Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Bet on it! The "Name an Exception" challenge and other tactics for your crazy uncle

== Betting on the Future ==

I'm not much of a gambling man. But in this posting I'll argue that we need to become a wagering nation. Mired in an era when fact-users are public enemies and outraged subjectivities rule, our best way out may be to get a little macho and demand "Let's put money on that!"

No, don't feed me obsolete clich├ęs. Our current political and psychic divides aren't classic "left-vs-right." Not when all metrics of market enterprise do better across the span of Democratic administrations. Not when very few leaders of innovative, product and service oriented companies are Republicans.

No, our cultural divide is whether you admire or despise the fact-centered professions that are so important to civilized life, yet relentlessly hated-on by certain media. From scientists, teachers and journalists to doctors, civil servants, law professionals, the FBI.... This explains why fundamentalist preachers adore Donald Trump, the most opposite-to-Jesus figure you can imagine.  Because he galls and infuriates the same people they despise.

Put aside distractions. Sure, racism is real and deadly! So are sexism, eco-spoilage and oligarchic ripoffs. Yet none of them compare in importance with the war on fact, because it means we can't use true evidence to refute horrid lies. Not when any fact-checking service is swiftly denounced as partisan. 

There are ways to defeat idiocracy-lobotomization.

First, consider: your raving uncle will still admit the primacy of fact when it's about a bet. Folks in the Red Base take sporting wagers seriously, especially with money on the table!

Oh, but you must put your challenge carefully. When Mitt Romney, in 2012, challenged Rick Perry to bet $10,000 on a fact-check, it looked like a rich man's bullying tactic. Much better might have been "one percent of my income will go to your charity, if I lose, and one percent of yours will go to a charity of my choosing, if I'm right." 

Figuring how to parse such challenges should be explored by some liberal-moderate think tank or NGO, finding what works even on conservative focus groups, where they admit: "My guy looks like a coward if he refuses."

== The Core Challenge ==

In the most general sense, we need to make one matter paramount, since all others will then fall out: 

"Are you willing to help set up a fact-checking service that conservatives would accept as nonpartisan? 

No other challenge makes them squirm and seek exits from the room, as surely as that one.  Block the exits.

"Is there any combination of conservative sages you'd put forward, to help us out of the quagmire of lies? Sages that your opponents would (perhaps grudgingly) admit are genuine grownups? 

"Sandra Day O'Conner? George Schultz? James Baker? Elizabeth Dole? Dick Thornburgh? Arnold Schwarznegger? The CEOs of GE or GM? How about David Petreus and some other retired generals and admirals? 

"And might YOU accept Warren Buffet or Bill Gates on the other side? Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos? Moderate liberals who absolutely want capitalism to work?

"If such a commission of grownup sages oversaw a new, fact-checking service (or two or five competing ones, so we aren't setting up a Ministry of Truth), would you then agree to notice when they say "the evidence says that's not true"?

Okay, then here's where the challenge bites, hard.

"And if you cannot name such conservative sages who you'd trust... if you refuse to offer ANY suggestions how our nation and civilization can check on facts... what does that say about you and your movement?"

Before you object: "they'll just shrug this off!" consider. We are in a ground game of yards and downs. Cornering them in this way could provide the last straw for a million residually sane Republicans to wake up and see what's happened to hijacked American Conservatism.  A million here, a million there... and Sane America will defeat the Confederacy, yet again.

Let's be plain: challenging today's right over the matter of fact-checking services is not peripheral to our political struggles.  It is central. It is the only central thing. Win this, and the ciivil war is over. Lose or ignore this -- and you prove the dismal stupidity of our own side.

== Specifics. Cornering them hard: the Name an Exception Challenge! ==

Try to grasp the Fox tactic.  When we trot forth a myriad facts, the alt-right cult deflects with anecdotes and assertions. Their audience cannot tell the difference between a particular anecdote and a generality. (Example: because a few Berkeley protesters behave stupidly, it means "all liberals are like that.")

So I’ve got a better approach. Find something so pervasive and general that it cannot be answered, even with a single anecdote! Defy them to NAME AN EXCEPTION!

Ponder this: If I make a specific accusation, then the burden of proof is on me. But when I challenge you to disprove a general accusation, well, that should be easy for you to do, by finding one exception

If I claim the Harlem Globetrotters always beat the Washington Generals, you can refute with the 1971 upset in Tennessee. In which case I must retreat from always to most of the time. 

But if I claim the 1972 Miami Dolphins won all their games in regular season play, then you must find an exception... even one... or admit that they were the best team, that year. More generally, your failure to find even one exception gives me the upper hand.  It proves the generality (at least contingently) by default.

No, for the following name-one-exception challenges, the burden of proof is on conservatives to show how these six general accusations have any exceptions. Any at all! Even one will do -- at least to stymie the always generalization. Just one.

One exception should be easy! And if you fail, then they are true. 

And if they are true, then your movement is not a political party, it is a dangerously insane and incompetent cult.

1-  Name one profession of high knowledge and skill that’s not under attack by Fox/Trump & cohorts? Teachers, medical doctors, journalists, civil servants, law professionals, economists, skilled labor, professors… oh, yes and science. 

Thirty years ago, 40% of US scientists called themselves Republican, now it is 3% and plummeting. They are voting with their feet, the smartest, wisest, most logical and by far the most competitive humans our species ever produced. 

See Mistrust of Science in The New Yorker.

And now?  Add to that list the U.S. military and intelligence officer corps and the FBI! All are now "deep state" enemies of the right. Oh, yes, this is not your daddy's conservatism, when your screeches of hate are directed at every fact-profession... and every fact-checking service is automatically "politically biased" because they keep finding your side "pants on fire" crazy. 

(As it happens, I know two professions of folks who know  a lot and aren't being warred upon. But I won't tell you. And even if alt-righters cite them, it won't help their cause a bit.)

2- Name a major metric of U.S. national health that did better across the spans of either Bush administration than across the spans of the Clinton and Obama admins.  

You cannot. Nearly all such metrics declined - many plummeting - across both Bush regimes.  Nearly all rose, many of them by a lot, across both DP terms. The record of almost perfect mal-governance would make any sane or scientific-minded person flee the GOP screaming and never trust them again.

Clinton & Obama scored better in every category, including every sane conservative desire, like rate of change of deficits and military readiness. Quibbling-wriggling-squirming will not change that.  And Clinton-Obama would have done even better were they not sabotaged 3/4 of the time by the laziest and nastiest Congresses in U.S. history.

3- Name one top GOP leader between Reagan and Ryan who was even mentioned at the 2016 Republican Convention. 

Well, except for Newt. Otherwise, all were brushed under the rug, including both Bushes, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Dennis (friend to boys) Hastert, Tom (convicted felon) DeLay, Boehner....  In fact, name a top republican between EISENHOWER and Ryan who was even mentioned by the party at the RNC, other than Reagan and Newt! This shows how writhing ashamed Republicans are, of their record at governance.  How desperate they are, to double down on the insanity with new heroes, shouting "squirrel!" and pointing offstage at ever-greater hallucinations, rather than face the fact that their side governs very, very badly.

Next comes a simple -- though tragically hilarious one.

4- Name one of the dark fantasies about Obama, from black UN helicopters to taking away all our guns, that happened or was even tepidly tried. 

(If you claim there were such attempted tyrannies, be prepared to put money on it. Real money, with conspiracy theories bearing burden-of-proof. Cash. Held and judged by reuptable grownups.)

5- Name one time when Supply Side (Voodoo) "Economics" made a successful major prediction?  

One time? Ever? One time when slashing taxes on the rich led to reduced deficits and to vastly stimulated economic activity, or even much investment in "supply" capital? Once. One time when this cult religion unambiguously delivered? Ever? At all?

(Every single time we turned away from the Greatest Generation's Rooseveltean social contract with gusher gifts to the rich, the lucre was not invested in productive capacity or R&D. The results (as predicted by Adam Smith) were slower growth, rising deficits, skyrocketing wealth disparities and declining research/ROI horizons and productivity.)

6- Name one other time in American — or human — history, when an administration spanning 8 years had zero scandals or indictments concerning malfeasance in the performance of official duties.  It has happened twice in American — or human — history. The administrations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.  Name a GOP example.

I can name one more, though it was a 4-year. Jimmy Carter's tenure. On the other side? They can’t. In fact, scandals, indictments, convictions and pardons were rife across the Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush Sr. and Bush administrations... and now...?

Watch. Those who do try to answer these challenges will offer quibbles, minutia, or else squawl "squirrel!” and point offstage at some assertion or distraction, concocting scenarios and excuses to explain why they cannot answer any of these… or dozens of other… challenges. And remember, even if an exception is found, all that means is that the generality shifts from always to almost always.   (It takes a lot of counter examples -- and statistics -- to shift from almost always to merely sometimes.)

Others are invited to offer more "name an exception" challenges below, under Comments.

Only dig it. If any one of these broad generalities stand, unanswered, just that one -- even all by itself -- will mean their side cannot be trusted with a burnt match. 

= Why should such wagers be necessary, in arguments between adults and fellow citizens? =

George Lakoff goes into the “Strong Father” explanation for confederatism — the version of American conservatism that has utterly replaced and expunged all others, from libertarian to entrepreneurial to scientific. Lakoff - who predicted that Hillary Clinton’s campaign would fail - explains how deep, inner assumption sets compel Red Americans toward thought patterns that are fundamentally different than their Blue America neighbors.

