Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The masterful art of manipulation

== Collusion or treason? ==

While it’s now absolutely verified that Russia tried to interfere in our elections -- and the smokey stench of collusion by the American right has parted to reveal treasonously criminal flame – the most significant cheats warping our democracy are (so far) perfectly legal.  

Take the cheat of hyper-partisanship. As I write this, Former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert has just been released from prison. For 6 years this admitted child molester was head of the entire Republican Party and the GOP's standard bearer. His "Hastert Rule" punished any Republican who negotiated - even over vital national interest - with any Democrat, helping Rupert Murdoch to make the GOP the most tightly disciplined partisan machine in U.S. history.


It was Hastert's #2 Republican - Tom DeLay also later a convicted felon - who raised political cheating to a high art, through the outrage called Gerrymandering. But now that seems  so quaint and 20th Century, because the computer-connected age has brought us something even more scary: using Big Data to target and manipulate individual voters. This deep report by Newsweek -- How Big Data Mines Personal Info to Craft Fake News and Manipulate Voters -- will inform (and scare) you.


Big Data, artificial intelligence and algorithms designed and manipulated by strategists like the folks at Cambridge Analytica have turned our world into a Panopticon, the 19th-century circular prison designed so that guards, without moving, could observe every inmate every minute of every day. 


"Our 21st-century watchers are not just trying to sell us vacations in Tuscany because they know we have Googled Italy or bought books about Florence on Amazon. They exploit decades of behavioral science research into the flawed, often irrational ways human beings make decisions to subtly “nudge” us—without our noticing it—toward one candidate.” writes Nina Burleigh.


Democrats are scurrying to play catch-up. But that's not the ideal method to crack today's online "nuremberg rally" echo chambers of self-reinforced opinion (that I predicted in EARTH (1989).)  Far better will be to send emissaries who can shatter the manipulation face-to face. As I describe in this earlier three-parter. 


== Deep State ==


The alt-right coalition of confederates, feudalists and foreign lords all know that their hold on Red America will shatter, if hundreds of retired officers run for office, in every conservative state assembly district.  And hence, they are busy undermining our longstanding respect for those who serve and who served, not just with courage but also fierce intelligence and attention tho things called facts.


Know the "deep state" meme for what it is. The first salvo of a campaign against the last fact-centered professions to be attacked by the crazed right -- civil servants, the intelligence community, law professionals and the military officer corps who keep us safe. All have balked at the Fox-Murdoch-Koch-Putin-Saudi led War on Science, journalism, teaching, economics, medicine and every other reality-centered group in American life.

You ask: how do they think they'll get away with including military officers and the FBI on their enemies list? The answer: distraction with paranoid fantasies! It's all a big conspiracy! Keep pointing at the "elites" who know stuff and who use facts! Millions of Americans will keep turning their gaze away from the rapid gathering of feudal power into the hands of just a few hundred families.

Oh, sure, let's have transparency and accountability in government! State functionaries could become dangerous, though I know a lot of them and this generation, at least, is almost entirely sincere. We can remind our watch dogs to stay loyal dogs -- not wolves -- with leashes of accountability. Not by spewing hate at them, just because they believe in objective reality.

I'll be talking about it this weekend, at Freedom Fest, the annual conclave of Libertarians, in Las Vegas.  And yes, I am an impudent dissenter, talking up Adam Smith and Robert Heinlein as alternatives to the "hate-only-government" obsession that is pushed by proto-feudal lords. Whether you believe it or not, I feel the soul of libertarianism is worth fighting for!)

Okay, so here is where we draw a line, folks. Leap (fast and hard!) upon every single use of the term "deep state" by hypocrites who wave flags on Veteran's Day, then screech hate at our defenders, at the behest of oligarchs. Be ready for this latest venom and reflect it back. 

In the 1950s, attacking the U.S. Army was Joe McCarthy's last and fatal mistake.  May it be so again. 

== Media to the rescue ==

There is reassurance.  Every new media system was at first used by cynical manipulators. The printing press first poured forth hateful tracts that exacerbated Europe’s 17th Century religious wars. 1930s radio and loudspeakers empowered gifted, callous Svengalis. But over time, civilization developed immune systems. And the new techs actually helped to make us broader, more perceptive and better.

And so. Hey sane-conservatives. You need to add the Evonomics site to your reading every week. Sure, your reflex will be to dismiss these folks as "lefties." But they are the people mentioning and citing Adam Smith more than anyone else.  They truly want Capitalism to work.

Indeed, it worked in the 1950s and 60s, delivering rapid growth at low class-wealth disparity, under "rooseveltean" rules and tax rates that our parents in the Greatest Generation approved and worked well under. Rules and rates that partisans systematically dismantled, starting with Ronald Reagan, making Supply Side Voodoo promises that never once came true, ever, even once.  And growth rates declined and wealth disparities rose, with every move away from the Greatest Generation's social contract.

Just saying, man...

85 comments:

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | The end result is the same.

Not quite. In one world we get relatively happy customers and relatively few anti-American people in France. In the other world, we get what that song was about more often.

I resemble that!

Heh. You aren't so bad. Treebeard is our champion doomcaster.

SES Health Gradient

Okay. You want to reduce that in the US? I can live with that up to a point. I think it comes with being alive, though. There are lots of biological examples of critters not succeeding and dying young compared to other members of the same species succeeding and living longer. Our own nerve cells do it when they reach out to make connections to each other. Success = continued life. I'm up for reducing it, though. I suspect we CAN do that without killing the gold egg laying goose. One way that I think would work is to teach that the Bourgeois Deal actually DOES make the world a nicer place as it lifts the pyramid into a diamond shaped society.

Carl M. said...

[from comment thread on previous blog post]

Re Bill Clinton: I have given Bill Clinton credit for budget balancing on multiple occasions. (But note the very strong push for that cause by Perot!)

Regarding the loopholes: It is a multi-page derivation. Notice the Next button at the bottom.

Having just finished a 114,000 word book, which may well lead to the revival of a liberty-equality coalition which you long ago claimed to champion, I am not in the mood to summarize down to Trumpy grunts.

When even intellectuals refuse to read, I am beginning to see why Trump has reduced his message down to the fourth grade level...

LarryHart said...

@Carl M,

I did start to read the online version. One thing that occurs to me, though, is that I'm not sure the premise that our system forces politicians to the center in order to win holds true any more. Republicans don't fear a challenge from the center, but from the right. Ryan, McConnell, and Trump threaten recalcitrant Senators with a primary challenge if they aren't right-wing enough. Their constituents don't threaten to elect a Democrat if the Republican is too right-wing.

So now, they've purified the party down to its right-wing corporatist essence. And with that, they've got both houses of congress, the presidency, the supreme court, and most state legislatures and governorships, and are within spitting distance of re-writing the Constitution. Encounters with actual constituents who complain about policy make them momentarily uncomfortable, so they avoid such situations as much as possible, with no negative consequences at election time. That seems to be a winning strategy.

Centrism would appear to be a sucker's game.



Carl M. said...

Larry, this is an effect of Gerrymandering. The primary becomes the election, so you need to occupy the center of the party vs. the general population.

But do note how hard the Republicans have trying to actually legislate. Obviously, a fair number of legislators face centrist pressure.

Alfred Differ said...

Gerrymandering has the lobotomizing effect of removing one wing of the electorate a candidate would face in a general election because they win in primary elections in safe districts.

That's why I voted to kill the power of the CA legislature to draw districts and again to change election rules even though I'm a libertarian and know darn well my favorite candidates probably won't get out of the gate. Ever. The health of the state comes first.

Tom Crowl said...

Tech briefs is sponsoring:

"Create the Future Design Contest"

if any interested in seeing entrants and voting of favorites.

https://contest.techbriefs.com//

A friend in India has project (votes always welcome)

https://contest.techbriefs.com/2017/entries/sustainable-technologies/8367-0701-144746-zero-waste-zero-carbon-business-model-zw-zc-bm

Alfred Differ said...

@Shane | In Germany they passed a law in 1976 that says that any company with over two thousand employees must have at least six members on the board of directors that represent the interests of its workers.

I recall reading about that when I was learning why some corporations have markedly different P/E ratios depending on the nation in which they operate. One author pointed out the board composition differences and noted that this appeared to depress share prices in Germany relative to the US. Apparently other shareholders are skeptical of board members who take worker interests to heart instead of their interests. 8)

I’ve been involved in two start-ups where we faced the decision to include workers or not. The first was a small LLC and we did… sort of… even though one owner had over 51% and could control everything. It wound up not working out, but not because he had to listen to the opinions of smaller shareholders and the people doing the work. The second was a proper C-corp and we chose not to directly represent workers. Instead, we made many of them minority shareholders and trusted that if we ticked them off they would create a bloc. I and the Chairman had enough shares to out-vote them all even if the CEO sided with them, but it would have been really stupid to let things go that far. In the end, that didn’t work out either because I had disagreements with the Chairman. We imploded shortly after that.

