Friday, December 09, 2016

Greed, oligarchy and Marx

Earlier we looked at electoral post-mortems by some on the Right. And last time, we scrutinized the whole range of Electoral College possibilities, in case there turn out to be forty+ republican electors who are simultaneously patriotic, moral and sane... which these fellows deem to be highly unlikely.

Only now let’s do a sudden veer! Taking you into an unexpected direction by citing a name you thought relegated to the dustbin of history. It seems likely that, during the centennial year of his greatest victory, we'll be hearing more of him.

Karl Marx. Nothing puzzled the father of tendentious-socialist theory, more than the USA. Every time America seemed about to tip into his scenario of the "next phase" - capitalist-oligarchic rule - and from there, on trajectory for communist revolution, we somehow used politics to institute reforms, restoring health to the middle and staunching any thought of class warfare. 

The adjustments made under Teddy Roosevelt and others confused Marx, because politics wasn't supposed to be able to do that. Did this constitute “buying off” the working class? If so, later (Franklin) Rooseveltean Reforms did it even better. So well, in fact, that the entire Baby Boomer generation grew up unable even to picture in their minds something taken for granted by nearly all other generations across 4000 years: class war.

To be clear, the notion of class war was second nature to almost all of our ancestors.  Peasants would hide their harvests from the feudal lord or the confiscating commissar. Those exploiters would swoop in and take whatever they liked, sometimes spurring fierce resistance, even revolution. Marx gained a following because of this expectation. Only in the FDR era and especially post-war, did a generation rise up that took for granted the very opposite. That the rich are just like us. And that a lower middle class worker is just a future rich-dude, whose ship hasn't yet come in.

Despite these American Setbacks, Marxists were confident that such alternative paths would ultimately fail. Oligarchs cannot leave any social contract alone. Greed is a central human attractor state, as is feudalism. The Rooseveltean compact would be betrayed, and Marx described how.

He wrote of how elites stir populist resentment among the lumpen proletariat, using racism and machismo and anti-intellectualism to divert and distract. The Prussian “junkers” lords thought they were clever by supporting (gleefully at first, then to their regret) fascism in 1930s Germany. As French nobles did in the 1780s, and Roman Senators, much earlier. (As if aristocrats are ever truly as smart as they think they are.)

That pattern was vastly more common than our recent experiment in politically fine-tuned class peace. Hence, Marxists felt confident that the savvy AFL-CIO negotiators who erased class conflict in the 1950s would be replaced by lesser minds, who would take their eye off the ball. 

So, is Marx coming back into pertinence? As a topic at least, if not inspiration? See the recently released Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion by Gareth Stedman Jones.

We need to step back and look at the big picture, as Dr. Sally J. Goerner does, in her recent Evonomics piece: Why Trump-Sanders Phenomenon Signals an Oligarchy on the Brink of a Civilization-Threatening Collapse: Oligarchies tend to win, except when society enacts effective reforms. Her historically verified assertion: “…oligarchies always collapse because they are designed to extract wealth from the lower levels of society, concentrate it at the top, and block adaptation by concentrating oligarchic power as well.” 

Our difficult task, maintaining a civilization of empowered citizenship -- the "diamond-shaped social structure" about which I often speak – requires constant effort, not only to fight each generation’s oligarchic putsch, but also to avoid the opposite calamity of monolithic socialism… which has always led to just more feudalism under a different vocabulary. (Just because Marx had insights, that did not make him right.)

Our quandary was well described by the famous historians Will and Ariel Durant, in The Lessons of History.  

"…the unstable equilibrium generates a critical situation, 
which history has diversely met by legislation redistributing wealth
or by revolution distributing poverty.”  

Goerner suggests that: 
   “We have forgotten the lessons of the 1760s, 1850s, and 1920s. We have let Economic Royalists hijack our democracy, and turn our economy into their money machine. Now the middle class is evaporating, infrastructure is crumbling, and pressure is reaching a breaking point. Anti-establishment candidates are on the rise, and no one knows how things will turn out.

“What then shall we do? The first step is to remember that our times also hold a positive possibility – a transformation akin to those which followed 1776, 1865, and 1945. Honest reformers from education and agriculture to energy and finance are already reinventing their fields.”

The irony in all this is that our greatest need, at present, is not redistribution of wealth. (Though note that the American Founders seized and redistributed up to a third of all the land in the original 13 colonies. And it could come to that, again.) 

No, we can probably accomplish enough of a reset simply through transparency! Elsewhere, I describe how simply making open and clear who owns what would enable all modern systems to work better, even without any modifications in law. Certainly without any increase in taxes.

But back to us aging, grumpy white male boomers, who pulled this year's latest, nasty trick on our far-better children.  The Trumpists want to "Make America Great Again," without ever specifying when that "again" refers to. But the implication is they're thinking of the 1950s, when the Greatest Generation that overcame Depression and Hitler contained communism and built vast-productive enterprises that made us wealthy enough to turn our attention to old-bad habits like racism. Got that right?

Except the Greatest Generation did all that under high, New Deal tax rates. Labor unions were were strong and admired. And the wealthiest Americans were only a few hundred times as rich - effectively - as average folks. And the Greatest Generation's favorite living human was a person reviled now by all right wing media... Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Yeah. Then.  

== Proof that the left contains loons, as well ==

Okay, so I raised the issue of once and future terms like communism.That doesn't mean I want it back!  It is a horrendously simpleminded religion that ignores everything from Darwinian selection to biology to how actual human beings function.  Indeed, one of the right's many crimes is the way that have started to make class war pertinent again, elevating an oligarchic caste whose very stupidity ensures Marxism's return.

Does today's left contain dogmatic partisans? There are stunning rationalizations that the Democrats had abandoned the middle class, like this article, in which every paragraph makes a statement that is either misleading or false. Refuted in this piece, which almost get it right.

No, the chief difference between the parties is that the Democrats contain some far-left loons. While today’s entire American right wing consists of such. There is all the world’s difference between “contains” and “consists,” as well as between “far” and “entire."

But that doesn't mean we shouldn't glance, occasionally in all directions. Anyone who has spent time on a university campuse knows that PC bullies and maniacs do exist.  They provide the ammo that Fox has used to tar the vast majority of American liberals – the last clade of progress-loving, positive-sum, pragmatic-reforming citizens that remains in the republic. Moreover, while we may be allies with the Left, we should never take our eyes off them. Indeed, making that distinction will always be our first step toward winning back our confederate neighbors. Persuading them to choose to be Americans again.

== Speaking of the economy ==

It’s not just urban vs. Rural. Or race or gender or even the top correlate - education level. And yes, the almost three million more voters who picked Hillary Clinton, smashing all records for public will, stymied by both cheating and the Electoral College.  

The strongest correlation appears to be wherever economic activity is vibrant, healthy and vigorous. From: Donald Trump lost most of the American economy this election, in The Washington Post:  

“The divide is economic, and it is massive. According to the Brookings analysis, the less-than-500 counties that Clinton won nationwide combined to generate 64 percent of America's economic activity in 2015. The more-than-2,600 counties that Trump won combined to generate 36 percent of the country's economic activity last year. Clinton, in other words, carried nearly two-thirds of the American economy,” writes Jim Tankersley.

One can take it several ways… that the outcome reflects comeuppance for elite snobbery toward Regular America who’s been snubbed and left behind. Or else, that Red America was taking revenge, for the fact that their children – the brightest members of every high school graduating class – go hurrying to the America of lights, universities, entrepreneurship and all that.

It's cultural. 

== A human lifetime ==

And finally... It isn’t just NATO and Pax Americana and global trade that made the last 70 years the best in the history of our species. The world and national systems crafted by geniuses like George Marshall also gave one entire, massive generation of Americans a social order that was incredibly flat by historical standards, as well as increasingly inclusive, with each passing decade. So flat (as described above) that we boomers were the first ever to imagine that ‘class war’ was permanently behind us. A delusion that’s been exploited expertly by the folks at Fox.   

And yet, looking back to George Marshall’s era from the Time of Trump, I have an even deeper concern:

What will happen to America’s crown jewel — our 70 year dominance in creativity, R&D and science? With almost every American scientist - along with nearly all the teachers, economists, medical doctors and all the other knowledge castes - deeply fearful about a Trump presidency, there is one clade that seems to be jubilant over his victory. 

No, it is not the traditional republican oligarchy. (Rupert Murdoch has good reasons to fret, that we’ll get into later.)

No, the delighted ones appear to be — foreign despots


Anonymous said...

From the last thread:
Clear enough, you don't want a real world. Oh well. At least you made yourself clear.
Enjoy your distopian fantasies.
It's rather parasitic isn't it? You stay at the sideline with your head swelled from dark magic master fantasies that you know will not happen, disdaining the world you live in, sharing in all it has to offer, not giving back.

Or do you?


David Brin said...

Oh, and knowing at self-identifying (yowling) Thas-rite! I'm eeevil!" won't get you hanged or garroted. People will wince a little (your food!) and you'll go on being gently tolerated.

Yowl away.

Alfred Differ said...

@Locumranch: Justice is NOT defined as "giving others (...) and expecting from others what we are due". Our so-called 'due' is merely another name for an entitlement, obligation, right or what we 'deserve'. Justice does NOT decide what our due deservingness is; it is the legal contract that does that. Justice only enforces the legal contract & its peculiarities to an exacting standard.

No. You are thinking like a modern contractarian. Go dust off your ethics philosophy textbook if you have one. If you don’t, go get one. You’ll see what I’m talking about in any discussion of the pagan virtues. (Courage, Justice, Temperance, Prudence)

The rest of what you said is irrelevant to me since you are starting by arguing that your definitions are superior again. They aren’t. You are guilty of trying to displace an ancient definition and though there are many who would take your side, most of us don’t.

TCB said...

Whillikers, this new post touches some of the things I was just thinking to come here and mention!

While I drove home a couple of hours ago, Thom Hartmann was on the radio (for my money, he might be the best political talker of them all, and I'm lucky enough to live in a city (Asheville, NC) where I can listen to him in my car.

A caller told Hartmann that, it appears, the Chinese took a page out of the Koch brother's handbook and used a super-pac to influence the Philippine presidential election a few months ago and help get Rodrigo Duterte elected, in a shocking precursor to Trump and his Russian fifth column. Hartmann replied, "Wow! That explains so much!" Yep.

Do we still think it was a good idea for Nixon to open relations with China? 'Cause I ain't so sure...

Lenin apparently didn't really say this, but the dictum that 'a capitalist will sell you the rope that you will use to hang him' makes sense to me. As in Glengary Glen Ross, closing the deal is the prime directive, and if you don't make the sale your competitor will... even if the thing you're selling will eventually destroy you.

And so it is with media companies addicted to political advertising money. They'd take those fat checks from the Devil himself.


Incidentally, I posted an essay online one time, which appears to have vanished (except for the first paragraph). It was called, Should an Ant Own an Oak Tree?

"Let’s assume an ant. He or she is an ant of very average size, a quarter inch long. Let’s assume this is a sort of ant that lives in a house on a plot of land, like one of us. Like me, this ant lives in an average rectangular house about nine times hir own length. A matchbox house. This house sits on what would be half an acre for an ant, a square about two dozen times hir length. That’s about six inches on a side. That’s how much land our very average ant owns. This ant’s doing okay. Many ants have less."

So the idea was that my own home and yard were about equivalent to an ant owning his own oak leaf. Assume the cash value of his very modest home is $100,000 (my house is a cheap one, a manufactured double wide, but very comfy; it's worth about $125k). So my place is worth 1.25 leaves; typical nice homes around here are worth two leaves, maybe four, anything above that is pretty fancy.

Google informed me that a typical oak tree can have 50,000 oak leaves. On this metric, then, an entire oak tree is worth five billion dollars. Some Americans, like Bill Gates, the Koch brothers, Mark Zuckerberg, control four or five trees, ten... the Walton family controls over twenty.

See, most people know that, yes, the ultrawealthy own more than you or me... but it's hard to visualize how much more they own.

My house, cars, retirement funds, all of that: three leaves, maaaaybe four. That's it.

What would it even be LIKE to own an entire fucking tree?

Someone who has a tree can drop a bushel of leaves to buy some politicians and never feel a thing. And those politician change a few lines of tax code and the donor gets five bushels back.

It's insane, an ant owning a tree. And just think how many of those leaves were taken from those who only had one... no wonder so many of the other ants are stirred up...

Alfred Differ said...

@Treebeard: The point is that your utilitarian, egalitarian democracies, while they have achieved much, still fail to inspire. Why do you think liberal democracy is in retreat globally? Is it all a big conspiracy, or is there something about human nature that rejects it, and always will? Does this make things any clearer for you?

They inspired landing on the Moon, exterminating small pox from the face of the planet, almost repeating that with Polio (we are real close), lifting BILLIONS out of subsistence level poverty to where they have at least 10x the purchasing power of what most of humanity had through most of history, doubling the average life span since 1800, and melting the barriers between social classes so much that true peasants are becoming rare. I don’t know why I bother telling you of these, though.