You must read and understand Lakoff’s explanation! Though there is more that he leaves out. For example take the one reflex that all Americans share — Suspicion of Authority (SoA) — which is pushed in every Hollywood message myth we imbibed, when young.  In some films, the dire authority figure is a government agency, or else a corporation, or an aristocrat… or aliens or a badgering mother-in-law. If we were calm and reasonable, we’d admit that oppression could come from any and all directions…

…and that very reasonableness — willingness to negotiate and see other points of view — has been the real target of right wing propaganda. Fox and its shock-radio pals have utilized, exploited and twisted SoA, so that confederates (a more accurate term than “Red Americans” or “conservatives) aim outrage and ire at every single fact-using profession, from science and journalism to civil servants and… now… the FBI, Intelligence Agencies and the United States Military Officer Corps. 

Why? Why would the number one aim of Fox etc be to get 40% of voters to hate smart people, who know stuff?

By itself, Lakoff’s diagnosis cannot explain all this, since these expert castes could easily be viewed as “strong parents” — authoritative and easily classified as superior. When injured, a confederate will run to a medical doctor. When abused by some local injustice, he will call an attorney or a newspaper. The propaganda that has whipped these folks into hating all smartypants types had to be pervasive and relentless, across a whole generation…

… and the ground had to be very well prepared, in order to start attacking the last exempt groups.  But that time has come. Military officers and intel agencies and the FBI are now all part of a “deep state” conspiracy, along with every civil servant. Yes, in other words, all of the expert castes who might question or resist full takeover by an oligarchic putsch.  A return to feudalism that was always the confederate goal, in every past phase of the American Civil War.

Again, a terrific article about “weaponized propaganda” can be found at the Scout site. 

We need to solve this thing, before it kills us. And it's time to get macho in their faces. Not with "antifa" screeches and hysteria and violence, but with a simple challenge they cannot squirm away from.

"Come on Big Mouth. Put real money on it."


Tim H. said...

Some of those are dense enough to claim Robert E. Lee wasn't a slave owner, without wondering how he could own Arlington plantation and not own slaves, not much hope for them but perhaps for those not so far gone losing a wager might help.

Unknown said...

I've been posting way too much, I'm afraid, so skip my posts if they've "become tiresome" (in the immortal words of Dieter on SNL.)

I've been pondering the "Name an Exception" challenge, David. I think it's a great way to win an argument and win some money for charity, but this is Sumo not Judo. It's zero-sum, "I win, you lose!" I can't see it causing a sea change in hearts and minds. There may be a few confederates who see their heroes shot down in flames who change their minds, but most would invent some sort of cheating to explain the loss, or slightly modify their views to avoid cognitive dissonance. I think there needs to be an escape route, a familiar corridor for the loser to head to that is exactly what we want (and they desire).

They need to have a path to, say Reagan conservatism, to start with where they can feel safe for awhile before they are confronted and have to retreat to something more radical like FDR and the new deal. This needs to be a staged approach, I think.

The reason I say this, is because it's exactly the approach that made me move from pretty traditional Christianity and political conservatism to my current very liberal agnosticism/still open to spirituality etc, etc. The direct approach was totally blocked by me when I wasn't ready for it.

So, baby steps on the part of the loser "Crazy Uncles" is what we should shoot for. Oh, and we need to have a great big carrot ready in the form of monopoly busting. We need to make people realize that it is not only the price the end consumer pays that is important, but also the leverage a monopoly has in getting suppliers to drop their prices for the monopoly itself,'s a frickin' monopoly and there's no where else to sell! (I forget the technical name of that aspect of monopolies. I read it just the other day but it's gone...) This needs to be the drumbeat of the democratic party. We fight monopolies! We fight monopolies! We fight monopolies! We fight monopolies! We fight monopolies!

By the way, any economists here who can tell us how to "fight monopolies" without crashing the system? It's definitely different than in the Teddy Roosevelt day when a monopoly was uni-national. How would we approach this through legislature and judicial means that would allow the competition our host (and I) value without causing a meltdown?

Alfred Differ said...

Got any particular monopolies you want to fight? Also... why?

The usual way they go down nowadays is from competition from an unexpected direction. Anyone sent first class snail mail lately? Why not? How about package delivery? Got any choices that I didn't have when I was a kid? 8)

Unknown said...

Alfred Differ said:

Got any particular monopolies you want to fight? Also... why?

Yep, after reading about the fate of modern farmers and ranchers (see Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma--review two threads back but I can copy it if you wish) my first target would be the Big Ag companies. Monsanto, ADM, Cargill and the meat packing companies as well as (and in the case of the meat companies) This priority is as much political and strategic as due to the harm these companies do. Fighting these particular monopolies could open up the red states to become blue. They really are on the edge and could easily go blue if the right reasons were presented and identity politics was toned down in those areas. David's Big Tent applies here.

Many of the Federal regulations for the meat packing companies were enacted after Upton Sinclair's The Jungle was published. Unfortunately, I suspect that concentration of meat processing is due to the need for capital to comply with those regulation that only a very large corporation can afford.

The concentration of organic material in a single focus that we see in a huge meat-packing facility, enables the spread of disease such as O157:H7 etc . The measures taken to prevent disease (based on early 20th century findings,) are actually enabling its spread. Concentration seems to be anathema in biologic systems as far as health of the species goes. (See antibiotics for cattle in feedlots and for confined chickens)

Other monopolies to look at would be Amazon and Walmart. Google perhaps. Reducing the power of these corporations may be more important than reducing that of Big Ag in the long run and their power makes them formidable, but success against other targets, and getting confederates onboard, may make this doable, I think.

I'm thinking very much in the mode of "If I was king of the world", here. And, as the king, I really would appreciate the thoughts of far more knowledgable and intelligent economists (or proxy thereof) regarding the ramifications of these actions and how best to accomplish them. ;)

Janus Daniels said...

I agree with Steven Hammond.
The challenges depend on Republican voters accepting facts and logic. They don't. If voters accept facts and logic, they do not vote Republican.
Where did Lakoff ever say that you could get Republicans to agree by proving that they were wrong? The world proves Republicans wrong every day. They stay Republican.
You have to meet Republican voters face to face, share food with them, sympathize with them, let them talk to you. You don't have to pretend to believe them. You can tell them, "I don't know about that, I really want to understand your feelings, and what you have to say."
Republican voters are like bullies' ever returning girlfriends. They believe what they're told; they believe the abuse proves that they are loved and valued. They can't give up their imaginary relationships until after we've give them healthy relationships, and proven those are real.
Maybe not even then, but we have to try.
Then, most gently issued, the challenges can start working.
I've use many of your challenges, for years. Before that, I invented a couple myself. I thought that Executive approved torture could persuade Republican voters the error of their votes. Wrong. Then I started asking, "Name a single successful Republican policy." Later I started using your many & more precise challenges. I never got a Republican to answer. I never changed a vote.
To be fair, I live in Utah. Anywhere else, I might have better luck.
Winning arguments does not persuade anyone. At least...
Winning arguments does not persuade anyone who needs persuasion.
Given time, people persuaded by facts and reason correct themselves. We need to persuade the rest of us to think for themselves. We need to persuade people who already led ever farther into delusion.
Wow! I just failed my own prescription. I just wrote hundreds of words that violate what those words said. :D Duh. "Don't tell. Show."

David Brin said...

Janus, glad you came here. But you still miss the point. Which is that their tightly clung macho bluster has a weakness, when confronted with a cowardly unwillingness to bet.

In any event, victory depends on peeling away just ten million residually sane American conservatives. Trump himself is repelling many. But others cling to "both sides are terrible!"

That false equivalence can be shattered with facts... but first we must have an ABILITY to appeal to facts! The most important challenge in my posting is not the 6 "name an exceptions," but the one that came before them. Please read it again.

Paul451 said...

"First, consider: your raving uncle will still admit the primacy of fact when it's about a bet."

Not when it comes to judging the outcome.

Speaking from experience, I already found it was virtually impossible to get even the loudest mouths, even when they made a clear demonstrable prediction, even when they used the words "I bet...", to accept any actual wager. There was always an excuse. And they wouldn't experience any shame in the fact, nor any hesitancy before pronouncing further. The more I pushed the point, the more I was being "obsessed" with the subject.

But now, with the whole "fake news" bubble, they have no reason to ever except any source of evidence, and will use that as an excuse for not betting.

It just doesn't work.

And frankly, I suspect that if it did work, if we had a common enough frame of reference, a common enough reality that we could bet, we wouldn't need to.

Justin said...

The zeroth challenge is the only one that matters. For the rest, as others have pointed out, they just don't work. There are a lot of facts to choose from now and people who, ten years ago would have been embarrassed to point to a conspiracy site as proof now don't even blink. If you push back on quality of sources, I've noticed a shift recently where they get condescending. There's outright pity that you believe the lies of the mainstream media.

But, if we can get some agreement on facts, the rest of it all falls into place.

George Carty said...

Steven Hammond: We need to make people realize that it is not only the price the end consumer pays that is important, but also the leverage a monopoly has in getting suppliers to drop their prices for the monopoly itself,'s a frickin' monopoly and there's no where else to sell! (I forget the technical name of that aspect of monopolies. I read it just the other day but it's gone...)

Is "monopsony" the word you're looking for by any chance?

Jumper said...

If you tell kids they "aren't allowed" to read many will immediately begin teaching themselves how.


On the Cuban ear assault. I was bemused to realize what site I was reading this on.

Unknown said...

George Carty said:

"Is "monopsony" the word you're looking for by any chance?"

Yes! Thank you very much!

Paul SB said...


Interesting thought, there. It kind of parallels what I have heard coming out of Denver, which is that young people are becoming less interested in marijuana because it's no longer illegal, and most sales are going to out-of-state weed tourists. Same goes for Holland, where legal weed has had little effect on the local people except to bring in lots of tourist money. Are you proposing that Democrats forbid access to facts or fact-checking sources? That might just backfire.

