Friday, April 29, 2016

How to maintain a vigorous, positive sum society… in theory

I’ve long urged folks to go have another look at one of the founders of the Western-Pragmatic Enlightenment, Adam Smith. Lately, Smith has been picked up by ever more economists and thinkers seeking to understand how we’ve gone astray.

Liberals are surprised to discover Smith’s compassion, along with his denunciations of oligarchy and inherited power. Open-minded conservatives and libertarians are reminded that Smith’s recommendation of vigorous market competition can only happen when things are relatively flat-open-fair, but cheaters are only thwarted by rules, by regulation. (The same is true in sports, democracy, science etc.)

Both sides need to be reminded that human beings are essentially delusional, and we prosper best when we are shown – competitively – our mistakes. 

In an article - Stop Using Adam Smith and F.A. Hayek to Support Your Political Ideology - on the fast-rising Evonomics site, I show how both Smith and Friedrich Hayek offer no support for conniving, monopolistic concentrations of economic power.  For markets, democracy, science, etc to deliver their fabulous, positive sum outcomes, there must be reciprocal accountability.

In response, economist Nicholas Gruen agrees with most of my points, but complains that my emphasis on competition overlooks how much of our system depends on cooperation. Go have a look at his critique.

In fact, I had felt the cooperative aspect to be implicit, since where else would the regulations come from, that keep competitive markets and science and democracy, courts and sports flat-open-fair?  Those regulations – to maintain a healthy and vigorous commons – might be deliberated and negotiated competitively (in the arena called democracy) but they can only pass and be complied-with in a generally cooperative atmosphere and meme of shared citizenship.

(An atmosphere and meme that have been deliberately destroyed in America, rendering the U.S. Congress completely impotent. See below.)

Perhaps I should have commented at greater length about the implicit cooperativeness that allows for the creation of regulations that then empower creative competition.  But this twinning seems natural to me! Cooperation and competition are essential partners – not opposites – at nearly all layers of life that achieve any degree of health.

== How do cooperation and competition depend on each other? ==

At one level, individual creatures – predators and prey – seem totally competitive; yet we all know that a myriad defeats and victories add up to the “circle of life” of a wholesome ecosystem. But it goes farther. We now know that cells inside a fetus’s brain compete with each other, frenetically, to become nerve cells. Most are defeated, but the result is the most effective macro-entity ever formed. Adam Smith described how – when cheating and war and oppression are thwarted – normal human competitiveness engenders so much creativity that wealth pours forth in gushers, engendering the cooperative thing called civilization. 

(Karl Marx quite agreed, though his scenarios cynically assumed that there would always be cheaters, until there was so much wealth available that competition might – suddenly – be dispensed-with.)

What I just described are called “emergent properties.” From the competitive jostling of molecules within our cells, on up, we see subsequent layerings of regulated rivalry spawning an appearance of effective collaboration, in which entities of the next-higher level then commence competing, yet again… and forming what seems to be cooperative… and onward, building order.

Along the way, there are potential traps and pitfalls that cause such agglomerations to fail. When a type of predator or parasite gets too strong, it may gorge on prey and drive species extinct, destroying the ecosystem  it relied upon. Across millennia, ever since we began recording agricultural societies, competitively vigorous men would win local games of power, then seize way too much, cheating for the sake of short-term reproductive success (lordship and harems), stifling competition, thus starving the health of their tribes or nations.  

Indeed, both great Pericles and Adam Smith preached that we must stymie this trap by cooperative design, thwarting cheating, not only for justice and freedom but for the pragmatic reason, that only such limits to power can let flat-fair-open-creative competition resume its generative miracle, making us all better off.

== How all of this applies to Artificial Intelligence ==

This is, indeed, the whole and entire answer to the Problem of Artificial Intelligence… how to prevent AI from going berserk as in Terminator or The Matrix, a concern expressed by Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and others.

What do we dread about the arrival of new, smarter beings? 

Well, the simplest and most-feared scenarios depict coolly determined and cunning robotic beings conspiring to treat us the same way that human overlords treated peasants... or worse, the way they treated sheep. Seizing the top position on a feudal-style pyramid of might-based oppression.  In other words, we fret the possibility that AIs might behave in the way all-too-many human males have, when tempted by access to overwhelming power!

But any such robot-dominated hierarchy is likely to suffer the same disastrous effects of winnowing system health and delusional-governance which comes about when a predator or parasite is too successful... or when human leaders get strong enough to evade competitive criticism. 

Moreover, this argument is not an artifact of my being a dumb-organic, oldstyle human. Since the competition-cooperation emergent tradeoffs manifest across all levels of organization, from the cell to organs to species and ecosystems and societies - including the only human society creative enough to make AI(!) - it can be presumed that any robot overlord claiming to be an exception is likely -- no matter how "smart" -- to be ... delusional.

