Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Taxation, capitalism, free enterprise and fair play

A lot to cover, and yes, politics.  But first ...

== Capitalism, democracy and fair play ==

Evonomics is on a roll. The site has become the central place where serious minds ponder how to revive a mixed economy that served us so well. The miracle that communists never understood and that oligarchs seek to destroy. 

In the lead article, zillionaire entrepreneur Steve Roth writes: Democracy. Capitalism. Socialism. Choose Any Three of the Above. If you don’t have a big bathtub of oil in the ground, you need all three to deliver widespread economic well-being.” Showing the understanding that has made almost all of the rich folks who got it via innovation democrats, he discusses how each of these three legs supports a stable society.

My own metaphor: 
 . Marx wants me to amputate my right arm of competitive, individual or group ambition. 
 . Ayn Rand demands that I cut off my left arm of great projects we decide to do together, in research, infrastructure, space and making sure all children get to reify their talents in fair competition. 
 . Both simplistic prescriptions are monstrous and spectacularly stupid.  I will not amputate.  I need both arms.

David Graeber, a Professor of Anthropology at the London School of Economics, opines on “Why Capitalism Creates Pointless Jobs. It’s as if someone were out there making up pointless jobs just for the sake of keeping us all working.”  Graeber describes how many “bullshit jobs” there are in critical terms… 

...while I take a different tack: that all the nail salons and other — less than necessary — service jobs out there have been a blessing because people like to work!  They don’t want to live in the world of Kurt Vonnegut’s PLAYER PIANO (set in the Albany area where I just spoke (at GE's Whitney Symposium), wherein the only way most people can get work is via the state’s department of reconstruction. Far better to set up an economy in which people provide each other less-than-necessary services, and feel some pride. 

Still, interesting stuff.

Bob Atkinson, a very smart Washington think-tanker I know, argues that “Complexity and Evolution Need to Play a Foundational Role in the Next Economic Paradigm.”  He suggests that “a key focus for economic policy should be to encourage adaptation, experimentation and risk taking. It means supporting policies to intentionally accelerate economic evolution, especially from technological and institutional innovation. 

This means not only rejecting neo-Ludditism in favor of techno-optimism, it means the embrace of a proactive innovation policy. And it means enabling new experiments in policy, recognizing that many will fail, but that some will succeed and become “dominant species.” Policy and program experimentation will better enable economic policy to support complex adaptive systems.”

== Okay... politics... ==

Warren Buffet demolished Donald Trump's whine that he and other Clinton supporters 'do the same thing' avoiding taxes: " Buffet says, “I have paid federal income tax every year since 1944, when I was 13. (Though, being a slow starter, I owed only $7 in tax that year,)" Buffett wrote. “I have copies of all 72 of my returns and none uses a carry forward”

Buffet, the Greatest Investor and popular for his folksy brilliance, wants success for the middle class that has so benefited him and other democratic billionaires like Bill Gates. All agree that taxes on the rich should go back to pre-Bush levels, when we had surpluses, under another Clinton.  In 2015 alone, Buffet gave away $2.9 billion -- that's more than 75% of Trump's claimed net worth.... and twice what sober analysts figure DT owns...

... and as much as a million times what Donald Trump is estimated to give to charity, most years. (See below.)

 But then, we'd know -- (shouldn't we?) -- if those IRS returns got released. And let's be clear about that.  Those who are screeching about "emails" know that, at their very worst, HC's emails reveal nothing criminal, only a lapse in judgement. They do not compare even remotely to Trump's concealing 30 years of tax returns that (bet on it) would reveal conflicts and torts of towering magnitude.

The Trump Tax Return matter should not leave  anyone's awareness, this week.  Remind your crazy uncle.  It won't change his vote... but your aunt is listening.

== More on taxes ==

Moron taxes? Donald Trump's tax plan offers massive tax relief for the rich, which would add trillions to the national debt. In contrast, Clinton's proposal would increase taxes on the wealthy and lessen the burden on middle-class families, especially those with young children.

"A pair of new analyses published Tuesday afternoon by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center emphasize the extreme contrasts between the two candidates when it comes to taxes. In a campaign that has been defined by conspiracy theories, racial innuendos and sex scandals from decades past, the new data is a reminder that the election puts serious money at stake for many American households," writes Max Ehrenfreund in The Washington Post.

I will only add that this also distills the difference between confederates and americans. In 1861, a million poor, white southerners marched off to die fighting for a slave-owning aristocracy that had been waging economic war against poor, white southerners for two generations. Why would they do that, then? And why now? Because symbolism and cultural grievances trump self-interest. (Don't think for a minute this is about free enterprise, which always, always does better under democrats.)

America - the blue Union - is a pragmatic place where we fight for incremental reforms that maintain a healthy middle class.

== Don’t you dare claim the ‘high road’  ==

Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses. Laws against “self-dealing” prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses.

Hence the chain of cheats, mafia dealings, bribing public officials (and bragging about it), lying to Trump University students and union workers and small businessmen and leaving them in ruins, and denigrating for 5 years the birth of the twice legitimately elected president of his country… 

...none of those matter to his followers. These merely exemplify his “strength.”  The fact that he’s actually a very poor businessman, who has not meaningfully enlarged his inheritance beyond what an index fund would have done? Shruggable. Racism and sexism are plus-points, as is participation in the War on Science

To the fundamentalist hypocrites who – unlike Jimmy Carter’s sincere Christians –pray daily for events that would end freedom, democracy, ambition and - yes - bring to an end the United States of America, there is no limit to the faults they will forgive in this predatory, philandering, twice-divorced, flip-flopping, charity-stealing, truth-spurning gambling lord.  

One trait absolves all of that and it is not having been washed clean by the blood of the lamb. It is sharing the same despised enemies.  All the college-smartypants. Those enemies.

== Hello Breitbart ==

Let's experiment: Compare side by side the very worst (non-tinfoil) allegations against Clinton and those assertions about Trump. 

Assume the very worst about Hillary Clinton and only include the Trumpist behaviors that are open matters of public record. Include none of the anti Trump assertions that we're merely 90% sure about, with tons of supporting evidence, but not absolutely proved.

Hers add up to zero years of actual jail time! At the very most? A few fines, and that is if all of the molehills are 100% true. (They aren't.)

On the other hand, Trump's openly admitted crimes - bribing public officials, lying in sworn testimony, slandering people then shrugging off disproof, fraudulently declaring bankruptcy... amount to potential maximum sentences approaching a thousand years. Sexual assault.

Again, only two 8-year presidencies ended with zero high officials sentenced or even indicted for malfeasance of office. Despite 24 years and up towards a billion $ in relentless investigations. Those two administrations are thus proved to have been the most honest in U.S. history...

...Bill Clinton's and Barack Obama's. 

Screech and howl over that. Summon incantation spells about how they managed to hide all the "proof" that endless hearings and $100 million in Koch-offered "whistleblower rewards" never found. But after 24 years of witch hunts and half a billion in largely taxpayer funds spent 'investigating' the most scrutinized couple in history... you bear the burden of proof for your paranoid ravings.

