, but that implicitly gives them the right to grow powerful enough to decide that we don't count, which is what we're seeing in real life now. Or we can realize that there is no system that will make everybody contented at the same time.

Jumper said...

There's no ANYTHING that can make some people contented, system or not.

I'm afraid telling all those lies about superiority to children might make them idiots, but it also gives confidence to succeed. I consider this an ugly reality. I don't know what to do with this belief of mine.

Jumper said...

If a game that was once positive sum is no longer, then that's the current reality. Analysis is always needed to play.

One positive sum game is flex time between employer and employee. It's a benefit, but it's not taxed. It can replace benefits that are. The employer and employee win. Sharp minds will see it deprives the government of taxes, if it's used as a substitute for raises. So it's not completely positive sum.

Laurent Weppe said...

"Few of them ever really believe that the guillotine will ever meet with their necks"

You're very wrong about that: being a one percenter myself, I know by experience that many of my peers are not simply terrified of the guillotine: they're utterly certain that the plebs secretly want to commit a class based genocide and that deputizing bullies and granting them superior firepower and privileged access to the upper class' scraps is the only thing that stands between them and the next dekulakization.

Of course, such attitude can only increase people's grievance against the owners-class and may eventually turn this fevered dream into a foregone conclusion, long before endogamy bottleneck us into the next batch of Spanish Habsburgs.

Anonymous said...

You can't give anyone confidence or intelligence or happiness or equality. These things cannot be given. You can only facilitate their pursuit of these things.

LarryHart said...


One positive sum game is flex time between employer and employee. It's a benefit, but it's not taxed. It can replace benefits that are.

It can also replace overtime pay, so in that sense, it is negative sum.

LarryHart said...

Laurent Weppe:

I know by experience that many of my peers are not simply terrified of the guillotine: they're utterly certain that the plebs secretly want to commit a class based genocide

That's what gets me about, say, the Mitt Romney statement about 47% of the population voting for Democrats who will "give them stuff".

My sense is that the 99%, at least those actually engaged in politics, want the government to provide them with dignity, security, and a fair playing field. The uber-rich seem to really believe that what the masses want the government to do is take money from the rich and give it away to everybody else. But what their attitude betrays is their innate belief that the things the populace does expect government to insure--dignity, security, justice, etc, are in fact the rightful property of the rich, and that providing such ideals for all is a taking from their coffers.

Looking at a rich man buy his way out of court and thinking "He shouldn't be able to get away with that" is not class envy. Looking at a corporation being allowed to poison our drinking water and air and thinking "Something needs to be done to protect our survival" is not class envy. Those sentiments are being painted in the media as equivalent to looking at a neighbor's expensive car and thinking "I don't want to work as hard as he does, but I'd sure like his car." It exposes a dangerous belief that ideals like justice and a fair shake are the personal property of whoever can buy them rather than part of common human dignity.

Laurent Weppe said...

"Looking at a rich man buy his way out of court and thinking "He shouldn't be able to get away with that" is not class envy"

No, but class-envy itself is more often than not a code-word used to justify class-tribalism: even accounting for mental compartmentalization there aren't many people who are stupid enough to sincerely believe such self-serving rhetoric, but it's hard to candidly admit that you'd rather be the biggest, most callous bastard in the jungle than forfeit a part of your material comfort, so portraying the people screwed up by the system that sustains your lifestyle as greedy, envious barbarians is a way to pretend that you still have the moral high ground.

Unknown said...

Is defending your country 'positive sum' when only 1% of your countrymen (the soldier-class) are asked to lose everything (health, home, hearth, future, life) to protect the interests of every other non-combatant?

The game is greater than this, and all outcomes must be counted. The warrior may or may not die. So there is risk and reward. The warrior's offspring (genes) may be fully protected.
When all outcomes and relevant actors are counted, it is a positive outcome.

Stock markets have generally resulted in +ve returns for nearly 90 years. So again, a +ve sum game.

Cherry picking losers for any situation is not looking at the bigger picture of the number of games and outcomes. As a society, we need to remove -ve sum games and maximize benefits for the maximum number of society's members.

