Friday, May 19, 2017

Don't Impeach! Plus appraising GOP proposed legislation -- and why is he really in Saudi Arabia?

I had prepped a missive appraising GOP legislative proposals... but it seems we must always lead with the latest, daily crises. With some Republicans already murmuring about impeachment and getting all moony-eyed toward the notion of "President Pence," let me repeat what I've said for a year now.  

"Impeach Trump" is a trap. 


Any day, Paul Ryan will make his offer: "if you Democrats do the heavy lifting, we'll supply JUST enough GOP defectors to get a bill of impeachment passed, okay?" 

 
If the Dems stupidly agree, the GOP will grab a win-win-win. They will get rid of their Trumpian embarrassment, they'll get Pence (an eager Murdoch-lapdog, mixed with apocalyptic-dominionist toxins), who will then appoint Ryan VP.

...and all of Trump's supporters will be enraged into a war footing against Democrats, blaming liberals for Trump's fall. The disaster that is looming for the GOP, in 2018, will turn into their greatest victory. 

Oh, and the country will burn.

I'm not the only one issuing this warning, In Commentary, John Podhoretz, an anti-Trump conservative, worries that potential Democratic efforts to remove Trump from the presidency for possible legal and constitutional violations could trigger “political violence of a sort we haven’t seen in 50 years, and maybe haven’t really seen in this country in the modern era. Those who believe Trump is a unique menace … to our democratic way of life will be met with those who believe the elites are using illicit means to oust the legitimately elected president of the United States.”

There are signs that Democratic leaders can see this trap looming and are downplaying impeachment talk. Especially since Donald Trump's recent shenanigans have somewhat neutralized his ability to do truly dangerous things. (See where I explain, at the end of this posting). Still, the warning cannot be repeated too often. Do act to secure the nation from catastrophe! But then exercise patience. 


This is their problem.  Let them deal with it.  More about how, at the end of this posting.

== A remnant sapient conservative speaks ==


David Brooks is one of the smartest and most reliable writers from the old, Classic Republican school. You know... wanting capitalist markets to be flat-fair, competitive and actually work, instead of tools for oppressing the middle class.  His latest Big Perspective is worthwhile:

"Abraham Lincoln was a classic Enlightenment man. President Trump is an anti-Enlightenment man. There's a long line of Enlightenment thought that included thinkers like John Locke and Immanuel Kant who argued that people should stop deferring blindly to authority for how to live. Instead, they should think things through from the ground up, respect facts and skeptically re-examine their own assumptions and convictions.

"Enlightenment thinkers turned their skeptical ideas into skeptical institutions, notably the U.S. Constitution. America’s founders didn’t trust the people or themselves, so they built a system of rules, providing checks and balances to pit interest against interest."

What does Brooks imply, but not mention - Republican that he is (was?) - is that of course the U.S. Founders dreaded feudal oligarchy - the great enemy of 6000 years -- far more than they feared the People. 

Indeed, the crime of "ostriches" like Brooks is that they neglect ever to pull their heads out far enough to boldly make that clear. Still, he is trying. Unlike the Worst Man in America, George F. Will. 

"De Tocqueville came along and said that if a rules-based democratic government was going to work anywhere it was going to be the United States. America became the test case for the entire Enlightenment project. With his distrust of mob rule and his reverence for law, Abraham Lincoln was a classic Enlightenment man. His success in the Civil War seemed to vindicate faith in democracy and the entire Enlightenment cause."  Go read more.

Oh, but the enemies of enlightenment have tools they are refining. I never thought I'd push this book repeatedly, but get Tears of Abraham, by Sean T. Smith... an especially disturbing novel about a new American hot Civil War.

== Supply Side Voodoo… in a nut’s shell ==

Why impeach, when we can prove the entire party is insane? I'll offer my impeachment alternatives below.  But surely you know the definition of insanity? Falling for the same alluring fallacy over and over again?  

In Republicans Keep Repeating the Same Tax Mistake, economist Megan McArdle, an avowed libertarian writing on Bloomberg – a financial/investment zine – reams the Supply Side mythology from just the simple aspect of demand elasticity, offering just one (of dozens) of reasons why it never worked.  At all.  Ever. Even once.

There ought to be a door in the wall, right here. I'll just charge through... wham! Ow!

There ought to be a door in the wall, right here. I'll just charge through... wham! Ow!

There ought to be a door in the wall, right here. I'll just charge through... wham! Ow!

It never worked. Once. Ever. Even a single time. Look at what's happened in Kansas. Look what's happened to America, following the Supply Side cult. And boy, have we reamed the middle class lured by this pied piper. This voodoo.

== The evil just goes on ==

We'll get back to my impeachment alternatives in a moment. But first. Here's what the bill H.R. 610 "Choices in Education" does.

Initiates the school voucher system (ages 5 through 17). Begins the defunding process of public schools.

Eliminates the Elementary and Education Act of 1965, the nation's educational law which also provides equal opportunity.

Repeals ESSA*, the Every Students Succeeds Act, that covers programs for struggling learners, AP (Advanced Placement) classes, ESL (English as Second Language) classes, classes for Native Americans, Rural Education, Education for the Homeless, School Safety (Gun-Free schools), Monitoring and Compliance, and Federal Accountability Programs. Abolishes the Nutritional Act of 2012 (No Hungry Kids Act) which provides nutritional standards in school breakfast and lunch.

== Back to the crisis and... impeachment ==


Let me reiterate. Falling for any offer from Paul Ryan -- to 'help' democrats remove Donald Trump -- would prove what we long suspected, that Democratic politicians are mostly-loyal  and well-meaning... but politically dumber than a sack of rocks.   If Ryan makes such an offer, the dems must say: 


"Trump is YOUR problem. Get the entire GOP House to vote impeachment and (maybe) we might provide a few votes."

Better yet, face it - Trump is more an embarrassment than a deadly danger! Now, with the entire civil service, Intelligence Community and Officer Corps alerted to the craziness, he is in many ways already neutralized. This task of ensuring our safety can be completed, with carefully chosen measures that will not ruin the office of the presidency... just make it child proof.


Instead of impeachment, Dems -- and a critical mass of sane Republicans (the few, the not-so-brave) -- should concentrate on a quartet of carefully crafted pieces of neutralizing legislation. Items so clearly in the national interest that McCain and Collins and a few dozen others would feel compelled to help them get passed, in lieu of the stupid trauma of impeachment.

1) Give the Joint Chiefs authority -- if unanimous -- to passively delay execution of presidential orders -- those commanding them to perform acts of violence or combat -- for up to a week, giving them time enough to put their misgivings before a select congressional committee. This will only diminish Commander-in-Chief authority in extremely dubious conditions. The entire nation will sleep better, yet future presidents won't be hobbled.

2) Put half of all presidential contingency and operating funds out of reach, unless the president agrees to give control over his appointments calendar, one afternoon a week, to the other party. I've proposed this before. All presidents should do this, but it is critically important right now, that the president meet and listen to eminent people beyond his current, paranoid seige-bubble.

Trump will be different if he hears other voices from outside his handlers' carefully erected walls! (Recall how he was in love with Obama for a week, after meeting him, in the White House?) This one thing could draw him far enough into the light so that he at least won't be an existential danger...

... and did I remind you to say the words "President Pence" over and over again, letting your imagination go wild? That fellow actively prays for armageddon! He will fill the White house with dominionists (look it up) with potentially scary consequences far worse than anything Trump could or might do Please. Trump chose him as impeachment insurance and you had better believe he knew what he was doing.


3) Appropriate funding for a Fact Checking Institute. Bipartisan. You will get enough Republican defectors to pass this one thing. Do it. 

Nothing could more transform this phase of our civil war than a set of fact-checking services vouched for by the top "adults" in American Conservatism. (Recruit David Brooks! Robert Dole. Sandra Day O'Conner. Heck, even George W. Bush.)

Do not shrug that one off! Stop. Close your eyes. Envision how everything today would be different, if there were a Snopes that Fox and Jones etc could not sneeringly dismiss as a liberal plot. Read about Russian-based waves of tuned social media meddling in the American psyche, and then offer us one other answer that will be one-tenth as effective as simply and finally having a place to point and say "that's not true."

4) Create an ad hoc bipartisan committee on appointments consisting of twenty House members from each party and ten Senators from each party. Call it the Alliance of Grownups. They will agree to caucus to vett presidential appointments so that competent, mature and moderate individuals will face likely confirmation -- with a grudging acceptance by the democrats that this president will appoint mostly conservatives. Work it out. Thirty sane republicans could do this, while 259 fume helplessly... then grudgingly go along.

Wouldn't Trump simply veto such bills, while screaming "traitor" at the cabal of thirty Republican grownups? Not if those thirty -- and thirty Democrats -- promise to resist impeachment calls for at least a year! He would go for that.

Do those four things, just those, in conjunction with McCain and a few Republican remnant sapients, and we would then be able to outlast the current occupant of the White House, letting him do his noble work of demolishing every last shred of credibility clutched by the Murdochian Confederacy.  

Leave him there! At least till November 2018. 

On behalf of Stephen Colbert I beg of you. Be patient.

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** ADDENDUM: A Constitutional scholar weighs in with perspectives on why, if possible, we should approach any talk of impeachment with cautious and grownup deliberation. That is, unless there is a "Reichstag Fire."
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Lagniappe: I am registering here a prediction call... a 50% probability that Donald Trump will announce some kind of Israel-Saudi deal for those two 70-year enemies to move closer together: targeting Iran. The Trump White House overflows with men who have stated or implied an eagerness for war with Iran. Because every evil force on the planet wants it to happen. 


Not the educated citizens of Iran, who are struggling gradually to wrest power from the mullahs... but the mullahs certainly want such a war! They'd be safe from major damage, under the Russian nuclear umbrella, and a nasty little snit would help them crush democracy, at home.


It serves Russian interests, since it would then drive Iran into Moscow's arms and destroy all chances of a Persian democratic renaissance. It will push Trump's political crises off the headlines and make him look 'strong.' And it serves the Saudis to a (dumb, shortsighted) T. 


One question: would the Israelis foolishly fall for this trap? If they are offered a huge inducement? A Big Peace Deal with the Sunni Arab World? It could happen. Can we hope that Rouhani's landslide re-election in Iran might put the kibosh on these war drums? Oh, but then the connivers can always try a Tonkin Gulf or Gleiwitz Incident, alongside their terrorist Reichstag Fire.


155 comments:

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. Thought this topic might land here today.

I have to admit I'm tempted to suggest we let Ryan win a round and let impeachment move forward and THEN play the game in the Senate. Conviction doesn't happen without equal buy-in. That way the GOP would be caught between two internal factions.

I think it is worth thinking about... at least enough to see if there are any gotchya's with this variation of a plan.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | (again again) {Le Muppets} (continued from last thread)

Regarding your examples, I’m not arguing for a divorce between private and public interests. I’m a fan of antibiotics, planetary space flight, and lots of other things that involve a combination of the two. If you think the government created the value we have received from penicillin, though, you are sadly mistaken. During Act One the government and academia were heavily involved. By the time Act Three was underway, though, it was out among the rest of us and private interests drove the innovations. The real value, of course, is indirect. Many of us are alive and capable of creating other innovations as a result of its discovery and production.

This stuff is hard to describe without a common background for us. If you don’t follow the three act stage play analogy I use (I learned it from McCloskey), then it is hard to track the value being created and the point of the slow approach. Act One is easy to see for pretty much everyone because it is so flashy and compact. Act Two is obvious to anyone who has ever innovated because that’s when they feel like their competitors are stealing everything. Others don’t usually notice it unless they appreciate knock-off products and services. Act Three is hard to watch because the stage for it is so huge. Everyone is involved.

- Child labor laws, the 40-hour week ...

Heh. You’ve got things backward. We introduced those after we got rich enough to want to put an end to sacrificing ourselves and our children to our financial interests. Before we got rich enough, we were subsistence living anyway, so anything was better that once-per-decade famines. We came around to the notion that such things were immoral when the memory of famines faded and THEN used government to enforce the social rules. WE moved first… not governments.

markets make monopolies that crush free, fair and flat markets

This will sound like I’m nit picking, but No. People do that. Some people do that. Markets do not. Markets aren’t coordinated enough to do that. Markets are the eco-system in which monopolies can grow, but they also support other kinds of life.

obsessing over the idea that people are just jealous …and ….The issue is the damage that some - not all - rich, ruthless business people do to other people.

It’s not really an obsession. It’s a concern that some are jealous and convince others that it is the morally correct thing to do. Others rationalize re-distribution. Even our host does it to some degree. I get that some ruthless people are harming others, but the harm they do is small compared to the harm the remedy could do. The harm they do isn’t small in the absolute sense, but if you don’t pay attention to the harm the remedy does, you don’t have the right context. Try to recall the harm people thought the markets caused when the Depression occurred. So much misery. Their remedy involved command economies. So MUCH MORE misery ensued and millions died. How about I offer to support the breaking of patents for gougers instead? I’m already inclined to do so regarding companies who hoard patents to stop innovation.

Zepp Jamieson said...

At the rate things are going, neither Trump nor the country will make it to November 2018 with him as President.

You suggest, Doctor Brin: "1) Give the Joint Chiefs authority -- if unanimous -- to passively delay execution of presidential orders -- those commanding them to perform acts of violence or combat -- for up to a week, giving them time enough to put their misgivings before a select congressional committee. This will only diminish Commander-in-Chief authority in extremely dubious conditions. The entire nation will sleep better, yet future presidents won't be hobbled."

The main problem, quite aside from the fact that it violates Article II and seperation of powers, is that even if it were constitutionally possible, you are demanding that the military disobey direct orders from its commander-in-chief. There's absolutely no way that could be done in such a way that it doesn't affect future presidents--or the relationship between the military and the United States. Normally I would dismiss this as an insanely dangerous move, only the alternative: leaving Trump in place, powers intact, is equally dangerous. And you want to keep him there for another 18 months?

cosmicaug said...

thirty Republican grownups

You might be in science fiction territory right there.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | I scored almost identical for Director and Explorer on the first pass. I did a second pass to see if I was being honest with myself and wound up giving one more to Director. There is a two point difference now. For both columns, though, I answered a quick ‘yes’ to most of the assertions. 12/10. Builder was weak with 6.

I learned the lesson about instincts many years ago without these terms to give shape to the causes. Along the way, I learned to adapt my role-playing experience to work-life by crafting a persona that worked well enough professionally without leaving me feeling like a fraud. I found it interesting to see how I grade when I slip on that persona. Director, Explorer, and Negotiator all come out equal with Builder still lagging far behind. I’ve known that I have had to learn to check my ego at the door when I go to work and that the effort leaves me exhausted at the end of the day. Now I have a way to phrase what I’m doing. It has been very useful to flip between ‘male and female’ approaches over the years. 8)

I suspect the explorer side of me expressed itself long before the director. Kinda makes sense, huh? I’m sure my mother was an explorer in my early years. The confrontational aspects associated with testosterone didn’t fully emerge until I was near 30 years old. I would have flipped my score had I taken this at age 23. On top of that, I remember a piece of advice given to me by a woman who was 27 when I had just turned 18. I was in college by then and tutoring her in calculus. She remarked that I’d go from 18 to 21 within 6 months and then things would get faster. Basically ‘tempus fugit’. On my 21st, I thought of her and she was mostly right. On my 30th, I thought of her again and realized there was one big exception. Whenever I was doing something outside my comfort envelope, time slowed down and I remembered more of the days in a year without needing notes or pictures. I could easily remember the traumas associated with getting through grad school, for example. Many years of them. Since then, I’ve vowed to seek these things that cause time to slow even if they are less than pleasant. Occasionally I am successful.

Interesting test. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

The military already has a way to disobey direct orders, so I suspect a law recognizing the unanimity of the Joint Chiefs could be worded as a kind of respect for what can already be done. Basically it would say we won't try you for treason or other really bad things, but you better be unanimous.

Michael C. Rush said...

Don't do the wrong thing because some bad people might react illegally and violently? What an appalling argument (I'll refrain from characterizing it further).

>> Trump is more an embarrassment than a deadly danger!

That strikes me as a terribly naive statement that you may very well find yourself forced to retract sooner rather than later.

Now is not the time to baby-proof the White House, but rather to do whatever it takes to restore rational, democratic government constrained by the rule of law. Civil War? As you yourself have long proclaimed, it's already there, if undeclared. If it must break out into a more direct phase, should we be less bold, less resolute in our convictions than our ancestors? Bring it on.

cosmicaug said...

Michael C. Rush writes:
«Now is not the time to baby-proof the White House, but rather to do whatever it takes to restore rational, democratic government constrained by the rule of law.»


The problem is that the White House should already have been baby-proofed in the first place and it wasn't. Instead, we spent the last few administrations doing the opposite (because, surely, anyone voted president will be someone who can be trusted). It strikes me as naïve to think it likely that, as proposed by Brin, politicians may come together to reverse even part of this trend simply because,... Trump (much less with Republican majorities in place as they are right now).

If the trend can be reversed it will take time (on the order of several presidential administrations) and effort. It won't happen as a quick, band aid fix for Trump.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | I was seven years old when Apollo 11 landed on the Moon. When I first hooked up with a space advocacy group, I thought many of us would have similar interests. Wrong. I shifted to another group that preferred to act rather than sit in armchairs and there were still differences. After a bit of digging, I noticed a possible correlation. The folks who were 10 reacted different. The folks who were 4 were different again. Almost no one in our group was younger. Just a few years in that part of our childhood IS known to have an effect on what we can do and think at the time (heh), but I hadn’t realized how much of an impact it would have much later because of how we felt the first impact. I got what was happening back in ‘69, but couldn’t grok the engineering challenges. The kids a few years ahead of me obviously could. What I COULD do was comprehend the emotional impact on the adults around me. Not so much for the kids who were a few years behind me for obvious reasons. It turned out that we had a lot of difficulty recruiting adults who were younger than four at the time until we changed our approach to advocacy. In hindsight, it is all obvious what we were doing wrong, but I was surprised by how much of a difference just a few years made on when an event happened.