Liberal democracy isn’t in retreat, except in your fantasy world in your head. Quite the opposite is happening in the real world. I suspect you are correct about many of us rejecting it, though. The Y-chromosome catastrophe between 8,000 and 4,000 years ago probably changed human mail behaviors enough to tolerate the hierarchies we invented to live in an agricultural world. Old foraging behaviors suffered. Modern liberals tend to favor the foraging behaviors, though, so they aren’t gone.

You will serve your dark lord well. As his neutered footstool I suspect.

Alfred Differ said...

Sigh. Gotta love spell checkers. Just stick with the obvious phonetic replacement, please. 8)

Tony Fisk said...

Quickly putting up two recent things of note that seem relevant to this post:

1. The knowledge caste have every right to be fearful: Trump transition team have been asking for lists of people in Obama administration who were involved in formulating climate policy for US and Paris agreement. Hey, wasn't science originally an Islamic tradition? (illustrates where this could go)

2. Obama has finally broken cover*, asking the CIA to table a report about Russia's role in tweaking the elections before he leaves office.

* I appreciate forensic investigations take precious time, and something of this magnitude will need to have the sticking power of superglue.

Anonymous said...

the human animal is convinced that it is special, unique, and exceptionally trustworthy...even as it makes up the most bizarre justifications for the most AMAZING bullshit...and condones - even APPLAUDS - the most egregious crimes.....

Tom Crowl said...

TCB... love your 'ant' analogy.

The inability to comprehend the effects of scale... whether it relates to wealth concentration or the effects of CO2 on the climate may well be our Achilles heel as a species.

The mis-comprehension of scale as it relates to time may even be more problematic for us as a species.

TCB said...

Tom Crowl, you reminded me of a quotation:

"The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function." -- Albert Allen Bartlett, in reference to unsustainable population growth as well as the Wall Streetish notion of limitless economic growth on a finite planet.

TCB said...

By the way, here's a link on the Duterte/China connection... this article is from March, before he was elected.

Davao City Mayor and presidential hopeful Rodrigo Duterte admitted Thursday that an anonymous Chinese donor had helped pay for his initial political ads that were aired before the start of the official campaign period.

"Duterte said the ads were directly placed with the network stations and that he did not know who the donor was. This was confirmed by Duterte's spokesman Peter Laviña."

sociotard said...

As I was pondering reasons to try to be optimistic about a Trump Presidency, a wager occurred to me.

Dr. Brin, you have often accused the Republicans of deregulating nothing but Finance, Resource Extraction, and Environmental Protection. Trump, however, seems intent on deregulating a whole heckuvalot.

I would wager $50 to the charity of your choice that in the next four years republicans will deregulate something else.

Are you game?

David Brin said...

Oh, I believe the radical populists will overcome typical GOP laziness, this round, Sociotard. We will yearn for the lazy ones.

raito said...


That gets back to my definition of rich. Which is, if you liquidated everything and put it into a savings account, would you ever have to work for the rest of your life? If not, then you're rich. At least to the point of the definition, which is how disconnected you are from the great majority of people.

How I deal with issues of scale of income is to imagine how many people that income could afford to hire, even to do nothing. How I deal with issues of scale of wealth is to imagine how many people that wealth could afford to make rich (by my above definition).

Dr. Brin,

I do disagree with some of your article's points. Class warfare, or at least class division certainly wasn't non-existent for the baby boomers, especially in more rural areas. My own family's experiences there jive well with other people's accounts. On the one side, my grandfather was the local banker who foreclosed on everyone possible during the 30's (and kept it up later). My grandmother though she was above the local peasants because she had gone to a private school. I can tell you, the equivalent of stealing grain did exist. And this in a town of 2000! The other side of the family was on the other side of the economy. This really does square with accounts of people I know. Way too often, whoever had the money might as well have been an aristocrat.

Sure, the middle class in the suburbs might have been a bit different, but take a look at The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit (or How To Succeed In Business...). Class War just got internalized. Those on top were willing to deal with some class mobility in order to not have actual, outright war. But it got replaced by the rat race.

Yes, the boomers got a lot done, and a lot of it was good. But there was a price, and not all of it was for the better. Though I do laugh at the idea of saying, "OK, you want the 50's back? Up go the taxes..."

One area where I do agree is the idea that what we might call middle-class American values serve pretty well. They serve everyone well by separating wealth from identity. Though 'keeping up with the Jones' is also a disease.

I don't think I agree with some of your economic points. I think it's more of the perception of economics than reality, though I agree it's cultural.

For example, look at Wisconsin's unemployment. The Oct. 2016 map of unemployment by county shows that the great majority of the counties are at less than 3.9%, and are improved over the 2015 numbers ( There's a handful of counties at 4-4.9%, mostly in the north and southeast. The only county significantly higher is Menominee, at 6-6.9% (and that county went for Clinton. There doesn't seem to be a clear correlation between presidential election results and economy. The counties by Duluth, with slightly higher unemployment went for Clinton. As did Menominee and one of the southeast counties. Most of the rest of the state where unemployment was low still went with Trump.

So here, it doesn't look like the actual economy, in terms of jobs, was part of it.

Tim H. said...

Looks like the oligarchs are looking to overreach enough to give socialists another shot at power... perhaps thinking with inappropriate body parts .

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, and the Feudalists were all dirty evil rat bastards and the Americans the best thing since the invention of corporate white bread (and how's that obesity thing going?). Do try to move on past simplistic binaries one of these years. A realist, by contrast, can point to any number of well-loved king and queens on the one hand, and that Harvard sugar study (mmm Mammon) on the other.

"While today's entire American right wing consists of loons" yeah yeah and those folks simply love it when bubble-dwelling liberal elites insult them and somehow, somehow you lost an election. And they're not Americans, not adults? Oh yeah if anything would swing them to your side...heh.

Keep up the comedy, oh blinkered one.

Tom Crowl said...

Some advice for the Democratic Party... on a nuts and bolts level:

From Politico:

How the Democratic Party Lost Its Way

This article deals with campaign tactics and Party effort (or their lack) at the local level.

Of course, they actually must want change. And frankly, the insular D.C. oligarchy has little real appetite for change.

In fact... Nancy Pelosi stated that literally on Meet the Press the other day. "I don't think the Democrats want another direction."

LarryHart said...

Tim H:

Looks like the oligarchs are looking to overreach enough to give socialists another shot at power... perhaps thinking with inappropriate body parts.

Timing is everything. Had Romney become president in 2013, Bernie Sanders would probably have just won the recent election.

LarryHart said...


"While today's entire American right wing consists of loons" yeah yeah and those folks simply love it when bubble-dwelling liberal elites insult them

Not politically correct enough for you?

and somehow, somehow you lost an election. And they're not Americans, not adults? Oh yeah if anything would swing them to your side...heh.

Hey, it worked for your candidate. How have we not just proven that you can insult your way into the White House?

Off Shore said...

"Greed is a central human attractor state, as is feudalism." I disagree that feudalism is a fundamental attractor state. Gwynne Dyer (1994)* made a compelling argument that a mass society without mass communication can be governed only by state terror. If that's true, then who better than fascist assholes to do the governing? Once a mass society achieves mass communication, however, self-government becomes a possibility, and the fascist assholes can be relegated to the heads of corporations where they belong. To me this insight illuminates much of the past 500 years and also much of the past 6,000-10,000 years.

*"Gods of Our Fathers", part 3 of "The Human Race".

Anonymous said...

Pitty we can't build the Orion ship General Atomics wanted in the late 50's.
Deny Trump all those warheads and get our million tons of infrastructure to Mars to give our thinking class an escape route before the purges begin.

locumranch said...

As David says, Karl Marx accurately (1) described the complex interplay between industrialisation & class, (2) predicted the rise of capitalist-oligarchic rule, identity politics & class warfare, but (3) failed to successfully understand why the US system did not follow the same pattern; however, it is my contention that if Marx had followed De Tocqueville more closely, he could have, as De Tocqueville documented the distinctive American character flaws that explain this situation succinctly.

Described by De Tocqueville as boorishness, crassness & truculence, these typically American qualities explain the resiliency of the American political system, as these qualities do not simply represent a Suspicion of Authority (SOA), but rather a deep-rooted recognition that the Ruling & Expert classes created by any hierarchical system are parasitical in nature; hence the American obsession with both amateurism & DIY.

Whereas traditional Indo-European governments encourage overwhelming central control (which then encourages the Ruling & Expert classes to establish a stranglehold over every aspect of socio-economic interaction), the New World System creates a preponderance of small, autonomous, self-sustaining bureaucracies that function quite well in the absence of a singular central authority and PROVE that the Ruling & Expert classes are largely unnecessary, at least as far as activities of daily living are concerned.

What is happening to the governments of the EU & South America right now?

Although they speed towards inevitable socio-economic & demographic collapse, these traditionally-constituted governments cannot change course because their Ruling & Expert classes who determine course & direction ARE their governments, so much so that even the most minor course correction requires revolution & an entirely new government. In the case of the UK, this is less true (as evidenced by Brexit), even though its Ruling & Expert classes continue to insist that any such course change is both impossible & likely to end in disaster (at least for them, the ruling & expert classes).

As it 'Throws the Bums Out', the US is under no such constraint. If it so chooses, then it can GUT its entire Ruling & Expert class and it can still function because the water will still flow, the food will still grow, the roads will still roll & ordinary life will remain ordinary, even if most of our titular heads wind up on a sharpened stick.

Like the delusional chauffeur, our Ruling & Expert classes try to convince everyone (especially themselves) that they are 'large & in charge' because we let them steer our metaphorical car. But, they forget that its OUR CAR! They forget that they work for those they believe they 'rule'; they forget how incredibly replaceable they are; and, they forget that we will kick their sorry-asses to curb if they fail to take us where we want to go.

Let's assume for that moment that some neanderthal 'expert' discovers fire & decides that he's 'hot stuff'. He then has two choices: (1) He can use his new secret fire knowledge to rule others, or (2) He can share his fire secrets with everyone else.

If he chooses (1), then he becomes the indispensable EXPERT & his tribesman must do as he says if they want the ongoing benefits of his proprietary fire. This is the traditional Old World government choice that perpetuates parasitic hierarchies.

If he chooses (2), then he becomes dispensable, less proprietary, less 'expert' & less able to rule as fire making becomes a common tribal skill. This is the New World government choice that destroys hierarchical parasitism.


locumranch said...

@Alfred: Treebeard just wants to go to a different destination than you do & that doesn't mean he's 'wrong' & you're 'right'. Additionally, if you support Virtue Ethics as I do, then that would make you & I ancient contractarians, assuming you're also willing to enforce the Golden Rule of Reciprocity in a brutal & impartial fashion. For a modern contractarian, look no further than Donald Trump, a man who made billions & became President-elect by exploiting the kinder, gentler & consequence-free loopholes of a modern social contract that confuses bankruptcy (failure) with success.

@Anon: To make the connection between the progressive 'thinking class' & rats escaping a sinking ship, you're very perceptive. Both are parasites who don't want to get their hands dirty with the day-to-day activities of daily living. Instead of going out, growing, grinding & baking the wheat necessary to feed the world like the Little Red Hen, they'd much prefer to THINK about helping as they rule others, sit on their piggish duffs & command all of the other Little Red Hens to feed everyone by working harder, 'toting that barge & lifting that bale'. The Little Red Hen doesn't need so many parasitical 'thinkers' anymore, thanks to Quickbooks, so why feed them?


rewinn said...

@Tom - that's an amazing article. The idea that the any political party (the DCCC in this case) should consider it a waste of time to move the dial in a district from 45% to 47% is a waste of time because you need 50% to win ... is stupid because there are still state-wide races to win. People tend to vote along party lines - not 100% but there's a tendency ... so a local candidate that bring 1000 more voters to his or her local race, but loses, still brings 900 or so votes to the state race - which can be a win.

There are organizational dynamics are seem just perverse in some of these parties - the staff may be less concerned with winning than with holding down a salary. The story I like to tell is of the French knights butchered at Crécy by superior technology who failed to adapt and were butchered again the same way at Agincourt --- BUT they retained the feudal system a century longer than the English so who really won?
(The story is not 100% accurate but as a parable I hope it explains the DCCC).

Ahcuah said...

I've tried reading the Evonomics website/blog. However, there seems to be no way to find out what the new articles are. They're undated, and I have no idea what order they are in.

You say Goerner's piece is "recent", but it's all the way on page 4 (and I had to click through to find it). If you hadn't provided a link I never would have found it.

I'd appreciate it if you could get them to change the format there. Pieces need to be dated, and in reverse chronological order, just like this blog. (And no, I don't want email notifications of new articles; I like to go to a webpage and see what's new there.)

Jumper said...