LarryHart said...

Tim H:

Some of those are dense enough to claim Robert E. Lee wasn't a slave owner, without wondering how he could own Arlington plantation and not own slaves,

Maybe he leased them.

Unknown said...

@ Erin Schram (from the previous thread)

Thanks again for your response. It turns out that I really don't have anything especially thoughtful to say, but thanks again for clarifying your beliefs.

Paul SB said...


Dr. Brin is right that we need them to be looking at actual facts, but I doubt they will believe the facts by broadcast. You have to go personal. Liberals tend to be either the oxytocin/estrogen types, who typify the bleeding-heart liberal, or the more adventurous dopamine types, who want to experiment and try different things. The d-types are anathema to s-types, so these need to be kept on the back burner for awhile. Although the t-type conservatives despise the o-types, the o-types are just as focused on community as s-types are. That's where you can find commonality. O-types tend to be very focused on fairness, which is why they stand by the minorities that conservatives hate and fear. But the underdog story has a lot of cultural capital in America. If we can get o-types to go in personally and tell those underdog stories to the s-types you might see some progress. But they have to include conservative white Christians in their underdog stories first, to honor their communities, before drawing parallels between their underdog stories and the underdog stories of minorities. That way you might get some to find common cause with their fellow humans who have traditionally been outside their horizons of inclusion. Remember the Law of Segmentary Opposition. You need to show them that they have a common enemy in those big-business t-type thieves.

LarryHart said...

Paul451 on the previous thread:

The current narrative that's being built up on the right is the self-reliant, community-oriented people, looking out for each other. Unlike those people during the New Orleans flood, who were just animals. And "I see the Cajun (read as Confederate) Navy rushing to help, but I sure don't see the leftist/liberal/anti-fascist/BLM Navy".

Might that be because most BLM members live in northern cities and don't own a flotilla of boats? Or because if they did, they'd be pulled over, searched, harassed, and probably shot?

Paul SB said...

Web site weirdness! For some reason the first half of my post vanished into e-space, but the second half made it. Let's try that first half again.

Where it comes to trying to win one voters to sanity, it will probably take a very multi-pronged strategy. Wagers will work for some, but as others have pointed out, a majority will deny proven facts in favor of whatever website tells them what they want to hear. It's one of the unintended consequences of the internet that there is such a proliferation of wishful thinking & conspiracy theory crap out there that people who have not been taught any critical thinking skills (which would be most of the nation) can't tell what to trust, so they fall back to their default position of believing only those sources that agree with their preconceived notions.

I agree that if the Democrats focused more on economics, busting trusts and making life more livable for the 90%, they would win a lot more hearts and minds. But they won't get the chance if they don't start changing their focus, and very soon. Busting the agro trusts would be a good goal to target. However, most Grope voters were working-class urbanites who do not know or much care what happens to farmers. Most of these people just want to be assured that they will be able to make a good living without having to get any education. Why would coal miners fight for their jobs so they can all die miserable deaths of silicosis? Because it's a job they can do without having to learn to read or think. They can go to their early graves comfortable in the knowledge that all their prejudices are unassailable.

Steven is right that the Dems will need to go out and meet these people face-to-face. Conservatives tend to have serotonal temperaments, which means they don't like strangers, they don't like change, and they are all about community. Dr. Brin's idea of getting moderate military people to run for office on the D-ticket is good, because the military has been an honored profession in the conservative tradition. But I'm doubtful that this will be enough. Serotonal types are all about community. They are likely to listen to people who listen to them, and take the needs of their communities seriously. Busting the agro-trusts will go a long way to win those rural voters, but won't do much for urban conservatives. The urban conservatives are worried about losing their jobs to immigrants and international free trade. One way you can fight there would be to emphasize what the other kind of conservative is up to. The testosterone types are the business people, the ones who are actually sucking the rest of us dry. Those are the ones who usually want the free trade agreements (unless they are trying to appeal to the urban underclasses for votes, then they pretend otherwise and double down on protectionism). Divide and conquer. If you can show how these t-type bastards suck the rest of us dry, and show them that the immigrants and minorities that the Dems have been trying to protect for decades have common cause with those conservative urban Caucasoids, you might get some traction with them.

Paul SB said...

Interesting contradiction, that goes right to my point:

"The current narrative that's being built up on the right is the self-reliant, community-oriented people, looking out for each other. "

Self-reliant and community-oriented are total contradictions, but they demonstrate the unholy matrimony between the s-type conservatives, who are into community, and the t-type conservatives, who are in it for themselves. Pointing out this contradiction might be useful.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

"The current narrative that's being built up on the right is the self-reliant, community-oriented people, looking out for each other. "

Self-reliant and community-oriented are total contradictions,

That reminds me of the time a few years back when a movie of "Atlas Shrugged" came out and the blurb on the DVD cover claimed it was "a thrilling tale of self-sacrifice!" or something very close to that. The core Ayn Rand fans were outraged because the whole friggin' point was to celebrate the opposite thing of self-sacrifice. But the movie marketers wouldn't have put that blurb there to be combative. It's just the kind of thing any movie has to say it is.

Which also makes me doubt that the movie showed the fawning admiration for cigarette smoking that the novel did. :)

LarryHart said...

For once, it seems quaint and pointless to mention that the six consecutive months with fewer-than-seven letters in their names (in English) are coming to an end, and that it's time to enter the twilight realm of the six consecutive months with seven-or-more letters.

I mean, in Trump's America, it sucks no matter what month it is.

Creigh Gordon said...

"I know two professions of folks who know a lot and aren't being warred upon."

Economists came to mind. But then I'd argue against the "know a lot" part. Or at least I'd argue against knowing a lot about the real world.

David Brin said...

Wall Streeters and Doctors of Divinity. Both of them lampreys using lavish tax gifts to suck away.

David Brin said...

A variant on wagering is "beering." See the Heineken ad suggesting that folks get together over a beer. It's a much less dumb ad than I made it sound.

David S said...

A couple of quick comments and a question.

"Self-reliant and community-oriented are total contradictions," except that one needs to take care of oneself before being able to take care of others. Self-reliant doesn't mean selfish.

If you follow Lakoff, his thesis is that people vote their values not facts and discredit facts when they disagree with their values. So Lakoff's thesis predicts that Brin's name an exception would not be persuasive. My understanding of Lakoff is that we should be persuading using values. To change votes you need to convince people that new policy better fits our shared values OR that they should apply a value they already have to a different situation (for example take the military value of "we take care of our own/do not leave anyone behind" and apply this to civilians).

Finally my question: Where I can find information about d-types, s-types, o-types individuals?

LarryHart said...

David S:

To change votes you need to convince people that new policy better fits our shared values OR that they should apply a value they already have to a different situation (for example take the military value of "we take care of our own/do not leave anyone behind" and apply this to civilians).

But that doesn't seem to work either. Republicans have shown that they will change values as quickly as "We have always been at war with Eurasia" became "We have always been at war with Eastasia" when their own power structure and values fail to align.


When Democrats are in power, then the national debt is an existential threat to freedom and our grandchildren. Once Republicans are in power, this concern vanishes instantly.

For decades, a good strong record of military service was an unspoken prerequisite for a presidential candidate of either party. Certainly, a draft-dodger could never hope to run for that office. Then came W who scrupulously avoided service and Trump who obviously cheated to avoid it, and not only does this not matter at all, but they are allowed (by their own supporters) to denigrate the military service of their political opponents (Kerry, McCain) without negative consequence.

During the Beau Bergdahl flap, the very military value you mention (not leaving anyone behind) was forgotten as the right argued we should have left a marine to rot in enemy custody.

Minority party obstructionism in the Senate is suddenly an outrage.

"So what if there was collusion with Russia? Is that a crime?"

Trump "love[d] Wikileaks" when they dished dirt on Hillary during the campaign. Now leaks are the number one threat to national security.

In 2012, the same Donald Trump briefly thought Romney might lose the electoral vote and win the popular vote, and was tweeting up a storm of outrage over this "injustice".

Evangelical Christians support Trump. Nuff said.

Paul SB said...

David S.,

I assume you weren't reading when I was discussing this a couple months ago. As far as I know Alfred is the only one here who has taken the test himself besides me. Here's the url for the test itself if you wan to take it:

This website gives a good explanation of each of these temperament types (temperament being the genetic component of personality). Note that I use a d-type or type d, whereas the creator of this system made up more "user friendly" terms, though she confesses that she doesn't really like them a whole lot. Fisher is a scientist and knows the value of neutral terminology, but the people she was working for when she devised the system were more marketing oriented:

You will get much more from reading the book. It is really focused on romantic entanglements, but the research on temperament is very useful for understanding people more generally.

Alfred Differ said...

@Steven | Okay. You named particular companies you see as (potential) monopolies, so I have to give you credit for not arguing against a strawman. I’m going to try to be careful and not appear to be unsympathetic to all the cases, but I am one of the local libertarians. So… I AM partially unsympathetic. For example, I’ll usually point out that a particular company that is behaving like a monopoly is often protected by regulation meant to control its behavior. It’s a neat little trick that seems to work against progressives. If you offer up 100 laws meant to regulate me and my operation and I fight back against 57 of them, you should be very suspicious about the remaining 43. You should be looking at why I am not fighting them. They might be onerous, but they might protect me from my competition by introducing barriers to entry, increasing operations costs, or some other trick that I think I can beat well enough to remain profitable.