And that'll do, for a couple a days.


Tim H. said...

I'm thinking it wouldn't be difficult to make a case for socialism lite being beneficial to main street, if healthcare and basic income are no longer their problem, the bar for a viable business is lowered.

David Brin said...

More important is the provision of vast numbers of talented people for capitalism's competitive arenas. The philosophers of the RIGHT extoll this! Yet that cannot make the leap (most of them) to realizing that the state serves us all well when it ensures no child lack food, shelter, health and education.

The reason is simple. The top capitalists want "competition" not to be about ensuring they will always be competed-with, by the largest number of skilled rivals. They want "competition" to be an excuse for why they are on top and have an inherent right to stay there. To them, competition is good in retrospect, as justification, not in prospect, as the level-playing field ahead, where they have to keep earning it all.

Doug S. said...

Some bullshit jobs might be a result of coordination failures - a certain amount of corporate law work, for example, only exists because the other guy also has lawyers and neither side trusts the other enough to just make agreements and follow through on them without looking for loopholes or ways to cut corners. So you end up with arms races on lawyers.

See also: https://www.facebook.com/yudkowsky/posts/10153677569324228

David Brin said...

Wow. Jim Wright is amazing. He doesn't put things in quite the same terminology I would. But this ex-military, raised-conservative believer in free enterprise lays it down hard and clear. That the undead vampires who have hijacked American conservatism need to be sent packing. Wright's missive may not convert your crazy uncle. But show it to your wavering cousin.

Tell them to send us adults in 2018. Meanwhile though... yank them, root and branch.


donzelion said...

re Steve Roth's article, and Tim H's comment: "if healthcare and basic income are no longer their problem, the bar for a viable business is lowered."

Whenever one intrudes upon the 'free market,' a government should have a clear reason why it must do so. Hence, 'basic income' may be out of bounds save in exceptional situations (covered by social security). But 'healthcare' may well present precisely the situation where intervention is warranted because the assumptions that make a 'free market' can never actually apply.

One of the key preconditions for a capitalist system is "bargained-for exchange." Certain types of exchange make no sense in a market: one does not bargain with a rival country bent on their own destruction: hence, we cannot operate a military on a 'free market' system, fire all our soldiers and replace them with mercenaries. Similarly, one does not bargain with a doctor by quibbling over the value of one's own life. Injecting the profit motive into health care puts the weight upon a doctor to maximize profits, or to develop a system that ensures sufficient revenue for a doctor while letting some other intermediary to 'negotiate.' When one party can set the price however it pleases, and the other party's primary gambit is to shift the payment of that other party's price onto third parties, the system is not a 'free market' at all, so much as a game of power and cost shifting. Same logic applies to most basic infrastructure, education, and other 'fundamentals' that, if privatized, would empower one side without regard for the other's bargaining capacity.

The reason to cut health care out of the free market has less to do with making it 'easier' for businesses (though that may well happen) than to alleviate the power balance between covered employees & employers on the one hand, and providers on the other. Until the Affordable Care Act, it was all too easy for health providers to split employers v. employees (e.g., by refusing to cover an employee who had a sick child due to expensive preexisting conditions, the employer would be faced with terminating an otherwise quality employee, or retaining that employee and facing a higher total cost).

donzelion said...

So...I just finished my mega-brief (have been posting intermittently while waiting for other people to contribute their portion). Finished it, sent it out to a court of appeals, attorney general, and many others. Paused for a second, and watched the Imitation Game, a movie obliquely linked to my client, a homosexual man charged with an ugly offense that everyone from the judge on down to the victim found unfortunate that he even needed to be charged, but he was. Not a genius like Turing, but a human being nonetheless.

So I did my part this week. 'Mastered' a field of law I've never practiced, at least enough to make some strong arguments to an appellate court on behalf of a man no one cares about (I guess I'll defend a couple others this week too, who don't know me and won't feel a bit of gratitude) - prepared a bullshit brief on behalf of a bullshit convicted felon in a world of bullshit...and next week, I'll go vote for a bullshit candidate to stop a toxic bullshit candidate from deluging us with bullshit to muck up a country that, underneath it all, is still worth loving.

Think it's time to read Earth again, or listen to the audiobook. 'Night all!

duncan cairncross said...

Hi donzelion
The reason for a UBI would be to help balance the power equation in the "bargaining for exchange"

At the moment an employer is has very little on the table whereas an employee has effectively his whole life on the table
This does not make for a negotiation between equals - and is why a union is necessary

If there was a "UBI" and a basic health system an employee could afford to walk away from a bad deal

With a half decent UBI things like minimum wages would become unnecessary

donzelion said...

Duncan: I am more comfortable with the power balances between employer/employee than between landlord/tenant. In an employment context, both sides need to contribute more than just labor or wages to make an enterprise work. Opportunities exist to counter an imbalance of power. An employee can become a 'social entrepreneur' and develop a union among employees (among many other tactics available to get a better bargain).

This is far less likely in a landlord/tenant context, or in remote 'service' contexts where players don't even know who is rendering the services but are compelled to pay various types of rents without ever knowing who they pay or why - or to forego necessities for participation in the economy.

"This does not make for a negotiation between equals - and is why a union is necessary"
A union can be one of the better strategies for an employee to pursue, and 'union-like' camaraderie ought to be a starting consideration for workers earning too little compared to management. One of the best features of a union, at the end of the day, is that they seek to avoid killing the enterprise that created their jobs in the first place. Union/management relationships are typically a sort of a 'loyal opposition.' Far better than an 'enemy' bent on destruction of the enterprise (e.g., a party looking to deliberately drive the enterprise into bankruptcy, stripping the shareholders of all benefits, then selling and transferring its assets to a new buyer free and clear).

My bigger concern with minimum wage is the number of employers creating "quasi-employment" positions - e.g., 24-hour/week barista jobs paying $7/hr. Those sorts of jobs are fine for someone still developing skills to move on to a different position, but many employers depend on such positions to render their services for a long-term condition. These employers are effectively either (1) extracting social capital from their employees (e.g., exploiting employees who 'live in their parents' basement, or who live with multiple other employees in minimum wage posts), or (2) extracting public benefits through their employees. In those cases, the arrangement is a false employer/employee relationship - the employer is using the job as a channel to extract unbargained for gains from family/friends/society as a whole. Hence, a minimum wage may be a proper measure to rein in this sort of parasitism.

A free market doesn't need to eradicate all forms of oppression - only those forms of oppression that any given society is willing to pay the price to eliminate. The rest is up to the members of that market to adopt strategies that can get them ahead.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi donzelion

I am of the opposite viewpoint - IMHO a tenant/landlord have a much much lower power in-balance that an employer/employee

It is (IMHO) much easier to get somewhere else to stay than to get another job and the landlord leaves a valuable property entirely in the hands of the tenant

Anytime I wanted to move (back before I bought a house) I could easily move - most of the time there were a number of different people who could "put me up" for a while

Changing jobs was an entirely different proposition and took months - I was able to live off my savings until a decent job came up but I was lucky in that
AND that was in countries where health cover was not related to employment

Paul SB said...

