Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Political Insanity and Dysfunction: Are we citizens to blame?

How American Politics Went Insane: In this widely cited article from The Atlantic, Jonathan Rauch starts with one blatant fact -- the systematic destruction of American politics as our means for negotiating pragmatic solutions to national and world problems. I have long called this the most horrendous damage done to the U.S., it's people and in fact the world, since politics is our method for negotiating shifts and navigating a path through shoals of rapid change.

 Ah, then Mr. Rauch proceeds to diagnose the cause, in a stunning pile of wrongheaded rationalizations. Rauch – who blends conservative philosophies with a vigorous pro-gay activism - starts by claiming that democrats are in a populist-loopy mess equal and comparable to the frothing frenzy that's happening among republicans. An assertion that’s already laughable and will prove more so, in coming weeks.

He further asserts — as a given, requiring no supporting evidence — that democrats share dogmatic responsibility for our current, pathologically dysfunctional Congress.

From those "givens" Rauch then claims that this purportedly universal dogmatic mania is attributable to the recent trend of democratically empowering voters to express their political will, dispensing with middlemen. In other words: blame the citizens.

Oh, I’ll concede that political intermediaries are, indeed, prescribed in the Constitution for some good reasons. And certainly one can point as a symptom to the populist rebellion by Republican voters against their own party’s elites. But the disease itself is entirely different than he portrays.

A century ago, the “progressive” states established initiative and referendum systems allowing voters more direct say. By Rauch’s reasoning, this would have been disastrous. But those states (now almost all of them are “blue"), have seen mostly positive results. For example, Californians joined voters in Oregon, Washington and many more blue states rebelling against the political caste - even those they like, in their own party - in order to banish the vile cheat known as gerrymandering.  Indeed, gerrymandering is an archetype of betrayal by middle-men for their own caste-benefit.  Democratic Party politicians were deservedly smacked by their constituents in western blue states where this crime has now largely  been undone.  

These also happen to be exactly the states where voters have risen up against the insane War on Drugs, insisting that it be moderated and made more sensible, starting with marijuana. And voters in many of these states have chosen new electoral codes that de-emphasize political party, resulting in more moderate legislators, both republican and democrat.

Notably, there have been no such voter rebellions in red states, where gerrymandering and all other forms of cheating (e.g. rigged voting machines) have been refined to a fine art by Rauch’s heroic middlemen.

Sure, one must be wary - as were the Founders - of surging populist passions, as clearly displayed by the trumpist phenomenon. But this manifests very differently between red states and blue. In the latter part of America , tempers have always — going all the way back to the Civil War — been moderated by pragmatism. It is states with the least citizen empowerment where we see a revived Confederacy and trumpism.

== The final rationalization of a dying movement ==

Rauch’s proclamation that (in effect) “both sides are crazy and at-fault!” has become the last ditch rallying cry of American conservatives who cannot bring themselves to admit the obvious.  That their side — particularly the TV, radio and web svengalis who spent decades stirring illogical and counterfactual populist rage among white males — is the one that is both crazy and at-fault for the deliberate destruction of American politics.

History makes this very clear. Whenever there is a Republican president and a Democratic Congress, budgets and enabling bills get passed. The GOP President’s agenda is used at the starting point for negotiations. From Nixon to Reagan to both Bushes, appointments got hearings and were mostly confirmed. Negotiations were tough — but they were negotiated.

In contrast, Democratic presidents always face a state of bilious war from Republican Congresses… with one year - 1995 - as a marked exception, when Speaker Newt Gingrich paused amid the preening fury of culture war, to negotiate legislation with Bill Clinton, for the good of the nation. (And Gingrich was punished for this by those great role models, Dennis Hastert, Tom DeLay, John Boehner and Paul Ryan, who jointly declared the “Hastert Rule” — to punish any GOP legislator who dared to negotiate independently with democrats over anything at all, without express permission from Roger Ailes.)  

For Mr. Rauch to suggest that anything even remotely equivalent happened on the democratic side would be dishonesty exponentiated.

The anno mirabilis of 1995 has never ever happened again. President Obama has had more appointments blocked than in the entire rest of the history of the U.S. combined. Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives since 1998 -- except for the two Pelosi years -- has been the laziest in American history, holding the fewest hearings and introducing the fewest bills since 1792. Other than a pipeline to let Canadian oil moguls skip their oil over U.S. territory to send it to China, can you name one other assertive, positive GOP goal? One? 

Let me be clear, if I seem partisan it is not because of "left versus right" issues.  I am among those who fought for the recent resurgence of interest in Adam Smith. Entrepreneurial enterprise, small business startups, competitive markets and innovation all do vastly better across the spans of democratic administrations.  Always.  Flat-fair-competitive-creative-productive enterprise is one of the chief victims of the recent, insane oligarchic putsch that has hijacked American conservatism.

No. Watch for this, boys and girls. Irrespective of his history in gay rights, Mr. Rauch is giving voice to the insidious right wing party line.  Unable to pretend any longer that their side is not insane, their agenda is to declare it’s all the people’s fault, and that their opponents are no better.  Hence the narrative - without a single smoking gun across 22 years and $100 million of desperate, 'investigative' trawling — of Clintonite “corruption.”

This has nothing to do with classic left or right. I am compelled to repeat --  since absolutely no one else points this out -- that market enterprise always (and I mean always) does better under democrats. As does fiscal responsibility. And – indeed – every other statistical metric of U.S. national health.  

No, this is not "left" versus "right." A better model is phase 8 of the American Civil War…

…but no. It truly is as simple as sane versus insane. The Murdochian-right’s outright war on science (along with every other knowledge profession in American life) says it all.  Whenever anyone tries the “both sides are the same” malarkey on you, do not accept it! 

We are in no less a time of critical choice than 1861. And I’ll not abide being called crazy… by lunatics.

== Election news & immigration and the TPP ==

Not-so-quietly, Mitt Romney is doing what Richard Nixon did, after similarly going down defeated in his 1960 run for the presidency.  Like Nixon, Romney is spending his time in the political wilderness doing favors for and collecting IOUs from every Republican on the map.  Those IOUs will be cashed. Do not doubt for an instant that Romney intends to come back, big time. You heard it here.  

Consider. Trump has received so far 13.3 million primary votes, the apparent extent of his fervid following. Mitt Romney got in the 2012 general election 60.9 million. And President Obama got nearly 66 million.

Why are Trump voters paranoid about immigration? “Racism” surely encapsulates, but way-oversimplifies. Still shallow and dumb, but better, try this: they fear that America is fundamentally changing, despite vast evidence that the children of recent immigrants become American even better than past generations did.

But no, the hypocrisy is vastly worse. For in fact these changes have almost nothing to do with ILLEGAL immigration, which has declined under every democratic president (especially from Mexico under Obama) and skyrockets during republican ones. 

Confused?  Then actually ponder it. The masters of the GOP benefit from floods of frightened undocumenteds who can’t complain and whose competition undermines unions. The Union leaders who influence democratic politicians want tough border controls!  And every democratic president has doubled the border patrol. And every Gopper prexy slashed it! (GWB had to raise it again, after 9/11.) Both parties have done a great job distracting their base from these factual contradictions.

Think! What’s changing the face of America is LEGAL immigration, which the democrats have loosened. Legals can join unions and become voters, hence demmies prefer legal over illegal influx.  Think! If you hate the changing face of America then do blame democrats, but for LEGAL immigration, which the GOP candidates never mention!

See it all explained here

So why do I support NAFTA and the TPP?  

Surprised? That I am siding with conservatives on this one? Ah, but my reasons are much better and farther-seeing than theirs. I want what will be beneficial for my grandchildren.

Vital to the American future is the uplifting of a middle class Mexico. Beyond it being morally good, it is the most pragmatic thing we can accomplish! Look. It is far easier to defend a short border with Honduras than where Trump wants to build his wall. Even if we lost some jobs to Mexico for a while, NAFTA was a gigantic plus, because today's skyrocketing Mexican middle class will buy megatons of US goods, day after tomorrow.  

Again, if by 2030 Mexico is another Canada, the U.S. will be vastly safer, richer and happier. I can think of no greater foreign policy goal, other than saving the planet.

The fact that no one, not even globalization defenders, ever mentions this fact is pathetic pandering.

As for the TPP? Well, it not only has the same effect, but labor laws, environmental laws and IP protection are all heavily beefed-up in countries that were rights scofflaws, like Vietnam.  Japan must, at long last, slash farm subsidies and end non-tariff barriers to US goods. Above all, if US intellectual creativity and patents are better defended, then we can benefit from what we do best.  Innovating.  Moreover, it turns all the nations of SE Asia and East Asia into out ALLIES in dealing with another nation that swipes a lot more jobs and inventions than all of them do, combined.

Disagree?  Fine. Line up your facts. But stop taking positions based on reflex ignorance.  What are you? Republicans?

== Where do you get your news? ==

Sorry, but some points just have to be hammered. In most blue states, the voting machines use paper ballots or receipts that can be tallied by hand, when a precinct is randomly audited. Which deters cheating. In most red states, there are no paper ballots or receipts. True auditing is impossible and thus the Secretary of State can order up any vote result he/she wants.

This is an even more spectacular example of cheating than gerrymandering, which is a high art in all but two red states... and which has been eliminated in all but a few blue states.

Likewise, ask almost any modern republican where he gets his news, he will answer generally Fox, or else ranters on Clear Channel of Breitbart/Drudge. Ask a democrat and you will get a wide variety of answers. MSNBC, which tried the Fox business model of creating a slavishly-nodding audience of highly profitable dittoheads... is on the verge of bankruptcy because liberals are too diverse and tend to wander away from rants.

It is in these matters - not the surface policy declarations - where you see the true and essential differences between... not dems vs goppers, but the Union vs the Confederacy.
== Final Addenda ... I promise ==

The Elephant and the Bad Baby is a children’s book from 1971 with weird pertinence for our time. “Whenever the bad, red-headed baby wants something, the big elephant gets it for him.”  

Oh... more on the Trump-Putin bromance... Inside Trump's financial ties to Russia and his unusual flattery of Vladimir Putin. Seriously, you folks are kidding, right? This is all just a practical joke?

If so, the folks at Washington DC's Republican Capitol Club aren't laughing.  I had dinner there last month (tasty food) while in town for NASA meetings and you could cut the dour mood of the staff and members with a knife! Then I looked at the newsletter of this ancient and venerable club. It showed an elephant with upraised trunk, bellowing proudly. When elephants do that, do you know what it's called?

Yes, the newsletter is "The Trumpeter." 

When I raised an eyebrow over this, the woman behind the desk growled defensively: "We've had that name for 50 years!"

No, they aren't happy.


Anonymous said...