And then I rethought an earlier experience. I was only a few months old when the world almost ended over Cuban missiles, but I remember the tears on the face of my professor many years later when he saw the wall come down. He knew what I could not even if I could have been one of the people killed. I understood it that very day, but failed to generalize the lesson.

To me, if it makes you so miserable you have to be medicated, (snip), there is something deeply wrong with the system, something that desperately needs to be repaired.

Yup. Were we might have differences, though, is in what to do about it… and exactly what the system is. 8)

because of how badly they are treated at work by toxic, hyper-competitive management

Oops. Beware generalization. From what I’ve seen, most bosses are pretty human. When they get toxic, it is for all the usual reasons. Someone pissed in their Wheaties. Their wives filed for divorce with all sorts of nasty accusations. I’ve worked in places that fit moderately well with what you describe, but I’ve worked in more places where that simply isn’t true. I’m all for humane treatment of everybody, though. It’s just that I see that as OUR job and no one else’s. We are succeeding at it too. Slowly of course.

. Hierarchy creates unhealthy imbalance.

Agreed, but we’ve been dealing with this since the dawn of agriculture. That band behavior you describe got assaulted by farming behavior and the trauma associated with the Y-chromosome bottleneck era. It’s not a Cold War thing. It’s FAR older and far more problematic. Yet… we seem to be dealing with it. Slowly, of course, since I don’t think we know of a better way. We’ve certainly tried a number of ways and I’m open to more experiments, but I’ll place my money on the tortoise to win. Too many attempted solutions from the fundamentalists look like more hierarchy to me, so I’m inclined to side with you. Still… your real competition is the tortoise.

Scott said...

It never worked. Once. Ever.

Republicans aren't banging into walls. Supply Side economics *does* work. It funnels cash to the wealthy. What it doesn't do is any of the things they promise the suckers that vote for them.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | Lead was stopped by people who pushed the government into siding with them instead of the traditional alliance with business. Look again at the bodies involved and realize that science is also a market. We trade in reputation and job security instead of money. Don’t get too hooked on the notion that trade has to be monetized to follow market rules. Science is definitely a market.

I would think you would have run across this already with your anthropology education. My reading on this is weak, but I remember there being four different types of trade that are grouped into two buckets. Gift with no expectations. Gift with expectations. Barter. Monetized barter. Science has a gift economy most of the time and varies between there being no expectations of a return gift and some expectations of quid pro quo. When Science mixes it up with the regular commodities/goods/services market, things get interesting and messy. Standard Oil wasn’t going to change on its own, but some things are bigger than Standard Oil that aren’t government. Look again at what happened and contemplate the other markets. Our host talks of at least five, but I think there are more.

One problem, on reading Hayek, in assuming that the blind market will always do the right thing and the government will always do the wrong thing is the assumption that the government is one single entity, opposite to the market.

Well, Hayek didn’t actually argue for the blind market always doing the right thing. He argued it would do something making the maximal use of the knowledge available. In our host’s words, that maximum is best when the market is free, flat, and fair. If the market makes maximal use of the available knowledge, government acts using something less than the best available knowledge. See the difference? Besides, the ‘right’ thing is a judgment call created by market participants. There is no right or wrong in an eco-system. There is only who survives and who reproduces. Governments aren’t wrong in the sense some libertarians like to advocate. They are simply less knowledgeable, weighty market participants when they act even if their actions are more coordinated. They CAN’T be as knowledgeable as the market. It’s a fundamental limit (like the speed of light) until we invent a Vinge-an Transcendent from ourselves. Markets ARE optimal with the usual conditions that cheaters can screw them over and co-opt the benefits.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | Ursula K Le Guin’s quote confuses economic growth with growth of the commodities, goods, and services consumed. Economics is essentially a study of substitutions. That’s why ‘margin’ appears so often in micro-economic theory. They look at differentials and think in terms of PDE’s. The quote refers to something more absolute. Economic growth IS EQUIVALENT to materials usage growth. That’s practically straight out of the book ‘Limits to Growth” and it isn’t true.

If we still farmed as we did in the early 18th century, we’d have died of starvation long before we reached 2 billion people. If we still farmed the way we did in the middle 20th century, we’ve have died of starvation as we approached 4 billion people. Instead, many of us are too fat. Me included. We substitute ideas as much as we do commodities/goods/and services. Prices experience phase changes when the ideas are good enough and the markets shift in irreversible ways. The evidence for this strong. It took many western countries a couple centuries to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps. It takes developing countries in our era one generation at most. Two if they want an American lifestyle, but some would rather not. The US is NOT one of those countries that did it the hard way, though. We ‘borrowed’ from Europe in the 19th century and took the fast track. Only the Dutch can be said to have slogged their way up the hard way.

This is probably where we go another round regarding our ecological limits, right? Malthus revisited. Meh. American –style capitalism is certainly capable of screwing things up, but I seriously doubt it will. Price pressures will occur and we will respond to them. If the oligarchs gain control and hide the prices from us, THEN we are in danger, but we aren’t there yet.

Tim H. said...

I'd just as soon let Congressional Republicans deal with Trump, and also let them deal with Trump's devotees.
Alfred, a nit to pick, no one chose a command economy in response to the great depression, though I suspect Stalin used that to justify decisions taken a decade before.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | Heh. The Joe Walsh prescription is full of many holes easily shown by extending the argument toward ridiculousness. If my wife and son die at childbirth, I should have invested in knowledge acquisition long before and been prepared for that day with what it took to prevent it. Never mind the fact that we start families when we are young and save over a lifespan. Oh wait! Some of us do invest! Isn’t that what religion is for? Now I don’t have to worry about my dead wife and son. Hallelujah. (My wife and son are fine, though. Both alive and kicking.)

Contributing to the coffers that pay for UBI and health DOES require morality and compassion, though. Some here might call it dues to participate the community, but wanting to participate requires that we be moral beings. Most of us want this, so it isn’t an issue. Even for guys like me who occasionally shout out that taxes are like theft; I’d like to participate in the community. My gripe is over what the dues are and how they are collected.

I’m finding the early chapters of Piketty’s book amusing most of the time, especially in light of your lottery fantasy. The moment you stash the cash in the mattress, its value will decay. All capital does. Sometimes it does so with coercive intent. To deal with this, you might invest in bonds and try to earn only enough to defeat the forces of decay. The moment you do, though, is the moment you participate in the very threat Piketty calls out. If your rate of return is higher than the net economic growth rate, your money will grow. Good luck buying at an alternate price. The growht might be slow, so maybe it will be your grandchildren who decide to join the ranks of the oligarchs. What you say? The money will be spread out among the grandchildren? Hah. Fertility rates are down too. Piketty has an interesting point to make.

So… how is it that the rate of return on bonds can outpace economic growth? Well. People trade money for return expectations. Pretty simple. They WANT the rate of return. What interests me at the moment are the forces that shape that want. We used to want high fertility. When I was born the demographic growth rate in the US was well above 1% per year. That’s huge. It isn’t anymore. Why? What moved the want? Are their analogous movers of want regarding wealth preservation investments?

Alfred Differ said...

@Tim H.

The British and French went through a very curious transition after WWII that looks disturbingly like a move toward a command economy. The Chinese chose it by following Mao. The war delayed a number of decisions, but the movement can be tracked through policy adjustments before the war got underway.

I'm not dissing FDR when I say this, but he took us in the direction of a command economy too. In doing so, he likely defused a bomb that would have made things much worse. The US economy of the 50's was rather different than the one of the '20's and the change had public support that eventually vanished as we approached the '80's.

And... I tend to think of Nazi Germany as a command economy. Okay. That didn't happen because of the Depression. 8)

David Brin said...

Alfred I respect your version of libertarianism. But mine is basic. Up competition, down property. You need some property rights in order to incentivize competitive enterprise, and I have billionaire friends who deserve what they earned by creating good and services. But inevitably property turns toxic and the worst thing is to conflate it with enterprise capitalism. Reset redistributions were done by the American founders, by the Jacksonians, after the Civil War (nowhere near enough) by both Roosevelts and it must happen soon or that toxicity will kill the golden goose. Those who oppose a moderate-careful, reasonable reset to restore the American Middle Class are being very foolish.

“If the market makes maximal use of the available knowledge, government acts using something less than the best available knowledge. See the difference?”

Sure, but 100,000 civil servants, operating in diverse agencies and states, closely watched and professional, are more likely to act with neutral and pervasive information that an incestuous, conniving-secretive cabal of 5,000 CEO/finance/inheritance golf buddie lords.

As for FDR, we had our highest growth and entrepreneurship under rooseveltean tax rates and with strong unions. Evey Supply Side “reform” reduced money velocity and growth.

Zepp, Congress has the constitutional power to declare war. They have let it slip out of their hands. That is enough basis for such a precautionary measure.

Michael Rush, I would rather keep trying to keep this phase of civil war… civil. Crush them politically, as they deserve.

locumranch said...



I agree whole-heartedly with David's analysis:

The "Impeach Trump" movement is a huge trap, its purpose being to convince the few remaining Red State conservatives (who have not yet been convinced of the foregone conclusion which follows) that US democracy has devolved into a giant farce designed to ensure progressive elitist establishmentarianism in perpetuity.

And, the country will burn, most assuredly, when the disenfranchised US (and/or EU) conservative middle see their political voice ignored & nullified. "They (will) get bitter," Obama said, "they (will) cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations", and they will resort to violence to right their world when they are left with no other options.

The US political establishment has been ensnared in an effective double-bind: It must either support the Trump Administration's "deconstructive agenda" & actively participate in the deconstruction of established political authority, or it must oppose the Trump Administration's "deconstructive agenda" & actively participate the deconstruction of established political authority.

It's a 'lose-lose' negative sum game of unique design.

The 'Joint Chiefs Authority' gambit is total 'no-go', although it's highly suggestive (plot-wise) of 'Live Free Live' by Gene Wolfe, as it would require the simultaneous (1) deconstruction of the US political establishment and (2) its replacement with a military junta.

The best course of action remains the very same course of action I previously recommended:

"Suck it up, Buttercup. Accept catastrophic moral hazard AND embrace the risk that the Trump Administration represents because there is no viable alternative beyond violence".


Best
____

I'm not sure how arguing in favour of the Cyclic History model makes me a 'liar'. Has it not been said that 'what goes up, must come down', assuming involvement in a planetary gravity well? I challenge all comers to provide one non-contemporary example of a human civilisation that kept ascending forever & ever without falling into wreck & ruin. It can't be done because it has never happened outside of fiction. Furthermore, I offer you multiple examples of fallen civilisations that documented their pre-collapse belief that they would never fail or falter.

The jury is still out as to whether feminism is worth conserving. It serves a depopulation agenda, most certainly, but it is unclear if depopulation represents localised suicide or serves longterm human interests. Tempus narrabo.

The modern progressive archetype was Karl Marx. He was the undisputed expert on Capitalism, as documented by his fairly pessimistic 40 Volume critique of Capitalism (Das Kapital). Then, on the ASSUMPTION that the almost anything involving *equality* must be 'better' than the devil he knows, he pulls Communism out of his arse & triggers the subsequent slaughter of almost 100 Million human beings who are granted *equality* in death.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Contributing to the coffers that pay for UBI and health DOES require morality and compassion, though.


My point was that for the Joe Walsh's of the world who lack morality and compassion, there's still a good economic reason for participating in universal coverage. It would not mean that he (Walsh) personally pays millions of dollars for Jimmy Kimmel's baby. He, like everyone else, would pay taxes that support the Jimmy Kimmel's babies of the world who happen to require that kind of expensive medical treatment. And if one of his kids or grandkids ended up requiring the treatment, he wouldn't have to have a couple of mil stashed away for that occurrence.


I’m finding the early chapters of Piketty’s book amusing most of the time, especially in light of your lottery fantasy. The moment you stash the cash in the mattress, its value will decay. All capital does.


First of all, I had that very revelation quite recently and posted something about it here. That food (for example) can't be stashed in a vault to be used in 50 years time. It decays very rapidly, and if you want to eat when you're retired, someone has to be producing the food at that time, and you have to have something you can trade for the food at that time. The revelation was that the same is true of all stored of value. Money attempts to abstract the idea of value to the point where it seems as if it should not decay, but that's an illusion.

So we're on the same page there.

My point with the lottery thing is that there is a point of satiability. If I were to net $100 million dollars (after taxes and gifts) without even having to put in sweat equity to earn it, then (to quote Mrs Hamilton) That would be enough. Most people who have huge sums of money seem to spend their time and effort on schemes to grow that money even further. Is that really what they want to do with their life? There's a point at which it's going to be enough for me, even with decay, and the whole point of having that much money is to not have to worry about getting more.

Not that I ever expect it to be more than a hypothetical.

I wrote a five paragraph theme in high school about the fact that a million dollars earning 5% annually could last me the rest of my life. That was back in the 1970s when 5% interest was on the low side of what a safe investment could earn, and an annual salary of $50,000 was more than my father was earning. The numbers would have to be bigger today, and interest rates are so low that I have to presume I'd be spending the capital, but unless I'm going to live to be a million, there's still an amount beyond which I'd stop worrying about getting more and start retiring comfortably forever.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Reset redistributions were done by the American founders, by the Jacksonians, after the Civil War (nowhere near enough) by both Roosevelts and it must happen soon or that toxicity will kill the golden goose. Those who oppose a moderate-careful, reasonable reset to restore the American Middle Class are being very foolish.


I'm not sure if they're being foolish or if they simply have a different agenda. You called this in "Earth" when (no spoilers) explains that in the run-up to the Helvetian war, there were plenty of politicians who worked for moderating solutions, and they were all either bribed or killed so that only the rabid lunatic fringe solution could ultimately be implemented.

As for FDR, we had our highest growth and entrepreneurship under rooseveltean tax rates and with strong unions. Evey Supply Side “reform” reduced money velocity and growth.


Again, because they don't want a rising tide that lifts all boats. They have the money to weather a Great Depression, which they perceive as a great buying opportunity. Donald Trump built a real-estate empire on depressed prices for New York properties.

Zepp, Congress has the constitutional power to declare war. They have let it slip out of their hands. That is enough basis for such a precautionary measure.


The problem is that declaring war is kind of quaint and obsolete now. In Alexander Hamilton's time, the Constitution meant that only congress could declare war, but once that had happened, the president directed the sending of armies and navies over to shoot the people we were at war with. Now, the president sends armies and navies and air forces and drones over to kill people we aren't in a declared war with. That's the piece that was not imagined in 1789 (Where are the "original intent" conservatives when we need them?) It's not that congress lost the power to declare war, but that that power has become irrelevant.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

I agree whole-heartedly with David's analysis


Help him, Jesus!

Alfred Differ said...

David | I get your version of libertarianism. I could go a round with you trying to show you that mine is better, but there are two problems with that. 1) It is SUCH a libertarian thing to quibble over smallish points as if the philosophy MATTERED, and 2) you have better things to do like defending civilization. 8)

My version can be summed up as 'Up innovation, protect the role of the markets to be the force of natural selection choosing between options (competition or cooperation or both), protect property only as much as is needed to defend innovation, and grant dignity to all those who attempt innovation by the rules whether they succeed or fail.'


As for comparing 100K civil servants and 5K golf buddies? Of course. Much of what the market does isn't decided by the golf buddies, though. That's just the visible part. There is a huge mountain under the snowy peak. 8)

I'm not knocking FDR. It's just that the 50's were rather unusual. Europe had just slashed its own throat and then turned to inflation to wipe out the resulting debt. Of course we grew. They grew too at a furious clip. Recognizing that there were other options besides the course FDR set doesn't mean supply-side lunacy, though. FDR did fine, but the post-war era was unusual. We had other options, but no belief that they'd work.

As long as our capital/income ratio stays around 4, I'm not going to get overly concerned about the golf buddies. You are doing a fine job pointing out the dangers, so I don't feel a need to fight yet. When it gets up to about 5 or 5.5, I'll begin to worry IF demographic growth stalls. Until then, I'll focus on helping our amazing civilization evolve some new capabilities.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | Okay. You are arguing that the folks who lack a sense of empathy and justice can still rely on prudence to justify UBI and health coverage. Hmm. Perhaps. I suspect you are too socialized (a good thing) to comprehend just how little some people care about non-kin. If I play Devil's Advocate here I'd ask 'Why should I care about them if I'm willing to care about kin and build a smaller network within my social horizon?' Instead of UBI we get localized instances of safety nets which is sorta what we have, isn't it? The argument against centralizing them is none of them are too big to fail right now.

I suspect the better prudence argument is that the folks who don't have a couple mil stashed away can certainly steal it when necessary. Whether they do it the way my maternal grandmother did (at least a thief when she was young) or through votes to raise taxes doesn't matter much. In the end, the prudent thing to do is head all that risk off at the pass. Compromise. No gates for the community will keep out people like my grandmother.

Money attempts to abstract the idea of value to the point where it seems as if it should not decay, but that's an illusion.

It was a good illusion up until the start of WWI. In coping with those debts, many nations used inflation and changed the meaning of money. Five percent was a decent return on capital in the form of real estate and even government bonds. All of that was stable at that rate for many generations. Then the 20th century changed all that. Inflation stripped the rich of much of their wealth until they learned to deal with it. Taxes took second place. The poor can't use the solution the rich use and usually aren't even taught about them.

I'm cool with your satiability argument, but I sincerely doubt you would actually do it that way if you actually had the money. The same argument our host uses against Ayn Rand's portrayal of industrialists would apply to you. What about the children? What if you could earn just a bit of money on your money to keep the principle intact. Is there anyone in your life you would like to make a bit more comfortable when you are done and dust? A bit of cash can make a huge difference for kids. Good and Bad... at the same time. You might stop worrying about yourself (I have no doubt of that), but you might broaden your horizon and think of the kids. Surely you can think of something political to do with the money to make it better for the kids? 8)

George Carty said...

Weren't the '50s and '60s a good time for the working classes of North America and Western Europe in part because it was far more difficult than today to offshore production to low-wage countries?

