Let's resume posting chapters from Polemical Judo. The last one dealt with what I deem the most important 'political' issue of all - whether there might be hundreds in Washington - and other centers of power - who could (if properly encouraged) blow the whistle and expose terrible things... including the very blackmail used to control them.
I still call it the under-appreciated threat of our time -- and the greatest opportunity for dramatic counter moves.
This time? Well, we're going to SKIP Chapter 9 of the book. It deals with international relations, especially China. If you want it (and some insights you'll find nowhere else), then maybe buy the book? (Cheap!)
This time, Chapter Ten goes to the heart of a central catechism of the right... that government is the the foremost threat to freedom and prosperity.
Reagan said "The ten scariest words in English are 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help!" Cute. Folksy and ironic, it got laughter and applause... from millions of hypocrite-ingrates, happy to betray everything the Greatest Generation had done for them...
But hold. Before diving in though, how about pausing for some topical stuff?
== Who won that first debate? ==
Did Ol' Joe do a solid job conveying the choice between a good-natured, wise, calm and pragmatic grandpa vs. a raving, jibbering-lying lunatic? Sure he did. He also made clear that he is a solid beta-plus, surrounded by beta-plusses, who would govern reasonably well... but who would not know a political judo tactic if it grabbed them by the scruff. ... (Hear me Ron Klain? You can do better than this!) ... Oh, sure, it's easy to Monday-quarterback: "he shoulda reacted like THIS!" Like leaping on Trump's "Stand down and stand ready" command to his brown-shirts....
Let’s hear this incantation the next time you dial 911…
It won’t surprise you that much of a chapter on the right’s hatred of “government” will focus on this stunning sub-topic: that anyone – even a jibbering dogmatist – could pose such a question about tax-supported R&D with a straight face. Yep, who needs the one thing that vastly multiplied all U.S. productivity since World War II. Heck, that enabled us to win World War II.
But let’s put that particular insanity in larger context. Because, as we saw in “The War on All Fact People” (Chapter 5), there’s a much larger agenda at foot.
The hypnotic incantation that would have bemused and appalled our parents in the Greatest Generation – those who persevered to overcome the Depression and Hitler, then contained Stalinism, went to the moon, developed successful companies, built a mighty middle class and began a grinding journey toward improved justice, all in an era of powerful unions and high tax rates. The mixed society that they built emphasized a wide stance, pragmatically stirring private enterprise with targeted collective actions, funded by a consensus negotiation process called The resulting civilization was more successful – by orders of magnitude – than any other. Than any combination of others.
So why do we hear endlessly repeated nostrums – pushed by right-wing media and some on the left – that this wide-stance, mixed approach is all wrong? In fact, showed distrust of government among Americans at an all-time high. Ronald Reagan, the most avid and effective promulgator of this meme, famously repeated:
“The scariest words in the English language are – I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
Of course folks who clapped and cheered at that snark are among the first to demand that help, at any excuse. Indeed, this general, abstract loathing collapses when citizens are asked which specific parts of government they’d shut down. It turns out that most of them like specific things their taxes pay for.
“Declining trust in government has spread across nearly all advanced industrial democracies since the 1960s/1970s,” writes political scientist Russell Dalton: “Regardless of political history, electoral system, or style of government, most contemporary publics are less trustful of government than they were in the era of their grandparents.” This despite the fact that we are richer and better off by almost any measure you can name.
We all know that Congress polls as the least trusted institution in American life – yet, in each district, we keep re-electing our own crook. (Though churches have also taken a steep hit, and are now trusted by much less than half.)
In a sense, this isn’t new. For a century and a half, followers of Karl Marx demanded that we amputate society’s of market-competitive enterprise and rely only on socialist (left-handed) for economic control. (See Chapter 9’s section on central planning.)
Meanwhile, Ayn Rand’s ilk proclaim we must lop off our – forswearing any coordinated projects that look beyond the typical five year (nowadays shrunken to just quarterly) commercial investment horizon. 
Any sensible person would respond:
Does that sound too practical and moderate for this era? Our parents thought they had dealt with all this, proving decisively that calm negotiation, compromise and pragmatic mixed-solutions work best, though preferably with a lean toward letting individuals, small groups and markets solve whatever they can. The Greatest Generation would be stunned to see that fanatical would-be amputators are back in force, ranting nonsense.
WHY NO ONE ANSWERED THE “TEA PARTY” SCAM
It still seethes, and I mentioned in several of the postings that comprise this volume – the insipid lunacy of letting crypto-confederates in the so-called “Tea Party Rebellion” get away with hijacking the American Revolution.
This wasn’t just stupidity of course, Many liberals shy away from looking at the “Founders,” for fear of being tarred with their admitted faults. Huge ones like the fact that some – Washington and Jefferson – owned slaves. Though others, like Adams and Franklin, were fiery in condemnation, setting alight the abolitionist movement.
