Thursday, July 26, 2012

Renaming Killers -- the idea spreads

NamesInfamyFolks have been writing in, ever since I posted the latest version of my "Names of Infamy" essay.  In fact, during just the last few days there has been a noticeable media swell - - a growing movement not to mention the name of the Aurora/Batman shooter.

As reported by Molly Hennesy-Fiske of the Los Angeles Times:  "Jordan Ghawi, 26, of San Antonio became frustrated by how much of news coverage focused on the 24-year-old Holmes. 'Let us remember the names of the victims and not the name of the coward who committed this act,' Ghawi tweeted Friday afternoon. The tweet went viral. When some Twitter followers noticed Holmes' name trending on Twitter - something Ghawi said bothered his mother - they started a campaign to promote (a victim's) name instead."

On Sunday, Mr. Ghawi made his pitch directly to President Obama, who chose not to mention the shooter by name, in his public remarks.

Not a new idea, this worthy notion goes back to the last century, even long before I proposed it publicly in Salon Magazine (1999), describing the "Herostratos Effect" in which ancient peoples would sometimes expunge the names of those committing heinous crimes.

The pros and cons and means of doing this in a modern context, while preserving full memory, accountability and freedom of speech, lead to some interesting possibilities.

Although my most recent posted version of the Herostratos essay led to some radio time,  I imagine Mr. Ghawi and the others thought of this notion independently -- and more power to them! Good ideas sometimes take time, before finally gaining traction.

Still,  the intellectual/historical side of things may be of interest, if this idea is to build momentum and become a factor in solving a terrible human problem.

=== The absurd nostrums on "gun control" ==

My "names of infamy" proposal is actually quite separate from another matter -- the endless tussle over gun control.

And yet, the two topics inevitably get conflated at a time like this. At least, they were in a flood of emails, comments and assertions on facebook, twitter and this web log, proclaiming that "this sort of thing brings out  hordes of liberals campaigning to eliminate the Second Amendment and gun owner rights."

Speaking as a Smithian libertarian, but one who finds liberals worthy to talk-to, may I respond with a simple request? Will someone please show me this campaign?  Point to specific bills, or sustained efforts, even solidly backed proposals with even a slight chance of enactment.

They don't exist.  And this simple little cartoon from Tom Tomorrow sums it up neatly.

Only one serious gun control notion is getting even tepid mention: to restore the requirement that people get checked out and licensed before blithely purchasing full-on assault rifles with mega-sized magazines.  The very law that would have prevented the Aurora shooter-nut from easily acquiring his means to spray mass death.

That rule was passed, way back in the sane 20th Century, by an old thing called negotiated consensus between sober democratic and republican leaders... a pragmatic measure that led to no "slippery slope," nor any decay in reasonable gun-owner rights. Alas, it was flushed away by the later, crazier breed controlling Congress in 2005.

Now before you call me a lefty nut, please pause for perspective: those who denounced the assault gun licensing requirement  -- and who howl now against its restoration -- seem to have no problem with the ongoing, 70 year old rule against private ownership of full-scale machine guns. So then, it's just a matter of where you choose to draw lines, right?

Jefferson-rifleSee my essay, The Jefferson Rifle: Guns and the Insurrection Myth.

Raising this question: when one whacko can kill or wound 72 people in a couple of minutes, so quickly that no brave bystander gets a chance to tackle him, isn't that a "machine gun" style situation? Can you contemplate that maybe - just maybe - your line-in-the-sand may have been drawn just a tad too far? Is it possible to rediscover the sane art of pragmatic compromise, without fainting away or screeching in dread of a Slippery Slope?

I have shown a possible national compromise that would be a win-win... actually strengthening the constitutional guarantees of basic, essential gun ownership, while at the same time allowing pragmatic measures to be taken that reduce some of the worst calamities... all without a slippery slope.  (That is, I have shown it to the half dozen people who still have both curiosity and the patience to read careful arguments. If you choose not to actually read that proposal, please don't gush forth generalized comments here, about what you presume it to be.)

Anyway, it's all much, much simpler than that.

The Slippery Slope does not exist. Not anymore.  It's a fantasy. And I can prove it.

