Thursday, June 23, 2016

Even Modernists Can Get Stuck: Why we must keep revising even good ideas. (Plus some other cool stuff.)

Might things get better? Can you be an agent of that transformation? 

Peter Diamandis is the founder of XPRIZE, Singularity University, and many other fascinating initiatives. He formulated his provocative 'laws,' about how to be vigorous, pro-active and make the world around you change. They are now available as a handy poster.

Looking to the future.... on Quora I was asked whether the next century will be as transforming as the last one was.

Of course there is a strong possibility of a “singularity” — a tech driven leap that either replaces humankind or exalts us to a profoundly different level. In fact, I would give that 50% odds of happening … along with another 25% chance that we’ll blow it, bigtime, and either destroy ourselves or topple back into ultra-conservative feudalism - the normal condition of our ancestors, going back at least 6000 years. 

Which leaves 25% in which we move ahead - maybe a lot - but remain the kind of future folk seen in most sci fi. Still lovin’ and fightin’ and being dumb and having great escapades in space and battling dystopic villains and so on. The grist of almost all our sci fi flicks n' novels.

Looking back, it is tempting to suppose the last 100 years - while hugely transforming compared to what came before - was only prelude to more of the same -- flashier and with techie toys, but propelled by identical moral flaws. 

And yet it is in the moral realm that I see the most progress! As I pointed out back in 2000, discussing the Clarke-Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey, we are ethically so, so different  from even the 1960s that it's almost like a different species. 

Consider. Exactly a century ago Woodrow Wilson was seen as the moral guiding light of the planet, speaking up for international order, for a breakup of colonial-imperial oppression and self-determination for all peoples. 

Now? From our later perspective, Wilson comes across as a racist-segregationist pig, because “all-peoples” in his mind meant all white folks… and Japanese. Oh, and he said European powers should surrender their "concessions" and leave China alone. But Africa? India? The segregated U.S. South? He shared many of the prejudices of his upbringing. So, are Princeton University students right to demand his name be taken off buildings and institutes, because he was only a whole lot better than his time? 

Are slave-owners Jefferson and Washington to be spurned, because the half-hypocritical and half-wondrous advances that they led reveal them lacking by our modern standards? Just remember that their (to our eyes) hyprocrisy only became revealed as we pushed those new standards to yet-higher levels, by standing on their shoulders. It calls to mind a line by François de La Rochefoucauld:  

          Hypocrisy is the homage which vice pays to virtue.

Oh, sure, it's not an easy maxim to understand, at first. But well-worth the effort when you finally go "aha, I get it," because the aphorism helps to explain why it's all right for us move ahead, as a society and as a species, in incremental steps. Indeed, incrementalism may be frustrating -- and an easy target for sanctimonious purists -- and yet it is how standards themselves keep rising as we keep ratcheting outward our horizons of tolerance and inclusion. So long as it remains incessant and propelled by men and women of conscience, incrementalism is not to be despised.

In that 2001 essay, I show how we have come at least as far, ethically, as technologically, with the Star Trek Prime Directive and Gandhi and King pointing us in the direction of ever-greater responsibility. Even when we flagellate ourselves for our moral faults…and we still have many(!) … that reflex of self-criticism is itself huge progress. And those who completely lack that reflex (we see some in politics today) should never be trusted with power.

Just as we should forgive Wilson, since he tried to be better than his times, we should also be willing to notice how far we have come. And how much closer we are - despite a myriad remaining faults - to being worthy of the stars.

== How a dumb theory can make us brittle ==

After suffering too many such disasters in recent years, the people of Japan and Ecuador are digging out from yet another pair of devastating earthquakes.  I’ll be donating blood soon. 

Nevertheless, it seems apropos to mention that recent disasters have caused Japanese thinkers to re-examine their 40 year love affair with a management theory that originated with American quality guru W. Edwards Deming. His teachings about perfecting product quality were vital and American manufacturers only embraced the lessons after getting the snot kicked out of them by superior Japanese products in the 1980s. 
Still, a Deming doctrine called the “just-in-time” supply chain has proved to have… faults.  In wake of each of the recent Japan quakes, Just-in-time collapsed! On this occasion — “Toyota Motor Corp said it would suspend production at plants across Japan after the quakes disrupted its supply chain.”

As it happens, running a manufacturing company based on just-in-time delivery of parts and components and resources is a lot like being a swimsuit model. Eating just enough to stay healthy and absolutely nothing more, a swimsuit model will probably not do well if stuck on a life raft or stranded in the desert, or simply on the street with morals but no cash. And certainly not in a post-quake-apocalypse. 

In fact, I've added just-in-time efficiency to my list of dire brittleness perils that I tell to members of the governmental protector caste, whenever I travel east to offer sf'nal finger-wags and warnings. At minimum we should not, by policy, reward such anti-resilience practices. Simple tweaks in tax-law  could instead incentivize parts stockpiling, rather than punish it, adding to our society's ability to stay robust in coming (and they will come) emergencies.

== Where liberalism and libertarianism overlap ==

It has been long assumed that you best help the world’s poor with closely supervised and targeted programs that – for example – teach skills or build infrastructure.  And indeed, nothing would help the US economy more right now than the high-velocity  stimulation of passing the much needed Infrastructure Bill, so long delayed by the Republican Congress.

Still, we should be trying a range of approaches. For example, recent experiments have – to great surprise – suggested that poor families and villages do best when simply given a reliable stream of raw cash, to spend as they wish. 

“Experimental tests show that the poor don’t stop trying when they are given money, and they don’t get drunk. Instead, they make productive use of the funds, feeding their families, sending their children to school, and investing in businesses and their own futures. Even a short-term infusion of capital has been shown to significantly improve long-term living standards, improve psychological well-being, and even add one year of life," writes Michael Faye in Slate. 

This is somewhat consistent with the Peruvian experiments of Hernando de Soto Polar, which were loved by both leftists and libertarians, strenuously working to vest poor farmers with the paperwork documenting their ownership of land that was already theirs.  Only with papers, they could then borrow and improve and become more productive.

The followup experiment by GiveDirectly aims to provide at least 6,000 of the poorest Kenyans with a basic income for 10 to 15 years, and rigorously analyze the impact. You can donate directly to provide a basic income on the GiveDirectly site.

== Miscellaneous Interesting things ==
What are the chances? A fascinating fact of life that gives us all chills is the amazing moments when coincidences beggar our sense of likelihood and make us imagine hidden causality, even conspiracy.  A look by mathematician Joseph Mazur the author of Fluke: The Math and Myth of Coincidence.

An inspiring story about one school district that changed from chronic absenteeism to vigorous parent involvement and almost perfect attendance.

And so it begins… Resettling the first American‘Climate Refugees.’ The first allocation of federal tax dollars to relocate an entire community – the Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana.

The opposite of uplift?  This man “downlifts” himself to move like and mingle with goats. Thomas Thwaites (of The Toaster Project: a Heroic Attempt to Build a Simple Appliance from Scratch) developed a goat prosthesis that allowed him to walk and graze on four legs, an adventure he summarizes in GoatMan: How I Took a Holiday from Being Human.  Really? While I approve of a vivid society that lets people strive for some eccentric accomplishment, I am somewhat more impressed with the blacksmiths and potters and swordmakers and rodeo cow-sorting champs (there’s one named “David Brin”- see below) and amateur scientists and school volunteers and Habitat for Humanity workers… But okay, this guy has his niche. He’s doing a thing.

Sudden oak death: This fungal pathogen has killed a million trees in California, leaving a fire hazard for the dry season to come. And that's nothing next to THIRTY million California pines killed by invasive bark beetles after being weakened by climate change. The fires will be huge. And some of you are complicit.

When inequality is visible... Flights with a first class section were nearly four times more likely to suffer incidents of 'air rage.' Is it because those in coach are unconsciously pissed off to see people get legroom and human treatment?  Folks, the thing to be angry about is the rise of private and corporate and charter jets for the rich, subsidized by taxpayers!  We should mob those terminals (where they board without TSA agony) and drive our lords bac into First Class, where they belong!  Once they share our airport experience, that expience will change.

Who's looking to the future? A list of sixty futurists on Twitter -- from Kevin Kelly to Jamais Cascio, Elon Musk, and more. 

Cynical-funny snarkers rejoice! Wow, the guys who resurrected CRACKED magazine and turned it into a kinda-cool satire site just got $39 million for it. Scripps Media’s buy-in follows the purchase of a 40% stake in satire company The Onion Inc. by Spanish-language media owner Univision Communications. 

Okay, back to that other, studlier side of "David Brin." Betcha didn’t know I was this talented, or had this much fun in my side-hobby! “Wayne Frederickson & David Brin Sorting 6 Cows Time 59.88 sec Arena Wittmann Az.”


Anonymous said...

I would recommend adding virtually everything written by Nassim Nicholas Talib to this conversation. "Fooled by Randomness" was a work of pure genius that reminded me in many ways, surprisingly, of Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching.


Ronald Pottol said...

As to Cracked, the magazine was killed by the anthrax attack on that tabloid magazine. I don't know that they bought more than the trademarks. That are getting into real journalism, they just published a series of articles that came from sending a senior editor to Kurdistan. They have regular articles that have a subtext of how to stop screwing yourself and break out of poverty(with dick jokes).

Ronald Pottol said...

As to Cracked, the magazine was killed by the anthrax attack on that tabloid magazine. I don't know that they bought more than the trademarks. That are getting into real journalism, they just published a series of articles that came from sending a senior editor to Kurdistan. They have regular articles that have a subtext of how to stop screwing yourself and break out of poverty(with dick jokes).

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan: (From previous thread)

The basket of necessities idea shows up in a few places. For an overall inflation rate, it should be used. For purchasing power parity, it should be used. It's a good idea until you need to focus on a particular commodity or service, so we should be using all of the above.

I tend to look past inflation, though, because that is a measure of the exchange rate change with regards to the real stuff that matters to us. I can't eat money, so the exchange basket idea gets used along with a trick for making ratios that divides out the exchange medium. The price of bread or the whole basket isn't measured in dollars this way. It is measured in terms of time we average people who work for a living devote to purchasing it.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "Folks, the thing to be angry about is the rise of private and corporate and charter jets for the rich, subsidized by taxpayers!  We should mob those terminals (where they board without TSA agony)"

- There's been another terrorist attack at an airport!
- Daesh again?
- No: the people who did it are calling themselves "The Army of the Twelve Uplifted Monkey"
- Sounds like some environmentalist pagan shit if you ask me.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion: Securitization of loans reduced the risk faced by lenders, so with cheaper money, house prices should increase. That's how I remember it happening. Once one looks inside the basket, though, things get complicated by these interdependencies. Real house prices might not have dropped as part of the enrichment, but something else did.

