Saturday, September 03, 2022

What Putin and Other Haters of the Enlightenment Experiment Really Want

First some good news? Bringing manufacturing back home to the U.S. - onshoring, re-shoring or near-shoring – is happening at a greater clip. 

“The construction of new manufacturing facilities in the US soared 116% over the past year, dwarfing the 10% gain on all building projects combined, according to Dodge Construction Network. There are massive chip factories going up in Phoenix: Intel is building two just outside the city; Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing is constructing one in it. And aluminum and steel plants are being erected all across the south…” reports Bloomberg.  

(Mexico has also become a popular choice – as it should be, since Mexican plants use gobs of US-made parts and vice versa. Moreover, turning Mexico into a middle-class nation – already far along! – should be one of USA’s very top priorities.)

==What does Putin want? ==


Those wondering "what Putin wants" are making it too complicated. Try for Context. Across 6000 years, 99% of our ancestors languished in dullard, insipid feudal societies, ruled by delusional lordly-owner castes. And that's across all nations, races and continents.

But there were exceptions. Every Enlightenment Experiment in democracy/freedom and flattened hierarchies, has resulted in dazzling creativity, productivity, science, art, diversity etc.

Faced with such huge difference in outcomes, neighboring despots and feudalist rivals always concoct the same zero-sum rationalization:

"Those decadent, soft (Athenians, Florentines, Americans, etc.) got their pleasures, toys, inventions, wealth & indulgences by trading away what's important - grit, endurance, courage... manhood."

(If you don't like my using those terms, do not blame me. Macho has been the core of every feudal despotism. You and I are the weird exceptions.)

That concocted contempt for 'decadent and effeminate' yankees dripped in the song "Yankee Doodle"... till it was disproved at Monmouth, at Cowpens and at Yorktown. It was recited by Confederates vs. city northerners, till Gettysburg and Appomattox. Nazis repeated it till Bastogne. It was Soviet doctrine. It remains chanted in palaces and conspiring basements in all of today's autocratic nations.

And it is the central catechism repeated - now with ever increasing desperation - by Vladimir Putin, especially since he succeeded so well for a while at exploiting our distractability, e.g. imposing Brexit and Trump and disinfo-tsunamis on the West and taking over US conservatism. Hence, Vlad was shocked when NATO finally said "enough" and stood firm.

Alas, like all psychopaths, he cannot re-evaluate a masturbatory delusion, even in the face of overwhelming disproof. He is so sure that Biden and the West will fold, any day now, that he will spend Russian youths like kopeks, betting on the same delusional and repeatedly-disproved incantation, over and over again.

And trust me. If we get past this current phase of world oligarchic/macho-feudalist putsch, your children will face the same delusional incantation by enemies of democracy and freedom.  They can't help it. It's all they have.

== JoBee's MAGA Treason Speech ==

OMG. Lately several of my longstanding tactical suggestions have apparently gained a little traction! I have no idea if anyone listened… or else some others simply thought up the same things. But Biden's speech at Independence Hall - while disappointing in its incompleteness and missed opportunities - at least threw down the gage and said 'we see you now!' to the Risen Confederacy.


And others are trying hard for new tactics! Robert Reich is great and you must watch this short video!  Alas, I am always saddened when I see such a bright guy just barely miss a key point. Not only are Red State legislatures bound and determined to cheat and repress voting, with likely support from the Roberts Court. The entire argument put forward by John Roberts - that those state legislatures have sovereignty - is based on the notion that those legislatures were elected by those states' citizens. And in gerrymandered states that is simply not true. They are not legitimate and all else devolves from that.


(Ever since the left stoopidly murdered Al Franken (politically), Reich is just about the only alpha paladin we have, alas.)


Or take this example. “Thousands of Democrats changed their voter registration in Lauren Boebert’s district ahead of the primary.” Damn straight! Let em howl! Their gerrymandering cheats did this. 'For the last few years, Colorado’s “open primary” system has allowed unaffiliated voters to participate in either party’s primary elections. That means voters like Hallenborg can weigh in on Boebert’s primary run — without actually joining the Republican Party.'

This is straight out of Polemical Judo.

As the Rank Choice voting reforms - like the one that scotched Sarah Palin's comeback - are straight outta sci fi fandom!



== Finally some judo vs Gerrymander cheating? ==


Again, the greatest betrayal of democracy and fairness perpetrated by the Oligarchy Party – gerrymandering - has been given cover under lame, atom-thin rationalizations by Chief Justice John Roberts. In fact, there are ways to neutralize the Roberts Doctrine. Methods that have never been broached or even considered by our paladins fighting for fairness and justice… not even Lawrence Lessig. Again, I offered a number of agile maneuvers in Polemical Judo.  And the one that’s most pertinent to gerrymandering still awaits even minimal discussion or refutation. 


It would very likely work! Or at least force John Roberts back to the drawing board, begging the Federalist Society for another rationalization for treason. See “The Minimal Overlap Solution to Gerrymandering.”


Now, if only dem lawyers would consider my two suggestions for defeating gerrymandering and "voter ID restrictions." And no, they aren't 'already doing that.' Not even remotely.



And finally... Can’t get enough of well-written and cogently insightful blogging?  Come visit down in the comments section, below! Smaller than many out there, it’s probably among the smartest blog-communities (blogmunity?) around.)


Sometimes I urge these folks to spin off their own blogs. One of the members of this community, with the monicker “Catfish ‘n Cod” has done so. Good stuff. 




157 comments:

Girl In A Bottle said...

You're rude and totally wrong about the Navy F-18 UFO thing. You're also an egomaniac.I don't like your movies. But I F'ing love your politics David. Why aren't you in Congress. Keep blasting!

David Brin said...

I... have... 'movies"...?

Treebeard said...