The only case I agree with locum is that utility needs to be carefully measured, not assumed so that we are increasing the benefits that have value. In a richly varied economy, that often resolves itself with choices made by individuals. However there will be players that want nothing to do with an imposed system, e.g. those displaced native Americans. We shouldn't just ignore their needs become of some "greater good". However we also need to recognize that our system is dynamic and it may be impossible to preserve bubbles of different systems within ours. It is also impossible to determine the preferences of future generations, so there can never be some utopian system that forever maximizes benefits off society, but rather we must constantly manage and adapt the system we have. AGW response is one such example.

LarryHart said...

Alex Tolley:

The only case I agree with locum is that utility needs to be carefully measured, not assumed so that we are increasing the benefits that have value.

Supply-siders will insist (often sincerely) that tax breaks for the wealthy is positive-sum because they result in more jobs and investment, and actually increase tax revenue.

They have been proven factually wrong over and over again, but the form of their argument is in fact that their policies raise all boats, and are therefore positive-sum.

Jumper said...

Any number of glib liars can pervert a deal of any type, even somehow depriving people of overtime, but that doesn't negate a free market. Every new positive-sum proposition discovered is not negated by standard obfuscutory theft tactics also applied to conventional trades. The problem is the liars who have always been with us, not the deal. Which is not intrinsically more prey to thieves, except from novelty.

Unknown said...

@larryhart - and since we can show this is incorrect t, we can remove it as a true +ve sum game. The trick is to break this pernicious meme that is supported by the vested interests. Life and society is complicated!

Unfortunately economics is not as robust as science, and worse, competing incorrect views can be promulgated as truth. This isn't unique to economics, but economics does have a major influence in our current system.

David Brin said...

Laurent Weppe - yes, indeed, the present situation is an intelligence test for the aristocracy. Some have decided to side with the middle class engineers who created most of their wealth. Others, responding to 6000 years of instinct, come up with rationalizations for supporting the classic attempt at an oligarchic putsch; their drawing-room conversations rife with fantasies that enlightenment civilization must be tamed, curbed and guided, lest it tumble into mob-catastrophe.

In EXISTENCE, I portray a grand conclave of “trillionaires” in the Alps, in the 2040s, attempting to plan not only a return to top-down, hierarchical rule, but also how to “do it right, this time,” using tools of science not only to entrench that rule, but also to make it more effective. To accomplish what no feudal society ever did — make a system based on inherited power actually good at statecraft.

It was fun, playing out their rationalizations and how the brightest of them would even alter the very concept of noble breeding, in order to ACTUALLY improve high blood lines, instead of just making up stories about it.

you can answer under the next posting.

And now... onward

Todd said...

I very much enjoy your political posts, but you really should reconsider your labeling of anti-vaxxing as an "incantation nursed by the much-smaller but still dangerous very-far-left".

There are most certainly vaccine denialists on the left. However, as recent news reports demonstrate (i.e. Chris Christie, Rand Paul), this is yet another instance of science denial where the right increasingly predominates.

"There is evidence that vaccinations have become more of a political issue in recent years. Pew Research Center polls show that in 2009, 71 percent of both Republicans and Democrats favored requiring the vaccination of children. Five years later, Democratic support had grown to 76 percent, but Republican support had fallen to 65 percent."

ED said...

Markets giving people what they want:

"Here's Tom. He'll sell you what you want to have."

"Here's Sam. He'll tell you what you want to hear."

Not symmetric.

Anonymous said...

As this is more then a three year old article I expect this is just shouting into the wind/clouds.....But I just am so enamored without Foundation's Triumph. But as that was published in 1999 - - is there any thoughts on on anyone else or more-so you Mr. Brin following it up? I heard there is a Apple series for Foundation in development...but it Triumph you left so many hints with Maserd or that other pirate guy being in the future, what happened to Bellis Seldon, or there is a thousands of years books could explore - with details on any of the robotic revolts, more Foundation era stories, anything

I'm going to be investigating your other fiction - I am just obsessed with Asimov Foundation/Empire/Robot universe..It looks like the Asimov estate is very protective of the Grand Master's legacy (for good reason)

I wonder if that makes (made) them hard to work with/for

David Brin said...

Lovely thoughts re Foundation's Triumph. No sign the Asimov estate wants to do more, but I hope they'll consult with me at least. I have ideas... ;-)