Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Doom and Gloom?

== You cynics aren't helpful! ==

Finally, someone (else) is making a key point — that liberals and progressives sabotage themselves with gloom, by proclaiming that no past reforms or interventions have done the slightest good.  Nothing has improved, everything is worse and none of the past measures that we strove so hard to achieve has ever worked! 

This reflex is not only counterfactual and kind of sick-minded... it is also spectacularly counterproductive, playing into the hands of those who proclaim: “Yep! Progressive ‘solutions’ never work, and progressives are the first to say so!”

In Progressives Lost the Election, but Their Ideas are Winning, Richard V. Reeves offers statistical evidence that the poor and middle class aren’t doing quite as badly in the U.S. as many have been railing. Does that make him an enemy of progress? Not when he shows relentlessly that:

(1) it was successive liberal interventions that prevented a plummet into poverty for tens of millions and 

(2) we still have a long way to go. Indeed, bragging about their product’s past successes would be the first thing done by any sane salesperson! Suggesting that many of our left-wing friends are not especially, well, sane.

“For progressives, doom and gloom will be a self-defeating political strategy, since it adds steadily to the sense that government doesn’t work. This will be especially true in 2016 after occupying the White House for two terms. The subtext of downbeat progressive rhetoric is, by implication: "Yes, we have already done all these things (the Great Society, tax credits, welfare reform, food stamps), but honestly, nothing has really worked, look how terrible things are becoming," writes Reeves, continuing:

“What they should be saying instead is: "Look at all these government initiatives that have really worked to reduce poverty, improve workplaces, lessen inequality, weaken racism, boost women’s chances, and improve wellbeing. So let’s do more of it! What’s the next problem that we can help to solve?"

Lest you right wingers crow, at this point, fie upon you!  If you had had your way for 70 years, this society would be a festering feudal cesspit of poverty, simmering on the edge of revolution. And you HAVE had your way in the US for 2 decades, and things ARE getting worse for the middle classes! Your oligarchs, in contrast, are doing great. Still, the aversion of our news media - of all kinds - to ever mention good news, is stunningly consistent, almost to the point of evil.

Just one example.  Since the Department of Health & Human Services began a campaign, three years ago, to eradicate fatal  hospital errors, there has been a plummet in Hospital Acquired Illness. Had you heard of this?  Of course not.

All of this riffs along with Steven Pinker’s important book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, wherein he shows absolutely that average per capita rates of both violence and poverty have plummeted, worldwide, every decade since humanity hit its nadir in 1943. 

I take head-on the fury that these facts arouse in people of the left, and the blindness of the right, in my TedX talk, Indignation, Addiction and Hope: Does it help to be mad as hell? (Follow the slides on Slideshare!)

Caught in the middle are the few remaining liberal-pragmatist problem solvers remaining in a country that once specialized in pragmatism and negotiation and simply getting the job done.

All of this shows that - although the Neo-Confederacy is our worst problem today — a froth of insanity and treason, incited by foreign petro-sheiks who mean us nothing but harm — there certainly is a fair amount of crazy, also, on the other side.

== Satire and Bullshit == 

The New Age Bullshit Generator randomly generates hilariously plausible, touchy-feely psychotech-quantum babble!  Farm-out man! Right-arm!

For a more compact version of this much-deserved satire, see: The Enigmatic Wisdom of Chopra.

But I recommend delving into the intellectual grand-daddy of New Age/postmodernist satirical debunkery, the "Sokal Hoax.

Okay, I am having some fun skewering the ditzy far-far-left, this time. But let us never forget, cesspits thrive near all fanaticisms. And although the biggest threat right now to our rational enlightenment is the "bullshit mountain" of the Fox'd right, there is definitely a far wing of the other side that wallows in insipid fantasy. 

If you cannot turn your head and acknowledge this, then you have Fused Political Spine Disease and you are part of the problem, not the solution.