Standardized shipping containers hadn't yet been introduced (which meant that potential savings in labour costs were often wiped out by shipping costs), and the international movement of capital was in any case restricted by the Bretton-Woods system.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi George
That is a valid argument -
But if we look at what happened afterwards we see the flaw
The shipping containers and international movement of capital applied to all of Western Europe

But it is only in the Anglophone countries that the working class lost out so badly

In the rest of Western Europe the working class did one hell of a lot better

David Brin said...

locumranch is a “liar” because he claimed cyclical history is “proved.” That assertion he knows to be false. It is pants-on-fire and utterly discrediting. I dared him to back it up and he has weaseled.

Peter said...

How would you hope to keep a congress mandated Fact Checking Institute from becoming a veritable Ministry of Truth? The current goings on at the FCC do not inspire any trust in me that such an institute would operate in good faith.

Laurence said...

A Pence presidency would be a disaster for the republicans. A good rule of thumb for polarizing candidates is "that which their opponents despise, their supporters love". The hatred and anger Trump inspires in liberals is read as "honesty" "charisma" and "guts" by his supporters. By contrast, if a political figure come across as dull to their opponents, they probably also give that impression within their own camp. This phenomenon has just happened on my side of the Atlantic, post brexit the UK Independence Party replaced the brash egomaniac Nigel Farage with the nonentity Paul Nuttal. (after a fair amount of quite literal infighting which put one prospective candidate in hospital)UKIP's support has now imploded, they are down from around 14 percent in the polls to about 5 percent. The same would happen if Pence replaced Trump, the republican's would lose the energy supplied by Trump's ego, and gain not one iota of goodwill from democrats or swing voters. They would be stuck with a president with all the charisma of skimmed milk, plus the resentment of a sizeable chunk of the republican base.

Personally I think a stress-related heart attack, rather than impeachment is more likely to bring this state of affairs a bout, but we shall see.

Jumper said...

Alfred, since Malthus there have been numerous famines across the world, so I don't see how he was proven wrong as you so often state. South Sudan is happening right now. I understand the argument it wasn't lack of food; it was lack of distribution, but that seems equivalent to saying no one ever starves; they die of TB, exposure, flu, dysentery, etc. It's not totally honest.

The worst weather events often happen at high tides; that doesn't negate what we'll be seeing from warming. So with resource and energy problems: there will be confounding problems which accompany, but don't obviate changing trends.

I've finally formulated a definition of economic growth which does not require, strictly, population growth: when useful energy per capita rises, economic growth is happening. Since currently so much energy is "dirty" too many are thinking the energy is the problem rather than the "dirt." That's wrong.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Doctor Brin wrote: "Zepp, Congress has the constitutional power to declare war. They have let it slip out of their hands. That is enough basis for such a precautionary measure."

Agreed about Congress and the power to declare war. They haven't done so since 1949, but elected to punt instead, giving us such gifts as the Gulf of Tonkin resolution (where nothing actually happened) and WMDs that didn't actually exist. Congress abdicated.
But the President can and does initiate military action without approval from Congress as a part of his sweeping powers in foreign policy. In the wake of the Vietnam disaster, Congress tried to curb that power with the War Powers Act, and the courts eventually dismantled much of it.
Still, if you called on Congress to restrain Trump's ability to attack other nations, I would back you 100%.
Asking the JCOS to advise their people to ignore a direct order from the CinC is a whole different kettle of fish. The military isn't a warm and fuzzy friend: it's a very powerful, deadly tool that, if mishandled, can do great damage to those wielding that tool. I really don't like the idea of encouraging the military to feel free to ignore civilian authority, even when that authority is possibly insane.
Limit Trump's power? Certainly. Congress, the courts, public outcry. But don't ask the military to consider mutiney a viable tool. That way lies disaster.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Perhaps. I suspect you are too socialized (a good thing) to comprehend just how little some people care about non-kin.


I'm not saying I care deeply about everyone as I do my own family, but there is a certain level of dignity I ascribe to fellow Americans and a certain level of dignity I ascribe to fellow human beings.


If I play Devil's Advocate here I'd ask 'Why should I care about them if I'm willing to care about kin and build a smaller network within my social horizon?' Instead of UBI we get localized instances of safety nets which is sorta what we have, isn't it?


I don't know if you ever read Kurt Vonnegut's novel "Slapstick", but you're describing the premise of that book--that too much human misery is caused by a lack of extended families. In the unspecified future time of the book, everyone is randomly assigned a middle name at birth, and all who share the same middle name are "cousins", expected to be the social support system for those of their "cousins" in need. A consequence was that no one was without their own extended family, so you were freed from having to worry about the needs of those who were not one of yours.

It's not one of his better books, but I could tell what he was getting at, and it's very similar to your argument.

The argument against centralizing them is none of them are too big to fail right now.


The argument for centralizing is that many are too small to succeed.

I suspect the better prudence argument is that the folks who don't have a couple mil stashed away can certainly steal it when necessary. Whether they do it the way my maternal grandmother did (at least a thief when she was young) or through votes to raise taxes doesn't matter much. In the end, the prudent thing to do is head all that risk off at the pass. Compromise. No gates for the community will keep out people like my grandmother.


People with enough money to have extended horizons value stability and predictability, and personal safety. Taxation--at least the way it is practiced here--is a way of funding government which provides all of the above, as opposed to relying on desperate measures by desperate neighbors. I suspect that people who say "taxation is theft" generally have the luxury of never actually having been assaulted and robbed. If forced to consider whether one would really rather be taxed or robbed, or if there's no difference between the two, I suspect the answer would be enlightening.

Also, metaphorical theft works both ways. If taxation is theft by society, then extraction from the commons is theft from society. Rather than "theft", why not consider taxation to be fair payment for value that goes the other way? I mean, when energy companies get to despoil federal land in order to drill for oil there, and claim the oil itself which was under federal land as their own private property, how is that not theft? If you're going to say it was all done legally, well so is taxation.

"Money attempts to abstract the idea of value to the point where it seems as if it should not decay, but that's an illusion."

It was a good illusion up until the start of WWI.


It was a more plausible illusion, but still involved some fakery. In order to pretend that stashed wealth didn't decay, value had to be sucked up from the bottom to maintain the illusion. The logical end of all that is pre-Revolutionary France in which the population is impoverished to the lowest level that maintains life because everything else is the private property of monseigneur.

(continued...character limit...)

Paul SB said...

Alfred (again again - though I am surprised none of our fellows from the other side of the Pond have countered Le Muppets with Dangermouse),

You made a comment to Dr. Brin that gets to why I asked you to take the Fisher test.

"It is SUCH a libertarian thing to quibble over smallish points as if the philosophy MATTERED..."

Can you see what kind of people are drawn to the Libertarian way of seeing things? The habit of arguing tenaciously over details is totally testosterone, a clear indicator of what she calls the Director temperament. Now you are much more sapient than most, willing to introspect with an open enough mind to actually benefit from it rather than use it to rationalize the views you have already committed to. That puts you far ahead on the sapience graph than most t-types.

Now look at how many words you have clacked out here, and how much time you must have devoted to this. I am not suggesting that close analysis of details is not a worthwhile pursuit, far from it. But there is also such a thing as going overboard and beating a dead horse. The d-type Explorer in me tires of the endless thrust and counter thrust. I have had the opposite development, becoming less patient and less driven to argue every little thing since puberty. I have always had enough of the e/o in me to sense (though often a day late and a dollar short) when the obsession with winning was doing more harm than good. So at this point I am only going to argue one more point and leave it at that.

Paul SB said...

Alfred con.t (You done it again again, Baroni!),

"This will sound like I’m nit picking, but No. People do that. Some people do that. Markets do not. Markets aren’t coordinated enough to do that. Markets are the eco-system in which monopolies can grow, but they also support other kinds of life."

You are right that markets don't do that - technically speaking - and that they do support other kinds of life. The argument, though, is analogous to the old "guns don't kill, people kill" dodge. Of course it is people who kill. Some try to kill with guns, some with knives and some with bricks. But the difference between having someone come at you with a knife or a brick and having someone come at you with a gun is orders of magnitude different. You might outrun the murderer with the knife or the brick, you might be able to punch them hard and fast enough to make them drop their weapon, then you are on more equal footing with them. But a person with a gun can just stand back and shoot you, and only comic book characters can outrun bullets.

Capitalism is analogous here. If we all lived at the level of the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker, then we are like people armed with only their fists. Sure some are stronger or faster or more well-trained in hand-to-hand combat than others. Some are even good enough they can kill with their bare hands. But that is orders of magnitude less unequal than the power differential between an ordinary citizen and a major corporation. Who can rent quality lawyers, grease palms, pay shills, intimidate witnesses, destroy evidence and crush dissent with impunity? Not Joe/Josephine Citizen. Like the Old Aristocracy, corporations compete with each other, but they are united in keeping down the peasants.

In the last thread I brought up imbalance in terms of temperament types. Being highly competitive, t-types are usually the ones who come to dominate corporations. They are the ones most motivated to not only to compete but to crush competitors and gloat over it, filling the memescape with ideas that denigrate those who are less inclined to compete to the bloody end. Sure, they would do this anyway, but without capitalism they would be like those crazy people trying to bash everyone else's heads in with bricks or stab them with the kitchen cutlery. Unregulated markets are like guns in their hands. Unregulated markets allow them to get those guns, and monopolize them to the point that only a few thousand golf buddies have them. So sure, markets don't make monopolies happen, but they facilitate them to the point that the system goes so out of balance that the "ecosystem" become unstable and teeters on the edge of collapse. Civilizations of the past collapsed for many reasons, but at base was always factionalism, and the factions that did the damage were the ones that did the most to tip the balance IN THEIR OWN FAVOR.

Paul SB said...

Alfred, yet again...

In Richard Lee's classic ethnography of the Ju'hoansi people of southern Africa he describes an incident in which one man got angry and speared another man to death, then a few months later the same man blew his top again and killed another. The discussion around the fire at the nearby water holes turned not to revenge, but to the practical problem of how to deal with a person who has killed people. They decided that their only recourse was to kill him before he could kill anyone else. Two men took their spears before the sun rose, went to the water hole where he slept - knowing full well that the people he shared the water with could not have that discussion openly with him right there. When the killer woke up, he saw immediately what they had come to do, and made no attempt to stop them from carrying out their grim task.

It's obvious enough what temperament type the killer was, and you can probably deduce the mix of tempers that made up the executioners. With their technology and close-knit community, the tragedy that came of one person getting far too much of one chemical in his system from Nature's Dice could be countered by the community. Though the human race still has those same Paleolithic instincts and are still subject to the same genetic randomness, the social environment is very, very different now. Since the Dawn of Agriculture technology has allowed power to be concentrated into the hands of the few, and of course the few that get that power are exactly the ones whose temperaments incline them to do so, exactly those ones who are most likely to use their spears in anger against the rest of us (regardless of what makes them angry), and to use their disproportionate power to justify their actions by convincing others that their aggression makes them better than all those innovative d-types, traditional s-types and stabilizing e/o-types, setting up motivations for people to fight against their natures to become what the t-types are, or spend their lives in misery and shame.

Markets are not living things, but if left without checks and balances they undermine life. Look at the Maya, the Romans, the Sumerians, and look at us.

Paul SB said...

Larry,
When you mentioned the Jerry Kimmel’s babies thing, it made me think of the problem with Social Security. When SS was created, average life expectancy was much lower than it is today, and gerontological medicine was much less expensive (because it was so much less effective). The number of people who are living off of SS for decades and incurring huge medical expenses has increased dramatically - which is driving up the cost of health care for everyone as well as bankrupting the government.

Now at the same time the number of children who need special services - expensive services - is also increasing very dramatically. One example is autism. When my son was diagnosed in kindergarten 1 in 200 children were identified with this condition. Now it is 1 in 80. My son turns 14 in 2 months, so that’s a pretty unhealthy increase in under 10 years. Is it any wonder that the cost of healthcare has been skyrocketing?

Of course the older, more traditional way of doing things was to simply assume that anyone who had a health issue was cursed by God and deserved it and treat them like lepers. That kept healthcare costs down...

locumranch said...



All assets decay (including wealth & good will) because all things are impermanent. This is a basic syllogism. Insomuch as inflation devalues wealth and good will depreciates via neglect & abuse, impermanence implies decay, transience & mortality.

Likewise, all human beings & their civilisations are impermanent, transitory & subject to decay. This has been 'proven', established as truth & validity by the presentation of argument, evidence & syllogism, and this proof can only be invalidated by the presentation of an exception.

I therefore challenge all comers, AGAIN, to provide one non-contemporary example of a human civilisation that kept ascending forever & ever without falling into decay, wreck & ruin, but it can't be done by David or anyone because no such evidence exists.

The only counter-arguments offered up as of yet include Faith, Belief & Popular Opinion, even though none of these arguments constitute a logical proof.


Best

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ (continued after interrpution) :

I'm cool with your satiability argument, but I sincerely doubt you would actually do it that way if you actually had the money.
...
Surely you can think of something political to do with the money to make it better for the kids?


I exaggerate for effect. The point was that after a certain level of accumulated wealth, even just spending down the capital with no return would be a higher standard of living than I'd ever expected in real life. It's a lower bound.

The point stands, though, that after a certain level of wealth, the incentive to spend hours in the day at a job (even the "job" of managing ones own money) goes way down for me. The point of my specific example of the mega-lottery was not that if I had a pension that paid $2 million a year, I'd be very content, so why not a stash of capital from which I could spend $2 million a year for longer than my expected lifetime? Some of what I would do with that money--from whichever source--would be to benefit others I cared about. And my daughter was one of the five people I would have gifted $10 million to right off the top.

Treebeard said...

Civilizations are cyclical in the same way that all life is cyclical: they are born, they grow, they bloom in the spring of their life, they wither in autumn and die in winter. Then some other civilization rises in its place, and the cycle repeats. A prog is like a young woman who imagines she can live in an eternal spring, getting more beautiful every day, and can't even bear to think that she might grow old and die.

It's telling that the tradition of Memento Mori, which goes back to classical times, was abandoned around the time the West embraced the Revelations of the Enlightenment Cult and dismissed everything that came before as "Jahiliyya" (Arabic for the age of ignorance that obtained before the Prophet's revelations). So the West has been in denial of this basic fact of existence ever since, like no other civilization in history. It's even doubling-down on the denial with new cults like "Singularitarianism". But this doesn't change the fact that you, and your civilization, must die.

Tim H. said...

Alfred, you draw the line defining "Command economy" at a different place than I. A useful analogy for market regulation would be contemporary engine management systems, without which you'd be lucky to see more than roughly 45 net HP per liter without usability and longevity penalties. A regulated market may not be especially pure, but it works better, leave the "Purity of essence" for an old Kubrick script.

Tim H. said...

Treebeard, we are indeed doomed to die, but not giving up means something, even a seemingly small thing, like courtesy, can be a bright point in a sea of suck. Speaking of which, people who cause suffering affect the values of a society in much the same way as cars on blocks and broken windows affect property values, "Herr Drumph!" seems determined to make the nation a moral slum.

Treebeard said...

If the nation is becoming a moral slum, maybe Trump is more a symptom than a cause? Did you find Bill Clinton to be a morally inspiring figure? These things don't happen overnight. This is where the cyclical or seasonal model comes in; you may just be living in a season of moral decay, and no amount of finger-pointing at Trump, Putin, the Confederacy or other evil-doers can turn back the hand of time. Or maybe it's all part of Satan's plan. In a postmodern age where people are redefining themselves and transvaluating all values at will, what does morality even mean?

Tim H. said...

The slides have been greased for a long time, have a closer look at the substance of decisions made a half century ago, Bill Clinton's far too young to blame the beginnings of this on.

David Brin said...


Peter the Ministry of Truth fret is a valid one, which is why I used plural in “services”. A diversity of fact checkers… but all of them vetted by the most-respected sages especially conservatives.

“provide one non-contemporary example of a human civilisation that kept ascending forever & ever without falling into decay, wreck & ruin”

Unbelievable. (1) that is not “cyclical. As Jared Diamond points out, in COLLAPSE, there are many failure modes that have brought nations down. According to his catalogue, the most commons were conquest from the outside and failure to address environmental degradation, often caused by human activities like poorly managed irrigation or grazing.

Note here that locum’s cult is surrendering America to hostile foreign powers AND insisting we not address environmental degradation. Traitors.

These failure modes are not “cyclical,” they are results of execrably bad leadership. Toynbee took a more general approach than Diamond, claiming that his thorough analyses showed that nations who invest liberty and resources in their “creative minorities” tend to weather their crises and move on.

Of course that is the third and worst treason of locum’s cult… waging open war upon our creative minorities, ignoring their advice and attempting to crush their ability to criticize foolish oligarchs.

But sure, here’s your counter-example, fool. Us. Western civilization, despite idiots like Spengler, as been heading for the stars for 700 years. Indeed, the deep pause of the middle ages was serious, but the progress - stymied by oligarchy - goes back to 600 BCE. Athens fell but Hellenistic cities BASED on Athens prospered and carried on, even under Roman rule.

The central city might change, like a body changing its cells. But we moved on.

Treebeard shouts his catechism, even though there is absolutely no evidence for it being true: “Civilizations are cyclical in the same way that all life is cyclical: they are born, they grow, they bloom in the spring of their life, they wither in autumn and die in winter. Then some other civilization rises in its place, and the cycle repeats.”

Bull. Shit. You know nothing about human history. Support it, instead of raving your masturbatory poetry of cynicism.

“If the nation is becoming a moral slum”… what marvelous noxious idiocy.

Kids in school now experience far, far less bullying than when I was a kid. There is no greater litmus of morality than that one fact. Crime has plummeted. Violence around the world - despite hot spots - is at an all time low. Even by your troglodytic standards, morality is rising. Teens are choosing of their own accord to delay and have less sex.

You are a fact-averse person and we know why your cult wages war on fact-people.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

I therefore challenge all comers, AGAIN, to provide one non-contemporary example of a human civilisation that kept ascending forever & ever without falling into decay, wreck & ruin, but it can't be done by David or anyone because no such evidence exists.


