Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Moving the Goalposts: Part II

Last time, I laid down seven fundamental points that you folks should arm yourselves with, and then sally forth to help save your planet. Rhetorical weapons that are far more confrontational and in-yer-face than the denialist cult is used to hearing from us science-loving egghead types.

And that's fine.  They are waging war against not only science, but our children's future. They think enlightenment types are wimps, with our "facts" and our "evidence" and "reason."

It's time, indeed, to prove that we aren't wimps, but just slow to anger. As our side has been slow to anger in every other phase of the American Civil War.  Slow, but ponderously determined, once roused.

And now... let's reiterate and expand upon the biggest and most important of the seven points. The paramount proof of insanity. Get up to them, nose-to-nose, and ask:


To you and your fellow denialist cultists, it is all-or-nothing!  Either you bravely hold the line and allow zero measures, even teensy ones, to increase energy efficiency… or else those dang smartypants libruls and sciencey types will shut down every power plant and deliberately ruin the economy, forcing us all to shiver in the dark and starve!   

Um.  Find me the librul or scientist who wants any of that? One. Just one. Even one? If you have spouted that poison, could you at least cite a single actual example?

Okay. I admit. There are a few crazy lefties who might push for more puritan measures than the average citizen or scientist would accept. But who is crazier? Them? Or guys like you who are comfy portraying all blue types and scientists as raving PETA-Greepeace-starve-in-darkness-EarthFirsters?

== TWODA ==

I’ve long spoken of Things We Ought to be Doing Anyway — measures that we could be negotiating, that will do us all good, even if 99% of scientists prove to be wrong and cretins like James Imhof prove to be right. 

Win-win investments in energy efficiency would save consumers billions, even if climate change is a ruse!  Measures that would also help a lot, if it isn’t.  

One example?  The new CAFE auto mileage standards that a briefly-democratic Congress passed in 2009, after 26 years of GOP delays, has resulted in far better cars, many billions more in consumers’ pockets, and healthy auto companies. Oh, and countless fewer barrels of oil sent up as smoke.

But you won’t think about TWODA.  You refuse to sit down and negotiate, because negotiation itself is declared to be a vile sin, by your cult. (I do not exaggerate: look up Tom DeLay and his GOP-must-never-negotiate rule. Newt Gingrich saw his political career destroyed because he dared to negotiate with Bill Clinton, in the miracle year, 1995.)

Let me make that point double-underlined for emphasis. You… and I mean you members of the denialist-ailesheimers cult… refuse to put anything on the table, not even capitalist-friendly measures that would promote energy efficiency and lower emissions through market forces, in ways that do no harm to the economy and that would be win-wins for all…

… well, they would be win-wins for all except just one group of folks. 
    Your masters. The coal barons and petro-sheiks who do not want efficiency or lower-emission energy -- for obvious reasons.  They are the only folks who would not benefit from such a win-win… and they just happen to co-own the very same “think tanks” and advertising agencies and cable propaganda outfits that furnish your daily fix of science-hating outrage.

Anyone with two neurons left to use in independent thought would look at that fact and go “Huh! That IS rather suspicious! The only beneficiaries of Doing Nothing and Denialist Delay just happen to be the guys feeding me the propaganda I suckle every day.”

But you won’t do that. Nor even glancingly consider the thought that maybe… just maybe… you have been the one who’s led astray.

== A perfect example ==

Ah... Keystone XL.  The Great Cause of Today's Right!  The one and only positive and assertive item on the Republican agenda.  Let me reiterate, it is the only positive thing on the GOP wish list. (Infrastructure repair? Putting half a million US men and women to work fixing failing bridges that will have to be repaired anyway? Absolutely not! That would make the economy look good under a democrat!)

Ah, but what is the real motive for Keystone XL?  To feed more oil into a glutted US market? Nope. Now, pay close attention --

Canadian shale oil already has plenty of pipelines to US refineries. There are seven already.  Seven.

The sole purpose of Keystone XL is to take the very worst type of nasty shale sludge-oil right over our most precious aquifer, then bypass our refineries, taking the stuff to gulf ports so that Canadian petro moguls can sell it to China. We will get not one drop, not a cent, and very few jobs. So... um.... What possible incentive do we have to do this? That is, other than that those petro moguls own Congress?

It's like asking questions about "climate grants" or George Soros toppling foreign governments. (See part one.) The worst thing about Keystone XL is how incurious are the GOP ground troops, who will nod at any mantra spun out by the puppeteers. 

Hey, go ahead and be conservative!  We need conservatives!  But lobotomization? Why would you put up with what's been done to you?

== The Keystone Irony ==

The final thought about Keystone.  Congressional Dems have made it clear, repeatedly. Keystone is NOT on our top priority list." In other words... although we hate it and think it's stupid and corrupt and dangerous, there are some ways that we can nvision stepping aside and letting it happen. If good safeguards are in place. And, above all, if you offer something, in return.

Pause and consider how far politics have fallen, that even the possibility of getting this pipeline -- again, the only positive-assertive thing on the Republican agenda -- by negotiation, compromise and horsetrading, absolutely never occurs to them. They don't even bring it up. The thought is alien.

And that is why I say politics -- the art of negotiating our way into the future as adults -- is dead in the U.S., as it is always killed, during each phase of our civil war.  And it is the deliberate assassination of politics that is the true treason of the re-ignited Confederacy.  And the reason Goldwater and buckley are spinning in their graves.

== Assigning blame? ==

Why has so much money and clever-cynical manipulation kept denialism active?  Remember those "threatened assets" in coal and oil that the Bank of England report called doomed?

The Kochs and their royal petro-sheik partners have to play out the clock, in order to unload those assets favorably. You'll know when they have finally succeeded in finding Greater Fools to buy their mines and oil wells etc., when suddenly, Fox pundits proclaim: "who, me?  I never denied human caused climate change! I was only keeping them durn' scientists honest!"

You denialists? That's what you'll claim, too. Just as you now claim you always knew tobacco was bad! And you never supported the insane Drug War. Only, this time it won't work.  

We'll remember. Because the tort lawsuits for this one will make the Big Tobacco judgements look like nothing.  And half a billion refugees will take their lawsuits waaaaay down the blame ladder. Below Rupert Murdoch (who will wind up pumping gas at a Shell station) and below James Imhofe and below Sean Hannity...

...all the way to you. And when that day comes, don't look at us neighbors to stand by you. We who tried for decades to wake you up. Those climate refugees will get your house.  And rightfully so.

== And finally... when is religion relevant in politics? ==

... let's turn to the dominionists who make up a majority of the prospective Republican candidates for presidency, in 2016. (See their stances on climate change.)  May I offer a thought?