That contained some rationality, locumranch, so I'll ask a polite question: How do you reconcile the benefits of specialization with the accusation of parasitism? Nowadays there is no need of many farmers, per se, although farm workers, which class comprises almost entirely of work-permit (or not) immigrants, are needed. What of builders who don't labor? There are some. Industrial chemists, architects, machine designers, teachers, and people who work in the patent office? Are they parasites? They don't work on a farm or get their fingernails grimy. Do you?

Jumper said...

I do think the upper managerial class has outrageously gamed the system regarding their pay and benefits, with corporate board members the worst. Those working under their direction actually do work, but are likely overvalued comparative to a free market standard.
The traders have carried interest.

locumranch also suggested to me something I have noticed with his Quickbooks comment: that the rather astounding bebefits of the last 15 years of computer improvements haven't translated into federal government efficiencies. Apparently the computer systems have lagged badly, but what about now, 2016? My own preference is to keep doing almost all of what we have tasked them with, but to enable them to do it better. And by "better" I mean taking steps to prevent the potential intrusions that those computer systems have made manifest. But the EPA, and the Pell grants; Social Security, etc. I'm all in favor of.

David Brin said...

Hey anonymous! I didn’t start our current civil war. Rednecks have been screeching how much more moral they are, than city folks, all my life, while we responded with sheepish acceptance of that calumny and lie. But in the 1990s cynical manipulators, using supply side to steal hand over fist from the middle class, knew that this simmering culture war had to be egged into full confederate fury, lest folks realize the old enemy (oligarchy) was back.

They did it by egging hatred of OTHER elites. The smartypants who know stuff. And you are a perfect example. I would bet 10:1 you are not a person of any appreciable accomplishment or knowledge. Funny how that correlates.

Though we who teach your kids, who tend your illnesses, who keep the electricity flowing and the wonders of science spilling forth… we never rubbed it in. The rage you feel at us has a word to describe it.

A word for fools who actually believe that a billionaire economic parasite who appoints dozens of other economic parasites is gonna “drain the swamp.”

Dig it, dope. No incoming president was ever overwhelmingly hated by the clear majority of Americans, as yours is. A majority. A large majority. Yet, he and you offer no olive branches. No humility over grabbing through cheating every lever of power and filling them all with enemies of the people and our future.

No, dope. You are the cult that has declared war on America.

David Brin said...

Off Shore, how is it you disagree with me?

As for the recent taker-of-his-meds… Who are you and what have you done with locumranch? The first five paragraphs were cogent and well-reasoned. Though like all smug platitudes, I could dissect them for exceptions.

Our old locum seeps back in after that, hysterically fantasizing that (1) the domineering oligarchy is the same as the “expert classes” or that they even overlap much…

…and(2) that the electricity and water will still flow without those hated experts. Who at this point aren’t a pinnacle elite but a very very large percentage of the population.

He concludes in old form, declaring that the experts in civilization hold back their knowledge in order to dominate folks. A damned, strawman lie, though it suits his delusions 1&2 fine.

Scientists are the first Priesthood of truth to refuse the trappings and rights of priesthood, to stay vigorously competitive with each other, to rush onto PBS with nature shows and to explain everything eagerly, at whatever level a curious citizen can absorb.

Many have welcomed and are instrumental in the Age of Amateurs and volunteer with school robotics and science clubs, especially in poor neighborhoods.

Some experts (lawyers) resist this trend, true. Others (doctors) had reasons to be suspicious of it, though now they eagerly refer patients to web sites and enlist them in care supervision. Well, maybe locum doesn’t, but I’ll bet Tacitus does.

Parents have gone from being “not qualified” to understand childbirth, to the deeply involved and skilled central parties in that natural process.

It is the products of experts — the internet and cell cameras — that are unleashing citizen power on the streets and in every town.

David Brin said...

And so we get to his core sickness, shared by all members of his cult. He will obey the propaganda financed by oligarchs, proclaiming hate toward every elite EXCEPT oligarchs. Every elite that might help equalize citizens against oligarchic rule and rape, that elite is now the enemy of the cult.

Sorry, so. Show us some outrage that the “swamp drainer” is stuffing Wall Street parasites - the ones who ACTUALLY fit your pattern and should arouse your SOA — into every cabinet post. Nah. You can’t.

“Treebeard just wants to go to a different destination than you do & that doesn't mean he's 'wrong' & you're 'right’.”

Bullshit. You never learn. I am motivated not by “ought-tos” because they can be answered with sick sentences like the one above. I am motivated by fundamentals of pragmatic outcome. Treebeard would return to a system that failed and failed and failed, by every conceivable metric except one… giving a few males increased access to involuntary women and increased reproduction rights. This is always the fantasy that turns out to have drawn the neo-feudalists… envisioning themselves with harems. That is it.

Beyond that, his approach wasted nearly all human talent, maximized misery and ensured we made no progress toward the stars. Hell yes I am “right” about that being “wrong.”

Why do I bother? This is blatant. And I repeat. And you will never, ever, ever actually address anything that I actually said.

Jumper said...

Speaking of knowledge and modern life, Wikipedia's fund drive is going and I donated. It's smart they go through Amazon; they already have my info so no need to expose my information to yet another entity. Just do it.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Our old locum seeps back in after that, hysterically fantasizing that (1) the domineering oligarchy is the same as the “expert classes” or that they even overlap much…

This is classic Ayn Rand. When Cuffy Meigs comes into power and he wants John Galt to provide expertise to help him rule, he offers Galt the opportunity for his (Galt's) "gang" of industrialists to be granted special privileges in return for their support.

Loc is channeling Rand's villain in this case, mistaking expertise for just another form of arbitrary credentialism, and likewise mistaking expert advice for arbitrary commands. In his world, "telling him that his state is under water" is an infringement on his right not to believe it.

He concludes in old form,

It's quite predictable by now. A rant against corporatists and authoritarians forcing regular people to live for the sake of the masters (with which most of us probably agree), followed by the assertion that this state of affairs is eagerly brought about by liberals, and that red-state conservative Republicans will somehow thwart this direction, which is the exact opposite of true.

This again reminds me of Dave Sim, the writer/artist of "Cerebus". One of Dave's shticks was that conservatives think while liberals and feminists only feel. Yet, time and again now, we hear how Democrats lost this election by trying to appeal to facts and issues, while Trump successfully homed in on what people feel to be correct. Sim felt best aligned with conservatives because he valued thought and disdained feelings, but the fact that the two parties behave exactly opposite of what he asserts doesn't make him reevaluate which party he favors.

The world turned upside down indeed.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi riato
Re - Trump and economics
I think it is fairly clear that Trump did not do well with the poor and unemployed'
His bedrock was the "doing OK but think they should be doing much better than THEM" class
Or another way to look at it
The poor cannot afford to gamble
The rich don't need to

Trump voters were those who didn't think they needed the safety net so they could afford to make a gamble that might shred it

Those numbers from Wisconsin seen to show the same thing

Paul451 said...

From the previous thread:

"That is why Murdoch cleverly riled up the idiocracy ...."

I have to object to that analogy, the society depicted in the idiocracy was much more decent than anything the Straussian's want.

Meritocracy. Evidence based policy and a willingness (hell, an enthusiasm) to admit when you're factually wrong.

Paul451 said...

From the previous thread:

You still haven't explained how, in a real empire/dictatorship, you think you'd be anything but a minor servant or slave. And much worse off than now.

As for tribes and chiefdom's and witchdoctors, you misunderstand how they functioned, apparently imagining some 1950s matinee-movie version of tribes. In reality, traditional systems of governance were vastly more egalitarian than any attempt at fascism.

"Note how hardcore US Democrats like David insisted that the US Electoral Process was FAIR when they thought their victory was assured, how they now insist that it was UNFAIR because they lost"

For someone who reads this site, you really don't read anything anyone says. We've been talking about problems in the US electoral system for the entire time I'm been here.

Even just in this election, David's "Advice To Hillary" was to respond to Trump's "Election is rigged" rants not with denial or mockery, by agreeing and then challenging him to come up with an unbiased group of investigators to genuinely assess cheating.

Why? Because he believes that the outcome would be to uncover systematic cheating by Republicans vastly outweighing that by Democrats.

And not just an example "like David", but the actual David. Before the election.

Unknown said...

Are you beginning to understand why I started shrouding locum? There just seems to be no value to me in attempting to undo his labyrinthine series of proclamations, half-truths, and outright lies. I've only got so much time in my day, you know.

Bad enough I'm going to have to deal with a president who speaks the same way...

Jumper said...

There's a lot to this article; I hadn't read it before today because I am a bit familiar with it.

Susan Watson said...

The reference to Wikipedia's fund drive reminded me of the effectiveness of Wikipedia's policies for surfacing truth.

I cannot persuade conservative prairie friends to trust the scientific method and 'experts' who practice it, but at least some seem able to accept that Wikipedia articles are worth at least considering. The fact that 'ordinary' people can edit these bypasses some of the resistance rooted in offended pride.

Making sure everyone has internet access may pull us back from the precipice. That might be a better use of charity than funding attempts at long-shot political jiu jitsu moves.

Paul SB said...

Sorry to bring us back to the last thread when we are supposed to have moved Onward! But it's a little hard to let this one by:

"Randall, Kal & PaulSB reveal themselves as similarly hypocritical by defending gender equality through the peculiar application of sexism: Randall justifies gender-based legal bias by implying that women are too weak & powerless to protect themselves when compared to men; Kal justifies special protections for women by arguing that they earn less than the average male; PaulSB argues that women need special laws in order to "compensate for the sexual dimorphism"; and, in the name of Equality, all of them argue that women require special advantages & protections because they represent the weaker & less capable gender."

I read what all three of those people wrote, and in no case did they say what locum claims that they said. None of them said that one sex requires advantages over the other, only protections. Nor did either claim that one sex is less capable than the other. Sexual dimorphism can mean many things. In modern hominids what it means is that on average, males mass 20% larger than females. So on average, males are physically capable of overpowering females. This is why rape is predominantly a male-on-female crime. I have seen quite a few bruisers who are quite capable of pulverizing a large percentage of males, and even gave one fellow a ride to the hospital when his wife broke his thumb. But that’s the law of averages – not everyone is average. And physical size is not the one and only determinant of human worth. Given what loci has had to say about smart being parasites – a truly microcephalic opinion to be held by any doctor more advance than a witch doctor – the conclusion only demonstrates simple-minded obsession.

Here’s what Kal actually said: “Quite a different issue is whether or not women as a group deserve to be consistently paid less for equivalent work.”
Here’s what Randall actually said: “You don't need laws to protect that which is powerful enough to protect itself.”
If you want to go back and read what PaulSB actually said, it’s fairly long. He’s homozygous recessive for verbosity, but you won’t find anything loci claims in his actual words.

Now he could have stated that his belief in the existence of ubiquitous threats to his masculinity might be unintended consequences of a belief system that insists on legal equality. Instead he put words in other people’s mouths and then called them liars. By definition, he is the one with the trouser combustion issue here. He may be too blind to see this, but others here are not.

locumranch said...

David's mind leads him to dark places:

All I did was point out that western civilisation does not require the Ruling & Expert Classes for most of its day-to-day functioning, and it is he that jumps to the conclusion that the Ruling & Expert Castes are all self-serving oligarchs, possibly because they all try bend public sentiment, resource and effort to their own ends.

Douglas Adams plays with this dialectic some by way of his Golgafrinchan Ark concept, dividing the population into leaders, scientists & high achievers (Ark A), all the people who made things and did things (Ark C), and Ark B which holds all of its most useless citizens, hairdressers & telephone sanitisers, only to have the remaining A & C populations wiped out by a virulent disease contracted from a dirty telephone.

Now David & I might disagree as to who goes in which ark but, mostly, I think we can agree that we will always need SOME leaders & some scientists & some hairdressers to help us when routine day-to-day functioning does not suffice, of which type, what proportion & how many being a matter of some dispute. (I would miss LA & NYC not at all, and I'm sure he feels the same about the Fly-Over States)

Jumper asks an interesting question about distinguishing between useful specialisation & parasitism, my answer being that I try not to as long as both subtypes leave me the hell alone unless I specifically request their intervention, but this question begs yet another more disturbing one as we enter the 21st Century with 7.4 Billion people, a dependency ratio of 50:50 & a degraded environment:

How many people do we really NEED?

You're too literal, PaulSB, as most would agree that a 'special protection' (you can't hit her but she can hit you) equals an unequal competitive 'advantage'. We'll have to talk about the parasitism that is western education later -- the barista with her Masters in Comp Lit is bringing me my latte.

Jumper said...

Those not afflicted by the syndrome tend to not sympathize, but consider the possibility that God has a sense of humor, mean as it might be. I refer to the ailment such that the more he frets consciously over his testicles the more they shrink. It is, for him, like asking one to not think of elephants when told to.

The humor is not cruel among those who had no hand in the matter, it is just all that remains after considering no one has any real idea to help.

