Saturday, July 07, 2018

Alternate Visions of the Future

Some bold proposals. But first... Those looking for a "best-of" Brin blog could try subscribing to my monthly column at Phil's Stock World. This was their pick from May, and I've had a lot of mail from those glad to have the most crucial of all economic indicators - "money velocity" - explained clearly. No indicator shows more explicitly what's been done to us... and how it could be fixed.

== Peering ahead ==

Whose depictions of the future should we heed? I've long held that we need both dark warnings and visions of hope. Hollywood's emphasis is generally on the former -- simplistic mistakes that lead to jeopardy and danger for a clearly-identifiable protagonist -- because that's what drives a box-office-winning plot. 

Only seldom does a director have the guts and creativity to mix innovative plot-driving with both some credible warning and a general sense of a promising tomorrow. That's certainly what I try to do, in my fiction. But it's harder. 

Anyway, which stories have effectively changed the world most? I talk about the "self preventing prophecies" of Orwell and Huxley and Kubrick, that motivated millions to act, and arguably saved us all.

Dialing in: which visions of augmented reality are shaping folks' expectations? Vernor Vinge (Rainbows End) and I (Existence) struck for that balance of positive and negative. But none of our careful extrapolations got as many "hits" as this online video by Keiichi Matsuda  who, in 2015, depicted the potential world of hyper-reality we may face - a vision of riding a bus while using a smartphone to play a game, getting alerts, being inundated with advertisements and calls.  It's just as scary for its depiction of addicted shallowness as for the disturbing end result.

Another short film, Sight, creates a scenario of an augmented reality contact lens.

== Shell Companies ==

Someone has been listening to me? Seriously, this is what I have been shouting, since writing about the "Helvetian War," in EARTH:

The Guardian reports: "After publishing the Panama Papers, we have heard a lot of promises from politicians around the world. They have talked about the need for transparency, and while the discussion is warm, the details are complicated: a multilateral exchange of information and stronger anti-money laundering regulations are as difficult to implement and control as they sound.

“But why bother? There is a far less bureaucratic and more powerful measure: public beneficial ownership registries. Databases in which citizens can easily access and explore the owners of companies. Not the nominee director, not the fake shareholder – the real owner. The person at the center of the matryoshka-like corporate structures, or, as experts refer to them: the ultimate beneficial owner of a company.
“A database of actual owners would enable companies to check with whom they are actually doing business. It would enable activists, journalists and skeptical citizens to investigate the individuals running dubious companies which earn millions in alleged “consulting contracts”, which are in many cases nothing more than concealed payments of corruption money. It would also give prosecutors the opportunity to follow dark money without having to rely on nerve-racking, time-consuming legal maneuvers with foreign governments." – Frederik Obermaier and Basian Obermayer in The Guardian.

Elsewhere, I've long been pushing the concept of a worldwide treaty for transparency of ownership. Basically, "If I own something, I must state publicly that I own it." 

Oh, sure, It would be a pain to list all you own... and then to look at others' lists to denounce unmerited claims. Computers could zero in on any overlap and yes, lawyers would have a few very good years. But what would be the chief effects?

1. A widening of the tax base, to cover all the cryptic hidden stuff, allowing tax burdens of honest citizens to go down.

2. A flood of abandoned property that will go unclaimed, because it was never acquired legally, in the first place, or gets ditched by drug lords and other kinds of cheaters.  My own instinctive estimate is that it could wipe out half the public debt of the world's nations, removing a desperate Debt Bubble problem that economics mavens like John Mauldin worry about.

3. Chains of accountability and liability will be clarified.  No more sheltering of hidden owners, like that tanker that befouled the beaches of Brittany, and no one could find any owners to nail for damages.  (You Randians, would you really be so hypocritical you'd oppose this? In fact, no measure would be more likely to result in simplification of bureaucracy than this one, the market-stimulating opening of information.)

Those who object to this either are members of the cabal of cheaters... or else have been cozened into thinking that transparency is the same thing as more Big Government. It's not. It's the opposite. And with this knowledge and flood of released capital, voters would then be free to insist that regular, honest folks' taxes go down.

Do I deem it likely anything like such a treaty might ever be passed, while a cryptic world oligarchy is exerting vast power to control or shut down every strength and capability of the Open-Accountable Western Enlightenment?

Well, that depends. Are you made of lesser stuff than your ancestors? When these rich and powerful fools get their wish, crushing the middle class and every single knowledge and fact profession, what do they expect the outcome to be? Seriously, I'd rather not see the Helvetian War, or its equivalent.

But it will happen, if you try to carry through on this program, fellahs. And you really need to know the word: "tumbrels."

== We need a Lincoln ==

Abraham Lincoln speaking in 1858 about the Declaration of Independence: 

They grasped not only the whole race of man then living, but they reached forward and seized upon the farthest posterity. The erected a beacon to guide their children and their children's children, and the countless myriads who should inhabit the earth in other ages. 

"Wise statesmen as they were, they knew the tendency of prosperity to breed tyrants, and so they established these great self-evident truths, that when in the distant future some man, some faction, some interest, should set up the doctrine that none but rich men, or none but white men, were entitled to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, their posterity might look up again to the Declaration of Independence and take courage to renew the battle which their fathers began — so that truth, and justice, and mercy, and all the humane and Christian virtues might not be extinguished from the land; so that no man would hereafter dare to limit and circumscribe the great principles on which the temple of liberty was being built.”

How many ways can you find, in that one paragraph, that today’s Republicans have betrayed both Lincoln and the Founders? Now the party of oligarchy, fighting only for the privileges and property of a kingly-lordly-owner caste? 

Lincoln does speak of “humane and Christian virtues —” as do today’s Red Letter Christians, who emphasize the caring, generous words of Jesus, and not the bilious hate-drenched Book of Revelation, or BoR. 

Notice that Lincoln gets almost science fictional, in speaking of “farthest posterity” — an implicit utter-rejection of the gleeful apocalypse yearning expressed by today’s End Times junkies, like president-in-waiting Mike Pence.

Read this appraisal of Lincoln’s 1858 speech… from The Atlantic.

…though the author seems to be under an impression that the Great Commoner won his senate race against Stephen Douglas. He did not. Indeed, the 1850s were a hellish era, when aristocratic forces seemed hell-bent on ending our revolution. When plantation lords held the federal government for three decades, sending platoons of irregular southern cavalry rampaging across northern states.

Today, in similar dark times, remember that. Gird yourselves, patriots, to defend this great experiment, as our ancestors did at Cowpens and Valley Forge. At Antietam and Gettysburg. At Normandy and Dachau. At Little Rock and Selma.  It will be hard. The Confederacy has powerful foreign backers, this time, and they have taken Washington. But we are made of no lesser stuff than those forebears! And we can still be a light unto the world.


P.S. Get even angrier at the site of today’s Patrick Henry: Jim Wright on Vice, Folly and Madness.


Dominic said...

We did have a Lincoln, or at least as close to one as possible, and from day one the Republicans openly and publically stated and followed through that they would do everything in their power to block his works and interfere with his plans.

The current resident of the white house and his band of corrupt henchmen are doing everything in their power to destroy what few things Obama was able to pass, aided by the Republican party and abetted by one half of US media while the other half talks about civility and how the "extremes on both sides" are responsible for all problems in the USA.

I know I often appear one note in my comments but the actions of the news media are often the ones who allow and encourage this bad behaviour by inviting those carrying out this bad behaviour and allowing them to lie and lie and lie.

If I'm mistaken please correct me.

David Brin said...

Sorry. Obama had some smidgens of Lincoln's reasonableness and wit and eloquence. But he was anything but a fighter.

David Brin said...

Oh, I answered a few items on the previous thread. If you want to argue, bring it here.

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Don Gisselbeck said...

Someone should park a working guillotine outside the New York Stock Exchange. It would concentrate some minds wonderfully.

Alfred Differ said...

Does the property registry idea include government ownership down to the exact layer? Feds, state, county, city?

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch | [carry-over from previous thread]


You can call it what you like. Before my first round of editing, I had that one and ‘people-hours’ as a mix. I settled on one, but don’t care what it is.

interchangeable producer units with equivalent knowledge & abilities

No, but close. Interchangeable at any one particular moment? No. We train for particular tasks. Human capital has value and we aren’t all trained the same way. We aren’t equally trainable either.

Yes, though, in the economic sense. No matter what task I’m doing right now, it IS possible to train up someone else to do it. They might not make for an exact replacement, but economics is really a study of how we do substitutions. I’ll give you this for that sounds like it is about the things, but it’s really about what we want those things for.

I don’t care what level of training you have at various tasks. You CAN be swapped out for someone else. The other person might even be better, but that isn’t necessary. All they really have to do is be good enough.

In the economics game, an expert system operated by me might be ‘good enough’ as a replacement for a dozen people at a particular task. As I learn the details the other people knew, ‘good enough’ might turn into ‘essentially equivalent’ or ‘even better.’ Maybe. Doesn't matter, though, since good enough is good enough.

we'd all starve if we relied on David's story-telling skills for nutritional sustenance

Apparently you didn’t absorb any economics in school since that isn’t even close to how things work. David is a specialist. So am I. Most of us are and we CAN be (and prosper) because in the sum we cover all the necessities (and more) far better than we would if we didn’t specialize. This is THE reason humans are the top predator… and more.

we have nothing left to lose by playing nice

What a crock. You most certainly DO have something left to lose. If you had the courage to pick up and move, we’d likely let you in with a warm handshake. Pick up the pieces of your broken heart and choose to live.

dav said...

The problem is that in the "tumbrels" era the common man was increasing in value thank to industrialization. Now, thanks to increasing automation, this is reversing. What happens when 50% of the population is unemployed and unemployable. What do you do with a 90 IQ burger flipper when all the burgers are flipped by robots. And no, he can't "retrained" to code. What if instead of 1789, it's 1848.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi dav
The problem with that scenario is that you are worrying about the wrong jobs
Jobs that involve moving things in the physical world are really difficult to automate

You could build a machine to work as a McDonald's restaurant - but it would have to be the whole restaurant

we will NOT be able to build a McDonalds "worker" for a very long time - have a look at the DARPA robot challenges

The jobs that will go fast are all of the "information handling" white collar jobs those can be automated as soon as the software is good enough

So the burger flipper is safe - but the Bank Manager is NOT

Alfred Differ said...

@dav | I'd add one thing to Duncan's description. SOME of the jobs that involve moving things are difficult. It depends on the context in which the movement occurs. Autopilots on aircraft flying in mid-air are simpler than cars cruising on the highway. More complexity and more purpose driven action in the field of activity makes the problem harder and harder. Eventually you need an AI, but it's cheaper to hire the kinds of intelligences that come about from a biological process and two decades of training. 8)

Besides, there ARE things the 90 IQ burger flipper can do that aren't being done right now because burger flipping pays better. Automate the McDonald's and that job WON'T pay better. Think on it. What you YOU do with a dozen 90 IQ people who wanted to make a living and were willing to do what you asked of them?

Larry Hart said...

Ah, today's (July 8) Doonesbury captures the futility of engaging with Trump supporters:

Tacitus said...


Guess you and I still get the Sunday paper! You ol' fossilized cultural conservative!

I was waiting for the frame where the MAGA guy says: "Sounds OK, now how do you pay for it all?"


Larry Hart said...

