Thursday, April 07, 2016

As Economic Inequality Grows: the "NBA Star" rationalization.

== Are super-compensated CEOs “mutant-NBA level” worth it? ==

Nobel Prize willing economist Joseph Stiglits makes a point in cogent and clear terms that I have been trying to get across for a decade - that members of our CEO-golf-buddy caste are utter hypocrites for claiming that their skyrocketing bonuses and compensation packages are immune to the laws of supply and demand: 

"Competitive forces should limit outsize profits, but if governments do not ensure that markets are competitive, there can be large monopoly profits. Competitive forces should also limit disproportionate executive compensation, but in modern corporations, the CEO has enormous power—including the power to set his own compensation, subject, of course, to his board—but in many corporations, he even has considerable power to appoint the board, and with a stacked board, there is little check. Shareholders have minimal say. Some countries have better “corporate governance laws,” the laws that circumscribe the power of the CEO, for instance, by insisting that there be independent members in the board or that shareholders have a say in pay. If the country does not have good corporate governance laws that are effectively enforced, CEOs can pay themselves outsize bonuses."   

Let me make this absurd situation plain to you. In any rational labor market, skyrocketing pay levels would have the natural market effect of attracting geniuses from other fields of human endeavor, drawing competitors and new talent until the supply of talent met demand and compensation packages settled back down to more historically normal levels. That isn't capitalism 101.  It is Capitalism 1.

Yet, members of the steadily narrowing and increasingly incestuous CEO Caste have strenuously avoided discussion of this simple fact of economics, while shouting their fealty to market forces in every other way. (Hence the hypocrisy.) 

On those rare occasions when they do address this issue, they use what I call the Mutant Basketballer argument… that they are like the very top athletes on championship ball teams, so mutant-good that they are beyond any thought of replacement and worth any salary they demand. (See my earlier posting: The Syndrome of the Essential Man.)

Of course, there is an inconvenient flaw to that incantation. NBA stars are subject to fiercely rigorous statistical and scientific appraisal of their objective performance, more closely tracked and scrutinized - in fact - than any other professional clade on Earth. (I've made this same point more extensively before.)

Moreover, those sports stars do not appoint buddies to the committees that evaluate them. NBA athletes compete with each other, instead of participating in an oligarchic circle-jerk.

Stiglitz (author of The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future) makes this point amid a larger context, describing how Adam Smith himself prescribed government actions to compensate for inevitable aristocratic cheating. Indeed, the doyen of right wing economics, Friedrich Hayek, also maintained that governments should act to maximize the number of skilled and confident citizen-consumer-producers who are well-equipped to compete with one another in flat-open-fair markets.

Continueth Stiglitz:

"Our political system has increasingly been working in ways that increase the inequality of outcomes and reduce equality of opportunity. This should not come as a surprise: we have a political system that gives inordinate power to those at the top, and they have used that power not only to limit the extent of redistribution but also to shape the rules of the game in their favor, and to extract from the public what can only be called large “gifts.” Economists have a name for these activities: they call them rent seeking, getting income not as a reward to creating wealth but by grabbing a larger share of the wealth that would otherwise have been produced without their effort. Those at the top have learned how to suck out money from the rest in ways that the rest are hardly aware of—that is their true innovation."

To be clear, many of our current crop of billionaires have made their wealth the way Smith and Hayek and all believers in flat-fair-creative market systems know is best, by fostering teams of bright engineers to create new and better good and services. This is the type of entrepreneurs that Supply Side economics was supposedly designed to encourage! 

Only then comes the irony — that Supply Side never helped any of these "productive" billionaires. Indeed, nearly all of them today are democrats (with some deep libertarians) who despise the blatant crony raid and rent-seeking subsidy called Supply Side.

Read this article by one of the smartest economists of our era.

== Economics ==

A fascinating political-economic piece on the Evonomics site has a terrible title: Stop Crying About the Size of Government; Start Caring About Who Controls It. It is worth a look... as are a majority of things appearing on that bold new site, whose contribution is to prove that creative-productive market enterprise is not the same thing as plutocratic oligarchy.  They are, in fact, opposites.

The White House's common sense idea to protect retirement accounts. Regarding brokers and managers of the millions of IRAs and other retirement saving accounts that have mostly taken over from old-style corporate pension plans, , the administration wants to impose a legally enforceable duty to act in the “best interest” of clients, similar to the fiduciary duty lawyers and other professionals already owe. Now what could be controversial about that?  Well, these brokers currently are allowed to churn those accounts to maximize their own commissions and the GOP led Congress has stalled for 7 years doing anything about it. Yep, on the side of the little guy. 

A  fascinating piece on why it has been so hard to establish the “rule of law” in most crony-corrupt developing states.  

== The threat of North Korea ==

Internationally, headline-grabbing North Korea claimed to have set off a Hydrogen Bomb, a technological feat that most western experts view with suspicion and doubt. But I'll not opine on that, except to say there is one and only one potential solution to this ongoing canker sore on humanity’s lip.

That solution is North Korea’s lifetime partner and subsidizing neighbor to the north and west.  Sure, many have tried to get that neighbor to apply pressure – which they could easily do, getting Kim Jong Un’s regime to settle down and stop chewing the carpet. 

So far, all normal means of persuasion have failed, because that giant neighbor likes pointing at North Korea as an object lesson. Moreover it does not want to see a united, prosperous Korea next door. Also, to be fair, a collapse of the NK regime could send millions of refugees crossing the Yalu River. None of which excuses this refusal to act.

Hence, the U.S. government has decided to take a tougher line: “In a striking public rebuke of China, Secretary of State John Kerry warned Beijing on Thursday that its effort to rein in North Korea had been a failure and that something had to change in its handling of the isolated country it has supported for the past six decades.” 

Among the discussed options, getting from the UN a partial ban on permitting North Korean ships to enter ports around the world – including Chinese ports - an effort to cut off more of the country’s trade. But China has vetoed such resolutions in the past. 

Well, well. There is one thing the West and others have not tried… tort law.  

Tort law? Yes, simple assignment of liability. Before leaving office, President Obama should declare that - if the North Korea ever does anything truly nasty, the victims of that nastiness - yes even in war - will have recourse to courts everywhere, seeking compensation from the deep-pocketed power who neglected to do much, across 60 years, to prevent the harm. 

Watch how that gets a reaction! Why? Because Rule-of-Law is a concept that both boggles and awes powerful men, when they see it actually functioning. They know, deep-down, that it is the sole source of actual legitimacy. And they have found it incomprehensible, yet transfixing, how an increasingly independent world judiciary has the power to impose accountability outside of the international (and easily bullied) political caste. The notion that individual citizens of Seoul might - after say an NK artillery barrage, or far worse - file suit against much deeper pockets... that could raise a chill up certain spines.

And I have said enough about that.


raito said...

Again I wish for eidetic memory. This morning's drive radio had an interview with a guy whose research was into the trends in market competition. It seems that corporate profits are up, and staying up, even in a sluggish economy. That probably shouldn't happen. I didn't get to hear all of it, but there was some stuff on the decrease in competition.

It sounded like he was leading up to the idea that when you're big enough, it's more profitable to get the rules changed than to play the game.