The most dangerous monopoly is one protected by regulation. Some of them are actually government operations, but not all of them. Wal-Mart obviously isn’t part of the government, but can you see how part of the government IS Wal-Mart? Our social safety nets subsidize their business model in some states. Amazon obviously isn’t part of the government, but can you see how they are a serious threat to Wal-Mart? Wal-Mart is an unprotected monopoly wanna-be, thus it is vulnerable to attack from unexpected directions. Back when Amazon was an online bookseller that lost money every quarter, no one saw them as a threat to the likes of Wal-Mart. Turns out we were wrong, though. Google is just as vulnerable, but it is unlikely any of us know from where the attack will originate. Obviously, they know how to defend themselves against known competitors. It is the unknown unknown that will get them one day.

The most protected monopolies, if you dig into their histories, are probably regulated in a way that is supposed to make them behave. Tinker with those regulations all you want, though. They will adapt. Our markets are more like an ecosystem than many care to admit and life adapts. If you really, really don’t like Monsanto or the others, consider exposing them. Look at how they are protected and change that. Admit that you are unlikely to out-think them in advance of whatever evil you think they are doing and let the rest of the ecosystem help you.

This priority is as much political and strategic as due to the harm these companies do.

Statements like these, though, are likely to get people like me to turn away. I know political forces act within our markets, but I think it monumentally dumb to think we can out-think the market players and plan an ecosystem. It is also a colossal act of hubris to even try. Stomp on the particular evils you see, but don’t plan on trying to plan a way to prevent them. No one is smart enough to do that successfully. We’ve tried and tried and it doesn’t work. Recognize the ecosystem for what it is and let fair competition do the work instead of politics.

Paul SB said...

Oh, and about this:

"Self-reliant and community-oriented are total contradictions," except that one needs to take care of oneself before being able to take care of others. Self-reliant doesn't mean selfish."

Everyone I have ever known who insists that we must all be self-reliant, or be "rugged individualists" made those assertions with reference to welfare, socialized medicine or other social safety net programs. They are terms meant to shame victims of circumstances beyond their control, to play the blame the victim game. And when they find that they can't pay their bills, or are sick or injured and can't work, they have no problem accepting that assistance for themselves, while they vote for people who will take those benefits away from everyone else.

Technically you are correct. You can't generally help others when you, yourself are in need. But people who talk endlessly about self-reliance are not interested in helping anyone else, they are interested in lowering their own taxes and thumbing their noses at anyone who is less fortunate than they are.

But even that is situational. A destitute person can help a blind person across the street, and if that blind person is making a good living, that person's tax money can help keep the destitute person from having to turn to crime to fill his belly.

David Brin said...

The argument over values vs logic misses the point. Confeds strenuously evade being called "anti-science" or anti-fact, since that would be insane. They instead call scientists and journalists etc the sinners against fact. And hurl counterfactual anecdotes to "prove" this.

The purpose of a couple of the challenges is to make this utterly clear - that it is every single fact-using group that is their cult's enemy. Yes, most will then double down. But a few can then be asked to notice the other elites who want this. Again, this is a game of yards. Every million converts can make a huge difference.

matthew said...

Alfred - the most dangerous monopolies are those that act to keep anyone else from competing. Sometimes this is accomplished through regulation, but more often this is accomplished by collusion between market participants, by attacking lines of supply to a potential competitor,and/or by outright purchase of the competitor.

The consolidation of the craft beer market that is happening right now is a sterling example of all three modes.

Regulatory capture is a large problem, true, but to describe is as "the most dangerous type of monopoly" as you have, is flat-out wrong. What one administration or set of regulators have done, another can undo. But a company killed by collusion of a bunch of golf buddies is dead, dead, dead and all the funding, IP, etc. is gone forever. Think of it terms of thermodynamics. If the energy required to build an entity is wasted by cheats, it cannot be recovered. If the law is a boundary condition, the law can be changed. But the energetic driving force being gone means that the boundary conditions cease to matter.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Web site weirdness! For some reason the first half of my post vanished into e-space, but the second half made it. Let's try that first half again.

I remember you've had posts disappear before, so I'm not sure about this, but I've had what you describe happen when I accidentally leave out a bracket. I'm gonna use [] here so they will show up, but you know I mean the less-than and greater-than signs that signify italics or bold or some other HTML instruction.

If you mean to italicize a paragraph, you type in:

But if you accidentally leave off the first end bracket:

The entire first paragraph will disappear in the post.

LarryHart said...

@Paul SB,

Interesting. I took the personality test that you linked to above, and admittedly went through it quickly, so it might turn out different if I tried again.

But my result was a low number (3) for the EXPLORER type, and then an exact tie (9) for all three other types. It doesn't really give guidance as to how to interpret that result. Except maybe, "You're a weird person." :)

Paul SB said...


No, you're not any more weird than anyone else, Jesus included. I got a copy of the book on CD and have listened to it a couple of times, and it gives a lot more detail than the web site (obviously enough). Everyone is a mix of all types, and most people come out with one dominant and a second so close behind it should be considered co-dominant. Fisher described a person who took the test and came up all four the same, and thought that meant she was a very boring person, but Fisher explained that it only means she is a very balanced person. I came out your opposite: 3 exactly the same but my dopamine score was higher by enough to not be a statistical fluke. i can say that the assessment mostly fits.

With your scores, I would expect that you spend a lot more time sitting on the couch reading than going for long walks in unfamiliar neighborhoods or the great outdoors. But then, you could interpret reading science fiction or multiple non-fiction subjects a form of exploratory impulse, in an intellectual sense. That's certainly how I see it. But as a kind I just loved to go out and look around sometimes, no matter how many books I had calling for me.

The author comments about rural communities being comprised of a higher percentage of serotonin types - people who tend to be stodgy, inflexible and fearful of the unfamiliar. This pretty well describes a majority of conservatives, excepting those testosterone-driven crooks who are your fiscal conservatives for the sake of their own personal interests. Her survey that included something over 30K participants in countries all over the world showed those folks to be a little less than one quarter (18%). My suspicion is that this reflects the disadvantage of being known for self-serving behavior in human societies generally. But for the larger numbers of serotonin types, the finding is pretty consistent with research that shows higher amygdala activity in the brains of conservatives. This is why I think if the Dems want to get some traction they need to send in familiar faces who will relate to them and their concerns and alleviate some of their fear of change.

Alfred Differ said...

@matthew | At the risk of sounding like I’m explaining simple stuff again, I am going to start with basics so you can attack the point where we disagree.

Golf buddies can indeed collude. No doubt they do. They don’t have to meet, though, and stopping the method they use isn’t trivial. Donzelion has pointed this out before by describing a kind of diplomatic language. One CEO can say something in public and another can read the not-so-hidden message. Often enough, they don’t have to say anything since statistical data can speak louder about a person’s intentions than their words. Remember that Bernie Madoff wasn’t found by regulators. He was found by someone analyzing the statistics of his ‘successes’ and it took him a lot of work to convince regulators to act. How does one stop this kind of chatter? Much the same way we deal with equality in the workplace failures. Statistical evidence of a behavior demonstrates the behavior to within some level of confidence, right? Stopping golf buddies, though, will require the criminalization of related behaviors that result in similar statistical evidence. Criminalize the ability of one company to adjust to market forces and you’ll do a lot of damage to others… and I’ll have an issue with that.

If you want to stop the golf buddies, consider rules that forbid incestuous boards of directors. That won’t stop the diplomatic language approach, but it would attack some incentives.

outright purchase of a competitor

This is one of those other behaviors to which I’m referring. Yes. It can be used as an anti-competition technique. Suppress profitability for a small competitor through a price war and then buy them up when they fail and do so at bankruptcy prices. There are a number of other ways to do it too. Unfortunately, there is also a legitimate use. If I start a business and bring investors on board, we might plan from the start to sell our company to one of the big competitors. It is a viable exit strategy for investors and serves a valuable function in the market place. Some big companies are too stodgy to innovate. Instead, they buy small companies who took all the risk. Investors come on board knowing this. They see the small company as a solver of a business problem faced by the company most likely to buy them out. Kill this approach and a lot of innovation stops. If anyone here thinks they can write regulations that will prevent the golf buddies and not impact the legitimate investment plans, they don’t understand how complex this stuff gets.

But a company killed by collusion of a bunch of golf buddies is dead, dead, dead and all the funding, IP, etc. is gone forever.

Yah. It rarely happens, though. It is especially rare when voters have financial interests in seeing those companies continue. Take a look at Steven’s list of companies again and ask yourself if any of them currently support protectionist measures. Consider the sugar tariff. Consider the ethanol subsidies. Consider how we pay to have fields lie fallow. Are the descendants of Jimmy Carter’s peanut farming peers still protected from market entry by other would-be peanut farmers? I argue that protected companies are the most dangerous monopolies because they do more than capture regulation. They capture us and our wallets too. When WE aren’t captured, you are right. The next group of regulators can change things. Explain why Iowa is the first primary state, though, and the early conversations always seem to involve ethanol.

This is an opportunity for you to swivel those neck vertebrae. I freely admit there is danger where you point, but I think the protected ones are more dangerous. Can you see them?

Zepp Jamieson said...

The right wing have to make up their exceptions. For example, they countered Trump's tepid yet grotesque mercy mission to Texas with, "Well, in Katrina struck NOLA, Obama went golfing.
Now, I have no idea if Obama went golfing that particular week in 2005 or not, but since he wasn't president at the time, it hardly matters. I do remember the Bushies were outraged because former President Clinton did go to NOLA, the day before Bush did that weird staged show outside of town.

Doctor Brin: I propose a seventh question to your list: Name one Republican action since 1992 that has directly benefited the American people.

Alfred Differ said...

I retake Fisher's test occasionally to see if my answers drift. They do a bit depending on my mood. I suspect that has something to do with how I see myself which would appear to matter a lot. For example, I can't imagine scoring 3 on any of them. Maybe I think too highly of myself? 8)

I keep two versions. One score shows how I intentionally see myself. I would expect it to be vulnerable to self-delusion. The other is how I think my wife would see me. Of all the people I know, I can probably model her best, so I'm thinking that one would be less prone to self-delusion, but not immune.