I’m not a fan of laws that require worker representation on boards, but I DO think it is stupid not to take them into account when making strategic decisions. I’m not convinced they will think strategically in the way owners do… unless they are also owners. So… I’m inclined to make them owners and avoid the whole need for those laws.

As for rudeness, you aren’t. I put a person’s name at the top of the post so people have a sense of who I am facing when I say what follows. No exclusion is intended.

Carl M. said...

But keep in mind that the second loophole takes advantage of Gerrymandering...

Alfred Differ said...

@Carl M | Not being willing to summarize will cause a lot of unnecessary loss around here. David frequently points out that he has competing interests for his time... and he does. You've AT LEAST got to win over a few others here to get him to put his precious time into new material that doesn't immediate catch his interest. That's part of what we DO for him.

LarryHart said...

Carl M:

"Centrism would appear to be a sucker's game."

Larry, this is an effect of Gerrymandering. The primary becomes the election, so you need to occupy the center of the party vs. the general population.


That's certainly part of it, but it's not symmetrical. I live in Illinois, which is like the one remaining state which is heavily gerrymandered by Democrats. So there are many districts where a Democrat is almost certain to win. It doesn't mean they run as communists, or that they'll be primaried from the left if they're not ideologically pure enough. The corruption here is more like they have to be loyal to the party leadership.

There's something uniquely Republican about that whole "primarying" thing. And part of the reason that works is because too many Americans equate Democrats with Satan, so while they'd prefer a nicer Republican or a more fiscally responsible Republican or any number of other characteristics, at election time, they'll vote for the R candidate because that's what voting is.


But do note how hard the Republicans have trying to actually legislate. Obviously, a fair number of legislators face centrist pressure.


Yeah, I do notice that, and I wonder what it signifies. Because Republican candidates don't seem to suffer in November elections no matter what they do. Maybe there is a certain threshold they can't cross without losing support. Perhaps they're afraid that their disenchanted voters will just stay home? That seems more likely than a threat that they'd vote for a Democrat.

If I'm right, then demonization of the opponent is as important a strategy as appealing to the center is. Make it so your voters would rather "cut their own 'eads off" rather than vote for a Democrat, and you've got it made. If so, then the Libertarian strategy should be to somehow demonize the Republicans as much as has already been done to the Dems. Accomplish that, and I might sign up. :)

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

I'm a libertarian ... The health of the state comes first.


I never thought I'd see those words in that order.

Carl M. said...

Alfred: He's got time to read the Democratic equivalent of the Rush Limbaugh show. This is bad prep for going to Freedom Fest. If he just wants to be a full-on Democrat, I'd stop bugging him and let him enjoy his happy neurotransmitters from dwelling in the echo chamber.

But he wrote a compelling piece in LP News some years back and later spoke at the 2002 LP convention. I'm one of the few people who actually listened and followed through, gathering up an eclectic collection of ideas to improve equality while reigning in government. I took a real shot at broadening the LP tent wide enough to include an upper left. Didn't quite make it. Did end up causing most of the platform to be repealed in 2006. The radicals are still pissed.

Since the anarchist membership oath is still there, and the odds of the LP accepting the idea of replacing the welfare state with a citizen dividend are near zero, I left the party ten years ago. The Plan started as a brain dump of what the LP should do to seize the Upper Left market niche, or if they don't take the opportunity someone else could.

Another libertarian faction that is potentially sympathetic to his message are the Bleeding Heart Libertarians, which includes some Public Choice academics. Defending, or even simply not condemning, Nancy MacLean's lies is not a good way to make friends with that should-be-sympathetic clade.

Once again, if he was going full-on Democrat, I'd let him be. Be he said he is going to Freedom Fest. This is an event that used to be coordinated by the wife of the founder of the Southern Party. It might be useful to dial back the anti Southern conspiracy rhetoric just a wee bit.

Besides providing loopholes around Duverger's Law, my book provides justification for making the tax code more progressive using actual libertarian reasoning. (But not a progressive income tax; a different progressive tax, one that better approximates fee for service government.) This may not be of interest to committed Democrats, but it is potentially useful if you want to make any impact at Freedom Fest.

Constructive criticism; that's the principle.



David Brin said...

Carl’s new book is is filled with interesting insights describing the dilemma of a third party in today’s political system and I urge the rest of you to give his book a look. You can start by going to his Amazons page and clicking “Look Inside.” Then later maybe buying the book, if it held your interest.

Alas, neither the Amazon summary nor “Look Inside” gave me a hint of a clue what his two secret sauce “loopholes could be and I’m giving up.

because alas, Carl keeps buying into cliches. Take the standard libertarian visual catechism of a 2D political landscape in which liberals want personal liberty but economic regulation while republicans want the inverse. A lovely piece of visual polemic that’s an outright lie, since capitalist competition always does vastly better under democrats, who are also the ones who de-regulate and banish obsolete agencies and regulations. And libertarians ignore this fact with the tenacity of a religious fervor. Confronted with these facts, they might nod as their eyes glaze over… but you’ll have to repeat it again… as I am about to do:

Capitalist competition always does vastly better under democrats, who are also the ones who de-regulate and banish obsolete agencies and regulations. There I repeated it. Carl M will not refute it. He will simply (“Squirrel!”) change the subject. Likewise, when you point out that Republicans’ every single effort and policy is not aimed at creating flat-fair-open-competitive markets, but at recreating feudalism, which is the one great enemy of competitive enterprise across 6000 years.

Watch, I’ll repeat that again… and Carl will have no answer for it. He will simply change the subject: “Republicans’ every single effort and policy is not aimed at creating flat-fair-open-competitive markets, but at recreating feudalism, which is the one great enemy of competitive enterprise across 6000 years.”

“From a purely left-right projection, The Libertarian Party is in the center…”

No, that is where the LIP ought to be, if it genuinely stood for competitive flat-fair-open enterprise. It does not. It is the Propertarian Anti-Government Party whose sole purpose is to undermine any center of power that might oppose oligarchy.

Yes, Carl makes many interesting points! For example, he points out that while the libertarian oath averages out to a moderate position on the (absurd) Nolan Chart, each of the positions in the oath is extremely radical.

What’s interesting is that your presumed migration of the parties never happened… but your desideratum is clear. You foresaw Libertarianism becoming more like Democrats. Not the libertarian image of democrats, but as those who want a functioning flat-fair-competitive system with maximized personal freedom.

Show me where the democrats “talk going full-on socialist!” a made-up chimera. A pure fantasy.

As is your second 2-D chart. A stunning array of utterly made-up positonings. I guess the bushmen and confederacy are placed right. No one else is.

I’m done. I did give a read and there are many good things here! I love your “Three Rules” for a 3rd party. Though should the “zeroth” rule be to help the party that wants to end CHEATING? That wants to end deck-trigging like gerrymandering?

David Brin said...

The core essences:

1- Competition is the greatest engine for human creativity and productivity. The underlying bedrock of libertarianism AND liberalism. If the (now dominant) utterly insane versions of libertarianism are rooted in this.

2- Human beings are cheaters. When they get some advantage -- wealth or power or market share -- they will reliably use much of it not to improve their products and services, but to interfere in others' ability to compete. For 6000 years, this entailed gangs of big men shoving pieces of metal through other men, so they would not compete.

Ignoring this fact, and those 6000 years, is the fetich of Ayn Rand and all of her followers.

3- Pericles once urged - and the Western Enlightenment finally delivered - a positive sum system in which arenas would generate spectacular output via competition that is maximized because cheating is minimized. The five greatest of these positive sum arenas are Markets, Democracy, Science, Justice Courts and Sports. In all of these, competition is maximally flat-open-fair and productive because it is regulated to minimize cheating.

David Brin said...


4- The positive sum competitive arenas are finely tuned, man-made MACHINES and no form of regulation will ever be perfect. Some will be counterproductive. Some regulatory regimes will be captured and used as tools for cheating. In sports, it is sufficient for team owners and players to discuss regulatory systems among themselves. In science, self-regulation by open reciprocal criticism is mostly sufficient. In the other arenas, two methods are used:
- Reciprocal Accountability, shining light on flaws in the opposition, and
- Politics, leading to regulatory law.

5- It is right and proper for there to be a strong faction of our polity who Suspicion of Authority (SoA) reflex is irked by regulation of especially markets. Only such a faction - skeptical of government - can apply pressure to ensure that regulation enhances competitive productivity instead of stifling, or else turning into one more vehicle for elite cheating. This is a proper role for a sane libertarianism.