Get an ideological chiropractor.  Re-learn how to turn your head and see that dangers lie in all directions. Only then will you earn the credibility (as I have done) to say: "I am very aware of my own side's crazies... and that qualifies me to say, unequivocally, that the other side is worse!"

== Health Care ==

“For all the irrational disgust the right has for the ACA (Obamacare), the law itself is actually a boon to entrepreneurs," writes Steve Benen, It allows brash startups like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb to do their capitalist thing, attracting lots of independent drivers, etc, who can have the courage to take on that lifestyle instead of working for The Man, since health insurance can now be bought affordably outside working for a big company or corporation.  

Just to be plain, this was actually predicted, back when Newt Gingrich presented the ACA as his party’s alternative to “HillaryCare...” 

...before the GOP went completely bonkers and disowned its own… damn… plan. Simply because Barack Obama had the utter gall – the nerve – to … agree to it!  That gave their own damn plan cooties, it appears.

 == On Ebola ==

Pater Tenebrarum observed: A friend recently asked us whether the massive Ebola outbreak in West Africa could be regarded as a “black swan” in the sense of Nassim Taleb’s definition of the term. After thinking it over, we concluded that yes, it can definitely be characterized as one. Evidently, something is very different about this year’s outbreak compared to previous ones, and a number of unexpected developments have occurred. Chief among them is that a hitherto firmly held belief had to be abandoned. It was thought that the very thing that that makes the illness rather terrifying, namely its high mortality rate, helped in containing outbreaks…  We can definitely state that the current outbreak is anything but “well contained”."


Midway into his attempt at satire, he offers this paragraph: “Is there not an urgent duty to blow up Saudi Arabia? It has beheaded 59 people so far this year, for offences that include adultery, sorcery and witchcraft. It has long presented a far greater threat to the west than Isis now poses. In 2009 Hillary Clinton warned in a secret memo that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban … and other terrorist groups”. In July, the former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, revealed that Prince Bandar bin Sultan, until recently the head of Saudi intelligence, told him: “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.” Saudi support for extreme Sunni militias in Syria during Bandar’s tenure is widely blamed for the rapid rise of Isis. Why take out the subsidiary and spare the headquarters?”

Monbiot leaves out the biggest allegation against that desert kingdom — that it meddles in U.S. governance.  Not just with bribery and blackmail and the usual tools, but above all by supporting and maintaining Rupert Murdoch’s propaganda empire which has deliberately destroyed politics in America, pitting one half of the country (a re-ignited Confederacy) against the other half.  

The Bush family, virtually a branch office of that R’oil House, (holding hands with them and calling Prince Bandar “Uncle Bandie"), plunged us into so many calamities that every single metric of U.S. national health plummeted under the watches of George Senior and George Junior, plus Dick Cheney — losses that measure many trillions of dollars and thousands of lives.  Should we not consider all of that an “act of war”?

In any event, remember this in 2016.  That McCain and Romney distanced themselves from the accursed Bush clan... but surrounded themselves with factotums from the entire Bush-GOP 'brain trust' that delivered the worst governance seen in at least 80 years. Do not believe that anything has changed, till the whole house has been disinfected and cleaned. And finally hope for sane conservatism when that whirring sound goes away... the spinning of Goldwater and Buckley, in their graves.
== Bush and more Bush ==

Oh please, please please run, Jeb. By appearances, you seem the least loathsome of your wretched clan, whose terms in office featured exactly ZERO improvements in even one unambiguously attributable metric of US national health.  The first and second time that happened, ever in U.S. history. Indeed, nearly all such metrics plummeted across the spans of both Bush Administrations... a correlation so perfect that it tempts one to imagine it had to be deliberate.

And why not?  As we've seen, the Bushes are so intimately tied to one of the Middle Eastern royal families that W said "Uncle (Prince) Bandaar just about raised me."  A family also co-owns Fox.

So yes, by all means Jeb, run! If the Confederacy succeeds in imposing another Bush rule over the United States, then we in the loyal, Blue half will deserve what we get. And our nation's 200 year Civil War will be over, for good.