Unknown said...

Hi Alfred,

I honestly appreciate your thoughts as I'm honestly trying to learn some economics as you can tell by me needing George to remind me of the term "monopsony." I also agree that regulatory monopolies are something harmful that can and should be eliminated when possible. The big meat processing companies appear to be of this type and I would argue that the big brewing companies benefited greatly from prohibition era regulations and eliminating those (often locally) allowed craft brewing to grow and do well, though certainly threatened by the Big Brewers as Matthew mentions.

That being said, I think you describing the economy as an ecosystem has value and I suspect this is why I am concerned about efforts to fight monopolies that might have unintended consequences even as I pontificate against them. Human interventions in various ecosystems to fix what we see as wrong--the release of mongooses (mongoose?) in Hawaii to counter the rats is what springs to mind).

But another analogy comes to mind-- feudalism. I think this analogy may be more accurate in regards to big companies/corporations/monopolies. These corporations/companies owners were not called "Robber Barons" for nothing in the 19th century and I do think the "Baron" label is appropriate with its feudalistic connotation. Lots of peasants and cottagers, some yeoman farmers, and a few knights serving the baron--and above the baron, the King. (Government?) In any event, there was certainly plenty of competition amongst the barons and every now and then they'd lose their land and power because of competition, but the system chugged on and the peasants etc were still in the same miserable state. Competition between a handful of competitors rich enough to "pay to play" is not the kind of competition I'd hope for to lead to innovation and all the benefits I see competition as having. Sure, there are occasional upstarts that knock the baron out. Look at A&P (the Walmart of its day). Dethroned. But what a long time that took and what was the cost? That's not entirely a rhetorical question, as assessing the cost of an A&P in its time could help determine whether modern day Walmart is causing more harm than good but that sort of accounting is really impossible, I suspect. So, are we in an era of "economic feudalism"?

This is a long enough post, so I'll stop here. Again, I appreciate your input, Alfred, and hearing various points of views refines my own and makes me dig deeper to learn when I respond. I came across this article recently from 2006 about breaking up Walmart--not especially effective as I haven't heard about any threats to Walmart other than Amazon as Alfred mentions. In any event, the article was a good primer on monopoly, monopsony etc as well as digging in to the real effects a powerhouse like Walmart has, especially on its suppliers. (It's a pretty long read, BTW) Any comments about the article if you read it would be helpful. I like peer review thing going on here which is hard to find, valuable, and a credit to you all and David.

Alfred Differ said...

I like the 'name one' challenge that ties to a bet, but it is quite a challenge to come up with measurable things on which to bet for the future. When I've tried to pin others down, I usually discover they are enjoying the process of arguing more than they are enjoying being right. Since I get that perspective, I usually join in.

Even backward facing bets are a challenge to make measurable. The Dolphins' '72 season is too easy. Political arguments tend to be more ambiguous. For example, in what ways did we benefit under LBJ and were they enough to make up for the costs? Comparison and contrast makes for endless argumentative fun... in that addictive sense that is similar to indignation. T-types enjoy competitive debates, right?

David Brin said...

Alfred: "iin what ways did we benefit under LBJ"

Compare almost any West Virginia town then to today.

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

The right wing have to make up their exceptions.

Pure semantics, but what you cite below is more "excuses" than "exceptions". An exception would be a reason why it's ok to provide federal aid to Texas but not to New Jersey.

For example, they countered Trump's tepid yet grotesque mercy mission to Texas with, "Well, in Katrina struck NOLA, Obama went golfing.

Are you serious? Like him or not, I thought Katrina was attached to Bush in the public mind well enough that they wouldn't forget he was president at the time.

Or do they mean that Senator Obama went golfing? Who would have even been keeping track at that time? My totally-uneducated guess would be that Donald Trump also went golfing in that time frame.

Or do they vaguely remember Bush being on vacation at the time and somehow conflate that with Obama?

Or are they confusing Katrina with Sandy?

Or am I giving them too many excuses?

Alfred Differ said...

David | Okay. Allow me to play the other side for a moment.

At what cost?
...and has it REALLY been effective?

Education levels suck.
Poverty is still high.
Their smarter kids leave resulting is a residue population.
They have high incidences of early marriage, teen pregnancies, divorce, domestic violence, substance abuse and high school dropout rates.

Okay. Fewer of them are infested with parasites nowadays. That's good, but just how good can it be when they have the mental equivalent leading them to believe the world is going to hell in a hand basket? And for them and their small horizon... it isn't an unreasonable belief.

Okay. Enough of playing the other side for now. I did so because it is stuff like this that makes it difficult to establish a good bet. I run into this often and even a little bit here. The world is better by leaps and bounds, but people are using relative measures and that means the goal posts move on us. A future facing bet measuring something absolute is what a prediction market needs, but those aren't easy to craft and by then our dear President may have pushed the button. Besides, the ones I know involve larger horizons. Extreme poverty is vanishing off the face of the planet, but why would someone in WV care?

Paul SB said...


Until we have genetic and epigenetic markers for this stuff, we have to rely on these kinds of self-evaluation scales, and those always have problems with subjectivity, repeatability and the relative self-awareness of the subjects. I like your idea for triangulating, though it might work better if you actually had your wife do this herself. Your way is still dependent on your one awareness. When I find something like this that is well-enough researched to take seriously, I make a point of taking it over at yearly intervals. That way I can keep tabs on how I am changing over time. Few people are aware of how much they change throughout their lifetimes. Fisher comes across as a little bit deterministic when she insists that we really don't change, that the DNA is always going to express the same way all our lives. I know enough about epigenetics tot not completely buy it. I have done other tests like this and had the values change over time, and in ways that made perfect sense given how I was living at the time.

Steven is very polite and self-effacing, but he's also very bright. I think his corporate feudalism analogy makes good sense. I might even extend the analogy a tiny bit. He equates corporations to robber barons (an easy comparison to make, given their "smartest person in the room" ethics) and the government to the king they owe fealty to. But nobles in the olden days did a whole lot of sucking up to the king and trying to persuade the king to do things that would favor themselves. This is an analog for how big businesses try to corrupt government.

Alfred Differ said...

Between epigenetics and hormonal feedbacks, I gave up on genetic determinacy years ago. I like your idea of asking my wife to do it.

It should be interesting to see if she is willing, let alone what she sees different. 8)

I have the start of a response to Steven and his analogy, but I want to do it right and that means I'll deliver tomorrow. I'm not a big fan of the 'robber baron' label or even the 'corporation and nobleman' idea. No surprise for anyone, I'm sure. Humans aren't that simple and the analogies do more to hide what is going on than to explain. I'll be more verbose tomorrow, though.

Jessica Sandton said...

....learning from the masters here

Tony Fisk said...

Now, I have no idea if Obama went golfing that particular week in 2005 or not,

For the record, Zepp, Senator Obama was pitching in with Bill in NOLA.

reason said...

"I know two professions of folks who know a lot and aren't being warred upon."

I'm pretty sure one of them is the PR profession. They know how to go about conning people (although Trump seems to rely on instinct).

TCB said...

Dr Brin said:

"As it happens, I know two professions of folks who know a lot and aren't being warred upon. But I won't tell you. And even if alt-righters cite them, it won't help their cause a bit."

Hmmm I think that's a clue. Knows a lot and does work that helps the purposes of the Confederates, oligarchs, alt-right. I can think of MORE than two.

Weapons research. Oil geologists. The financial sector. Doctors. Lawyers (even people who don't like lawyers need them around). Engineering (same deal).

Pretty easy riddle if you just ask "What knowledge professions would a fascist state still need in good working order?" It's not a long list! The ones under attack would be a hindrance to a fascist state: teachers, climate scientists, historians who care about truth, etc. etc.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Tony Fisk wrote: "For the record, Zepp, Senator Obama was pitching in with Bill in NOLA."

I'm not at all surprised to read that. The liars of the far right are utterly shameless.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Larry Hart:
Oddly enough, right wingers don't even like the fig leaf of "exceptions" over "excuses". You know, it's almost as if they know they are being hypocritical liars.

I''ve been informed that Obama pitched in and did hands-on work helping in the wake of Katrina. That sounds more in line with the man's basic character. Alongside Bill Clinton, no less.

Chris Christie ruined Sandy for right wingers when he hugged Obama in gratitude for the fast and effective help FEMA brought New Jersey. Really, it just ruined the moment for righties who wanted revenge for Katrina.

Tim H. said...

On LBJ, a mixed bag, but the parts of his Great Society program that survived the revolt of the .001% such as Medicare are a good thing. To truly know how good the rest of it was, it would have to have had generations for the dust to settle and see what we gained or lost, but the knives were out for most of it as soon as could be managed. I'm aware that a welfare check is a poor substitute for a job, but when the private sector can't or won't step up, the government will, and I think this also shows the key to small government... if only someone would step up...

Ilithi Dragon said...

Don't have enough time to read and respond to the post and comments, so this is slightly off topic (though not very far), but I wanted to throw this out here to make sure Dr. Brin saw it, and see what his thoughts were, and the thoughts of this community on how we might collectively combat this sort of thing.

Paul451 said...

For no reason, Atacama night skies. Up to 4k if you have it.


Re: Brackets and lost posts.

Weird, whenever I screw up a bracket, google/blogger always spits it back at me, "Your HTML cannot be accepted: {reason}". Usually "tag is not closed: I".

Paul451 said...

