Today: the second half of Chapter Ten of Polemical Judo, offering you all some agile and (I think) devastating refutations vs. the core catechism of American conservatism, since Reagan - that government bureaucrats are somehow the worst threats to individual liberty, prosperity and progress... despite freedom and markets and creativity having been squelched above all - across 99% of history - by inheritance oligarchy..
Still, in a busy week of news, let's start with a trio of more recent urgencies.
First: FBI Director Christopher Wray needs to say loudly - "Any police agency that stands back while thugs threaten or loom over voters at the polls will be thoroughly investigated. Your job is to make people feel safe, and that includes keeping your own presence near polling places protective, gentle and discreet. And yes, voters have cameras now."
It must come from the FBI director! Since that position has retained some respect despite every attempted sabotage. And it must be addressed not at the thugs themselves, but at local constabularies across the nation, spurring them to do their jobs... and do them right. Aiding and abetting (even passively) voter intimidation is a federal crime. And many police departments have public trust to rebuild.
Second: regarding the covid storm ripping the upper ranks of the national GOP... I really have very little to add, except a recommendation to avoid schadenfreude... except if it's Giuliani. Hey... I'm human.
Third: a potentially effective polemical point. Critics need to shout the obvious - that today's GOP is by far the most tightly disciplined political entity ever seen in the U.S. Indeed, the tightest outside of a communist/leninist state. That's not just a potentially rocking zinger. It also gives a glibly brisk shut down to almost any Kremlin-generated, QAnon "leftists conspiracy" meme. I mean, which party is likely to do a dictatorship? The utterly disciplined, lockstep one? Or Democrats, who are harder to herd than cats? The thing that makes this a zinger is that it shows your typical MAGA that he (almost always male) is no individualist, at all.
Oh about the title of this piece... Debate #2 may not happen! Trump won't get his chance to stalk Joe across the stage at a town hall, till he's punched in the nose. (Oh, what an image and likely!) In fact, the covid thing suggests the debate feature booths! Ostensibly to prevent infection but how terrific to shut off the mic and see him gesticulating until... but naw. Even he isn't that dumb.
And now... Resuming where we left off last time…
The second half
GOVERNMENT, COMPETITION’S BIGGEST FRIEND
Another figure who is – like Adam Smith – both worshipped and heretically misinterpreted by the right is Nobel Prize winning economist Friedrich Hayek. For all his many jeremiads against the stifling effects of excess regulation, Hayek returned to a core point that markets work best when they have a maximum number of skilled, knowledgeable and empowered participants. Only then can wisdom of the (broadly informed) crowd overcome the inevitable biases and incomplete pictures clutched by smaller, controlling elites.
Ponder a moment how that outcome is diametrically opposite to the central aim of oligarchy.  Then consider this.
At least half of the government ‘interventions” we’ve seen, across the last 80 years, were aimed at uplifting countless members of disadvantaged or repressed castes high enough so they can compete.
Minorities and women who get rights can enter the marketplace as skilled, knowledgeable and empowered participants, whether as competitors or savvy consumers. Appalachian children – or those in ghettos or native reservations – who get enough food, sanitation, health care and education can enter the marketplace as skilled, knowledgeable and emboldened participants. Infrastructure helps too, bringing them water and Internet and letting them travel. Likewise research into medical or other problems that hold so many back from skillful, joyfully brash competition. Equal justice and monopoly-prevention keep competition avid. And a basic safety net encourages entrepreneurs, workers and small business owners to take risks, knowing their children won’t starve and they can find their way back, in case of failure. There are second chances.
At least half of all liberal government programs need no “moral” justifications at all! The pragmatic reason – to stop wasting talent – is sufficient. It bears repeating, so here’s that pro-competition criterion again:
Will this government intervention expand capability and opportunity, helping to increase the number of skilled, vigorous competitors?
Some liberal programs fail that test! Some do try to “pick winners and losers” without a compelling, long range need. Others do try to “equalize outcomes, not opportunity.” Those exceptions can be scrutinized by libertarians or libertarian-minded Republicans, and fiercely subjected to criticism or negotiation by other standards. Still, the most towering hypocrisy is to reject those government interventions that Adam Smith demanded – and that Hayek often grudgingly accepted – that increase the number of capable participants in wide open markets. At least non-hypocrites would show plans for replacing those interventions with non-government ways to expand participation – to stop wasting talent – in practice, not theory.
Should much of this have gone into the chapter on Economics? Maybe. But here’s where the point distills most clear. Government is a tool. It can be applied by the mighty against the People – and that fear is expressed in the Suspicion of Authority messages of countless Hollywood films.
Or else it can be applied as the Founders – including their mentor Adam Smith – intended, as a set of openly negotiated rules and referees that actually help citizens to get on with their lives and ambitions, free from the cheating and oppression that constrained all our ancestors before. The Greatest Generation crafted an equilibrium that involved a lot of rules and taxes! That equilibrium was an immense success and subsequent assaults upon it have resulted in horrific failures. But it’s possible our ten billion highly educated and perceptive children – armed with AI modeling tools and bursting with individual confidence – may find good results with something looser.
Toward that end, there’s a place for libertarians and conservatives applying pressure always to re-examine and re-justify government and its rules. But you folks must first concede the oligarchic calamity of 6000 years. You must admit the calamities you’ve thrust upon us. Earn back some credibility. Start by opening a book you rave about, without ever reading a word, Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations.
Have I struck you as reticent and shy? Too demure to speak out when something bothers me? Well, I’ll try to correct that. Especially regarding the innumerable times that liberal/democrat/blue leaders fail to exploit weaknesses on the mad right.
One of the most infuriating has been allowing that shill-for-oligarchy movement to expropriate countless virtue-symbols as their private property. We’ll discuss the right’s symbolism obsession at several points – ranging from Confederate statues and flags to ship-names to “strong father” preening. But possibly the most stunning of all failures in liberal-moderate generalship was allowing the so-called “Tea Party” to glom a claim on the American Revolution.
At risk of repetition, in Chapter 14 I’ll show that the revolution was almost entirely a “blue” uprising and what I call Phase One of the U.S. Civil War. Crum, will anyone bother to read Jefferson’s prose in the Declaration of Independence? Or perceive why it was maritime commercial cities, like Boston, New York, and Philadelphia that expressed fury at the king-crony monopolists, whose mafia protection racket forced all colonial trade to pass through their ports and docks, extorting bribes every step of the way? Another top grievance was the oligarchy of absentee lords who owned two-thirds of all the land in the colonies and refused – under feudal privilege – to let it be taxed, as did the lords in 1789 France and our own oligarchs, today. 
It was a revolution against owner-caste oligarchy and cheating! Adam Smith recommended the remedy of democracy, plus openly negotiated and deliberated laws that are evenly enforced by transparently accountable civil servants. And our markets got better – more creative and productive – each time those rules were adjusted to expand our circles of democratic inclusion. Yet fools on our side in this latest phase have allowed that great rebellion to be hijacked by pro-aristocracy propagandists, letting stand their claim that our Revolution was against “government.”
Let’s zoom back to Mick Mulvaney’s assertion – supported by far-right rationalizers like  – that government supported science is useless and counter-productive, that the forward march of technological discovery is fore-ordained, that competitive markets allocate funds to develop new products with greater efficiency than government bureaucrats picking winners and losers, and that research without a clear, near-future economic return is both futile and unnecessary.
Former Microsoft CTO and IP Impressario to Ridley’s murdochian call for amputation:
Nathan’s rebuttal can be found , along with links to the original, and Ridley’s response.
Expanding from Myhrvold’s points, let’s put all of this into. During most of that time, independent innovation was actively suppressed by kings and lords and priests, fearing anything (except new armaments) that might upset the stable hierarchy. In his monograph, “Entrepreneurship: Productive, Unproductive and Destructive,”
Those “other values” – critiqued by Smith– included rent-seeking, noble privilege, monopolies, cartels or (in Baumol’s more modern analysis) state corporations and commissariats and organized crime. With rare exception, parasitical cheats were more privileged than competitive innovation.
Moreover, across nearly all of history, innovators felt a strong incentive to keep any discoveries , lest competitors steal their advantage. Hence, many brilliant inventions were lost when the discoverers or direct heirs died, from Heron’s steam engines and Baghdad Batteries to Antikythera-style mechanical calculators and Damascus steel – from clear glass lenses to obstetric forceps – all lost for millennia before being rediscovered after much needless pain.
History does offer rare examples when innovation flourished, with spectacular returns. In most, state investment and focused R&D played a major role: from the great Chinese fleets of Admiral Cheng He to impressive maritime research centers established by Prince Henry the Navigator, that made little Portugal a giant on the world stage. Likewise, tiny Holland became a global leader, stimulated by its free-city universities. England advanced tech rapidly with endowed scientific chairs, state subsidies and prizes.
Of course none compare to the exponential growth unleashed by late-20th Century America’s synergy of government, enterprise and unleashed individual competitiveness. One result was the first society transforming itself from the feudal of privilege to a diamond whose vast and healthy and well-educated middle class proved to be the generator of nearly all our great accomplishments.
This slams a steep upon Mulvaney and others who assert are the ones doing something wrong. Or that innovation will just zoom ahead as if by natural law. But then, their aim is what they claim – to release us from thralldom to shortsighted, oppressive civil servants and snooty scientist-boffins. It is to discredit all of the modern expert castes. And by now we know why.
== What happens when regulations go stale? ==
About that thralldom to officious bureaucrats. Yes, classic conservatives and libertarians have a point – there will always be a danger that umpires may be corrupted, or for referees to get sluggish, or suborned, or to meddle unnecessarily, thwarting the whole purpose of the game. It’s not wrong to focus SoA in that direction! The last generation’s reforms will always need re-scrutinization. Admitted.
Okay then, here’s a question: who actually de-regulates, when appropriate?
Ayn Rand followers howl over “captured” agencies that serve only major industry players, throttling, not fostering, creative competition. Rand’s favorite examples? The railroad regulating Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) and the market stifling Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB). Alas, her followers never pause to notice what became of those bureaucratic traitors… decades ago.
Democrats banished them! Moreover, AT&T was broken up and the Internet was unleashed by legislation authored and pushed through Congress by Al Gore, two regulatory openingsthat had absolutely stunning market consequences.
Now add Bill Clinton’s deregulation of GPS, Al Gore’s paperwork reduction “reinventing government” campaign and Barack Obama’s declaration that citizens may record police (and the list goes on). Whereupon one has to ask…
… where were Republicans in all this? Does anti-regulatory matter more than effective action? Despite their railings – and holding most of the political cards for all but two of the last twenty-five years – “conservatives” never delivered major deregulation on the scale of those Democratic unleashings. Except repeatedly in two particular industries – finance and resource extraction – with results they want us to ignore or forget. Please name another example.
Libertarians like their aphorism: Liberals want freedom in the bedroom. Republicans want freedom in the boardroom. We want both! Then they shrug, hold their noses theatrically and vote Republican. Sure, the GOP favors the boardroom – members of the Wall Street and CEO castes. But not competition, or entrepreneurship, or healthy markets. Or delivering even on core promises.
WE ARE DIFFERENT.
AND DIFFERENT IS DIFFICULT
I’ve asserted that the Rooseveltian reforms might have been too successful. Historians credit them with saving western capitalism by vesting the working class with a large stake. Indeed, they were so successful that the very idea of class war – rampant across almost every other nation and time – seems not even to occur to American boomers.  But as boomers age-out, is that grand time of naïve delusion over?
To a restoration of humanity’s normal, aristocratic pyramid of power, with them on top? Or to radicalization, as a billion members of the hard-pressed but highly skilled and tech-empowered middle class rediscover class struggle, alongside five billion angry workers? (I portray both possibilities in a near-future novel, .) The last time this happened, in the 1930s, lordly owner castes in Germany, Japan, Britain and the U.S. used their mass media ownership to stir populist rightwing movements, hoping to suppress activity on the left while allowing business as usual. Not one of these efforts succeeded. In Germany, Italy, Spain and Japan, their pet monsters rose up and took over, leading to immense pain for all and eventual loss of most of that oligarchic wealth.