6- The great discovery of our enlightenment experiment has been that the fantastically creative fecundity of Markets, Democracy, Science, Justice Courts and Sports arises from Regulated Competition that is aimed at maximizing the Effective Freedom (EF) of individuals and coalitions to compete productively. Alas, the so-called "left" (along a hoary-lobotomizing-simplistic"left-right axis") is taught to frown at "competition" while the "right" sneers at the word "regulated."

David Brin said...


7- Regulation to improve flat-fair-open competitive arenas can legitimately include consensus efforts, as a nation, to alter conditions so that flatness, fairness or openness can be maximized. This can include breaking up monopolies that have undue influence or cheat. It can involve the application of incentives and disincentives to take into account externalities that crude, day-by-day markets ignore, such as pollution, resource depletion and other matters of likely concern to our descendants.

And it can include fostering healthy markets and democracy and science by augmenting the supply of ready, eager, qualified and capable competitors. We do this by ending the waste of human talent that occurred in all ancient, pyramidal hierarchies, when your ability to compete and prove yourself was predetermined by who your parents were, not by your ability, character, ambition or will.

It is right and proper for liberals to push for interventions to reduce cheating, break up power concentrations, compensate for externalities and palliate poverty and other wastes of talent. It is just as right and proper for libertarians to offer skepticism toward such interventions, forcing upon them a burden of proof that their net effect will enhance our five productive arenas, and not stifle them. Liberals are obliged to prove that a problem actually exists, needing palliation and that their propose interventions will both work and do little harm. Libertarians are obliged to respond to the existence of a problem and suggest ways that government interventions can be replaced by private or competitively-delivered means.

Liberals must be fought when they seek interventions that aim at equalizing outcomes, not opportunity. Libertarians must resist the perpetual attractor state that has ruined their movement in the 20th Century, a drift toward making excuses for oligarchy, for last year's winners to use their advantages to warp the system. Libertarians in particular tend often to forget that their aim should be maximized competition... not the at-all-costs protection of property.

8- To be clear protection of personal property is essential in order for Markets to have a competitive motor. But like all good things -- oxygen, water, food, etc -- property becomes toxic when too concentrated. It is fair to argue over this dividing line. But those who would shrug it off are ignoring every single century, decade and year of human history.

9- I have described a positive sum political arrangement that would consist of liberals and libertarians sharing a common goal, the continued health, productivity, fecundity of our five great arenas of regulated competition, Markets, Democracy, Science, Justice Courts and Sports... and perhaps adding more. Their synergy would see Liberals seeking to revise and update vigorously effective regulations that keep competition flat-open-fair... while Libertarians supply the needed skepticism that would prevent the stifling effects of over regulation, or regulation aimed at equalizing outcomes, not opportunity.

This arrangement of course leaves out significant interest groups! Those who actively want rule by cheating, proto-feudalist lords are now called Republicans. Those who want the same thing, but with bureaucrats picking winners and losers in a socialist regime, are leftists. And those who seek dogmatic rule by a religion or ethnicity - or who seek the end of the world (there are many) - are theocrats. The world has seen many examples of rule by such zero-sum forces, and not once have the results been admirable.

And that was one long typing spree! Comments welcome. I will revise it and post it as a blog, then a chapter in my book on libertarianism.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Dr Brin
Excellent diatribe - I will copy it for later use (if that's OK)

Re - Gerrymandering
Gerrymandering was a not very effective tool - but now we have "Computermandering" which is very effective but it has the seeds of its own destruction

Using the same tools that made Computermandering so effective we should be able to produce a simple inequality coefficient and use that to set limits so that the courts have a tool to prevent Computermandering

LarryHart said...

Duncan Cairncross:

Using the same tools that made Computermandering so effective we should be able to produce a simple inequality coefficient and use that to set limits so that the courts have a tool to prevent Computermandering


That's assuming the courts want to prevent gerrymandering. If the courts are captured by the gerrymandering party, they may simply be complicit.

The seeds of gerrymandering's destruction may be in its very nature. Optimal gerrymandering produces a maximum of districts which are safely yours, but that means the margin in each district is relatively small. I've heard the optimal figure is 55% to 45%. If your side is winning by more than that, then some of those voters would be better apportioned elsewhere to pick up more districts.

But a disappointing shock--like Trump, or like Bush's Katrina years, or like Nixon--might cause enough of your own voters to stay home (if not actively vote for the other guy) to shrink those margins. Shrink them enough and you lose as consistently as you previously won.

In this way, gerrymandering has the same flaws as 1929-era leveraged stock purchasing, in which your gains are multiplied while the market rises, but a relatively small drop in the market wipes you out.

Carl M. said...

OK, David. You are a Democrat. Full on partisan Democrat. Not a classical liberal. Not transpartisan. You are a Democrat.

If it makes you feel good to have your ideas utterly rejected, then go speak at Freedom Fest. For your next act, I suggest speaking at an NAACP event on how the KKK is really more about feudalism than racism. Idea reception should be similar.

Edit_XYZ said...

Carl M., you are just now figuring out that Brin is a partisan democrat?

A simple perusal of this blog's history reveals heavy democrat propaganda, complete with insults, etc.
Have you read Brin's 2017 output? He once made a blog entry merely to call all Trump voters traitors - btw, my summary is an euphemism.
As to his affirmations to the contrary, they are for "tactical purposes".

All in all, the butthurt in this echo chamber is quite amusing. This is why I still visit this site, infrequently as this is.

Smurphs said...

Carl M wrote:

OK, David. You are a Democrat. Full on partisan Democrat. Not a classical liberal. Not transpartisan. You are a Democrat.

THIS is why the Libertarian Party will never amount to anything. If you don't believe in MY libertarian-ism, the you are not a Libertarian.

Worse than herding cats.

But thanks, I'm loving the debate!

howard beale said...

This is only my 2nd time reading this blog and its comments. It's great! All I can think of is “Feuerwache Wirkung” and Melvin Udall (with a different and liberal set of phobias and obsessions) and his buds eating dinner at the station discussing... well... we all know what we're discussing... incessantly. Or, it could take place at Kelsey's Bar. But the beauty of being on a blog in cyberspace is that EVERYONE can sit at the next table and listen in. Btw, how come there's never any women at the table? Their perspective would be welcome. Oh well.

Anyway, keep it up guys. There's a growing fan base out there and we love it!

A.F. Rey said...

Carl M., if there are specific points that you believe will be rejected by Libertarians, it would be nice to hear about them, if not for David's benefit, then for mine. I, for one, would like to know what part or parts do not make sense to a Libertarian.

But just summarily dismissing the entire argument without comment does no one any good. That's just farting in the wind (aka blowing stinky smoke). :)

LarryHart said...

Carl M:

OK, David. You are a Democrat. Full on partisan Democrat. Not a classical liberal. Not transpartisan. You are a Democrat.


Now aren't you just being petulant? I don't see what in Dr Brin's screed leads to that conclusion, and I think there have been enough "leftists do it too" and "I'm arguing from a Smithian conservative perspective" comments here to make that assessment suspect, if not self-evidently false.

My own take is that Dr Brin is not so much a partisan Democrat as a partisan anti-Republican. He seems to understand what I seem to understand--that the Republican Party is a clear and present danger to American democracy and to what it means to be American. It is therefore incumbent upon us to de-elect Republicans from office, and the only technical way to do that is to elect non-Republicans instead, and the only non-Republicans who currently have a chance at being elected are Democrats. All exceptions--Bernie Sanders--duly noted, and Bernie only gets to do anything in the Senate by caucusing with the Democrats. In fact, stretching the metaphor a bit, I'd say it's fair to characterize Dr Brin as "caucusing with the Democrats" rather than being a partisan Dem himself.

Only in this degraded FOX/BreitBrat age does one get branded a partisan Democrat for recognizing the danger posed by Republicans, and a non-partisan independent thinker for not doing so and asserting as axiomatic that both parties are the same. I would be happy if a saner party eventually replaced the ones we have now, as the Republicans replaced the Whig Party, but I'm not content to let the Republicans keep running things until that day arrives. That's quite a different thing (though not the opposite thing) from being a partisan Democrat.

David Brin said...

Oh, Carl, does it reassure you to hurl labels? Notice that you “Squirreled” exactly as I predicted and did not address my key questions for you, even though I posed each of them twice.

If by “democrat” do you mean party registration? Wrong. I am still a Republican, since I’ve been lazy since California made nonpartisan primaries with the best election laws in the nation. In by far the best governed state in the nation. Anyway, this way I get GOP robo-calls that I can leave jabbering away while I work.