P.S. and BTW....  I am still looking for a guerrilla performance art coop who might do a piece of political humor that would far out-do Jib-Jab's famous 2004 "This Land" sketch. 

It might even put the kibosh on this "dynasty" thing, once and for all.


sociotard said...

Any comment on the appointment of a soap-opera producer (who raised lots of money for the President's campaign) to Ambassador?

The article points out that while presidents often reward their supporters thusly (and sometimes those appointees even do well), Obama has done it far more often than his predecessors.

I wish that the Senate had kept the Fillibuster and used it appropriately. It should be possible to Fillibuster the appointment of a bad candidate! It seems like Ambassadors should have actual diplomatic and cultural skills.

sociotard said...

As for the OP, it oddly made me think of Isaiah

For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod.

Bread corn is bruised; because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen.

that is, there's more than one way to thresh grain, and a good farmer picks the one just severe enough for the kind of seed he's harvesting, and even when he needs to thresh, he does not thresh forever. Likewise, people, including ourselves, do not always require the most potent rebukes, denunciations, and punishments, and certainly shouldn't be subject to such forever.

Of course the corollary (via Ephesians and The Birds)is that while there is a time to build up, there is also a time to break down. That leads to the question:

Is there ever a time to really lay into Western Civilization?

I ask, because I don't think I've seen you do that, or even permit it on your site. If someone here has quibbles with the US or the West (like that Argentine woman a while back) you rush to the defense with "We're getting better" and "We could've been worse".

Isn't there a time to just agree that things done were bad, and then not immediately follow up with something that shows the progress?

It reminds me of the "Not all men" meme. Read a comic! Or read the Time article. The point is, jumping into a feminist discussion with points on how Males are not all awful is derailing. Likewise, jumping into a discussion on the faults of the west with examples of "we ain't all bad" are derailing.

We have lots of holidays to celebrate our nation and everything we love about it. Would it be so awful to permit a few discussions (not year long discussions, just an afternoon or so), to just focus on the faults?

Xactiphyn said...

As much as I love the phrase "Fused Political Spine Disease", it has a fundamental problem. It assumes the craziness comes from the far left and far right. Often, though, I see just as much craziness from the extreme middle. For example, the Washington press core refuses to ever consider the fact that the two sides are not "equally responsible" for everything. Because the blame both sides equally all the time it makes it very easy for one side to get away with anything.

Obviously, you don't fall for that trap, but many others do.

A.F. Rey said...

Did you see this little article?

Because of Obama's immigration coup, the Republicans stopped negotiating on renewing tax cuts, and instead want to drop most of the cuts for the working poor (and clean energy) and make permanent tax cuts to corporations. Basically, handing more money to the richest Americans.

Brother Nihil said...

Or one might view your attacks on the Saudis as a manifestation of an old tribal war that has now come to America. The Saudis may be meddlers, but no one tops your tribe when it comes to meddling, wouldn’t you agree? As I recall, you posted approvingly of Hollywood of engaging in social programming on a global scale. That’s a more influential form of cultural meddling than all the Saudi-sponsored mosques and madrassas on the planet. But hey, it’s OK, ‘cuz you’re the Good Guys™.

Also, you do realize that your mantras have become little more than propaganda; insightful the first time, but rather boring by the 20th? I wonder how hard it would be to write a “David Brin post generator”, with slight variations on your favorite memes: Enlightenment diamond, neo-Confederacy, evil Bushes, Saudis, Murdoch and the Kochs, good old Goldwater and Buckley, America greater than all previous civilizations *combined*, leftist have their wackos too, etc. etc. Maybe you need some new material, or something dramatic to break you out of this rigid reality tunnel you're in? I recommend mushrooms...

sociotard said...

By Tribe you mean Americans?

Grunschev said...