Jumper said...

You do realize your statement says you don't distinguish between useful specialists and parasites? If you do think there is no difference you are mentally ill.

LarryHart said...


How many people do we really NEED?

That is the operative question, which then begs the further query "Need for what?"

At the ridiculous extreme, once robots can perform all of the labor, does that free humanity from drudgery, or does it free humanity from life-support? You know where I stand.

Susan Watson said...

Hi Locumranch-
Re "Fly-Over States"- I hear this as a shorthand for you feeling disrespected. Is this so? Or am I missing your meaning here... Thanks-

LarryHart said...

@Susan Watson,

Loc has nothing but disdain for city folk, and he presumes Dr Brin personally feels the same about the amber waves and purple mountains. As opposed to what Dr Brin actually...whatayacall...says.

LarryHart said...


How many people do we really NEED?

I responded:

That is the operative question, which then begs the further query "Need for what?"

It also begs the question who is the "we" who needs people, and what exactly are "we" entitled to do to the people "we" don't need any more?

Seriously, inquiring minds want to know where you're going with this?

Unknown said...

How many people do we really need?

None, I suppose. This planet got on perfectly well for most of the past five billion years without any people at all on it.

Now, mind you, I'm not particularly interested in not existing, but I suppose if "need" is our sole criterion...

Tim H. said...

If one buys eugenics, not many people at all.

David Brin said...

While the "How many people do we really need?" has possible nasty aspects, you guys really need to look at locumranch (notice my use of the full name) as a test case for how to deal with his kind of mania. All we can do is chip away and that means rewarding moments of lucidity!

He's had several, recently, hence my snarks (admittedly immature and conceivably offensive) about his being "on his meds." The metaphor is, at least one of brief, contingent and guarded approval. He has been worth reading... actually reading every word... even if the overall strawmanning behavior and inability to grasp positive sum continues and he keeps attributing to me absurd beliefs, I can STILL notice and reward this.

Attaboy, son. Keep moving toward the light.

Paul SB said...

"Need" depends on who is being referred to. As Jonathan pointed out, the planet doesn't need humans at all, nor does the Universe, most likely, given what utterly tiny specks humans are in the grand scheme of things. Humans, as a general rule, need other humans. It's the nature of being social animals. It's not just that humans need mates to reproduce with, humans feel a deep, instinctual need for peers, for respect, for love and quite a long laundry list of other emotional needs. Among those needs is the need to satisfy curiosity, and the need to contribute to society. Both of these help to explain why so many people go to college. Humans don't just need food and farmers. Food and farmers are necessary, but not sufficient. Of course, any given individual will feel different needs to their own, unique combination of varying degrees - which vary for a plethora of reasons, not only genetics.

The phrase "Fly-over-state" sounds disrespectful, but if you think about it beyond the knee-jerk reaction, it ain't necessarily so. Fly over just means it's a place that doesn't have a lot of interesting things that attract tourists. One you have seen one farm you have pretty much seen them all, unless you are a trained agriculturalist who has a deep interest in such things. If you aren't, you are probably going to be more interested in a place like Mt. Rushmore or Yellowstone National Park. That doesn't mean the farmland isn't important, but I can see how people living among field of amber grain can feel pretty lonely and neglected. It's no wonder faking UFO encounters and crop circles was popular at one time. What people will do for attention - attention itself being a biological need (a fact I have to remind my fellow teachers of regularly).

How many of these people are needed? How many of those? Anyone who claims to know is at the height of pig-headed hubris - a victim of RAE Syndrome (Right About Everything). At the very least, they need themselves and each other. Once a living thing is alive, it has as much right to exist as any other living being. And if a person invests heavily in education and finds it does not pay off in the employment market, then they need a Plan B. That does not make them despicable, only fallible.

Dodging questions as usual, I get back from loci: "You're too literal, PaulSB, as most would agree that a 'special protection' (you can't hit her but she can hit you) equals an unequal competitive 'advantage'."

Last I checked, assault is assault, regardless of who committed it. The friend I drove to the hospital did not suffer legal consequences for assault, his wife did. But that was in more cosmopolitan Denver, not in our mutual backwards home town, where conservative values would have guaranteed him the right to divorce, after the whole town laughed at him for being beaten up by a woman. Larry could pull out his "poor marksman" quote yet again. Loci does this very consistently.

LarryHart said...

@Paul SB,

"Fly-over country" is a pejorative, implying that effete elitists from the coasts don't think of the middle of the country except as something they "fly over" from one coast to the other.
But it is usually used ironically. The person saying it is not making the demeaning comment himself--he's claiming to paraphrase someone else calling the nation's interior by that name.

When locumranch uses the phrase as he did, he's not demeaning farm country. He's implying that Dr Brin would do so.

Paul SB said...


And that's a key point. RAE Syndrome. He makes vast ASSumptions about other people, based on nothing but the stereotypes he holds dear. Dr. Brin, as well as a whole lot of people here, have made the point over and over again that all people matter, including those people living in "fly-over country." But he insists that no one who lives in a city gives a rat's ass about rural people. He ASSumes that all people who live in cities are clones, identical in all their beliefs. Anyone who lives in a city knows that cities are diverse places, full of different people, some of whom fit his stereotypes, but most do not. Some city people are just as right-wing ignorant, some even more, but he can't see past his rural/urban blinders.

And while he is right that there are a lot of people who have more education than the labor market can find work for in its current incarnation, that does not automatically make all educated people arrogant (he really needs a mirror on that one).

In an odd way, the story of Faust makes an interesting point, if you think beyond the knee-jerk. Faust sells his soul to Satan to gain all knowledge (not that Faust was not some college professor, just a charlatan trying to make a buck, like a certain President-Elect we could mention). In the end, the knowledge he gained told him that what truly matters is love. How can knowledge be evil if that is the conclusion it leads to? It's unfortunate that the guy had to get dragged down to Hell, but it was his own fault, not a flaw in the quest for knowledge.

More and more biologists and other scientists are revealing that the social nature of humans leads to that same conclusion. What matters for humans is love. Sure, we need to eat, breath and breed, too. But the big deal is those needs humans have for respect, to feel that they are part of a group, that people care about them and that there are people they care about. A person who misses this for genetic reasons is a sociopath. A person who has taken his personal misfortunes as a reason to be hateful to unrelated people is a bastard, regardless of whether he once in awhile says a true or even smart thing. Maybe one day he will grow up - I don't see this as necessarily a permanent condition - but I'm not holding my breath either.

Slim Moldie said...

I was thinking about this latest post through the frame of AI. Curious how and in what ways you can imagine the effects of AI in politics and nation states. We already had a pre-election twitter bot invasion. Interested in people’s thoughts regarding the political/social dynamics approaching a singularity event with intelligence capable of being manipulated, caged, or kept ignorant of certain inputs. (I am not trying to insinuate that I think we are experiencing this. Just curious.)

For example would an intelligent AI conceived in China, Cuba, Vietnam, and Laos be a political actor with Marxist/Leninist intentions? Would TCB’s oligarch ant that owns a stand of oak trees have the resources to have its own AI as a right-hand consultant Outlook/QuickBooks v.x^y? Would and for how long would the AI do the oligarch's bidding?

raito said...

Duncan Caincross,

Well, it's not the unemployment numbers, as Clinton's Dane and Milwaukee counties have the same as most of Trump's counties. So let's look at weekly wages... That doesn't quite work, either. Sure, Dane and Milwaukee are in the highest tier and went for Clinton, but so did Waukesha, and the Fox Valley counties with that same level went for Trump. And that cluster around Duluth doesn't get paid much and went for Clinton. Maybe that most of the state is under the US average means something.

Randall Winn,

Yeah, the English won at Crécy and Agincourt, but I think the technology that did it wasn't the longbow, but effective command. Some acquaintances who do study this stuff (PhDs and such) go back to original records when possible and have a hard time finding fully-armoured knights dying from arrow wounds in any manner other than getting hit in an open visor. The more military-minded of them have a theory that the longbow caused the opposition to bunch up more -- that it was a way to get the enemy to move as you want them, more than for killing knights. But it's not my research, so I can't say it with any confidence.

Susan Watson,

I do believe that better internet access could help with information dispersal, as long as it doesn't become an echo chamber.

I also have a crackpot theory that when communication and transporation are commoditized, capitalism (and especially the laissez-faire sort) becomes 'impossible'. Established interests can them move faster than their start-up counterparts. Anyway...

It would seem that if the 'rurals' feel that there's no jobs out there, why are fewer of them (apparently) attempting to start businesses that employ people for good wages? (Yes, I have an answer as to why. It has to do with limited vision as to the types of business one could start.) Unfortunately, I can't find out for Wisconsin how many businesses started last year by county. But I do find plenty of sources saying that my state is last in that category (though it appears that it does well in keeping the ones it does have operating). It's often in the news here.

Tacitus said...

Ratio (and others)
Wisconsin update.

"After Friday's counting, 65 of 72 counties are now complete. All are on schedule to finish by Monday.

2,826,909 ballots have been recounted, approximately 95 percent of all presidential ballots cast (2,975,313).

The net change is now +1,442 votes: Trump/Pence +628, Clinton/Kaine +653, Castle/Bradley +17, Johnson/Weld +76, Stein/Baraka +68, Moorehead/Lilly +14, and De la Fuente/Steinberg -14."

Such errors as were found were scattered all across the state, and were usually things like people using the wrong pen on the optical scanners, circling instead of drawing the lines, etc. Milwaukee and parts of the Madison area are lagging in their reports. I expect some drama but little substance from those counts.

So basically there are two possible explanations. Either the vote totals were right (and by extention the exit polls were bollocks), or there was an insidious conspiracy that reached into every corner of the state and hacked not only Diebold machines but all machines. And the paper ballots to boot.

I am as surprised as any of you. I was predicting a Clinton win and a 51:49 R hold on the Senate.

Wisconsin has some political "micro environments" that may not make sense to outsiders. The far NW corner has a legacy of heavy industry and strong union membership. It trends very D.

We all tend to frame current facts into our existing reference system. I am remembering, or perhaps misremembering, my post long ago in the wake of the House vote on the Affordable Care Act. I described it as a political "Pickett's Charge" that would end many D careers. Given the subsequent reduction in the ranks of elected D officials nationwide - starting then - I think I had the right of it.


LarryHart said...


First of all, you're maybe the only one "here" who is also being snowed on for this second weekend in a row. How'z things in your neck of the woods? We didn't get too much overnight considering, but it's supposed to start snowing again soon, and I've got to get rid of what we got ahead of the next round. Keeps me young. :)

As to recounts, I think Dr Brin expressed the sentiment that I echo when I say it's nice to see some evidence that the vote totals are reasonably accurate. I still wonder what happened to exit polling as a methodology. You've put forth some theories, and maybe one of them is more plausible now.

I still think our democracy needs to be wary of other kinds of vote-tampering, most notably voter suppression, which comes in different forms, among them:

lack of adequate voting venues/working machines
laws designed to make it difficult for citizens to register or to stay registered
intimidation by threat or violence

The effect of such things aren't subject to recounts, and I recognize that I'm now talking about a fight going forward rather than trying to affect this past election.

As an editorial comment, I put forth the notion that those who actively work to subvert democracy in the above manners "don't believe in American values", and so according to Trump's own rhetoric should be subject to deportation. More seriously, to those who win by cheating, I'd warn that democracy exists for reasons, one of which is that it provides a safety valve for the disenchanted to feel in control at least enough not to resort to armed rebellion. Likewise, the New Deal exists for similar reasons in the economic realm--that citizens have enough of a safety net that they don't have to resort to desperation measures to survive. 1789 produced both the American Constitution and the French Revolution. 1932 produced both FDR and Hitler. None of those are random accidents.

For now, I personally lament the fact that a majority of my fellow non-coastal citizens seems to hunger for authoritarianism. Given the lessons of 20th century history, I don't imagine this ending well.

Paul SB said...

Very early in this thread, TCB dropped a quote that I thought is worth considering - though probably because it is a point I have been making for a long time.

""The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function." -- Albert Allen Bartlett, in reference to unsustainable population growth as well as the Wall Streetish notion of limitless economic growth on a finite planet."

Limitless growth on a finite planet is the key idea here. I get annoyed whenever I hear the talking heads go on about how lackluster growth was during the Obama Administration, and how it "needs to be" much faster. Who needs growth to be so fast? The über rich do, so they can buy more collector cars and show off to each other how many mansions and looted ancient artifacts they own. But rapid economic growth results in bubbles. Those bubbles collapse in a few years, bringing vast human suffering for years after. BUT, when the bubble starts up and the economy is growing rapidly, it makes the president and other elected officials that supported those policies look like financial geniuses, just long enough to get re-elected. Then the bubble pops and we all go down, but the President is termed out anyway, so he doesn't care.