If by “democrat” you mean I see day and night between the two Big Parties? Yes. One is concerned with decent governance and the other is spiraling into pure treason and confederate evil.

If you mean that I am a monolithic and dogmatic partisan who fits on your absurd 2D charts? Then Har! You clearly did not bother - in your state of pique - to even read the 9 points I laid down above, which made very clear the value that I see in a sane libertarianism.

Guys! Didn’t you all see that, in reading my 9 points? How I deem over-regulation to be a real danger? About how my ideal 2 party system would be Liberal vs (sane) Libertarian?

“If it makes you feel good to have your ideas utterly rejected, then go speak at Freedom Fest.”

Last time at Freedom Fest I was surrounded by crowds the entire time. Many were receptive to my ministry, preaching Adam Smith and Heinlein to replace the insanities of Rand, Rothbard and Oligarchs. I’ve spoken at far more libertarian gatherings than democratic ones, BTW.

Edit_XYZ Of course I have taken sides in a civil war! I am stuck with Lincoln and the Union Army, fellah, or the nation goes up in smoke.

Now ask everyone here whether I make clear what I feel about far-left PC bullies! They are monsters too! But far, by far the lesser danger, right now.

David Brin said...


Oh and I repeat my challenges, just to see if you'll squirrel again.

1. Capitalist competition always does vastly better under democrats, who are also the ones who de-regulate and banish obsolete agencies and regulations.

2. “Republicans’ every single effort and policy is not aimed at creating flat-fair-open-competitive markets, but at recreating feudalism, which is the one great enemy of competitive enterprise across 6000 years.”

Sure, that makes me a "democrat in that I side with enterprise markets, freedom, competition and all the other things that a (sane) libertarian would want.

Sorry man. You proclaim that dems want bedroom freedom but not market freedom. That... is... a ... delusion....

LarryHart said...

@Carl M,

Isn't Dr Brin trying to say that he favors Democrats because they are more faithful to libertarian ideals than the Republicans are?

That's like me saying I prefer the European Union to Putin's Russia because the EU is more aligned with American goals and Putin is actively working against us. That doesn't make me a partisan European, but a partisan American.

Knowing who your friends are doesn't make you identical to them.

A.F. Rey said...

FYI, a shoutout to you, Dr. Brin, from a column by Randall Hayes, over at O.S. Card's SF magazine:

http://www.intergalacticmedicineshow.com/cgi-bin/mag.cgi?do=columns&vol=randall_hayes&article=019

I agree wholeheartedly with David Brin, who has been arguing for years now that SF needs to turn away from pointless scary dystopias towards the solving of real problems (Neal Stephenson has said similar things).

LarryHart said...

Democrats, at least in theory, want freedom from bullies.

Republicans as they are today want freedom for bullies.

Libertarians apparently think you can have both.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | I never thought I'd see those words in that order.

Yah. They might take my libertarian card from me and expel me from the group. 8)

Seriously, though, I can’t defend my liberty without the help of all the rest of you. I like to think of myself as a sovereign soul, but I’m also an intelligent fragment of something larger. I need a civilization to be complete, but I don’t need it to do what I as an individual can and should do. See the quandary?

My votes on the two propositions I referred to were in defense of civilization. California is a big place with a lot of people and money. We can afford to take big risks and do big things. One of those is to show how to live a life without gerrymandering. Another is to establish a government that straddles between being a republic and an empire. Another is to show how political factions have to answer to everyone and not just their base. In a nutshell, we are supposed to be one of the American experiments in liberalization, dignity, and happiness.

If my fellow libertarians have an issue with that, so be it. It’s not like we all agree on everything anyway. At the core, we are likely to agree on avoiding coercion in all the forms we can, but the other ideas are closer to the periphery and might have a mere majority of us supporting them.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Seriously, though, I can’t defend my liberty without the help of all the rest of you. I like to think of myself as a sovereign soul, but I’m also an intelligent fragment of something larger. I need a civilization to be complete, but I don’t need it to do what I as an individual can and should do. See the quandary?


Of course I do. I found your earlier statement wryly amusing, not offensive.

What you just said now is what I've been trying to tell Rand-followers for years now--the ones who insist there is no such thing as "society" but only a collection of individuals who trade freely with those they are stuck in proximity to.

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. If you want to poke hard at the Rand'ians, ask why a man gives up some of his sovereignty when he forms a family for the purpose of having children. Most of us do to some degree or another. As a bachelor, we are free. As a husband, we are bound. Why?

Any biological explanation demonstrates the silliness of a belief that we are a collection of individuals who trade freely. We aren't and it is as simple as that.

The individual isn't a social atom. Very often, we are more like a sub-atomic particle. Sure. Protons don't need close partners, but cool them down a bit and they will pair up with electrons. In other settings, they WILL form close relationships and build heavier nuclei before pairing up with electrons. The Rand followers believe something that is WAY too simplistic.

matthew said...

Once again, Carl shows why I deem libertarianism to be not worth saving. Libertarian = a person who crawled up their own ass and cannot see out.

Even presented with a clear challenge to his mistaken ideals, Carl refuses to examine his own belief system.

It's a religion, stupid.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Heh. If you want to poke hard at the Rand'ians, ask why a man gives up some of his sovereignty when he forms a family for the purpose of having children. Most of us do to some degree or another. As a bachelor, we are free. As a husband, we are bound. Why?


On the old Cerebus list, writer/artist Dave Sim and one of the frequent posters (who was a big Ayn Rand fan) thought marriage and reproduction were the biggest mistakes a man can make on the grounds that one has to give up too much integrity in order to remain in good standing with a woman or child. The Rand guy then went and joined the army during the Iraq war. Dave became religious and devoted the rest of his life to avoiding being sent to Hell. Point being, those who spoke most in favor of avoiding marriage in favor of individual integrity found that state so unfulfilling that they had to turn themselves over to something else that required giving up personal sovereignty.


The individual isn't a social atom. Very often, we are more like a sub-atomic particle. Sure. Protons don't need close partners, but cool them down a bit and they will pair up with electrons.


Funny you should put it that way. One of the last issues of Cerebus was a pseudo-religious text which attempted to demonstrate that we are all like particles, and our entanglements with each other end up causing us to get crushed by gravity into the center of the earth or maybe even into the sun. The goal as proposed by Dave was to remain free from entanglements and go into the afterlife as a neutrino which is free to travel throughout the universe without touching or being touched by anything.

Alfred Differ said...

@Carl M | Regarding our host’s time, he has now demonstrated that he IS paying attention, so I’ll let it go. However, I think it is pretty clear to the regulars that he is not a classical liberal. He sits somewhere between progressivism and liberalism and probably wouldn’t see some of the flaws in Piketty’s work AS flaws. He is too inclined toward state intervention for my tastes, but he doesn’t assume right away that those of us who oppose it are monsters. Clueless maybe? Sure. We all have egos though.

You and I would probably get along fine over a beer or something, but I think you are confused on your loopholes. I took some time yesterday to skim them and I think you might be guilty of wanting them to exist too much. Sure. Gerrymandering creates an opportunity for third-parties to get votes, but I see that as illusion. The elections are still rigged in favor of a major party. Getting four times as many votes in a gerrymandered system means nothing to me because four times something close to zero is still close to zero. As for the segment of the voting public not being served by any party, that quickly evaporates when a third party shows the value of appealing to them. US history is full of examples of temporary gains by third parties being consumed by a major party in the next election.

Yah. The Libertarian party has serious problems, but they aren’t of the type that can’t be eliminated if a flood of refugees from another party show up some year. Look what happened to the American Independent Party. They got taken over by people I REALLY don’t want to meet and I’m usually willing to learn how to get along with everyone. I’d rather stick with the Libertarians for now and encourage refugees to flee the GOP and Democrats. Both parties have some folks who are only loosely attached.

As for Nancy MacLean, I’m with you. If people like Michael Munger have an issue with how she represents someone he knew, she has a serious problem. She is getting skewered by a few people I follow who have good reason to believe they knew Buchanan well enough to represent him and his beliefs. At a minimum, she didn’t do her research. It is more likely that she has an axe to grind and the rest of us should take that into account before swallowing.

Jumper said...

It's better to be empirical than imperial. Apparently the roots are different, with "empirical" meaning "experienced and reliable." Send in the empirical troops!

occam's comic said...

