Saturday, July 03, 2021

Chapter 9 of Polemical Judo: Pax Americana and the rise of China


In light of recent statements by the apparent President for Life, on the occasion of the centenary of the Chinese People's Communist Party, today I offer an excerpt from my book Polemical Judo: Memes for Our Political Knife-Fight. Mostly, the book is about US domestic politics and the astounding political rigidity of the "Union" side which must win this dangerous phase of the American Civil War, and the inability of Democratic leaders and sane pundits to see even a glimmer of a path around Sumo Politics...

...but in this chapter I went international, because there will be terrible consequences for all humanity, if we don't learn judo methods in dealings with planetary rivalries, as well! So let's start with one key point we should repeat, over and over:

 We do not aim to prevent China from becoming a leading nation - perhaps marginally the leading nation - across the second half of the 21st Century! 

What terrifies us is the zero sum thinking that is conveyed in almost every PRC foreign policy declaration and especially in last week's speech by the CCP chairman rejecting reciprocal criticism from without and free debate from within. 

A vibrantly successful China that shows leadership in creativity, science, progress, justice, rule-of-law, open accountability and encouragement of bold critique by diverse citizens and new generations does not threaten us. Indeed, America has played a principal role in helping China's rise. Alas, we see instead a repetition of 6000 years of pyramid-shaped authority. May it be just a phase... but those 60 centuries show how rare it is for leaders to accept the revolutionary phrase... "I've got to let go."


==... and now the excerpt... ==

H. R. MCMASTER, a retired United States Army lieutenant general and a former White House national security adviser has published an article in the Atlantic about "How China Sees The World," laying out how clearly the current PRC leadership caste expresses their intent to become the 21st Century's pre-eminent power, not as a leader amid rising boats but in a zero sum manner... by causing other boats to sink... and how they justify this with a mix of moral justifications (purported foreign enmity), and grudges over past mistreatments, plus contempt for moral pleadings by others.  

--------

 There is no topic more complex – outside of biology – than international relations. The subject of “judo polemics” in foreign policy merits a book in its own right! But with this volume hurriedly gathered for U.S. consumption in the 2020 election year, I must pick and choose.

So I’ll begin with the most controversial assertion of them all… that despite its many faults and some real crimes, the American Peace – or Pax Americana – has overall been the most positive time for humanity since the invention of fire. Moreover, this happened as a matter of deliberate policy, crafted by some men and women who were on a par, in vision and effectiveness, with the 1770s Founders. If that era is coming to an end, then let it be judged fairly, weighing the sins alongside a cornucopia of fruits.

 

And in that context, let’s also spend our first international chapter gazing with both awe and caution at the return and rise of Chung Kuo – the Central Kingdom. 

 

  

 

Chapter 9

 

America’s place in the world - Part 1:

Pax Americana and the rise of China

 

 

It seems to me that America's objective today should be to try to make herself the best possible mirror of democracy that she can. The people of the world can see what happens here. They watch us to see what we are going to do and how well we can do it. We are giving them the only possible picture of democracy that we can: the picture as it works in actual practice. This is the only way other peoples can see for themselves how it works; and can determine for themselves whether this thing is good in itself, whether it is better than they have, better than what other political and economic systems offer them.

        The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt (1961)

 

In 1945, it was apparent that one nation would soon have – for the first time in history – almost total global reach and power. In somber conversation, some of that era’s top minds contemplated history and the paradox of empire.

We know that power tempts and corrupts. Across almost every continent and at least 10,000 years – ever since the discovery of metals and agriculture – large men would band together with metal or stone implements, coercing others to hand over their women and wheat. They would then assign priests and other persuaders to tell everyone it’s good for a local lord, or king or theocrat to pass this power to his sons. The same pattern happened almost everywhere, almost every time. We are all descended from the harems of guys who pulled that off.

 

Nor were they satisfied with some local theft. Knights sought to be barons, barons to be dukes, dukes to be kings. If you had an empire with a nervous border, you would conquer beyond it to get a “buffer”… a buffer which then had to be protected, in turn. We can see all of these imperatives playing out in today’s world, though much has also changed.


As we see elsewhere in this book, there were some exceptions to the dreary pattern loosely labeled feudalism -- what might be called Periclean Enlightenment Experiments, beginning when Athenian citizenship expanded sovereignty from 0.01% of the population - the inherited oligarchs - to 20% of the population... as did the US Founders in 1776. Yes I know, that latter expansion was horrifically incomplete! Though it continued, in grinding steps, each generation. But that's the internal struggle we discuss in another chapter. 


Here in this one, I want to inspect what happened when that young, experimental nation became an empire.

 

Once upon a time - in the year 1945 - there came upon the scene a clade of men and women who had just conquered the worst evils of all time. They were brilliant on a par with the American Founders and fixated on pragmatic idealism, not dogma or incantations. And now, in their hands, lay power never conceived by Alexander, Caesar or even Genghis Khan. 


Gazing across the litany of predictable behaviors, rationalized cruelties and stubbornly unsapient errors that we call “history,” they pondered a question that was never asked before: 

 

Is there any way we can learn from all that and make fewer mistakes, during the coming era? Pax Americana?

 

====

 

In 1999, I wrote to Time Magazine, nominating my own choice for “Person of the 20th Century.” I asked – how could you even consider anyone other than George Marshall? You probably just know him for the Marshall Plan, which famously did one unprecedented thing – the victors in a vicious war spending lavishly to uplift their recent enemies. And allies. But that is just the tip of what Marshall both influenced and accomplished. I invite you to read about this stunning example of what it means to be a truly grownup human. [1]

 

====

 

Let’s squint back across all those millennia at a few historical errors that George Marshall – along with like FDR, Eleanor Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dean Acheson, Dwight Eisenhower, Cordell Hull and others – sought purposely to avoid. 

 

If you scan recorded accounts, you'll find that most people across the last 6000 years lived in either a period of imperium or else a period of chaos. Many empires were brutal and stultifying. Still, cities didn't burn very often when central authority maintained order. Most people could work, trade and raise their families in safety, under the imperial peace or “pax.”

 

That doesn’t mean such times were wise! Often, those empires behaved in smug and tyrannical ways that laid seeds for their own destruction. For example, whenever a nation became overwhelmingly strong, it tended to forge trade networks that favored home industries and capital inflows, at the expense of those living in dependent areas. The Romans did this, insisting that rivers of gold stream into the imperial city. So did the Hellenists, Persians, Moguls, Aztecs and every Chinese dynasty. This kind of behavior by Pax Brittanica was among the chief complaints of both John Hancock and Mahatma Gandhi. While you can grasp why emperors instituted such mercantilist policies, it inevitably proved stupid. Capital cities flourished… till angry barbarians from the impoverished periphery poured in. 

 

AVOIDING PAST MISTAKES…

…AND UPLIFTING THE WORLD

 

Upon finding itself the dominant power at the end of World War II, the U. S. had an opportunity to impose its own vision of international trade. And it did. But at the behest of Marshall and others, America became the first imperial power to deliberately establish counter-mercantilist commerce flows. Nations crippled by war or poverty were allowed to maintain tariffs, keeping out American goods, while sending shiploads from their factories to us. Each administration since Marshall's time, regardless of political party, has abided by this compact–to such a degree that the world's peoples now simply take it for granted![2]

 

Of course, more than pure altruism may have been involved. Democrat Harry Truman and Republican Dwight Eisenhower both saw trade as a tonic to unite world peoples against Soviet expansionism. But if you doubt it also had an altruistic motive, remember that this unprecedented regime was instituted by the author of the renowned Marshall Plan–an endeavor that rings in human memory as an archetype of generosity. 

 

====

 

HIATUS FOR MEA CULPA

 

Let’s be clear – I’m not glossing over America’s many mistakes and crimes! From Vietnam to Mossadegh to Pinochet to the WMD scam and Trumpian monstrosities, this pax has much to atone for, as would any bunch of jumped-up cavemen with unmodified brains and hormones, who got their hands on steel and gunpowder and petroleum and nukes. 


But just as we ask Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln: “Were you much better than your times, and did you move things forward?” we’re also behooved to look across history at every other empire that ever was, and ask critics of Pax Americana:

 

“Can you name a people who were ever tempted by overwhelming imperial power, who used it with a better ratio of good to bad deeds?”

 

Talk of “ratios” will never salve the anger of a purist. Nor will the fact that your own high standards for personal and national rectitude – standards that America has failed – were taught by the very same Hollywood propaganda system that preaches Suspicion of Authority or "SOA", tolerance, diversity, eccentricity and the glimmering notion that – some time in our children’s future – there will be an adult and benign end to all empires.[3]

 

(For more on how Hollywood Sci Fi promoted SOA and tolerance etc, see VIVID TOMORROWS: Science Fiction and Hollywood.)


Still, a defense case can be argued for the world that Marshall and fellow flawed-geniuses wrought. And foremost among articles entered into evidence is the counter-mercantilist trade system they introduced, diametrically opposite to the behavior of every other imperium, leading to America not so much being popular as being likely – across all those centuries – the least-hated empire.[4]


====

 

In fact, the Marshall Plan, per se, was nothing compared to the new trading system, under which Americans bought roughly a hundred trillion dollars worth of crap they never needed. And thus factory workers – first in Japan and Germany, then Korea, Singapore and Taiwan, then Malaysia and China, and then India and Bangladesh – sweated hard, often unjustly, but saw their children clothed and schooled.[5] Whereupon those kids refused to work in the textile mills, which had to move on to the next pool of festering poverty. It wasn’t clean, moral or elegant… perhaps not praiseworthy! But it amounted to a prodigious transfer of wealth from the United States to Europe, Asia and Latin America – the greatest aid-and-uplift program in human history. A program that (again) consisted of Americans buying craploads of things they didn’t really need.

 

Does anyone deserve moral credit for this staggeringly successful “aid program”? Perhaps not American consumers, who went on a reckless holiday, spending themselves into debt. Moreover, as the author of a book called Earth, I'd be remiss not to mention that all of this consumption-driven growth came about at considerable cost to our planet. For all our sakes, the process of ending human poverty needs to get a lot more mature and efficient. 

 

Still, it is long past time for a balanced view of the last 80 years, which have featured more rapid development and distribution of education, health and prosperity than any and all such intervals since we lived in caves. Than all eras combined. For the first time, a vast majority of humans have spent their entire lifetimes never seeing or smelling or hearing the rampages of a pillaging army, never witnessing war with their own eyes, and spent nearly all their weeks with enough to eat. Today 90% of children worldwide bring schoolbooks home to what Americans would call hovels, but with electricity, basic sanitation, a refrigerator and lights to study by. It’s not uplift at a rate demanded by our conscience! But it’s faster than ever happened before, and possibly in the nick of time.

 

Without diminishing at all from the urgent need for more advancement (much more!), some authors have dared to speak up against the notion that gloom is the only motivator for reform. In truth, citizens are more likely to invest in world-saving, if they can see that past efforts actually accomplished something. Starting with The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse, by Gregg Easterbrook, other authors such as Steven Pinker (The Better Angels of Our Nature) and Peter Diamandis (Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think) present overwhelming evidence that there is good news to match the bad. 


Not only that, but that awareness of the good that’s been accomplished may help us to believe in our power to press on harder than ever, to overcome the bad.

 

Yes, again it distills down to thinking positive sum. For a good handle on that concept, the central idea of our Great Enlightenment Experiment, I recommend Robert Wright’s wonderful 1999 book: Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny.

 

JUSTIFICATIONS FOR A NEW PAX

A REVIVED CENTRAL KINGDOM

 

And indeed, it may be that - as some assert - the brief era of Pax Americana is coming to a close. At least that is the notion spread zealously by a new behemoth on the world stage. 


Again, I have very little time or space here, but this is a volume about seeing things from different angles. And there needs to be some pushback against a meme that’s going around, promulgated especially from Beijing, that the transition is wholly good and beyond-question ordained. 

 

Dr. Wu Jianmin, a professor at China Foreign Affairs University and chairman of the Shanghai Centre of International Studies, is a smart fellow whose observations merit close attention. In the online journal The Globalist, Wu Jianmin’s appraisal of “A Chinese Perspective on a Changing World” was insightful. [6] Still, it typically misplaced credit for the Asian economic miracle. 

 

“After the Second World War, things started to change. Japan was the first to rise in Asia. We Asians are grateful to Japan for inventing this export-oriented development model, which helped initiate the process of Asia's rise.”

 

In fact, and with due respect for their industriousness, ingenuity and determination, the Japanese invented no such thing. The initiators of export-driven world development were U.S. leaders in the ravaged aftermath of the Second World War. While both Japanese and Chinese mercantilists preen about their development “invention,” they have frantically underplayed the extent to which this was at deliberate American indulgence. 

 

Instead, they spread the self-flattering notion that U.S. consumers are like fatted pigs, unable to control their appetites and worthy only to be treated as prey animals. For more on this, see: “The Power of Consumption - How Americans spent ourselves into ruin–but uplifted the world.” [7] And the blogged version,[8] which also contrasts left versus right attitudes toward an “American Empire.” (Hint, both sides are historically ignorant and entirely wrong.)

 

Of course one question to arise out of all of the above is… how could Americans afford to go on that world-building spending spree for 80 years? How could decade after decade of trade deficits be afforded?

 

The answer is inventiveness. Each decade brought a wave of new industries – automobiles, jet air travel, xerography, personal photography, industrial computers, satellites, electronics, transistors, lasers, telecom, pharmaceuticals, personal computers, the Internet, e-gaming, AI and so on. Each new industry generated so much wealth that Americans could keep buying older products – toys and textiles, then cars, then computers and so on – from overseas factories… till each new industry also fled to cheap labor and agile Asian corporations. But no worries, there was always the next thing to invent!

 

Which of course takes us to the central grudge in our current trade war, the spectacularly aggressive stealing of western Intellectual Property or IP.[9]

 

Look, for perspective, Americans were famous IP thieves in the 19th Century, and a certain amount of that is understandable! But inventiveness is the very lifeblood of the one nation that has propelled the world economy for an entire human lifetime. It is the goose that laid countless golden eggs for everyone. And while it’s fine to make and sell goods in order to gather as many eggs as you can, it’s quite another thing to kill and eat the goose! One word for that is greedy. Another is stupid.

 

 

TOXIC GRUDGES

 

Alas, there is something much worse going on than goose-cooking. We are also seeing floods of propaganda disparaging Pax Americana, justifying not only its replacement, but its violent fall. Critically dangerous, for example, is a meme being spread from Beijing that any strategy or tactic that the PRC might use to get on top is justified by past crimes against it, like colonialism.

 

Oh, the New Mandarins are doing this for their own reasons. Even without anger at oppression and corruption, a fast-rising population can get agitated by what’s called the revolution of rising expectations.[10] It’s well known that a foreign enemy can be helpful to manage domestic friction. Nevertheless, this sort of thing can get out of hand and in this particular case it needs to be nipped in the bud. Not just because trumped-up rancor might lead to conflagration. It is also based on an absolute lie.

 

Sure, many western powers behaved aggressively toward China in the 19th Century, bullying, carving out “concessions” and insulting one of the world’s great peoples. Easily half of the responsibility falls on that era’s corrupt Peiping (Manchu or Chi’ing) court, who refused to modernize or reform in the fashion of Meiji Japan and murdered every reformist voice. But that doesn’t excuse Britain, Russia, France, Germany, Japan and the rest for their callous opportunism. 

 

In any event (almost) none of that applies to the USA! In fact, across all 3000 years of Chinese history, China’s only real foreign friend, coming to her aid repeatedly and by far, was America. I can prove it, with example after example. But so could anyone with historical awareness.[11] And hell yes, include the last 40 years of rapid development. But I’ll save that for another time…

 

…adding only that pointing this out is an example of polemical judo, an art that’s not just necessary for political salvation of the United States, but possibly to prevent a ruinous world war. Lest the Beijing communist politburo miscalculate in riling up their population against us, we need to be ready to answer.[12]

 

“We weren’t perfect, by any means. But that accusation is a flat-out lie.

"We have always been your only friend. And we still are, to this very day.”