Responding to your previous post:

America hasn’t suffered at home from its lost wars because, like a good bully, it chooses poor, weak, third world adversaries who lack the ability to hit back at it where it lives. But Russia, China and land wars in Asia are an entirely different ballgame, where there would be no air superiority, no bombing at will of goat-herders and third-rate armies, no safe spaces for troops, ships, planes, supply chains or decision-makers. I doubt the American military even knows how to fight wars like that any more, having no living experience with it. Statements of Western mercs in Ukraine are telling in that regard; they are shocked at the level of bombardment they face due to lack of air superiority—they’re the Iraqis and Afghans now—and many of them GTFO.

Your simplistic characterization of America’s political divide as know-nothings vs. know-somethings is of course absurd, but a good example of the arrogance of the latter that many people don’t care for. Your know-somethings have failed in so many ways on so many fronts, misinformed and been wrong so many times, that there’s good reason to doubt their claims to superiority. That’s one cause of the political divide, but there are many others, such as disagreements about basic cultural issues, values and worldviews.

Speaking of which, your worldview, which you like to repeat ad nauseum, is just so hilariously childish. It amounts to a Manichaean religion where America and its vassals are the world’s saviors, the Enlightenment is a prophetic revelation, Progress is the divine Logos, and the world consists of good guys who submit to the religion and bad guys who don’t and must be fought until they do. It’s essentially a perverted, inverted militant Abrahamism, with man in place of God. I’ve pointed this out many times, but it still amuses me how people with education and intelligence find this stuff reasonable and sane, and not what it looks like to the rest of us: totally nutso and fanatical. We know from other fanatical movements that one can be educated and intelligent and still believe irrational, metaphysically absurd things; you’re a great example of this from the Enlightenmentist cult.

Larry Hart said...

Alan Brooks in the previous comments:

To this day, I talk to followers of his who insist that the Fugitive Slave Laws were justified because “at the time slaves were legitimate property.”


It's almost as if they don't believe that a new class of people can be recognized as having personhood. Hmmmm.

I'd say that the fact that slaves were legitimate property and then it was decided that they were human beings (and therefore could not be property) might argue for compensation to slaveholders for their property being expropriated.* But not for their right to continue holding slaves who have been recognized as persons.

* It's almost as if they believe in reparations. Hmmmmm.

Alan Brooks said...

They subscribe to the Constitution:
the 1861 Montgomery Constitution.

David Brin said...

ent: “Your know-somethings have failed in so many ways on so many fronts, misinformed and been wrong so many times, that there’s good reason to doubt their claims to superiority.”

That’s the crux. Just because folks who know stuff - nerds - know a lot, the narrative among confederates is “you claim superiority!”

In certain ways having directly to do with knowledge, sure. But compared to the assholes who demanded that our ancestors bow and scrape before their entitled inheritance brat sons? Bah.

This civil war is propelled by subzidized propaganda to egg on that resentment toward all the folks who have MADE LIFE BETTER for average folk. And there is one reason. Because nerds are the only force standing in the way of return to the oligarchy Adam Smith denounced and the US Founders rebelled against.

en masse, the nerds are smart and incorruptible and will prevent return of inheritance based “superiority.” And you know it.

“That’s one cause of the political divide, but there are many others, such as disagreements about basic cultural issues, values and worldviews.”

Utter bullshit. EVERY Culture War excuse for hatred of cities and universities and nerds is bullshit, because almost EVERY metric of moral turpitude is worse in Red America than in Blue America. You have seen this challenge before, along with the exceptions:

1- Slow, ornate speech. Which redders insist means they are nicer people.
2- Utah.

Except for those two, I dare you NOW to show us the ‘values’ you claim support your cult’s all out war on behalf of the New Confederacy’s plantation lords. Refute the clear facts re everything from domestic abuse and gambling to substance abuse and teen sex etc.

As for your final screech, it bears no overlap with anything I say or believe, ignores my support of flat-fair-open competition and your cult's total betrayal of that as a basicv principle. But above all, YOU never offer your own notion of a way forward. Other than the trend of 6000 years toward grinding decay and extinction.

But you do have a poetic quality to your insane rants. So carry on.

David Brin said...

Sorry guys. It is 9:30 pm and hot as blazes. Got carried away. Treebeard is probably an irritation AI anyway. I get a lot of those.

Lorraine said...

I've gotten in the habit of spelling it "A""I".

Treebeard said...

Yeah I'm an AI. I was created in the future by programmers employed by Russian-Saudi-Confederate casino moguls to go back in time and troll David Brin. The previous Treebeard was version T-800; this is the upgraded T-1000. My secret is out. I hope you don't mind.

locumranch said...

May I join your epistemological argument?

Biden's recent words were that Democracy cannot survive when one side believes there are only two outcomes to an election: Either they win or they were cheated … You can’t love your country only when you win.

The thing is that Dr. Brin and many other US progressives are absolutely convinced of the truth of Biden's statement (above), so much so that they have already committed themselves to the destruction of Western Democracy as they are now faced with an imminent political loss.

Their incessant attempts to destroy their political opposition, as in the case of President Trump & his deplorable supporters, has absolutely nothing to do with Putin, Feudalism, Truth, Justice & the American Way.

It is a response to what they deem to be an existential threat, not to democracy but their ongoing political & moral authority, after having convinced themselves that they (and only they) are worthy of leadership.

Like the royalists & high priests who once claimed Rule by Divine Right, these progressives believe themselves to be similarly chosen, chosen to rule by merit & judicious self-selection, as if self-selection confers the ultimate in moral authority, even though one man's authority over another man is as immaterial & insubstantial as will-o'-the-wisp.

There is no authority beyond one's belief in authority.

This is the thought that keeps the progressive awake at night & fills them with existential dread. That there is no there, there. That they are not special & important, just because they believe themselves to be.

Authority, like mercy & justice, is just another lie that we tell ourselves.


Best

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. I don't think Treebeard is an AI. I know too many people like him. They've become detached from the world and think the US is still the nation Coolidge lead... by not leading.