It may interest some of the people here that David Brin’s blog got used as an example of a dying cultural ideal by John Michael Greer on his new blog.

http://www.ecosophia.net/men-unlike-gods/

from the post:

“As I watch the fantasies and restless dreams of my own culture, what I see looks far more like a death than a birth.
Here again, as in nineteeth-century Germany, among the clearest markers of that death is the crowd of public figures insisting that it just ain’t so. I’m thinking here especially of blog posts by science fiction writer David Brin, forwarded by one of my longtime readers—tip of the hat to Pat Mathews. I’d encourage readers to take in one of his posts in particular, from March of this year. It ran through a list of mildly interesting astronomical discoveries over the last year or so in an attempt to prove that progress is still on track, and then wound up with a peroration that, in its passionate befuddlement, invites comparison with the finest sort of tub-thumping tent revival rhetoric: “If you have any notions of progress, of wanting your descendants to bestride the stars, then reject the blithering-dopey ‘cycles of history’ and ‘The Fourth Turning’ and ‘we’re all doomed’ rants of those who would turn away from science and wonder.”
Try to follow the logic here; I promise you it’ll lead you a merry chase. The Fourth Turning, as I suspect most of my readers know, is the title of a book by William Strauss and Neil Howe that argues, on the basis of a fair amount of evidence, that certain patterns in US political and cultural history repeat over a period of eighty to ninety years. Theories of historical cycles go back long before Strauss and Howe, of course, and here again there’s a great deal of evidence to back them. The notion that cyclic theories of history somehow amount to a claim that “we’re all doomed” is quite an impressive non sequitur, which makes what little sense it can muster only from within a narrow ideological stance and the claim that people who accept the possibility of historical cycles are deliberately turning away from science and wonder is pure ad hominem handwaving. (We can ignore such clumsy outbursts as “blithering-dopey,” which are just embarrassing; Brin used to be a better writer than that.)”

Read the whole article it is interesting.
If you find yourself reacting emotionally, you may want to ask yourself why?

LarryHart said...

Jumper,

"And, these blast points. Much too accurate for sand people.
Only empirical storm troopers are this precise."

Alfred Differ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | Point being, those who spoke most in favor of avoiding marriage in favor of individual integrity found that state so unfulfilling that they had to turn themselves over to something else that required giving up personal sovereignty.

Yah. I think if we were honest with ourselves, we’d realize that the personal sovereignty we think we have has ALWAYS been an illusion… and a dangerous one. Giving it up completely, though, is more dangerous. I’m reminded of this every year around Christmas when my family tends to watch The Hogfather. The explanation offered by DEATH at the end for why we have to believe in the little lies gets me every time. They aren’t really lies, though. We are demonstrating the virtue of Faith relative to a Transcendent and that is crucial to be human in a social setting. Giving up all that means abandoning what we are. Self-abnegation isn’t a demonstration of Temperance. It is a display of imprudence because it is a failure to love one’s own self. Believing too much or too little can be problematic no matter what the idea is.

… go into the afterlife as a neutrino which is free to travel throughout the universe without touching or being touched by anything.

Sigh. Be wary of all physics analogies. In fact, be wary of all analogies, but be especially wary of physics analogies offered by physicists. Worst of all are the physics analogies offered by students who have a partial grasp of physics. 8)

The real problem with a neutrino analogy like that one can be seen if you know enough thermodynamics to understand what ‘Heat Death’ means. One professor of mine taught us the term, cracked a big smile, and then showed us it had already happened. Account for the energy of neutrinos and the universe is already (essentially) dead. Just what I want as an analogy for an afterlife, right? 8)

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Look what happened to the American Independent Party. They got taken over by people I REALLY don’t want to meet and I’m usually willing to learn how to get along with everyone. I


Is that the same American Independent Party that George Wallace ran under in 1968? I actually remember that first-hand, although I was too young to understand what Wallace's candidacy was all about.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Sigh. Be wary of all physics analogies. In fact, be wary of all analogies,...


Yeah, but remember "Darmok". Analogies and allusions are pretty much all we've got.

Carl M. said...

My beef is not with Dr. Brin's modern liberalism. It is with his double standard reasoning -- while at the same time denying he is a partisan. I have otherwise intelligent friends who echo Republican talking points, defending Republican atrocious behavior and damning similar behavior when Obama does it. But they, at least, aren't making the pretense of not being partisan.

In discussions on this board, when it favors Democrats, correlation = causation. When it favors Republicans, an alternative explanation is in order. Compare his "reasoning" comparing FDR with Reagan. Prosperity happened after the Roosevelt years, therefore he caused it and if he hadn't done what he did, the Depression would have never ended. Meanwhile, the peace dividend that helped make Clinton look good was purely Gorbachev. Reagan had nothing to do with it. Extensive reasoning follows.

Two different standards of argumentation. All criticism of the particulars of the New Deal is inadmissible in court. All success of Republicans is due to prior administrations or luck.

And then there is the theory of cheap Democrat war, which is great as long as you exclude Wilson, FDR, Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson. And when we stick to just the actual cheap warriors, we can see that it worked really great -- as long as you don't count Ethiopia, Iran, Libya, ISIS, and the partial restart of the Cold War (from our siding against the Serbians).

I loathe the Bushes as much as Dr. Brin. I am on the record calling for a citizen dividend, higher taxes on the rich to balance the budget, and taking some active antitrust measures.

But Brin's vision of a universal two-way surveillance society with the need for permission to do pretty much anything is rather unpleasant.

And I'll vote for Sarah Palin on LSD before I vote for anyone who advocates Single Payer medicine.

David Brin said...


Occam thanks for that link. Were I (yawn) to care a scintilla about MGreer’s post, I would lazily appeal to authority by daring him to name any scientist he knows. Or tech innovator. Or person who has produced great products or services. If he knows any at all, I would bet my house that I know an order of magnitude more and possibly two, and consult with and trade ideas with minds who are at the edge of every artistic, scientific, cultural, philosophical and entrepreneurial horizon.

Does appeal to authority prove anything? Of course not! But it is an emotionally satisfying “neener.” And since that is all that Mr. Greer’s silly snark amounted to, I am perfectly justified and satisfied to respond, in kind.
As to substance, he raves that cyclical history is “proved.” It is not. It is a cult incantation based on primitive pattern-seeking and “aha! I can see what you fools cant!” solipsism. Almost all professional historians know that right wing cyclical teleology is as stupid as left-wing “class development” teleology. It’s a cult. As I describe here: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-tytler-insult-is-democracy-hopeless.html

Funny thing how Greer’s cult just happens to wage war not just on science, journalism, teaching, medicine and every other fact-using caste — now including intel, FBI and military officers. I’d argue with him, seriously I would. But we are in Phase 8 of the Civil War…
http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2014/09/phases-of-american-civil-war.html

…and I do not have time anymore for confederate trash.

David Brin said...

A.F. Rey, do be our spy at the Scott Card’s http://www.intergalacticmedicineshow.com !! Let us know when that wing of things says stuff that merits reply? Scott is one of the most powerful subjectivity-empathy magicians I have ever known. Alas, he does not use his powers for good. (He serves feudalism with all his heart.) But I can appreciate a really potent wizard, when I see one.

Alfred, a great many (not all) libertarians are childless and Rand was spectacularly opposed to reproduction, mentioning it even glancingly for just two pages in any and across all of her tomes.

But let me reiterate. Were libertarians only to remember their original fealty to Adam Smith and to competition - the greatest creative force in the universe - they would thereupon have to drop their current adoration of cheating oligarchs and unlimited propertarianism.

Moreover, while remaining SKEPTICAL of government meddling, they would grasp that no competitive arena survives or thrives without regulation, to limit cheating and maximize the number of empowered competitors.

A sane, competition-centered libertarianism would seek non-governmental ways to achieve such regulation… as happens in sports and science. It would demand recurring accountability for governmental solutions and speak up for sunset clauses and to prevent such meddling from tipping over into outcomes, rather than opportunity. That is a noble task and I would proudly call myself a member of such a movement!

This is not achieved by waving mumbo-jumbo incantations… e.g. that capitalism and markets do better with Republicans, which is diametrically opposite to fact. Believing it is a sure sign of functional insanity.


Let me now swerve and say that CarlM has a point that gerrymandered districts may present an opportunity! Especially since the democrats in such districts might surge to a LP candidate, if he were smart enough to say “I believe in science.”

In fact, I will mention this and plug Carl’s book at Freedom Fest!

David Brin said...

Carl’s latest. Sorry, utter bullshit, Carl. Your latest “squirrel!” tries - very obliquely - to discredit the blatant fact that every single — and I mean absolutely every single — metric of US market entrepreneurial enterprise does better under democrats by proclaiming that “correlation does not equal causation.”

At last you actually — if weaseling - glanced at one of my challenges! And yes, “correlation does not equal causation.”

But 100% pure and abolute correlation puts the burden of proof on those who claim there is not causal relationship! EVERY single GOP led break from the greatest generation’s rooseveltean social contract was immediately followed by slower growth, reduced entrepreneurship, higher deficits and skyrocketing wealth disparities. Every single time. You cannot make that correlation go way, with incantations like “correlation does not equal causation.”