This has been the pattern I have seen in my lifetime. Every two-term president did the same thing, except the current one (and that may not be for lack of trying - with Congress blocking all his plans for infrastructure spending, but are now ready to open the floodgates once Grope takes the throne). Someone who knows economic history better than I do will have to tell us how far back this pattern goes. I suspect it goes at least as far back as the 1870's S&L Crisis.

Catfish N. Cod said...

locum says: I would miss LA & NYC not at all, and I'm sure he feels the same about the Fly-Over States

Having been a longtime resident of both, I think each would miss the other far more than they realize.

@Susan Watson: citizen science might help. Organize crowdsourcing of temperature measurements, get each other to critique why measurements might be biased one way or another. (It's surprisingly hard.)

My trust in the climate science data and models are not based in 'consensus'. As has been pointed out by people on all sides, consensus is no guarantee of anything -- there was once consensus that plate tectonics was bunk, that the world was millions of years old (Kelvin) or thousands (Bishop Ussher), that the world was deterministic. They were all wrong.

No, what convinces me is that several times, determined skeptics organized committees to debunk the science by thorough statistical analysis, ready and willing to tear it all to shreds. And each time, they came out months later and said...

"I can't believe it. The data are solid. The researchers are honest. This really is happening.

Convincing honest skeptics repeatedly: THAT is the mark of solid science. And it happened. Over and over.

Tacitus said...


It is snowing vigorously over here but we are prepared for it. I wonder if we have found a new Kubler-Ross stage: Talking 'bout the Weather.


TCB said...

Paus SB, as I'm sure Dr. Brin has said more than once, a main point of the New Deal banking and finance reforms was to smooth out the bubble-and-bust phenomenon, and it worked as intended for forty years. When the reforms started to get repealed and removed, the bubbles and busts started to return.

It reminds me of how the hypothalamus regulates body temperature. You don't just say, "Welp, everything's been looking good for a while, we don't need the hypothalamus now!" You can generalize that observation to voting protections (when the Supreme Court gutted Civil Rights Act protections, the disenfranchisement returned at once) and a lot of other things. Why don't we say "Murder rate's pretty low lately, do we even need a law against it?"

Reductio ad absurdum arguments are not always wrong, you dig. I kinda like them.

Incidentally, economies act a bit like computers. This is why central planning fails: the information throughput of a central planning committee is too tiny to make the necessary decisions. I've heard that tampons and sanitary napkins were not made in Soviet factories because the old men in the industrial ministries didn't see the need. So women had to tear up old t-shirts, even if they were married to generals or commissars. That's what I heard, anyway.

A market economy is like a neural net: it distributes production decisions all over the country. Customers buy soap, the store orders more of that soap, the factory fills the order. Customers don't like a different soap, the store doesn't order it.

Now, a market economy doesn't necessarily need to grow to be healthy, I suspect. Indeed, smaller generations of people have enjoyed greater opportunities; less competition for the plum job, less people bidding against you for an apartment or a bit of farm land. Rather, it is the investing class, the corporate capital, that demands limitless growth: more sales, more customers, more dividends. God forbid you should actually work for your livelihood; let your money work for you!

Which brings us back to the problem of population growth on a finite planet. One of the comments a few days ago was worried about the low birth rate of non-Muslim Germans. OMG we have to outbaby the infidels! Our tribe must increase!

But all our environmental problems are results of overpopulation. Water usage, wildlife habitat destruction, global warming, all functions of how many people are pumping water, building houses and clearing land, burning coal and oil. The atmosphere doesn't care if seven billion people are Christian or Muslim or pagan, only that they're burning lots of carbon. What could be more obvious?

But the strategies that endanger us now-- increasing our tribe, seizing resources, eliminating the competition, turning wild nature into safe human space-- have only worked against us for 200 years since the Industrial Revolution. For 200 thousand years and more, they worked FOR us! We're becoming victims of our own success.

Is it any wonder it's so hard to change?

LarryHart said...


I wonder if we have found a new Kubler-Ross stage: Talking 'bout the Weather.

Alas, even the weather can be political these days.

Catfish N. Cod:

No, what convinces me is that several times, determined skeptics organized committees to debunk the science by thorough statistical analysis, ready and willing to tear it all to shreds. And each time, they came out months later and said...

"I can't believe it. The data are solid. The researchers are honest. This really is happening.

Also alas, the opposition seems to have found a winning counter-strategy--Keep on denying and never admit your preconceptions are wrong. No, their denial doesn't change reality, but it does keep people who are applying your test from having to accept any need for change based on the evidence. "Opinions differ on the shape of the earth" in perpetuity.

Paul SB said...


"Convincing honest skeptics repeatedly: THAT is the mark of solid science. And it happened. Over and over."
- That is ultimately what builds consensus, or a lasting consensus, anyway. The example of plate tectonics is good, and happens to be what I am teaching to a batch of extra-fresh freshmen. Continental Drift Hypothesis never mad wit past the hypothesis stage because, even though it had solid evidence, it couldn't eliminate alternative hypotheses (the land bridges). Consensus between 1915 and 1980 was that it was a curious and unresolved question. Not too many people believe dat because there was no explanation for a force that could move the continents around. When James Tuzo Wilson looked at the seafloor data that had been gathered long after Wegener's death, using technology that did not exist on Wegener's time, he was able to figure out the mechanism and eliminate any competing hypotheses.

With climate change, the temperature data make it obvious it is happening. Denying the temperature data themselves separates reasonable human beings from the ignorant fools and lunatics. The question becomes, what is causing these changes? Alternate hypotheses, like sunspot cycles and orbital mechanics, have all been pretty well shown to have little or no role in the climate change that is happening today, though we know they did affect climate shifts in the past. That is what makes anthropogenic climate change as true as humans can know. Yes, huge numbers of people have tried to debunk it and utterly failed, when they look at the data honestly. That is a critical part of the process, and is exactly what our host os getting at when he speaks of scientists as fiercely competitive. They all have their pet hypotheses which they defend to the best of their ability, but in science, the winner in the end is the one that best fits the data, regardless of who came up with it. Unless the actual data change, or we find some hugely important data set we were previously unaware of (as was the case with the seafloor data that lead to Wilson confirming and vastly expanding on Wegener) anthropogenic climate change stands as proven, to the best of current human ability.

Paul SB said...

"The Continental Drift Hypothesis never made it" - not "never mad wit" What have I done to piss off the Technology Fairy?

LarryHart said...


Which brings us back to the problem of population growth on a finite planet. One of the comments a few days ago was worried about the low birth rate of non-Muslim Germans. OMG we have to outbaby the infidels! Our tribe must increase!

But all our environmental problems are results of overpopulation.


I realize that Treebeard and locumranch don't always see eye to eye, but in this, their views would seem to be completely incompatible. You can't have "How many people do we NEED?" at the same time you worship at the altar of fertility. (And while I realize that a temporary solution is to let the inferior races die, in the long run, that just leads back to "How many Nazis do we NEED?")

LarryHart said...


But the strategies that endanger us now-- increasing our tribe, seizing resources, eliminating the competition, turning wild nature into safe human space-- have only worked against us for 200 years since the Industrial Revolution. For 200 thousand years and more, they worked FOR us! We're becoming victims of our own success.

Is it any wonder it's so hard to change?

This is precisely why societies need both conservatives and liberals. It's important to have those who caution "This is the way it always works. Let's not rock the boat." But we also need those who recognize "We're in a different boat now, and the controls work differently."

Paul SB said...

I forgot to say something regarding loci's reference to Douglas Adams and the Golgafrinchan arks. We seem to be missing something re. the fates of the 3 arks. Ark B contained all the people deemed most useless by society, including the telephone sanitizers. The Arks A & C meet with disaster - an epidemic caused by a telephone-born infection. The irony here should be obvious, and the message, too. It's a message that Darwin himself brought up, though I doubt Adams, as an Anglican minister, would have known that.

We may judge this person or that person - in evolutionary terms this adaptation or that adaptation - as more or less valuable than another. We may even deem people or adaptations to be worthless, even parasitical. But when times change what was worthless at one time might become vital for survival at another time, under other conditions. We don't have chronoton-powered crystal balls. We have no way of knowing what will save our anatomy in the future. Maybe some future Joe the Plumber will, or maybe that barista with the Master's in Comparative Lit. Maybe it will be a Muslim immigrant from Syria. When conditions change, the hand that has been good for the last 100 years could turn out to be fatal now (like having 2.3 children per family when we are consuming our natural resource seed corn).

Jumper said...

How come this country never took a stronger lead in promoting and funding worldwide birth control?
Oh, yeah, right.

Paul SB said...


Reductio ad absurdum can be useful for satirical purposes, certainly. And what you said about the strategies that served humanity for thousands of years have only turned to bite humanity in the last couple hundred is exactly what archaeologists have been on about for much of the last century (and one of the main things that attracted me to that field as a yungun).

As far as central planning an economy goes, I think the Communist movements of the last century have shown how effective that can be (not!). A more realistic role for government is to regulate, not to plan. Regulation is necessary for public safety. Without government regulation, big businesses with modern technology would slowly destroy our population between being too cheap to clean up toxic wastes and greedy enough to put dangerous but addictive ingredients in all our food. What was the key ingredient in Coca-Cola before the Food and Drug Administration stepped in, back in 1934? Oh yeah, cocaine! I once wrote a paper about ice house trusts. People had come to depend on regular deliveries of ice blocks to keep their food fresh inside their ice boxes, but once people had become dependent, the ice factories started jacking up the prices beyond what ordinary workers could afford, and death by food poisoning shot up. For-profit corporations are notoriously short sighted, and need some sort of referee to keep them from destroying their own customer base - human civilization.

Love your hypothalamus analogy!

Deuxglass said...

I find it amazing that responses to locumranch or references to what he said make up about 70% of this thread. He has become the leader now and sets the agenda. I don't agree with you locumranch but I do recognize success when I see it. Most people feel the need to refute your arguments when all you really want is their attention.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Dr. Brin: Someone at WaPo finally figured it out.

How Trump and the GOP will try to turn the entire country into Dixie

The operative word here is "try". The echoes here are to the Compromise of 1850, with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, and to 1921, with the appointment of the Millionaires' Cabinet of Warren Harding. Neither time did this end well for the oligarchs.

@TCB: I applaud the hypothalamus analogy, though I might alter it for folks who don't know a hypothalamus from hypothermia. "I've been breathing fine all my life. What do I need with a brainstem to make me breathe?"

@PaulSB: My point is that we need to stop talking about consensus, for the opposition implies that the consensus is either uninformed (not examining contrary evidence) or maliciously anti-informed (deliberately rejecting contrary evidence due to prejudice). Neither is true, but unless we say "No, we fed that in and had skeptics look hard at it" then it doesn't fly.... nor should it.

On a different post: the real challenge and question that honest small-government advocates have asked (as opposed to those in the pay of oligarchs) is: how do you keep regulation remaining regulation, and not turning into a control mechanism? On the one hand, regulatory capture has now gone through several cycles, where the oligarchs take control of the agencies that are supposed to regulate them. The Billionaires' Cabinet intends to do this on a massive scale. On the other hand, too much regulation really can stifle a market; that's not actually a complete strawman. Congress has proven inadequate to the task of keeping that balance, and I know state governments too well to believe they will avoid capture by local oligarchs. So what to do?

My proposal is fractal checks and balances: replicate the three branches of government for each regulatory regime, with a Commission to write regs, an Agency to enforce, and a Tribunal to ajudicate; with each overseen by the respective branch of government. This gives us federalism by subject or by market, rather than by geography. There are places this is haphazardly done, but without the clear norms to make it work. I'm open to other ideas, or to critiques of mine.

@Deuxglass: they're good foils and jumping-off points, but I take it far beyond to realms where they can't follow. I suggest we all do the same.

Jumper said...

Deuxglass, do we have to elect locumranch President of the Blog now?

Deuxglass said...


I wouldn't risk it. The polls might be wrong. I have had one too many bad surprises this year.

locumranch said...

I prefer the title 'Adversary'.

The above responses explain why I stick around this site: Everyone is supremely intelligent.

"How many people do we NEED?", of course, was a facetious question meant to (1) highlight the slippery slope that is Utilitarianism and (2) emphasise that 'need' is akin to 'deservingness' in the sense that both terms reflect want & desire rather than indispensability.

When asked to distinguish between useful specialisation & parasitism, I answered that "I try not to as long as both subtypes leave me the hell alone" because such a decision lacks objectivity and reflects only (my) personal bias & desire.

It seems to me that 'NEED' is merely a matter of opinion because, more often then not, when we claim to need or not-need something, we are simply verbalising our desires, wishes & wants.