As for what counts as basic, the root of it all is what you can buy on $3/day like most of humanity lived for most of our history. It isn't much, but it isn't nothing. Some of the homeless make do with little more than that. What we THINK is basic escalates as we grow accustomed to our life styles, but I like to point out to people the difference between rich and rich relative to the community.

As for distributing our enrichment, I'm inclined to leave well enough alone until I see people put together a large enough consensus to coerce 'cheaters' in an extra-legal manner. I'd rather they didn't make a mockery of the Rule of Law, so I'll support legislation to make that particular form of cheating punishable within the law. That DOES leave the situation where the rich can get disgustingly rich, but I'm of a mind to let them until they do something that is actually immoral. Becoming filthy rich isn't one of those things. 8)

Robert said...

That's one thing I can't comprehend about some Libertarians who insist on returning to the Gold Standard. The general belief for Libertarians is that you can do what you want so long as you don't hurt others. But if you use a gold standard, that means there is a limited amount of money in the world.

So then, is not the very act of becoming rich an act of harming others? The Gold Standard is essentially a Zero Sum System. So each millionaire that is created ends up reducing the amount of money available for other people. This means millionaires hurt hundreds of millions of other people by preventing them from having money for basic commodities.

Though let's be honest. Randian Libertarians don't believe in the "harm none" doctrine, or at the very least don't think things through. Hell, every time I point out how a big enough company can become a monopoly through economies of scale and scope to squash any future competitor they block their ears and eyes and say "it can't happen, I'm not listening."

Rob H.

donzelion said...

@RobH (and should I move this back to the previous post as well? hmmm...etiquette...) -

As I see it, the main problem of labor unions isn't the voting structure or specific policies or political activities, so much as their own ability to 'internationalize' for real: they've stayed basically isolationist in form, and have minimal inter-office oversight (precisely as management wants it: if the labor unions monitored what happened elsewhere, they'd tip off the shareholders and others to the shenanigans they pull to enrich themselves at the company's and worker's expense).

On online platform could help - but these folks are already chatting with their colleagues. What they're not doing is bonding with them in tandem, which empowers management to pit workers in one country against another. They should insist on that, and fight for it (and of course, how many union members want to leave his home to work overseas in a new context? pretty close to none...).

Your little scenario with multiple factories falls apart if you consider different factories are for different industries.
Well, it works for everything other than resource extraction/agriculture/education/medical. Certainly, when the resources come from fixed real estate, you can't just pick up and move when you please (although mining firms come close). However, these sectors have very sophisticated games in place to control who earns how much and how - and we respond to abuses by amending the rules (and then they respond in turn - if we ban usury and sharecropping, and set a minimum wage, and farmers respond with hiring illegal migrants and avoiding the minimum wage, etc.).

For most industries, the scenario is accurate. And it applies to both public and private companies of a certain size. Yes, a company might cherry pick the best employees from a newly departed factory - but only if they anticipate profits that will increase as a result of the expansion: but once managers realize that they'll get a performance bonus of 25%, or a potential new enterprise as a side-investment worth 300%, you can imagine where their loyalties will go.

"Contracting Out is not always the most financially viable option"
Absolutely correct. But one of the reasons it's so widely preferred has to do with the nature of the firm itself (good ole Coase) - you do it if the transaction costs are low enough, OR even better, if those transaction costs will be borne by someone else.

Bear in mind that for most managers, their "side investment" may well prove to be their own house, which will be affected by all these fluctuations. If they know of imminent layoffs, taking a position against local property markets can line them up to buy low. If their gambles aren't sufficiently profitable, they have other means to make them so.

donzelion said...

@Alfred - securitization spreads the risk, shifting some from lenders to investors, but as you say, the actual effect is complex. In practice, prices SHOULD increase, but credit availability SHOULD also increase by the same amount - resulting in an equilibrium. What actually happened was that credit availability became concentrated in a few hands, based on preexisting assets or high wage jobs.

"As for what counts as basic...What we THINK is basic escalates as we grow accustomed to our life styles, but I like to point out to people the difference between rich and rich relative to the community."
I think we're in general agreement, so long as the point that certain parts of our lifestyle that we value highly don't figure into one calculation, but if a shift occurs, retaining that valued thing may be deemed a 'need' rather than a 'want' even if fulfilling the need requires expenses that previously would not have been borne (E.g., flying off to visit grandpa, or paying for his heart surgery.)

"I'd rather they didn't make a mockery of the Rule of Law, so I'll support legislation to make that particular form of cheating punishable within the law."
Very Rooseveltian of ya. ;-) I have no problem with the rich getting richer - so long as when they do so, they don't do it by shifting costs onto others.

donzelion said...

@Rob H - re gold standard, strong concurrence.

There's definitely a tension among the gold bugs for the precise reasons you indicate. I suspect the non-Randian Libertarians who are gold bugs would assert that "increasing productivity" will adjust for this: a fixed limit on the quantity of money, an increase in the value of what you obtained with that money. Ultimately, the effect would be severely deflationary.

"Every time I point out how a big enough company can become a monopoly through economies of scale and scope to squash any future competitor they block their ears and eyes and say "it can't happen, I'm not listening."
I see them as having suckled at the teat of the poisonous "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" gospel (along with a melange of other nasty, stupid conventions).

Alfred Differ said...

Returning to a gold standard would be insane today, but the gold bugs have a point regarding the power of control over a currency. When the supply of the standard is fixed, it is difficult for a centralized power to create more money without being impacted by the dilution. The issue for some libertarians is really about the power of our central governments to inflate a currency to devalue their debts. It is a form of cheating that we would all use if we could, and then get slapped by currency exchanges who priced in the devaluations. If the US decided tomorrow to double the number of dollars in existence, prices would probably inflate to a close match, but debt obligations would not unless the debt contracts are inflation indexed.

Some of the gold bugs think they can control this power of government by enforcing a standard. I don’t think it will work, though. I think the better option is to take advantage of our digital world and enable people (or groups of them) to print their own currencies that are openly exchanged and legal currency for the payment of taxes and fees to the government. In other words, I’d break the US government’s monopoly on the issuance of currency, but not prevent it from printing money.

Strange as this sounds to some people, we already do this on a small scale today. If I borrow $10 at lunch from someone who pays the tab for me, I’ve created money in the form of that IOU. It vanishes from the market the moment I pay it off. It can even be traded between people who know me. If I’m less than trustworthy, it might trade at a discount. 8)

Trump’s position regarding gold is to be taken as an attempt to prevent the bleeding he is suffering among those who are shifting to Gary Johnson. It is a piss-poor attempt to appeal to us, though. Ask your local gold bug what he thinks about serial bankruptcies. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@Rob H: A possible solution is for towns to create conditions in their enticements to new businesses. Like minimal or even no property taxes! Conditional on the business remaining in the area. The moment it chooses to leave? It is hit with back taxes because it's pulling out. And have that in writing as a contract.

Why not just lower the taxes for everyone and focus social capital upon what draws entrepreneurs to your area? This is a charter city concept where the city itself is a kind of corporation. I’m not a big fan of this concept for large cities, but I think it might work for small ones.

The beef I have with your idea is that you are acting as if the city owns the territory and has a right to charge rent. If you want to run your own city that way be my guest, but I’ll probably want to avoid living there.

Robert said...

Is that not basically the case in Hawaii? And it also is essentially what property tax is about.

Anti-tax folk are against it because they feel it's not right for government to charge people for services they don't want. Of course, I also remember the first issue of "Punisher 2099" in which a person failed to pay his protection fee for the police and thus was not protected from a gang who decided to rob him. I'd rather not have the police choose not to help just because you missed a payment... especially as I could see the system being corrupted so that criminals are provided (for a fee) a list of everyone who didn't pay for protection.

Likewise, I know in real life someone who didn't pay his fire protection bill had his trailer burn to the ground. The fire department showed up and watched it burn. They were likely there to ensure the fire didn't spread... but the story still did not sit well with me because such a system could easily be corrupted.

Let's take, for instance, that homeowner's insurance is alerted you chose not to or could not afford to have fire protection. They jack up your fire insurance rates. Meanwhile, someone else might have paid money to learn who didn't have fire insurance and/or fire department protection and goes to torch your house just because.

And what about the poor? Do poor people do homeless and unemployed people end up without protections from the law because they can't afford these services?

When I confronted some Libertarians and Anarchists about that, do you know what they finally said? "People would die." And they implied that was fine with them. They ignored my warning they might be the one facing down the barrel of a gun. They ignored me when I pointed out in a perfect anarchy a group of people could choose to work together to go after the armed homeowner, kill that person, and take all his property - only I didn't say some anonymous person. I said it would likely happen to THEM. And they were dismissive of the argument and sure they'd prevail.

It's the Zombie Apocalypse mentality. "I'd survive!" Up until you're one of the first people to get infected because of bad luck or cockiness. Hell, the whole (rather unpleasant) "Crossed" post-apocalyptic series was created as a big FU to the zombie survivalists who were "Oh, I'm all prepared and would survive!" so instead they made the "zombies" intelligent people who through an easily-transmitted virus turn into essentially a less pleasant version of Reavers from "Firefly."

Well, these dicks think they'd do fine. Up until they don't. Me? I'd rather civilization not be destroyed so they could find out they're wrong.

Rob H.

Robert said...

Back to my first point before tangenting: property taxes are to pay for basic services. Fire. Police. Roads. Some government services. Libraries. Education.

Personally? I think there should be more checks and balances... but I also feel these services are needed for our society to function. And just because people feel they don't need those services or that they don't want to pay for them doesn't mean they can get away with not doing so.

Rob H.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion: I used to work for a sub-prime lender and I remember clearly that once the revenue stream was sold, our only concern was raking in a few more bucks through loan servicing. The risk in the loan package weren’t ours any more. We watched instead for stability and growth options for revenue. Cheap money made a huge difference to us because we could maintain our rate mark-up for sub-prime customers and not appear to be gouging them. Loan volume exploded and no sane real estate owner failed to notice they could sell at higher prices. So what if you had to have two incomes? Don’t worry said the loan originators! Money is cheap! Have your wife work, buy the mansion or buy into the spiffy neighborhood with the best schools, and accept the risk! It will be good for your kids!

Pfft! I saw people getting loans who had no more than a pulse. The guy two houses down the street from me had a coffee cart as his income to feed a mortgage of about half a million. His kids used to show up at our door looking for odd jobs and they were kinda skinny. I’d like to know who sold the loan to them and fit them for some electroshock therapy. However, I recognized how the incentives were working. Lenders were playing musical chairs because someone was successfully securitizing the loans as low risk bonds. Amazing to watch.