“All criticism of the particulars of the New Deal is inadmissible in court.”

Utter whining bullshit. You are welcome to criticize FDR! I do it too! There were reforms of his reforms that were necessary and I’d be fine negotiating. In fact, democrats went along with the first two phases of Supply Side, because it seemed to make logical sense. (They had not read Adam Smith about what “rentier lords” do with their cash.)

You criticize my comparison of Democratic vs Republican styles of war… and here you raise a fair point! I conveniently exclude everything before 1980. Why? Because those styles DID change. Eisenhower’s careful maturity was replaced by Reagan-Bush-Bush chest-thumping screeches of “Charge!” The macho bluster of JFK and LBJ’s acquiescence were so painful and traumatizing that democrats reflexively now go for minimal force.

Am I the dishonest one? No, I said “since 1980” in my article. No, sir. It is you, for. cherrypicking “squirrel!” shouts instead of actually grappling with a single one of my challenges!

I wear a blue Union (democrat) Kepi because I must, during full-fledged civil war. And because no libertarian regiments have shown up to fight for competition and markets and freedom, instead of lickspittle devotion to plantation lords.

But on Saturday I will be lifting the banner, speaking to those libertarians who - like you used to be - are able to notice that feudalism is the Olde Enemy. And it is winning.

===

David Brin said...

BTW Carl, you should plug your book at the top of http://www.carlmilsted.com/
because that is where I will send folks.

Treebeard said...

Libertarianism is what? The religion of free marketism? Good luck with that. My theory is that all civilizations are theocracies; the ones that last have a priesthood that consolidates power and keeps things stable, which can produce civilizations like ancient Egypt that last several thousand years. In America we have a few competing priesthoods, which is producing cultural chaos and political dysfunction. But surely this isn’t a sustainable situation; theocracy and feudalism will eventually win out, of one variety or another. The techno-oligarchs clearly want their version to win and to crush the competition, and they have priests like Dr. Brin here propagating the faith and reminding us how evil and traitorous every other priesthood is.

BTW your friend John Michael Greer talks about you in his blog today: http://www.ecosophia.net/men-unlike-gods/ I guess we can describe your theocracy as the one whose priesthood preaches that “men are becoming gods”. Looking around, I find this rather laughable. “Men becoming techno-addicted mice sounds” sounds more accurate.

David Brin said...

Oh. Civil Asset Forfeiture. Obama's AG Holder scaled it way back and most blue states are doing so. Now read what Jeff Sessions wants.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/07/19/jeff-sessions-defense-of-civil-asset-forfeiture-annotated/

The principal outcome? Libertarians will stop mentioning Civil Asset Forfeiture. It will slide off their list of things.

David Brin said...

Sigh, our ent can only see things in zero-sum terms and hence is truly incapable of realizing that we... are... not... like... him.

Yes, I suppose scientists and other fact professions might be said to fill some of the slots that were assigned, in the 99% feudal hells of the past, to oppression-justifying priesthoods. Only the differences are huge.

- Suspicion of authority and concentrations of power. A central catechism of this "religion" is that any such concentration must immediately be targeted with transparency, light, criticism and splitting. As Heinlein put it: "The country is split up into such a variety of faiths and sects that a degree of uneasy tolerance now exists from expedient compromise; the minorities constitute a majority of opposition against each other."

- Does that work perfectly? Hell no! Power tends to pool and accumulate... but that is not our ideal and most of our 'priests' are dedicated to keeping things flat.

- The 20th century's Professionalization Trend might seem to support the ent. But lately the rising Age of Amateurs has been flattening things again. Scientists who hoard knowledge are spurned and those who go on PBS and TED and who help amateur science orgs are lauded. This is not the priesthood of 6000 years.

I could go on but I waste time on a zero sum brain who cannot grasp any of what I just typed.

Alfred Differ said...

@Occam's comic | Taken from Greer's post... The gospel that Brin preaches, the grand myth of humanity’s destiny out there among the stars, had its origin in pulp magazines that were considered the last word in lowbrow reading when they first saw print;...

Ha! I have to wonder why my mother, a woman very interested in having children who surpassed her on many levels, pushed me to read that pulp. She only met with partial success in getting me to read science fiction at an early age, but she loved it and tried to teach each of us that love. Heh. Lowbrow. She would probably be amused at that and tell of the dangers of pissing off street kids.

Greer accuses us of a secular belief in progress and has one of his own regarding the rise and fall of civilizations. Hmpf. I'm very unimpressed. Believers seem to see belief systems everywhere.

As for Jung… well… holding to the archetype idea too closely has its problems. It is an interesting perspective devoid of opportunities to falsify anything.

LarryHart said...

Carl M:

Compare his "reasoning" comparing FDR with Reagan. Prosperity happened after the Roosevelt years, therefore he caused it and if he hadn't done what he did, the Depression would have never ended.


Not that it never would have ended, but it might have ended like 1789 France.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Let me now swerve and say that CarlM has a point that gerrymandered districts may present an opportunity! Especially since the democrats in such districts might surge to a LP candidate, if he were smart enough to say “I believe in science.”


I'm still missing something. If a gerrymandered district doesn't have enough Democrats to elect a Democrat, how will they elect a third party candidate instead? Are some of the Republican voters supposed to vote for the third party at the same time? I suppose that might work in some outlier cases, but if FOX isn't on board, Republicans aren't going to abandon Republican politicians in any serious way. If they were, we'd have President Gary Johnson this time around.

Jumper said...

That Greer fellow stole my idea. I invited this blog to poke fun at out own hard-to-believe myths of the future. Of course I believe that while todays' fancies may prove out as silly as the thought of actually discovering Brobdingnag or Lilliputia if we sail far enough, nevertheless I think the future holds amazing tales and astounding adventures of a type we cannot imagine.

I also, however, think Greer's failure to see how cherry-picked and rigged the case for cyclical history and its book of the moment The Fourth Turning. Greer's complaint is pretty weak: merely because such theories have been around for a while means nothing as proof of them. Still sounds precious and sophomoric to me.

On the issue of our host's rather screechy demeanor of late, I must concur. I can assure you I feel like screeching, or rather full-throated screaming, pretty much 24-7 these days, but I am pretty sure it's of limited effectiveness. Make that "very sure."

As far as shouting "treason" I have the exact same view of what's going on today. I suspect a more sober demeanor would more effectively convey the gravity of it.

And another matter: your proof reading, David, makes me want to screech! Shall I? Nah, it won't help.

David Brin said...

If any of you do go to Greer's site (I won't (yawn) bother and post what I wrote above about his screed... you can add:

---

The thing about the New Feudalists and the Cyclical History Cult is that their prescription is so stunningly boring. Oh, sure, human nature suggests that our brief enlightenment experiment (BEE) could at any point get crushed by some cabal of cheaters, as happened in 99.99% of other human cultures. An attempted oligarchic putsch is happening as we speak. The pyramid-shaped feudal structure is a huge attractor state. We all have fantasies of being Top Dog, because we're all descended from the harems of guys who pulled that off. Naturally, billionaires are conspiring with would be theocrats and foreign despots to bring it about.

Put aside all that our BEE has accomplished -- several orders of magnitude more, in every admirable kind of metric or endeavor, than *all* other human societies across 6000 years... *combined.* More knowledge, skill, prosperity, fairness, curiosity, art, intellect, vigor and fun(!) than all of them, yes, combined.

And put aside the plain fact that our openness and transparency helped us to avoid a vast panoply of mistakes, land mines and disasters that normally tripped up the dismal, stupid, lobotomized and catastrophically dumb kings and lords and priesthoods who preceded us. (Just look at the scatalogically horrendous-stinky litany of doofusness that is called "human history." Read Jared Diamond's COLLAPSE.)

Put aside the dismal record of imbecillic "cyclical" cultists like Oswald Spengler (1920's "The Decline of the West" har!) or the wretchedly opposite to fact Tytler Calumny: see http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-tytler-insult-is-democracy-hopeless.html )

Put all that aside. And let's suppose that the cyclical cultists and anti-science ragers and neofeudalists are right this time. Our brief renaissance will topple, as Periclean Athens did, and millennia of stupid oligarchy will resume. It could happen, though millions of us -- and dig it, the smartest humans alive, all of us -- will fight to the death. And our tech-savvy survivors will teach any New Oligarch oppressors the meaning of resistance. But sure, it could happen. The odds have always been against human maturity.

But look at you twits! You yearn for... what? A return to... THAT? To not just the oppression, the waste of human talent, the insipidity... but the utter and stunning *boredom& or that way of life? Seriously? None of them had science OR SCIENCE FICTION, you morons.