Ok, I've said that one of the memes fighting for supremacy in my head is the glavers' path of redemption--forgetting all about news and politics and only caring about what my senses perceive each day. At least two posters here on the Republican side have mentioned something similar--how the immediate rewards of life are more or less pristine and untouched by madness from Washington or Russia or wherever.

So a legitimate question--if that is so, then why all the manufactured outrage over respect for the American flag? I mean, right-wingers themselves like to invoke the federal government as an enemy of liberty when it suits their purposes. Sarah Palin's husband belonged to an Independent Alaska movement whose members didn't want to be buried under "That damned flag" [Ours], and that was only a political liability as to how badly it played to other people. The right-wingers themselves had no problem with such an attitude.

When Republicans insist on forced respect for the American flag from the likes of Colin Kaepernick or NFL players, they're insisting on a display of reverence that they themselves don't feel and often openly disdain. When they insist on reflexive obedience to the head man in Washington, they're insisting on behavior that they themselves enthusiastically violate when that head man is named Clinton or Obama.

So again, is disrespect for America one of those (myriad) things that is simply ok when Republicans do it?

Larry Hart said...

Tim Wolter:

Guess you and I still get the Sunday paper! You ol' fossilized cultural conservative!

Yeah, old habits and all. My daughter doesn't generally read newspapers, but you'd be surprised when there's a Chicago Tribune story about something very local, like a bit about her high school. She'll read every word.

I was waiting for the frame where the MAGA guy says: "Sounds OK, now how do you pay for it all?"

The same way they pay for the tax cuts and military spending?

You personally maybe, but MAGA guys have renounced any claim they ever had to fiscal conservativeness. Ok, this may be my summer daydream, but do you know what I'd be in favor of that just might work? Separate federal treasuries for Republicans and Democrats. Tax money is allocated to the treasury of the party in power, and that same party's treasury is drawn down when the government spends money. Debt from one party's treasury does not encumber the other. One can borrow from the other, but that requires the lender's consent.

Devil, meet details, of course, the biggest detail being which party is "in power" during divided periods of divided government. Maybe if a Republican congress passes a bill, it has to give money to the Democratic treasury for the president to allocate? Maybe there's some formula that takes all three branches of government into account and assigns a percentage of responsibility to each? Maybe that percentage has to be worked out in committee as part of the budget?

The point is that if each party was responsible for the debt that it rings up rather than leaving that debt to the other party in the next election, lawmakers would have incentive to be more fiscally responsible.

Larry Hart said...

Ok, before leaving for the physical world on this beautiful Sunday morning, I urge one and all to read Malcolm Nance's latest book, The Plot To Destroy Democracy, and come away unchanged.

The final words of the book:

America and Europe are now joined by a common danger, a philosophy that could easily consume our enlightened histories. It is our duty to stand up to, and to counterattack, this mortal threat to our freedom and liberty. All who love freedom and liberty as they were given to us at the birth of the herald of democracy must hold fast and shout out the maxim of the United States Army--"This I'll Defend"--the salvation of the greatest political democracy in the history of the world is in our hands. We are the cavalry we have been waiting for. Now, stop reading. Go forth. Save democracy.

locumranch said...

Alfred's question about "What (do) YOU do with a dozen 90 IQ people who wanted to make a living and were willing to do what you asked of them?" has already been answered by many of the enlightened participants here in previous threads.

Through mandatory re-education & selective breeding, you attempt to improve them into 'Better Angels':

You placate them with UBI, bread, circuses & intoxicants; you minimise their ability to reproduce via feminism & the behavioral sink that is the population-dense urban environment; you replace them with a more compliant breed through unrestricted immigration & genetic dilution; and you "let the dead bury the dead".

And, once you dispose of all that bad non-compliant rubbish, you (hopefully) "give birth to" a new & improved Iron Dream populated by fact-using intellectual supermen who can then go forth & conquer the universe.

The thing is, we've all heard this Utopian shit before & we've all seen to where this type of progressive 'self-improvement' tends to lead, yet we try try again in the expectation of a different outcome even though it always turns out pretty much the same.

I therefore propose a very different solution to the whole 'self-improvement' thing wherein we balkanise, self-segregate & go our separate ways in order to allow each & every one of us to pursue our own ideas about the nature of human perfection, letting the evolutionary process be the judge & jury about which Utopian fantasy is the correct one, instead of placing all our eggs (literally & metaphorically) into ONE basket managed by a singular fact-using academic elite that has it's own head lodged firmly up its own arse.


Otherwise, a good post by David that has given me some intellectual nutrition:

Note, for instance, how a Blue Urban David chafes under the control of the wealthiest 1% & plans their demise, even though they only control 'paper wealth', much in the same way he dismisses (and plans the demise of) the 2% who are Red Rural agricultural producers responsible for creating more than 90% of REAL agricultural wealth. Who do you suppose is the greater threat to his dreams of Blue Urban Utopianism?

Said Frank Herbert, “The people who can destroy a thing, they control it.”

In both the EU & the US, it appears that the Red Rural minority is in charge here, n'est pas?

All your base are belong to US.

Ahcuah said...


If I may, I'd like to suggest that you take a look at this video of the presentation Dr. Timothy Snyder gave regarding his new book, "The Road to Unfreedom". Snyder is a Yale history professor with a lot of knowledge of Russia, including speaking many languages in the area. The video was on C-Span's BookTV a few months ago.

He watched as the former Soviet Union turned to feudalism/fascism and recognized that a lot of that was based on the works of philosopher Ivan Ilyin. In fact, Putin even admits as such (though it has not been particularly reported on).

Snyder has framed things in what he calls the politics of inevitability and the politics of eternity, but what is most fascinating to me (and a warning to all) is the history (from a historian's point of view) of how we got here and what Putin and the Russians are up to.

I think it nicely complements your discussions regarding feudalism and oligarchy and you might enjoy considering how yours ideas mesh (and how much you might want to expand your ideas to include it). Others here might also find it explains a lot.

I've started the book and have made it to Chapter 3. It is slow-going at first while it took me time to absorb what he meant by the politics of inevitability and polities of eternity (even though he did define them up front). But one needs to see how they fit in not to stumble over the terms.

Snyder also wrote this piece, "Ivan Ilyin, Putin’s Philosopher of Russian Fascism," if you'd prefer reading something before watching the video:

David Brin said...

Steve H. I find that no one can ever even define the most-useless of all political words — “populist.” Seriously, you find it remotely useful or meaningful, other than the notion of riling up emotions rather than thoughtfulness or self-interest?

Dav hi… and yes, there are parallels with 1848. But radicals who have not read Marx in detail do not understand why that revolution failed. It failed precisely because Napoleon, despite failing politically, succeeded in spreading social and economic reform across the continent. Everywhere his armies stayed for more than a year, the merchant and small farmer classes were liberated, serfs freed, ghetto walls torn down. Even the Austria of 1848 was hugely different than the Austria of 1788.

Marx shows that the worker-centric revolutions of 1848, which aimed at truly broad political reform, failed because the elites managed - barely - to persuade the bourgeoisie and farmers to side with them against the workers and students.

Today’s populist uprisings are similar… but also different. A better correlate would be the 1860s US Civil War (phase 4), in which a million poor white southerners marched off to protect the property rights of their own class oppressors.

Congrats on the vitamins, locum. You still lie and lie deliberately about what I think and say. But at least you have stopped drooling.

“Go your own way?” Crum. Today’s paper had articles about nearby countries where your social security (hated government!) will let you live in gracious style. What’s stopping you from buying a small, deserted town in a red state and creating your own style of commune? Jeez man, just do it.

Don Gisselbeck said...

Speaking of robots replacing humans. I may have limited imagination but it is going to be a very long time before robots can repair bicycles. How would you make one that extract broken, corroded cables from shifters for one example. It will also be quite a while before robots can ski icy moguls, suncups and breakable crust.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Congrats on the vitamins, locum. You still lie and lie deliberately about what I think and say. But at least you have stopped drooling.

Aw, I liked Ophelia better.

“Go your own way?” Crum. Today’s paper had articles about nearby countries where your social security (hated government!) will let you live in gracious style. What’s stopping you from buying a small, deserted town in a red state and creating your own style of commune? Jeez man, just do it.

His ex-wife would get half.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ responds to locumranch:

"we have nothing left to lose by playing nice"

What a crock. You most certainly DO have something left to lose

Actually, don't you think loc meant to say a different thing, in fact the opposite thing of what he actually said?

"We have nothing left to gain by playing nice," or "We have nothing left to lose by not playing nice," perhaps?

duncan cairncross said...

Re - He watched as the former Soviet Union turned to feudalism/fascism

He must be over 100 years old then as that happened 1n about 1917 when the old Czarist commissars seamlessly changed into the new soviet commissars - changing a few names but leaving the core intact

Ahcuah said...

@Duncan. Really, there was a former Soviet Union in 1917? Maybe it would behoove you to actually read what Snyder says instead of thinking you can somehow earn brownie points by misreading what I wrote.

You might recall that there was an attempt at democratization after the fall of the Soviet Union. That was the period I was referring to (as I'm sure you well know) and onwards. The current situation is in large part a harkening back to Ilyin to pre-Soviet Russia. (MRGA)

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch | You placate them with UBI, bread, circuses & intoxicants; [snip of more blah, blah, blah]

Meh. You keep forgetting I’m a libertarian. I am rarely supportive of giving free shit to people who would be better served by a kick in the ass motivating them to walk away from their past errors.

It has been my experience that people will drown out realizing their errors by reaching for intoxicants, watching circuses, and mooching off their bleeding-heart neighbors. No. Screw you. Don’t like being left behind by a world moving on? Tough. Get off your ass and move on. It’s not like we haven’t shown many ways of how to do it. Make up your own if you prefer.

I therefore propose a very different solution to the whole 'self-improvement' thing wherein we balkanise…[snipped away a crappy idea]

No. I will not abandon your children to your stupidity nor will I enable the creation of a nation on this continent hostile to the interests of my children.

pursue our own ideas about the nature of human perfection

You already have that as long as you don’t go too far. Due Process, Rule of Law, Respect for basic Rights… that stuff matters. We will find a way to cooperate on those or we will fight over them. Your choice.

letting the evolutionary process be the judge & jury about which Utopian fantasy is the correct one

None of them are. Utopia itself is a fantasy. The odd thing about it, though, is that from the perspective on one generation looking several generations behind, things CAN improve. The number of desperately poor people on Earth has been shrinking rapidly lately. Weird, huh? The progressives want more and will likely get it, but not because they know how to get it. Weird, hmm? Turns out our 'civilization' does.

managed by a singular fact-using academic elite 

What happened? Did some expert witness piss on your Wheaties? 8)

The Intelligentsia isn’t monolithic. There is no ‘singular’ to that ‘elite’. There isn’t even a clear boundary defining who is in or out.

Alfred Differ said...

@Larry Hart | meant to say a different thing

Heh. Maybe.

My actual suspicion is he feels like he has been stabbed in the back by a civilization/culture he intended to serve. If so, he is lashing out in pain at the betrayal.

I’m partially familiar with this, but probably on a smaller scale since I didn’t lose child custody. My marriage is intact, but I’ve been upset a few times at ‘other forces’ for which I had clear and reasonable expectations. One was too big to stab back, but the second was not. In hindsight, I should not have done what I did, but I did it well.

David Brin said...