Still with all that insanity, the mark-up of $120K on your father’s house in today’s dollars is about $48K in 1982 dollars which is around ¼ of the original cost. If you need two incomes to pay for such a house today, then wages over the period did NOT hold roughly level relative to house prices. Since inflation corrected wages did hold level, the value we place on housing did not even absent the speculative bubble of a few years ago. Should a mark-up of 25% really drive us into two incomes being necessary? I rather doubt it. I suspect your starter home wasn’t such a starter. The one MY father bought in 1978 in Vegas went for $58K ($215K in 2016) which he could cover in its entirety from is USAF retirement paycheck. He worked anyway, so he had two incomes before my mother went to work herself. Maybe San Diego is special. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@Rob H: Fire, Police, Roads, Education, Elderly Transport, Zoning Rules, Legal, Utilities (in some towns), Low Income Support, Planning, Promotion, and (out of breath).

The list is quite long in even small towns. They are expensive things to operate, but they often make sense to those who live there. Occasionally they don’t, though, and budgets have to be trimmed. Unfortunately, the people we elect to run them are real people instead of angels, thus they don’t like to admit to what they perceive as a failure to perform. It is far easier to blame the company that left town leaving them in the lurch. It is far easier to cover the problem by trying arbitrary incentives to attract other employers. The moment the blame game starts, everyone who lives there is screwed at least a little bit. When the business rules become arbitrary, the city unintentionally signals to all the nearby sharks to visit. They KNOW there is blood in the water.

Alfred Differ said...

I'm not so sure about Hernando de Soto anymore. I was impressed when I first read his book, but now I suspect he has only a small part of the picture.

Property rights are very useful, but they are more about context than they are about the cause of enrichment of the common man. They are a very useful piece of our liberty because we can capitalize real property, but I suspect we could manage with less. Owning a business and part of the income stream from innovation is probably more important.

donzelion said...

@Dr. Brin - My puerile imagination is chuckling at this one:

"...running a manufacturing company based on just-in-time delivery of parts and components and resources is a lot like being a swimsuit model. Eating just enough to stay healthy and absolutely nothing more, a swimsuit model will probably not do well if stuck on a life raft or stranded in the desert, or simply on the street with morals but no cash. And certainly not in a post-quake-apocalypse."

I like the analogy, BUT am imagining the survivability of a swimsuit model in most of these dangerous settings would actually be pretty, erm, robust, so long as she wasn't alone. On a life raft, with a small group of survivors, I can imagine how many men would dump another poor bloke overboard to save her. Same with other settings...

donzelion said...

@Alfred - share your skepticism on Hernando de Soto. Here's a critical test of de Soto Hernando de Soto's views; I'm aware of others, and from field workers who laughed at the entire agenda as a development myth.

THAT SAID, there's immense utility in de Soto's views politically - formalizing status does prevent a number of abuses in nearly any context involving government power, and restraining corruption. Indeed, several governments fell (Tunisia) largely as a result of endemic corruption in resisting formalization. Poor people may be concerned with certain benefits beyond merely becoming a little less poor...

David Brin said...

Or on the street dozel? Notice I used the word "moral." ;-)

Rob H - Barry Goldwater sat down one day and thought - should we figure out what government is good at and find alternatives for the rest? Instead of bitching about bad govt, provide market solutions to the same problems. And that led him to realize that many protective govt services like the FTC, FDA, OSHA etc could ideally be replaced by insurance. To get low rates you let your insurance company inspect your home, fridge, workplace and medicine cabinet and offer discounts if you avoid bad things. Barry G wanted to change the ground rules in the insurance industry to encourage it. After all they already do this in industrial fire insurance and through Underwriters’ Labs.

He got some support … from some democrats! None at all from republicans.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion: I'm all for the political impact of recognizing and defending property rights. They create/support a sense of dignity for property owners and it is this dignity that I think is most important. Corruption damages a person's dignity by eroding their belief in justice and in the value of their faith/identity. Seriously. What self-respecting person wants to self-identify as a member of a corrupt group?

While I think we could make do with weaker property rights protection, I don't think we can manage with the indignity of pervasive corruption. It is corrosive.

donzelion said...

@Alfred - As for sub-prime, you're right: truly amazing. I did a little work for some of the financial players involved in the game, so there's not much I can say.

"I suspect your starter home wasn’t such a starter." Well, it was a 3 bedroom, 2 bath 1700' square foot single family home in one of the suburbs of San Diego that was then affordable for Navy enlisted (so long as my Mom also worked). Fine home, actually.

And yes, San Diego is a special place. Mostly. ;-)

Alfred Differ said...

Oh. If your mother was working, then my single income assumption was wrong. 1700 sq feet was decent. My family's place wasn't smaller by much.

Didn't the focused tax deduction for home mortgage interest show up in the mid-80's? I seem to recall a government effort to get more people to purchase homes so they could feel a part of the land-owning class... which for us is the middle class. Financial incentives influences prices, but ideas are much more explosive. What else did we begin to pitch like that? Maybe there is evidence of price increases there too? Education maybe?

Paul SB said...


That swimsuit model in the raft would live just as long as there was food for her and one alpha male murderous bastard. Once the food dipped below that level, she would be overboard, too.

Dr. Brin,

What you said about Barry Goldwater and insurance set off instant alarm bells. I have never known anyone as slimy and dishonest as insurance people. The free market means they can take people to the cleaners with impunity, because they are all too big to fail. Competition is meaningless for insurance companies. I don't see government doing any better, but this may be a case where private insurance monitored by the government (monitored very closely) would be best. I have been told that's how health insurance is done in Japan, but I have not checked into it to se how well it works.

David Brin said...

Paul -- on a lifeboat you don't toss people over... that's for sleighs fleeing wolves in the snow. On a liferaft the voted-selected sacrifice has traditionally fed the others.

I never said insurance solutions weren't problematic! Just that it is the logical way for capitalist alternatives to paternalistic government to be found. With at-minimum an obamacare way for the commonwealth to subsidize insurance for the poor.

Robert said...

I'll never listen to Jingle Bells the same way again.

Though at least the wolves will be well-fed. ;)

And I'm glad someone else looked at the whole "insurance company" shtick and went "What the fuck is Dr. Brin smoking?" ;) That said, if there was a law stating "once approved, the insurance company cannot renege on the policy" then that might improve the problems of insurance covering for those other agencies.

Also, let's face it. The only reason people live in flood zones is the government subsidizes flood insurance. If it was based on market forces, then rich people would be moving into the mountains. Oh, wait. Fire insurance... why the blazes aren't we dragging asteroids into orbit and hollowing them out for humanity to live inside? Seriously, between the storms, the earthquakes, the forest and grassfires, the diseases, floods, and more, we really should be pulling every last human off the Earth and inhabiting hundreds of hollowed-out asteroids. Maybe even stick some huge solar sails on some of them and head out into the stars, though in that case you'd want a lot of nuclear fuel to provide heat and power for the hundreds-to-thousands of years it would take to reach another star.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Rob H see KS Robinson's AUrORA. He really hates on colony ships.

Tony Fisk said...

I'll never watch 'Frozen' in the same way again.

Looks like Britain may have voted to leave not just one union, but two.

David Brin said...

Idiots. Scotland will leap at this chance to leave England.

Robert said...

That was my thought as well.

Great Britain is going to become England. I mean, if Scotland leaves, Wales probably will as well. Heck, you might even see North Ireland decide to rejoin Ireland. And the English voters will rail against it and say how it's ruining the United Kingdom (which I typoed Untied but it is apt I suppose) and not really grasp the irony of the situation.

Stock markets are going to tank big-time tomorrow. I do wonder how much the heavy rains in London had in suppressing the vote.

Rob H.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,

It's been awhile since I watched a naval epic, so I wasn't thinking of life-boat cannibalism, just riffing off of Donzelion. But that swimsuit model isn't going to provide a whole lot of nourishment. Ask me later about the effect of lean meat on the digestive system - I just got home from a long tow truck adventure and I'm too tired for a long-winded explanation. As far as private insurance vs. government, I got the message on using the private sector as guinea pigs.

Rob, most people buy houses in flood zones because they don't really get the risk and weigh other factors when purchasing a home. I used to teach Earth Science and showed my students geological maps, explaining that there are certain types of soils you just don't want to be living on when a big earthquake hits. Most of downtown Los Angeles is siting on layers of loose alluvium. But hey, that's where all the big buildings are, so every big business wants their own piece of that alluvium, to show off their wealth and power in true Veblen style. It's not that hard to get and rad those maps, but hardly anybody even knows they exist, and real estate agents sure as hell aren't going to clue their customers in.

But this is a story as old as human migration. As population grows, people get pushed into increasingly marginal lands. 40 k years ago nobody lived above the Arctic Circle - about as marginal as land can get - but eventually somebody had to live there, or become slaves to people wherever they came from.

atomsmith said...

and Ireland will unify

Laurent Weppe said...

* "Looks like Britain may have voted to leave not just one union, but two."

As a French, I'm a bit torn appart:

On one hand, the Putin-subsidized demagogues are going to be even more insufferable and will redouble their efforts to dismantle the Union and turn it into a hodgepodge of "more manageable" (read: easier to turn into dictatorships where the fascistic ruling class an its shabiha treats the plebs like fuckable bipedal cattle) tiny principalities.

On the other hand, Albion just euthanized its last imperial remnants: Englanders are fated to become at best the denizens of of a colder, wetter Puerto Rico and will finally be forced to face the fact that the British Empire is dead and buried and that they ceased being a "Great Nation" decades ago.

Tony Fisk said...

(which I typoed Untied but it is apt I suppose) This is called an 'eggcorn' and it is a thing.

Wales leave? Strange, given how they voted with England on this, but they probably would. After all, I gather the bills over which the Democrats staged that sit-in weren't the point.

donzelion said...

re Swimsuit Model/Lifeboat - LOL, I am pleased to have converted the discussion. But Paul SB, I think a "smart swimsuit model" and "beta male" will be more likely to collaborate to off "alpha male" to maximize their chances at survival. The topic was a starting point in Michael Sandel's exemplary lectures on "justice" (starting with utilitarian theories, and why we almost always reject them in practice even if we think they're 'rational').

As for Brexit - my first thought is for America. Three months ago, it was inconceivable that Britain would leave. The case for staying in was a rational one; the case to leave was an emotional one - "those bloody Polish immigrants can't speak bloody English! And what's with them faceless bureaucrats in Brussels!"

Not all that different from the case confronting America in November. We'd do well to reconsider Trump's prospects: Americans are generally a bit LESS rational than Britains on a fair number of topics...

Jonathan Sills said...