 

 

BRILLIANT… AND DECEPTIVELY CLOSE…

 

While we’re on the Central Kingdom, I want to point to one example of state-sponsored rationalization that struck me as especially important, insightful… and ultimately just wrong. Feng Xiang, a professor of law at Tsinghua University, argues that “AI will spell the end of capitalism.”[13]

 

According to Feng, first the standard Marxian cycle will return, wreaking havoc on capitalist systems with a vengeance. For lack of anti-monopoly or fairness-generating reforms (like those enacted by our parents under FDR, or by our great-grandparents under the other Roosevelt), each business cycle will result in greater wealth disparities and a narrowing of the owner-controlling caste, leading to a conversion of vibrantly competitive markets back into history's standard, uncreative oligarchic pyramid. And yes, barring imminent reform, that stupid pattern is what we see already happening, as Marx rises from the dustbin, back into pertinence.

Naturally, Professor Feng’s proposed solution is also Marxist, with “Chinese characteristics.” 

Party-guided proletarian revolution.

 

Second, he joins many forecasting that the coming technological obsolescence of many types of employment will break the livelihoods of hundreds of millions, if not billions. No longer able to negotiate or bargain for the value of their labor, workers will be at the mercy of the Owner Caste. And yes, ditto. Feng’s prescription for a resolution is Sino-Marxist. Top-down state paternalism.

 

Finally, any artificial intelligence that gains unsupervised control over important systems may pose an existential risk to humanity. For this and other reasons, Professor Feng argues that research into AI should be tightly controlled by a benevolent socialist state.

 

Why am I giving space over to a communist state-servant who promotes Marxist notions that I clearly disagree with? Because it is well worthwhile reading his appraisal of looming problems. After which it is instructive to study his prescriptions. Because simplistic panaceas will doubtless appeal to billions, over the next couple of decades. Especially at a time when our own lords seem determined to follow the Marxian pattern by driving the American middle class into penury.

 

Oh, but it goes much farther! And you remain uninformed about all this to the peril of your country, your civilization and the fate of your posterity.[14] (Just all that, nothing more!)

 In fact, Feng Xiang’s missive is simultaneously brilliant and stunningly tendentious – clearly a piece of state-commanded justification propaganda, of the sort that gains heat daily in Chinese media. Exactly the sort of thing that distracts the masses… and, as already said, may get violently out of hand.

 

At minimum, you need to grasp the polemical intent underlying Professor Feng's missive. And to see how Feng's prescriptions – issued in variants by an army of court scholars – do not follow, logically, from his well-described premises. In fact, I offer answers to all of Dr. Feng’s assertions, and you are welcome to read them, here.[15] In another place I show why Beijing’s rationalization for central planning forever is hypocritically the most heretically anti-Marxist position of all. [16]

 

Included in those links is discussion of the major question of central planning and whether it’s possible to guide an economy from up top. (Here’s another[17] on that topic.) 


Every king and commissar of the past believed they could command-allocate a successful economy and all ultimately failed. Using sophisticated and agile modern tools, the Japanese did take central planning to new levels of success, before finally hitting a wall that free market thinkers believe will always appear, whenever arrogant leaders they believe they can control super-complex, synergistic systems. (It’s what we’re learning about the biggest, most productive and most-complicated such system, Earth’s biosphere.)

 

On the other hand, there is so much hypocrisy among supposed free market champions! The 5,000 golf buddies in America’s smug CEO caste – plus their New Lord backers and Wall Street/Riyadh/Kremlin pals – claim to oppose central planning. But their circle-jerk connivings only shift it away from openly accountable civil servants into dark crypts that are secret, self-flattering and inherently stupid.

 

Meanwhile, the Beijing leadership is at least open about taking central planning way beyond Japanese levels of success, crowing, “This time we have it sussed!” 

 

With deep respect for their accomplishments, and aware that this time might be different, my answer is: Well, sorta… and dangerously delusionally partway. 

 

But this is a dispute with many ramifications[18] – some of which we’ll cover in Chapter 11 on Economics. It won’t be settled soon.[19] At least not till we stop arguing in clichés. 

 

IS ANYONE STILL READING?

Is anybody still out there reading at this point? This book consists of maybe 90% of judo assaults against the mad-right treason, so I doubt many conservative readers linger. And my defense of a mostly benign American Pax (while acknowledging bloody mistakes) has likely sent every liberal or leftist scurrying, amid a cloud of curses. My attempt to bring perspective will be dismissed as arrogant, jingoist, hyper-patriotic American triumphalism.[20]

 

But I’ll persevere anyway. Heck, perhaps some friendly-insightful AI is scanning this, right now. So let me just reiterate my assertion:

 

Even if America is exhausted, worn out and a shadow of her former self, having spent her way from world dominance into a chasm of debt, the U.S. does have something to show for the last eight decades. Humanity’s longest (if deeply flawed) era of overall (per capita) peace. A majority of human beings lifted out of grinding poverty. A trajectory of science and technology that may (perhaps) lead to more solutions than problems. The launching of environmentalism and many rights movements. Perhaps even a world saved. 

 

That task, far more prodigious than defeating fascism and Stalinism, or going to the moon, ought to be viewed with a little respect, at least compared to how every other nation acted, when tempted by great power. And I suspect it will be, by future historians.

 

This unconventional assertion will meet vigorous resistance, no matter how clearly it is supported by the historical record.  The reflex of America-bashing is too heavily ingrained, within the left and across much of the world, for anyone to actually read the ancient annals and realize that the United States is probably the least hated empire of all time.  If its “pax” is drawing to a close, it will enter retirement with more earned goodwill than any other.[21] Perhaps even enough to win forgiveness for the inevitable litany of imperial crimes.

 

 And so, at risk of belaboring the point, let me reiterate. If the U.S. had done the normal thing, the natural human thing, and imposed mercantilist trade patterns after WWII – as every previous “chung kuo” empire did – then America would have no debt today.  Our cities would gleam and our factories hum. The country would be swimming in gold...

...but the amount of hope and prosperity in the world at large would be far less, ruined by the same self-centered, short-sighted greed that eventually brought down empires in Babylon, Persia, Rome, China, Britain and so on. And when we finally fell, it would be in a turmoil of well-deserved wrath.

 


NOTE: David McCullough’s Truman biography offers insights into that era when an empire - for the first time - was actually planned out, with an eye to not repeating mistakes of the past. Back in 1999 I nominated George Marshall to be Person of the 20th Century. But cred to FDR (and Eleanor) for choosing people like him, and Nimitz and Truman and Ike - all of them sharing traits of maturity, hard work, intellect, unjealous teamwork and competence. In other words, all of them diametrically opposite to Trump.


 

WHAT MIGHT THE FUTURE BRING?


Other nations have started viewing their time ahead as one of triumph, becoming the next great pax or “central kingdom.” If that happens, (as I portray in my novel Existence) will they begin their bright era of world leadership with acts of thoughtful and truly farsighted wisdom?  Perhaps even a little indulgent gratitude? 


We can hope they will at least try evading the mistakes that are written plain, across the pages of history, wherever countries (and their oligarchies) briefly puffed and preened over their own importance, imagining that this must last forever. 

 

But this, too, shall pass.

 

–––-

 

Where after all do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any map of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person: The neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.

-  Eleanor Roosevelt, Remarks at the United Nations, March 27, 1958


[1] “A Quiet Adult: My Candidate For Man Of The Century.” https://www.marshallfoundation.org/marshall/essays-interviews/quiet-adult-candidate-man-century/

 

[2] The original version of this essay was obviously written before Donald Trump. http://www.metroactive.com/metro/11.25.09/news-0947.html

 

[3] “The Dogma of Otherness.” from my collection, Otherness.

 

[4] Least-hated empire? https://medium.com/@david.brin/neither-side-owns-patriotism-9cd25cdf1506

 

[5] In much the same way that my grandparents slaved in the US garment industry, and other immigrants sweated so that their highly schooled offspring would not have to… and thus the factories moved on.

 

[6] "A Chinese Perspective on a Changing World" http://www.theglobalist.com/StoryId.aspx?StoryId=8035

 

[7] http://www.metroactive.com/metro/11.25.09/news-0947.html

 

[8] “The Power of Consumption - How Americans spent ourselves into ruin–but uplifted the world.” and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2009/11/how-americans-spent-themselves-into.html

 

[9] IP theft. https://www.invntip.com/nation-sponsored-theft-of-ip/

 

[10]   https://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/applied-and-social-sciences-magazines/revolution-rising-expectations

 

[11] Chinese leaders and scholars are using resentment over past Western depredations like colonialism to justify ever-rising fevers of nationalism. One can understand their reasons –- a fast-developing and educated population must be distracted from their sense of being overly controlled – but the formula is dangerous. At some level, it must be answered. At the right moment, someone must ask, in as public a way as possible: “Across 3,000 years of glorious Chinese history, you accomplished many things and were – and remain – one of the greatest centers of human culture. Still: when did you ever have a friend? An equal friend who came to your aid when you called and wasn’t afraid of you.” 

    “As it happens, China – across its long history –only had one consistent external friend. Have you ever heard of a California city called Burlingame? It’s named after Abraham Lincoln’s envoy to China, Anson Burlingame, who made life hell for the British, the French, the Russians, the Japanese, endlessly hectoring them to get out. To give up their colonies and “concessions” and extra-territorial bullying rights. In several cases, he even succeeded at preventing some seizures, despite the Chi’ing Dynasty’s apparent eagerness to do everything wrong. A bit later on, the great hero in freeing China from those Manchu overlords – Sun Yatsen – based his repeated efforts at revolution out of Hawaii and the U.S. And when he finally succeeded, Sun sent hundreds of students to America on free scholarships. Yes, there were tussles between American forces and some of the warlords who usurped Sun, But who came to China’s aid against the invading Japanese Empire, at great cost in lives and treasure? And who has spent trillions buying crap from Chinese factories, providing the economic engine of all development and making cities like Shenzhen possible? Today’s huge Chinese military buildup is based upon a U.S. “threat” that does not exist. That across 150 years has never, ever existed. Moreover, there is no basis for wrath at us. If you want to sell us stuff, at the cost of U.S. jobs, well that was our policy, all along. (You’re welcome!) If you want our inventions, we can negotiate over that. But don’t you dare pretend any moral reason to justify hating us. It’s not fair or right. And it may help explain those 3000 years having only one friend.”

 

[12] China’s friend? This cartoon from that era may seem non-PC by modern standards But at the time it said “We are different from you imperialist fools.” https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f8/Putting_his_foot_down.jpg

 

[13] From The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/theworldpost/wp/2018/05/03/end-of-capitalism/?utm_term=.01fa1d726f44

 

[14] http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2018/06/central-control-over-ai-and-everything.html

 

[15] “Central Control over AI... and everything else.” http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2018/06/central-control-over-ai-and-everything.html

 

[16] http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2019/08/international-affairs-and-china-redux.html

 

[17]   More on the myths of central planning: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2019/07/central-planning-and-team-human-are-we.html

 

[18] "Allocation vs Markets - an ancient struggle with strange modern implications: The ancient mythology of "economic allocation" takes on strange modern camouflage... as a defense of free market wisdom" http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2006/06/allocation-vs-markets-ancient-struggle.html

 

[19] At least not in a quick-impudent e-book on US political polemic.

 

[20] On the American right, we do have genuine triumphalists – Bush era neocons and later Bannonite imperialists - of the most shrill and stubborn type, who share my appreciation for Pax Americana... but for all the wrong reasons, as if using the same phrase to stand for entirely different things. Their era of misrule deeply harmed the very thing they claim to love.

 

[21] Assuming the Trump-trashed alliances and goodwill can be rebuilt.

131 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why is it that on my twitter feed, it's only the middle aged to older Jewish males who are the only ones who go on and on about covid escaping from labs or fearing the rise of China? I obviously follow these same middle aged to older Jewish males because I have historically found them appealing in some way, but this odd China fetish is very odd. Is it because unlike past ascending world powers, Jews have very little cultural, political or economic influence in this power? It's odd that they aren't as afraid of ascending fascism in the US, but seem much more afraid of China. Is this due to the large number of Jewish-Americans who are part of the leadership of the neo-fascist movement in America? Looking at this comment, it sounds pretty anti-Semitic. Yet I don't consider myself as such and being married to a Jew and having children with her, I had discussed these topics with her and she hasn't killed me yet. So am I on to something or am I being paranoid?

David Brin said...

Stunningly hilarious racist anonymous coward. BET ME on any of the crap you just spewed here. Let's escrow cash on your assertions you dismal jerk-coward. ALL the China hands I lnow are varied in gender/race/ethnicity and all you've done is show how incredibly ill read and DUMB you are. Feh.

scidata said...

Things that make you go hmmm.

The Hubble computer that failed is likely the 50 year old design NSSC-1*. Wayyyy back in the 1970s, I played around a lot with the RCA1802 microprocessor, an astonishingly powerful CMOS CPU with only 5,000 transistors (!), clockable right down to DC, with radiation-hardened versions suitable for space probes (eg Galileo). The 1802 was a popular replacement for the NSSC-1 back in those ancient times. This was also the heyday of FORTH in space (you know I had to get that in).

*Challenger partially explains the anachronism.

Alfred Differ said...

Heh.

...perhaps some friendly-insightful AI is scanning this, right now.

Looks like you got the dumber one that misspells it as Jewdo.



scidata, (from last thread)

The big takeaway for me in that video was the amount of engineering involved in good liquid propellant rocket engines. They prevent the chamber from melting with good metallurgy, but also by running things fuel-rich at the chamber perimeter. Some genius figured the gas mixture didn't have to be homogeneous.

There is a joke in there too once you look at one of the earliest SN flights to try landing. It was obvious after re-light that the propellant mixture wasn't right and then just before landing the flame turned green. Lots of people immediately assumed it was the same igniter used on F9 engines, but many of us knew they didn't use the stuff on Raptors. Fuel rich? Oxygen rich? What could make it green? Oh! It's engine-rich! The chamber ran too hot and the copper lining was vaporizing to be spit out the back as a green flame. So... oxygen rich leads to engine-rich and then occasionally BOOM.

David Brin said...

Hubble was a 'beard" for the Keyhole satellites, and when that program was supeceded TWO unfinished spy sats were offered to NASA. One eventually became WFIRST/Nancy Grace Roman and will be our only great asset up there if Webb fails. The other? Farther from finished. Though I suggested to Elon that he tell NASA... "Just work with NRO to finish it AS a planet looking spy sat... and give it to me to put into orbit above Mars.

Tony Fisk said...

re: China. An interesting analysis Xi Ping's Centennial speech, with references to the 'Godfather of Chinese Nationalism', Lian Qichao. Main point (which David alludes to with the perceived usefulness of foreign armies), Chinese authorities have an abiding distrust of Chinese people. If true, I don't think the CCP will be celebrating its second centennial.

Pappenheimer said...

Is there a connection between the Marshall Plan, the shipment overseas of American industry, the breaking of industrial unions (who had a choice between stalled wages and no factories, accepted the lower pay and then lost the factories anyway) and the rise of "populist" proto-Trumpist sentiment in the Rust Belt? If so, I'm pretty sure that Marshall was no Seldon, because I don't think he'd planned on that. Similarly, When the EU tried to do the right thing about the desperate Syrian and Libyan refugees on its borders, it had the effect of boosting right-wing parties across Europe.

If the Anonyperson is referring to Stephen Miller, well, that boy hain't right, AND HIS FAMILY SAYS SO, but I was not aware there were scores like him (but older?) out there in the Politiverse. But I have to admit I don't keep track of most folk's religions.

duncan cairncross said...

Pappenheimer
IMHO there were two separate "waves" - the Marshal "wave" that did the good things that Dr Brin mentions

And a later post Reagan "wave" that was designed to break the unions - it also did some good in the rest of the world but its adverse effects were deliberate
There was no "need" to kill the unions - we can look at Germany to see what should have happened

 Ashley said...

DB quote: "Let’s be clear – I’m not glossing over America’s many mistakes and crimes! From Vietnam to Mossadegh to Pinochet to the WMD scam and Trumpian monstrosities, this pax has much to atone for, as would any bunch of jumped-up cavemen with unmodified brains and hormones, who got their hands on steel and gunpowder and petroleum and nukes."

This is where I differ from you for reasons that have to do psychological therapy rather than anything else.

It has to do with the word 'atone.'