The trick of the Scottish-American Enlightenment -- though not the Franco-German wing - was suspicion of all authority, or SoA. It was essential because we are human and whenever any group gets solitary power... even idealistic technocrats like many of the engineers who became managers and then politburo mavens in Beijing... you will fall for every temptation of authoritarian delusion. It's how we're made. Oh, some lords are better than others. But the meaning of the American Revolution was "we should do without lords."

Hence, our SoA propaganda - in every Hollywood film - created a reflex that's kept us free, though we often disagree over WHICH "elite" is striving to seize too much power. Leftists assume it's aristocrats and faceless corporations. Rightists assume it is snooty academics and faceless government bureaucrats. (You see both tyrannical modes portrayed in diverse films.) Libertarians SHOULD aim their SoA at both and all directions -- Alfred does! But most of them have, alas, been suborned into being tunnel visioned, rightist tools.

Now, it's perfectly reasonable to sniff suspiciously when any elite says "leave it to us!" And Technocracy - rule by those with smarts and knowledge and credentials - is certainly one hypothetical dictatorship by a snooty elite. Except for China though (and Beijing may be exactly that, under a communist/mercantilist veneer), when has technocracy ever been a highly plausible authoritarian-oppressive mode? There are no plausible scenarios by which it could happen in the West.

Is it okay to sniff suspiciously at "fact-people?" Sure. As it was okay to sniff at excesses by labor unions. But when unions have been plummeting for forty years, the intensity of screeching against them becomes highly suspicious. Especially when those billionaires financing this hysteria HAVE been getting more powerful and benefiting outrageously for those same 40 years.

What kind of Suspicion of Authority instinct is it, that cannot notice: "Hey, I am marching with fervor for the only elite in society whose power, wealth and influence have been skyrocketing to atmospheric levels for decades, and is now approaching levels not seen since 1789 in France."

Face it. Suspicion of Authority has been healthy for us. It kept us free. But traitors have discovered how to metastacize it into a cancer that attacks every elite *except* the very one that took power and crushed hopes in every other human civilization. The same one that cheated, stymied all progress, cheated, murdered, cheated, stole and cheated across 6000 years. The very same one the American Founders rebelled against, who Adam Smith denounced as market destroyers, and who got a million poor southern whites to fight and die for slavery.

So, we should apply fierce, hate-drenched SoA toward all other elites - science, teaching, journalism, civil servants, every fact using profession... including now the "deep state" FBI and officer corps... except one? The only one that is actually, actually rising to obligate and near total power? What a coincidence! Those other elites are the only forces in society who could possibly stymie that total coup, and they just happen - all of them -- to be eeeeevil! All of the folks who know stuff, in their diverse tens of millions, yes, all of them.

Welcome to the essence of the confederacy, folks. Plantation lords and the populist-numbskulls who march and die to protect the lords' privileges. It is the same, recurring national fever, our perennial curse. And we must do as we've done before. Stop it. Politically. With malice toward none. With charity for all and binding the national wounds. Knowing that if the sickness wind this round, that is not how we will be treated.

David Brin said...

Knowing that if the sickness wins this round, that is not how we will be treated.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

My actual suspicion is he feels like he has been stabbed in the back by a civilization/culture he intended to serve. If so, he is lashing out in pain at the betrayal.

Yes, that's pretty obvious, as well as standard super-villain origin fare.

I get the "nothing left to lose" thing. I've been there myself. The line I prefer, but it means the same thing is Frank Miller's Kingpin character, realizing that after all his attempts at degradation and murder, Daredevil is still alive out there: "I have shown him that a man without a man without fear!"

All that notwithstanding, "We have nothing left to lose by playing nice" would imply that playing nice is his next gambit. Since that's not what he meant, I have to conclude that the sentence was badly formed.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Bob
If your writer does not understand that the soviet structure STARTED as Authoritarian/Feudal and never changed from that in the decades it continued then he is probably not worth reading

The "Soviet Union" simply adopted the Czarist regime including all of the laws and the lower level functionaries

I'm not going to watch 90 minutes of some talking head - but I did read his flannel about Ilyn - interesting but very turgidly written

I had a look for his book on Amazon but my inner Scotsman rebels at paying that much for an e-book

Alfred Differ said...

I just had the pleasure of refreshing my memory regarding the various caucuses within the Libertarian party. Heh. For such a small party, we’ve got boatloads of them. Some make sense to me as political entities. Some seem to confuse ‘to win’ with ‘to sin’ meaning they prefer ideological purity. One puts out a bounty for delivering pies to the face for libertarians who fail to remain pure while another looks at ‘bottom unity’ meaning it is more important that we oppose authoritarians than it is we oppose economic theories put into practice.

I signed up for a few of them on FB just to watch what they do. It should make for some fun for my friends and family who might get some bleed-over. Turn-about is fair play, though, since I get theirs. 8)

[If I start talking about a plan to vote naked next November demanding my freedom to do anything I damn well please, my wife might need some help getting me into the de-programming closet and convincing a judge she has it covered. I will be alerting my brother for that possibility just in case.]


Wow. Some people REALLY don’t want to win. If you think the Confederates are nuts, peruse the libertarian caucuses pages to get a sense of perspective. I’m tempted to start my own. Yah. I know. Off to the closet. g'night. 8)

Don Gisselbeck said...

Suspicion of Authority has to be balanced against reciprocal deference to expertise. It is amazing (and infuriating) to see experts in some fields unwilling to even acknowledge the existence of experts in scientific studies that have the potential to interfere with the wealth of the predator class. For example:

locumranch said...

First, our friendly libertarian Alfred says he doesn't like to to give "free shit to people who would be better served by a kick in the ass", yet he insists that NOT giving "free shit" to our children is tantamount to abandoning them.

Second, he spews some authoritarian guff about how Rule Obedience, Due Process & Rule of Law are required for the libertarian exercise of Free Will & Personal Liberty; and, third, he dismisses the idea of Utopian perfectionism while insisting that recent trends toward 'improvement' somehow prove the viability of Utopian perfectionism.

Contradict yourself much?

Almost as much as David who argues that Scottish Enlightenment-style SOA should apply to everyone BUT his personal identity group of self-selected fact-using elitists who should be obeyed without question (he argues) because 'Scottish Enlightenment-style SOA'.

It's very interesting how both David & Alfred defend the civilised Status Quo which enslaves much of our population & creates the 'Plantation Lord' identity group which they both pretend to despise, while arguing simultaneously (as they both do) that 'Freedom equals ENSLAVEMENT' to a hierarchical authoritarian command structure.

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss.

The Confederate Approach is simply this:

Reclaim Representative Government by having one foe destroy the other, our foes being the mutually complicit Plantation Lords and the Authoritarian Status Quo who create, protect & reinforce each other.


Larry Hart said...

Leonard Pitts channels everything I've been thinking about conservatism these past months. I'd think Tim/Tacitus2 would agree with much of what he says as well. Maybe just not that last step that Bill Maher has already taken:

Once upon a time, you see, I thought I was a little bit conservative. Mind you, I could never side with the right on social justice matters like the treatment of LGBT Americans, African-Americans and women, where they have always been irredeemably wrong. But I did agree with them on the importance of fathers and on the need for self-reliance, a strong military and foreign-policy realism. While I support government regulation of business, consumer standards and the environment, I was even willing to listen to conservative complaints about excessive red tape.

Thing is, I still hold more or less the same views, but I'm nobody's idea of a conservative. I didn't change, but the definition of conservative did. And that forces a realization:

With apologies to John F. Kennedy, Ich bin ein liberal.


So I was never willing to call myself liberal. Or conservative. I liked the idea of weighing the facts and thinking a thing through for myself.

I was naive, though. While I was holding out on a lonely island of principle, the middle space between the extremes shrank to nothing. Political identity became actual identity, and one was required to choose sides, like a kid in the slums forced to choose between rival street gangs, with conscientious objection not an option.

And the choice isn’t really a choice at all, because what used to be conservatism no longer is. When’s the last time you heard the right talk about the kinds of things — fatherhood, clear-eyed foreign policy — that once helped define it?

No, these days, being “conservative” means being angry and fearful at the loss of white prerogative. It means to embrace — or at the very least, tolerate, which is functionally the same thing — a new and brazen strain of white supremacy. It means to be dismissive and destructive of the norms of democratic governance. It means to willingly accept nonstop lies, intellectual vacuity and naked incompetence and pretend they are signs of stable genius. It means to be wholly in thrall to the Cult of Trump.


This column is about my problem, which I guess I’ve solved, though not without some regret for the days when I felt free to walk between political extremes and not declare myself. But in 2018, that’s an unaffordable luxury. In 2018, one of those extremes represents a danger as clear and present as any foreign adversary.

So yes, I am a liberal. Because I have, literally, no alternative.

donzelion said...

Donald Gisselbeck: "Suspicion of Authority has to be balanced against reciprocal deference to expertise."

I generally take 'Suspicion of authority' as a narrative/plot trope, rather than a public posture.

Outside the fixed contours of a plot device, 'Suspicion of Authority' is usually just a 'selection bias for authority' - people who claim not to trust them experts tend to do so while relying on this here other set of 'experts' - and it usually turns out the 'experts' they aren't suspicious of will be the ones affirming the prevailing power structure, rather than those calling for some change thereto. Logically consistent anarchists seem rather uncommon in most societies.

David Brin said...

"Almost as much as David who argues that Scottish Enlightenment-style SOA should apply to everyone BUT his personal identity group of self-selected fact-using elitists who should be obeyed without question "

Liar. Deliberate liar. Liar to a degree that openly and diametrically destroys all credibility.

I'd normally simply ignore such an openly and deliberately deceitful person, who knowingly treats truth like toilet paper. But we all know what's going on here. Incantations. We are watching a desperately magical, zero sum mind at work, and there's no sense in getting all angry. We'll have to deal with this kind of lobotomized neighbor all our lives. And here... sometimes even entertainingly, we are shown just how obdurate it will always be.


But even WERE I to be excusing my clade from accountability -- (my every word and work says the opposite) -- The system is such that I'd not get my wish, when light and accountability flow. But these confed tribalists are utter lackeys to the strongest. Dos, servile to plantation lords.

Berial said...

Through propaganda arms like FOX News and conservative 'think tanks', the moneyed elite have managed a marvel. They've convinced working whites to hate the very people that want them to have more pay, clean air and water, free healthcare and the power to fight back against big banks and mega-corps. It's truly amazing.

raito said...

Well, it appears as though I do have an account. Probably something I set up to update Android in various places. I'd still prefer to post semi-anonymously, but it's not my playground, is it?

What happens to the lower levels of society? Well, There's A Story About That...

The R-Master, by Gordon Dickson. The oligarchs plan there was to automate until 86% of the population was no longer necessary, then let them die out. It's specifically mentioned that this die-off would be humane. What wasn't specified was that the humaneness would be to keep any revolution from triggering.

The solution to the problem in that novel was to imbalance the oligarchs, who naturally wanted stasis, and had mostly gained it within their circle. Very similar to other the Others in Dickson's Childe Cycle.

Berial said...

Looks like someone on twitter agrees with your assessment of 'Pax Americana'.

I put in the numbers to keep them strait. The link works to see the flow as well.


1)Modern Europe – liberal, democratic Europe – is the United States’ creation. This story was once known to every American, but as the generation responsible for this achievement dies, so too has the knowledge ceased to be passed down casually, within families.

2) The United States built this modern order upon an architecture of specific institutions: the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the International Court of Justice, the World Economic Forum, and above all NATO and the US.