And somehow my reading seems to keep paralleling the events of today. In the last few days, I've been reading a bunch of Poul Anderson. He weaved in some modern relevancy even when it's just part of the background and not involved in the plot. And really, isn't the Psychotechnic League (at least the part that's trying to improve the ability to think) what we're trying for?

David Brin said...

Polesotechnic League.

greg byshenk said...

i can't see any US government wanting to set up the kind of precedent that your 'tort' suggestion would create, given the colossal number of potential suits against the US that it could enable if other states did the same thing.

David Brin said...

Could be Greg that it should be done by a different entity.

Acacia H. said...

And the first time some civilian family has people killed because a U.S. Drone Attack went awry? Do you honestly think the U.S. will pay up? Especially given the... precedent it would set?

Rob H.

Ochoa said...

Oh, man, just the lawsuits for Operation Condor and Operation Gladio!

Scott said...

Robert, the US pays up every time a drone kills a civilian, even in places like Yemen where we don't admit flying drones:

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. I can see a potential scam opportunity for guys who want to off their mother-in-law. 8)

raito said...

Dr. Brin,

If I'd meant Polesotechnic League, that is what I would have said.

Yes, the Psychotechnic League works can be considered part of the whole Polesotechnic saga. But the Psychotechnic works seem to concentrate much more on the idea of conditioning people to be able to think.

The Flandry works have very good points in that they are thematically about attempting to keep civilization going. But they also believe that the Long Night is coming regardless. Pretty bleak.

And the Van Rijn/Falkayn stuff deals with other concepts, though it could be argued that Falkayn was conditioned by Van Rijn.

Finally, most of the Psychotechnic workes take place in our solar system (the chronologically later ones don't).

So I chose the name of the stories that take place (mostly) in a place that we recognize, dealing with (mostly) the idea of how to get people to think and act.

Not to mention that Tor brought out an anthology of Anderson's works under exactly that name in 1981.

Alfred Differ said...

So... if our CEO's are like top-notch basketball players, why not build a fantasy league around them and expose all the little details around bonuses, salaries, board packing, and director sharing as part of the league's point scoring system. For example, if the CEO of company X manages to get a friend onto the Board, an associated stat should improve. If they take a seat on a Board for Company Y and there is a known relationship between X and Y another stat should improve.

Hmm... I suppose this is what the stock market is, right?

I do have a pet peeve regarding CEO salaries and the complaints some have. They aren't a measure of what the CEO merits. They are supposed to be a measure of the value that person brings to the team. One only places value (in the market sense) on things they are willing to trade. We don't trade people, do we? If we step away from the merit concept and look at value, the labor market is easier to understand. We are obviously trading something of value and getting paid for it. CEO's who can pack their Boards are then capable of rigging the outcomes of trades involving them. Rigging rules is cheating and THAT is the problem. I have no issue with someone being paid $10M if they bring that much value. I DO have an issue with someone rigging the trade to ensure they are perceived that way. So... how open can we make pricing in a labor market if we step away from the merit concept?

Jumper said...

So let's start a stockholders' union. Anyone with a 401K, IRA, or portfolio can join. So long as your income is less than our limit! We could tally up and see if we can get majorities.

Anabelle said...

The other problem with threatening to seize Chinese assets in the event of North Korean trouble is that there is no way we'd be willing to go through with it in the event of a war a massive instability. We'd need all the semi-friends we could get.

MollyLikesMovies said...

I like the fantasy league for CEO's--can I draft William H. Gates, Jr.?

raito said...

Turns out that this is what I was listening to:
which led to this in particular:

Same vein as the Stiglitz article, though Stiglitz has much more depth.

It's amusing that one of his examples is Tim Berners-Lee. He says that Jobs, etc. built on Berners-Lee's stuff. But Berners-Lee built (nearly exclusively) on others' stuff also! (which shouldn't be construed to mean that his aggregation of a bunch of existing notions wasn't inspired)

Alfred Differ said...

The problem with a stockholder's union is someone has to run it. Who would you want in the executive management team? 8)

David Brin said...

raito, Okay, you got me. STill. Poul Anderson was the best natural storyteller. That did not make me always agree with him. He swallowed the “cycles of history” malarkey. Flandry’s “it’s all doomed riff got tired when we later see him as an aging lord-spymaster and his adult daughter making the same moans.

Alfred… you SO have a terrific game there! Hugely satirical and potentially effective at drawing real attention. How about this for a community project. Anyone care to work with Alfred on his Fantasy CEO league, doing a writeup of rules and pitching it to a game company?

Tony Fisk said...

Not basketball, but I wonder if this Fantasy CEO league notion would work as a Munchkin extension (right mindset, and SJG seem to have expansions for just about everything else!), or corporate showdown cards?

Paul SB said...

Tony, I only wish Steve Jackson had expansions for just about everything! Where Munch Trek? Munchkylon 5 or Game of Munchkins? Actually I have only played Munchkin once. My daughter got Munchkin Cthulhu for her birthday, so we tried it out. Since I haven't read Lovecraft I didn't get all the jokes, but I can see the potential.

If they did a Munchkin Business (or fantasy football whatever), would Peter Gecko be in it, or should we stick to real robber barons?

Anonymous said...

It looks like Obama is looking at a rule forcing US banks to find our the real identity behind shell corporations. Important.

-matthew, because his daughter is logged into her google account and that forces Blogger to default to her ID

Tony Fisk said...

The "Golden Parachute" card enables player, when killed, to a) retain their equipment and b) choose an equipment card from each player to be cashed in.
The funds raised may be used to immediately (re)gain levels on the corporate ladder.

It's late, so the details are rough. Anyone care to describe the 'raging bull', the 'depressed bear' or the 'wall wolf'?

raito said...

I'll give it a shot.

Raging Bull:
If the value of played cards exceeds the value of cards in the discards, draw two cards.
(How do you figure a bull market?)

Depressed Bear:
If the value of played cards is less than the value of cards in the discards, discard two cards.
(and similar for bear market)

Wall (St.) Wolf:
Choose 2 cards from each player, including yourself. Give two of those cards to each player.
(everyone seems to have the same amount of stuff, but don't really)

Also, Dr. Brin, I sort-of concur on your take on Flandry. The only out there that I see are statements in Anderson's other works that sometimes, even if you know what needs to be done, there may just not be enough resources to do it. So I see those more as the cautionary tale to not let the entropic exponential functions get ahead, ever.

Still, I prefer Retief to Flandry. How can you not root for a guy whose boss only succeeds because an underling he can't stand keeps breaking the rules and making him look good? (sounds like my last job...)

locumranch said...

Since CEO positions are extremely rare, few & far between, it is unclear if one can argue (statistically speaking) that CEO compensation is either "excessive" or outrage-worthy. These CEO salaries are outliers, to be sure, yet any attempt to limit CEO compensation to some multiplier of an 'Average Laborer's salary' is arbitrary at best because CEOs represent a 'scarce commodity' (as in 'There can be only One' in any company hierarchy), the 'Average Laborer' is plentiful (made even more so by outsourcing, globalisation, unregulated immigration, H1B visa availability & cross-gender competition), and Supply & Demand serves to devalue the plentiful & over-value the scarce.