"It kind of parallels what I have heard coming out of Denver, which is that young people are becoming less interested in marijuana because it's no longer illegal, and most sales are going to out-of-state weed tourists. Same goes for Holland, where legal weed has had little effect on the local people except to bring in lots of tourist money."

Which is part of the reasoning behind an idea I've had for decades: Nationalising the drug trade. Government-run retailers/clinics being the only legal venue for currently illegal drugs would utterly devastate the revenue stream for organised crime and even some terrorist groups. The clinics also provide controlled supply programs for addiction, funded by the front-counter sales, which require contact with addiction case-managers who serve as a gateway to other (also clinic-funded) treatment services. (If the "First Step" is to admit you have a problem and can't solve it on your own, then having to fill out an "I am an Addict" form seems like a good first, first step.)

Stand in a queue, surrounded by health posters, being glared at by bored/angsty junkies waiting to be called into the back. (All the fun of the DMV combined with the visuals and smells of a free-health clinic.)

Profit-sharing with local government, since poorer communities will inevitably be stuck with them, even though most drugs are bought by wealthy young people, so you might as well make it a feature; it serves as a bit of wealth trickle-down... Likewise, source ingredients from local vendors. Crops from licensed farmers, chemically processed drugs from local pharma manufacturers.

Bankrupt the bad guys, and turn that money over to locals. Reduce in drug overdoses. Reduce addict-related crime (something like 80% of property crime and 50% of arm'd rob, according to local cops). Reduce the "cool" factor of drugs. Drastically reduce the cost of law enforcement, including courts. Reduce the number of drug criminals taking up very expensive space in prisons. Increase the funding for drug-treatment, and have a much greater pressure on addicts to seek treatment, but without the falseness of court-mandated treatment. It all seems like a win-win-win to me.

Never, ever going to happen, of course. But... the idea's good.


"Self-reliant and community-oriented are total contradictions"

I thought you might catch that.

But it's not a total contradiction. Being broadly skilled and capable individually, yet being ready to offer those skills to help people within your community. And being "self-reliant" is a measure of your perceived utility to the community. Its why many urbanites are seen as useless. Which makes it an easy trope to manipulate, with the whole takers/makers, 47%, anti-welfare thing.


Re: Personality types

Weirdly, I got Builder/Director (S/T) on the test, but Builder/Negotiator (S/O-E) on the descriptions of that test elsewhere on the net. And a completely different result on other "which neurotransmitter are you" tests (where S-type is described as "adventure seekers".)

Typical Virgo, I guess.

Anonymous said...

for someone who professes to believe in linearity you sure do circle around the same old same old again and again and again and again and again and again and

A.F. Rey said...

For example, they countered Trump's tepid yet grotesque mercy mission to Texas with, "Well, in Katrina struck NOLA, Obama went golfing."

Mediaite has a amusing article showing a series of tweets about this.

When it comes to criticizing the other guy, people's memories are short.

LarryHart said...


Weird, whenever I screw up a bracket, google/blogger always spits it back at me, "Your HTML cannot be accepted: {reason}". Usually "tag is not closed: I".

That's if you do a [b] wihtout a corresponding [/b].

If you forget one bracket, or type the wrong character as such:
[b oops, see I didn't close that [b]

...It will treat everything between the first open bracket and the only close bracket as if it's all supposed to be html. The effect is that that whole interval simply disappears.

Jumper said...

I had to smile at Reason's mention that PR professionals are not under assault by the zombies. I had the same thought when Dr. B mentioned it.

LarryHart said...

A.F. Rey:

When it comes to criticizing the other guy, people's memories are short.

I know, but really? I thought Bush (W) was as linked in people's minds to Katrina as Bill Clinton was linked to Monica.

Darrell E said...

Paul451 said...

Typical Virgo, I guess.

I see what you did there. Made me actually LOL.

A.F. Rey said...

I know, but really? I thought Bush (W) was as linked in people's minds to Katrina as Bill Clinton was linked to Monica.

I blame it on the relentless propaganda from Fox News.

Everything done by Obama, Hillary, and the Democrats are and were evil and incompetent. So, anything evil and incompetent was done by them.

Add a bit of faulty memory, and there you have it. :)

David Brin said...

Alfred, yes, you and I are capable of empathy flipping. Taking the opponent’s POV and recognizing their reasons. I’m the one who has pointed out how the city (Mordor) steals Red America’s children, every June. I am well aware of that psychic shock and I wish more Blue Americans knew about it, even though almost nothing can be done about it. Except invest in more universities and colleges in red areas. And they will simply become more Austins.

“They have high incidences of early marriage, teen pregnancies, divorce, domestic violence, substance abuse and high school dropout rates.”

Which is why we need to stop letting them scream about urban immorality at us!
Nevertheless, they now have paved streets, electricity, clinics, desegregated and clean schools with potable water and community colleges and Ag.Dept County assistance offices and farming coops that share quality equipment.

Look at the images of life in Appalachia before/after FDR’s TVA and before/after LBJ’s War on Poverty. They are different worlds. Today they are poor COMPARATIVELY. Then they were worm-ridden and starving. Today they are bereft, above all, of gratitude. Of the positive attitude that their brightest kids take with them… when they flee.


TCB While it’s true that SOME lawyers, engineers, etc will prosper under a confederacy-dominated America, As a whole I’d wager even sub-groups like oil geologiests are drifting away, right now. You hit is with Wall Street. The other is Doctors of Divinity. In both cases the tax rules alone are incentive enough.

Paul451 My novella “A Stage of Memory” portrays a future when the new Liberal and Libertarian parties oust the Repubs and Dems and provide drugs to anyone, crushing the illegal trade, but you can’t get your doses without sitting down for a meal. vitamins and a checkup and a lecture.

Unknown said...

"Typical Virgo, I guess."

That's one of my answers when someone asks me my "sign" - "I don't believe in astrology. We Virgos are far too logical for that." (The other answers include, "No Parking This Side Second and Fourth Wednesdays", and if they ask what sign I was born under, "Labor & Delivery 3".)

Dr. Brin, I've now tried the betting technique with both a Trumpista family member and a friend who's leaning so far the other way he's about to fall off the bus. In both cases, the sticking point was what was acceptable as evidence. How can you make a rational bet with someone who dismisses "mainstream media" reporting, but takes as gospel everything emanating from Donnie himself on the one side ("Of course he's telling the truth - he's a good man! He says so!"), and the Young Turks on the other?

I can only take comfort in looking at historical cycles. And, of course, in long since having resigned myself to the idea that, if the cycle rotates the wrong way, one day my blood might be needed to refresh the Tree of Liberty. One does what one must.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

My novella “A Stage of Memory”...

Is that in one of your published collections?

LarryHart said...

A. F. Rey:

Add a bit of faulty memory, and there you have it. :)

I once heard of a practical joke that involved switching the controls for a couple's dual-control electric blanket. When she gets too cold, she turns up the heat, but she's really turning up the heat on his side. So he's getting too warm, and turns down the heat, which makes her even more cold. Hilarity ensues.

I'm often reminded of this when people complain about their lives getting worse because of the things that Republicans do in office, and respond by electing more Republicans. But until now, I never understood the mechanism by which the "prank" had been pulled.

They really think Democrats are to blame for the specific things that Republicans do?

How have we not already lost, then?

matthew said...

Thanks for answering my questions, Alfred.

I do see your point, what I disagree with is the emphasis within it. We agree on this much more than disagree, yet I also think that this fear of government / corporate power is utterly what will continue to make discussion difficult and rewarding.

David Brin said...

Jonathan that's why I went to "name one exception." I do not expect your weaseling crazy uncle to be cornered easily. But when he cannot name a fact-profession that's not a deep state enemy, it has some effect.

LH I believe that story is in The River of Time... maybe Otherness.

Jumper said...

Hmm. In my family I'm the crazy uncle...

They closed Charlotte School of Law recently. Turned out to be one of these privately owned institutions that was only in it for the student loans they harvested. They were lying about their stats.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

LH I believe that story is in The River of Time... maybe Otherness.

I've got both!

On evidence for betting...
From what I'm hearing on this list, the FOXites don't even agree with us on a fact like "Katrina happened during George W Bush's presidency," which I have to admit, I find incredible, even knowing about the bubble effect. I mean, do even Alex Jones or Rush Limbaugh actually deny that Katrina happened in 2005 and that President Obama was elected in 2008 and took office in 2009? That doesn't matter, huh?

A.F. Rey said...

According to Public Policy Polling (a "Democratic-oriented" pollster), back in 2013 29 percent of Louisiana Republicans thought Obama was to blame for the Katrina response, and another 44 percent weren't sure if it was Obama or Bush.

George Carty said...

"I’m the one who has pointed out how the city (Mordor) steals Red America’s children, every June. I am well aware of that psychic shock and I wish more Blue Americans knew about it, even though almost nothing can be done about it. Except invest in more universities and colleges in red areas. And they will simply become more Austins."

I had a discussion on the blog of British Marxist Arthur Bough last month about the issue of anti-intellectualism driven by youth flight to big cities (suggesting that it could have been a factor in the vote for Brexit – which Mr Bough fervently opposes), and after he said that every settlement ought to pay its way (which immediately made me think of the US "Strong Towns" movement) he in turn suggested that sufficient investment in super-fast broadband infrastructure should make big dense cities obsolete anyway!

I was a bit surprised given the popular UK/US stereotype of Marxists as favouring high-density cities and hating suburban and rural life, but he reminded me that the Communist Manifesto itself advocated "abolishing the distinction between town and country" (which sounds to me like a prediction of suburban sprawl). I was also sceptical that working from home could replace most physical commuting, as it would obviously only be possible for information workers, and many such businesses are only viable if they enjoy a degree of monopoly power.

What are your thoughts? (Please read the discussion on the linked blog post...)