This is not about IQ.  It is about wisdom.

== Neoliberalism ==

I know it's gone a bit long. But let's hang in to a conclusion.

This piece appraises “NeoLiberalism,” a powerfully influential political and economic theory that took over the West during the 1980s and still persists with the zombie-never-dying-though-always-wrong Supply Side economic theory and the meme to “hate all government.” 

The insidious thing about NeoLiberalism is that its basic premise is entirely correct: "Attempts to limit competition are treated as inimical to liberty."

You can see how this fits today's theme. Competition is indeed the fundamental process that allows positive sum outcomes to spill from markets, democracy, science, courts and sports, highly refined "arenas" wherein miracles of productivity arise out of flat-fair-open competition.

The insidious lie of NeoLiberalism is that there is only one enemy of competitive enterprise... government.

That is a towering and stunning falsehood, since Adam Smith would tell you to look (as he did) across 6000 years of brutal, grinding feudalism and see the force that destroyed flat-open-fair-creative competition in 99% of human cultures... inherited oligarchy and lordly-monied cheaters.  The testimony of 60 centuries shows this, despite the Neolibs desperate efforts to distract with hate-all-government ravings...


Oh but some top conservative idea-folks have taken this further, suggesting: Could the GOP be facing an intellectual exodus? Daniel Drezner asks, "Forty years ago, neoconservatives started migrating toward the Republican Party. Is a reverse migration possible?”  

Well… it depends on what you mean by “intellectuals.” Under the influence of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News and its relentlessly expressed hatred of science, medicine, teachers, journalists and almost every other clade of knowledge in American life, we’ve already seen almost total abandonment of the right by scientists and others who deal in facts.

Which leaves the airy realm of political theory and fact-free dogma incantation. There you can still find ‘intellects’ willing and eager to defend never-once-right and always-utterly-disproved doctrines like Supply Side Economics.  You’ll certainly see no defections from that quadrant. 

What about other elements of the right? Take the so-called “neocons” of the early 2000s, who concocted rationalizations for 'nation-building wars' in Iraq etc, based on the spells of Leo Strauss. (Noecons only overlap with neo-liberals; they aren't the same.) Where are the Nitzes, Perles, Adelmans and Wolfowitzes, nowadays?  Hunkering in faux-academes like AEI and Heritage, eking out a political dotage, abandoned and disdained even by the Bushite-Cheneyites they helped empower.

== coda ==

Okay, hold on for the stunning aftermath of this riff, which poses a question.  Who said this? 

"It is important to have a national notification system to help safely recover children kidnapped by child predators. But it is equally important to stop those predators before they strike, to put repeat child molesters into jail for the rest of their lives, and to help law enforcement with the tools they need to get the job done." 

Who? Former Speaker and GOP head Dennis Hastert said this after another Republican was caught molesting congressional pages. 

Hypocrisy R Us. His "Hastert Rule" wrecked negotiation in Congress, making it the laziest do-nothing legislature in US history. He made gerrymandering an art and elevated cheating to the norm. His Bush-Cheney era was the father of the Trump-Cruz era. Be proud.

Finally, see: Why Garbagemen Should Be Earning More Than Bankers: How more and more people are making money without contributing anything of value”… again on Evonomics.

35 comments:

Paul SB said...

Hi Dr. Brin,

It's been awhile. I've been contending with a government inspection, which, while very stressful for all parties, had the effect of driving some corrupt and/or incompetent administrators from my district. I am not one to eschew all government intervention, even if I, personally, have to bear the brunt of some of it. But that isn't what I wanted to ask about. I just thought I should explain why I've been off-blog for so long.

Anyway, you mentioned Pericles along with your usual Adam Smith, and I was wondering if there was a specific speech you were referring to. I haven't read Thukydides in ages, so it's just curiosity. I would't mind having an excuse to crack open my old copy of "The Peloponnesian War" again. Although the speeches are the really famous material, I thought his description of the brutal end of the Sicilian Campaign was much more memorable - and much more cinematographic. It would certainly make for high drama if anyone in Hollywood has a taste for classics.

David Brin said...

Welcome back Paul.
http://legacy.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/pericles-funeralspeech.asp

It is so interesting that Thucydides who opposed democracy nevertheless was honest enough to convey Pericles's words.

Deuxglass said...


Thucydides describing the decline of democracy in Athens has been set in my mind ever since I read The Peloponnesian War thirty-five years ago and has become true today.

“Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal supporter; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question incapacity to act on any. Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting a justifiable means of self-defense. The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected. To succeed in a plot was to have a shrewd head, to divine a plot a still shrewder; but to try to provide against having to do either was to break up your party and to be afraid of your adversaries. In short, to forestall an intending criminal, or to suggest the idea of a crime where it was lacking was equally commended, until even blood became a weaker tie than party, from the superior readiness of those united by the latter to dare everything without reserve; for such associations sought not the blessings derivable from established institutions but were formed by ambition to overthrow them; and the confidence of their members in each other rested less on any religious sanction than upon complicity in crime.”

Anonymous said...

The relevancy of Adam Smith and his local-scale model to modern feedlots and heavy industry and pave-the-planet DOTs is dubious at best; the family-owned small industry of Britain have little if nothing to do with the German/American model of IBMs and Volkswagen Aktiengesellschafts. Perhaps in the future, when the corporate hegemony collapses as is the common fate of such (and there is nothing particularly unique about this time around; check out the blinkered elites in their gated mansions, various ecological pressures on the biosphere, and the grimly out-sized resource consumption of in particular car-sitting Americans) then something like the British model may swing back to the fore.

Paul SB said...

"...and the confidence of their members in each other rested less on any religious sanction than upon complicity in crime.”

I can see the parallel. This sounds very much like the "strange bedfellows" we see in the religious right and the fiscal conservatives in the U.S. The former a bunch of arrogant, holier-than-thou fascists who think they have a mandate to strip everyone of their freedom in the name of superstition, the latter rapacious thieves who try to hide their crimes under the cloak of freedom.

I read over Pericles' funeral oration (I shouldn't have been surprised) and found some interesting words for our own times. Of course, words are always be interpreted by the reader/listener, so you can take them however you like. Thukydides saw the seeds of decline in Pericles' words, but only in hindsight.

"Further, we provide plenty of means for the mind to refresh itself from business. ..." Here's something worth pointing out, for those who think business is everything. Humans are not just "producing and consuming machines" as Heinlein put it. There is much more to being human than just grubbing for money, and it is deeply foolish to expect institutions like the government or our schools to be run by businessmen as if they were businesses. Budgets matter and have to be used carefully, but the mission of government is to see to the health of the nation, which means much more than just the wealth of the nation. The schools exist to provide the nation with educated citizens who have the ability to make wise decisions at the polls, not to produce cogs for the machines of industry.

"We throw open our city to the world, and never by alien acts exclude foreigners from any opportunity of learning or observing, although the eyes of an enemy may occasionally profit by our liberality; trusting less in system and policy than to the native spirit of our citizens; while in education, where our rivals from their very cradles by a painful discipline seek after manliness, at Athens we live exactly as we please, and yet are just as ready to encounter every legitimate danger."

What does it say about the character of our citizens who in a past century wanted the Chinese Exclusion Act and today want to build Das Mauer along our southern border?

"... wealth we employ more for use than for show..." Who needs a Mercedes? I once lived in a neighborhood where a family of three lived in a 40 bedroom chalet, and that was commonplace (Robert Heinlein lived in that same neighborhood for a number of years, though that was before my time.) Echoes of Thorstein Veblen.

"... and place the real disgrace of poverty not in owning to the fact but in declining the struggle against it..." Of course, there are some who don't make much effort, but those are the exception, not the rule. This attitude is an improvement over the old aristocratic notion that people are born lazy and deserve their poverty, but it misses the fact that most were simply born unlucky, without the social connections and the environment needed to succeed.

"... our ordinary citizens, though occupied with the pursuits of industry, are still fair judges of public matters; for, unlike any other nation, regarding him who takes no part in these duties not as unambitious but as useless..."

What percentage of our citizenry bothers to vote? I hear people bitch endlessly about politics, but if they can't be bothered to vote, their opinions aren't worth much, are they?

Conversation openers, at least.

Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin,

Thucydides was not against democracy but was disgusted by its degeneration. he did also say:

“a city is better off with bad laws, so long as they remain fixed, than with good laws that are constantly being altered, that lack of learning combined with sound common sense is more helpful than the kind of cleverness that gets out of hand, and that as a general rule states are better governed by the man in the street than by intellectuals.”

He is talking about how the intellectuals on both sides (read the Beltway) manipulated public opinion in their quest for power. To him it was a criminal misuse of intelligence.

Deuxglass said...

Paul SB,

In Athens, foreigners were free to do what they liked but they never had the right to vote even if they were born there. Also citizens were obliged to vote by law and they had officials who would go around and literally drag citizens to the assembly.