The 'Rule-of-Law' argument is also chuckle-worthy because history has shown it both circular & invalid in the sense that the Rule-of-Law is said to trump Tooth & Claw, State Law is said to trump the Local, Federal is said to trump the State and International is said to trump the Federal, and All-of-the-Above are enforced (and trumped) by Tooth & Claw. Said Mao Zedong: "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun", and Pax Americana (along with Alexander of Macedonia, Genghis Khan & many other 'Peacemakers') has proved this point definitively.

After invoking Mao, and in regard to North Korea & its shiny new Nuclear Arsenal, perhaps the time has come for the International Community to put-aside all of this 'Rule-of-Law' mumbo-jumbo and speak instead of 'Road Rules' which favour the motor vehicle operator with the 'least-to-lose' in any confrontation, much in the same way that most proud law-abiding 100K Tesla owners always yield the contested 'right-of-way' to any unlicensed & uninsured rusted-out shitbucket operator.

For a Blog that supposedly favours Darwinian Competition, I am constantly amazed how often the 'Flat-Open-Fair' mantra is invoked in an attempt to banish Darwin to the netherworld for all eternity. Get a dictionary, people ! The term 'Fair' does not mean what you think it means.**

**Fair means "of light complexion", "pleasing", "free from bias", "impartial", "equitable" or "adequate". It does not signify a level playing field, equality, parity, functional equivalence, favoritism or special privileges.

Alfred Differ said...

Hmm... I hadn't thought of it as a card game. That might even make a few $$ since people move around necessitating deck update cards. If CEO Smith isn't at Company X anymore, the card wouldn't be playable except in retro games. Heh. I ducked out of the gaming world when these card games started to come into fashion, though, so we'd need experienced players to do it. I'm not even a fantasy league player, so the same issue applies. What I enjoyed most was game design. Don't get me started on the atrocity that was AD&D v2.0. 8)

As for the rarity of CEO's, I call BS. They are a dime a dozen. Go to a space convention and you'll see wanna-be CEO's and that's just a tiny niche league. If anyone is overly concerned, though, the fantasy league COULD be more about Executive Managers instead of just CEO's since board directors, CFO's, and COO's all contribute to the cozy relationships. There is no end to the list of people working these jobs and much of the information can be found in the public domain. To deal with the wanna-be's and Small Business Entities, I suppose there would have to be farm leagues like we have in Baseball.

Hmm... do this right and we might even be immune to the gambling laws in most states. This might fall under investment club laws and work as training tools. 8)

Acacia H. said...

AD&D 2.0 was not the atrocity. D&D 4.0 was. Which is why so many people fled to Pathfinder instead. :P ;)

Rob H.

Alfred Differ said...

locumranch: You are trying another dictionary attack and it just makes you look weak. 'Fair' in this sense implies impartiality regarding the rules of the market. if certain players are favored by tax rules, the market isn't fair. If they are favored by education limitations placed on others, the market isn't fair. Bias the rules and you bias the market in an unfair manner.

You don't have to quote Mao to find the gun/power correlation, though. Talk to a few Libertarians. They will point out much the same thing regarding tax laws and the consequences of disobeying them.

David Brin said...

What I love about L is how his logic is like peering at some (bizarro?) planet. Rule of law gave us the exception to tooth-claw and/or feudalism under which we have prospered almost godlike, compared to any ancestor. But because it is imperfect and needed tuning/improvement? Toss it! Imperfect? Then it doesn’t exist!

“For a Blog that supposedly favours Darwinian Competition, I am constantly amazed how often the 'Flat-Open-Fair' mantra is invoked in an attempt to banish Darwin…” Thus ignoring every single point I have ever made. The mind makes up stories about things in the blind spot and his encompasses any concept even remotely positive sum.

CEOs obviously include others in the cabal. duh. Moreover the parasitism only begins with actual salary. Jeepers. Tens of trillions.

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. I haven't followed the latest incarnations of D&D. It was obvious they were altering the game to be played through computers or with computer assistants to deal with the minutia. I never cared for the minutia since that interfered with the role playing aspect. Experimental Personae are the real value to be found. All the dice rolling and ability checks struck me as appealing to the OCD types. Ugh.

Story telling requires character construction at a minimum. Settings, plots, and all the other tools have to be learned too if people are going to be fully entertained. I've always felt a good game entertains in this way by surreptitiously training players to entertain themselves. In this case, we wouldn’t have to be super sneaky about it, but the value of a fantasy league member (or card) should be tied to the member’s shenanigans in the markets in a way that tempts players to root for them. We do something similar in sports when we root for known wife-beaters, dopers, and ball scuffers and deflaters until we are forced to confront our moral dissonance. This dissonance makes for a good story in the sense of a moral lesson. The players who succeed without cheating make for even better stories, but finding them is the trick.

I learned some of this by playing AD&D with people who were quite willing to play evil characters without leaving them as one-dimensional, monomaniacal monsters. Role playing evil isn’t as easy as some people think. Horror movie scripts usually suck at portraying them, but when they get it right you’ll shudder right down to your core.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

I have no issue with someone being paid $10M if they bring that much value. I DO have an issue with someone rigging the trade to ensure they are perceived that way.

If a CEO saves the company a billion dollars by laying off workers, and then pockets the billion for himself as a performance bonus, what value has he really brought to the organization?

Acacia H. said...

You likely would have enjoyed either Toon (in which you play cartoon characters, with the physics therein being in charge (ie, Rule of Funny)... or if you wanted to go truly Diceless, then the Amber Diceless Roleplaying Game, based on the multiverse Roger Zelansky crafted.

Personally, I'm of the view of "the players should have fun" and if dice start being nasty and I don't want a fight to take forever? I'll say "I didn't see that roll." Sometimes to the effect of grabbing the die myself and rolling it 'til it hits.

That said, I do run one game entirely online, with the maps handled online and die-rolling as well. But while I use software to keep track of various data (such as skills, attributes, and the like), it is still very much up to the players to decide what to do and how to go about it, and I've had players frequently do things that no computer could handle. And thus we have fun, because you can be sneaky about things and use your head... and yet computers are limited in a number of ways.

Heh. Who knows. Someday in the distant future I might very well be running a roleplaying game for a half dozen AI. That would prove amusing and interesting.

Rob H.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: A Board that allows the CEO to pocket the savings should be attacked in a lawsuit by shareholders unless that company is closely-held. Even then, the CEO would probably have to be a majority shareholder and the other shareholders related by blood or marriage.

Having said that, though, I might not mind so much if the Board lets the CEO keep a moderate fraction of it IF the layoff preserved the company from something much worse. Paying the axe-man is necessary at times.

LarryHart said...


I guess I'm thinking of Mitt Romney's Bain Capital and the like, who I perceive as not so much saving money as converting other assets into cash, and then pocketing a percentage for themselves.

If the assets they convert to cash are dead weight, as you seem to perceive, then yes, they have increased shareholder value, and it is acceptable for them to skim some of that value as a finders fee (as long as they don't take all of it, in which case they've provided no net value).

But if the assets they divested of were actually productive to begin with, then the move is probably costing shareholder value in the long run. But in the long run, they've already pocketed their fees and moved on.