The fact is - and, again let me remind you that I say this not as a "liberal" but as a Heinleinian-Smithian Libertarian - the right seems completely unaware of a seismic shift that happened under G.W. Bush --

-- when many liberals started arming themselves.

Yes, they are. As is their perfect right.

Now tell that to your crazy uncle and watch multiple expressions pass across his face, as it sinks in.


Commander Zaius said...

-- when many liberals started arming themselves.

As a Southerner who deer hunted in my younger days and as someone who served in the army, guns and assault weapons for me don’t have that allure that seems to affect many civilians for whom they are a large part of their manhood. That being said I am a liberal bordeing on progressive/socialist and I own a Sig Sauer MK25. It’s a damn fine weapon.

rewinn said...

The Jefferson rifle concept sounds logical, perhaps too logical to address the emotions underlying the desire to have assault rifles, but I suppose it's worth proposing if only to get a discussion on the point of insurrection against a tyrant. If every adult at age 18 was given a gun class and a deer rifle, that might in practical terms satisfy the anti-tyranny claim without making America appreciably less safe; perhaps when joined to mandatory gun safety classes, it might make us more safe. Perhaps we could get the gun manufacturers to come along with the carrot of guaranteed sales.

May I make a suggestion address the other purpose advanced for unregulated guns: personal defense against criminals?

The problem with guns acquired for personal defense is that they're impossible to distinguish from guns acquired for, or misused in, inappropriate uses, notably committing crimes themselves. How could they be? A glock is a glock whether in the hands of Marian the Librarian or Attila the Hun.

I propose that weapons for personal protection (that is, all but the Jefferson Rifles) be equipped with cameras: one for the target, one for the wielder. When the safety is taken off, the cameras start recording and uploading thru the nearest handy cellphone tower.

If the wielder is in fact brandishing the weapon to frighten off badguys, this provides evidence of appropriate intent. If the weapon is discharged, then there is evidence exonerating the wielder. OTOH if the use is inappropriate, then that's recorded too.

Weapons not equipped with this feature are defective for personal defense and therefore subject to manufacturer recall for repair.

I have not the slightest hope that such a system would be implemented but I am open to criticism as to why it would not be an improvement on what we now have.

Andy DM said...

I've wondered, if two bearded men walked into a gun shop, bought loads of guns and ammo but just at the moment before paying, one turned to the other and said.

"Do you think that's enough ammo for Sunday?" with the other one replying, "I think so, inshallah, we'll show them Allahu Akbar"

Exactly how keen will the gun shop owner be on unrestricted gun sales then?

Nyctotherion said...

I'm curious about how guns are supposed to work in a public response scenario. Say a gunman starts firing into the crowd, and five or six civilians draw down:

These civilians more than likely don't know each other any more than the gunman: How do they tell friend from foe?

Ian Gould said...

The whole idea of "gun control" as its been conseived up to this point may be about to be rendered meaningless:

"As the technology improves, 3D printers are being used more and more to create a wide variety of objects, some incredibly useful (like skeletal implants) and some just for fun (like custom robot figurines). Here's another - somewhat controversial - example of just how ubiquitous this technology could become: a working gun built using an AR-15 rifle part made with a 3D printer."

When 30-round clips and the conversion kits to turn semi-auto rifles into full-auto weaposn are capable of being downloaded from The Pirate Bay, we outside the US are about experience the same "freedoms" you Americans have so enjoyed.

I can hardly wait.

Seriously, controlling what guns people can buy is about to become largely irrelevant.

You may as well forget that and move on top computer-based surveillance to detect people behaving in a suspicious manner (like taking multiple long-arms to a movie showing.)

Nyctotherion, considering that 50% or more of soldiers etiher freeze up entirely or fire randomly in their first real combat experience, that's an excellent question.

Carl M. said...

I could go for some meaningful compromise on the gun issue if we weren't in the process of becoming a police state. When no-knock searches become normal, when the U.S. jail population is the highest in the world and government agents grope with improbable cause, I ain't in a compromising mood.

How about we use the Second Amendment for its original purpose: defending soft targets from terrorists? The U.S. had a far worse terrorist problem in the 1700s than today. Having sufficient professional soldiers to defend the frontier was impractical, so we had militias.