Now, normally, our value system proclaims that a person's private religious beliefs should not be politically pertinent.  But there comes a point when that reflex is absurd, even stupid. And this is one area where liberals are the ones who are dead-asleep. So let's make the wake-up call explicit.

Anyone who openly admits that they pray for the Book of Revelation scenario to come true soon, is explicitly stating they want 90% of Americans to die in horrid agony, then be consigned to perpetual damnation-torment...

...followed by the permanent end of all democracy and human ambition, and abolishment of the United States of America. 

Those things are utterly explicit consequences of the events that such people openly proclaim praying for, and no softening or denial is even remotely possible.

 At which point we have to admit that religious beliefs become relevant, especially when such a candidate is asking to be given a button for nuclear weapons.


Tony Fisk said...

One thing cults tend to do is concentrate the true believers into an ever more constrained system. That system may be one of belief, or economic wealth, as may be seen from this comment on the proposed abolition of estate taxes.

Alfred Differ said...

@Tony Fisk: Thanks for the vocabulary lesson. I will try out 'apocaphilia' at the next party I attend. 8)

After Treebeard's adjustment at the end of the last thread, though, I'm not sure it applies. Now it looks like he's just annoyed at the perception of arrogance. It's as if he doesn't understand that bold statements made by someone who advocates CITOKATE act as invitations to offer constructive criticism. The more bold a statement is, the more the claim is made that the information behind it has survived such criticism... and been improved.

@Treebeard: Seriously, dude. You are mistaking confidence for arrogance. You are mistaking someone with a strong ego for someone with an ego puffed up on hot air. You are mistaking this community's preferred bluntness for ad hominem attacks. Confidence, ego, and plain speech all have their places and all of them belong here.

You have to bring your best game here though. I've watched for years. Challenge their confidences, egos, and styles if you want, but they ALL take that as an invitation to do you the same favor... and you'd benefit from it too. We all do.

Alfred Differ said...

@Laurent Weppe: (from the last thread)

...but now there’s not enough resources left to feed all of Humanity, and therefore genociding the proles’ in order to cull the herd is the only way for civilization to forestall its malthusian collapse.

Color me unconcerned. I have no doubt some of them are already thinking that, but black swans are funny creatures. Under pressure, this civilization won't get to a situation where it runs out of resources. It will change which resources it uses. As long as most of us are alive to feel that pressure, our civilization will innovate in the market and gov't research labs and give birth to more swans.

Obviously, I'm an optimist. Since some people aren't (very strange to me!), I'll add that if I'm wrong, I'll pick up a gun and help you blow away those fools. I might have to strap it onto my scooter or walker by the time we get there, though. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

Yah, yah. Dominionists. Be scared?

Sorry David. Those are not top-tier GOP candidates for President. They are the subjects of fund raising mailers issued by the Dems. There are lots of the bogeymen.

Are you sure there isn't a 'fear' counterpart to the addiction you describe for 'indignation?' I see the danger you point to, but the odds don't seem to justify the fear. The worst these folks can do right now is hold a seat in Congress or as a Governor. Fear seems to be a more appropriate response when there are enough of them to re-unite the power we've divided between government branches and between the states and feds. Are there that many? Show us please.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

Paul Shen-Brown, you mentioned in the last thread growing up in an extremely conservative, religious community. From things that you have said in the past, I think that it is the same one that I live in now.

In the 1980s, it became known as the capital of Christian conservatism. This week, however, this formerly conservative town had an AM radio station switch from all sports-talk to all marijuana-talk, and there is a listener-base in this town of sufficient size that could make the radio station profitable with the new format. It is the only federally-license broadcast station with such a format.

People do change. Even communities change. There is great hope, too, that the anti-science portions of this civilization will change to a pro-science sentiment. And it could happen very quickly.

Paul Shen-Brown said...

Hello Jerry,

If you are in Colorado Springs, CO, about 60 miles south of Denver, that would be the place. I hope you are right, but having a sports radio station switch over to weed radio , while it is a change from the old days, doesn't indicate much of an opening of minds. When I was a kid in school there were huge numbers of pot heads, people who would now be middle-aged, the age of both nostalgia and financial power. Having any US state legalize marijuana was a bit of a shocker. That conservative Colorado was among the first more so (and not California, which has a reputation I have found to not really live up to).

Another thing I would be careful of is equating drug use with "liberal" sentiments. Hippies tended to be pot heads and were reputed to have the more naive sorts of liberal attitudes, but the hippies are history (except, I am told, in Santa Clara). The potheads I knew had very much the opposite sentiments. They were mainly egotistical, self-centered people who saw their drug habits as an expression of freedom, and claimed that smoking weed made them better than "everyone else" because "everyone else" was a bunch of conformist sheep.

I moved out of Nazi Springs 25 years ago. The last time I visited was for the funeral of a Jewish friend who was constantly harassed by church people. I hope you are right and those old dinosaurs are dying out. I am skeptical, but I don't have a problem with change.

That kind of brings up something Alfred wrote above, about fear and indignation. Indignation, essentially a form of anger, is anatomically connected to fear in the human brain. We have two small structures called the Amygdalas (sounds like it should be the name of a character from Star Wars, doesn't it?) that regulate fear and aggression responses. Everybody's hooked up a little differently, but as a general rule anger is driven by fear.

I've got to get back to work! I did want to mention, from the last thread, that just about the saddest thing I ever saw was a picture of an old woman in an iron lung, with a bunch of balloons tied to her machine, big Happy Birthday sign and a TV over the machine where she could watch it. Can you imagine how awful it must be to live your entire life immobilized inside one of those machines? People who don't get scientific progress are true monster.

David Brin said...

Alfred, sorry, but I take people at their word, and the Dominionists are just one branch of a wider movement that openly and quite-honestly plans to use any possible means to eliminate every opposition and end every aspect of our Experiment.

It is not untoward to at least point that out. Perhaps they aren’t ready to impose Nehemia Scudder on us, in a fair election. But they – and the oligarchs who think they are holding the tiger's reins – refine their methods of cheating with every balloting.

And when one of them is given the VP slot – exactly as McCain did for Palin – then we are talking heartbeats. No, I am not being excessive when I at least offer up some potential polemics to use, if we see the threat looming close on the horizon.

Paul, I was just at a conference in Boulder. Did you see, in EXISTENCE, the short riff in 2045, when the Mayor of Boulder sues Colorado Springs to pay up on their 2035 bet whether Boulder would be swallowed-up by the pits of hell?

raito said...

Scudder, huh? Kinda makes you want to equate RAH with Seldon... (as in both predicting this sort of thing in advance).