In Chapter 14, I talk about how the 1770s Revolution might be viewed as Phase One of our ever-recurring U.S. Civil War. But more important is to utterly demolish the propaganda that it was an uprising against taxation per se, or against “government bureaucracy.” First, the complaint was “No taxation without representation,” and you have only to read contemporary accounts to know how furious Americans were that some of the Empire’s biggest and most industrious cities and regions had no one to speak for them in Parliament. Ben Franklin was sent to Britain by Pennsylvania primarily to persuade the Penn family to allow themselves to be taxed. They owned 70% of the land and refused. Other colonies were similarly bollixed. And by the way, this obstinacy on the part of the top 1% of 1% was similar in France, in 1789, when the First Estate utterly refused to help... and thereupon lost their heads.
Moreover, it was maritime commercial cities like Boston, New York, and Philadelphia that expressed fury at the king-crony monopolists, whose mafia protection racket forced all colonial trade to pass through their ports and docks, extorting bribes every step of the way. An oligarchy of absentee lords who owned two-thirds of all the land in the colonies and refused – under feudal privilege – to let it be taxed, as did the lords in 1789 France and our own oligarchs today.
There were other grievances in the Declaration of Independence, such as Parliament’s insistence that colonies stop issuing their own money, which had kept economic activity so vigorous that there were no slums or unemployed, until the new restrictions caused a depression. And yes, there was grumbling over the law forbidding migration over the Appalachians. What you won’t find in the Declaration is much of anything that at all resembles the list of grudges issued by today’s so-called Tea Party, subsidized by the Koch brothers and other kingly aristocrats.
Why did no one answer the “tea party” scam to hijack the American Revolution? As I’ve said repeatedly: our generals in this fight – at least till recently – seem… deficient.
It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion.
– Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, Chapter II, Part II 
COMPETITION’S CONTRADICTIONS… AND A SOLUTION
For a supposed liberal polemicist, I hang around libertarians a fair amount. And why not? Some are among the liveliest minds I know. Anyway, I’ll give them this – they invite me to berate and argue with them. That’s a hopeful sign. Alas, as we’ll discuss in a chapter devoted to that movement, libertarians have allowed paid shills to sway them into a bizarre conversion. So I start by demanding: Isn’t libertarianism fundamentally an appreciation of competition?
I openly avow – as did that founder of liberalism, Adam Smith – that competition is the greatest creative force in the universe. Competition produced all of nature's evolutionary marvels, including us. By far the most successful human enterprise – science – is inherently adversarial as scientists go at each other relentlessly. Moreover the arts, supposedly our "highest" endeavors, are often ferociously competitive, even when they lecture us about cooperation! The core enlightenment processes – entrepreneurial markets, science, democracy and justice – all produce the modern miracle of positive-sum outcomes that way, as companies, laboratories, politicians, attorneys and folks like you all strive to do better than your rivals, creating (however imperfectly, so far) the famous rising tide that lifts all boats. Nor is this book you are reading anything other than deeply competitive.
Yes, there are also many cooperative or consensus or even moral aspects... read Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments, to see that "competition" does not mean "cut-throat" or the brutal image of social darwinism. Not when it’s healthy. We’ll get to that, further down.
Alas, competition – in nature and primitive human societies (like ours) – contains an inherent contradiction. A runaway process of self-destruction that historically led – nearly always - to a particular kind of calamity...
...to the winner turning around and cheating! Adam Smith saw what had happened to markets and societies for millennia. Winners are never satisfied with success in the latest market battle, with a cool product or financial or political achievement. As humans, we use any recent advantage to ensure that competitors will fail in future struggles. To bias the next competition. To absorb their companies. Squat on patents. Craft monopolies or cartels to divvy-up the souk or bazaar. Spy on competitors, but keep them - and consumers - in the dark. Capture regulators and politicians. Make sure the laws favor us.
The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order, ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men, whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.
– Adam Smith The Wealth of Nations, Chapter XI, Part III
Victory on the battlefield may have made you great, but you don’t want to return there again and again for an endless series of even matches! Yet, Smith showed that’s exactly what’s needed! Flat-fair-open-creative competition must go on and on, maximizing innovation while minimizing blood on the floor.
There is a clear example of how we can and have tamed that old contradiction, transforming from reciprocal destruction into endlessly vigorous, positive sum competition. That example is the system of ritualized combat called sports, where returning weekly for relatively even matches became the core idea and keeping competition credibly fair became the ruling obsession.
Smith saw how cheating by owner-oligarchs wrecked the creative effectiveness of markets – the same cheating that frustrated the American founders and propelled them to Revolution. And so - in the seminal year 1776 - Smith called for something new. A way to get the best, most creative-competitive juices flowing in the largest possible variety of human beings, while preventing many old failure modes. As in sports, competition in economics and politics and civil life can only be self-sustaining – continuing to deliver positive-sum outcomes – if it happens amid a network of transparent, fine-tuned, relentlessly scrutinized and universally enforced rules.