Acacia H. said...

Dragon has launched successfully, and the Falcon 9 was successfully landed on the drone ship.

Rob H.

useless.old.fool said...


I am old and tired; but will still have pity and explain it to you.

First CEOs in the USA have broken faith with your beliefs of the Free market. The VPs and CEOs who I worked with tracking metrics and creating reporting for marketing; believed that they got lucky. They believed that a working hard rival, being the smartest person in the room, being skill and talented, having all the Godly virtues; was not enough to be successful in the US market. That Any rival would need the luck of being in right place, with the right people, at the right time to have the opportunity to Win like they Did. These successful people didn’t believe they could reproduce their successes if they had to start over and do it all over again.

With winner take all stakes; while dealing with the fear, uncertainty and doubt, they often do what is only human. They do what Kirk did and try to change the rules of the game. There is a group think, a flaw in our market beliefs that drives this behavior; our cheating culture.

Let me Quote David Callahan.
"It is a small step from believing that big-shots intrinsically deserve their power to indulging the abuse of that power."

Please see the movie the Big Short; for latest example of how this all goes wrong and why we need to change.

Now the good news is we can do better. People who studied human behavior and economic do have some clear answers.

June 27, 2013
A fair-minded review of the data, in our view, leads to the conclusion that the spectacular growth of CEO pay does not simply, or even primarily, reflect the market for talent, or some imagined increase in CEO productivity.
- See more at:

June 21, 2015
It is also true that CEO compensation has grown far faster than the stock market or the productivity of the economy.
- See more at:

So if Merit and outcomes are not driving CEO pay; then What is?
Answer: Rents, “rent-seeking” refers loosely to ill-gotten gains.

June 20, 2013
As long as the shift to the top 1 percent is not associated with "improved growth", then the rest of the income distribution is harmed.
Simply stated it is zero-sum (everyone else loses) from the young worker, to retired shareholder, and you the consumer are all harmed by Rest-seeking of the CEO.
- See more at:

January 12, 2011
Let me paraphrase Lawrence Mishel; Education and Talent does not shield you from the Rest-seeking of your Boss or the failures of the market that follow.
- See more at:

June 20, 2013
If you care about youth of today there is plenty that can be done.
- See more at (obligatory ‘what to do about it.’):

God I am tired, its raining here and I am taking a nap now.

David Jordan said...

Wow! That landing was amazing!

Between the incredible Tesla Model 3 unveiling and the first successful rocket landing at sea, Elon Musk has had a very good week.

Of Course I still Love You, Falcon 9.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: Well... I don't know Romney's details. I never intended to vote for him, so I didn't explore his past. I will say this, though. Owners are allowed to covert assets to cash and pocket the money. What they aren't supposed to do is convert them to cash at the expense of other owners outside private contracts that define ownership rights. Employees who do not own the company don't get to have a say on this except in the court of public opinion.

There ARE companies that specialize in buying others and chopping them up and selling parts to recover their investments. These companies serve a purpose much like microbes that consume lignin. There is a lot of dead wood out there to remove if the labor market is to function properly. Obviously, few like to talk about the recyclers that are part of our biosphere, but we have to pay attention to what they do when they do it right and when they do it wrong and ask if our market meta-rules are being hijacked by a new type of fungus. 8)

Hmm... I'm having fun with the analogies here. I'm thinking the fantasy league should have position 'players' that are identified by a biological analogy. Team House Fly. Team Fungus. Infrastructure as Lignin. Hmm.

locumranch said...

I attempted to organise a Foot Race this Spring: The Race Participants would line up to start, run like hell between Point A & Point B, and the first person to arrive at Point B would be declared the Winner.

I was then informed that the term "Foot Race" demonstrated Unfair Bias & Discrimination against those participants who had No Feet, an issue that was resolved by the creation of separate Blade Runner & Non-Motorized Wheelchair divisions, only to be told that (1) the 'Non-Motorized' category demonstrated Unfair Bias & Discrimination against those participants who were unable to use their Arms to propel a traditional wheelchair, (2) the term 'Wheel' demonstrated Unfair Bias & Discrimination against those participants who did not possess said 'Wheels', and (3) the term 'Chair' demonstrated Unfair Bias & Discrimination against those participants who had No Seat, leading to the acceptance of all types of Motorized Vehicles into this 'Race' that was once limited to Foot & Feet.

I was then told that the term "Race" demonstrated Unfair Bias & Discrimination against those participants of differing ability as (1) participant abilities differed in accordance with Age, Height, Weight, Gender & Ethnicity, (2) Outliers in Age & Weight tended to move at highly variable rates, (3) certain Kenyans ran 10–15% faster then many White Males, (4) most Males ran 10-15% faster than most Females and, depending on Motor types & terrain conditions, (5) Wheeled participants could either be significantly faster or significantly slower than all other subcategories.

We resolved all of these accusations of Unfair Bias & Race Discrimination in the following manner:

(1) The Starting Line for Women would be 15% of the race distance ahead of the White Males;
(2) The Kenyan Starting Line would be 15% of the race distance behind the White Males;
(3) All Wheeled participants would start significantly before and/or after participants with Feet;
(4) Outliers in Age, Height, Weight & Undesignated categories could start anywhere they damn well please;
(5) Every race participant would be said to be the sole competitor in their own division; and
(6) No Participant could be said to be in 'Competition Against Any Other Participant'.

The Spring Foot Race has been CANCELED until further notice, and I spit on the contemporary misuse of the term ' Fair'.



You may be old, yet the only thing that makes you foolish is your useless, unsupported & unsupportable belief in perfect equity. Merit implies INEQUITY & INEQUALITY by definition; it is a given that many CEOs are unproductive, parasitic, meritless, over-compensated, corrupt & contemptible as are all men (except for David's faves, of course); and "Deserve's got nothin' to do with it" because we live in a Fair, Impartial, Nondiscriminatory & Uncaring Universe that allows the rain to fall on the righteous and the wicked alike, and Equality only exists in Death (but NOT if you believe in a Biased, Partial & Merit-Oriented God who judges all Men to be 'Unequal' even after death).

All things being 'Equal', you should stick around & prove me 'wrong' at every opportunity ;)

David Brin said...

Now he's just raving.

There is an "equalize outcomes" far-far-left. But fair competition has been ruined 99.9999999999% of the time by asshole cheaters. He knows it's true. Rave on man. Jibber jibber....

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Alfred

One man's "dead wood" can be another man's seed corn or rainy day fund

Too many of the Bain types sell the seed corn because they are going to cash out before it would be harvested

Another thing the Bain's do is steal money from pension funds - money that is under the firm's control BUT that does not actually belong to the firm

Really good to see the ocean landing!!

Jumper said...

SpaceX. Barge landing at ~ 27 min.

Unknown said...

Capitalism inherently creates more debt (and so poverty) than value/money. Who cares about "tweaking" and "fixing it" so it works "a little bit better". It's a waste of time.

TheMadLibrarian said...