Paul451 said...

IMO looking at the response of the "Obama was golfing during Katrina" tweeters, even when corrected, shows that the bet-strategy can't work. There's no shame there any more.

Alfred Differ said...

@matthew | Okay. I'll retreat from 'most' dangerous and say 'really dangerous instead. That way we can both keep pointing out dangers and not spend time colliding over what's worse. Both are bad and we can do our jobs as t-cells. 8)

The old school liberal within me is greatly concerned with all concentrations of power. Those who want to cheat us (whether they think it is cheating or not) will be drawn to those concentrations. The best plans of the angels among us will be undone by them and maybe even corrupted. Take Paul451's idea for government run clinics having a legal monopoly on illegal drugs. He means well, but he needs the staff to be members of homo angelicus. It won't happen because many of us know such creatures don't exist. We can choose only from homo sapiens for now, so I'd argue it is safer not to concentrate such power. Instead, I would decriminalize a lot of the drugs and argue instead for judicially stripping addicts of certain adulthood rights until they get clean. Some drugs wipe out our ability to function as viable adults.

Alfred Differ said...

Are the people who say Obama was golfing tweeting from behind anonymous accounts? I wouldn't expect shame to play a role, if so.

As I understand the bet strategy, the shame is supposed to come from not having the courage to take a risk. If I offer what appears to be a high odds (to you) bet and your risk is small, failing to take the chance to take my money is cowardly. Yah. Some of the people we talk to might be cowardly, but the bet is supposed to lure away their courageous people.

duncan cairncross said...

"Some drugs wipe out our ability to function as viable adults".

Like alcohol

Alfred Differ said...

@George | I don't think an investment in super-fast broadband infrastructure will have the smallest towns. It takes a lot more than access. Look at it from an employer's perspective and you might see it. If I start a company, I'll hire the best talent I can afford. They might come from small-town America or the big-city America. Who knows? I am going to remain tempted to centralize them, though, even if they have fast access from elsewhere. Face-to-face human interactions are the high bandwidth exchanges I need for a creative team. Absent fully immersive experiences (virtual worlds on steroids), I'm not going to get that when my talent is remote.

To make matters worse, my start-up interacts with other companies and their talent pools. If mine is in one place and a partner is in another, I have the same problem. Even suppliers count. Big cities aren't just about communications. They are about reductions of transactions costs. All of them. Power utilities, emergency services, transportation infrastructure, and all the others count. Big cities are the future and the only small towns that will survive are the ones right next-door that will be gobbled up.

Humans at high density are simply different than they are at low density and this really, really matters when it comes to creativity.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan | Yah. I was just listening on the radio about an archeological find suggesting wine storage in Sicily dated 6,000 years ago. Looks like we've been working on our tolerance for the poison for much longer than we knew. Some of us anyway. 8)

LarryHart said...

Ok, if you actually read that "Washington Examiner" article which is linked to in the Obama-golf tweets, the complaint against Obama is actually that he was on vacation during a later flooding episode in Louisiana in 2016. And they're calling him out for being "just as bad as he said Bush was" during Katrina. They at least don't refer to Obama being on vacation during Katrina.

The readers and comment posters who ran with it, OTOH, don't seem to get that fine distinction.

The scary part for me is the percentage of people who think Obama was president during Katrina and the even larger percentage who "don't remember". It reminds me of an experiment I read about a while back which intended to show how unreliable eyewitness testimony can be. People were told, and then later "remembered" seeing Bugs Bunny among the characters they met at Disney World, even though Bugs is a Warner Brothers character.

The write-up of the experiment made it sound as if people were stupid to believe such a thing, but what I took away is that most of them didn't know or care who the individual characters were, let alone whether Disney owned them or not. What they remembered was "I saw some cartoon characters." They couldn't care less about which ones. You tell them one was Bugs Bunny? Ok, it must have been Bugs Bunny. Later, they'll relate that they met Bugs Bunny, when what they really mean is, "I met someone in a costume who I've been told is Bugs Bunny."

I can pretty well guarantee that no one's implanted memory went like this: "I walked into Disney World, and there was Bugs Bunny greeting me. I was startled to see a Warner Brothers character at a Disney park, but there he was right in front of me."

Likewise, before today, I'd have said that no one would think back on Hurricane Katrina and think of anyone other then George W Bush as being president at the time, just as I'd not expect anyone to misremember who was president during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, or who resigned from the presidency over Watergate. Apparently, I put too much faith in my fellow Americans.

Unknown said...

Paul SB said to Alfred upthread:

"Steven is very polite and self-effacing, but he's also very bright. I think his corporate feudalism analogy makes good sense. I might even extend the analogy a tiny bit."

I appreciate the complement and I suspect my children exceeding my ACT scores accounts for the self-effacing bit. (I blame exposure to leaded gasoline exhaust in my childhood for that, BTW, not that it elicits any pity from them--wretches! ) I wrote a whole other paragraph about my kids but decided to spare you. They're great kids and I've been blessed, fortunate etc.--so far. All smart. All studying STEM and none of whom I see coming back to our little city in Montana. Doesn't bother me a bit. I'm an Army Brat and my wife moved around a lot as well, so when we get old and decrepit, we'll move to a town one of our daughters lives in. I've heard that sons are crap at elder care. ;)

So, I've been pondering whether the corporate feudalism analogy I proposed might have anything more to it than just being a rhetorical tool. It wasn't something I thought about a lot but seemed to work so I went with it. And here's my initial thoughts.

1) The dangers of both monopolies/overly powerful corporations and historical feudalism are due to unhealthy concentrations of power. Both could, by fiat, dictate what those below them, whether suppliers or lairds/farmers/serfs would receive for services. The barons, dukes etc of the high nobility also had excessive influence on the King as do the modern corporations (you can include "banks too big to fail" ) on the US government policy.

Unknown said...

In medieval times the influence on those above them was the threat of the baron collaborating with other nobles to replace the king or withholding their power from joining with the King in resisting an invading enemy or going forth in a military adventurism.For those below them, they had nearly absolute power in dictating rents and calling up tenants for warfare. The only restraints were preventing rebellion by lesser nobles under them and keeping the peasants alive. (I exaggerate, of course)

In modern times, the threat of unhealthy power of monopolies is multifaceted and sometimes subtle. Lobbyists and their influence is an obvious example, but of course, they are merely speaking as "heralds" so to speak of the lords of industry. What is the influence on the government.? Financial contributions for or against politicians is far more important than we might think. Targeted ads, suggestions to cabinet members regarding policy with well paying positions awaiting those people them after their term, donations to think-tanks to churn out articles supporting policies that help the corporation. Opinion pieces and direction in the media that they either own or can influence by their advertisement are all examples.

The influence on those beneath them, their suppliers is less subtle and more direct. Here's a quote from the article I linked to earlier:

"The effects of monopsony also can be difficult to pin down. But again we have easy illustrations ready to hand, in the surprising recent tribulations of two iconic American firms -- Coca-Cola and Kraft. Coca-Cola is the quintessential seller of a product based on a "secret formula." Recently, though, Wal-Mart decided that it did not approve of the artificial sweetener Coca-Cola planned to use in a new line of diet colas. In a response that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, Coca-Cola yielded to the will of an outside firm and designed a second product to meet Wal-Mart's decree. Kraft, meanwhile, is a producer that only four years ago was celebrated by Forbes for "leading the charge" in a "brutal industry." Yet since 2004, Kraft has announced plans to shut thirty-nine plants, to let go 13,500 workers, and to eliminate a quarter of its products. Most reports blame soaring prices of energy and raw materials, but in a truly free market Kraft could have pushed at least some of these higher costs on to the consumer. This, however, is no longer possible. Even as costs rise, Wal-Mart and other discounters continue to demand that Kraft lower its prices further. Kraft has found itself with no other choice than to swallow the costs, and hence to tear itself to pieces."

2. The founders of the American Experiment sought to level the playing field. They sought to curtail the advantages of birth, class and heritage which limited opportunities for this without those advantages. They may have had some blind spots regarding race, but they did a pretty good job otherwise. Of course, this was before the industrial revolution. Power in the feudal system is concentrated to landowners. Economic power meant owning land and (essentially) the people that worked it. They sought to limit power and encourage the yeoman farmer--especially in Jefferson's case. Their insight has worked pretty well and our current president is a good trial of how well these safeguards have worked. I would ay they did pretty well.

Unknown said...

Corporations and concentrated economic power is not something the founders had experience with and so, as problems arose, this was dealt with by legislation and regulation. There is not a national tradition of opposition to monopoly similar to that of resistance to tyranny. And yet they are very similar. Concentrated economic power in the days of the founders was largely due to the power of extensive landholding. This was foreseen and the very framework of our country was set up to prevent that. Corporations with concentrated economic power not based on landholding was not foreseen and is, in so many respects, the same thing.

So, I agree that analogies are always problematic, but there is like some value in the analogy I have proposed of monopoly as corporate feudalism.

The big questions are, "Can Unhealthy Monopolies be prevented by legislation or do they need to be knocked down in a perpetual "Whack-a-Mole" game? " Also, "how big is 'Too Big'? "

I'm all for competition amongst industry rivals. Like our host, I see completion as essential. My concerns are that concentrated economic power decreases competition.

Unknown said...

The problem with "name one exception", David, is that the crazy uncle (or, in this case, the questionable sister) is unwilling to concede that any of the knowledge castes is under attack - "just a few crazies who believe in [climate change, danger from Russia, you-name-it]". Any evidence of, for instance, the 97% consensus on climate change is disregarded as "just another lie from the mainstream media."

It's hard to place bets on that sort of thing when we can't even agree on the nature of reality. It's like trying to argue a schizophrenic into believing that the voices aren't real.