It's not a question of evidence. You propose an absurdity. How can any civilization that ascends forever not be contemporary? You might as well ask for evidence of an immortal who is not currently alive.

If your point is that all things wax and wane, then you're the only one who sees that as a bad thing. I'd be happy to live healthily for 200 years, but you'd be the one who thinks dying at 200 is exactly the same thing as dying at 20.

LarryHart said...

Treebeard:

Civilizations are cyclical in the same way that all life is cyclical: they are born, they grow, they bloom in the spring of their life, they wither in autumn and die in winter. Then some other civilization rises in its place, and the cycle repeats.


Except that "cyclical" makes it sound as if the new life or new civilization inevitably repeats the old one.



A prog is like a young woman who imagines she can live in an eternal spring, getting more beautiful every day, and can't even bear to think that she might grow old and die.


No, that's what you White Supremacists believe about yourselves. Except that you're more like an ugly woman who believes that.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Note here that locum’s cult is surrendering America to hostile foreign powers AND insisting we not address environmental degradation. Traitors.


But I think his point is something like: "You call me a traitor for bringing about our downfall, but downfall is inevitable, so it's not my fault!"

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin to Treebeard:

Violence around the world - despite hot spots - is at an all time low. Even by your troglodytic standards, morality is rising. Teens are choosing of their own accord to delay and have less sex.


By Treebeard's troglodytic standards, less violence is a bad thing. So is teens delaying sex or anything that leads to lower fertility.

locumranch said...


That's the thing about the vilest slums:

They spring from the human psyche; they are vital, disordered & cancerous things that reek of unrestrained growth; and they stand in defiance of all that would be sterile, ordered & 'nice' like the nightmare of the Perpetual City. Read R A Lafferty for further details, especially his "Past Master', and you will never view Order as an unmitigated 'good', ever again.

Kudos to Paul_SB, btw, for the tautological mastery of claiming that (1) "Civilizations of the past collapsed (because) factionalism" and (2) "the factions that did the damage were the ones that did the most to tip the balance IN THEIR OWN FAVOR".

If not for him, I would not have realised that (1) 'things fall apart when they fall apart', nor would I have guessed that the term 'factionalism' (defined as "the state or quality of being partisan or self-interested") could involve the immoral pursuit of SELF-INTEREST.

This factionalism sounds a lot like Progressive Party 'Identity Politics', don't it?

So, grab your Blue Kepis, boys, because we're the only Good SELFLESS faction that can 'hold things together', and we'll live FOREVER and NEVER DIE, even though it appears that those Evil Selfish Conservatives have allowed us to out-smart ourselves once again.


Best
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This demand for 'creative minority' rule sounds awfully tyrannical & undemocratic to me, possibly leading to the very "execrably bad leadership" responsible for the cyclic rise & fall of human civilisations that most progressives inadvertently demand while trying to avoid. Demanding elite 'minority rule' over & over while expecting a different outcome leads to oligarchy & meets at least one definition of insanity. Recursive logic, this is.

Also, I'm a nationalist who values strong borders, and 'surrendering national sovereignty to a foreign power' is the demand of the progressive globalist (not the nationalist troglodyte).

Michael C. Rush said...

>>The problem is that the White House should already have been baby-proofed in the first place and it wasn't. Instead, we spent the last few administrations doing the opposite

I agree. It is a big problem that more Americans now want a king than a president.

>>I would rather keep trying to keep this phase of civil war… civil. Crush them politically, as they deserve.

Wouldn't we all? I fear the structure isn't sound enough anymore to effect that. I'd love to be proven wrong.

Jumper said...

How sloppy. Bloviating about history without reading any. Pontificating about "doomed civilizations" while refusing to even define, much less understand, "civilization."

This talk of declining morals has me amazed. I have mentioned before how lashing men's backs down to the bone used to be common. Slavery, the Roman Empire, prisons, the British Navy - lashing. More moral in those days, right? Public hangings where crowds teemed with pickpockets amid slums where people threw pots of dung into the streets - those were the days, right, guys?

I guess India counts for nothing, or the Byzantine empire either. Gee how long did India exist? News flash: it still does!

Fools who speak of "cycles" are forcing complexity into a simple model for childish minds. Do we get epicycles along with this fairy tale?

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

"Impeach Trump" is a trap.

Any day, Paul Ryan will make his offer: "if you Democrats do the heavy lifting, we'll supply JUST enough GOP defectors to get a bill of impeachment passed, okay?"

If the Dems stupidly agree, the GOP will grab a win-win-win.


What you say is true but irrelevant. We've had this discussion before, and I still don't understand why you think this is a likely scenario.

First of all, the Republican congress shows absolutely no inclination to drop their support for Trump. Individual congressmen might, but the leadership who control the agenda are being lickspittles, even the ones who made never-Trump noises during the campaign.

Second, if Ryan were to make such an overture, you really think Democrats wouldn't stop to consider why? Chuck Schumer isn't an idiot. Back when the earth was cooling in 2008 when congress was cowed by then-president W and his treasury secretary into passing a $700 Billion bank bailout, the Democrats who then controlled congress (and who were in favor of said bailout, sad to say) made sure that Republicans also voted for it so that they couldn't later say that they bravely stood against the bill. Both then-Senators Obama and McCain voted for it so that neither one could use it against the other as a campaign issue. I would expect that Democrats would have the same understanding this time around.

Finally, even if your lose-lose-lose scenario were to come about, "the minimum of Republicans" needed to convict in the Senate would be 19. That's more than one third of the Republican Senators needed at a minimum. There's no way for that to appear to voters as if the Republican Party as a bloc were not complicit in the act.

I know my predictive powers took a hit on November 8, but I'm not feeling worried about this as a possibility.

- - -

BTW, this just slipped into my mind as something Oscar Wilde might have said: "The only thing worse than impeaching Trump is not impeaching Trump."

David Brin said...

At least the following was (at last!) an arguable assertion that wasn’t simply and diametrically opposite to truth, from the git-go: “This demand for 'creative minority' rule sounds awfully tyrannical & undemocratic to me, possibly leading to the very "execrably bad leadership" responsible for the cyclic rise & fall of human civilisations that most progressives inadvertently demand while trying to avoid.”

Yes, technocracy or elitist snobbery can and might metastasize into one more oppressive oligarchy. Just like the oligarchies of old - the priesthoods and owner-aristocracies that both oppressed and governed terribly.

Only dig it… our society is the first to declare THAT that kind of rule is stupid and wrong. And hence any nascent technocracy would be subject to pre-criticism if it tried to become a monolith. And dig this too; scientists etc are among the most individualistic, competitive and hard-to-herd cats our species ever produced. So, while I hope we’d see cries of warning, if a technocratic elite sought power, that is extremely unlikely, compared to that vastly worse nusto-stupid-evil elites of aristocracy and priesthood.

In any event, Toynbee - who proved his case statistically - was not prescribing monolithic technocracy, but a general willingness to invest in and support and give an ear to the varied creative forces in a society. What’s pathetic is that here we have an ACTUAL pattern of history that repeated often, verified by one of the greatest of all historians. But fools ignore him because it does not fit their romantic narrative.

Zepp Jamieson said...

With all the back-and-forth about Civilisations and whether they follow cycles or not, there is one thing that makes the argument moot. What, exactly, is a "Civilisation"/
Not the definition, or a vague political science description; an actual recognisable group of people bonded by a nationality, culture, religion, language, whatever.
Let me give you an example: Italy. It's been around for a long time, going back some 3,000 years. But lets just focus on modern Italy for now, the nation/state cobbled together in the mid 19th century.
Since then, it's certainly seen its share of rises and falls. It has been prosperous, and destitute. It has had strong governments and ineffectual ones. In the past 75 years its had at least sixty different governments. It's been fascist, socialist, social democratic, and a pseudo vassal state of the Vatican. It's won several small wars and lost a couple of big ones. It's been invaded, occupied, subjugated.
But it has always been an Italian civilization. the language is largely the same, subject to the same ideomatic evolution that most languages are. The religion is roughly the same, although degrees of fundamentalist belief and rigidity of tenents have shifted back and forth. The culture, while again evolving, is still one recognisable to an Italian of 175 years ago.
So what is "civilisation" in this case. What are the rises and falls? At what point do you say, "a civilisation has passed, and is being replaced with another", and what defines the difference?
And Italy is an easy example; I could just have readily have picked Japan or China.

David Brin said...

Zepp, Athens and Greece declined after Alexander, but the successor Hellenistic cities like Alexandria and Antioch soared to heights in every way (except governance) that classical Greece never attained. And many of those cities remained vigorous across Rome and Byzantium. They did lose vigor, toward the end, after Western Europe collapse and after they fell under the sway of Christianity... and then the muslim onslaught. but that was a span - from Solon to Souleiman - of 2000 years.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB to Alfred:

Now look at how many words you have clacked out here, and how much time you must have devoted to this. I am not suggesting that close analysis of details is not a worthwhile pursuit, far from it. But there is also such a thing as going overboard and beating a dead horse.


Paul, seriously? You're cautioning someone else about excess verbaige?

Tim H. said...

Something that could move the House to impeachment is a possible rift between Trump and Ryan, given Trump's temper and the contempt I suspect Ryan holds for Trump, it could happen.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

LOL! I didn't even see how long my own response was until it was already written. Although T level isn't my highest factor, it's obvious enough I have more than a bit of lastworditis - a very typical T. And I also have enough to prefer a more "objective" nomenclature like "t-type" to the more squishy "Director" Fisher uses. She is right that we are all a mix of traits, but some of us exhibit more extremes than others. I won't name any names...

Zepp Jamieson said...

Maybe history DOES repeat. Back in 2001, Iran elected a moderate secular government and seemed poised to throw off the rule of the Mullahs. George W. Bush chose right then to start making noises about "the Axis of Evil" and sabre-rattling at Iran. The nation promptly retreated to the imagined safety of religious fundamentalism, a turtle pulling its head in.
And here were are, Iran just elected a moderate government the day before yesterday, and if you're right (and I think you are) Trump is about to ramp up the sabre-rattling and strategic threats.
Is this American right wing stupidity, or is it deliberate? Are they trying to sabotage Iran's possible return to the modern world?

LarryHart said...

@Zepp Jamieson,

It's been obvious since the anti-factual hysteria* over the nuclear deal that the right wing values Iran as a boogey-man and that the last thing they want is to normalize relations with Iran. This view is apparently also shared by the Israeli right-wing and it makes sense to think it is encouraged by the Saudis. There's no question but that it is deliberate policy.

* (For example "This deal will allow them to build a bomb two months after the fifteen year treaty ends!" as if that's a worse scenario than "two months after next Tuesday" without the deal).

Marino said...

Zepp,

"And here were are, Iran just elected a moderate government the day before yesterday, and if you're right (and I think you are) Trump is about to ramp up the sabre-rattling and strategic threats.
Is this American right wing stupidity, or is it deliberate? Are they trying to sabotage Iran's possible return to the modern world?"

to play it backward, never assume stupidity when you can think malice. A US-KSA-Israel alliance against Iran resembles, imho, a Molotov-Ribbentrop pact among existential enemies, with Iran in lieu of Poland. And we know how it ended. (with Trump playing the role of a bitterly shafted Stalin to boot, ain't irony delicious?)

LarryHart said...

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

Melania and Ivanka Trump accompanied the president [to Saudi Arabia] and neither wore a headscarf. By itself, that is not unusual, as women from the West often don't, but when Michelle Obama visited the country 2 years ago sans headscarf, Trump tweeted: "Many people are saying it was wonderful that Mrs. Obama refused to wear a scarf in Saudi Arabia, but they were insulted. We have enuf [sic] enemies." If that were not enough, Trump also appeared to bow before the Saudi King while getting his medal. Naturally, he [had] used Twitter to slam Obama for appearing to bow before the Saudi King during his visit in 2009. The White House has not responded to inquiries about whether or not Trump has softened his stance on bowing.


Am I misremembering the Constitution, or don't you lose your citizenship for bowing to a foreign ruler?

Am

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

In Republicans Keep Repeating the Same Tax Mistake, economist Megan McArdle, an avowed libertarian writing on Bloomberg – a financial/investment zine – reams the Supply Side mythology from just the simple aspect of demand elasticity, offering just one (of dozens) of reasons why it never worked. At all. Ever. Even once.


This depends on whether you're talking about Republican rank-and-file voters, or the wealthy/powerful Republican base. For the average voter, yes, they've been suckered time and again into voting for a scheme that hurts them. But as to "Why to they keep doing it?", it has worked quite well for the oligarchs who set the agenda.

LarryHart said...

I wonder if Trump said the phrase "There is but one God, and Allah is his name" in Saudi Arabia. Doubtful that he said "Allah", but it would be funny if he were to accidentally convert to Islam while he's over there.

Zepp Jamieson said...

True dat. That idiot Netanyahu has been saying for twenty years now that Iran was only weeks away from building a nuclear weapon. That's what's known as a 'missing-husband'-type fortnight.

There is an element to Iran politics that most people miss. The clerics of Iran, clear back in 1982, declared nuclear weapons unclean, and named them fatwa. It is an affront to Allah to build such devices. It's probably the main reason Iran never has tried to build nuclear weapons.
What's not clear is how the secular (sort of) moderates (again, sort of) view that.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Am I misremembering the Constitution, or don't you lose your citizenship for bowing to a foreign ruler?"

You're misremembering. While no American can be required to bow to a leader in America, it's up to the individual to honour local customs in other lands.

And in no circumstances can a native born American be stripped of his citizenship, unless he "renounces and abjures" it himself.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Larry Hart wrote: "I wonder if Trump said the phrase 'There is but one God, and Allah is his name' in Saudi Arabia?"

I wondered how the translator handled his endless tiresome references to "God". Same Cosmic Hairy Thunderer, different language for the name, but people have died over that.

locumranch said...



Within his attempt to redefine the term 'civilization' in linguistic, religious & vague cultural terms, Zepp has the making of a good argument that could support the currently popular Linear Model of both innovation & history.

We could make this attempt. We could define what is 'civil' in terms of dietary preferences, religion, linguistic continuity & genomic prevalence. We could natter on about ongoing Christian, Mohammedan, Pagan & Animistic empires. We could attempt to recategorise what is civil by Germanic, Indo-European & Khoisan word roots. We could talk knowingly about the schisms caused by dietary shifts from barley to wheat, rice or cassava. And, we could attempt to redefine what is 'civil' in the same way we have redefined evolution in terms of allelic prevalence rather than function.

We could confirm the progressive Linear History Model in this manner. Yet, by doing so, we risk both Amalgamation & Infinite Regression because there need not be ANY division between any circumstance & any other. Most human languages share common etymological roots & all languages trade terms when they come into even brief contact with each other. Most religions share more in origin, observance & ritual than they differ. And, food preference has more to do with availability than it does politics.

We can then experience the ultimate in Kumbaya Moments when all distinctions dissolve. Blessed be 'Imagine' by John Lennon !!
We've created an apparent paradise until you get hungry & someone offers you a rock.

The sad truth is that humans NEED to make arbitrary distinctions in order to function, elsewise there is neither Good nor Evil nor Accomplishment not Failure nor Pleasure nor Pain nor Labour nor Ease.

Hence David's need to put on a 'Blue Kepi' any time someone makes a distinction (or fails to make a distinction) that he doesn't like.

I will therefore stick with the dictionary definition of 'Civilisation', thank you, the first being civilisation as a 'process' and the second being civilisation as a 'place'.

Civilisation (noun):
(1) the social process whereby societies achieve an advanced stage of development and organization
(2) a particular society at a particular time and place



Best

Zepp Jamieson said...

Locumranch quoted: "(1) the social process whereby societies achieve an advanced stage of development and organization
(2) a particular society at a particular time and place"

Soooo....civilisation can be defined only as a function of quantum theory? That sure looks like the HUP to me.

Jumper said...

Anthropologists define civilization, as I do, as the trend towards the predominance of cities, in contrast with hunter-gatherers. Recognizing that agriculture and civilization go together.

I should point out the value judgment of "advanced" in (1). I will agree only with "complex technology."

The "particular society" of (2) is open to definition also in each case, but although all cities have commonalities with others, there are technological and stylistic (common moral) differences, of which a million examples are found: public hangings, suttee, topless bars, and Shriners driving little tiny cars are found in different amounts in different places and times.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

I will therefore stick with the dictionary definition of 'Civilisation', thank you, the first being civilisation as a 'process' and the second being civilisation as a 'place'.

Civilisation (noun):
...


No snark this time; I'm genuinely curious. You talk like an American but you spell like a Canadian. Why?

LarryHart said...

Jumper:

Anthropologists define civilization, as I do, as the trend towards the predominance of cities, in contrast with hunter-gatherers. Recognizing that agriculture and civilization go together.


To this amateur, it seems that the colloquial meaning of "civilization" has transcended its lexicographical root connected to cities, just as "hysteria" no longer refers to a disease of the uterus.

I see the point that we're describing something to the effect of "people learning to live together in closer quarters" which correlates to the ascendance of city living, but when people today talk of "acting civilized", they mean something a bit more specific than "acting like a city dweller".

Jumper said...

By this reckoning, it was the elimination of temple prostitutes that ended the civilization of Rome.

Jumper said...

The post referring to the end of Rome was directed towards locumranch's definition, and the reductio absurdum I just created. I will maintain that "acting like a city dweller" comprises the whole meaning, if examined closely and given some leeway.

Jumper said...

"Acting like a city dweller" means an expectation that other humans have specialties. You'll see even today fewer blacksmiths and home bakers in the city, and more in the rural areas.

David Brin said...

locum goes blah blah about how nothing can be defined. But here’s your distinction between linear and cyclical, fellah. At any point in time, can a family that is prospering under a longstanding civilized region look around, see that their city is declining because of mismanagement and then decide, calmly, without being refugees, to relocate to another city that is on the rise? One where the same underlying values of the civilization continue to rise? Can they relocate without too much trauma and then continue to prosper, contributing with their work and innovation to that overall civilization from their new home?