You may find this point rather pedantic. People can atone for their sins/misdeeds/actions, but only if you believe in atonement. Quoting Cambridge English Corpus, "So there is no need for additional reparation, and the satisfaction theory of the atonement is otiose."

The Marshall Plan didn't demand that Germany and Japan atone for the war, it was driven by learning from what happened, and not repeating the same mistakes.

So America doesn't need to atone for its mistakes. To do so is pointless. What it needs to do is learn from its mistake, and no doubt it will make new ones in the process, but that is how we learn to do better as people and countries.

Der Oger said...

@Pappenheimer: Maybe there is a connection, but I offer some additional thoughts.

I believe the Warsaw Pact and the threat of communist invasions and agitation kept the proponents of radical capitalism in check somewhat. Reagan and European "Neoliberals" rose when the demise of the Soviet Union was already palpable; there was no need to protect worker's rights anymore.

Second, even if the death of one type of industry (coal) is inevitable, there is still a possibility that they can be replaced by others if the transformation starts early and the proper amount of investments are made. That requires the (perhaps suicidal) courage to tell the people that their jobs won't exist anymore in twenty years or so, and that other legs to stand on have to be created.

Third, underhanded stock market tactics. For example, forcing a relatively healthy company to take on credits to pay dividends way over what they are able to cope with, then forcing it to pay dividends to stock holders, then trashing the company.

Fourth, not investing enough in research & development, and not adapting to different markets. GM built cars for the American markets, with a far higher consumption because fuel was/is much cheaper than in Europe. Thus, they lost their market share overseas, allowing other corporations to expand into the American markets. (We have the same moment now, with Musk/Tesla building a Gigafactory in Brandenburg, in the backyard of VW, Daimler and BMW.) Corporate espionage might also be a factor in not being able to innovate on your own.

Fifth, Education and Media. Both play a critical role in increasing or decreasing the vulnerability to populism.

Sixth, migration. I believe there is a connection between people who migrate for jobs and progressivism; and a connection between conservatism and those people who do not migrate for a job or better opportunities in life. I have read somewhere that there is something like a "Blue Drain" in the US, that educated people migrate to the big cities and coastal areas; it is also true for the EU with it's eastern and western halves. The "Urban" and "Rural" division affects us equally, I think. This generates a feedback loop: People leave their area, affecting the elections; thus, rural areas become more conservative. The fewer people live in an area, the fewer public investments are made, contributing to decay of public infrastructure, divisiveness and scapegoating. The pressure to migrate increases.

Larry Hart said...


it's only the middle aged to older Jewish males who are the only ones who go on and on about covid escaping from labs or fearing the rise of China


Tucker Carlson is Jewish?

He doesn't look it. (Drum roll)

Catfish 'n Cod said...

Cleanup from previous thread...

1-@LH: I think your references are out of date. The page you linked at Ballotpedia shows 32 state senates, but only 29 state houses, as Republican-controlled. Since Ballotpedia counts Nebraska's unicameral legislature as a 'senate', that's 30 states with unified Republican legislatures. And a convention could only propose amendments; it still takes 38 states to ratify amendments. Which means that a partisan convention could only be a message platform anyway, at least as long as thirteen states maintain free and fair voting laws.

2-@Wilhuff, @JonS: The argument revolves around what defines "the GOP". The old chestnut that the USA is a 'center-right country' is, by international standards, correct; the issue is that the GOP has become a far-right party, with the moderate wing of the Democrats now occupying the center-right niche that was the Republicans' fifty years ago. The tragedy is that an Eisenhower GOP, or possibly even a Goldwater GOP, could routinely win under fair rules -- but the party is now so ideologically rigid, and so trapped by the white-grievance base and the positive-feedback loop of dependence on minority rule mechanisms, that it's inconceivable that they shift, even in accordance with their own traditional positions, in order to better represent a majority of Americans. A flaw that even the old Muppet diagnosed (in Episode II) as the actual cause of the fall of the Jedi Order.

3- One of Wilhuff's fears DOES track with my own -- namely, that once enough rules are blown up, the argument from A Man For All Seasons applies and a single-party rule becomes more likely. Where we differ is that I see the GOP as demolishing far more laws/rules/norms than the Democrats. Not all. Harry Reid may have made a good tactical choice, but it was a strategic blunder (at the time; today it would only be common sense). See, once the shields are down, why would you think only Imperials could reach the Death Star's main reactor? If you set up rules that allow one faction minority rule, another faction can use them - with no moral inferiority! - to set up, say, a Berniecrat-AOC democratic-socialist regime; the very nightmare being used to justify the push for restrictive voting practices becomes more likely as the safeguards that prevent it get dismantled.

One party rule is bad. What we need is a political and Party system flexible enough to resist it without ceasing to be representative.

4-@Wilhuff, on the subject of oligarchies: what is your view on the Federalist Society's so-far successful long-term plan for effective oligarchic control of the Federal judiciary? Not technically the GOP, but I don't see how that makes it any less dangerous to my liberty...

GMT -5 said...

My dad was an old China hand. He worked for a year as a doctor at a gold mine in Japanese controlled Manchuko in 1937. He was in Shanghai when the Japanese army first marched into the international district (I have his 8mm movies of the event). He was with the Red Cross team that went into Nanking during the 1937 "Rape of Nanking."

Dad was also Jewish (born a Kohen but never practiced).

Thanks for the long essay Dr. Brin. I only skimmed it now but I will read it more carefully later today.

Happy Independence Day everyone. My wife and I are going to celebrate by observing our new tradition: to watch the musical 1776.

GMT -5 said...

One of the books I put down to enjoy re-reading STARTIDE RISING is a history of WWII that focuses on the leadership provided by Marshall, FDR, Churchill and the UK military Chief of General Staff Alan Francis Brooke.

David makes excellent points about why the USA should be proud of its role during the last 80 years. We were great in spite of our mistakes and our crimes.

One progressive thinker, Eric Weinstein (founder of the intellectual dark web and now slandered as being a right wing apologist) had a long podcast on the question of what happened to the USA. Something changed around 1970. I think it is because the generation of people who built our great businesses and government agencies started to retire and were replaced by "managers" who were increasingly greedy and corrupt. I have a list of books that cover this evolution. I would post it here except I am typing this on my phone.

I am one of the few conservatives who will ride out Dr. Brin's political arguments so that I can benefit from posts like this one.

TCB said...

At the end of World War 2, the Vietnamese had endured decades of oppression by the French rubber interests, and then waged (with US aid) a successful resistance to the Japanese occupation. Ho Chi Minh issued a Declaration of Independence closely modeled on that of the American colonies almost 170 years earlier, on the very day Japan surrendered.

http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5139/

However, the French quickly returned as if nothing had changed, and the US government permitted it. And that puts Vietnam on the road to Dien Bien Phu in 1954 and ultimately a Communist victory in 1975.

The Vietnamese had assumed, reasonably, that the US would recognize a kindred spirit and support their independence. But I think what made the US let the French quash that movement is that the US was trying to get France back on its feet (not to mention most of Europe and some other places). I don't know how much time Washington decision makers spent weighing France's needs against those of its erstwhile colony, but I'm guessing not a lot. (Not to mention Churchill's absolute resistance to freeing colonies, since that would eventually mean India. And 'eventually turned out to be just three years).

What looks like a mistake (standing by while France retook Vietnam) now must have seemed completely necessary at the time. And every US decision about Southeast Asia from VJ Day in 1945 to the day helicopters landed on the Saigon embassy roof in 1975 was, in some way, made necessary by letting the French retake Vietnam... but... at the time it must have seemed like the only sensible choice.

scidata said...


Pappenheimer: I'm pretty sure that Marshall was no Seldon

Very few were. A minor hobby of mine (and many others) is to sift history for Seldons. The current top of my stack is held by the mathematician/computationalist, Szilard "Martian" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Martians_(scientists) , and co-inventor of BASIC, John Kemeny. He and Asimov died in the same year, a poignant coincidence.

Kemeny was at Los Alamos under Feynman and von Neumann and at Princeton under Alonzo Church (also on my list) and Einstein. His motivation was teaching coding to non-computer-science students. IMHO, Turing+Church+Kemeny came durned close to reifying computational psychohistory. If someone doesn't write that alternative history novel soon, I may be forced to :)

"The only reason psychology students don’t have to do more and harder mathematics than physics students is because the mathematicians haven’t yet discovered ways of dealing with problems as hard as those in psychology."
– John Kemeny


One of the most ancient on my list would be Hypatia, for similar but more philosophical reasons.
I don't include the living - way too many variables and possible branches for my Prime Radiant :)

Pappenheimer said...

It's hard to imagine a computer program that could print out, "If we organize and fund the rebuilding of our destroyed enemies' economies, there is a greater than 0% probability that in 71 years our government will be endangered by...American citizens, at least one with a with a Confederate flag, coursing through the capitol building in an attempt to reverse a presidential election and hang the very vice president they had voted for."

Talk about Monte Carlo runs. That scenario puts the psycho in psychohistory.

J. G. Ballard had a different idea. He suggested that in 1945 the US and the UK should have created a joint World Federation which any citizen on Earth capable of speaking English on the level of (IIRC) a Cockney cabbie could join. (If my memory is wrong, I apologize to all Cockney cabbies who read this).

David Brin said...

Actually, the era of geniuses like Jefferson/Franklin was followed by sanctimonious Great Awakening nasties like Jackson and Calhoun who were proto confederates.... So. for Marshall and Truman to lead over to Trump is not a historical anomaly. What matters is can we come back again.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

On this 245th birthday of my home of E Pluribus Unum, I posit a critical -- perhaps fundamental -- break between the Unionist and Confederatist visions of American liberty, a division that goes back before the Slavers' War... before the Revolution... possibly as far back as the days of head-chopping and the New Model Army.

What is the purpose of constructing public liberty? That is to say, when we constrain the Leviathan of government and subject it to the consent of the governed, when we limit the state and demand accountability, to what end is the primary aim?

The Unionist attitude has always been that public liberty is the means to private liberty. That is, the point of having a limited and transparent government is to expand every person's options and possible actions. That keeping the Lamp lit and the Golden Door propped open as wide as possible supersede the interests of any individual, clique, faction or party. That the annihilation of aristocracy and caste benefits everyone, including the former so-called 'gentility'. That the dynamism of a free people is the safeguard of their liberty, even if that means free people must constantly bind themselves to prevent the Door from being blocked.

Catfish 'n Cod said...


The Confederatist attitude has always been that public liberty is the means to private tyranny. The hierarchy of obligation and deference, the stratification of society and exertion of privilege, was just fine -- as long as the upper point of the pyramid was knocked off. A 'republic' of numerous petty baronies such as in the 'crowned republic' of Poland, or of merchant Houses as in La Serenissima, or corporations as in the Dutch Republic, or of 'citizens' set over a network of subordinate-yet-supposedly-equal 'allies' as in classical Greece -- these were the models drawn upon to design a vision of 'freedom' for The Right Sort Of People. That such freedoms were not extended to everyone was a feature, not a bug -- in fact a critical feature, since you can't have a Right Sort of People without a Wrong Sort of People whose options and actions must stay limited. That Right Sort doesn't have to be defined by race, or birth, or any of the old definitions; and the Right Sort can and does change over time. Wealth, ideology, cultural or social shibboleths; the definitions are 'free' to wander as the Right Sort decide whether or not there are stars upon thars'. The thread of continuity is that there must always be a Right Sort. In fact, to them, having a Right Sort and a Wrong Sort is the definition of civilization. The notion that all humans actually are created equal is absolutely anathema to them.

Such a society is still called a Republic, even as Venice and Holland were. But a representative one? Not a bit. Liberty exists in the Confederalist vision to empower all of the Right Sort so they can properly oversee the Wrong Sort without extra unnecessary upper levels of Even More Right getting in their way. Every 'genteel' person a king -- and only the 'genteel' (or those who can make themselves so) need apply. If the 'genteel' must take horrendously ungentlemanly actions to defend the principle of 'gentility', well, that's the price of 'civilization' to them.

Note that this description does NOT conform to the Union and Confederacy as they were in 1865, or even 1965. Vanderbilt and Carnegie and Morgan were thoroughly Northern; that did not stop them building faux-aristocracy, complete with Pinkerton knights to bash peasants into submission. Southerners were able to band together in Fusions with former slaves and their children to challenge the aristocratic status quo (only to get crushed by them, sometimes literally and with much effusion of blood).

The point is: individual liberty can be optimized for all, or only for some. Concentrated liberty for the few permits greater heights of possible achievement -- at the cost of eliminating the potential of the many. Liberty and justice for all can only be achieved when liberty does not include the freedom to remove freedoms from others. There are those who recognize the consequences, and those who do not.

And thus are the brightness and darkness of our national soul defined.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Still alive!

Can't comment too much on China, but to further examine the perspective of the US being china's only true friend (a perspective I personally like), at what point does a friend stop being being friend?

We've all had spats and arguments with friends, and friends of varying degrees of volatility who will get over themselves and remain good friends with tolerance and patience.

But there is still a point at which such a friend is no longer a friend, and makes themselves an adversary, if not an outright enemy. They have decided that they are no longer interested in friendship, or deceived themselves so far into animosity that they are beyond reconciliation because they have no path back that they have any desire or willingness to follow.

At what point does patience and tolerance become futile and detrimental? At what point, too, does it become reasonable and fair for a friend to run out of patience and cut their losses even before that point is reached?

Larry Hart said...

Catfish 'n Cod:

That Right Sort doesn't have to be defined by race, or birth, or any of the old definitions; and the Right Sort can and does change over time. Wealth, ideology, cultural or social shibboleths; the definitions are 'free' to wander as the Right Sort decide whether or not there are stars upon thars'.


That seemed to be the philosophy of our host's Holnists. There is a ruling class, but it's not (supposed to be) based on race or heredity. Whoever is strong and ruthless enough to win a top position deserves it.


The thread of continuity is that there must always be a Right Sort. In fact, to them, having a Right Sort and a Wrong Sort is the definition of civilization. The notion that all humans actually are created equal is absolutely anathema to them.


And that last sentence is why I claim that such people have no right to the title of patriotic Americans, since "America" as a concept is that all humans actually are created equal. If that notion is absolutely anathema to them, then they--not the liberals--"hate America".

David Brin said...

Ilithi Dragon, nice hear from both you and Catfish on Independence Day, no less.

Simple answer. When you brag incessantly about accomplishing things that your friend unambiguously enabled you to accomplish, then it is truly churlish to deny you hade a friend.

The "export driven model" only works when the era's empire indulgently encouraged its people to import. It's not like sending Flying Tigers and vast supplies to help you fight off Japanese invaders. But it was the greatest act of friendship in a practical sense that 300 million people ever did for 1.4 billion.

And we need to say it.

Larry Hart said...

Catfish 'n Cod:

...
And thus are the brightness and darkness of our national soul defined.


If it were up to me, Catfish would get post of the day.

Ilithi Dragon:

But there is still a point at which such a friend is no longer a friend, and makes themselves an adversary, if not an outright enemy.


Stealing your girlfriend or wife definitely crosses that line.


They have decided that they are no longer interested in friendship, or deceived themselves so far into animosity that they are beyond reconciliation because they have no path back that they have any desire or willingness to follow.

At what point does patience and tolerance become futile and detrimental? At what point, too, does it become reasonable and fair for a friend to run out of patience and cut their losses even before that point is reached?


It sounds as if you are defending America's right to call China on bad behavior, which is beside the point that I think Dr. Brin was trying to make about friendship. He was calling out China for not acknowledging that we've been a friend.

There are things that only your best friend will tell you.

And friends don't let friends drive drunk.

TCB said...

Pretty good article about how Tienanmen Square changed the trajectory of China's leadership, with bad results for almost everyone but the leadership.

Tienanmen was the spark of a genuine popular peaceful revolution, and the CCP leaders dealt with it by bringing in an army unit of hicks from the countryside, bombarding them with several days of indoctrination that the protesters were violent radicals, and turning them loose to kill ten thousand people.

If today Xi Jinping can centralise power and build a surveillance state, it is due in large part to the leadership compact that resulted from the fright they got at Tiananmen in 1989, losing control of their capital and having to smuggle Mikhail Gorbachev into the Great Hall of the People through the back door.

...

The hyper-nationalist, assertive popular mood that we see in China today, nurtured by the party-state, is a direct consequence of Deng’s decisions taken post-Tiananmen, reinforced after the Soviet collapse, in a beleaguered frame of mind. China’s victimhood mentality, evident in the narrative of the “century of humiliation” which is the underpinning of the “China Dream,” is the result.

...

The conviction among the Chinese leadership that the West was out to change the ‘colour’ of China’s communist regime through ‘peaceful transformation’ was strengthened by Tiananmen and confirmed by the fall of the Soviet Union and the communist parties in East Europe soon thereafter. At the same time, the aftermath of the killings was instructive. Within weeks, President George Bush sent Brent Scowcroft to Beijing to limit the damage to US-China relations, former US president Richard Nixon went to Beijing in November 1989, and in less than two years it was business as usual between the West and China. The West made its choice of business over principle, over human rights or democracy, quite clear. It is from 1992 onwards that China’s masterly manipulation of Western avarice to amass material power by hook or by crook really took off.

https://thewire.in/history/book-review-vijay-gokhale-tiananmen-square-chinese-communist-party

I remember seeing Henry Kissinger on TV at this time, explaining that the US should not attempt to meddle in other nations' internal affairs. That's chutzpah, coming from him; and later I heard that he was among the early investors in Chinese businesses.

Larry Hart said...

TCB:

I remember seeing Henry Kissinger on TV at this time, explaining that the US should not attempt to meddle in other nations' internal affairs. That's chutzpah, coming from him;


Similar to Mitch McConnell saying that corporations shouldn't involve themselves in politics. These guys are shameless!

scidata said...

Pappenheimer: It's hard to imagine a computer program that could ...


It certainly is hard to imagine. That is why math & human reasoning fails.
[in a Yoda voice]

Robert said...

I heard that he was among the early investors in Chinese businesses.

Just like Julian Fantino, former police chief, police commissioner, and Conservative MP who spent a career pushing pot as the gateway drug (think reefer madness) and once marijuana was legalized (over his opposition) he is executive at a clinic and has ties to several producers.

Robert said...

"America" as a concept is that all humans actually are created equal

That's your concept of America. History and current events sees to show that a great many Americans hold "but some are more equal than others" as a caveat. Probably nowhere near as high a percentage as in 1776, but still enough to hold your political system hostage.

Pappenheimer said...

This is longer than I wanted, sorry.

Re: Military support to China during WWII

Not sure I can back this up, but I have read that much of the ordnance sent to China was not used for intended purpose - both the KMT and CCP held the good stuff back from fighting the Japanese because they were certain that after Japan inevitably left, they would have to fight the REAL enemy - each other. Also, there was a certain amount of corruption. Gen Stilwell was of the opinion (re: Tuchman) that we should have been arming the Communists, whom he trusted more to do actual fighting. This was impossible to do diplomatically, as we would have been arming the enemies of our ally, but Stilwell was not the most diplomatic of generals and openly contemptuous of Chiang Kai-Shek, who I apparently should be calling Jiǎng Jièshí these days.

Re: Truman to Trump
"What matters is can we come back again."
Well, we can - it's not like this is as bad as 1862. But we're likely to go in that direction for at least a decade before it gets better. I'm not sure we can visualize what an actual 2nd American Civil War (even without nukes) would do the the world economy. Even a bloodless breakup would shred the GNP. I'm not even factoring in climate catastrophes which become more likely if NeoConfederates regain power and decide to keep it by crook (no hooks needed).
In USAF Weather Forecasting in the 80's there was an experimental format that offered percentage-based outcomes, but we never used it because the computers of the time weren't good enough to offer close-to-actual odds, and human minds gave odds based primarily on personal experience. Unlike the weather, in politics we can push (however slightly) for the outcomes we want. And yes, some Americans will be advocating for the cultural equivalent of nuking hurricanes.

Hope all had a good 4th and all pets are recovering from the big bad a booms.

Tony Fisk said...

Another interesting article. This time it's Turnbull's observations of Xi Jiping and their discussion about the Pelopennesian War.

Two lessons arise from this study: 'The Thucydides Trap' (going to war to suppress a growing rival) and 'The Melian Dialogue' (forcing a neutral party to choose a side because rule of law has given way to rule of strength.)

Anyway, take home points: Xi is no fool, is well aware of these 'fail' conditions, yet is still pushing to restore China to greatness. And doesn't do Positive Sum Thinking.

Comments about friends and the limits to friendship prompt a fragment of poetry by Blake:

"I was angry with my friend,
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.

I was angry with my foe,
I told it not, my wrath did grow."

Tony Fisk said...

"What matters is can we come back again."
Well, we can - it's not like this is as bad as 1862.


Twenty years ago, I would have agreed. But we now have a perfect storm of catastrophes bearing down on us that's going to take a gargantuan effort to alleviate. Yet here we are, squabbling, with half the body politic no longer even pretending they care.

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

"America as a concept is that all humans actually are created equal"

That's your concept of America. History and current events sees to show that a great many Americans hold "but some are more equal than others" as a caveat.


Sure, I'm not saying we've ever fully lived up to the ideal. I'm saying that that is the ideal. Alfred and Dr Brin would point out that we make progress toward realizing that ideal every time the difference between reality and the ideal becomes too blatant and obvious to ignore. The reaction to the George Floyd murder is a good example.

To some extent, I'm just asserting that my view of what America means is correct and my fellow Americans who think otherwise are wrong. How can I justify such a subjective position? The text of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution back me up.

David Brin said...

America's project for 250 years was to start from a horror show of feudalism and slavery to push outward the horizons of inclusion each generation, to a degree the previous generations thought unthinkable and later ones would deem far too shamefully slow.

BOTH are utterly true. Compare us to what we now know to be the universal hell of all previous cultures ruled by unmodified cave animals and rutting -cheating males, and we have dragged that awful species into one helluva lot of light.

Compare us to our growing sense of what an actual civilization might be like? A dream fostered by Hollywood and by the lies our parent told us? A dream any previous nation would have deemed sappy, or at least sci fi?

By that standard we are still horrible cave beasts ruled by rutting-cheating males.

This is not a choice between two conflicting views. Wrap your head around the truth... that both are true. And that the dream will not be achieved in any other way than forging ahead. With some confidence based on the shoulder we stand upon, of women and men who were much better than their times.

TCB said...

Dr. Brin mentions Admiral Chester Nimitz. He was born in Fredericksburg, Texas, in the Hill Country, and I went there overnight with family a couple of years ago. The town itself, alas, has been ruined by tourists with too much money and not very good taste. But Fredericksburg has a museum dedicated to Nimitz, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Museum_of_the_Pacific_War and it is really really good. Worth a side trip from Austin if you're interested in the war, and you'd not believe some of the artifacts they have.

Anonymous said...

The mistake is to think that the United States is anything but the Confederacy. The 13th Amendment legalizes slavery throughout the United States; millions of people in America's prisons are currently enslaved. Systematic failures led to Trump's rise and the 600,000 - 1,000,000 mostly Black and Brown people who died of a preventable disease. Had this catastrophe taken place in China, the corporate media here in the USA would declare it a genocide.

As in the American Civil War, two different modes of production are coming into conflict today. In the antebellum United States, the battle was between industrial capitalism in the north and the racial feudalism in the south. Both system were spectacularly cruel and exploitative, but the former was increasing the forces of production in the USA by leaps and bounds, while the latter was strangling it.

The same is true today. For decades, capitalism has been pushing the human species toward extinction via climate change, of which coronavirus is a symptom. Socialism - the idea that those who do the work should call the shots - is once again on the march across the planet, as nations like China, Cuba, and Vietnam prove repeatedly in countless different ways that their systems are not far more effective at bringing both freedom and shared sustainable prosperity to everyone.

The dictatorship of the bourgeoisie appears to finally be on the wane, while the dictatorship of the proletariat rises across Eurasia and Africa thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative, while the Pink Tide finds renewed strength in South America, where communists are winning election after election and deflecting one fascist CIA-backed coup after another - in Bolivia, for instance, while Lula is poised to take back the presidency in Brazil, and Jadue looks likely to win in Chile. Inside the United States, future historians will probably be writing that the revolution which will topple the government here began during the uprising in 2020. The burning of the Third Precinct is our Bastille.

I appreciate your work, David, but I hope you will view the propaganda produced by The Bezos Post, the CIA, and the segregationist in the White House with a little more skepticism.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

LH: If it were up to me, Catfish would get post of the day.
I've had this general thought percolating for a while, saving it for a special day...

That seemed to be the philosophy of our host's Holnists... whoever is strong and ruthless enough to win a top position deserves it.
My point is that you can slot whatever ingroup consensus exists at the time into the Confederatist notion of the Right Sort. The Holnists chose ruthlessness and predatory individualism, but it's just one choice. To the masterminds of the Slavers' War, Irish were not the Right Sort; to their heirs a century later, they did count. The arbitrariness of the choice -- and the reason for its protean nature -- is revealed when one realizes that each person has to continually make judgement calls about who is In and who is Out, and those judgement calls are subjective and will differ.

A brilliant portrayal: the Doctor Who episode Rosa, set in 1955 Montgomery. The Doctor and Graham are consistently thought White (both played by Anglo-Scottish ethnic actors). Caribbean-British Ryan is consistently thought Black. But Punjabi-British Yasmin doesn't fit the paradigm. Most "Whites" of the day are barely aware of India, much less its rich ethnic diversity. Some believe her to be "Mexican" or read "Indian" as "Native American"; at least they know of those. Some treat her as White; others judge her as Black; and some can't interact with her at all- because they can't decide what social protocol to use, and don't dare make a public protocol error.

American racism was intended as a quick-reliable marker of Right Sort and Wrong Sort. Even a brief drama shows it doesn't really work (and Doctor Who didn't even get into multiracialism). The arbitrary nature of the divide causes its ultimate incoherence regardless of metric.

@Robert: History and current events sees to show that a great many Americans hold "but some are more equal than others" as a caveat.

The Declaration of Independence was profoundly radical, and in some senses, still remains so. (Idealistic, eloquent Jefferson; passionate, obnoxious Adams; principled, deliberate Sherman; crafty, experienced Livingston; and Doctor Benjamin Franklin, universally considered the smartest man in the Colonies. The rest of the Continental Congress didn't stand a chance.) There were those who actually thought through the Declaration's universalist message and committed themselves to the novus ordo seculorum as fully as they understood it; and there were those who merely considered it excellent rhetoric but ultimately subordinate to the pursuit of power, wealth, and status.

Thus born were both Unionism and Confederatism, twins of eternal strife. Both viewpoints are imperfect, as any finite human effort must be; but one is born of earnest intention, the other of hypocritical calculation. Unionism builds from strength to strength, for its essence is the empowerment and harmonization of ever more sophonts. Confederatism can occasionally create astoundingly high towers of ability and power, but only with foundations of sand, as the greatest effort must always be devoted to sweeping back the tide of the Wrong Sort.

@Tony: But we now have a perfect storm of catastrophes bearing down on us that's going to take a gargantuan effort to alleviate.
"Crisistunity" was coined for a reason....

David Brin said...

Blogger's excellent spam filter flagged but offered me a choice on our "Unknown" visiting conspiracy raver (above). I guess because it's well-parsed and not a rug-pooper. And I passed it on to you all.

Wheeee! It has all the hallmarks! Making grand declarations not just of hidden aspects to the world, but "Everything you believe is opposite to true, you foooools!"

Of course all the historians and civil servants and scholars and amateur and professional experts are in-on-it.

Individually, each paragraph is a spectacular fizz of fantasy, like the notion that workers have ever 'called the shots' in any Leninist theocratic-feudalist dictatorship. The closest that ever came was in pre-Reagan America when labor unions had real power.

Whatever. Enjoy the fizz. Just wash up after.

Larry Hart said...

Anonymous[e?]:

while the dictatorship of the proletariat rises across Eurasia and Africa thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative


I'm pretty sure that phrase doesn't mean what you think it does.

Catfish 'n Cod:

Most "Whites" of the day are barely aware of India, much less its rich ethnic diversity. Some believe her to be "Mexican" or read "Indian" as "Native American"


Isn't that how "American Indians" were mistaken for Hindus in the first place?


The Holnists chose ruthlessness and predatory individualism, but it's just one choice.


More to the point, the Holnists didn't choose blood and heredity, opting for more of a merit based system. IIRC, General Macklin bragged to Gordon that, "My own sons must kill to become Holnists, or else scratch dirt for those who can," and that that was the real promise of America that was betrayed when Aaron Burr was made into a villain.

I suspect that, if we were talking about a non-fictional scenario, that would have been more of an ideal that didn't get lived up to in reality, much as our actual Declaration of Independence kinda is.


To the masterminds of the Slavers' War, Irish were not the Right Sort; to their heirs a century later, they did count.


Look at recent and somewhat recent American history. Once it was "Irish need not apply," and now the Irish are among the most jingoistic of conservative Americans. In my lifetime, Catholics and Jews were both excluded from the top levels of power, and now the six reliably conservative supreme court justices are Catholic, and were essentially nominated by Republicans for that very reason.


The arbitrariness of the choice -- and the reason for its protean nature -- is revealed when one realizes that each person has to continually make judgement calls about who is In and who is Out, and those judgement calls are subjective and will differ.


That's why I'm so fiercely egalitarian--because I know that no matter who gets to decide who is and who isn't a first-class citizen, I'm likely to be in the out group. My only protection is equality and justice for all. And what the Nazi-eqeue groups don't understand is that fascism requires that there always is an out-group, and once the low hanging fruit has been purged into camps or killed, the remainder will have to be subdivided into in-group and out-group ad infinitum. Sooner or later, their time on the outs will come. It must come.

GMT -5 said...

"America's project for 250 years was to start from a horror show of feudalism and slavery to push outward the horizons of inclusion each generation, to a degree the previous generations thought unthinkable and later ones would deem far too shamefully slow."

"BOTH are utterly true. Compare us to what we now know to be the universal hell of all previous cultures ruled by unmodified cave animals and rutting -cheating males, and we have dragged that awful species into one helluva lot of light."

Applause! Applause! Well said Dr. Brin! We are awful creatures in a terrible country; but gosh darnit we are getting better. And for a 50 year period, we were improving at a tremendous rate.

Don't lose hope. Don't look for some strong man/superman to lead us. Let's roll up our sleeves and do the hard work ourselves.

Something started going wrong around 1970. I think it was a lot of factors. A big part was that the generation of people who made these companies and thought up the products they used passed control to the first generation of managers. The managers don't know how to make stuff; they just know how to manage. And over time, you see the companies (and universities and organizations) taken over by professional managers.

One person who had a theory about this was the late Jerry Pournelle who had his "Iron Law of Bureaucracy." In essence, any organization will have two kinds of people in it: people motivated by the ideals of the organization (who pursue the reason why the entity was formed) and people who motivated by the continued existence of the entity. The first group is idealistic; the second group is more selfish. Over time, the second group almost always ends up in control. I've seen this happen in a few entities I've worked for.

Here is my book list that helped me understand this problem.

(1) For the degeneration of business:

Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco, Bryan Burrough
Liar’s Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage of Wall Street, Michael Lewis
The Predators' Ball: The Inside Story of Drexel Burnham and the Rise of the Junk Bond Raiders, Connie Bruck
Den of Thieves, James B. Stewart
The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine, Michael Lewis
House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street, William Cohan

(2) Here are books about government and bureaucracy:

Dark Age Ahead, Jane Jacobs
The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs
The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York; Robert A. Caro
The Path to Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Robert A. Caro
Means of Ascent: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Robert A. Caro

(3) And here is some naval history that covers a number of these issues as they came up in the late 19th and early 20th centuries:

Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the Coming of the Great War, Robert K. Massie
The Rules of the Game: Jutland and British Naval Command, Andrew Gordon

Alfred Differ said...

"America as a concept is that all humans actually are created equal"

Well…

1. It's not strictly American. We inherited it from certain factions of the English Civil War. Read up on 'Levelers'. They had a truly radical idea that got adopted into 'liberalism' in the next century. They did not win the war to rule England, but they DID win the war of ideas in America's colonies later.

2. 'Actual' equality is a lovely fiction. We all know durned well that we aren't equal. Some of us are smarter than others. Some of us have more capable parents. Some of us can bear children. In the classical liberal sense, equality was never meant to imply those differences do not exist. It was meant to imply that 'Justice' should be mostly blind to them. To theists, the point was that God sees us all alike. To non-theists, the point was that government should hold to the same ideal by applying rules as if we were all mostly alike.

The second point is the one folded into the American Experiment. We started with colonies that mostly didn't trust each other and have worked our way forward with sweat and blood toward the ideal of 'alikeness'.

The trite way to say it is 'We are on a journey', but that is essentially true. The ideal might not be achievable, but we damn well intend to approach it asymptotically if that's the best we can manage.

Being steeped in SOA, though, we aren't inclined to believe anyone telling us the ideal can't be achieved. That probably has a lot to do with our asymptotic approach? Maybe. I'm not convinced we are smoothly approaching anything in the limit. I'm not convinced there IS a limit. We appear to move in fits and bursts that micro-fracture constraints traditionalists would place upon us. They gag us occasionally and we bite and grind through the obstruction.

we make progress toward realizing that ideal every time the difference between reality and the ideal becomes too blatant and obvious to ignore

… and painful. Pain is a huge element of where our attention/focus goes. The more prosperous we become on average (the Great Enrichment is still in progress), the more we see the pains we suffer as something of which we can at least buy our way out. Don't like having beggars in the streets? Build shelters and set up soup kitchens. Establish job training programs. Support mental health institutions. Etc. Some of us realize we CAN buy our way out of the pain and then demand that others join us by shifting the definition of 'Justice'.

David Brin said...

Moffette is trying and I was right to give him a chance. Still struggling to justify both-sides-ism, thought.

"Something started going wrong around 1970."
Um? It's called... uh... VIETNAM? That macho fool JFK declared "we will pay any price!" and the KGB asked: "really? How about a nice, draining and dividing land-insurrection war in the jungles of Asia?" Blatantly, that bipartisan insanity wrecked our economy and social cohesion. Throw in forced school bussing and the Democrats had set the stage for collapse of the old, Rooseveltean coalition that incorporated the proletariate working class into the middle class and disproved Marx before the eyes of the world.

From then on, the treason was almost entirely on the right. From fighting civil rights to opposing fixes to smog and burning rivers and acid rain, to FOUR insanely disproved Supply Side treasury rapes to benefit feudal oligarchs and inheritance brats and wall streeters and Saudi sheiks... the list goes on and on... all the way to storking a restart of the Confederacy and phase 8 of the US civil war.

Civil War Phases - CONTRARY BRIN - http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2014/09/phases-of-american-civil-war.html

The original sabotage of the most successful social contract the world ever saw was rooted in bipartisan stupidity. But from Reagan onward, it has been those loyal to this Periclean enlightenment, facing sabotage of progress and everything America stands for. By an increasingly insane American right.

Oh and I knew Jerry Pournelle. He had some insights. But also swallowed Reaganism hook line and sinker all the way up to the rod. But in the end he was able to see what Supply Side had done.

By the way, thanks to your cult, Marx is back on every campus across the globe. Congratulations.

scidata said...

Looks like NASA, ESA, CSA are aiming for a Webb 'launch readiness date' of Halloween.
L2 awaits. I just wish it was going up on a SpaceX vehicle. Don't know much about Ariane.

Larry Hart said...

The Grand Moff Tarkin:

Don't lose hope. Don't look for some strong man/superman to lead us. Let's roll up our sleeves and do the hard work ourselves.


You keep accusing us of looking for a messiah. As far as I can see, none of us are doing that. That's the Trumpists' job.


Something started going wrong around 1970. I think it was a lot of factors.


Canadian comics writer/artist Dave Sim cited the exact same year as the time when everything went wrong. Only for him, it was because that's when feminism took over.

Alfred Differ:

1. It's not strictly American. We inherited it from certain factions of the English Civil War.


I didn't mean we invented it. I meant that we dedicated ourselves to being a nation which exemplifies it.


2. 'Actual' equality is a lovely fiction. We all know durned well that we aren't equal. Some of us are smarter than others. Some of us have more capable parents. Some of us can bear children. In the classical liberal sense, equality was never meant to imply those differences do not exist. It was meant to imply that 'Justice' should be mostly blind to them.


That's what I mean by equality. Not that everybody is the same, but that the law protects and binds everyone equally.

matthew said...

I always LOL at the reference to the "evil nature of man" bullshit meme. Turns out to be mostly BS, spread by people that are afraid of the other, to justify their fear of the other. If you're consumed by fear of the other then there are names for you. Conservative. Reactionary. Authoritarian.

Pay attention to how people prepare for disaster and hard times and you'll understand the type of person that you are dealing with. If their impulse is to hoard, price-gouge, and vilify, then, congratulations, you've found the local pool of conservatism. If the response is to build resiliency, trusted networks, and outreach, then you have found something that is not-conservatism.

America is not a conservative nation. 80% of the US are the help-your-neighbor type. It's just that hoarding, price-gouging, and vilifying the other have worked out for 20% and allowed them to gather inordinate power.

David Brin said...

Rightists and romantics can be cornered into accepting "Equality of opportunity" by pushing one meme they cannot wriggle out of. "Stop wasting talent."

The notion that anyone talking about 1970 can ignore the overhwelming effects of Vietnam is proof of human ability to engage in hysterical insanity.

LH right on. The modernist wing of America (loosely the "Union" side of ongoing civil war) has always been suspicious of demigods. But the romantic-confederate side, toweringly typified by Orson Scott Card, adores them and hates Periclean flatness of opportunity or democracy.

GMT -5 said...

" Treason is a charge invented by winners as an excuse for hanging the losers." Peter Stone (from the screenplay for 1776 for the character of Benjamin Franklin).

I was not ignoring Viet Nam. I see it as part of a slightly older, different problem: the arrogance of our military industrial complex. I am reading Stanley Karnow's history of the war (I have a lot of books that I start and then spend months or years finishing). That war was a horrible, tragic stupid mistake. The State Department and the CIA totally missed the suspicion and mistrust that the Vietnamese felt towards China and the Europeans. With a little more wisdom and understanding, maybe Viet Nam could have been an Asian version of Yugoslavia.

In the post above, our host writes about how China had no better friend than the US...until the Communists took over (and that was one of George Marshall's less than fine hours). Regarding the CIA and the State Department of the 50s and 60s, I read about half of Norman Mailer's novel, HARLOT'S GHOST. While it was fiction, I think it captured the stupidity, arrogance, and corruption of the early CIA.

Larry Hart, I am not accusing you, or anyone reading this blog, of looking for a messiah. I aiming that comment outwards to humanity as a whole.

My favorite Jerry Pournelle story happened at the 1988 Worldcon in New Orleans. The day before the con began, I was sitting in the lobby reading a book. I heard some fans talking science fiction at a table near me and I asked to join them. As we were leaving for dinner, Jerry Pournelle joined the group. I asked if I could join the group for dinner and they said I could. When we got to our table, I hung back figuring I would let everyone else decide where to sit and I would take whatever seat was left. I ended up sitting between Jerry Pournelle and Greg Bear. What a night.

Dr. Brin thinks JFK was a "macho fool." I am not a JFK fan. I was all of 4 years old when he was assassinated so he is a figure out of history; not someone that I remember. I don't remember much about Johnson either; but I've read a lot about him; especially in Robert Caro's multi-volume biography. At some point I will get to Nixon. I was outside the White House the day he resigned in disgrace...but I already told that story.

And that reminds me of an important book I forgot to put in my list above:

Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water, by Mark Reisner.


duncan cairncross said...

Marx is back on every campus across the globe

Probably because he was 100% correct in his diagnosis of the problems with capitalism!

He was 100% wrong about his predictions for the future

But a large part of that was because some very smart people thought "we can't have THAT" - and did something about it
In the USA that was the "New Deal"
In the UK it was Clement Attlee

Unfortunately in the 70's all of those advances started being dismantled

We are now back heading towards Marx's horrible future

Vietnam was a bit like WW1 - not so much a war of choice as a Jengo tower collapsing

The decisions that led to the war were minor

The decisions that would have led away from the war were politically difficult

The effect of Vietnam on the American people was large - but IMHO it was orthogonal to the economic and social decisions that moved the USA away from the "New Deal"

David Brin said...

Spot on Duncan. The oligarchs backing today's mad right think they are geniuses because sycophants say so to flatter them. But they are incredibly stupid, doing everything in their power to act as Marx predicted and crush the one alternative that saved their fortunes and their lives and gave them (and us all) fantastic toys and hope.

It is the "and us all" part that drive them nuts.

TCB said...

I read the following explanation for how the Russian Revolution turned authoritarian; it seems reasonable to me. So the Russian Revolution happed toward the end of World War 1, as we all know, and for about five minutes it looked as if it might be an actual step toward a democratic and more open society. But it ran into a bad prediction of Marxist theory.

The revolutionaries all assumed that the most industrialized countries would be the most ripe for revolution; therefore they expected that Germany would soon turn communist also, and the two new communist nations would then form a mutually supporting alliance against the inevitable counter-revolutionary backlash from all the nations still under capitalist or royalist control. But the German communist revolution didn't happen. So Communist Russia found itself all alone to fight off the White Russian armies loyal to the Czar, and any and all attempts by other countries to reverse the situation. Heck, even the United States sent 13,000 soldiers, supporting 70,000 Czechs, to fight the Bolsheviks.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/forgotten-doughboys-who-died-fighting-russian-civil-war-180971470/

The Bolsheviks won, of course. But after that, they were paranoid, because they had real enemies, and felt surrounded, because they were, and if they were not already inclined to authoritarian despotism, well, that was all the push they needed. Cue decades of purges within and expansionism without.

David Brin said...

TCB a fairly solid capsule... except the Russians needed no instruction to 'become" paranoid. Criminy. It's in mother's milk.

Tim H. said...

Sometimes one's home state makes the news in a bad way:

https://arstechnica.com/science/2021/07/hospital-ceo-tells-vaccine-disparagers-to-shut-up-as-delta-slams-missouri/

Full FDA approval would help a little, a "Drumph!" PSA more, the unvaccinated are walking bioreactors, breeding fresh variations and lambda is already coming.
(Vaccinated) Tim H.

Anonymous said...

"Blogger's excellent spam filter flagged but offered me a choice on our "Unknown" visiting conspiracy raver (above). I guess because it's well-parsed and not a rug-pooper. And I passed it on to you all.

Wheeee! It has all the hallmarks! Making grand declarations not just of hidden aspects to the world, but "Everything you believe is opposite to true, you foooools!"

Of course all the historians and civil servants and scholars and amateur and professional experts are in-on-it.

Individually, each paragraph is a spectacular fizz of fantasy, like the notion that workers have ever 'called the shots' in any Leninist theocratic-feudalist dictatorship. The closest that ever came was in pre-Reagan America when labor unions had real power.

Whatever. Enjoy the fizz. Just wash up after."

Hi, I am the original commenter. David, can you address this point I made before we continue?:

"The mistake is to think that the United States is anything but the Confederacy. The 13th Amendment legalizes slavery throughout the United States; millions of people in America's prisons are currently enslaved. Systematic failures led to Trump's rise and the 600,000 - 1,000,000 mostly Black and Brown people who died of a preventable disease. Had this catastrophe taken place in China, the corporate media here in the USA would declare it a genocide."

Anonymous said...

I suppose I would also add that capitalism itself (like Rome) was not built in a day. The first capitalists in history were (according to Ellen Meiksins Wood) English landlords who began throwing peasants off their ancestral lands in favor of more profitable and competitive enclosure. This took place centuries before the opening of the first stock market in Amsterdam in 1604, which itself occurred after centuries of conflict with Spain. Absent the "discovery" of the New World, the genocide of Native Americans, and the enslavement of millions of Africans, capitalism probably would have collapsed hundreds of years ago. Silvia Federici claims in "Caliban and the Witch" that capitalism itself is a feudal counter-revolution against late medieval peasants who were organizing for power.

Although there were many peasant revolts in Europe toward the end of the Middle Ages, the first socialist revolution in modern times was probably the slave revolt that gave birth to Haiti in the beginning of the 19th century, which inspired Hegel, who inspired Marx. (Like virtually every nation in the Global South, Haiti has suffered from endless sabotage by the imperial powers ever since.) The Paris Commune, the next major revolution, lasted for only a few months; decades later, the Russian Revolution put the first man and woman in space and challenged private capital for seventy years; today, as I said, the Chinese Communist Party - widely supported by the people of China (according to NPR) - appears to be unstoppable and is surging ahead of the ailing United States.

I hope that this is a sign of things to come, and that in the near future workers around the world will be free from surplus labor theft by capitalists: free to reverse climate change, to eradicate poverty, and to explore the cosmos. None of these goals are possible so long as the profit motive exists.

Larry Hart said...

Back in 2008 when it looked as if Hillary Clinton would be running to replace George W Bush as president, we joked that the two parties should change their names to the Bush Party and the Clinton Party.

It's no longer a joke that the Republican Party might as well call itself the Trump Party.

gregory byshenk said...

One comment on the post.

David writes "last week's speech by the CCP chairman rejecting reciprocal criticism from without and free debate from within."

Does this refer to the 100th anniversary speech? Here Xi said:

...we are also eager to learn what lessons we can from the achievements of other cultures, and welcome helpful suggestions and constructive criticism. We will not, however, accept sanctimonious preaching from those who feel they have the right to lecture us. The Party and the Chinese people will keep moving confidently forward in broad strides along the path that we have chosen for ourselves, and we will make sure the destiny of China's development and progress remains firmly in our own hands.

(From Nikkei Asia.)

At least to me, this doesn't sound like "rejecting reciprocal criticism"...

Pappenheimer said...

TCB - US intervention in Russian Civil War

We certainly did intervene, but with no great enthusiasm.

It looks like the majority of the US troops who were sent to Russia during its Civil War spent their time watching the pile of war supplies left on the docks of Vladivostok, and the Japanese interventionary troops, who were suspected of being there mainly to annex whatever wasn't nailed down of the Russian Empire.

The Czech Legion's presence was one of those weird things that happen in war - they'd been fighting the Germans/Austrians on the Eastern Front, and when the new government of Russia sued for peace, they were sent by Trans-Siberian Railroad to Vladivostok to be shipped to the Western Front (lucky them!). When civil war broke out, there were cars full of Czech troops in place to seize nearly the entire rail system.

David Brin said...

Thanks Greg B. That was a lazy mistake on my part and I am very glad to see that passage by Xi. for correcting my mistake you get an early post of the day.

Our UNKNOWN commie - though refusing to set up. a monicker the way newbie Grand Moff Tarkin was brave enoug to do (though that's a loony one) - is welcome here with his viewpoint. Well parsed and not a carpet dumper.

Still, the notion that those were the only peasant revolts or risings against oligarchy in history is kinda pathetic. I could sitting here type other examples and still be here an hour from now, listing variants of revolution against the standard human governance pattern... top down rule by brutal males.

A pattern that all of the 'revolutions' he admires fell into, brutally recreating pyramids of power. huh, some revolutions!

Then I realize... his comment isn't even on this thread!

Will someone go find it and tell him how things work here?

Robert said...

the Chinese Communist Party - widely supported by the people of China (according to NPR) - appears to be unstoppable and is surging ahead of the ailing United States.

I hope that this is a sign of things to come, and that in the near future workers around the world will be free from surplus labor theft by capitalists


Have you looked at China? The profits of workers' labour is most definitely stolen by greedy capitalists, who also need close connections with the ruling party to stay in business.

David Brin said...

Sorry I missed that he did show up here. While of course Anon's views of history and Marxism are Kindergarten pathetic... and his excuse making for murderous tyrants - just because they spout scocialist slogans - reminds me of my parents' tales of similar saps in the 1930s (when, at least, low information was sort of an excuse), at least the fellow has a dream. He thinks shoot-all-the-millionaires would get us to worker's paradise, alas. And ignores the absolutely provable point I made last time...

...that the closest workers ever came to ACTUALLY owning the means of production was in the 1970s, via US unions' pension funds... and one of Reagan's top priorities was to demolish the Rooseveltean social contract. If poor Anon had three more neurons... just three!

GMT -5 said...

There was an Academy Award winning documentary AMERICAN FACTORY, that showed the culture clash when a Chinese firm took over an Ohio auto parts factory. The Chinese CEO was the model of a greedy capitalist who has his fortune thanks to the government and family connections.

I decided to give up having an evil space Nazi as my monicker. A wrist watch is less of a target...but I kept the initials.

David Brin said...

Okay, GMT... or Greenwich Mean Time. Implies you are 8 hours ahead of me, Future Boy.

Unknown Commie said...

Thank you, David, for letting me write here.

"Still, the notion that those were the only peasant revolts or risings against oligarchy in history is kinda pathetic. I could sitting here type other examples and still be here an hour from now, listing variants of revolution against the standard human governance pattern... top down rule by brutal males."

Hang on a second. Are you arguing here that there is no real difference between capitalism and feudalism, and that both socioeconomic systems are just basically oligarchy? How can that possibly be true? Life in medieval Europe was totally different from modernity in countless ways. Clearly many things have changed.

And the thing is, even if you are actually correct, "top down rule by brutal males" is not actually the norm for Homo sapiens. The concept of private property did not exist for 95% of human history. We don't start seeing this idea percolating until the invention of writing - itself created to keep track of how much stuff the rulers of Mesopotamia and Egypt had. And even when writing was invented, anarcho-communism was the norm across almost the entire planet, in some places (like Australia and New Guinea) up until the 19th and 20th centuries.

"A pattern that all of the 'revolutions' he admires fell into, brutally recreating pyramids of power. huh, some revolutions!"

Revolutions do actually change things! Are you going to argue that the American or French or English Revolutions changed nothing? In each revolution, the bourgeoisie forced the feudal ruling class from power because they made it harder to develop the forces of production (by starting pointless wars with each other, refusing to standardize weights and measures, refusing to construct decent roads, mortgaging the entire country to pay for fancy gemstones (as with Marie Antoinette), etc.).

And again, as establishment sources like NPR claim, huge majorities of people in China, Vietnam, Bolivia, and Cuba all believe that they live in democracies. They likewise overwhelmingly approve of their governments, all of which have handled coronavirus orders of magnitude better than the bourgeois dictatorship in the United States. Clearly something that is not only very different, but far more effective at handling catastrophes like coronavirus, is taking place in these countries. If a country like Cuba is really no different from the United States, how come the 1% here is so desperate to sabotage the government there? The same goes for places like Bolivia and Vietnam.

But I used to think like the commenters here. These are essentially Trotskyist views: that revolutions like 1917 can be good, but they degenerate into vague concepts called "authoritarianism" or "totalitarianism" almost immediately. But where does that way of thinking lead us? Pretty much nowhere: to being outmaneuvered by Republicans in the next elections because the Democrats we support won't lift a finger for the working class.

[continued below...]

Unknown Commie said...

When we criticize the anti-imperialist Global South, we're basically doing the work of the fascists for them. Democrats and Republicans are united on most issues, chief among these being the 1%'s urgent need to destroy any serious challenges to their power from within or without the USA's borders. I don't want to help Republicans, and I've seen the Democrats sabotage challenges from the left too many times to want to help them, either. (In my own local caucus, I personally witnessed Democratic bigwigs stealing state delegates from Bernie in 2020. No one who watched that primary (especially Iowa) can possibly believe that democracy exists in the USA.) It's absurd that after something like a million Americans died of a preventable disease in 2020, the president refuses to even discuss universal health care, a policy supported by 70% of Americans including a majority of registered Republicans. This is because he works for the 1% exclusively. They are the enemies of history and really the only obstacle between the global 99% and achieving world peace and climate justice.

Plus, socialism doesn't aim to destroy hierarchies, what you call "pyramids of power." In a lot of ways, it's just an admission that the free market is the reason why huge numbers of Americans don't have housing, health care, education, or really much of a future at all. If American history just consists of nothing but Trumps alternating with Bidens for the next twenty, thirty, forty years, what is the world going to look like at that point? Does anyone seriously believe that anything will be better? It will either be the same, or far worse. Climate change was created by capitalism, and this is simply an existential threat to the human species which capitalism cannot solve. If human civilization is devoted exclusively to making the stock market line go up, our civilization is doomed.

A commenter here also mentioned that Marx's analysis was correct, but that his predictions were not. I wanted to say that if that commenter had actually read a single word of Marx, he would know that the analysis and the predictions are one and the same. Here are Marx's predictions from the beginning of The Communist Manifesto:

"The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

"Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes."

How absurd! The haves and the have-nots have been fighting for thousands of years! That's ridiculous! But more seriously: Marx is writing here that things can basically go either way. History is class struggle: oppressor versus oppressed. Sooner or later they have a really big fight. The result is either that one class wins, or both classes get fucked. (You can see this pretty clearly in the Ciompi Revolt which took place in late medieval Florence.) Point being, you cannot separate the analysis from the prediction. Classes exist, classes fight, and sometimes one class wins, sometimes both classes lose. And to deny the existence of class struggle today is to basically declare yourself a nihilist.

David, I've read and really enjoyed a bunch of your novels. I know you're a fan of Star Trek, itself a wonderful depiction of space communism. I also know that you must have some doubts about the American ruling class's ability to keep from driving the human species to extinction. If you're interested in reading Marxists in their own words, I think this short book by Engels is an excellent introduction:

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1880/soc-utop/ch01.htm

Der Oger said...

On China:

With regards to benefits of socialism for the broader population (Health Care System, retirement and unemployment payments, education system), even the US are more "socialist" than the PRC. Corruption is way more common, the gap between the haves and havenots equally, if not more, drastic.

Adding in rising nationalism (as opposed to the more "leftist" globalism/internationalism) and the ongoing genocide, it appears to me that the PRC has a fascist, right wing regime. Maybe they are already operating on a level of authoritarianism that the right-left distinction does not matter any more. Hammer and Sickle have been hollowed out, and the CCP is a frightened bunch of corrupt bureaucrats who aim to keep power at any means possible.

Somehow related to that:

Campaigning for the federal election is in full swing*, and a week or so I watched the first "triell" between the three contenders for the chancellors office. The onservative and the social democrat (both men, both in the parties of the current governing coalition) were very hazy about how to deal with China and Russia, whereas the green candidate was quite antagonistic. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AiKCi5TLI9o

So I came to the conclusion that any vote for the conservatives and social democrats would also be a vote for the CCP or Putin.

* To my surprise, it is getting quite dirty. It is not the same level of negative campaigning as it was between Trump and Clinton or Biden, but parallels can already be seen.

David Brin said...

Wow, we have a live one here. Unknown Commie looks vivid and active and fun… if utterly and fanatically wrongheaded. I don’t even know where to beginn. (And I do NOT have time to spare!) But just a few items.

— Marx’s predictions were 100% and diametrically wrong in all ways and at all levels. Even Lenin and Mao commented on that. If you can’t see the Prediction Contradiction Problem, then you know nothing at all about Marx.

— In contrast, his historical analyses of class development up to his own time… when he had actual case studies to look at… was actually pretty interesting. It was tendentious storytelling, not science. But pretty well-crafted and consistent stories that FIT a wide array of preceding events… the advancement from feudalism to monarchy freeing townsmen and owner peasants from brutal lords, followed by a rising bourgeoisie, then bourgeoise revolution and so on.

But his prediction that capitalism would inevitably revert back all the way to feudalism (?) WTF??? It was simply…. weird! Yes, yes, some of those cheater plutocrat attempts are going on right now, and we here all share a dread that oligarchy is gaining an upper hand. But the solutions are clear and they are NOT to let rich idiots drive the working class to penury and violence.

WE SEE ALREADY WHERE THAT LEADS. Not to elevated proletariates but to confederatism.

No, blatantly the Rooseveltean compact showed a much better way to achieve proletarian /worker advancement. NOT by passing through crushing oppression (which NEVER has led to enlightenment, across the history of our species!) But by the FDR era innovation of co-opting the working class into a rising and prosperous and dominant middle class. Marx never ever (show me one example) predicted that was possible. Even though it is the ONLY approach that ever created an elevated, thoughtful and progressive proetariate. And it thrived, and built momentum for decades, so far that desperate plutocrats concocted the Reagan Revolution to counter it.

Thanks for your kind words, UC. But I know Marx and marxism VASTLY better than you do. I know him as the greatest science fiction author, whose projections changed the very world he described.

You follow him as a cult guru. I know him much better.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

@LH: Not Hindus. Cristobal was aiming for the Spice Islands; he wanted to believe he'd reached Indonesia. Hence "East Indies" and "West Indies".

@GMT: I actually do believe in American exceptionalism, but not in the usual senses. Our exceptional ability is our ability to self-correct and self-improve on a societal level, while avoiding (usually) civil strife. France has gone through around ten constitutions since their Revolution. We're still running on attempt #2 -- the amendment process has worked well so far -- and our society is massively different from the one that revolted, a hundred times larger over a far greater area with diversity that makes the distinctions between the colonies look positively picayune and far greater freedoms than initially -- yet even with the current attempt at insurrection, we're still a more unified country than the Thirteen Colonies started as. That level of change would shatter most nations' structures long before getting to this point.

@OGH: "Something started going wrong around 1970." Um? It's called... uh... VIETNAM?
Well, that certainly threw things for a loop, but that's hardly the cause. Feedback loops already in place led to the repeated escalations, and the escalations in turn drove social fracturing, which led to doubling down on bad strategies, which...

I confess though that I do not feel I have an adequate grasp on even the sequence of events in management of the Vietnam War -- not for lack of trying, but because I have yet to find a historical account that doesn't have an agenda of some sort to push. It may take a new generation to even fully comprehend what happened with a clear head.

@Duncan: the way I phrase it goes something like "Marx was wrong, because he proclaimed his predictions inevitable. They were not and are not. But when the powerful act as Marx described, then he's closer to correct than you think."

On Russia: Russia is the largest country, and everything I've ever heard describes the profound isolation pretty much everywhere. Could that be why the paranoia seems to persist? I have trouble believing it's just cultural -- something environmental must be in play for it to be so consistent.

@UC: You show much promise, but you're gonna need to up your self-criticism and scope-expansion games if you want to defend forms of socialism. I (for one) can be convinced on some components of some socialist platforms. Example: I prefer a 'citizens' dividend' to UBI, but the point that tying strings to public redistribution does very little for the recipients and primarily exists to provide moralizing BS that makes the upper half of society feel superior. Cash isn't just the most effective assistance; it's also the one with the least overhead, thus the least bureaucracy. It's the folks who demand more and more restrictions on entitlements that drive the expansion of Big Government they claim to hate! Also, platforms such as that of Mandragon show that some forms of collectivism *can* work, and deliver results better than some forms of capitalism.

A tip: don't just obsess about the folks holding you (and me, and us) back -- talk about what you want to build, too.

TCB said...

Re: Marx's predictive successes and failures...

I have a pet theory (it's really mine, I have not heard it elsewhere! At all, at all!) It goes like this: Any important new theory/philosophy of politics will reflect the current science of the day, as it has trickled down to the sort of generalist theorist/philosophers who are in the game of creating such a new political theory.

So the founders of the United States, particularly people like Benjamin Franklin, would have based their ideas about politics on the current understanding of science. They were rationalists, certainly, but lived in a very hands-on and empirical age. William Harvey had explained how the blood circulates to the extremities and back toward the heart only a bit more than a century earlier; Edward Jenner had not yet discovered vaccination; Uranus was discovered the same year the Battle of Yorktown ended the American Revolution. The political theory of the time was rooted in the experiences of ancient Greeks and more recent examples like the Dutch republic and the Iroquois nation. Their economics, of course, came out of Adam Smith.

Marx, more than half a century later, could draw on (distorted) ideas of Darwinian evolution and (less distorted) observations of what the Industrial Revolution was doing to Europe and its workers, as well as other concepts in science, the arts, literature, and so forth, that wouldn't have been available for the generation of Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, et al., to consider. Marx was still living in the post-Renaissance world of the printing press.

We have now gone two or three cultural turnings past Marx: the age of electricity, automobiles, and aircraft, and nuclear bombs; and the age of computers. And yet we still seem to be arguing over concepts inherited from the framers of the Constitution (1787) and Marx (after 1848), and from the Fascists (early 20th Century, dressing up old-fashioned notions of feudalist/royalist oligarchy with Romantic notions out of Nietzche and Wagner, plus an obsession with fast machines and a knack for exploiting new media such as radio).

It is time for a truly fresh theory of politics that incorporates things we know now, that neither Ben Franklin nor Karl Marx nor the Greeks of antiquity knew: things like neuroscience, game theory, ecology, and perhaps especially information theory and the logic of computers, with special emphasis on security: how complex systems (whether computer networks, the body's immune defenses, or the machineries of government) can be subverted as by a virus, and how Godel's proof shows that a truly foolproof system is a mirage which, nevertheless, we must ever try to reach.

David Brin said...

" Could that be why the paranoia seems to persist? "

Historians generally blame the lack of defensible frontiers and relentless invasions or else aggressive buffer expansions. But I've seen explantions that include odd practices in baby care.

Most experiments in "socialism" were just pyramid-shaped feudal towers of bully males with a different set of spouted incantations. Russia went from Orthodox CHristian monarchist incantation justifications to Leninist ones, then the SAME GUYS flipped over to capitalist-oligarchy-mafia catechisms with ever more orthodox christianity and now, lately, monarchism/ The same guys who spent their lives reciting socialist cant every single day, then flipped while keeping the same power.

Those moderate socialist plus competitive market economies like many in Europe have done well.

Paradoctor said...

The trajectory of Marxism exemplifies Seldon's Paradox. He made a prediction, and that set into motion forces that negated his prediction. I recommend Donald Kingsbury's "The Psychohistorical Crisis" as a meditation on Seldon's Paradox, and a vision of a psychohistory harmonious with the Paradox because it is a 'science of negotiation' rather than a 'science of prediction'.

TCB: your insight that social theories tend to echo the science of the day resembles what I call the "Cosmic Coolness Effect": namely, that the cosmology of a given era tends to resemble the most impressive technology of the day. So when the most advanced technology of the day was clockwork, why lo and behold the very Universe was seen as a clockwork. Later, when civilization was beshadowed by the Bomb, the Universe was seen as arising from a Big Bang. (Indeed, certain individuals were involved in both Bangs.) Nowadays computers and emerging renewable-energy technologies inspire admiration: therefore by the Cosmic Coolness Effect, the next paradigm for cosmology, after the present one collapses, will the Cosmos as Computer, with some recycling thrown in.

David Brin said...

Did you ask (TCB) for a truly fresh theory of politics?

https://www.davidbrin.com/nonfiction/politicalmetaphors1.html

TCB said...

Dr. Brin, you should post that Political Metaphor link a lot more often. Great stuff, and I've never seen it before!

Unknown Commie said...

People here continue to claim that Marx's predictions were incorrect without actually quoting Marx. You're going to have to quote Marx if you want to prove him wrong, but that would actually require reading and understanding Marx, which is something liberals do not do. If they did, they wouldn't be liberals.

Also, once more, we live in the Confederacy. The 13th Amendment legalizes slavery. Millions of people in America's prisons are enslaved at this very moment. If you had a time machine, and could go back in time to the "actual" Confederacy, would you tell the people living there that peaceful reform is their only hope? That there were actually "good" Confederate politicians? Of course not. It's ridiculous. The same is true of today. America delenda est.

GMT -5 said...

Changed my name again. I am only 3 hours ahead of you. GMT.+5 is more accurate.

Larry Hart said...

Someone besides me finally notices that "cancel culture" is a creature of the jingoistic right-wing. They're not against cancel culture--they just don't like it being turned against them.

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2021/Pres/Maps/Jul08.html#item-2

And what about Trump's second claim? Obviously, "un-American" is not a legal argument, and being un-American is not, in and of itself, the basis for either a civil or criminal claim. Still, the U.S. has a long history of non-governmental actors silencing themselves (for fear of recrimination) or others (for various reasons). There's money in porn, but you won't see it on most cable channels because they don't want to deal with potential consequences. Mark Twain, Vladimir Nabokov, J.D. Salinger, John Steinbeck, Sherman Alexie, Toni Morrison, and Harper Lee are all important American authors, but their books are absent from some libraries because some folks find the works to be offensive. Railroading a football player out of a professional football league because he doesn't stand for the national anthem is censorship. Destroying a rock band's records because one of the members claimed to be bigger than Jesus is censorship. Banning teachers from discussing critical race theory in class is censorship. And all of these are just from the last 75 years or so; the silencing of offensive, challenging, and often minority/female voices in the 19th century was even more aggressive. In short, censorship is damn near as American as apple pie.


Larry Hart said...

From the same electoral-vote.com link above:

In a recent Supreme Court case, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that tech companies should be treated as common carriers, like phone companies, and not be allowed to censor any content.


Who'd have thought Clarence Thomas would be arguing in favor of net neutrality?

Robert said...

In a recent Supreme Court case, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that tech companies should be treated as common carriers, like phone companies, and not be allowed to censor any content.

So he's arguing in favour of anonymously-posted child pornography? (Using the usual shibboleth the seems to get hauled out every time the right-wing argues in favour of censorship.)

Jon S. said...

"Rightists and romantics can be cornered into accepting 'Equality of opportunity' by pushing one meme they cannot wriggle out of. 'Stop wasting talent.'"

But they can wriggle out of that one easily - and they frequently have. All they have to do is proclaim that the "undesirable" subgroup simply lacks any talent to waste. Sure, that requires completely ignoring readily-available facts, but that doesn't seem to be a problem for them. (See, for example, claims among some right-wing that Native Americans "have contributed nothing to the growth of our great nation". Yes, this has been said with a straight face. See also the claim among white supremacists that the entire continent of Africa has never been anything but Hollywood-style cannibal tribes, easily swept aside and "taught better" by their European saviors. Hell, look closer to home, at what Foxites state as if fact about inner-city minorities in the US!)

David Brin said...

Ah, well. Aside the fact that he is polite and artculate and occassionally witty, poor UC is a fantastic nut job, as evidenced by the counterfactuals he just raved, doing exactly what MAGAs do, raving things diametrically opposite to true in order to rave: "You poor deluded fools! This must be true because it's opposite!"

Fellah, both Lenin and Mao wrung their hands for whole volumes over how EVERY communist revolution happened in the LEAST developed proletarian/peasant castes and the prols thy thought "most advanced and most ready" were the very ones - in UK, Germany, and the US who proved LEAST friendly to Marxist messaging. That is THE central Marxian prediction and it went diametrically opposite in real life.

Both Lenin and Mao toyed with using capitalist tools to develop industry under overall communist control... as Xi is doing now in China. But shrugged and said "Naw! Let's just have commissars threaten to shoot factory workers who don't deliver 100 trucks of cement each day to that construction site. It kinda worked for the first ten years, till the massive body counts began to stink.... and then Stalin ignored Churchills warnings about Hitler... more wisdom.

Sir, if you want to win arguments by raving assertions, try elsewhere. Here we simply prove your fanatical ravings with things called... facts.

===

Jon S... While I deeply oppose the confederate monstrous treason, please. You are citing an extreme extremum and implying all MAGAs hold those views. It's not fair. Like calling all democrats f----g commies just because there are a few on our side.

Again, racism is a confederate poison. But their Great Grudge is not racist. It is against nerds. Fact people. Professions.

scidata said...

I was thinking about 'borrowers' of Dr. Brin's Uplift & Postman stuff. Way back in the day, I actually had a few ideas stolen, but the perps and the processes were so plodding and clumsy that nothing ever came of it.

Things have changed. AI is capable of sifting, analyzing, paraphrasing, and even synthesizing material from around the globe, across history, and apparently above the law at many millions of times the speed of humans. Legality is murky at best. Tools from OpenAI such as GPT and Copilot have changed the norms and practices of all forms of writing (including coding) overnight. Some GitHub developers are horrified to learn that all of GitHub was utilized to develop Codex/Copilot (train neural nets), without regard for licenses. And OpenAI is one of the good guys. Others aren't so nice. I've even heard horror stories of entire repositories being copied to another label/banner/author. The onus appears to be on the rightful owners to prove the theft, which is deucedly difficult. NFTs may have some use after all. Cyber is a real rat's nest.

This makes me think twice about cloud services. Once it's out there, it's a free-for-all. Courts are about a century behind technology it seems. I think Biden is realizing this. Personally, I'm renewing my interest in in-house ops for now. Not that I have anything of vital importance or quality to say anyway. Thieving from me brings its own swift punishment !

David Brin said...

I hate to do this to Moffie... but... wouldn't GMT-5 be more accurate? ;-(. ;-)

jim said...

Ha,
It looks like Alfred Difffer will need to buy more ammo, in order to go on his murderous rampage to kill those of us advocating real limits on wealth and income.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/06/12/is-it-time-limit-personal-wealth/

David Brin said...

jim be nice/.

While I agree it's time to dicuss that. TRANSPARENCY of wealth is more important. And on that issue some of the richest... Bezos, Musk, Gates, Buffet etc might actually be allies.

Larry Hart said...

GMT +5:

I am only 3 hours ahead of you. GMT.+5 is more accurate.


Actually, in the summer, Dr Brin's California is only 7 hours behind GMT. Daylight saving time and all.

GMT -5 said...

I will trust you on that. I am too wiped out from work to figure it out myself. And to think I spent 7 years in Atlantic Standard Time. I should get this right.

Larry Hart said...

GMT -5:

I will trust you on that. I am too wiped out from work to figure it out myself


Well, it's like this. On standard (winter) time, if it's 12 noon GMT, it's 7am in New York City. So the time there is 12 - 5, or GMT - 5. I think. :)

In my native Chicago, it's GMT-6, but only in the winter months. In summer--actually for 8 months of the year--we jump an hour ahead for Daylight Savings to GMT - 5.

Alfred Differ said...

Just say No to daylight savings time.

We aren’t burning candles to make much light anymore, so this dinosaur needs to be denied a future nesting ground.

duncan cairncross said...

Daylight savings time may help to reduce power usage

But its a pain when we all change at different times and when you guys go a different way!

I call the UK regularly and the time difference changes between 11 hours 12 hours and 13 hours

David Brin said...

It's not 'end Daylight savings, which gives us 8 months of wonderful afternoons and evenings. It's end 4 months of Standard time... but have kids standing at bus stops for school while it's still dark.

duncan cairncross said...

The "Kids in the dark" argument was used when I was at School

In Scotland we were going to school and coming home in the dark anyway!!

Alfred Differ said...

Meh. Most of the US is far enough north of the equator to get long summer days. All we have to do is shift when we show up for work and start school.

I'm an IT guy by trade. The 23 and 25 hour days are a hassle for all of us who have to coordinate software actions with market activity. These days create an imposed cost for those who build and maintain the stuff.

Moving the clock setting shouldn't be done for any reason except to sync with Earth's rotation and revolution.

...

Yah. This is a silly hill upon which to die. I voted against the CA ballot measure, though, because I'd rather do away with the whole triasic-era mess. 8)

Tony Fisk said...

All I will say about daylight saving is that, at this time of year, you can board a plane in Melbourne and disembark at LAX 15 minutes later.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Just say No to daylight savings time.

We aren’t burning candles to make much light anymore,


My mom agrees with you. But we tried it already in the 70s, and it doesn't work. Too many complaints of schoolkids waiting for the bus in the dark at 8:00am. So it's kinda like prohibition, or the Fantastic Four breaking up.

duncan cairncross:

But its a pain when we all change at different times and when you guys go a different way!

I call the UK regularly and the time difference changes between 11 hours 12 hours and 13 hours


You're in the southern hemisphere, right? I used to work for a company with offices in Brazil. They go in Daylight time in my winter, and vice versa. Hadn't thought about that aspect before.

Larry Hart said...

The New York Times agrees with me...

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/07/opinion/trump-gop.html

For more than two decades, scholars and analysts have written about the growing partisan antipathy and polarization that have turned America into two warring camps, politically speaking.

Lilliana Mason, a political scientist at Johns Hopkins, makes the case via Twitter that Trump has “served as a lightning rod for lots of regular people who hold white Christian supremacist beliefs.” The solidification of their control over the Republican Party “makes it seem like a partisan issue. But this faction has been around longer than our current partisan divide.” In fact, “they are not loyal to a party — they are loyal to white Christian domination.”

Catfish 'n Cod said...

Good evening, citoyens!

Dr. Brin: Historians generally blame the lack of defensible frontiers and relentless invasions or else aggressive buffer expansions.

I know the standard explanations; I just think them insufficient. It's been seventy-five years since the last invasion, and a hundred years elapsed between Napoleon and Wilhelm II. It doesn't explain the paranoia in villages that barely think about other nations except when their self-anointed 'betters' tell them too. It doesn't explain internal suspicions, either, or the massive fool-the-fools game of mendacious self-interest that every Russian regime seems to cultivate regardless of form or ideology. And I think environmentally enforced isolation -- distance, winter, a less than convenient river topology -- has a lot to do with it.

@UC: If you want courtesies, you're going to have to display them yourself. Why not start with a few Marx himself used? Things like defining your terms and writing with precision. Things that made Marx's ideas clear and sharp and worth reading.

Let's take your repeated assertion: The 13th Amendment legalizes slavery. Millions of people in America's prisons are enslaved at this very moment.

I hear -- and agree! -- with the emotional and moral resonance your rhetoric is trying to invoke. But "slavery", in American discourse and without qualification, refers specifically to the 18-19th century chattel slave system, the specific circumstance in which slaves' status was fixed at transport and inherited by (usually female) descent, in which any loved one or family member could be legally kidnapped to another forced labor camp for the marginal profit and convenience of the capitalist taskmasters.

The 13th Amendment legalized forced penal labor. Under some rules of some cultures at some points in history, that would count as 'slavery' -- which merely demonstrates that American chattel slavery was one of the most brutal and cruel implementations of the practice in all of human history; enforced servitude for a fixed term or value was much more common historically, and was even the practice very early in the English colonization.

Can the 13A's forced penal labor permissiveness be condemned? Most certainly, not only for its intrinsic human rights abuses, but also for its use in depressing wages (it's legal to 'hire' prisoners for pennies per hour), as a terror tool to enable debt indentures and suppress civil rights, on and on. But you throw all the virtues of having facts on your side away if you misconstrue for emotional effect! (Something I also told climate activists numerous times, to little effect.)

I want to be agreeing with you! I'm trying to improve your argument! Don't be so quick to diss us!

David Brin said...

Tony, re that 15 min flight to LA... I want video of that sucker taking off.

David Brin said...

Anyone wanting an alternative to prisons as a way to quarantine the felonious under conditions that let them work and live decently among us and have maximum chances for recovery and rehabilitation... in a creepy 'solution," try reading. my story "Insistence of Vision." In either the collection INSISTENCE OF VISION or else... AVAILABLE RIGHT NOW...

...in the new limited hardcover THE BEST OF DAVID BRIN.

Larry Hart said...


https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/08/opinion/trump-twitter-facebook-lawsuit.html


his [Trump's] latest scheme — and it is a scheme, all right — is to file a class-action lawsuit with himself as lead plaintiff, alleging that Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have violated his First Amendment rights.


So not only do conservatives accept net neutrality, but also class action lawsuits? Who'd have thought I'd live long enough?

Der Oger said...

On Russia: Russia is the largest country, and everything I've ever heard describes the profound isolation pretty much everywhere. Could that be why the paranoia seems to persist? I have trouble believing it's just cultural -- something environmental must be in play for it to be so consistent.

Not exactly about paranoia, but:

I have had lots of co-workers from the former Warsaw Pact states - mainly Eastern German, Polish and German-Russians. While most are hard-working and dilligent, many share an inner adversity to speak out for their rights, vote in or be elected in Work's Council elections, or join unions.

scidata said...

It's not whether standard or daylight time is better -- it's the adjustment that's useful. It squelches the general public's awareness of nature, reinforces the perception of man's dominion, and demonstrates the competence of authority. These goals serve the purposes of liberal democracies, corporations, autocracies, and oligarchs alike. Ironically*, farmers never much cared. We were always up before the sun anyway, even in summer. When it rained or got too dark to work the fields, there was plenty of work to do in the barn or machine shop. No wonder I cherished those precious free hours when I could sneak off and read Asimov. Certainly not complaining; it was a good life and I miss it. Early in the movie GETTYSBURG, one union officer scoops up a handful of soil, takes a deep whiff, and proclaims this to be "good ground". That was a real thing in my childhood world.

When Betelgeuse goes nova, be prepared for a parade of trogs on FOX and of yuppies on CNN, each blowing bubbles for their own audience. But one solid bulwark against panic will be the steadily rising popularity of amateur astronomy in rural areas. And West Virginia and Texas seem to be good ground for rocket boys.

There's much fizz** in sci-fi about geopolitics and dystopia/utopia. However, what takes earliest root are stories about ships and adventure. Less about Man and Superman, more about ordinary Joes with a spacesuit and a hankerin' for travel.



* Daylight Time was first implemented in small-town Ontario in 1908
** I understand that it's used in CB as a derogatory term, but I just like it for fun

jim said...

Well David unlike someone else, I am nice enough not to threaten to murder someone in defense of the obscene wealth and income of the 1%ers.

David Brin said...

YES jim! You are unlike that someone else. He's not a jibbering, hallucinating whiner who makes up stories in order to feel righteous.

David Brin said...

BTW, this community recently acquired an avowed communist and a sardonic repeater of some confederate memes... both of them argumentatively curious and polite, not rug-poopers. So welcome back, Jim. But there are fewer gaps than before. So forgive us if we sometimes yawn.

( On occasion I drop down to slum in the spam bucket and have a chuckle. Only time I actually felt a little disappointed that all three of my obsessive rug-shitter trolls had wandered off. A couple of them had been quite colorful! Ah well, I wish them well. Peace and good lives.)

Larry Hart said...

jim:

I am nice enough not to threaten to murder someone in defense of the obscene wealth and income of the 1%ers.


Well, you do defend a former occupant of the White House who has his political opponents targeted for violence and death as being not as bad as Democrats. So there's that.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

Too many complaints of school kids waiting for the bus in the dark at 8:00am.

It takes courage to change school start times I suppose. 8)


For 70's era tech, I don't have any complaints. However, the modern world runs on interconnected networks that rely on sync'd time protocols to bolster cheap encryption methods for at least a few minutes. Few people know it, but much of the anti-spoofing defense we have between systems requires components to agree on what time it is. Time service hacks are a serious issue when it comes to QA testing. You'd think that is easily solved by using UTC? Turns out many people don't do that because it confuses humans reading security logs AND there is still a software layer that converts to timezones.

What time is it? Which day is it? These turn out to be very important breakage points that software engineers have learned to write loads to tests in order to minimize them. This is ESPECIALLY true in market related software.



When it comes to waiting for buses in the dark, I'd point out that some of the US is far enough north for that to be an issue. Much of it isn't. The smarter approach is to change school and business hours a bit through the year. Many businesses already do, so this isn't a huge leap.

Alfred Differ said...

I'll drop my usual note here regarding Russian paranoia.


They are and not without reason.

Pretty much anyone who lives along the northern plains of Europe lives in an indefensible location. Armies have roamed the region for ages because there are few natural/geographic defenses petty princes can use to halt them without great cost. Rivers can slow east/west movement a bit, but they can also support troop and logistical movements for flanking operations.

Russia's core (old Muscovy) has been invaded from pretty much every direction for several centuries. Their best defense is to strike first and create the kind of depth that Napoleon had to cross. Doesn't always work, though, so they also have to have depth behind them to fall back. That doesn't always work either.

They have decent reasons to be paranoid with respect to every land power near them. Power dynamics in Europe has changed fast through history, so it's futile to ask them to be as calm about risks as most Americans are. WE have natural defenses AND a god-like sized treasury.

GMT -5 said...

Am I the sardonic repeater? If you were to say that I am more full of shit than most people, that would be accurate...medical reasons. Not fun at all.

Stayed up way too late last night reading STARTIDE RISING to the end. I have it on Kindle now so I don't have to find either of the paperback copies I have someplace in storage. Hmmm...feeling hungry for some flayed Episiarch and some Gubru jerky.

My major complaint has to be with bureaucracy in government and in business. I've spent most of my life as a government bureaucrat trying to make things better for the people I encounter. Sadly, my type is getting forced out.

Robert said...

have kids standing at bus stops for school while it's still dark

Or you could start school at a reasonable time.

Up here a few years ago we had a tempest in a teacup about how starting late was demonstrably better for children and teenagers, with stats to back it up. I pointed out that by American standards Canadian schools are already late start — the standard is 9:00 for elementary schools and 8:45 for high schools. Apparently so many American high schools start at 7:30 that even starting at 8:00 has a beneficial effect on students.

jim said...

Dave
you are a dumb shit
Your pathetic cries of positive sum bullshit are meeting the harsh reality of the limits to growth.

And your delusional mindset (that is very common) will ensure that the future is far harsher that it needs to be.

good job shit bag

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

I pointed out that by American standards Canadian schools are already late start — the standard is 9:00 for elementary schools and 8:45 for high schools. Apparently so many American high schools start at 7:30 that even starting at 8:00 has a beneficial effect on students.


9:00 for elementary was exactly what my school was like in the 1960s, although I believe that high school started at 8:15. You're correct about how early they start now, as my daughter just finished with all that last year.

* * *

jim:

your delusional mindset (that is very common) will ensure that the future is far harsher that it needs to be.


It could be worse. Hillary could have been president, and then where would we be?

David Brin said...

Har! No sooner did I complain that my rug-shitters had vanished, than the Blogger spam filter notifies me there was a shit spew down there! Poor jim got blocked the instant he went scatalogical! No matter. I rescued and up-posted him this once, for your amusement.

I do heed criticism that is backed up. Indeed, it is the core of my philosophy. (No book of mine goes to press without 50 or so names of carping critical pre-readers in the acknowledgements. ) OTOH howls like this one are easily shruggable, given the pure and wager-provable fact that I do more good for the world - planet, civilization, the oppressed etc. - in any month than "jim" will, across his entire, screeching existence on this planet.

I'll not rescue any more of his shrieks until he offers proofs instead of howls. I do wish him health. Bye bye.

David Brin said...

But yeah. We are all definable by aliens (and I know some) as "shit bags." How did he know?

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

It takes courage to change school start times I suppose. 8)


I wasn't saying that that was a good reason for opposing year-round Daylight time. I was saying it was an inevitable roadblock.

A.F. Rey said...

Jumping off topic for a moment, I just discovered another End of the World song to add to the list.

"Wooden Ships" by David Crosby, Paul Kantner (of Jefferson Airplane) and Stephen Stills is apparently a post-holocaust song about the survivors leaving on wooden ships from the "barren land." The "silver people on the shoreline" are supposed to be people in radiation suits. And is why all they can do is "echo your anguished cries."

I've been digging that song for decades, and never once suspected it was so very grim. :)

Larry Hart said...

A.F. Rey:

I've been digging that song for decades, and never once suspected it was so very grim. :)


I don't know this first hand, but I heard that the conservative religious community of the day thought Simon and Garfunkle's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" was about drug use because of the line, "Sail on, silver girl," which must have been referring to a hypodermic needle.

I can't count the number of times I've heard Whitney Houston's "Saving All My Love For You" sung at weddings. Apparently, no one knows that the song is an ode to the singer's extramarital lover. I don't think it portends well for the occasion.

David Brin said...

Trump & YMCA!

Alfred Differ said...

Using the school bus argument, much of Canada has a good argument for doing it twice a year. With the US doing it only once, though, it wouldn't make much sense in terms of the other hassles.

My fallback/compromise position is we should all do the same thing at the same time with a split of behavior at the equator. That's still silly, but at least the software we write wouldn't have to have a zillion test cases.

I spent about 18 months living in Iceland as a kid. Where I lived we saw slightly more than 4 hours of sunlight on Dec 21 and nothing darker than twilight on Jun 21. We waited for buses in the dark much of the school year coming and going. The solution? Sew reflector tape onto the coats of children. Two bands around the bottom of the coat make it REALLY obvious to drivers. Add another band to the cuffs and you'll see motion in the split second you need to judge driving risks. If I have to buy reflector tape for all Americans to put a stake through daylight savings time, I'll happily do it.



... and with that I'll drop the DST topic. I just needed some way not to respond to provocation and the topic sufficed. If y'all want to keep up spending needless money quality checking software me and my peers write, who am I to complain? Really. Ka-ching! $$

Alfred Differ said...

Der Oger,

Reagan and European "Neoliberals" rose when the demise of the Soviet Union was already palpable...

Hmm. Allow me to offer an American perspective on this. 8)

For context, I was born the year above-ground testing of nukes peaked. WWIII almost happened a few months after I was born.

Reagan's rise in the US did not come with a feeling that the USSR was in decline. Most of us had come to believe we had at least a moderate chance that cooler heads would prevail and nukes wouldn't fly, but we had no optimism that the Soviets would collapse. We had learned not to fight them directly in a land war in Asia, but proxy wars were still quite possible without devoting US troops.

Reagan's rise in the US had more to do with our cultural pendulum swinging against the New Deal folks. Stagflation took the wind out of much of the idealistic arguments offered by Keynesians (who often advocated government intervention but not the way Keynes would have) and post-Vietnam America adopted a very cynical attitude about government intervention in general. We were NOT unified in all this (we never are) so I'm over simplifying... a lot... but the point is that we were mostly thinking about our own issues when Reagan appealed to those who wanted change.

Where there IS overlap between Reagan and the Soviets is our perception that Reagan spoke truth in a way that did NOT lead to Soviet threats of WWIII. That didn't leave us feeling the Soviets were failing, though. It felt more like they were maturing their response to us.

For most of us, their collapse the next decade was quite a surprise. We really weren't paying that much attention. That is VERY typical of Americans. We aren't our governments most of the time. We have other things on our minds.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Reagan's rise in the US did not come with a feeling that the USSR was in decline. Most of us had come to believe we had at least a moderate chance that cooler heads would prevail and nukes wouldn't fly, but we had no optimism that the Soviets would collapse.


I have to agree. If anything, the prevailing attitude at the time was that the Soviets were in the process of gobbling up the rest of the world into their communist empire. A conservative campus group in the mid 1980s even had billboards posted with the words "Behold the Soviet empire" and a map of the world showing a bunch of countries colored deep red, including Nicaragua and Cuba in this hemisphere and many in Europe, Africa, and Asia. IIRC, India was striped red and white, as if to say "It's only a matter of time."

In the same time frame, I also read a kind of silly sci-fi book called America: 2040 whose premise was that America, Russia, and Brazil were each building starships to plant colonies in space as hedges against the coming globe-destroying war. The backstory had Brazil establishing a kind of fascist empire in South America, and the entire rest of the world under Soviet control except for the plucky holdout USA. The book was kind of anti-detente conservative propaganda, much in the fashion of the tv miniseries Amerika or the movie Red Dawn, but the premise didn't seem as far-fetched then as it sounds today. The sense of inevitability of nuclear war was being replaced by one of inevitable capitulation to communism as the only logical alternative.

Larry Hart said...

What we already knew...

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/09/opinion/religious-right-america.html

...
White evangelicals once saw themselves “as the owners of mainstream American culture and morality and values,” said Jones. Now they are just another subculture.

From this fact derives much of our country’s cultural conflict. It helps explain not just the rise of Donald Trump, but also the growth of QAnon and even the escalating conflagration over critical race theory. “It’s hard to overstate the strength of this feeling, among white evangelicals in particular, of America being a white Christian country,” said Jones. “This sense of ownership of America just runs so deep in white evangelical circles.” The feeling that it’s slipping away has created an atmosphere of rage, resentment and paranoia.

QAnon is essentially a millenarian movement, with Trump taking the place of Jesus. Adherents dream of the coming of what they call the storm, when the enemies of the MAGA movement will be rounded up and executed, and Trump restored to his rightful place of leadership.
...

Der Oger said...

@ Alfred Differ:
Hmm. Allow me to offer an American perspective on this. 8)

Thank you!

I was quite young in the last days of the Warsaw Pact, but I remember how I noticed signs of the decay in news and from jokes that were made about the system. Everything seemed more grey, poorer and polluted in the East. Some scandals when eastern politicians tried to obtain valuta by more shady means.

One such a joke was:
A man enters a shop, and asks for nails. The lady behind the counter says they don't have any. Then he asks for screws. Again, the lady says, no screws for sale. Then the man asks, "Why is your shop open, if you have nothing to sell?" The lady replies: "Because we can't close the shop, because we have no locks, either."

Catfish 'n Cod said...

I only have memories of the end of the Reagan Administration; when the Berlin Wall fell, I wondered what all the fuss was. But the existence of a trope built around Americans' blindness to the USSR's decline argues strongly in Alfred's favor. We were less terrified of the nukes deliberately flying -- though we knew full well it was still possible, it didn't seem as likely as it once did. But having altered a sizable chunk of our economy and society specifically to address the Soviet threat, we had a lot of people with incentives to ignore signs of Soviet decline. Optimists were willing to believe glasnost and perestroika would turn an enemy into a competitor, the way Nixon's gamble seemed to be paying off with "Red China". But collapse? You'd be ridiculed. In fact factions in the Reagan Administration repeatedly tried to convince themselves and the rest of the country that the USSR was resurging -- which was more about domestic politics, but it was taken more seriously than the opposite notion. America's greatest threat ever, a force two generations set their will to oppose, that spent their blood and treasure against, couldn't just vanish overnight!

Except, of course, it did just that. What I do remember is the sort of dazed confusion of the early nineties. Wait, we won How did that happen? And what do we do now??

In retrospect, we didn't handle that as well as we could have, and I think that lack of prior imagination -- that failure to seriously develop ideas about what winning would realistically look like -- was a big reason why.

On DST, I will only say that if you're considering permanently setting everyone's clocks an hour ahead, maybe the problem is not the time system but society's schedule. Would the world stop spinning if school started at nine and ended at four, and the workday was ten to six?

On 'limits to growth', why does that always get interpreted as growth stopping? It's a highly robust observation to say that exponential growth cannot continue forever; there are plenty of examples in nature (and it's why I don't find predictions of hard Singularities plausible). But there's a lot of room between exponential growth and zero growth. Why couldn't it be limited to "linear growth", or "polynomial growth"? This feels like another imagination gap to me.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

I only have memories of the end of the Reagan Administration; when the Berlin Wall fell, I wondered what all the fuss was. But the existence of a trope built around Americans' blindness to the USSR's decline argues strongly in Alfred's favor. We were less terrified of the nukes deliberately flying -- though we knew full well it was still possible, it didn't seem as likely as it once did. But having altered a sizable chunk of our economy and society specifically to address the Soviet threat, we had a lot of people with incentives to ignore signs of Soviet decline. Optimists were willing to believe glasnost and perestroika would turn an enemy into a competitor, the way Nixon's gamble seemed to be paying off with "Red China". But collapse? You'd be ridiculed. In fact factions in the Reagan Administration repeatedly tried to convince themselves and the rest of the country that the USSR was resurging -- which was more about domestic politics, but it was taken more seriously than the opposite notion. America's greatest threat ever, a force two generations set their will to oppose, that spent their blood and treasure against, couldn't just vanish overnight!

Except, of course, it did just that. What I do remember is the sort of dazed confusion of the early nineties. Wait, we won How did that happen? And what do we do now??

In retrospect, we didn't handle that as well as we could have, and I think that lack of prior imagination -- that failure to seriously develop ideas about what winning would realistically look like -- was a big reason why.

On DST, I will only say that if you're considering permanently setting everyone's clocks an hour ahead, maybe the problem is not the time system but society's schedule. Would the world stop spinning if school started at nine and ended at four, and the workday was ten to six?

On 'limits to growth', why does that always get interpreted as growth stopping? It's a highly robust observation to say that exponential growth cannot continue forever; there are plenty of examples in nature (and it's why I don't find predictions of hard Singularities plausible). But there's a lot of room between exponential growth and zero growth. Why couldn't it be limited to "linear growth", or "polynomial growth"? This feels like another imagination gap to me.

TCB said...

@ Der Oger and Alfred, I just skimmed New York magazine's (i.e. not the New Yorker, it's a different mag) cover article on January 6, and it begins with an anecdote about Ronald Reagan's 1980 campaign spending a lot of time in urban neighborhoods where Eastern European immigrants dominated. Seems these voters tended to have an authoritarian streak that made them receptive to Reagan's siren song, and Reagan's people knew it. It then notes that after a while, Reagan's campaign denied they were still doing that, because it was too exploitative, but in fact kept targeting those voters anyway.

The writer then notes that hypocrites at least acknowledge the existence of good and evil, or they would feel no need to pay it lip service; the modern GOP no longer feels any need to hide its naked authoritarianism, as candidates pose for ads with assault rifles.

David Brin said...

Anyone see "Red Son"? An animated movie about what if Kal-El had landed in Russia and was raised as a faithful USSR communist? Alas, it wan't done as abreak point parallel world. Batman is a Russian anarchist etc. Still, kinda fun.

Moscow surged in military spending and fretfulness even as the allure of the Soviet model started fading after the moon landings.Democrats bitched when Carter increased defense spanding, then that became Reagan's central thing, bankrupting the USSR.

The allue for revolutionaries was plain. A cult religion whose incantations said that All the rich folks could be shot and their stuff taken, AND a central core of top males can dominate and allocate as never before AND any attempt at establishing rule-of-law could be called counter-revolutionary. In some ways the perfect restored feudalist pyramid.

David Brin said...

onward

onward

Paul451 said...

Pedantic aside:

Catfish 'n Cod,
"enforced servitude for a fixed term or value was much more common historically, and was even the practice very early in the English colonization."

Transporting British criminals into servitude continued to North America right up 'til the revolution. Then switched to Australia.

(Presumably that was the reason for English settlement of Australia. "First Fleet" was 1778. Without the American revolution, we'd probably be French/Dutch.)

Paul451 said...

Larry Hart, quoting:
"White evangelicals once saw themselves “as the owners of mainstream American culture and morality and values,” said Jones. Now they are just another subculture.
[...]
“It’s hard to overstate the strength of this feeling, among white evangelicals in particular, of America being a white Christian country,” said Jones. “This sense of ownership of America just runs so deep in white evangelical circles.” The feeling that it’s slipping away has created an atmosphere of rage, resentment and paranoia."


What I find bizarre is how brief a window in US history the evangelicals were culturally dominant. What, 1950's and early 60's, a bit of resurgence in the 80's, and the Bush jr administration. Other than that, they existed, but much of the US and most US history has been secular.

TCB said...

Remember those news stories about the new Russian nuclear powered/nuclear warhead torpedoes? Well, I watched a couple of Youtube videos by the channel Sub Brief talking about these (and the subs designed to carry them). These weapons are even crazier than they sounded.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtE7ciLS-24

The first video talks about 'Russia's Most Capable Submarine', the K-329 Belgorod. It has torpedo tubes so wide you can stand up in them. These are meant to deliver the subject of the second video, the Status-6 torpedo.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45yXkHdYkLU

Now, it's true that we already have Russian missiles targeted on our port cities, but the Status-6 Poseidon does add some disturbing wrinkles to the story. To begin with, it is large enough to carry a Tsar Bomba-size warhead. The intended target would be the most important US ports and naval bases, and one such bomb would suffice to obliterate any of these. Second, the land around that area would remain irradiated for decades after. Third, you get no warning, none. Presumably a Poseidon can swim up the Potomac to Washington, and another to Newport News, again with no warning.

The weapon has an effectively unlimited range with its nuclear powerplant, and it is said to use AI guidance. It would be deployed far out at sea and run a racetrack pattern far below the waves, and would either receive a go signal and swim to its target, or return to base after some months for maintenance. (I recall hearing that Putin had refused to consider banning AI weapons, and here's one reason why). The Belgorod would be able to deploy 6 Poseidons and go home while the torpedoes remain on station. The Russians are completing at least one other sub that can launch them and seem to plan on building about 30 Poseidons, which would be more than adequate to permanently close every major port in North America. The system is nearly operational now.

The ship, incidentally, is named after a small Russian city of no particular interest, except that it lies an hour's drive from the border with Ukraine. Make of that what you will.

David Brin said...

The nuclear mining of US harbors is a longstanding fear that Jerry Pournelle and I shared. And it would surely have happened, had Reagan's 'star wars" successfully ended Soviet issile deterrent.

David Brin said...

Now onward

onward