And yes you can blame the Bush Administration on this one. The less of 9/11 is you cannot rely on 9/11 if you have a terrorist problem. The required security force is too large to keep uncorrupted. You have to deputize civilians. Our first response to that tragedy should have been to arm the pilots. Perhaps with Tasers instead of guns, but arm them. Maybe even arm the stewardesses (with tasers keyed to rings worn by same). That, and simply showing a marathon of old westerns following the event so people could remember what "riding shotgun" meant.

If you rely on deputized civilians for soft target defense, you have a democratic executive to go along with democratically passed laws. You won't need the Second Amendment to overthrow a rogue executive since you won't get one in the first place.

Tom Crowl said...

The NRA is certainly a powerful lobby...

The funny thing is...

Most people actually favor reasonable controls... (though not a total ban)

Actually a very reasonable approach.

If only there were some way for regular people to become part of a meaningful lobbying process...


The Chagora Model: Scaling Speech

The political microtransaction has never before existed...

But its a fundamental of speech that sooner-or-later won't be denied.

Acacia H. said...

To go off the Second Amendment argument for a second and return to a question I had just before Brin went off on a tangent (I thought that was my thing...):

I've a small question. We have weather balloons that can reach the ozone layer, correct? We also are able to through a multitude of processes manufacture ozone. So why don't we take pressurized canisters with ozone and put them on weather balloons that are designed to reach the ozone layer and not go past it... and slowly release the pressurized ozone into the layer?

If this is done over inhabited regions, it could repair damage that is apparently being done by these intense thunderstorms. We could even initially try this out in an uninhabited region to see what the effects are: Antarctica.

Rob H.

Ian Gould said...

Robert, unforunately you'd need millions of tons of Ozone to make a measurable distance.

Larry C. Lyons said...

Gun control laws work. We have a natural experiment running, with large Canadian cities very near the US border. Places like Seattle and Vancouver, Winnipeg and Minneapolis, etc are very demographically similar and would allow for a comparison of emergency room visits, fire arm related homicides and other crimes, as well as firearm related accidents. While its been done on a smaller scale (Seattle vs. Vancouver), it has not been conducted on a large enough basis.

Although I doubt that it will make much of a difference - firearms are much too entrenched in this country. Moreover groups like the NRA have a vested interest in the current situation. They need a continuous crisis of a "government" threat of confiscating firearms in order to keep the coffers full and make sure that the directors etc get their 6 or 7 figure income.

Acacia H. said...

Would it be that much? From what I understand, the amount of ozone in the ozone layer is minuscule. It's just far greater than normal atmospheric ozone. While the region is significant (larger than the surface area of the Earth), would it truly be millions of tons, or just a few hundred? Mind you, I've not tried to figure out the volume of ozone that would be in the ozone layer so I'm just guessing.

Rob H.

Acacia H. said...

And Larry, you make the NRA sound very much like how Republicans make Labor Unions sound - a scam meant to make a few people rich and not truly represent the people it's supposed to.

Rob H.

Ian Gould said...

According ot the ever dubitable Wikipedia, the ozoen layer is an area 10 kilomteres high in which the Ozoen concentration is 10 parts per million.

An area 1 kilometre square and 10 kilomtres high would contain 10 cubic kilometres of atmosphere or 10 million cubic metres.

So that area of the Ozone layer would contain the eqivalent of 100 cubic metres of Ozone.

It's gone midnight here so I'm not going to attempt the math as to the mass but you could probably fit that much into pressurized task on a ballon.

But that'd cover one square kilometre.

The surface area of Antarctica is 14 MILLION square kilometres and the Ozone hole is larger than Antarctica.

Dmitry Groshev said...

I'm wondering why it's about guns at all? The issue here is a lot deeper, and you've touched it in Existence: with civilization advancement, there are more and more power in one's hands. Today you can get some biological education, spend some bucks (looks like 5-digit-number will be enough) and present to world a terrible disease that will kill thousands if not millions. And it will never become better, only worse. And it's practically impossible to restrict technologies that are available to Joe The Maniac, so the only reasonable way is to study such individuals and try to prevent new massacres by the means of psychology and education.

Tim H. said...

Concerning Ozone, in the absence of chlorine, it will regenerate. BTW, one gets the impression that the only worrisome chlorine is from CFCs,true, false?

rewinn said...