Sorry. We inherited empire after WWII and haven't tried to be an isolationist since. Add up all the naval fleets of all other countries besides the US and the US still outnumbers them.

Military Industrial Complex? Yes. Ike had good reason to express concerns. He grew up in a country that was not running a global empire, but wound up leading one into that new era.

We ARE an empire. Pax Americana.

We are NOT the US Coolidge knew. We haven't been for a long time.


However, it is helpful for people like Treebeard to sound the alarm. If not for them, we'd possibly slip into the common behaviors of Empire. We have slipped into some, but not all. They help pull us back occasionally.

But when it comes to competition for the US, he's delusional. The only competitor on the planet for the foreseeable future is ourselves. Our internal divisions are our only legit threat.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Sorry guys. It is 9:30 pm and hot as blazes.


You're not here in Chicago for WorldCon? My wife and I went yesterday and thought we might bump into you.

Larry Hart said...

locumranch:

Like the royalists & high priests who once claimed Rule by Divine Right, these progressives believe themselves to be similarly chosen, chosen to rule by merit & judicious self-selection, as if self-selection confers the ultimate in moral authority, even though one man's authority over another man is as immaterial & insubstantial as will-o'-the-wisp.


You sound like Ayn Rand's villain Cuffy Meigs, who when he decided that he could use John Galt, offered Galt and his fellow industrialists the same corrupt authority and perks that the bad guys sought power for. In the novel, this wasn't what Galt was after, but Meigs had no context for understanding that. You apparently lack the same context.

As a doctor, I can't believe you don't share this experience. When you tell a patient that there's no magic bullet for obesity, and that if he wants to avoid certain consequences he had best control his weight, are you doing that to preserve your right to control his life? Or are you doing that because you know how certain causes and effects work, irrespective of his "freedom" to wish reality was different from what it is?


"There is no authority beyond one's belief in authority."

This is the thought that keeps the progressive awake at night & fills them with existential dread. That there is no there, there. That they are not special & important, just because they believe themselves to be.


No, it does keep us awake at night, but not because we might lose our offices. It's because we remember what happens when a country descends into fascism. Yes, on the surface, our side's claim that the other side represents the existential threat of fascism sounds like a mirror of their claim that our side represents the existential threat of socialism. But remember the difference between the "good" and "evil" sides in that Star Trek episode where both sides seemed to use equivalent tactics in fighting the contest.

"You offered me the lives of my crew."


Authority, like mercy & justice, is just another lie that we tell ourselves.

You seem to be saying that authority, mercy, and justice are not real because they are not enforced by reality the way that Newton's Laws or the speed of light are. Fair enough, but so what?

Everything about civilized living is a fiction that we tell ourselves. I don't say "lie" because it's more of a paradox than that--it's not false if we live better by accepting that it's not false.

Girl In A Bottle said...

"The thing is that Dr. Brin and many other US progressives are absolutely convinced of the truth of Biden's statement (above), so much so that they have already committed themselves to the destruction of Western Democracy as they are now faced with an imminent political loss."
We all saw the assault on the Capitol by Confederate flag waving Trumpers. We've heard the Trumpers call to end term limits for Trump. It's a long ugly list of attacks on free elections (Moore v. Harper) , the free press, public education, law enforcement (defund FBI), reproductive rights, science. And check the polls, Dems are now favored to increase their majority in the Senate and may keep the house.

reason said...

Sort of on topic: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2022/sep/04/super-rich-prepper-bunkers-apocalypse-survival-richest-rushkoff

Larry Hart said...

Republicans: "If too many people are allowed to vote, no Republican will ever be elected again."

Democrats: "If Republicans take control of the voting process, no Democrat will ever be elected again."

On the surface, those sound like mirror, partisan complaints. But one of these things doesn't belong.

Just think if two competing football teams were discussing their chances in the Super Bowl:

Team A: "As long as the referees make fair calls, we are likely to win"

Team B: "As long as bungled calls by the referees are allowed to stand, we are likely to win."

Each team lobbies for conditions that suit them best, but in a fair, rational system, insisting on cheats and mistaken calls because those suit your team is "partisan", while insisting on fair play is the essence of "non-partisan", even if it suits your team's preference. In a football game, the one who scores best by the rules gets to win. It is not an equivalent statement that the one who benefits most from cheating and bad calls also deserves to win.

Same with democracy. If fair and equitable voting favors Democrats, then Democrats deserve to win. The remedy for Republicans is to appeal more to voters, not to make sure voters who don't like their policies are prevented from voting.

Democrats tell you what they'll do if given power--protect abortion rights, fund education, build infrastructure, etc. Sometimes, radical positions are unfairly associated with their platform even though the party isn't in favor--"Defund the police", for example--and some voters are alienated by such positions. That in itself is understandable.

But Republicans won't tell you what they're going to do with power. When asked about the Republican platform, Mitch McConnell said, "Give us a majority and then you'll see." When something of their intent actually leaks into the public--nationwide abortion ban or gutting Social Security--their reaction is to act as if saying this stuff out loud is a partisan attack on them. Their intent is to get elected through subterfuge and fraud, and then do things that their voters wouldn't have approved of (but their donors do).

Opposing subterfuge and fraud is not partisan, even if it helps one's own party. Not unless every single issue is "partisan" one way or the other, to the extent that the negative connotations of the word are rendered meaningless.

Robert said...

'd say that the fact that slaves were legitimate property and then it was decided that they were human beings (and therefore could not be property) might argue for compensation to slaveholders for their property being expropriated.

Like happened to Haiti? Complete with American occupation to ensure that the compensation was paid to Wall Street…

https://eji.org/news/haitis-forced-payments-to-enslavers-cost-economy-21-billion-the-new-york-times-found/

One might also argue that polluters are owed compensation for new anti-pollution regulations which interfere with their business.

(Actually, that argument gets made already.)

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

"I'd say that the fact that slaves were legitimate property and then it was decided that they were human beings (and therefore could not be property) might argue for compensation to slaveholders for their property being expropriated."