In Britain and the U.S. 1930s reactionary fomenters dragged us all-too-near the same path… till accomplished what neither Karl Marx nor the fascists deemed possible – adjusted the wealth imbalance and reduced cheating advantages, so that a rational and flat-open-fair capitalism would be moderated by reciprocal competition, under transparent rules and stimulated by investments in a healthy, educated population. None of that even slightly damaged the Smithian incentives to get rich through delivery of innovative goods and services. That brilliant, positive-sum moderation led to big majorities in our parents’ middle class Greatest Generation adoring one living human above all others: Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
(Again, ask MAGA folks: Chapter 3.)
billionaires shortsighted fools, ignorant of historical lessons. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and many tech moguls want wealth disparities brought down through reasonable, negotiated Rooseveltian-style reform that will still leave them standing as very, very wealthy people. Heck, even can now see where it all leads, declaring recently (in effect) “OMG what have I done?”
The smart ones know where current trends will otherwise lead. To revolution and confiscation. Picture the probabilities, when the world’s poorest realize they could their net wealth, just by transferring from 50 would-be gods. In that case, amid a standoff between fifty oligarchs and three billion poor, it is the skilled middle and upper-middle classes who’ll be the ones deciding civilization’s course. And who do you think those billion tech-savvy professionals – so derided and maligned by murdochian propaganda – will side with, when push comes to shove?
It’s time to look again at the most successful social compact ever created – the Rooseveltian deal made by the Greatest Generation – which we then amended and improved by reducing race and gender injustice and discovering the importance of planetary care. Throw in a vibrantly confident wave of tech-savvy youth, and that is how we can all move forward. Away from dismal feudalism. Toward (maybe) something like Star Trek.
 This chapter comes largely from an essay in Evonomics circa 2016. https://evonomics.com/david-brin-ultimate-answer-government-useless/
 Hayek drummed hard against the foremost, inherently ignorant controlling elite - government regulators. But if pressed, he admitted the dismal record of two-score centuries of far more inbred-ignorant aristocracies. Moreover, it’s doubtful that investment and resource allocation will be more “market wise” if the transparency rules of 100,000 diverse and accountable civil servants are replace by the self-justified, conniving whim of a few hundred secretive CEO/Wall Street lords.
 Yes, lefties, the whole birth of our nation was tainted by original sins like slavery. But the Revolution was propelled far more by states that had banned it and ardent abolitionists like Adams and Franklin, plus other ‘great men’ who at least expressed hypocritical homage to getting rid of it. In Chapter 14 we’ll go into why the British knew they’d get more support against the rebellion in the South. No, you should reclaim the Declaration of Independence for what it was – a major step forward along a terribly long and hard road.
 ‘Worth of basic science attacked as a mere "myth" https://physicstoday.scitation.org/do/10.1063/PT.5.8146/full/
 Myrhvold rebuttal: http://www.wsj.com/articles/where-does-technological-innovation-come-from-1447258125?tesla=y
 For more on the diamond-shaped society. http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2011/09/class-war-and-lessons-of-history.html
 Dissected in detail in “Atlas Shrugged: The Hidden Context of the Book and Film.” http://www.davidbrin.com/nonfiction/aynrand.html
 This challenge stood the test of time, until Donald Trump began the wholesale demolition of agencies in ways that did not attempt to changelaws, duly legislated, but by blatantly violating them. To be clear, for much of the last 20 years the Republican Party owned and operated all three branches of U.S. government. They could have deregulated by changing laws. They chose this approach, in contempt for the Founders and Adam Smith.
 “Class War and lessons of history.” http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2011/09/class-war-and-lessons-of-history.html
 See: and commentary. http://www.forbes.com/sites/chasewithorn/2015/03/02/forbes-billionaires-full-list-of-the-500-richest-people-in-the-world-2015/#3df88bf316e3367f7a8b16e3
 Re Glenn Beck http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/27/magazine/glenn-beck-is-sorry-about-all-that.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fmagazine&action=click&contentCollection=magazine®ion=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=7&pgtype=sectionfront
 Strategic News Service: https://www.stratnews.com/