3) The global order we built is in effect an empire, but onr far more humane than European imperialism. It rests upon two beliefs, one idealistic and the other realistic: The first is the idea that certain moral values are universal [continued]

4) Europe was designed – by the United States – to be the other half of the West. Europe’s success is a global advertisement for liberal democracy. The collapse of liberal democracy in Europe would represent the failure of these ideals -- upon which the United States also rests.

5) Neither Europe nor the US are wealthy or powerful enough, alone, to sustain and expand liberal democracy in a world growingly dominated by China, Russia, and anarchy. No European country alone, nor any of the American states alone, can now sustain the global liberal order.

Berial said...


6) A United Europe – and the United States – are together strong enough to sustain the liberal democratic tradition and Western values. This is precisely why the enemies of liberal democracy are trying to drive a stake through our seventy-year alliance.

7) The demilitarization and pacification of Germany was the greatest of American achievements. It made European peace and integration possible. Germany’s demilitarization ended the Franco-German rivalry that set the Continent alight and reduced it to ashes, again and again.

8)The wars that broke out in 1939 and 1914 were iterations of the wars fought by Bismarck, Napoleon and Louis XIV—Sedan, 1870; Leipzig, 1813; Jena, 1806; Valmy, 1792; Turckheim, 1675. The 20th centuries’ were bloodier for only one reason: a massive improvement in killing capability

9) Europe's history was defined, for centuries, by unmitigated slaughter and butchery among the European peoples, a traditional only occasionally interrupted since the sack of Rome.

10) For centuries, as we discovered, Europe was the globe's leading exporter of violence, and that is precisely why our postwar foreign policy was designed to ensure our permanent military hegemony over the Continent.

11) American power put an end to centuries of the same European war, and *only* American power, as we exercised it, could have ended this conflict. We ended it by credibly guaranteeing Germany’s security under the American nuclear umbrella.

12) Postwar Europe ceased to be the world’s leading exporter of violence because it was occupied, stripped of full sovereignty, and subordinated to outside hegemons—first the US and the USSR, then the US alone. The long peace is the direct consequence of our hegemony. (Cont.)

13) The benefits of this—to the US, Europe, and the world—are not just economic, though those are immense. The benefit is in the suppression of Europe's inherent security conflicts: wars were not fought, lives were not squandered.

14) European free-riding isn’t a bug, as many Americans now seem to feel—it is the central feature of our postwar security strategy.

15) How is it, then, that suddenly, we’re consumed with rage that Europe is “taking advantage” of us? How have we forgotten that this is the point of the system? We designed it this way, and did so for overwhelmingly obvious historic reasons, learnt at incalculable cost.

Berial said...

16) Since World War II, we have been deployed in Eurasia to ensure it cannot be dominated by a single power capable of monopolizing, and turning against us, the resources of Europe or East Asia.

17) We do this by suppressing security competition in those regions. We build our own overwhelmingly massive military assets and locate them, strategically, as a warning: You cannot win. Don't even try. By this means, we prevent local arms races before they begin.

18) Simultaneously, we say, "But there is no need to try. Your safety is guaranteed. You need not worry about this." And we regularly show, often at terrible risk to ourselves, that we mean this." This has largely kept the peace in Europe for 74 years.

19) The US underwrites European security through forward engagement and security guarantees based on deterrence. In return, its Allies accept the leading role of the US in the international system and contribute towards meeting common challenges.

20) The polite fiction that allows Europeans to save face, is that this is a partnership, rather than subordination to US hegemony is a partnership, with each party contributing according to ability.

21) The truth is that the US does, of course, pay more than its fair share, and in exchange receives more than its fair of power. The arrangement liberates Europeans and Americans alike from the most dangerous force confronting them: the Europe's ancient impulse to fratricide.

22) Americans died, suffered, and labored assiduously, for generations, to create of Europe what it had never been before: a zone of peaceful, prosperous, liberal, democracies—and the other half of the West. (con't.)

23) The rescue and reconstruction of Europe was our greatest moral and political accomplishment, towering above any other in our country’s short history. Our grandparents destroyed the most monstrous and tyrannical regimes humanity has known ....

24) Then proved that our system of governance, or something much like it, could be built and made to work on that very soil. This is the story of the world we know, and the story of our country, too. This is the accomplishment now under threat.

25) The world we built is the only world any American alive now knows. We take it for granted. The United States seems so mammoth, so solid, so marmoreal that it requires immense imagination to realize that nothing about our system of governance is intuitive, natural, or typical;

26) or to recall that before we built this world, liberal democracy was a fragile and relatively untested experiment. It was our victory in the Second World War and our reconstruction of Europe and Japan that made us a global, norm-setting power--

27) --capable of defining the rules of international order, and this is what made liberal democracy a *global* aspiration—and in many places a reality. We take for granted, too, the security that comes with being a global hegemon. We *cannot imagine* what we're putting at risk.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch | Oh dear. You have caught me in a contradiction. It is now time for me to turn in my free-thinker card and join the RWA follower ranks…

…except that I’ve long thought it a terrible idea to kick the asses of children telling them to pull their lives together. Punishment is sometimes necessary, but it doesn’t work if they

1) do not understand the nature of the behavior you would have them avoid,
2) do not have a replacement behavior they can imagine,
3) do not believe you will limit your punishments to avoid arbitrary rule over them.

The brightest kids in the world who fail to understand (1) will learn from the punishment to mistrust the adult and maybe even hate them.

Very bright children might find replacement behaviors fast enough that we won’t realize (2) is necessary, but many don’t. When they don’t, punishment teaches them to avoid behavior X in front of that adult. [My mother was VERY specific about this one. When she said “don’t let me catch you doing X” she meant it literally. I was to learn sneakiness.]

Kids dealing with (3) are likely to repeat the errors with their own children because they learn that parents are arbitrary rulers. They don’t get to see a local example of the Rule of Law.

Rule Obedience and Rule of Law are not the same. I’m inclined to believe you don’t know what “Rule of Law” means at all. I’m not in the mood to enlighten you, though. Wallow in your ignorance if you like.

Utopian perfectionism isn’t possible for the simplest of reasons. We can’t imagine it. Individually we DO try, but it’s rare that more than a small fraction of us will rally around any one particular vision.

Improvement IS possible for the simplest of reasons. We don’t have to imagine it except at the individual level. It works out at the social level as long as we trade voluntarily. Read Adam Smith for starters and then F A Hayek to see why.

donzelion said...

Raito: I was a fan of Gordon Dickson while much younger, though "The Final Encyclopedia" seemed rather 'low' imagination (building a satellite to serve as a major encyclopedia set? We could do that on Earth, and transmit it through computers...), and 'Chantry Guild' struck me as mysticism with a scifi veneer. Haven't read R-Master, but think I'd disagree with Dickson and you as well: oligarchs never "want" stasis - that's more an unintended consequence of their machinations to retain status.

Oligarchs themselves always THINK they're working to build a better world - it's the manipulations necessary to retain their place in this world that balance each other out, resulting in a 'zero sum' (or rather, a very minimal positive sum) outcome than democracy attains.

donzelion said...

"5) Neither Europe nor the US are wealthy or powerful enough, alone, to sustain and expand liberal democracy in a world growingly dominated by China, Russia, and anarchy."

Why not? China has a massive advantage in demography - which, in another couple decades, will position them much as it has Japan - with a drastically reduced, aging workforce. Their tactics will likewise favor Japan's (and America's): automation/robotics. Russia has had its riches and power for centuries - they were long a paper tiger, threatening the Ottomans, Persians, and Chinese in the past, but primarily a 'threat' to anyone who tried to control and contain them.

"22) Americans died, suffered, and labored assiduously, for generations, to create of Europe what it had never been before: a zone of peaceful, prosperous, liberal, democracies—and the other half of the West. (con't.)"
A very noble expression of a very pragmatic set of policies: Americans died etc. as part of a global struggle, but not 'for' Europe - they did it purely for America (and that includes America's place globally). When the war ended, we extracted immense wealth from Europe - and Europeans created new mechanisms to curtail our extraction, then in the face of competitive measures erected in response to our own, they began bypassing us competitively in certain niches - we responded in turn - and on, and on.

Nowadays, it's hard to say whether Volkswagen is 'American' or 'European' or 'Chinese' - and so on with nearly every other enterprise. Is SAP a 'German' software company? Where's their stadium? And so on...

"26) ...liberal democracy was a fragile and relatively untested experiment."
In the 20th century? It wasn't that it was 'fragile,' so much as other untested experiments - socialism, fascism, and other variations hadn't proven their capabilities in withstanding the 'oligarchic' trend.

The ancient enemy of liberal democracy has always been oligarchy - mainly because liberal democracy (in the Aristotlian sense, a 'republican form of government') always anticipated a place for an 'aristocracy' mixed into democratic processes. The notion of aristocracy though raises a tension between the 'meritocratic' v. 'plutocratic' elements: it is difficult indeed to distinguish them.

Treebeard said...

That stuff Berial posted is the classic American liberal savior mentality on display. Right, Europe was “saved” by making it into a subservient copy of America that trashed its own culture and traditions: this is the story of Pax Americana in a nutshell. Previous empires were more honest; they didn't push delusions like “everyone on the planet is a Roman/Chinese/etc. inside just waiting to be saved by us” and they didn't try to make everyone a Roman/Chinese/etc.; they just demanded fealty. And just as Pax Americana turned proud “savages” into show Indians, they turned savage Europeans into “show Europeans”: emasculated, domesticated people who, like neutered pets or zoo animals, don't produce any culture of note, lack the will to defend themselves or even reproduce. This is why liberalism fails in a nutshell. Here's an apropros quote by the closest thing to a prophet Europeans have produced:

“My conception of freedom. —The value of a thing sometimes does not lie in that which one attains by it, but in what one pays for it—what it costs us. I give an example. Liberal institutions cease to be liberal as soon as they are attained: later on, there are no worse and no more thorough injurers of freedom than liberal institutions. One knows, indeed, what their ways bring: they undermine the will to power; they level mountain and valley, and call that morality; they make men small, cowardly, and hedonistic—every time it is the herd animal that triumphs with them. Liberalism: in other words, herd-animalization.” —Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

Alfred Differ said...

Oh my. An opportunity to quibble about history!

I generally agree with the list Berial provides from ClaireBerlinski, but I'll resist the easy temptations.

What is more interesting is the US role in all this. Yes... the modern order (1, 2, 3) is essentially one we helped design and maintain. For example, we wanted France and Germany to have roughly equal power in the EU to check each other. Both are historically dangerous, so we also needed buffer states between them to make a mess of power plays in both countries. We wanted France and Germany to work together regarding Russia, but mostly Germany as long as France didn't ally with Russia to cause Germany to worry about both borders. Germany is in the middle, so geopolitically, they have little choice but to see threats from each direction. Ending that perception was critical to the US strategy for the Cold War. That alone would make us a world power, but it is the common act of a ruling empire to balance forces that we alone cannot defeat or are not worth defeating. Neat, but not unique.

What we really did was dominate the oceans so completely that only bordering nations could go to war with each other without asking for our permission. We took over the role filled by the UK and then made it work so well it smothered other war efforts because war screws with our trade... sometimes. During the Cold War we certainly did tolerate some wars and fought in them too, but after 1990 our view of them has dimmed considerably. We get blamed for tolerating them... sensible since we are THE hegemon... and traders get annoyed.

