Saturday, August 06, 2016

The Future is Here: A sci fi weekend roundup!

The future of civilization could depend on our elections (in fact that may be true even of the galaxy!)... but not today. Today, let's peer ahead a bit!  In fact, hang around for a few paragraphs to see a great opportunity to get some fine science fiction... cheap!

But first. The new OMNI Reboot looks snazzy and well-done.  Certainly worth a visit. Especially (!) their very nicely-presented interview with me about topics ranging from AI and apocalypse to the value and basis and future of science fiction.


Are we overthinking the dangers of artificial intelligence? On Gizmodo, George Dvorsky interviews me about the potential dangers and benefits of AI… and other future hazards. Will the dystopian nightmares of sci fi flicks come true? Or might those warnings actually help prevent the worst mistakes?

Did you read that Germany has submitted draft legislation to the EU granting personhood to robots? If only Isaac could have seen this! Silly ass stuff... but reflective of society’s generally laudable trend toward a reflex of inclusion. It may speak well of us when (now?) some secretive-scared AI wonders whether to "come out."

Looking backward, but suddenly pertinent in the surge of Pokemon Go! A fascinating tale by Ted Chiang — “The Lifecycle of Software Objects” — won the 2011 Locus Award and the Hugo Award for Best Novella. Published in 2010 by Subterranean Press, it follows the many quirky problems and ups and downs faced by a woman and her friends, devoted to “raising” and teaching simulated near-intelligent beings in virtual worlds. Chiang makes a great effort to realistically convey how shifting fads and technologies can pull the rug out from under you, though the range of implementations will vary even more than he conveys. The whole story is available here

== New Realism in SF ==

An interesting riff on the New Realism in science fiction film and television. The Future is Almost Now, from The Atlantic: “Many new works of science fiction seem to represent a strain of pre-apocalyptic cinema, characterized by a willingness to dramatize disasters that are less hypothetical than poised to happen.… Unlike The Terminator and Matrix franchises, these films don’t predict an apocalyptic “rise” of machines so much as a gradual digital takeover, the next phase of a revolution already in progress,” writes Elizabeth Alsop.

The notion appears to be that scifi is backing away from boldness in extrapolation. As one quoted scholar put it: “[t]he magical and disruptive inventions that used to feature prominently in some stories have now been folded into more typical domestic realism.” Or, as Margaret Atwood puts it: “things that really could happen but just hadn’t completely happened when the authors wrote the books.”

Elizabeth Alsop continues: “If, as the critic Northrop Frye has argued, the job of science fiction has been 'to imagine what life would be like on a plane as far above us as we are above savagery,' what does it mean that so much recent sci-fi has been taking place on a plane that’s relatively proximate to ours? 

In other words: Why this rise in near-future stories, and why now? One possibility is that verisimilitude allows for better social commentary…”  She asks: “Should the fact that sci-fi seems to now be handling such scenarios more concretely, then, be seen as a sign of progress? Or is this insistence on concrete-ness merely a symptom of what the sci-fi luminary William Gibson sees as the end of speculation—the collapse of imagination into a reality that has already outpaced it?”

A fascinating analysis… and almost entirely wrong at every level.  

But I am cheered by one aspect no one else mentions.  That this thoughtful rumination on science fiction appeared in ...The Atlantic. A magazine that, along with Harpers and The New Yorker, used to regularly commission pompous hit pieces attacking the very notion of science fiction as literature, let alone its interest in the disruptive effects of onrushing change. That shift, by some of the literary-arts arbiters reveals something about the 21st Century and our gradual recovery from year 2000 Future Shock.


Sometimes it is the macro perspective that really matters.  Welcome to the conversation, Dr. Alsop.

 == Sci Fi visions ==

Time for a roundup of recent SF!  But first... a couple of Brin-related items...

For you fans of star-spanning Space Opera, check out the StarwardBound Story Bundle of ebooks! My collection Otherness is included, as well as books from Mike Resnick, Brad Torgerson, Martin Kee, Marko Kloos and others. How Story Bundle works: you choose what you want to pay for these ebooks; you decide how much goes to the authors. Enjoy some fun Sci Fi.  

And those of you who like good old adventure science fiction (and yes some tusslin' fightin' mixed in, for fun)? Check out The Year's Best Military and Adventure 2015.  A great annual that - this round - contains one of my most popular new stories: "The Tumbledowns of Cleopatra Abyss," (which made it into several best-of volumes, this year.) No military or fighting in that tale of terraforming Venus, but lots of adventure!  

In fact, those who want to participate in the volume's Readers' Choice Award can go online and vote for their favorite story from the anthology. The winner (announced at DragonCon) gets $500 and a plaque. Hey, have fun. Explore! And enjoy an election in which you like all the candidates, for a change!


Will we have a Star Trek future of abundance? Can there be a post-scarcity future? A discussion with Manu Saadia, author of Trekonomics: The Economics of Star Trek.  

Or will we see a darker future, as explored in recent Arab dystopian sci fi? Very interesting:Science fiction and surrealism have long provided an escape valve for writers living under oppressive regimes. In Latin America, decades of fascism and civil war helped inspire masterpieces of magical realism from authors like Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende. In Russia, the postmodern novelist Vladimir Sorokin has published disturbing and controversial futuristic novels that surreptitiously skewer the country’s repressive government. Dystopian themes are not entirely new in Arabic fiction. But they have become much more prominent in recent years…”  writes Alexandra Alter in The New York Times.  (Another literary arbiter journal that now admits SF is one of our smartest and best genres.)

How does Science fiction fare in the rest of the world? A look at Science fiction in CubaPlus see: 100 amazing African science fiction authors! Geoff Ryman begins this series on the Tor website. 

It’s so strange it might as well be science fiction. Matthew McConnaghy’s new movie The Free State of Jones.  Here’s a fine article on the historical background behind the real-life hero of the story. (Strange but inspiring.)


== New in SF ==

Corsair, by James Cambias (author of A Darkling Sea) offers a sci fi thriller – a near-future tale of space pirates, computer hackers and terrorists. Nuclear fusion has, at last, become a reality on Earth – powered by helium extracted by robots from the lunar regolith. (Controversial if this will ever be economically feasible… but I’m willing to go along for the ride.) The tricky part is returning the shipments to Earth – the helium payloads an attractive target for pirates. The amoral genius cyberhacker, David Schwartz (aka Captain Black), seeks to redirect the payload to international waters where real pirates can claim it. The U.S. Orbital Command backs away from battle, but Air Force officer Elizabeth Santiago (with whom Schwartz had a brief affair back at MIT) goes rogue, determined to foil his efforts. The plot twists as Schwartz is double-crossed after he teams up with hard-core terrorists.

Jeff Carlson, a rising star of SF, has published volume three of his Frozen Sky series — set under Europa's ice roof, an unusual tale of First Contact. 

In Frozen Sky 3: Blindsided, engineer Alexis Vonderach sets out to rescue an ESA biologist who has been kidnapped by ancient blind alien tribes, existing in secret deep below Europa's ice surface. 


Meanwhile, in space the People's Supreme Society of China takes action against the ESA, launching thousands of drones and hunter-killers. Conflict above. Conflict below. Blindsided really moves. Try this science-rooted, fast-paced hard SF adventure!



The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, by newcomer Becky Chambers has received a lot of press. Humans have abandoned their inhospitable homeworld, and joined the Galactic Commons -- but they find themselves at the bottom of the totem pole in this fragile alliance among sentient aliens. Seeking to escape her family’s shame, Rosemary Harper joins the interspecies crew of the Wayfarer, a tunneling starship on a mission to punch wormholes through hyperspace to establish contact with a distant planet. On this long space-road trip, the story focuses on the backstories and relationships of the crew, their solidarity tested by the stress of a long voyage through galactic zones on the verge of war.

If you enjoyed The Lifecycle of Software Objects by Ted Chiang, try his latest collection, Stories of Your Life and Othersspeculations about the nature of man, machine and alien. In “Tower of Babylon”, one of my favorites and winner of the 1990 Nebula Award, Sumerian workers labor to reach for the skies and shatter through the vault of the heavens… only to find the unexpected. His novella, “Story of Your Life” won the 1999 Nebula for novella; it explores initial attempts to communicate with alien minds who perceive reality and the flow of time very differently than humans. “Understand” offers a dark take on a “Flowers for Algernon” – style intelligence boost, as two hyper-enhanced minds work toward contrary purposes.

ALSO: Have a look at Eliot Peper's latest novel, Neon Fever Dream. Sinister goings-on at Burning Man! In this fast-paced thriller, mystery, intrigue, espionage and dark conspiracies unfold during a pilgrimage to the incendiary desert festival. 

A worthy follow-up to Peper's last book, Cumulus, a techno-thriller which envisioned a world of near-constant corporate surveillance.

96 comments:

Jumper said...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrival_(film)
Retitled from "Story of My Life." Based on Chiang's story. Very under-the-radar, likely having to do with a last-minute title change? Think there are already two upcoming good films named "Story of My Life."

Robert said...

Okay, Dr. Brin, I have come across a fiction that is... horrifyingly fascinating about humanity's first contact with an alien species that eats its own young, the crew's decision on whether or not to destroy the species, and the species trying to convince us that we need to eat our own babies.

I almost wish someone had thought of this for a First Contact for Star Trek: The Next Generation. It would be... disturbingly fascinating.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

RobH yeah Yudkowsky is very smart. Read that one some years ago. I recommend it to all of you!

Even though he's rather full of himself and glosses over some possibilities because he did not think of them. Eliezer also wrote the wonderful alternate HP novel HARRY POTTER AND THE METHODS OF RATIONALITY. Which makes more sense and is far more mentally satisfying than the Rowling originals.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to point out that the EU document linked is not a proposal by Germany on personhood for robots, but a draft report of the European Parliament asking the Commission for a proposal on civil law rules for robotics. This means it is "merely" a discussion within the Parliament and still a long way from becoming law. However, once we get robots interacting with the public there will obviously be a need for specific civil law rules, in particular on liability.
As regards Science Fiction, Mary Shelley and Asimov's rules are mentioned.

Paul SB said...

Alfred,

Returning to the previous thread (though perhaps people will find it relevant to discussing sci-fi in this one), you said that a science fiction author does not need to understand scientism, but the reader does. Well, if you want to wade through volumes of low-grade thought based on little else but today's stereotypes, that is what you will get. Sure, it's entertainment, and since it is fiction, it hardly constitutes an A-grade method for analyzing social systems. But there are people out there who make their readers think, and even if these authors have never heard the word, at some level I am sure they get the difference between wearing the combat gear of science and actually doing real scientific work. (I saw a cartoon recently that showed a guy in a lab coat who was announcing the new death ray he made, while a heckler asks what hypothesis he was testing. Then it goes on to say that "mad scientists" are really "mad engineers.") Doctors can be real masters of this, with their lab coats and stethoscopes, handing out placebos like candy when they may be utterly clueless about the cause and effective treatment of some diseases. In the world of fiction, it is the difference between something like the Uplift novels and something like Star Wars. In the former, there was genuine effort to create a believable future civilization, while in the latter there is only a vague parallel with history (the shift from Roman Republic to Roman Empire) and some very loose 60's hippie interpretations of Eastern mysticism.