Thucydides had reason to be bitter because he had been exiled for losing a battle but he still remained objective in his analysis. He did point out that the Assembly when it came to military matters was subject to wide swings leading to very harmful outcomes such as after the victory of Battle of Arginusae where 6 of the best admirals were executed because they couldn't stop the battle to pick up sailors in the water. As a counterpoint, in WWII sailors from sunken ships were often left for days in the water slowly dying because the ships just couldn’t risk stopping to pick them up and no admiral was canned let alone executed for making a difficult decision that had to be made.

Deuxglass said...

We are an empire whether we like it of not and that brings contradictions between justice and pragmatism. Pericles addressed this quandary when he said to the Assembly after the decision to go to war with Sparta had been made. He was quite blunt and to the point.

"Then it is right and proper for you (the Athenian assembly) to support the imperial dignity of Athens. This is something in which you all take pride, and you cannot continue to enjoy the privileges unless you also shoulder the burdens of empire. And do not imagine that when we are fighting for is simply the question of freedom or slavery: there is also involved the loss of our empire and the dangers arising from the hatred which we have incurred in administering it. Nor is it longer possible for you to give up the empire, though there may be some people who in a mood of sudden panic and in a spirit of political apathy actually think that this would be a fine and noble thing to do. Your empire is now like a tyranny; it may have been wrong to take it; it is certainly dangerous to let it go. And the kind of people who talk about doing so and persuade others to adopt their point of view would very soon bring the state to ruin."

There are many similarities between Pericles' Athens and the United States today.

Anonymous Viking said...

@Paul SB,

Are you talking about the Broadmoor neighborhood in Colorado Springs?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Broadmoor

I had the opportunity to be introduced to the former Japanese American neighbor of RAH in Colorado Springs, and she claimed her late husband was the source of the name of "Comrade Clayton" from 'Moon is a harsh mistress'. Heinlein had asked for a good name for a Japanese, and the answer was Clayton!

https://books.google.com/books?id=HtuRSsAb2fEC&pg=PA155&lpg=PA155&dq=clayton+moon+is+harsh+mistress&source=bl&ots=qDvPwtDI7Z&sig=6dzZFQI03xCvmzG7hfDpBU3uXeQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiH0fb3trfMAhUGzWMKHdeFAZEQ6AEILTAD#v=onepage&q=clayton%20moon%20is%20harsh%20mistress&f=false

David Brin said...

Had Pericles lived he would not have allowed the tragedy of Arginusae, which led to so much following disaster.

Hence the irony. democracy has huge advantages in vigor and creativity. But it is also hard to do! Compared to oligarchy and autarchy, which we know how to do, naturally, but which are dismal at governance. Given how much trouble we have, it's not surprising that the Athenians lost it, after losing their papa figure. So ironic, that it sometimes takes a wise elder to say "calm down and govern yourselves."

e.g. Ben Franklin. Lincoln, FDR.

Paul SB said...

I like the idea of citizens being dragged off to the polls, or perhaps being fined for non-participation, though you have to wonder about the quality of the voter who has to be coerced into voting. As to allowing foreigners to vote, making a blanket exclusion seems counter-productive, especially to a nation of immigrants. It should be adequate for a foreign citizen to be naturalized and to show their livelihood to be integrated into their new nation of choice, which might require a certain number of years residence.

Anonymous Viking - yes, you nailed it. I lived for a year in a crumby apartment complex that was about two blocks from the local red-light district, but only a few blocks to the north were those empty mansions. By a fluke of zoning I spent my junior year going to the rather small public high school there (the really rich people sent their kids to private schools, but the district incorporated a semi-rich neighborhood full of bankers and engineers, plus my one little apartment complex, that fed the public school.

Funny story about Comrade Clayton!

Local legend has it that there wasn't a married woman in that neighborhood who he did not make a play for, and he left to avoid a slew of jealous husbands.

Athenian democracy was one of the first democracies in history (would that be a beta democracy?), so it should come as no surprise that it didn't get too far and made lots of mistakes. Unfortunately, I don't see any equivalent of Pericles, or Franklin, Lincoln & FDR in the field right now. Even those who have the right intentions just don't have the charisma to break the snake-charm of hate memes that have ruled this place for decades.

Quintopia said...

"Well, the simplest and most-feared scenarios depict coolly determined and cunning robotic beings conspiring to treat us the same way that human overlords treated peasants... or worse, the way they treated sheep."

I'm not quite sure why you interrupted your argument to knock down what you admit is a straw man. Obviously, those contrarians worried about AI-influenced x-risk don't take this "simplest" scenario seriously nor fear it the most, and have legitimate reason to fear superintelligences whether or not they are affected by superintelligent competition. I personally would be relieved if we ended up as sheep to superintelligent posthumanity. Sure beats ending up like, say, any number of species driven extinct by humans competing to develop and log the rainforest--humans who never even knew those species existed...and even that isn't the most likely scenario.

