Saturday, May 09, 2020

How is this "emergency bailout" different from all other bailouts?

Hang in to the end for my favorite suggestion for how to spend some of your quarantine time... plus a great way to defeat insomnia!

So. How is this "emergency bailout" different from all other bailouts? Answer: during every other urgent economic crisis intervention there were powerful interests in Congress and the Executive who spoke up for the taxpayer. Sure one could argue that industries were "saved" who should have been allowed to suffer the consequences of bad management... and that the CEO caste nearly always got their parachute first... nevertheless, this chart shows that overall, the workers at those companies were helped almost as much. Above all, our children weren't saddled with vast debt in order to line oligarchic pockets. In fact, taxpayers did all right.

This linked research shows that the vast majority of business bailouts passed by Congress over the past half century have either broken even or generated a profit! For example: "the much-derided 2009 Troubled Asset Relief Program, was a $854 billion bailout for financial companies. Ultimately, $382 billion was dispersed to Wall Street firms like Citigroup, JPMorgan and AIG in exchange for preferred stock and other compensation. Taxpayers earned a net $32.5 billion. 


A separate bailout to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac was even more lucrative. The U.S. government received preferred stock for the $234 billion invested in the two housing giants. Taxpayers got their money back as well as $123 billion in profits."

The bailout of the auto companies in the same season restored that American industry to health. Republicans shouted: "let Detroit die!" while Obama and the Democratic Congress demanded major equity as collateral... and came within just $14B of breaking even.

The CoronaCrisis Stimulus has been entirely different in all ways. No collateral has been demanded from any of the TBTF (Too Big To Fail) corps, nor WallStreet, nor any moguls represented by K Street. Nor are there any CEO consequences. No equity that taxpayers might later sell to recoup anything. Pelosi had to use all her political capital just to get much of it called "loans" so that someday, something might be clawed back from those of the ungratefully saved who get obscenely profitable. (For now, those "loans" are unrecoverable.)

The systems of accountants who watched TARP carefully and insisted that U.S. funds buy toxic assets at near fair value are almost entirely absent this time, except for a few promises made by Black Rock, which might still contain a few citizens.

The inspectorate who might watch for insider corruption this time was either fired or intimidated by Trump, while he and McConnell have blasted any attempt in the House to create oversight as "delaying dems who are killing Americans and American jobs."

Even the money that's going to workers is being funneled through corporations under "payroll protection" when simpler and more direct means are available.

You may be upset with these traitors for many reasons, e.g. spreading climate denialism, waging open war on all fact-professions, attacking as "deep state" the brave men and women who won the Cold War and the War on Terror, kids in cages, the 20,000 Trump lies, the appointment of unqualified and corrupt monsters to every executive department, the deliberate dismantling of all American sciences and alliances...

In fact, all of you know some residual Republicans who hold their noses at such Trumpian antics calling them 'regretable" but... who then murmur about "spendthrift/wastrel Democrats." 


Demand they make a wager of it! Which party is always more fiscally responsible? Get the twit to ante-up and escrow big stakes in a bet over that cliché, because I promise you that I will (for 10% of your winnings) line up the proof. It is always, always Democrats, not the corrupt cesspool of turpitude that was once the Party of Lincoln.

== The Piketty fence against feudalism ==

Thomas Piketty’s series of books on “Capital” 
have sold millions worldwide zeroing in on the greatest problem of our time, the concerted campaign to re-impose feudalism through skyrocketing wealth disparities that are fast approaching those of 1789 France, just before the Revolution.

While playing off the concerns that Karl Marx raised (dogmatically and with far more primitive data) in Das Kapital, Piketty, is actually a fan of Adam Smith. He wants to save competitive-creative market enterprise, which truly does foster invention and wealth generation that can ‘lift all boats.’  

Alas, eras of vibrant entrepreneurship almost always failed across the last 6000 years, wrecked not by socialists or bureaucrats but by rich cheaters - by century after century of kings, nobles, priests and the sort of spoiled inheritance brats who were also (ironically) the chief villains in every Ayn Rand novel. (Though no Rand-oid ever seems to notice that fact.)

Piketty systematically shows how the vastly creative and flat social structure of the post WWII Greatest Generation led to hugely successful enterprise… whereupon after 1981 all of that began to decline and then plummet with this era’s return to oligarchy.

Capital and Ideology builds on Piketty’s long-standing argument that inequality has soared across the world since 1980. It proposes strong remedies. Piketty wants to slap wealth taxes of 90 percent on any assets over $1 billion, and he waxes nostalgic about the postwar decades when British and American top marginal income-tax rates were over 80 percent.”  

Sound radical? Well, it wouldn’t sound at all radical to the Greatest Generation who survived the Depression, crushed Hitler, stymied Stalin and built the most spectacularly effective market economy of all time.

“Franklin D. Roosevelt and European social democratic parties, desperate to dissuade workers from Bolshevism, oversaw a redistribution from rich to poor. From 1932 to 1980, top marginal income tax rates averaged 81 percent in the US and 89 percent in Britain, Piketty calculated. Rich Americans also paid state income taxes, and higher inheritance taxes than wealthy Europeans. But from 1980, Reagan, Thatcher and their acolytes, as well as post-communist regimes in the former USSR and China, restored the trend to inequality….”


(Something I also note, that Piketty missed and that boggles all "Tea Party" types. That the American Founders followed the revolution against British oligarchy by seizing and redistributing up to a third of the land in the former colonies. And act of "leveling" that both built the initial US middle class and makes the New Deal look almost Randian, by comparison.)

Piketty goes into the justifying incantations, like “government is the enemy”… even though Adam Smith extolled civil servants as helpful in counter-balancing feudal monopolists and oligarchy. (One reason today’s oligarchs’ Enemy #1 is the so-called “deep state” of a million men and women who strive honestly on our behalf, daily.) Piketty describes the “sacralization of property” which has become the central faith-word of a libertarian movement that used to focus on the C-Word… competition… till billionaires bought out the movement, top to bottom.

Reading the stats, you have to wonder where the oligarchs think this all can lead? Do they actually think they can establish a permanent inheritance pyramid, with all the fact-using “boffins” - folks who who know genetics, cyber and nuclear science - all meekly accepting their place just above a festering sea of poverty? 


Many zillionaires can now see that’s untenable and they are splitting in two directions. Some are making the choice made by Joe Kennedy in the 1930s"to sacrifice half my wealth so the workers won't get furious and take it all."  Count Bill Gates and Warren Buffett and many of the smartest tech giants there.

Others have decided to double down on the evil. Among some has arisen an even more noxious meme — a fixation on apocalypse that they plan to ride out in Patagonian or Siberian prepper redoubts or in hideaways under the sea, blithely certain those few boffins who survive won’t be able to find them. Riiiight.

In the end, Piketty calls for what I’ve been demanding since The Transparent Society … and even since my novel EARTH… the one thing that Adam Smith and even Friedrich Hayek demanded in order to make markets, justice systems and every other thing work well… and the one thing that oligarchs and inheritance brats have always avoided frantically, until that final tumbrel ride.  Transparency.



== And finally - a good use of time... and maybe save the galaxy?  ==

RECOMMENDATION: there is no better win-win way to pass quarantine time than with a historical atlas. If you have just five minutes at a time, it makes terrific bathroom reading and you come away having learned tons, from just one page. Or get immersed for hours - any page might lead you to go click great web tutorials like the EXTRA CREDIT series! And never again will you be at a loss about this or that era and the names that smug folks drop!

You'll gain perspective on the awful, wretched way that self-deluding kings, lords and theocrats ruled, as humanity crawled agonizingly out of the dismal trap of feudalism that mired nearly all cultures, on nearly all continents, and that has likely mired a majority of alien races, too. (A top candidate to explain the Fermi Paradox... and much of today's politics.)

Oh, and one more great benefit! 
Having trouble falling asleep? 
When you're interested, a historical atlas can be riveting!
But when you're loggy and in need of sleep...
...a historical atlas can be ... utterly... soporific...
...zzzzzzz

A total win-win.

145 comments:

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Even the money that's going to workers is being funneled through corporations under "payroll protection" when simpler and more direct means are available.


I actually approve of this method. It's not just a matter of giving money to idled workers, but of subsidizing their employers so that the employers can keep those workers on the payroll. This serves two purposes--preventing those workers from losing their health insurance, and keeping those jobs filled for when the economy starts up again.

The only problem I have is if employers are allowed to take the money without maintaining their workforce.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

RECOMMENDATION: there is no better win-win way to pass quarantine time than with a historical atlas.


I wish I could find the 1943 World Atlas that my brother and I found in my grandmother's house after she passed away. I know where it was in the house I lived at before this one, but it went missing in that last move, ten years ago.

One point of fascination was the world map showing (among other things) Axis-controlled territory in the middle of WWII.

Also, Los Angeles was not the third most populous US city in 1943--Philadelphia and (I think) Detroit were ahead of it.

There was a fascinating section on science describing "The races of man". Today, it would be considered incredibly racist, but I could tell that, at the time, it was trying to be less white-Anglocentric and more factual than the "science" had been in the previous decades. Also, given the moment, probably trying to sound less like Nazis.

David Brin said...

For a glimpse of how hard major segments of US life were trying to do better... while cringeworthy by today's standards... see the Periscope series of old newsreels, especially "The Negro Soldier" (watch the end!) and the one about Japanese-American soldiers of the 442nd. And Eleanor Roosevelt fighting to include black colleges in the prewar flight program.

We have to hope that we, too, will be judged by whether we tried to be better than our times.

Alfred Differ said...

I get the Smithian point, but Piketty's approach is flawed. As a result, he recommends something I think would be very harmful.

Early in the book, he works through the various forms of capital. Good stuff for people to read so they see the bigger picture. He speaks of one, though, and then rejects it. Human Capital. That knowledge in your head. The argument goes that you can't trade it like you do other things because we reject slavery, therefore it doesn't count as capital. Something else, yes. Capital, no.

The problem this causes seems small at first, but it really isn't.

1) Look at what a mother spends years doing with her children. Teaching. She invests a lot in a child's human capital. The child continues into adulthood doing the same thing. We spend A LOT of time and treasure doing this.
2) Look at one of the best arguments for the existence of trade unions. Not bargaining power. Not picket power. Trade schools. When labor is educated in the tools of trade, they are more valuable to management. Trade schools pile on what all of us should already understand from how our mother's behaved. It's more of the same.
3) Look at the corporate movement a while ago to ship some of the service sector overseas where labor was cheaper. US companies needed to compete, so why not try to hire cheaper labor? Didn't work as the MBA boys said it would. Why not? Lazy or incompetent workers? Nah. It was mostly a failure to understand. They weren't fluent in our culture and that created glitches in processes that re-imposed some of the costs that were supposed to be saved. Why? Missing human capital. They didn't know what they needed to know about us. Every book you read, movie you watch, neighbor you befriend, and pop culture reference you tuck into memory creates cultural fluency. More human capital.

Contributions to this list go on and on and on. We are doing it every waking moment. It's a huge investment, so why not count it? Because it can't be traded? Garbage. I can command a higher wage in labor negotiations based on the capital I've accumulated. I can. I have. Members of trade unions do too. Every child that grows up with a decent education does too.

Would counting it change Piketty's argument? Damn straight it would.
One fo the reasons rich people look like they are getting SO rich while the rest of us aren't is because he isn't counting our primary investment.

My human capital isn't worth the billions I'd need to join the golf-buddy clade, but try counting it for the bottom 50% of the SES ladder. It's a LOT and it is GROWING FAST.

Don't count it and whole swathes of our communities look like they aren't getting anywhere. Maybe sliding backward.

Count it and one discovers the fastest growing sector of capital. Right there under our noses. Literally.

dennisd said...

Larry Hart
You might be thinking of Richard Edes Harrison's WW2 era maps for Fortune and Life magazine. Harrison's atlas, "Look At the World" provided novel cartographic perspectives of the planet. Setting aside the convention of North always at the top of a map, Harrison would change the point-of-views as needed. By 'looking' across the Arctic, Harrison could show how portions of the USSR were closer to the US than parts of Europe. Many other examples like that. FDR might have referenced Harrison's maps during his fireside chats.

Daniel Duffy said...

A spokesperson for the state of Ohio just stated on TV that our unemployment fund will be out of money by mid July. Unlike the Federal government, Ohio and other states can't print their own money.

This is the real reason behind the push to get states to reopen prematurely, fronted by astro-turfed protesters financed by large business interests like the Kochs

Workers in the service industries especially will then be forced to go back to unsafe working conditions and if they refuse because they are afraid of the pandemic, they will lose their unemployment benefits and health insurance.

Meanwhile, polls indicate that the vast majority of American consumers feel it is too soon to reopen and are afraid to go back to shopping at these businesses. But since the economy has been reopened, theses businesses no longer qualify for Federal aid. You see, the budget deficit is exploding so that Trump - for just this year alone - will borrow the equivalent of $50k per family of four.

Without customers, and denied Federal aid, these businesses will fail. But they will no longer be a drain on Federal debt. And big businesses can pick up properties and businesses for pennies on the dollar. Which again is the point of reopening the economy. The other option would be taxing the rich, and we can't have that now can we?

However, those employees forced back to unsafe working conditions will be out of work anyway, but may this time re-qualify for unemployment benefits - which will finally collapse state budgets, especially Red states like Texas, Florida, Georgia, etc. who have been trying to destroy the social safety net all these years and will never raise taxes.

Meanwhile, a second wave of infections and deaths caused by infections from working asymptomatic people (doubling to 3,000 per day according to the CDC - equal to a 9/11 attack every day) will come back this summer and be reinforced by ordinary flu in the fall and winter. Hot weather doesn't stop this, and in America AC in all public spaces will provide the virus all of the infection pathways it needs.

Its going to be such a sh*tstorm.

Question: since this sh*tstorm will mostly hurt the people who support Trump is it OK to feel a little schadenfreude?

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Human Capital. That knowledge in your head. The argument goes that you can't trade it like you do other things because we reject slavery, therefore it doesn't count as capital. Something else, yes. Capital, no.


I've heard similar arguments that anything of value is only worth the dollar amount that you can trade it for. Even the bizarre corollary that homeowners should be taxed on the rent that they are implicitly paying themselves. Or when someone totals your five year old car, they have deprived you only of that car's resale value, not the amount it will cost you to restore its functionality to yourself.

And yes, the same argument is used to justify slavery, asserting that your freedom itself is only worth what you can trade it for, so that by denying you your right to sell yourself into slavery, the government deprives you of a valuable property right.

Daniel Duffy said...

Alfred, I'm sorry but we are going so see a repeat of the Great Depression with PhD's pushing brooms.