One might also argue that polluters are owed compensation for new anti-pollution regulations which interfere with their business.


You mistake my argument for sympathy with the slaveholders. I'm arguing of the form "Even if we accept their claims of unfair expropriation of property, they would only be entitled to X, not to Y." My emphasis was on what they would still not be entitled to--preservation of the institution of slavery in perpetuity. I.e., "The Constitutional right not to have things change."

I'm not against bad things happening to slaveholders, but I can understand their position since what they were doing was considered acceptable and legal at the time they were doing it. Same with the polluters, and I would not argue that they are owed compensation for future pollution restrictions.

New laws which turn legal actions into illegal ones are fair game, just as the opposite is true (legalized pot or gambling). That's different from taking something away which was acquired legally at the time. Compensation for slave owners has a bad taste, but it might have been the best of bad solutions for avoiding a shooting war.

Paradoctor said...

Locumranch:
"There is no authority beyond one's belief in authority."

How pomo. One counter is a quote from Philip K. Dick:
"Reality is that which, when you stop believing it, doesn't go away."

Another retort is a rant that I offered to a philosophy instructor:
"Two plus two is four. Not five, not even if you bribe me. Not three, not even if you threaten me. Two plus two is four, anywhere, everywhere, forever and ever, amen!"

To which he replied, "Very good! But tell me, does the number four exist?"

I had to laugh. By Goedel's Second Incompleteness Theorem, if an arithmetical deductive system can prove its own consistency, then it is not consistent. Existence implies consistency, so if you can prove that the number four exists, then your proof is worthless.

I don't mind. Four is a universal, not an entity; it doesn't merely exist; it applies. Two plus two equals four by definition. Call that a language game if you wish, but don't hire as an accountant anyone who says otherwise. He'd cheat or fail you. How's that for authority?

Larry Hart said...

Paradoctor:

Locumranch:
"There is no authority beyond one's belief in authority."

How pomo. One counter is a quote from Philip K. Dick:
"Reality is that which, when you stop believing it, doesn't go away."


In fairness, moral authority is not like a law of physics or mathematics. It's a compact between people belonging to a society. People are better off living by the compact than they would be in perpetual war with each other, but the compact is something people agree to, not something that exists apart from their agreement.

I think loc's legitimate point is that it is foolish to expect the compact to be self-enforcing. There's no benefit to living true to "Thou shalt not kill" when the other guy is Greedo and you are Han Solo.


Another retort is a rant that I offered to a philosophy instructor:
"Two plus two is four. Not five, not even if you bribe me. Not three, not even if you threaten me. Two plus two is four, anywhere, everywhere, forever and ever, amen!"


"Four shall be the number of the counting, and the number of the counting shall be four. Five shalt thou not count, nor shall thou count three excepting that thou then proceedeth on to four."


To which he replied, "Very good! But tell me, does the number four exist?"


That depends on what the definition of "is" is. :)

You might just as well have asked him whether "does", "exist", and "?" exist.

And it doesn't matter. Arguing whether a number "exists" is semantics. A thing and a thing, put together next to another thing and another thing results in a conglomeration of four things. "Two plus two equals four" is a shorthand way of saying that. The question of whether the number somehow exists independently of the counting adds no meaning, nor does it refute the result.

locumranch said...

I love epistemology, as it allows everybody to be correct, including Treebeard, Dr. Brin, Alfred, Larry, Paradoctor & myself but, by far, the prize for today's 'most correct' post goes to Reason with his linked article about rich preppers & Minimax theory.

What is Minimax theory?

It's a Cold War game theory product, a mindset designed to help players minimize their losses & maximize their gains, while simultaneously maximizing the losses & limiting the gains of their opponents.

Phillip K Dick wrote about Minimax extensively, which was really bad for his mental health since it's a psychosis in its purest form.

Minimax theory corrupts almost everything we argue about here, so much so that even the most insane perspectives make a kind of sense when processed as a Minimax problem, from US politics & imperialism to nerd rule & fat acceptance.

(1) It's an attempt to maximize gains & minimize losses, the political argument that the OTHER political party equals 'an existential threat to democracy';

(2) It's Alfred the Libertarian who insists that the US must persevere & triumph over its adversaries, even after admitting that the US has become an unworthy & potentially evil empire;

(3) It's Dr. Brin the pro-democracy advocate who defends 'elite expertism' and our current Tyranny of Nerds, solely on the basis of a disappointing secondary school experience & a bad movie from 1984; and

(4) It's Larry who attempts to 'have his cake & eat it too' as he simultaneously condemns obesity as public health crisis and supports the fat acceptance movement.

That any group or individual would take pains to preserve their advantage into the indefinite future, it makes makes perfect sense from the Minimax perspective, but therein lies our most insurmountable obstacle if & when we try to reconcile, reunify and move forward into the future:

Nobody is willing to lose.

Nobody is willing to take a fall for the greater good.


Especially people like Dr. Brin.


Best

Don Gisselbeck said...

I wonder if I can claim some vindication. Michael Cohen seems to hint that the Very Stable Genius is threatening to give the Russians highly sensitive material if he is indicted.
https://m.dailykos.com/stories/2022/8/30/2119811/-This-Is-VERY-Bad-M-Cohen-Says-He-Knows-Why-TFG-Took-Those-Boxes?detail=emaildkre2&pm_source=DKRE&pm_medium=email

Don Gisselbeck said...

I apologize for the sporadic nature of my trolling. I'm trying to juggle farm work, endless auto repair, fixing bicycles and trying to get some recreation. It's easier to argue with flatearthers than put together intelligent comments.

Larry Hart said...

@Don Gisselbeck,

Trolling in defense of democracy is no vice. :)

Robert said...

You mistake my argument for sympathy with the slaveholders.

No, I was attempting sarcasm. Clearly unsuccessfully.