As for 'not a priority', the last time a politician told me that, he voted for it immediately when it came up (right to work in WI).

And no wonder no one liked my Keystone plan, which was to build a refinery up there so gas prices didn't go haywire every hurricaine season. Cheaper, and kept some jobs around.

Paul Shen-Brown said...

Dr. Brin, oh yeah, you call 'em like you see 'em! People in my home town referred to Boulder as The Peoples' Republic of Boulder. I didn't know until I moved to Denver in my 20s that they have names for where I came from outside of that enclave of hate crime. I'm just glad to have escaped.

Alfred Differ said...

Mmm... Palin was certainly an embarrassment for them. A number of my GOP friends know it too. Fortunately we can now use her name as an adjective for when they do it again. It will cause just enough pain for them to think twice about losing in the general election.

I'm all for taking them at their word, but I'm leery of getting on a soap box and preaching against them. Doing so provides fodder for the political fund raisers because they can scare people into donating. I prefer talking to the people who might be swayed and pointing out the un-American-ness of Dominionist beliefs. Scaring them just makes them think I'm an aggressive atheist.

Gator said...

This is just the natural result of decades of repeating the line that all politicians are corrupt and "how can you tell that a politician is lying -- their lips are moving."

Current-day Americans hate politicians, don't trust them. So why would anyone with any sense go into politics? If we as a culture say politics is for corrupt, power-hungry psychopaths, is it any surprise that's what we get?

Politics is a noble profession with a long history. It is a basic human technology that has helped us organize and advance. What of the society we enjoy today would be here without politics? We should be encouraging our best to go into politics.

Re end times, I keep hoping the Apocamon will be completed...

David Brin said...

Alfred, my riff on dominionists was precisely aimed at showing waffling (semi) sane conservatives the reductio ad absurdum basic distillation of what Revelations Wishers actually want.

Simple paraphrasing. And they cannot deny that what I described is exactly their goal.

Alfred Differ said...

... they want 90% of Americans to die in horrid agony, then be consigned to perpetual damnation-torment...

...followed by the permanent end of all democracy and human ambition, and abolishment of the United States of America.

I agree with the accuracy of your paraphrasing, but I don't think this message sells well with your target audience. Do you really think it does? Honest question.

I've never convinced anyone on this with an approach where I state the logical conclusion for them. I've occasionally managed to raise some eyebrows when I've led them around a bit and they come to the conclusion themselves. I kinda gave up on the direct approach, but if you think it works, I'll reconsider.

David Brin said...

Alfred... sure... leading them is more likely to be effective... You can draw out elements of the BoR and they'll conclude it is a monumental horror that would bring an end to all things human or American.

I have done that! But I seldom have the time.

Simple, even if the BoR was not a raving rant by a schizo-psycho, but an actual revelation... all it shows is that the Creator can throw tantrums... as we already knew.

The real refutation of the BoR is... Jonah. Read it. God can... change... his... mind.

And he nEVER made a threat and waited more than a decade to carry it out, let alone a century, or two millennia. He changed his mind. Duh.

Pet thebean said...

The thing is, what does alternate energy, moving away from oil and finding more efficient and ecologically responsible ways to create and use energy have to do with climate in the first place?

That's the question I'd like answered just once.

We are constantly getting screwed by giant oil corporations. Oil is a finite resource that WILL eventually run out. EVEN if burning oil had no effect on climate, it would still make sense to be focusing our energies on getting away from it's use!

It would make sense to be building thorium reactors, to be developing fusion, to be building a hydrogen infrastructure... it's just good common sense!

I think focusing all the arguments on climate is dumb when there are so many even stronger arguments!

Jerry Emanuelson said...

The reputation of Colorado Springs as a religious conservative capital began when the head of the Economic Development Council got the bright idea in the 1970s to bring in big hyper-religious organizations and make the city an economic center for these organizations (since no one else wanted them). Once they congregated here, they got extremely arrogant and pushy and began trying to enact their beliefs into law.

As an economic policy, that backfired in a very big way, and got the city a terrible reputation around the world. New industries that would otherwise have moved here stayed away in droves. Around 1990, you began to hear less and less of the religious conservatives. I think that they are still here. At least their offices are still here, but many of their leaders are getting very old, and even most of the younger ones are getting far less arrogant and pushy. They have discovered that altering the reputation of the city is very bad economic policy.

I hope that this city can regain its pre-1970 reputation as home of the "libertarian crazies." That never seemed to have any adverse economic impact (since libertarians didn't force their ideas on anyone else). Robert Heinlein lived here for 16 years. While he was here, he wrote The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and patterned one of its characters, Professor de la Paz, directly after the longtime local editorial page editor (who was one of the leaders of the "libertarian crazies"). That editor once rejected one of Heinlein's essays as an Op-Ed piece because it was too conservative. The editor directed Heinlein to the advertising department, where Heinlein paid to have his essay published.

Alfred Differ said...

Okay. Thank you David. Your claim that you seldom have the time is most convincing. You would have to focus on a small sliver of what you bring to us all to do it, so that’s a good argument for delegation. Sounds like good support for your proxy activism points. I’m not tempted to throw a few bucks at the Dems, but maybe there is another group out there with a laser focus on the Dominionists. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

The notion that we will run out of oil is actually weak. In the literal sense, it won’t happen. The price of oil will go up as the supply dwindles and the market will find other options. The major complaint free market people have with subsidizing alternative energy solutions is that we distort the market and destroy the very motivation that would fund the research absent government support. Distorting the market is a form of cheating, so that’s not exactly moral. The major complaint from the other side is the petro barons have already distorted the market in their favor. One is through the establishment of a large infrastructure supporting fossil carbon fuel use and another is through rule alterations that prevent an actual free market. The first one isn’t cheating, but the second is which makes them vulnerable to the same moral complaint. So… should we help a new group cheat the cheaters? I’d rather bring down the petro barons somehow and have no one cheating, but I’ll admit I don’t know how.

The climate argument is different. No matter how much oil gets used, the fossil carbon goes into the air and oceans. That’s a problem. To make matters worse, the most likely market solution when oil finally becomes rare will be coal. Lots more fossil carbon winds up in sinks that can’t absorb it. The only way out of this that I see is to make ALL fossil carbon expensive (gradually) by putting a price on the negative externality imposed upon us. Adding this price isn’t a form of cheating, but who gets the money and what they do with it next is certainly a worry for those of us who prefer to limit the scope of government.

Tony Fisk said...

Dominionists? Palin has your Bach, mann!