Personally, I would prefer the shelves of my local book store to be filled with the more well-thought variety. I have nothing against space opera, but even space opera can get the sociology right in really interesting ways or wrong in ways that merely confirm our prejudices (often deliberately, when someone has an ax to grind).

As far as Popper goes, if I am misinterpreting him, likely just about everyone who calls themselves a positivist is, too. Have you ever tried to get an NSA or NIH grant with a proposal that even mentions the term /qualitative data/? I have been told by people who have tried (and persistently) that you can pretty much forget it, unless you can find some strange euphemisms they aren't aware of. Huge numbers of people will dismiss McCloskey's methods as "unscientific" because it does not match the strictly quantitative paradigms of physics and chemistry (what they call "physics envy"). Hypotheses that involve qualitative data are dismissed out of hand as untestable. Nonsense, of course. You need only take any of her hypotheses and look for correlations between common memes and historical results, and make some sort of measure of prevalence for the memes, which would become quantitative in he same way as analyzing gene frequencies. It would help to be able to draw a clear line between emic and etic, while you are at it.

David Brin said...

Speaking of space opera! Those of you who like good old adventure science fiction (and yes some tusslin' fightin' mixed in, for fun)? Check out the Year's Best Military and Adventure 2015. A great annual that - this round - contains one of my most popular new stories: "The Tumbledowns of Cleopatra Abyss," (which made it into several best-of volumes, this year.) No military or fighting but lots of adventure in that one! In fact, those who want to participate in the volume's Readers' Choice Award can go online and vote for their favorite story from the anthology. Winner (announced at DragonCon). Hey, have fun. Explore! And enjoy an election in which you like all the candidates, for a change!

http://www.baen.com/yearsbestaward2015

Laurent Weppe said...

* "I saw a cartoon recently that showed a guy in a lab coat who was announcing the new death ray he made, while a heckler asks what hypothesis he was testing. Then it goes on to say that "mad scientists" are really "mad engineers.""

"I'm testing the hypothesis that all Humanity needs to reach an eternal enlightened utopia is a well meaning guy with a bully stick: Assad doesn't want to leave power? I'll disintegrate him! Daesh doesn't want to stop their bullshit? they'll get the same tariff! Rich fuckers keep defrauding the IRS? Their gated community aren't safe anymore!"
Sometimes the mad scientist is a mad sophomore in social studies too enamored with HG Wells' later period.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Off the point
Now is when we need Dr Brin's Henchman Prize

$1,000,000 to the guy who publishes the Donald's tax returns

Duncan Cairncross said...

To our Ozzy (and any Irish) members
I praised the Australian (and Irish) STV system on the GOPLifer blog and I have been asked
"I like the Australian/Irish system….in theory. How’s it working out in real life?"

So guys how is it working??

Tony Fisk said...

I think the system's working, Duncan. There's definitely more than two parties in play. Winners of marginal seats should be well aware of where the votes that got them over the line came from. The failure lies in the players.

The biggest change is in the Lower House, where Turnbull still holds the fulcrum, but now has no leverage. He needs to strike a deal with one of 5 independents. Hey, Gillard managed pretty well for nearly three years with *four* independents.

Changes to the Senate voting allows people to direct votes as they want, rather than as the party wants. Downside is that it takes longer to distribute preferences.

As to outcomes... well things *have* changed but, apart from the disintegration of the Palmer Party and the right wing finding somewhere righter to go, the change is surprisingly little, given that all seats were in play.

Taking it on a state by state basis:
- SA: Xenophon gained two seats from the Greens, and the LNP
- Qld: One Nation gained two seats from LNP and Palmer
- NSW: One Nation gained one seat from the LNP.
- WA: One Nation and ALP gained a seat each from the LNP, and Palmer.
- Vic: LNP gained a seat from DLP, while Muir lost to Hinch
- There has been no change in the Territories, or Tasmania (although I will note that the final Tasmanian seat was an extremely close contest between the Greens and One Nation)

With 4 seats, Hansen is the biggest winner. She has picked up the personality political vote from the Libs, and Palmer. Time will tell if she has learned to run a tighter ship (given the grab bag of wing nut policies she has, I suspect she hasn't.).

Countering Hansen, Xenophon has had a more modest (+2) win focussed on SA, but it strikes me as being more solid. I think he represents the biggest change in voting patterns.

It would require a pretty deep dive to determine what might have happened in a standard half-Senate election* but, as I said earlier, Turnbull's ruse of throwing a double dissolution to remove the micro parties has failed spectacularly.

*Anyone who cares to try can start here.

David Brin said...

I wandered back to the last comments section. I'll answer CarlM here. But any followup should be on the current thread.
Carl you are half-right down the line and half wrong.

“America's working class took a serious hit to fight communism via U.S. policy of low tariffs and high domestic taxation…”

The US labor movement backed anti-communism when the Taft GOP wanted isolationism, true. But in the 1950s-60s labor was strong in the US, yet not-protectionist. The Marshallian Pax Americana anti-mercantilist trade policies uplifted factory workers in Europe and Japan and then Taiwan, Korea etc and mostly US labor was fine with it. So much for the notion that narrow self-interest is the only motive.

What caused skyrocketing wealth disparity was Supply side shift of taxes off the aristocracy and CEO caste on a crazy theory. And deliberate schemes that worked to underfund pension commitments. Had those commitments been met, pension funds would now be the biggest pool of capital ownership - as economists then predicted… instead of that pool being the top 50,000 families.

“Like it or not, racism, nativism, and trade unionism have worked together frequently in U.S. history. Look up the Populist Party platforms of the 1800s sometime.”

Both true and untrue. The Olde South and Confederacy were both the top racist-nativist zones AND the top anti-Union zones. And it was Union supported FDR and Truman who plunged ahead with huge steps to desegregate where it would make the most difference, e.g. the military.

I could cite dozens of other examples. But key here is the hand-rubbing glee Carl expresses in saying (in effect) “see how things are opposite to expectation?”

No Carl. They are not opposite. They are more complex and sometimes contradictory. But labor was still allied with civil rights, no matter how you struggle to go “aha!” at exceptions. Labor still supported globalization and anti-mercantilism. Labor was still screwed by the GOP and moguls betraying pension commitments. “Aha!” exceptions notwithstanding. Things are NOT opposite. Just complicated.

Oh, and Trump only got majorities - not pluralities - of REPUBLICAN votes in the very last primaries. He is already president of the Confederate States of America. Like Jefferson Davis, he will slink out of town under a shawl. A loser.

donzelion said...

Ack, Dr. Brin just had to set up an interesting stage for a TPP debate while I was out of town. Ah well, rehashing -

@Tony Fisk - All trade agreements are presented as a monolithic slab of "take it or leave it" - otherwise, they'd be sliced and parsed into irrelevance. This particular trade agreement is less about "emasculating" sovereignty (in Australia, and most countries, you can actually sue the government when they erect unfair or discriminatory laws - and you can actually win - that's not always the case in other participating TPP states) - but rather than "establishing" a global corpocracy, the TPP will put some reins on the existing global corpocracy. Fighting against it will ensure perpetuation of the status quo.

@Jumper - Our patent and IP laws are works-in-progress. While there may be some pretty serious issues, bear in mind the incredible wealth of what America has produced using those same horrible laws in the last 30 years. I don't know what's so terrible about the general edifice, or who has done that much better. I don't know that reducing copyright to 70 years will create any better literary or artistic works than what we've seen in the last decades, but acknowledge it's worth debating.

@Alfred - We are not handing over US wealth in service to foreign policy - we're centralizing US wealth in the hands of the handful of people positioned to take advantage of the status quo. The TPP opponents do not realize that they are endorsing a status quo they normally would critique - in holding out for the 'perfect,' they ensure perpetuation of a regime they disdain.

@Jim Satterfield - For the first 5 years after NAFTA, the US had unprecedented JOB GROWTH. The job losses came after China joined the WTO, and that accounts for the vast majority of the manufacturing losses since 2000 (though they'd been in decline for decades before that). When America is competing on an even playing field, American workers do just fine from free trade agreements. However, when the playing field is opaque, only American elites can benefit from international trade - hence the boom in China, the boom among American oligarchs, and the bust in manufacturing belts in America.

Did I miss any other TPP critics? I noticed several names here I'm unfamiliar with - GREAT! I'll gladly make the PROGRESSIVE arguments in favor of it, along lines that I don't think have been covered so far (the regressive argument, I'll leave to others). ;-)

donzelion said...

@LarryHart & Dr. Brin - re Supply Side economics in the last thread -

I wouldn't say that "supply side" economics has actually been "falsified" - so much as the peculiar circumstances in which peculiar statistics were used to support certain claims are improbable and unlikely to recur.

One piece of the 'prediction' did prove out: economic growth certainly occurred. However, all of those gains came from a vast increase in the labor supply in America (mainly prompted by millions of women entering the work force, but compounded by the Baby Boomers coming of age), as well as technology gains (e.g., eliminating the typist pool in favor of word processors). Those two factors together resulted in the increase. Bill Clinton's policies didn't create that boom - but merely capitalized on what Americans had already been doing - all that was needed was to continue the path, and several supply-side theories might well have "proved out" (in the sense of the debt being paid off through a growing economy as originally predicted, even if the predicted causes had no connection with the predicted results).

Bush Jr. deviated from that line, however, ending any chance of a fair test by vast giveaways to a pool of cronies stretching from Enron through the financiers who backed him. His solution to "what do you do when you need to work off the calories from a six-scoop sundae" amounted to "eat another sundae to get enough energy to go work out."

Wretchedly irresponsible.

donzelion said...

And one last...Dr. Brin's interview is remarkably erudite. Was that an oral interview? Impressive. I hope "everyone's favorite scientist" is an appellation that sticks.

Have a great, productive week y'all!

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

Bush Jr. deviated from that line, however, ending any chance of a fair test by vast giveaways to a pool of cronies stretching from Enron through the financiers who backed him.


According to Supply Side theory, those giveaways to the wealthy should have led to even more economic growth. Bush proved that any positive effects previously seen were not the result of Supply Side.


His solution to "what do you do when you need to work off the calories from a six-scoop sundae" amounted to "eat another sundae to get enough energy to go work out."


But that's not a deviation from Supply Side theory. That is the essence of the theory. That by metaphorically eating more, you'll take on so much energy that you'll use it to work off even more than you just took on.

Paul SB said...

Key point with Supply Side Economics: It was never intended to benefit the people, the nation or the economy. It is a rationalization meant to justify handing over massive tax-payer dollars to the wealthy, plain and simple. In fact, it is even more simple than the older tactic Eisenhower warned us about - channeling massive tax-payer dollars into the military-industrial complex. As rationalization go, it sounds truthy enough, and if you get enough of Animal Farm's sheep to bleat "Trickle Down Economics" or "Conservative good! Liberal bad!" it becomes canonized as a major tenant of Faith. Ultimately it boils down to, this is what the Party says, and my family and all my buddies are with the Party, so it must be true. Law of Segmentary Opposition.

Carl M. said...

Continuing the thread of Trump as populist. Here are a few instances racism/nativism as means to boost labor rates.