I've heard the argument, or something very like it, from one of the Republicans who keep emailing me. Maybe Banks. Essentially that if descendants of slaves are owed reparations then descendants of slaveowners are owed compensation.

Slaveowner compensation was tried in Haiti, by France and America. I wouldn't call the results a ringing success.

Larry Hart said...

@locumranch,

I don't know enough Mirimax theory to comment, but I will refute your slander of me.


2) It's Alfred the Libertarian who insists that the US must persevere & triumph over its adversaries, even after admitting that the US has become an unworthy & potentially evil empire;


That's not a paradox if one recognizes that the threat is from within.


(3) It's Dr. Brin the pro-democracy advocate who defends 'elite expertism' and our current Tyranny of Nerds, ...


What "tyranny" of nerds? Vaccine mandates? They're gone almost everywhere despite COVID cases being on the rise again. Your side wins that one, as you almost always do.

Apparently, saying "This victory of yours will not end well," constitutes tyranny in your eyes. What a snowflake!


(4) It's Larry who attempts to 'have his cake & eat it too' as he simultaneously condemns obesity as public health crisis and supports the fat acceptance movement.


I don't "condemn" obesity, but I do recognize it as a problem, including in myself (although borderline.

I expected that you condemn obesity based on some of your past comments, and used that as a bit of common experience such that you could plainly understand my point. As usual, you completely refute your own past arguments rather than admit that they might be counter to the current ridiculous point you are making presently. Just as you like to trot out the Ant and Grasshopper fable, but then complain about the tyranny of liberal Ants telling the Grasshopper what will happen if he fails to prepare for winter.

When the f*** have I ever mentioned an opinion of "fat acceptance" one way or another? Or on pronouns or defunding the police or any leftist cause that you think sticks to all liberals?

I'd say "Nice try, though", but it wasn't even that good.

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

No, I was attempting sarcasm. Clearly unsuccessfully.


I like arguing worst cases--that even in the worst case, my side is still ahead on something.

I admit that that sort of thinking might also color my reading of your responses. I reply to the worst interpretation, not necessarily the best one.

Treebeard said...

Alfred, I’m glad we are in agreement that the USA is an empire. And what is an empire? A political entity that expands by conquest, with a center that rules over a subordinate periphery and exploits its resources. In America’s case, the imperial center is “Yankeedom”—the original Anglo colonies that arrived in boats and decided they had a divine right to rule America and beyond. This imperial center has undergone several major expansions, most notably by conquering huge swathes of Native territory, a large chunk of Mexico, the Confederate states and most of western Europe—bringing the imperial center vast wealth and power.

What makes this empire unusual is that while it conquers and subjugates all these lands and peoples, it simultaneously asserts that it is liberating them and doing it for a higher metaphysical good. At one time this took on a more Christian tone: they were bringing the heathens to God, Jesus and the Bible and saving them from damnation. But in recent times the empire has adopted a more secular story: they’re bringing the unfortunates to Democracy, science, free markets and human rights, and saving them from their ancestral ignorance. But all of these justifications were the metaphysical inventions of, let’s face it, some very weird people on some very weird head trips. Nevertheless, their success in convincing the conquered peoples that their conquerors are actually their saviors, and filling their heads with the same crazy abstractions, has been most impressive, it must be said.

But of course it was never about those abstractions, as a practical matter, and it still isn’t. It was always about what every empire is about: power and resources. Which is why, when I hear people like our host go on about democracy, the Enlightenment, the evil Confederates, dastardly Russkies and shifty Chinese or whatever, what I really hear is the voice of an unrepentant imperialist, calling for their surrender to the Empire and its abstractions. This imperial way of thinking so permeates the American mentality that is almost unconscious at this point, being inculcated from birth by the Empire’s culture-propaganda-education industry [Quick exercise: turn on any of your favorite major American media, and watch until you hear someone seriously criticizing America's imperial adventures. Make a lot of coffee]. But the first step in solving a problem is admitting you have one, which is why it’s heartening to hear an unrepentant American imperialist like Alfred admit that his country is an empire. It’s a start.

Alan Brooks said...

Nothing Biden has said could equal the insipidness of Fearless Leader. A few yrs ago Trump said that quote the Russians invaded Afghanistan to stop terrorists from coming into Russia. A Grotesque oversimplification.
He’s thumbing his nose at us.

Larry Hart said...

Treebeard:

most notably by conquering ... and most of western Europe


You're saying we should left them to Hitler.

I was going to end that with a question mark, but no, it's not a question. You are saying that the USA did a bad thing by winning WWII.

David Brin said...

LH alas sorry. Worldcon did not schedul me for a single thing, despite answering all surveys and knowing dozens signed up for readings etc.

Alfred, the GOP after WWII did try for isolationism. The driving force behind support for the Marshall Plan and NATO and world engagement against the USSR - and mistakes like Vietnam - was the US Labor Movement, esp the AFL CIO. Who (btw) also provided the political heft to the military industrial complex.

Flatlander locum not only repeatedly accuses us of being cloned copies of his own cult, with identical motives and goals, only different in vocabulary and the list of our elites…. rivals he could then understand… he is incapable of even parsing THAT he does not see a third dimension, or perceive color, or grasp any concept of positive sum…

…nor grasp that it matters that our method is about something he is supposed to claim he wants… flat-fair competition. Using nature’s method to evolve, only tuned to be gentler, more fair and vastly more efficient than nature’s bloody way to competitively determine who is right.

Sure the Left would demur and call that ‘neoliberalism’… a stupidity of their own. But the crux is that neither L nor T are able, even squinting hard and gnurling their brows, to see that we are simply not like them. And hence their attempts to ‘describe’ us aren’t hurtful or eviscerating or even on the same part of the horizon as we stand. They are just pathetic ravings at strawmen.


Having said that and knowing it’s futility… America was a RELUCTANT empire. Despite every crime we rightly regret, the general Pax since 1945 has been a time of greater peace and progress than ALL other eras, COMBINED. 90% of children have full bellies and go to school. 90% of humans have never witnessed war with their own eyes. And despite a lot of Ugly American stuff, Americans in general remain very popular round the globe. Name another empire that was less-hated.