And, yet, all I hear from other people is a constant litany of need, needing & not-needing, along with the assertion that the fulfillments of their desires are somehow my responsibility:

(1) The progressives who 'need' to maintain political dominance over conservatives; (2) the foreign nations that 'need' Pax America to pacify their streets; (3) the EU common marketeers who 'need' the elimination of national sovereignty; (4) the opiate abuser who 'needs' synthetic heroin rather than methadone; (5) the feminine equalists who 'need' the opposite gender to enable, subsidise, protect & empower said 'equality'; (6) the minorities that 'need' the destructive reformation of majority rule; and (7) the scientists who 'need' (by virtue of being correct) all of the belief, respect & obedience that laymen owe this new priesthood.

As a doctor, it has been my experience that people want what they want when they want it, and they only care about validating science if & only when it validates their desires, wishes & wants.

Nothing else will suffice.

@TCB: Google 'cortico thalamic pause', null a

Tom Crowl said...

RE: How many people do we need?

Answer: At least two in order to give meaning to the pronoun in the question.

(the only valid answer under all conditions set by the question)

Other than that no meaningful answer is possible unless you agree on the criteria defining "need"... which apparently locumranch understands.

Slim Moldie said...

Deuxglass, I'm an outsider here but it seems like your buddy Locum occupies a critical niche in this blog's ecosystem as a contrarian. Many of you follow the principals of improv comedy by 'yes and-ing' each other which can be fun and positive. Locum gives you the opportunity to object and say no and use angry words. If you Really object start taking turns playing the Devil's Advocate.

Anonymous said...

This satanic cult is worldwide. I wish Brin can get beyond his petty politics.

Mark Pasio:

TCB said...

@ locum: "Google 'cortico thalamic pause', null a". Done. This is not an idea van Vogt invented, not really. Similar techniques include but are not limited to:
Gurdjieff's technique of self-remembering;
the 'coin flip test' where, if unable to choose between two alternatives, you flip a coin. Then, say if it comes up heads, you then ask: Am I happy about the way the coin fell?;
Bayesian decision making (see the very useful Lesswrong Sequences which, if more widely known, would, in the words of Robert Burns, "frae mony a blunder free us, an foolish notion."

This mention of NEED, NEED, NEED reminds me of one of the most serious issues in modern discourse and especially political discourse: what do words mean?

When I say a word, the simple string of phonemes is a signal which, in my brain, has a certain meaning and connects a number of beliefs and semantic connections; but when you hear it, it may not mean the same thing nor will it activate the same set of beliefs and semantic connections.

Example: Dr. Brin dislikes right/left nomenclature: it's 'outdated and French.' I find it a little more useful, since there is some carry-over to modern realities. In the Estates General, the people sitting on the right supported the King (and aristocracy and the church, generally speaking). On the left were the republicans, who opposed the King and the old regime. The left believed in government by the consent of the people. Modern right/left nomenclature is somewhat the same: on the right we have the religious, the exalters of private property and upper classes, now grown rich enough to become a new aristocracy. On the left we have those who want more equality, a wider franchise, less religion, more bread for the poor.

But there are other political spectra, and I think the best is open/closed. An open society, like the one we have been lucky enough to have, lets you travel freely, speak freely, associate freely, sleep without fear of midnight raids by secret police... that sort of thing.

A closed society is one where most people are unfree and they know it. They are watched, followed, silenced; criticize the rulers and you can be beaten, jailed, killed; perhaps the regime is a Communist dictatorship, perhaps it is a pro-business fascist junta, perhaps it's a theocracy where women can't drive or men must grow beards.

The important point to notice here is that in a closed society some central authority has too much concentrated power, whether that power be weighed in money, guns, bibles, Korans, Party membership. Insiders have freedom: Putin's friends, Chinese Communist Party lordlings, Kim's inner circle: the laws do not apply to them.

In an open society, everybody has some power and nobody has too much. The leader of an open society cannot, on a whim, tell his underlings to arrest someone, waterboard them, hold them without habeas. In an open society, a leader cannot send paramilitary thugs to harm political opponents.

This is why so many Americans are freaking out about Donald Trump, and why we should have been more worried before. American society has been closing for years, and we don't know how closed it can get.

TCB said...

All of which leads me back to that word NEED.

To me, need means need. It's a boolean function, yes or no. Do I need air? Yes. Without it my body will stop working in a couple of minutes. Do I need a slice of apple pie? No, but I definitely would like one.

Most of locum's list of NEED examples are cast as mere desires, but each would take unpacking. For instance, I can't say what the opiate abuse needs. I'm not a doctor. But some of the other points present legitimate points of contention. The first one:

(1) The progressives who 'need' to maintain political dominance over conservatives

Hoo ha, what country is that? Progressives haven't had such a political dominance in Unistat in decades, which makes 'maintaining' it a prickly challenge indeed. If we mean an emotional urge, I'd point to the conservatives who practically have hot flashes at the thought of losing control over the Supreme Court. They sincerely seem to think it's their birthright.

(5) the feminine equalists who 'need' the opposite gender to enable, subsidise, protect & empower said 'equality';

We have frozen sperm now. They don't need men at all, heh heh.

(7) the scientists who 'need' (by virtue of being correct) all of the belief, respect & obedience that laymen owe this new priesthood

Can't have that, gotta obey the old priesthood! Seriously, that's what I'm hearing.

By the way, the Golgafrincham ark story is fiction, lest we forget. If there were really three space arks, the one filled with scientists would have some scientists who made sure the phones were sanitized, because they're not idiots.

Deuxglass said...


I know he does fill a certain role. What I dislike is that he goes less than halfway in his reasoning before announcing his conclusion giving us the feeling that he is unbalanced. It is as if he were sabotaging his argumentation on purpose. I know that most people here tend to the Left and he sees himself in enemy territory but I bet if he unleashed himself and gives us a-beginning-to-end well-constructed argument, he could give us a good run for our money.

Unknown said...

Just a side note: the B Ark was the only one launched from Golgafrincham. And everyone who stayed behind died from a disease contracted from an unsterilized telephone.

Also, the B Ark was programmed to crash into Earth, because they didn't know it was in fact a massive ultracomputer designed to find the Ultimate Question to Life, the Universe, and Everything, and that the life on the world was an integral part of that program. (That means the Golgafrinchan "useless" people, the ancestors of humanity, were a corruption of the program, so even if the Vorgons hadn't destroyed Earth ten minutes prior to the program's completion, it still would have returned a wrong answer.)

Unknown said...

Vogons, sorry - trying to type fast because it's my daughter's lunchtime, and diabetic autistics really don't work well with "just a minute, dear".

Jumper said...

Self-promoting Satanist Anton LaVey got most of his shtick from Ayn Rand.

LarryHart said...


This is why so many Americans are freaking out about Donald Trump, and why we should have been more worried before. American society has been closing for years, and we don't know how closed it can get.

I doubt most Trump voters actually voted for a closed society. Or if they did, they presume that it will be closed for "others", not for them. But then I doubt most of them voted for a cabinet of Wall St. billionaires either. In fact, many probably voted against Hillary Clinton because she was in bed with Wall St. billionaires.

To me, need means need. It's a boolean function, yes or no. Do I need air? Yes. Without it my body will stop working in a couple of minutes.

Yes, "need" can't be defined except in relation to some end. Most of us probably agree that survival as an end goes without saying, but one could argue the point if one really wanted. Even so, there is some ambiguity. You certainly need food, but how much and how often? A Chicagoan in December needs heat, whereas a homeless Costa Rican may not.

That aside, is survival the only source of "need"? Most of us assert that we need our freedom, but as millions survive in prison, we're not describing a survival need there.

By the way, the Golgafrincham ark story is fiction, lest we forget.

And humorous fiction at that. It was written for the punch line.

LarryHart said...


(1) The progressives who 'need' to maintain political dominance over conservatives;

From our point of view, you are equating "attempting to remove your jackboot from my upturned face" with me dominating you. I mean, I see the connection, but seriously, dude?

(6) the minorities that 'need' the destructive reformation of majority rule;

Considering your emphatic support for the Electoral College, the disdain here is ironic.

7) the scientists who 'need' (by virtue of being correct) all of the belief, respect & obedience that laymen owe this new priesthood.

I'd say this reflects more on your need to believe your own facts, notwithstanding inconvenient reality. If you think that ignoring science to the extent that we foul our own next only harms scientists, you're living in a dream world. But then we know that already, don't we?

Slim Moldie said...

PaulSB & Catfish

Re regulation. Your discussion--particularly "how do you keep regulation remaining regulation, and not let it turn into a control mechanism" prompted me to dig out a book by small farmer, Joel Salatin. He talks about how as a socialist, Sinclair was surprised that "The Jungle" generated outrage at a human-tainted food source as opposed to the incidious working conditions--which lead to a 30-50% sales drop off for the big packers. Salatin argues that if Roosevelt hadn't signed the Pure Food and Drugs act, private citizens would have patronned local farmers, butchers and growers, educated themselves and banded together to create private regulatory agencies. From his point of view regulation is suppressive to the point where his state attorney general told him that potential customers can't just agree to sign a waiver absolving him from liability.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Catfish

IMHO the major barriers to "regulatory capture" that you need are the ones we use here (NZ)

(1) - Proposed regulation including (Most Important) the "Purpose Statement" is published on the web for comments
(2) The proposed regulation + the comments goes back to the committee
(comments are recorded)
(3) The amended regulation is posted on the web
(4) The amended regulation is voted on in Parliament

The key differences to your system
(1) - specific single pieces of legislation - nothing extraneous stuffed in there
(2) - we can challenge any actual regulations that come from this legislation against the "Purpose Statement"

IMHO this works very well except when the government uses "Urgency" to do an end run around the process

raito said...


"I expect some drama but little substance from those counts."

Do you mean like Sean Duffy (7th District Rep.) showing us that manners aren't necessary as a politician, and either lying or being woefully incompetent? For those of you elsewhere, Mr. Duffy said flat out that only one county in the WI recount was doing it by hand, apparently ignorant that his own home county (Marathon) was counting by hand.

For those not familiar with the geography, the NW corner of WI is Duluth-Superior, the port at the far western edge of the Great Lakes.

As far as my opinion on the whole recount thing...

I didn't expect any change in the outcome. However, our laws specify under what circumstances recounts happen, and those circumstances were met. I find suits attempt to stop legal recounts quite distasteful, and more wasteful than the recounts.

Yeah, it's snowing here. I'll end up clearing the sidewalks again before I go to bed.


You might want to find a different metaphor. Your computer one doesn't make much sense. 'Computers' doesn't necessarily mean centralized, and 'neural net' doesn't even come close to implying distributedness.

LarryHart said...


Sorry I forgot you are also in Wisconsin. I'll try to remember that you also share in the misery when a big enough storm rolls this way.

From what I heard on the news last night, there might be another one next weekend, making three in a row.

Tacitus said...


I also expect that the final tally will be close to the original one. I don't begrudge the exercize of a recount. By drama I meant a bit of foot dragging to push right up to the deadline. I don't see that dragging this out to potentially keep WI electoral votes being cast is a likely scenario but if that happened I and many would be quite grumpy.


Tony Fisk said...

Something else that recounts flush out: "59% of voting machines broke in Detroit"

So we can't recount there. Real pity...

In all seriousness, if you shrug at such things, you have normalised them. At least take note; you'll be doing a lot more of that in the next twelve months.

It would be interesting to view %turnout vs voting preference by county

raito said...


I don't experience that much misery. A couple years ago, my wife bought a snowblower that she can manage. For me, it's pretty easy. And , in theory, I can get work done from home (except that the last time I saw my work computer, it was attempting to restore itself. Let's hope it's done with that silliness when I get to work tomorrow).


I'm unsure whether feet are dragging, but I also wouldn't like to see the votes uncast.

rewinn said...

raito said...

...Some acquaintances who do study this stuff (PhDs and such) go back to original records when possible and have a hard time finding fully-armoured knights dying from arrow wounds in any manner other than getting hit in an open visor....
I am but a humble googlexpert (that is to say not at all) but I suggest that a mounted knight whose horse gets hit by an arrows is going to have a VBD. IIRC the French then sent in the infantry, uphill in the mud, against a prepared position....

... anyway, it's a parable. No-one really thinks the Good Samaritan paid the bills of the injured man ...

... the lesson of the parable being that while an organization may wish to win battles, the members of that organization may wish to maintain their position within the organization - and that can result in needlessly lost battles. Since American political battles tend not to end with the capture, ransom or execution of the losing candidates' varlets, there may be even less motivation for a varlet to focus on victory. Outside of politics, I am heavily involved in a certain class of non-profit, and have come to feel that reports emphasizing the amount of effort expended towards solving the core problem but lacking metrics on solving the problem indicates that solving the problem is not the priority, e.g. "over 10,000 client contacts made this year and we'll do the same next year if funded" is very different from "out of 20,000 underserved persons in county X, we helped half this year and have a plan to get the rest helped next year if we're funded".

Zepp Jamieson said...