Mixed feelings here. I share Duncan's desire to defuse the imbalance of power between employers and employee. Too many people are trapped in miserable lives because their only reliable source of income (survival, really) is some toxic job featuring toxic managers and toxic working conditions, often toxic coworkers and toxic customers as well. Don't forget that every one of the top preventable causes of death in the U.S. are as much stress disorders as they are dietary. American capitalism as it has evolved in the last half of the 20th C. has become a maximizer of human misery and a waste of human potential every bit as vile as India's ancient caste system. The prevalence of mental health disorders caused largely by our economic system is astounding, to say nothing of divorce, spouse- and child-abude, alcoholism. How much of drug use is about self-medicating our high-stress lives? I had to take a class on drugs of abuse to get my teaching license, and one of the things that came out of it was the fact that drug use has as much to do with stress as peer pressure.

The UBI would take down some of that pressure, since people's lives would no longer be at stake if they quit a bad job. Then all those toxic managers would be forced to grow up and treat people like human beings. Harassment in the workplace would dwindle to a trickle because businesses that harass their employees would not be able to do business sheltering monster managers. The death rate from stress disorders would drop, saving the medical industry billions and lowering all our health premiums. To use a badly over-used phrase, it's a win-win situation all around - except for the kind of troglodytes who tend to rise to the tops of corporate hierarchies. Those are the people who will do anything to stop UBI, because it's their playground bully asses on the line. And unions aren't going to fix these problems.

By the 1970's /union/ had become a dirty word. Unions were seen by so many people as corrupt and tied to organized crime. I don't know how many times I heard people have fits over factory workers driving better cars than managers - a story I never believed, but it shows you how unions are perceived in many places - as nothing more than a money-grab. As a teacher in a teacher's union I deal with parents all the time that are hostile to teachers in general because they think we only care about our salaries and not one bit about our students. Unions were the answer that worked back in the 19th C., when the Robber Barons were reducing this country to third-world status. Today they are too tainted and carry too much political baggage.

The one problem with UBI is that you will inevitably end up with free-riders who lie off the guaranteed income and make no effort to better themselves. In the past such people would only be a tiny fraction, easily born by society (except for the psychological drive many feel to punish cheaters). But with today's electronic technologies turning people into dopamine zombies, I suspect that the time for such a solution may have already passed us by.

LarryHart said...

About the election, but not political:

Today's Chicago Tribune comedically laments the fact that this election goes as late as it is possible for one to be. Mention is made of the fact that this will be "the latest Election Day since 1988", and treats the forces that make it so as mystical and ineffable, like the time a few years back when the Jewish holiday Chanukah arrived before Thanksgiving, an event which won't happen again for 75,000 years or so (I'm not kidding).

This one is not nearly so occult an occurrence. Elections happen every four years--coincidentally on leap years. There are seven possible leap years on the calendar, one which begins on each of the seven days of the week. Election Day appears in each leap year on the week of Nov 2 thru Nov 8 inclusive, whichever date in that range falls on a Tuesday. This year, the Tuesday is Nov 8. The last time it was Nov 8 was 28 years (7 leap years) ago.

That's all, folks.

- calendar boy

LarryHart said...

I've recently lost my old Windows 7 machine and am now forced to use Windows 10.

Is there some way of telling the operating system that, "No, just because my cursor happens to be placed over something it is possible to click on doesn't mean that I really want to click on it and am just too slow about doing so"?

LarryHart said...

From today's www.electoral-vote.com :

Typically, politicians promote their own candidacies and pooh-pooh the candidacies of their opponents. But 2016 has been anything but typical, and so it is that Libertarian VP nominee Bill Weld gave a remarkably candid interview to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. In it, he acknowledged that his ticket is not going to win, and then went on to criticize James Comey and defend Hillary Clinton. "I'm here vouching for Mrs. Clinton, and I think it's high time somebody did," Weld remarked. Indeed, given the tone and tenor of the appearance, it's not inconceivable that Weld and George W. Bush (see above) will be voting the same way for president on Election Day.

The "see above" refers to an earlier article which noted that every living President, a full house of three Republicans and two Democrats, are voting for Hillary.

LarryHart said...

Maybe I'm agreeing with Tacitus2 here. This Tribune commentator has an interesting view of what is really going on with James Comey. The POV of the article is a fictionalization of Comey himself speaking:


Well, in the interest of transparency, let me tell him — and you. Since July, I had been getting a lot of grief from FBI agents who thought I went too easy on Clinton, and agents in the New York office were nearing mutiny. It was getting harder to keep them in line.

Then, last week, they jammed me. They sat on the new information for weeks, then dumped it on me 12 days before the election.

So I made a snap decision: I decided to protect myself. If Republicans in Congress found out I withheld this information before the election, I'd be impeached within hours. Heck, they tried to impeach the IRS commissioner for looking at them crosswise.

I thought my disclaimer in the letter to Congress admitting I didn't know "whether or not this material may be significant" might signal that I was just checking a box — not so much.

The most ridiculous part is Democrats think I'm trying to throw the election for Trump. That orange buffoon? The guy thinks the Constitution has 12 articles!

If you aren't blocked by a paywall, the whole article is worth the read. I have to admit, it rings true. And if so, then Director Comey finds himself sadly in the Aaron Burr role at the end of "Hamilton" :

When Alexander aimed
At the sky
He may have been the first one to die
But I’m the one who paid for it

I survived, but I paid for it

Now I’m the villain in your history
I was too young and blind to see...
I should’ve known
I should’ve known
The world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me

LarryHart said...

www.electoral-vote.com mentions an interview with Weld by MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, but then links to a different interview on CNN.

Here's the Maddow interview:

Darrell E said...

I am probably not knowledgeable enough to discuss policy specifics as some of you are, but at a more general level it seems very clear to me that some degree of "socialism" is a big plus to any society. I really don't care about labels, only about what works. It seems to me that there is a lot of good evidence to support the claim that investment in the individuals that make up your society can, when done well, pay off big in every way.

All the metrics that are commonly used to assess the health / success of a society are measures of things that are a product of the individuals in the society. Arranging things to make it as easy as possible for individuals to reach as close to their full potential as reasonably possible benefits the individual and society as a whole as the individuals ability to contribute is increased.

"Things" that seem obvious to me include, finding a way to provide easy, obstacle free, education for everyone to as high a level as they are willing and capable of achieving. And by obstacle free I most definitely mean to include free of any monetary considerations, i.e. "can I afford it" is not a question that needs to be considered. How to do this I can't say, not my area of competence. But being that we are supposed to be the best, wealthiest society ever it seems like this is something we ought to be able to figure out. There are some other countries that have had a fair amount of success at this. An excellent bit of evidence in support of this, in my opinion, is the GI Bill. One of the best investments the US government ever made.