Arming pilots was pointless once airlines installed door locks. The air pirates succeeded on 9/11 because pirates had usually before negotiated and therefore doctrine was to surrender and pay them off. Pilots now know surrender=death, so they won't surrender. Pirates know this so they have moved on to other means.
Hasn't anyone wondered by AQ hasn't simply performed @DM Andy's experiment, only without talking? A dozen clean-shaven terrorists with cash could do things that would make Colorado look small, so why haven't they? It may be that our counterintel is good enough to have caught those who tried it. Or it may be that they have decided that we Americans are hurting ourselves with our current gun policy, and they don't want us to stop.


It's worth noting that the current opposition to a very reasonable treaty limiting the international sale of small arms is opposed by the NRA on the basis of a wholly dishonest 2nd Amendment claim, and by dishonest I mean "lying". In this, the NRA is the ally of organized crime and for much the same reason: money. As evidence I offer the last issue of "American Rifleman" whose cover was taken up with appeals to send Wayne LaPierre money with which to defeat Obama (who has expanded gun rights in America) and elect Romney (who limited gun rights as governor.) To predict whether Wayne will bother to spend the money as he promises (Sheldon Adelson's pledge of hundreds of millions makes NRA a bit player) or simply use it to buy himself another nice suit, we might look for precedent to Pat Robertson (different church, same congregation).

D. D. Syrdal said...

RE: not naming the criminals, how about we give them names like we do for asteroids or stars when we have to refer to them? Use the Location and dates like AUCO20072012?

David Brin said...

Beach bum, thanks for illustrating my point. Well said. Do keep coming back.

Rewinn is right that the Jefferson rifle (JR) is less than totally satisfactory as a home defense weapon. For that, the ideal companion is a shotgun. But again, an old fashioned double barrel kind! That, too, could be included as safeguarded by constitutional amendment.

IDEALLY, both weapons should be designed to make it hard to saw them down to short length without destroying them.

But here's the point. If the Jefferson rifle and shotgun are safe from ANY regulation or registration, then the gun owner can go ahead and license and register and pass tests and all that for his Glock! I am not saying you'll be banned from having a glock! Just that you must do all the same things in preparing to own one that you must do for a car.

In fact, in my essay I suggest making handgun ownership EXACTLY like owning a car, down to cloning the rules as much as possible and making it the DMV&G.

The only reason to oppose that would be the slippery slope. But the slippery slope is ENDED with the Jefferson Rifle Amendment.

Sure the state may someday come for your glock... or your car. But if they come for your rifle, you and a million men will go to the rooftops and whole infantry divisions will rebel.

The camera idea is good. But again, leave em off the JR!

Larry Lyons... in fact a larger fraction of Canadians own guns than Americans! They just think of them very differently and use them very differently.

David Brin said...

Carl M... we actually agree more than you know. Please have a look at this essay of mine about relying on empowered citizens:
In solely emphasizing an elite, super-professional protector caste, are we following the same trend as the brittle late Roman Empire?

In fact, I just finished upgrading my Civil Defense status from mere CERT (community emergency response team) to CERT III and membership in the California Disaster Corps. You Americans ALL should consider finding your local CERT (through your fire dept) and taking the initial 20 hrs training and becoming part of your nation's lowest level resilience. And those luck(?) enough to live elsewhere? I am sure there is an equivalent.

David Brin said...

Udacian, long term solutions lie in human improvement, of course. My concern is much less about guns than about transparency, which will enable the enlightenment to function long enough to help us transition.

Robert, we can't put anything into "cans" at a sufficient scale to affect the atmosphere. It is a matter of scale.

Mr. Syrdal... hey! I have an asteroid. Keep your mitts off my asteroid!

Acacia H. said...

Here's the thing. We can't affect the entire atmosphere (in terms of putting ozone back into the ozone layer - carbon dioxide and the greenhouse effect is a different matter and has far greater scale). But we can effect specific regions... such as cities and populated suburban regions... or areas that are threatened by thin ozone regions.

So. How much (or little) ozone would be required to thicken the ozone layer over, say, Florida, or the Washington D.C. area?

And what's more, each little bit added will accumulate. While you are "patching" regions during the summer, that ozone will disperse and slowly replenish what has been lost until eventually there is sufficient that such patches aren't needed any longer.