Oh, yeah, sure. You think one thing will make up for that. In a world of dog-eat-dog feudalism you envision that the boredom will be worth it, because YOU will be top dawgs, with harems. Oh lordy, go look in a mirror! If you don't wind up as some Holnist's bitch, then the only word for you dreamy feudalism yearners is... kibble.

---

heh. I need to give this a rest. But I had the will power not to go there in person. There's hope for me ;-)

Carl M. said...

Regarding the repeated feudalism charge: the system that the anarcho-capitalists advocates most resembles PRE-feudal England; that is, England before William the Conqueror. Then, the aristocrats sold protection services. They competed for clients. Peasants were not bound to thanes.

I learned of this system not in any libertarian work, by the way. I learned of it reading Winston Churchill's "History of the English Speaking Peoples." Churchill did not celebrate the old Saxon system, by the way. He celebrated William bringing England into the Continental fold, vs. the Scandinavian fold.

And he downplayed the ugly details of what William and his knights did to suppress the Saxons after defeating the Saxon upper classes. (The commoners fared poorly.)

----

As for Noblemen's Rights, do look up what King John did in the years after signing the Magna Carta. It wasn't pretty.

Kal Kallevig said...

I gave up reading John Michael Greer's blog a few years back, the gloom and doom was just too much. But from what I recall, he was not celebrating the dystopia so much as despairing over the alternatives he could see.

While I agree with most of what Dr. Brin has to say and much prefer his optimism to the doom and gloom found elsewhere, I am bothered by the nearly complete ignoring of the physical limits of the earth that I see here.

It is a finite world, perpetual growth is as ridiculous as perpetual motion. One who approaches the problem with very little optimism is Jack Alpert: http://www.skil.org/. A less extreme approach might be found in an article I read earlier today: http://evonomics.com/myth-prosperity-generating-free-market-dispelled-time-new-new-deal/

I think we could design a way out of the current issues, but probably not without a lot of degrowth. And it is hard to see that happening short of total collapse. Our world runs on a form of energy that is destroying our world.

LarryHart said...

Jumper:

On the issue of our host's rather screechy demeanor of late, I must concur. I can assure you I feel like screeching, or rather full-throated screaming, pretty much 24-7 these days, but I am pretty sure it's of limited effectiveness. Make that "very sure."


It sure works for the Republicans, though.

Jonathan Sills said...

"One of the last issues of Cerebus was a pseudo-religious text which attempted to demonstrate that we are all like particles, and our entanglements with each other end up causing us to get crushed by gravity into the center of the earth or maybe even into the sun. The goal as proposed by Dave was to remain free from entanglements and go into the afterlife as a neutrino which is free to travel throughout the universe without touching or being touched by anything."

I thought you said he was trying to avoid Hell? Because that existence sounds pretty Hellish to me.

Kal, you (surprisingly for someone reading this blog) ignore the fact that the limitations of this one Earth are not necessarily the limits humanity must face. After all, there are a lot of resources Out There - we don't have to stay stuck crawling across the surface of this one ball of dirt and water. Living in free space, or beneath the surface of Mars or the Moon, or inside an asteroid, would not be simple or easy to commence - but "not easy" =/= "impossible".

And even before that, we're pretty good at making the resources on this planet stretch. Of course, that process works best in high-tech areas...

David Brin said...

“Regarding the repeated feudalism charge: the system that the anarcho-capitalists advocates most resembles PRE-feudal England; that is, England before William the Conqueror. Then, the aristocrats sold protection services. They competed for clients. Peasants were not bound to thanes.”

Bah, Carl, all you have is nit pickery. Are you saying ownership and estates and power and unfair advantage weren’t passed from father to son? Or are you proclaiming “feudalism wasn’t pervasive, because I’ll fixate on a nit-picked formal definition of “feudalism!””

Feh! YOU give us a name for what happened in 99.9% of societies that got agriculture… and most of the others. Tough males repressing competitors and grabbing the women and the property and making sure their sons would start out with vast, unearned advantages. Cabals of cheaters who made sure that Markets, Science, Politics, Courts etc. were warped in their favor…

…in other words, the plantation lords for whom libertarianism (as it now stands) has become a lickspittle servant?

You pick a name for that. Then finally, finally answer my question about why today’s wholly bought version of libertarianism ignores all that, instead chanting exactly what the lords want to hear.

reason said...

David,
or to put it another way, his justification of anarcho-capitalism is that it is more like the mafia than noblesse oblige. So he is planning to move to Russia?

Marino said...

dear dr. Brin,
if you want to wake some Randroids from their "dogmatic sleep" (like another David, Hume, did to Kant) may I suggest you a prank? Skim thru' Lenin's State and the Revolution, there are enough scathing indictments of the evil oppressive state to make any Libertarian all warm and fuzzy, then shout "It was Vladimir frickin' Lenin, you twits..." :-)

And, given we're speaking about Enlightenment, there is a nice issue with the history of the word "socialist"*. It appeared for the first time in Latin, in a book by a Dominican preacher in the 1740s, here in Italy. He minted the term to label those impious heretics who dare to assume that men were sociable and could arrange their own government without religious sanction, using just reason. His target was the Enlightenment in Italy, but the label applies perfectly also to Scottish Enlightenment, so technically speaking you could state that Adam Smith was "socialist". And then look at the faces of your listeners...

*the history has been explained in full by our major historian of Enlightenment, Franco Venturi https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco_Venturi, somewhere in his The End of the Old Regime in Europe, 1768-1776


Marino said...

"Regarding the repeated feudalism charge: the system that the anarcho-capitalists advocates most resembles PRE-feudal England; that is, England before William the Conqueror. Then, the aristocrats sold protection services. They competed for clients. Peasants were not bound to thanes"

you know I've often nitpicked with use of "feudalism", as it applies imho only to Carolingian Europe and maybe Japan, but there are a lot of low surplus/high coercion societal systems while not being truly feudal, are nasty enough for the common folk to live in.
Usually "selling protection service" means that someone else is threatening the recipients of the offer, or that the wannabe sellers also threaten themselves the perspective clients about using violence against them. ("Nice shop you got there, pity if something bad happens to it", common request for protection in Sicily and elsewhere... ) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pizzo_(extortion)

Now, really could such a system be useful to an high-tech civ with high levels of personal freedom? To me it seems a fallback to personal bonds of fealty (see Niven's Oath of fealthy..) and I'd leave Libertarian utopias in the pages of Neil Smith and Vernor Vinge, where thya are amusing to read and hurt no one... :-)

Marino said...

last and final: a guy who posts on a US politics/current affairs list gave the news of McCain having brain cancer dubbing him McLame.:
[LidlessEye] McLame has brain cancer

I think it's an object lesson about how Trump supporters see decent, reasonable conservatives and moderate Republicans.
Well, we walked that walk first under Berlusconi, and now with mr. Grillo so we're accustomed.
Now, try to imagine all those barren childless EU leaders like Merkel, Macron or Gentiloni using that language against their opponents...(in this case, not even "opponents", the guy I quoted is a GOP voter)

David Brin said...

Marino, then you too. I ask that you and Carl and all the others who nitpick over the definition of feudalism provide another word that stands for pyramidal, hierarchical societies that quashed competition by ensuring that the sons of the owner caste would be inherently advantaged by inherited lordship imposed by sword, tradition and religion.

Give us a name, so we can force nitpickers to admit that the crushing of competition by owner-oligarchs was THE great enemy of enterprise and freedom across 99.99% of 6000 years.

The enemy directly denounced by Adam Smith.

The enemy that the American founders rebelled against.

The real foes of the real-actual tea party.

The must also be a word for how desperately they writhe and squirm to avoid facing this, the most blatant fact of all human history.

David Brin said...

DT's sick disparagement of McCain ("I like guys who aren't captured) should have been one of a thousand statements that disqualified him. But they were features, not bugs! BECAUSE they offended America's grownups.

Marino said...

dr. Brin,
ancient temple/palace civilizations like Fertile Crescent or Egypt weren't feudal, and not a nice place to live...
slave societies weren't feudal, and they were even worse: serfs had some limited rights, slaves were commodities.
Asian bureaucracies a.ka. Wittfogel's hydraulic despotism ("they had two ministries: finance, for internal plunder, and war, for foreign plunder", good ol' Karl wrote) weren't feudal, but would you choose between being a serf in Europe or a peasant in China? a choice between bad and worse.And so on. Overall, I'd prefer a generic "high coercion/low surplus societies". At least in theory feudalism proper involved bilateral obligations and mutual "advice and consent", the Magna Charta came from that background. It was more democratic than God King autocracies, allowed some embryonic rule of law, the development of towns, ("bourgesie", those who live in the town). It even gave us the way we think about love...