The Populist Party platform. Note especially the fourth resolution:
http://www.wwnorton.com/college/history/eamerica/media/ch22/resources/documents/populist.htm

The St. Louis riots of 1917. By working class Democrats.
http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/08/riot-east-st-louis-ferguson-history-race

Denis Kearney, California labor leader:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denis_Kearney

Lynchings by working class whites in the north:
http://jah.oxfordjournals.org/content/97/3/621.extract#

Cesar Chavez opposing illegal immigrants:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/03/cesar-chavez-wetbacks-immigrants-illegals_n_3008985.html

Paul SB said...

Carl, you missed the point. Yes, we can point to cases where the "unwashed masses" were responsible for some pretty cringeworthy happenings, especially if you go back to the 19th Century and judge it with 21st Century standards. I could go on about how Chinese immigrants were treated through the whole Westward Expansion. But seriously, any group of humans you care to name will contain a share of saints and sinners, towering moral icons and mindless rampaging twits. What you are doing here is pretty much what our little buddy locumranch loves to do: choose one side and paint that side as the Devil Incarnate, while ignoring or rationalizing any good they have done and all evils committed by the "other" side. Dr. Brin pointed to the fact that life is complicated (ESPECIALLY political life) and you answer with information to support a one-sided view - information that he (and many of us here) is probably already aware of.

I guess the next question would be, was this deliberate, or merely reflex?

Millionaires please help? Seriously?

Carl M. said...

Paul, you are missing the point. I am saying you can be a racist lout and on the left at the same time. It is a time honored tradition. I am not saying that all leftists are racist louts. The Democratic Party got way better the in the latter half of the 20th Century. No dispute there.

But it is also a matter of supply and demand that certain inclusive policies have lowered the relative wages of the working class in this country. Outsourcing and immigration have increased competition for blue collar jobs, pulling wages down. If you were to factor in the wage gains made by immigrants -- legal and illegal -- when they crossed the borders to work in the fields, slaughterhouses, etc. you might find that the U.S. economy was a better engine for uplifting the poor than usually advertised.

But the LEFT didn't do this. The Left said that wages have stagnated. Immigrant gains don't matter...at least for accounting purposes.

And over the past decade ago, the loudest protests against cheap imports (more competition for local workers) came from the LEFT.

Once upon a time, Adolph Hitler offered a compromise between the communist left and the aristocratic right. It didn't work out well. Sometimes the center can go insane, as the author of this blog has pointed out.

Trump is following a similar path. He is not as racist or crazy as Hitler, but the pattern is the same shape.

Carl M. said...

David has been complaining about ostriches and oligarchs.

So has the Alt Right. This has been brewing long before Trump announced his candidacy.

And yes, there have been recent calls from the Alt Right to increase the minimum wage -- in order to stem the tide of immigrant laborers.

Paul SB said...

Carl,

I agree with your assessment of Trump, and the historical shift of the U.S. Democratic Party from flaming racist before the Civil Rights Movement to champion of minorities after is well documented (and at that time, the Republican Party wasn't really any less racist, that was just mainstream American culture of the time). However, I suspect that much of what you are talking about here amounts to unintended consequences rather than deliberate policy engineering. There is also something to be said for there being more than one LEFT. Just like the Right wing in this country can be divided into those who are fiscally conservative (much like many Libertarians) and those who are socially conservative (flaming fascists who can't deal with difference), there are different strains of thought within liberalism. Working-class labor union liberalism is a rather different thing from the more garden-variety middle class liberalism, or even the upper crusty patronizing sort of liberal. I have yet to see anyone come up with terms for these different phenomena the way we have /fiscal conservative/ and /social conservative/, but if you talk to people on the left, they are a more disparate bunch than the brush you seem to be painting them with. Correct me, though, if I have misinterpreted your words. Is there a specific label you ascribe to yourself, or are you more of an individualist?

As afr as supply and demand depressing real wages goes, compare the total US labor force in, say, 1950 to perhaps 2000. What you will see is huge population growth. The demographers call this being in the "elbow of the curve." You might argue that immigration may have exacerbated the problem, but immigration is not the problem itself. Population growth means greater supply of labor, reducing the value of said labor. Oh, but it's more complicated than that, since that population also creates demand for more goods and services. And yet, since Reagan jimmied the tax code to favor big business, real wages have been shrinking. Funny that. : /

donzelion said...

@LarryHart - "Bush proved that any positive effects previously seen were not the result of Supply Side."

Fair enough. The claim that a tax cut for the wealthy does tend to drive them to invest in asset bubbles (preferably with rentier applications, or overseas with arbitrage possibilities), rather than productive assets in America, is amply proven, and I'm hardly one to defend "supply side" economics. If there was any doubt about whether 'supply side' worked, Bush Jr. put those doubts to rest with his experiment.

"What do you do when you need to work off the calories from a six-scoop sundae? Supply side answer: eat another sundae to get enough energy to go work out."

Thought someone might like the metaphor, and agree, that is the essence of the theory. Still, my premise was that a theory like this might actually appear to work - for an adolescent, who is growing so fast that the extreme calorie blast won't cause all that much long-term pain, and as such, the '80s analysts touting St. Reagan's 'achievements' aren't necessarily lying in their data, just misconstruing how central demographics was to the story. Any appearance of success by the model was a "causation/correlation" error.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart & David: (from last thread) I consider the supply-side theory disproven, but not in the strict Popperian sense. No economic theory has been put forward that has so little wiggle room in it to produce predictions, which if discovered to be failures, disproves the theory. With wiggle room, one can argue that the prediction was malformed or insufficient evidence was available for initial conditions and protect the theory. We do this a bit with science theories too (this is what bugs me about string theories), but if we do too much of it, the science community turns against the perpetrators with strong accusations.

Supply-side as a theory has wiggle room much like Ptolemaic astronomy. Add more epicycles if needed and don’t worry about them overlapping. Arabic astronomers using Ptolemy’s work didn’t like the overlaps, though, because some of them thought of those things as solid (crystal spheres?) structure. In doing so, they took the theory in a direction that might have allowed a disproof that would have satisfied Popper’s demarcation. I don’t see anyone doing that with trickle-down OR trickle-up economic theories and I’m not convinced it is possible.

This doesn’t mean I want to try more economic nonsense theories. It’s all right if economics can’t stand up prediction theories that would satisfy Popper’s demarcation line to be called science. Most of human knowledge can’t and we manage just fine. If we are going to call a study a ‘science’ that Popper would have called something else, I’m willing to accept that as long as people don’t delude themselves into thinking that quantifiable data and state functions for maximizing utility (a least-action principle) actually work in today’s economic theories. They don’t and obviously can’t except in very limited domains where humans act almost entirely according to prudence. Real humans have far more internal dimensions within them for such simplicity to be useful in guiding government policy.

Paul SB said...

Donzelion,

I could be wrong here, but I suspect that there is more going on than deliberate correlation/causation error. I have said many times that politicians have a lot less power than people think they do, but there are things they can do that will bolster the economy for a short time (long enough to get re-elected) but crash shortly thereafter (the definition of a bubble). We saw that happen in the Reagan Administration, then again with the Bush Second Coming. Trump's latest policy speech shows he plans to do exactly the same thing, so if the average Joe voter has learned nothing, we may be in for 8 years of being raped by the Republican Party again. Supply side policies will boost the economy a little, promote growth for a time, while the super rich get super richer, then return to their usual rent-seeking and money-hoarding ways, popping the bubble. Trump's talk about American jobs and anti-free trade protectionism is just his way of courting working class votes.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion: Regarding centralizing wealth in the hands of the few, you’ll find I’m inclined to agree with you. I can be swayed for and against trade treaties, but the arguments people use usually strike me as not mutually exclusive and barely partial truths. That means my beliefs on these things tend to conflict. I admit to the internal dissonance.

Regarding trade, my preference is for less regulation and fewer treaties because I naturally suspect them all as distortions of market rules meant to serve a few. I can be convinced to act if someone shows me that an immoral thing is happening, but I’m still inclined to deliver a minimal response. The burden of proof I demand, though, means few people bother arguing with me. Heh. There are days when I think I do that intentionally because I don’t want to feel responsible for the messiness of the world. Not very nice of me, so on other days I try to make up for it.

I’m inclined to believe you not because I like your politics, but because I think you’ve studied this far more than I have (and probably everyone here) and since you are obviously a decent human being, that’s enough for me for now. 8)

donzelion said...

@Alfred - "Supply-side as a theory has wiggle room much like Ptolemaic astronomy."
Well said. But I also like the "jiggle" implication of my sundae metaphor. ;-)

@Paul SB - "I could be wrong here, but I suspect that there is more going on than deliberate correlation/causation error [among the modern adherents of supply side economics]"
Concur - but isn't there always more going on when 'causation/correlation' errors outlive their predictive merit? A piece of me wonders if many millions of average Joe voters actually WANT to be raped by Trump...overt homophobia does correlate with homoerotic inclinations...

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: When I pop down to my local bookstore and peruse the science fiction shelves, I already see the low-grade, entertainment only content. That doesn’t make it all useless to a researcher, though. Squint at it and you’ll see Romance and Demigods. You’ll see the old aristocrat/peasant ethics described in the implied societies. Book after book after book on the shelves is best described as fantasy. Rare exceptions exist, though. Glance through KILN PEOPLE and it is obvious the society described inside operates on a different ethic. Study David’s novel and you’ll see both mentioned and the conflict between them.

What I prefer to read is a personal choice that has little to do with what the material says about the society that produces it. My usual reading material, though, mixes entertainment and study. I find joy in both and I’m especially fond of authors who succeed at mixing them. Fantasy teaches about our dark desires and what we used to be, but the more I learn the more I appreciate the fact that we aren’t what we used to be. What we are now is more sociology than psychology in what has changed, but we have changed in ways we can see in our stories.

As for Popper, don’t be shocked when I say that I think a lot of people are misinterpreting him. I have a dim view of positivism to boot. Taking a minority position, even a position of one, doesn’t scare me, though. I’ll freely admit that when I am on my own, it is more likely that I’m wrong than right, but it is not a certainty. I can be convinced that I’m wrong, but it takes effort and a willingness to resort to original material. No easy feat. I’ve got a number of Popper’s books sitting on my desk including what others have written about him and his politics. Heh. I’ve even read some of them cover-to-cover intending to refute large parts. The easiest stuff to refute, however, is what others write about him. He’s not perfect or perfectly consistent, but he wrote down a lot of what he thought. With work, one can see the shape of those thoughts.

As for quantifying McCloskey’s approach, you are describing exactly what I’m most curious about. Is it possible to do something useful in that fashion? Can her qualitative stuff be quantified? I’m very skeptical it can be done in a way economists would consider to be objective, but since I don’t think they are past Ptolemy’s level, I’m not concerned with their opinions yet. No grants are needed by independent people who want to pursue this stuff for their own reasons, so reviewer opinions matter little too. We may be stuck somewhere between objective and subjective truth, though. I’m willing to admit a border ground between the way things actually are and what one person thinks they are. When many, many people agree that something is what they say it is, we are in that middle domain. It seems to me that studies of humans by humans tend to lead us there.

Paul SB said...

Donzelion,

"Concur - but isn't there always more going on when 'causation/correlation' errors outlive their predictive merit?"
- Always, but more to the point, it's the "more going on" that shape the error in the first place.

"A piece of me wonders if many millions of average Joe voters actually WANT to be raped by Trump...overt homophobia does correlate with homoerotic inclinations..."
- With or without subconscious inclinations, the "rape" here is mainly financial, thus metaphorical, though you can never be sure how many Dennis Hastert emulators are lurking in the Party.