Rob H., who sometimes wishes he went into the sciences (except for that damn Calculus! Curse you! *shakes fist at higher mathematics*)

Hans said...


How do you know that about liberals purchasing guns? I don't doubt that this is true (I'm a pretty liberal gun owner), but I'd like to know your source.



Hans said...

Oh, and that Tom Tomorrow is such a scamp! I loved his take on the clitoris.


sociotard said...

I thought this would tickle a certain "Age of Amateurs" fancy by way of a robust, prepared society:

"Any bystander CPR, not even good-quality bystander CPR, more than doubles and in some studies triples survival from cardiac arrest," said Dr. Ben Bobrow, medical director for the state of Arizona. "The question is how to get more people to do bystander CPR."

Perhaps one part of the answer lies in communications technology. For the past year, the city of San Ramon California has been experimenting with a smart phone app called Pulse Point, a push-notification response system for lay citizens.

Here's how it works. When the fireboard receives a call about a cardiac arrest , it activates Pulse Point, sending a ping to every person trained in CPR in the vicinity of the patient. The app directs the would-be responders to the victim, and alerts them to the location of nearby defibrillators. These app responders can then start CPR during those crucial first few moments before paramedics arrive.

Still, the cynic in me wonders how often a lowlife will use the app to find mostly-dead people so he can rifle through their pockets for loose change.

matthew said...

Wow, Pulse Point sounds like the future knocking on our door. Now, how about the same thing for other types of emergencies? Volunteer fire fighters, concealed-carry permits (full circle back to the post), math tutors (we have a calculus problem on aisle 4)? The next 15 years are gonna blow some minds...

Ian Gould said...

Matthew, you could deputize and train volunteer gun-owners as emergnecy first responders.

(Obviously, you'd subject them to psych tests, background checks etc.)

You could call them Minute Men.

David Brin said...

In gmail, I finally figured out how to find the spam folder. Can someone tell my how to do a SEARCH of my stored emails for a particular word or name?

Unknown said...

Anyone want to order blue union civil war kepi hads in bulk? Village Hat Shock will give a deal:

"I can obtain Cotton Kepi hats for you in bulk.
The price will be $6.25 each with a minimum order of 24 pieces.
The cost would be $150 + $18 shipping, grand total = $168.
The hats are in stock and we can ship within 2 business days."

Hm... they only confirmed the confederate model... I'll enquire further about the blue one. Ponder the effectiveness of a rally where two dozen are suddenly wearing these... and a TV reporter asks... "Why?" You'd get more than $170 in air time.

Ian said...

There's a search field at the top of the Gmail page David.

By default, it searches your inbox and your outbox.

But if you choose another folder - such as trash or spam - GMail will search in that folder.

David Brin said...

That's what I thought. Then it suddenly turned into a GOOGLE search. Now I see it changed modes and I was able to flick it back.

Just got an iMac with the new Mountain Lion.

sociotard said...

Just to add to everybody's webcomic list: Zen Pencils

He takes quotes and poetry and sets them to a webcomic format.

Sciency ones of interest:

Larry C. Lyons said...

Dr. Brin,

Where do you get those numbers? That is the exact opposite to the data. Last I checked the US had 88.8 firearms per 100 residents. Canada had 30.8 firearms per 100 residents.

Geneva Graduate Institute of International Studies. "Small Arms Survey 2007". Cambridge.

According to the Canadian Ministry of Justice in a 2005 report,

" The overall rate of firearm ownership is at least 241 per 100,000 population and is comparable to ownership rates in other countries where hunting is a significant activity."


As for differing attitudes towards firearms, yes. Its easier to get legal heroin in Canada than it is typically able to get a permit for a pistol. Aside from a small minority of gun fanatics, the vast majority of Canadians according to numerous surveys like the current very strict firearms laws.

Larry C. Lyons said...

BTW, I just upgraded to Mountain Lion. It then proceded to wreck my installs of the Adobe Coldfusion Web application server (no not the pseudo science thing), and my EEG software. Real fun figuring out a fix.

Jumper said...

Well, let's see. Surface of Earth is 510,000,000,000,000 meters. Going for an additional 300 Dobson units
gives us needing 1,530,000,000,000 cubic meters (standard pressure and temperature) of ozone, and at 2.14 kg per cubic meter, that's 3.3 million metric tons of ozone needed to deliver to the atmosphere. Less with targeting specific areas.