I continue to predict that Herr Drumpf will sell his nomination to the Confederate Donor Class. All of his recent appearances have lacked his usual energy, as if the novelty has worn off. I think he will "pick" a Good Ol' Boy like Mike Pence for VP, then quickly weasel out of the whole thing. The payoff will be in the form of a billion dollar investment of the gold plated Trump Totally True News Network. After the lawsuits from Gretchen Carlson and all the other victims of Roger Ailes eviscerates the already discredited Foxy News, there will be a vacuum for a loudmouth blowhard right-wing propagandist. And the #1 critical ingredient for the success of such a Fox News 2.0 would be a president despised by the Angry White Men: Hillary Clinton. The GOP bigwigs have probably given up on retaking the White House and will settle for running a man who will not cause as much down-ballot damage as the Man With Tiny Hands would bring.


bigsteve said...

Orange County Florida uses a actual paper ballot that is optically scan and then saved. So both an electronic recount and hand recount can easily be done. I do not know for sure but most likely the server the data is store on is not accessible to the poll workers as is their ballots to the computer administrators. You have to corrupt many more people which is much risker for any ballot hanky panky. Al Gore praised our system in 2000. Of course I have to admit Orange County, part of the I-4 corridor that usually decides state wide elections, is a blue dot neighboring a sea of red. But immigration will eventually push the state from purple to blue.

One of the things we have in Florida is voter referendum which includes putting up state constitutional amendments. Voters have been going around our bought off legislators to fix some of the problems you wrote about. Needless to say the grifter class has been trying to trick the voters to give up this right. So far even Bubba has not been that stupid.

I really appreciate the chart of deficits and their second derivative which is correlated with what administration is in charge. I am a fiscally conservative and this is the main reason I changed parties this spring to democrat. That and GOP policies that are pushing us back to Feudalism. Republicans use to be party of commerce and social justice. It is almost like the old Democratic party just changed names with the old Republican party.

aciddc said...

"Again, if by 2030 Mexico is another Canada, the U.S. will be vastly safer, richer and happier. I can think of no greater foreign policy goal, other than saving the planet.

The fact that no one, not even globalization defenders, ever mentions this fact is pathetic pandering."

I think the issue is that nobody, not even globalization defenders, still believes that trade agreements like NAFTA and TPP will make the countries we sign them with more likely to reach first world levels of development.

PS the captcha system for this site is almost non-functional. I came very close to just giving up and not commenting after it broke so many times.

Paul451 said...

If Trump folds now in favour of an establishment candidate, the party would be destroyed by their members. It's just not going to happen. People need to stop trying to come up with these comforting fantasies.


Re: Re-captcha.

Just post without ticking the "I'm not a robot" box. It doesn't actually seem to do anything.

Paul451 said...

From the last thread:

Paul SB,
Re: Arranged marriages.

Perhaps I should have been clearer. Arranged marriages are a type of sexual selection in humans. As are all forms of cultural selection. Arranged marriages (whether familial, football clubs, or phone-apps) are a subset of sexual selection.

Re: Thatcher.
"After the war, many British were too in shock to remember how they'd managed to uplift themselves in the first place."

The late '70s and early '80s were clearly the point at which British people were shaking off that shock and looking for the next step forward. That was hijacked by the supply-side movement, who played with populist sentiment to fool people into voting against their own interests.

That doesn't mean that Thatcher, supply-side, etc, was necessary for Britain to rise above its doldrums.

I think there's a tendency to see Thatcher and Reagan as somehow necessary for the UK/US to escape the '70s downturns. If you decided to buy a new car and, being a bit naive, you allow a shonky salesman to fool you into buying a lemon. That doesn't mean you wouldn't have bought a new (and better) car if the shonk hadn't been there or if you'd been a smarter buyer. And it doesn't make the shonky salesman a necessary evil, nor does it make the car any less of a lemon.

Re: Climate change response.
"Those orbital mirrors could be afforded by the markets instead of government in that case."

Why would "the markets" build orbital mirrors to offset warming? How is that a private company's responsibility?

John Kurman said...

A unified North America (great relations with Canada and Mexico) is the only way the US will be able to compete globally in the coming decades. I'm a big fan of Mexico and mexicanos. Remember folks, Mexico gave us vanilla AND chocolate..

Tacitus2 said...

I must admit I was hoping for something more original.

There is a strangeness in our political life right now. I don't think it can be explained with boiler plate references to the Confederacy or "rigged" voting machines.
There is more going on....


Jared Frick said...

I'm active on The Young Turks app, and there seems to be plenty of anti-HRC, pro-Bernie frothing at the moment.
In fact, the childish shortsightedness and inability (or obstinate refusal) to turn one's political head among many of the TYT app users is reminding me quite frequently of GOP insanity.

Jared Frick said...

I'm active on The Young Turks app, and there seems to be plenty of anti-HRC, pro-Bernie frothing at the moment.
In fact, the childish shortsightedness and inability (or obstinate refusal) to turn one's political head among many of the TYT app users is reminding me quite frequently of GOP insanity.

Jumper said...

David, at least send Rauch a link to your essay. Perhaps he'll answer.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul451: I should back up a moment and inform people I’m not trying to defend Thatcher or Reagan. Whether either of them made things better or worse can be debated by many of us here who were actually alive at the time. While that can be fun if everyone is given a sharp stick, that’s not what I was trying to do. I was looking mostly at the GDP per capita numbers for the UK and US (corrected for inflation and PPP) and how the diverged. One expects a rebuilding era for the UK after WWII, but one that lasts a generation is a bit much. Socialism as it was practiced in the UK when my mother was young undermined the nation and left her with a gut feeling that she had to leave the trap. She’s no liberal (on the old sense) and nothing like an American Conservative. She self identifies as progressive/socialist. Yet she left in ’61 and had plans to do so dating back to at least ’59. I’ll admit that my mother as a dataset is too small to defend universal statements about the UK, but there are some notable numbers that DO support the fact that the UK lost its mind during WWII and forgot how they had managed to enrich themselves generations earlier.

As for Thatcher and Reagan, I think they arrived on the scene about when both the US and UK decided they didn’t like some of their earlier policy choices. Voters do that sometimes. In the US it seems to be about every 50 years usually lagging the UK by a few years. If that cycle keeps up, we are ‘scheduled’ for something whacky during the 2020’s with this decade being the wind-up for someone’s big sales pitch.
Regarding orbital mirrors, the most likely commercial buyer will be the insurance industry. They prefer not to make payments on policies. Risk domains where event risks are large (like the launch industry) tend to result in a large policy purchase price which limits demand. Reducing risk events is useful for growing their markets. Consider this example. What should someone pay for flood insurance as a percentage of the property value if they live along the Gulf facing panhandle of Florida in two possible universes. The first does not have orbital mirrors, but does have business as usual economic projections for climate change. The second does have orbital mirrors and business as usual economic projections. Hurricanes can do far more than blow a house down, but the most important point here is they are more difficult to predict in a climate where more heat energy is available in the Gulf. The range of the possible becomes larger. This matters to insurance underwriters.

My friends have looked at some of the possible markets. I was interested mostly in the orbital debris problem because I’m a solar sail fanboy. Insurance underwriters play a big role in all industries, but they are usually behind the scenes where people don’t see how they impact/manipulate prices. They matter.

Alfred Differ said...

@John Kurman: I’m all for a unified market for North America and even support a push to include all the Americas, but I’ll disagree with you regarding its necessity for the US to compete globally in the next century. It would be a wonderful thing to have a billion people all agreeing to the Bourgeois Deal as we are inclined to implement it, but without it the most likely thing that will happen is other regions to catch up closer to us making many of us approximate peers.

If we are all innovating like mad, we WILL eventually see many of those innovations occurring outside the US in a world with 100x more scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs. This is already started. For it to continue, though, the US has to do its part. Since we don’t generate most of our GDP through export that means we will be madly innovating too. We will all be chasing an asymptote and if our children have any sense at all they won’t turn against any group in that mad clade. Doing so is the fastest way to get left behind because one needs to use those mad innovators in the attack. It’s just dumb.

Alfred Differ said...

For captcha issues, just use the preview feature. I've been doing that for over a year now to bypass the whole mess.

David Brin said...

Jumper I figure Rauch has his own people sifting for references to him. Dang if I want to wade through the Atlantic's comments section! If anyone has an email address for him, I'll write. But my words are open and there for him to see or not.

AD: All the rhetoric against NAFTA and TPP on BOTH the right & left has been nasty, self-centered and xenophobic about "protecting American jobs." I know of no one else pointing out that it's better to buy from cheap Mexican labor than cheap Chinese labor. In the former case, we get a huge long term win... a prosperous neighbor who is our pal and ally and eager to resume buying advanced American products.

The similar selling point for TPP is simple. Lock in all the smaller Asian states to wanting us around. In that light, I find it hard to picture what the mainland leadership is thinking, with this ocean grab thing. Seriously? Could you try any harder to drive all your neighbors into our arms? Likewise the anti-TPP crowd... could you try any harder to throw AWAY that geopolitical gift?

David Brin said...

Tacitus, yes, I know you do not like my hammering-back after three decades of relentless Culture War. But my blog makes plain that democratic congresses do NOT treat GOP presidents the way GOP congresses treat Demmi presidents. And I don't recall making that "boilerplate" before.

Right now, I will openly say that I will back off from my "civil war" language when I see more components of the right do what the California Republican Party has done. For sheer survival, they are refashioning themselves as moderates. Though that has not affected their congressmen yet.

Look, I know it's a rough year. Just please resist the siren song that it's the same phenomenon on both sides. It isn't. HC will be a solid professional who knows the job better than any inaugurated president in recorded history. She will offer to negotiate, from day one. The question will be -- will the offer be accepted?

Will compromise proposals and entitlement reform and an infrastructure bill and all the other things that have been on the table for 18 YEARS(!!) finally be discussed, argued and passed -- by adults? Sure, I'd rather it will be about stuff like that.

Robert said...

I have to agree with Tacitus here, Dr. Brin.

I read this blog entry and I had a massive sense of deja vu. I scrolled down to the comments and found that yes, this IS a new blog entry. But it read very very much like something you've written before. Maybe several times.

Ah well. They can't all be hits. I'll look forward to the next science-based entry. :)

Rob H.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Dr Brin
The reason I don't like it is that it will be taking us (NZ) back to where the USA is now in terms of IP and environmental protection

David Brin said...

Duncan, I get you. Fine. There should be allowances for nations having greater, not lesser, protections.

RobH... when you see others in media raising and discussing my biggest points, then I will back off on them. If I am at all right about any of them, then they desperately need discussion and I will shout until they become part of the national debate.