Paul SB said...

Alfred,

Your comments about getting something about our culture from our literature are very anthropological. You can read endless fantasy-novel drivel that sells and learn some things about how some people think, for sure. But as models for future societies, or alien civilizations, its kind of useless. Few will have a background in any subject that will make their constructions at all realistic.

" I can be convinced that I’m wrong, but it takes effort and a willingness to resort to original material. No easy feat."
- You are a more honest person than most, and more thoughtful. As to Popper, I am going to have to make the Ollie North Plea and say that it has been so long since I read him I would be foolish to take my memory too seriously.

Unfortunately, the same goes for your question about quantifying Mccloskey's qualitative data. It can be done, and somewhere I still have a good methods book or two that go into exactly how this stuff is done. It is mostly about survey, and how to make surveys that really get at the meaning and generalizability that you are looking for. The pitfalls are many, but not insurmountable. A good methods class is probably what you need, but that's going to be more time and work than you are likely to invest for the sake of curiosity. There is a fine art and a science to this, and I wish I still remembered it well enough to critique a lot of the BS surveys we hear so much about during election years.

donzelion said...

@Alfred - re TPP/free trade.
Internal dissonance is perhaps the only honest position with respect to macro-matters of trade. There will be winners and losers. Yet the "perfect is the enemy of the good" is a wiser starting point than "we must hold out and maintain the status quo until the perfect arrives."

Critics of the TPP seldom realize that they're endorsing the status quo. Now there's a lot of good in the status quo, and that good ought to be preserved, but the critics tend to be angry with aspects of it, and frankly, they have some good reasons to be angry. Unfortunately, building on the good we have to make something even better requires compromise. Sometimes, it's easier to look for a super-hero to bring about the 'perfect' - or a 'revolution' that will result in the possibility of the 'perfect.'

"Regarding trade, my preference is for less regulation and fewer treaties because I naturally suspect them all as distortions of market rules meant to serve a few."
The TPP and NAFTA are probably compatible with your preference for less regulation, in a sense. If a government enacts regulations purely to protect elites in that country, then those will be tested and brought to light. If they do so for perfectly justifiable reasons, those rules will survive the scrutiny, but to the extent that governments are driven by loyalties to elites, rather than their population, we should see far less intrusion by governments (or what intrusion does occur will require more sophisticated rationalizations).

Duncan Cairncross said...

Carl
The reason that working wages stopped increasing was not
Immigration
Or population growth
It was simpler than that, A two pronged attack on worker power (unions)
(1) legislation changes to directly reduce power
(2) a massive sustained propaganda effort to convince people that the unions were the source of all evil and probably eat babies - similar to an earlier German propaganda effort about the Jews

A third prong which was inadvertent (I think) was health care
The US health system tying health care to employment provides another massive cut in worker (union) power
This was not too bad initially BUT as health care costs rose it became a massive drag on union power - it is one thing to risk your wages in a strike, something else again to risk your families health

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion: Heh. I got wrapped up in your metaphor and imagined us as the ice cream being scooped up and eaten. I have no idea if that interpretation is right or wrong, but it side-tracked me into an imagined political rant where I holler at a Trump meeting that I want my ice cream left alone. Don’t tread on my ice cream. 8)

I’m inclined to think the trickle-down theory is a nice, ivory tower kind of theory. It looks good on paper. In a market full of potential cheaters, though, I think it is too easy to corrupt. The average market participant is homo sapien and not homo angelicus.

Paul SB said...

Alfred (again),

I think Im left out something important. It would not be a matter of somehow converting McCloskey's qualitative data into quantitative data - that just isn't possible in any meaningful way. Rather the idea would be to use McCloskey's conclusions as hypotheses to test with quantitative data.

Jumper said...

I'm curious how many people, when asked if they are an individualist, answer "no."

On the different matter, we ought to try the trickle up theory. It's a common truism, as I have noted here before and been completely misunderstood, that if you take all the money, divide it up equally, soon the rich will have it back again. I suppose some think I mean "it is pointless to redistribute the wealth" when that is not my meaning at all. I mean "it is HARMLESS to redistribute the wealth. Of course, that is likely an exaggeration but it's not far off what I think. I can easily see government returning more in profit (via the invisible hand, to be sure) to the rich than the increased tax rates I recommend would take.

David Brin said...

Wow. Some others (Stross/Doctorow) may have larger communities. Mine is the smartest.

Alfred… sure… Supply Side is not popperian disproven. For one thing, SOME of the rich DID invest in productive innovations and capacity. If we were smart & pragmatic we would analyze WHICH rich folks did that, defying Adam Smith’s contempt for “rentier” aristocrats. Two correlations are clear. The ones who invested in “supply” oriented production were both techies and… mostly and ironically … democrats.

CarlM. The role od labor in immigration is treated by you almost as simplistically as anyone else. I go into the ironies of immigration law here. How the dems ALWAYS clamp down at the border to control illegal immigration, while gopper residents tend to slash the BP… except after 9/11 of course. Yes that fits your narrative. But then why do dems OPEN the floodgates of LEGAL immigration? Yes, legal immigrants don’t become scabs. They become union members and voters. In fact, I loathe some aspects of the dem legal immigration flood! The Re-uniting families thing sounds sweet. But is in fact indefensibly evil and unfair! A family that has already won life’s lottery gets MORE luck? They can send $$ home to relations in the homeland. Meanwhile, there are others just as deserving as your cousin or brother in law.

I see nothing wrong with setting a quality bar, also. Why should we NOT let in preferentially a large fraction of the best and brightest? So we can continue to stay rich enough to do good and generous things.

Re wealth concentration. Simple. EVERYBODY shows what they own. Period. You don’t claim it openly, then you do not own it and it goes to paying off national debts. On the first order, NO taxes will need to be raised. No other laws changed. Probably very little confiscation of claimed property. That one thing would move the whole world up three notches.

donzelion said...

@Paul SB - thanks for the Hastert reminder, you jarred something I'd forgotten about regarding the charge he was actually convicted for - structuring/lying to federal officials (the statute of limitations had passed on the child molestation, but the way he withdrew money to pay the victim's extortion demand was itself a crime).

Such an interesting crime: I want to buy a $15,000 car. I know that a transaction over $10,000 will trigger a report from my bank to the federal government. I fear government surveillance and try to hide my transactions whenever possible to avoid them, even though this is a perfectly legitimate purchase - so I withdraw $9000 on day 1, and $6000 on day 8, and use that to buy the car. I am now guilty of "structuring." The government can confiscate that money - and potentially apply a penalty of up to 5 years under RICO.

In 1994, Ruth Bader Ginsburg tried to limit the rules so that one had to "know" that "structuring" was illegal before one was charged (Raslaf v. U.S.). The newly ensconced Republican majorities promptly altered the legislation to remove that element of the crime.

Makes you wonder about other Republicans who've championed a position in one context - only to risk judgment under that same law (e.g., the latest kerfuffle over Melania Trump's immigration status - if she married Donald Trump in 2005, how did she qualify for a marriage visa in 2001?).

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion: When it comes to trade deals, the only people I’m looking to defend are the poorest among us. I don’t mind too much if a special interest manages to rig the rules and make themselves rich as long as the poorest aren’t paying for it in a zero-sum sense. It would nice to have a more egalitarian system, but that is perfection threatening good enough, right? I’ll accept/tolerate a lot as long as the poor still see real income growth denominated in what matters.

One point I’ll make some American’s won’t, though, is that I count all the poor and not just American ones. I see national borders as something akin to a birthright lottery and I’m very much opposed to treating economics as foot races where nation-states are competing. If Americans are doing well, America will do well. If the poorest of the world are doing better, America will do better too. That’s good enough for me.

LarryHart said...

Carl M:

Trump is following a similar path. He is not as racist or crazy as Hitler, but the pattern is the same shape.


Trump himself is not as racist as Hitler, but he's signalling an appeal to voters who would happily vote Hitler for president were that possible.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,

"I see nothing wrong with setting a quality bar, also. Why should we NOT let in preferentially a large fraction of the best and brightest?"

- Maybe I am a bit pessimistic, or maybe I am putting the cart before the horse, but if we bring in the best and brightest from other nations, would that lead to our native-born folks not trying as hard to learn difficult (and generally more remunerative) skills? I have seen a whole lot of Chinese and Indian engineers, and heard a whole lot of locals who wouldn't even consider engineering or any science because "it's hard" and "the Asians are going to get all the jobs anyway." If we cut off immigration to fill high-skill jobs, would more people here be motivated to learn those skills, or is it that fewer people here are learning those skills, so businesses feel the need to import the skilled labor?

Paul SB said...

Donzelion,

"you jarred something I'd forgotten about regarding the charge he was actually convicted for - structuring/lying to federal officials"
- a bit like Al Capone going to jail for tax evasion?

"Makes you wonder about other Republicans who've championed a position in one context - only to risk judgment under that same law"
- a bit like teenagers who think they are invincible. Hoist by their own pitar, as old Uncle Bill Shakespeare might say.

LarryHart said...

PaulSB:

Trump's latest policy speech shows he plans to do exactly the same thing, so if the average Joe voter has learned nothing, we may be in for 8 years of being raped by the Republican Party again...


Fortunately, the Republican Party seems to be trying to undermine Trump themselves. I think they're actually as afraid of a Trump presidency as I am. I also think they're afraid of what might happen if Trump's "the election is rigged" meme catches on and his supporters refuse to recognize that they've lost after they lose.

The Republican establishment seems to be ready to concede the presidency to Hillary, but are trying to hold on to both houses of congress. And if that's what happens, I hope the Democrats (this time) are ready with a media blitz to point out when the Republican obstructionism is the problem and rally public opinion against their asses, so that the Mitch McConnell "Obstruct everything and then run against the president's ineffectiveness" strategy fails miserably next time.

Meanwhile, during the inevitable four years of refusing to confirm a new Supreme Court justice, we can only hope and pray that the next one God calls home is Clarence Thomas.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: But as models for future societies, or alien civilizations, its kind of useless. Few will have a background in any subject that will make their constructions at all realistic.

That’s the neat thing. Don’t use them for that. Use them to figure out what the author values instead. Did Shakespeare value the bourgeoisie? Not if you consider Shylock as evidence.

There is a scene in KILN PEOPLE where the main character is chasing across the land in pursuit. He pauses for a moment and reflects upon what he should be doing when it comes to informing authority. Any of us who have lurked here awhile know exactly what comes next in the scene because it aligns with the author’s direct statements about our relationships with the protector caste. What’s neatest about the scene, though, is the main character is kind of embarrassed (I thought) that it took him that long to do the right thing. That portrayal speaks more (and better) to David’s views on the matter than the actual details he tries to hammer into our heads here using non-fiction. He doesn’t have to represent a viable sociology to get across at least that little thing, though we might be left hanging about the political path that led to the purple wage and bus driving jobs as being highly valued.

Now consider Aragorn in Tolkien’s Ring trilogy. Is he ever embarrassed in a bourgeois manner? Pfft! He’s an aristocrat embarrassed about the lack of honor demonstrated by his lineage. He runs from his expected position in the hierarchy, but eventually submits to it. What does that say about Tolkien’s preferences? One doesn’t need Tolkien to describe the rest of the society and how it functions, though. We already know. We’ve lived that kind of life since the dawn of agriculture.