== A “Clock” Showing What We Got ==
One of the best bits of political polemic has been the “National Debt Clock,” spinning up the rapid pace at which deficits pile burdens on our children. And yes, despite Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) – the liberal attempt to out-voodoo Supply Side – debt does matter. Only note that when we had surpluses and black ink under Bill Clinton, how conveniently the Debt Clock went “out of order,” rather than honestly run backward. So much for honest polemic.
Oh, how’s this for an easy-quick and devastating answer to the “hate-all-government” hypnosis! I’d love to see a second “National Debt Clock” showing where the U.S. deficit would be now – likely running surpluses – if we taxpayers had charged just a !
Oh there were solid policy reasons to choose otherwise. And those reasons may be obsolete. Anyway, in an era of jibbering dogmatists, how effective such a “clock” would be. We deserve such a tasty piece of counter propaganda. (See: )
 This chapter comes largely from an essay in Evonomics circa 2016. https://evonomics.com/david-brin-ultimate-answer-government-useless/
 “Do we really need government-funded research at all?” https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2016/12/21/14012552/trump-budget-director-research-science-mulvaney Indeed, ponder who would benefit from a plummet in U.S. scientific pre-eminence, and see if it overlaps with Mulvaney’s and Trump’s purported masters. There is no contradiction.
 A BBC article lists how government research enabled all of the advances that led to the iPhone. http://www.bbc.com/news/business-38320198
 Pew poll on mistrust of government. http://www.people-press.org/2015/11/23/beyond-distrust-how-americans-view-their-government/
 Red states are on-average and total far higher recipients of federally mediated transfers of wealth, contracts and assistance.
 Russell Dalton. https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/03/03/americans-have-lost-faith-in-institutions-thats-not-because-of-trump-or-fake-news/?hpid=hp_hp-cards_hp-posteverything%3Ahomepage%2Fcard&utm_term=.e086ffb2ad3a
 2019 note: The “AOC uprising” – toppling old-line liberal reps in primaries – echoes the “Tea Party” rebellion of 20 years ago.
 Over 700 charges – as of mid 2019 - of sexual abuse hitting just now slamming the Southern Baptist Convention. https://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/investigations/article/Southern-Baptist-sexual-abuse-spreads-as-leaders-13588038.php
 Guided allocation: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2006/06/allocation-vs-markets-ancient-struggle.html
 My own acerbic dissection of Rand’s arguments and fiction is at: http://www.davidbrin.com/nonfiction/aynrand.html
 “The musical Hamilton brilliantly allows us to own and digest, rather than just assail, the Founders and their faults. A tragic hero brought down by a sex scandal... when one of his opponents (Jefferson) had his own affair to hide. Unsavory business dealings and shady characters lurking about... accusations of double-dealing... even potentially treasonous discussions with foreign powers? All there. And all still topical. There's a smart progressive way to engage with the Founders and we need more people to wake up and use it.” – Dr. Allen Bryan.
 A good source for all things adamsmithian - http://adamsmithslostlegacy.blogspot.com/search/label/Vile%20Maxim
 As we’ll see later, the “C-word” – competition – is seldom mentioned at libertarian gatherings anymore. It has been replaced – after decades of subsidized propaganda aimed at that community – by another sacred touchstone: “P” for Property. Sure, property is necessary to some degree, in order to incentivize market activity and there’s nothing wrong with fair rewards fostering success. But like all good things – water, oxygen, food, sex – excess concentration becomes toxic. When confronted directly about this wholesale abandonment of the C-word, in favor of propertarian oligarchy, many libertarians instantly get it and blush with embarrassment.
 “The United States, by contrast, holds a reputation in large parts of Europe as the epitome of winner-takes-all capitalism, yet it operates variants of a proto-socialist model for all of its major sports. Success is hailed, yet curtailed, and failure rewarded: The worst-placed teams get the first pick in the following season’s draft of new players, allowing them to restock on talent, a form of redistribution rejected elsewhere in the American economy…. American sports are not so because they like socialism–they are simply taking the best path to making money.” From Sports: America’s Wildly Successful Socialist Experiment. The Atlantic 2019. https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/09/us-europe-soccer-football/598012/
 Fair competition isn’t just a matter of morality. It is also the way to maximize competitive output, by ensuring that bright people and teams get second, third chances and so on. And creating ever-flowing opportunities for new competitors to keep arising from the population of savvy, educated and empowered folk. That kind of fairness requires rules and careful tending to ensure new competitors can and will always arise to challenge last year's winners. And that earlier winners can't cheat. Because... we've seen... they will.
 Fiscal cliff. http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2012/10/eight-causes-of-deficit-fiscal-cliff.html