I once read a short story in one of the Analog collections (long long ago) about a couple of bored salesmen on an interstellar flight, complaining about their lack of prospects. They designed a fantasy league for inventions and entrepreneurs, and ran it through a couple of simulations that seemed to indicate it would do very well, but dropped it because they couldn't figure out how to market it. I can't remember the title; I want to say Asimov wrote it, but am not sure about that either.

Alfred Differ said...

I'd be shocked if others haven't considered it yet, but that should never stop the next person who might ponder things from a different angle. 8)

@Duncan: That's what property laws are for. If it is mine and I call it dead wood, then it is. The person who thinks of it as seed corn should offer to buy it from me BEFORE trying to convince me it isn't dead wood.

I'm probably with you regarding pension funds. If the rules for them are written to make ownership clear but new managers rely upon the costs of lawsuits as a barrier to the original owners defending their property, the new managers are cheats and should be treated as such. Hmmm... A raidable pension fund within reach of an executive should make for a good stat if we can figure out how to know. 8)

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Alfred

The problem has been the owners think of it as seed corn - then come somebody with a leveraged buyout who buys the farm and sells the seed corn then sells the farm

This is legal but converts an operating "farm" into a failed farm with the raiders making out like bandits

The appears to be a way of
Taking out a loan
Using the loan to buy a company
Transferring the loan to the company - so it owes the money that was used to buy it

This results in the new owners owning the company without having used their own money for it

I'm not sure of the details but I have seen it done

I am sure that that mechanism while it is legal is also fraud and theft

David Brin said...

JFS thank you for illustrating my point! That the left CONTAINS many folks who are utterly infantile in their views of economics and history. We are the first civilization to lift billions out of poverty, which is decreasing every single day, around the globe.

Of course the insanity on the right is far worse, at present, paving the way for market capitalism's utter destruction by feudal oligarchy cheaters. The right CONSISTS of y folks who are utterly infantile in their views of economics and history.

CONTAINS is not as bad as CONSISTS.

But thanks for reminding us how utterly silly the left can be.

Alfred Differ said...

I don't see it as fraud or theft. The original owners are paid, are they not? The assets are sold at fair market value, right? The loan is paid off, right? If any of those assumptions are incorrect, you might have a point. If they are good, though, you are guilty of imposing your judgments regarding your goals upon property owned by others.

I know there are cases like you describe. They happen to companies traded in the stock markets. Basically, one buyer borrows a lot of money and buys out the original shareholders. If this purchase is done unethically, we might call it theft instead of voluntary trade. They are generally done according to the rules of the market, though, and the rude fact is a minority owners CAN be pushed around by majority owners. When big money arrives, it is often the case that the fiscally smart thing to do is sell out. Shareholder lawsuits can be initiated to stop these events if they improperly favor insiders, but those suits cost $$ and wind up enriching the lawyers. If small owners agree to sell, they don't have to be happy about it for it to qualify as a voluntary transaction.

Beware imposing your objectives upon the property of others. You risk violating their liberty in doing so. One doesn't have to be a frothing propertarian to see the danger. Just imagine someone reversing the roles on you with your house, car, or whatnot. How much should MY preferences regarding recycling of materials affect how you sell off a car you no longer want? Maybe we will agree on some of them and make my preferences moot, but we might not. Shouldn't I consider offering to buy the car from you (and then doing as I wish) instead of forcing you to behave the way I prefer? I'd argue I should up until there is a large consensus within the community regarding what YOU SHOULD PREFER. Developing those consensus positions is dangerous business. 8)

TheMadLibrarian said...

Aha! I finally remembered the title: "Philosopher's Stone" by Christopher Anvil. Might be worth a look as the rebuttal to incestuous CEO-trading as the be-all, end-all.

Unknown said...

Fascinating, but there are a couple of points that I didn't see addressed in the article or the comments:

1) There is no American 'Right Wing', what claims to be 'Right Wing' is actually the Oligarchy. That's why the Tea Party folks are so upset, they've caught on that they are being feed a diet of bovine excrement, but don't fully understand how it works.

2) There is no American 'Left Wing', what claims to be 'Left Wing' is closer to Corporate Fascism. Thus you have Occupy.

3) Americans are on average the most under-educated and under-informed people in the Industrial world. There are a variety of reasons for this, including the educational system. An American teacher recently gave us an explanation of what it is currently like teaching, and to my horror it sounded very much like descriptions of Soviet schools. How long it has been like this I don't know, I'm not an expert on education (but if you want a catalytic converter designed, give me a call). Then there's the media - when travelling in the USA on business I was amazed at how heavily dumbed down the news was (I'm Canadian).

4) Even among non-religious people there is an almost religious belief in the United States. I have no doubt that Moses would have considered it idolatry. This belief makes it almost impossible to have a rational discussion with many Americans.

David Brin excepted. David, you probably won't remember me, but I was one of the people who gathered around you when you weren't on panels at the Ad Astra you attended in Toronto about 30-35 years ago. You gave me a lot to think about that weekend. It was a bit painful at first, but you helped expand my mind.



locumranch said...

'Fair Competition' is sort of like defining Merit as universal equality: If you define competition as equality which results in a desired outcome, then you are the a-hole cheater.

Competition requires Inequality, my friend, as exemplified by 'Bambi versus Godzilla', wherein the victory of the Superior (as in 'Meritorious') Competitor represents proof of Justice, Impartiality & Fairness, even though such grossly unequal competitions are much less emotionally satisfying than those of near equals.

Again, the 'Flat-Open-Fair' playing field that you so desire is the False Competition (aka 'Practice') that no one actually wins or loses, resulting in the Positive Sum outcome of Mutual Improvement. It should not be confused with playing for keeps (defined by Duncan as fraud, theft or cheating).**

**Playing for mutually-beneficial practice (mock warfare) is resource-intensive. Requiring excess, it is non-sustainable & rarely occurs in situations of genuine scarcity. We like to tell ourselves that positive sum practice leads to resource excess, but the converse is true: Excess resources allow us to engage in positive sum behaviours.

Anonymous said...

We are comparing apples and oranges here and using a false generalization argument. A CEO has nothing to do with a professional athlete in any way. Professional sports are in the Entertainment industry and should be compared to something like the movie business. That is why the players are paid like movie stars, the coaches like good directors and the owners take the profit or loss like the producers/investors do. To make it a general comparison is ludicrous. Each industry is different and each company within these industries is different. You cannot come up with metric that fits all. That is why it is the board that fixes the CEO’s compensation and if the board doesn’t do a good job, then so be it. If the shareholders don’t care to elect a good board then they deserve to lose their money. I doubt if anyone here has refused a pay raise even if he knows he didn’t deserve it so why should we expect a CEO to refuse something that we ourselves would not refuse. It is easy to give examples of excesses because there are many of them and they get the media coverage but there are many excellent CEOs who do a good job and are worth the money. I am sure that many believe in “The Essential Man Idea” but in my experience, most do not. They know they are sitting in an electable seat. However, they do like having a parachute and one in gold if possible.

duncan cairncross said...

"but there are many excellent CEOs who do a good job and are worth the money."


It is possible to find somebody who works hard and smart enough to be worth twice the median
It MAY be possible to find somebody who works hard and smart enough to be worth ten times the median

It is totally impossible that somebody works hard and smart enough to be worthy 300 times the median

Show business and sports are different - but in business and commerce there is NO WAY that somebody is worth 300 times the median

Jumper said...