Health care is another "thing." Again, since we are supposed to be the richest, bestest society ever, why can't we figure out how to provide quality universal health care? Several other countries do it quite well as statistics clearly show despite the claims of opponents. Too many people argue from an ideological position rather than simply evaluating the evidence.

Will there be freeloaders? Yes, there will always be some freeloaders. So what? Should the ideological position that freeloading is unethical be considered so important that it trumps all other considerations? We already have freeloaders dragging us down. The most damaging ones are the ones at the top, not the ones at the bottom. We can do a lot better. One way to do that is to invest more, wisely, in individuals to enable them to maximize their potential to contribute.

Anonymous said...

The rejection of neo-Ludditism is an error, as it merely exhibits a particularily blind faith in progress. How does the techno-optimist know whether or not neo-Ludditism is actually inferior to whatever tech? Example. A neo-Luddite can in no great deal of time produce warmed water using the forbiddingly old technology known as the pot. The techno-optimist? Eleven hours to debug their wifi-enabled kettle. How is this not deep into the limits, drawbacks, and diminishing returns territory that earn the techno-optimists their blinkers? Sure, you can toss money at a teched out rice cooker; I use a pot. Guess which one costs less and will last longer and requires less maintenance? But, tech! On the computer front, note how the adequate (if clunky) C++ ate them fancy LISP machines for lunch. Or how favorably Google's Go compares with Algol-68. FORTRAN, still in use. But, but, but, but, but this is the future! Aren't we supposed to have Nth generation languages by now, or at least some sort of advance beyond reinventing (predictably buggy) print dialogs in JavaScript?? Ahh, the wail of the techno-optimist, uncomprehending. Perhaps if they cleaved less to their faith in progress, they might be able to make better decisions on when and not to tech. Another example. Given the increase in test scores when students walk (or bicycle) to school (something about pumping blood to the brain that car sitting prevents), should society be designed around the (very Luddite) art of walking, or must those students be confined to devices of devilish complexity that thus mobile the quite immobile students?

raito said...

Paul SB,

(from last thread, on bubbles) Bubbles from the causes I describe (which aren't the only ones, just most of them) are a great example of control theory's overshoot phenomena. But since it's individuals acting, It's pretty hard to control the overshoot with something like a PID loop.

'playground bully asses'

That's the truth all too often. Ever have a manager who said, in so many words 'when being a manager, the master-slave relationship must be maintained'? When that guy left in disgrace (couldn't deliver on any of the promises he made), I got offered the managerial spot. Attrition dropped to 10% of what it was, and we delivered every contract on time and under budget. And we had to throw out every line of the "master's" code, because it didn't work.


It's not the doctors involved in the quibbling.

And as for minimum wage. it's no longer possible to do as I did. Make minimum wage, live off it and go to school.

As for Trump's finances...

Let's say what he says is true and see where it leads us...

He's never declared bankruptcy.

But his corporations have. Which shows he's very good at losing other people's money. If he were President, it would be my money he's losing.

He pays no taxes, legally.

Then there's a problem with the tax code, isn't there? (I'm never quite sure whether I support using tax laws to drive behavior)

He's worth 3.8 billion, made from a million dollar loan.

That means he's multiplied his money 3800 times. Not very good from my point of view. I've managed to multiply my money by a conservative estimate of more than a million times since I was 18. This assumes that half of it is my wife's, and that when I was 18 I had exactly fifty cents to my name (estranged from my parents, without a job, fortunately living with a friend, eating by helping out at a food pantry [I can't claim being self-made: I know where the help came from]). By this measure, I'm much more successful.

LarryHart said...

Darrell E:

at a more general level it seems very clear to me that some degree of "socialism" is a big plus to any society

The fact that "socialism" and "society" share a linguistic root is a big giveaway. If we're all just Ayn Randian individuals who derive no benefit from the society that we happen to be a part of, then what's the point of society in the first place?

Darrell E said...


Yes, you said that well.

LarryHart said...

The Jim Wright (Stonekettle Station) article that Dr Brin lauds above is definitely worth the read:


I've also wondered about the fact that, demographically, I should be a fervent Trump supporter. White, male, suburban, Jewish, wife-and-kid, midwestern, late 50s, employment competing with outsourcing. I should be the poster boy for a Trump supporter. And yet, I'm so diametrically opposed that I have to wonder what distinguishes me from my demographics. I mean, I'm not even someone who can't bring myself to vote for Trump because of one particular flaw, and so reluctantly votes a different way. I'm not "holding my nose" and voting for Hillary as slightly-less-flawed than Trump. No, I was a "Never Trump" voter long before the hashtag existed, and I not only fear and loathe the thought of a Trump presidency, but extend that to the thought of Republican control of congress and the Supreme Court as well. An atheist who nonetheless prays daily for God to deliver us from just one more right-wing justice.

So why am I not just an outlier on the margins, but so different from my demographic cohort? I ask the question rhetorically, because I can't answer it. I mean, I can't answer why the rest of my cohort is so different from me. I can't answer why those who feel cheated and put-upon by the existing rules of the game support a cheater and a bully; why people to whom religion is important support a moral mockery; why Jews who care about Israel find common cause with KKK/Nazi groups who demonize Hillary as an agent of Israel in league with "international bankers"? Someone will have to explain it to me.

Wright's column, and Weld's MSNBC interview, give me hope that there are others like me out there. That maybe the so-called "Trump effect"--Trump voters too embarrassed to admit to pollsters that they are voting for a racist misogynist--are offset by a silent majority of publicly-intimidated Hillary voters.

Paul451 said...

Re: Win10
"Is there some way of telling the operating system that, "No, just because my cursor happens to be placed over something it is possible to click on doesn't mean that I really want to click on it and am just too slow about doing so"?"

What are the somethings that it's clicking on?

If you mean it's activating windows, it's a disability setting. (Control Panel, Ease of Access, Ease of Access Centre, (yeah, twice, coz... ease of access), Make the Mouse Easier to Use, then uncheck "Activate a window by hovering...")

If it's just happening in File Explorer, it has a similar setting that causes issues with touchpads and some mice.

If it's more general, check your manufacturer-specific options for the mouse itself, which might be overriding Win10's own defaults. (Usually Control Panel, Hardware & Sound, Devices & Printers, Mouse.)

For example, if you're using a touch-pad or touch-mouse, turn off "tap-to-click", it's always more trouble than it's worth. Hate hate hate.

If you can't find anything, try a different mouse. Even buy a no-brand $9 corded mouse from the No Brand $9 Corded Mouse Store. If the behaviour goes away with the new mouse, it's a glitch in your device driver. There have been reports of some brands of "clever" mice causing this issue. Try updating the driver, nagging the manufacturer, or just giving up and using another brand.