My favorite Bush is Neil. I first heard of him when he got on the board of my S&L, where he approved loans to the company he was President of (oil exploration firm that managed 42 consecutive dry wells) which ultimately led to the failure of said S&L. He then testified in Congress that there was no conflict of interest.

But my favorite Neil Bush story, by far, is the testimony in his divorce trial. You have to read it to believe it. No script writer or author would think of such dialog - too farfetched, unless you're talking over-the-top farce.

Tony Fisk said...

Maybe Kate should run?

Laurent Weppe said...

"For progressives, doom and gloom will be a self-defeating political strategy"

There's also something that too often goes unsaid: doom & gloom rhetorics are a great way to justify cynicism, and cynicism is a very expedient method to rationalize one's submissiveness toward corrupt aristocrats:

«I'm not kowtowing to rich bullies because I'm weak-willed and cowardly: I'm doing so because I'm smarter than you haughty progressive plebeians: for you see, in exchange of my meek deference, the lords are giving Me preferential access to their scraps, insuring that I'll remain among the well-fed.»


"If you had had your way for 70 years, this society would be a festering feudal cesspit of poverty, simmering on the edge of revolution"

I seriously doubt that american dynastic wealth would have been that competent or lucky for so long: more likely, this parallel universe's History textbooks would by now include a couple of chapters about how the american upper-class ended on the receiving end of a genocide during the second half of the 20th century.

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

1.White victimhood is a fake idea invented by racists
2.White victimhood happens, but the effect of “black victimhood” on blacks is as bad or worse
3.White victimization happens, but the important part is that I personally am not victimizer
4.White victimization happens, and I benefit from that whether or not I personally am sexist
5.White victimization happens, I benefit from it, I am unavoidably anti-white sometimes because I was socialized that way, and if I want to be pro-white I have to be actively working against that socialization

Food for thought. No one should think I agree with either version, however, or disagree with any or all of it either. It's a mental exercise.

locumranch said...

According to David's recent posts & all major news feeds, this society (this bellwether of the Enlightened West) has already become a festering feudal cesspit of poverty, simmering (and/or 'zimmermaning') on the edge of revolution, where the oligarchs are doing great, federalism ignores the geographic will of the people and California (that great progressive paradise) subsidizes its social welfare economy with prison-based slave labor.

O Rose thou art sick, the only hope in sight being that of balkanization which promises a return to popular DEMOCRATIC governance (aka 'government of the people, by the people, for the people'), a repudiation of the National Military Security Industrial complex, a retreat from Orwell's 'State of Perpetual War', and the normalization of regional race relations (we hope).

Hats off to Kansas, by the way, for spear-heading a very novel & promising approach to federal nullification wherein a state government can absolve itself of federal mandates by deliberate financial insolvency.

And, as for those 'Citizens United' plutocrats who cower behind the rule of federal law, let's see how they fare when local 'citizens unite' in actuality, redefine 'justice' in accordance with public will and every state demands either 'a piece of the action' or its 'pound of flesh'.


Paul451 said...

"By Tribe you mean Americans?"

He means Jews. Specifically "Hollywood" Jews.

Tacitus said...

Not sure he meant that specifically. I took it to be more generic.

At least Brother Nihil is posting with a name so he should be afforded the courtesy of that.

Care to elaborate B.N.?

On the surface accusing a writer of being repetitive is rather harsh, but Contrary Brin is not David's A-list material. He properly saves that for the "paying customers".


Alex Tolley said...

Reeves: "Medicare and Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits, tax cuts favoring the working poor, expansion of health coverage, and so on—all of these policies are making Americans better off than they would otherwise be."

Nedicare was enacted in the 1960's!. The Republican party has been trying to dismantle it. EITC - Republicans are refusing to its extension. The top 1% has lowest gain in income in 2000-2010 - could that possibly be the effect of the 2008 financial meltdown and zero bound interest rates? More recent data, including that of Piketty show the top centile as still gaining ground.