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred

The problem is that "the market" is a fine tool for optimizing existing similar technologies/companies but it is no good at all for introducing new technologies
Every new technology has started out with the "state" "distorting" the market
roads/road transport
Air travel

It's what happens
The "state" supports the initial research
The "state" supports development to an early adopter level
The "state" distorts the market to get it going
THEN the market takes over

Except that often "the market" buys enough legislators to maintain the state support even when it's not needed (as in fossil fuels)

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan: Sorry. I fundamentally disagree with you. I’ve been involved in market driven innovation. My start-ups always had the option of trying to sell to government and lean on them for other kinds of funding, but we mostly stayed away from them. Making deals with the various levels of US government requires a lot of overhead work to meet their purchasing and funding requirements. It was rarely worth the hassle. Most of my friends who tried to build their own companies did so with a focus on solving customer problems (which should be obvious, but it isn’t) and creating an edge their competitors don’t have. Creating that edge requires innovation thought even when they seem like such simple ideas later.

Innovation comes from all levels, so I don’t want to be taken as someone who oversimplifies. There are certain kinds of work the market won’t take on, of course, but we need to be careful about universal statements. Pick any one subject area and claim it is one of those the market won’t take on and you’ll find people who can argue why that is only true due to market distortions imposed by government.

I’ve seen your argument on this earlier. I think you are guilty of cherry picking what constitutes innovation. I have a very broad view of it that includes even the minutia like when someone decided not to go with three different cup and lid sizes for soft drinks at fast food restaurants. Do you remember those days? Not many places do that anymore because someone decided to save some money. Markets innovate far, far more than government labs do. They also innovate in secret making your argument difficult to support even if I agreed to ignore the minutia.

I’m willing to tolerate government involvement when a market doesn’t exist yet, but only up to a point. Distortions of all types have serious consequences. A distortion meant to eliminate cheating is most tolerable, but ones intended to guide the market are worrisome. No one is smart enough to centrally plan our future. Markets exist to solve our resource planning problem and evolve a plan for our future. We distort them at our peril.

Robert said...

Dr. Brin, just popping in briefly because of an article I just found in the New York Times... concerning an old and favorite story of mine: A Wrinkle in Time. And three pages that were edited out... but is quite prophetic and pertinent today.

Here is the three pages in question concerning the dangers of security.

The New York Times article talks more about it. Though I have to say. The three pages on their own? Quite potent.

Rob H.

Jared Frick said...

Hooah! Thank you Dr. Brin!

Jumper said...

Advertising is the worst distortion of markets there is. It's a parasite of free speech, however, and we can't kill it without killing the host, so we live with it. Except for fraud enforcement, which is spotty at best.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred
I agree that small changes don't need state intervention

Things like lids on coffee cups
Or new model engines
(Which I have been involved with)
Are "small" changes

Private labs in the "Bell" days did do some core research - not so much now

I am guilt of "Cherry Picking" I am looking at LARGE changes
Canals, Railways, Roads
Electricity supply
Telephones, Internet
Air travel

All large changes
Dinky little changes like a new engine at Cummins ($500Million) - yep no argument - market driven

The work that later becomes a huge thing
Like all of the bits that make up a smartphone - all done by government

Then the likes of Apple can take it away and run with it

We could argue about whether market or state is "best" for innovation but I'm just looking historically and almost everything has come from "state" funded operations

About the only exceptions that I can think of are from the old Bell Labs
But they don't exist anymore

Tony Fisk said...

Apart from Bell Labs, there was also PARC. Xerox management didn't have a clue what to do with it, even after Mr. Jobs returned from a visit with a 200W light bulb glowing above him.

Mel Baker said...

Finally someone reminding the denialists that they or their descendants will literally pay for what is being done today. Imagine when we have to spend Trillions of dollars to relocate coastal infrastructure, the Trillions farmers will require for their land which is now a useless dustbowl, the trillions for crashed fisheries, the generations to come who will spend a huge chunk of their income just for food and who will be taxed to the hilt to pay for all of the emergency infrastructure to save human civilization. Not a great time to be a descendant of the Koch brothers.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Mel
Hi Dr Brin
"Finally someone reminding the denialists that they or their descendants will literally pay for what is being done today."

It would be nice - but I don't believe it has a chance of happening!

They will get a bill when Dick Cheney joins Andrew Jackson in the jail

We - not the denialists - the 99% will end up paying

I bet that the Koch bro's will even end up divesting themselves of all of the fossil fuels (selling them to suckers) before their value drops as they have to remain in the ground

Paul Shen-Brown said...

Jerry, we seem to be carrying on a conversation on a subject no one else has much interest in (though our host was gracious enough to drop in a comment), so I'll try to reign in my natural verbosity and keep it short (unless you would like to exchange emails - I would be okay with "decloaking").

I know from much older friends that the place was way right of center long before the 70s, though what you say about the EDC is true. The town just wasn't known for its lunacy before then. A major problem the place has is that all the military gives it a very high M/F ratio, a fact that has always put it very high on the per capita sex crimes list. By the time I was old enough to be aware of such things, it was also growing on the hate crime list by leaps and bounds. I have seen enough violence perpetuated by church people there that I have no real desire to ever go back. I miss the high country - scrambling up and down mountain sides, surrounded by pines and aspens and tiny mountain lakes. Cross-country skiing in the winter. But if I should find myself in the state, and if you are interested, I would be glad to meet you in some scenic spot. I heard Waldo Canyon was burned up by a forest fire a couple years ago, but if the Crags is still intact, that was a favorite hang out of mine. Have you been to the Black Forest Observatory? The binocular telescope was the largest of its kind for awhile, but I'm sure some bigger institution passed them by ages ago.

Jumper said...

For a bunch of futurists, that's not very good visualizing! There are plenty of uses for coal and oil that don't involve burning them. Carbon has a good chance of being a good building material over the next few hundred years, so it will have to come from somewhere. I am not in favor of disposable crap, but plastics that stay out of the biosphere somehow would be okay with me. I expect there will be future discounting of the reserves, true.

Unless there's a method of extracting carbon directly from the atmosphere that makes economic sense.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Jumper

Long term I agree those reserves could be valuable
But the finance market is incredibly short term

"I expect there will be future discounting of the reserves"

I expect 95% discounting - I could be wrong!

What happened to the dancing robot on the reCAPTCHA - I liked it

David Brin said...

I would be fine with Colorado Springs going lala all it wants, if the infection weren't very clearly inveigling its way into the US Air Force. Thank God for the utterly sane Navy!

Alfred Differ said...

@jumper: Advertising IS free speech and part of the market. It isn't a distortion unless you think you have some kind of universal standard measure in which markets fit. That's about as likely as coming up with a definitive meaning of what it means to be 'alive.'