I just came across this interesting tidbit, When the US imposed sanctions against Russia in 2014 pursuant to the invasion of Crimea, one of the items put on indefinite hold was a contract between the Russian government and Exxon to exploit a wide variety of off shore drilling zones off Russia's Arctic coast.Estimates made the contracts worth up to half a trillion dollars to Exxon, and even more for the Russian government.
So now we learn that the Russians did, in fact, deliberately sabotage the American election. And their newly minted President has just picket, for Secretary of State, the CEO of Exxon. State, of course, is in charge of implementing sanctions.

Tony Fisk said...

@zepp. It's been noted.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch: Treebeard just wants to go to a different destination than you do & that doesn't mean he's 'wrong' & you're 'right'.

You are missing the point. I'm not trying to say I'm right and he is wrong. I'm refuting instead of competing. I'm poking at his belief that he is right based upon what I see as his failure to understand that the bourgeoisie adopted a virtue ethics system that is an adaptation of the one explained by Acquinas. We revamped the classic pagan virtues a bit to level the social classes, but what remains after the surgery heals is a vibrant, moral society that can spin circles around the feudalists and self-govern nations of what would have seemed to them to have miraculous wealth, miraculous populations, and miraculous powers.

As for your moral relativism, I reject it. Treebeard is morally mistaken to believe that his fantasy world is better in any way. His truth isn't because it fails to be justified belief. The evidence is against him and his arguments are easily refuted. His fantasy world where he serves Power is an immoral world.

As for your mention of ancient contractarians, I'm not convinced you know anything of virtue ethics. Justice as a virtue can certainly lead to some grim behaviors, but there is nothing contractual about her. She is moderated by Love and Hope or a bit of both named Mercy. Every virtue taken too far without moderation from the others is a vice and contractarians tend to forget that.

Paul SB said...


On scientific consensus, I see your point. The number of Americans who believe in conspiracy theories is enormous, and on either side of the political fence. To fools who don't get that conspiracies break down when there are too many people, and fools who think scientists are as rare as comic book super villains (which is what a lot of people think scientists are), consensus sounds synonymous with conspiracy. The problem, then, is finding a shorter way to say that all the dodges the climate deniers come up with are bunk. "Scientific consensus" is short, sweet and fits nicely on a bumper sticker, which means it fits into the short-term memory of the critical-thinking challenged among us. Anthropogenic climate change is the only explanation that fits the data, but that's too long a phrase.

Zepp, got links? Get me some good links and I'll post them to my Facebook, so at least a few more people will see them.

Paul SB said...

Thanks, Tony! Looks like your post showed up while I was still typing. Already shared.

Alfred Differ said...


In a non-hostile way, I'm not that impressed with your ant analogy. If I imagine myself as such an ant and I plant the acorn, I'm going to be pretty upset when others claim their leaves without compensating me. I won't be able to do much about it, of course, but I might be much less motivated to plant another one and make so much for them.

With a little more analogy precision, though, I'd have to admit that planting the acorn will be difficult. I'll probably want to hire help doing that and in defending the young tree from animals and plants that might harm it. If I can bargain with my employees to get all that without handing over shares of the tree, I'd expect to own it when it is grown and I'd expect my employees to be content since I gave them what they wanted when we struck our initial bargains. If any of those bargains require I hand over shares, they should certainly share ownership of the tree.

Your analogy works best for discovered, fully grown trees, but most businesses aren't anything like that. They start as memetic acorns that have to be nursed and defended. The fully grown tree they represent rarely ever matures, but if one does, it is because the vision was MADE real.

Alfred Differ said...

Paul451 has a point with the idiocracy in the movie that left me with a smirk. Regular customers of Starbucks really couldn't be all that riled up, could they? Heh.

It would be a forced fit to argue the folks who voted for Trump match the low IQ, mostly docile members of that society. Their replacement for Monday Night football is pretty mild compared to what these voters have done.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch: The Expert Classes aren't a good example of an actual social class. For that to be true, you'd have to show how their children remain in the class and their children and so on for at least a few generations. There hasn't been enough time for that to happen yet if you are focusing on the liberal democracies. The evidence is more supportive of social mobility for most of the Bourgeois Era. For example, along my paternal line, my father was a Cold warrior, his father started as a coal miner and retired as a factory worker, and his father was a coal miner I believe. My father was the first with a college degree (GI Bill) and his father was the one who emigrated to the US. I could have followed my father's path, but he was quite opposed, so neither of his son's did. Instead, we each took our own paths toward expertise. My brother's was more lucrative. Mine was more in tune with the Ivory Tower. Along my maternal line, the stories are similar with my mother being the first with a college degree as I was working on my grad degree. Backwards along her line, one quickly drops into the criminal underbelly of London and finds the people who don't get mentioned much in history books. They rarely tell their offspring honest tales of what they did either.

Your Expert Class is better described as a clade. People come into it if they acquire enough education or experience. Their children fall out of it if they don't. I've seen both happen.

So... how many people do we actually need? It depends on what kind of world you would like for the next generation or two or three. You need enough for the expert clade to remain vibrant and fluid and inclined to compete with itself. Rigidity among the experts will kill their contribution and risk turning them into a priesthood. I've little doubt you think they are already there or dangerously close, but my experience says otherwise. It helps to be in those cities you wouldn't miss now and then to see it.

For Treebeard's world, though, the answer is about ½ billion. Much more than that risks starvation because most of them will live on what we would think of as about $3/day. For a purely forager world like we had just before the ice retreated last time, the answer is somewhere between 5 and 10 million. For a world that produces a civilization going to the stars, I suspect we need about 15 billion with many of them living in urban densities surpassing LA and NYC., but it won't be us going. It will be something like Hanson's em's. If one properly accounts for them, though, our numbers will be in the trillions.

TCB said...

@ Alfred Differ, I think your critique of the ant analogy partakes too much of the Ayn Rand notion of a creative genius who builds an empire almost alone, that the tree would not exist at all if not planted and grown. Remember, though, that the tree's leaves are a metaphor for wealth, and in the real world much of that wealth already existed (in the form of land and resources, for instance).

And sometimes an empire is grown only because an ant found the sapling first and claimed it. (I've heard that, right after World War 2, the US government offered TV station licenses for some absurd sum like about a hundred bucks. These slices of the electromagnetic spectrum, supposedly offered in exchange for promises to broadcast with the public good in mind, are worth billions now).

For every Elon Musk, a genuine creator who brings something to the civilizational party, I'd wager nineteen out of twenty billionaires are closer to Donald Trump: clever thieves who've figured out how to amass 'leaves' someone else did practically all the grunt work to grow.

Perhaps a better metaphor would have been 50,000 hairs on a dog's ass. (In case you haven't noticed, I have a visceral dislike of the ultra-wealthy; I think the biggest lie they tell us is that we need them. Far from it: with few exceptions, they're doing us all much more harm than good. So many problems never seem to get solved, precisely because they don't want them solved.)

Alfred Differ said...

@TCB: You were going along fine and then you got to this...

But all our environmental problems are results of overpopulation. Water usage, wildlife habitat destruction, global warming, all functions of how many people are pumping water, building houses and clearing land, burning coal and oil. The atmosphere doesn't care if seven billion people are Christian or Muslim or pagan, only that they're burning lots of carbon. What could be more obvious?

I agree that the atmosphere doesn't care about our religion (heh. Who doesn't?), but it isn't really overpopulation that is the problem. It is the combination of too many people using old technology. In math terms, the problem is factorable. You could fix it by reducing population OR by improving technology.

Population increase is leveling off without us having to do anything drastic fortunately. We've also been working furiously on technology improvements. It is just possible we will beat this if we don't try to stop ourselves. Last I checked, people were moving to cities from the countryside at a rate of about 1 million per week if one accounts for everyone in the world. High density makes it easier for us to focus technology's gains on them, so the problem is shown to be factored into three parts. Too many people using old technology spread over low population density areas. Maybe there are more factors too.

Alfred Differ said...

@TCB: If you run the numbers today, you'll find most of the wealth of this world does not exist in the form of land and resources of the land. You are arguing from old numbers if you think this is still true.

I get your point about the dangers of being overly fond of Rand. I'm not. The people she described weren't really human in my opinion. They were idealizations she crafted to make her points and as such, I wouldn't want them for neighbors.

I have about as dim a view of your 'empire is grown from a found sapling' as you have for Rand's nonsense. My response is "So what? The Empire is not the Oak tree." In many ways, empires are terribly bad for the average person because they sap wealth from the tree to fight off foes defined by a ruling elite. If others are attacking, there is little choice but to defend, but the empires of Europe did not make their average person wealthy. Very few benefited. McCloskey makes a good argument for those elites in an alt.universe prospering better if they had simply stopped killing each other. The average person in those empires prospered only when they adopted the Bourgeois Deal. Exploitation and a dozen other simplistic causes simply didn't have the oomph to lift the average real income by at least 10x for most and as much as 100x for Americans if one begins to account for quality improvements of the stuff we buy.

Hairs on the ass of a dog? Heh. Okay. Ant's can't grow dogs, so that works better. Unfortunately, humans CAN grow companies that wind up shifting real incomes for billions of people by a small fraction of one percent. Do that across a market containing billions and it adds up bigly. (Ugh. Still don't like that word.)

I understand your gripe with many of the ultra-wealthy clade and class subset. I'm inclined to agree that we need them FAR less than they think we do. What we need is a market of billions free enough to innovate, let alone enough to get filthy stinking rich if their innovations survive the market's fitness test, and appreciated enough for doing it or even trying. Evidence suggests that primary innovators are doing pretty good to hold onto 2% of the value of what they create, so if one of them becomes ultra-wealthy, the other 98% leaks away somewhere else in a HUGE way. When we prevent the ultra-wealthy from capturing more, most of it leaks to the average person and morally justifies the Bourgeois Deal.

Rand was mistaken about human nature AND the evidence of history. McCloskey makes a better economic case and economic history case.

Alfred Differ said...

Oh... I promised to get a copy of Piketty's book a couple months ago. I think I made that promise to Duncan. I have the book now. I'll start it tomorrow.

That means I might return to my economics monomania. 8)

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

Dr Brin:
"The Trumpists want to "Make America Great Again," without ever specifying when that "again" refers to."

But more importantly they never specified what "great" means either.

Jumper said...

Russia and the election. Well organized if under-documented. Emotional.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@PaulSB: But it does not take a conspiracy to have a scientific consensus theory be wrong. It only takes closed-mindedness -- a cultural belief that this evidence is not worth looking at, or that some higher reason requires one to ignore things that do not fit with a paradigm.

Now I know and you know and millions of other people know that the scientists are not being closed-minded, but that's not evident to many denialists, because it is what they would do in scientists' place. And when making this sort of case you have to understand that. A lot of people just act bewildered and give up when they find that they don't understand the thought process that leads to a totally nonsensical result. But most of these people are not crazy, and they genuinely think that there just can't be this evidence that climate scientists claim. They don't believe that someone with genuine evidence against the dominant hypothesis would win, either. In other words, they don't believe climate scientists are going to follow the scientific method.

Why? Because they think climate science is result-driven -- that it exists to sell things: clean energy technology and environmentally friendly products, sure, but primarily to sell centralized control of the energy market (and, by extension, centralized control of the economy). And salesmen and marketers are well known for making s*** up. In other words, it's precisely because they know that corporate-driven research can be biased that they do believe climate science is lying... because they don't understand why they would be honest.

@Alfred: I get your continuing analogy about making deals to make sure trees can grow from acorns. But the argument goes both ways. Let me tell a story further: After assisting with the growth of a beautiful tree, the chief ants turn around and declare that they were the ones who gave up leaves to find the acorn in the first place. Since they found the acorn, they are 'acorn-holders', and the tree belongs solely to them. The tree's purpose, they declare, is to improve 'acorn-holder value'. Such value requires that they break all the agreements about sharing the leaves.

At which point, the ants down below have to wonder just as much about why they should help defend any more growing trees, just as the ants who find acorns wonder why they should bother looking. And then trees don't get planted and people wonder why the growth of the forest stalled...

TCB said...

@ Alfred Differ, two points I take a different view on: on wealth, yes, a very large amount of modern wealth takes the form not of land nor oil, but of intellectual property. When robots start taking half the jobs, intellectual property will be the legal rationale for the oligarchs to capture much of the remaining wealth of the displaced workers. Hence the almost immediate need for universal basic income. I refer you to Brian Martin's Against Intellectual Property, an essay which argues that IP is almost always deleterious to the common good, an Enclosure Act of the mental space, so to speak.

IP is the means by which many an ant has claimed a sapling that another ant would have found the next day, or that could have been held in common.

Second, on population. I often hear the argument that more brains mean swifter solutions to pressing problems, but seldom do I see anyone consider that there can be a point of diminishing returns.

More brains means more bodies which need more food, water, houses, fuel, everything. Our most pressing problems largely stem from these needs: the climate gets out of kilter, nations don their gauntlets, and physical resources to solve problems are drawn down. Species go extinct, taking with them genomes that might have proven incredibly useful in ways we can't know.