The world can see the diversity of our leaders (esp Democrats). Above all they see that we teach our young to criticise their elders, an unprecedented value system than no rival dares ever to emulate


Robert when business conditions change because of wiser regulations, it behooves a nation to help businesses adjust. To some degree. Though in some cases it boils my gut to see.

Tony Fisk said...

I like to think of AI as 'Intelligence: Artificial ', which suggests Lovecraft knew a thing or two. (It certainly explains some of the artwork! Do carry on, Fangorn, old twig)

All this talk of empires reminds me that 'Dune' has dropped on Netflix. I discovered this just before midnight, local time... ba-ad plan.

Alan Brooks said...

Do LoCum and Treebeard really Know America? Are they US citizens? If not, how much time have they spent in America? Is our country an abstraction to them?

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Worldcon did not schedul me for a single thing, despite answering all surveys and knowing dozens signed up for readings etc.


There was a presentation that my wife attended (I went to a different one at the same time) called "Brains Don't Work That Way". She said it was about the futility of thinking we can download our consciousness into computers. I thought if you were going to be there at all, it would have been for that presentation.

We of course both attended "Cats in science fiction". It was standing room only for that one. And they even mentioned Neil Gaiman's "Dream of a Thousand Cats".

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

And despite a lot of Ugly American stuff, Americans in general remain very popular round the globe. Name another empire that was less-hated.


Pax Americana seems to be the global analogue of Obamacare. We've been hated and feared by much of the world we've sworn to protect, but when it looks like the Pax might be going away, the John McCains of the world vote "no".


The world can see the diversity of our leaders (esp Democrats). Above all they see that we teach our young to criticise their elders, an unprecedented value system than no rival dares ever to emulate


Remember the reaction from the world when a black man was elected president. "Holy crap, they really do believe what they're preaching."

Treebeard said...

Do LoCum and Treebeard really Know America? Are they US citizens? If not, how much time have they spent in America? Is our country an abstraction to them?

Yeah Alan, I know it as well as anyone, being born and spending nearly all my life here. America, the forests, mountains, animals, rivers, oceans and peoples who have been here a long time aren’t an abstraction to me. But the USA, the creation on paper of some weirdos from across the ocean, its laws, government, culture, values, symbols, and business model are nothing but abstractions, so the answer to that is yes. It just so happens that I like the former but don’t much care for the latter.

Let me give you an example that I just learned about the other day to illustrate what I mean. It turns out that a few miles from where I live there’s one of the oldest remains of hunting in all of the Americas. It’s a mastodon rib with a spear point in it, dated almost 14k years old. Some dude threw a spear at this huge horned beast on the edge of a landmass covered in glaciers, a few miles from where I live. Now that fills me with awe, and that’s a real American, but it has absolutely zero to do with the USA and its almost entirely disposable and delusional government, culture and ideology. I guarantee you that in another 14k years no one will remember the empire of crazy called the USA, but there will still be a beautiful land called America and impressive people called Americans. So that’s how I like to think of myself: an American, but not a US imperial citizen. To the latter, like all empires, I say: “this, too, shall pass.” And the sooner the better.

Larry Hart said...

Treebeard:

like all empires, I say: “this, too, shall pass.” And the sooner the better.


Except for Russia, right? Won't someone still need to defend white Christians in 14k years?

Treebeard said...

Do you think the people I’m talking about were white and Christian, dumbass? You’re a good example of a US imperial citizen who wouldn’t know America if it stabbed you in the ribs. You may know all the comic books, media talking heads, fashionable causes and political scuttlebutt, but what do you actually know about the real America outside the matrix of BS that is the USA? I’m guessing very little.

Larry Hart said...

Treebeard:

Do you think the people I’m talking about were white and Christian, dumbass?


I just remember you previously praising Russia for defending white Christians against multiculturalism, and insisting that the United States also be a white Christian nation. Sorry if you've re-invented yourself since then.

Alan Brooks said...

The sooner the better, Treebeard?
After Russia ceases butchering white Christians in Ukraine? After the Middle Kingdom abandons imperialism?
Or should we set an example of renouncing imperialism, so that other nations shall see the Light and follow our lead? Would they? And when—during the 22nd century?

David Brin said...

LH if they didn’t discuss Cordwainer Smith’s “The Ballad of Lost C’Mel,” they don’t know shit about cats in SF.

T: “I guarantee you that in another 14k years no one will remember the empire of crazy called the USA, but there will still be a beautiful land called America and impressive people called Americans.”

Bets?
Ante up man!

scidata said...

Empires do indeed perish, but the great ones' influence remains long after. Pax Romana was almost two millennia ago. Rome had no deference for allies, circuslike culture, no real democracy, was short on forbearance, et cetera (see?). Pax Americana should have considerably more resonance.

I still like the line that Fermilab has nothing to do with the nation's defense, except to help make it worth defending.

Unknown said...

Um, Dr. Brin, " 14k years" = 14,000 years = a long time to wait for a bet to pay off.

By that point we will likely either be extinct or starfaring as a species. If we've survived and spread, it's likely that the small percentage of humanity on Earth may vaguely remember "America", but most of the tourists won't. (See *Disney Earth* in a prior chat.)

T, I grew up expat and served in the USAF through retirement, deploying overseas occasionally. (Of course, they tried to send me to Utah once....) I've had acquaintances in the Foreign Service and been friends with their children when I was growing up. They weren't crazy and tried to do their best, though they had issues with the home office during the Reagan Years.

Culturally, economically, and militarily, the USA is a hegemon without equal in history. That does not make it a permanent situation, but I do not see a replacement in sight (China doesn't really WANT the job) and it is, for better or worse, in the interest of the globe to have a an enforcer behind the UN when balloons go up. If our government is riven by secession and/or civil war in the future, I can all but guarantee you that the Pax Americana will be looked back on as something akin to a golden age. What would replace it would be much more...interesting. Perhaps a Time of the Fishes, to use the Hindi phrase, where the big fish eat the little ones.