I won't wager that I made no mistakes.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin,

The last 50 pages of "Existence" are taking me forever to read. That's not a bad thing.

I've been having some thoughts along the lines of your notion that what we call the "self" or "individual" may just be a convenient fiction, covering multiple voices and points-of-view. While that's a useful metaphor, I tend not to go so far as to suggest that the notion of the individual is strictly fictional. The multiple voices are bound by biology, and the physical body does have to do one thing at one moment in time, forcing a consensus of sorts between the voices.

If the body is hungry, the voices may disagree on the best course of remedial action, but in the end, they have to make a single decision and live with the consequences. The shared physical experience is what creates "identity" between those disparate voices. As we come to exist more in cyberspace and less tied to physical action, I wonder what the subsequent (unintended?) effect might be on the "self".

LarryHart said...

...adding to the above...

Groups and communities of individuals have something in common with the voices that make up one's "self". I didn't vote for GW Bush in 2000 or 2004, but the country--the gestalt "self" of the USA--did. Does that make the notion of a "self" for the USA purely fictional? Yes and no.

If a group of teenagers is running down the street partying and some of them decide to smash windows, those who don't wish to participate can simply walk away--leave the gestalt. If I don't like the outcome of an election or Supreme Court decision, it's not so easy to "just walk away" from being an American citizen. I suspect that there is a continuum of group-identities that vary in ease of joining/leaving, and that the more stable the group's membership is, the more the members take on the role of "voices" in the head of a "self".

Note that strictures against divorce and extra-marital relationships attempt to portray marriage as a stable "self" responsible for "its" actions rather than as simply an arrangement between two separate individuals. Not also that free-agency in sports essentially destroys the concept of the team as a consistent "self", or at least relegates it more to the side of "fiction". Food for thought?

ell said...

My former employer allowed CPR training in the office during lunch periods. I suggested, and we actually did, add a column to the company phone list showing who was trained and certified in CPR. Handy thing to have -- phone number and CPR accreditation in one place on the wall or on the computer -- plus the name to holler if the CPR person sits nearby.

David Brin said...

Larry Lyons The discrepancy is simple to explain (my source was anti-gun lefty Michael Moore. Who plays a bit loose with fact at times but had no reason to lie in this case.

In the US... our gun nuts have LOTS of weapons... do you have a clue what I mean by "lots"? They skew the averages. A lot.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

I just finished "Existence".
It accompanied me on an Alaska cruise last week, but I only got part of it read on the trip.

I've got many questions that I will save for a bit so as not to spoil anything for others. Most are along the lines of "Hey, did we ever find out what happened to XXX?" Most will probably be answered by a re-read, but I'm sure you can understand that one cannot just dive right back into such a pool.

Without spoiling too much:

While your "character" may not apologize for the name-based pun toward the end, come ON, dude! You obviously named the character with the joke in mind. That's called "writing to the bit." Ok, you're forgiven, but really?

Graphic novelist Neil Gaiman made prolific use of the Latin phrase "Omnia Mutantur" for "Everything changes"--ironic in a comics medium which makes profuse use of characters who are themselves mutants. I liked your use of the English phrase.

And if you're looking to correct typos in later editions, at the bottom of hardcover page 541 (the page facing the drawing of the probe in chapter 96), Lacey is called "Lacy". For what it's worth.

David Brin said...

Thanks LarryHart! Glad you liked it and nits duly noted!

Tim H. said...

At the other end of firearm statistics, I haven't owned one in decades. A semiautomatic firearm seems like it would be at least as mechanically amusing as a Huret Duopar. Hmm, since the only thing better than new shiny is "Newer! Shinier!", how long 'til we see an ad like: "Hunt with the BFG 9000! No gutting! No skinning! In fact, no deer left at all!"?

infanttyrone said...

Re:Gun Control & 3-D Printers

Maybe everybody has snapped to this and decided to self-censor, but in case not...

At least in the USA, where owning a gun is not difficult for a non-felon, I see the big game changer implied by the article about 3-D printers in gizmag as being the increased availability of handgun accessories...especially the ones that are rated on a scale measured in dB's.

For any James Ellroy readers out there...remember to keep this "off the record, on the QT and very hush-hush".