Or roll back to Win7. I mean, has anything actually been improved?

"every living President, a full house of three Republicans and two Democrats, are voting for Hillary."

Surely that's two and three?

LarryHart said...


Surely that's two and three?

Yeah. It's still a full house, though. :)

LarryHart said...


What are the somethings that it's clicking on?

If you mean it's activating windows, it's a disability setting. (Control Panel, Ease of Access, Ease of Access Centre, (yeah, twice, coz... ease of access), Make the Mouse Easier to Use, then uncheck "Activate a window by hovering...")

That's probably the correct thing to do, and I'll try it. What are the somethings that it is clicking on? Mainly it will close a browser session if I brush past the X on the top right, or even if, like a second baseman, I'm "in the vicinity" of the X.

It also opens annoying ads if the mouse arrow touches the teaser for the ad, but there it might be that the ad is designed to do that.

Jumper said...

You can buy Windows 7.

Kal Kallevig said...

My bigger concern with minimum wage is the number of employers creating "quasi-employment" positions - e.g., 24-hour/week barista jobs paying $7/hr.

Possibly the best example of a bullshit job, although properly compensated these personal service jobs would add value to society and might even be personally rewarding.

Paul SB
The one problem with UBI is that you will inevitably end up with free-riders who lie off the guaranteed income and make no effort to better themselves.

I don't think this is a real problem.

First, these people are probably doing meaningless work now to survive, how would society be worse off if they stayed home and did "meaningless dopamine zombie" behaviors?

Second, people get bored doing nothing. In the 70's I knew this genuine hippie slacker who managed to get himself on disability so his primary activity was to stay at home and read comic books and smoke dope. He was big and strong and I think completely healthy. I lost touch for a year or so and next thing I heard he had abandoned that life and taken a job driving a metro bus. Apparently it is possible to burn out on Conan The Barbarian.

There are plenty of meaningful jobs that could be created at little additional cost to society to absorb the bored individuals ready for something better. How about reducing the child/adult ratio in elementary schools to maybe five to one? There are probably similar possibilities in elder care and I am sure we could come up with others.

Paul SB said...


Thank you for that! I grew up surrounded by people who bitched endlessly about welfare queens and that sense of injustice was the one thing that attracted them to the conservative mentality, voting for monsters who rape our nation (and others) because they were offended to see someone not working as hard as they liked to tell people they did (and you can make of that what you will ;]). An archaeology professor insisted that laziness is a human universal, to which I made basically your same argument - being lazy is deathly boring. The only people who really want to be lazy are those who are overworked, and if they ever get the chance, they will get tired of sitting around pretty quickly.

However, I see a lot of both kids and adults who won't get bored as long as they have a cell phone or game controller in their hands. I don't think the laziness argument is as easy to dismiss now.

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

Duncan/Paul SB: Hmmm, perhaps 'rentier structures' would have been clearer wording.

A lot of 'employment' relationships are rentier arrangements with a sliver of 'employment' thrown in. Many employers extract work from employees who depend on public or other social benefits to survive (e.g., friend/family networks, welfare benefits). Such 'employers' operate parasitically by extracting the windfall of those employees, albeit indirectly.

But others set the framework for those employers: rentiers owning large franchise developments. To the extent they can impose rent increases and enforce them easily, they incentivize all the employers they 'serve' to replicate models of abuse and exploitation. One employer may squeeze a few dozen employees; these folks can squeeze thousands of employers, and thereby tens of thousands of employees (indirectly, of course, but with far greater profits at stake).

New billionaires arise either by offering a new, interesting innovation of some sort, or by "real estate." The latter involves a series of indirect oppressions: a retail store cannot 'pick up and move' as easily as Duncan can: it must make good where it is, and if it is being squeezed, it will squeeze its employees in turn. The 'weak' will exploit the 'even weaker.'

UBI may extend this imbalance. Darrell and Paul SB are concerned about "freeriders" - but the ultimate freerider is not "lobster boy" getting a lux meal, but the "lobster magnate" who gets a lux neighborhood. Look to the origins of the Trump fortune as proof of that.

More simply: when fighting slavery, first, target and undermine the slave empires. Once they fall, target the slave traders. Once they're gone, target the plantations themselves, who will be far easier to dismantle for want of powerful 'friends.'

Darrell E said...

To clarify, I am not worried about free riders. I view them as merely an inevitable cost that needs to be managed in order to minimize their negative impact on the main goal of working towards that better society for everyone that most people want. I'd argue that liberal / social policies are not significantly more likely to inspire freeloading than conservative policies. In other words, the claim by many conservatives that "socialist" policies (like universal health care) will lead to a dystopian freeloader caused hell of some sort is pure hyperbolic bullshit with little evidence to support it and much evidence against it.

Anonymous said...

Hello Brintians (Brinites?)! I recently made a petition on Change.Org that I think some of you may find interesting.


Petition Text:

Native American peoples have historically been disenfranchised with the states where their reservations have been located. Even today, the more than 5 million Native Americans lack even modest representation in DC, often due to the machinations of the Red State governments surrounding them. I propose that all reservations lands that are administered by the Federal Government be designated as an American State, with 2 seats in the US Senate and an proportionate congressional delegation to the US House of Representatives. This American State would not be contiguous, but neither is Michigan, Virginia nor Alaska. Designation of a state capital and congressional districts will be entirely up to them. Issues arising between residence in this State and the racial qualifications for tribal membership must be resolved in full accordance with the US Constitution.

Note: I am not Native American, nor do I have any NA ancestry. I just believe in Democracy. I make the same argument for Puerto Rico and DC, but they already have such petitions.

If you read all that and think it is a good idea, please upvote it or repost as y'all see fit.


donzelion said...

Kal: "Possibly the best example of a bullshit job [minimum wage retail/food server jobs], although properly compensated these personal service jobs would add value to society and might even be personally rewarding."

They add value already - just because the job 'sucks' doesn't mean it's not valuable. ;-)

In a competitive market, asshole managers get fired after too many 'good' employees move to wherever they're treated with dignity (including a living wage). If that's not happening, some less-than-obvious factor is operating to rein in competition.

When competition is real, unions serve as a focus of social investment by employees to counterbalance the power of capital investment. But if unions, low-level management, and employers are all getting squeezed by a hidden hand, competition will be distorted. The victims all KNOW some hidden hand operates to undermine their ability to deal with their own problems. The victims do NOT know what that hidden hand might be.

Those who benefit from exploitation have a powerful incentive to misdirect the attention of the oppressed towards other possible 'oppressors' - e.g., 'welfare queens' or 'globalization' or 'cultural decline' or some other ephemeral phantasm. The more the oppressors benefit from oppression, the more resources they have to invest in the misdirection agenda. Thus, Southern rebel armies formed, comprised of poor men who could never own slaves, yet who were willing to die in defense of "their way of life" from some nebulous threat posed by 'enemies' who never actually meant them any harm.

Berial said...