What? Disparities in gerrymandering, drug laws and voting machines AREN"T significant enought to be strong factors in red vs blue arguments? When screechers keep up the howl that blue americans are inherently immoral beings, there should be no answer... at all?

i_/0 said...


Deuxglass said...

Duncan Cairncross,

No I don’t run red lights. A traffic light just tells you if it is your turn or not. It doesn’t even tell you if it is safe to go. The light in itself has no power of coercion. That power is reserved to the cop that pulls you over. It is a tool only. A police-bot on the other hand would have that power to coerce. An object, a thing that is not even alive is your master and what does that make you?

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi deuxglass
So a traffic light is purely advisory

I assume that as you never let anything mechanical control your motions you never use elevators or airplanes - or buses

Me - I am a lot more confident in my humanity so yes I do let mechanical things do things for me and in your terms "become my master" - better than walking up all those stairs

Why is a "police bot" a different type of "tool" than any other tool?

We are NOT talking about AI here - and I don't think a "police bot" would be it's first (or fortieth) application

Deuxglass said...

Hi Duncan,

Of course I let machines control my motions but I have the choice to use the tool or not. If I feel the elevator or the airplane is unsafe I don't have to use them. It is my choice. I can trust it to do its job or not but it is my decision and not the tool's and that makes the difference.

RFYork said...

RE: The (continuing) Civil War

If you have not read it yet, I strongly recommend "The Cousins' War" by Kevin Phillips. He takes the 16th through 19th century histories of the various battles between factions in England which he contends lasted at least through our own Civil War.

Phillips is the former Nixon speech writer turned populist. His views on American history and politics are fascinating and entertaining.

Having researched the history of the Initiative and Referendum process in Oregon, I differ very strongly on your opinion thereof. If you're interested, I would be happy to forward you a copy of our 2008 City Club of Portland Research Report on the I&R system in Oregon. Our findings apply to virtually all states which have adopted the system.

Though the report hedges its conclusions, the opinion of the committee personally was that the I&R system is the principal cause of the political failures in those states which use it. For every pro-marijuana laws passed, there are scores of awful tax and revenue related popular measures which have devastated those states political and physical infrastructure. I will email you directly.

Jumper said...

My clothes drier decides when to stop. I even let dumb organic modules decide for me important things. I suppose that means my liver is ruler of me.

locumranch said...

In the sense that the US populace is evenly divided between Blue Urban & Red Rural political sentiments, of course 'we citizens' are to blame for this divide, elsewise we would have to apply the 'No True Scotsman' fallacy in order to deny the intelligence, sanity & validity of half our citizenry.

Unsurprisingly, the American Psychiatric Association does exactly that when & if we combine mental illness prevalence (about 26%) to the rising rate of anxiety & depression-based mood disorders (about 20 to 25%) in the general US population, leaving only the question of causation:

Is the current level of EU & US sociopolitical instability the cause or the effect of this mental illness epidemic? Personally, I think it's a little of both.

Finally, I want to dismiss David's assertion that the US needs the TPP to 'Lock in all the smaller Asian states to wanting us around' as this is unadulterated BS because, much like the EU needs us due to the Ukrainian situation, those ASEAN states need us 'around' as never before, especially with PRC China throwing its weight around in the South China Sea.

And, as Trump would says: They need U.S., so this is the perfect time to demand further concessions for U.S.


John Kurman said...

Alfred Differ: Hi, amigo. All things trending the same, I would agree with you. And, of course, the US of A still holds plenty of cards when it comes to future ingenuity, labor, and capital, not to mention geography and demographics. All the doomsaying and wringing of hands is just that. Ah, but, with trends staying the same! I am, in keeping with the sprit and tone of this forum, a contrarian. Arbitrage, in all its forms, is becoming increasingly important in the global economy; whether that be infrastructure, logistics, raw materials, strategic minerals, raw talent, you name it. The US, on its own, is going to get beat down over time. We have simply lost our edge, and I attribute this to the current distribution of wealth, coupled with keeping the dollar the universal currency through an obscene and insane military strategy. (We are looking very similar to the Soviet Union, but in an extended collapse: oligarchy, prison population, skeletonization of infrastructure, etc. etc.). I am counting on the current acceleration in climate change to turn into a shock, and North America will not fare as well as current climate models predict. I'm betting that the US will be increasingly reliant on our neighbors to continue growth. (My bet? Mexico, surprise, turns out to be one of the most important refugia in the coming climate shock, given its geography). I'm not trying to be alarmist, I'm just trying to cover all scenarios, and the planning suggests group fitness wins out. Individual nations will increasingly be more fit as regions or associations. My .02.

Jumper said...

locum and more of his bullshit statistics, apparently thinking if you repeat a lie often enough it's true.

And i/o, that article on rigged Clinton elections is pretty sketchy, especially for printing this huge excerpt from Black Box Voting, with no explanation to go with it. As it happens, I think (but need to look into it further) Bev Harris made a big blunder on this lately, not understanding that several areas indeed use fractional voting in some elections. And so any software must report it such. (Not that I don't despise paperless voting.)

Zepp Jamieson said...

For the vast amusement of Contrary Brin readers, I'm linking to a Reddit thread called "Donald And Hobbes." (https://www.reddit.com/r/DonaldandHobbes/). The basic premise is simple: you take one of Bill Watterson's masterpieces and put Trump's face over Calvin's. This is legal under American copyright law since it is for satirical purposed, and I suspect Watterson would probably approve anyway.
Here are the rules:


1) The strip you paste Trump's head over has to contain dialogue that Trump might actually say. You can edit dialogue so Calvin's name is missing or certain words (perhaps too intelligent for Donald) are gone. But just putting Trump's head on Calvin acting like a kid is missing the point.

2) Other politicians are welcome, just be sure to flair the post as "Guest Starring" if they are with Trump or "Spin-Off" if they are in place of Trump. Obviously, Rule #1 still applies. Calvin complaining about homework does not warrant Ben Carson's face plastered over it.

3) Color of heads must match the color of the strip. Come on, people, be classy.

4) Reposts are only allowed after 30 days. If you post a strip that you did not create, please give credit to the creator. Redone strips with faces you think might work better are acceptable after a reasonable period of time. If you only wait a few days, it will likely be removed.

5) Have fun and try not to think worse of Calvin. He's only six. Trump's going on 70 and still hasn't grown up.

Anonymous said...

The name of the neocon--err, liberal--Hawk never once inscribed about campus yielded a Bernie supporter with a stinky face when I noted that Bernie had thrown in support for said corporate Hawk. As to why the present bastion of liberal hope is so revolting to a registered Democrat, well, I wouldn't expect a Dominant Minority to know what is going on, especially seeing how things are going so very well.

NAFTA one might recall as cheap corn flooding Mexicans off their family farms, a win for megacorps flush with cash, and a loss for pretty much everyone else, including the planet--how are the aquifers that feed that corn habit doing? No problemo, just lob some iron in the oceans, it's inevitable, and what could possibly go wrong, anyways? Derp, derp, derp. These are the symptoms of the Western death-path that the Irouqi speak of, though I'm not surprised that a corporate apologist would try to market it as "uplift" or somesuch manifestly obvious destiny. TPP? More Mammon for the corporate teat, as shown by e.g. Canadian law professor Michael Geist, who has made no such rhetoric about "protecting American jobs," and does not think it a gift.

Marino said...

Beg to disagrre. I've read the article and I've also suggested it to other friends.
The mix between internet & social media (there is an interesting article on Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/jul/12/how-technology-disrupted-the-truth )
and getting rid of the middlemen has made populist politics a lot easier.
Here in Italy the mass parties selected politicians and educated voters (heck, even the Communist party managed convert its voters to play loyal opposition within the constitutional rules while its Greek counterpart nededup fighting and losing a civil war, while the Christian Democrats made Catholics who would have supported something like Spanish theocratic Fascism pay at least lip service to democracy).
When large mass parties failed, the void was filled first by the proto-Trump Berlusconi, and now by the FiveStar movement, playing truly Goebbelsian propaganda tactis while being run by an advertising company and portraying themselves as "the only true honest democratic force". IMHO Rauch is getting some relevant points, more than what dr. Brin acknowledges.

Annabelle said...

Really?! You posted that false deficit claim again once more somehow deciding it somehow proves something about every statistic.

Most of the screaming about referendums bad has been from the left. We had a New York times columnist praising the authoritarian China.

The reason there is no left equivalent of fox is that almost all media leans left. Numerous studies have shown this. Screaming that reporters are a "knowledge profession" and we should eat what they feed us is not refutation of this.

If nominated, Trump will probably receive more votes than any previous Republican candidate.

Marino said...

Beg to disagree. I've read the article and I've also suggested it to other friends.
The mix between internet & social media (there is an interesting article on Guardian
https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/jul/12/how-technology-disrupted-the-truth )
and getting rid of the middlemen has made populist politics a lot easier.

Here in Italy the mass parties selected politicians and educated voters (heck, even the Communist party managed to convert its voters to play loyal opposition within the constitutional rules while its Greek counterpart ended up fighting and losing a civil war, while the Christian Democrats made Catholics who would have supported something like Spanish theocratic Fascism pay at least lip service to democracy).
When large mass parties failed, the void was filled first by the proto-Trump Berlusconi, and now by the FiveStar movement, who're playing truly Goebbelsian propaganda tactis while being run by an advertising company and portraying themselves as "the only true honest democratic force". IMHO Rauch is getting some relevant points, more than what dr. Brin acknowledges.

David Brin said...

I am perfectly willing to discuss bargaining harder for concessions on things like TPP. But most of its opponents oppose it reflexively without studying WHETHER it was already hard-bargained.

BTW locum, America is not 50% red… Blue media and politicians have been so blithering stupid about message that it looks closer than it is. And still goppers hold Congress and statehouses only by cheating. Smart kids from every red high school flee to blue America in droves. Why do you try?

Oh! How I want “Annabele” to step up and offer actual cash wagers deposited with a neutral fiduciary for all that crap! I have long held that red-ravers would flee for the hills, if their ravings demanded cash bets.

Annabelle said...

Is there a way to do that without breaking anonymity?

Michael Bryan said...

"Notably, there have been no such voter rebellions in red states, where gerrymandering and all other forms of cheating (e.g. rigged voting machines) have been refined to a fine art by Rauch’s heroic middlemen."

A small correction. One 'red' state has rebellious voters: Arizona. We passed an independent redistricting commission to end gerrymandering by referendum. The GOP immediately declared war on the reform, taking the matter ultimately to the Supreme Court after failing to sabotage the reform any of a number of other ways. As a result our electoral map is significantly improved, though still far from perfectly fair, and we are now widely considered a 'purple' state in national politics.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "they fear that America is fundamentally changing, despite vast evidence that the children of recent immigrants become American even better than past generations did."