For any Deep Purple's a version that predates theirs...

And here's one that came after...

David Brin said...

Philosophical ponderings of the nature of time... made funny.

LarryHart said...

Good old Paul Krugmann. When he's right, he's right:

You don’t even have to make a Keynesian argument about jobs to see that. All you have to do is note that when money is cheap, that’s a good time to invest. And both education and infrastructure are investments in America’s future; we’ll eventually pay a large and completely gratuitous price for the way they’re being savaged.

That said, you should be a Keynesian, too. The experience of the past few years — above all, the spectacular failure of austerity policies in Europe — has been a dramatic demonstration of Keynes’s basic point: slashing spending in a depressed economy depresses that economy further.

So it’s time to stop paying attention to the alleged wise men who hijacked our policy discussion and made the deficit the center of conversation. They’ve been wrong about everything — and these days even the financial markets are telling us that we should be focused on jobs and growth.

Tim H. said...

Keynesian stimulus was easier when it could be passed off as facing the NAZI menace, or containing international communism, especially when production needed more human labor. These days, the defense gigabucks don't buy nearly so many jobs, we aren't looking at anything near as extensive as 1946, when the largest air force in the world was obsoleted by the advent of jet aircraft. Implements of destruction seem to be the only sort of stimulus that'll bring conservatives on board, that is, if they're not already mutated beyond even that ;) . Looking like time to delink work from survival, if we can.

Ian Gould said...

Paul Krugman is wrong here - to an extent.

He faisl to take inot account expectation theory - pioneered by Milton Friedman and demosntrated in practise by Rubin and clinton.

He also largely ignores the fact that whilr it is generally true that spending cuts depress grwothm unsustainable levesl of sovereign debt also depress the economy further.

He also gratly overstates the extent of cuts in European spending.

Government spending as a ercentage of GDP in Spain, for example, remains above the average for the EU as a whole.

Many of the "cuts" he discusses are either the termination of temporary stimulus programs or cuts from projected higher future spending.

LarryHart said...

Ian Gould:

He [Krugmann] faisl to take inot account expectation theory - pioneered by Milton Friedman and demosntrated in practise by Rubin and clinton.

I'm not sure it's the same thing, but Krugmann often does mention the effect of expected Fed policy upon spending, and he argues that the Fed might have to create an expectation of allowing inflation for many months into the future. So I'm guessing he does know about whatever "expectation theory" actually is.

He also largely ignores the fact that whilr it is generally true that spending cuts depress grwothm unsustainable levesl of sovereign debt also depress the economy further.

Krugmann doesn't say the debt isn't a problem. He often mentions that it will have to be addressed eventually. But what he does argue is that right now, during a Great Depression, cutting back on spending does more harm than good. He doesn't claim that deficit reduction is always a bad idea--just that this isn't the time for it.

Many of the "cuts" he discusses are either the termination of temporary stimulus programs or cuts from projected higher future spending.

I think he'd argue that ANY cutting back in the velocity of money does harm in the current recessionary/depressionary climate.

Tony Fisk said...

Anyone ever done a thesis on economics as a belief system?

Tim H. said...

The stimulus that Obama was able to get past congress was, not very. What I think is required is something on the scale of what we had in the fifties, building three different ICBMs, the warheads for them, converting an air force to jets, building an interstate highway system and all at the same time. May I suggest rebuilding municipal water and waste treatment systems so they require less, or no chlorine? It would cost a lot, employ a lot, and perhaps, accomplish more than the R-12 ban. Yes, it would increase the deficit, and do it to help people, which has gone out of style, but the trajectory we're on seems worse.

Jumper said...

Doyne Farmer has a few interesting videos on YouTube. I don't normally watch such but I wanted to catch up and brevity was wanted.

Easy enough to find.

Stefan Jones said...

Patrick Farley will be posting sketches on a regular basis:

sociotard said...

Cracked has a bit that might be worth a look.

The 6 most important scifi ideas were invented by a hack

It points to a crappy unauthorized 'sequel' novel to War of the Worlds in which a fictionalized Thomas Edison goes to Mars to exact revenge

Question for Dr. Brin: Did you ever specify what Seeker's malevolent purpose was? He just muses that the humans will need to be ready when they meet him, and a definite vibe of malice was established, but I never figured out what he was actually up to.