I understand why you use it, and in which meaning. "Oligarchy & exploitation" would be better. But as long it's a blog on politics and not Medieval History 101, you're aquitted :-)

George Carty said...

What about calling our enemy "hereditary oligarchy"?

Tim H. said...

George Carty, that makes it sound vile & incestuous, Good Work!

J.L.Mc said...

Hi everyone, I just want everyone to know how grateful I am that I shall not be controlled by Christian dominionists or even the Russians, for I have special virtues that make me resistant to their dickeries.

Carl M. said...

I suppose you think the difference between slavery and tenant farming was a mere nit pick as well.

Today we pay for protection services from insurance companies and lawyers...as well as from several layers of government.

The key word is Shop. Similar words are Choose and Quit.

(From a libertarian perspective, the societies in your recent books -- look rather medieval. Recall that the first socialists were looking backwards. The Middle Ages that most people remember was a society of guilds and mutual obligations. Many economic ties were akin to marriage. Benefits, lifetime employment, welfare programs...these too were part of the system.)

For those who despise methodological individualism, how about we go ALL the way back to the natural state of humans. Our hard wiring is for societies with both communal and libertarian elements. This article nails it:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201304/the-most-basic-freedom-is-freedom-quit

It is an impossible ideal in our heavily populated world, but it is worth dreaming of approximations -- while being careful not to overoptimize on a subset of the aspects.

LarryHart said...

J.L.Mc:

I just want everyone to know how grateful I am that I shall not be controlled by Christian dominionists or even the Russians, for I have special virtues that make me resistant to their dickeries.


I presume there's a bit of sarcasm there, but I've actually wondered the same thing--what possible advertisements or fake news could anyone send me which would make me vote Republican, or even vote in a manner that helps a Republican to win. I realize that Commissioner Gordon had his "Like so many others, I'm afraid I've...lost faith in the Dynamic Duo" moment, but I didn't believe it then either.

LarryHart said...

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

Angry conservatives are threatening to primary opponents of the health-care bill, but they have the same problem Trump does: None of the three women are up in 2018. They could primary two senators who are up in 2018, Heller and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), but an unsuccessful primary campaign will only convince the senator that he doesn't need the conservatives and a successful one will create an open seat in the general election race, thereby giving up the Republicans' biggest advantage: incumbency. Besides, both Heller and Flake know very well that moving to the right will only make their general election efforts much more difficult.


That last sentence is indeed what has me scratching my head. The only reason Republican senators are not voting for this thing in the first place is because heat is being put on them by their constituents not to. How is a threat of "If you don't repeal the ACA, we'll challenge you with someone who will!" supposed to work when the constituents who would vote in the primary are clearly against repealing the ACA? If the idea is that only hard right-wingers vote in primaries, well then the party is threatening to nominate someone who will likely lose in the general.

Jumper said...

Something rotten always smells from under the door of the reactionaries who have removed themselves from the Catholic church in protest of lost strictness and liberal encroachments. Bannon, blogger Greer, et al.

Here is Philip Glass's music to accompany a movie about Yukio Mishima, who, if you don't know, attempted an ultra-right coup in Japan a while back, (he had the fine medieval values of a poet, wrote 34 novels, about 50 plays, about 25 books of short stories, and at least 35 books of essays) and committed honorable seppuku upon its failure..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXf77yY8qVg&list=PLdbQSpw5EkxDUVaFRtpmVaOklKX5h2BpK&index=5

David Brin said...

Aw man. I never expected to see Carl M drift into romantic nostalgia and making excuses for the grinding, oppressive, freedom-limiting and creativity crushing and competition-quashing regimes that nearly all of ou ancestors endured. But there he is, quibbling and nitpicking and squirming to escape that fundamental question…

…that I’ll repeat over and over and over. Sir. Did not nearly all past societies see flat-open-fair competition and markets and freedom suppressed by inherited oligarchies who used force and ownership and religion to ensure that their sons would have unfair and unearned advantage over others? And weren’t those 99%+ of societies far more freedom and competition-repressed than Sweden or the U.S. under their “horrible” civil servants? In fact, didn’t Adam Smith recommend civil servants as counterbalance to the oligarchs whom he deemed to be the worst repressors and cheaters of markets? And wasn’t oligarchy the enemy of the American Founders?

Repeating doesn’t work with these guys. Alas, they squirrel and distract. But here’s that repetition, anyway.

Did not nearly all past societies see flat-open-fair competition and markets and freedom suppressed by inherited oligarchies who used force and ownership and religion to ensure that their sons would have unfair and unearned advantage over others? And weren’t those 99%+ of societies far more freedom and competition-repressed than Sweden or the U.S. under their “horrible” civil servants? In fact, didn’t Adam Smith recommend civil servants as counterbalance to the oligarchs whom he deemed to be the worst repressors and cheaters of markets? And wasn’t oligarchy the enemy of the American Founders?

Carl M. said...

There is a reason why libertarians tend to be more sympathetic to conservatives. Conservative intellectuals tend to be less quick to knee jerk in the presence of libertarian ideas. (Actually, many of the radical progressives are also more open minded. The crowd at opednews.com is far more friendly than the crowd at dailykos or New York Times. And I got a generally better reception for my ideas at one of Jim Hightower's Rolling Thunder events than I get here.)

Did I accuse you of wanting to revive the Byzantine Empire, or adopt a Chinese imperial style of government? They had civil servants too.

I referred back to pre-feudal England, because that is one of the last examples of competitive government in the [semi] civilized world.

And no, I am not advocating such a system. I said libertarians are. I am a postlibertarian, if anything. These days I'm pushing for radical federalism and range voting to make government better approximate the will of the people.

Shane Mallatt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Brin said...

Carl there is a reason why libertarians tend to be more sympathetic to conservatives. Conservative intellectuals tend to pander much more and soothe "yes, yes, your enemies are MY enemies, and hence (here's a nice dinner) MY enemies should be YOUR enemies! (Here's a nice Cato grant.)"

I am not "kneejerk" in the face of libertarian ideas. I am among the only ones reminding you guys of your CORE idea! That COMPETITION is the central and most powerful concept and the most creative force in the universe.

Carl... that C-Word is almost never, ever mentioned amid today's Rothbard-Rand-Koch-Cato maelstrom. It is all propertarianism and hate-all-government-all-the-time-no-matter-what.

The right also hates on science and every other fact-user profession, but they know libertarians won't follow them down that rat hole, so they emphasize hate-all-government-all-the-time-no-matter-what. Yep. Hate on the oligarchs' chief rivals. Crush em! So that the oligarchs will have nothing standing in their way.

If COMPETITION were revived as the core Libertarian idea (along with its partner freedom) then you guys would realize:

- 6000 years prove that oligarchs are the LAST folks you should ally with. They have always always always crushed competition.

- Liberals can be negotiated with and about half of what they do increases freedom and competition, which flourish when they are in charge. The other half can be fought or negotiated as adults since most of them want the same goal.

- Rightists do nothing for freedom and competition EVER!

Oh, but they pander to some LP buzz words! Oh! I am shot down. You're right. The oligarchs are so, so libertarian.

===

I am still waiting for you to even nod toward the central fact of 6000 years.

Shane Mallatt said...

I checked out the ecosophia blog and comment section and found it amusing. Part of me wanted to comment and point out the irony/absurdity of using an online blog to complain about the evils of science and technology, but I figured that trying to start a nerd version of the Biggie/Tupac fued would be rather silly.

David Brin said...

onward

onward

J.L.Mc said...

Larryhart, my special virtues are that I'm australian and I don't use social media much.

Mr. Driscoll said...

Dr. Brin, I enjoy this blog and hope you continue it.I am interested in your position on the officer corps being the salvation of our form of government. Although I have respect for most of the senior staff there are exceptions; William Boykin and Michael Flynn come to mind. I am also concerned with the evangelical networking in the USAF that started at the Air Force academy years ago. The senior staff may have a sense of honor and duty but their beliefs may not coincide with yours. As to lower ranking officers I would point out that Tom Cotton and Mike Coffman have not shown any spine regarding the present administration. As I was only an enlisted man (USN) my experience was with the junior officer class some of whose qualifications appeared to only be a BA from any school that can award one. Some of them were dumber than a box of rocks but when passed over they left and some, help us, got into politics.

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koi seo said...

Regarding the repeated feudalism charge: the system that the anarcho-capitalists advocates most resembles PRE-feudal England; that is, England before William the Conqueror. Then, the aristocrats sold protection services. They competed for clients. Peasants were not bound to thanes.

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