"Heck, you might even see North Ireland decide to rejoin Ireland."

Sinn Fein has already called for a vote on Irish reunification in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Laurent Weppe said...

Also, Spain just demanded that Gibraltar be retroceded.

Marino said...

I concur with mr. Weppe. The Brexit is a big damage to Britain first and foremot, and to the whole EU.
Being Italian...well, why a move tailored to solve a purely Tory leadership issue has to cost us a savage drop in our banking stocks, 25% to 35% loss at Milan Stock Exchange today meaning weaker banks, less credit to business and all or increased interest on our debt? (spread rose a bit, but then fell back normal)

But the worst stuff is the resurfacing of blood and soil nationalism. Literally "blood", as poor late MP Jo Cox witnessed. Cameron may appear as the conservative Italian or German politicians who ushered in Benny and the Austrian painter.

Maybe RAH was right and these are the Crazy Years.

Dave Moore said...

Yes, my country has been shafted by the willfully ignorant.

There was not one logical reason to go (and no good one to have the referendum in the first place). Scotland and N.Ireland will go. There will be no trade deal with EU as they will want contributions (without the rebate) and free movement as their quite legitimate red-lines. We have also just lost all the diplomatic support for keeping Gibraltar and Falklands. And a bloody Trump-clone will be PM in 3 October. Democracy maybe the best form of govt but at times it teally sucks.

Sorry for the rant.

Paul SB said...

I wonder if Cornwall would jump on the bandwagon. I've never met any Cornish people, so I have no idea if they still cling to an identity different from the Angles, Saxons and Jutes. It's possible that after a decade or so of economic stagnation the Brits will go whining back to the EU. But then, they might just go the way of 1930's Germany instead. The forces that lead people to this are similar everywhere. I agree with Donzelion that Trump voters in the US are following the same patterns. I remember shortly after Obama was elected hearing Hispanic Americans predict that he would be sending them to the gas chambers. Obviously that never happened - it only demonstrated that rivalry between minorities can be just as paranoid as rivalry between a majority and a minority. But right wingers have a history of resorting to violence to get their way, Jo Cox being just a very recent example. I doubt that Trump will be able to start firing up the gas chambers. America isn't desperate enough to start suspending civili rights on that scale yet (though habeas corpus got ignored under Bush II, on a small scale). I would expect scapegoating to be a prominent feature, if not of a Trump Administration, of a pretty large segment of the population that a Trump Admin would turn a blind eye to.

Back to the boat: The beta male w/ swimsuit model vs. alpha male scenario is certainly possible, but not guaranteed to work, depending a lot on whether alpha gets wind of it quickly enough, how many beta males participate (most likely it would only be one, but a smarter swimsuit model might see the value in alliances), and just how "alpha" the alpha is. Does he sleep with one eye open?

As far as justice and rationality go, most people have the whole issue misconceived. Justice is very much an emotional issue, one that is driven by the social nature of the human animal and their need to resolve conflict without destroying the social group. Justice is rational in an evolutionary sense, but not in the mechanisms that drive it. As long as we try to understand human behavior in terms of that Ancient Greek (false) dichotomy of rational vs. emotional, we will remain in the dark forever about human nature and its instinctive components. Logic provides no motivation. Logic can not tell you what to seek. There is no logical reason to eat. Sure, you need food to live, but what logical reason is here to live? Emotion provides motivation, emotion that is made of neurotransmitter actions in synapses, triggered by interactions between environment, instinct and action. Look at Parkinson's patients who have to be fed and dressed because they see no reason to do these things themselves. Their brains have stopped releasing dopamine (which secondarily produces the characteristic muscle tremors). Logic can only tell you how to get what you want, not what to want. So in a sense you can say that the logic vs. emotion dichotomy may have been the beginning of wisdom, but to further develop wisdom you have to jettison it eventually (the very definition of heuristic).

This is exactly the kind of egghead talk that under normal circumstances would get that swimsuit model to politely excuse herself while making gagging gestures behind my back...

Paul SB said...

I was typing while David Moore and Marino were adding their contributions, so I didn't see them until my long dissertation was up. Marino, I hope you are wrong about Heinlein's "Crazy Years" - but I share the sentiment. David M., no need to apologize for the rant. It is well justified by circumstance (and the fact that you are courteous enough to apologize preemptively). Do you think Churchill is up on some cloud rolling his eyes? Or would he have a more witty reply?

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit puzzled by the hostility to the UK. Americans live in a democracy, however imperfect, why begrudge us the same chance?

Robert said...

YOu forget about what the swimsuit model could do to distract the murderous alpha male - sex. And then gouge out his eyes during sex and leap away real fast... that would give the beta males a chance to overpower him and then they have nice muscular food and greater safety. Even better, they could probably use bits of the alpha male as fishing lures so they don't need to be cannibals.


One of my good friends in England described Brexit like this: "It's like Trump being the president, that kind of level of bad." I joked she and her friends could take sanctuary over the big pond, so long as Trump doesn't get into office. ;)

I feel for our British brothers and sisters.

Interestingly enough, a certain sizeable Information Aggregate company that I will avoid naming has chosen not to create a heading for the British exit from the European Union. In fact, Brexit leads to "Referendum -- Great Britain" and only really recently was created. The lack of a heading for leaving the EU might seem like some sort of disapproval from one of the larger information aggregate companies out there. "Shame on you, England. Just for that we're ignoring your tantrum against the EU and not putting it in our history books."

Rob H.

Robert said...

Because, Anonymous, it was NOT Democracy.

You are part of Great Britain, or the United Kingdom. Whichever you prefer to go by.

North Ireland wants to stay in the EU. Scotland really wants to stay in the EU. Yet because England has voted to leave, Great Britain has to leave the EU? Despite what these other regions want?

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

Ireland will be reunified in the long run whatever happens. Take my bet that Britain will a.) be more prosperous in the long run for leaving and b.) not be the first?
(It may be to much to hope that the whole parasitic monstrosity unravels.) ;)

Seriously, why does Dr. Brin think we should have stayed? i didn't think it was controversial that decisions should be made by people who can be held accountable/"have skin in the game". You would not submit to rule by a foreign power. We kind of sleep-walked into it.

Anonymous said...

Whether the biosphere can survive another 100 years of what the Iroqui deem a death path is certainly an interesting question, though your 6,000 years of fuedalism thing seems more a mantra or article of faith, as it has no basis in history. The Athenian democracy pivoted to oligarchy—was that all feudualism, and historians deluded into thinking it was not feudalism? Or more recently, the Iroqui lacked an executive branch, though must have been under fuedalism, since they were, ah, what's the term? Uplifted! Yes, uplifted from their ignorant and backward ways to the progress of modern western man. Or your hypothesis is simply wrong, and thus best explained as a mantra or article of faith. Given the lack of evidence from any actual study of history, and the frequency with which it is regurgitated…

Paul SB said...

Robert, I was not forgetting about that most obvious attribute of the swimsuit model, but I think the conversation is getting a bit morbid. If I had the time I could write 2 or 3 short stories out of that scenario, each with a very different ending, and probably none of them would be the ending I would want to actually see.

Marino said...

Anonymous, the parasitic monstrosity got us peace and prosperity. My grandfather died blind after an head injury in WWI, my mother risked to die in the Rome bombing in 1943 and I've hosted a boy from Sarajevo.

and which "foreign power" allows its downtrodden slaves to vote for its own parliament, and with a voting law more representative than the FPTP the Uk got?

btw, and "accontability" and "skin in the game"? go tell the Scots, or the EU stockholders, or the EU skilled workers now forced to relocate or goign to be fired? And all this mess because a dimwit Cameron wants to get rid of Johnson and that fascist Farage, allied with the most obnoxious antisystem Italian party (one whose PMs believe in mind control chips, 9/11 as unside job and antivaxxer theories), and whose supporters wrote stuff like "lie in sh*t you w*hre" on Ms. Cox's obituary page, wanted theis bit of power, fame and whatever.
Compared to them Angela Merkel is a beacon of common sense and humanity.

Paul SB said...


I don't know how long you have been reading Brin, but your comments show that if it has been for very long, you haven't been reading very closely. We discussed the use of the term /feudalism/ as a proxy for several forms of government that all boil down to a tiny handful of people manipulating everything to their own advantage, exploiting the vast majority of the population mercilessly, and in most cases convincing said population through religion and other forms of propaganda that they are right and deserve to be fat while the peasants starve. And yes, the vast majority of human history has followed that pattern. Athens, a handful of other Greek city-states, the Roman Republic, the Cantons of Switzerland and those little Italian republics were all early experiments with democracy before the Modern Era. Of these, only the Roman Republic lasted for any significant time, and for most of that time it only covered the skinny boot of Italy. Once they started conquering territories outside the Italic Peninsula, they ended up giving democracy the boot.

As far as the UK goes, I am not reading hostility so much as disappointment. We're mostly science-fiction people here, and many of us feel that loyalty to a tiny patch of mud and its most parochial of inhabitants is a step backwards rather than moving us forward. I would prefer loyalty to the human race rather than thousands of micro loyalties that keep humanity constantly divided against itself instead of striving for greatness.

Now your comments on whether Gaia can take another hundred years of business as usual is one that most here are in agreement with. Science and Engineering provided the technological means for the massive pollution of the planet, but it was business that actually did it. Science and engineering are now showing ways to rectify these problems, but it is throwback culture and politics that tries to prevent us from implementing smart policies and technologies. Throwback culture and politics that emphasizes loyalty to tiny patches of mud and their most parochial inhabitants are not going to solve the world's problems.

Regarding the Iroquois, be careful you are not putting one tribe of humanity on a pedestal, or suggesting we apply their life ways to a world that is many billions of times bigger and not likely to be applicable.

Robert said...

Brexit is an important object lesson over the mindset of Trump's supporters.

I know a Trump supporter. And he is all for Brexit. He says "the Pound will jump back up once people realize Brexit is a good thing!" and "England will flourish and other countries will leave the EU and it'll be good!" and stuff like that.

When you look a little deeper, you do see this (Trump and his supporters) is the next stage of the American Civil War. Brexit is a good thing. Leaving the EU is a good thing. Leaving the United States... is a good thing. Unless of course you want to leave when Trump is in power in which case you're a commie traitor and deserve to die.

I have to wonder what would happen with my friendship with him if I wasn't Libertarian. If I were a Democrat we might be far less friendly. Then again, maybe not - we've frequently come to verbal blows over Christianity and the fact I'm damned and yet we're still friends. It helps that I tend to be a "meh, whatever" once I turn off the computer and he doesn't seem to let things stick either. That and he's got female friends who have let him know they support women's rights and abortion and he doesn't say a thing to them. ;) Survival mechanism I suspect. ;)

Trump's problem is that he is that politician in "Existence" who got hit with a drug that treated his addiction to outrage. Trump would love to step away from his vitriol, but it feels SO good to just let loose and then his diehard supporters lap it up and call him awesome and his ego gets this huge rub and he has to go for it again.