How much does an average non-famous sports player earn?

Paul SB said...

We need to exercise some caution when we use the names and purported intellects of people from past centuries. Too many people think they know what those people were about but fail to grasp context, reinterpret past icons in terms of our modern context, or more commonly, merely repeat commonly held misconceptions. The use of the term "Darwinian competition" above demonstrates one such misconceptions. Most people in the US hear the word Darwin but the concepts they associate with his name mostly come from Herbert Spencer, a man whose entire mission in life was to justify the wealth of robber barons. The kind of cut-throat competition we assume is Darwinian is only one element of his thought and writing - and one element that has been played up and misappropriated for its propaganda value favoring the rich. It probably isn't worth chastising people for not reading either of his relevant books, the most famous of which is thick as a brick and 150 years out of date. If you want a better understanding of the state of the theory Stephen Jay Gould thick-as-a-brick volume, "The Structure of Evolutionary Theory" published in 2002 - quite a bit more recent than 1859 - would serve a person well. But in this context all you have to do is Google "Social Darwinism" to get the point. What most people think of when they say "Darwinian competition" is the predator-prey relationship, but that relationship is not the only force in nature, not the only force that drives biological evolution, and certainly not a good way to look at the lives of social animals like humans.

Likewise few who talk about Adam Smith and his "Invisible Hand" are doing anything more than justifying their own self-aggrandizement at the expense of others. Smith was writing in response to the Corn Laws, which were created by the House of Lords, and institution that does not exist in the US and is even no longer of any relevance in his native England today. It could be argued, though, that big business, with their enormous power to influence government, both through lobbying and mass-media propaganda directed at voters, have become the functional equivalent of the House of Lords, protecting their interests to the impoverishment of the nation and the world as a whole. There is an equivalence here between the Spencerian misuse of Darwin and the big business misuse of Smith. Both are seen as justification for the very stupidities the original writers were arguing against. Both are now used as intellectual backing for the same old oligarchic domination and self-destructive exploitation that has brought civilizations to their proverbial knees since pretty much the dawn of civilization.

What Wayne said above about Americans is something I have heard from many people from many countries. Of course it is generalization that does not apply to everyone, but there is some truth in it. Too many people are inclined to flag-wave first, think critically later, if at all. Since this is largely a function of the natural tendency for human brains to conserve energy, it should be true everywhere. Actually, I suspect it is, to a certain extent. However, different cultures around the world have developed different memetic landscapes, so in different places the default ideas in the heads of the average hominid on the street are different. And as an insider to the US education system, I agree that the system is deeply flawed, but that has a lot to do with the extent to which it has become a tool of partisan politics, as well as to memes that are at very low frequencies in the American memetic landscape.

Is it best for a patriot to wave a flag and shout incantations, or to criticism the flaws in their country and work to improve them? is this a false dichotomy?

Anonymous said...

Duncan Cairncross,

I assume cobblers means bullshit. It is not a question or working hard or being smart but it is a question of making the right decisions and that is what makes the difference between a company prospering or going under. Is 300 a magic number or what? Show business and professional sports are the same thing.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, hmm, and which candidate was it who helped push through the pro-oligarch Panama Free Trade Agreement? Granted, some of that support doubtless stems from duly expected policy cheerleading when one acts the role of Secretary of State, pom-poms and all, though her actual stance seems difficult to pin down: opposed while opposing Obama, then suddenly for, and now, well, who knows? Perhaps the transcripts of those rather expensive speeches to Wall Street may help shed light on the matter? It would be quite the shame if someone bumped up against a Glass-Steagall ceiling…no, wait, that was eliminated by someone. Hmm, hmm!

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

I don't see it as fraud or theft. The original owners are paid, are they not? The assets are sold at fair market value, right? The loan is paid off, right? If any of those assumptions are incorrect, you might have a point. If they are good, though, you are guilty of imposing your judgments regarding your goals upon property owned by others.

I was under the impression that, in many such cases, the loan does not get paid off. Rather, the bought-out company is saddled with the debt used to buy it out, and then declared bankruptcy. I'm not at all clear on the specific laws or regulations that allow such action, but I'm pretty sure it works that way.

More generally, though, I probably confused my argument by conflating two things--a CEO extracting value from the company and an owner doing so. When the CEO purports to "create value" by converting assets into cash, as if cash is "value" and assets are not, he seems to me to be perpetrating a fraud. When the owner does so, he is within his legal rights. That doesn't mean he's acting wisely. A parasite has the biological imperative to suck the lifeblood out of its host, but if the parasite is intelligent and can plan ahead, he won't go so far as to kill the host. Doing so is the essence of short-term thinking which leads to long-term disaster.

And on yet another tangent, I don't have a problem with a healthy, profitable organization paying rock-star compensation. What I have a problem with is when the organization is bled dry in order to prop up those rock-star compensation packages. There's a trend these days to try and "monetize" everything, as if turning something into money is a way of producing more value. What it really is is a way of extracting that value out of the organization. It would be as if you sold your liver and kidneys for their fair market value--you'd be wealthy for a short time, but what good would the money do you? Some "frothing at the mouth propertarians" even go so far as to assert that your life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness are only valuable to the extent that you can trade them away for money. That way lies the Russian economy.

LarryHart said...

Wayne Borean:

1) There is no American 'Right Wing', what claims to be 'Right Wing' is actually the Oligarchy.

I don't get what the difference is. We're probably using "right wing" in different ways, but when I hear the term, I think of Louis XVI, Pinochet, Marcos, Mussolini. I also think of Hitler, but you'd probably make a case that he was something different.

Nevertheless, the point stands, I don't see why "the oligarchy" and "right wing" don't refer to the same thing.

2) There is no American 'Left Wing', what claims to be 'Left Wing' is closer to Corporate Fascism. Thus you have Occupy.

Now, you're really confusing me. I think of corporate fascism as right-wing, not left-wing. And are you saying Occupy Wall Street was corporate fascism, or that they were a reaction to corporate fascism? Either way, I don't see how you get from your initial assertion to the conclusion that follows.

David, you probably won't remember me, but I was one of the people who gathered around you when you weren't on panels at the Ad Astra you attended in Toronto about 30-35 years ago.

Wow! I don't think I even knew who David Brin was 35 years ago. I first read "The Postman" almost exactly 30 years ago, and my wife didn't get me hooked on the Uplift books until almost 10 years after that.

bigsteve said...

The issue of The Economist about one issue ago had two article about monopoly rents in the US.

This is a conservative British magazine. So it is telling they using statistics find the same thing as you wrote about Mr. Brin.

locumranch said...

Not to hold Social Darwinism blameless, but it is my belief that 'Deserving' (aka 'Entitlement') is the most insidious idea in the western lexicon because it used to both justify & challenge current circumstance.

If Cream can be said to 'float to the top', then many conclude that what is 'on top' must be Cream, so the Fortunate Individual who is handsome, rich, envied, powerful or overcompensated concludes that his good fortune (as well as the individual Ill-Fortune of the poor, sick & ugly) is deserved, appropriate & therefore representative of Natural & Divine Order.