Their Human Capital won't count for squat if there is no market for it.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ under the previous post:

So… should those of us captured by our employers vote? Whether we are allowed or not, aren't we risking breaking 'one person/one vote'? Can each of us look at ourselves in the mirror and reasonably believe we exercise free will in the voting booth? There is no right or wrong answer here, but the opportunity to think about it and realize that there might be a valid point to make favoring voter suppression.


That's a stretch on the order of "Maybe the image from 'Daily Stormer' juxtaposing Hillary with a six-pointed star wasn't anti-Semitic. Maybe it was a sheriff's star instead."

The ones who act most to suppress the votes of young people, women, and minorities are not doing so because they are afraid those votes will be co-opted by employers. If anything, they're concerned that those votes would be contrary to the employers' class interests.

But since you're describing an argument you don't subscribe to, suppose I play along.

If women could be controlled like Stepford Wives by their husbands, then male-only suffrage might be defensible. But if so, you make that the law. You don't pretend to allow every adult to vote but throw clandestine obstacles in the way (such as "Your name must exactly match that on your birth certificate") which happen to make it more inconvenient to clear the hurdle for some women than for men. The fact that voter suppression "dare not speak its name" but must always be implemented in a sneaky, back-door manner demonstrates the disingenuousness of the pro-suppression arguments.

Larry Hart said...

Daniel Duffy:

Question: since this sh*tstorm will mostly hurt the people who support Trump is it OK to feel a little schadenfreude?


Well, since you can't control what you feel, I say go for it. As long as you don't actively take part in harming those you disagree with politically, I see no reason not to take a bit of quiet enjoyment when they self-destruct. It might be all we've got left.

TCB said...

Haven't even read the post yet but my snap impression is that the post title reminds me of Passover.

David Brin said...

TCB the reminder was intentional, of course.

DD the notion that this event allows rich companies and families to sweep up the bankrupted is both logical and scary.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Thanks to my father's insistence, I learned enough about basic trades to probably be an apprentice in many -- plumbing, carpentry, electrical, masonry, machine shop/ tool and die, and a fair amount of car repair too (although it may be less useful as gas powered vehicles are phased out in favor of electrical ones in some areas). I have my MLIS, but could conceivably go back into trades if through some short sighted kafuffle, I could no longer support myself working at my library. The question is if I could be hired at my age, even if I know the basics?

David Brin said...

TML what county are you in? Some of this community might want to hire you!

Larry Hart said...

Daniel Duffy:

Alfred, I'm sorry but we are going so see a repeat of the Great Depression with PhD's pushing brooms.

Their Human Capital won't count for squat if there is no market for it.


Their knowledge could be greatly valuable to themselves, their family, and their community. It's not only about what you can trade for money.

David Brin said...

I would wager against the Great Depression Repetition thing.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Regrettably, unless there are more people reading your blog in HI than I think :D I would likely have to relocate to get my ticket. At the moment, although state employees are probably going to have to be furloughed to cover the massive hit to HI's tourism economy, I'm in better shape than many; at least I still have something of a job! I'm rusty, too; most of my work in recent years has been more in the line of home handyman.

scidata said...

@TheMadLibrarian

If you can weld, SpaceX may want you. They're assembling a true Marsport. 7.5bar Cryotest passed. Musk threatens to leave CA because of Covid work restrictions. Hard to keep up with the news.

David Brin said...

Okay guys! I got TML to admit he lives in paradise! And he's handy enough to build plenty of guest quarters for visiting blog pals! I- for one - am willing to risk the airplane! ;-)

Smurphs said...

Um, I thought San Diego was paradise. Maybe HI is more paradiser? ;>

Alfred Differ said...

The Tesla tiff involves a decision by Alameda county to continue with stay at home orders when Musk feels that his company is taking reasonable precautions to protect the workers. Lawsuit already filed.

Alfred Differ said...

Daniel,

Been there with the broom pushing thing, but that's not the point.

The point is that most of us demonstrate daily there is value in human capital.
We invest in it on a belief that it will pay off. Whether it does is a different matter.

I'm not just making myself a bigger, better person as I learn.
I expect it to matter... somehow.
In that expectation, I'm demonstrating perceived value that Piketty considers then sets aside.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

I've heard similar arguments that anything of value is only worth the dollar amount that you can trade it for.

There is a quantum flavor to the information present in economics, though I don't know that anyone is treating it that way. There is both discreteness in the data and questions that can be asked of a system that don't have answers until 'observation' occurs. Value is like the later. I may place a certain value on my physics foo, but when no one is paying me to use it, there is no observable evidence. Trades in the equity and options markets do this too when liquidity dries up. I've seen crazy values assigned to options I own that aren't trading because no one is bidding or asking, so I've had to learn to ignore those. They aren't even 'on paper values'.

The argument for not counting these things as Piketty put forward has a flaw that we can get around. I am not allowed to trade myself into slavery, so my human capital isn't directly bought or sold. I can lease it, though. I can do a number of things that look like options and futures contracts and those can have trading values. There are also other markets besides the ones he considered. Any US male wanting offspring has to consider what might interest a mother-to-be to choose him. I may not be able to place a dollar value on my human capital that mattered in the 'trade' that occurred with my wife, but I know darn well they mattered.

———

From the last thread…

But since you're describing an argument you don't subscribe to, suppose I play along

You asked for an argument. Our host said there were two and I concocted a third. The people who describe who actively suppress voters who have a recognized right to vote obviously fit in one of his two possibilities and not mine. I see people do that kind of thing when they lose a battle to prevent something. They add a devil-in-the-detail to undercut the winner.

Where my possible argument comes into play is understanding an historical trend. Way back in the day, you had to be a property owner to vote. These owners were financially independent in the sense that Piketty understands and stated very clearly. If your rental income suffices to cover your expenses, you don't have to work. That means you can't be politically enslaved by an employer. The Framers entrusted the early nation to such people on the grounds that their interests were at odds with each other often enough to matter. All the disenfranchised people would argue that the property owners WERE aligned… at least against them, right? Over the long haul, property owners lost their exclusive control and are heavily out-numbered now, but they've learned to use their $$ as proxies. They push for One Dollar/One Vote and motivate their employees.

I respect the need for One Person/One Vote, but I'll admit that when I'm fishing around for viable ideas, I tend to look at people who are not financially dependent on anyone. No one is truly independent, but many have reserves that enable them to think (more) freely. This is what has me interested in Matthew's recent comment I found persuasive. I know that people who love what they do will think (more) freely. Lower stress levels make a huge difference. I've seen this in people around me. Getting that from a larger percentage of us would tempt me to look at UBI plans.

Alfred Differ said...

Most of coastal California IS paradise.
The parts that aren't got that way from too many people trying to squeeze in.
Can't blame them, though. 8)

Cari Burstein said...

As someone who lives in the city where the Tesla factory is located, I'm glad the county health department is being appropriately cautious about adjusting the order. From what I've read they're trying to work with him on the requirements to open safely. Everything I've seen about his public rhetoric on the situation doesn't lead me to believe he takes safety concerns seriously- apparently he tried to stay open after they issued the original stay at home order back in March and they had to force him to shut down then. Perhaps he'd be happier with his factory in one of those states where they seem happy to force the meat packing employees to work in terribly unsafe conditions causing virus spread to the local community. Good riddance to him.

I can't imagine demand for cars is peaking right now anyhow with the state of the economy.

Anonymous said...

Robert here,

You might find these parodies of government ads amusing. I did.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hks6Nq7g6P4&frags=pl%2Cwn
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWl7kQZHZE0

duncan cairncross said...

The other solution to the problem of the US economy - and Alfred's remarks about employers - is the UBI
Back in the 70's a lot of Science fiction assumed that we would have UBI in place before year 2000

As far as Elon Musk is concerned Corvid is driving him crazy - he is incredibly "task focussed" and is always irritated when things don't happen as fast as he wants - having the virus slowing things down further is driving him up the wall

yana said...


Cari Burstein thought:

"I can't imagine demand for cars is peaking right now anyhow with the state of the economy."

Just one datapoint, all through 2019, had been planning on replacing my 13yo jalopy in March 2020. Like so many mice's plans, that is on hold now. Instead, April saw me biting the bullet for a grand in maint to make it to Autumn. Fingers crossed, should have replaced the timing belt in August but thought it'd be S.E.P. by this time. So the demand is there, but wiser course is to take care of debts during uncertain times, making my eventual new indebtedness arrive at a cheaper interest rate.

yana said...


scidata thought:

"If you can weld, SpaceX may want you."

I'll pass that along. Not me, but friends with a university-trained welder. Has worked previously in the field but, as an 88-pound woman, found the workplace 'environment' to be... let's just call it "intolerable." Gender equality has been making strides, surely, but not all of them are giant leaps for womankind.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

If your rental income suffices to cover your expenses, you don't have to work. That means you can't be politically enslaved by an employer.


That doesn't make you independent, though. Donald Trump demonstrates that one can be easily enslaved by a creditor to whom you owe millions or billions of dollars. I tend to favor universal adult suffrage because it seems better to let everyone in the club than to try to figure out which subgroups to exclude in order to produce the "best" results.

You make an attempt at arguing about certain types of people not being autonomous enough in their agency to be entrusted to the vote. Again, if men didn't marry actual human beings but instead had real-life android Stepford Wives, I would agree that the androids should not be included as voters. However, I'm not sure who I would trust to make those exclusion decisions fairly based on "Which rules produce the best chance of a truly democratic outcome?" As long as the decisions are instead based on "Which rules produce a guaranteed win for my political faction?", I can't support voter suppression in any form. And the modern day suppression rules--IDs which require time and money to acquire, allowing gun licenses but not student IDs as identification, hoops to jump through for women whose names have changed by marriage--are all designed to make it easier for typical Republican constituencies to vote and harder for typical Democratic constituencies.

Anyone who is a supporter of such measures is an enemy of democracy and has no business wrapping himself in the American flag.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

This is what has me interested in Matthew's recent comment I found persuasive. I know that people who love what they do will think (more) freely. Lower stress levels make a huge difference. I've seen this in people around me.


That's why the autocrats and oligarchs oppose UBI with all their might. Because they need workers who are so desperate for a pittance that they will work at jobs they don't like. I can understand their desire, but don't grant their right to a society designed around providing such cheap labor.

yana said...


TheMadLibrarian thought:

"I would likely have to relocate to get my ticket. At the moment, although state employees are probably going to have to be furloughed to cover the massive hit to HI's tourism economy, I'm in better shape than many"

Don't do it. Your work is valuable to me, in a way which can not be valuated by the equations of capitalism. Just one datapoint here, but can't be alone. Was in a small library in Waimea right along Farrington last year and was stunned, no really, truly stunned. By now, it takes something special to make my jaw autonomically drop.

Not a huge library, but there was a section 8 foot high, 25 horizontal feet wide, all books on Hawai'iana and Oceania and everything to do with Pacific cultures. Only 200 square feet of books but, to me, it is a jewel of inestimable value. Right then, decided where my old age will be spent. There's a block of soviet-styled apartments close by. All i'd need is a small flat, an itsy kitchen, Da Bus, and a library card.

David Brin said...

Yana that 88 pound welder can fit inside all sorts of cramped spaces!

yana said...


David Brin thought:

"that 88 pound welder can fit inside all sorts of cramped spaces!"

Heh, can confirm that's true. No response yet, but passed the idea along. Perhaps SpaceX could confer a more equitable and affirming workplace.

yana said...


Gonna try to weave a few strings. Last post's comments ended on a note of debate about UBI, ADiffer's recent blogpost examines how perception influences confirmation bias, and this comment thread dissects the definition of capital.

What if we just take money out of it all? $1200 could buy one handle of one faucet in a millionaire's third bathroom, or it could keep one family with four children under a roof for a month. Seems like "money" is not an accurate measure of wealth after all. If one particular amount changes one life so insignificantly yet affects another 6 lives so profoundly, then money loses the measuring ability it was always touted for. It ceases to be an accurate reflection of the value of human labor.

Reading Adam Smith, my take-away was that capital is a result of labour, yet also enables labour to create more capital, in a warm/fuzzy happy cycle. But never lose sight of the substrate, in Smith's time it is the soil and sun which are the basis of ever increasing prosperity. Coincidentally, the 'jim' here started out by cawing skyfall due to some bizarre idea of 'decreasing energy,' as if the sun and soil did not exist.

Yes, quantum theory can be applied both to economics and sub-physics, because both are fields in which scientists are still unable to isolate specific effects with specific causes. Help is on the way, the mouse brain has recently been mapped to a level just above the neuron, and the human brain is the substrate of economics. And further research into super-galactic structure has yielded miserly progress into understanding the 4-quadrillion Hz/s quantum substrate, so we're getting there.

Which naturally leads us to the question of Universal Basic Income :-)

I like my job, but love my hobbies more. A couple hobbies have produced results which could become commercially viable products, either as physical items or technical services. The knowledge gained while researching hobbies might land me a nice job (in normal times). Mister Differ is right, it's not just the hands which create capital, but also the head. Further, even the heart can create capitalistic value, which is totally discounted by economists.

With a UBI, would i do more of what i like, or more of what i love? Duh. I'd drop to half-time at work and open more work for someone else, and consider more seriously the entrepreneurial possibilities of my hobbies. But not because of the money. Do we learn new things on the job to become more adept and reasonably expect more money? Yes. But where Mister Differ's idea of perception -> bias falters, is the point where the joy of knowledge outpaces the economic opportunity it creates.

The central heartfelt joy of learning comes, when something new deposes the previously cherished monarchy of a personal perception. The true pleasure of knowledge is when information overtakes confirmation. Bias falls hopelessly, as long as new information keeps flowing in. That has nothing to do with money.

I assert that this process is beyond the limits of capitalism to quantify. I believe it is an effect of brainpower evolving faster than environment. When the heart can direct as much labour as the head and the hands, the dollar can either lose 1/3 of its value or gain 1/2 of its value. And that's politics, which is a rant for another day.

toduro said...

Yana,

Are you sure that library wasn't the Waianae public library?

(1) Farrington Highway, check.

(2) Approx 200 sq. ft. Hawaiiana and Pac Islander books, check.

(3) Blocky apartment buildings close, check.

An item there that locals tend to know about more than tourists do is a collection of quilt patterns developed by Hawaiians. Not on the shelves but available by asking at the circulation desk.

Acacia H. said...

Let's be honest here. A UBI would be nice, but unless you have health insurance you are still at the mercy of billionaires and corporations. What is needed is Universal Health Insurance - Medicare for All or the like. Because if you can leave a job and still have health insurance... and then go to a new job and still have your medical insurance? You have freedom.

This is why the Single Payer Option was resisted so fiercely by corporations and billionaires. They don't want people to be able to leave. Think of it as akin to serfs. Serfs couldn't leave the area they were in without permission. Well, if you are reliant on health insurance you can't leave your job without permission. And if your job wants you to move? Do you honestly have much of a choice?