It isn't that "progressive" gains are not working, it is that conservatives are forever unpicking the gains. ACA? Conservatives blocked the requirement for contraceptives for women (for smaller companies) on religious grounds. The latest is the UPS worker who had to leave her job while pregnant because teh company refused to put her on light duty. No doubt they were "obeying the letter of the law" as they understood it, but it shows the inhumanity of the organization. How many Walmart strikes and does it take before it becomes illegal to pay workers at a rate that requires them to use public welfare to survive? Or McDonalds (to pick an example) that demands 365/24 availability, yet only provides part time work? For most of this country, it is hard to suggest that conditions are "better" when working conditions have become more draconian. and labor laws are being increasingly interpreted by SCOTUS to be employer friendly. Want to change anything by electing different legislators? Races are becoming less competitive, and Red states are doing everything they can to disenfranchise voters who demographically can be expected to be more Democratic Party friendly. Minor victories in a tide of concerted, successful, big money opposition to the needs of society is not "winning" in my view. It is like sticking fingers in a leaky dyke, hoping that the dyke doesn't give way.

Even Lessig's campaign to get rid of money in politics is being done not because eventual victory is likely, but because "we have to try" to stem the tide. If money really does make all the difference for most races, then the rising income and wealth inequality will just make such counter moves increasingly ineffectual.

Alex Tolley said...


Will the tumbrels ever come to the USA? The increasing militarization of the police, plus the feckless call out of the national Guard to quell protests does not augur well. Relentless panopticon spying on US citizens isn't exactly going to make organizing protests easier, when policing is increasingly used to break up protests, using made up laws to arrest demonstrators despite their constitutional right to free speech. Have I been living under a rock and missed the reversal of the increasing police state? Will those police cams make a difference? Maybe, although police unions are fighting their use in many jurisdictions notable for bad police behavior. What could they possibly be hiding?

The old rose tinted view was that the past was a golden age was obviously not true. But the reverse, that everything was worse in the past doesn't do much when the present is so obviously bad.
TV reflects society, and I can think of no better juxtaposition of how the police do things differently in different countries than watching "police procedurals". US tv has cops pulling guns and getting into firefights as a matter of course. SWAT teams are often called out for even minor incidents. Now watch a Swedish equivalent. The cops carry guns, but they are not often drawn. When they do, almost no shooting occurs and it isn't that often that the criminal is killed, rather than wounded. Fiction? Perhaps. But Sweden seems like a much saner society than the US, still with much lower inequality (although becoming more unequal) and more empathy for the poorer socio-economic groups.

Let's celebrate when the US becomes more like Sweden, rather than being less bad than the "gilded age".

A.F. Rey said...

I don't see why we can't do both, especially when there is a contingent that believes the past "gilded age" is better than the present.

Laurent Weppe said...

"Will the tumbrels ever come to the USA? The increasing militarization of the police, plus the feckless call out of the national Guard to quell protests does not augur well. Relentless panopticon spying on US citizens isn't exactly going to make organizing protests easier, when policing is increasingly used to break up protests, using made up laws to arrest demonstrators despite their constitutional right to free speech."

These things cost a lot to maintain: You need to keep the enforcer caste happy therefore give them a sizable chunk of the cake otherwise they revolt and overthrow/massacre the owner class. You need to make sure that their fancy weaponry is correctly looked after: tanks aren't very good at keeping the populace in check if their engines start breaking down for lack of proper maintenance, which means even more people are to be bribed into faithfully working for the regime instead of reselling spare parts to the black market. Same thing comes with surveillance: you'll need to keep members of the secret police happy less you want dozens or hundreds of resentful Snowden copycatsselling or even giving away the regime's dirty secrets.

At most, these systems of control can only delay the collapse of the regimes they protect, and the longer corrupt, authoritarian regimes last, the more likely their fall happen in a revanchist, murderous blood frenzy.

Tim H. said...

No tumbrels please, going for the hard reset isn't likely to work as well in human society as on a computer. A more just society is implicit here, just needs people willing to tweak the system in that direction.