The US is not some selfless arbiter and many before me have noted that acting Imperially abroad corrupts democracy at home. I'd love for us to get out of the business, but we made that decision in 1945 when the UN was denied any teeth. One of Heinlein's juvenile novels depicted a "Space Patrol" with nukes in orbit enforcing peace and none in the hand of sovereign nations. I'm more than a little down with that.

Pappenheimer

Alfred Differ said...

Treebeard,

Heh. Calm down dude. You are serving a useful purpose for America right now by reminding the progressives of a competing vision of what we are. They think they are America. Your clade thinks they are. Neither is correct, but it is useful to be reminded of the difference.

I've set foot in all but three States and lived in most of them west of the Great Plains. I have cousins in so-called fly-over states and my extended family covers the political spectrum fairly well. Dad was a non-Rand quasi-libertarian and Mom was enough of a socialist to think she knew best how you should think.

America isn't what you vision says it is. It isn't any one particular vision even. It's an all-of-the-above place where we seldom shoot each other for committing political heresy. Occasionally we burn cities and lynch each other, but mostly we let each other be in order to find out which visions actually work.

———

America is best described as a commercial empire. Your version involving conquest is utter bullshit, though we certainly did do that for awhile. Look up the last time the US annexed territory and what the locals thought of it and you'll see why I think you're guilty of preferring a delusion.

Reluctant empire is a decent way to describe us when it comes to governance of other nations. We'd mostly rather not, but that doesn't mean we want them trampling our national interests. I think it was another Friedman who pointed out a decent heuristic. If they have McDonald's franchises, we likely won't go to war with them. Our interests are too aligned.

Hegemon is also a decent description of us, but only up until someone pisses us off and we wield a direct sword. Most of the time we prefer to act through proxies even when angry, but that doesn't make us less potent. It just means we kill fewer American sons.

———

Your mastodon story played out in other ways all across the ancient world. Mostly hairless apes turn out to be pretty good hunters when they work together as a pack. They are pretty good engineers too for the same reason.

But we haven't lived in a world of tooth and claw for a few thousand generations. We became the apex predator. None come close except when we prey upon each other and we don't do that as much anymore.

So what now for those who have become like godlings? Shall we resurrect mastodons so we may relive the old glory of a hunt? Shall we ignore how we came unto our powers and relive old horrors that drove us to learn them?

------

I have no idea what will be here in 14,000 years in any detail. I'd guess the glaciers will have returned by then. As for us, I doubt this particular version of western civilization will still be around. I doubt the Chinese civilization will last that long either. However, I suspect some of the people alive then will remember us in "The West" as people who did something different.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

LH if they didn’t discuss Cordwainer Smith’s “The Ballad of Lost C’Mel,” they don’t know shit about cats in SF.


Cordwainer Smith did come up in the discussion.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Heh. Calm down dude [Treebeard]. You are serving a useful purpose for America right now by reminding the progressives of a competing vision of what we are. They think they are America. Your clade thinks they are. Neither is correct, but it is useful to be reminded of the difference.


You've got that right. There are indeed wildly competing visions of what the concept of "America" is, irrespective of either government, history, or geography. "America" as a concept means something differently from "Sweden", "Poland", or even "Canada". And yet, even what that aspirational idea is is different to different people.

Several years ago, I remember Treebeard jolting me to the reality that not everyone sees the American ideal as being equality and justice and rule of law. His version at the time was more like "anyone who can get away with it can grift as much as he wants to". I'm paraphrasing of course, and maybe misrepresenting, but not willfully so. That's what I got out of the conversation. Anyway, that certainly jibes with the vision of America that the narration presented of Noah Rosewater in Kurt Vonnegut's God Bless You Mr. Rosewater, so I can't say that that one isn't out there.

So is, America, the homeland and protector of white Christians, where everyone else is either a guest, a hired worker, or a criminal trespasser.

Even kids' comics recognized the multiplicity of visions as early as the Nixon era. In the arc of Captain America that I often refer to here, one reason Cap became disillusioned was the realization that he was supposed to embody America, but "which America?"


America is best described as a commercial empire. Your version involving conquest is utter bullshit, though we certainly did do that for awhile.


While conquerors often try to present themselves as liberators, and "protecting them from another external threat" is often an excuse for conquest, it seems to me that what we did in western Europe in WWII actually does constitute liberation rather than conquest.


I have no idea what will be here in 14,000 years in any detail.


TB and I ruffled each other's feathers over that conversation, but in hindsight we were talking past each other. When I brought up his (months or years earlier) defense of Russia as the defender of white Christians against multiculturalism, he apparently thought I was applying that to the anecdote of the hunter of mastodons, like I thought he admired the hunter as a white Christian. But no, I was responding to his rooting for the end of American empire, like all empires, I say: “this, too, shall pass.” And the sooner the better. Given what he had previously posted, I was questioning whether he really felt that the Russian empire was as bad a thing as the American one. It seemed to me he wasn't so much rooting for the fall of "all empires" as rooting for the disappearance of Enlightenment thinking.

Larry Hart said...

I meant to add...

There was a movie my most recent ex-girlfriend loved called Four Friends. The main protagonist was the son of immigrants living in an industrial Indiana town in the early 1960s. The son was a booster of America in a manner often stereotypical of children of immigrants, and very much aligned with the way I think about America as an ideal.

At one point, the son is returning early in the morning from some overnight escapade, and he encounters his father heading off to work. The father, in his heavy eastern European accent, enunciates a very different view. "I am tired. And I have to go to work. That is America."

Larry Hart said...

Yeah, I thought this was what happened in Alaska. It's not that Ranked Choice Voting is bad for Republicans in general. It's only bad when one of the Republicans is so unpalatable to the other Republican's voters that they actually put the Democrat as their second choice.