I think it is a mistake to think we sustain the liberal order, though. We defend it because in doing so we defend ourselves. It mostly sustains itself when it comes to soft power because there isn't enough wealth in the world to do it any other way. Members of the western liberal order would be dominating world powers if the US were not on the map. They are THAT wealthy. Our presence discourages their military spending, though, so it isn't obvious.

It is just as big a mistake to think the current incarnation of the US could maintain itself in a world that opposed it. We could make it a fight for the history books, but any Power that held Northern Europe from Paris to Moscow could probably gain all of Europe and Asia. All of it. South Asia too. They would do so as a land power which we could not really stop at our current level of power. Once we can project power from space, though, even that possibility begins to end. Everone has a coast we can reach if we are up there in force.

Europe isn't the other half either. It is the first half and we are the other half. The western liberal order didn't start here, but it sure prospered here. We didn't suffer a crisis of faith due to the failed revolutions of 1848-49. We survived our crisis a little later and went on the secure the largest continguous, wealth producing region on Earth. A century later, we were on top of that order and putting men on the Moon. The partnership isn't a polite fiction, though. It IS a partnership. It has to be for this to work. The ignorance of working class Americans about these things and others is well known to everyone except us, but at the moment it has become quite embarrassing.

Others are going to join this order and we should be preparing for that. The weakness of China through the early 20th century is an historical abberation. They should be part of the order and we should be doing what we can to get them there... our way. The Ottoman and Persian cores should be too. South Asia as well. The future will show them all to be regions of core strength. We should be preparing.

Russia? Nope. They continue to exist because they use illiberal methods to dominate the regions around them. We should be limiting the damage they can do. Beyond that, we should be waiting for them to evaporate. They will eventually if they remain contained.

locumranch said...

Oh dear, my good friends:

Feel free to keep your 'free-thinker cards' & contradict yourselves as much as you like. I only ask that you turn in your 'clear-thinker' cards as you, like many other false libertarians who pretend to emphasize personal responsibility, prefer to exempt all womynz, childrens & minorities (who represent up to 2/3rds of modern society) on account that they're 'opprezzst'.

Like David who pretends to support the democratic process whilst he frequently demands that right-wing nut jobs be excluded from representative government & the democratic process on account of their ignorance, moral depravity, religiosity, or a lack of scientific comprehension.

Like Donzelion who admits (and denies) that there's a fine line between those evil monied oligarchs who are the "ancient enemy of liberal democracy" & every other subclass of self-perpetuating aristocracy that includes (but is not limited to) the legal, academic, scientific, bureaucratic & hereditary castes which only issue 'accreditation' to those students (aka 'acolytes') who adhere to official dogma with a 97% concordance.

By the way, I'm LMAO at the bizarre argument that Pax Americana SUPPORTS liberal democracy everywhere by forcing (I mean 'liberating') other democracies to obey the US-enforced Pax at the point of a gun.

I mean, really, think of those all small business that have been similarly 'liberated' of their assets by organised crime. Yay, extortion & autocracy equals democracy in action!!


donzelion said...

Treebeard: "Previous empires were more honest; they didn't push delusions like “everyone on the planet is a Roman/Chinese/etc."

I am sure Paul of Tarsus was misinformed when he thought of himself as both a Roman and a Jew. The Romans and Greeks were particularly free about affording citizenship to non-Romans and non-Greeks (indeed, if the Romans hadn't done so, Rome wouldn't have assimilated the Etruscans and numerous other folks on the peninsula, not to mention much further afield). As for China, they converted Mongols into Chinese, then converted Manchus into Chinese, and now more than 50% of their territory was obtained through those acts of assimilation.

You might more plausibly claim that the British Empire refrained from such assimilation during certain phases, but their imperial designs on much of the world are the direct predecessor for America's - and the differences are astonishing. British imperial possessions languished under a mercantlist-oligarchic tyranny, keeping afloat the otherwise decadent estates of lords and ladies who peacocked about in Victorian England as the industrialists pushed their previous wealth into irrelevance. But even there, you'd find a much more challenging claim: where did Gandhi study and practice law? Where did he complete his studies, and in what language?

America never asked nor wanted 'fealty' from any 'foreign' state - we always permitted people to choose. Puerto Rico? Hawaii? Folks could have gone independent, full statehood, or neither - just as Texas could have done. But we are sticklers for making people uphold their oath...

donzelion said...

Locum: re the 'fine line' that distinguishes 'oligarchs' from 'meritocrats' - well, it's not THAT fine. Oligarchs don't compete with each other to become oligarchs; they compete with slaves and serfs. Everyone else must contend with an equal. That is part of the reason why they CAN beat oligarchs...sometimes.

Larry Hart said...

Treebeard quoting Nietzsche:

they [liberals] make men small, cowardly, and hedonistic...

Sounds as if he was describing Donald Trump and his sycophants.

I get that you'd prefer a world in which life is a continual fight for survival in which losers die and winners earn the right to live another day looking over their shoulders and another night of sleeping with one eye open, ever wary of the next mortal threat. I just hope I don't live to see your dream come true.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch | Clear thinker? Ha. As if you have that niche cornered? Pfft.

Women need protecting? From what? Violence? Okay. I’ll help with that. Unequal pay? Hmm… I’m willing to share the not-so-secret guys uses to get more pay most of the time, but I’m not supportive of forcing employers. I’m more inclined to hire the talent those employers stupidly leave available. What they do is dumb, but the laws needed to force them to be smarter are likely to be worse than the sin they are committing now.

You miss the point of protecting women and minorities, though. When I do, I protect them because I expect reciprocity. They ARE 2/3rds of the population. That means getting them on a side interested in protecting my interests is IN MY interests. Duh.

During the debate out here in California over Prop 8 (alteration to our state constitution banning same-sex marriage), I used to argue that I had to oppose the initiative. I could offer up the progressive argument and my California neighbors would generally smile. Instead, I pointed out that I’m an atheist and MY group has been on the receiving end of marriage discrimination too. The reason government gets involved at all in marriage licensing can be traced back to issues some had with mixed-faith marriages. Few were interested in batting for my team, but we got included in the general fix. My preference, though, was ALWAYS to keep government out of the business of licensing us at all. All they really need is a register. It’s a clerk’s job now that we don’t even do the blood tests. Progressives rarely understood my point, but were content enough that I was siding with them in the election.

David Brin said...

Berial thanks. Worth following that appraisal of why today’s Europe is America’s greatest creation. And subsidizing their defense has been the best deal any pax power could ever have achieved. And breaking up our alliances must be the number one goal of anyone aiming to bring us down.

Naturally, it never occurs to Treebeard that he would have died on a WWII battleground, except for the greatest and most productive peace the world ever knew. Alas, locum shrilly and totally and deliberately lies yet again. I'm bored.

ingrates, who have that privilege. Elsehwen they'd be kibbles.

Alfred Differ said...

@Larry Hart | life is a continual fight for survival

I’m not sure that gets to the core of the issue. A lot of people don’t like the bourgeoisie version of ‘courage’. They prefer the older meaning where men were expected to display it as a core part of our character. Women were expected to display more ‘love’ than ‘courage.’ You can see this in a lot of our cowboy movies. The bad guy talks too much. The good guy is courageous and not inclined toward bourgeois sweet talk. Try to think of one where the merchant running the general store was cast as a good guy. It’s not any easier than some of David’s political challenges.

It’s a virtue ethics thing. The Bourgeoisie altered some of the definitions for the virtues slightly. Objections to this fact are legitimate considering how much older and long lasting the older definitions are. Objecting to our modern versions as unworkable, though, are not reasonable. We’ve made the world filthy rich using the new versions. Small Pox is dead. Famine is an endangered species. Etc.

Tony Fisk said...

Danny Shapiro hopes he's being paranoid. Still, it's a scenario to keep y'all* awake at nights for the next week or so.

* Folk who do want to "tear it all down" excepted.

Tony Fisk said...

Above comment made before I did more than scan Berial's piece.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

My preference, though, was ALWAYS to keep government out of the business of licensing us at all. All they really need is a register. It’s a clerk’s job now that we don’t even do the blood tests. Progressives rarely understood my point, but were content enough that I was siding with them in the election.

And yet, we still have clerks (like that woman in eastern Kentucky) who cite religious freedom as a reason not to maintain the register. It's a continuous war in which even the winners only earn the right to fight the next battle. Treebeard should be happy.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Naturally, it never occurs to Treebeard that he would have died on a WWII battleground, ...

Probably fighting for the other side.

David Brin said...

“Try to think of one where the merchant running the general store was cast as a good guy. It’s not any easier than some of David’s political challenges.”

Quigley Down Under. One of the best “westerns” ever, though set in Australia. the grocer isn’t the protagonist, but he’s good and heroic.

In The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance it’s a lawyer/politician who starts out unable to hold a gun who’s the hero.

David Brin said...

There, I play fair in the "Name an exception" game!

duncan cairncross said...

This is an interesting piece

What if the Trump - Putin"thing" is actually much WORSE" than we think and Mueller has conclusive evidence

Tony Fisk said...

I'll just leave this little snippet from 'The Elephant and the Bad Baby' here for your meme spotting amusement.

Alfred Differ said...


I haven't watched 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance' in a long time, but I seem to remember it as John Wayne's character being the exemplar while Stewart's character struggled to learn the virtue lessons. Am I remembering it wrong? If not, it better demonstrates the old style definition of courage.

Quigley Down Under is an excellent example of the newer style definition. Matthew Quigley spoke. He even spoke to women. 1990 release explains it. Story tellers couldn't tell the older stories without getting slapped around. 8)

The liberal order has been expanding the circle of people to whom we are all expected to grant basic dignity. Adding women is recent enough for there still to be confusion. Heh. No one has to tell you that, though. It's obvious in your stories which way you go.

(I find it difficult nowadays to watch earlier movies where the guys slap the women around. It's not that I don't get it.. it's that the definitions of our virtues have been changing. It makes sense that conservatives would be upset about this.)

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan | Get a couple of witnesses and hang him for treason?

Tony Fisk said...

I suspect Clint Eastwood is still "Unforgiven" in some quarters for the number of myths he knocked over in that film.

gerold said...

A few comments on these things we call "Enlightenment" and "The West".

The West is a unit of cultural taxonomy, consiting of Western Europe, the US and Canada, NZ and Oz, and perhaps a few other outliers/hybrids like Israel and RSA. Even parts of Latin America are converging to Western cultural norms; Costa Rica and Uruguay the leading examples.

The US is going through a rough patch right now, as nativist/white supremacist factions have captured power. But that is a very temporary blip. Trump will soon be gone, and his neo-confederate/conman cronies with him. They will leave a nasty skidmark on the underpants of history, but the pendulum will swing way back afters.

Brin uses "feudal" as a description for a multitude of sins, a usage I've objected to before, and the Trump phenomenon is a good example for providing clarification. Trump has been called a populist, a nativist, a Know-nothing, and all of those terms are accurate. But the feelings he exploited to capture the presidency are more basic than those terms imply. They are atavistic tribal emotions based on ethnic identity.

Basic sociobiology shows the evolutionary value of aggressive ethnocentrism; a genetic lineage that didn't have a positive kill ratio versus the neighbors didn't last. Historically, Westerners have had a better kill ratio than any other lineage, but it was the genius of Enlightenment that recognized the necessity to put down the genocide and slowly back away. A little local genocide can be most efficacious; see the history of the US for the best example. But at larger scales genocide causes a bad odor throughout the whole neighborhood. WWII made that abundantly clear.