Or they may be doing the same thing than the french racists, whose racism is fueled by seeing the grandchildren of immigrants becoming much better French than them and hating being outmatched by the descendant of foreign proles.

Alfred Differ said...

@David: I hear you regarding support of Mexico since there is a security benefit to us for uplifting a neighbor. My comeback is we should be making use of cheap Mexican labor AND cheap Chinese labor. The people who focus on jobs are missing a crucial point. An economy isn’t about jobs. It is about the production of stuff to be consumed. People who make it about jobs are mixing politics and economics and playing on our fear of change.

Nowhere in the long history of human civilizations has any group of people been permanently put out of work without the application of coercive power. Trade, whether through NAFTA or the TPP, will change the costs of certain production processes, but the humans doing the impacted jobs are able to be substitutes for some other kind of work afterward because the countries involved don’t prevent them. Where substitution is possible, wages become correlated, thus job impacts aren’t as scary as fear mongers would make them out to be.

I’m generally for trade agreements, but not for the usual political nonsense people attach to them. The world is made better for all of us when people agree to dignify each other and free each other to act on what they know. Trade makes that much easier for us to do at the grass roots level. Governments can leech, impair, or do otherwise harmful things, but if the citizens of the world trade with each other, it won’t really matter for long. Real incomes will climb; we will all become wealthier, and we will wind up owning enough of a stake in this civilization to want to defend it. Even if trade agreements aren’t signed, that will just slow us down a bit.

Real income per person is climbing at about 4.8% when one includes all humans on the planet. That means in about 15 years, the average person will either have twice the income they do now or be able to buy about twice as much if their nominal incomes don’t increase. Most likely it will be a mix of the two possibilities. In 30 years it could quadruple. I might be here to see it, but I can already imagine that the world is going to change dramatically. What happens when the bottom billions have the income to invest in the human capital stored in their children? By 2050, there are going to be an awful lot more scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs in the world. Probably more science fiction authors too. 8)

David Brin said...

Michael Bryan it’s been a while that Arizona has been deemed more purple than red and we have hopes. But yes, I nee to parse my declarations into categories.

#1 is those things that are so nearly universal that I can offer the devastating “name one counter-example” demand. Like name a major statistical metric of US national health that does not do better across the spans of DP administrations than GOP ones. Including business startups, employment and military readiness.

#2 is where you can write off a couple of exceptions and do the same thing: name one major test of moral behavior that most red regions don’t fail more readily than most blue regions. I’d exclude fetishistically clean Utah and admittedly harsh Chicago and Detroit and some other rough urban centers. Otherwise, compare STDs, gambling, teen sex/pregnancy, domestic violence and so on…

Gerry manderig fits #2 weirdly. IDAHO has gone to independent commissions! But then… was the GOP in any danger there? Yes, but from supremicist-holnist-survivalist-secessionists. Not democrats.

David Brin said...

Annabelle re demanding wagers: “Is there a way to do that without breaking anonymity?”

Answer #1: coward

#2: It’s actually a cool question. My respect for this person would go way up if she/he offered to form a committee to look into what it would take to make bets on widely touted political assertions. If this person actually had the guts to seek ways to overcome three problems (1) how to parse bets testable/falsifiable, (2) how to hold the money & (3) how to appoint neutral adjudicators…

… then my respect would go up. Well, it has no where else to go, given my rock bottom views of this bizarrely loony person.

David Brin said...

Alfred it is partly a matter of whether our trading partners think positive or zero sum. Mexicans understand positive sum. I am afraid the Beijing leadership sees things zero or negative sum. To them we are fools to have uplifted them via trade. We are prey beasts to be sucked dry. When in fact the Marshallian Pax was designed deliberately to uplift the world this way and their rise has been entirely due to our generosity and sufferance.

We could do without the toys and cheap socks tomorrow. The day after, we'd get them from India, Japan and Mexico.

Alfred Differ said...

@John Kurman: If the climate sours the way some zealots suggest it will, I have no doubt Mexico will be contain important refugia. My brother has lived in Guadalajara for many years and tried to explain how the weather seems to work between there and the Pacific coast. His stories reminded me of parts of California where a sensible resident would retreat from the Central Valley into the Sierra to avoid the summer heat. Do we? Nah. We buy lots of air conditioning units. If things turn sour, though, a number of possible climates are available to the survivors all along the coast.

You are welcome to your dour predictions, but if you really believe in them I challenge you to place money on those bets. Arbitrage is a game that can be played by anyone alert enough to spot opportunities. It’s not restricted to big money market players. Alert play should be rewarded, so go for it.

I’m inclined to bet the other way. I don’t think the US has lost its edge. People who have played that bet in the past lose over the long haul. I have no doubt we can do better than we are at present, but we’ve demonstrated an historical resiliency unmatched by other nations. We have shown we can stumble, blow a trillion dollars on something stupid, and then recover pretending like nothing bad even happened.

You bet your way and I’ll bet mine. We’ll see who gets it right. 8)

occam's comic said...

You know it take a lot of damn Gaul to call the TPP a free trade agreement. Because nothing says free trade more than ensuring government granted monopolies (patents and copyrights) don’t have to face free and open competition in the marketplace. And nothing says democracy more than wealthy investors and multinational corporations getting their own special court system that is designed to give corporations another tool to fight democratic government. And sure, pay no attention to fact that multinational corporations were at the negotiating table but the public wasn’t.

Annabelle said...

It is an interesting problem.

youbetme seems to be trying to make a social betting app but they rely on rep scores rather fiduciary duty to keep bets honest. Obviously we can't use trust here.

Now the third party would to both be trustworthy and situated in an environment where acting as a bookie is legal. Either a bank that was open to weird propositions or an actual bookie.

Starting a dedicated service would be likely unprofitable as, as you say many people would as you say run from an easily verifiable request; but maybe be I'm wrong more market research could be done. However such an organization would be critically dependent on it's reputation, thus it would probably have to start a subdivision of or an organization with an already good reputation.

There is however another possibility for determining the answer rather than fiduciary duty. Post a number of requests to amazon mechanical turk and take the average.

i_/0 said...

"You know it take a lot of damn Gaul to call the TPP a free trade agreement. Because nothing says free trade more than ensuring government granted monopolies (patents and copyrights) don’t have to face free and open competition in the marketplace. And nothing says democracy more than wealthy investors and multinational corporations getting their own special court system that is designed to give corporations another tool to fight democratic government. And sure, pay no attention to fact that multinational corporations were at the negotiating table but the public wasn’t."

^That. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it stop inserting it's own metaphors as the way the world works, especially when the world doesn't seem to agree.

David Brin said...

Were there corruptly derived components to TPP. I am sure. But the self-righteously indignant hate of the opponents, who did not try reading or parsing or rank-ordering good and bad portions, meant that they could not use their ire to force NEGOTIATIONS that might retain the good and reduce the bad.

In this way, their simplistic, reactive and emotional pattern far too much resembles what has been the sole behavior of the mad right.

Canceling TPP entirely will not help the child labor that it would ban, nor the improved environmental codes Vietnam and Malaysia would have to obey, nor the inspectors for health and safety in factories, nor the auditors requiring payment of royalties for stolen American inventions. It won't make Japan open up its markets to nearly all our farm exports, which TPP demands. It WILL embolden China and cause new allies to scurry away from us.

The fact that all of this will come as a surprise to most TPP opponents is just sad. There was something worth improving. Your opposition could have been the stick. Instead you killed a potential egg-laying goose.

Alfred Differ said...

@David: The Chinese leadership isn’t really sucking the US dry. Those leeches are connected to the Chinese people. To see this, note that we still trade with Chinese companies through voluntary transactions. Would we if the leech was attached to us?

Heh. IP owners aren’t the US. I’ve seen the argument you offer regarding IP and I’m inclined to agree, but if I go too far I become a propertarian. IP defends a monopoly claim to the use of the covered property. There is no doubt they are stealing from us if our claims carry moral force. You are familiar, though, with the IP debate and the counter-claim that long duration monopoly rights are immoral. I am strongly for incentivizing IP creators to innovate and I’ll defend their monopolies, but only up to a point. If I have to choose between seeing the poor in China increase their real incomes at a rate of 7%/year with no IP defense for our stuff or 5%/year with IP defense, I might take a pragmatic path and not defend IP creators. If I’m certain that those extra 2% are only going to Chinese leadership, I probably will defend IP creators. Basically, with 1+ billion people in a position to gain, I might tolerate a bit of theft.

Where I buy cheap socks doesn’t concern me, though. People substitute for each other across the labor market, so I don’t care if they come from Mexico or China. The people in both regions will find something to do. Where you CAN motivate me to buy Mexican, though, is as a way to establish substitutes for otherwise risky jobs involved in illegal trade between Mexico and the US. I’m willing to pay a premium for my socks, but I’d rather demolish the stupid Drug War that makes such trade so lucrative. We don’t need to sign any trade treaties to do that. 8)

i_/0 said...

David you do yourself no credit to identify opponents as merely "haters," we hear that a lot from commentators far less intelligent and considerate than I know you to be.

Jonathan Sills said...

It takes Roman-era France to call the TPP a "free-trade" agreement?? And will Julius Caesar then divide the TPP into three parts?

occam's comic said...

Negotiations is exactly what i am asking for. I want an end to the secrecy (to the public not to the major multinationals) and have our initial negotiating position and guide lines for negotiating compromises publicly debated and approved by congress and and the president before the negotiators meet.

As to your comments about TPP

Will child labor get a special court to sue the multinationals who's suppliers use child labor? How about those that abuse adult labor? and Unions?

Will local ecosystems get legal standing to stop the human activities that harm it? Can local ecosystems seek damages from those who harmed it?

Nope these special new courts are for the wealthy and the multinational corporations only.

As to auditors requiring payment of royalties for stolen American inventions, sure we americans can ignore other peoples intellectual property when we were developing our industries, but now that it benefits us intellectual property must be respected.

Why is it good for Japan to open its markets to nearly all of our farm exports? Why must the japanese sacrifice their value of local food security so that some big agro can make a bit more money (in the short run)?

Alfred Differ said...

Without weighing in directly on TPP, you don’t really need it to lower child labor rates. Wait a little bit until real incomes rise in those nations and mothers there will put an end to it. Where it makes economic sense to employ children, they will until people there put a stop to it. And they will. They are human.

The same is likely to happen with environmental issues and health and safety issues. We might find it difficult waiting a generation watching them learn lessons we learned, but they will. And they will put a stop to it. They are human.

Pass TPP or don’t, but continue to trade with them all.

China will be emboldened whether we sign TPP or not. As they grow richer, they will strive to re-establish there once strong position in world trade. Before Europe grew to dominance in the 19th century, the Indian Ocean was a trading lake for them and their trade partners. Like the dinosaurs wanting their oil back, the Chinese are returning. It should be an interesting century.