I hear you regarding a methods class and approaching McCloskey’s material from the other direction. If my curiosity survives a few more months, I’ll look into more books and class videos. If not, I’ll soon be espousing joyously the next, newest thing that excites me. 8)

Jumper said...

Most Mexican immigrants I have talked with have a strong libertarian streak. Some. I suspect, want the government to bug off.

Alfred Differ said...

@David: Regarding immigration, you are showing your progressive side making an analogy between winning and getting in. The analogy is true, but deeply dangerous because people set border policies and enforce them with potential violence. Do you like moats? Do you like where we might have to go in order to enforce these things? I suspect you would draw a line somewhere short of walls and mined borderlands, but many of our neighbors won’t.

From my perspective, it is deeply unfair to block a family that wants to pull itself together and pull itself upward. Individuals are not the atomic entities we treat them like in immigration policy. Letting one in, but not their family, is inhumane.

I won’t win any political elections with my view that borders should be largely dismantled, though, so I’ll settle for something short of that. How about we accept the best and the brightest AND let families pull themselves together IF they promise to take financial responsibility for any leeches among their kin for a number of years? Sending money back home is a type of financial responsibility, so this isn’t a novel idea. Besides, bringing them here puts them in range of our social assimilation forces. How many of them have to become entrepreneurial for that to be worth the costs?

Alfred Differ said...

@jumper: Same experience here. They want us all to let them be. What a concept. 8)

donzelion said...

@Alfred - "When it comes to trade deals, the only people I’m looking to defend are the poorest among us."

Fair enough. My view is that various incarnations of tariffs have been a substantial contributing factor in warfare for centuries (if not longer). Poor suffer disproportionately from war: so defending them from dying is my first priority. But there are many others that are also worthy.

GATT/WTO were an experiment to rein in tariffs - which has been working rather well. They corroded the Iron & Bamboo Curtains, causing the one to rupture entirely and the other to mutate. By design, eliminating tariffs makes a number of factories possible - which creates elites - who in turn partner with foreign elites interdependently. With this structure, bellicosity has grown quite infrequent among the elites (and when it does arise, e.g., Cheney/Haliburton, we correct the error). Not quite the Kantian "liberal democratic peace" - but better than WWIII + nukes.

Yet the first experiment was less concerned with creation and distribution of wealth more broadly than with preventing cataclysmic war. The modern trade deals are much more concerned with the creation of wealth that can endure and spread broadly.

"It would nice to have a more egalitarian system, but that is perfection threatening good enough, right?"
Simply harmonizing certain rules and principles is probably sufficient to foster some level of egalitarianism: it is less a case where a "bad rule makes us worse off" and more a case where an "agreed rule makes us better off." Before WTO/GATT, you needed a navy to enforce trade agreements or collect unpaid debts; many colonies and wars trace directly to such projections of power. After WTO/GATT, you 'just' need a few billion dollars to profit from international trade. After NAFTA, you only needed a few million to profit from regional trade. Not quite 'egalitarian' - by any means - but it better than what existed before.

Unless you're one of those who cannot compete as effectively as you could before. If it turns out Mexican engineers are just as good at engineering as American engineers, but cost half as much - then one has to evolve and offer something different. I think we're on the same page as far as that goes.

"If the poorest of the world are doing better, America will do better too. That’s good enough for me."
And even if we have political differences of opinion, that too is an area of agreement, and likely, the notion that trade can justify such optimism. It is POSSIBLE to do better, without someone else doing worse. And if we fail, it is possible to learn, and try again.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

I’m inclined to think the trickle-down theory is a nice, ivory tower kind of theory. It looks good on paper. In a market full of potential cheaters, though, I think it is too easy to corrupt.


I still maintain that Supply Side is not just corrupted in practice, but inherently flawed in theory, because the metaphor is wrong. Water flows down, but money "flows" up. I've likened it to dumping a load of water at the bottom of a hydroelectric dam and expecting that water to do work. Another way of putting it is that you wouldn't add tons more matter to a planetary mass and expect that matter to "trickle out".

LarryHart said...

Jumper:

On the different matter, we ought to try the trickle up theory. It's a common truism, as I have noted here before and been completely misunderstood, that if you take all the money, divide it up equally, soon the rich will have it back again. I suppose some think I mean "it is pointless to redistribute the wealth" when that is not my meaning at all. I mean "it is HARMLESS to redistribute the wealth.


And while the money is flowing back to the wealthy, it will be doing work on the system. Which is exactly what a depressed economy needs!

Berial said...

@PaulSB
I have seen a whole lot of Chinese and Indian engineers, and heard a whole lot of locals who wouldn't even consider engineering or any science because "it's hard" and "the Asians are going to get all the jobs anyway." If we cut off immigration to fill high-skill jobs, would more people here be motivated to learn those skills, or is it that fewer people here are learning those skills, so businesses feel the need to import the skilled labor?

Those jobs are going to Asians or Indians because even if they are naturalized Americans they'll work for cheaper than their American born competition. They are getting pulled in by the ton BECAUSE business doesn't want to pay Americans what those jobs are actually worth.

Tech can be really horribly 'agist'. Not because older workers skills are bad. No it's because older workers know they should be PAID for working 80+ hours a week and that the company ISN'T their family while those 20 somethings just think it's all good fun.

Tony Fisk said...

@donzelion You may be right about the overall benefits of the TPP, and there may be valid reasons for doing it this way. However, do not expect that an agreement that has been drawn up in secret and presented for a quick sign-off will be meekly rubber stamped. Expect resistance.
If you do, then you realise that, at some stage, the TPP etc. will need to be sold honestly.
If you don't, then perhaps you're not as good at this stuff as you claim to be.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

Unless you're one of those who cannot compete as effectively as you could before. If it turns out Mexican engineers are just as good at engineering as American engineers, but cost half as much - then one has to evolve and offer something different.


An interesting point. Globalization puts us in economic competition with foreigners, not just with Americans, but politically, Americans still make decisions on how to run the country. If globalization makes too many losers of the American voting bloc, that is not offset politically by the foreign winners. The almost-inevitable consequence is President Trump.

Tim H. said...

An interesting perspective on globalization here:
http://voxeu.org/article/brexit-backlash-has-been-long-time-coming
Class warriors used globalization for their purposes and the backlash may cost us a lot.

Carl M. said...

@LarryHart - I have been following the Alt Right for a while. A huge amount of what they write is rude, hateful, etc. But there is a huge difference from Hitler.

Most of the Alt Right is more pacifistic than Hillary. Their prevailing ideology is "I don't like you; you don't like me; let's build a fence so we can live side by side." This is rather different from "Slavs are scum so they should be exterminated to make room for more Germans." or "Jews are evil so we need to conquer all Jew containing countries in order to exterminate them." The Alt Right is more akin to Charles Lindbergh than Adolph Hitler.

There is a LOT of up front hatefulness in the Alt Right.

But it is a useful exercise in humility to compare mainstream policies with the overtly racist Alt Right.

Which is worse: attempting to police the Middle East using drones or simply isolating ourselves from the Middle East through immigration laws? Which policy results in fewer dead Moslems?

Which is worse: leaving evil emperors in the Middle East alone, or half-assedly attempting to impose our democratic ideals? Which results in more dead Moslems?

The Alt Right insults and shuns Moslems. Obama kills them. (So did Bush) Which is worse?

Intent or results? Which is more important?

LarryHart said...

Carl M:

@LarryHart - I have been following the Alt Right for a while. A huge amount of what they write is rude, hateful, etc. But there is a huge difference from Hitler.


To paraphrase your own phrasing earlier, I didn't say all Trump supporters were Nazis. I said Nazis supported Trump. But that in itself is enough to make me opposed, which would not be the case if you replace "Nazis" in that sentence with just anyone I differ from.

LarryHart said...

Carl M:

The Alt Right insults and shuns Moslems. Obama kills them. (So did Bush) Which is worse?


Uh...neither President Obama or W killed Moslems (using your spelling) just because they were Moslems. You might as well assert that "Bush killed Texans" when he was a governor in favor of the death penalty.

I don't know enough about the alt-Right to comment, but Trump would shun and possibly incite violence against Moslems qua Moslems. So he is worse.

Carl M. said...

@LarryHart "Just because" don't make a hill of beans difference if a drone slams into your wedding, or your country is thrown into chaos. Love bombs can be as deadly as hate bombs.

This is the point of my proposed mental exercise.

---

There are communists who support Democrats. Should the Democrats be judged by the record of communists? I think not.

----

You are correct when you cite the Donald's other threats to the Moslem world: his threats to use yet more torture, kill families of terrorists etc. These threats alone make Hillary preferable to the Donald.

But be a trifle humble yet. The U.S. has been carrying out such threats under the last two administrations, albeit bashfully.

My quibble is when people get more horrified by Trump's threats to restrict Moslem immigration than they are horrified by the collateral damage caused by policies of the last two administrations.

------

Suppose the U.S. had adopted the politically incorrect policies of the Alt Right before 2000. Innocent Moslems would have been denied entry to the U.S. Bad. But so would the 9/11 attackers. And thus there would have been no U.S. invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Weigh the Scales of Justice.

David Brin said...


CarlM: “Which is worse: leaving evil emperors in the Middle East alone, or half-assedly attempting to impose our democratic ideals? “


Bah, ever and again false dichotomies. We are a revolution and we owe it to posterity and civilization to promote it, since the default is always, always collapse back into pyramids of self-justified, rationalized brutal oppression. This a existential. Either our memes win or they will be crushed, smashed, ground to dust then burned. Oligarchy will never allow an experiment like ours to be tried again.

Having said that, do you actually believe the Bushite $trillion ‘wars’ were about “spreading democracy” or any of the other rationalizations? They had zero such effects and were never meant to. They were ripoff raids whose only beneficiaries were the Saudis (at first) the Iranians (later) and Cheney family companies (all the way through.)

I am not saying that democrats are succeeding totally but the costs in lives ahd money are a thousand times lower or more, in every respect. See http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2012/10/how-democrats-and-republicans-wage-war.html

Every single year that passes, more Afghan girls graduate from high school. We are in a holding action in which the clock ticks against those who would replace us with darkness. THAT is an angle on this that you never considered, I bet.

As for making excuses for alt-Right.... bullshit.

David Brin said...


Paul so long as the new immigrants spur a fresh surge of US creativity, I don’t care. It is the general american meme-set that has to win, across the next 50 years. If it does, then the feudal/Orwellian/Confucia/Pyramidal model won’t return and an open, creative and transparently accountable society will be the norm.

Let the new immigrants sweat and create and complain that their lazy kids want to be “arty.” There will be a genetic component to this. We’ll blend the best with the children of earlier best.

Alfred, if a family prospers here and sends remittances back to the cousins and brothers-in-law in the olde country… those cousins and brothers-in-law have won the lottery! They are already hugely lucky! And the lucker American ones will visit and hire lawyers and pay for schooling so more can come in. Let it take effort!

Why should those cousins and brothers-in-law have an easy streak path to MORE luck? There are a thousand other people in that village who have no such remittances or visitors or help! There is absolutely nothing kind or good or beneficent about family reunions outside parents and children. It is horrifically unfair.