David Brin said...

Seeker's Purpose wasn't necessarily malevolent. Indeed, I hint later that humanity forced changes on the Purpose, but still found it acceptably close enough to work with.

What I implied was that it was patronizing, coercive, smug and intolerably secretive-mysterious...

... and I have long known, as a writer, that mysterious becomes less-so when you spell it out! See: you thought about it! I planted a mind worm. The whole point of "lungfish" and the Existence was to mention every possibility and then by definition claim "there's more..."

Ian said...

Expectation theory is based predicting the impact of changes in public policy on market behaqviour.

I'm sure Krugman knows all about it - but he seems unwilling to consider its consequences in relation to Southern Europe.

If Spain (for example) borrows more, it increases the expectation that it may end up having to default - which pushes up its borrowing cost making a default even more likely.

It also discourages private investment and pushes up the borrowing costs of Spanish banks.

Those engatives - especially the higher interest on Spain's national debt - erode the stimulatory effect of any expansionary spending. So you end up incurring higher debt with little or no benefit to show for it.

Now if the Germans would agree to Eurobonds, the situation woudl be very different.

For that matter, if the Fed can buy hundreds of billiosn of dollars in US corproate bonds in Operation Twist, I don't see why they couldn't simply finance the next year or so of Spain's public debt program.

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Acacia H. said...

The truly sad thing is, Spain is only in trouble because it bailed out private banks that speculated and acted irresponsibly. In short, Spain is being punished for the hubris of its bankers. If they'd just said "we will insure the first 100,000 dollars of each bank account and will provide lending services for businesses and people for the time being but will do nothing more to help these banks" then the financial system would have suffered serious shocks... but its economy would have continued and its debt would not be unsustainable.

Rob H.

Ian Gould said...

Robert, the main bank in question is Bankia.

Bankia was formed in 2010 from the merger of seven banks owned by the regional governments.

So it wasn't so much greedy private banks as it was government-owned institutions that were pushed to lend heavily after 2007 to take up the slack as private lenders cut back.

Paul451 said...

"Government spending as a ercentage of GDP in Spain, for example, remains above the average for the EU as a whole."

Only since the crash. Pre-crash, Spain was in surplus, and was paying down its debt. (Unlike Germany, which had a higher level of debt, was running a deficit, thus increasing its debt. And even had to change the Eurozone rules to allow them to do that without fines.)

"Expectation theory is based predicting the impact of changes in public policy on market behaqviour. I'm sure Krugman knows all about it - but he seems unwilling to consider its consequences in relation to Southern Europe."

Actually, he seems to talk about this a lot. He uses the contrast between Spanish and German bond rates to show how ineffective the ECB policies have been to reduce the perception of Spanish default. He's also talked about the potential self-fulfilling expectation of collapse; people fearing another crash precipitate another crash by causing a run on banks.

David Brin said...


Harvey Morrell said...

David, have you seen Michael Shermer's take on gun control? Yet another libertarian reluctantly coming to the conclusion that some measure of gun control is necessary in today's society:
Specifically, I mean outlawing all automatic and semi-automatic assault rifles for anyone who is not in law enforcement or the military. When the Second Amendment was written stating that citizens have a right to “keep and bear arms,” rifles took over a minute to load one bullet at a time. The most crazed 18th century American could not possibly commit mass murder because no WMMs existed at the time..
I think he would support your Jefferson Rifle proposal.

Anonymous said...

There is a story of a New York homicide detective visiting a Toronto police station.
The American detective looks at the murder board, a chalk board with the number 10 on it. The US police officer says to the Canadian police officer, I see your having a slow week.
The Canadian responds "That's the homicides for the year."

There is a cost to having lots of firearms just hanging around. Canada has fewer total homicides than the US has children killed by firearms. A lot less.

The majority of firearm deaths in Canada are almost all now with illegal weapons smuggled in from the USA.

There is a cost for having firearms easily available. If your willing to pay that cost, there's no problem. Well, unless your one of the ones killed, that is. But it appears few people care about them. Even when children are killed because parents leave loaded weapons around, very often nobody gets punished. Because it was an accident. Well, not it wasn't. It was people acting negligently. But that's your problem, not mine.