By that standard, a generally Hellenistic civilization lasted from 600 BCE to 1450, that’s over 2000 years. Indeed, if you define things generously - taking into account the one and only time that civilization”fell”, then there was no hiatus or fall, at all, since the moment Constantinople fell coincided with Prince Henry the Navigator rising in the West.

By some measures, China has been China for 3000 years, though I’d start with the Ch’in unification.

Moreover, almost none of the rise-and-fall “cycles” of other cultures show any sign of following the “old-age” patterns and Tytler Idiocies so beloved of romantic fools on the right. They fell because of real attractor states described by Diamond and Toynbee etc. Especially imbecilic feudalism.

LarryHart said...

Jumper:

"Acting like a city dweller" means an expectation that other humans have specialties. You'll see even today fewer blacksmiths and home bakers in the city, and more in the rural areas.


Sure, but are those rural blacksmiths and bakers less civilized? The city also has more gun deaths than the rural areas, but only in a very convoluted and counter-intuitive sense would one argue that drive-by shooting deaths are a mark of "civilization".

To me, the term "civilization" roughly aligns with people increasingly living by a common set of rules and customs, which I'll admit correlates to urbanization, but is a different thing (not the opposite thing, by any means). Civilization also correlates inversely with "being in a state of nature or at war with your neighbors". Again, I see the similarity to city dwelling, but don't see the two things as identical.

It also occurs to me that "citizen" must have originally meant "city dweller", but no longer does, just as "villain" has a completely different meaning from "village dweller". The connotations of words apparently survive their literal meanings and attach to different concepts which have similar connotations. I see more and more evidence all the time that human language is made up primarily of metaphors and allusions, much as that alien language in the Star Trek TNG episode "Darmok".

Jumper said...

I know the common meaning of "civilized" of course (but thanks for "villain," whose etymology I didn't!) While I personally avoid the word or use it a tad more ironically, I have no wish to impose this use on others. Just pointing out that a certain domestication is indeed accelerated the most by the actual living in cities (many of which in history we'd term towns, nowadays.) My goal is clear communication, so if I mean in each instance domesticated, educated, specialized / professional, bourgeois, polite or cosmopolitan, I try to use the precise word.

Flypusher said...

That is good advice Dr. Brin. As much as Trump turns my stomach, it is indeed a trap for the Dems, and it is better to take a longer view of opposing him. His incompetence has hamstrung him and the GOP, which gives me some hope if the Dems can get their act together for the midterms. The one possibility that does worry me is some sort of terrorist attack (be it from a foreign source of some kind of Reichstag fire event), that's used as an excuse for a power grab. 9/11 lead to the foolish invasion of Iraq, and I don't think enough people learned from that.

I have to wonder if Trump is trying for the political equivalent of "suicide by cop", at least subconsciously. He's in over his head, he's found out to his frustration that he can't just do anything he wants and there's more to the job than the fun ceremonial stuff, he's getting harsh criticism from multiple sides, but his ego won't let him quit. If he could only provoke Congress into impeaching him, then he could go play the martyr to his cult following and relive his Electoral College win while whining about being stabbed in the back. But Ryan and McConnell still want him as a rubber stamp for their tax cuts for the rich, they fear the wrath of the base, and so they manage to look the other way. But it's getting tougher as Trump keeps escalating. Something has to give eventually.

LarryHart said...

@Flypusher,

During the campaign, I kept wondering if Trump was trying to disqualify himself, so he wouldn't have to run, but he also wouldn't be quitting. He kept escalating the outrageousness in a way that made it seem as if he was going "Ok, after this my poll numbers have to drop!" After a while, the game seemed to morph into "Ok, let's see how far I can go and still keep rising in the polls." I'd think he was testing us, except he's not that smart.

What he seemed to want to do is lose the election and then ride his notoriety to his own brand new TV network. By electing him to office instead, we might have saved ourselves from a Nazi TV station that would have made us look back fondly on the days of FOX News.

locumranch said...



"At any point in time, can a family that is prospering under a longstanding civilized region look around, see that their city is declining because of mismanagement and then decide, calmly, without being refugees, to relocate to another city that is on the rise" [DB].


David seems to set the pro-civilisation bar quite low if this phrase is meant to support the Linear History Model. Is this all it takes to invalidate a social collapse? One remaining city somewhere, surrounded by ruins & barbarism, that is willing to welcome a single diasporic family with the offer of cosmopolitan comforts !!

Why not just define 'civilisation' as synonymous with 'Quest for Fire'? Naoh travels far, learns fire-making magic, can now cook food & heat water, also kidnaps puny chinese-canadian bride from other tribe & invents missionary-style sex. He now 'civilised'.

See how me now prove Linear History Model. If man can still make fire, then Cyclic History Model nonsense because there can be no collapse & no loss of civilisation if man can still make fire.

Britain is long past sunset, no empire, no industry, no power, almost no Navy, but still Great Globe-Spanning Civillisation all because somewhere Chinese national use magic Bic to summon Fire God & light cigarette. Trump 'Great Leader' for same reason.

Trump 'civilised' because man still make fire somewhere.


Best
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Explain of me. Me & family 'a Merican' for twelve hundred moons, european extraction, irreparably damaged by adolescent stay at British boarding school, matriculate long time, betrayed by bureaucrats, learn hate for city, become red state villein. No want help from WEIRD Laputian meddlers. Don't tread on me.

Alfred Differ said...

Jumper,

I won't split hairs and try to label deaths by disease unrelated to famine if the people were first weakened by famine. In those cases, I would count it as both. Such hair splitting isn't necessary though. The trick is to look at the frequency of famines through history. Where my father's ancestors were about six centuries ago, crops failed in a big enough way about twice per generation. Famine resulted. You'll find that all across Europe, though the documentation gets weaker the further back you go. By about four centuries ago, that frequency had diminished. Three centuries ago was roughly when the last one happened. In different regions the timing is different, but the trend isn't. It's not that famines never happen. It's that the frequency becomes very, very long so that for practical matters, generations can grow up never knowing starvation. In northern Europe, for example, the Dutch were shipping Polish wheat wherever it could be sold in the 17 century. As long as your people weren't dirt poor, they could get by with a crop failure if they could scratch up something the Dutch wanted.

Take any particular cultural group and ask when was the last time they had a generation that faced starvation. Collect more dates for every known famine for that group backwards in time until the data gets hard to find. Plot these on a calendar and you'll see a profound sparseness in recent history. Any group you want will do. If they are northern or western European, the sparseness starts a few generations ago. If they are Chinese, it starts very recently. And yes... it is still happening in Africa... but what is the frequency?

Famine as a killer of humans is vanishing from the face of the planet. Of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, we have unseated one of them and speared him through. He might still get up, but I find that unlikely. Food production has proven to be resilient under pressures in the last couple of generations. Even War is having difficulties staying on his horse. Bourgeois traders don't like him much anymore.

(Yah. I know how much our host loves Revelations analogies. Heh. I find them useful now and then.)

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | At the risk of sounding too much like an outsider, by science fiction reading depth isn't up to snuff compared to some of you. My mother tried to get me to read it when I was young, but I didn't have any of that. Science Fact drew me, so my turn with her Analog copy was brief. I came around in my late teens, but focused on technical stories. Even Asimov's Foundation stuff got that kind of attention. It wasn't until I read Dune that the crack in that wall happened and I was in college. David's Sundiver got a technical reading until the later Uplift novels appeared. So... Vonnegut would have been out of reach for me in a certain sense and nowadays I only go back to older material on recommendations.

However, I HAVE run into alternate kin descriptions in the fact literature. It seems humans aren't all that fixed on the notion that kinship is about blood relationships. We often craft relationships for whatever purpose we have in mind and this isn't a new feature in the historical sense. I grew up as a military brat, so I only got to see blood relatives outside my nuclear family on rare occasions, but I got to see enough informal adoptions of kids and friends to know people were complex and simple at the same time.

I suspect that people who say "taxation is theft" generally have the luxury of never actually having been assaulted and robbed.

For some of them, I know that is true, but not for enough of them to make a good generalization out of it. For those who say that phrase most forcefully, they see taxation AS an assault. Remember, I know people who have gone to prison for what they felt were reasonable complaints about taxation rules. Arrest and confiscation are not pretty and it is easy to feel like the victim.

why not consider taxation to be fair payment for value that goes the other way?

Because of the coercion and the way tax cases are actually handled. There are special rules for these cases and they come off looking a lot like guilt until proven innocent.

when energy companies get to despoil federal land in order to drill for oil there, and claim the oil itself which was under federal land as their own private property, how is that not theft?

Oh come now. Have you not looked into the principle behind federal land management? We WANT the resources developed. That's how the economy grows. That means property ownership. Oil sitting in the ground is just a gooey substance and ain't worth spit. Oil extracted and delivered to market is worth money. We've arranged the rules to reward people who turn stuff into money. We do similar things with our rules to incentivize useful behaviors.

Maybe you'd like to pick something besides oil, though. The way things are going, it is going to be worth it to us to pay people to leave it in the ground. Good luck trying to shut off that spigot.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | (continued) In order to pretend that stashed wealth didn't decay, value had to be sucked up from the bottom to maintain the illusion.

No. It wasn't an illusion. For some reason, land values were non-decaying for generations. Everyone and their brothers knew that rents tended to extract a 5% rate of return on capital each year like clockwork. With money tied to gold and silver, money itself was impressively stable. So much so that people believed it to be a rule of capitalism. Turns out they were wrong, though.

The sucking sound from the bottom had a different cause. People with capital finance things. People without it don't and wind up being employees of those who do. The oddity is that being an employee was generally better than their options. They could have said NO and gone back to the farms, but they didn't. The sucking sound was more of a vacuum created as the top layers of owners found their capital growing faster than the incomes of those at the bottom. David's 'diamond' society started as a pyramid that changed shape and grew dramatically in size. The top wasn't vacuuming from the bottom, though. EVERYONE (on average) was getting richer.

The point was that after a certain level of accumulated wealth, even just spending down the capital with no return would be a higher standard of living than I'd ever expected in real life.

Heh. I've found it impressively easy to spend more money as my income has grown over the years.

after a certain level of wealth, the incentive to spend hours in the day at a job (even the "job" of managing ones own money) goes way down for me.

Of course. That's why we pay others to do it. Even those of us with 401K's and pensions are doing that, though. I'm no market expert, but I know enough to know I can't beat people who spend their full days being good at it and the next best option for me involves index funds. The moment I place my money in those, I'm paying others a small amount to deal with that stuff without trying to game things too much.

And my daughter was one of the five people I would have gifted $10 million to right off the top.

That's cool, but a fund that preserves its capital AND gives you $2M a year leaves her with an inheritance, doesn't it? She'd be like you.... a lottery winner. She could then do as you did and cream off some of it for certain people and then try to preserve the rest while living comfortably in a satiated way. Many people would try for that and consider it a reasonable thing to do for their children. None of this matters until you win the lottery some day, but do you think it an unreasonable alternative to what you would do?

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | Can you see what kind of people are drawn to the Libertarian way of seeing things? 

Heh. Of course. That's why I joined up with them. I'm actually a moderating force when I have the stamina to attend their meetings. 8)

Now look at how many words you have clacked out here, and how much time you must have devoted to this.

Yah. Two things here. 1) I can type fast. 2) I'm a Director who knows he can be wrong about things and values the thrashings my ideas suffer when I put them out there.

As long as you are willing to beat up an idea of mine, you will find I am grateful for the experience.
Because I can type fast, though, I'll put another one out there in the hope that it will receive similar treatment. You should certainly stop when you've had enough. I'll be grateful for the gift I'm given.

My wife says much the same, so I have experience at this. I'm serious when I say I appreciate the feedback. I'm doubly serious when I say I understand when you reach the limits of your stamina.



I'll read the other posts in the morning, but I suspect I can sum things up quickly right now.

Markets are not living things, but if left without checks and balances they undermine life. Look at the Maya, the Romans, the Sumerians, and look at us.

Markets HAVE checks and balances until the cheaters run amok. Even when that happens, though, we can still come together in large enough groups and spear the people who do it. We ARE the checks and balances.

I do look at us. We've done something the others never did. NEVER did. We changed our virtues and became something different.

Tony Fisk said...

Just a few snippets for amusement.

At least one other person shares David's reservations about impeachment.

Nobody else seems to have picked up Woody Allen's angle on the infamous orb.

Many on twitter have marvelled at the level of hypocrisy displayed by some of Trump's early tweets denouncing his opponents in light of his current shenanigans. I have the perfect explanation

Finally, on the science is not a religion riff, I happened upon a "seventeenth century nun's prayer", part of which asks for "that glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken."

Paul SB said...

Hello again, Alfred,

Most days it's less about stamina than it is about time. My job is 24/7, and that isn't even enough to satisfy administration - who act increasingly like corporate administration. Now I need to spend time looking for a new career, because this one is driving me (and my compatriots) to an early grave. But on to other matters:

"Yah. Two things here. 1) I can type fast. 2) I'm a Director who knows he can be wrong about things and values the thrashings my ideas suffer when I put them out there."

I type at a glacial pace, so I can't match you there. I also have a huge verbosity problem, as you can see. On point #2, you are rare for a t-type. Most don't take criticism at all except as a direct, personal attack. They succeed by sheer hostility and persistence, though those same qualities can often land them in jail or in an early grave. But the biology is important here, as your t- and d- scores were very close. D-types love to explore ideas and are not bothered if people don't agree with them. Your attitude about growing from debate is typical Explorer, but probably less typical for Libertarians. So far you are the only one here to take the test (or to say it, anyway), which shows that the dopamine side is a big driving force in your instinct. If your t-score was a lot higher, you probably would not have bothered to take it - the suggestion would have sounded like an insult to your ears.

"Markets HAVE checks and balances until the cheaters run amok. Even when that happens, though, we can still come together in large enough groups and spear the people who do it. We ARE the checks and balances."

Now this is where you kind of get my point and kind of don't. As a market force, we are the checks and balances, if we are consistent enough to move the market in a particular direction. We aren't, more often than not. Part of that has to do with just how powerful big business has been able to become as they gather capitol like a snowball rolling down a mountain - and over many of us. Unions were an attempt by US to become a check and balance, but today most people hear the word /union/ and think /organized crime/ because that is what the propaganda machine has taught them to believe. My argument is about culture. As long as people Believe In capitalism, they believe that all malfeasance committed by the rich and powerful is Divine, and it is against God and Evolution to oppose those who are smart enough, ruthless enough and lucky enough to become one of those 5000 CEO golf buddies - the cheaters. Few people oppose the cheaters partly because they have been taught to believe they are helpless against them, and party because they have been taught to believe that what they do is not cheating at all, it is Success! Successful people are likened to predators, and their predation upon society is seen as a good thing. Exploration, construction and negotiation are seen as weaknesses not just by high-t types themselves, but by everyone else, because the accumulation of capitol has disproportionately favored those for whom nature's dice have endowed with a higher base level of testosterone. The balance is way off and it is very hard to recover.

Paul SB said...

Alfred again,

"We've done something the others never did. NEVER did. We changed our virtues and became something different."

And that change began not with the British East India Company, but with the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. Government plays an important role in balancing society, and our current president is a beautiful example of what happens when people start to think that government should operate like a business. Now we have a person who acts like a corporate manager - Mr. You're Fired! - at the helm, and the ego generated by all that testosterone makes an utter fool of him in front of the entire world. Negotiator Bill Clinton did our nation more good than all the business-oriented Republican presidents of the last half century combined. Because of that tendency toward egotism, the t-types who end up leading in business are rarely smart enough to value and make use of the skills of the other 3 types. Capitalism by its very nature erodes balance, because it leads to the most blind, arrogant, competitive people in charge, and the rest of us can do very little to change that - without a much larger counter-balancing force that stands for all the people, not just the powerful people. The minute economic decision we make every day can amount to a lot of power, and once in a rare while it does - but only when Negotiator types get a hold of channels for mass communication and can counter Director propaganda.

It's as much about culture as it is about structure. A structure that favors one type over the others is doomed, and we all pay the price for it in the end, even the ones who are favored by that structure. Everyone else pays the price long, long before the end, though.

Jumper said...

Ask any group the meaning of "survivor bias." The dead ones won't be able to answer.

Robert said...

I picked up on impeachment reluctance from some recent electoral-vote.com articles. Maybe the Democrats should apply the Hastert Rule: They'll only join in if a majority of the Republican Caucus supports impeachment.

Following some of the posts above, I suspect Pence will be far weaker that David appears to. Pence's "holiness" will drive the West and even the fake libertarians out of the coalition, and the Trump supporters will be hostile. Pence will be left with the Confederacy and maybe the Copperhead State, where he was governor.

And now for something totally off-topic, this gem from The Founder:

The McDonald brothers have just gotten off the phone with Ray Kroc
SHORT TIME LATER--
Mac and Dick, post-call.
MAC MCDONALD
He’s just a little... excitable.
DICK MCDONALD
A hothead like that, you don’t know
what he’s capable of.
MAC MCDONALD
It’s all bluster, Dick. His bark is
worse than his bite.
DICK MCDONALD
(dark chuckle)
That’s what Neville Chamberlain
said.

Remind you of someone?



Bob Pfeiffer.

Paul SB said...

Not without a Ouija Board, anyway...

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

"I suspect that people who say "taxation is theft" generally have the luxury of never actually having been assaulted and robbed."

For some of them, I know that is true, but not for enough of them to make a good generalization out of it. For those who say that phrase most forcefully, they see taxation AS an assault. Remember, I know people who have gone to prison for what they felt were reasonable complaints about taxation rules. Arrest and confiscation are not pretty and it is easy to feel like the victim.


Ok, I'll grant you the converse of what I said--that people who say taxation is not theft have not endured the more egregious forms of collection.

I think in terms of the theory of taxation as the price of a civilization. I understand that under a system such as eighteenth century France, the act of taxation is a brutal one and the amount is arbitrarily set by those not on the receiving end of the brutality. In a democracy, it's not supposed to work that way. In theory, the taxers and the taxed are the same people, and the amount of tax is determined by a cost/benefit analysis.