David Brin said...

i_/o You know that I am harsher on the mad right. But show me where on the left forlks have articulated and laid down the good vs the “bad” aspects of TPP in a clear manner and proposed strategies for enhancing the former while negotiating-down the latter? Please. I am sure it’s happened somewhere. But among any of your angry, anti-TPP acquaintances?

occam's comic said...

So if i understand what you said Alfred,

That many of the benefits that David claims will come from TPP will happen with out it, and that the big fear David has about what might happen if we don't pass TPP will happen regardless.

That leaves only my complaints about the TPP ;-)

Robert said...

Dr. Brin, while I'm not actually pro or against the TPP, I do have to call bullpucky on your claim.

The anti-TPP faction never. ever. ever. had the ability to modify contents of the TPP. They never would have been allowed to modify it. The TPP was crafted by specific actors in a secretive setting that was very much contrary to your own calls for transparency. And the anti-TPP crowd could have been demanding an end to child labor being included in the TPP instead of being outright against it, or for other specific rights... and they would have been ignored and shut out anyway.

The agents behind TPP had specific goals they wanted. They did their best to gain those goals. And while no one actor got everything it wanted, the anti-TPP crowd were never actually stakeholders in this affair. Ever.

Rob H.

locumranch said...

The US of A is roughly '50% Red' in geographical terms (google Red and Blue maps). As 62.7% of the US population lives in cities (according to 2105 Census), this suggests that the US is at least 60% Blue population-wise. Yet, according to a 2014 Gallup poll, almost 43% of US citizens dislike both established political parties enough to self-identify as Independents.

Then, there's David's perennial assertion that Urban Blues are more 'moral' than Rural Reds (especially in terms of "STDs, gambling, teen sex/pregnancy, domestic violence and so on") wherein the term 'moral' is a vague discriminatory label that correlates inversely with poverty, yet he can't say that in a progressive way without (1) betraying his elitist entitlement by being dismissive of the impoverished, (2) appearing 'racist' for pointing out the similarities between Red Red & impoverished minority 'immorality' (hence his decision to exclude "Chicago and Detroit and some other rough urban centers" from discussion) or (3) admitting that Rural Reds have been traditionally impoverished by ongoing Urban Blue exploitation.

From the perspective of Identity Politics, this is what NAFTA, TPP & unrestricted globalisation tend to do: They impoverish the First World proletariat under the pretense of foreign poverty mitigation.

Rather than CARING about 'uplifting' the foreign poor, the Big Corporations only care about maximising profits, decreasing absolute labour costs & politically disenfranchising the Working Classes.


Alfred Differ said...

@occam’s comic: If you expand that to include my belief that your fears are unlikely to matter either, you have a pretty good picture of my position. The main complaints folks on the Left have with free trade agreements involve cheaters establishing immoral rules. History shows they are pretty good at this and at creaming off quite a bit of money. It also shows they capture a very tiny percentage of the value in the trade that occurs. Even the kleptocratic thefts David puts forward as casus belli for a Helvetian War didn’t capture much compared to the income flows today. They got eye-poppingly large sums, but that’s like pissing in the ocean compared to what poor people managed to retain. It’s just that we don’t have a sense of the context for these thefts. Cheaters walk away with enough money to impact politics (a very serious problem), but it is peanuts to what the rising tide is doing.

Free trade treaties remind me to think about context on occasion. They also remind me to think about alternatives. I had the accidental pleasure of sitting in a restaurant in Mexico when NAFTA was in our Senate being considered. The waiter was Mexican, but my lunch guests were an American and two Canadians. The obvious topic was raised by the waiter. In a nutshell, I told him it didn’t matter what our Senate did. It mattered what his people chose to do unilaterally. If they opened up, our businesses would come south and then with a new motivation, negotiate with our Senate on their behalf. The trick required they ensure our companies NOT benefit from NOT negotiating. Focus on that is essentially what I argued.

I was for NAFTA, but thought people were going about it all wrong. Free trade doesn’t make any sense to me without the free movement of Labor. I want both and disagree with David about what kind of immigration filter to use at our border with Mexico or with anyone else. If someone wants to work here, I’m likely to be all for it as long as they agree to the Bourgeois Deal. That’s the level of assimilation I demand.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch: Two words. Invisible Hand.

Big Corporations CAN be focused upon maximizing profit and still serve usefully to uplift the poor. There is an excellent argument to be made that they can’t avoid doing the later if they do the former… at least if they do NOT have access to the power of coercion. It all works better with smaller corporations, of course, but that’s mostly about them not being big enough to coerce effectively.

LarryHart said...

@Alfred Differ:

I was for NAFTA, but thought people were going about it all wrong. Free trade doesn’t make any sense to me without the free movement of Labor.

If I understand correctly, free movement of capital without free movement of labor is a feature, not a bug, of NAFTA. So it's a bit strange to say you were for it, but against its essential design.

I could say likewise that I'm in favor of TPP but against granting transnational corporations supersede local sovereignty. I'm not sure what that would mean, though.

Zepp Jamieson said...


There's a significant minority of independents who lean liberal or left, once the base of the Democratic party. They made up an estimated 40% of Bernie Sanders' support, obviously a significant factor in the voting demographics of the country.

On TTP, the most damning claims made against it in my eyes is that it can override local and state environmental and perhaps health and safety regulations. And that it grants major corporations the equivalent of a "takings law" whereupon they can sue for any policy that can impact their profits--in effect, demand payment not to pollute or despoil. Citing provisions of the NAFTA rules, CanadaOil is suing the State Department and Administration for $10 billion for refusing to let them build the XL pipeline.

David Brin said...

Rob H that is malarkey. Opponents to TPP did not sit at the table when it was negotiated. But they could have laid down WHICH parts they hate most and demanded changes, with a firm promise to accept the rest. Show mw where that was ever said.

I need hip waders with locum. Red America SUCKS net taxes out of blue arteries.. It is not ‘exploited.”* and we were denounced, in endless venom by them, for our moral faults, for 80 years before we got fed up and fired back. And clearly locum do NOT like seeing the utter lie of red moral superiority refuted!

The hilarity of him dissing ‘big corporations’ when his masters are the Supply Side greedy parasites is almost too much.

(*Except if you include luring all the best and brightest sons and daughters of red America to the bright lights. Okay. Yes. I have oft admitted that crime.

sociotard said...

Irrelevant. Colonies in the old days were often a net drain on the colonizing power. That didn't mean the colonized areas weren't exploited.

And that tends to be how the rural areas feel about the higher levels of government: a colonizing power that degrades them and pushes them around.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Dr Brin
"Opponents to TPP did not sit at the table when it was negotiated. But they could have laid down WHICH parts they hate most and demanded changes, with a firm promise to accept the rest."

NO - No they could NOT
The TPP was "negotiated" as a single piece - there were NO zero changes permitted

The document was negotiated and accepted by secret talks - after that it was announced that there could be no changes
The argument was that if there was any change at all then the document would have to be re-negotiated by all of the countries involved so no changes could be made

The only choice that the US government or the NZ Parliament was to have was accept in it's entirety or reject

i_/0 said...

At first glance you may seem to have a valid criticism of the left (as much as there is a 'left').

Perhaps a better question might be to ask why anyone on the notional left would use their valuable time developing strategies to improve treaties they were allowed no part in drafting with no realistic prospect of altering or improving?

In any case “..There is a populist response from the left and the right. Elites should pay attention." From:


Tim H. said...

If the elites negotiating trade treaties assume humanity begins at 100K/yr the deals seem more logical, from a privileged point of view. Being a working class person, I see it as shoddy construction, akin to leaving voids in poured concrete, or specifying low grade steel in a stressed application. These deals were made with short term profits in mind, any other benefits were incidental.

Midboss57 said...

To answer on David's claim that those against TPP, NAFTA and TTIP is that they do not understand the effects those measures would have on the other countries economies and people and how that might give some benefits back to them in 40+ years time.

To give a brutally honest response, let me quote Homer Simpson: "Just because I don't care doesn't mean I don't understand."
This sentence sums up the anti trade accord crowd.

So to counter each supposed pro of the agreement from their point of view:
- Contain China's expansion of power in the Pacific: Not their problem. They don't care about what China is up to in other countries.
- Improvement of work and environmental standards in poorer countries: so the sweatshop countries are going to be a bit less sweatshopy.... hurray ?
- The newly enriched countries and middle classes will buy more from us and that creates jobs: so the job I might lose will be replaced by another job for which I don't qualify.
- Improved IP standards: Trying not to roll in laughter here. The last thing that is wrong with IP laws is that they are not enforced strongly enough.

In exchange to these very questionable advantages, those trade agreements are asking them to sacrifice job security (factories moving to sweatshop nations), labour standards (using the threat of the previous), environmental standards and democratic sovereignty (the arbitration court). After weighing the pros and cons, you can't blame the working class (ie, the people who are going to have to make the sacrifices) for not being fans of those agreements that tend to benefit large businesses (aka the people who are not very popular among the first category right now).

Final nail in the coffin is who wants the TTP and TTIP passed ? Wall Street, large corporations, the Republicans, business democrats, the City of London (at least until Brexit put a spanner in that plan), most lobbyists. To a lot of people, that reads like the ultimate Rogues Gallery. If the Brexit has taught us anything (and I urge other countries to learn from the mistakes on the pro EU side that led to people voting to exit), it's that having a cause endorsed by people with a lower approval rating than Jeremy Corbyn among his MPs is not an advantage.

Now don't take this as (just) an anti trade accord argument. The main goal is this post is to explain the anti trade position and the reason why the arguments that have big given here for it are not going to do much good in convincing those that hold these views. If you want to convince the anti crowd, you need to understand that they have different priorities that define their opinions.

occam's comic said...

I tend to agree with Locum when he says that David sometimes uses language that dehumanizes and degrades "red" Americans. It can sometimes even seem that David has a deep contempt for much of the American population. (now I don't think that is true but sometimes his frustrations get the better of him. If he used the same type of language to describe black Americans, David Duke would welcome him with open arms)

As for Red America sucking taxes out of blue America, a big part of the flow comes form social security. Is Dave saying old people in red states shouldn't get their social security checks? Or what about national infrastructure in red states, is it important to have a national highway system, or do we say no highway for north or south Dakota?

locumranch said...

@Alfred_D & David_B:

In relation to the British Opium Trade, please identify the self-regulating 'Invisible Hand' of the marketplace.

In 1793, Great Britain and other European nations, desiring her silk, tea and porcelain, wanted badly to trade with China, but China demanded (and would only accept) silver & gold in return. Very quickly, an non-sustainable trade imbalance developed, the limiting factor being European silver & gold. The British solution was introducing Opium to China in 1825, an product that provided only negative benefits to China despite its addictive generation of high consumer demand, leading to the rapid dissolution of the Chinese Empire.