That's right. Trump is an Outrage Addict. And it's killing the Republican Party.

Rob H.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "We have also just lost all the diplomatic support for keeping Gibraltar and Falklands"

He means Calpe and the Malvinas


* "The beta male w/ swimsuit model vs. alpha male scenario is certainly possible, but not guaranteed to work, depending a lot on whether alpha gets wind of it quickly enough, how many beta males participate."

The thing is, there is an historical precedent to your scenario
One "alpha male", many women, zero competition: It ended badly for the "alpha male"


* "I'm a bit puzzled by the hostility to the UK. Americans live in a democracy, however imperfect, why begrudge us the same chance?"

There's no hostility to UK, why would we be hostile toward an extinct empire? There's animosity toward England.

Robert said...

It'll be interesting to see how my friend responds to my latest e-mail. He pointed out "your candidate can't win no matter what."

I pointed out all Johnson/Weld needs to do is get 34% of the vote in a couple of states, prevent anyone from getting a majority of the Electoral College, and it goes to the House and Senate.

House Republicans do not like Trump. They dislike Clinton marginally less. And then you have Johnson and Weld who several years back would have been the Republican Dream Ticket. The House and Senate elect Johnson and Weld, and Libertarians get into power.

Doesn't matter if they didn't win a majority of the vote. After all, we had President Bush the Second because of the Electoral College. Why not a Libertarian President because of the House and Senate?

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm not the Gaian/biosphere Anonymous! Couldnt make head or tale of it.

I don't believe in Nationalism (I don't mind if the Scots want to split off, it's up to them).

My issue is that people who make decisions must FEEL the consequences of those decisions. If they mke bad decisions they need to feel pain, if they make good decisions they need to feel the benefit. Otherwise they have no incentive to make an effort. The people who have been making decisions about Britain have been in no way affected by the consequences of their decisions, so they have had no reason on Earth to care what they do to us. Those of us who live in the UK have had no input into decisions that affect us. The sense of helplessness has been quite unpleasant. Now we can make our own decisions, like adults. And like adults, we will feel the consequences. I don't deny there wil be pain at first. It's the pain of reality.


Berial said...

The only way we can tell the anonymous apart is if you put a signature so please continue to do that and consider using a name. (We won't bite...much.)

Do you guys think the Iroqui anon is our 'car sitter' guy?

Paul SB said...

No Longer Anonymous Jane,

I wasn't too sure if there was more than one Anon, though I had my suspicions. Anyway, I think people in many of the world's democracies feel that same sense of helplessness. I certainly sympathize. Every election cycle here in the US we hear the same B.S. propaganda, and watch in horror as millions of voting citizens swallow it whole. The current incarnation of ethnonational satanism in the form of Donald Dunk is just the latest iteration of a very ancient game. And you are right, the people who are making the decisions are not the ones paying the price for them. The fools who voted for them, and the smarter people who were outvoted by the fools, are the ones who pay the price. Some days it's easy to feel that the old Churchill quote about democracy might not be right, but any reading of history shows that the alternatives are worse.

Paul SB said...

Laurent, the Clippinger Island story sounds like the Keekorok baboon story. The scenario Donzelion started out with was only one female hominid, though, so not quite the same. Female bonobos keep their males from becoming domineering murderers by ganging up on them, and it makes bonobo society much more peaceful than chimp society, or most human societies.

have you seen that National Geographic video about stress I have mentioned here? It's available on youtube:

The whole thing is well worth watching, but if you fast forward to 45 minutes you get to Sapolshy's story about what happened to the Keekorok troop when all the alpha males got taken out by a disease. It gives me some hope for the future if a bunch of monkeys can solve these problems, presumably a bunch of hominids could pull it off, too.

David Brin said...

Why did I want the UK to stay EU? My reasons are always farther-looking. Like my willingness to lose some US jobs to NAFTA so that the rising Mexican middle class will benefit us all. A strong Europe will better help N. America push western values in a world where the Russia-China Axis and macho-Islam and macho-hindi forces are planning to torpedo the enlightenment.

Bigger reasons than anyone mentions in the debates/

Paul SB said...

Bigger reasons than anyone mentions in the debates/

Are you referring to the political debates, or to this blog? If the former, that should be no surprise. Politicians are as notoriously short-sighted as corporate executives, and you are a science fiction writer and consultant in some interesting places - a professional futurist.

But if it's the latter, there are people here who think and speak in longer terms than just the current election cycle. Certainly comments on primate relations and 6 million years of hominid evolution is thinking big - at least diachronically.

locumranch said...

For those of you who have expressed the opinion that either a BREXIT or a Trump Presidency is “inconceivable":

"You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means".

The same principle applies to those who make claims about western Moral Progress & Ethical Superiority. You keep using that word 'Progress' but I do not think it means what you think it means.


donzelion said...

Ah, Brexit v. Swimsuit models in peril v. Trump. Semiotics rules the day.

A corner of my mind is thinking now of the British Sun's "Page 3" ladies (X, from Brighton, Y from Cornwall, Z from Derby) - fighting off a European invasion...except several of those ladies probably are "European invaders" themselves. And that leads me back to "racist" Trump, for whom 2 out of 3 of his wives were themselves foreign...and who profited handsomely from Miss Universe (or was that Miss World?) - surrounding himself with a bevvy of swimsuit models that catapulted his gambling empire toward quasi-legitimacy (not to mention the strippers at some of his casinos).

My prediction for England? Page 3 will still treat men to the eye candy they crave, and use that as packaging to sell garbage journalism. And men, in their 50s/60s, who frown at such garbage (but secretly indulge it) will be remembered as the ones who sold their children's future for their own comfort.

If I were Scotland, I'd immediately (1) exit the UK, (2) rejoin the EU, (3) court all the American businesses that set up in London with a guarantee of "no less favorable" tax treatment for at least 10 years, and (4) watch a northward migration the likes of which has never been experienced on that island.

Robert said...

The odd thing is that what happened in England is the exact opposite of what happens in the U.S. for quite a few of our states - Urban areas have so many people living there that the lion share of reps are located in urban areas, which means the cities tell rural communities what to do. And this pisses rural America off because they feel the cities don't know what they need and shouldn't have the right to tell them what to do.

In England, the rural regions told London and more urban areas "we are leaving." Kind of the opposite of what happened in the U.S.

So no. I don't think Trump will win the U.S. because of a Brexit-like underestimation of things.

Rob H.

Treebeard said...

Someone mentioned Taleb and skin in the game, which reminded me of this great quote from Mr. Taleb, which seems relevant:

What we are seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking "clerks" and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think... and 5) who to vote for.

With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30y of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, microeconomic papers wrong 40% of the time, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating only 1/5th of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers with a better track record than these policymaking goons.

This is one of the best statements of conservatism I've ever come across: Trust your ancestral instincts, not “experts” who seem to get everything wrong, and you will be better off in an absurdly complex world. Everything about progressivism today is an assault on our ancestral instincts. This only works so long as our enlightened superiors get things right more often than my gut or my grandma, which is looking increasingly dubious. These snowflakes seem shocked and surprised by so much these days that it is surely time to start revoking their "expert" badges.

Jumper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert said...


occam's comic said...

the tree in treebeard is a rubber tree, I hope your not made of glue ;-)

donzelion said...

@Rob H - Agreed, the parallels between the American rural/urban divide, and the English/Welsh London/everywhere else divide, are pretty significant.

Here's one other parallel: rural America siphons most of its benefits from urban America. Like the UK, those who derive benefits feel little but contempt towards their benefactors, and typically regard them as a nuisance.

"I don't think Trump will win the U.S. because of a Brexit-like underestimation of things."
Trump WILL win the U.S. presidency, unless people step up and start thinking seriously about what is best for America, rather than whether Hillary's haircut or emails are oppressing them.

donzelion said...

@Treebeard - "people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers with a better track record than these policymaking goons"

If their grandmothers are still alive to listen to, it's quite likely that it was in part a result of those "policymaking goons." (Yeah, but my grandfather lived to be 90 and smoked three packs every day...after beating up the welfare queen on his way to work every day and stopping commies cold before the power of his polyester tie!)

"Fatphobia," by the way, was mostly marketing (we can sell a fat-free alternative for 10% markup that costs 2% more to make - let's do it!). As are most fads, esp. in pharmaceutical areas. And yet, quite a few of those drugs are what kept grandma alive (she still resents them and would prefer not to take them, but she likes being alive even more).

Macroeconomic analysis may not have made us all rich, but I missed the last round of mass starvation to hit America.

"Trust your ancestral instincts, not “experts” who seem to get everything wrong,"
At least some of those ancestral instincts caused many of the horrors of life our ancestors died from. The fact that experts "seem to get everything wrong" owes less to the errors of the experts, and more to the fury of the non-experts who have the perfect remedy for anything you need, and will gladly sell it to you for everything you're worth, which the experts keep telling you doesn't work, and which you know better because.

Jumper said...

In the morning I'll be sober.

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. Maybe it is London that should leave England. If the UK comes unglued over this, it might be the prudent thing to do. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

At the risk of siding with treebeard and locumranch, those of you wringing your hands over the vote appear to be in need of a reminder of the difference between political and economic power. England's political power has been waning for some time now, but it is doing just fine economically and still could in the future if it avoids the mercantile trap.

What's the big deal if they dissolve the political empire? Let it go. Let people be who they want to be. Stay or go as the people choose.

It's not like the English are going to shoot their neighbors over this, right? (oops)

Robert said...

You have a nuclear power which is becoming increasingly xenophobic and threatened by its closest neighbor. And it just chose to isolate itself.

Further, you have its northern neighbor who now wants to abandon it, a frenemy across a narrow channel of water that for years waged a terror war on them and now is insisting on its northern border be returned to them to "unite" those people, and the rest of the world looking down their collective noses at the xenophobes who are now feeling justified.

Oh, and blood was shed over this... and one of the leaders of the "Leave" moment ignored it and coldly stated "we left without shedding blood" while ignoring the fact yes. Blood was shed. By your own people.

What's the big deal? Well, you have a small nuclear-powered nation surrounded by other countries that are considered as threats... if this was in the Pacific, we'd be calling this the next North Korea.

So yes. There is reason to be concerned. There is reason to tread lightly. And there is reason to plan for the worse even if you hope for the best.

Rob H.

Paul SB said...

Treebeard, any chance you can explain exactly what "ancestral instincts" you are referring to?