Alex Tolley said...

Guardian article on police cameras: Body cameras for police officers? Not so fast, say researchers
Perhaps not such a clear cut case of benefit.

Clearly the cases of cops shooting people caught and being on video, then later being cleared by Grand Juries is a problem. If perception can be so easily twisted when camera evidence is available, then we have much deeper problems to solve that applying a little technology.

I'm not sure if there is an underlying "US is the best" mentality that somehow almost disallows the evidence that other countries do better than us. Fine that conditions are better than the Gilded Age, but not fine at all when we compare badly with other countries. We should be judging ourselves against the best, not with the worst in our own history.

Laurent Weppe said...

"No tumbrels please, going for the hard reset isn't likely to work as well in human society as on a computer"

The question is not whether a violent and bloody overthrow of the ruling-class is preferable (it's not), it's how likely it is:

Our primates' brain being hardwired to be revulsed by oppression and favoritism, wealth and power concentrating itself in the hands of a tiny numbers of dynasties increases the people's anger at the ruling-class, which in turn, increase the dynasts' fear that their subjects will retaliate against them, thus tempting them to favor authoritarian regimes.

These regimes in turn increase both the anger of the population and the corruption of the owner & enforcer classes, which translates into even more concentration of wealth and power, therefore more fear of being on the receiving end of a violent uprising on the hereditary patricians' part, therefore even more resources end up being waisted on bullying the plebs into submission, etc, etc, etc...

The longer the vicious cycle lasts: the more callous and incompetent the upper-class becomes, and as a result the more likely a successful violent rebellion becomes. It's like playing russian roulette while adding more bullets each time the gun doesn't fire.

Acacia H. said...

@Laurent: Commander Vimes in the Discworld series might find fault in your view.

Here's two quotes from "Feet of Clay"

"Whoever had created humanity had left in a major design flaw. It was its tendency to bend at the knees."

And Lord Vetinari said this: 'They think they want good government and justice for all, Vimes, yet what is it they really crave, deep in their hearts? Only that things go on as normal and tomorrow is pretty much like today.'

Tim H. said...

Laurent, can't disagree I worry about the opportunity to make exciting new mistakes. And Robert, today isn't much like yesterday and tomorrow's not too promising either.

greg byshenk said...

David, I'm assuming you've seen reports of this nature: "Judge: Give NSA unlimited access to digital data".

I'm already seeing whining about it, but it seems to me he is making a similar point to yours -- and a good one: that the important thing is what people do with information, not merely what might be collected.

sociotard said...

The Atlantic: When Science Fiction Stopped Caring About the Future

sociotard said...

To be fair, I think the atlantic was wrong in that last. I've seen lots of sci fi flicks that cared about the future. It's just that many recent one keep costs a little lower by keeping it a little more near future, and focus on one or two transformative technologies instead of the whole shebang.

Laurent Weppe said...

@ Robert:

Vetinari is a fictional character supposed to epitomize the self-serving despot, hiding his lust for power and privilege behind a facade of erudite contempt for the masses. So of course he's going to spew bullshit like this. He's a bully telling his victims they must love being bullied since they're not fighting him to the death.

The thing is -in our real world where failed city-states don't survive despite all odds by the grace of narrative centrality- just as we're hard hardwired to spurn unfairness, we are instinctively conflict averse. For the most part, it's a good thing: without conflict aversion we'd be unable to form complex societies, and thus, we'd have no civilization: no arts, no sciences, no french or italian cuisine, no curryw├╝rste, no Dome of Florence, no Large Hadron Collider, no International Space Station, no Asimov, no Moorcock, no Spielberg or no Miyazaki...

On the other hand, this very conflict aversion is something that social predators -from abusive parents and spouses and schoolyard bullies all the way up to totalitarian despots- have always known to exploit: when a human beings falls on their knee before some corrupt parasitic lordling, they always hates it, it's just that their anger at the lord doesn't outweigh their conflict aversion yet.