David Brin said...

Quintopia, I don't see it as a strawman. Your own fear fits right into the spectrum I described. All the movie fears from Matrix to Terminator do.

Paul SB said...

I just thought it was another example of "Brinnian Motion."

Paul SB said...

I owe you another quarter, don't I?

Friv4 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jumper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LarryHart said...

Deuxglass:

In Athens, foreigners were free to do what they liked but they never had the right to vote even if they were born there.


Birthright citizenship in the US seems to have been adopted because there was no other criteria to go on. It's not a thing I'd expect to show up in all times and places. I would not expect, for example, that anyone born in Japan is a Japanese citizen. The United States was established as something different, with citizenship not based upon bloodlines, but upon participation in self-governance.

Strangely enough, the move among Trump supporters and such to eliminate birthright citizenship might backfire. If a birth certificate doesn't prove one to be a US citizen, then what does? Eventually, it will become a matter of having established residency in the US, and there will literally be no difference between immigrants and natural born citizens, and everyone living here will have to be considered a citizen. Again, what else is there?

locumranch said...



Identified by Alfred's end-of-last-thread education query and David's current desire "to maintain a vigorous, positive sum society," the heart-of-the-matter is one of Implicit Circularity, the requirement that any viable biological, genetic, bureaucratic and organisational system be capable of ongoing Replication & Self-Preservation:

Circularity is the Prime Directive; System Survival remains paramount; Systems that do not self-perpetuate do not survive; and, all other System purposes, goals & intents become SECONDARY (and, are easily dispensed with) when said survival is threatened.

Sadly, this is why the sole purpose of resource-intensive education is education-based resource acquisition, this is why System Perfection can be 'idealised' but never achieved, and why all Systems -- howsoever noble, inclusive, enlightened, partial & FAIR their stated purposes appear at onset -- fall-in upon themselves because to deny the historical circularity of this Prime Directive is to become complicit with it.

To this end, those who idealise any System do themselves a grave disservice & commit all manner of ILLOGIC by doing so, by designating some things as their opposite (Weakness as Strength, Collectivism as Competition, Equality as Bias & Fairness as Favoritism) in a fairly futile attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable, as some choose to to repeat the 'Fair-Equal-Open Competition' mantra over & over as if such magic can resolve contradiction.

If 'Open' assumes Restriction, 'Fair' assumes Pre-Selection, 'Equal' assumes Handicapping & 'Competition' assumes Cooperation (as "essential partners", even) rather than Contestation, then how is a 'Fair-Equal-Open Competition' of uncertain outcome even possible? It isn't.

And, what happens when any predator, parasite, participant or system gets too strong, successful, vigorous & ceases to honour the Prime Directive of its individual constituents? The System collapses & falls in upon itself -- as does the ecology that supports it -- until a New System achieves equilibrium, built by the Survivors upon the ashes of the Old.


Best
_____

See how such illogic self-perpetuates: As the EU has done, Larry_H attempts to redefine a Resident as a Citizen, Non-Citizen as a Non-Resident and a Nation as an Entity without Enforceable Borders, even though there can be neither Resident nor Citizen without Borders & Nations, as there can be no US (ingroup) without an opposite THEM (outgroup).

LarryHart said...

@locumranch:

What I said was, that if you remove the defining characteristics of what qualifies someone as a citizen, then you'll be left with no way to distinguish citizen from non-citizen except by the expedient of "who is here".

By turning that around as if I'm advocating for unqualified citizenship, you do exactly what you accuse everyone else of doing, playing fast and loose with language. Which I realize is a feature, not a bug, of your form of argument.

Paul451 said...


Oh joy, he's Capitalising again, reiteratively, once more.

Paul SB,
"I like the idea of citizens being dragged off to the polls, or perhaps being fined for non-participation, though you have to wonder about the quality of the voter who has to be coerced into voting."

In Australia, the fine for not voting is $20 for the first time, $50 each subsequent time. And it's apparently easy to get out of because the exemptions are pretty broad (although I've never tried.)

This is something that US states should experiment with. A small $5-10 fine for not voting (or a $5-10 payment for those who do vote, whichever is least constitutionally iffy). However, to be fair, you'd need to ensure you had a "I turned up but chose not to vote" option to also avoid the fine. Ie, compulsory attendance, not compulsory voting.

Combined with open primaries, you'd eliminate a lot of the extremes in the US system. Add a public holiday on "Voting Day" and you're golden.

"As to allowing foreigners to vote, making a blanket exclusion seems counter-productive, especially to a nation of immigrants."