David Burns said...

I confess. I am a bark beetle. I was hungry!

locumranch said...

It is a truism, rather than the truth, that rural (red) America siphons most of its benefits from urban (blue) America, the problem being that blue urbanites reflexively underestimate & undervalue the true value of red rural resources in order to convince the rural reds that federal subsidies reflect urban charity rather than chronic blue payment inadequacies.

Political Empires do dissolve, and we can expect more-of-the-same on BOTH sides of the Atlantic, so much so that I hope to live long enough to see the the Fly-Over United States of America (FOUSA) form in the middle of the North American continent, the Republic of California (RC) to the west, the Texas Republic (TR) to the south & the Progressive Urban Suburban State Initiative (PUSSI) in the east.


David Brin said...

Guys be nice. This time Treebeard (and notice I use his name) made cogent assertions that were logical and not howls of insipid playground whining. Indeed, he offers up a testable, falsifiable thesis! “This only works so long as our enlightened superiors get things right more often than my gut or my grandma, which is looking increasingly dubious.”

Except that the experts HAVE been right, vastly more often than not. Stephen Pinker’s book shows how vastly vastly vastly better the world has done under Pax Americana and with science and technological progress and advancement of rights and per capita wealth and peace and all that. Statistically, we have been skyrocketing in yes “progress”.

And would be doing far better if the elites that are genuinely parasitical — the Wall Street and other oligarchs whose asses Treebeard kisses — had not spent 25 years sucking value out of the economy while wrecking US political processes.

But of course, um, “instinct rich” red america RA is doing so-o-o-o well! Show us how much better, fellah. Sucking net tax benefits from Blue America BA like lamprey parasites. with far higher rates of teen sex, STD’s domestic violence, gambling and EVERY other moral turpitude… and all the smartest graduates of every RA high school, every June, run as fast as they can toward BA. By instinct, I guess.

donzelion said...

@Alfred - "England's political power has been waning for some time now, but it is doing just fine economically and still could in the future if it avoids the mercantile trap."

Others have calculated the likely effects of Brexit. The steepest currency crash in 30 years, for what had been regarded as one of the world's most stable currencies, is a historic event, one that spilled over to America immediately, and one that is just beginning. I'd already sold off half my positions in developed market stocks a few weeks ago, but still lost a fair chunk of money today due to Brexit. So yes, I'm bitter.

The thing is, England has not been doing "just fine" - they were a financial-powerhouse (in London) and a crippling, underproductive hinterland that was kept afloat primarily by subsidies (from London and the EU). Their status as a financial powerhouse owed nothing to "smart British traders" (they're a dime a dozen, all over the world) - it's the tax advantages from EU membership that drove American firms to structure their global positions so that parked cash stayed in London (giving those financiers something to do with other people's money).

No, I'm not talking about a few billionaires putting in some cash - I'm talking the real money, by the trillion, held overseas by (especially U.S. but also some other foreign) companies rather than being repatriated home.

England has proven that they're willing to kill a golden goose. How many others will they kill, because they don't like the sound of Polish, or other important reasons?

What's the big deal if they dissolve the political empire?
It depends on exactly how messy things get. Collapsing political empires have prompted global wars in the past. It's about as serious as it gets.

matthew said...

Cruz on Brexit:

The US succession talks have now officially started.

donzelion said...

@Locum - "it is a truism, rather than the truth, that rural (red) America siphons most of its benefits from urban (blue) America"

Nah, it's just income tax, sales tax, and property tax receipts that demonstrate that fairly convincingly. Red states do tend to have more oil and mineral resources, and the red portions of blue states do tend to have all the agricultural resources. Then again, if Trump ever shows his income tax returns (let alone most other billionaires), we might see a different picture.

Federal subsidies to the red zones are hardly "urban charity" - but the ingratitude of the ruralites toward the urbanites who build them their roads, telecoms, electricity, health system is truly amazing. It's also why red zones MUST invest in anti-factual infrastructure to protect them from recognizing just who paid for their last life saving surgery.

matthew said...

Cruz on Brexit:

The US succession talks have now officially started.

donzelion said...

@Dr. Brin - Red America WAS doing quite well...for a while...

...when Bush Jr. blew out the deficit to finance massive growth in Texas/Kansas/Oklahoma arms industries (with conditions that required relocating facilities from California and Massachusetts).

...when Enron siphoned profits from California to fuel it's "ingenious True Texas growth" - (and Bush/Cheney picked them to advise him on who should rule in their rate gouging cases). every crisis involving courage, Red America sends folks with guns to stop the problem - little help in a flood, and less in a wildfire. As California starts the burn cycle, Red California screams, "You must help us now!" - even as they get billions of aid from Blue California-financed fire fighting teams struggling to save their houses

Alfred Differ said...

@Robert: Color me unconcerned about England as a xenophobic nuclear power. We have an awful lot in common with them, so I don’t see how they can be worse than us. Besides, there is a real xenophobic nuclear power that puts them all to shame. Russia.

The England of today probably would have been better off if they hadn’t stiff-armed Scotland into a union. The people on either side of that border have a lot in common too, so a little independence would probably do everyone some good. Maybe they’ll all play nice and find a way to maintain economic/market ties and contain the blood-letting to the political sphere. We shall see.

North Korea? Pshaw! England is a liberal democracy. Let them work this out with their neighbors.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion: Currency crash. Yah, yah. The market didn’t believe the vote would go this way now everyone is fluttering around. Let’s see what it looks like in a year. Don’t panic. Buy some of the stuff people are dumping too cheap. I’m sure you’ve seen this kind of fever before.

I don’t care about those parked trillions. They will get parked elsewhere and life will go on with nary a blip. Investment money moves where it makes sense. Parked money does the same. That matters little to the common person and what they see for their costs and it is at that level that I am looking. They are the real source of the national income.

The British Empire has already mostly collapsed and it did so with minimal blood by historical standards. I’d bet money they will continue the trend while they all focus upon what seems to matter to them right now. They once had the world. Soon they won’t have an island. However, they WILL maintain their living standard.

Alfred Differ said...

@matthew: Yah. I might not be inclined to shoot them if I didn’t think they planned something seriously immoral to people I consider part of my community/nation. For succession talk, I just smile sweetly at them and tell them not to be so stupid as to commit suicide… again. 8)

donzelion said...

@Alfred - Oh, I saw the crash in the Asian Financial Crisis, the American Financial Crisis, and even certain Middle Eastern crises. This is the fourth I've witnessed.

In the last three, you'd have done better to wait 6-18 months for a bottom. No one can say about this one. We may be through the worst of the adjustment. Or it could just be beginning. When things turn bearish, the first instinct of the true bears is to "borrow" so they can short the market - which prompts a brief rally. But I have no idea what robo-bears will do.

"I don’t care about those parked trillions."
Many countries experiencing currency shocks implement capital flight rules as a 'last resort' - the UK is probably too sane for that. But until yesterday, they were too sane for Brexit too. Any money manager in any company has to calculate that risk - is it 1%? 10%? Should we repatriate funds now, while we still can? The people may be rational - the money flows themselves are not.

"The British Empire has already mostly collapsed and it did so with minimal blood by historical standards."
Depends on how one looks at that collapse. Britain was well aware of its fading relative strength vis-a-vis Germany by 1907, when they allied with France; 1914 brought the first round, and 1939 the second round of that collapse. One can argue causality, but perceptions of British weakness (and the reality of French weakness) certainly encouraged German (and Austrian, and Russian) aggression.

"However, they WILL maintain their living standard."
I'll take that bet.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,

"Guys be nice." - You have to admit, David Burns' comment was funny.

I used to come up with witty, off-the-cuff stuff like that. Mostly I just go academic, trying to get to the root of his problem, see if we can get through his tick bark, find out if he has any facts flowing through his xylem, or is it nothing but assumptions he is asking us to bough to. Since he rarely answers direct questions, it leaves the impression that he has no real answers, just blowing warm CO2 out his stomata.

David Brin said...

Actually donzel raised the one virtue very often copiously displayed by mach Redder Confederate males… macho courage. During the ‘official’ phase of the Civil War (phase III) the confeds showed remarkable martial resilience, spirit and strength (their only only only virtue in a romantic ‘cause’ that was almost as evil as they come). Indeed, they step up for today’s military in more than their demographic share. It must be acknowledged.

OTOH, the failure to recognize blue courage… we are in the terrorists’ crosshairs, yet we are not the ones whimpering and screeching about it, daily)… is endemic on that side. As is the relentless culture war of hate on “New York Values” etc. And I only started pointing out the vastly higher redder Turpitude Quotient (TQ) after 30 years of putting up with those lies.

ReBrexit another irony. Europe is losing its only fully native English speaking member (though Ireland is 99% and the Scandinavians speak it better than most brits) — at just the time when the rest of the continent has thrown up its hands and admitted that is the continental language. Could Brexit be a matter of: “Our work here is done”?

Paul SB said...

But will they have the courage to watch "The Free State of Jones" now it's finally here - and take it seriously? The courage to face danger and physical hardship is admirable, but not so much if a person lacks the courage to face uncomfortable truth, and courage to change course, and courage to admit to an egregious mistake, and courage to stand up in the face of public opinion when public opinion is deeply wrong.

Berial said...

As a member of one of those very red states I've definitely seen many of my friends enter the armed forces, but (you knew there would be a but) it's not as much about being brave or finding their manhood (there actually is some though!) but it's MOSTLY about finding a way to get some experience and travel or in some cases just A JOB. Historically, they/we've been very brave and I'm sure some of that backbone is still there but we shouldn't forget that those blue backbone's won in the past. Backbone is nice but numbers, smarts, and improved logistics and supply is better.

Lorraine said...

Scripps taking over Cracked is not good news. It will degenerate from kinda-cool satire to dad jokes, like on the local TV news. With any luck they will put the resurrected zombie-Cracked out of its misery.

Robert said...

Given the heavy rains London and other parts of England encountered, I have to wonder if weather might have kept some people home (especially given that the Remain forces were expected to win), allowing Leave to prevail. And a common theme I'm seeing is that Millenials are sneered at for selfies and all that as narcissism and selfishness, but it's the Baby Boomers who said "fuck you" to the freedom of their grandchildren and great grandchildren and chose deliberately to burn the bridge linking England with Europe.

And the longer the Tories try to drag this out, the worse the EU will treat them. The EU wants this over with now. That final day? They opened their hearts. They said "you are one of us." And the elder generation of Brits spat in their eyes. The Tories need to get this done as quickly as they can before Europe goes from sorrow to anger and decides to make sure no other nation dares leave the EU because England is the object lesson of leaving.