Alex Tolley said...

@sociotard " I think the atlantic was wrong in that last. "

I think it was a particularly shallow piece of writing with no real appreciation of SF. Most of it was movie/comic book SF/F, very different from books.

matthew said...

Greg, one of my Senators is taking quite the opposite stance on backdoor access to cell phones. Yesterday he introduced a bill to deny the government this ability.

Note that this bill is not forbidding the use of backdoors to bypass or weaken encryption, but banning the mandate to weaken or bypass encryption.

And, before everyone gets all in a huff about the threat to national security, rest assured that the intelligence community will move swiftly to block the legislation.

The essential part of this, and why I support my Senator (and Jeff Merkley, the other Oregon Senator who is outspoken on this issue too), is that their opposition will cause a further discussion about government ability to monitor and track its' citizens. Right now, the intelligence community would much rather that no one question their methods and practices.

In order to be Transparent, someone must be looking.

Alex Tolley said...

@Laurent - even Rome, with all it's inequity, didn't suffer revolt. The western empire entered a decline until it was "defeated" by Northern tribes who in turn were being pushed west.

Dictators know how to keep the population divided and in fear. They are only toppled when the population gets goaded into action and the enforcers are seen to be weak. Notice how Syria's Assad has kept power, while his weaker Arab dictators fell during the Arab Spring. He may well emerge from the civil war relatively unscathed.

Laurent Weppe said...

"even Rome, with all it's inequity, didn't suffer revolt"


The history of the late Roman Republic/Roman Empire is a succession of provincial uprisings crushed at a steadily increasing cost and a over a dozen bloody civil wars which alongside the patrician class' callous hoarding of wealth and disregard from pro-plebeian social reforms played a large part in exhausting the ancient roman polity


"Notice how Syria's Assad has kept power, while his weaker Arab dictators fell during the Arab Spring"

The only reason the Assad family has yet to end like the Romanov is because their regime is artificially kept afloat by two foreign powers much larger, wealthier and populous than Syria itself. He's not different than all the petty post-colonial african dictators who managed to remain in power for decades as France and Britain's proxies or the south american juntas who retained control over their countries as de facto US vassal princelings: their rule own little to their own skills and talents and virtually everything to have a much larger bully backing them up.

Anonymous said...

For Brin.

If you think I'm just saying things to needle you, don't, I'm completely serious. I like to lay all the cards on the table and know were everybody stands, you can't ague to someone's interests if you don't know what they are.

>Of course the sad thing is how many fellows who speak of "brutal self-interest" are romantics who envision themselves being kings
I can't speak for others but I certainly don't want to be a king, or even high nobility. They tend to die too much. Now low nobility they survive and their descendants largely run the world even today. They aren't important individually but collectively they run the shows. For me it's about fecundity and long term affluence rather than success. I'd imagine most feudalists don't think they will be top dog since they often speak of owing fealty to others. They might consider themselves intentional nobility however.

>It is one thing to be sociopathically devoted solely to one's own self-interest. In today's context, that would entail some effort making sure this gently supporting and spectacularly productive civilization keeps rising toward Star Trek
Unless you think that is physically impossible, or that the social structure of such a society doesn't maximize the number and survivability of your descendants. For example. If I had a choice between an "unfair world" with 2,000 descendants where half the world was impoverished but my family line was affluent and another were the entire world was well off financially but I had only 200 descendants I would definitely chose the former. To be honest the groups we define as Europen or NE Asian are already a kind of global upper class, the reasons for that can be argued but it can't be denied that they hold the position. I also think that given what we believe know about physical principles that technologic stagnation is going to set in around 2070 and that the future will not be nearly as advanced as even the most conservative like to think.

>zero or negative-sum
Well the Universe appears to be a negative sum game, just not on any scale we care about in this moment. There is a great deal of room for material improvement just with what we have now.

>masturbatory daydreaming
Aren't all social ideals masturbatory including Star Trek style utopias?