Re: Belial (I think that's the name) and his list of historical bullet points lauding the US as the Shining City on the Western Hill; please. It was only the stench of the death camps that finally convinced us to take all that Declaration of Independence/Gettysburg rhetoric seriously.

And re: Enlightenment of the Scots/English vs. Franco/German variety; feh. Read Condorcet and his summation of Enlightenment values circa 1790. He goes beyond any of the English, American or Scottish exponents when it comes to the rights of man, woman, child, black or white. His repudiation of racism, sexism, and exploitation of all kinds goes beyond anything achieved so far here on planet earth. His vision of freedom has still not been realized, but we - the liberals, radicals, progressives, atheists artists and scientists will make it happen.

David Brin said...

gerold, alas, while articulate, you are obdurately talking past me.

Trump's populist appeal is a classic feudalist hierarchicalist means of marshalling lumpen prols to march and died for the aristocracy. It has always been done this way and the confederacy always, always tries it.

Condorcet and the Franco-enlightens did talk a lot about values and rights... and you utterly miss my point. The Scots-American innovation was not so much idealized rights for man - though they did that. It was recognition that all such talk can be useless in the face of human nature, in which those who get a lot of power will rationalize reasons why they should keep, and eventually abuse it. Therefore LET NO ONE CENTRALIZE POWER.

Split it up, Create reliable due process and flat-fair adversarial safety and then citizens will enforce their own rights.

Your lecture was addressed at the wrong topic.

Berial said...

I know the topic has probably moved on but reading what Alfred said:

"(I find it difficult nowadays to watch earlier movies where the guys slap the women around. It's not that I don't get it.. it's that the definitions of our virtues have been changing. It makes sense that conservatives would be upset about this.)"

Reminds me of how much I used to really love John Wayne movies but it's difficult to even understand the whole 'woman beating' emphasis in movies like "The Quiet Man" or "McLintock!"

raito said...

Dr. Brin,

Re: storekeeper

You wouldn't let anyone else slide with an example that doesn't fit the criteria. Neither Stoddard, nor Doniphon are store keepers. Doesn't fit. Quigley Down Under is closer, because the grocer is indeed 'cast as a good guy'. But there's been other movies with good guy store keepers, even though they're typically supporting characters.

My example would be The Fastest Gun Alive. Actual hero of the movie is an actual store keeper. Glenn Ford plays the son of an actual fast gun. Naturally, he gets called out by the bad guy who threatens to burn the whole town. Good ending, too.


Dickson's oligarch are much more self-aware than you state. They KNOW they want stasis.

As for our oligarchs, I'm cynical enough to think they SAY they want things better for everyone, while knowing that they only want things better for themselves. On the other hand, some may not mind things being better for everyone if that makes it better for them.

And part of the point of the encyclopedia on a satellite was to have it not be controllable by whoever owned the land surrounding it, as I recall. It was started in St. Louis, then moved to the satellite as soon as that was practical.

Phaedrusnailfile said...

On the topic of a western that depicipts the idea of community as the "good guy" vs lawlessness and then outside oligarchy as the "bad guy" I liked the HBO series Deadwood. I never could quite put a finger on why I liked it so much.(Other than its ability to be the Shakespeare of profanity.) But it came to mind while reading the discussion so I would be interested to see if others had the same impression.

gerold said...

David: Condorcet was quite aware of the corrupting effect of power. His greatest works of political philosophy were written while incarcerated by the demagogues of the Revolution. The prospect of immanent death has a wonderful effect on concentration.

Separation of powers has a long history. We saw it in the Roman Republic, but it has much deeper roots in the Tripartite System of the proto-indo-europeans, to prehistory before Greek democracy. IE myth and legend are loaded with stories of how power turned worthy sovereigns into corrupt tyrants. Enlightenment has been concerned with this problem from the very beginning, as seen from the abnegation of Siddhartha ca. 500 BC.

Drawing a distinction between the US and the European/Canadian/Ozzie branches of the West is a bit like claiming the Scots-English and Franco-German Enlightenment are different in significant ways. Certainly there are differences, but they're pretty superficial.

I'm not trying to pick a fight with you. Just trying to add some perspective.

gerold said...

Treebeard: you seem to decry the pacification of Europe and blame it on the US. I understand where you're coming from, but I think you've gone your causality wrong.

Europe can take credit for its pacification. Sweden provides an example. From bloodthirsty vikings they became enlightened pacifists, and there aren't too many who would call that a change for the worse.

The idea that Europe no longer produces anything of cultural value is a ridiculous exaggeration. Certainly they are punching below their weight right now, but I blame the world wars for that. One positive repercussion of the Trump blunder will be a re-assertion of European influence. It took 150 years for Germany to recover from the 30 Years War - it's a lot harder to build than to destroy - but Europe will be fine. The EU is a long-term project, and we're still going through growing pains.

I love Nietzsche as much as the next guy, but the age of the conquistador is over, and good riddance.

Alfred Differ said...

@ratio | Hmmm. Haven't seen The Fastest Gun Alive. The review at IMDB suggests the store keeper was a coward who wanted to be more. To BE more, he became what he actually was... the fastest gun alive.

If the review is accurate, that is a better example of how the bourgeoisie can't be courageous without abandoning what they are. That's the old definition of courage again.

They also show his wife loving him flaws and all. That is an old-school 'love' formula. In his turn toward courage, he finally earns her love.

Nah. Quigley is the better exception and I'm sure there are others. I'd bet the best of them who show bourgeois courage are all late-comers.

Another variation on this challenge is to find a banker who is portrayed as courageous in the bourgeois sense. Any display of courage in the story is worth noting, though. I can think of an easy one that winds up on TV every year in the US. They aren't common, though.

The point of this is that bourgeois courage is not 'feudal' courage. There is some overlap, but the bourgeois version is far more social and talkative. Old-style courage rarely involves negotiation. Bourgeois courage does. Our story tellers have been hard at work showing the emergent definitions at it turns out there is disagreement among us all as to which ones should be among our actual virtues.

Treebeard said...

Here's more prophetic words for you Gerold:

"Many other such substitutes for war will be discovered, but perhaps precisely thereby it will become more and more obvious that such a highly cultivated and therefore necessarily enfeebled humanity as that of modern Europe not only needs wars, but the greatest and most terrible wars, consequently occasional relapses into barbarism, lest, by the means of culture, it should lose its culture and its very existence." (Human, All-Too-Human)

Larry Hart said...


On the other hand, some [oligarchs] may not mind things being better for everyone if that makes it better for them.

Unfortunately, some are just the opposite. They don't mind things being worse off for themselves as long as they are even worser-off for everybody else.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Haven't seen The Fastest Gun Alive. The review at IMDB suggests the store keeper was a coward who wanted to be more. To BE more, he became what he actually was... the fastest gun alive.

Hmmm, in a metaphorical sense, that almost perfectly describes my professional life.

Winter7 said...

Donald Trump's hate speech again drives the supremacists crazy who found employment in the police department. A policeman threatened a gun and then an iron bar to Hispanic children and some girls:

And this is a hate map:

And if anyone thought that Donald Trump's friends are harmless, see this:

Larry Hart said...


And if anyone thought that Donald Trump's friends are harmless, ...

I don't see how anyone could think that.

locumranch said...

Gerold & David are "talking past" each other, indeed, as Gerold condemns tribal emotions based on ethnic identity (aka 'Identity Politics') as "atavistic" (and/or regressive) while David & his entire progressive cohort celebrate tribal emotions based on ethnic identity (aka 'Identity Politics') as the antidote for both populism & feudalism.

Gerold places himself firmly in the right in this particular case by noting that the Identity Politics (as practiced by the political left) are inherently divisive, whereas David refuses to consciously accept the divisive nature of Identity Politics even though his typing fingers say otherwise:

"LET NO ONE CENTRALIZE POWER", exclaims David, as he adds "Split it up, Create reliable due process and flat-fair adversarial safety and then citizens will enforce their own rights".

As noted by the direct quote (above), our Union Kepi-adorned David appears to actually support Balkanisation as the most reasonable & 'enlightened' option to prevent the imposition of a centralised feudal tyranny, even while falsely pushing the centralised federal model narrative wherein individual rights are arrogated by a tyrannical central authority.

Inherent contradictions are hilarious, are they not?.

By David's very own admission -- aka his 'Freudian Slip' -- it is the New Confederates who truly abide by the decentalisation principle first proposed by the Scottish Enlightenment, rather than the neo-feudalistic Blue Urban Federalists who demand the ongoing unification of both the EU & US at the expense of individual liberties.

David as a self-admitted feudalist!! I'm LMAO here.



The can be no identity without individuality, no individuality without division, no division without borders, and no freedoms without identity. Ergo, 'Open Borders' & enforced diversity equals tyranny.

Winter7 said...

Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.

Thomas Jefferson

If the peoples of the earth understood exactly what the politicians who dominate the nations are doing, the world would be very different one year later.


Winter7 said...

Time to prepare the food. (It's late)

donzelion said...

Alfred/Larry and all others in the 'courage' meme:

how many stories about 'martial,' 'bourgeoisie,' and other forms of courage do you think men concocted while sitting waiting for their wives to deliver babies?

Always ironic to me that women were at far greater risk of mortality simply conceiving and bearing children then men were in warfare through most of history - yet men thought themselves 'courageous.'

Alfred Differ said...

yet men thought themselves 'courageous'

Yah. Men wrote the dictionary and the stories that give written shape to our language. Funny how that works, hmm?

In a comic book sense, there is a universe where we have a decent metaphor for what is going on with the redefinitions of our virtues. The enlightened west is a bit like Marvel's mutant 'culture'; mostly human, but with a noticeably detectable difference that winds up mattering a lot in terms of the balance of power. As individuals we aren't mutant. As cultures we are. As more appear on the scene and band together (the liberal west), everything changes. Enlightenment civilization is a collection of these cultures working together, fashioning their own institutions, etc.

I haven't seen many women writing comic books either, but some men might get an honorary tip of the hat.

David Brin said...

What stunning crap, ent. Typically, you parrot something diametrically opposite to true and counter to all evidence, but like Oswald Spengler, you think saying it in a sage enough tone will make it true.


Alfred, in TIME ENOUGH FOR LOVE Lazarus Long spends the greater part of the book as first a banker and then a farmer.


gerold, there’s no fight. You simply under-rate the degree to which European scholars themselves have made distinctions among branches of the Enlightenment.

Read Stapledon’s LAST AND FIRST MEN, where he relates the assumption of the 1930s that what’s needed is a balance between franco-anglic cynicism and germanic-russian romanticism. There certainly was something to it, since German and then Russian romanticism turned the continent into a hellscape.

That’s just one dimension. Another is hierarchy. For all of their egalitarian talk, the French have always believed in elites. First inherited and later meritocratic via the “Grandes Ecoles.” They deem this as proper and not at all oppressive (for the most part) but it would rankle an English speaker to be ordered about by prim, Oxford grammarians.

French enlightenment thinkers spoke of reciprocal accountability - and others did division of power - but it was never part of the marrow the way it is in Adam Smith and the US constitution and in Hollywood’s relentless Suspicion of Authority memes.

Alfred Differ said...

Lazarus Long works in book format. 8)

For movie format I was thinking of George Bailey in comparison to Mr Potter. Generosity requires some courage in the bourgeois sense of it. Only one of those characters has it.

David Brin said...