Beyond that circle, let there be a mix of truly fair luck plus a bit of good old competition.

Supply side is inherently flawed because most aristos behaved in ways that Adam Smith described and not the way Dick Cheney described (but never acted.)


donzelion said...

@Alfred - Yikes, all the hate for Tolkien here. I get it, but always suspect folks are reading more into the nobility and genealogy than they might into the psychology.

The Hobbit is primarily a childish adventure tale, with a moral about the futility of war, as told by a relatively young father to a relatively young son, who actually experienced a very futile war.

The Lord of the Rings is primarily conceived of while that same son is off in fighter planes with a high risk of actually dying. Suddenly, the "futility of war" tale of the first novel is displaced by the grand necessity of a war against evil. The scions of ancient families (with conspicuously Western conceptions) - together with their domestic, agrarian allies and more barbaric friends stand against untold masses of "other" men bent on their complete destruction - this is Daddy pulling out every notion he can to try to comfort a son when he cannot actually protect him in any other way.

"What does that say about Tolkien’s preferences?"
Whatever one wants to read into it. How many people fixate on genealogical studies for comfort (especially after reaching a certain age)? And gardening, cooking, and invented languages (geeks are incredible language-inventors/adapters). Evoking heraldic symbols and nostalgia in the face of imminent destruction may be less an endorsement for what society should be, than an acknowledgment that in dark times, the old stuff may have great power (and the dark times didn't exactly end immediately after the fall of Hitler).

donzelion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
donzelion said...

@Dr. Brin - "Why should those cousins and brothers-in-law have an easy streak path to MORE luck?"

The best example available isn't Asian immigrants, but Jewish immigrants - and the best answer is contained in their experience in contributing to and building modern America. From academia, law, finance, science, literature and more, conferring relatively straightforward paths to citizenship that disproportionately favored family ties over other advantages resulted in a community which uplifted itself and spilled benefits across the nation as a whole.

While it's easy to focus at the Einsteins and others with celebrated achievements before they immigrated, the bulk of the contributions since WWII from the Jewish community come through unproven heirs - cousins, siblings, and others who may not have even had much formal education, but who found their footing in America and created much that we now love. [How much richer we might be now, had we really opened the doors wide in 1937, when the need was so great? And how else might the world be different?]

donzelion said...

@Carl M - "There are communists who support Democrats. Should the Democrats be judged by the record of communists? I think not."

Actually, American communists by and large regarded Democrats as WORSE than Republicans. After all, they recognized that a Rooseveltian compromise might defer the revolution.

Labor unions have had a very complex relation with communists - who by and large disdained them as a sham (but worth monitoring and coopting when possible). As they have had with female workers and with immigrants (the latter were in some cases brought in specifically to help break up unions - despite a few successes, the efforts also backfired in most cases). You'll find nothing comparable to an American labor union in communist China; indeed, communists in China are extremely suspicious of any American labor union penetration in their country.

“Which is worse: leaving evil emperors in the Middle East alone, or half-assedly attempting to impose our democratic ideals? “
I'm not aware of any emperors in the Middle East, and the evil leaders I am aware of aren't exactly what Americans make them out to be (too often, we'll convert them into Hitler-look-a-likes). We've never successfully imposed our democratic ideals on anyone - they are either adopted willingly (e.g., Native Americans, Filipinos, Japanese, and Germans) - or repudiated entirely (e.g., the banana republics).

That said, the Iraq war was great for the largest landowners in the Texas-North Dakota belt, who so often sat on prime land for fracking. All Haliburton needed to do was establish and verify the time before Iraqi oil might come on the market, and that fixed the value of fracking projects sufficiently to prompt an incredible boom (up until a couple years ago).

As is almost always the case with democratization: whatever you try to induce another population to become, you will push your own population away from wherever you were by an equal and opposite extent (but one will not recognize one's own movement, given subjective positions).

Paul SB said...

Don Ze Lion,

"whatever you try to induce another population to become, you will push your own population away from wherever you were by an equal and opposite extent"
- This sounds almost Newtonian. Is there a name for this law? :]

On Tolkien hating, there are elements of his thought that I like, and others I don't. The thing that bugged me the most was having entire races defined as evil by nature. This certainly shows his Colonial Era roots. The focus on the aristocracy in his stories likely comes more from his profession and the models he worked from than any specific love for the nobs. In "Farmer Giles of Ham" he portrays a clever peasant who outwits the king, so we have to take into account more than just his most famous work to take the measure of the man. Another thing to be said about the Hobbit is that it looks a whole lot like an allegory for Jews taking back the Holy Land, but in his tale the Jews (represented by the dwarves, a stab at Wagner he continued in his Ring Cycle) were heroes, not the stunted, twisted monsters supposedly deserving of scapegoating.

Paul SB said...

Alfred, I think our conversation about the uses of science fiction literature for analysis got lost somewhere. You started this off in the last thread talking about science fiction writers creating relatively realistic fictional civilizations and using it as a data source (or at least idea source) for understanding actual civilizations. Now you are saying this is not what you do, and are giving examples of more conventional literary analysis. Either I misunderstood your question, or we just got sidelined somehow. :[

Paul SB said...

Our Friendly Neighborhood Vedic,

Your comment about paying lower wages to high-skilled workers on visa is exactly what my daughter said. She somehow managed to get onto some list that sends her articles and general yapping from the Indian community (she probably clicked on something while Facebooking without knowing what it was going to do), and she remarked about how their griping sounds just like American griping but with different names and religions. And yes, many of the ones who are in the US working high tech jobs complain about their slave wages. I've seen the agism thing, too, though to be honest, all the 20-something software people I knew did nothing but brag about being able to spend half their time on the clock playing video games, a productivity loss you would not see so much in the older workers.

(Sad what happened to your namesake - he was one of my favorite characters from the early years of DS9.)

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,

"Paul so long as the new immigrants spur a fresh surge of US creativity, I don’t care. It is the general american meme-set that has to win..."
- This is a great example of what Ernst Mayr (one of the fathers of the New Synthesis) called "population thinking." Unlike most people, who fixate on some set of characteristics they expect to be perpetual enough to define a population, you get that the nature of that population may change over time (in this case the ethnic nature). America is still America as long as its people, on average, display a certain set of memic traits, regardless of who the people happen to be at any given time. The ethnic makeup is irrelevant, but if too many of the memes change, you have extinction without issue. This is a much more clear-headed thought process than probably 90% of people who comment (or vote) on social issues. Coolness in the extreme. I'm going to need shades and sunblock now... ;]

My family experience might not be typical here, but when my wife got her green card she started applying for her mother, both her brothers and her sister, and all of their families. We were told the application would take 10 years. By the time that decade had passed, not a single one of my Chinese relatives had any desire to move here. Her oldest brother had emigrated to Canada, but was spending most of his time doing computer science work on the Mainland, and was doing better there than he could here. The other siblings simply did not think it was so horrible where they came from that it was worth uprooting themselves from their communities. It seems that the old charter myth of America just doesn't sway all the world's people. By contrast, I went to school with a man from Syria (almost 20 years ago, not recently) who told me that the people back home told him that as soon as his plane landed in America they would start handing him gold. After a couple years living in America he had learned that it was a struggle to survive.

donzelion said...

"whatever you try to induce another population to become, you will push your own population away from wherever you were by an equal and opposite extent"
- This sounds almost Newtonian. Is there a name for this law? :]

LOL, it was a subject of a thesis I wrote in law school many years ago. The more we push others to be a certain way we wish them to be, the less we ourselves continue being the way we think we are. The focus was on budget allocations and awards from USAID to Egypt, but I suspect there's much broader implications. It was a fairly depressing insight, since it suggested the field of law I'd once aspired to participate in was essentially a futile enterprise.

"The thing that bugged me the most [about Tolkien] was having entire races defined as evil by nature."

I read that as a product of WWII thinking, but perhaps I'm being charitable. When much of the early writing and thinking occurred, most Brits were afraid of Huns and Japanese - shifting to orcs (and Haradrim, or the "Black Men") surely transposed existing animosity (as well as colonial history). But at the end of the day, Aragorn and all his genealogical pedigree is irrelevant: that path failed once (actually many times), and would fail again, but for the little hobbits who actually saved the world.

But he's still a badass (and I loved Viggo Mortenson's interpretation).

Treebeard said...

Thanks for the laugh donzelion:

We've never successfully imposed our democratic ideals on anyone - they are either adopted willingly (e.g., Native Americans, Filipinos, Japanese, and Germans)

Oh yeah, they were adopted willingly, after we obliterated them in wars and imposed our new orders upon them.

American liberal imperialists: people who believe the whole world has always wanted to be just like them, and it has nothing to do with a series of crushing military victories, by far largest military machine on the planet, and a very aggressive and sophisticated global propaganda machine. What a hoot.

Carl M. said...

David, you can call it excuses for the Alt-Right or criticism of the Establishment. You are the one who calls for getting outside of echo chambers in order to experience a bit of introspection...

And I do seem to recall your citing The American Conservative as the more sane version of the Right. The American Conservative is the mainstreamish edge of the Alt Right.

--

As for evil emperors, an emperor is a monarch who rules over multiple nationalities. As the idealists in the U.S. have learned the hard way, there is no Iraqi nationality. (The "Emperor" of Japan is really more a king. Really bad translation going on.)

LarryHart said...

CarlM:

@LarryHart "Just because" don't make a hill of beans difference if a drone slams into your wedding, or your country is thrown into chaos. Love bombs can be as deadly as hate bombs.

This is the point of my proposed mental exercise.


It makes no difference to the dead ones. It makes a lot of difference to the general population of Moslems as to whether they are being targeted next. Trump endorses aggression toward Moslems for being Moslem. Bush and Obama killed Moslems who were terrorists, or who (regrettably) happened to be in the vicinity of an attack on suspected terrorists.

The difference is inherent in my mental exercise of "You might as well say George Bush 'killed Texans' as governor because he executed hundreds on death row. It's literally true, but disingenuous to put it that way. Most Texans would not be living in fear that they're next.


There are communists who support Democrats. Should the Democrats be judged by the record of communists? I think not.


Which is why I added "which would not be the case if you replace 'Nazis' in that sentence with just anyone I differ from." Nazis are a special case, matched perhaps by the KKK and their ilk. I'm not just talking about a political difference of opinion.

LarryHart said...

Carl M:

Suppose the U.S. had adopted the politically incorrect policies of the Alt Right before 2000. Innocent Moslems would have been denied entry to the U.S. Bad. But so would the 9/11 attackers. And thus there would have been no U.S. invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Weigh the Scales of Justice


If the US had adopted the unconstitutional policies of the Alt Right without even the justification of the 9/11 attacks, I don't think we can even imagine the path this country would be on by now, but it wouldn't be "The United States of America" any longer.

Weigh those scales.

Carl M. said...

Larry, are you saying the United States didn't exist prior to 1965?

Keep in mind I am not endorsing the Alt Right. I'm weighing different types of bad. I'll be voting for Johnson this election.

And I should clarify something: I'm not including Trump among the relatively pacifistic members of the Alt Right. Trump is mixing Neocon belligerence with some Alt Right positions. We're talking quality Evil here: the ugliness of the Alt Right without the redeeming features.