Combine the two? A Single Payer Option AND a UBI? This is the ultimate way of setting people free. If you free people up so they can pay for an apartment or home, and work whatever job they want? Then corporations are forced to treat employees as an actual legitimate stakeholder instead of chattel.

You don't even need to eliminate health insurance companies. You could have a SPO that is limited - it could pay for regular physicals, dental cleaning, and mental health care, and a certain level of disease or injury treatment, but you then have health insurance to cover above that level. Health insurance companies would probably like that because you are less likely to USE the insurance and thus the companies can make more of a profit because more often than not, that extra level is never reached.

Just some food for thought.

Acacia H.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Dr Brin

I posted a link to Chris Ladds "Political Orphans" a while back and you asked who was that - Chris is one of the Republicans who have "seen the light" and withdrawn from the "Dark Side" - but who is still afraid of Democrat cooties - so his "Political Orphans"
I should have posted that weeks ago!

He has just posted an interesting analysis on how the virus spreads
https://www.politicalorphans.com/how-c19-spreads/
Worth a quick read

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

That's why the autocrats and oligarchs oppose UBI with all their might.

Maybe, but I'm reluctant to paint with a broad brush here. You'll define 'oligarchs' as those monsters and I'll point out that some rich people don't think that way. After a round or two, we'll basically agree that some people are good and some bad and most are in-between.

No doubt businesses dependent on human labor generally do better when labor is cheap. Some don't exist at all when labor gets too expensive. Some shift to cheaper things than labor like automation.

Because they need workers who are so desperate for a pittance that they will work at jobs they don't like.

There is a problem here, though. A lot of what we like to do doesn't make more than a pittance. Might even run at a loss. I know first hand from my earlier start-up attempts. Of course, if I had access to UBI, I might still be having a go at one of them. 8)

As long as the decisions are instead based on....

Yah. You and I will agree there. One kind of person is okay... the other not. That breaks One Person/One Vote, so I'm opposed.

What will be interesting some day is when our AI's become good enough that we can't distinguish them from people. Do they get to vote? If I can make copies of them and maintain them operationally (or maybe they can), there is another multiplier. No need to abuse the women in our lives in that kind of future. Bio-people would become out-numbered much like property owners did in our present.

A.F. Rey said...

Speaking of the rich who don't want tumbrel rides, did you see this article from The New Yorker from the beginning of the year: The Ultra-Wealthy Who Argue That They Should Be Paying Higher Taxes?

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/01/06/the-ultra-wealthy-who-argue-that-they-should-be-paying-higher-taxes

jim said...

A few years ago David was wondering when the 21st century would begin, (not officially, or based only on the calendar, but when the “themes” of the 21st century would start dominate the events of the century.)

To me, it is quite clear that 2020 is the break with the past that he was looking for.

This year is marking the end of the Age of Abundance and the very first stage of the Time of Troubles.
A new time when major systemic problems like ecological overshoot, limits to growth, ecological collapse, climate change and increasing energy cost of energy are pushed into the background (where they will continue to make things worse both steadily and with unpredictable timing for crises they cause) and instead we will be focusing on more immediate crises that cascade into one another.

This first crisis, initiated by a pandemic (one of those disasters that have been long predicted, but steadily ignored) is now cascading into a massive economic crisis. (the response to the pandemic was to shut down much of the economy).
Now the response to the economic crisis is to run up huge amounts of debt. What kind of problems will that cause? (currency crisis?)
The economic shutdown has also deeply impacted international trade, and there are now strong desires to de-globalize. This will cause many countries big problems.
The US global hegemony looks like deep trouble. This is especially worrying because major wars are more likely when you have a failing empire in competition with a rising one.
And political unrest seems to be growing everywhere in the world, with growing distrust of elites and established political structures.


So to recap
Most of the worlds systems are already under a great deal of stress.
Underlying conditions ensure that the stress will build and cause crises on an unpredictable schedule.
The pandemic is the first crisis.
In response to the pandemic we created a massive economic problem.
In response to the massive economic problem we are causing – massive debt, disruption to the global economic system, political crises, and potential for massive war.
Any one of the impacts of our attempts at dealing with the economic crisis can trigger another type of crisis. (The dominos of destruction are all lined up)

Good luck to all of you and your families.

(this will be my last post for a while, arguing about this does no good and now that the Time of Troubles has started, time is now the most precious resource and there is much for me to do for my family, friends and local community.)

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

What will be interesting some day is when our AI's become good enough that we can't distinguish them from people. Do they get to vote? If I can make copies of them and maintain them operationally (or maybe they can), there is another multiplier. No need to abuse the women in our lives in that kind of future. Bio-people would become out-numbered much like property owners did in our present.


To me, the idea which justifies democracy is the "wisdom of crowds". Individuals may be mistaken or misled, but in general, on average, more people will get it right than wrong. In a perfect world, you would rarely have close votes. The wisdom of crowds would insure that something like 70% to 80% would typically vote for the "best" course of action.

In the real world, this has already been co-opted because in most state-wide or national elections, you don't have a population voting for how to best achieve a vision, but rather two separate populations trying to implement vastly different visions. When one vision manages to get 51% to vote for it, even though almost the same number are vehemently opposed, you have a failing of the democratic process. Though as with the "Who gets excluded from the vote?" question, I'm not sure how to get around this one. You could mandate that a super-majority is required to pass a measure, but that gives an increasingly small minority the power to obstruct, as we saw in the Senate under Barack Obama and Harry Reid.

That's a separate rant which is beside your point, though.

On point--I would not favor Dr Brin's roxes from Kiln People having the franchise, even though others could probably make a decent argument that they should. Their "lives" are too ephermeral for them to have a stake in the long term. Plus, it encourages an absurd arms race in which whoever can dump out the most duplicates on Election Day wins. With AI, you may or may not have a similar problem. Certainly AI wouldn't last just a day, but unless the AI itself has its own interests and desires at stake, independent of its programmers and/or owners, there seems to be no justification for it to have a vote, and allowing such seems more like having roxes vote than otherwise.

Side note in this vein--I'm surprised that no one has tried yet to argue that corporations, being "persons" themselves, have the right to vote. No doubt, the Roberts court would uphold such a notion, with Clarence Thomas in a separate concurring opinion going even further. :)

In a future like that envisioned in Existence in which robots with AI are more like children who grow into actual citizens, I could see your scenario come to pass, both that the robots should have the franchise, and that they might overwhelm normal humans at the ballot box. The pertinent question would then be whether AI robots and actual people share enough of a common stake in society for humans to trust in the wisdom of AI crowds, or whether the two have such divergent issues that "rights of actual humans" must be protected from the tyranny of robots, or the other way around.



Jon S. said...

Musk is threatening to move Tesla because he can't reopen his Alameda County plant right now?

Judging by this article, it's a wonder the plant's still open at all!

https://www.thedrive.com/news/26727/tesla-had-3-times-as-many-osha-violations-as-the-10-largest-us-plants-combined

Catfish 'n Cod said...

I'm noooot yeeeeet deeaaaadd! (Spamalot)

Just checking in to say hi -- Kittenfish is taking up pretty much all the time I used to call "free" and filled with frivolity. But I did want see where y'all stood so far.

Dr. Brin -- why are you betting against Great Depression II? That seems to lead directly towards New Deal II, which we badly need (and can be less haphazard, as we have a better idea of what does and does not work). The misAdministration we have now is tempermentally and ideologically incapable of mounting anything resembling a correct response, so the pain will continue until at least Election Day and possibly Inauguration Day.

The Senate is shifting decisively in favor of Democrats as the crisis rolls on without real relief -- and that's before the second wave hits -- a wave that is unavoidable (the best hope was it would wait till fall) and yet the White House is no more planning ahead for it than the first wave. I'm not sure how many people are left still under the delusion that "normal" will return, but the President* is surely still among them. Facing the magnitude of the disaster he has brought upon himself (and all of us, though that barely registers) is not something he's capable of doing quickly.

Meanwhile some links from The Atlantic for discussion:
America's racial contract is showing: "The Coronavirus Was an Emergency Until Trump Found Out Who Was Dying"
The Supreme Court Case That Could Destroy the Balance of Powers
The Conservative Campaign Against Safety
#DemocracyRIP: Putin's real goal

Given the above, I am operating on the assumption that a New Deal II will be forced by the persistence of both the oligarchic and national-populist ("Napi") wings of the GOP to sabotage the success of the blue-state model, the one that the world envied and the dictators feared, the one that the Saudi-Emirati-Russki-Turkey-Norki alliance wants dead, dead, dead: the best Adam Smith socioeconomic implementation yet devised (though there are obvious improvements to be made). If the Global Mafia can't kill us now, with the connivance of our own conservative-reactionary elements and our own institutional neglect and the shock of the virus.... it won't happen.

Larry Hart said...

From Catfish's "racial contract" link above:

The underlying assumptions of white innocence and black guilt are all part of what the philosopher Charles Mills calls the “racial contract.” If the social contract is the implicit agreement among members of a society to follow the rules—for example, acting lawfully, adhering to the results of elections, and contesting the agreed-upon rules by nonviolent means—then the racial contract is a codicil rendered in invisible ink, one stating that the rules as written do not apply to nonwhite people in the same way. The Declaration of Independence states that all men are created equal; the racial contract limits this to white men with property. The law says murder is illegal; the racial contract says it’s fine for white people to chase and murder black people if they have decided that those black people scare them. “The terms of the Racial Contract,” Mills wrote, “mean that nonwhite subpersonhood is enshrined simultaneously with white personhood.”


When stated in words, the above is both obvious and intolerable.

A point that I've noticed is that there is a similar "partisan contract" at work in this country, which at once enshrines Democratic subpersonhood with Republican personhood.

Alfred Differ said...

yana,

One thing about Smith and other early economists that a lot of current economists agree upon is that they got the labor theory of value wrong. It makes a kind of sense in the earlier days of industrialization, but it is highly strained once forms of intellectual property begin to matter a great deal. The idea still holds in the popular imagination, but many economists have walked away from it.

Consider book writing as an example. It involves lots of labor and human capital, but we can assign an initial estimate to a manuscript as the time an author spends on it multiplied by her hourly rate. What the book generates in revenue when published is a different thing. First, though, we make 9 copies of the manuscript and hand them around for feedback. Now there are 10 copies total, but no one would argue the value of the set rose 10x. A labor approach to assigning value would simply add (new labor * new rate) creating the copies. No matter what was involved, the value would be a big sum. Now, through some unfortunate event, the original manuscript is destroyed. Eaten by a time-traveling T-Rex. Which element of the sum do we remove, hmm? The book still exists in the form of 9 copies. Should we have spread the initial value of the book across those new 9 copies as an average? Should we pretend one of the copies is the new manuscript and remove the value created for a copy? There are multiple ways to handle this, but the point is that we are fudging a formula to match what we believe to be the remaining value.

[Popper would have argued that the existence of the original manuscript created a World 3 object for which the manuscript was a World 1 representation. One need not take his multi-world notion too seriously, but it is essentially an extension on the Mind/Body dualistic view where World 1 is our physical world and World 2 is a subjective one within our minds. World 3 and others were invented to hold representations that appear in multiple minds or look a bit like Platonic Ideals.]

Some economists have retreated to a safer position saying that the question 'What is the value of X?' is about as meaningful as 'What is the difference between a duck?'. Quantum physics theories are like that too. Lots of questions are meaningless. Many more have no answers unless one is willing to change the thing being probed which means we don't know if it was that way before or became that way because we probed. That difference turns out to be meaningless as well. Instead we ask 'At what value did X trade for Y last?' Whether it is $USD/gold ounces or copper kgs/gold kgs doesn't matter. Two items minimum and a timestamp are necessary for the question to be well formed. The labor theory of value assumes (work hours/unit of production) is somehow objective. Turns out it isn't and it is the amassed human capital of a community that shows this. Popper's World 3 kinda matters.

Alfred Differ said...

yana (& any UBI advocate),

With a UBI, would i do more of what i like, or more of what i love? Duh. I'd drop to half-time at work and open more work for someone else, and consider more seriously the entrepreneurial possibilities of my hobbies.

And therein lies my fear.

I've sorta done this. I didn't drop to half time, but I did accept underemployment… for about 10 years.

Here is the problem for UBI advocates. When we drop down like this, tax revenues are decreased in the sense of an opportunity cost. I accepted my income loss in exchange for a possibly different, richer future. In that choice, though, I imposed upon the rest of you a cost by not earning at my potential. Less income tax for federal and state coffers. Less property tax for local schools. Less purchasing of goods and services, thus less sales tax. Less purchasing period. Less, less, less.

How many of us can safely do this and still deliver sufficient revenue to be distributed as UBI so we don't break our promise to give people time to find the path they love?

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

In a perfect world, you would rarely have close votes.

Oh my. Sounds heavenly… unless one is in the minority and they are voting on rules of just behavior. Fortunately, most of those votes are unwritten and unspoken, meaning the only penalty for breaking them is social stigma.

More seriously, though, I don't think 'wisdom of crowds' is all that good at producing 'rarely close votes'. It's better at producing 'mostly correct answers'. The problem with it is that we don't need those answers most of the time. We can often afford to sit back and let people do what they will and then see who is most successful. [Did your children survive? No? Oops. That was a bad idea, hmm?] More often than not, our communities are coalitions of people who let others be long enough for us to find out. No voting occurs until long after the effects are obvious. Even then, the voting is about which behavior set we will copy to the next generation. Attempting a vote earlier might produce the same outcome, but why should we risk it?

In a community, choosing to do nothing is often more important than choosing to do something. Individuals choosing to do something probes all the possible futures they would try to reach and the community can… simply… let… it… happen.

___________

unless the AI itself has its own interests and desires at stake, independent of its programmers and/or owners

Of course they would, but any of them I created would probably be in a corporate alliance with me. I'd see to that… and future support of them by that alliance. Raising them like children would only make that more likely. Look at how families have functioned for millennia as business partnerships and investors. THAT feature we carried over from our nomadic HG past and adapted it quite well to the modern world.

Anyway, I was just trying to answer your challenge concerning why we might suppress suffrage for ethical reasons. We can imagine some arguments for justifying it and in doing so see that they aren't being deployed by anyone at present. The unethical arguments are, but we take the same side on those. Stomp them into the ground and poison the nearby well so they don't grow again. 8)

Treebeard said...