Even for Athens. When they conquered neighbouring regions, they didn't expand citizenship, not even at the local administrative level in those regions; so from the point of view of everyone outside the city, Athens was just another occupying kingdom demanding tribute/taxes.

IMO, the Athenian Republic would have survived much longer if they'd had a regional equivalent of modern immigrant-citizenship rules. (**) Given how Athenian citizens valued their democracy, almost worshipped it, and were terrified and paranoid about the return of the oligarchy (which is why they never evolved to representative democracy, independent courts, etc), it was madness that they didn't export it to their subject territories.

Many European countries have the same flaw. Creating two-tier citizenship, for even the children of migrants born in that country. How do you expect to engender loyalty when you don't show loyalty?

** [Ie, not just applying to the individuals, but having a path to "citizenship" for regions themselves. An Athenian ruled region would go through a series of qualifications over time. For eg, after say 5 years of occupation, they get more local autonomy: voting on internal legal matters, as well as voting for minor public officials. If the region is stable for another 5 years, they can vote on more senior officials, perhaps electing advisors for the Athens-appointed governor. At that point, individuals would start to be able to apply for full Athenian citizenship, and children of that region would be born as Athenian citizens. (Well, male free-born children. This was Athens, after all.) After a generation, they'd be voting for their own governor. And after another generation, the region would be a direct part of the greater Republic, legally indistinguishable from Athens itself.

By voting first for an advisory council for the appointed governor, and then for the regional governor himself, the regions would start with a form of representative democracy before moving on to Athenian-style direct democracy. They may, therefore, be more stable than Athens-proper. And hence the representative system might get proven enough to be introduced in Athens - reducing the instability and excesses of the direct system. The regions would thus allow Athens to safely experiment with other forms of democracy and government, without risking the city itself before they feel confident in the change.]

locumranch said...



The so-called crime I accused Larry_H of was that of redefinition -- specifically for playing fast & loose with the legal definition of the term 'citizen' -- not for 'advocating for unqualified citizenship'.

As his relativistic redefinitions imply but fail to say, legal qualifications regarding 'citizenship' may be abridged & subject to change by "due process of law", according to the 14th Amendment, rendering the "who is here" question immaterial and indicating that the award or revocation of citizenship may occur through due legal process & fiat.

Perhaps Heinlein had the right idea: Public Service guarantees Citizenship.


Best

Jumper said...

Very logic-y. That is, like cargo cults, a sort of simulacrum of logic that looks as if it might be sensible - but isn't.

Sort of like William Buckley.

I say "no" to enforced voting. Why force the uninterested and ill informed to participate? What can be gained?

Anonymous said...

>Fox News and its relentlessly expressed hatred of science, medicine, teachers, journalists and almost every other clade of knowledge in American life

This is why I love your work, but hate reading your blog.
Instead of blanket condemnations, how about a specific instance?
I'll go out on a limb and assume you'll say, "man-made climate change". But you ignore the equally massive mountain of evidence against it. And the Fox anchors and guests solidly on your side.
Your brand of name-calling is antithetical to your premise of 'cooperation and competition'.
-bravokilo

Earl Tower said...

What always botheres me about more liberal minded politicians and academia is they often sound like they are inspired by the worst verisions of Marxis ideals ever done. On the other side of the coin the more 'right winged' politicians and academia seem to mistake free market competition with law of the jungle level conflict. More people should read "Wealth of Nations", then take the time to read Adam Smith's greatest works that underpins all his others, "Theory of Moral Sentiment".

Anonymous said...

David, Have you seen this?

https://news.stanford.edu/2016/04/25/stanford-archaeologist-traces-origins-authority-andes-peru/

Robert said...

I was considering the whole mandatory voting and voting payment things and was trying to figure out how to make it work best.

One idea that comes to mind is a tax rebate for those who vote. The problem is, this is yet another piece of paperwork that needs to be filled out, and let's face it: our citizens already have enough tax paperwork to wade through.

However, there is another solution: corporate tax breaks. Specifically? You allow retail companies to offer a $20 coupon for use in various products in their store. The coupon would need to be such that you can use the entire coupon on a purchase without having to spend X amount (thus no "you spend $50 and get $20 extra off" shenanigans). The companies then are the ones who track the coupons and those returned are the ones used for the retailer's tax break.

Retailers would also not be allowed to require people to vote for X policy or candidate in these situations. The coupons would be stamped as they are given to voters.

Finally: Ballots need an Opt Out feature. Thus you are mandated to show up and get a ballot. But for paper ballots, at the very top of the ballot would be a box that when checked, and stamped, with a phone number or address included, would allow the voter to state "I am not voting for any candidates here" (they still get the coupon, naturally enough). Electronic Ballots would likely just require the voter's phone number or address for the Opt Out.