We don't go this far... by far! But still, it's a meme worth spreading and seeing if some of the less-fanatical parts might be timely and proper to consider.

David Brin said...

Kavanaugh and Gorsuch Both Went to the Same Elite Prep School. And Yale. Old money elites dominate again.

TCB said...

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is the best Wayne/Ford movie. Not Stagecoach, not the Searchers (they do come close, though). It has everything: fascism (Lee Marvin's Valance) versus law (Stewart); the protector caste (Wayne's Tom Doniphan) caught between fascism and law; a love triangle; immigrants as new American ore (the Swedes!) and the transition from the law of brute force to politics with all its panoply and bunting. It has the power of myth over fading memory, guilt, regret, the central role of the press in American democracy. The elephant in the room: a free black man who isn't all that free.

Larry Hart said...


modern Europe not only needs wars, but the greatest and most terrible wars, consequently occasional relapses into barbarism, lest, by the means of culture, it should lose its culture and its very existence."

See, Alfred? Not only war, but "most terrible wars" is supposed to be the very stuff of life. His wet dream is un-doing the post WWII peace in order to Make Europe Great Again.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Another variation on this challenge is to find a banker who is portrayed as courageous in the bourgeois sense. Any display of courage in the story is worth noting, though. I can think of an easy one that winds up on TV every year in the US. They aren't common, though.

Probably no coincidence that that guy was only reluctantly a banker.

Does the father in Mary Poppins count?

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Kavanaugh and Gorsuch Both Went to the Same Elite Prep School.

They also both clerked for Anthony Kennedy, whose son is apparently caught up in the Mueller investigation. So Trump and Kennedy both have reason to prefer a court nominee who believes that a sitting president is not only immune from prosecution, but from investigation.

So we're moving beyond Trump's illegitimacy to that of all three branches of government, each colluding with the others to hold the reins of power despite the will of the governed. And the fruits of this poisonous tree are being allowed to undermine NATO, go to war with Iran, and make the earth unusable, which is just as good as stealing it.

The Helvetian War might turn out to be another win in the predictions registry.

Winter7 said...

Brett M. Kavanaugh. As an attorney working for Ken Starr, Kavanaugh played a lead role in drafting the Starr Report, which urged the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. Kavanaugh led the investigation into the suicide of Clinton aide Vince Foster. After the 2000 U.S. presidential election, in which Kavanaugh worked for the George W. Bush campaign in the Florida recount.
After George W. Bush became president in 2001, Kavanaugh served for two years as Senior Associate Counsel and Associate Counsel to the President. Starting in 2003, he served as Assistant to the President and White House Staff Secretary.
¡ This guy is an entity of hell!
Neil Gorsuch. Private law practice
Instead of joining an established law firm, Gorsuch decided to join the two-year-old boutique firm Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel, where he focused on trial work.[16] After winning his first trial as lead attorney, a jury member told Gorsuch he was like Perry Mason.[16] He was an associate in the Washington, D.C., law firm from 1995-97 and a partner from 1998 to 2005.[2][34] Gorsuch's clients included Colorado billionaire Philip Anschutz.[35] At Kellogg Huber, Gorsuch focused on commercial matters, including contracts, anititrust, RICO, and securities fraud.[2]

In 2002, Gorsuch penned an op-ed criticizing the Senate for delaying the nominations of Merrick Garland and John Roberts to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, writing that "the most impressive judicial nominees are grossly mistreated" by the Senate.[36][37]

In 2005, at Kellogg Huber, Gorsuch wrote a brief denouncing class action lawsuits by shareholders. In the case of Dura Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Broudo, Gorsuch opined that "The free ride to fast riches enjoyed by securities class action attorneys in recent years appeared to hit a speed bump" and that "the problem is that securities fraud litigation imposes an enormous toll on the economy, affecting virtually every public corporation in America at one time or another and costing businesses billions of dollars in settlements every year".

This guy specializes in using the laws to make the rich earn a lot of money.
The two individuals support the use of cruel measures against terrorist suspects. (The problem is that today, almost all human beings are of suspicious appearance)

Berial said...

Another mark against the man, as far as I'm concerned, is this Ars Technica post about Kavanaugh. Apparently his position is that corporations with a monopoly/duopoly on communications (ISPs) have the 1st Amendment right to silence individuals (and anyone else they feel like,) communicating on the system that the corporation is the gatekeeper on.

They aren't even TRYING to pretend to be anything other than what they are anymore. I'm still amazed that 'conservatives' are sticking with them basically just so when everything gets taken from us they can laugh at 'the liberuls' being pissed off about it.

locumranch said...

'The Cowboys' was the best John Wayne movie ever made. Not Stagecoach, not the Searchers, not The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. The Cowboys has everything including the pleasant passivity that is feminine collectivism, John Wayne's benevolent fascism & the starry-eyed academic idealism of youthful inexperience wherein the starry-eyed cowboys (along with a wet-behind-the-ears audience) learn that life is harsh, the law is hollow & virtue comes from the barrel of a gun.

It echoes the wisdom of our fine host when he exclaims "LET NO ONE CENTRALIZE POWER (so) Split it up, Create reliable due process and flat-fair adversarial safety and then citizens will enforce their own rights".

Balkanise, balkanise, balkanise.

It is the PEOPLE, and not some arbitrary Protector Caste, that must have a monopoly on corrective violence.


TCB said...

I like to remind people that the five Republican Supreme Court judges who installed George W. Bush were labeled, by Vincent Bugliosi, the man who sent Charles Manson to prison for life, as "The Felonious Five."

See Bugliosi's article None Dare Call It Treason which he expanded into a book.

Without Bush v. Gore, there's no torture state, no "Patriot Act", ultimately no Trump. And without Bush's daddy there are no five judges to install Dubya. George H.W. Bush is also at least part responsible for losing Russia to fascism and Putinism.

ANd an earlier Bush, Dubya's grandfather Prescott, was most likely involved in the fascist Business Plot of 1933.

And I haven't even got around to the manifold evils of Nixon and Reagan. And all their friends.

TCB said...

Pssssh the Cowboys is merely good and stands a poor comparison to True Grit.

If those tenderfoots had Addie Pray on their team, they'd not have had to do the cattle drive at all. She would have found a way to hector a buyer into coming for the cattle himself at twice the price.

David Brin said...

Treebeard: "modern Europe not only needs wars, but the greatest and most terrible wars..."

romantic-pathetic war-dreamers who would dissolve into kibble-puddles if ever near the real thing.

David Brin said...

True Grit.... "fill... your... hand!"

Alfred Differ said...

@Larry Hart | Not only war, but "most terrible wars" is supposed to be the very stuff of life.

Yah. That's old school. It's difficult to display martial courage if one doesn't get to risk being killed. Teddy Roosevelt went on and on about it... until he didn't. Funny things happen to parents when their kids are at risk. 8/

Does the father in Mary Poppins count?

I wouldn't. He got sacked while learning about becoming a decent father. His employer wanted an automaton.

George Bailey is held aloft as an example of how to be a good person. The fact that he lent money is a rare element to an character who is supposed to be an exemplar. They softened it, though, by adjusting the character so he wasn't really focused on making a profit. Mr Potter WAS and exemplified taking prudence too far. It is VERY typical in our stories to have the bourgeois traders/merchants take prudence too far, but there are times when we don't... very interesting times when we don't. 8)

gerold said...

David: "Read Stapledon’s LAST AND FIRST MEN, where he relates the assumption of the 1930s that what’s needed is a balance between franco-anglic cynicism and germanic-russian romanticism. There certainly was something to it, since German and then Russian romanticism turned the continent into a hellscape."

Calling Nazism "German romanticism" couldn't be wronger. Nazism is a perfect example of ethno-tribalism in it's most violent form. It was a social darwinist assertion of German and "Aryan" supremacy, specifically based on racial affinity. There is a reason white supremacists love swastikas. Doesn't matter if they worship Trump or Putin. Nazis are white supremacists, and white supremacists are Nazis.

A populist call to arms based on the threat of race war is very effective at mobilizing the primate brain. Any chimp can understand that. The next tribe over wants to take our land, women, money, prestige etc. We need to genocide them before they do unto us.

The history of the totalitarian state provides ample examples. Hell, even the rugged individualists of the freedom-loving Western frontier engaged in systematic and deliberate genocide to create the land of the free and the home of the brave. (Read "An American Genocide" by Benjamin Madley, which describes the extirpation of the California Indians over the course of about a quarter century (1846-1873)). Every living culture on earth exists because it was more successful at murdering their neighbors than their ex-neighbors were at murdering them.

Enlightenment has been the product of accumulating knowledge leading to the realization that cooperation is better than competition. Remember Nonzero by Robert Wright? I read it on your recommendation. He provides numerous examples of how non-zero-sumness built everything good that is human. Enlightenment is the understanding that just because you have the power to dominate or destroy others doesn't mean you should.

We can look at the exemplars of enlightenment (Kant, Condorcet, Locke, Paine etc) and it doesn't really matter where they come from. Despite their intellect, ideals, and integrity, they all came from societies marred by corruption, brutality, dishonesty and exploitation. That doesn't negate the truth or wisdom of their ideas, it only shows how far ahead they were of their time. But we're getting there.

Infighting among progressives is a real problem when we have to deal with a unified monolithic bloc of totalitarian/criminal reactionaries. White evangelicals comprise only about 17% of the US population, but about 26% of US voters (if I remember correctly) and they all vote as a bloc for their Fuhrer. The obedience of the totalitarian drone does have its advantages.

gerold said...

Treebeard: I understand where Nietzsche was coming from, in the pre-WWI era it was still possible to see war as the crucible of honor, courage and progress. It was a common error, but most people learned from that mistake. Surely you don't still believe it?

The West is a warrior culture. But we can apply the warrior virtues in other areas now, in ways that build instead of destroy.

There was a time when war could turn a profit. When plunder paid. Those days are long gone.

The fear that immigrants will destroy the West betrays a profound lack of confidence. Your fears are unfounded. Muslim ideology has proven very resistant Western assimilation in Europe, but reports of imminent doom are greatly exaggerated. Don't mistake the zealotry of the religious fanatic for strength. It's just the opposite.

raito said...

Alfred Differ,

The main review at IMDB isn't particularly accurate. In particular, his 'secret' doesn't come out while he is drunk. It's that the townspeople >think< he's drunk when they first see him with a gun. It doesn't fit with their view of him.

Nor is he a coward, though I think you're reading that into the review (the synposis at wikipedia is much more accurate).

For those who aren't going to go read either, the hero is the son of a sheriff who is known for his fast draw. But the son has seen what that brings -- every idiot who wants to either see for himself, or prove himself. That's not the life the son wants, so he moves away and becomes a shopkeeper and keeps the fact that his father taught him a secret.

The precipitating incident for the movie is that one famous gunfighter killed another, and the town starts hero-worship talk about gunfighters. Here I diverge from wikipedia's version. The hero is derided for his opinions on gunfighters, as he is seen as a coward (very different from being one), and it's then he shows them his talents. My view of it was that he wanted his opinion that all that comes from gunfighting is death to be taken seriously. His mistake is that then his secret is out and can't remain hidden.

Sure, he's scared to face the other gunman -- he's never been in a gunfight, but has seen the results of many. But he ends up going anyway.

Treebeard said...