@Donzelion: Have you ever like, met a communist? Your statement is outright bizarre. Have you ever struck up a conversation with someone in a Che T-shirt? Someone whose parents sent them off to a communist collective farm for the summer? A member of one of the many socialist parties in this country? An immigrant who was a member of a European Communist party before coming here? Someone with a hammer and sickle insignia on their shirt? Someone who is on an FBI watch list from supporting socialist causes?

I have. Most of the people above vote Democrat. Some are quite active in the Democratic Party.

Yes, the Democratic Party also includes many anti-communists, including Presidents. No dispute there. But there are and have been communists active in the Democratic Party, treating it as the lesser of two evils.

Paul SB said...

Carl, when you speak of communists and socialists in the same breath, you only show that your comprehension of these was formed by growing up on one side of the Cold War. I have spoken to people who wore Che T-shirts, and not one of them had a clue what communism is about. For them Che is a figure of ethnic pride, a famous person who resisted the corrupt governments which they see as in cahoots with Western (in their minds "white") business interests. Hammer and sickle insignia were all the rage among disaffected American youth back when I was in high school, and I remember them talking up a storm about communism, but not a single one had read Marx, or Trotsky or really knew anything more about communism than your typical hippie. Labeling all these people communists is a disingenuous as calling the last two administrations Muslim-killers, exactly as Larry pointed out. It would be the same if you called American police black-killers, when most of the people they shoot are white, but every time they shoot an African American it gets press.

There are entire countries that adopted communism in the mid-20th century not because they had a clue what the word meant, but because their countries had been overrun with foreigners - mainly Europeans and Americans - who treated the native people like dirt and were pillaging their nations'r resources. Communism was branded by the Comintern as a viable force to drive away those who were exploiting their countries, and in some cases providing them with material support. or perhaps you could read W.E.B. DuBois, who took the idea of communism seriously because it was obvious to him that the descendants of slaves would never become first class citizens as long as that status depended on the economics of our nation, where those who have money keep it, and conspire to ensure that those who don't never do. This applies as well to poor whites or any other group you care to name. Communism offered the only alternative to grinding poverty that could be believed, when the "land of opportunity" thing clearly wasn't cutting it.

I'm not saying communism is a good idea, and I never have. But labeling anyone who is different from you a communist is without actually examining what they believe is a gross oversimplification. Oversimplifications don't cut it. Few liberals are really communists, or even socialists (Sanders notwithstanding), they just look that way to extreme right-wingers.

Paul SB said...

Donzelion,

" It was a fairly depressing insight, since it suggested the field of law I'd once aspired to participate in was essentially a futile enterprise."
- I have never heard this from a lawyer, but I have seen the same phenomenon in a lot of different fields. People go into a subject bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, youthful enthusiasm bubbling over, then after investing years of their lives and huge amounts of money, they discover that the thing they had devoted themselves to was not what it seems. Psychology was probably the first place I saw this, since so many people got that degree back when I was in college. Most of them came to the conclusion that the psychologists are really clueless and don't get anything better than placebo effect. But what do you do after investing so much of your life in something? One friend ended up becoming a factory manager, an old roommate went back to working in an Italian deli. But some just kept going. Can you say, "Sunk Cost Effect?" I strongly suspect the same is true of many people in politics. Regardless of party affiliation, many go into it because they deeply believe they will be doing something good, but after years in the system they discover it to be so inert to change they become very jaded.

On a more horrific note, I heard a very similar thing from a man who went to Seminary, regarding the rape culture that pervades institutions of religious training. He thought he was going to do good, doing God's work, until he found he was in a house of sexual harassment and pervasive rape. I don't remember what they guy said he was doing after he dropped out of Seminary, but he gave up on the religious line of work.

On another matter, it's been awhile since the sapling found something here to cherry-pick for his cause. When you show some realism, which never fully supports one side or another, scalawags on either side try to use your words to support their extremist positions. Ho-hum.

raito said...

"Tech can be really horribly 'agist'. Not because older workers skills are bad. No it's because older workers know they should be PAID for working 80+ hours a week and that the company ISN'T their family while those 20 somethings just think it's all good fun."

Hmm... So the Boomers fight hard for a 40 hour work week and vacation, then turn around and schedule the heck out of their children, who grow up thinking that having every second of the day pre-filled is normal? Come in, Rod Serling.

As for (actual) Communism, I think the only way it could possibly work would be if there were some way to completely cut off one generation from the next (which seems to be impossible at the current time). That's the only way I see to get to the consistency of cultural thought necessary to make it work at all. Even that might not be enough. I don't consider any of the Communist countries to be all that Communist, actually.

Paul SB said...

In my last little rant, I neglected to say something that to me seemed so obvious it did not need to be said, but as I got up and ready for my day, it occurred to me that maybe it isn't so obvious to others.

Tarring Democrats by associating them with Communists is a very old ploy. But not everyone is fool enough to fall for the old guilt by association tactic.

Raito,

Are you thinking that if we, say, sent a spaceship off to colonize some other world filled not with people but with gene banks and equipment to turn those gene banks into people on arrival (the scenario in Greg Bear's "Hull Zero Three")l, that it might be possible? That would assume no role for instinct in human social relationships, which I very much doubt would be possible without some serious transhumanist engineering. Yes, frontal lobes give us greater flexibility than the rest of Earth's beasts, but we are still born with out limbic systems fully myelinated, on line and ready to lash out against anything that threats our own personal dopamine/serotonin/oxytocin and/or anandamide sources.

I agree with you about countries labelled Communist that never were. Even the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was more a Republic than a Commune, and more an oligarchy than a republic. It was Communism in name only.

Berial said...

"From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs"...The quickest argument against that is "Who cleans up the shit? Is there someone that has that as their 'ability'"? At least you are being compensated (you can argue whether it is adequately) when a capitalist pays you to clean up the restroom.

And I have to mention, Bareil Antos was the DS9 character, and .... not the origin of my Pseudonym. (I actually was trying to 'invent' a name I'd never heard of that started with the letter 'B'. Apparently I failed miserably because when I tried to get the .com URL I found out that it was owned by the Berial Hotel and that the name has apparently be used in several games usually as some sort of demon.) I do kind of like the association though!

Paul SB said...

Sorry Berial, easy mistake to make, especially on a blog full of sic-fi fans. I thought the name sounded just reminiscent enough of the Old Testament it could serve as well for an angel as a devil. In fact, it was the angel interpretation I figured the writers of DS9 were going for. The guy died a hero, though not exactly a hero's death.

As far as cleaning the slops goes, most civilizations dealt with that problem by making their slaves do it. Without slaves, you are left with a class of underpaid wage slaves to do the dirty, menial work, which is pretty undignified, and that is a key issue in the dissatisfaction many people feel. Humans are meaning-seeking animals, but when capitalism has trapped you in a life of undignified grunt work, it gets hard to support the status quo. Communism didn't fare any better, of course.

This reminds me of a recent article in Scientific American that finds that the relationship between happiness and having a meaningful life is not clear cut, and not at all what an idealist wants to hear. I thought that what they were seeing in their data could easily be explained by attention to neurochemistry. Most of what we feel as happiness at any given moment is a result of the release of specific neurotransmitters, which are mostly released by pleasurable - but temporary - stimulations. Taking pleasure from meaning is a more recent evolutionary development that requires a more sustained attention commitment. Let's see if I can find that article...

Found it! It was from their blog rather than the magazine:
http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/the-differences-between-happiness-and-meaning-in-life/#

Carl M. said...

Paul, in part you prove my point. Communism is the extreme of a left-wing continuum.

And, by the way, mixing the words socialist and communist is perfectly appropriate. Karl Marx called himself a scientific socialist. It's in his little pamphlet. I put in hundreds of hours in bull sessions with the hardcore lefties when I was an undergrad, many of which took place at the home of the Soviet history professor. I enjoy a good debate. These people had read more deeply into Marx, Marcuse, Sartre, etc.

What is true is that Marxists can be damn slippery with what they mean by "Marxist." This is partly because Marx himself was slippery. Most of Marx's writings are attacks on capitalism with extremely little on how a communist society is supposed to work. Marxist argumentation is largely "A is wrong. Therefore B." (It is much easier to pick apart Rothbard and Rand because they actually laid out what they were for.)

I also used to live in the Eastern U.S. equivalent to Berkeley. I have attended brainstorming sessions of organizations as far left as the young Bernie. Some of these people lived in communes. I have had beers with the leader of the Freedom Socialist Party. I stole the hat of an activist who claimed she didn't believe in private property -- as an experiment in revealed preference.

In grad school I had an office a few doors away from a member of the Italian Communist Party. She said it was like being a liberal Democrat here.

Such people are not the core of the Democratic Party by any means. But many of them do vote Democrat frequently, and even get active in Democrat campaigns.

Jumper said...

http://cdn.images.rollcall.com/image/236cbdabf6ca9fc064f8372837707da7/author/2016/07/29113926/Capitol-Ink-07-28-16.jpeg
Vote for Hillary!

Paul SB said...

Carl,

"Communism is the extreme of a left-wing continuum."

Yes, and Fascism is the extreme of the right-wing continuum. Your point is?

I could go on and on endlessly about genuine fascists (not just run-of-the-mill right-wing reactionaries, but actual members of the American Nazi Party I have known) too. It is usually not the extremists that set the agenda for either side, except in extreme times and circumstances when extreme thinking starts to win over. So do you have a point, or are you just another right-wing extremist trying to play the guilt by association card?

Carl M. said...

OK, I'm feeling uppity. Here's a couple more exercises in humility for ye to misinterpret.

1. Today with current welfare programs we have fat poor people. Hooray! BUT: what would poverty be like without those programs? Try extrapolating Gilded Age economic growth rates while maintaining a Gilded Age income gap. Where would the poor be today?

2. The Civil Rights Act passed. Hooray! BUT: Compare African American incarceration rates today with those of the 1950s. Compare harassment and shootings by the police between both eras. Do adjust the 1950s stats by factoring in vigilante groups. Just how far have we progressed really?

----

Before getting too humble or angry, feel free to contemplate offsetting factors. For example, the Drug War has offset many of the benefits of the Civil Rights Act.

Berial said...

1) The cheapest food available is bad for you, made up of tons of salt and sugar. It's EASIER to be fat when poor than rich because you AREN'T buying fresh and cooking it yourself.
2) Too bad we didn't have cameras in every pocket in the 1950's to show all the abuse.
Nixon set up marijuana laws to target blacks because they were getting uppity for crying out loud. Tons of our laws have been following that pattern since. Hell, we've even come up with a way to partially bring back slavery by making 'private prisons' and then making prisoners work for pennies on the dollar while imprisoned.

What was your point?

Jeff B. said...

@Donzelion: re: Tolkein: what does not seem to be understood about him by many who prefer sci fi is that he had no goal in writing LOTR other than, in his words, "The prime motive was the desire of a tale-teller to try his hand at a really long story that would hold the attention of readers, amuse them, delight them, and at times maybe excite them or deeply move them." Prof. Tolkein was a liguist by trade, but a storyteller at heart.

And the roots of his story date clear back to his service in WWI. He categorically denied that WWII influenced the book- "One has indeed personally to come under the shadow of war to feel fully its oppression; but as the years go by its seems now often forgotten that to be caught in youth by 1914 was no less hideous an experience than to be involved in 1939... By 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead."