David Brin said...

Jonathan, invite crazy uncle to go with you to a university and go down the hallways, asking experts. Like the meteorologists who changed the old joke of a 4-hour "weather report" into the ten day miracle that Uncle uses to plan vacations.

Ask him if he's willing to go on a field trip and actually have the guts to ask actual questions of folks who actually know what's going on?

LarryHart said...

Steven Hammond:

The only restraints [on medieval nobles] were preventing rebellion by lesser nobles under them and keeping the peasants alive. (I exaggerate, of course)

You don't exaggerate by much. At least not according to Charles Dickens (A Tale Of Two Cities) who described French village life in the 1780s as (from memory) "A choice between life on the meanest terms that would support it, or captivity and death in the prison on the crag."

I suspect my children exceeding my ACT scores accounts for the self-effacing bit.

Heh. My dad was an optometrist, so he knew a lot of math, but when my brother and I were in high school and getting into matrix algebra, I remember him taking a look at our homework once and lamenting, "It's like a foreign language to me."

My own daughter is close to that same age now, and while I can still manage to help her with her homework, she no longer wants me to.

I wrote a whole other paragraph about my kids but decided to spare you.

Heh. You seem new here unless you've been lurking, so I'll repeat one of my own stories. About two years ago, my daughter and her friend were struggling with some math problem at our house (it might have been the quadratic forumla--something at that level), and my wife and I both chimed in with helpful suggestions. The friend looked dumbfounded that we knew the subject matter, and remarked "My parents would have just nodded politely." My daughter then replied, "Nerd parents. I'm livin' the dream!"

Paul SB said...

Paul 451,

Regarding the Fisher test, you wrote that the score you got and what you read elsewhere didn't quite match, and that other purported neuroscience-based tests said different things. You know the Net is packed full grade A effluent. I am willing to trust Fisher because I am familiar enough with her work to know that she is a thorough researcher, not given to cherry picking, falsifying or sloppy reasoning, and she knows better than to try to pontificate against experts in fields she is not an expert in, too, which puts her a few pegs higher than most people who write for general audiences. That said, these kind of tests are never 100%, as I wrote to Larry earlier. If you have scores that are within a few points of each other, you may only have statistical noise and they are effectively equivalent. As far as the one that confused serotonin for dopamine, there's a whole lot of "neurobunk" out there. More and more people are hearing the names of neurotransmitters but not being very critical of their sources. Once again, until we have the entire human genome cracked, these kinds of questionnaire-type tools are what we're stuck with. Her book has been around long enough to be in libraries, if you would like to find out more.

Your suggestion for dealing with illegal drugs has a few drawbacks. The face value of the government selling dangerous drugs just doesn't look good, especially at a time when approval of the government is at all-time lows. Then there's the fact that these drugs are truly dangerous, brain-altering substances. Cocaine gets your nucleus accumbens 4x the normal dopamine maximum, and meth goes to 10x. No amount of annoying red tape, health posters or lectures will deter addicts from getting their fix. They truly are the closest thing to zombies in real live. Then you have the huge international illegal network, mad elf of truly ruthless killers who would not hesitate to gun down clinic workers or firebomb their new competitors. You would have to have quite the military presence to defend this system. Still, you're showing more thought than the typical moralizing conservative reactionary with their failed policies of punish victims and shoot to kill.

Twominds said...

Anonymous @ 7:54 AM said...

for someone who professes to believe in linearity you sure do circle around the same old same old again and again and again and again and again and again and (this was to Dr. Brin)

I'd like to react to that with a quote from Jim Wright's newest essay at Stonekettle station:

"Civilization advances in fits and starts. Three steps forward, two to the side, two back, and forward again.

History doesn’t flow smoothly forward, it lurches like a drunkard."

I like this mental image, it avoids the simplicity of both the linear-mabye-even-inevitable-progression and the circle-doomed-to-repeat-eternally.

Thinking about it, this analogy could well reconcile both sets of ideas about how history unfolds, for the people that want it.

But more important in Jim's essay is the central idea that having a civilisation is having to keep putting effort in it, that there will be no victory-and-rest-afterwards. Even in less harrowing times than now (which Jim essentially denies there ever are). Dr. Brin clearly knows this, and will keep at it, again and again and again as you say, because it's necessary.

Read Jim´s piece, Anonymous, and you'll see why I use it to answer you.

LarryHart said...

From the stonekettle post linked above:

Creationists don't build starships.

And modern conservativism has been eaten alive by the Creationists.

But guess what? Liberals don't build starships either.

No, instead they spend all their time and effort arguing about the advisability of sending humans to other worlds when we haven't even fixed (insert endless list of causes) and they never actually get around to building the damned ship.

You know who builds starships? People who believe, that’s who. Those who believe in the future, those who work every damned day to advance civilization, those who stand steadfast against the fall of night. Once upon a time, those people were Americans.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Jim Wright was quoted: "Civilization advances in fits and starts. Three steps forward, two to the side, two back, and forward again.

History doesn’t flow smoothly forward, it lurches like a drunkard."

Similarly, someone (sorry, forget who) said, "History doesn't repeat so much as it has recurring motifs." Events, styles and systems recur because they are facets of human nature.

David Brin said...



Paul451 said...

New post is up, but I'll drop these two here.

Re: My drug nationalisation proposal:

"No amount of annoying red tape, health posters or lectures will deter addicts from getting their fix."

The majority of drug users are casual, non-addicts (typically 90% or more). The majority of drugs by volume or value (typically around 50-70%, depending) are consumed by that minority of addicts. The idea is that the latter are directed to the controlled supply-program, destroying the existing profitability of the illegal trade (same as any controlled supply program); while controlling retail casual sales prevents recruitment and replacement of new addicts by the illegal trade and provides funding to the clinic for the addiction side of the clinic.

The inefficiency and health-clinic aspect is to deter those casual users, the non-addicts, as far as you can without pushing them to the black-market. Addicts are obviously not going to be deterred, nor was that the intent of my suggestion.

Hence the controlled supply program for addicts. Free drugs for a bit of red tape and lectures? You will have every single addict signed up. And even if that was the only benefit, that alone would eliminate around 70-80% of property crime and half of armed-rob crimes (according to local police). But I think there's another benefit, once addicts don't have to think about getting their fix every single day, you can trend them towards fixing up parts of their lives harmed by not just the use of drugs but the things done to get the drugs. You change the thinking from short-term to, if not long-term, at least medium-term. That change is the only way, from the research I've read, to get addicts to look at treatment. There's a common belief that addicts need to "hit rock bottom" before they will turn around, but for the vast majority of addicts there isn't a "rock bottom", below them is a bottomless sucking mire of misery; there's always further you can fall, it can always get worse. And the worse things are, the worse you feel, the stronger the urge to use. The turn-around happens when you are capable of saying, "I'm worth more than this."

Since people often have to go through several attempts in order to break an addiction; with illegal drugs they leave the program and go back to their dealer and former lifestyle. With a nationalised clinic network, they go back to the clinic, back to the addiction supply program, where their case-manager says all the clucking things that they are meant to say. (Even if its just the assumption inherent in a casual, "Let me know when you feel up to trying again.")

"Then you have the huge international illegal network, mad elf of truly ruthless killers who would not hesitate to gun down clinic workers or firebomb their new competitors. You would have to have quite the military presence to defend this system."

No. That doesn't happen. Outside of a bad '80s action movie plot.

See Uruguay, or US states where MJ has been legalised, in spite of the impact on Mexican cartels. Or other countries with any kind of licensed production/sale (rather than just decriminalisation.) Even with harder drugs, many countries have set up addiction supply programs and since addicts make up the majority of retail sales, you are targeting the best customers. Yet it never results in clinic-bombings or staff-shootings, let alone the need for mass deployment of military protection (or minor deployment, or any deployment. Clinics usually even discourage police from being too visible.)

"mad elf of truly ruthless killers"


Paul451 said...


The employees of a nationalised drug clinic don't have to be "homo angelicus". The front-of-counter sales are simple retail sales, nothing special; western governments routinely handle large amounts of over-the-counter cash turnover with only minimal theft issues. The back-of-clinic supply programs are standard addiction supply programs, which are operated in a number of countries; the built-in inconvenience drastically limits the potential for the... sale of indulgences.

And the nature of nationalisation itself drastically reduces the value of stealing product for black-market resale. The black-market value will be less than the retail value (otherwise why would the customer bother with the risk?) That sets are very low maximum profit before the theft volume becomes too noticeable to too many people; it also drastically limits the number of people you can bribe before there's no profit in the theft.

If you simply end drug criminalisation, you don't suddenly have a healthy market. You still have the legacy of the existing criminal market. Decriminalisation of drugs leaves the supply-side in the hands of people who currently don't obey the laws. Not just recreational drug laws, but purity/safety laws, labelling laws, tax laws, gun laws, and murder laws. While full legalisation potentially brings non-criminals into the supply-side, they will be competing with people who are going to happily use illegal methods to enforce their control.

Nationalisation breaks the connection between the drug trade and the criminals.

(Aside: David, the nationalisation of the retail sales are the key to what I was suggesting. Controlled supply addiction programs -- as referred to in "A Stage of Memory" -- aren't new or special, and that's not the core of what I'm suggesting, it's just an obvious add-on.)

(Aside 2: Alfred, you're also making a common libertarian mistake that the point of drug decrimin-/leg-/nation-alisation is to create an efficient, optimal market. It's not. The current drug market is close to a pure laissez faire, merely limited to the pool of people willing to break drug laws. I want the legal drug market to be inefficient. Awkward, annoying, expensive. As much as the market will bear. Right up to the limit where it's just barely still not quite worth engaging with the black market.)