Of course, what might also be interesting is if they fast-track Scotland joining the EU should Scotland vote to leave Great Britain. If they welcome back the people who so very much wanted to be a part of the EU and who, along with the youth of Britain and much of the EU were betrayed... well, it would likely be a good thing both for the EU and for the Scots.

I just wonder how my friends in England will be faring. None of them wanted to leave. None.

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

I suspect a flow of young refugees into Scotland.

Tim Whitten said...

Hi folks, speaking as an Englishman (why does it feel anachronistic and embarrassing to say that?), a long time lurker to this fine blog & comments section (you don't know me, but I feel like I know a lot of you!), and above all a progressive SF loving "we CAN make this world like Star Trek" optimist (I suspect Treebeard, Locumranch and myself would get on like a house on fire i.e. with lots of screaming and jumping out of windows):

It all feels like a bad dream at the moment. The EU has its problems, sure, like any big organisation, but what it symbolises is far more important than the technicalities of its bureaucracy - which is far less undemocratic than the right wing would have you believe. I saw a tweet which stated "The hopes and ideals of tomorrow's generation have been cheated by the nostalgia and misunderstanding of yesterday's". I'm not convinced that is actually making the point strongly enough - fear, ignorance and hate won in England and Wales yesterday, and unfortunately by enough of a margin to swing the result for the whole UK. Half of me feels like crying, and the other half thinks it's time to finally stand up and fight for the future.

The demographics of the vote tell some very clear stories. The younger the voter the more likely that they were on the Remain side, and vice versa. The crossing point appears to have been about age 50 - which implies I have about five years to go before I have an even risk of thinking this was a good idea too. Shoot me now.

There is also a stark contrast between the metropolitan / urban areas, and the rural / provincial areas. London was very positively Remain, as was Bristol (where I am), Manchester, Liverpool, Cardiff, Leeds, Leicester and on and on. Very few of the major cities voted for Leave. However the urban areas all look like tiny islands in a sea of provinciality across England and Wales that voted for the result we got. I'd place bets a large proportion of them have never even seen an immigrant.

Scotland as you all know was unanimously (by district) for Remain, and N. Ireland almost as much. I'm sure this will indeed lead to a second Scottish Independence referendum (it already has a cutesy nickname: IndyRef2), and unification of Ireland is not all that far-fetched either (although it is Sinn Fein leading the call for that, which has always been their goal).

There is even a petition going for London to break away from the UK, so that they can Remain, which makes me smile. Go London Go!! Except that no! Arrgh! That's not the point! We really are "Better Together". The world is far too small to be carving it up into smaller chunks. Sagan's Pale Blue Dot needs to be compulsory viewing in every home.

... more in a sec (apologies for the long post, but it's been an emotional couple of days)

Tim Whitten said...

... Me again ...

There is a much larger petition going on to hold a second referendum - it's growing so rapidly it crashed the UK gov website (over a million already, soaring passed the 100k value required for Parliament to debate it - A friend at work (who is as pro Remain as myself) argued that "you can't just keep holding referendums until you get the result you want", and there may be some sense to that.

But the wording of the petition is that if the result of a referendum is less than 60% one way or another, with a voter turnout less than 75% (we were 72% - impressive by normal standards, but still low for such a fundamental issue - Scotland's IndyRef1 was nearly 85%), then it should be repeated. Otherwise it does not represent a clear majority.

That makes a lot of sense to me. In my angrier moments, I think for something like this, which can't be undone in 4 or 5 years in the manner of a normal election, the voter registry should be skewed towards the people who will have to live with it the longest. I'd suggest that younger people (16 - 17 year olds) should have been allowed to vote, and perhaps the over 65s should have to pass a basic comprehension test of the issues before they are allowed near the ballot box.

Did you see that Google reported that the top five searches on this in the UK yesterday (after the result was announced) included "What is the EU?", "Which countries are in the EU?" and "How many countries are in the EU?". God in heaven. I despair, I really do. If that is the level of ignorance we are dealing with here, then absolutely, let's have a second referendum.

David Cameron gambled with this in the hopes of boosting his popularity with his own party. His legacy is that he could well have broken up two unions. I'm glad he's going, but at the same time he's running away from the problem he has created. Some leader. Both sides ran terrible campaigns, with lies and a general failure to challenge the rhetoric. Between this and the Trump malarkey going on in the States, isn't it time for all political debates to include a fact checker sitting there with them, online and plugged in, with a big red buzzer so that he or she can call "Not true!" whenever whoever is speaking comes out with BS. This lack of concern for facts (aka reality) across the world is infuriating.

Sad times. Please just remember, my international buddies, 48% of us didn't vote for this. And only 72% bothered to turn up to vote. And many many people didn't even get a say (the young, and the Europeans who are living and working in the UK - it is their home too).

If there is a lesson from any of this, it is for pity's sake VOTE. I know I'm largely preaching to the converted on here, and I certainly don't want to make the mistake of being a foreigner telling another nation how to vote, cos that never goes well. But this is me with my Citizen of the World hat on: complacency is going to be the end of us. As John Scalzi said yesterday ( Trump (and everyone like him) must be electorally nuked from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

Paul SB said...


I'm sure most welcome you coming out of lurker status, and as you have already seen, most likely agree with your points as well. The US is famous for its apathy of low voter turnout, and I was thinking much the same thing about a whole nation paying the price for a slim majority (48/52). Whatever side wins over here, they always claim they have a "mandate of the people" even when they win by the slimmest margins.

Robert mentioned the rain as a factor in depressing turnout, and I was just listening to on-the-street interviews that suggested the vast majority of young people voted to stay while the leave vote was mostly the old folks, ironically claiming that they were voting for the future.

Having the weather skew the election seems really silly when we have technology that would allow people to vote from home - the internet (or perhaps, intranet). Security and fraud issues will be a problem, of course, but at some point it will happen, and then you will no longer have issues with weather, or here in the US we often have voter intimidation and efforts by the right wing to disenfranchise minorities by providing inadequate facilities in poorer neighborhoods. As an added bonus, internet voting would help to break the "Wrinkle Tyranny" as so many of the older generations go in droves to the polls because they have nothing else to do, while younger, working people have more issues that keep them from the polls.

locumranch said...

Except for cause & subtext, David and Donzelion are quite right about the sad state of the Rural UK & USA:

It DOES have far higher rates of teen sex, STDs, domestic violence, gambling, federal assistance, welfare dependency and EVERY other moral turpitude than Blue Urbanite compounds (excepted for the ignored inner city Kill Zones, of course) ... and all the smartest graduates of every RA high school, every June, run as fast as they can toward BA.

But, the oft-ignored subtext of this observation is that all of these so-called 'moral turpitudes' are well-correlated with poverty and the oft-ignored cause of this poverty is deliberate, being part & parcel of a British Colonial economic model which exploits resource producers to urban advantage (a cycle repeated in London, New York, Los Angeles & Colonial India) reinforced by social mobility as a means to social pacification.

Social mobility is one of the key factors in the pacification & integration of modern societies. Whether it is based on reality, hope, illusion, it leads to growing aspirations among the mass of ordinary people to pursue education (as determined by the wants of dominant hierarchy), co-opts the best & brightest into the dominant hierarchy, and thereby deprives the exploited masses of those (their natural leaders) who would challenge said hierarchy.

Unfortunately, this self-reinforcing system is breaking down as more & more ambitious youths (the 99 Percenters) fail to escape poverty through education, return to their non-urban homesteads & discover (to their chagrin) that this poverty is both artificial & arbitrary.

More & more, you will see the Exploited Classes of the red rural US, UK & EU go 'On Strike' in order to demand fair value for both their labour & resources. The roads will NOT roll, the petrol will not pump & the food will not ship until these neglected producers receive FAIR value from their urban oppressors, leading to popularism, secession & social instability.

Like the Londoners who voted for Remain, the Blue Urbanites desire to remain at the top of the Economic Food Chain & attribute non-urban Red poverty to 'Moral Failings' rather than Blue duplicity, and the Reds grow tired of this victim blaming. Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.

Paul SB said...

I can bet Larry Hart will be repeating that Kirk quote again about the poor marksman. Problem: the 99% are mostly poor and middle-class urbanites. Rural poor and middle-class people are certainly among the 99%. It should be really obvious that the urban/rural divide is a case of divide and conquer. Like racism and sexism, it keeps the lower classes from effectively uniting against the real power brokers, most of whom cheat the system to keep themselves rich and the rest of us down. This guy has simply fallen for their propaganda, sucked down the kool-aid from his baby bottle.

I think the first time I read about wealthy merchants exploiting the resources of the countryside for their own benefit, giving little better than trinkets to the rural workers in return, it was in reference to the Phoenicians. Hardly a new, modern pattern of economic activity, unless your frame of reference is archaeological.

Robert said...

Going off on a tangent to science.

After seeing another article suggesting the first discovery with LIGO of two black holes merging was in fact also detecting dark matter (ie, they were primordial black holes that merged), I had an interesting thought.

What if dark energy is gravitational waves?

Waves increase the surface area of an object - the ocean, for instance. While the same volume of ocean remains, the surface area increases because of waves. Likewise, the wrinkles of the brain increases its surface area.

Gravitational waves are increasing the "surface area" of three-dimensional space along a four-dimensional front (time).

Further, the sudden expansion of the universe was a result of constructive interference of gravitational waves caused by the Big Bang. The waves "bounced" off the edges of the at-that-time smaller universe, and where they merged, the universe expanded tremendously.

This could even explain the "clumping" of matter - those are areas of space-time where destructive interference happened or even where there was minimal constructive interference.

As additional black holes are formed and as they merge, they produce additional gravitational waves. These waves are stretching the fabric of space-time and causing the universe to expand as a result.

Rob H.

Tim Whitten said...

Thanks for the welcome Paul, and I'm sure you are right about the potential for internet voting; after all we trust our money and identities to the web all the time. Sometimes it goes wrong, to be sure, but none of the problems are insurmountable. It's not even landing-an-orbit-class-first-stage-on-a-barge-in-the-middle-of-the-ocean difficult.

Something I've noticed about the 52/48 thing is that even if the vote had gone the way I wanted it to, it still means nearly half the population would have been unhappy and resentful of the result - and therefore half (ish) of the people around me subscribes to the xenophobic, nostalgic, and ignorant Little England mentality. It's an unsettling sensation. There was an interesting if depressing HuffPost article the other day (um... here: arguing that we've lost already to an extent, just by the nature of the popularity of Trump (and I'm extending that thought process to Brexit now too). Slim majority wins over this insanity are not something to crow about, just as a loss in this proportion is cause for only a little bit of hope. Clearly we have some problems to overcome.