And the origins of the whole work actually came while Tolkein himself was in the trenches. Even then a scholar of Old English and its antecedents, he looked at many of the "origin myths" for other European countries, and decided to create one of his own for England.

All orcs are evil? This was fantasy, not allegory (which he despised.) Orcs were elves warped by the torture and temptations of Morgoth before the First Age. The "black Haradrim" have no defense, though, other than perhaps that Tolkein like Edgar Rice Burroughs was a product of his times...

If the notion of Aragorn somehow hiding from his "destiny" came from the films, Peter Jackson's work, while visually splendid, were abominations which utterly corrupted the spirit and vision of the original. But you're right, though, the egalitarian, yeoman hobbits, who had no real nobility, were the true heroes.

As my areas of interest and expertise are a bit outside the norm here (history, lit, biology) I don't often get a chance to comment on something I know, even if this is just a tangent...

Jeff B. said...

@Carl M.: your challenge would take years worth of extensive research to come up with a good estimate. But re: poverty and welfare- the poor during the Gilded Age were very, very poor indeed, and this continued through the Depression. My wife's mother grew up during the Depression with dirt floors, in rural Western PA. The urban poor were far worse off for the entire period- incredibly crowded, dangerous jobs paying pittances, (when they could be found), child labor, disease. And while there was some improvement for the poor over time, their share of the economy remained minuscule until post-WWII.

In contrast, the share of the wealthy was huge. The stats that show greater wealth in fewer hands today than then fail to paint the compete picture. The "game" of industrialization had concentrated wealth into a few hands, but there were comparatively larger numbers of wealthy because many were still "regional" players- still wealthy, but not on par with the Carnegies and Rockefellers. And far, far above the "dirt-poor".

So, in your first exercise, I do not think you would see much improvement in the economic spread if the New Deal's pasta appproach ("throw it against the wall and see if it sticks") to poverty relief hadn't happened. If anything I would assume the gap would've widened even further, though social unrest at the extreme disparity might have rendered such speculation moot...

Jumper said...

A better thought experiment might be to get rid of the G.I. bill for education and see what we'd be like now.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion: Unless you're one of those who cannot compete as effectively as you could before. If it turns out Mexican engineers are just as good at engineering as American engineers, but cost half as much - then one has to evolve and offer something different. I think we're on the same page as far as that goes.

Yes. I think we are. 8)

I briefly worked for a company that made use of many people who came in on H1B visas about 12 years ago. They were willing to work for about 1/3 of what I usually demanded for a salary or ½ if I made cost of living adjustments for where that company kept its HQ. Obviously, with that wage pressure, my choice was to accept the lower wage or work elsewhere. I did a bit of both since I needed the money and time to find a better deal. One of my new peers was very kind in helping me adjust to the area for the couple months I was there, so before I left I informed him directly what his skills were worth in the US market. We parted on good terms. He moved his wife to another city about a month later to work a job that paid him at a rate that would be less pressure on those of us who lived here from the start. I like to think I did right by him, but I also recognize my political motivation to do what treaties can’t really accomplish. According our peers the dignity we expect creates community, thus coherence of goals. The pretty words in a treaty can’t do that.

donzelion said...

@Carl M - Yes, I've met my share of communists, as well as "wannabe communists" and authentic communists.

I realize it "seems" bizarre to suggest that Communists have more problems with Democrats than with Republicans. Certainly violates the FoxNews mantras, but if you read the history of the Communist Party in America (or the history of labor union purges of Communists following WWII), you'll find it amply supported.

As a rough example, consider which presidents actually initiated wars directly with Communist countries - Truman, Johnson (well, Reagan did invade Granada, but...please). Which presidents actually initiated diplomatic ties with Communists?

That said, the Communist Party is surely not demonstrative of the views of all communists in America. The better evidence is the labor unions themselves, esp. the largest among them (the UAW and what became the AFL-CIO) purged their communist affiliates after Taft-Hartley, and most cooperated with law enforcement in putting down labor unions.

A Communist who voted for a Democrat would be endorsing capitalism itself - sort of a contradiction in terms. Stranger things do happen (e.g., the Log Cabin Republicans vote for a party determined to authorize the public to discriminate against homosexuals). That simple reality is irrelevant to conventional mythologies that suggest Obama is a socialist (and a socialist is merely a communist who hasn't gone quite so far) - but the adherents to that view tend to reject evolution, anthropogenic climate change, and science in general - their views are sort of 'fact intolerant.'

donzelion said...

@Jeff B re: Tolkien: I recognize the motives Tolkien asserted - he "just wanted to tell stories" - but the process of creating the works was influenced by the times in which they were created, as well as the original audience with which they were shared, his children. When they grew up, at least one of them continued to take an interest in Dad's crazy little hobby, even when he went off to fight in war. JRR didn't want to write an allegory of the war (with the ring = nuclear weapons, or similar rot) - only that the wars influenced him, as did other sources he ensconced himself with. The distinction between a "stupid, avoidable war" (his own) and a "noble, necessary war" (his son's) is glaring.

We'll have to disagree re Peter Jackson's work. As I see it, even if the hobbits are "the true heroes," the ultimate "message" (not that JRR was interested in 'grand messages') is that heroism itself fails, but loyalty to friends persists, and sometimes, through accident or bravery, overcomes. And all that pageantry is endlessly fascinating...

David Brin said...

Paul China is a special case. We have lost many of our Chinese immigrants because there was SO much money to be made on the mainland. But it's okay, they returned home memically "infected."

Re Carl M:

US labor was ferociously anti-communist, far more than the GOP was. The turning point was when Stalin tossed all the eastern eurpoean trade union leaders out of windows… ‘suicides’ or defenestration… throwing George Meaney and his peers into a volcanic rage. Arguably one of Stalin’s top five howling-huge mistakes.

Carl’s reflexive isolationism is a point of view. It is better than the towering insanity of Bush’s neocons and their fervidly insane version of an imperial American Pax, that would have been like every other empire, utterly self-destructive. Me? I am loyal to the Marshallian version of Pax Americana, that saved the world and gave it a 70 year run of unparalleled peace and development and freedom. A steep burden of proof falls on those who claim we should do something else.

As it falls on those libertarians who proclaim that all free-flat fair markets need is for regulation of oligarchy to stop! Um… 6000 years?

Should we be cautious intervening elsewhere? Sure. The neocons were stark insane and harmed us and our credibility and ability to affect the world. OTOH, Bill Clinton’s careful, competent interventions in the Balkans saved Europe and gave it its first complete peace in 4000 years, at almost zero cost. And he admits he should have done the same in Rwanda. And we gave up way too soon after suffering a tactical setback in Somalia.

Iraq? A wretched quagmire that’s entire the fault of the Bush-Cheney families. Had Schwarzkopf been allowed to rescue the people of Basra, then a Shiite-Arab state would have truly loved us, as do the Kurds today, in gratitude to us for having done EXACTLY what GHWBush refused to do (on Saudi orders) for the people of southern Iraq… who hate us now. Deservedly so.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "1. Today with current welfare programs we have fat poor people. Hooray! BUT: what would poverty be like without those programs?"

Without these programs, poverty would be the guy who came to your house, raped your kids to death, and forced you to watch.
People tend to forget, but one reason social welfare programs exist is to diminish the risks of violent uprisings caused by destitute men and women driven into a revanchist frenzy.

The thing is, Humans' giant mole brains have two conflicting impulses: one is conflict aversion, which is vital to build functioning societies, but allows cheaters and parasites to commit abuses without immediately being lynched by their victims; and the other is anger at injustice.
Normally, conflict aversion overrides anger, allowing civilization to function: but every abuse of power, every petty insult spewed by a privileged man to someone less fortunate than him, every inept heir gaining a position of power while more intelligent and hardworking commoners are left to struggle in the mud, every family becoming destitute while rentiers overindulge builds up collective anger, until eventually it overwhelms conflict aversion and the downtrodden become violent and creatively cruel.

And I daresay that most of modern statecraft, including the use of safety nets, stems from the need to curtail that second impulse.

***

* "The "black Haradrim" have no defense, though, other than perhaps that Tolkein like Edgar Rice Burroughs was a product of his times..."

Didn't the Haradrim have good reasons to despise Gondor? In their heydays the Numenorians had extorted heavy tribute from them, and while it was common knowledge in Gondor and the Lorien that Sauron always end up screwing you over, during the War of the Ring, he hadn't screwed the Haradrim yet. If anything, Sauron having on top of his orcish armies enthusiastic supporters whose ancestors had been mistreated by Numenor helped showing that he still was a skilled manipulator able to exploit ancient prejudice and legitimate grievances to serve his goals.

donzelion said...

@Carl M - "Try extrapolating Gilded Age economic growth rates while maintaining a Gilded Age income gap. Where would the poor be today?"
Where would we be today?
(a) sending their children to work 12-hour shifts 6-days a week in coal mines and factories, as 1/3+ of them died before reaching 21.
(b) watching as the persistent "Long Depression" played out waves of massive, global migration through porous borders.
(c) dispossessing owners and occupants of lands they'd held for generations
(d) sitting back as millions starve to death
(e) stuck with a vast, illiterate population, perhaps a quarter of the country
(f) hoping that local oligarchs in towns and cities do not choose to shut down our businesses or bankrupt what appeared to be crucial infrastructure projects simply because they did not kowtow to those owners

Teddy Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson changed course in the 20th century, closing the book on the Gilded Age. For most of those who lived through it, the end couldn't come sooner.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "I realize it "seems" bizarre to suggest that Communists have more problems with Democrats than with Republicans"

That's because you don't come from a country where the far-left consistently obtains 10-15% of the vote, often mimic the far-right's rhetoric, and barely hide its desire to cause the destruction of anything resembling a center-left party in the hope that center-left voters would flock to the revolution's banner for lack of a better choice.

***

* "That simple reality is irrelevant to conventional mythologies that suggest Obama is a socialist (and a socialist is merely a communist who hasn't gone quite so far)"

My personal take is that Obama, like 90% of Democratic elected officials, is a closeted social-democrat, while most of the Republican Party is composed of closeted stalinists (that is, people who want to be part of the ruling class of an authoritarian oligarchy pretending to serve the interest of the masses)

David Brin said...

Great discussion guys. Most elevated on the web.

Continue if you like.

But onward

onward

Duncan Cairncross said...

I'm with Dr Brin,
The New Deal was not entirely (or even mostly)due to an outbreak of fellow feeling for the poor among the ruling classes

It was a clever way of heading off much greater change and violence
(think guillotines)

The Freefall comic says it superbly
http://freefall.purrsia.com/ff2900/fv02843.htm

It’s OK to have steak when there’s a chicken in every pot but if you’re eating steak and the majority of people have nothing it doesn’t take long for you to look like a chicken

Jeff B. said...

@Laurent Weppe:

Sorry, my fault for not being more clear. My comment about the Haradrim was referencing Tolkein's stereotypical portrayal of the dark-skinned Haradrim as evil, cruel, and almost subhuman. I meant that this part of LOTR was pretty indefensible by modern standards. I agree about the in-world history, though it was a bit more complex (Numenorean worshipers of Sauron took over the Harad, and corrupted the already-aggreived Haradrim into Sauron-worship as well. One of the Ringwraiths was one of these "Black" (evil) Numenoreans.)

/endgeek/