I fully understand that the real-world applications don't necessarily work out that way. "In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is." :)

I wonder if a system could be devised such that no money has to be actually paid in taxes, but the government is allowed to print a specified amount of new currency for its own budget each year. Taxation would then occur through controlled inflation. Yes, I can already see one problem would be a flight to alternative currencies.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

...but a fund that preserves its capital AND gives you $2M a year leaves her with an inheritance, doesn't it? She'd be like you.... a lottery winner. She could then do as you did and cream off some of it for certain people and then try to preserve the rest while living comfortably in a satiated way. Many people would try for that and consider it a reasonable thing to do for their children. None of this matters until you win the lottery some day, but do you think it an unreasonable alternative to what you would do?


Not at all. And really, I'm not claiming I'd do nothing with a fortune to invest in the future at all. Again, I exaggerate for effect, and point out that even doing nothing but spend it would provide an incredible standard of living, so anything beyond that is gravy. My point is that, given a certain level of wealth, my emphasis would be on enjoying leisure rather than on growing the wealth even more.

raito said...

Alfred Differ,

I was also 7 when Apollo 11 landed. In a nearly unique action regarding my intellectual development, my mother allowed me to stay up for that small step.

While the majority of my professional managers (and all the non-professional ones, except the college students on their way to other things) have been toxic, I would not describe them as hyper-competitive at all. About half were scared, small people. The other half were just jerks who thought they were smarter than everyone. Talk about people who won't face facts (and no, I wasn't smarter than all of them. Just most.).

Start families when we are young? I didn't...

LarryHart,

Apparently Egyptian food lasts more than 50 years. But for us, where would we keep it?

As for those who spend their time and effort babysitting their wealth, yes, that's what they want to do with their time. For a the ones who aren't neurotic, I think that the money is just keeping score. And for those fortunate few, the point of the exercise is that money gets stuff done. Have enough money, and you can impose your will on significant portions of the world. And fortunately, some of what some of those few want to do lines up with what I would want to do. I do those things, but on a much smaller scale.

The incentive goes down for you after some sum, but not for others.

As far as blacksmiths go, I think you might be surprised at home many city blacksmiths there were back then. They needed more worked metals. The only reason there's more rural ones now is that the items previously supplied to the cities by blacksmiths are now produced by factories.

Treebeard,

To my mind, there's only been 3 decent human beings as President in my lifetime.

Dr. Brin,

2016 statistics (that I trusted, it sure looks like a lot of people are invested in making stuff up on this topic) show 18% bullied. Down from the previous survey of 23%, so that's something. Still, it's 1 in 5 or so. I'm not finding anything reliable for when we were children, and you're not citing. Got a source for that? Based on personal experience (always highly subjective), that rate appears to be correct for both when I was young and today.

PaulSB,

I'd put the start back at the Magna Carta, and trace through the rise of the nation-state, though I doubt anyone here would agree. In my mind, the Declaration of Independence, was just the fruition.

As for predictions, mine are still:
There will be no impeachment. Trump will finish his term.
There will be no wall at the end of the term.

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: expecting a thaw between Israel and Saudi to explore anti-Iranian overtures is a bit ambitious. The basic thaw will be Trump explaining that Israel is not holding up the sale/delivery to Saudis of the $100 bn+ in military kit the Saudis bought, but shifting delivery fulfilment from WA/CA to TX/Kansas was politically 'necessary'...hence the delays from the deal Obama reached.

Trump will also want to know the status of other deals in the works and be able to claim credit for work negotiated under the Obama administration but still undelivered (it's all about jobs) - and to know whether Saudis intend to shift back to European or Chinese providers (unlikely, but that was extensively explored 12 years ago when the Saudis opted to screw Bush).

Most importantly, Trump will be assuring the Saudis their US assets will not be confiscated as a result of the 9/11 'reparations' bill: the Republicans are going to downplay that one, since it succeeded as a ploy to get Obama. That will save a about 1m American jobs...for well-connected rightwingers...and the threatened US bond divestment can be deferred (saving fortunes of quite a few financiers).

LarryHart said...

@Alfred Differ, @raito, and @anyone else interested in discussing money,

Just for an example, I recently read a series of historical novels covering the career of Cicero in ancient Rome. Part of the plot was about when Julius Caesar surprised the Senate by conquering Lusitania (present day Portugal) and bringing back an incredible hoard of treasure, both for the Roman treasury and for his own personal wealth.

So in one sense, Rome is now much wealthier. In another sense, what exactly has improved for the Romans? Is there more food, more water, better sanitation, more weapons to protect themselves from enemies? It's not like there was a vault full of pizzas somewhere just waiting for the right amount of gold and silver to pay for them.

What is the economic benefit when money is introduced into a system without anything else being changed?

LarryHart said...

raito:

As for predictions, mine are still:
There will be no impeachment. Trump will finish his term.


I tend to reluctantly agree. We're stuck for another 1339 days.


There will be no wall at the end of the term.


Agreed. But there will probably be something he claims to be the wall--a five mile extension to the existing fencing, perhaps.

donzelion said...

Alfred: re unseating the famine horseman...

While I will not disagree with your anology, or observation that we have made great headway that merits extensive satisafaction (the world of 2020 is far better than the world of 1980, let alone 1950) - I would suggest a slight adjustment as to causality: beating famine is far more the work of certain types of governments that rein in warlords than technology. As Amartya Sen and others noted, full-blown democracies never experience famine, but 'capitalist' (colonial/feudal) structures do so routinely. A nuanced tweak many strands of libertarians overlook, though you yourself may not come from that sort of path.

For the critics of 'big corporations'...they play a crucial role in famine alleviation, a far greater and more durable role than aid agencies or famine relief efforts. Be very cautious with the claims (e.g., Coke/Veolia privatizing water in Latin America and thereby denying water to the 'poor'...was seldom an accurate story). The days in which British feudal lords turned to starving Irish then Indian (and Egyptian) peasants ended a couple generations ago...their return is possible but improbable.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "What is the economic benefit when money is introduced into a system without anything else being changed?"

Typically, the benefit is that a small segment can exploit that money amd use it to expand power. Roman imperialism depended on Greek grain merchants in Alexandria to keep those plebes and prols in line, lest they burn down the city. However, the second the Roman feudalists determined starvation was politically expedient, they turned off the supply.

One of the advantages of a corporate structure over a feudal one: starvation is seldom (never) as profitable longterm as sustenance, but feudal lords may utilize famine as a tool for short term gain (hence, the colonial 'pseudo-capital' gambits of feudal lords that routinely inflicted waves of starvation on various lands under colonial control).

donzelion said...

Re Trump's Wall (Raito, LarryHart) - absolutely, the 'great wall' will mainly be expansions of the preexisting wall throughout areas easily accessed by cars. Since immigration fell under Obama, the only thing that will change is that ICE will be even more egregious in going after illegals from families with a pro-Democrat orientation. But all that stuff will be carefully hidden and it will be years before the smoking gun memoes become public (and even then, seldom believed by the Trump faithful, and once believed, shrugged aside as trivial).

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

Since immigration fell under Obama, the only thing that will change is that ICE will be even more egregious in going after illegals from families with a pro-Democrat orientation. But all that stuff will be carefully hidden and it will be years before the smoking gun memoes become public (and even then, seldom believed by the Trump faithful, and once believed, shrugged aside as trivial).


I'd suspect Trump supporters would consider such brutality against Dem-leaning illegals to be a feature, not a bug.

donzelion said...

Alfred: one caveat to your optimism:

"Markets HAVE checks and balances until the cheaters run amok. Even when that happens, though, we can still come together in large enough groups and spear the people who do it. We ARE the checks and balances."

Unfortunately, the cheaters who run amok are empowered by that cheating to deploy the popular revolt against their enemies, rather than against themselves. The richer they grow from cheating, the easier it becomes for them to make sure that someone else, someone convenient for them, is accused and convicted of cheating and gets to meet the pitchforks.

The only effective check on cheaters is governance.


donzelion said...

Larry: "I'd suspect Trump supporters would consider such brutality against Dem-leaning illegals to be a feature, not a bug"

Certainly, but that would come later. Bugs become features once those who make them conceive ways to profit from them. Republican cheaters need to appear legitimate for a little while - that appearance is lucrative. And the capability of targeting the families of organizers, holding grandma and auntie hostage to shut up their family members, is not widely known and unlikely to be embraced by the professionals Obama appointed. Those steps take time...and lots of terminations to set the stage.

And honestly, they can make more money linking those systems to mortgage aggregators and large scale developers - later on, coupling immigration emforcement with foreclosures and stifling neighborhoods. Once they wipe out some choice plots of land in a few cities, they can buy them cheap, sell them dear, amd laugh about it. It will take decades for the public to catch on, and as you say, a lot of folks will cheer (and never realize how this game screwed their own job prospects).

David Brin said...

raito, I believe the slow rate of progress reported on bullying is unfair. Today the bar has been raised to include verbal abuse. My sons reported none of the savage physical bullying that was utterly routine when I was a kid. I have asked around and few report hearing about such things from their kids, either. Granted there is a ethno-and-wealth reporting bias. But the difference in eras is more profound than the difference between radio and the Internet.

==
Donzelion, you cleverly avoided discussing what the Saudis will bring to the table. You only discussed the goodies that Trump will slavishly bring to them.
==
Flypusher raised the fear that a desperate Right might — with help from foreign friends — try to stage a distraction to veer attention away from Tump’s domestic troubles. (Note that the president just spent two days huddled with the secretive princes - investors in Fox News - whose subsidized madrassas trained all but two of the 9/11 hijackers.)

We need to be prepared, if this happens - and there is an odor of 1934 about any such tragedy - to march carrying signs and shouting the words “Reichstag Fire!” This isn’t some weak Weimar Republic that can easily be toppled. This is America.

David Brin said...

Locumranch goes all zero sum yet again! Hey, strawman-king, no one is trying to prove any insipid “Linear History” model. That is YOUR silly-ass counterpoint to the even more moronic Cyclical nonsense.

For the rest of you, capable of thinking outside of Flatland, this is about teleology. Zero-Sum thinkers like locumranch cannot picture anything but dichotomies. Nor can they envision history as anything but an ordained theatrical performance.

Teleology comes in two flavors. Far lefties - e.g. Marxists - think the future is ordained in a roughly linear-positive direction. All righties insanely vouch for Cyclical. Both are packs of teleology worshipping morons. There are no marxists here, that I know of, but some rightist-feudalist-yes-massa cyclical junkies.

What’s clear is that human societies have ATTRACTOR STATES — conditions that tend to draw a nation or culture in, because of powerful recurring forces. Agriculture and metallurgy empowered the already strong feudal attractor, till it crushed freedom and competitive enterprise and scientific enquiry everywhere on Earth.

But some feudal systems still invested (as Toynbee showed) in their creative minorities, and hence innovated their way past crises that the stupid lords steered them into. Or, at least, they spawned new centers where the same overall civilization continued to move along.

Those who did not engender free expression by creative minorities, as shown by Toynbee, collapsed rapidly. Often, as Jared Diamond shows, due to ignoring environmental change.

Silliness #2. To call Britain as different “civilization” than America is nitpicking tomfoolery. The English language - plus Hollywood mythos plus science and pragmatic-innovative enterprise - are the central elements. If the Foxite confederate loonies end America’s leadership of this civilization it will pass on to Australia and Canada. India is showing signs of leadership. though that would truly be a hybrid, then.

==

Alfred there was famine in Europe during WWII… A whole clade of Dutch folks are shorter than their peers and millions died elsewhere.

But yes, when urban farming is perfected, we’ll all be swimming in lettuce and strawberries.

==

locumranch said...



According to Professor David Edgerton, the Linear History Model is just another name for Technological Determinism (with Science as a stand-in for Divine Will).

To answer Larry_H's economic question, though, Spider Robinson addressed the economic effects of "money (being) introduced into a system without anything else being changed" quite well in his Callahan's Crosstime Saloon' series. As did Clifford Simak in his 'They Walk like Men' novel.

These effects are uniformly NEGATIVE as any sudden increase in monetary supply (aka 'treasure') leads to rampant inflation when any sudden attempt is made to convert this new 'wealth' into consumable goods of fixed supply. We see this same principle in action when we correlate the economic effects of the recent 'Quantitive Easing' policy to US currency devaluation (wherein US consumer purchasing power dropped by almost 1/3rd) as evidenced by a CPI-adjusted inflation rate approaching 35%.

This is the problem with Government 'quick-fix' market interventions: Although they are sold to the public as a way to eliminate individual cheating, these 'quick fix' regulations nullify the self-regulatory & self-corrective functions of the self-regulating Supply & Demand Market, leading to wide-spread Government-sponsored market manipulation which is just another euphemism for 'cheating'. The end result of this cheating is the same, whether imposed by an ill-intentioned Casino or a well-intentioned Government.

These rigged 'House Rules' (designed to favour the entrenched Establishment) then function as powerful disincentive to individual players, consumers, investors & citizens who would otherwise play, leading to potential Venezuela-style Command Economy 'market failure' as these participants try to take their business dealings elsewhere. The House is then forced to offer 'great deals' in order to keep the suckers playing the rigged House Game, until business drops off to an unsustainable level & the market 'fails'.


Best
______

The US Economy has fairly LOW tax rates when compared to the more enlightened EU but, even so, I still end up giving the US government more than 50% of my purported income when all is said & done. And, the math is harsh, meaning that I would have to TRIPLE my gross income in order to keep 100% of my current pre-tax income. So, why work so hard? With a graduated tax scale, I get to keep a higher proportion of my income if I earn less. But I'm small potatoes. Market Failure cometh as almost 10 Million prime working-age US males (out of a possible 100 million) have already learned this lesson well and they're NOT working at all.

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/06/the-missing-men/488858/

Rob said...

Brin: Nothing could more transform this phase of our civil war than a set of fact-checking services vouched for by the top "adults" in American Conservatism. (Recruit David Brooks! Robert Dole. Sandra Day O'Conner. Heck, even George W. Bush.)

If those are your examples of the "top adults" in American Conservatism...a pseudo-intellectual navel-gazing wannabe-centrist, two moribund fossils of a bygone age that was far from golden, and an unrepentant (yet Born Again!) dry-drunk idiot son who only achieved anything due to his father's support and legacy...hoo boy!

We already have many such "fact-checking services." There is no reason to believe that the Fox and Jones crowd would accept the authority of any such service, no matter how many "adult conservatives" it contained, any more readily than they have accepted the current ones. (Especially one convened under government auspices!) The only authorities they recognize ARE Fox and Jones; any others are RINOs or "cuckservatives" if they diverge from the Fox and Jones party line. You cannot reason with unreasonable people.

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: "Donzelion, you cleverly avoided discussing what the Saudis will bring to the table. You only discussed the goodies that Trump will slavishly bring to them."

Oh, I thought I was being clear: the Saudis bring about $100bn, and about 1 million American jobs to the table, and by signing now, Trump determines where most of that actually goes (that was what I meant by the move from WA/CA to KS/TX).

As a secondary concern, Saudi money poured into Silicon Valley, esp. since the banks started freezing accounts and bringing in increasingly distant middle men to handle them: were they to pull it all out, the Google's and Amazon's would have a bargain basement shopping spree for a fair number of firms currently in the $5-50bn range that would fall dramatically. Trump doesn't like those guys much. He has friends at Goldman looking to pick other winners and trades. Saudis are cut out of the center of those deals, but can play kingmaker (or deal blocker) - but only if their assets are secure. Their move toward a true sovereign wealth fund is intended to add another layer of political/legal protection in case courts ever start trying to seize assets.

Lastly, the Saudis can disrupt the Koch-style investments in US oil, and the extremely leveraged debt markets in America linked to them. Trump wants a sense whether assets in South Dakota will be worth billions or pennies in 2-10 years (the speed of the cycle) to plan his own moves. Saudis are an uncontrollable variable in that equation. Saber rattling against Iran is mostly about timing a few hundred billion dollar commodities trades and debt disposals, not a sign of regional realignment.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | I used to teach, so you have my sympathy. It only took one or two classes to leave me exhausted, so I have no idea how the K-12 teachers manage it. I’ll find out soon enough, though. My wife is getting a special education credential for mod to severe kids and that looks like more than full time work from what I can see.

Most don't take criticism at all except as a direct, personal attack.

Yah. I can feel the barbs set when someone offers criticism, but my experience in grad school conditioned me to avoid the initial desire to smack those who are offering something that truly IS a gift. To make it as a physicist, I’ve no doubt one has to have a strong t-score, but one better have a strong d-score too. There are egos all around who will ensure you don’t graduate. Some require stubborn resolve to defeat. Others require original ideas to appease their appetite. The way I cope with the balance is to realize that the elimination of false knowledge is simultaneously a new experience and a wonderful bludgeon to be used on my competitors. If someone else helps me make one, I really should treat them as an ally.

probably less typical for Libertarians

Yes… and that’s why I joined them. The Democrats don’t need me here in California. If they were honest, they’d admit they don’t want me either except for an occasional vote. The Libertarians do need me and are much more likely to understand me. I know a number of them who have well practiced eye-rolls for the people who would rather be right than win an election with a compromise platform. When I talk to them about the distinction between classical liberalism (Smithian mostly) and modern libertarianism, they tense up and prepare for the possibility that I’m a Rand follower or believe in some other impossible utopia. Their numbers aren’t small in the county where I live, but you won’t see them often.

(to be continued)

Jumper said...

I think Brin is correct to compare the error of belief in historical cycles to belief in inevitable directions in history. Inevitable direction reeks of the same error embodied in belief in directed evolution. The future is non predictable, except in some cautious generalities: massive wars will kill people massively; etc. We might have predicted the death of the MP3, but who predicted the successor?

Long ago I gave a very well-read friend Greg Bear's Blood Music. My friend told me it was good except for the ridiculous made-up words such as "reverse transcriptase."

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | . As a market force, we are the checks and balances, if we are consistent enough to move the market in a particular direction.