Locum - hello too - even if your marksmanship is off, to be fair I think your shots are at least on the correct firing range (but you really lost me in the last few paragraphs with the thunder and does*). Something that seems to have happened with the Brexit thing is that a lot of the less well off people in England and Wales have voted out as a protest vote against The Establishment. There is definitely a resentment over here of the financial classes in London: it flared up bigly** during 2008, and has never really gone away. There are many comments being reported today along the lines of "I didn't really think we'd leave, I just voted that way in protest. I want to take it back". That stacks up with the notion that many people didn't really know the implications of what they were voting for.

I work in engineering, and the mood in the office yesterday (99% degree educated, on comfortable-ish salaries) was funereal. But over in our manufacturing facility (unionised, less well paid and less well educated) it was the polar opposite - almost as if we'd won the World Cup or something.

The thing I hate most about this though is the ammunition it is giving the far right racist lunatics. I'd still like to believe that they are a tiny minority, but events like this are giving them the sense that they can be vocal about it. Scumbags, the lot of 'em.

* Great phrase Contrary Brinners, consider it yoinked.
** And credit where credit's due, never let it be said The Donald never gives us anything.

Jumper said...

Thanks for showing up, Tom.
I found this and wonder if the writer got it right. Is this true about the Brexit referendum?

You should get a good night's sleep more often, locumranch. That was comprehensible. I like that poem, too, but I do think you're wearing it out some. You can only listen to Stairway to Heaven a finite number of times.

My earlier remark to Treebeard likely requires some unpacking, lest Robert think I'm a cruder beast than I am, that is if his "Really?" was pointed at me. TB's statement about following instincts is simplistic, insofar as there is an obesity epidemic (more severe in the red states), yet the instinct to munch out is strong. There are many other examples: my instinct to punch the hornets' nest when I'm stung. To run from fire when that traps me. To move into a punch. Etc.

Second, it's absurd to call someone faceless and anonymous on the internet "fat."
Thirdly, when I noted I will be sober this morning, I wasn't drunk. It was a reference to a W.C.Fields gag: "Lady, you're ugly." You're drunk!" "In the morning I'll be sober, but you'll still be ugly."

Fourthly, I'm fat.
Fifthly, Treebeard is really fat.

Tacitus2 said...

I doubt another petition to re-integrate with the EU would be met favorably in the near term. The very attitude that drove The Leavers is that their voice was not being heard by distant bureaucracies that seemed uncaring. Try an immediate "do-over" and there will be fury.

Not to say that in a few years the reality of Brexit may be seen with greater clarity. At that point a petition to come back (I shall dub it "Brinsert" in honor of our genial host) might fly.

It's all in the marketing kids. If the Scots had listened to me and called their recent oh-so-close referendum "Haggxit" it might have carried the day. Now they want to take a hike anyway but there is no explaining Scottish politics.


locumranch said...

You views are welcome, Tim.

My last paragraph, full of thunder and does, refers to 'The Second Coming' by Yeats & reflects the growing disconnect between the Central Establishment and a Flighty (falcon-ish) Polity which circles & obeys them, the problem being that the Establishment misconstrues its centrality as political dominance even though this centrality merely reflects a self-interested polity's willingness to circle & obey as expressed in the 'Consent of the Governed'.

To put it another way:

The Establishment's legitimacy and moral right to use state power is only justified and legal when consented to by the people or society over which that political power is exercised; Command Authority to lead comes from the BOTTOM of the hierarchy rather than the top; and, most definitely, it doesn't originate at EU Central Command in Brussels.

"Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords (or riding & being ridden by bulls) is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony. You (and the EU) can't expect to wield supreme power just 'cause some watery tart threw a sword at you!"

To argue otherwise is to embrace Elitism & Oligarchy.


locumranch said...

"Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords (or riding & being ridden by bulls) is no basis for a system of government" is both a Monty Python quote & a reference to the Myth of Europa.'s_Lovers/Europa/europa.html

For the same reason that teenagers drink, smoke & engage in unprotected sex, the 'UK Leave' vote is a Triumph for Democracy: Both are things people do because they bloody well can !!

You can expect a similar outcome in the coming US Presidential Election, as more & more people 'Vote Trump' simply because an increasingly Maternal & Oppressive Establishment forbids it! "You CAN'T vote for Trump because he's an ignorant misogynist anti-science racist --- bla bla bla bla bla -- and go clean your room, cut your hair, get a job & respect you betters".

The Establishment is in dire need of either a comeuppance or Parenting Classes.


Paul SB said...

It sounds like you are referring to a seiche of sorts, but with the Universe as the lake. Presumably the expansion would happen as a side-to-side oscillation, like lake water (or El Niño) sloshes from one side of the body of water to the other. That's if I am getting the analogy right. I'm not much of a cosmologist, but it's always fun stuff to ponder.


That third to last paragraph about social mobility was one of his many good starts, but like so much of his rant it ends badly (what in comic circles would be called "Cerebus Syndrome" if it were a work of literature). Social mobility is, indeed, a key piece of the propaganda that maintains the system. As long as poor and middle class people feel they have some chance of clawing their way to the top (through hard work and cleverness, so the myth goes), then they will tend to be content with their lot in life. They do not unite against the hierarchy because they don't believe the hierarchy really exists, they think it's a meritocracy. To a certain extent it is true - small numbers of people do manage to claw their way up the ladder, though a majority of the improvement has been slow, generational improvement rather than the get-rich-quick stories that feed the myth. This sort of thinking has all sorts of ugly consequences. A whole lot of the anti-African sentiment where I grew up can be traced to it directly. You take people who were slaves and free them into poverty, then are surprised at how many of them are poor generations later. Because we believe this is a magical land of opportunity, then those who are still poor must simply be lazy and/or stupid. The logic leads directly to racism, and I have had sexism explained to me in the same way (if women make less money than men, it must be because they are too stupid to earn it.)

Loci correctly pointed out that upward social mobility is not exactly happening the way it has traditionally been portrayed, which has led to a whole lot of people feeling a whole lot of resentment. Your description of the different reaction by the engineers vs. the factory workers makes sense here, since the less educated have the lowest prospects for mobility, but are also the least likely to understand what is happening and most likely to fall for a certain type of populist propaganda, one that easily turns to right-wing racism and/or ethnonationalism advocated by those most parochial inhabitants of any given patch of mud. Another of his mistakes is claiming that those who experience upward mobility are co-opted by the hierarchy and no longer available to be leaders against it, but if that upward mobility were as real as he states, it's not really a hierarchy, it's a meritocracy, and those who fail to achieve are simply losers (going by the logic of conservatism as it's currently defined).

Lots of thunder and does! That phrase started out as an autocorrect error (my bad!), and Paul451 decided to roll with it. He was doing great there for awhile! :]

By really fat, I assume it id the cranium you are referring to (or would it be the crown, in keeping with the arboreal analogy). Calling someone fat definitely makes me question at what point his meristems stopped growing.

David Brin said...

Yes, locumranch, using his full name out of respect, makes a point that is very clear and partly true and stands out thus from almost every other pronouncement. That much of the resentment in Red America arises from a Blue America that “co-opts the best & brightest into the dominant hierarchy, and thereby deprives the exploited masses of those (their natural leaders) who would challenge said hierarchy.”

Oh, that’s dumb in many ways but it is based on the fact that I have mentioned many times, that each June the brightest high school graduates in RA scurry off to join BA as fast as they can. To ascribe that to some BA conspiracy, when self-interest is more than adequate explanation, is to savagely insult the actual young men and women involved and is utterly patronizing.

Still, the causal relationship is at least blurrily there. Every other excuse fails though. In fact, the reason for RA’s retrograde orbit and poverty and turitude is far simpler. It is the reason those young bright folks flee.

Confederate culture.

Continue here... though I have a new posting and I am moving onward.

Jumper said...

Well, despite Tolkien's fables, trees grow cephalocaudally which means their "brains" are in the roots underground, and they are waving their "limbs" around in the air, along with any sexual organs.

Annabelle said...

Where the smartest people go when they finish high school is determined by where the best colleges are. It takes a looooong time to make a top quality college so correlating with current politics and culture is doubtful to insane.

As for where they go when they graduate:

Paul SB said...

I'm not sure if you were trying to make a point with this article, but it was an interesting read, demographically. It looks like a ray of hope, really, as the bright, young people who can do good things for the nation are more spread out, less concentrated into a handful of places. On top of that, these mostly pre-reproductive people are moving into the inner cities, exactly where people and resources have been fleeing for decades. As the article points out, for every young, college-educated person who gets a job in any given locale, five more jobs are created. In another decade inner cities might become places with good schools, low crime and desirable properties. If they don't drive out the urban poor in the process, it might even help to reverse 40 years of rich-getting-richer trends.

I doubt my tropical-bred wife would consent to moving back to Denver, regardless.

Anabelle said...

My only real point was that red state brain drain doesn't really exist. Young college educated people tend to move to the most dynamic urban areas regardless of 150 year old wars. .. which makes David and Locums argument rather strange

Paul SB said...

It's not so much about red state vs. blue state, as the argument has gone - it's an urban vs. rural thing, at least in loci's mind. But as I have noted before, there are huge numbers of right-wingers in our urban areas. The rural population just isn't even close to enough to explain the votes garnered by the Republican Party. And anyone who lives in a big city knows that the whole spectrum lives in large clusters of human habitation. His stereotypes are products of a very small mind. Given his recent creation of the acronym PUSI for a region of the country he doesn't like, it would seem that his mind never really made it much past the seventh grade. I didn't know there were places where 12-year olds could practice medicine.

Dorrie said...

Re: Brexit, for decades now the political leaders of the world, including the EU, have focused only on stability and economic growth, and they *have* managed it (more or less), but at the expense of a working class and lower middle class that has gone ignored while that economic growth goes to the top one per cent. When people are secure in a reasonably decent standard of living, they tend to be generous in their outlook. When they see that standard of living slipping away further and further, they become gripped by fear, and that fear leads to intolerance. They feel robbed of the life that they believe, correctly, to be rightfully theirs, and it's easy to believe demagogues who blame the 'other', whether it be immigrants, Mexicans, minorities, foreign bureaucrats, or whoever. That's pretty much what happened in Germany in the 1930s, and the same conditions will lead to the same reaction.

I'm not saying that we're about to see Kristallnachts in the UK and America, but already post-Brexit vote there has been a wave of racist attacks in the UK by Leave voters saying, 'We won, filthy immigrants, go home!' to people who were born there. It's awful, but what else would you expect?

If we don't want this to happen, we shouldn't allow such massive economic inequality.

Re: Goat Man, that's the most amazing thing I've ever seen! I want the movie to star Tom Cruise! :)