The epidemic does seem to reveal some fundamental differences in psychology among humans. Ideas of safety-first, obeying the nanny-state, fearing death more than loss of freedom, etc. do go against what I consider the best part of the American and human tradition, which is its rugged frontier mentality and sense of adventure. If the modern safe-space mentality had prevailed in earlier times America wouldn’t even exist. A lot of people’s vision of the good life these days seems to be a totally domesticated humanity, its basic needs provided for by the government, everything offensive made illegal, with endless technological distractions and no danger from the natural world—i.e. a world where (non-simulated) adventure is impossible. And the people promoting this vision hardest are the emasculated intellectual elites, who fear freedom, live in bubbles and have no sense of adventure. This to me is the real threat of serfdom, propagated by clever but cowardly people who want to make the civilization-prison as pleasant and risk-free as possible. Fortunately they, too, shall pass.

I’ve also noticed that people who are highly outer-directed, who pay a lot of attention to politics, media and social life, are taking this virus hard and getting depressed. But people who are inner-directed, who pay attention to their own thoughts and experiences more than the socially constructed world, aren’t too bothered by it. I hear talk about lockdowns and I have to remind myself that people are actually staying home because they’ve been ordered to. I pay little attention to any of that and actually go out more than before, not only because the weather is better, but because it’s more important than ever to not be a depressed shut-in.

Regarding the Fermi paradox: so your pet theory to explain the last 6000 years of human history has also “likely mired a majority of alien races” and explains the paradox...an assertion based on absolutely nothing except your own opinion. Let me make an equally unscientific assertion: the safe-space mentality discussed above has likely mired a majority of alien races and explains the paradox. As civilization advances, intelligent technology-using species become too scared of everything to cross the street, let along cross the galaxy. Problem solved.

Anonymous said...

Robert here,

Acacia wrote: What is needed is Universal Health Insurance - Medicare for All or the like. Because if you can leave a job and still have health insurance... and then go to a new job and still have your medical insurance? You have freedom.

Cheaper, too, if you get rid of the insurance companies and allow the government to actually negotiate for prices.

We don't have complete public health care up here in Canada, mostly because pharmaceuticals and dental aren't covered, but what we do have is a lot cheaper than equivalent service in the US. Other benefits include things like medical issues not being a major source of bankruptcies.

matthew said...

Catfish is making an assumption with his declaration that the Senate is shifting decisively in favor of Democrats. I hear the same assumption daily, sometimes hourly. Yes, the Senate is shifting toward the Dems. If there is a fair election, that is.

This will not be a fair election.

The GOP can read those same polls. And they have now been shown to be willing to kill many, many, many Americans to stay in power.

This will not be a fair election.

David says that it must be a tsunami of votes to get rid of the GOP hold on the levers of power. I say that if the GOP sees that tsunami coming, they will try to end the election. Their COVID-19 response is primarily a purposeful killing of those that they expect would vote against them, for instance. Genocide as Gerrymander. Wisconsin as the test run.



(Note: I thought the same thing in the 2018 midterms and was wrong, except for incidents like the Georgia Governors race, where the cheating was blatant. But I think I'm correct this time. Last time the GOP didn't have a pandemic to get the party started.)

Alfred, it's interesting to see you and I reach some similar thoughts on UBI and Human Capital starting with very different sets of assumptions. Thanks.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Anyway, I was just trying to answer your challenge concerning why we might suppress suffrage for ethical reasons. We can imagine some arguments for justifying it and in doing so see that they aren't being deployed by anyone at present. The unethical arguments are, but we take the same side on those.


I alluded to this before, but one indication that such an argument might be ethical is that the exclusion is explained credibly and done in plain sight. As long as the exclusion is done in a sneaky, back-handed manner, pretending to work toward one goal while obviously being intended for another which can't be spoken out loud, then I'm going to presume the rule to be unethical until proven otherwise.

Larry Hart said...

Treebeard:

I’ve also noticed that people who are highly outer-directed, who pay a lot of attention to politics, media and social life, are taking this virus hard and getting depressed. But people who are inner-directed, who pay attention to their own thoughts and experiences more than the socially constructed world, aren’t too bothered by it.


You misunderstand the source of consternation. I'm not shivering in the dark consumed by fear that I might catch the virus myself. But the fact that so many people may be incapacitated at the same time is bound to cause disruptions in our expectations of how life works. You right-wingers pretend that it's only the stay-at-home orders which cause those disruptions, but if a noticeable percentage of the people in my city were to be unable to work for weeks and a noticeable percentage of them died horribly, the disruption would be worse.


I hear talk about lockdowns and I have to remind myself that people are actually staying home because they’ve been ordered to.


I hear talk about people packing churches and crowded anti-lockdown rallies and have to remind myself that people are actually putting their lives and those of their neighbors and families at risk because they've been ordered to by their cult leader. I thank God that I live in a state where the leaders are doing the best they can to get things under control. And hardly anyone is staying home "because they've been ordered to", meaning that they fear punishment if they dare disobey. Most people I know are following guidelines because they understand it is the best way to keep the virus from spreading out of control.


I pay little attention to any of that and actually go out more than before, not only because the weather is better, but because it’s more important than ever to not be a depressed shut-in.


I'm sure you also exercise your right to drive on the left side of the road and to blow through red lights because freedom. After all, following society's rules are for suckers.

Larry Hart said...

matthew:

I say that if the GOP sees that tsunami coming, they will try to end the election.


They may want to, and they may even try, but what would that look like? Do you think everyone whose House or Senate term is up just gets to stay there indefinitely if there is no election? If only blue states vote, then only Democrats will be elected.

The one area you might be onto something is that Republican-dominated states might be on firmer ground insisting that holding an election is too dangerous, so the legislature will assign the state's Electoral Votes for president directly. Wisconsin is probably the most likely state to pull something like that and actually change the outcome from what voters would have chosen. Michigan and North Carolina and maybe Pennsylvania could also be at risk.

Guillotine futures might be a good hedge investment.

matthew said...

My guess at the way the GOP will try to negate the chance of an election?

First scenario:
Argue that POTUS' Article II emergency powers allows him to put off the election in the name of public safety. SCOTUS upholds the power 5-4. Military back him up. Endgame.

Second scenario:
Elections proceed but in swing / red states a combination of forced in-person voting and armed MAGA-hatted thugs at the polls work to further depress the votes of anyone not known to be a Trumpist. Lots of "boogaloo" terror squads out on the streets. Lots of hacking / vote changing at the county level where there are blue cities or counties. Blue states vote by mail. Trump wins via electoral college. Senate stays red. Trump continues middle finger salute to House oversight, backed by his increasingly rabid judicial nominees. Endgame.

Larry Hart said...

matthew:

Military back him up. Endgame.


If the military back him up in that situation, then they'd probably also back him up if he loses the election but claims it wasn't fair. But that's the step I don't see happening.

Again, what does that look like? US soldiers and marines pointing guns at us and threatening to shoot unless...what?

Larry Hart said...

https://www.chicagotribune.com/coronavirus/ct-coronavirus-illinois-wisconsin-20200511-ce4kni72cjeitpos5y7mxmaz74-story.html


Members of Wisconsin’s Republican legislative majority are asking the state’s congressional delegation to oppose using any federal coronavirus relief package money to help bail out Illinois and other states with a history of “reckless budgeting.”


Wisconsin to Illinois: Drop Dead!

Don't think we'll soon forget.

David Brin said...

I have absolute confidence that a large majority of the US military officer corps will keep faith with the people and constitution. What worries me is how reliable the noncoms (with a huge fraction fox-watchers from the South) are.

The inability of ANY democrat to call them on the "reckless budgeting" myth is deeply depressing.

Acacia H. said...

The military obeys the chain of command. If Trump becomes an illegal President then the military leadership will not back him and the vast majority of soldiers will refuse to back him as well. No doubt the leadership and many soldiers are also keeping an eye on their more reactionary brethren and will take steps during a Trump Coup Attempt to keep any wildcards from effectively backing Trump and Trump's coup will fail, and the government will transfer legally to Biden or his running mate should some Trumpist kill Biden in an attempt to force the issue.

Acacia

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

What worries me is how reliable the noncoms (with a huge fraction fox-watchers from the South) are.


Trump is actively courting the "tough people"--the war criminals and white supremacists. The question is whether that will be enough. I hear there are an awful lot of blacks and minorities in the armed forces. Are they going to violate their Constitutional oath in order to back Trump?


The inability of ANY democrat to call them on the "reckless budgeting" myth is deeply depressing.


As if Wisconsin, having their "fiscal house in order" are well equipped to handle this unprecedented worldwide crisis on their own? No, they can suck at the federal teat because (the argument goes) eight years of Scott Walker means they are the deserving poor.

Republicans are openly weaponizing the federal government against their political opponents, and when this all settles down, I hope I live to see the day when they are treated by all decent human beings the way Holnists are in your novel.

Or to put it another way...

https://www.quotes.net/mquote/42057

"He's nothing but a low-down, double-dealing, backstabbing, larcenous perverted worm! Hanging's too good for him. Burning's too good for him! He should be torn into little bitsy pieces and buried alive!"


Alfred Differ said...

matthew,

You came at the topic from an angle that connected to my experiences.
Loving what one does moves people to innovate...
both the people doing it, and the employers who lose them as a source of cheap labor. 8)


As for the US military picking Trump's side, I think someone drugged you.
All officers are taught about the requirement that they reject illegal orders.
They are just waiting for We The People to deal with this the way We The People are supposed to do it.
Until then... Shade.

We will know soon enough.

My far out projection is Trump won't be running for office by Nov 1. 8)

David Brin said...

Catfish n’ Cod, always nice when you drop by for a drive-by wisdom bomb. Enjoy your mighty adventure… and stay safe, doctor.

-
“The Ultra-Wealthy Who Argue That They Should Be Paying Higher Taxes…”
https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/01/06/the-ultra-wealthy-who-argue-that-they-should-be-paying-higher-taxes

“In a perfect world, you would rarely have close votes.” Well, New Zealand’s PM Ardern has levels of popularity seldom seen outside of dictator elections. But the problem isn’t close elections over variants on consensus policies. The problem is vanishing consensus.

matthew, here is where the lessons of 94 and 2010 haunt us. Even when the dems sweep in on a wave of anti-oligarch-loons disgust, the reprieve only lasts one cycle. No matter how hard dem leaders work, it won’t be enough for sourpuss lefties and diletentes who stayed home those years, in droves. That may be what Murdoch and Putin are counting on. I wrote Polemical Judo NOT just for the election, but regarding how to do things differently after it.

LH don’t bother with the Ent. he’s a moron. No one is staying home out of fear of an oppressive state. Oooooh! You might get a TICKET! And I have yet to see a single case in which a white person was arrested or the fine enforced. Racist anecdotes? Yeah, but that illustrates something entirely different.

“Guillotine futures might be a good hedge investment.” I wonder if John Roberts has any sense how close he is dancing to the edge, by ending 250 years of congressional oversight. Expect a “creative” way for him to delay decisions.

Treebeard, thanks for leading with utter drooling-stooopid false dichotomies, sparing me any need to skim any further: “The epidemic does seem to reveal some fundamental differences in psychology among humans. Ideas of safety-first, obeying the nanny-state, fearing death more than loss of freedom,…”

Masturbate away, fellah!

-
Hey jim. Enyoy your sullen torpor. It’s a great way to avoid being confronted (as happens here) with the fundamental reason for your stylish, Junior High curled lip cynicism -- justifying laziness.

If you are right that everything’s heading for hell, the rest of us here will have the drama - and good karma - of fighting the good fight till the end. Fighting for you. And for your right to reinterpret whatever condition the world is in - in 30 years - as validating your cynical models.

“Good luck to all of you and your families.”

I’d say thanks, except that it is so absurdly clear you did not mean a word of that.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Dr. Brin, I don't usually care to contradict you, but in HI, we have actively arrested tourists who don't abide by our mandated 14 day quarantine for all people arriving in the state. Not sure about the fines (although I suspect some were applied; we can either imprison people or impose a $5000 fine), but we have shipped some dodos back to their point of origin who couldn't be arsed to behave. We have a geographically limited amount of resources, and don't want or need twits to spread disease because it's their 'right' to wander Waikiki.

David Brin said...

TML I stand corrected. I know of no such arrests in southern CA, except when race is a factor. But I confess, there may be some draconian iron-boot smashing the face of freedom stuff going on... that is, in the eyes of utter drama queens.

David Brin said...

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, who has sought national attention as an anti-abortion and tough-on-crime crusader, will have his law license suspended for 30 days over allegations that he drunkenly groped a state lawmaker and three other women during a party, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday.

Party of perverts, and sex predators, down the line. Or at least statistically compared to democrats. Sure, dick pics from Anthony Weiner. That's really comparable to Dennis Hastert and Roy Moore and an endless list.

https://www-pbs-org.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.pbs.org/newshour/amp/politics/indiana-attorney-generals-law-license-suspended-for-groping

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

...argument might be ethical is that the exclusion is explained credibly and done in plain sight...

Like the 3/5ths of a person debate?

Heh. I know. You said ONE and MIGHT and etc.
Necessary-But-Not-Sufficient is the nit I often like to pick.

You are expecting too much observable rational thought from a political process where there are strong incentives to hide motivations. Very idealistic. Very American, but so is the other side. So is the classic, smoke-filled back room where the deals are made.

Treebeard said...

I think jim and locum have the right idea; this seems like a good time to move on. It’s a good blog, better than most, but not really how I want to spend my time any more. Thanks for all the discussions and debates.

David Brin said...

May you thrive in a dazzlingly successful civilization that leave oppression and cheating and lies far behind and that proves your dismal cynicism and loyalty to troglodytic mafia-oligarch lords to have been dyspeptic artifacts of a chemical imbalance that you improve with a better diet. And if appraised honestly, that wish really is friendly.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

"...argument might be ethical is that the exclusion is explained credibly and done in plain sight..."

Like the 3/5ths of a person debate?


Notice how tortuously that phrasing is stated so as to avoid any mention of slaves or slavery. "We count these people, we don't count these others, and then...well, anyone we didn't bother to already mention, we'll count at a discounted rate."


Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.

Larry Hart said...

For anyone who still thinks of blue states as wall to wall megalopolises dependent on the output of twenty agricultural worlds--I mean red states--for food, note the presence of Illinois and California below.

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2020/Pres/Maps/May12.html#item-3

One of these days, a bunch of farmers might wake up, and decide that maybe the Donald isn't the president for them anymore. Or maybe that day has already arrived. Here is a list of the U.S. states with the most farms:

Texas
Missouri
Iowa
Oklahoma
California
Kentucky
Ohio
Illinois
Minnesota
Wisconsin

Pachydermis2 said...

Treebeard

Perhaps for the best, but you might just do what I do, wander past from time to time and see if there is anything interesting going on. It was true more often in the past than has been the case of late.