This is from over two years ago. You want to find the 'freeloaders' look no further than the really big corporations that can game the system so that they get workers that STILL have to be supported by welfare instead of payed a living wage.

Forbes: Report: Walmart Workers Cost Taxpayers $6.2 Billion In Public Assistance

donzelion said...

AtomicZeppelinMan: Interesting proposal!

(1) Do Native Americans you would aid actually want independent statehood for tribal lands?
(2) Is there some other price to be paid for fracturing states? By avoiding machinations of one form of local government, are the people who would experience the change exposed to even more machinations of another form of local government?
(3) Is there some common identity linking the disparate tribes to one another that is stronger than their links to their local community? Tribes in California and Nevada may feel little connection to tribes in Wyoming or Montana. The new 'state' might break up families with ties inside and outside of reservation land. Indeed, you might 'disenfranchise' millions of currently enfranchised but under-represented tribes. (Hence, a reversion back to the first question: is this what they want?)
(4) The remedy of breaking apart states is a seldom utilized one, and for a good reason: we could alter the shape of America from 50 states to 5000, or 500,000 - resulting in a recreation of the same gerrymandering we already have. How many would-be feudalists would take over a 'tribe' in order to become a senator of a 'new' state? Where does it end?
(5) Would statehood actually remedy historical oppression?

I do not ask to mock your initiative: indeed, launching a petition may be one mechanism for finding answers to some of those questions. I would be more likely to consider signing, for example, if I knew that many Native Americans favor this strategy. (Same goes for Puerto Rico: I would not impose statehood upon them, but would let them choose whichever way they wish to go and be bound by their decision, whether it be statehood, independence, or perpetuation of protectorate status.)

Anonymous said...

Hello Donzelion,
Thank you for the very intelligent questions. Lets see if I can respond as smartly!
I am going to start with the last question, because it is the absolute most important one you posed. As an American State the 5+ million residents of the various reservations would have 2 senators and quite a few congress-critters looking out for them, along with Governor and (why not) a National Guard contingent. That is a whole lot of power to bear against oppression. It would also allow Native American youth to look at the US congress and see faces and names similar to theirs. The election of Obama has taught a whole generation of black kids what was possible.

No states would be "broken up" because all the reservations administered by the Federal Government (I say this because there are a few that are not) are not actually part of the states they reside in. Arizona has it's outline on signs statewide, but it is actually a falsehood because the combined Hopi Reservation/Navajo Nation is not actually a part of Arizona (nor New Mexico or Utah). The Constitution has some gobeldy-gook about not carving up states without their permission, but in this case, Congress could convert these lands into a State just as it has with various Territories.

My proposal is to make it one single state, with the residents of such state making their own determination as how to designate state and national congressional delegations. I would hope that two, nearby reservations of similar tribal affiliation would be cool with being represented by a single congressman. As to their links to each other verses those on the other side of the reservation borders; well that ain't no different than the variations among hillbillies in the Florida Panhandle and Alabama. State lines are arbitrary for everyday activities and there are several metro areas bisected by state lines.

As for whether the Native American reservations would even want to unify for more representation, that is up to them. I'm just posing an idea that excited the hell out of me and does not seemed to have been brought up before.


duncan cairncross said...

Hi donzelion

In a competitive market, asshole managers get fired after too many 'good' employees move to wherever they're treated with dignity (including a living wage). If that's not happening, some less-than-obvious factor is operating to rein in competition.

There are several very significant "less-than-obvious factor(s)" -

inertia and friction make an absolute ton of difference!! - in the real world a "competitive market" is like a fine clock which has been filled up with a mixture of syrup and sand

Then there is "information" - the lifeblood of a competitive market
BUT how is the information transmitted?? - through management in a hierarchical manner - the manager who is causing the problem is also the conduit that information about the problem passes through

In the real world a bad manager can keep losing good employees until he dies of old age

LarryHart said...


Just a few weeks ago, Urbandale police officers escorted Mr. Greene from an Urbandale High School football game, Chief McCarty said, after he waved a Confederate flag in front of black students and others in the crowd complained that he was creating a disturbance. Mr. Greene, whose daughter attends the high school, was given a trespass warning, the police said. “He was working out with the school officials what are the parameters of when he could be on the school grounds and when he could not,” Chief McCarty said.

A white guy known by the police for provocations with a Confederate flag kills two cops. I'm holding my breath for Donald Trump to call for the expulsion of angry white men who wave Confederate flags until we "know what is going on." Anyone calling for "supporting the police" by stopping and frisking white southerners?

I didn't think so, effing hypocrites.

donzelion said...

Hi Duncan: "There are several very significant "less-than-obvious factor(s)" [operating to rein in competition and thus cause lousy managers to retain positions]"

Well, 'inertia' and 'friction' are important, but they're not necessarily the sorts of issues that government needs to resolve. The mixture of syrup and sand in the clockworks is real, BUT it's one that both employers and employees have to address (unless someone outside that relationship is consciously sabotaging the vehicle).

The problem of management miscommunication is also one that employers/employees/owners can resolve. Owners who sleep on their assets and let the wolves guard the chickens - and don't discover the concommitant loss of chicken eggs - will lose their asset. Employees will lose their jobs (or get terrible jobs). Employees have strategies to rectify such imbalances - telling the owner (breaking the chain of command), organizing and collectively warning an owner, suing the company (if there's egregious issues they can make a viable claim over), or moving on to greener pastures (sometimes).

"In the real world a bad manager can keep losing good employees until he dies of old age"
For some organizations, yes, though I'd suggest things are more complex than that much of the time. Still, even the worst manager responds to signals passed down by an owner, who responds in turn to signals from a different set of owners (e.g., landlords, or more likely, rentiers). Those signals might be, "Your health insurance rates will go up 10% next year" - resulting in a message to managers to either increase revenues or reduce costs (lay off people) to cover the next expense. Or "your rent will go up." Or "your other cost factors will go up" - always prompting the same outcome. A 'bad manager' then obtains an incentive to be the worst possible asshole without breaking the law so as to get some people to leave without having to terminate them (and pay unemployment insurance), and replace them with others.

It's that level in the background that sets up the incentives - it's also how the biggest of the big corps exploit the employee/employer relationship without ever directly participating in it. Yes, greed plays a role, but the greed at that level tends to be wielded by extreme elites who are indirect beneficiaries. IF one wishes to reduce oppression, that's the crowd to focus upon: otherwise, one replaces manager/employers the same way one replaces one group of feudal lords with another - replicating the status quo rather than addressing the fundamentals.

donzelion said...

AtomicZeppelinMan: You're quite welcome, and I live for interesting questions! That said, I'd correct one assertion - tribal land is still part of the state in which the land was set aside, but the states have been instructed not to intrude into certain areas of local governance. The actual rules can be quite tricky, since the federal government may limit state governance pursuant to treaties or other measures, but even if the residents contend they are 'not part of Arizona' (etc.), under current law, if their land is located in that state, then they're part of that state for almost all purposes (except state taxes).