Hmm… We check and balance others IN the ecosystem, but not the system as a whole. We don’t have to be consistent to do this. We simply have to be what we are.

You appear to be looking at macro-trends while I’m focused on the micro-trends. It is not necessary for small actions to be coherent or coordinated to have macro-effects, but it is only at the micro-level that we have our full power. Even the large corporations who concern you so much are micro-players; it’s just that they weigh more. I’m a microbe and they are the trilobites wandering by, hmm? The eco-system is far larger than us both, but it’s hard to open our eyes wide enough to realize just how big and multi-dimensional it is. This is a big part of what Hayek was getting at with his essay on the uses of knowledge. The real ‘problem’ to be solved that he referred to at the front of the essay is monstrously huge. It is almost the size of the eco-system itself, yet we pretend it isn’t.

We can BE consistent enough to move the market, but we can’t intentionally create that consistency. The knowledge problem is too big. We CAN be what we are, though, and that is enough. If you don’t like 5000 golf buddies, be the microbe that multiplies enough to take them down. No coordination needed if you are the microbe that figures out how to make the environment rather toxic for them. Sure. They’ll fight back. They aren’t wimps either. So? Evolution is YOUR friend if your approaches face faster selection pressures than theirs do.

Few people oppose the cheaters partly because they have been taught to believe they are helpless against them, and party because they have been taught to believe that what they do is not cheating at all, it is Success!

Yup. So what are YOU going to do about it? Ask the government to help? Ask the very people Smith pointed to as the folks who get owned? Be my guest, but you are fighting a fight the cheaters know how to fight. They already have a well-developed immune system for that. Boffins to the defense!

I think I know a better way, but that’s not the point here. What I invite you to do is to ask the question our host asks. How exactly is it that we aren’t still stuck on the old social attractor? That’s what you are describing, after all. Success and predation are the same to the noblemen, right? Negotiation is essentially sweet talk and that is the domain of the bourgeois traders. It is to be treated with deep suspicion because we all KNOW that game is zero-sum, right?

the accumulation of capitol has disproportionately favored those for whom nature's dice have endowed with a higher base level of testosterone

Yah. Schizotypal too.

The balance is way off and it is very hard to recover.

No. There never was a balance after the ice melted. We have to adapt.

Alfred Differ said...

Paul SB | began not with the British East India Company

It began with the Dutch and their war against the Habsburgs. McCloskey goes through a long list of all the other possible things people would point to in order to explain the change. None of them work except what the Dutch did though a combination of accidents. The English copied it later after their Glorious ‘Revolution’. After that, it spread like a toxic cloud taking aristocrats and the roman church down a few pegs.

Capitalism by its very nature erodes balance, because it leads to the most blind, arrogant, competitive people in charge, and the rest of us can do very little to change that - without a much larger counter-balancing force that stands for all the people, not just the powerful people.

You and I have a very different view of what capitalism is then. Not surprising.

but only when Negotiator types get a hold of channels for mass communication and can counter Director propaganda.

OMG. No. Don’t trust the negotiators with that kind of power either. Recall that directors are drawn to negotiators and visa versa. They’ll hop into bed with each other and make babies. I much prefer Bill to Donald, but always remember that THEY GOT ALONG with each other on the golf course.

Catfish N. Cod said...

" CPI-adjusted inflation rate approaching 35%."

I would be agreeing with you a lot more if your numbers had any relation to reality.


$100 in April, 2016 --> $102.20 in April, 2017
$100 in April, 2015 --> $101.13 in April, 2016
I checked back to 2009. Never went over $103.30.


That said, you are right that QE has favored the wealthy. It was done to plug the hole in the economy rendered by the loss of money velocity as the 0.1% invested in their own projects or squirreled money away, removing it from the high-velocity circulation provided by the lower and middle classes. Absent this move deflation would have resulted, a move that would also benefit the rich (who have large savings accounts) while impoverishing millions.

The only way to get around this problem would have been to prevent speculation in real estate from sucking vast monies out of the economy in the first place.... or to arrange some way for those funds to find their way back out of ill-gotten hands.

But of course the ability to hire endless lawyers and financiers to write self-serving contracts that only autistic individuals can manage to read through must be rewarded. That has far more utility in establishing market value than mere buying and selling.

I propose a basic principle: if the cost of reading and understanding a contract is higher than the average participant can afford, you do not have a free market. Legalese is an externality.

(Here's a crazy idea.... tax contracts and legal documents by the word. Make brevity not only the soul of wit, but the price.)

donzelion said...

Catfish: I am chuckling here..

"if the cost of reading and understanding a contract is higher than the average participant can afford, you do not have a free market. Legalese is an externality."

The problem is so seldom that the average participant cannot understand...and so often that the average participant will interpret the meaning slightly differently from the other average participant.

Some contracts are thousands of pages long, but nobody ever even realizes they exist. Ever shopped in a standard grocery store? Unilateral contract, up until the time you pay and walk out. The buyer, seller, and everyone else are all contracting parties, and if you needed to slap a 'click thru' agreement on entry, it would be hundreds of pages at length - yet you don't because the terms are generally 'intuited' (i.e., you must pay for the bag of chips once you open it and start munching while shopping, and you agree not to wreck all the other bags of chips).

"The only way to get around this problem would have been to prevent speculation in real estate..."
I'm less frightened by real estate speculation than by the billionaire's gambit. A millionaire, or even some billionaires, speculate, they mistake the prices, inflate, lie, cheat - and get challenged by buyers doing the same to knock of prices. The billionaire, however, may 'speculate' by blocking a freeway into a neighborhood, destroying it's value for a time - or by taking other steps that destroy value in one community in order to increase value in a neighboring community. They have moves that others will never know about until they start sitting in at city council meetings and wondering why certain zoning ordinances were set down...and why certain variances were so onerous...

LarryHart said...

I don't know about the rest of you, but I've begin feeling "Trump fatigue". He's not scary or entertaining any more. There's no longer such thing as an expectation that he can defy. If he were to shoot a man on Fifth Avenue, he'd get away with it, but not because he's so beloved that he can violate norms with impunity. It would simply not be all that much more outrageous an act than what he's done already.

Paying attention to the guy is becoming something akin to watching re-runs. And not "Star Trek" re-runs either, but more like "My Mother, The Car" or "Green Acres". No wait..."Gilligan's Island". That's it. It's like watching the same episodes of Gilligan's Island over and over again.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | I think in terms of the theory of taxation as the price of a civilization

Many do, and there lies the rub. As you’ve noted, practice is different. Practice tends to be messy in all the ways humans can be messy. For example, the theory behind socialism is pretty nice and I’m not being facetious. The theory extends the rules we apply in family settings to the community. It makes quick sense to most people. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. In practice, that’s not how people relate to each other at the community level. Applying theory, therefore, is asking humans not to be human which makes it more of a religious thing than anything else. Thou Shalt Behave. Thou shalt become homo angelicus.

Meh. 8)

Yes, I can already see one problem would be a flight to alternative currencies.

Heh. If you want to try on something that will really make your head spin, try to imagine an America where the citizens can print their own currency and trade it like any other. Most of us would choose not to do it, but many would step up. Can you imagine this alt.world and what it would look like? It’s not easy for most people. They get stuck in a libertarian fantasy… as many libertarians do.

Hint | We already DO print our own currency… sorta… and the credit tracking companies play an intimate role in determining exchange rates.

LarryHart said...

...yeah, Trump makes more sense if you think of the administration as a TV Guide description of a wacky sitcom.

"This week: Trump fires the FBI director who is investigating his criminal ties to Russia. Hilarity ensues."

"Next week: Trump travels to Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Rome. Will he accidentally convert to Islam?"

"Next season opener: Last season was all a dream! But wait...what is Neil Gorsuch still doing on the Supreme Court?"

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

If you want to try on something that will really make your head spin, try to imagine an America where the citizens can print their own currency and trade it like any other.


You said you weren't a big sci-fi reader, so you may not have read Asmiov's "Foundation and Empire". There was a line in there about currency which was valuable as it was "backed by Lord Brodrig's estates." That line stuck with me, to the point of remembering the minor character's name.

I think a national currency should work kinda/sorta like that. You can no longer trade dollar bills in for gold, but you can exchange it to the federal government for a piece of the commons. The fact that you can do that is what gives the currency some objective value. I'm not claiming that's how our economic system is currently structured, but that's how it should be structured, or at least the wheels would turn smoother if it were structured that way.

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: "Donzelion, you cleverly avoided discussing what the Saudis will bring to the table. You only discussed the goodies that Trump will slavishly bring to them."

Oh, I thought I was being clear: the Saudis bring about $100bn, and about 1 million American jobs to the table, and by signing now, Trump determines where most of that actually goes (that was what I meant by the move from WA/CA to KS/TX).

As a secondary concern, Saudi money poured into Silicon Valley, esp. since the banks started freezing accounts and bringing in increasingly distant middle men to handle them: were they to pull it all out, the Google's and Amazon's would have a bargain basement shopping spree for a fair number of firms currently in the $5-50bn range that would fall dramatically. Trump doesn't like those guys much. He has friends at Goldman looking to pick other winners and trades. Saudis are cut out of the center of those deals, but can play kingmaker (or deal blocker) - but only if their assets are secure. Their move toward a true sovereign wealth fund is intended to add another layer of political/legal protection in case courts ever start trying to seize assets.

Lastly, the Saudis can disrupt the Koch-style investments in US oil, and the extremely leveraged debt markets in America linked to them. Trump wants a sense whether assets in South Dakota will be worth billions or pennies in 2-10 years (the speed of the cycle) to plan his own moves. Saudis are an uncontrollable variable in that equation. Saber rattling against Iran is mostly about timing a few hundred billion dollar commodities trades and debt disposals, not a sign of regional realignment.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | Asimov I’ve read. He did so much science fact material that I eventually came around to reading his fiction. When I read his foundation books, though, I was still reading like a technical type. My economics interest is very recent and comes from the climate change debate. For example, the science behind climate change is pretty good. Is the economics? People like Matt Ridley have issues with the economics more than the science. I couldn’t decide who was right or wrong without resorting to argument-by-authority, so I had to learn something about economics. By the time I read Kiln People, though, I was prepared for what a purple wage might mean and what our options might be in such a world.

I suspect you’ll find there isn’t enough value in the commons to cover for the currency in circulation. According to Piketty, the ratio between our savings stored as capital and our national income is currently around 400% and only a small fraction of our capital is in the form of public assets. The vast majority of it is in our homes and businesses. We can reasonably float enough currency to match the value people assign to all the things that can be traded without much concern for inflation, so that’s a really large amount of money.

Remember that currency represents a debt obligation. A $100 dollar bill in my pocket means someone owes me $100 in goods or services. Because the bill isn’t named, I can offer it to any taker to close the position from my perspective. ANY debt instrument will do, though, if the person accepting it believes they can trade it to someone else. Gold and silver played that role in the past and still do in certain settings, but most of us are willing to trust people we never meet and pass along the paper now.

A currency backed by someone’s estate is technically a debt instrument backed by collateral. If you have such things, you should also be able to buy and sell options and futures on them. Options contracts and futures contracts are VERY interesting things and one can learn a whole lot about how trade really works by learning about them. It is tedious stuff, but not difficult. The mathematics used to value them is even more interesting, but what is most amazing is how trusting everyone is of a system they don’t comprehend. Even guys like me who were bought up by the folks playing the derivatives market only get part of it and we made an incredible mess of things. Twice. It’s astonishing we haven’t been rounded up and carted off in tumbrels. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion | Why do you refer to capitalists as colonial/feudal structures? They certainly can be, but the liberal democracies are also capitalists. A colonial structure tends to blunt the enrichment one might otherwise attain compared to a liberal democracy, but the core of the colonial empire need not be feudal. Britain’s feudalism faded slowly, but their approach to markets has been capitalist for some time.

I’m smiling, though, because I don’t really care how Famine was unseated or who gets credit. I’d prefer the credit be correctly assigned in case that is useful in unseating any of the others, but I’ll pat anyone on the back and thank them for the success so far. That corporations get any credit at all just makes for a wider smile.

I would say two horsemen have been unseated, but upon further reading, I’ve run into the odd interpretations modern readers have of the first horseman. I was taught to call him Pestilence. Apparently that is a poor understanding. Conquest appears to be more accurate. After reading Good Omens a few years back, though, I don’t much care. In tend to find the whole thing kinda funny. 8)

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred
You don't need to match money to some concrete asset
The purposes are not the same
Money is the economies method of transporting nutrients - just like blood is the bodies method of transporting nutrients

I'm still very much in favor of Heinlein's

A simple explanation that The money supply should increase as the economy does Which if you think of money in the economy as similar in function to blood in a body makes perfect sense The other side of this is that the increase in money supply is normally added directly to the basic living stipend (We could simply mail a cheque to all citizens)

Directly from the book We call the system “finance” and the symbols “money” The symbolic structure should bear a one to one relationship to the physical structure of production and consumption . It’s my job to keep track of the actual growth of the physical processes and recommend to the policy board changes in the symbol structure to match those in the physical structure

These two simple rules are the opposite of what we do Money supply is NOT linked to the physical economy The increase in money supply goes to those who hold assets (the 0.1%)

David Brin said...

Rob it doesn’t matter that McCain and Bush are flawed. If enough elder GOP statesmen got behind the commission for fact checking and appointed enough high level minds to a bipartisan group, then Fox’s job would get much harder and millions would use it as their Snopes.

==
donzelion was asked: “Dr. Brin: "Donzelion, you cleverly avoided discussing what the Saudis will bring to the table. You only discussed the goodies that Trump will slavishly bring to them."

answer: “Oh, I thought I was being clear: the Saudis bring about $100bn.”

What stunning crap! They get what they want in every category… and the ‘price’ they must pay in return? They get the arms they want. Are you even aware how biased you reveal yourself to be?

A “price” would be for them to give up exporting Wahhabbi radicalism. A “price” would be bribing the Palestinians with a $100bn development aid package. A “price” would be a peace treaty with Israel.

The last of these might even happen! So scared are they of Iran. But given that they have been the villains for 70 years, betraying the Palestinians and forcing them to live in squallor while fomenting hatred of all Jews for a human lifespan… please.

David Brin said...

Ugh, why do I bother?
“According to Professor David Edgerton, the Linear History Model is just another name for Technological Determinism (with Science as a stand-in for Divine Will).”

So? That is exactly what I said! Linear history is the left’s teleology trip while the right’s is cyclical malarkey. And both are teleological-cult, baseless masturbation fantasies.

You aren’t even trying - even a little - to pay the slightest attention or even to try to stretch your mind.

The economic paragraphs are just ripe bullshit.

locumranch said...



LOL, Catfish! When do you think Quantitative Easing first began?

It was first used in Japan in 2001. The USA initiated QE1 in 2008 , QE2 in 2010 & QE3 in 2013. Total USD Monetary Supply (M1+M2+M3) was estimated at less than 10 Trillion in 2005. QE1 increased US monetary supply by 2.1 Trillion USD; QE2 increased US monetary supply by 2.0 Trillion USD; QE3 increased US monetary supply by1.6 Trillion USD; and all three QE courses increased the total US monetary supply by almost 60% over 2005 totals.

Official CPI calculator shows USD inflation of 39% from 2001 to 2017 and 28% from 2005 to 2017

Real Inflation is less than the 60% increase in total US Monetary Supply mentioned above because much of it is NOT in active circulation.

Even so, it's like going to dive bar, paying full price & receiving 20 proof watered whiskey in return. Cheers !

Thanks to David, also, for admitting that anything can happen to our human civilisation, future-wise, including boom & bust. Let's just wait & see, shall we? Like Willy Wonka in the Glass Elevator, I say 'Bust', David says 'Up & Out'.


Best

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: Humph...

"A “price” would be for them to give up exporting Wahhabbi radicalism."
You must believe that the Saudis have some secret power to export 'Wahhabi radicalism' that is somehow more effective than any similar attempts to export ideas. Perhaps they've discovered a magical formula that evaded Soviet efforts to spread their notions? Some secret sauce in their text books, a magical talisman they've invoked?

"A “price” would be bribing the Palestinians with a $100bn development aid package."
Already done. Indeed, that is one of the main reasons Hamas is so ineffective at actually killing Israelis (or anyone else - save other Palestinians).

"A “price” would be a peace treaty with Israel."
Proposed that 15 years ago now, in terms every Israeli leader prior to Netanyahu demanded.

"The last of these might even happen! So scared are they of Iran."
They're afraid of running out of oil, and the ability to finance their government if oil reserves are repurposed for purely domestic consumption (air conditioning, esp.). Iran is a ploy, not a true threat.

"But given that they have been the villains for 70 years, betraying the Palestinians and forcing them to live in squalor while fomenting hatred of all Jews for a human lifespan… please."
There are places where even your impressive intellect can be as blind as Locum's. Which is why it is useful to prod those places a little. But 70 years? We've gone over that: they didn't even control their own oil for most of that period...

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan,

I'm not saying money has to match concrete assets. I'm noting that many people try to do that and consider anything else as inflationary and adjust their prices accordingly. If enough people make those adjustments, the ground truth is that anything else IS inflationary.

Money can't just be a nutrient transport. It must also be one of the nutrients. To see this, work out what your world would be like if you could not access debt instruments. You could still buy and barter, but you'd be using other trade items. You could rent, but probably couldn't lease unless you had a lot of whatever the owner wanted already stored somewhere. If you don't have it stored, you are promising to pay which is a form of debt. You won't be lending either, right? Your debtor would be trying to trade a debt instrument to you in favor of some basket of your stored stuff. Leases are a futures instrument which has debt at the core. This means there is a big chunk of the market in which you cannot participate if you were blocked from participating in debt. To be a full participant, you need all the nutrients used in a market and ours trades heavily in debts.

I suspect the transport idea is one of the naive definitions people start with in economics. What money is and what we think it is or should be aren't the same. If one adopts the eco-system analogy for markets, though, money just becomes one of the things traded like anything else you might store. It also becomes easier to see why anyone and everyone creates it. A currency backed by my name, for example, would simply represent my capacity to pay my debts and my reputation for the integrity necessary to do it.