Unfortunately, this is a false conclusion (a logical fallacy, really) which conflates the random Good Fortunate of 'being 'on top' (or the random Ill Fortune of low rank) with the ACT of rising to the top (or the ACT of settling to the bottom) due to Intrinsic Worth & Divine Justice.

I would therefore argue that we cannot blame 'Social Darwinism' for current unequal social circumstance & income inequality, but rather it is civilisation itself that is to blame for CHEATING Social Darwinism in an all-to-human attempt to pass on unearned & undeserved advantage to our offspring & social circles.

Yes, indeed. The Western 'We' live in the 'bestest' & most fortunate circumstance that humanity has ever known, one that we inherited from our father's fathers rather than earned, and 'deserving's got nothing to do with it'.

Too bad, too sad, that Cheaters Never Prosper.


David Brin said...

Wayne Borean thanks and you are welcome here. But seriously, the Tea Party raging against oligarchs is fine by the oligarchs, so long as when push comes to shove they can be talked into crying: “but lib’ruls are worse!” It is a clever technique. And yes, Trunp shows that the narrative may have escaped the oligarchs’ control! But still it is “but lib’ruls are worse!”

It is still poor white males fighting for the slaveowners.

Oh BTW I will be in Toronto in June for Ideacity.

BTW… US schools do not teach facts they teach skill at argument.

Anonymous… we all know that “anonymous” anti-Clinton rhetoric comes from Koch-owned PAC social media boiler rooms. “I prefer Bernie and will fight for his programs” is a sincere thing. But when you see a hate-on-hillary demand the poster’s True Name. He’ll vanish.

Locum is just raving now. It is apparently cyclical.

Paul SB said...

I wonder if there is a correlation with the weather. If we knew where he lived (somewhere on the Great Plains, I'm guessing, but that's a pretty big swath of territory) we might be able to guess at a diagnosis. Seasonal Affect Disorder? Serotonin Syndrome? Then again, it could be age related - but more likely it's meme-related.

Paul SB said...


"And on yet another tangent, I don't have a problem with a healthy, profitable organization paying rock-star compensation."

Agreed. It is one of the most egregious lines of bovine excrement coming from the right wing that people who have issues with wealth disparity are motivated by nothing more than petty jealousy, and are therefore easily dismissed (and their real concerns ignored). Dr. Brin pointed to one of the real issues in the post - that once in power, corporate execs who get paid "rock star" wages (or NBA wages) then use their power to fix the business to increase their own power and wealth. And like those short-sighted parasites who don't know well enough to not kill their hosts, they bankrupt their businesses, and those bankruptcies have ripple effects through the economy that pretty much screw us all. This isn't much different from the House of Lords passing the Corn Laws back in Adam Smith's day, except it isn't the government that is causing the problem (though it often participates, or fails to circumvent), it is the snowball effect of big business. We need to attend not only to the historical context of old ideas we throw around, but also how our century is different from the centuries these ideas originated in.

Unknown said...

Paul SB,

I know a lot of folks all over the world (many from working sales, where I was responsible for cold calling Fortune 500 companies). I've not run into anything like the 'patriotic' attitude that the average American has anywhere else.

I am however a proponent of Canadian Exceptionalism, and have advocated Canada annexing the United States for years. For some reason whenever I bring it up people act like I'm crazy, but I'm slowly conditioning them to the idea...

Larry Hart,

The 'Right Wing' in every nation except the United States, and now the U.K. is most often against state interference in citizens lives, believing that freedom is super important. It doesn't favour the rich, and corporations like in the USA.

The Left Wing in every nation except the United States, and the U.K. since the days of Tony Blair, has been for enhanced social supports, whereas the American Left Wing also favours the rich, and corporations.

This means that effectively you have a one party state, with governance passed between the two wings. This is what the Tea Party and Occupy have started to realize.

Yes, I got lucky, and read The Practice Effect just before the con, loved it, and had a wonderful time listening to David talk science, engineering, and politics! A heady, and fantastic mix.


Social Darwinism is what the United States has now. Effectively the weak are dying of treatable diseases, and the strong stay healthy. That's why the United States has seen a drop in life expectancy for white males, while other age groups have seen a rise, however small. It is also why the U.S. has the worst infant mortality rate of the Industrialized nations. Places like Cuba have better health care, and spend a tenth or less per person on it. In Canada we spend about a third going by memory and have far better outcomes across the board.

Then ther's things like the need for lots of experienced trauma surgeons and nurses for the armed forces. Loosening gun control has achieved that. Note that I can't prove a positive correlation, but it is suggestive.

And of course the poor find it impossible to claw their way it of poverty because the game is rigged. Poor and coloured have an even worse time.

Some friends of a friend were up visiting, and asked to be shown the Toronto slums. Shirley took them to Regents Park. They looked really confused. To them Regents Park looked like middle class housing!


Unknown said...


Agreed. I've read a series of articles on the Divide and Conquer strategy. It is wonderful in its simplicity, and may partially explain why American news organizations produce news that is so heavily dumbed down. It may also explain Reality TV.

Looked at the website for Ideacity. Sounds like it would be a lot of fun, but I'm no longer physically capable of doing things like that. My body is revolting, and minor things like taking my dogs out to the yard leave me wrecked afterwards.

And it is in Toronto. I haven't been that far south in ages. It's a six hour drive, which would leave me wrecked for a day. My last trip it took 60 grains of morphine, and 6 percosets per day to keep me marginally functional. When people found out I drove they were dumbfounded, since a single Percoset usually puts a person to sleep. I'm used to it, so I was fine, as in safe to drive, but when I got home I spent a week recovering.

Been playing Futurist myself. It is a lt of fun!


Dave said...

I'm curious what Dr. Brin thinks the solution looks like, beyond electing more Democrats. He cites Adam Smith as his authority in favor of government intervention, but does that intention take the form of a restrictive bureaucracy, a decentralized, distributed property rights mechanism where those defrauded can take legal action, something in between, or something entirely outside my box?

Jumper said...

What's your definition of "restrictive bureaucracy?"

LarryHart said...

Wayne Borean:

The 'Right Wing' in every nation except the United States, and now the U.K. is most often against state interference in citizens lives, believing that freedom is super important. It doesn't favour the rich, and corporations like in the USA.

Ok, I see where I'm confused by your terms. We have libertarians here too who consider themselves "right wing". I always associate the term with its French origins, so I think of right wing as favoring aristocratic privileges, or its modern American equivalent, privileges for the wealthy and powerful. The way the two concepts overlap is in the sense that the law forbids rich and poor alike from sleeping under bridges.

The Left Wing in every nation except the United States, and the U.K. since the days of Tony Blair, has been for enhanced social supports, whereas the American Left Wing also favours the rich, and corporations.

This means that effectively you have a one party state, with governance passed between the two wings. This is what the Tea Party and Occupy have started to realize.

This is even more confusing to me, because what I think you mean is that the American party called the Democrats are in bed with the corporations. The way I would put the same thought is that American doesn't have a major political party representing the left wing. It has a center-right party and a far-whacko right party. With the advent of Bernie Sanders and his evident popularity, the Democrats might finally be becoming a center-left party rather than a center-right one.