Advertising can be used to cheat, of course, much like animals trick their mates into choosing them. Fraud harms the positive sum nature of the game, so it counts as a cheat. Regulate them, but don't mistake them as distortions. To be a real distortion, the laws of nature must be warped. Deprive a company of resources, labor, or cash by adjusting market rules arbitrarily and you have a distortion. For example, incentivize home ownership for low income Americans with government backing of loans and you get distortions in the financial markets that ripple all the way out to over-inflated wages for people in the construction industry. Cheap money lowers the pain of financing and people get stupid about their debt load... except it's not really stupidity if the rules can maintain the distortion. It's just market evolution.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan: The problem with cherry picking that way is you run afoul of a process James Burke demonstrated in his Connections series and the one titled 'The Day the Universe Changed'. Bell Labs doesn't do what it did here in alt-universes where small innovation fails to take place.

You have a chicken and egg problem and I'm pointing to the dinosaur from which they both originate. Small innovation begat large innovation which begat... but they all do it within our markets... even the State. Where do you think they buy their labor? Who doesn't get to hire those bright people when we fund government programs? See the distortion?

One of my favorite ways in the past for annoying an advocate of our old approach to space program development was to ask for demolishing most of NASA's manned space budget and carving it back up into NACA style components. They would usually respond with unemployment concerns and ask who would hire all that talent and keep pushing the frontier open. My trollish response was that we would, but only the talent. Of course, they didn't believe me. They couldn't see the market they were crushing... because we were quite crushed. It's a hard thing to believe when the gum stuck on the bottom of your shoe tells you that you should have walked a different path.

Alfred Differ said...

Divestiture of carbon assets will probably look like what happens ever time the price of gold gets a little high. I see ads pitched at libertarians to lure them into dumping their fiat money. It's amazing how well this works... every time.

Tony Fisk said...

I bet that the Koch bro's will even end up divesting themselves of all of the fossil fuels (selling them to suckers) before their value drops as they have to remain in the ground.

Possibly why the divestment movement has them rattled. (Plebs not hanging around to be the sacrificial lambs? The very idea!)

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred
Just look at major changes and important drugs
The difference between the number that actually were created by state funding and those that were not is astounding

There is very little that is now in use that did not start by state funding

If you are correct and state funding was not necessary then where are all of the basic innovations that were not "state" funded??

Surely if the market was so good at funding innovation and it is a lot bigger than the state then most of what we use should have been created by market funding

Instead I have difficulty thinking of things that were created without state funding - there must be some!

The NASA/NACA argument is different - and in that you are probably correct certainly the DARPA model seems to work a lot better and NASA seems to have lost its way

But even there it has taken the "market" a damn long time to get its act together
And without Musk it still would not be competing

Jerry Emanuelson said...

Paul SB, I have been to the Black Forest Observatory, which closed in 2001. The associated workshop for the observatory was destroyed by the most destructive fire in Colorado history in 2013. The original observatory building has a new roof, and now doesn't look like an observatory at all.

My memorization skills are not good enough to allow me to remember everything that is supposed to be politically liberal vs. politically conservative, so I have always been confused about such matters. The particular issues that are adopted by each faction seem to be thrown together with no logical relationship to each other. By what logic, for instance, is climate change denial an issue for whichever faction has claimed it.

I know which side some issues are on because they happen to be on the news a lot. I don't abuse myself, though, by watching things like the cable news channels, unless it is something on a site like YouTube.

There must be a structure in the human brain that clusters such issues in a way that I am just genetically missing.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

I did something wrong in the above link to the Black Forest Observatory. It should be:

Jumper said...

I admit I was waving a bloody flag about fraud and advertising. I didn't object to truthful advertising of course. And to get immediately to antlers' role in evolution is a good foil to my own remarks. (Thanks to Alfred's remark on evolution, which leads to antlers.) BTW, got a non-squishy definition of fraud?

I will remind everyone of my proposal to base our currency on carbon ingots, that have value, but who would burn their money?

reason said...

Alfred / Duncan
Your discussion. I'm really a bit puzzled because I think you maybe should be a little less empirical and a bit more theoretical. Because the absolutely necessary market intervention needed to get Private firms to innovate is patent protection. Alfred - how exactly is this not "cheating" as you term it? The problem will always be that knowledge comes from knowledge and knowledge grows fastest when it is free, but then the value it creates can't be captured by private actors.

atomsmith said...

Off topic, but related to David's recurring call for ad-hoc network capabilities to be added to smartphones:

Apparently, most smartphones have an FM radio chip in them that has been deactivated.

If your neighborhood internet goes down, this could be the only way to get news.

locumranch said...

By painting all 'denialists' with the same brush and condemning Treebeard for possessing a 'despicable philosophy', David tacitly agrees with most of my assertions:

First, that progressivism is a discrete non-pluralistic philosophical position. Second, that climate change theory (in its current form) is a moral narrative, TWODA being a moral prescription and climate change advocacy being moral proselytism. And, third, that credulous climate change theory acceptance is a form of unvarnished religiosity (and/or cultism).

Yet the rabbit hole goes much deeper than previously argued:

Wallerstein argues that in & of itself, globalization ideology (with its emphasis on same-system interdependency, market economics, first-world 'core' & third-world 'peripheral' economies, and ceaseless capital expansion) is a form of moral imperialism.

The Hindu American Foundation comes to an even move damning conclusion. It draws a strong parallel between western religious proselytism, 'Rice Christianity' (an economic conversion by those forced to adapt to the emerging market in order to survive), the emergence of a mandatory global economic CONSENSUS, and increased non-pluralistic bigotry (a non-euphemistic take on the above-mentioned 'forced consensus'), terming the entire process the "Predatory Proselytism" of the Christian economic perspective.

Lastly, I will do something that David has oft-accused me of side-stepping. I will tell you what I am actually in favour of:

I accept the FACTS of climate change (that atmospheric CO2 impacts global temperature change), but I reject the PASSION of subsequent climate change REVELATIONS; I embrace policies that support all types of technological & scientific advancement, yet I reject the modern (false) association between scientific 'advancement' and incrementalism; and I favour environmental homeostasis (which suggests the inevitability of catastrophic correction), a perspective which compels me (in turn) to reject the progressive mantra of uncontrolled & ceaseless growth (as ceaseless & uncontrolled growth represents 'cancer' by definition).

Rational men do NOT negotiate with cancer.


A.F. Rey said...

Dr. Brin, P.Z. Myer linked an article about the continuing civil war that you will want to see (assuming you haven't seen it already):

It really shows how the Tea Party is just a continuation of the Confederacy (and how they won the Civil War).

David Brin said...