Sadly despite the blog title Contrary Brin is not a welcoming place for those with non doctrinaire viewpoints. I guess the Contrary has morphed into Contrariness. Many of the posters are, or would be, perfectly tolerable in real life but the warped lens of the internet makes them otherwise. Fundamental differences are called out as evil, signs of mental disease, racist, stupid.

Calling people names never persuades them. It signals that they are unwelcome.

It's part of a wider problem in our polarized society. It won't go on forever. I both hope and expect that it ends not in flames but in puzzled bemusement as things that simply Must Be True are shown to be indulgent nonsense.

But as to which flavor of Veritas becomes Hilaritas, well, time will tell.

Do some good in your world.

T. Wolter

Catfish 'n Cod said...

@Larry: It's all part and parcel. Democrats were already partially 'suspect' from 1860 on by being the party of immigrant labor, freedom of non-Protestant religion, and association with the Old South (Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion went the old GOP taunt). Then around 1900 the Red Scares began to stack on top of this. The old causes died off -- Rum exploded spectacularly when Prohibition turned out to be worse than non-temperance; Romanism subsided as Catholics became Kulturkampf allies, and Rebellion was definitively shut down when the Kennedys and LBJ threw a spanner into American politics by having the Dems siding with minorities for the first time ever.

Now the alignment is that Democrats stand for urban interests, for global trade, for equal civil rights, for those with less property, for racial equality before the law and society... a perfect storm of "others" from the Confederate point of view. Even when there are inherent contradictions in the Democratic coalition (such as labor unions vs. global trade networks) the Republicans can't really exploit them fully -- they're both EEEEEEEEvil by the ideological constraints!

It never ceases to amaze me that it's assumed people will live in lazy squalor by choice. I'm watching The Expanse right now -- fantastic work by two of G.R.R. Martin's proteges brought to screen with panache. A Martian (in a society where everyone works as hard as possible for the terraforming effort) sees Terran poverty for the first time, and a Terran elite explains: "We can't provide enough opportunities for everyone." That's the first time I ever have seen in fiction where an elite admits the poverty is their fault, instead of congratulating themselves on being better than those lazy good-for-nothings littering the street. A street doc admits that he's 51 -- and has been waiting for his medical school slot since finishing college online at 19. THAT is the failure mode of UBI to be avoided -- that it will be choked off by elites, by squelching any other resources that could be used to get ahead (and threaten the elites).

@yana, Acadia, Alfred: Adam Smith would be SCREAMING for universal health insurance. Lacking it is a major impediment to a free labor market! But of course the lip service to actual free markets is now less than skin deep.

Also @Alfred: I need to learn more about Popper's multiple worlds. I think there's more to be mined there in the Information Age.

(continues)

Catfish 'n Cod said...

@matthew: That was an assumption of that statement, but context should be expanded. A trend I have seen since at least 2010 is the increasing reliance on bent rules for maintaining GOP power. The more that gets used, the more dependent they become and the more they need -- a positive feedback loop. But that conflicts with the "racial contract" angle, since the "racial contract" works best when it is invisible. It's hard -- especially outside the South -- to doublethink your way into pointing guns at poll lines while having trust in the voting process. And even as far as we have fallen, they are still nowhere near being ready to support military dictatorship; they need the illusion of free choice to continue. Hence all the attempts to accomplish silent vote suppression.

They can't afford to have thugs out in the force necessary to stop the polling, and they sure can't stop voting itself, not even with threats of plague; not while they are also trying to use that threat to compel work and voting is the easiest way to stop the threat. The most likely avenue is hacking the vote, either by interfering with voter registration databases in even more blatant ways or by preventing accurate transmission of vote counts. And if they can manage it, best to just slack on cyberdefense and let Ivan do it for them....

@Larry: I did the math on this and can send a Google Sheets analysis to back it up if need be. There are not enough trifectas out there to force the election by cancelling elections and naming electors by legislatural fiat. It would require overriding too many Democratic governors' vetoes. It wouldn't work -- at least not by itself.

As for the military, I am sure that the vast majority of the Armed Forces would not back either illegal orders by an ex-President, or a coup attempt in the time between the election and inauguration. The most I can see is some governor mobilizing the National Guard in response to some bullshit nullification argument and trying to refuse Federalization.

Do not ignore this concurrence: the places most likely to be propagandized and obstructive are also places with low and elderly populations. The agitprop vastly magnifies the actual numbers and capabilities of the people willing to actually grab a gun and go defy the Feds -- and most of those melt away when the going gets tough.

Stand strong. We can weather this.

--C&C

Larry Hart said...

Tim Wolter:

Sadly despite the blog title Contrary Brin is not a welcoming place for those with non doctrinaire viewpoints.


I am saddened and disappointed that you continue to feel yourself a victim here, as it seems to me that most liberal posters bend over backwards to let you know we don't think of you as deplorable. I guess that sounds condescending, but I don't know how else to say it. You seem to take disagreement as rebuffing, even as you feel your right to disagree as being threatened.



Calling people names never persuades them. It signals that they are unwelcome.


And yet, it's been a winning strategy for right-wingers. I suppose because they're not trying to persuade people like me, but rather to exclude us from the body politic.

David Brin said...

Catfish, always nice when you show up. I hope you’ll become pen pals separately with your fellow doc Tacitus, who might have good advice to share for new parents, but who might also discuss en camera what he’s reticent to say here.

If have spoken of The Expanse before. Some kinds of poverty might be remotely plausible… grit and nastiness in a mining colony for example. But slots in Medical School in an era when under-employed doctors would leap at a chance to teach and AR methods are 2 centuries advanced? NO-no. There might be under-employment but gazillions of citizens with vastly more skills and training than they can apply.

David Brin said...

Tim, you know that you are being unfair. jim’s propoundings here were extreme leftist. Treebeard’s and locum’s weren’t anything Barry Goldwater would recognize or think anything but loathsome, but they are what passes for orthodoxy on today’s right. I was “contrary to jim just as much as to them. Though, yes, they did all share a trait I despise, that of dyspeptic cynical doom-railing as an ingrate excuse for laziness.

You, in contrast, are always treated with affection and respect here, even if this or that assertion that you make is greeted with snorts. (Perhaps you confuse the two?)

Yes, you cling to “balance amid polarization” and by older standards you might be right to say a polarized consensus dominates these discussions.

But we - nearly all of us here and nearly all your peers who have accomplishments of intellect, or who have served in fact-grounded professions - believe this is a moment as crucial to humanity’s climb out of darkness as when Thomas Payne wrote “These are the time that try men’s souls.”

Argue that it’s not so! You have always been welcome to cite factual refutations of the overall, statistically overwhelming, disparity of outcomes from all and every aspect of Republican rule - from fiscal prudence to cheating, to obeisance to democracy’s enemies. By all means explain how it was justified for McConnell to delay all Obama’s appointments ‘because it’s an election year”, then grinning and racing to fill every slot before this November.

You are free to offer counter-examples to the party’s near perfect association with a parsec-long list of moral turpitudes.

Lacking counter-examples or such refutations, all I can say in response is that your general accusation of one-sidedness here misses the point. History shows many times when there’s no “balance” to be had. When the debate ceases to be about “whether” to fight for goodness and decency and right… but how.

Larry Hart said...

Catfish 'n Cod:

Now the alignment is that Democrats stand for urban interests, for global trade, for equal civil rights, for those with less property, for racial equality before the law and society... a perfect storm of "others" from the Confederate point of view.


More significantly, I think, the Republicans are now strictly the Party of White Grievance. And their grievance is that, as non-Semitic white people, their birthright is to be superior in the eyes of the law and society to everyone else in all ways. And that some of that superiority is no longer granted, thus depriving them of their rights and cultural heritage.

No other values that Republicans claim to stand for matters. The "party of life" is willing to have minorities die from COVID in order to open up the economy. And they don't even care about the money any more--opening up the economy is important only because they think it will help re-elect Trump and Republican Senators. The party of fiscal responsibility? Rule of law? Advancing democracy? Don't make me laugh.

They are so angry at minorities and the liberals who respect minorities that they will even willfully harm themselves as long as they also harm the "others". I suppose they must be tired of winning so much.

scidata said...

Fix & friends like to revere the "Leader of the Free World" Um, no. The Cheeto clown is at most, the President of the CSA, a slothful, capricious, pompous, profoundly ignorant narcissist who storms out of press conferences when challenged by a valid question from an accomplished reporter. Angela Merkel, a German scientist (math/physics and quantum chemistry), fluent in Russian language but not puppetry, is the de facto leader of the free world. This gives me no joy. Some of my family faught against Germany in the 20thC, and some of my most beloved relatives are American. I pray that the US can find a path back from the Pleistocene soon.
Yours truly, a definitely non-elite.

Pachydermis2 said...

Larry

That was a message directed primarily at a long time, now departed, commentator. If there is anything to be learned generally that's a plus. I was not griping about any recent treatment of myself.

As to the negative impact on discourse of calling people names, let's just review the fairly short comment thread above:

"don’t bother with the Ent. he’s a moron" "Treebeard, thanks for leading with utter drooling-stooopid false dichotomies.." "..a chemical imbalance that you improve with a better diet."

In the last thread you slagged jim pretty significantly as well: "1- you think incantation-repetition works, exactly like the MAGA confeds
2-you are stupid, really stoopid,
or
3- My growing belief you are a Kremlin boy, a hireling who comes here to test memes on smaht-boy murrcans or else just to waste our...."

So you do tend to be abusive to various points of view Contrary to orthodoxy.

I only have a few points to make that apply specifically to me:

1. I've said before that any assertion along the lines of "Tim, you know that you are being unfair.." is inappropriate. Please don't tell me what I am thinking. If you just said that you felt I was being unfair, then that's fine.

2. You know from long experience that I don't "play" games like your Metrics challenge. To be blunt when you act as judge and jury it is a mug's game.

I'm not feeling political or argumentative at the moment, but I do try to respond to reasonable questions.

McConnell delaying Obama appointments was a blatant political act, and one that went against long standing tradition, albeit after Harry Reid had previously chipped away at some other unwritten rules. It was of course the prerogative of each to do this....and potentially face the wrath of the electorate. The results in 2016 are instructive.

I think btw that Trump making public in advance of the election a list of people he thought would be good high court picks was related to this gambit. And also, given the degree to which the courts have become politicized, something we should demand from both major party candidates. Any objections?

T. Wolter

jim said...

David,
Why in the world would I want to help you and your techno- cornucopian corporate democrat dumb shits make the situation worse?

You bunch of idiots pushed globalization – greatly helping out the oligarchs, enriching yourselves, destroying the environment and hollowing out of the American middle class, while ignoring the whitest of white swans – pandemics. And now that we got one – all those poor people you helped force into 3rd world mega slums have to deal with the consequences of the greedy stupidity of the oligarchs and the useful idiots who pushed their agenda.

Not only that, you repeatedly hyped the Fracking disaster. So thrilled with techno solutions you could not even stop to think that your techno solutions would make the situation worse.

And now lately you have you have gone brain dead.
You shout at me that I lie and repeat magical incantations – when the only thing I have been repeating is:
Burning fossil fuels causes climate change, and to really address climate change we must greatly reduce the use of fossil fuels.

I guess the author of EARTH is auditioning to be the new Brojn Lundberg.


I think we would all be a lot better off if you stopped “fighting for us”.

Larry Hart said...

Catfish 'n Cod:

@Larry: I did the math on this and can send a Google Sheets analysis to back it up if need be. There are not enough trifectas out there to force the election by cancelling elections and naming electors by legislatural fiat. It would require overriding too many Democratic governors' vetoes. It wouldn't work -- at least not by itself.


The Constitution gives the state legislatures the power to choose electors. There is some question as to whether that requires them to pass a law which the governor can veto, or whether Article II means they can do whatever they want. The supreme court might get to decide 5-4.

There is some other question as to whether, having already decided on the method of having a state-wide popular election, a legislature can change its mind, and if so, how close to an election can that happen. That would seem to be a more difficult hurdle to overcome, but nothing that the current incarnation of the Republican Party wouldn't try.

A.F. Rey said...

I hear talk about lockdowns and I have to remind myself that people are actually staying home because they’ve been ordered to.

Who told you that lie, Treebeard?

States were closing down BEFORE the governors issued orders. Check out the charts at FiveThirtyEight.

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/americans-didnt-wait-for-their-governors-to-tell-them-to-stay-home-because-of-covid-19/

People in EVERY states--even those without stay at home orders--were staying at home to protect themselves, their families, their friends, and their neighbors. Not because their governor told them to. Because knowledgeable people advised them to. And because most Americans embody an more important trait than the ones you listed. The trait of Americans working together for the common good.

You've been lied to, and now you've made yourself look like a fool who follows whatever he hears without question. Perhaps you should consider vetting your sources better in the future.

Jon S. said...

"When we drop down like this, tax revenues are decreased in the sense of an opportunity cost. I accepted my income loss in exchange for a possibly different, richer future. In that choice, though, I imposed upon the rest of you a cost by not earning at my potential. Less income tax for federal and state coffers. Less property tax for local schools. Less purchasing of goods and services, thus less sales tax. Less purchasing period. Less, less, less.

"How many of us can safely do this and still deliver sufficient revenue to be distributed as UBI so we don't break our promise to give people time to find the path they love?"


Alfred, I submit to you that any tax structure which relies on the income of the poorest among us is a very badly built tax structure, one teetering on the brink of failure. Given the current distribution of wealth in the US, reducing taxable income of the lowest, say, 15% to half of its current value shouldn't change the bottom line appreciably. If it does, that's not an indictment of UBI, but rather of the subsidies granted to the wealthy and to major corporations (who should be paying a larger fraction of the taxes, as they have the larger fraction of the wealth).

Acacia H. said...

I have to say, Tim is right, Dr. Brin.

While I rarely say anything these days I fought you tooth and nail in the past over your tendency to speak down to people and insult them with nasty little comments. Yes, I'm a transwoman and my rights are at greatest risk with the current administration and under Republicans in general... but that does not mean you can just blithely insult people and not expect the worse in response.

How much of Treebeard and Locum's refusal to listen to you and to others is a result of your occasional snide comments and accusations of them being mentally disordered in some way? How much of conservatives' dismissal of liberal viewpoints is a result of their ire at being insulted?

It does not matter if the other side insults you and calls you nasty things, sinking to that level ultimately destroys your arguments. You comment on "why don't people in power listen to me?" and indulge in snide ugly commentary where you question if someone is broken in their head?

When one side takes the low road, it's tempting to follow. When one side insults all the time it's tempting to insult back. Sadly, you followed. You've gone into the mud and muck and while you may be wearing waders and avoiding the worse of the muck, you've slung mud and have it on your hands.

Be better than that. Lead by example. Maybe, just maybe, you might find Contrary Brin to become the blog it once was before, one that didn't need moderation, one where people could safely express views without worrying about being dismissed as deficient in some way. It is never too late to change for the better.

Acacia H., who honestly needs to follow her own advice but it's still heartfelt and meant

Catfish 'n Cod said...

@Dr. Brin: Exactly. Earth's 22nd century UN appears to mirror the 20th century West, including megazillionaires dominating the economy, a military-industrial complex run amok, and politics heavily influenced by wealth. But if it also mirrors the West's open society, then only a massive choke-off of resources could explain mass poverty on the scale seen on-screen in future New York and described as "half the planet on basic income". There is no way people couldn't invent their own darn jobs unless something were imposed on them to prevent it.

Belters being oppressed and gritty and making do is much, much more sensible.

@Larry: Well, to the rank and file and in its public persona, the GOP is the Party of White Grievance. But there are three "appendages" to that "cause" that seem to always get the highest priority: (1) tax cuts, especially for corporations, capital gains, and high-income individuals; (2) deregulation, especially of industries; (3) appointment of conservative judges devoted to the minimalist government philosophy of the days of laissez-faire. None of these are obviously agendas of White Grievance and a lot of agitprop effort goes into welding them onto the main body.

Because they don't align with White Grievance at all: they align with oligarchy. "He who has the gold makes the rules." The actual agenda of the GOP is oligarchy, cleverly disguised as hyperindividualistic libertarianism. Those judges are not there to vote on the Kulturkampf; they're intended to defend privilege of all sorts against the advancing outrage. The tax cuts are to pilfer the fisc as far as possible before the reckoning; and the deregulation to get as much head start as possible before the responsible adults come calling.

@Larry again: Ah, but in every case, the designation of electors as tied to the elections is written into state laws, which must be repealed for state legislators to wield their powers free of influence. And state law repeals *are* subject to veto. Should any state assemblies be fool enough to attempt to send electors against the will of both their population AND their governor, the House acts as another backstop (as it did in 1877). The House explicitly has the power to take those electors' votes, declare them invalid, and feed them into the shredder.

And I do not foresee any plausible scenario, even with cheating, that results in a close or hung Electoral College that also includes the House being retaken by the GOP.

David Brin said...

Tim, I am happy to answer this.

I consider it absolutely my right to respond gruffly down in my own comments section to strawman efforts to cram down my throat things I never said and attributing to me things the accuser knows full well that I would find loathsome. I get very few trolls here and have only once had to outright banish, but the postings of locum, treebeard and jim have relentlessly done that. And while you seem quite ready to chide me for "Tim, you know that you are being unfair.." - a very common turn of phrase that I will stand by, given your behavior -

- you have to my knowledge never once stood up and denounced the despicable behaviors of those three, including calls for apocalypse, mass murder, rape and making vivid descriptions of foul and obscene acts committed on my wife and children.

If "Tim, you know that you are being unfair.." is the extent of your grievance against me, feel free to air it anywhere on the web that you like. I would make wagers over how the folks you deem most serenely sagacious respond to that accusation and whether the suggest (gently) that you were thin-skinned.

“You know from long experience that I don't "play" games like your Metrics challenge. To be blunt when you act as judge and jury it is a mug's game.”

Blunt? No, that is a simple flat-out falsehood and slander. I have offered dozens of ways to recruit external judges. Starting with the simplest. You name a retired senior military officer, better known for sagacity than partisan loyalty, and I name one. Between them, they choose a third.

But you don’t even try. “Name an exception.” is simple, especially when *I* will concede an exception to red state turpitude (Utah) and to fact professions that are warred-upon by the GOP (engineering). You object to “You know you are being unfair.” But accusing me of trying a “mug’s game” is of course not rude at all, not demanding of evidence.

Look at the venom spilled by jim in the posting right after yours, every sentence an outright lie, and yet I am not allowed to respond? What stunning double standard.

Oh Acacia? “How much of Treebeard and Locum's refusal to listen to you and to others is a result of your occasional snide comments”

I can state with serene confidence that ‘how much’ is absolutely zero.

Larry Hart said...

Tim Wolter:

McConnell delaying Obama appointments was a blatant political act, and one that went against long standing tradition, albeit after Harry Reid had previously chipped away at some other unwritten rules.


After McConnell had done so as well by making the filibuster an everyday occurrence. I know we can keep going, "And before that, X did Y," so I'm just sayin' that Reid didn't act in a vaccuum.


It was of course the prerogative of each to do this....and potentially face the wrath of the electorate. The results in 2016 are instructive.


The results in 2016 showed that politicians don't face the wrath of the voters who support their party already. Ted Cruz said as much when he acquiesced to become a pro-Trumper. "It's a binary choice," which means "I want Republican judges, so who cares about anything else the candidate says or does?"

I'll amend that to say that Democrats may lose support of Democratic voters if they do something too contrary to those voters' expectations. Al Franken is a good example. Hillary Clinton lost support of Bernie-Bros, and Biden may do the same. I don't see anything a Republican officeholder can do which would cause Republican voters to either vote for a Democrat or be a spoiler for the Republican. They might replace a Republican who is too moderate or too unfriendly to Trump with a worse Republican, but that's the extent of the "wrath" any Republican would face.


I think btw that Trump making public in advance of the election a list of people he thought would be good high court picks was related to this gambit. And also, given the degree to which the courts have become politicized, something we should demand from both major party candidates. Any objections?


Hmmm, can't think of any. In 2016, I think Republican voters were paying attention and Democrats weren't ("But Hillary's e-mails!"), but it would be a good thing for Democrats if they would just pay attention. It might be nice to see from primary candidates as well, if only to demonstrate that they have something in common that stands in contrast to the other party.

David Brin said...

Ah, jim returns:
“the only thing I have been repeating is: Burning fossil fuels causes climate change, and to really address climate change we must greatly reduce the use of fossil fuels.”

No, that's not the only thing you've repeated. You pour forth incantations in firehose streams, almost never with a scintilla of supporting evidence.

But sure, jim. The reduce fossil fuel use thing is the ONLY thing you said in that rant that remotely touched on anything but hallucination. So let's go with that one.

HOW to reduce fossil fuel use? Democrats in blue states, especially OR, WA, CA, have been leading the way at exactly that. I have challenged “jim” to actually study blue state actions and show us how 'nothin'g they are. How little different from Foxism as to not matter. He has evaded even that one (out of six) challenge only to return spewing venom.

And so again, calmly, HOW to reduce carbon emissions, fellah…? Pragmatically and plausibly how?
Crickets… the sound of crickets… till the next spew.

Larry Hart said...

Acacia H:

How much of conservatives' dismissal of liberal viewpoints is a result of their ire at being insulted?


I'd explain liberal name-calling by turning that question around. I've put up with their insults for at least 30 years, and yet when I say something back which even sounds like the same things they say about me as often as they breathe, I'm the one who is supposed to persuade instead of speak the truth about them?

To what end?

Pachydermis2 said...

David

I don't particularly feel a need to condemn the commentators you mention. Two of them I barely skim. There's just not much "there" there. I do find jim's perspectives interesting, but if there have been excesses on his part they must have been when I was not around. His last post reads to me more frustrated than angre. Interesting that there are some very Progressive posters here who I read with interest. And perhaps vice versa.

Now, as to these challenges. I have in the past proposed that we debate a question and put a judgement of its merits in the hands of several of the "old hands" who comment here. A far simpler solution and one that does not require us to find outside judges. Given the general Progressive inclinations here you might think I'd be at a disadvantage but I actually think not.

Of course some might decline....

I do have a curious question that could use a bit of conversation.....

Hey, or not. CITOKATE and all. Some of us 'round these parts think you are getting a bit ornery but A: its your saloon and B: we are all cooped up these days.

Ciao

TW

Larry Hart said...

Ok, after calming down a bit...

Tim Wolter:

Calling people names never persuades them. It signals that they are unwelcome.


Acacia H:

How much of conservatives' dismissal of liberal viewpoints is a result of their ire at being insulted?


While you both do have a point, and while I like to think I do lead by example and prefer to persuade rather than fight...

Can you concede that there does come a point where someone does something so egregious that simply speaking the truth about their actions comes off as insulting? And that that is the fault of the person behaving badly, not the person who accurately describes their bad behavior? That the remedy for this is not to do the thing that is insulting when spoken truthfully of?

David Brin said...

Tim, pick a few of those 'metrics challenges' to test with the community here. I agree that the judges are 'biased. INTRINSICALLY I think they are actually a very balanced bunch. A few actual leftists - though only one of them always nasty about it. I've had some contrarian tiffs with a couple of others, but they are generally pretty reasonable.

... and several AdamSmithian libertarians... Alfred and I agree on almost everything, but he always has a wee bit more of a Hayekian/libertarian lean ...

...and yes a bunch of what I'd call vigorously incrementalist liberal reformers.

And yes, it's frustrating to me that we have few of what I call RASRs. I miss Ilithi Dragon, for example. But I leave it to the group mind which "metrics" you guys think are easily checked.

Scott said...

David said Even when the dems sweep in on a wave of anti-oligarch-loons disgust, the reprieve only lasts one cycle. No matter how hard dem leaders work, it won’t be enough for sourpuss lefties and diletentes who stayed home those years, in droves.

This has been undeniably true for the past 40 years. The big exception is the aftermath of the Great Depression which ushered in FDR and 50 years of Democrat domination of the federal government.

The big difference is that Joe Biden could not possibly be less like FDR. There is so much to reverse from 4 years of mcconnell and trump that it would require a unified Democratic party to jam through reforms that merely brought us back to 2016. And remember that 8 years of Obama could not undo the massive damage from George W Bush across the board.

How hard is it to simply undo tax breaks for billionaires? I'm not a lawyer but it seems simple enough to vote on the exact tax code from 2016. And yet the Democrats we'll elect in November will not have the stomach for it.

So lets say Biden gets elected and Democrats control Congress and lets even say that the fascist wing of the court stays out of things. Democrats will enact some mild tweaks to the existing policies, pass a few executive orders, and then leave office for another round of republicans tearing the constitution to shreds. It is asymmetric and unless the center and left start treating this like a real emergency, even getting rid of trump will be nothing more than a speed bump for the oligarchists.

matthew said...

What I'm hearing from other posters is a blithe assurance that if:
1) Trump claimed emergency powers under Article II to suspend an election until the end of an emergency (COVID-19 killing thousands a day, for example).
2) SCOTUS rules 5-4 that he has the Article II powers to do so in the emergency.

Then the Joint Chief's would refuse his orders as "unlawful?" Even after SCOTUS backed him up?

That's dreamland, folks.

If SCOTUS declares POTUS emergency Article II powers to include suspension of elections, then it's the damn law of the land. We've seen the Constitution suspended before, correct?
The Joint Chief's are *not* going to act as a brake if the CiC is certified "legal" by the highest court in the land. They will fall meekly in line. Perhaps one or two might resign in protest, to be replaced until someone is found to carry out the orders.

To defy the CiC after SCOTUS says he is acting legally, even on a partisan divide? Then the JC's would be guilty of disobeying the chain of command, even treason perhaps.

Not gonna happen.

The oath to the Constitution that they took would weigh heavily, but the legal weight of SCOTUS would weigh heavier.



Alfred Differ said...

Tim,

It IS possible to disagree with our host and argue a point in his metrics challenges. He's not fully Judge and Jury, let alone Executioner.

For example, I accepted the challenge he refers to roughly as the second derivative of debt. With his data and charts, he shows how Democrats have always done better at bringing the second derivative down under zero. For it to be a valid challenge, though, I had to collect the data myself, chart it in a way for which I thought the data provided statistical support, etc. I had to decide whether to count an election year for the previous administration or the next one. Lots of little details go into the analysis. At the end of it, I did NOT reproduce his results, but it came close.
1. I saw an offset making the GOP look worse after their new President had a few months in office to learn how the levers of power worked.
2. I saw more detail in the debt numbers that I wasn't willing to wash out with an average that I couldn't justify as more than my attempt to achieve a specific result. Do I use a one week moving average, 4 weeks, or 13? I squinted instead and saw choppiness in the second derivative that undermined his claim... a bit.

I let it go, though, because the results I generated showed the argument is basically correct. There are details in there that could be the result of economic choppiness altering tax revenues and others that could demonstrate Congressional effects. However, the results were close enough for politics. If this were an economics blog, I'd encourage greater detail and more accuracy, but it isn't. We all have better things to do. I treated the challenge as mostly won by our host, reported what I saw, and moved on to the next topic.

Where we diverge most... and where I'll stand and defend positions... is when anyone engages in too much hubris regarding what they think we can design into our communities. I'm not just a wee bit into Hayek. I'm quite a bit into his world view. Adam Smith is a good start, but Smith approached the whole enterprise like a moral philosopher... which he was. Hayek picks up things and goes a lot farther in his post-economics research starting in the mid-50's or so. Hayek makes the case for an evolution argument (not strictly the biological version of evolution) that should (in my not so humble opinion) be examined in and outside of academia. We are stumbling about like astrologers using a geocentric model of the universe when more useful systems have been created for consideration. It's hard to make a big switch like that and I can't force it, but I CAN get annoyed when people try to design our communities as if they could just scale up practices we know in our bones from the Stone Age. Practices that worked quite well then, because human bands didn't number more than a few hundred. Practices that fail miserably when we number a few million and now a few billion.

Alfred Differ said...

Jon S,

Setting aside what I think about the practice of taxation in general...


I completely agree that reliance on tax revenues from the poorest among us is bad design. It's also unethical... and stupid... and creates the very peasants who will show up with pitchforks and torches to burn down the castle later. 8)

That said, most of our tax revenues come from people near the middle. There are vastly more of us making modest incomes and the money simply adds up to heaps and gobs of cash. My concern is it is THESE people who will rightly recognize matthew's point and accept UBI as a backstop while they pursue a path they love and find ways to make a living doing it. THESE people making changes in their lives alters how big those heaps and gobs of cash are that are obligated toward promises to support the decisions they are making.

[What the poorest do makes little difference in my argument. They aren't paying much in (and can't... and shouldn't), so they can do as they must. UBI simply enables them. When the folks in the middle pursue their dreams, though, they impact available funds and make me wonder if we would be able to deliver on the grand promise intended in matthew's suggestion. Can we? How many folks in the middle can choose as he suggests before we can't deliver? What then?

The biggest tax revenue impact corporations have is in employing us. At my full potential (which I believe is pretty close to where I am in my current industry), I pay more in taxes than I EARNED in two years while I was working on my education and about what I earned in one year during the early period while I pursued start-ups. In grad school, I counted among the poor... but by choice. Later I counted as lower-middle, but by choice again. Tax agencies missed out on a lot of cash because I made the (entirely legal) choices I made. Though I was willing to do that without UBI as a safety net, many won't and I understand why. THAT's what I find interesting about matthew's argument. Entrepreneurial efforts COULD be advanced by UBI. Mine would have been, so I have to consider his point as potentially valid. So... how far can we go is the next question to ask.

matthew said...

Jared Kushner laying the foundation for just the scenario I describe above,

"When asked if there was a chance the presidential election could be postponed past November 3 due to the pandemic, Kushner said that isn’t his decision. “I’m not sure I can commit one way or the other, but right now that’s the plan,” he said."

from the current issue of Time
https://time.com/collection/time-100-talks/5835342/jared-kushner-time-100-talks-highlights/

David Brin said...

Alfred, do you have a blog? Because you really should write up your critique of my Second Derivative (brakes or accelerator?) argument. I'll happily take some licks for oversimplifying. In fact, I have some RASRs I'd love to point at such an appraisal.

---
Scott I understand your concern. But I think you are wrong about Biden and Pelosi and all of them. Do have a look at my “challenges to splitters”… or in your case pessimists. You’ll see that dems in fully blue states have been VERY busy. And while lefties and moderates tussle in places like CA etc., that hasn’t stopped them from vigorously legislating.

http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2019/08/five-devastating-rebuttals-to-use-with.html

Now dems understand clearly what they were in denial about for decades, that it is utterly useless to even put out a hand of negotiation to Republicans… they will never, ever, ever take it in good faith. Accpting that fundamental truth-of-treason, dems ought to feel a sense of liberation.

But look at my list of 31 actions they will take starting in late January 2021. Tell us which ones you DON’T think Biden would go along with?

---
Matthew: I agree the officer corps would be in a bad place, in that case. But I’ll wager another factor. I bet the FBI has files already on the blackmail network that pervades DC. If they were cornered into using that info to protect the Republic, I’d predict a wave of resignations that could stretch well into the Supreme Court.

Daniel Duffy said...

This looks encouraging:

https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/05/joe-biden-presidential-plans.html

Biden Is Planning an FDR-Size Presidency

the self-conscious man in the Democratic middle — mocked by the activist left throughout the primary campaign as hopelessly retrograde — considers the present calamity and plots a presidency that, by awful necessity, he believes must be more ambitious than FDR’s.

Long before the pandemic, he described a range of actions he’d take on day one, from rejoining the Paris climate agreement to signing executive orders on ethics, and he cited other matters, like passing the Equality Act for LGBTQ protections, as top priorities. Already his recovery ambitions have grown to include plans that would flex the muscles of big government harder than any program in recent history. To date, the federal government has spent more than $2 trillion on the coronavirus stimulus — nearly three times what it approved in 2009. Biden wants more spending. “A hell of a lot bigger,” he’s said, “whatever it takes.” He has argued that, even if you’re inclined to worry about the deficit, massive public investment is the only thing capable of growing the economy enough “so the deficit doesn’t eat you alive.” He has talked about funding immense green enterprises and larger backstop proposals from cities and states and sending more relief checks to families. He has urged immediate increases in virus and serology testing, proposing the implementation of a Pandemic Testing Board in the style of FDR’s War Production Board and has called for investments in an “Apollo-like moonshot” for a vaccine and treatment. And he floated both the creation of a 100,000-plus worker Public Health Jobs Corps and the doubling of the number of OSHA investigators to protect employees amid the pandemic. If he were president now, he said in March, he would demand paid emergency sick leave for anyone in need and mandate that no one would have to pay for coronavirus testing or treatment. As the crisis deepened, he said he would forgive federal student-loan debt — $10,000 per person, minimum — and add $200 a month to Social Security checks.

(Not mentioned is my favorite proposal of his: lowering Medicare eligibility to age 60. This would allow a lot of Boomers to retire with financial security and make room for employment of younger Americans)

Larry Hart said...

@matthew,

I'm no fan of Jared Kushner, but did you read the article you posted the link to above? He seems to be saying the opposite of what you think he is--that "the plan" is to have put the whole COVID thing in the rear view mirror before the fall.


...
When asked if there was a chance the presidential election could be postponed past November 3 due to the pandemic, Kushner said that isn’t his decision. “I’m not sure I can commit one way or the other, but right now that’s the plan,” he said.

“Hopefully by the time we get to September, October, November, we’ve done enough work with testing and with all the different things we’re trying to do to prevent a future outbreak of the magnitude that would make us shut down again,” Kushner continued. “I really believe that once America opens up, it’ll be very hard for America to ever lock down again.”

Alfred Differ said...

matthew,

I hear you. If Trump claimed those powers and the Court backed him up, we'd head immediately into a hot phase of our Civil War. No active duty officer will fail to notice the fractures occurring around them. None of them will fail to remember their oath isn't actually to the President. SOME of them might decide that the oath is best served by following orders and that will be the actual source of fractures.

This is what I was going on about with Larry back when Trump had just won. I wanted to avoid using certain terms because I didn't want those fractures to happen too early. I wanted Trump to demonstrate his character first because in doing so, he unwittingly moved the fracture point.

Time for another anecdote... 8)

My current employer is a small business owned by a former naval officer. We have a habit of hiring vets both for the points we earn in federal contract bids and because they understand the customer environment we are in. We have a few contracts recently including NASA sites, but started with Navy bases. I've been around long enough to see three different program managers (they oversee the particular contract I'm on) and the approaches they use for hiring. The second one ALWAYS included a simple question in all hiring interviews. "What does Integrity mean to you?' There are no right answers to the question, but there are many wrong ones. The vets ALWAYS stood out in interviews. They knew exactly what he wanted of them. It was a corporate culture hint that was more than a hint. Way more.

My time with this employer (and my own experience with my father who served almost 30 years) has taught me there is a lot more to how they do things besides obedience. There are ways to follow orders… and ways to follow orders. I already see that happening around Trump… because he put his character on display for them to see. So… I don't think it as simple as your fear suggests.

I also don't think it will come to that. I don't think Roberts would want to go down in history that way. He will find some way to argue that elections belong to States and reference the 1864 election as well. Most likely the SCOTUS will punt and then the Justices will go hide in a bunker.


Most importantly, I think your fear is blinding you to the fact that many officers know they serve US. If we start shooting at our 'elected' officials, they WILL take note of that. One-off mad hatters are one thing. Angry mobs are quite another. Some of them will accept orders to keep the peace, but that's really what the national guard is for. They'll find ways to obey in ways that aren't actually obeying.

Jon S. said...

Okay, I must be missing something. Where in Article II does the Constitution grant the President "emergency powers" to do anything, much less declare martial law and suspend elections without the concurrence of Congress?

Keith Halperin said...

@Everyone, Re: Arguing-
As Dieter says: "Your conversation has become tiresome. Now iz time to dance!"
ISTM that most debates are rather fruitless unless conducted with someone(s) who.is open to persuasion.
IMHO, you should only agree to debate with someone if you and they can positively respond to the following request:
"Please give an example of a major opinion/decision you've changed when provided new evidence and elaborate." (I can do that. How about you?)

Also, we seem to be arguing/discussing many socio-economic and political opinions, but not all that many facts (though OGH provides a number of useful statistics).
These seem to be largely divided into institutional/organizational changes, and policy changes.
While many of the latter are in the proposal stage and have not been implemented, I would guess that there have been a fair number of studies of the former, and these might be researched SO THAT WE CAN LEARN WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY MAY WORK/NOT WORK.
If someone has a particular topic which can be clearly and concisely described, I VOLUNTEER to locate the research on it (work and other bandwidth permitting) and report back to "our jolly crew". (If I'm too biased, don't have time, or can't find anything after a bit- I'll let you know...)

Meanwhile, according to the respected academic journal Marie Claire (!!!, https://www.marieclaire.com/politics/a31142244/swing-states-2020-election/) these are 2020's swing states: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.
According to today's map on www.electoral-vote.com: FL, GA, IA, MN, NV, OH, TX, and WI are currently polled as "swing" for a current 133 electoral votes.
Dr. Brin, *if you haven't already done so, you could:
1) Send a copy of "Polemical Judo" to the Chairs of the state Democratic Parties and the Campaign Head of the "Biden for President" campaigns there, with a nice introduction from someone influential who can give you an "in". (You could also send a copy to Bloomberg and Steyer.)
2) (For an even better chance of success, you could) Have your publicist **find a "boff-intern" to come up with a bio and useful info on the various heads themselves, and see how many degrees of separation you are from these people, hopefully with (again) a mutual influential person to help "smooth the path"...
3) Finally, have you considered becoming the Scientific Advisor, Oracular Guru, or something that you often get paid to do for the Biden Campaign?
These may not be EASY to do (except for emailing the e-book), but this ain't astrophysics or writing a novel...


Cheers,

Keith "Part of the Choir" Halperin


* If you HAVE done so: what did they say/do?
** Or better: set up a 15-30 min.talk with them...

Alfred Differ said...

David,

Alfred, do you have a blog?

I do. I started sweeping up (and dereferencing) some of my longer comments here into posts there.
When I find the brakes/accelerator stuff again, I'll post it there.

https://adiffer.blogspot.com

David Brin said...

Alfred, what you say makes sense, but I have fears:

1) If my blackmail scenario is at all true, then it could be (effectively) suicidal for Roberts/Kavanaugh/Alito to do anything other than every single thing they are told. After all, blackmail of some sort is the only conceivable explanation for Anthony Kennedy.

Which is why the MOST powerful thing Biden can do is suggest strongly that he intends to use his pardom power effectively to get to the bottom of a morass of blackmail infesting DC... and that those who help us escape the trap will be well-remembered, whatever the KGB has on them.

Barring that, we have no way to know how deep it goes.

2) If the officer corps stands up for us, I worry about a swathe of Fox-riled noncoms.

yana said...


toduro thought:

"Are you sure that library wasn't the Waianae public library?"

Now am sure it IS, thanks! Waimea also sticks in mind as a jewel of inestimable value, a library of sorts, but of the botanical genetic type. Got a pic there of a pub called The Proud Peacock, with an ACTUAL peacock perched above the door, preening with low regard for the silly primates gawking at it.

David Brin said...

How do you guys get italics in your comments?

yana said...


Alfred Differ thought:

"When we drop down like this, tax revenues are decreased in the sense of an opportunity cost ... How many of us can safely do this and still deliver sufficient revenue to be distributed as UBI so we don't break our promise to give people time to find the path they love?"

Believe the equation has more variables than appear. The beauty of competitive capitalism is that it accommodates many types of personalities. Go-getter people seeking wealth will do so, but success at that graduates them out of the UBI while also increasing their taxation. Assuming (as we do) that a UBI would not be payed to those earning over a certain amount, opportunity for graduating above that limit would increase for those who are driven to achieve it. More people with security to pursue entrepreneurship adds more opportunity for those under the threshhold.

"Less income tax ... Less purchasing period. Less, less, less."

Could be true, if all people suddenly became fiscally wise. I won't hold my breath on that. Rather, the lower stratum will spend a UBI just as fast as it comes in, exactly as they do today in minimum wage jobs. Said wages would now have to compete with a UBI, yielding more income tax. In the mid-low stratum, hobbies cost money, they require purchases. I don't foresee any evaporation of demand at all, in fact the scheme looks poised to increase economic churn.

The velocity of money increases at the bottom, economic mobility increases in the middle, those with talent or determination find increased opportunity for earning at upper levels.

yana said...


Acacia H. thought:

"... should some Trumpist kill Biden in an attempt to force the issue"

Thus, Stacey Abrams as running mate. It is not unknown in America's long history, for a VP to be chosen for just that reason. Witness: Dan Quayle.

Alfred Differ said...

David,

Your blackmail scenario is plausible, but I suspect we'd simply shoot our way out of it. Far from ideal and not to be advocated, but one can only turn the screws so far in an armed republic raised as infants on SOA.

Anyone passing through a legit security clearance process is going to be investigated enough to find most blackmail opportunities that existed before the investigation. It will be the ones done afterward that might slip by the FBI simply because they weren't tasked to look. Not so with the CIA if the events involve foreign nationals. Maybe not with the NSA. Depends. If I held federal office, though, I'd just assume one of alphabet agencies knows... or will know soon enough.

Meh. 19th century corruption levels were far worse. We survived that to become the nation we are today. Imperfect, but ornery as all get out. I don't see us becoming less barbaric this century, so our would-be masters are pretty *!#$%ing stupid. Even the Russians trying it are playing with nuclear fire.

Our symbolic national plant should be a cactus.

Oh... for italics, use the angle bracket HTML tags you should see just below the the comments box. '<' i '>' and '<' / i '>' with spaces and single quotes taken out. Wrap them around the words to be italicized like you would if constructing raw HTML. Word Perfect would use some other thing to achieve the same markup, but it's the same idea.

David Brin said...

yana (1) I ask that members not talk about extrema events like that except very carefully.

(2) Democrats do not choose running mates as Removal Insurance. While political chops and 'balance' do play roles (e.g. Gore-Lieberman) the salient trait of DP running mates is that they are always qualified for office, always likely to serve capably... and also almost always BORING! Humphrey, Mondale, Gore, go down the list. Even Johnson, at first.

(3) Republican nominees ALMOST always choose a spectacular horror story who would be a disaster as president. Even Ike, who was otherwise a decent enough fellow. Gadzooks ESPECIALLY Ike.

You've heard me say it before. The one exception - Reagan - chose a fellow who on paper was among the most qualified in the country... who went on to become the worst president of the 20th Century, by far.

(4) as for extrema events, I worry about when Two Scoops becomes seen as a liability by Putin/Murdoch/Adelson/MBS (PAMM). They would have to martyr him in a way that can rally confed millions against lib-ruls. And hence God bless the US Secret Service.

I do wonder though. Is Pence their groomed boy? I'd give odds yes. But if not, how will they ease him out? Covid/covfefe? The non-Putin wing has been quietly grooming Paul Ryan. But they'd have to make deals with PAMM, because they likely hold the blackmail files and hence the power.

duncan cairncross said...

Re - UBI
Here the main advocate for a "UBI" is the right wing economist Gareth Morgan

https://www.amazon.com/Big-Kahuna-Turning-Welfare-Zealand-ebook/dp/B00JWWWJOM

Gareth Morgan is a very rich man but he proposes funding his UBI by a wealth tax

This get around the problem that Alfred is talking about that it impacts the middle class
With wealth in the USA - data from 2009 - it's a LOT worse now

Top 1% ---- 35% of wealth
Top 10% --- 75% of wealth
Top 20% --- 85% of wealth
Next 20% --- 95% of wealth
Everybody else --- 4% of wealth

Yana said - "a UBI would not be payed to those earning over a certain amount"

That adds an unnecessary layer of complexity and is not needed - its much more efficient to simply increase the tax rate a bit and then if you earn a lot your taxes increase by enough to cancel out the UBI
The last thing we want is an incentive to stay below a certain salary as above that you actually get paid LESS

yana said...


David Brin thought:

"Now dems understand clearly what they were in denial about for decades, that it is utterly useless to even put out a hand of negotiation to Republicans... they will never, ever, ever take it in good faith."

Oh golly. I know we hold different opinions on King Bush I, but the Dems used his willingness to negotiate a sensible compromise on taxes, to put a pillowcase over him and beat him. Fool me once, won't get fooled again, thus Mitch rises fully formed from the brow of Newt.

yana said...


Lincoln knew Andrew Johnson would be a horrifying prospect. Nixon knew all about Agnew. Bush I knew that his VP was loopy. You're right, Dems do this less frequently, but Hil didn't just pick Senator Happy because of Virginia, she was also quite aware of his lesser gravitas.

scidata said...

Democracy wins again. Every metric follows the same pattern. Because Asimov.
https://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/news/democracies-more-effective-on-covid-19/

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

How do you guys get italics in your comments?


Trying to do this without blogger misinterpreting my characters.

Start italics: "<" "i" ">"
End italics: "<" "/i" ">"

Like this except using the less-than and greater-than signs instead of parentheses:

(i)
This part would be in italics.
(/i)
This part would not.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

@Dr. Brin, matthew: SCOTUS will only back up an election delay or cancellation under blackmail duress. While the Four Horsemen of Alito, Kavanaugh, Thomas, and Gorsuch may very well wish to go for it, Roberts' motivation remains the maintenance of SCOTUS' power -- which depends on SCOTUS' legitimacy -- which depends on SCOTUS' image and reputation. If SCOTUS simultaneously defers to the Executive on a constitutional interpretation while also violating the trust of the citizenry, they run the risk of the civilian authorities rejecting the Court's decision. Roberts will only risk that if put in a corner.... which is not to say it can't happen.

A violation of the Constitution as clear as halting the election for anything short of holocaust-apocalypse level emergency would need all three branches' support to sustain -- which won't happen. And the states, not the Feds, have the authority and mechanism to actually run the elections. So what happens if Lord Farquaad declares an election cancellation, SCOTUS agrees, and the states hold the vote anyway? Remember, the House is the ultimate arbiter on the validity of both its own members and on the election of the President; the Senate is the ultimate arbiter on the validity of its own members and on the election of Vice President.

In short, it is entirely possible (by design!) to elect a Congress and a new President even in the face of Federal executive and judiciary opposition. And if necessary, that's what will happen.

Anonymous said...

Robert here,

remember that 8 years of Obama could not undo the massive damage from George W Bush across the board.

Seems to me that from the news that reached north of the border, that was more a matter of choosing not to undo the damage. Waiting for consensus with people who have decided to automatically oppose anything you attempt even when you have the power* is a choice.


*And mandate from the voters, assuming that's what elections confer.

reason said...

Sort of in reply to Duncan Cairncross as a very long time advocate of UBI which I prefer to call a national dividend, and which Milton Friedman advocated as "negative income tax", a few points that are often missed.

1. A lot of the cost of a UBI will be recovered by eliminating features of the tax/benefits system that are now better covered by the UBI. For instance income tax deductions, basic pension, some of unemployment insurance payments, food stamps etc. Secondly there are savings in unnecessary bureaucracy. Thirdly there is the possibility of using much needed pollution taxes.

2. One big effect of the UBI will be regional redistribution of both income and people. In short many people will move to where they can afford to live rather than where they can find work, and work will follow them (as their purchasing power moves).

3. Substantial changes in bargaining power will occur, both between employees and employers and between members of families. Expect much more part time employment, rather than less employment in total.

It will enable more social entrepreneurship. People who primarily want to help people will be enablef to do so. Expect less need for and dependence on private charity from rich donors.

Acacia H. said...

You an also do that with bold and links. In fact, right below the Comments box there is a quick line about using some HTML tags.

Thus (b)this is bold text(b)
while (i)this is italics text(/i)
and (a href="url_link")this would hyperlink to an article(/a)

Acacia

A.F. Rey said...

At my full potential (which I believe is pretty close to where I am in my current industry), I pay more in taxes than I EARNED in two years while I was working on my education and about what I earned in one year during the early period while I pursued start-ups. In grad school, I counted among the poor... but by choice. Later I counted as lower-middle, but by choice again. Tax agencies missed out on a lot of cash because I made the (entirely legal) choices I made.

I have a question, Alfred. When you decided to go to a lower income bracket, did the job you leave go unfilled? (Since you mentioned you pursued "start-ups," I see this as entirely possible.) Because for most of us, if we don't fill a job that increases our income, someone else does, and the IRS still gets it's taxes. :)

Start-ups and self-employment are rather tricky things, too. Many (if not most) fail. And for those that succeed, those who run them do it often out of passion and/or (if successful) desire for success or money. I don't see a UBI influencing many of such people to leave their start-up or self-employed jobs.

So I don't see a UBI having much effect on taxes paid. In fact, it would probably encourage more people to try start-ups or self-employment, which could increase taxes paid.

A.F. Rey said...

Larry, could you demonstrate how to imbed links into sentences again?

Last time I tried it, it didn't work. Maybe two times a charm? :)

David Brin said...

Sorry for the delay moderating comments - I've been zooming a conference on "Air mining" CO2 out of the atmosphere.
Here's the public website you are welcome to share: https://conference.airminers.org/

David Brin said...

Catfish I used to think that Roberts cared most about the institution of the Court. That is what he talks about most. But I am now convinced that’s a scam. He is as suborned - and likely blackmailed - as anyone in DC.

But the following is cogent: “A violation of the Constitution as clear as halting the election for anything short of holocaust-apocalypse level emergency would need all three branches' support to sustain -- which won't happen. And the states, not the Feds, have the authority and mechanism to actually run the elections. So what happens if Lord Farquaad declares an election cancellation, SCOTUS agrees, and the states hold the vote anyway? Remember, the House is the ultimate arbiter on the validity of both its own members and on the election of the President; the Senate is the ultimate arbiter on the validity of its own members and on the election of Vice President.” In short, it is entirely possible (by design!) to elect a Congress and a new President even in the face of Federal executive and judiciary opposition. And if necessary, that's what will happen."

I would add that there is precedent for proceeding with a new Congress even if many states did not choose to participate in the election. That precedent is 1960,2,4, when many of the same states that would support an election delay this time stalked off, in a huff then.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

Ha! He doesn't care about the Court's institution a flying flip! But he cares -- some -- about his own powerbase. I don't think he would be a happy man if he became a rubberstamp. But if it were that or being destroyed, he'd sell out the Constitution.

You're going to have to explain that bit about "not participating in the election". Are you talking about the Dixiecrat vote in the presidential election, or something more?

Larry Hart said...

A.F Rey:

Larry, could you demonstrate how to imbed links into sentences again?


Sorry, I don't know that one. Acacia gives an example above, though.

David Brin said...

Catfish almost none of the representatives or Senators elected from seceding states in 1860 showed up for Congress in 1861. None in 1862 and 1864, hence the quorum was based upon those still participating. Hence, if Trump were to "defer" the November 2020 election - or declare a boycott that neo-confederate states participated in - the rest of the states could hold their elections as usual, then have their electors vote and send their Representatives to the new Congress. The precedent for those states who withdrew is clear. They are ignored.

David Brin said...

" Remember, the House is the ultimate arbiter on the validity of both its own members and on the election of the President; the Senate is the ultimate arbiter on the validity of its own members and on the election of Vice President.” In short, it is entirely possible (by design!) to elect a Congress and a new President even in the face of Federal executive and judiciary opposition. And if necessary, that's what will happen.”

The potential weird outcomes exceed even those I speculated in the “Exit Strategies’ chapter of POLEMICAL JUDO. For example, a Biden-Trump presidency? No, won’t happen, because the House votes for president with one vote per state, favoring redders, despite whatever the vast majority of the people want.

matthew said...

So Catfish, your argument that Trump could not postpone the election is that Roberts cares about the legitimacy of SCOTUS? That is a pretty thin fig leaf. Roberts has already shown that he is willing to let the GOP get away with BS - remember that he was presiding over the removal trial in the Senate and let the GOPpers get away with all kinds of crap but clamped down hard on the Dems at the same time.

To all those that have used POTUS term-limit arguments, or Article II arguments, remember - The President's Emergency Powers are undefined, and 5-4 SCOTUS is the last word on their legality. Lincoln suspended the Constitution during the Civil War. We've already established the precedent that Emergency Powers can nullify the Constitution. It's not that big a step to "wait until the COVID danger is over before electing a new POTUS." Or Congress for that matter.

The New York Times editorial board would fall all over themselves to agree how elections must wait until the emergency is done, just to show how nonpartisan they are.

If some of the states voted and some did not, then the whole GOP-Media mafia would scream about Trump being the real POTUS, and Biden (presumably) being a fraud.

If we don't acknowledge how far from the usual politics we have traveled already, then we will fail to see how short the distance is to GOP hegemony.

David Smelser said...

I think canceling the election is the wrong scenario.

I think it much more likely that we'll see some sort of legal challenge -- another 2000 supreme court decision. But instead of hanging chads, it will have to with some other election day disaster (problems with electronic voting machines or electronic poll books). Or even that it gets exposed that a bunch of Russians operating out of the Ukrane get exposed for helping Biden (and Trump wants all those votes thrown out).


David Smelser said...

I've got a question on UBI.

What prevents consumer price inflation gobbling up all the new income those on the lower rungs now have? Suppose UBI essential doubles or triples the income of what were minimum wage earners. What prevents landlords from increasing their rents? Doesn't basic supply and demand say that rents increase because there is the same number of units available to rent and then average renter has more income?

Larry Hart said...

Catfish 'n Cod:

You're going to have to explain that bit about "not participating in the election". Are you talking about the Dixiecrat vote in the presidential election, or something more?


Dr Brin unfortunately typoed the years. He meant the Civil War, 1860, etc.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

No, won’t happen, because the House votes for president with one vote per state, favoring redders, despite whatever the vast majority of the people want.


True 'dat, but I think the article speculating on that possibility was considering if only blue states held elections for Congress and red states cancelled elections.

Acacia H. said...

@David Smelser, those arguments are used on why we can't increase the minimum wage and why people shouldn't be making $15 an hour working retail jobs. Inevitably landlords are held up as being greedy and likely to increase rents to absorb all of that money and then some. While it may be a valid enough argument, many places have rent controls in place. Passing laws requiring landlords to upgrade apartments when they increase rents would also most likely restrain that tendency as landlords often hold off on repairs and the like until after a tenant is kicked out and they're trying to "sell" the place to a new renter.

That said, there is a far more likely outcome to a $1,000 monthly UBI. You would see a lot of urban dwellers use that new source of money to move. They'd go to a rural state where rent is a lot cheaper or where they can buy a house for $20,000 (and there are still remote places where it's that cheap). And as the number of renters vanish? Landlords would be forced to lower rent in order to keep their apartments full enough to be profitable... or they would end up selling their properties or being foreclosed upon.

The entire economy would shift. But in doing so it would also massively disrupt the balance of power as regions that once voted conservatively all at once have a bunch of liberals showing up and voting in more liberal candidates. The last bastion of the Republican Party would crumble and they would have to change or die off.

Acacia H.

duncan cairncross said...

Dave Smelser

Re UBI and inflation - that would only happen if there was an actual shortage of things to spend the money on - we could reach that stage but today we are miles away from that possibility

As Reason said

2. One big effect of the UBI will be regional redistribution of both income and people. In short many people will move to where they can afford to live rather than where they can find work, and work will follow them (as their purchasing power moves).

Which is a major plus point about a UBI I had overlooked!
With a UBI there will be a movement away from the more expensive areas and towards the cheaper areas with a DECREASE of rents in the expensive areas and an increase in the cheap areas and an overall benefit to both

David Brin said...

Support for DD and Acacia's argument about mobility? We already have social security doing exactly what they describe.

duncan cairncross said...

Scidata linked to a report showing that the more "democratic" a country was the better it did at controlling the virus

That is what the report says but they have to twist and distort the data into a pretzel to make it show anything like that!!

To me the data links to two seperate "things"
(1) How "community minded" the people were
(2) How fast and efficient the individual governments were

TCB said...

Dunno if anyone linked this before, but there's a Trump Coronavirus Death Clock billboard in Times Square ticking off the count of Americans dead from the Trump regimes inaction and malfeasance.

The 56-foot sign was conceived by documentary filmmaker Eugene Jarecki. "It was just an effort on the part of myself and my team to quantify what we were learning from the epidemiologists," says Jarecki. "What we found was that there was an amazing and very dark truth underlying the numbers that spoke to reckless mishandling of a pandemic by the president and his team, and we felt that ought to be quantified."

Jarecki's Death Clock assumes that 60% of US deaths are Trump's fault based solely on delaying the lockdown from March 9 to March 16. We can reasonably assume Trump is responsible for many more owing to other factors, but the Clock is keeping it simple. The current figure on its website is currently 50,584 excess deaths, simply from that delay.

TCB said...

I made that same mobility argument in a 2018 letter to the New Yorker.

Proof.

scidata said...

Re: the Oxford Martin paper

They certainly do 'pretzelize' things. Until you come to their shocking conclusion: they don't consider the US to be a functioning democracy any more!

David Brin said...

onward
onward

yana said...


Used to be a RASR, until it was made clear that i was no longer welcome. Just as well, now it's clear that the Republican Party has become an active force for evil in the world. But as a RASR, was a consistent eye-roller and "har-har"-er whenever someone brought up Universal Basic Income. On that, am a fairly recent convert. Yesterday, didn't mention what i thought was a hole in my argument for it: would it work without rent controls?

And today, that concern is addressed here, thanks to all! Not sure if i completely agree that folks will pick up and move away from family, friends, social and professional networks.

But one thing i feel good about believing: if someone's rent is $1,000 now, and after a UBI of $1,000 the landlord jacks it up to $2,000 well then... that's more than enough for a mortgage payment for a substantial sized house. $24K a year? That's like a 15-year mortgage on a $250,000 house with a nice yard and double garage.

If the demand skyrockets, housing starts fly up, the middle class doubles in size, and bye bye recession.

David Brin said...

onward

onward

A.F. Rey said...

Since this thread is cut, let me use it to test Acacia's HTML tag to embed a hyperlink in a sentence (assuming Dr. Brin evers notices it :) ):

UFO Publishing

which is

(a href="https://alexshvartsman.com/ufo-unidentified-funny-objects/")UFO Publishing(/a)

with <> instead of ()

A.F. Rey said...

Yahoo! It works!

Thanks, Dr. Brin. My posts will be so pretty now.

Now I can finally start working on improving their content... :)