"Congress could convert these lands into a State just as it has with various Territories."
Better precedent for that is West Virginia; carving up the Territories occurred prior to admission as a state. But the problem with that precedent arises from precisely why W. Virginia was carved off from Virginia itself - those circumstances are pretty uncommon.

"State lines are arbitrary for everyday activities and there are several metro areas bisected by state lines."
Indeed they are, BUT changing those lines can result in major issues. The fight between NY and NJ over territorial waters was an ongoing saga with massive financial concerns at stake; such border disputes are uncommon because the legislatures of each state recognizes just how delicate any change might be. It's certainly something to bear in mind, and shouldn't be done without really good reason. (Note that I'm not saying we don't have a good reason, only that we want to be very clear why we're doing what we're doing.)

Under the status quo, there have been a handful of Senators and US Representatives who claimed Native American ancestry. (Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-CO, who retired in 2005, was particularly effective at working with Dems and Reps during his tenure).

Jumper said...

A few of you will want to read this on the putrefaction of Deutsche Bank.
Me, I'm going to read some SF and then to bed.

Kal Kallevig said...


They add value already - just because the job 'sucks' doesn't mean it's not valuable. ;-)

Yes, I did not say that part very well.

Paul SB said...

Nuclear Dirigible Dude,

If this thing works, you will have done your good deed for the century! One thing to consider, though - I’m not NA myself but in my past life as an archaeologist I worked with a fair number of them. They are not a monolithic bunch. I didn’t know any who did not have a deep SoA, but from talking to them I suspect you will get different reactions, and they are likely to be regional. Most NA’s in the Western U.S. tend to be rather hostile to all things government (and with good reason, I would add), but further east, like the Seminole in Florida, tend to be more willing to work with authorities. I kind of think it has to do how long a group has been subjugated. The wounds are fresher in the West, especially in the Plains States. You should hear some of the horrific tales the Tongva and Chumash tell of the Missionary Period. I would anticipate that some tribes would be on board with statehood, while others would fight it tooth and nail. What happens if the ticket is split? Do you get some places being par too the state and others remaining as reservations?

Heni Herbal said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
David Brin said...

AZM… I like the idea of giving all Native American reservations a collective statehood! Kinda hard on New Mexico. Turns it into a smaller state that’s kind of lilly white, so no gain for the dems!

How about this idea. Let other reservations across the US declare themselves to be part of New Mexico? You’d accomplish the same thing. In fact, WEB DuBois once suggested a reverse Great Migration of African Americans to either Mississippi or South Cariolinia. It would only take a few hundred thousand to turn either otherm into a black republic. Oh, delicious thought.

Oh, in EXISTENCE you see the same thing. The Senators from both North & South Dakota are Native Americans… because so many whites moved out after the Yellowstone volcano burped.

raito said...


It may be the suburban thing. If you were rural, you'd be a larger outlier.


I have never seen a poor manager fired after too many good employees left. Ever. Not even when the decline in productivity couldn't possibly be missed. And I've never seen your strategies work. Ever. And I've participated in most of them. Geez my last job was a place where people in professional positions (generally) never left. Part of my exit interview was pointing out that there was one R&D line dept. where the people left from that represented about 80% of the people quitting the company from R&D. And still he's there. Bad managers are valued more than good professionals. And it's insane. Dilbert is very, very accurate if you're in those businesses.

We know what the hidden hand is. It's the hierarchy. There's little to no credible access to anyone who can actually solve the problem.

LarryHart said...

11:40pm Central Time

The Cubs are sure determined to make this a nail-biting horse race down to the wire.

If this is a preview of election night, I'm fearing another Florida/2000.

LarryHart said...

But, as Hamilton would have it:

Freedom for America! Freedom for France!

Gotta start a new nation! Gotta meet my son!

We've won! We've won! We've won!

The world turned upside down!

David Brin said...

My parents grew up in Chicago. SO yay Cubbies! So Sayeth a Dodgers fan.

David Brin said...

A Dodgers fan who forgives... grrrrr

donzelion said...

Raito: "I have never seen a poor manager fired after too many good employees left. Ever."
No, you wouldn't have seen it. Indeed, this is why corporate lawyers earn the big bucks: to keep you from ever seeing it.

"And I've never seen your strategies work."
When the air is clear, you do not notice the pollutants. So too with social capital: when it's working, nobody notices that it's working. Sounds like you've had some bad experiences.

"Bad managers are valued more than good professionals."
It's not that they're valued more, it's that terminating them is much harder than people who haven't done it many times are likely to realize. Stuff gets missed on the factory floor, or elsewhere. A rogue manager can do a great deal of harm. A rogue employee can go postal and shoot several other employees, causing insurance headaches but minimal actual damage. A manager, on the other hand...can wreak unbelievable wreckage.

We know what the hidden hand is. It's the hierarchy. There's little to no credible access to anyone who can actually solve the problem.
When I was a corporate lawyer (I guess I'm not anymore, not really), I tended to see problems in structural terms, and start with the question, "Who would benefit from such a system?" Sometimes, the hierarchy really is the problem: more often, there's a handful of rogues usurping or distorting it. Most of the time, the hierarchy exists primarily to self-perpetuate: comfortable cowardice, rather than malice, is the norm.

duncan cairncross said...

"Most of the time, the hierarchy exists primarily to self-perpetuate: comfortable cowardice, rather than malice, is the norm."

I would agree 100% - BUT from the point of view of somebody trying to get a job done malice would almost be easier to handle

Which is the point Raito and I both make - the bad managers are almost never sacked - and in "The rest of the world" it is a lot easier to sack a manager

But the hierarchy is more about sustaining itself than anything else - in Government operations at least part of the hierarchy originally joined to "try and make a difference" whereas in private companies the motivation starts and finishes with the individual

This is why something like a UBI is needed

As a skilled and experienced engineer if a Factory manager snarled at me I could snarl back
But if he snarled at some poor shop floor person with no union and no recourse...

I want everybody to be able to do what you and Alfred want us to do - to be able to afford to vote with their feet

Once we can do that then a poor manager will have to raise his/her game (and the pay) to get people to do the work

Paul SB said...

Agreed with Duncan here!

But if the Invisible Hand is really the hierarchy, what guides the hierarchy? A hierarchy is a structure, and all structures need a superstructure - a justification for them to exist. What rationalizes hierarchy, and its more crass brother Big Man brutality, is the Just World Fallacy. The idea that some people are "better" than others and deserve to have better lives than the rest has been integral to our culture since the rise of civilization itself. The old aristocracies all claimed to have "better breeding" than everyone else, religion has always taught that those who are rich and powerful are favored by God and deserve it. The Eastern version is that they did something wonderful in a past life, got a whole lot of good karma and are living the reward. Since Herbert Spencer this fallacy has taken on a scientistic veneer (not actually scientific) in the form of Social Darwinism. It is this version that is the prime mover in the corporate world. The Enron "smartest guys in the room" are just one particularly blatant example of this thinking. All of these idea sets - classism, divine favor and survival of the nastiest - are deeply ingrained in our culture. If they were not, no one would blink an eye at a shyster like Donald Trump. No one would be convinced that a blatantly self-serving bastard would do anything good for his nation.