A national currency is similar. When we print federal reserve notes, there should be something around one can purchase with them to close out the debts we buy in accepting them. Those things need not be physical since some of us buy and sell promises to do things and deliver things. Those things need only be something we value.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch | I say 'Bust', David says 'Up & Out'

His position is a little more subtle than that because there are possible traps for us. One of them appears to attract you and it won't be trivial to avoid it.

Still... I'd like to place a bet against your 'bust' position. Got a description of it that is measurable enough to know when it happens?

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred
Just because the blood is a transfer media does not mean that you can't borrow against future change
Or even - as Heinlein says - increase the media because the size of the "body" increases

The problem at the moment is that the supply side changes have shunted more and more of the blood over to a "storage tank" where it sits rather than actually doing its job of transferring value

With all of that "blood" out of circulation the economy is dying of blood shortage - even while there are record amounts of blood in total

David Brin said...

Donzelion not one of the three assertions you have made is evern remotely true. Not even glancingly. Dang!

1- Hollywood is much more powerful and pervasive than Wahhabbism at spreading. So? They have been very effective at causing a few millions to declare eagerness for a second holocaust on Jews, and quite a few thousand eager to kill infidels. You being deliberately obtuse.

2- Already done bull. A 100bn development fund could lure the Palestinians into making peace while $100bn in deals with Israeli companies would do the rest. They have done the diametric opposite for 70 years, declaring fatwas on any arab nation that would allow Palestinian refugees to resettle, insisting they remain in refugee camps as human sufferers to twist world opinion/

3- You take their word on everything EXCEPT their professed fear of Iran?

4- They did not have to control their own oil. They control Mecca and the appointment of muftis and they helped the Grand mUfti retake his position in Jerusalem after spending WWII in Berlin helping Hitler. He then prevented any talks after the first Israeli war of liberation.

greg byshenk said...

David, a possibly interesting bit of economic history at Antimonopoly Is as Old as the Republic.

The bit about Brandeis seems to resonate with some of what you've written:

"Discussing the views of Brandeis on competition, Berk said: “Competition (for Brandeis) is neither God or devil… Competition for Brandeis can just as easily turn predatory as it can turn towards improvements in products and production processes. For Brandeis, the policy question, which is simultaneously a political and economic question, is how do you distinguish predatory from productive competition?”

Thus, Brandeis’ ideas attempted to find balance between efficiency, competition, antitrust, and civic responsibility and led to a distinct approach of dealing with antitrust: “regulated competition,” where “the government steered economic development away from concentrated power by channelling competition from predation to improvements in products and production processes.”"

Jumper said...

What if much of our current financial woe was created by some simple determinants almost hidden in routine real estate valuation rules? I stumbled on such a while back but have been unable to find this again. It was a rule for adding to the estimated price by looking at recent increase. If there was a recent increase then the estimator was allowed to increase the current estimate.
Think about that.

Darrell E said...

Jumper said...
"If there was a recent increase then the estimator was allowed to increase the current estimate.
Think about that."


A recent increase in property value estimates or a recent increase in property sales prices? If the latter then I think that sounds perfectly normal and reasonable. Of course that can be, and is, manipulated by the liars, cheaters and stealers that are always looking or even creating new ways to game the system.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Heh. If you want to try on something that will really make your head spin, try to imagine an America where the citizens can print their own currency and trade it like any other. Most of us would choose not to do it, but many would step up. Can you imagine this alt.world and what it would look like? It’s not easy for most people.


Are you imagining that we'd spend IOUs, redeemable for federal currency or some particular good (five haircuts, or twelve pizzas) on demand? Or are you imagining that we'd print our own legal tender, backed only by the fact that the general public accepts it as such?

The former is kinda/sorta what the US had before federal currency, and I though Alexander Hamilton had to save us from that. It was banks rather than individuals printing currency, but still...

I'm not exactly sure how the latter would work except with certain individuals having very high reputations or celebrity suck-up status. Certain people wouldn't want to be seen as refusing to accept a "Donald Trump" dollar, and would take great pleasure in refusing to accept a "Barack Obama" dollar. For certain others, it would be the exact reverse.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

For example, the theory behind socialism is pretty nice and I’m not being facetious. The theory extends the rules we apply in family settings to the community. It makes quick sense to most people. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. In practice, that’s not how people relate to each other at the community level. Applying theory, therefore, is asking humans not to be human which makes it more of a religious thing than anything else. Thou Shalt Behave. Thou shalt become homo angelicus.

Meh. 8)


Don't you think Libertarianism contains the same flaw--that if only human nature worked in a different way than it does, it would be a well-functioning system?

I ask because Dave Sim used to say exactly the same thing about socialism (he called it "Marxist-Feminism")--that it only works if human nature turns into something completely different. And then he'd go on about how society would be much better if men weren't so motivated by sex. As if that's not an even more incredible change to human nature.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

My economics interest is very recent and comes from the climate change debate. For example, the science behind climate change is pretty good. Is the economics?


You might want to try some Vonnegut, specifically his novel "Jailbird", which was a self-described attempt at "a science-fiction novel about economics."

His first published novel, "Player Piano", is a somewhat-dystopian novel about economics, and much of what he wrote in 1953 is still relevant today.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Remember that currency represents a debt obligation. A $100 dollar bill in my pocket means someone owes me $100 in goods or services. Because the bill isn’t named, I can offer it to any taker to close the position from my perspective. ANY debt instrument will do, though, if the person accepting it believes they can trade it to someone else.


In the extreme case, you're describing a game of hot-potato in which you accept money expecting that you can trade it to someone else before everyone catches on that it's worthless. Many people believe that about paper money--that it's of no intrinsic value now that we're off the gold standard--and yet, if that were the case, I would expect people to dump their cash in favor of tangible goods and services as quickly as they can. In fact, most people do the opposite, monetizing and selling as much as they can and hoarding cash or other negotiables as if whoever dies with the most money wins.

Way back in the 1990s, I blew my stack at a coworker who insisted that the only value of a share of stock was that someone else would pay money for it. I asked him why he thought that person would buy it, and he answered in all seriousness, "Because someone else will buy it for even more money later." He didn't even see what was wrong with such an arrangement, even if that's how it actually works. It really bothered me that an educated IT professional would think that's what the value of stock is, and it concerns me in the same way that it may be all that is behind the value of money.

Darrell E said...

LarryHart said...

"Alfred Differ said:

For example, the theory behind socialism is pretty nice and I’m not being facetious. The theory extends the rules we apply in family settings to the community. It makes quick sense to most people. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. In practice, that’s not how people relate to each other at the community level. Applying theory, therefore, is asking humans not to be human which makes it more of a religious thing than anything else. Thou Shalt Behave. Thou shalt become homo angelicus.

Meh. 8)"



"Don't you think Libertarianism contains the same flaw--that if only human nature worked in a different way than it does, it would be a well-functioning system?"

You didn't ask me but I'd like to register a YES to that question.

Alfred, coming from someone who argues so consistently for the libertarian claim that free markets are the best way to deal with economic issues, that statement about socialism is stunningly ironic.

Yes, I know you say that you don't think there should be no regulation of markets but you constantly claim that you are worried that regulation of markets will be taken too far, and this is in the context of an economic history, in the US, in which regulation of markets has been eroded or gamed by the lying, cheating, stealing robber barons of finance and industry multiple times resulting in trashing the economy to one degree or another. And not a single instance in which socialist economic policies have caused similar incidents. Not to mention that you surely must know that it is highly uncredible that anything resembling the extreme condition of socialism that you characterized is likely to come to pass in the US in the foreseeable future, or that any of the actually thoughtful people you argue these issues with here thinks that such socialism would be a good idea?

raito said...

LarryHart,

Try F. Paul Wilson's Enemy of the State (I think, it's one of the LaNague books, and I read them long ago).

The plot is a successful, mostly non-violent revolution that works by explaining economics to the average person, under the idea that if the regular Joe understood economics, it would stop working.

As for your co-worker and stock, he's certainly right in the case of non-dividend, non-voting stock. What can you do with it but sell? And even if it's just non-dividend, what can you do besides vote at a shareholder meeting? If the company goes bust, you get nothing. You only make money on that stock if the share price rises, either because the company is actually worth more, or because the price gets inflated through other means.

It doesn't matter that it represents ownership in the company if you can't do anything with it but keep it or sell it.I suppose it might have some collateral value, but that's not so common for the regular Joe.

LarryHart said...

raito:

You only make money on that stock if the share price rises, either because the company is actually worth more, or because the price gets inflated through other means.


But the rub is, what is meant by "because the company is actually worth more"? There has to be some value to the stock independent of "what someone will pay for it" or else no one will pay anything for it. I can't believe the stock market is simply a big Ponzi scheme in which everyone knows it's a big Ponzi scheme, but plays along anyway.

LarryHart said...

and btw,

If the value of a stock is in what you sell it for, then working to raise the stock price is not really "maximizing shareholder value". It's more like "maximizing ex-shareholder value." That's a different thing; perhaps even the opposite thing.

Robert said...

Recently came across an older computer game that involved time travel and a rather sadistic choice at the end - saving the friend that the protagonist has helped keep alive through time travel through much of the series and sacrifice thousands of lives as a huge tornado strikes the town, or go back in time and let the girl die because of the protagonist's belief her time travel is what is causing the storm and other events.

And I am left wondering... who says the storm isn't going to happen anyway? This isn't a balancing of books with Death or the like. Thousands dead don't repay the one life saved. So it isn't about paradox because this deuteragonist survives the storm if you choose that path... but thousands die who would in theory otherwise live. Ultimately... the storm will happen whether you save the deuteragonist or not.

It also had me consider the Grandfather Paradox and realize it's not a paradox. Let us say you decide to kill your mother before you were born? (After all, you never know if you had a different father and didn't know.) Well, you cease to be. And your mother dies on that date. There's no reason. She just dies. Something just happens and she's dead.

Ultimately... if you are at the switch and the trolley is heading and you can throw the switch and save the life of dozens of people but in doing so your best friend dies... or throw the other switch (or even do nothing) and those dozens of people die but your friend lives? I can't help but think at that one moment... most of us would chose our friend. Because what happens if you throw the switch and the trolley hits the curve, a piece flies off and hits your friend and kills them anyway, as those dozens of people die despite your efforts otherwise?

It also has me considering AI research and autonomous vehicles... and if a vehicle should be programmed to save the lives within, or sacrifice those lives to save others. Yet if vehicles are interconnected and know conditions ahead and can anticipate problems... then would not the vehicle already be slowing and preparing for problems? Essentially these autonomous vehicles will be preparing for the contingency ahead of time and slow the trolley so it never hits either group of people - it won't need to sacrifice those in the car to save others as it is already preparing for road conditions, speed, and safety.

Rob H., who wonders what it says about him that he would sacrifice a town to save one person that meant the world to him... or that he'd consider that in sacrificing that one person, you don't necessarily get to save the rest.

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: You have just demonstrated how even a person who absolutely abhors a Bretbart-style (spelling intentional) smear process is susceptible to influence by the same methodology. And it's no accident either, as the sort of propaganda you've committed yourself to was tested in matters of life and death from this region for years before it became their own methodology.

"[Wahhabis? Saudis?] have been very effective at causing a few millions to declare eagerness for a second holocaust on Jews,"

If I ask you to name which clerics and which Saudis are behind that, you will google an answer and return, or stick to a couple 'well-known' cases. Your googling will lead you through a selection of folks named by MEMRI and fellow traveler feeds, an echo chamber process that creates an alt-truth echo chamber. This is the methodology Bretbart took to heart, and how it operates. The processes were demonstrated, tested, and proven to work - even on those who despised the outlet and its voices in other contexts will still be influenced and ultimately controlled by it.

Your googling, and lack of having spent hours actually studying this, will overlook the role of Al Jazeera (which promulgated far more Wahhabism than Saudi operated Al Arabiyya), and will overlook the Qatari angle. Since you lack any depth, you will not know to look a little further - and since you've never studied this region, you won't know why and how the Al Jazeera line was altered, where and who did it - and will assume conspiracies and cabals disregarding contrary evidence from experts.

In short, you will do precisely what every anti-vaxxer does, every climate denialist. You will shrug off experts, and instead assume your gut is more reliable. As Americans have long done when dealing with this region.

"3- You take their word on everything EXCEPT their professed fear of Iran?"
I do not take their word on much of anything - at least, not words alone. Words are one point of reference, nothing more. Akin to an expression of a theory, some of which are worth testing. In this case, the tests will come in the form of financial flows you won't be able to monitor, but others can.

In science, when one person identifies a 'problem' with evidence that challenges a theory, some may shrug that evidence aside, others will be drawn to study the problem raised more closely and determine if it is in fact a problem. In the Middle East, I've done the latter...for a fairly long time.

One thing a person scrutinizing the Middle East soon discovers is how quickly otherwise rational, intelligent people succumb to blinders and refuse to see evidence, instead issuing judgments based on 'what must be so' rather than understanding 'what is.'

David Brin said...

Greg Byshenk, Brandeis was great, but he missed the key concept. “bad competition” is competitive behavior that aims to END flat-fair competition.

donzelion what a crock. Saudi textbooks are state secrets because they filled with such venom and hate and declarations of intent on genocide that they’d not play well in Europe. They have leaked anyway, and ISIS used Saudi textboks in their own schools, with a few phrases like “the blessed House of Saud” replace in black marker by “the blessed Caliph.” Moreover you know this.

The 9/11 hijackers were almost all products of Saudi schools.

Do the qataris have a role in all this? Sure. BFD

Your last paragraph was true.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

It also had me consider the Grandfather Paradox and realize it's not a paradox. Let us say you decide to kill your mother before you were born? (After all, you never know if you had a different father and didn't know.) Well, you cease to be. And your mother dies on that date. There's no reason. She just dies. Something just happens and she's dead.


How is that not a paradox? The whole part of the story where you were alive "already happened", and "then" it didn't.

I think what you're saying is that the timeline is self-correcting. Once you kill your mother, you cease to exist and the timeline just edits you out. But what if you had affected thw world in other, significant ways. Say you were instrumental in winning WWII. After you cease to exist, did Hitler win? What if you were Alexander Hamilton? After you cease to exist, Lin-Manuel Miranda never gets famous? Every $10 bill is morphs into a different face, President Burr, perhaps?

I'm kidding, but kidding on the square.

Anything that "already happened" which now "didn't happen" in the same period of time is a paradox in my book.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

a Bretbart-style (spelling intentional) smear process


I don't get it.

donzelion said...

Larry, our non-friends at Britbit scan feeds routinely. I prefer to make it harder for them so they have to pay more for additional scans.

David Brin said...

onward

onward

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: "Saudi textbooks are state secrets because they filled with such venom and hate and declarations of intent on genocide that they’d not play well in Europe."
(1) You've never read one. You've never been in a classroom. You've never even heard one side that is actually on the ground. Hence, your frame of reference is limited to journalists. I knew every one of them with a longterm visa to actually get out and see. Knew who was invited in and who wasn't, and why. Knew the US embassy folks who worked on thus, knew the Israeli sources who monitored it, and worked with the academics working on this. You know a tiny fragment of what a handful of tourists passed along. In other contexts, where someone challenges your expertise, you'd get a bit annoyed. In this area, you are challenging mine.

(2) "They have leaked anyway,"
It wasn't a leak. Sheesh, read through the congressional records of the work that has been going on, then the federal reports. I can help fill in a few of the lines about what they don't say.

"ISIS used Saudi textboks in their own schools"

Do you even know what an ISIS 'school' is, and who it is for? As if setting up schools to educate children were a priority (contrast with the Deobandi operated schools that trained up the Taliban in refugee camps).

But in this case, read through the State Department's work in this area, work that started almost 20 years ago, and has continued, then come back to me. At this stage, your frame of reference is akin to any climate denier/anti-vaxxer. The misinformation is rampant, the other side subtle and seldom told, and never told in full since those who know cannot say.

"The 9/11 hijackers were almost all products of Saudi schools."
True. A lot of things changed since 9/11 (or more precisely, since Saudis started trying to kill the royal family). Some things haven't. I will not pretend to know everything, only that I have a basis for expertise in this that only a handful of experts (who seldom speak publicly) can exceed.

On Iran, the Saudis act on their fears by cultivating Pakistan and China, and bombing the hell out of Yemen. In every case, there is more occurring than you are aware of, and more that is likely to occur. But on the whole, it is a good thing that we sell Saudis weapons that have never been, and will never be, turned against us. Had they wanted to, there would have been many more dead Israelis from rocket bombardment than nasties like Hamas with their amateurish brutality could achieve. Saudis have never sought that, have deliberately impeded it, and you still think they're the archvillains in league with Murdoch (ignoring some pretty public barbs - like calling their own shareholder a terrorist financier...where those barbs should have raised questions).

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astrounit said...

"There ought to be a door in the wall, right here. I'll just charge through... wham! Ow!"

Exactly. (After I compose myself from uncontrollable laughter). But that just highlights the fact that it isn't an economic strategy at all. That it is PACKAGED that way shows that it is an object specifically designed for the purpose of pretending to be an economic strategy, a false façade of a 'strategy' for public digestion. And while they are fixated on it or otherwise arguing over it and/or confused, the promoters achieve their aim to slip in the actual operative economic strategy they have in mind to pursue: whatever the hell they want to do.

Misdirection is an old magician's trick but hardly obsolete in the corridors of politicks.

,Rebekah Sandell said...

Instead of the JCOS, how about the Secs of the Branches doing the slo roll. . . Thus protecting the JCOS from disobeying a direct order and putting the obus on those it should rest with in the first place

Mark Adler said...

Just get that guy out of there. The dangerous combination of crazy, stupid, and supremely confident having its finger on the nuclear trigger is just too imminent and frightening. Here is a good analysis of the limitations on our ability and even wisdom of taking that capability away from the President of the United States of America.

http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/08/24/can-anyone-stop-trump-if-he-decides-to-start-a-nuclear-war/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Ed%20Pix%208-24&utm_term=%2AEditors%20Picks

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