Gerold, I see a European civilization that is aging, dying out, being ethnically displaced, unwilling to defend itself, producing little culture the world cares about, and I’m not impressed. You don’t look like warriors to me, but weak old bohemians and Last Men. It’s like a ghost civilization, where immigrants squat in the shadows of monuments built by your much greater forefathers. If that’s your idea of progress, you can keep it, cuz it looks like a death wish to me.

Larry Hart said...


For those who aren't going to go read either, the hero is the son of a sheriff who is known for his fast draw. But the son has seen what that brings -- every idiot who wants to either see for himself, or prove himself. That's not the life the son wants, so he moves away and becomes a shopkeeper and keeps the fact that his father taught him a secret.

As an allegory, that's exactly what I object to about Treebeard's "good character requires war" view of the world. Yes, the strong and ruthless survive to live another day, but that other day requires continuously being on guard against any and all challengers, until eventually (it only takes one) one of them takes you out. That sort of life is my version of Hell--and that's the prize for the winners.

locumranch said...

True Grit wherein a 21 year old Kim Darby pretends that she is a precocious 14 year old girl who pretends that she is a warrior male & then a helpless damsel in distress, and singer Glen Campbell pretends that he can act.

In nature as well as human society, the most numerous & ruthless culture always wins. The American Colonists did not defeat the British by being more merciful & rule-obedient. They won by hiding behind walls, attacking on holidays & being the most barbarous.

A hypocritical & slave-owning Union crushed the Confederate South with numbers & an industrial approach to mass slaughter; White European settlers conquered the North American continent with scorched-earth tactics, resource depletion, disease & callous indifference to the native american; and the Nazis (who thrived in an environment of civilised discourse & League-of-Nation appeasement) were finally defeated by overwhelming brutality.

Incivility & Brutality always triumph; the Rule-Obedient are slavishly hobbled by their rule-obedience; and Civilised always snatch ignominious defeat from the jaws of dominance through serial compromise.

The graveyards are full of optimists & everything that you think you know about history is wrong.


Larry Hart said...


Without Bush v. Gore, there's no torture state, no "Patriot Act", ultimately no Trump. And without Bush's daddy there are no five judges to install Dubya. George H.W. Bush is also at least part responsible for losing Russia to fascism and Putinism.

When considering alternate history, it's also sobering to consider the reactions in the other direction. Without W, we'd almost certainly not have had a black president with a Muslim name. In fact, it's likely Gore's successor would have been his Veep, i.e., Joe Lieberman.


ANd an earlier Bush, Dubya's grandfather Prescott, was most likely involved in the fascist Business Plot of 1933.

And I haven't even got around to the manifold evils of Nixon and Reagan. And all their friends.

Yes, the American public hasn't fully grasped the perfidy that is the current Republican Party. Perception is still that there is a simple struggle for power between two parties that are mostly the same, and that absent any significant difference, they'd prefer their team to win over the other team--politics as a sporting event or reality-tv show.

In just the past two days, I've seen several editorial commentaries decrying the Democrats as "haters" who irrationally despise anything Republicans do regardless of merit. In this view, Democrats oppose Trump nominees to the courts because they prefer liberal judicial activism while Republicans are "constitutionalists" who respect the actual laws.

Almost every assertion there is the diametric opposite of reality. "Money is speech" and "Whole number of persons means something else" and "Religious liberty means the freedom of religious institutions to impose their will upon individuals" are way more activist positions than anything liberals have managed to find in the Constitution. Republicans had a stated congressional policy of opposing everything President Obama did no matter what. And if Democrats hate and oppose anything and everything Republicans do, it's the hatred of the slave for the whip or the hatred of the concentration camp prisoner for his torturer.

Jon S. said...

Gerold, the Nazi philosophy in fact fits quite well as an exemplar of "romanticism". It depended on its adherents having a view of themselves as dashing, gallant heroes, heirs to the mantles of the ancient Aryans and the Norse gods, the Ubermenschen who should properly stand astride the world. And of course all who opposed that were either Untermenschen who could and should be eliminated in order to assure the Ubermenschen their proper place, or fools and poltroons who lacked the courage to seize power from their lessers.

Literally, they saw themselves as superhuman, and their foes as subhuman - and you can do anything you want to subhumans, because they don't really matter. And their children today still have that same twisted ideology, still hero-worshiping a supposed "Ubermensch" who managed to micromanage his empire into dust because of his megalomania. You can see hints of it in Trumpistas, as well, although I believe their desired empire is due to collapse before it even exists - at least Hitler had some intelligence and charisma to work with.

Treebeard said...

Larry, as far as I can tell, that's the world we live in. Might is right, win the wars or be erased from the pages of history or turned into villains. And if you're king of the hill, someone will always try to knock you off. People like to overlay grand moral narratives on top of that, but it's ridiculous. America and Western civilization aren't morally superior to the nations they defeated, they're just better at organized violence (or they were, back when they still won wars). Does acknowledging all that make someone a "fascist"? Who cares.

David Brin said...

Gerold, much of what you say is wisdom... yet you have (apparently) absolutely no idea what "romanticism" is. Try watching TRIUMPH OF THE WILL. Listen to Wagner. Look at the square jawed heroes in both Nazi and Soviet art. Romanticism has some appeal! Tolkien and Star Wars and all that. Good is gorgeous and wonderfully goo and sanctioned by the gods. Evil is purely distilled evil and whole classes (e.g. orcs or storm troopers) merit only death. Sure, nothing's better for drama! I sometimes tap into that side of my mind when I write fiction...

... but romanticism leads straight into hell, when it starts to control policy. That's when you get the slaughter of orcs turning into mass killing of race or class enemies.

The Confederacy taps into... no it IS... the dark-romantic side of the American soul. Mark Twain blamed the Civil War on the uber-romantic novels of Sir Walter Scott, which were devoured down south and lent credence to the recreation of a feudal-lordly caste, to be obeyed without question.

Romantics, like Keats/Shelley etc and Nietzsche and Spengler and today's confederates adore notions of 'cyclical history." Destined falls and ultimate rise, were core to Nazism. The Soviet romantics, being leftists, catered to a different teleology, of unstoppable rise. But both expressed utter contempt for decadent western notions like proof, argument, negotiation and practical, incremental progress through the empowerment of citizens.

David Brin said...

"Incivility & Brutality always triumph" fortunately, you are an imbecilic, fact-free ass.

Eisenhower broadcast to the germans: "We come as conquerors, not as oppressors." And surrenders became a tsunami. It was backed by overwhelming power and might... and there were many sins that merit purgatory for those heroes who saved the world. The ratio of civilian "collateral loss" was staggering, even though US Air Forces in Europe took terrible risks and casualties trying for pinpoint instead of (much) area bombing. (And yes, racism played a role; Curtis LeMay was less judicious in Japan.)

But it was because we augmented creativity and science and strength with a morally high(er) ground that we overcame enemies who sneered we were to decadently soft to ever defeat them. And the world we made... though terrible by the standards of a future that could only be made this way... is by far better than all of the other human times our species ever knew.

Despite ankle-biting, skill-free, ingrate little kibble traitors.

Alfred Differ said...

@ratio | Thank you. I'm going to make an effort to watch the movie now and avoid the opinions of all the reviews. 8)

I'll be looking for whether his choice to become a shopkeeper is seen as honorable. Being smart enough to realize it is the best way is different from a community agreeing with and supporting that choice. Courage is a social virtue after all.

David Brin said...

BTW, America has sinned terribly, compared to what we ought to be. But every generation since WWII the military has spent billions trying to reduce the ratio of civilian "collateral loss". It was horrific in WWII, though much less than wrought by the Nazis or Japanese or Soviets. It was gruesome in Vietnam, even at 1/20th the ratio. Now we wring our hands over ratios lower than 1:1. And rightly so. The military is evolving into cops. As ought to be.

Alfred Differ said...

Okay. I'm convinced Treebeard & Locumranch are more than Hobbes'ian. They are fans of Hobbes.

So be it.

Hobbes has been proven wrong a number of ways AND was guilty of a stunning lack of imagination. The Leviathan is a horror toward which we can drift, not an ideal to which we must aspire.

Locum's approach is weird, though. He'd be eaten alive in a Hobbes-like world. Treebeard would merely serve until he was used up.

David Brin said...

I agree. Treebeard appears to sincerely want to serve a vicious overlord. Locum is more of a terribly wounded soul with some idealism buried deep. If he lived in the world Treebeard wants, he would languish in bitterness and pain and possibly offer himself up to serve the underground resistance.... but never, ever admit to himself that he helped bring that world into being.

locumranch said...

Not true. I have no desire to serve a vicious overlord; I am quite willing to admit some complicity in our current sad state of affairs; and I even offer a way out. Unfortunately, our host & our peers are just too invested in this sad state of affairs to extricate themselves.

David is just flat-out wrong when he equates the anti-romantic Cyclical History model with the anti-cyclic Romanticism of the Nazi goosestep.

While we all agree that poverty & lawlessness are well CORRELATED, neither side can prove that they are necessarily causal, even though many progressives (via their attempts at social engineering) appear to assume that they are.

We all find it easy to abide by the rules when times are good because laws & rules exist to ensure social stability & protect the status quo of good times; however, very few human beings will abide by laws & rules when times are bad because these rules & laws only serve to stabilise an undesirable status quo.

This creates the vicious cycle responsible for the Cyclical History model:

(1) We pass rules & laws during good times in order to perpetuate a desirable status quo and we eventually assume causality between the two;

(2) In our attempt to 'bring back' good times & correct undesirable circumstance as our situations worsen, we then pass more & more laws that only serve to perpetuate & protect the undesirable circumstance; and

(3) Finally, after we enact a veritable Bloody Code, we (more & more of us) eventually refuse to obey the rules because the rules & laws only serve to serve to stabilise an undesirable status quo.

The WAY OUT of this Kafka trap is simple but counter-intuitive: We need LESS law, LESS order & LESS central authority until the status quo reverts to 'good times' because law & order is NOT causally related to good times.

Just hold on loosely
But don't let go
If you cling too tightly
You're gonna lose control.

To bad, so sad, that most humans beings are just incapable of following the sage advice offered up by '38 Special' (above), and so we cling tighter & tighter to the now oppressive rule of law & order and thereby condemn ourselves to the rise & fall of the Cyclic History model.


The Nazis promised a 'Fourth Reich' that would last for a thousand years, and what other modern identity group makes the very same promise?

Why, it is the enlightened liberal-progressive who makes the same promise -- a thousand years of happy happy 'good times' -- while demanding ever more centralisation, ever more rules & ever more legal authority over others in order to usher in an 'End of History' level of inflexible & unending political stability in the image of a boot stamping on a human face forever.


David Brin said...

Jeez crap, did you see all that? He cannot even read anymore! He’s again OBJECTING to the exact opposite of what I actually said.

Ignorant as mud, he thinks the Nazis were anti-cyclic. Oh lord. But oh, my, every single factual/historical assertion he made is diametrically opposite to actual fact. Is he doing this to be satirical? Never miond. Zzzzzzz

David Brin said...



Old Rockin' Dave said...

"I talk about the "self preventing prophecies" of Orwell and Huxley and Kubrick, that motivated millions to act, and arguably saved us all."
Let me draw your attention to one of the most frightening minatory works of science fiction, with a premise that right now appears inevitable, one that comes from an unlikely writer. I'm referring to E. M. Forster's "The Machine Stops."
Read it. Then go look at your favorite tech site and read about self-driving cars, robotic delivery vehicles, "smart" homes, Alexa, and so on, and go reread Forster.
Rinse, repeat, until you're uneasy.