I think of Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter as the left wing.

My body is revolting, and minor things like taking my dogs out to the yard leave me wrecked afterwards.

I don't know why, but this list has an inordinate number of people suffering with medical issues. In my own case, it is my wife who suffered for seven months with untreated Lyme Disease (or something close enough) until she finally found a doctor willing to treat the apparent symptoms without verification from a clinical test. She's much improved now, but will never be the same. So much for "the greatest medical system in the world" or whatever my fellow countrymen like to call it.

And it is in Toronto. I haven't been that far south in ages.

My wife and I actually honeymooned in Toronto. It's a great city, as is Vancouver, where we also stayed for a week on a different trip. I could easily live in either city if you country is good enough to take refugees from President Trump or President Cruz.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Paul SB
"I wonder if there is a correlation with the weather. If we knew where he lived"

One of my friends had a theory that it is all about the sea
"people living more than 100 miles from the sea tend to go mad"
He thinks that this explains the modern political situation and most of history

LarryHart said...


It is one of the most egregious lines of bovine excrement coming from the right wing that people who have issues with wealth disparity are motivated by nothing more than petty jealousy, and are therefore easily dismissed (and their real concerns ignored).

If I look at my neighbor's luxury car and want that for myself without being willing to earn it, that's the sort of petty jealousy they say is at work.

If I notice that the law lets my neighbor get away with infractions that I would be jailed for, or that he can call up a city councilman or a congressman and get his interests looked after, whereas I'm lucky to get form letter responses, and I feel anger at not having my rights as citizen recognized, that's not at all the same thing.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Deuxglas
"It is not a question or working hard or being smart but it is a question of making the right decisions and that is what makes the difference between a company prospering or going under"

Why are the decisions made by the CEO more important than the decisions made by the engineers?? - or many of the thousands of other workers
Either can make the company go bankrupt

I remember a top CEO saying that when he is asked to make a decision if he can't decide he just tosses a coin
His logic was that his subordinates knew what they were doing and if they could not decide between A and B then they were probably about equally likely to be correct and a coin toss was a reasonable way of deciding

David Brin said...

Geez Wayne B, while I disagree with some things you say – e.g. the notion that a Democratic Congress & President would not do many, many things -- nevertheless I cringe at the difficulties that you describe and I am sure we all hope your health will improve!

D Burns. I do not claim to have all the answers. But I know that the American republic has a system called politics that used to function -- imperfectly and in fits and starts – to address the most blatant problems. Sometimes, as when Al Gore’s bill unleashed the Internet, it does much more. Politics as a problem-solving tool was deliberately destroyed by the rising US oligarchy as they transformed the American right into a monstrously re-ignited version of the Confederacy.

Do I favor the left? Only insofar as Rooseveltan methods must be used to defeat this deadly enemy to the republic and restore politics, even enhance it with distributed-modern citizen-based innovations. I actually quite admire capitalism, as manifested in brave startups, small businesses and Elon Musk. Capitalism is the top VICTIM of this oligarchic putsch.



Unknown said...

Larry Hart:

Yes, we take American refugees. Had one as a high school English teacher back in the early seventies, great guy, really knew his stuff. He's one of the reasons I'm now writing.

Anonymous said...

American doesn't have a major political party representing the left wing. It has a center-right party and a far-whacko right party

By Canadian standards the Democrats are to the right of our most right-wing party. Not as far to the right as they used to be (our right has been borrowing from your right's playbook for most of a generation now), but still to the right.

So from this perspective, you have a very-right party and a crazy-right party.

Unknown said...


I'm not sure that the Democrats would do all that much, and if they did, it would favour the corporations (see the Affordable Care Act).

Capitalism works well, as epitomized by Apple, a company that isn't into government subsidies. Apple gets customers buy producing and selling superior products (disclosure - my writing computer is a MacBook Air, my desktop a retired MacBook, and my servers run Linux).

Tesla on the other hand lives on government subsidies. Check how much you get in incentives to purchase electric, it helps Tesla keep prices up. I'm not knocking Tesla's design and engineering skills, they've designed and built fantastic cars, and I'd buy one myself. Or for that matter consider SpaceX which is heavily government subsidized.

Government subsidies can be productive, again see Tesla and California's air, which is far cleaner now (disclosure - you can still find my name on documents stored on the Californa Air Resources Board website ten years after I had to quite working). But they can also artificially distort markets if used in the wrong ways (see WalMart and how it under pays workers because it can use government programs to make up the difference such as SNAP).

Yes, I'm a cynic. I always look at everything and ask 'Who does this benefit?' It often isn't the obvious person (someone receiving SNAP), but the corporation which gets away with paying them starvation level wages.

David Brin said...

"By Canadian standards the Democrats are to the right of our most right-wing party."

Sorry, that's nonsense. Sure, the dems haven't been able to institute anything like Canadian National Health. But most of them would like to.

WB You think dems LIKE "Obamacare"? It was designed, top to bottom by the Republican Party! Obama only put it forward in hope that the GOP might lessen its screeching opposition just enough to let SOMETHING pass for millions of uninsured Americans. And that happened. They pulled back and screeched at their OWN DAMN PLAN just less enough so that it passed, but they could continue screaming "socialism!"

More right wing than Canada's right? Bull puckey! Meanwhile, the Canadian right wing government, like Australia's, has been utterly Republican-loony about environmental matters and climate change.

Face it. The "left-right" political "axis" is utter lobotomizing drivel.

You guys can continue but I am moving


Unknown said...



Back to technology, am watching Top Gear on Netflix, their 'Worst Cars' episode. Some fantastic technology used in ways that are absolutely insane...

Oh, right. We are talking CEO compensation, and how it is out of line with a free market. My personal suggestion would be a requirement that all CEO compensation packages be designed and approved by the shareholders. The CEOs would hate this, and some of these super intelligent mutant NBA All Stars would go do something productive.



duncan cairncross said...

Hi Wayne
"Capitalism works well, as epitomized by Apple, a company that isn't into government subsidies."

Apple is probably the best possible example of the opposite of that!

All of the technology used in Apple products was developed by the government - Apple put it together and added a big slosh of marketing expertise but the technology was all developed by the government

Is that not a massive government subsidy??

Unknown said...

All of it? Some of it, yes. But not all of it.

Much of our technology is Space of Military derived. But that is not a direct subsidy, and is open to any company to use. Microsoft, Dell, IBM, Google, Ford, GM, John Deere, Boeing, etc. all use technologies that was originally developed for Space or the Military. That is not the same as a direct subsidy, which is what I meant.

Apple has had a lot of success in the American school market historically, though they appear to be loosing that market to Google now according to a variety of sources. Again, that is not the same as a direct subsidy, the bidding is open, and competitive, unlike the F35 fighter contract...


duncan cairncross said...

Hi Wayne

Tesla get what $7500/car - about 7% of the price

Apple gets what 90% of it's technology developed free

And you say Tesla is getting a subsidy but Apple isn't?????????

I think you are doing a "True Scotsman" on this

David Brin said...

DC and WB please see where I talk about the Alternative National Debt Clock at:

David Brin said...