For much of the 20th Century, the Blue Urbans have exploited Red Rural resources in a similar manner. The Blue Cities require the indispensable resources of which Red Rural communities possess in plenitude, and it has convinced the Rural Reds that this plenitude means that these resources have very little market value, allowing the Blues to buy low, sell high & grow fat off the value discrepancy..

Further Blue market manipulation (aka 'price fixing') has forced the honest but gullible Rural Reds into near bankruptcy & wage slavery, even though those canny Blues realise that Red Rural bankruptcy would stop the flow of cheap indispensable goods to the Blue consumer in a disastrous fashion, leading to the creation of numerous Blue Urban macroeconomic Federal Subsidies disguised as 'charity'.

These Federal macroeconomic subsidies are analogous to the microeconomic actions of Walmart: It starts by paying it's workers shit starvation wages; and, then, it partially compensates for this exploitive & penurious underpayment by making these same workers eligible for state & federal subsidies in the form of food stamps, general assistance & indigent medical care (Medicaid), allowing the Walmart Wage Slavery cycle to self-perpetuate.

And, just as an exploitive Walmart would go belly-up without these so-called 'charitable' State & Federal worker subsidies, so would the Urban Blue States (with their non-fungible demands) cease to function if & when the Rural Reds could no longer afford to provide those absolutely necessary resources to the Blue Urbans at below-market value; hence a beneficent government that ensures ongoing Red Rural dependency.

Recall, also, how a similar trade imbalance precipitated the first US Civil War when an industrialised & relatively Urban North demanded Southern Rural resources at a substantial discount (below production costs) & then simply seized those Southern resources by Force of Arms when the South refused to be exploited, creating almost 200 years of self-perpetuating Southern Agrarian welfare dependence.


Deuxglass said...

I am for NAFTA because I believe that the prosperity of our close neighbors is necessary for our own. We can accept the sacrifice of a certain amount of jobs to assure the stability of North America as a whole. In the short to medium term it hurts but should be better in the long term. After all the US trade deficit with NAFTA is only about $190 billion and that is not excessive given the benefits it brings to the US in stability of North America. Let’s keep it. However I am against the TPP because I believe it contains a serious flaw in the Chapter 28 concerning settlement dispute.

Every commercial treaty contains good points and so does the TPP. I am all for patent and Intellectual rights protection. In fact most of it is OK with me but there are some problems.

First of all it only opens up a few countries (Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand and Vietnam) who are not under the existing FTA. The US trade deficit with Japan has stabilized around negative $80 to $90 billion for many years now and the TPP might help it a bit but probably not by much. Malaysia’s trade deficit with us is $20 billion and that definitely will rise. Vietnam’s is $30 billion and that would explode. The other the six TPP countries, Australia, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Peru and Singapore, are current NAFTA or FTA partners. Not too much would change there.

What bothers me is Chapter 28. The Tribunals remove government oversight. How will the arbitrators be chosen? Can an arbitrators pass to private business with little delay? How will it prevent horse-trading between companies? There are no checks to keep the tribunals from being captured by big business. If they were restricted to company to company problems then I see no problem but it looks that the tribunals put on equal footing company-government disputes. Effectively governments would be at a disadvantage because companies have to means to capture the tribunals. There is no checks or balances. Multinationals would have the upper hand over government. If a government passes a law to protect the public and a company challenges that law before the arbitration panel and wins, the government has to pay within a short period of time and since it would be the amount of “lost profits”, the bill could be billions. Governments would be forced to accept a product or project that runs counter to the well-being of their population. The governments would be out of the loop. This is what the multinationals want; that is to remove government from their affairs unless it is to their advantage of course.

From a strategic point of view TPP does lockup the west coast of South America and the countries surrounding the Strait of Malacca so from a security point of view it does make sense however it is being touted as a trade deal when in fact it is a way of gathering support in the region against China. That part is pretty clear. It looks much more like a mutual defense pact with trade as the sweetener to get these countries on our side. I would like to see more debate on that aspect but all we see are vague allusions to prosperity. If we open our markets to them, what do we get in return? That should be set out clearly but it won’t be.

Tacitus2 said...

Yes, David uses language that is offensive to conservatives. I oughta know! But I don't think that is a major concern to him. Nor actually to me. I do however think that hammering away at the same points again and again does something far worse than offend.

It bores.

I know this is not his "job" and other than perhaps picking up the occasional idea here there is no reason for him to do it at all.

But, and I say this with sadness, Contrary Brin is rarely worth my time to read these days.


Treebeard said...

I've long wondered if Dr. Brin is under contract from the DoD or some other entity to push this stuff out so regularly and repetitively, because it sure does read like paid propaganda a lot of the time. Either that or he really is a true believer in the absurdly implausible Star Trek future, the way previous generations believed in the Soviet Future. I guess Star Trek is the perfect model for a certain breed of liberal's wet dream civilization of a centralized galactic tyranny ruled by Big Government, Big Military, Big Science and Big Progress. Remember folks: we can beat racism, sexism, feudalism and irrationalism, but there's no way we can beat Big Brother, so our only choice is to put on snappy uniforms and glorify Him. For the Federation!

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: Better is the enemy of good enough for now.

Being for NAFTA doesn't mean there isn't a better way to do it. I'll take what I can get and then just smile as labor tries to be free anyway in the form of illegal immigration.

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

On TTP, the most damning claims made against it in my eyes is that it can override local and state environmental and perhaps health and safety regulations. And that it grants major corporations the equivalent of a "takings law" whereupon they can sue for any policy that can impact their profits--in effect, demand payment not to pollute or despoil. Citing provisions of the NAFTA rules, CanadaOil is suing the State Department and Administration for $10 billion for refusing to let them build the XL pipeline.

Exactly! Most opponents of TPP that I have heard (myself certainly) don't worry about the aspects of the treaty that actually concern trade. It's the ceding of jurisdiction to inherently-sociopathic entities (corporations) that I object to.

donzelion said...

@Dr. Brin - I'm glad you got around to reading the Rauch article, and had flagged it as intriguing.

As for NAFTA/TPP - I care less about uplifting Mexico than uplifting America, as do most Americans who'll read this. Yet I still support the TPP/NAFTA, even as a fairly committed progressive, because it seems to me here are the strategies for trade:

(1) "No rules" trade = only the most powerful players can benefit, and no single individual is as powerful as a nation-state. Nation-states will start wars with one another to control terms of trade. Including world wars. Such was the world before GATT.

(2) "Thin rules" trade = players other than nation-states can protect themselves, BUT most people cannot participate, and hence, the only benefit extended to the public is a price-cut on certain products (which can be modest, or captured by corporate insiders). Better than massive, total war by great powers, but prone to inequitable beneficiaries.

(3) "Thick rules" trade = players other than the largest corporations can protect themselves, and more people can derive benefits in the form of trade income directly, rather than merely enjoying possible price cuts on certain goods. Of course, accessing those markets requires entirely new skill sets, esp. language skills.

Nation-states benefit from GATT/WTO - by the reduction in wars, they can devote unprecedented resources to infrastructure or social needs. Corporations benefit from the TPP/NAFTA similarly - by a reduction in political costs of operations abroad. But the greatest potential beneficiaries are common people (who prefer not to die in wars, and would also prefer to get more than scraps from Wal-Mart's table).

donzelion said...

@Dr. Brin - "I am perfectly willing to discuss bargaining harder for concessions on things like TPP. But most of its opponents oppose it reflexively without studying WHETHER it was already hard-bargained."

And of course, the terms of the 'hard-bargain' aren't publicly spelled out. One seldom asks, ""how many dead troops is this extra billion dollars worth?"

Instead, one plays it thus: "we put X billion into this canal, it gets us Y billion per year, and that darn thug isn't honoring the bargain. Let's take him out. Call it a new front in the 'drug war' - har har har..."

For some businessmen, a few bankruptcies is a small thing. For some politicians, a few needlessly dead troops is also a small thing. Brinksmanship at a political level is often about how many other people dying one is willing to tolerate.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: If you are looking at inconsistent beliefs on my part, they aren’t hard to find when it comes to trade deals. I was economically naïve (at best) when NAFTA was being considered. The financial meltdown in 2008 and the nonsense some climate change people suggest as fixes motivated me to learn economics and a couple of related fields. Back when NAFTA was in the works, I didn’t understand the need for free movement of labor. Now I do. I didn’t understand how limiting economic models typically were (rational players?! Bah!), but now I do. I’m no expert, but I’m no longer ignorant of some of the models and our economic history. For example, I no longer think the sky is falling when it comes to climate change. The science is solid, but the economics used by gloom predictors is really, really terrible. Some fixes proposed are FAR worse than the likely climate change scenarios.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch: You are making a naïve mistake regarding British trade with China. Britain did not desire silk, tea, and porcelain. Certain British people did. Britain didn’t introduce opium. Certain British people did. The Chinese had been demanding gold and silver from Europeans for those things for centuries, but when those same Europeans needed to keep a lot of it local in order to fight each other (France and Britain for over a century), the traders had to find another option. Since Britain was more mercantilist at the time, one can blur the line between the traders and the government. With respect to opium, though, traders were able to tap into the monopoly power of coercion to get their way. That’s what makes it look like Britain pushing opium instead of some British pushing opium. The distinction is important to retain, though, because most of the British did not gain anything from this immoral trade. A few people became rich, but the British people did not.

The Invisible Hand is a thing that applies only to voluntary trade, so don’t bother looking for it during the Opium fights. The hand that was active there was far from invisible. It is the usual one wielding guns or swords. Only in voluntary trade does a seller have to sweet talk you into an agreement. In that effort, they have to learn about you in a way normally reserved for lovers. What do you like? What do you want? Tell me about your family. In their effort to trade with you, their desire for your money is guided along a more loving path. THAT is the action of the invisible hand. The virtue of love appears in the market this way, but vanishes quickly if force is applied.

Your blue and red stuff is crap. There might be some points where I agree with you, but your underlying assumptions are stupidly backward. You’ve been fed a line of BS and now use it as your way to perceive the world around you. I refuse to parse it any further than that.

David Brin said...

Thank you Deuxglass for actually showing how one rank-orders priorities as a way to start negotiations.

Duncan everything is negotiable. If there were a clear rank ordering of objections, Obama and the proTPP bunch would have found a way…

“Final nail in the coffin is who wants the TTP and TTIP passed ? Wall Street, large corporations, the Republicans, business democrats, the City of London…”

Also Obama and nearly all the professional diplomats and civil servants who study this stuff closest. And economists. And at least the half of the environmental movement that’s immersed in law. And child labor activists. And those wanting to show the Han that grownup behavior will be more effective.