While I applaud the calm rationalism of Locum's missive, it is, as usual, stunningly illogical. While he at-last offers a manifesto of sorts, he avoids actually ststing any actions or policies that he believes either states or individuals ought to take, in the face of contemporary challenges.

Moreover, he actually, actually, actually believes that the following follows a logical chain of reasoning, instead of a series of utter non sequiturs:

"By painting all 'denialists' with the same brush and condemning Treebeard for possessing a 'despicable philosophy', David tacitly agrees with most of my assertions:

First, that progressivism is a discrete non-pluralistic philosophical position. Second, that climate change theory (in its current form) is a moral narrative, TWODA being a moral prescription and climate change advocacy being moral proselytism. And, third, that credulous climate change theory acceptance is a form of unvarnished religiosity (and/or cultism)."

What stunning bull. I am entitled to my opinion that someone who wallows in gifts from a society he despises, in favor of a model that was both stupid and cruel, qualifies as an illogical and hypocritical ingrate. That is my opinion. The enlightenment ENTITLES me to my opinion. MConflating that opinion with attempting to enforce philosophical uniformity is not just illogical, it is howlinging dumb.

locumranch said...

News on the climate change front:

Arctic Sea Ice Volume increases by 13% from 2013 to 2104.


Jumper said...

Economic growth is not the same as population growth. If I had access to more energy which had negative externalities (produces more than enough to clean up any mess, and used to actually do so), my own lifestyle would grow, and harmlessly, so long as population growth stabilized.

That we are not, unfortunately, there yet is just a reason to pursue it with perseverance.

Jumper said...

What's with the weird tactic of posting links to articles which neither prove what you say or say what you hint? The forced conversions of Hindus be religious nuts is a long way from an essay on supplanting traditional economic folkways. I would venture everyone here would agree with the writer that that's unconscionable.

The ice link means less than nothing. Were you trying to signal that it means something significant? If so, spit it out, for crying out loud. Or do you want to bet that it won't hit the lowest level ever recorded sometime within 4.5 years? I will take that bet.

Laurent Weppe said...

** "Arctic Sea Ice Volume increases by 13% from 2013 to 2104"

Wow: you can see into the 22nd century? Say, can you tell me the result of the next three Euro Million lottery, pretty please?

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan: I’m not saying the State isn’t necessary. I’m arguing that you are giving it too much credit for what the market does. I reject the claim that DARPA gets credit for the internet, for example. I’m aware of the history and recognize the early investment they made, but the vast majority of the innovation that makes the internet what it is today came from the market. I currently work for the DoD and get to see just how much fun it is for them to keep up with the commercial sector. If one counts all the consequences of an initial investment as credit for the first investor, one misses Burke’s point. No one really gets credit beyond the immediate thing they did. The interconnectedness of the knowledge web that contains all our markets makes it a silly assignment to try to claim more.

It occurred to me last night that I’ve left off part of my explanation for this. Government itself is an innovation of the markets. You don’t need the complexity of our current US government without a highly complex collection of other markets, but you DO once trade volume picks up. Look at it from the perspective of our ancestors of 30K years ago. They could trade at cross-roads villages. They didn’t really need a futures or options market. At the most, they needed a justice market to deal with cheaters in the commercial market. Hayek referred to these social orders as dependent orders that had no justification for existence absent high trade volumes. David refers to some of them in his work (Justice, Democracy, Commerce, Science), but I think the real situation is more complex. We make and dissolve small ones often and trade in things we might not even realize we are trading. From a Hayekian perspective, what I’m arguing is that government is a collection of orders and meta-orders that exist to serve our needs regarding other markets.

Anyone who thinks the government is the prime funder has things backwards. I argue it exists to serve us and in our confusion we occasionally set it against our best interests. Often enough, a few of us set it against the interests of many others. Let it serve, but recognize its place.

Alfred Differ said...

@jumper: I'm skeptical that any non-squishy definition exists for anything. That's why I respond with raised eyebrow to locumranch's most that start with word definitions. It is a fine approach for a lawyer or mathematician, but the rest of us who are fluent in English know dictionaries only tell part of the truth.

When it comes to fraud, though, all you really have to do is watch people react to it. 'Fraud' is a word we've added to our language, but 'fraud' is really just a preceptor people build in their minds for detecting certain kinds of market cheating behaviors. What the preceptor is evolves. What it is described as in the dictionary is a collection of other perceptors. Squishiness cannot be avoided because we are the detectors. Subjectivity is inherently built in.

Alfred Differ said...

@reason: Knowledge doesn’t always grow fastest when it is free. That is a universal statement for which no collection of evidence will ever suffice as proof. I’ll support the claim that some knowledge grows fastest when it is free, though.

Patents aren’t cheating IF the vast majority of market participants decide they aren’t. What their motivations are doesn’t really matter because cheating is a moral evaluation. All you really need is for most of the moral agents involved to agree on something and that’s enough.

If you want me to rationalize patents, though, I usually stick with the argument that some people won’t innovate without them. They will fear the loss of earning potential when someone takes their idea and runs with it in the market. I might prosper for a while by tolerating this kind of theft, but probably not for long. If people recognize the negative sum nature of theft, they won’t play the game. As long as they ARE playing, the game is either positive sum or they are confused, so that’s how I decide (for myself only) whether the current patent rules are reasonable or not.

Alfred Differ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alfred Differ said...

@jumper: Economic growth used to be the same as population growth in the time just before Malthus. That ended with the Industrial Age. Wealth grew far faster that we could produce babies to consume the surplus. It’s a neat exercise in biological speculation. Look at the doubling rates for various levels of female fertility and then look at how fast some of our economies grow. GDP isn’t the best proxy for wealth, but is a reasonable first attempt. How many babies must a woman have in her fertile years to match the growth rate of a newly industrializing society growing at 10% compounded each year?

I note that in most places in the world, women are having just enough kids to reach the replacement level. Some are slightly less and some are slightly more. Where women are having many more than needed is where they have legitimate reasons to believe their babies won’t survive to adulthood. It is an eye-opening exercise to ask how fast GDP growth has to be to match our CURRENT population growth rate. We are way, way above it pretty much everywhere.

Jumper said...

Population well-being needs plotting, too. The GNP per person is a better estimate. But again, each person has a freight of externalities loaded on them, which the numbers also don't reflect.
Is it true that when hunter-gatherers first were outnumbered by agricultural specialists, the real quality of health went down?

locumranch said...

I'm not sure that I can restate my perspective in more simplistic terms, but I will try:

(1) Facts are tautologies that are narrative-independent;
(2) Narratives (which may or may not be fact-based) are stories, theories and cultural constructs;
(3) Cultural constructs are the end-product of underlying philosophical assumptions; and
(4) Philosophical assumptions tend to prefer question-begging narrative over fact.