Further, most people alive today are not doing fusion research nor developing space elevators. We have seven billion people. We do not have seven billion people with real opportunities to solve the world's problems. Most of them are making shirts, driving trucks, working in coal mines, to live.

Half a billion people with the chance to earn doctorates in their chosen fields could probably replicate all research we're doing now, taking advantage of density factors as you say (classical Athens and Renaissance Florence were little towns by modern standards!)

We need to get our numbers down. Look, I'm not suggesting rough goons should seize and sterilize all the undesirables. Nothing crazy like that. I just think there should be free condoms in all the church pews.

Paul SB said...


I don't have a whole lot of time to comment before running off to work, but I do want to say that I get what you are saying here. Liars don't want to believe that other people are honest, cheaters don't want to believe that other people don't cheat, bastards of all kinds defend their egos by insisting that "everyone else does it." So we have both poverty of imagination and poverty of faith. On top of that, the narrative of evil government control is a long-standing right-wing propaganda meme, and one that has cultural capital for Biblical reasons.

Obama tried to emphasize that clean energy sources are becoming competitive in the free market, but those people simply refuse to believe anything but conspiracy (in spite of the complete absence of corruption in the Obama Administration). So, as our host has so often pointed out, we have a huge cadre of the voting public who have effectively been inoculated against facts, who buy "truth" from the lowest bidder (in terms of believability) and appear to be pretty unmovable. So what can we do about it?

If I had money to invest, I would invest in clean energy businesses. If I had a publishing business, I would publish climate fiction and push stories in which scientists are the heroes they are and not the comic book super villains mainstream media and most religious institutions paint them out to be. But I don't have these resources. About all I can do is teach my students how science really works, and hope that some of them get it.

TCB said...

@ Catfish N. Cod, you write:

"Why? Because they think climate science is result-driven -- that it exists to sell things: clean energy technology and environmentally friendly products, sure, but primarily to sell centralized control of the energy market (and, by extension, centralized control of the economy)."

For the life of me, I can't see how solar panels on everybody's roofs is more central than coal or nuclear power plants.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

there is one clade that seems to be jubilant over his victory.
No, the delighted ones appear to be — foreign despots.

Paul Krugman is in rare form today. Not his usual "stick to the economic side of things" article, but essentially a rant against Russian and FBI interference in the election (while admitting that that sort of cheating is not subject to recount) and horrified anger at what Trump seems poised to do with the power this slim, anti-democratic victory provides him.

In other words, nothing that happened on Election Day or is happening now is normal. Democratic norms have been and continue to be violated, and anyone who refuses to acknowledge this reality is, in effect, complicit in the degradation of our republic. This president will have a lot of legal authority, which must be respected. But beyond that, nothing: he doesn’t deserve deference, he doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt.

And when, as you know will happen, the administration begins treating criticism as unpatriotic, the answer should be: You have to be kidding. Mr. Trump is, by all indications, the Siberian candidate, installed with the help of and remarkably deferential to a hostile foreign power. And his critics are the people who lack patriotism?
But we ought to be able to look both forward and back, to criticize both the way Mr. Trump gained power and the way he uses it. Personally, I’m still figuring out how to keep my anger simmering — letting it boil over won’t do any good, but it shouldn’t be allowed to cool. This election was an outrage, and we should never forget it.

LarryHart said...


I don't experience that much misery. A couple years ago, my wife bought a snowblower that she can manage. For me, it's pretty easy.

As you allude to later, shoveling snow is only part of the problem. There's that whole "having to drive in it" thing too.

My attitude toward snow has changed a bit since I started having to drive in it. Also, my back isn't what it used to be. But, when I was a teenager in the 1970s, Chicago had some of the biggest snow years on record, and I used to enjoy the adventure of getting places (on foot) in a blizzard and helping dig out cars whose wheels were spinning, especially when the driver was a damsel in distress. It was the closest one could get to real-life superheroics.

LarryHart said...

@TCB and @Alfred Differ (on wealth),

Your discussion/argument about ants and leaves brings to mind something I thought of posting about a few weeks ago. You are exemplifying two competing views of what wealth is. I think this dichotomy between beliefs is present in the population at large, and much confusion in discourse is created by the fact that each side holds its view to be self-evident, and doesn't realize that the opposing view is just as earnestly believed, and is not just political posturing.

One view is the Ayn Randian one, that wealth doesn't exist until the human mind conceives a way to create it and puts that conception into practice. This view supports the notion that the wealth-creator owns the fruits of his creativity, that any benefit which accrues (trickles down) to others is gravy for them, and that society has no other claim on that wealth, which would not exist but for the wealth-creator.

The opposite view is that wealth abounds in the commons, that a creative individual is allowed to claim some of that commons as private property because he can enhance the value of the resources for the benefit of society, that he deserves a share (even a large share) of the increase in wealth that he produces, but that some of that increase is due to the commons itself as a kind of interest or rent payment in exchange for the private use of common resources in the first place.

Neither of these two explains everything, and I'd go beyond saying "reality is a spectrum between the two" and assert that reality is much more complicated than either. My point is that those who have a core belief in one of these views of what wealth is can't effectively communicate or understand what the other unless he understands the other side's belief.

When we were in our young twenties, my brother was a counselor at a summer camp in rural Kentucky. Unlike myself, he was (to quote "Hamilton") reliable with the ladies. I remember him writing to me that it was difficult to get the other counselors to not cramp his style when he was around girls, because they (the other counselors) thought of it as "We're around girls!" Somewhere in there is a metaphor for the two distinct views on wealth I'm describing.

raito said...


Well, I grew up having to drive in it. Driving in it was a lot worse when I lived in Austin. It only snowed once, and that was a half-inch. But it shut down the entire city for a day. The news reported 400 accidents an hour. In snow that I would have taken a motorcycle in, mammoth SUVs and pickups were sliding off the road in hundreds. Because 4 wheel drive only means that you can get there, not that you can get there at 80MPH.

While I was there, I saw a book called How To Be A Texan. Funny stuff. Such as 'Don't speed in Selma', 'Those flowers by the side of the road don't belong to you. They don't even belong to God. They belong to the DPS.' and my favorite 'City trucks need 4WD to negotiate obstacles like parking ramps. Country trunks don't, because if you get stuck you'll need to go get the tractor anyway.'

Personally, I think all car designers come from southern California. How else do you explain doors that, when covered with snow, will open and put that snow on the seat (because you're opening the door to get to the ice scraper, which is inside the car).

Just some random bits of humor for a Monday. And my work computer not only came back up, but the remote access software is working (it usually needs to be installed after a boot).

Just in case anyone was wondering.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Paul SB: Multiple references to the original scheme, and the fact that sanctions shut it down, here:
I believe someone else posted a more recent link from Truthout above.
It does answer the question, "why would Putin take such a chance?"

TCB said...

By the way, I'm being really unfair to Alfred Differ, for I brought up Rand, not he. But in defense, I have a powerful urge to stomp every spark of that mental construct, however small, wherever I think I see it.

LarryHart brings up an interesting sidelight on competition with his camp counselor story. Here we have a disagreement on the apportionment of a finite resource (access to the ladies). Much of wealth gathering and politics is a sublimated redirection of this very drive (I've read that politicians who have affairs are not 'risking their achievements and position irrationally' but 'cashing in their success for evolutionary-driven reward.')

Nobody was more reliable with the ladies than Genghis Khan, as proven by DNA analysis, and we know how he did that. He killed the competition. Walruses and kangaroos do that too.

I have also read that bonobos have very big testicles, which generate a lot of sperm. More than other closely related primates, bonobos solve interpersonal disputes with lots of sex. They do not tend to compete to the death.

Their sperm do.

In a sense, when we speak of competition and cooperation, we need to decide which level of organization we care about, because what is true of one level may be false or irrelevant on another.

Your cells are self-perpetuating collections of molecular machines. They do the bidding of genes, which compete to reproduce themselves. This is not intentional, but emergent.

Many organisms are multicellular. Many are not. Both strategies can be effective for genes to reproduce themselves, but in each case depend on their histories. Your brain evolved complexity because, in our lineage, a complex brain was useful for reproduction.

As individuals, we don't worry about what our molecules, genes or cells 'want.' As long as they keep working. We care what WE want, at the individual level.

We form groups such as tribes, armies, nations and corporations because, once again, there is some advantage there. We even speak of what the organization 'wants,' but we are its cells and may not fully understand what it wants. Somehow, we get such odd notions from this as 'states' rights' and 'corporate personhood.'

To your 'superorganism' you are a cell. An important one, maybe, but it can afford to lose you if that helps it survive.
(This last section draws much from The Lucifer Principle by Howard Bloom .)

So: what levels of organization do we really care about?

I don't want to live under the thumb of corporations run for the benefit of the ultra-wealthy, because neither the 'virtual psychopath' we call a corporation nor its owners (many of them real psychopaths) care about the wellbeing of levels of organization I care about: the wellbeing of individual organisms such as me, my friends and family, and the polar bears and honeybees; the wellbeing of my state and nation in which I supposedly have some democratic say; nor the wellbeing of the level of organization we call Gaia, that delicately balanced and homeostatic superorganism which keeps us all alive; nor the wellbeing of unknowable possible levels of organization to be created by humans and other creatures not yet born.

LarryHart said...


Driving in it [snow] was a lot worse when I lived in Austin. It only snowed once, and that was a half-inch. But it shut down the entire city for a day. The news reported 400 accidents an hour. In snow that I would have taken a motorcycle in, mammoth SUVs and pickups were sliding off the road in hundreds. Because 4 wheel drive only means that you can get there, not that you can get there at 80MPH.

My in-laws live in Austin, so I know whereof you speak. One problem with snow in the south is that they generally don't have road salt. The snow melts a lot quicker than it does up north, but in that interval, the streets are slippery.

Austin also has some terrain that is hard to ascend if the roads are slippery.

BTW, I pride myself on my sense of direction, and I learned my way driving around Los Angeles and San Francisco on my own. But Austin defies my location-sense, despite my having been there many times.

Darrell E said...

LarryHart said...

"I doubt most Trump voters actually voted for a closed society. Or if they did, they presume that it will be closed for "others", not for them. But then I doubt most of them voted for a cabinet of Wall St. billionaires either. In fact, many probably voted against Hillary Clinton because she was in bed with Wall St. billionaires."

I'd say that it is definitely the case that the belief that HC is in bed with Wall St. billionaires contributed to many of the votes against her. On all sides, including those who typically vote Dem but either stayed home, voted 3rd party or voted for Trump.

What I expect, based on recent past US political history (heck, all of human history), is that many of these people will simply rationalize that though it would have been evil if Hillary did anything remotely like it that Trump stacking his administration with Wall St. billionaires is bold genius. The rationalizations will be based on the common memes that government should be run like a business and that the corrupt system needs to be shaken up, turned upside down and cleaned out. Humans are great at making no fucking sense whatsoever. Believing in two completely contradictory things at the same time is easy. Learning how to guard your thinking from errors like that and disciplining yourself to make the effort to do so, particularly when you are strongly emotionally invested in a position, that is hard.

LarryHart said...

Darrel E:

Humans are great at making no fucking sense whatsoever. Believing in two completely contradictory things at the same time is easy.

That is true. But it is also the case that people don't like to feel that they've been played.

Darrell E said...

A primary motivation for inventing a rationalization that does not equate to having been played.

Tom Crowl said...

From Evonomics:

How Economists Duped Us into Attacking Capitalism Instead of Parasitic Rent-Seeking

Anonymous said...

Clinton #bodycount just keeps growing


Tom Crowl said...

Hey Anonymous... I like to keep an open mind. SO... tell you what:

You try to give me a cogent analysis of the article I cite in the comment just above yours... and I'll try to give you a cogent analysis of the video you're offering.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Thank gawds you're out there! Listen: My cat, age 26 years old, went out one night and never came back. But I saw Bill Clinton rummaging through the garbage at our local hamburger joint and licking the grease off the wrappings just the day before. I'm sure he killed my cat. Please investigate!

David Brin said...

Lesson in psychology, guys. After 24 years and wasted $500 MILLION in Clinton "investigations" have come up with zilch, nothing, zero, sane people might conclude "wow, there's nothing there." That they are actually exceptionally clean. But that outcome is unacceptable, deep down at a level of fulminating, enraged, Old Testament-level wrath.

For lack of anything - even as microscopic as 'emails' -to in on the clearly satanic enemy, there is only one recourse.

To double down. To transform "journalism" into a fury of propaganda on the same plane as the Blood Libels that were used to justify murdering Jews.

David Brin said...



Unknown said...

And as I've pointed out to my roommate, I can link you to at least three YouTube series documenting attacks on the filmmakers by the Slender Man. Doesn't mean he's real, just means that the cinematographer for Marble Hornets was good enough that he could get a jump scare out of panning down an empty hallway, because you were just expecting something to come leaping out...

Point is, just because it's on YouTube doesn't make it real.