David Brin said...

Occam I well understand that my language toward “redders” can be grating and seem prejudiced. My response is simple “Youz guys started it and we turned the cheek for decades.” (Not YOU, of course.)

Hateful spews at “city morals” and “New York Values” have been incessant, relentless, volcanic and utterly, utterly hate-drenched, nearly all my life. I… am… sick… of… it.

It would be one thing if the accusations had any basis in fact at all. Then it would simply be an unhelpful and relentless nastiness. But the pure fact that the truth is diametrically OPPOSITE to every single accusation makes clear why “gold old” folks do this out of spiteful habit. It has been a magical incantation against the moral turpitude they see in their own mirrors.

We never had a way to get them to stop the spew. In contrast, they can shut down my own response overnight. "Try it guys. Stop your hateful attacks and instead sit down with us, like countrymen. Watch how quickly we stop our too-long-delayed responses.”

(Occam, none of the “you” above was directed at you.)

Again... these folks started and maintained decades of gusher fountains of endless-spewing hate. They should stop first.

David Brin said...

There is not a single assertion made in locum’s latest that is not diametrically and demonstrably opposite to true. To a staggering degree!

Arkansas based WalMart has driven northern retailers like Sears - along with a million Mom ’n’ pops - to the edge of bankruptcy by using methods pioneered in the south like leaning hard on federal assistance. They have crushed every attempt to unionize. They are so awful that locum(!) tries to fob them off as a BLUE phenomenon! Har!

He knows the “economic” reasons he parrots for the Civil War are despicably opposite to true… the South owned and operated all three branches of the federal government for 30 years from 1830-1860 and tariffs in 1860 were at their lowest ever. The southern plantation lords did not want an industrial bourgeoisie and happily sabotaged it. He knows this, so the lie is deliberate. And therefore quite despicable.

No wonder these guys hate science so.

As for the ent, there is no credibility there, since his recommendation is a return to 6000 years of failed and utterly brutal and stupid feudalism.

donzelion said...

@Deuxglass - glad to see someone interested in the TPP. I think we're on several similar pages on several issues, but disagree on this one. I wonder if I could convince you not to be afraid of it?

One thing though: whenever anyone argues "look out for corporations suing for lost profits" - mark that person down in your book as being subject to idiot-baiting that is intellectually equivalent to any race-baiting Trump & Co. undertake. (Nearly) every contract dispute is always about 'lost profits' - as has been the case for a couple centuries now.

What they actually mean is "companies could turn around and sue governments for breaching contracts!" Which doesn't sound nearly as sexy as "sue them for lost profits!" - at least not to certain well-meaning progressives who do not understand the term.

David Brin said...

The last thing they'll consider is that the glacial pace of development and income rise in the Olde South might... perhaps ... not come from 'exploitation' but be due to their own choices? The skimpy funding of education and attempts to deny it altogether to 1/3 of the population? Infamous levels of corruption? Relentless suppression of a labor movement that did very well by workers in those states where unions thrived. Plus a quasi-religious devotion to memes of nostalgia and resentment, rather than can-do innovation and entrepreneurship.

In a few states... Texas, North Carolina, Virginia and somewhat GA and FLA... there have been efforts to build real universities that might lure top high school grads to stay. A mixed blessing. Yes, those efforts have worked! Superior universities have staunched the brain drain...

...but have created huge and growing blue islands of progressive future orientation - like Austin and Raleigh - that are changing the personalities of those states. At long last.

Alfred Differ said...

Sue governments for breach of contract?!

Heh. There goes the political insurance underwriting market. 8)

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

Once more, Tacitus, you speak truth.

I don't mind that Dr. Brin repeats himself. It is his blog. He can talk about the Red Sox baseball team if he wants (I'm not a sports fan but hey, to each their own). But this post had the feel of previous blog post, and one he had recently posted. Why bother reposting the same general thing instead of just letting the previous thread continue a bit longer and then going with something with greater diversity?

I may be wrong. In fact I'm willing to bet there's enough diversity between the two (perhaps with URL links or the like) that it is "different" enough for most folk. But I read this blog for Dr. Brin's insight and opinions. I don't care nearly as much about links to other threads. Instead I like seeing what Dr. Brin has to say about a topic. And this one just felt like something I'd just seen.

Ah well. Hopefully Dr. Brin will talk next about how the Bernie Bros refusal to vote for Hillary suggests they were never going to vote for Sanders to begin with, or something along that lines. Mix things up a bit.

Rob H.

Deuxglass said...


Yes we don't agree on this. I have learned a few things about arbitration over the years but I am hardly an expert. You are welcome to come up with arguments and suggestions about Chapter 28. Would you keep it as it is or would you modify it?

David Brin said...

Bernie was effusive and utterly clear. Good on Bern.

Laurent Weppe said...

* ""No rules" trade = only the most powerful players can benefit, and no single individual is as powerful as a nation-state."

No: the most powerful players are the continental empires: the nation states which do not belong to that club are preys, not powerful players: they can be destroyed by a superior military power, starved by a superior economic power, bullied by the threat of using said military or economic power, or they simply can have their local demagogues bribed by imperial money and turned into convenient figureheads once they've conquered power.


* "The distinction is important to retain, though, because most of the British did not gain anything from this immoral trade. A few people became rich, but the British people did not."

Then again, you could say that to pretty much every european colonial endeavors: A few thousands people profiteered from the colonial empires and became filthy rich, while millions of European commoners got scraps at best.

Annabelle said...

Okay I could probably find a middle-person for a bet. But before I go through all this work what terms do you want?

Proposed terms:

According to whitehouse.gov, The U.S. deficit in dollars per year has gone up during A Democratic administration or down during a Republican one at least 5 times since 1940.

greg byshenk said...

It seems to me that some of the discussion of the UK is simplistic. While I am no expert, I think that many people (particularly Americans) don't realize just how badly off the UK (and Europe as a whole) were in the years following WWII. As the war ended, GDP in Germany, France, Italy, and the Netherlands was something like one-half of what it had been ten years earlier.

The UK did not suffer as badly, but had the problem that it had been producing munitions, and could not easily retool (as the US did) because it was effectively bankrupt. In addition to the debts incurred fight that war, there was still a large debt overhang from WWI (interesting trivia: the UK only paid off its WWII debt in 2006, and finally paid its last WWI debt in 2015). Rationing ended in the UK only in 1954, and lasted that long because of shortages of foreign exchange to pay for imports. And for a major world state, the UK in particularly remained extremely poor through the 1950s and most of the 1960s. Then just as things were finally improving, the UK (along with the rest of the world) suffered from the 1973 oil embargo and the economic effects therefrom.

Both Thatcher and Reagan rode to success by finding someone to blame. To be sure, poorly-drafted regulations and union overreach were a part of the problem, but they were hardly the root cause, and the Thatcher/Reagan "solution" (knock it all down) has proven to be destructive (even to most of those who didn't see it at the time). But, as seen by the Trump candidacy and the 'Brexit' vote (and the same pattern going back a very long time), finding someone else to blame is often a successful strategy.

donzelion said...

@Deuxglass - on arbitration tribunals generally,

The alternative to the proposed tribunals (which require public hearings) is closed-door internal political jockeying among international elites. Typically, the executives from Company A try to meet their counterparts in Country B, and "resolve" disputes quietly. Often, their counterparts in Country B are acting for the interest of local elites in Country B, and pretending to act for the "public good." That creates expenses for Company A (and in many cases, billionaires in Country B). Unless Company A is huge, those expenses flow in the form of large cash payouts (if Company A is huge enough, then smaller initial payments, followed by longer term extortion).

This is the way trade works in much of the world, and why 'cost avoidance' and labor abuses are so rampant. It's MUCH better than the old-fashioned way of handling such problems (conquer the territory, kill the elites, and resolve it all directly). But it sucks, UNLESS you're an elite and benefit from the resolution (on either side).

Now, this is less common internally in certain developed countries where companies can sue their own government without much problem. It's a much bigger problem is less developed countries, where the judges are political officers beholden to those same local elites.

So one trick is to bring in disinterested outsiders. In a dispute between a Japanese and a Canadian company, bring in Mexicans and Chileans, etc. So long as both the Japanese and the Canadians get to vet the panel members and review conflicts of interest, it can work. So long as the hearings are public (which is provided for, in one of the bigger tweaks in the TPP model), these do not become backroom trades and extortionate.

And suddenly, you don't have to be a $10 billion corporation to play the international trade game - you could do it with "only" $20-50 million, as long as you have a viable business model. While that's out of reach of most folks, it opens the door immensely: a thousand $20-50 million companies generates much better employment prospects than a dozen super-billion dollar goliaths.

donzelion said...

@Deuxglass - continuing on TPP tribunals. The last post set out the positive case. Here's responses to your questions:

"The Tribunals remove government oversight."
Not at all: government will still function as it always does. Think of it this way: does the mere fact that one can sue the Federal Government mean that courts conduct all executive functions in America? Hardly. The mere fact one can bring a claim does not change government action, but simply means the government is held accountable for those actions (and cannot cross certain lines). Same here.

"How will the arbitrators be chosen?"
It's a lengthy process, with some measures in place to prevent one side from objecting to any panel (and effectively preventing it from ever being seated).

"Can arbitrators pass to private business with little delay?"
Doubtless some of them will come from private business, others will be retired judges, and others may be government officials from other countries. The mechanism doesn't guarantee fairness - the parties have to do that themselves - but without a one-world government, there's no other, faster means of doing this.

"How will it prevent horse-trading between companies? (the capture issues)"
Private judges and public judges are both subject to the same horse trading, and in both cases, we try to prevent it. However, the advantage in this case is that a Mexican judge may be in a better position to judge a fair outcome in a trade dispute between a Canadian and a Japanese company than a Canadian or a Japanese judge would be (and those are two countries that surely wouldn't punish a judge for an unpopular decision).

"There is no checks or balances."
Countries are free to ignore the tribunal rulings, and to ignore judgments. They just have to say why, and cite a legitimate reason (which other countries and companies can judge) - it casts light on what really happens.

"If a government passes a law to protect the public and a company challenges that law before the arbitration panel and wins, the government has to pay within a short period of time"
This gets handled on a case-by-case basis, as it must. The problem is that judges may see something as "discriminating" that others see as "protecting the public" (e.g., rules that require Malayan ownership obviously discriminate, but since Malayans are the majority in Malaysia, they tend to like those sorts of 'protections').

"The governments would be out of the loop."
Not at all. They'll still have control, BUT they'll have to defend themselves legally (e.g., if a Canadian government bans a certain type of foreign product, they need to say why they didn't likewise ban the similar one that is made in Canada and just as harmful).

donzelion said...