The phone number and address is for security. If other parts of the ballot are checked off, then the voter is contacted after the ballot to ensure a third party did not try to use that ballot to vote for their favored candidate, while any ballot with the box checked off but lacking the phone number or address would still be counted for any candidates checked below so to prevent the ballot from being invalidated.

Mind you, the "complexity" below is to prevent people from being bullied or shamed for not voting. Everyone brings up a ballot (or goes into the electronic voting booth).

Thus there is a "reward" for voting that even non-voters are allowed. The tracking mechanism is through retailers with their rebates dependent on the number of coupons returned after the election. And you don't directly penalize people for not voting... and even give a mechanism by which someone can protest the vote by stating "I am not voting" while still ensuring the validity of that choice (by making it hard to falsify a vote using the non-voter).

Please, point out the flaws of this idea and offer your own suggestions. Let's see what we can do to make this work.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

The best suggestion I've seen is that your receipt for voting gives you half a day off work with pay. A paid holiday.

Anonymous, you give yourself away with your "mountain of evidence against" Climate Change. We have long passed the point where that kind of statement says anything other than "I am a cultists." The raving nuremberg rally has shifted goalposts from "glaciers are advancing!" to " It's all solar cycles!" to "Human CO2 could never have an effect!" all the way to today's "So What? I LIKE it warmer!"

Ocean Acidification is never countered with concocted bullshit because there is no conceivable other cause than human generated CO2. And hence you folks point offstage and shout "squirrel!" Watch. You'll do that again, this time.

The "opposition" folks "interviewed" on Fox are never first raters. They are always -- always -- either actor shills who set up softballs for O'Reilly to smash or else dopes who are chosen because they are bad at television. Try paying attention to PROCESS instead of wallowing in the desired emotional feedback loop.

I have no need to bandy and trade anecdotes with an anonymous coward. I know folks who have successfully modeled climate on SIX PLANETS. And others who transformed the old 4 hour "weather report" into a 14 day miracle. They are vastly vastly vastly smarter than you. All of them -- 100% -- are deeply worried.

No wonder you hate reading my blog. Reality bites the dogmatic.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

The so-called crime I accused Larry_H of was that of redefinition -- specifically for playing fast & loose with the legal definition of the term 'citizen' -- not for 'advocating for unqualified citizenship'.

As his relativistic redefinitions imply but fail to say, legal qualifications regarding 'citizenship' may be abridged & subject to change by "due process of law", according to the 14th Amendment, rendering the "who is here" question immaterial and indicating that the award or revocation of citizenship may occur through due legal process & fiat.


But can they be changed retroactively? At the very least a birth certificate dated prior to the date of change should establish citizenship.

The vibe I get off those who want to revoke birthright citizenship is that you'd have to prove that both parents (or maybe one parent) are citizens. But how do you do that if their birth certificates are also insufficient evidence? It's pretty much turtles all the way down.


Perhaps Heinlein had the right idea: Public Service guarantees Citizenship


Y'know, I'd probably agree with that more than not.

But it pretty much does away with the concept of a "natural born citizen". So we'd have to constitutionally redefine who is eligible to be president.

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

This is something that US states should experiment with. A small $5-10 fine for not voting (or a $5-10 payment for those who do vote, whichever is least constitutionally iffy). However, to be fair, you'd need to ensure you had a "I turned up but chose not to vote" option to also avoid the fine. Ie, compulsory attendance, not compulsory voting.


You'd also have to do away with all Republican voter-suppression laws at the same time. Whatever flags you as eligible for the fine automatically also proves you have the right to vote. Otherwise, Wisconsin, Texas, et all would just be adding insult to injury. "We won't let you vote. Now, you owe money too!"

Also, there'd need to be a "I showed up to vote, but the line was five hours long" contingency as well.

Point being, there's no point having dynamic tension between efforts to require people to vote and efforts to prevent them from doing so. Unless we want to live in an Oscar Wilde witticism.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "Quintopia, I don't see it as a strawman. Your own fear fits right into the spectrum I described. All the movie fears from Matrix to Terminator do."

Neither the Matrix nor Terminator portray the machines as callous aristocrats: Skynet destroyed modern civilization after its human overlords tried to shut it down, while the Machines tried to peacefully coexist with Humans only to end up on the receiving end of a genocidal campaign after they demanded the city state they had deliberately built in a desert away from human population hubs petitioned for UN membership. In both case, Humanity shot first, and while it can be argued that the AI(s) over-reacted, their behavior stemmed from self-preservation, not a desire for conquest or subjugation.