This is especially true in climate change projections which (first) presume and (then) conclude that climate change (of the human-mediated variety) is unequivocally *bad*, the source of this assumed *bad*ness being either Freudian projection or the biblical concept of Original Sin.

Like TWODA (which prescribes certain actions presumed as *good* irrespective of climate change), the pending catastrophes most recently attributed to climate change *bad*ness have been a long time coming, with the depletion of the global fishery being mostly due to factory (over) fishing techniques rather than acidification, and the increased impact (economic & otherwise) of hurricanes & storms being due to dramatic population increases in affected areas.

(1) The Ice Caps are melting rapidly !! (except that the Arctic ice volume is 13% higher than its 5 year average);
(2) Terrorism is a global scourge!! (except it's not if we exclude active war zones); and
(3) Rape is an raging epidemic !! (except it's not because society has never EVER been safer).

I tire of this Omnipresent Cultural Narrative that prefers to gloss-over the facts and insists (instead) on telling us what these non-facts supposedly mean.

Res ipsa loquitur: "Facts (should) speak for themselves".


A.F. Rey said...

This is especially true in climate change projections which (first) presume and (then) conclude that climate change (of the human-mediated variety) is unequivocally *bad*, the source of this assumed *bad*ness being either Freudian projection or the biblical concept of Original Sin.

I'm sorry, but I missed the part of the Bible that describes Original Sin as being increased desertification, increased flooding, melting ice caps, higher sea levels, ocean acidification, possible disruption of the ocean currents, and the possible discovery of a tipping point that will send our climate into a completely new configuration, perhaps even a runaway greenhouse effect. You must be reading different Bible than I do. :)

You also have a very high tolerance for badness in order not to consider such things "bad." :)

Or, perhaps, you are simply hiding your eyes from the science and pretending it is something else entirely? ;)

David Brin said...

Blah blah I insist that everything is subjective and even if there are facts like climate change that will impoverish billions, that's still just another narrative blahblah...

...and blah blah because everything is subjective, MY subjective strawman projections of progressives and enlightenment people and Brin as oppressors is MORE valid than actual truth or facts!

...because everything is subjective, and therefore MY subjective beats all!

I am getting sooooooo bored with the endlessly predictable nature of this endlessly repeated cant.

Alfred Differ said...

@jumper: GDP per capita shows the surplus growth on an annual basis and a crude assumption that we can integrate it to approximate an upper bound on average personal wealth is enough to show that the money available to the average person has been growing faster than the babies they could produce to consume it. Try it out with real numbers and you’ll see just how amazing the early Enlightenment era was for those who survived it. With the internet available today, we are finally able to capitalize on a lesson from Ricardo about market sizes. As a result, we can collectively lift billions out of poverty. It’s happening if you look at the stats. Check out for easy to digest material on it.

Pessimists will point out arguments like those in ‘Limits to Growth’ and claim we can’t continue. I rather doubt it. There are many, many millions today who want the good times to continue. Threaten that with something that honestly scares them and they will innovate. We are pushing that number into the billions. I don’t want to get sappy about inevitable outcomes, but I honestly doubt anyone has a clue what billions of creative people can do to solve the problems we know now and future ones we can’t even guess at. Could people alive while Malthus wrote guess at the extinction of Small Pox? The near eradication of Polio? A world population over seven billion where obesity is more of a problem than starvation? Heh. As long as we keep pointing our attention in multiple directions looking for killers and stupid ideas as David suggests, we will be fine. People who want the good times to continue will concoct black swans in their home-brewed bio labs.

Duncan Cairncross said...


The US median wage grew in pace with increased productivity from the 1940's until about 1970 - then the median wage stopped growing
Productivity kept increasing and is now approximately three times the level it was in 1970
The median wage has not increased at all

If the median wage had kept up with productivity it would now be three times what it is

Instead all of the increase in productivity from everybody in the country has been hoovered up by the 1%

If we can stop this process then we can go forwards

Paul Shen-Brown said...

Let's try the Personal Incredulity Fallacy:

Senator Inhofe threw a snowball in Congress, thinking he was disproving climate change, a move similar to the recent introduction of a 13% growth in Arctic ice figure for this year. Instead of proving that climate change is fake, Inhofe proved his own ignorance. Climate change models do not predict a consistent rise in global temperatures and/or loss of ice on a year-to-year basis, just as daily weather data will not show a consistent temperature rise in the Northern Hemisphere in all places from the Vernal Equinox to the Summer Solstice. Weather systems involve huge numbers of interacting variables that make any given weather event at any given moment difficult to predict, but overall patterns are easily discernible (like the average, though fluctuating, rise in temperatures from Spring to Summer. We all know we can get a cold snap in there, or a few days of cooler than average weather. But consistently the coming of Summer means overall hotter temperatures. Having one year with 13% more sea ice in one locale than average is predicted by current climate models, not anomalous. The predictions show increased fluctuations during a long period of adjustment before a new dynamic equilibrium level is established. If any one of us fails to understand that, it doesn't invalidate the model, it invalidates the fool who isn't getting it (either out of willful ignorance or the more garden variety). This is, of course, unless the snowballs and sea ice articles are making straw men rather than demonstrating personal incredulity. Either way, it's foolish at best, more likely churlish.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

Paul Shen-Brown, if you ever want to continue our previous conversation privately, my email address is just my first name followed by the domain name:

In other words, it is jerry followed by the above domain name.

Jumper said...

Another market distortion is the arbitrary system of "retail" and "wholesale." The impressive progress of shipping and sales systems especially as a result of computers and software hasn't been matched by internet vending. Someone tell me how to get 50 lbs of high quality dried corn, fit for milling into meal, delivered to my house at a commodity price (prior to shipping cost). Or a 50 lb. bag of flour, or spaghetti noodles, or oatmeal. I assume it may be possible, but it ain't happening through Google.

Shane said...

No mention of the liberal political assassination of nuclear power?

Jumper said...

Glad you reminded me. Look at this insanity as Europe turns off nuclear power:

Paul Shen-Brown said...

Jerry, I haven't had any luck with the address you sent. Try this one: (all lower case) my first initial followed by the word shinbone at yahoo.

Smurphs said...

David “I am getting sooooooo bored with the endlessly predictable nature of this endlessly repeated cant.”

We understand. Locum is obviously a very intelligent person, and he writes well. (Not as well as you, but certainly better than me.) And it is equally obvious from lurking here for several years that you enjoy the debate. I think your efforts at openness and inclusiveness is one of the major factors your blog has been able to remain a civil and welcoming port in a sea of Internet sewage.

I don’t mention this to build your ego, but to beg you to stop.