@Deuxglass - last post for now on the TPP, an issue near my heart: how to avoid hype. Most of what you'll hear if you Google the TPP is from the activist crowd, and none of the claims I've seen hold much water when reviewed closely - it's sort of like the anti-vaccers or climate deniers getting undue treatment from current media structures (but in this case, it's from a different cluster of users).

The lead case for this was a funeral parlor case in America, which a group of lawyers in Mississippi deemed to be a "foreign conspiracy to monopolize funeral homes and oppress black people" - and levied a $500 million judgment against a Japanese-financed Canadian firm - in a contract dispute which had been for less than $1 million (but unlike the McDonalds coffee burn victim and her $6 million judgment, this one survived appeal - and bankrupted the parent). Japanese refused to invest in Mississippi for 20 years; so did just about everybody else.

The activists who hate these trade deals learned a lesson from that: never tell the truth, but fabricate (and Trump & Murdoch learned the same lesson, and have a much bigger fabrication budget).

Example 1: dolphin fisheries. Activists claimed that Japanese/Mexicans were trying to use the WTO to force America to adopt rules on tuna fishing that threatened dolphins. However, what was really happening was the U.S. rules discriminated against Pacific tuna, and exempted Atlantic tuna (all to make things easier for struggling tuna fleets on the East Coast) - in effect, we were targeting foreigners while pretending to save dolphins.

Example 2: worker rights. Activists claimed that French tried to use arbitration processes to bypass wage increases mandated in parts of Egypt for certain companies. Turns out the Egyptian rules were designed to only apply wage increases to foreign companies, and only those who had entered long-term fixed wage agreements (e.g., garbage collection).

The environmental cases (Canada) similarly show a lot more complexity than the activists like to air - as do the cigarette stories from Australia. In each case, they point to something partially true, then leap to conclusions which make no sense (exactly like an anti-vaccer or a climate denier) - and finally, assert a conspiracy from "the other side" to deny what is actually happening.

donzelion said...

LOL, I've published this critique elsewhere in legal journals, which is why it's so verbose. ;-)

Alfred Differ said...

@Laurent Weppe: Yes. We could say that about all the colonial empires. I think it is a valuable lesson to teach. Empires didn't make the world richer. They made a few people richer. Then the student asks 'What made us rich, then?' We respond with 'I am SO glad you asked!' because that question implies they already understand the average person IS far better off than she was 300 years ago.

Alfred Differ said...

I would be happy to play the role of bookie, but only for questions that can be definitively resolved. Money might have to pass through some of my Nevada relatives, though. 8)

donzelion said...

@Laurent - ah, you're raising the Melian debate, a la Thucydides.

My argument starts with the assumption that "right makes might" - not necessarily at first, but over time. No continental empire ever became an empire without first making provisions for its own insiders that make it more advantageous for them to fight with the empire, than against it. Continental empires might treat independent states as prey, but if the cost of 'capturing' that prey exhausted the empire, then the empire itself collapsed, it's expansion a series of Pyrrhic victories.

But that's the real world before GATT/WTO era: imperial aspirations mattered, and all others were a pipe dream. Now? We the alternatives are apparent: one can thrive as a city-state, or one can thrive as a small nation-state, and sometimes, as a large nation-state. Actually, we always did have those options, but the cost-benefit dimension wasn't so apparent.

"Then again, you could say that to pretty much every european colonial endeavors: A few thousands people profiteered from the colonial empires and became filthy rich, while millions of European commoners got scraps at best."

I could and I will say that about every colonial (and imperial) enterprise: it has never enriched the public. But this is why oligarchy and empire go hand-in-hand, why they persist for so many millennia, and why I'm actually so interested in this board, because I've yet to hear many others outside this space raise that as the greatest threat to freedom and prosperity. It always was. It always has been.

LarryHart said...


Good to hear a cooler view of the TPP. There has to be some reason President Obama is for it, after all.

Is it all hype then, the idea that local municipalities will be unable to control pollution or establish fair labor practices without having to reimburse corporations for the profits that such restrictions "cost" them?

donzelion said...

@LarryHart - In terms of the "threat of the tribunals" - pretty much all of it is anti-vaccer/climate denier sort of hype: same technique, different topic.

Now of course, there are risks from any new process. But on the whole, (1) the current process sucks for many Americans, (2) it rocks for billionaires and their cronies, both in the U.S. and China, and (3) changing it by reverting to a "glorious past" is untenable.

Obama's rhetoric has tended to be "the genie is out of the bottle" and "let's do the best we can with the world as it is, and push to make it a little more like it ought to be." Which is argumentation that annoys "outsiders" (the sorts of people in the Rauch article that Dr. Brin disliked so much - but which I thought offers several interesting insights - then again, I find insight from conservatives, liberals, and myriad radicals).

David Brin said...

donzelion, thank you, in fact because I know less about the details of TPP than many other subjects… only a whole lot more than most of its critics. Your stepping up with details is appreciated.

AD: “Empires didn't make the world richer.”

Wrong. CORRUPT and rapacious empires impoverish. Pax American made the world vastly vastly immensely-vastly richer.

Annabelle let’s bet on the fiscal responsibility and rate of rate of change of deficits that I charted at http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2014/06/so-do-outcomes-matter-more-than-rhetoric.html

Like I would trust you with a burnt match.

donzelion said...

@Dr. Brin - I noted no "onward, onward" despite my extremely lengthy trio of posts here, and so guessed this conversation isn't closed. You're quite welcome. I'm not yet an expert on the subject, but have studied it and other trade treaties for many years, they have cropped up in my field of practice, and I can offer something.

Pax Americana made the world vastly richer precisely because we are CRITICAL of our imperialist propensities. We're not angels; we err, often as anyone else. But people like you will not stop calling attention to error. That makes us less dangerous than previous empires, which perceived "others" as prey or threat.

Some suggest "others" could also be "partners." This is one of the great gifts of science fiction (though I wonder if Gingrich's contribution to the literature had any merit).

Annabelle said...

>Annabelle let’s bet on the fiscal responsibility and rate of rate of change of deficits that >I charted at http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2014/06/so-do-outcomes-matter-more-than-rhetoric.html

That's what I was saying. Just trying to make it specific.

>Like I would trust you with a burnt match.

Was that addressed to me or Alfred?

Duncan Cairncross said...

Pax Americana made the world vastly richer

This is one of Dr Brin's favorite memes
And I agree completely!

I am not at all sure that it is anything to do with some sort of superiority of the US system
If we look back in history we see a large change from the 1600's onwards
Alfred has commented that we don't really know why we suddenly started becoming richer then

If we look at the changes that were going on we see a continual change in the nature of the leading "empires"
If the British Empire had not handed the baton onto the Americans I believe that we would have seen the same sort of changes
If Napoleon had not been overthrown we could have been 50 years further down that path

Even if the Germans or Russians had taken the lead we would only have seen a couple of decades or so of delay

David Brin said...

Sorry Duncan, that's wrong. I will grant you that Napoleon took several wrong turns. The biggest being to put on a crown and the second biggest being Russia. But had he coerced the Czar to free the Poles and then join in a thrust south... we'd all be speaking French today! And the REVOLUTION that Napoleon helped push would have changed the world almost as much as ours has.

The others? Nope. It took a radical mind set to refuse imperial trappings, as the US did when it owned the planet in 45. The counter mercantilist trade cycles established by Marshall, Acheson, Truman, Ike, were NOT intuitive and took real guts, pulling diametrically in the opposite direction than the mercantilist policies of every other empire, that spread poverty and resentment outside the capital. (Envision Hunger Games.)

There were many other good things about the American Pax -- e.g. cultural memes of tolerance, diversity, equality and suspicion of authority. Along with some of the usual imperial nastinesses...

David Brin said...

LATE NEWS - it seems all media have agreed that D Trump will announce Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate. The following is still an appraisal of the factors DT must have (or should have) taken into account. Whether or not picking Pence is a wise move on Trump's part has little to do with whether Pence will help get more voters to support the ticket (he won't.) What simmers below is which group has "deep leverage" with Pence -- the Murdochian party masters or Trump himself. If it is the former, then Pence is likely to betray Trump, either before the election... if they are losing badly... or after, if (GF!) they win.

As a writer of thrillers and sci fi, I would envision DT asking his finalists "are you willing to tell me something embarrassingly scandalous that I could then hold over you, to guarantee your good behavior?" (Or go into the next room for pictures.) Do you find that "sensationalist"? Really? Knowing how eager Pence was, for the pick... and how determined Trump is, to avoid betrayal? ....

David Brin said...

It just occurred to me... dang... I may have misjudged the situation. If the election looks to be a rout, Donald will be desperate for a face saving out. Betrayal by the party elders, including his running mate, might fit the bill perfectly. Oh, anyone sane would know they bolted _because_ he was a loser, bigtime...

But the important thing, when it comes to face, is maintaining appearances with a big enough minority. If he can nurse the notion he was stabbed in the back, then for a few tens of millions that will be the excuse narrative. Whoa. So... Trump may at some point try to DRAW the betrayal?

Oooh. I have some wires loose. They spark. Ack!

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re - the great enriching from the 16th century on

I disagree with Alfred's view that it was to do with trade,
I think it was simpler than that - human knowledge had increased to the stage that we could actually do something
It is all very well thinking about steam engines
But if you can't
Make the metals
Machine them
Measure them
Then you are stuck
In the 16th century a lot of these things came together and acted to change what was possible
This was also an accelerating process - each discovery/invention made several others possible

This also ties into my thoughts on the American Empire
An empire in a world of air travel computers and atom bombs is inherently different from an empire in a world of sailing ships

YES - the Marshal Plan was a superb act of realpolitik - it converted enemies into friends
And it is possible that a British empire would have missed that opportunity but I believe it is more likely that the government that built the NHS would have grasped that opportunity firmly

The USA DID do that and DID build up the rest of the world and we should be grateful
But I am not at all sure that it was exceptional in doing so

A British Empire during the sailing ship era would not have done so - but in an era of air travel.....

David Brin said...

Duncan you make goodpoints. Still, Gandhi's #2 complaint about the British Raj was their mercantilism, destroying Indian industry in favor of Manchester mills. And that was the empire he deemed obviously the least-bad to date, because the other would have killed him. We did see an electrified/industrial empire with nuclear weapons, the USSR. We saw two that were almost at that scale... the Nazis and Japanese Empire. The Czars had most of those tools and were assholes.

Sorry. Watch the miniseries THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE to see what it all could have been, had social innovations not overcome the 99% human drive to recreate vicious oppression and enhance it with technology. Read 1984.

David Brin said...



Howard Brazee said...

There are some libertarians against the TPP - not because they dislike free trade, but because they dislike giving up sovereignty to foreign corporations.