Also (rant-time) I had already said it earlier, but I'll repeat it: If anything, the Wachowski sisters should have put what the animatrix side stories implied -that is, Humanity's suicidal decision to block sunlight had damaged the biosphere to the point that Earth couldn't sustain a large civilization of squishy sentient organics and putting the surviving Humans in the Matrix was the only way to stave off their final extinction: if instead of its pseudo-philosophico-mathematical babble the Architect had simply said "We never needed to use your body heat as energy or brains as auxiliary CPUs: we built the Matrix only to preserve your species and give you another chance to share the world with us once the sun came back" it would have turned the whole "plucky human rebels from Zion fighting the good fight against their tyrannical synthetic overlords" on its head, and cemented the series position in the pantheon of filmed sci-fi instead of merely be "that movie with cool CGIs and increasingly mediocre sequels")

***

* "If a birth certificate doesn't prove one to be a US citizen, then what does?"

Past absolutist regime already answered that question: what "proves" citizenship in such states are ad hoc bureaucracies tasked with deciding who's a "pure-blooded" citizen, replete with corrupt bureaucrats delivering certificates on whims and bribes.

***

* "IMO, the Athenian Republic would have survived much longer if they'd had a regional equivalent of modern immigrant-citizenship rules."

Kinda like Rome expanding its Jus civitatis, undoubtedly one of the main reasons it lasted much longer, expanded much farther, and weighted much more than Athens in history.

***

* "How do you expect to engender loyalty when you don't show loyalty?"

The goal of the advocate of two-tiered system is not to inspire the newcomers loyalty, but to ensure their continuous fearful obedience and craven acceptance of their position at the bottom of the food chain.

***

* "Perhaps Heinlein had the right idea: Public Service guarantees Citizenship"

In such a system, how long would it take before the Power That Be forbade under specious excuses access to public service to "undesirable" denizens. "You son of downtrodden parents want to serve two years as a paramedic to gain the right to vote? Unfortunately according the paragraph 3, section 4b of the Efficient Public Service Act of 2049, you are not eligible for working for this public service."

LarryHart said...

Laurent Weppe:

* "IMO, the Athenian Republic would have survived much longer if they'd had a regional equivalent of modern immigrant-citizenship rules."

Kinda like Rome expanding its Jus civitatis, undoubtedly one of the main reasons it lasted much longer, expanded much farther, and weighted much more than Athens in history.


This is just my idealistic side speaking, but I always thought the American ideal was that the rights in the Declaration of Independence ideally were universal rights. The fact that those rights only apply within US territory is a practical limitation only.

If the neocons had their way, and the entire world became US territory, then all people everywhere should be recognized as having the rights provided by the US Constitution, and everyone would be a natural born citizen. Anyone asserting that the US should control vast areas of land on which US law does not apply is advocating empire, not democracy.

David Brin said...

Laurent, I recall no moments when the Skynet or Teminator or Matrix rationales were laid down as you describe, was it in a spinoff novel? In Terminator 3 SKynet makes no effort to make contact or negotiate but just starts shooting.

LarryHart there was a brief time when Americans (some) were radical about exporting revolution. But they were turned off by a fellow named Citizen Genet.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch: You were making the case for the pursuit of resource-intensive education having as its sole purpose the acquisition of education-based resources. I asked what you would possibly accept as evidence AGAINST that notion so I could understand the limits of your belief. Evidence that might conflict with belief might not exist, but if it can be imagined then the belief need not be a faith.

What you offered instead was the concern you have with this apparent truth. Replication and Self-Preservation of systems ARE rather important if they are going to be of long term use to us since we are such a system ourselves. That you fear this is NOT true of our education system while acquisition of education based resources is the paramount purpose is clear. It doesn’t answer my question, though. If you want to take another crack at it, I’m still interested.

As for the system being in danger of being unable to replicate, I suspect you are missing an important point. Instead of acquisition being the primary purpose, try a new one on for size and see if it fits better. The people involved in the acquisition aren’t locked in a destructive feedback loop. They are locked in the historical loop where humans signal sexual fitness to each other. It’s not about the educational resources. What we are acquiring is attention from potential mates. Did my pursuit of a graduate education help me in this regard? Ahem. Yes. Did I plan this consciously? Ahem. No. Could I have competed well against other males near me using a different strategy? Ahem. Not likely. My brother got those genes. Without any conscious intent, I pursued the path that was open to me.

Consider the possibility that many of us who pursued higher educations were doing something similar. We might not admit it openly, but is that really necessary? If it is true, your concerns about a system not reproducing are misplaced. There are many guys like me who would perpetuate it. I argue we already are.

David Brin said...

Keep talking here if you like.

But onward

onward