You have tried reasoning. You have tried admonishing. You have tried threatening. You (and others here) have tried intervention. You have been trying for years.

None of it has worked.

Locum is a troll. Articulate, intelligent, and occasionally insightful. But still a troll.

It’s your blog, and I thank you for it. It truly is one of the best communities on the web.

But, please, stop feeding the troll.

locumranch said...

I stand rebuked; I had forgotten how unpopular epistemology (aka 'the study of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion')has become; and I will try not to concern you all with such detail in the future.

As David says: " The enlightenment ENTITLES me to my opinion".

It follows, then, that all we have left is Faith. Faith in the scientific method is, I agree, mostly justified. Faith in our own actions & motives, perhaps. But faith in human perfectibility? In a just world? In the intents & actions of others? I think not, with the Shoah as sufficient evidence to the contrary.

Yet David's statement fills me with wonder. Entitlement Enlightenment? What does such a culturally-specific construct signify?

To me, it signifies a retreat from reality, a turning inward and a descent into narcissism (which, coincidently, has been documented in studies that show a parallel increase in obesity AND narcissistic personality trait prevalence among US college students from 1980 to the present).

With up to 34% of the US target population affected, this is a cultural catastrophe on a grand scale. More info available at:

Trollishly yours,

David Brin said...

smurphs, thanks for your sincere input. But I have to tell you that I do NOT think locum is a troll! Not even slightly! I think he is sincere, intelligent, articulate... and when he jabs at me it is in a spirit of mordern, sharp-elbowed and collegial rivalry.

No, it is clear I will never get through to him. He does not understand paraphrasing as the opposite of the filthy habit of strawmanning. He is completely incapable of grasping positive sum games, even in a theoretical sense. And, as illustrated even in his most recent posting above -- he seems incapable of any other argument than constantly re-massaging the following:

"Everything is subjective!!!! Anyone trying to 'Prove' anything is just a bully!"

So why do I continue? Because YOU all need to be able to parse the variations in the foes of the enlightenment. YOU guys need to be able to see that some of our opponents aren't as much jerks and assholes as they are genuinely and sincerely INCAPABLE of seeing certain aspects of the world that's taking shape around them.

They cannot see them, the way a fully color blind person might declare there is no such thing as 'blue.' And this is a different phenomenon than raging trolls.

For all of the fact that we insult each other, as I just did, in a sense, I feel zero hostility toward locumranch. He would not enslave our children... something I believe treebeard would do gladly, the instant he could. Of course he can't.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan: Please allow me to turn the question around on you for a moment. You might see it from an odd perspective and understand my concerns. I'm not trying to convince you I am right (and you are wrong), but I do think turning the question brings up an important discovery.

Consider the possibility that the period right after WWII was unusual enough to link productivity in the US with the median wage and then somewhere in the 70's the link condition finally broke. Many like to blame the people at the top for cheating the system and raking in the difference as productivity continued to rise. My question for you is this. Why should the local median wage be tied to local productivity? Be careful of trying to tie the value of labor to the price we pay for it as you think about this. If you do, I'll accuse you of falling into the trap Marx fell into.

The post WWII era was unusual in the sense that the world economy was recovering from a devastating war. For all intents and purposes, the recovering economies of European nations (in the west) were indistinguishable from round-off errors compared to the US economy for many, many years. My mother's departure from London to America in '61 is part of that story. The link between productivity in the US and our median wage might have been related to the shape of the world at the time. By the 70s, much of Europe was recovered and competing again. Is it a coincidence that productivity in the US unlinked from the median wage around the same time?

I am extremely skeptical of ALL explanatory narratives from the field of economics, so don't think I'm advocating for one over another. It is often the case that different narratives fit the same evidence. None of these things can be falsified in the scientific sense except in a very narrow domain where human desire rarely makes a difference. That's not the case in the labor market.

My sneaking suspicion is that the median wage should have dropped in the US if wages weren't so incredibly sticky. The world market was recovered enough by the 70s for US companies to realize that their earlier promises of pensions and rewards for loyalty were completely unsustainable. Jobs began to move off-shore as soon as the world was recovered enough to allow it. THAT is what likely stalled the US median wage. To stop that we'd have to erect protectionist measures forcing the productivity/wage link to continue. That would be a stupendous mistake in the financial sense. It would also be a moral atrocity. I'm not exaggerating when I say that either. We ended the Cold War mostly through the use of soft power and the world has benefited enormously. Effective protectionism would have stopped the continuation of the world's economic uplift.

Jumper said...

Odd talk of narcissism in the age of "my ignorance is just as good as your science."

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred
The comments about the post war period are correct
The USA operated in unusual conditions of advantage

However the productivity increases continued after this period and continue to this day

As an engineer I put this down to our continuous pursuit of methods of making things faster better and cheaper
When we went to CNB grindstones we were able to get 1000 times as many pieces off per stone (the stones did cost 10 times as much)

Effectively "the pot" kept growing with the growth created by "mid level" employees

What happened was the rewards started going to the 1% and none of the rewards went to the mid level

Why did that happen?
Because the other countries caught up??
Seems a bit thin to me

The USA is not the world - and the anglophone world is not the world
So what happened in the rest of the world?

It seems to me that the closer you get to the USA the stronger this effect was

In Germany the "mid level" wages increased to the extent that back in the 70's the USA was the best place to be a working man
Nowadays - not at all a "working man" in Germany is a lot better off

Jobs began to move offshore - but not in Germany??

Pension promises were unsustainable
Only because big companies bribed the politicians so they didn't pay for them as they incurred the debt
As soon as I put my first week of work in (in a company with a pension) I have created an obligation for the future
In theory even in the USA my company should put some money into a sock to pay for that future need
Big US companies did not put the money away (claimed it as profits and bonuses)
Then claim poverty when it became due

Wages and pensions were "unsustainable"
If that were true then profits would have gone down or stayed the same
Instead profits have increased dramatically

No what happened was the Unions were destroyed
This made the power imbalance between management and employees much much worse

And the result was the 1% stealing the fruits of our labors

To add insult to injury the tax system was changed to reduce the taxes on companies and the 1% and increase the burden on the rest of us

And worse of all our stupid politicians followed your lead straight off the cliff

David Brin said...


i_/0 said...

Looking at the world, I marvel that people think so differently about things. That's a good thing. I think of diversity of opinion as I think of bio-diversity, an unquestionable positive.

But what's interesting these days, is how violently people can disagree about the same data.

It's almost as though some of us are in parallel universes. Still,in the net age, I wonder if parallel universes aren't merely context sensitive search parameters. The beauty is, only a complete lunatic, or a very smart algorithm, would ever notice.