The Enlightenment was about democracy, about making people more equal, sabotaging the massive inequality that human civilization has wrought, and thereby ending the massive human misery that accompanies institutionalized inequality. Democracy requires that people believe in equality. Otherwise they just vote in a new aristocracy and priesthood, giving them the opportunity to behave as badly as the institutions of the past while stamping them with a seal of democratic approval. The unexamined thought is not worth thinking. Thinking back to all those sexual harassment trainings, it is clear that the majority of harassment is committed by the leaders of the hierarchy, not the underlings. As long as people continue to believe in inequality, we will continue to have massive suffering and injustice. Why should we believe in democratic ideals for our government, but continue to believe in aristocratic ideals in the market? The market has far more influence over all our lives than government does.

Dr. Brin,

I am so glad you brought up duBois! He seems to be this forgotten figure of the Civil Rights movement, yet he had every bit as important ideas as King did. And in the end, he voted with his feet, as Alfred would have it, moving to Ghana in the last years of his life.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

My parents grew up in Chicago.

I did not know that.

Do you happen to know what neighborhood they were from?

SO yay Cubbies! So Sayeth a Dodgers fan.

A Dodgers fan who forgives... grrrrr

I understand the agony of defeat. Hey, I just happened to have planned a trip to San Francisco in Oct 1989, and was all set be on hand to see the Cubs play Oakland in that World Series before the Giants ruined that plan. So I have a bit of understanding of what Dodgers fans felt.

But I hope we can all appreciate the historic nature of a Cubs championship--the first in 108 years. This was America's Team who won.

As for the Dodgers, Indians, et al...Wait 'till next year!

Tim H. said...

Duncan, if only they would put as much effort into their job as they put into maintaining "Face". And Chicago might be in a better mood today.

raito said...


Oh, I've seen poor managers sacked. But never because they drove away good employees. Hint: don't ever lie to the executives about whether you're actually backing up their IP assets...

Yes, I've had bad experiences. But I've found that my experiences aren't off the norm. I do have one friend who (until recently) had never had bad manager problems. To him, the world was a wonderful place, and everyone was nice. It depressed him greatly when he couldn't ignore it any more, and kind of had his nose rubbed in to the fact that it was >his< experience that was outside the norm.

One of the books that my wife read for her MBA was quite good on these subjects. Written by some Gallup guys, they were tasked with figuring out some method whereby one could determine if a business unit would make their numbers or not. Their result was 7 statements present to line workers and see how much they agreed with each statement. Tellingly, they found that managers were the worst predictors of success and failure.

Duncan Cairncross,

Your comment about engineers brings to mind the old days of USENET, where a contributor to one topic was an engineer at Boeing made Technical Fellow. That was a track parallel to management, but much harder to get. You needed things like recommendations from outside the company,etc. But once you were a made man, ONLY the Board of Directors could fire you. And as I recall, their review process was different such that a pissy manager couldn't take your raises.

Sometimes I think Robinson was right on Mars -- workers own the company and contract for management.

Deuxglass said...


I have respect for and fear of sharp New York lawyers. Our company bought another company and merged our operations together. With the merger came some good people and some bad managers who were very well entrenched and I had to get rid of them so we hired some hot-shot lawyers recommended by the head office in Paris. These three managers had iron-bound contracts and we expected that we would have to pay the high price to get rid of them but the lawyers said “we can do it”. They coached me on what to say and not say and what to do and not to do and they basically set a trap into which the bad apples fell. It was masterful. They settled for a fraction of what was in the contract and went quietly with a clause forbidding them to say bad things about our company. Ever since then I have been very wary of New York lawyers. They are killers.

Deuxglass said...

Duncan Cairncross,

The only real way to protect the employee from overbearing managers is to have an economy with full employment so that the employee can easily find another job.

Deuxglass said...

Paul SB,

I am coming back late to you on your recommendation of the book "Noah's Flood". I bought it when it first came out and have been eagerly following these new methods of underwater archeology. I dream of the archeologists finding in the Black Sea intact triremes, quadrilemmas and quinqueremes. We may finally know the seating arrangements for the rowers as well as the ship-building techniques. With a bit of luck perhaps Minoan ships will be found as well and even older ones. Certainly Neolithic settlements are just waiting to be discovered. We live in interesting times! Much more fun than video games.

David Brin said...



Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin,

I have been following John Mauldin for around 15 years now and I read his writings closely. I see how his positions have evolved over the years and in some cases we have seen eye to eye while in others we have been opposed but sometimes economic conditions change so much as to become unrecognizable and what was evident and logic before no longer can provide roadmap. In essence one becomes lost and the future darkens. Earlier this week he wrote something that I think is very important. He wrote:

I am horrified by the fact that I am even entertaining the possibility that William Gibson might be right. Gibson was the first true cyberpunk sci-fi writer (back in the ’90s with the writing of Neuromancer). He foresaw a dystopian world where the divide between those with assets and privilege and those without was shocking. Think Blade Runner. Something must be done to avoid such a truly obscene outcome, and all of the solutions I am coming to require me to rethink my core beliefs about economic and social reality. The basic issue is that those of us who are in the Protected class are going to have to figure out how to more equally distribute the benefits of our position in the future. And do not ask me how, because right now I do not know. And therein lies my angst."

What struck me was the phrase "to rethink my core beliefs about economic and social reality" because I feel the same way. It is the sudden realization that things are out of control. A Bladerunner world can happen. It is no longer science-fiction but a definite possibility that is becoming more and more probable. Whomever wins the election will not and cannot change the direction and I think many people would agree. There are strong impersonal forces at work pushing us in that direction and what we have is a laissez-faire attitude with the beatific belief that it will work out well in the end. That reminds me of the slave that keeps on living because he hopes things will get better but they never do.

As for our political situation all I have to say is reread Thucydides 3.82

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Deuxglass

Even with "full employment" - which we have not had for a number of decades - getting another job is a real pain! - and takes quite a while
It is inherently a slow process, you can see why if you look at it from the POV of the hiring company - you need to identify a slot - write a description - advertise - interview - then finally you can select

Also as you move further up the ladder the number of positions drops - so even with full employment it can and will take months to find a new position

With the limited number of more senior jobs you may have to move as well with all of the hassle for the family and the cost involved

Overall the amount of friction and stiction involved in "voting with your feet" is a real barrier to the idea that people leave because of bad managers - people do - but the managers have to be awful

A.F. Rey said...

As for our political situation all I have to say is reread Thucydides 3.82

Thanks for the advice, Deuxglass, but it didn't really do me much good.



Jumper said...

Umberto Eco had some thoughts on matters: