Monday, August 24, 2015

Battles over Symbols - and how to take back your vote!

First this quirky thing I heard... Has anyone else picked up rumors of hispanic Americans re-registering Republican, in order to vote against Donald Trump in primaries?  Anyone have a link? Or is it a rumor I just started?  ;-)  

Of course the tactic is silly at one level... none of the other GOP candidates are any better from the perspective of Latino Americans.

But at another level it makes plenty of sense.  And here I explain why anyone who lives in a Republican district should register Republican, even if they intend to vote for the democrat in the fall. And vice versa in heavily democratic districts, fair is fair. Except in California where we finally rendered that nonsense moot with sensible top-two primaries.

Seriously. Join the party OF your district!  It is the way to thwart radicals, get back a vote, promote local moderates, mess-up the PACs' calculations, and side-step the gerrymandering criminal theft of your franchise.


== It's never about substance ==

The debate over confederate symbols like the Battle Flag is just one front in our current “Phase Eight of the American Civil War.”  Nor can the New Confederacy complain, since their party made symbolism a locus of 21st Century aggression long before Blue America did — for example by insisting that U.S. aircraft carriers never be named after anyone disapproved by dixiecrats. 

Every phase of our ongoing civil war was demonstrably started aggressively by the same side.  

In fact, as a contrarian-militant-moderate, I will often turn around and offer up a yes-but. Hence, while I agree (yes-but) that the Confederacy was (and remains) a deeply vile treason without a scintilla of moral justification, at any level (especially not 'states rights)… I did stand up for one legitimately proud public use for the Battle Flag — at Civil War re-enactments.  Not only because its absence would be absurdly a-historical. But also because there was one trait of the Olde Confederacy that merited respect, even admiration by its enemies, like W.T. Sherman. (Whose prophetic words could not have been more spot-on.)

What was that one admirable confederate trait? The martial courage and resilience and ingenuity that southern men displayed on the battlefield. Completely independent of their “nation’s” absolutely uniform horrific moral standing was the staunchly brave way that they fought for it. I have no objections at all to southern white chests swelling with pride over great-great-grandpappy’s exploits at Chancellorsville or Chickamauga.

It seems that a transition is gaining momentum, as the Memphis City Council cast its final vote to remove a statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest from a downtown park. The statue, and Forrest's remains, will be moved to Elmwood Cemetery where the Confederate general had originally been buried, according to his wishes, till Klan-associated activists took over a city park for this gesture, in 1905. Forrest was, without any doubt, one of the most brilliant battlefield commanders, not just of the Civil War but in all of history.  He also ordered the execution of 300 already-surrendered and unarmed negro U.S. troops, among other atrocities, and helped to found the Ku Kux Klan. See this passionate article by a Memphis woman who pleads for the South to separate itself, at last, from the Confederacy. And listen to this radio show suggesting a new plaque for the Forrest statue.

Which brings us to the latest skirmish, demands to modify the giant Confederate sculpture at Stone Mountain Georgia. The carving of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee and General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson spans three acres and is the largest high relief sculpture in the world — even larger (by surface)  than Mount Rushmore. Atlanta's city council this week urged Gov. Nathan Deal to study additions of famous Georgians such as Martin Luther King Jr. 

I’d go farther.  Keep Robert E. Lee!  Not only did he represent all those admirable martial qualities, but he did us all a service after Appomattox, by quashing any talk of guerrilla war. His actual generalship was just a bit over-rated (a topic for another time.) But this is fine. Stonewall? A truly awful person — a real piece of work, like Forresr — but admittedly a superb battlefield commander. Like Forrest.

But Davis has gotta go. Almost a perfect archetype of an oathbreaking traitor who just before the 1860 election was preaching loyalty to America “right or wrong.”  I propose (and this will happen someday, folks, as the wheel turns) re-carving his face to represent someone else. Proposals? (Not Forrest. Longstreet might do. But I favor repurposing it more broadly across time.  Put in Washington and...er, um. Patton? Yeah, he rode horses, too. Oh, but Patton was a Californian, so he won't do....)

== Big Brother and the Patriot Act ==

In this Wired article on cyber-surveillance, Caleb Garling writes, "In his book Skating on Stilts, former U.S. Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Policy Stewart Baker examines the numerous ways—air travel, biotech, the Internet—that America has left itself vulnerable to threats. Baker has been one of the most vocal proponents of the Patriot Act—especially section 215, the program to collect telephone records and other digital information. A litany of opponents, including everyone from the Electronic Frontier Foundation to Senator Rand Paul, consider the secretive program a gross invasion of privacy—on May 31, the program expired."

Alas, this is a case where all three "sides"… the defenders of government surveillance like Baker and their critics and especially so-called journalists like this one, are wedged beyond all belief, dangerously so.  Perhaps even lethally, for our civilization. All of them, from Rand Paul to Baker to almost every "sage pundit" buy into the notion of a zero sum game. A tradeoff wherein we swap some freedom for some added safety -- or vice versa -- a noxious and even nauseating notion that betrays every fundamental on which we built the world's first positive-sum society.

The astonishing thing is how easy it is to refute this nonsensically romantic notion. In all of human history, no people have ever been as safe as we are, and no people have ever been as free.  The two desiderata rise and fall together, in ways that both illustrate and prove the power of "positive sum."  Yet, driven by righteous dudgeon, it seems everyone cries out for one absolute necessity, at the cost of another.

In fact, let's suppose that the members of our Professional Protector Caste (PPC) do need vast powers of vision and correlation, in order to detect threats to our well-being.  Sure, those same powers could wind up being used against us. 

We are all children of George Orwell, worried about Big Brother. (Whether he might come from Government or plutocracy is the main feature of your fantasies, determining whether you are "left" or "right.") So? In that case, look for the essential thing that will prevent the PPC from becoming oppressors!

 That thing is not blindness. Crippling their ability to see will not make the NSA etc harmless, it will only make them less effective… and more likely to look anyway, in secret.

 What will prevent our watch dogs from turning into wolves? Supervision. Ensuring that we, the people can oversee.  By safeguarding whistleblowers and making the FISA Court truly adversarial and ending blanket gag orders, we are stepping gradually toward a world where PPC abuses will be discovered without interfering in legitimate uses of technology to scan the horizon for dangers.
    
Will these reforms be enough?  In no way! Far from complacent, I am militant that we must push supervision in many innovative and aggressive ways… that nevertheless also allow civil servants who are judicious and professional… and who genuinely deem themselves to be our servants… to do their jobs.
   
What I will not listen to, any longer, is so-called wise-men who tell me I must choose between safety for my children or their freedom. People who push that choice upon us only thus prove how deeply, deeply stupid they truly are. They can all -- and this includes most of you contemporary pundits and self-styled heroes of liberty out there -- go to hell.

== On Drone Strikes ==

There are legitimate concerns among liberals about drone strikes and targeted killing as a method of war. But for those on the right to call President Obama “feckless and ineffective” in the War on Terror is the most stunning of hypocrisies.

In fact, there have been far fewer successful terror attacks against US territory, nationals or interests under Obama than occurred under Bush.  And vastly more enemy figures – including Osama bin Laden – have met comeuppance under Obama than the very nearly zero who were tracked down – despite all his posturing and bleating – under George W. Bush. (Who helped every well-connected Saudi citizen flee the U.S. and FBI questioning, the day after 9/11.)

You Fox watchers, get out more.  Try paying attention to actual facts.  But then, if you did that, you wouldn’t watch Fox.

== Apocalypse yearners are not your friends ==

I've spoken of this before and will have a longer post soon.  But the ultimate symbolism junkies are those who so hate the scientific era that they yearn for an imminent end of days. I'll say plenty about the apocalypse junkies in America...

... but now catch a glimpse of how the very same idea propels ISIS and its ilk. "Apocalyptic fantasies are "a major part of the Islamic State's recruiting pitch," says the director of Brookings's Project on US-Islamic Relations.  Indeed the syndrome is eerily similar, with slight differences in the details of the narrative, between the Koran and the Book of Revelation, and especially each side labeling the other in the role of satanic servants.  (As both sides labeled each other in Napoleonic times, and our Civil War, and in the World Wars and so on.


Many of you may be unfamiliar with the BoR, which in fact is the core mythology clung to by a large minority of Americans and -- significantly -- a large fraction of Republican candidates for public office, who openly yearn for events that would violently torture most Americans and then consign them to perpetual hell, while ending forever all human ambition, accomplishment, democracy... and the United States of America.


See this cultural touchstone illustrated swiftly and easily here.  You need to know how deep it goes. 


== The Politics of Culture ==

Colorado gave away free (or near free) birth control to low-income women and teenage girls across the state for 6 years, funded by Warren Buffett's healthy charity. Results? Teen births fell by 40% and abortions fell by 35%, saving the state tens of millions in direct Medicaid costs and heaven knows how much in welfare costs over the next 20 years, but the program still can't get government funding to continue. Add it to the long tally of ways that our partisan divide is no longer about classic "left" or "right."  Rather, it is now about mixed-practical vs jibbering insane.

As I will reiterate, one side of this phase of the Civil War is about symbolism -- we've mentioned flags and Confederate statuary and naming aircraft carriers and loudly proclaiming moral virtue and that everything was better in the 1950s. Let's be fair, in that the other side contains some obnoxiously (PC) symbolism-obsessed fools, too.  Still, most blue americans are far more interested in outcomes.  


Like what actual methods actually reduce teen sex, teen pregnancies, STDs, domestic violence, abortion and so on. And what methods actually make capitalism work better? And which ones actually and scientifically improve the economy and national health?  

No wonder one side hates science, so.  Which brings us to....

In a fascinating Atlantic article, Eric Liu takes up the much-debated notion of “cultural literacy”… or whether the shared background of “dead white male” past facts, accomplishments, mistakes and arguments can have merit and pertinence in a nation and world of fast-changing technologies, ethnicities and styles.  “The more serious challenge, for Americans new and old, is to make a common culture that’s greater than the sum of our increasingly diverse parts. It’s not enough for the United States to be a neutral zone where a million little niches of identity might flourish; in order to make our diversity a true asset, Americans need those niches to be able to share a vocabulary. Americans need to be able to have a broad base of common knowledge so that diversity can be most fully activated.”

Of course this relates to my own longstanding emphasis on the “positive sum games” of modern civilization… the only civilization in which positive sum thinking was ever a strong contender for primacy in public and private thought.  

But heck, finishing up this post about symbolism.... This essay adds evidence to the firm rebuttal of every lie about the “cause” for which confederate states seceded.  It was about slavery, and had absolutely zilch to do with “states’ rights,” which they had been happy to trample under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1852, and during the 30 years that southern states controlled the White House.  See also my own essays about this here and here.

Here’s one for the “name an exception challenges.” There is one area where Red America scores better than Blue America. Cost of living.  A dollar goes farther!  And we should hope so, since Blue America sends so many to Red America as government expenditures, far more than the residents pay, in loathed taxes. 

And now... enough for a Monday posting.  Keep moving forward. And to all oversimplifying, symbol-obsessed dogmatists?  There, there.  We'll save the world despite you.

108 comments:

Tacitus2 said...

I did promise a field report from Iowa. Three days there and the sum total of political signs and stickers...........two signs for novelty candidate "Dr. Ben Carson". So much for Trumpmania or frankly any detectable interest at this point. Never came up in conversation either.

As to Wisconsin, running tally is....Bernie Sanders 4, everyone else, 0.

Make of this what you will.

Oh, and my Biden one term Warren VP scenario? People are whispering of it....

Tacitus

Tim H. said...

A handy checklist to compare with the goals of the new confederacy. http://rense.com/general37/fascism.htm
BTW, The Donald is on the cover of Time, and looks like someone short-sheeted his bed... or something.

Chris Heinz said...

"at Civil War re-enactments" - so who is into Civil War re-enactments? The dumbass confederates. They keep hoping that if they do these often enough, maybe one time the south will win and then they can quit. Kind of like repealing Obamacare.

Tony Fisk said...

Civil war re-enactments reminds me of this facebook posting, which combines two tropes I think our host would relish.

(My caption would read: "So if we could just do Pickett's Charge *my* way this time...?!")

Anonymous said...

See http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/.

David Brin said...

Tacitus I first promoted the Eliz-Warren for veep meme ages ago. Only my favorite one-termer is Jerry Brown. How he’d kick ass and get millions of sane conservatives to desert the madness.

“so who is into Civil War re-enactments? The dumbass confederates.” Sorry baloney. Oh they may be more into it per capita, but Turner found tons of union regiments to take that side in GETTYSBURG.

Again, I do not mind them glorifying the one glorious thing that even Sherman respected… they were very good at soldiering. They still carry more than their weight in that category. The only category. What I despise is justifying the Cause itself. On any basis whatsoever.

Treebeard said...

Well good luck saving the world without us. I do think you captured the reason so many people are turned off by your kind (homo hubriati) in one sentence. Arrogance, hubris, self-importance -- call it what you will, it drips from everything you write. Your basic message, boiled down, appears to be this: “We are superior to you in every way (and we have the stats to prove it). So get out of our way and let us save our world, or maybe just go ahead and die.”

But try as you might, you, too, will die. The USA will die, the earth will die, the universe will die. This is a reality that our apocalyptic religious friends at least seem to grasp viscerally, and don’t delude themselves that they can save this world. It’s a poor substitute for a religion that you preach, if you ask me.

Tacitus2 said...

I am not so keen on your notion of altering Stone Mountain.

History contains some things that are ugly. Adults know this. Children should learn this.

The idea of altering monuments should make us all a bit queasy. You start out adding or subtracting some muttonchops on the side of a hill in Georgia, but do you stop there?

I am not saying that the path is inexorable or without many chances to halt, but it leads past Red Square where Unpersons get airbrushed out of photos, meanders through Rome where even today you can see chiseled out spots of "Damnatio Memoria", images and inscriptions that were trashed empire wide. Does it have to end at the Buddhas of Bamiyan? Probably not, but people who would glorify destruction for political or religious ideology ought to worry us.

Oh, and I don't usually concur with Treebeard but if he refers to the final sentence of you post, yes, it drips with condescension. Your blog, your soapbox. But you should know that when your tone damages the strength of your persuasions it is to the discredit of both.

Tacitus

Jumper said...

What's all this about quashing teen sex? It would probably be better to instead raise more mature teens. Or else you end up with a mess. Look at Treebeard, after all.

It's too bad the Democrats don't have a younger candidate, preferably with some executive experience and an understanding of, and experience in, government.

It's also too bad politics keeps the security apparatus from focusing on actual threats which arise from, as David points out, doomers of all stripes, from Islamic and Christian mutants to more garden variety rageaholics. Instead we tamper with privacy in ways few understand, such as adding real hurdles for legitimate business secrets, destroying credit ratings via algorithm, and exposure of formerly private beliefs to enemies of those beliefs who will get their revenge. While David's plans for accountability are fine, it ain't happening now. Look at Windows 10.

Jumper said...

I agree with Tacitus on Stone Mountain. Well said, sir. And I'm far from a Confederate.

ElitistB said...

"Your basic message, boiled down, appears to be this: 'We are superior to you in every way (and we have the stats to prove it). So get out of our way and let us save our world, or maybe just go ahead and die.'"

That isn't the message that I generally see from the host. Mostly it is "Join us in trying to do something useful, you bring useful ideas to the table." Coupled with a lot of "Stop trying to be obstructionist."

The apocalyptics don't grasp that everything will die. Most of them think they at least will be immortal in some form or fashion. The rest of us just try to keep moving forward.

Alex Tolley said...

@Tacitus2 The idea of altering monuments should make us all a bit queasy. You start out adding or subtracting some muttonchops on the side of a hill in Georgia, but do you stop there?

Hear, hear. Most of us would agree that ISIS' destruction of the temple at Palmyra for religious reasons is nothing short of criminal (it has been described as a war crime). Yet our host is apparently happy to destroy a work that he sees apparently as a offensive symbol. This is censorship, pure an simple, on a par with book banning and even burning. This is not the same as removing graffiti, even Roman age graffiti.

David Brin said...

Tacitus, you & Treebeard object for entirely different reasons. You, because you are a genteel gentleman whose hallucination is that we can still have calms, grownup arguments in the United States. I’d like nothing better, but your delusion about your own side would be endearing if it weren’t lethal to our republic. Only when decent conservatives recognize their movement has been hijacked and get mad enough to take it back… only then will we be able to go back to arguing like grownups.

As for Treebeard, his vapors are based upon pure fantasy… that others must think the way he does. If I am arguing for liberal progress on many (not all) issues, it must mean I want an absolute hegemony of uniform-thought liberalism across all of time! Because that is what he would impose, if he could… not the liberal part, but feudal hierarchy and coercive control from an elite, as promoted in the novels of John C. Wright, forever and ever amen.

In fact, I have little political thought about downstream posterity. Lots of sci fi thoughts! But those are just thought experiments! Politically, I only care two or three generations ahead. If they are: wiser overall, diversely and intelligently and calmly argumentative, empowered and clear-seeing and pragmatic, but capable of vision and free… then we will have done our jobs…

…and it will be none of our business what politics they choose. Because they’ll be BETTER than us! It is not my job to prescribe to them, in detail. Only to suggest that diversity of view should serve them, preventing the very uniformity that Treebeard falsely claims that I want… because uniformity is exactly what he wants.

David Brin said...

As for my frequent mention of the towering list of ways confederate zones do worse morally than blue ones? I reiterate that point for one simple reason. Because YOU fellows keep screeching how much more genuine and wholesome and down-home and moral you are than city-university folk.

You started this. Nearly all of the morality ranting is from the red side. I am simply — and decisively — disproving an all-out and diametrically opposite flagrant and fragrant pure and stinky LIE.

Indeed, show me one other blue-ish pundit who even thinks to mention this rebuttal. This stunningly effective and purely sufficient refutation of redder moral preening.

Stop yelling how much better people you are. And I'll stop shoving proof that "no, you're not."

Alex Tolley said...

"In all of human history, no people have ever been as safe as we are, and no people have ever been as free. The two desiderata rise and fall together, in ways that both illustrate and prove the power of "positive sum."

I agree with safe. But "free"? Such a multivariate term that differs in which variables are most strongly valued. David's assertion of increased freedom is purely subjective and has no objective basis, because it cannot be objective. Without a measurement of freedom, there is no way to claim a "positive sum" condition.

"That thing is not blindness. Crippling their ability to see will not make the NSA etc harmless, it will only make them less effective"

There is no evidence that the NSA's surveillance has had any effect in increasing safety. Crippling their ability to monitor citizens wouldn't apparently be a problem.

"… and more likely to look anyway, in secret."

Not more likely, Snowden showed they did. And this isn't confined to the NSA, as the legal debacle over the use of "Stingray" cell technology by law enforcement has shown.

What is forgotten is that the response to surveillance is an arms race to encrypt and otherwise fool the watchers. Hence the stupid suggestion by security hawks to undermine encryption and break the internet.

But David has failed to note the n-order impact of surveillance. The revelations that the US has spied on friendly foreign governments like Germany has caused huge repercussions which will reduce cooperation and hence reduce safety. In addition, US companies are losing business as distrust has become common, thus damaging the US economy. There is a reason technology companies have issued statements decrying government actions, if only for public consumption. Apple's approach to encryption is a direct response to prevent government surveillance.

As for oversight, here is a piece in the Guardian today: Digital surveillance 'worse than Orwell', says new UN privacy chief . David's hope for effective oversight is just that, hope. We've seen how toothless that is at every level in teh US, and as the UN rep has to say, even worse in the UK.
So if citizen surveillance has curtailed our rights in the US, provided no demonstrable benefit to safety, damaged US credibility with our allies, negatively impacted business, and allowed a bevy of ignorant US politicians to evangelize for ever greater powers to do even more damage. IMO, hardly "positive sum".

Laurent Weppe said...

"Most of us would agree that ISIS' destruction of the temple at Palmyra for religious reasons is nothing short of criminal"

Do not confuse self-justifications with reasons: Daesh didn't destroy the temple at Palmyra because the Quran demands so (otherwise the temple would have been destroyed over 1.300 years ago, when the Muslim World was united within a single, rapidly expending and militarily unmatched polity): Daesh destroyed the temple because it's attempting to erase the memory of things which predate its emergence, because the temple was too large to be displaced and sold on the black market and because its rulers wanted to demonstrate their ability to harm by destroying something their enemies find valuable.

raito said...

So Liu is proposing the melting pot, huh? Good. The current expression of diversity is toxic.

And yes, I realize that for a lot of people the melting pot means doing what white America does. And that's a shame.

For me, the melting pot means that everyone adds to the pot and takes some back from the pot. Currently, diversity appears to mean forcing the pot to only contain your stuff and not having to take anyone else's.

David Burns said...

Ever since I read The Transparent Society I've been trying to overcome my confirmation bias toward the standard privacy advocacy. In Dr. Brin's terms, I want to hide, at least when I'm talking to my banker or my lawyer. His alternatives, oversight and cultural norms, seem a bit hand-wavish to me, I can't even attempt to summarize it. I want to encourage him to make this mechanism more explicit and credible. I think I understand his argument against the other positions, but negative arguments can only get you so far. I need some inspiration, not discouragement. Maybe I should just go back and reread TTS, I haven't read it since it came out.

Interested Observer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Interested Observer said...


Kudos on supporting the re-enactors. I've been to a re-enactment camp, and the weapons demonstrations were extremely educational. I had a newfound respect for the lethality of the combat after seeing ranks of reactors routinely shattering 1ft targets at 100 yards, and I seriously wonder how anyone survived the war at all. Having said that, I admit to scratching my head when the company that sells memorabilia at some Civil War battlefields dropped their confederate flag items, since those are the only places I can think of where having them serves a real purpose. Granted, it's likely the wrong flag depending on the combatants, but that is a whole other conversation.

When I lived in Ga as a child my family would go see the carving at Stone Mountain, so I will admit some bias in the matter, but I lar.gely agree against editing the carving like a Wikipedia article. The mountain used to be a Klan hangout, but these days it's a tourism spot with a laser show. IMO better to just teach the kids what was and how we got to the here, and let them handle getting to the future there.

Lastly, just wanted to say that the Uplift series is still one of my all- time favorites, please write more 0:-)

Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin,

To change the subject a bit, I ran across this article today that intrigued me. In the article’s words it “describes a new automated method to infer models describing a system's dynamics - a so-called robot scientist”. The scientists at the University of Wisconsin have developed an algorithm that I would say mimics the scientific method in that it forms a hypotheses and then tests it by looking at data and experimentation. They call the algorithm “Sir Isaac”. Although it looks promising I doubt that it will render biological scientists obsolete anytime soon but rather could be an additional arrow in their research quiver. Of course it lacks something very important which is intuition which is something we really don’t know from where it comes. I think this could be an important development and, since you are a scientist, I would appreciate your opinion on the subject. Can you see useful applications for this algorithm in your field and in others? Thank you in advance.
The link is here:

http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2015/08/robot-scientist-to-search-for-laws-of-nature-that-underlie-the-universe.html

Deuxglass said...

My sentence structure is atrocious. Please accept my apologies.

Gator said...

My opinion - the lower cost of living in red states is a negative, not a positive. The cost of living is lower because fewer people want to live there.

Furthermore, our Federal tax structure, since it ignores regional differences in cost, effectively subsidizes these places. For example, if I get a $12K individual deduction on my Federal income tax, that means a lot more in a place like Mississippi where a two bedroom apartment in Jackson might be $800/month vs a two bedroom apartment in San Francisco for $2K - $3K.

So not only are these red states getting more from the Feds than they pay out, but they are being asked to pay a lower proportion of their income in the first place.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

Oh, and I don't usually concur with Treebeard but if he refers to the final sentence of you post, yes, it drips with condescension.


Tac, this is what Dr Brin actually said:

And to all oversimplifying, symbol-obsessed dogmatists? There, there. We'll save the world despite you.


My snarky response is that if someone sees "oversimplifying, symbol-obsessed dogmatists" and thinks "Hey, that's me!" should be offended.


The idea of altering monuments should make us all a bit queasy.


On that, we agree.

LarryHart said...

ElitstB responds to Treebeard:

"Your basic message, boiled down, appears to be this: 'We are superior to you in every way (and we have the stats to prove it). So get out of our way and let us save our world, or maybe just go ahead and die.'"

That isn't the message that I generally see from the host. Mostly it is "Join us in trying to do something useful, you bring useful ideas to the table." Coupled with a lot of "Stop trying to be obstructionist."


I agree completely. When Dr Brin talks about "our greatness", he means humanity in general. He's encouraging us to be a proud member of the species and to use our powers for good. TB hears "The greatness of my type of people, not your type of people", as if the admonition is for one subgroup of humanity to obey another subgroup unquestioningly. That reflects more on the listener than the speaker.

Alfred Differ said...

The only people I'd tolerate altering the moment are the people who would be inclined to defend it originally. If the locals want to do it, that's fine. For the rest of us, it comes to close to messing with history. They believed what they believed and I'm willing to let history record their error.

As for treebeard... hmpf. Ignoring the not so small component of Christian faith involving the immortality of the soul, I see. I'm not a believer, so I don't care about the error personally, but it invalidates the argument. Everything dies eventually (so say we atheists), but that's quite irrelevant. Everyone desires too and on that we act.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Indeed, show me one other blue-ish pundit who even thinks to mention this rebuttal. This stunningly effective and purely sufficient refutation of redder moral preening.


I'm listening to one at this very moment.

http://normangoldman.com/listen/

You might enjoy listening to your fellow Californian, Norman Goldman. He also eschews the "left-right" labeling, preferring to take back terms like "Real, patriotic Americans" for the good guys.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Everything dies eventually (so say we atheists), but that's quite irrelevant. Everyone desires too and on that we act.


Paul Krugman often reminds us that "In the long run, we are all dead" is as true as it is irrelevant. Social interactions, like economics, are disfunctional if all they concern themselves with is the end result. If Abraham Lincoln hadn't been shot, he'd still be dead by now. If Hitler had won the war, he's also still probably be dead by now. Neither statement proves that actual history was without consequence.

Jumper said...

Perhaps it's just selfish solipsism. The world ends when Treebeard dies.

Robert said...

There is a saying: you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Well, Dr. Brin is spreading vinegar with this condescending posts. He has allowed the trolls to get his goat and is slowly transforming from a congenial and thoughtful person who managed to get me to think and change my views on the Clintons (admittedly, I still seriously dislike them, but I don't see the Clinton Presidency as the Worse Presidency Ever (or second-worse)) and has instead gotten his knickers in a knot. The Dr. Brin of today would never have convinced the old me to think things through with the Clintons. He'd just insult my views until I left in disgust.

Sadly, while vinegar will kill weeds when used sufficiently, it will also kill more productive plants. Salted earth isn't good for much now, is it.

Rob H.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Robert

I really do not see what you are talking about

Dr Brin is as polite as he has always been
A bit snappy sometimes but normally very polite

His recent posts have all been very reasonable and not at all condescending

As I look back on it I think he has mellowed

Tony Fisk said...

I suppose the last remark is a bit condescending to 'oversimplifying, symbol-obsessed dogmatists' but, unless you identify with such, I don't see why danders are getting up.

T2 raises a fair point about the inadvisability of 'airbrushing' history. Better to look at monuments like Stone Mountain (or Mt. Rushmore), ponder why *those* people were depicted by the people of the day, and ask whether we would put those people up there? If not, then who?

Otherwise, you risk ending up with Japan's insular view of WWII (an admittedly extreme analogy)

David Brin said...

D Burns at least, unlike AT, you do not erect a ridiculous strawman as a defense mechanism against understanding. (Is he becoming our new locumranch?) At least you offer up a glimmer of a trait called curiosiy.

My answer is simple. Name for me one time that hiding ever worked systematically, for millions over an extended span. Never Ever. At all. Even once.

Upward Application of accountability upon the powerful, in sharp contrast, HAS worked, on occasion, to limit the ability of mighty elites to harm or oppress. That is a simple fact. It is the underpinning of all the admittedly imperfect freedom we do have, as well as the progress and prosperity... and SNOWDEN ILLUSTRATED MY POINT!

Moreover, if you boil down suggestions for measures that might work in-future, those recommending hiding are always vague, because when they get specific, it's exposed as utterly untenable over long spans of technological change. Sousveillance and application of upward accountability is the only thing that CAN work. Moreover, AT knows this and is just being snippy.

others: Deuxglass thanks!

Finally, Robert I used to listen to your chidings. Now, since they do not correlate with any standard that a reasonably thick-skinned adult might apply, and certainly never mention specific phrases you deemed offensive, I have come to realize that you simply come on, now and then, in order to cast a general "tsk tsk" at me. Alas, it only means you have lost effectiveness. I do listen to others when they chide me for excess. But not you, sir. No longer. But do prosper. I wish you well.

Paul451 said...

Robert,
"There is a saying: you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."

Just to be pedantic, you don't. If you fill an insect-trap with sweetened water, you'll only catch nectar feeders. Flies are reasonably attracted to vinegar, as long as it's slightly diluted.

But of course, you catch the most flies of all with bullshit.

[Also, ants don't really like sugar. Drop a piece of bacon fat, otoh. Oh, and mice prefer bread to cheese.]

Tacitus2 said...

"you are a genteel gentleman whose hallucination is that we can still have calms, grownup arguments in the United States."

I like my hallucinations and recommend them to others. Oddly, the do have a minor sort of "Lathe of Heaven" ability to alter at least local reality.

Heh, only place on the internet where you can slide an Ursula K Lequin reference into a political discussion.

Tacitus

Robert said...

Doctor Brin, I doubt you ever listened to me. I also suspect you have gotten into the mindset of outright dismissing whatever I say, which is why when I post links to various articles on science, webcomics, and the like on here, it's primarily for my fellow readers to enjoy.

Rob H.

Roger Landes said...

On R.E.Lee: you might be interested in the assessment of the eminent military historian Roger Spiller (whom I knew in another life when I lived near the Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, KS). He is a contributing editor to American Heritage magazine and was asked to name the most overrated and underrated American generals:

http://www.americanheritage.com/content/general

On Stone Mountain: Tempting though Dr. Brin's suggestion is, I agree that it might be best to not deface or alter the monument even though I detest those three figures about as much as one can. What if we were to blindfold or hood them? Just as they would have been blindfolded or hooded before their executions, which a just peace after Appomattox would have levied on them.

Bruce Catton in "Stillness at Appomattox" opined that in comparison to Culloden or the Boyne, the resolution of that phase of our ongoing Civil War was superior because the terms Grant dictated for Lee's surrender were so generous. In retrospect I think that may have been a mistake in that it let the traitors off too easily. I can see Grant's logic, especially for the rank and file. But for the leaders? Especially those who spent their postwar years building the myth of the "Lost Cause" and founding the KKK?

And certainly the murder of Lincoln and the bungling of Reconstruction under pro-slavery Andrew Johnson allowed the former "confederate" states to build their apartheid and terror regimes.

I wonder if the public executions of the ringleaders of the rebellion (all the governors and state legislators who voted for secession, for instance) as well as those military leaders who broke their oaths to the US Constitution in order to join the rebellion) -- as well as the continuing occupation by federal forces in order to enforce the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the 14th Amendment -- might have saved the south 100 years of apartheid and racial oppression.

Tacitus2 said...

Because history evolves, maybe it would be meet and salutory to put Martin Luther King up there as well. Given the long term importance of enfranchising Black America, it would be controversial but not unfair to make him stand 20% taller than the brave men on horses...

Tacitus

raito said...

This would be more proper for the previous discussion on space, but it does come from a quarter so unexpected that it deserves a mention:

https://garfield.com/comic/2015-08-22

If even the cartoonists have begun to realize that our efforts to study our surroundings have made it so that Mars isn't really seen as too far away, then we're winning (or at least scoring some points).

Deuxglass said...

Alfred Differ,
That the soul exists, and it just might, does not necessarily mean that it is a manifestation of God. It could just as easily be a natural phenomenon.

Treebeard,
Why don’t you go back to the Forest of Fangorn and save us from your false humility? You feel inferior because you have not done the things Dr. Brin has done nor possess his intelligence and your reaction is just jealousy. I prefer by far someone like Dr. Brin who is trying to make things better through effort than someone who just moans and groans over his perception of the present world’s imperfections all the while remaining passive. I don’t agree with everything he says but at least he acts.

David Brin said...

raito Heh! I love that Garfield!

Roger Landes. Thanks for the riff on the generalship of RE Lee and US Grant. http://www.americanheritage.com/content/general

In fact I think he's a bit too hard on Lee. Lee was brilliant! But at just one thing -- super-aggressively exploiting the communications handicaps of the giant, lumbering Union armies that had to overcome a supreme disadvantage -- that of pulling a strategic offensive in an era whose technology and terrain inherently advantaged defense. Lee was excellent at buzzing about, plucking the wings off an eagle till it got stressed and went away. He was the bee swam who stung the badger till it left the hive.

Proof of this? (1)When Lee tried to BE the lumbering, aggressive invader, at Antietam and Gettysburg, he proved to be an utter dunce, mismanaging every conceivable aspect of both offensives and relying utterly on the fighting spirit of troops who fell like hail-flattened wheat. He got his ass kicked both times and barely escaped because of timid Union generals. Had an RE Lee faced him, or a Sherman, he'd have been ended.

And (2) when a union commander arrived who was not deterred by plucked feathers or bee stings, the game was up. Grant perfected his army's communications and reserves and developed ways for the Offense to regain advantage. That was true brilliance because he changed the parameters of the game, something Lee never ever managed to do.

Aw, heck just to prove he's silly and wrong... Robert seems to be immune to logic. I point out that his tsk-tsk chidings of me have become general and whiney, instead of helpfully specific. So what does he do? He gets MORE general, winey and vague, illustrating my point. I fact, fellah, I used to listen and I am answering right now, even though your toe has dipped into troll territory.

Note also he is now posting "for my fellow readers." Um? For one of the oldest and wisest and most grownup blogmunities on the web? Sure. We're thick skinned and interested and I almost never ban anyone. And you are welcome to talk to/at the other members and not me. You've always been welcome and it would take a lot more than occasional vague finger-waggings for that to stop.

Jonathan S. said...

I am bemused by the fact that there are people, more than one, who both visit this blog and self-identify as "oversimplifying, symbol-obsessed dogmatists" (that being the only reason to see David's blogpost as "condescending"). And Treebeard, that "good luck saving the world without us" is silly - the only way we can save the world is without such people.

As for the Stone Mountain carving and its ilk, turns out nobody's really pushing for it to be changed - it's a revival of a meme from years back, supported only by the head of the Georgia NAACP. On the other hand, it's located in an area occupied primarily by black people, so it's pretty easy to see it as more symbolic of oppression than pride. In the end, I suppose it should depend on what sort of plaque there is at the (presumed) viewing sight for this carving (never actually been there myself). Does it tell true statements about the history of the men depicted there, or does it fly into romantic fantasy about the "Lost Cause" and the "honor and gentility of these brave men" (which I've actually heard from some folks)? And if there is no plaque there, is there an appropriate place to put one, so that the area can be educational about the past rather than a gathering place for those who wish the "good old days" of slavery and rebellion were still with us?

Alfred Differ said...

@Deuxglass: Douglas Hofstadter has an interesting description of a natural soul in his 'strange loop' book of which I have become rather fond. That definition leads to an interesting take on what people mean informally when they describe people who have big or small souls. It also works well with what we mean by 'surviving someone' as we say of children who outlast their parents. There is nothing immortal about them, but if one assumes an immortal creator who loves us, suddenly that type of soul HAS to be immortal. It's a neat idea with or without extra assumptions.

Alfred Differ said...

Regarding Snowden... I work in a field where security clearances are required, so my impression of him started off rather dark. He made quite a mess of things for those of us who take our work seriously. There are ways to do what he wanted to do, but he chose a path only a young, immature male would take. Very annoying.

I'm coming around to seeing his value, though, for upwardly directed accountability. It has been an interesting evolution and shows how our host's suggestion might work, but won't satisfy. Snowden thinks of himself in a hero role while many of us offer a darker description. Those who would offer this needed service for our civilization aren't going to like the process they face. It won't come anywhere close to Hollywood movie material.

Alex Tolley said...

@Alfred "There are ways to do what he wanted to do,"

Such as? I thought it was well established that the chain of command wouldn't do anything. For someone to take such a risk against a government that is the most vindictive against whistleblowers (who are supposed to be protected) is heroic in the true sense of the word. Even Ellsberg says that he could not have got as far as he did with the Pentagon papers under current conditions.

Alfred Differ said...

@Alex:

1: Collect the information you believe shows illegal activity and take it home... securely!
2: Keep your the computer you place the information on offline. Never connect again.
3: Process the information to produce a report showing the illegal activity... AND NOTHING ELSE.
4: Quit your job.
5: Publish the report and supporting evidence. Do NOT include unnecessary classified information.
6: Destroy the data you took home and the computer hard drive on which it was kept. Destroy it all.
7: Cooperate with authorities when they arrest you, but only to the extent required by law. If they behave themselves (act professionally), point out that you took measures to destroy the classified copies you made to prevent other leaks. If they don't behave, let them work it out themselves.

The point is to have performed about 90% of what you intend before they come arrest you. The other 10% is what you COULD do when they investigate to clean up the leak. NEVER threaten with further leakage. You must be done with the damage you intend before they arrive on your doorstep.

8: Be prepared to take your lumps. Freedom comes at a price.


For professional reasons, I do not recommend anyone do this. If you do, however, this is the only way I can imagine where someone like me won't think you are a dweeb enamored by Hollywood movie heroes.

LarryHart said...

Johnathan S:

I am bemused by the fact that there are people, more than one, who both visit this blog and self-identify as "oversimplifying, symbol-obsessed dogmatists" (that being the only reason to see David's blogpost as "condescending").


While I syntactically mangled my own response yesterday, that was exactly what I was trying to snark about.

Or as one of the gang-bangers on "Hill Street Blues" once put it, "Well, you answered to your name, so it must be plain!"

Alex Tolley said...

@Alfred

Wasn't the information Snowden acquired so vast that it has taken over a year for teams of journalists to put together stories. Wasn't everything Snowden acquired classified? Hasn't the government denied over and over that they did nothing illegal (still claim that) despite circumstantial evidence? What Snowden did was blow these claims wide open with smoking gun evidence. Even with all this, the government is still claiming they haven't done anything wrong, and even if they did, they intend to keep on doing it.

I really do not see how your suggested course of action would do anything other than get you a lost job and lots of jail time as the whole surveillance system has no interest in following the law, any more than the Bush government did when authorizing torture and destroying whistleblowers who objected.

Whatever ones beliefs about the exposure of this information, the reporting is about as good an example of sousveillance as you can get, pushing all the way to Congress. What has happened? Almost nothing. IMO, the Snowden affair shows how toothless sousveillance is when confronting those in power. It would be nice to believe that impartial laws will be enforced by due process, but I fear that it will take real revolution to make a change.

Alex Tolley said...

Straw man arguments:

"In all of human history, no people have ever been as safe as we are, and no people have ever been as free. The two desiderata rise and fall together, in ways that both illustrate and prove the power of "positive sum." Yet, driven by righteous dudgeon, it seems everyone cries out for one absolute necessity, at the cost of another."

let's unpack this:

1. In all of human history".
You claim to know everything about all human cultures, nations and groups that have existed for the last 10,000 years?

2. "no people have ever been as safe as we are"
c.f. 1.

3. "and no people have ever been as free"
c.f. 1. Also define "free" that applies to all individuals, groups, nations and cultures.

4. "The two desiderata rise and fall together"
Show the evidence. have a graph?

5. prove the power of "positive sum."
c.f. 4. Without data to support your assertion, you have no proof

6. " it seems everyone cries out for one absolute necessity, at the cost of another."

EVERYONE? Really? Talk about sweeping statements.

Does this mean that there is a zero sum trade off between "freedom" and "safety"? Not at all. Just that we have no evidence that it is a positive sum game as the quote claims.




Alfred Differ said...

@Alex: I didn’t say you couldn’t run and hide if you wished, but you are probably right. Jail time is likely. A refinement is in order then. Freedom for many comes at a cost to a few.

Snowden released far more than was necessary to make and back his point. That demonstrates a lack of maturity and of integrity, both of which should be required for the type of work he performed. Of course the government is going to deny doing anything illegal. Even if they had done something illegal (which they apparently haven’t) they would still deny it. Leaking more than was necessary to make his case is unprofessional. Leaving himself and the information in a situation where further leaks might occur is profoundly unprofessional.

Snowden thought he understood how citizens and government security professionals would react to his ‘heroic’ effort. He got part of it right, but only the part a young male understands. As a result, his effort did not appeal correctly to the citizens he meant to alarm, thus it says little about the sharpness of the teeth to be found with sousveillance. He ran off to Moscow leaving us wondering about further leaks. The security professionals had EVERY reason to hunt him down because of that and Joe Public let them.

Running/Hiding isn’t such a bad idea, but the better approach is the one used by Ted Kaczynski. Stay within our border to eliminate much of the concern that you intend more damage by leaking to foreign governments. Stay off the grid to eliminate accidental leakage if foreign nationals want to find you. For heaven’s sake, look like a professional who intends to strengthen his nation!

Regarding lost jobs, though, I said to quit in step #4. Anyone with a shred of integrity will quit a job where they are required to do something illegal or immoral. Even if one decides not to leak, quitting is mandatory. Have a backbone! Find moral work to do.

Alfred Differ said...

@Alex: Regarding the unpacked paragraph.

1: You would prefer he be more precise and say ‘recorded history’? That’s a pretty close match to his usual claim involving the last 6,000 years of human history. We know what was recorded, but lately we’ve been getting better and reading records not intentionally left to us by ancestors.

2, 3, 4: Silly. He is using Pinker as his primary source and ‘free’ means ‘not coerced’ or ‘not enslaved’ depending on how carefully you want to parse it.

5: These things aren’t about proof. They can’t be. They are about justifying belief in what is known. Philosophy 101 material.

6: Okay. He was sweeping with that one. He did backtrack a little though with the word ‘seems.’

The best evidence I know for the positive sum game David describes is that the population of the world has increased about 10x since the Enlightenment era started. That’s the value-add of respect for Liberty. All the treasure required to keep them alive and growing is enormous and we’ve generated far more than was minimally necessary to do it. We can’t spend the treasure on Maslow’s lower levels fast enough to keep to a zero-sum situation. It has been piling up for a few generations and occasionally turned toward higher needs like the elimination of small pox, standing on the Moon, and connecting billions into our markets.

The positive sum nature of the game we play is so obvious I can’t see how people miss it. Belief is easily justified.

Tony Fisk said...

Actually, Alex, the simplest way to prick David's talk balloon is to go and find a counter-example. What culture was safer and freer than ours?

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Tony
"What culture was safer and freer than ours?"

I would argue that there are a number of "cultures" that are safer and freer than "yours"

Norway, Sweden even here(NZ)

But I would accept the argument that all of these are effectively "subsets" of "our" "western culture"

Tony Fisk said...

Hi Duncan,

Yes, comparing the liberties of Aus with Norway, Sweden, or that other NaZi state (;-) is a little nit-picky at a level that varies from year to year (For fun, see 13 ways that dual nationals might be getting dealt with soon. All I can say is we will be dealing with our speedo problem in due course).

One reason why Jules is currently holed up where he is: Sweden has indefinite detention without trial.

Paul SB said...

Tacitus,
"Heh, only place on the internet where you can slide an Ursula K Lequin reference into a political discussion."

Or is it the only place where people would get the reference?

You sound a lot like some of the more reasonable self-labeling conservatives I have known, and in a couple cases worked for. Your brand of conservative is very old-school, and very unlike a majority of people who wear that label today. Even 15 years ago, the last PD I worked for had many of your same sensibilities, but he recognized that he was a tiny minority, following in his father's footsteps rather than the screams of our current crop of pundits. If you have managed to find an enclave of Eisenhower dreams up there in dairyland, more power too you. But perhaps you might think about dropping the label, because what you mean when you say it and what most other people mean are not the same thing. It's a miscommunication that can makes for strange bedfellows.

Tony Fisk said...

I regard Tacitus as a conservative, as opposed to a self-servative (who can add brand-jacking to their list of calumnies.)
Tacitus is, of course, quite able to tell us how the straw tastes.

David Brin said...

Thanks AT for that stunning display of checklist-utter-sophistry that could have been supplied by any snarking high school debater… without a scintilla of grasp of the meanings involved.

The notion that you’d actually actually maintain there’s any doubt that we are safer and have more freedom of individual ambition and activity than other generations only proves you to be a sophomore.

Seriously, I am concerned. You have lately been showing…. um… symptoms. Should we be concerned?

Alfred, the great sin of Snowden, besides insufficiently trying his nation’s internal corrective channels — or following the righteous path of Daniel Ellesberg — was to let himself be ensnared with his computers into being a wholly-suborned tool of his nation’s enemies. Seriously? Russia? With his hard drives?

The net effects may have been salutary… provoking a debate we badly needed to kick-start and by outcomes-appraisal I’d go for a gentle plea bargain. But he’s a classic male T Cell who chose a locus of authority to screech at. The syndrome is typical, even if he personally is not.

BTW I will be talking to Snowden, via skype, in October.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Tony
I made what other nationalities could consider to be a major insult in assuming that "your" culture was US

As it is actually Ozzie and I'm now a Kiwi it's my god given right (or duty) to insult Australia on all possible occassions

Tony Fisk said...

Duncan, you assumed... WHAT!!!???
(Just thank Ifni that I'm not *Canadian*!)

Tony Fisk said...

btw, insult away. I'm actually a permanent resident pom who sees a certain dark satire in finding, just when I think it's time to 'normalise relations', the Government of the day has pulled some act of screaming lunacy that makes me wonder if I know these guys. (Prime example being the link given above: good for a few hollow laughs. As I said in the tip, the consequences of damaging wheelie bins is straight out of 'Earth'.)

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Tony
I'm a "pom" - after working in the USA for four years I decided that the experience (the space) had spoiled me for returning to the UK so I thought
Where is the best place for an anglophone to settle?
I decided on NZ - Ozzie was close but the government at the time (2001) was busy waving the race card so I decided on NZ

Overall - I think a good decision
We are suffering through a "National" government but in comparison to the UK and Ozz our Nats are almost reasonable

Jumper said...

Jeff Bezos has freedom. His employees, not so much. But they have some.
Freedom, power, and money are fungible. None of this invalidates David's argument' it makes it hard to nail down.

KB said...

Former .gov analyst here (and longtime Contrary Brin lurker). Per Alfred's #4, I quit. And although it's quite popular to moan that nothing has happened as a result of Mr. Snowden's leaks, I would point to the drive towards omnipresent encryption, warrant canaries, and the expiration of section 215 of the Patriot Act. The last point is most striking to me, given how intensely motivated policy makers are by fear and risk aversion. I would imagine we'd have even more advances if Mr. Snowden had chosen to leak in a less self-serving manner as outlined by Alfred.

On a side note, Snowden's dump everything approach obscured the fact that the intelligence community is simply not very good at what they do. In my final job focused on East Asia, I was the only person in a group of 100ish fluent in the pertinent language. I did not have unrestricted internet access. And if I told you about the corporate software profile, you'd accuse me of spinning tall tales.

In my opinion, one does not need a Panopticon to do proper, appropriate intelligence work. A Panopticon is what metastasizes in its absence.

Howard Brazee said...

In Colorado, independents can register as a party member at the primary. I have often done so to vote against particular candidates. Then the following week, I register as an independent so that I'm free to pick at the next primary.

Howard Brazee said...

ISIS has decided that the past is heretical - and is destroying statues to deny it. But we've learned from George Orwell, and know that all we need to do is control the history books and other media.

Alex Tolley said...

@Alfred: Snowden released far more than was necessary to make and back his point.

We are going to be parsing what "released" means. Snowden put the material in teh hands of a few journalists he trusted to work with the material. They have carefully r4eleased for public consumption only what they considered in their mature and professional capacity of interest to the public. This wasn't like Manning posting his material online, which was juvenile.

Snowden didn't flee to Moscow. He went to Hong Kong. Moscow was a last resort. AFAIK, he wants to leave. He has even raised the issue of returning to the US to face the music as long as this does not mean life in jail.

I don't think it was exactly practical to resign from his job and then skip. After he skipped, he had effectively resigned. I think he did the only practical thing possible unless he was so squeaky clean that nobody would have checked on him, but then why would he have resigned?

I think you want to play by gentleman's rules, when the world doesn't play that way. Even in the land of maximal freedom.

Alex Tolley said...

@Alfred: Pinker as his primary source and ‘free’ means ‘not coerced’ or ‘not enslaved’ depending on how carefully you want to parse it.

I find that facile. IMO, belief in a omniscient being who watches every move and decides your fate for eternity is not exactly being "free". How many believers do you know who would deny being "enslaved" - just about everyone? We used to laugh at the Chinese self-censorship when they said they we free to speak freely. We have gone the same route in the US. The US may be relatively free, but it certainly isn't a free as we imagine it could be, and people of our age have lived through different times and relative freedoms. I don't believe I am freer today that I was at any time in my life.

You are absolutely correct that economically the game has apparently been positive sum. (Some would disagree, especially now with AGW). But I go with the overall positive sum argument for economics. But that doesn't imply freedom. After all, slavery allowed historic cultures to increase the economic pie too. We could easily reimagine the economic system to increase the general welfare, which might well genuinely increase freedom.

KB said...

@Alex Tolley: but then why would he have resigned?

Because it forces them to acknowledge you and your concerns, if only for a moment. The intelligence community has a great deal of difficulty holding onto folks with rare skills, and individual resignations writ large are forcing the lumbering beast to start looking at why. But it's an infuriatingly slow process, and I can certainly understand why someone might get impatient. When I quit, I told them it was because the institution was incompetent, outdated, and unprofessional. Now when that group is asked how they lost their only foreign language capable employee, my concerns will to some extent have to be relayed.

Also: he was so squeaky clean that nobody would have checked on him

This seems to presume that .gov has a meaningful insider threat program.

Alex Tolley said...

@Tony "Actually, Alex, the simplest way to prick David's talk balloon is to go and find a counter-example. What culture was safer and freer than ours?"

I would have if I could. But then I would be making claims about what freedom is, or means, to people. In the US you probably know that the "religious freedom" argument for denying service to certain people is perceived (by liberals at least) as "the freedom to oppress". As the US continues to slowly dismantle the welfare state, those at the bottom have increased freedom to be humiliated when taking welfare and die on the streets. ;)

Alex Tolley said...

@KB This seems to presume that .gov has a meaningful insider threat program.

Indeed. I presume that must be changing in the light of the leaks.

Alex Tolley said...

Thanks AT for that stunning display of checklist-utter-sophistry that could have been supplied by any snarking high school debater… without a scintilla of grasp of the meanings involved.

Call it what you want. Highlighting what you say and responding to that is my approach to avoiding your "straw man" snarks. You can dance away all you like, but those are your words.

The notion that you’d actually actually maintain there’s any doubt that we are safer and have more freedom of individual ambition and activity than other generations only proves you to be a sophomore.

You are absolutely certain? Not a scintilla of doubt about your claims? How terribly unscientific.

Seriously, I am concerned. You have lately been showing…. um… symptoms. Should we be concerned?

Back to the old "mental illness" snarks. I didn't know you were a medical doctor as well. I recall it was you that wanted everyone to check I wasn't posting nasty things about you last year after our "contretemps". What does that say about you..., hmmm?

raito said...

Howard Brazee,

At least here we don't have to register as a member of any party for a primary election. But we're still limited to one party's slate.

Personally, I consider it de facto corruption. Though I haven't been able to nail it down, I'm pretty sure that the US's 2 main parties are organized as political non-profits.

So my tax money is being spent on 'elections'. OK, I'm for that, as long as I can vote for the candidate of my choice in each race.

But I'm not allowed to do that in a primary. Instead, non-profit corporation have manipulated the system such that I have to pay for them to determine who they'll put on the final ballot. Let them spend their own money.

On the other hand, private caucuses aren't much better. I have a friend who lived for a long time in Iowa. It was his experience that his local caucus wasn't supposed to send their results in until the person tallying got the phone call telling him what the result was supposed to be.

And at least I get to vote, and at least California doesn't bar independents anymore. And there's still places like Illinios where you have to declare publicly hich party's ballot you'll be voting.

And I still think 'None of the above' ought to be on every ballot. The lesser of 2 evils is still evil.

David Brin said...

KB… I share your assumption - blatantly obvious to the thoughtful - that we will go down one of two paths…

1) A Reciprocally-Open Panopticon (ROP), in which our protector castes are effective because they can see… but also tightly supervised so that their actions are always restrained and they are reminded they are dogs, not wolves. Or —

2) A Hierarchic-Orwellian Panopticon (HOP) in which those protectors, unsupervised, metastasize into Big Brother.

That’s it. ROP or HOP. And that is why I am, in fact, more militant and radical than most of the vigorous civil libertarians out there.

Those who imagine there are any other possible end points to Moore’s Law are seriously delusionally-myopic. Their railing demands for information flow restrictions (except in a near-term, pragmatic sense, 5 years at a time) are fundamentally wrongheaded and counter-productive. If they succeed, it will only guarantee HOP.

David Brin said...

AT: “You are absolutely certain? Not a scintilla of doubt about your claims? How terribly unscientific.”

There you have it. The sophomore’s gambit. I was making a pretty grand declaration, whose MEANING and validity had nothing to do with its polemically excessive claims of perfection. Moreover you know this. You knew it absolutely. You could have addressed the actual meaning, by disproving the overall meaning with many counter-examples… And by whatever standards of “freedom” you choose....

… but instead you attacked the blatantly irrelevant polemical exaggeration.

Okay, then “ALMOST no other civilization’s average citizens have ever been as safe or as free.”

Stripped of polemical exaggeration, the meaning is perfectly clear except to a high-school “Gotcha!”grabber. That the zero-sum notion that safety and freedom are automatic opposites is a clear falsehood, devastatingly disproved by a major counter-example, us. You could have addressed THAT but chose high school.

As for my counter-snarks at you, your blatantly unearned recent hostility and reflex to make sneering sophomoric gotchas, instead of actually addressing actual points, has earned you equivalently immature treatment. Which I am strong enough to repress maybe 75% of the time.

Apologies to the rest of you, for having given in.

locumranch said...



As summoned by our host, I appear only to point out the obvious:

First, that diversity and conformity are non-homologous concepts (wherein the term 'diversity' is defined as 'the state or quality of being different or varied; the relation that holds between two entities WHEN and ONLY WHEN they are not identical; and the property of being numerically distinct), insomuch that conformity (defined as 'compliance in actions, behaviour, etc; the existence of accepted standards or norms; and correspondence, congruity, agreement and likeness in form or appearance') is incompatible with the encouragement of the diverse, a fact brought into sardonic definition by the homology between our host's desire to erase the monuments of the old US Confederacy & ISIL's desire to erase the temples of pre-Muslim society.

Second, that our Brave Blue Progressive Utopia ignores the first precept (above) at its own peril and, once having done so in the name of tolerance (!), sows the dragon's teeth of it's own destruction by the encouragement of divisive diversity, as evidenced by the pending economic destruction of Europe at the hands of locust-like refugees and our host's counter-intuitive impulse to cast out those belligerent neo-confederates who invoke the first precept from above as CITROCATE in a futile attempt to protect the Big Brave Blue which (ironically) demonstrates their inutility to the self-destructive impulses inherent in progressivism.

Much like ISIL, it appears that our host's application of CITROCATE only applies to those belief systems with which he disagrees, which could only serve to check our heedless rush to self-destruction, and this suggests that we are well & truly screwed.


Best

Alex Tolley said...

There you have it. The sophomore’s gambit. I was making a pretty grand declaration, whose MEANING and validity had nothing to do with its polemically excessive claims of perfection. Moreover you know this. You knew it absolutely. You could have addressed the actual meaning, by disproving the overall meaning with many counter-examples… And by whatever standards of “freedom” you choose....

I think I am being relatively gentle in my argument. I am certainly not calling you names, nor that your assertion is ridiculous.

This is exactly what you stated:
In all of human history, no people have ever been as safe as we are, and no people have ever been as free. The two desiderata rise and fall together, in ways that both illustrate and prove the power of "positive sum."

Note this is a statement without any data to support it. I assume the safety data is Pinker's reduced homicide rate from his book. Despite methodological issues that have been raised by academics, I tend to agree with that data supported argument. But "freedom"? Where is the data to support the claim that The two desiderata rise and fall together. Is your argument broad brush, or more more micro, so that we can do cross-sectional regressions across countries, for example using this freedom analysis. Unfortunately the high US homicide rate compared to most free countries (e.g. EU, North America) is a bit of a problem. Maybe you only accept longitudinal data, but that makes cross-sections against ancient civilizations a bit problematic. What if we look at longitudinal data with a country, as that might make policy decisions easier to understand?

However, I will make another assertion as a counter example. I will assume that we are getting safer - homicide rates have declined, and wars impacting US & EU citizens have declined. However, teh freedom to be unobserved is also declining, and worse, given the logic of increasing surveillance, will continue to do so. Under that definition of freedom (which you allowed me to choose), the there is no "rise and fall" of the 2 desiderata together, but rather an inverse relationship. If we had the death rate data, I might even be able to show that the extreme spying that went on during the reign of Elizabeth I had a similar relationship.

Before you get into a tizzy, note that I am NOT claiming we don't have a positive sum society. What I am saying is that the assertion that freedom and safety are linked is open to argument that needs data to support it. Until you can show that data, longitudinal, x-sectional, whatever, you have no objective case, just a subjective one. Show the data, and, unlike you, I will admit I was wrong.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi guys
Have you seen the news Lessig has decided to support the Donald!
And is talking about running with him on a third party ticket



locumranch said...


Nice point AT:

(1) Freedom & Security are inversely related, just like Diversity & Conformity.

(2) It follows, also, that Freedom & Diversity are akin to Violence (whereas Peace & Security imply Conformity), meaning that Pinker's coming Security Utopia reflects a Net LOSS of both Freedom & Diversity, justifying the assumption that our increasingly 'free' society may have created the biggest prison on the planet.

Best

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Guys
Freedom and security
My crude take
First some definitions for you guys to throw stones at

Security
First level
Not getting killed/beaten up
Second level
Essentials of life food water living space
Third level
Property not getting stolen or broken

I think we are doing pretty well at security - on all three levels


Freedom
First level
Not being a slave
Second level
Not having to kowtow to anybody for the essentials of life food water living space
Third level
Having control of our own lifestyle
Fourth Level
Having some control over the society that we live in

Pretty good at level 1
Not very good at level 2
Good at level 3
Poor at level 4

I don't believe that anybody has been better then (or even nearly as good as) us(western society)for security or freedom,





Tony Fisk said...

Melbourne may be taking at hit on the Level 3 freedom stakes this weekend.
(Australian Border Forces in newly minted uniforms strutting the city streets, making random checks for visa evasion... what could *possibly* go wrong?*)

*Will be in Melbourne myself this weekend. Will report back.

David Brin said...

No “tizzy” AT. This time you chose to argue instead of delivering a sophomoric gotcha-snark. It was much, much better and more adult… though still disingenuous. You choose to cherrypick a meaning for freedom under which you can imagine we have declined… “freedom to be unobserved. But in fact, even that cherrypicked meaning does not work for you, because nearly all past humans were vastly more “observed” than we are today.

True, that freedom is under threat. But it is also an utterly ludicrous definition. Compared the two kinds of freedom people vale more. Freedom to choose frequently and knowledgeably among effective paths of action and freedom from interference and oppression by society’s elites.

I’ll not let you shift the burden of proof onto me. Show us the counter-examples. The burden of proof falls upon YOU that we are less safe and less free than our ancestors were. Or folks today in Africa or Asia.

“Have you seen the news Lessig has decided to support the Donald!
And is talking about running with him on a third party ticket?”

Um Duncan?

Tony Fisk said...

[Update] Victoria Police have just issued a statement that Melbourne's 'Operation Fortitude' has been cancelled for 'operational reasons'*.

(* Does that mean the phenomenal surge in Twitter commentary? The flash protest at Flinders St? The perception that maybe the Victoria Police should have been informed?)

Will now go work off the indignoholic surge...

Duncan Cairncross said...

Lessig and the Donald

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/08/meet-the-liberals-who-love-trump-121733_full.html?print#.Vd_xHpfdUSq

Lessig, who announced this month that he is considering a run for president to highlight the issue, told POLITICO Magazine he would not rule out a third party run with Trump should the opportunity arise.


Paul451 said...

Duncan,
Lessig did not "tell POLITICO Magazine" anything. That was a cute journalistic lie. Note that the weasel words were "...said Lessig in a recent interview".

The actual interview was with Cenk Uygur on Young Turks. Judge Lessig's actual words: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F45J85c5vCI (52min)

"I don't support solving this issue bundled with ... [list of Trumpisms] ... so no, I wouldn't support Donald Trump in that context, I'd say let's fight, let's wait for a day when we don't have to sacrifice all of that, in order to get this..."

Which is pretty clear.

(Personally I think Lessig is a self-aggrandiser. But leaders of movements, even worthy movements, are almost always jerks in reality.)

sociotard said...

For anyone interested in Gerrymandering:

Business owners try to remove all voters from business district but they forgot one college student
the city council created a special 'business' district. This district would be allowed to vote to create a half cent sales tax to pay for local improvements rather than using property tax increases. There is a special rule that says if no registered voters exist in an area, the property owners are allowed to vote BUT one U of M student registered at her CoMO address. And the county clerk has certified that she is the sole voter allowed in the up coming vote.

Now the owners are barred from voting. Will have to raise taxes (if they want those district improvements) and raise them even more to pay off the debt they incurred to finance this deal.

David Brin said...

Thanks Sociotard. Ah gerrymandering!

This is a familiar thing in California, where most elective potitics has improved markedly, but these legacy “cities” and “districts” have olden-times grandfathered ability to basically run their own cloistered mafia dens.

Alfred Differ said...

@Alex: We could argue about what ‘release’ means, but I like you enough not to do that. Instead, I’ll let you know I’m using the professional meaning. Once the copy is out of the control of people who have sworn to protect classified data, it is ‘released.’ If extra copies of it exist, but remain in under control of cleared personnel, then it has ‘leaked.’ Snowden did both, but it is the release I found initially annoying. Taking information with him when he fled overseas is an even worse release potential. Only a fool thinks they can by themselves protect classified information from a competent foreign government. Whether the Russians have his information isn’t something they are going to tell us without a cost involved, but we have to assume they do. I don’t care how bright someone thinks they are regarding encryption; they are a fool to face off against competent intelligence agencies. They are a worse fool that the person who represents themselves in court.

Resignation is a matter of professionalism. Personal integrity is a big part of what we do. If you want to complain about your employer in this business, you start early by quitting. That makes it clear they don’t deserve the service you could otherwise provide.

Regarding an insider threat program… yes. We have means of dealing with these risks. Obviously they weren’t good enough at the time, so improvements are required. Everyone in the business knows where the soft spots are, but it takes getting burned occasionally to remember that fire is hot. Unfortunately.

Alfred Differ said...

@Alex: I assure you I’ve given thought to the complexities in the meaning of ‘freedom.’ I recognize (and have written about here) two main types that lead to a number of issues upon further reflection. The first is a negative definition which is what I offered. You are free if you are not coerced. The second is a positive definition which I reject. You are free if no one deprives you of or constrains your access to the means you need for life. We all pay attention to the positive definition, but it is fraught with paradoxes. Parse most classical libs and you’ll find we (mostly) use the negative definition and address commodity restraints with different terms from our markets.

By the negative definition, people who choose to self-censor are free. By the positive definition, they are not because they constrain each other voluntarily. By the negative definition, theists can be free when their actions involve voluntary adoption of the demands of their god. By the positive definition, they are not free.

Parse David’s writing in his terms instead of yours and I think you’ll find someone who adheres more to the negative definition than the positive. I may be wrong, but I doubt it. If I am, I predict it will be because he respects the moral argument for the need for positive freedom. I do too, but in doing so I try to avoid terminology confusion. A definition full of paradoxes is of little use to me.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Freedom & Diversity are akin to Violence (whereas Peace & Security imply Conformity), meaning that Pinker's coming Security Utopia reflects a Net LOSS of both Freedom & Diversity, justifying the assumption that our increasingly 'free' society may have created the biggest prison on the planet.


On the contrary, Security and Peace only imply Conformity if one is a conformist. If you have any individual tendencies which differ from the norm, then conformity is often enforced by violence. To (I suspect) the vast majority of human beings, "Security" involves ability to differ from the norm without violent retribution as a consequence--the diametric opposite of how you are using the terms.


You seem to parse the terms the way an Authoritarian does--"freedom" being the freedom to make people do what you perceive is correct, and "violence" as the effect an individual has on you when he does something you would prefer he not do. I think of "freedom" and "security" as rights of individuals to do as they wish (within the constraints imposed by the equal rights of others), whereas you seem to perceive those terms as the group's freedom from individuals. It's the same a$$-backwards thinking which is currently used to parse the 1st Amendment's "Freedom of Religion" not as the individual's freedom to practice religion as he chooses, but rather as the freedom of a church to impose its will on individuals.

As Paul Krugman once put it, you probably cheer for President Snow against Katniss too. :)

LarryHart said...

Duncan Cairncross:

Security
First level
Not getting killed/beaten up
Second level
Essentials of life food water living space
Third level
Property not getting stolen or broken

...


Freedom
First level
Not being a slave
Second level
Not having to kowtow to anybody for the essentials of life food water living space
Third level
Having control of our own lifestyle
Fourth Level
Having some control over the society that we live in


As your example demonstrates, "Freedom" and "Security" are closely correlated. "Security to act freely" is a big part of it.

Whereas locumranch seems to parse "Security" as something along the lines of "Comfort in the reliability of the status quo", that really equates to "Security" only for those who are currently comfortable with the status quo.

LarryHart said...


From this column in the New York Times:
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/28/opinion/david-brooks-when-isis-rapists-win.html

“The clearest evidence that we do not understand this phenomenon is our consistent inability to predict — still less control — these developments,” the author writes. Every time we think ISIS has appalled the world and sabotaged itself, it holds its own or gains strength.


Why does this sound so much like the inability to understand the phenomenon which is Donald Trump?

Also, from Paul Krugman's blog:
http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/


the entire Republican Party is controlled by climate denialists, and anti-science types more broadly. And in general the modern GOP is basically anti-rational analysis; it’s at war not just with the welfare state but with the Enlightenment.

raito said...

You just have to wonder about some people:

"Gartner said she did nothing illegal when contacting Henderson and was surprised Henderson viewed her contact negatively."

To me, this translates as someone thinking, "What? You mean everyone isn't a jerk like me?"

In my state, it's gotten bad enough that there may end up being definitions of what's geographically permissible in drawing districts. A city with a 1-road, 15 mile corridor to a sand mine isn't what any reasonable person would call reasonable. Note that, naturally, the county has stricter environmental controls than the city.

Then again, we've had villages incorporate into cities defensively to keep from being annexed.

And since I'm writing, on TWODA:

I'm never quite sure whether some of the talking heads are ignorant or manipulative. I keep hoping for the former, while fearing the latter. In response to possible stricter ozone regulation, one of these winners said it wouldn't work in WI, because all our ozone is coming from Chicago and Gary anyway. Shows a basic lack of understanding of the state's weather patterns (from the west, almost never from the east at any vector, except for some lake effect breeze).

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan: Yowza.

Freedom
1:Not being a slave
2:Not having to kowtow to anybody for the essentials of life food water living space
3:Having control of our own lifestyle
4:Having some control over the society that we live in

The first is essentially the negative definition. The second and third are essentially the positive definition. The fourth ensures others are NOT free by either definition. Personally spiffy, but it sucks to be someone else.

Freedom should never imply one has control over anything. As long as no one controls us, we are free. If we have no control of our own selves, that is a very different problem.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

The first is a negative definition which is what I offered. You are free if you are not coerced. The second is a positive definition which I reject. You are free if no one deprives you of or constrains your access to the means you need for life.


I maintain there is a blurry distinction between "coercion" and "withholding (not your term) the means of survival".

I think you are arguing that just because one has to toil for a living doesn't mean one is not free. Which I mainly agree with, under the condition that the options to toil for a living are available, and that "willigness to work" and "ability to work" are the primary constraints upon one's access to the means of survivial.

OTOH, when the situation arises that the means of survival are mostly the private property of someone else, and that the private owner gets to bestow or withhold such as suits his whim, that is "coercion". I see little difference between having to do what the person with a gun to my head demands, or having to do what the person who can starve my family demands.

If working for an employer in exchange for (his) money is simply an alternative to toiling to grow one's own food and such, then yes, I think I'm agreeing with you that the worker is essentially "free" even if he has to sell his freedom of action for a number of hours each day. To me, that's an entirely different dynamic from the worker who has no choice but to work for an employer who demands obedience with the power to cut off your access to food, shelter, health care, and the like if you don't comply. In the latter case, "coercion" really does seem to be the operative dynamic.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

4:Having some control over the society that we live in

The first is essentially the negative definition. The second and third are essentially the positive definition. The fourth ensures others are NOT free by either definition. Personally spiffy, but it sucks to be someone else.


By some control (emphasis mine), I took Duncan to mean something along the lines of "Having some participation in...", "Having a say in...", "Having a vote in...". You assert that he means something that makes it suck to be anyone besides him, but aren't you asserting that it has to suck to be him? That for anyone else to be free, he must be subject to their whims?

I'm thinking of his point #4 as something along the lines of "Freedom to petition the government for redress." It doesn't mean you're going to win every petition--just that you are not a second class citizen or "guest worker" or slave --that you have legal standing in your community.

Jumper said...

David Brooks' whimpering in the NYT is not helpful.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: Okay. Your interpretation of Duncan’s ‘control’ makes more sense than mine. Through democracy, I get to have a say in the actions of my government, but I have no control. The people we elect are the ones who control things, so we have to be watchful. I’m probably just being overly sensitive to terminology choices, but I’ve learned over the years that these small slips cause enough confusion to matter.

Your blurriness regarding the two freedom definitions is an example, unfortunately. Coercion must require intent. If I choose to sell to others the stuff you need to live, I am not coercing you. What I’m doing is behaving in an immoral manner. If I choose not to sell stuff at all, the situation is similar. What we have in this case is immoral behavior in the market. The solution isn’t to broaden the definition of ‘coercion’, but to employ new terms like ‘inhuman’ and ‘what kind of monster are you?’

LarryHart said...

Jumper:

David Brooks' whimpering in the NYT is not helpful.

I was not agreeing (or disagreeing) with his overall thesis.

I meant only to call attention to the similarity between "We don't understand why every time ISIS seems to sabotage its own image, it ends up gaining in popularity and influence", and the same assertion applied to Donald Trump.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Your blurriness regarding the two freedom definitions is an example, unfortunately. Coercion must require intent. If I choose to sell to others the stuff you need to live, I am not coercing you. What I’m doing is behaving in an immoral manner. If I choose not to sell stuff at all, the situation is similar. What we have in this case is immoral behavior in the market. The solution isn’t to broaden the definition of ‘coercion’, but to employ new terms like ‘inhuman’ and ‘what kind of monster are you?’


No, you didn't get what I was trying to say (which might be my fault as much as it might be yours). I was agreeing with you that scarcity of resources doesn't keep one from being "free", at least not in any meaningful sense of the word.

For the second point, I was trying to give an example of an employer who actually does use the power inherent in his near-monopoly over employment as a club to force his "serfs" to conform to his desires above and beyond the requirements of the workplace--say to vote as he dictates or to "volunteer" for his favorite politician. In other words, I was trying to describe the situation of having no choice but to work for an employer whose intent was coercive. And saying that someone in that situation is not free.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: Oh. Okay. My thick skull is penetrated. 8)

I've meet two 'bosses' in my career who obviously intended coercion while I was at work. They did not see it that way, of course. They saw me as their tool while I was being paid. I disagreed strongly and with one I quit in very short order. The second was already pissing off others around her, so I decided to wait her out.

Employees are not tools even in the lowest manufacturing job, but we can choose to let ourselves be treated that way. I'd rather leave and find something else to do. Any 'boss' who persisted beyond that would be an enslaver and worthy of an act of violence.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Guys
Heinlein in one of his autobiographical works talks about a depression era political party in California
I forget the name of the party but it was promising to spread the largess around the voters
The local factory owners announced that if that party won they would be shutting down

Robert Heinlein's comment was that those voters were "not free citizens" because they depended on the factory owners

This is where the "Having some control over the society that we live in" comes in

In a true democracy the citizens have "control" over their government
I personally like the idea of a constitutional democracy or republic where we don't have the "dictatorship of the majority"
Which is why "some control"

The recent study showing that the wishes of the majority has no effect on legislation in the USA means that the current situation is closer to "no control"

Jumper said...

For the record, LarryHart, I certainly don't hold you accountable for David Brooks' blindness. Thanks for the link, even. Isn't he a piece of work? You're right.

Alfred Differ said...

Just because I depend upon you does not make your choices coercive if they fail to serve my needs. Fair markets foster dependencies among participants and produce as a byproduct a division of labor that benefits all. Make them less than fair, though, and you get what many of us feel is a form of cheating. Basically, we impose market rules and meta-rules. If you want to participate (and benefit), there are a slew of 'thou shalts' and 'thou shalt nots'.

I suggest that it is useful to avoid over burdening the meaning of 'freedom' with the consequences of immoral market behavior. Leave it at 'not coerced' and deal with the rule breakers separately. I understand that this approaches means I could find myself one day free to starve to death if other participants fail to trade with me, but that risk is far better than confusing what freedom is. If all participants fail to trade with me, I can still resort to time-tested methods of acquiring what I need.


When the factory owners want to leave en masse, it is time to pay attention and understand why. They just might have a point to make.

Duncan Cairncross said...

When the factory owners want to leave en masse, it is time to pay attention and understand why. They just might have a point to make.

As Adam Smith said

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices…. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies, much less to render them necessary.

and

To widen the market and to narrow the competition, is always the interest of the dealers…The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order, ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.

When the factory owners all want to do something it's time to oil the guillotine

Alfred Differ said...

What Adam Smith didn't point out, though, is that voters in a mood are a force that drives competing traders to meet. His homeland wasn't exactly democratic at the time. Commoners had less influence upon legislation that enforced old and new market rules.

Cause and Effect. This stuff matters.


Go ahead and oil the guillotine, but be prepared to create a society too stupid to recognize why certain traditions formed in the first place.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Certain Traditions

This is Scotland you are talking about

The English had their Magna-Carter - limiting the rights of the King over the Barons
The Scots had the "Declaration of Arbroath"
Basically declaring that the King of the Scots was Scot's business and that the people would select or de-select their king
normally on the grounds that we need a new one - that one is not breathing any more)
A rough and ready early form of democracy


As far as "oiling the guillotines" is concerned

You are not free if somebody else has power over you - (The point RAH was making, and he was not known as a leftie)

The only way you can negotiate a deal over your labor is if both parties have comparable amounts of power
So any negotiation between a factory owner and a worker smacks of slavery unless the workers are properly unionized so that they have comparable power

matthew said...

This article has an interesting conceit:that the "Center" in American politics is the realm of corporatism, and not real voters.

http://www.vox.com/2015/8/27/9214015/tech-nerds-politics?utm_campaign=vox&utm_content=feedback-prompt&utm_medium=social&utm_source=feedback-prompt%3Afacebook#

Well-written and full of links, this strikes me as someone who is David's fellow traveler, but writing from another angle. Check it out. Worth your time. A lot of talk about nerds' disinterest in politics too




David Brin said...

onward

onward