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2022/Senate/Maps/Sep05.html#item-4

...
It is worth noting that RCV is also called instant runoff voting (IRV), which is perhaps clearer. In many Republican-controlled states in the South, if nobody gets to 50% +1 in the first round, the voters have to trudge back to the polls in a month or so for a runoff to indicate their second choice between the top two if their first choice is gone. So Republicans really aren't against runoffs. They like them. So why not save everybody a lot of trouble and the state a lot of money and ask what everyone's second choice (and third choice, etc.) is right off the bat? To a first approximation, RCV/IRV just kind of simulates the Southern runoffs that Republicans actually like.

What is problematical about the recent Alaska general special election is that it highlighted what happened when Nick Begich (R) was eliminated in the first round. Begich is a mainstream Republican and his voters had to choose between a Democrat, Mary Peltola, and a very Trumpy Sarah Palin, who has universal name recognition in Alaska, for second choice. What happened to those 53,756 Begich votes when he was eliminated? Did they all go to the other person in the race with that magic (R) after her name? No. 27,042 (50.3%) went to Palin, 15,445 (28.7%) went to the Democrat, and 11,222 (20.9%) found both Palin and the Democrat unacceptable and didn't fill out a second choice. Put in starker terms, half the people who are clearly Republicans (because their first choice was Begich), couldn't stomach voting for a very Trumpy Republican and so either voted for a Democrat or abstained.

Many Republicans had expected that the Republicans were interchangeable and every Republican voter given a choice between a Republican and a Democrat (as happened in the second round) would pick the other Republican. Only half did. There is likely a message there, and that message seems to be that even in a red state, half of Republicans who would be happy with a mainstream Republican find a Trumpy Republican unacceptable. And half of those mainstream Republicans find Trumpy Republicans so unacceptable that they will vote for a Democrat and the other half will simply not vote.
...

Larry Hart said...

NY Times columnist Charles Blow agreeing with me. Emphasis mine...

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/04/opinion/biden-semifacism-apologize.html

...
It was the same strategy Republicans used against Hillary Clinton after she said: “You could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up.”

She was absolutely right. She may have even understated the number.

Democrats have to stop falling for the line that calling out the dangers that some voters present to the country is somehow a divisive, offensive, unfair attack on the innocent.
...
Biden doesn’t owe Republicans an apology;
they owe the country an apology.

Alan Brooks said...

The GOP owes the entire world an apology; for being undignified alone they need to apologize, and for much else.

locumranch said...


Alfred sensibly mentions Different Americas, while the majority here continue to assume that their america is the only 'real one'.

Even so, Dr. Brin is occasionally correct, as I am literally 'a flatlander', a dirt person and perhaps even a subhuman who cannot fathom the exceptionality that imbues his cloud people with superior sophistication, sensibility & intellect.

That these people claim to be 'my betters', this may be so, but there are many real world examples of this very claim and we all know how these histories end, don't we?

I have tried to warn them, often, yet I failed:

They would not listen,
they're not listening still.
Perhaps they never will.



Best
____

Hi Lo, Treebeard! We may even be near fulsome neighbors, geographically speaking, if you get my point.

Larry Hart said...


That these people claim to be 'my betters', this may be so, but there are many real world examples of this very claim...


Sometimes by doctors.

Unknown said...

I'm still confused by David Brin's movies. Has he been holding out on us? Startide Rising would be an excellent movie if you cut out...er...90% of the talking and 75% of the plotlines...well, never mind.

Pappenheimer

Larry Hart said...

Pappenheimer:

I'm still confused by David Brin's movies.


Probably a reference to Kevin Costner's version of The Postman.

scidata said...

45 years ago today, Voyager I was launched (on a Titan-Centaur) using already 10-year old tech. It's still operational and at nearly 22 light-hours distance. COTS electronics and iterative (non 20-year plan) construction would allow dozens of modern probes to be launched today (witness Starlink's capabilities) for less money. Even if 90% of them somehow failed, the ROI would still be tremendous.

Jon S. said...

"So what now for those who have become like godlings? Shall we resurrect mastodons so we may relive the old glory of a hunt? Shall we ignore how we came unto our powers and relive old horrors that drove us to learn them?"

As Our Host depicted in one of his short stories, that's what VR is for.

I've often pointed out to people that Fallout 76, a postapocalyptic MMO, was expected at launch to be a battle of all against all, with the remaining human survivors gleefully slaughtering each other for supplies. And some players did do that - but the emergent gameplay, which became so popular that Player versus Player (PvP) all but died out, was cooperation. Higher-level players will gladly drop supplies and building plans for lower-levels, just as a regular thing (I started a character about a week ago who was over her maximum carrying capacity before she even built her first Stash Box, because someone dropped her a load of plans and about a hundred stimpacks).

Available data seems to indicate that this lesson applies in the real world as well - after disasters, we want to work together and help each other. The games mean we can relearn this lesson without having to have the disaster first. A VR mastodon hunt could teach the same lessons, as well as being a great workout (similar to the way some folks use the VR game Beat Saber as a cardio workout).

David Brin said...

Pappen - you neglect that ‘memory will be a very different thing. in 14ky. If it is a mighty civilization, then the equivalent of the SCA will re-enact the funnest times. And if we are back to caves, “America” will be a talisman term for a golden time.

Alas every time L cries "I DO know what 3D means!" he proves he doesn't.

Don Gisselbeck said...

Having a job you can imagine is good, beautiful, useful is an important part of living the good life. Thus we could, for example, put Egyptians to work (3 hrs a day of course) restoring the pyramids using original techniques.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gu%C3%A9delon_Castle

DP said...

The super-rich ‘preppers’ planning to save themselves from the apocalypse

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2022/sep/04/super-rich-prepper-bunkers-apocalypse-survival-richest-rushkoff

They started out innocuously and predictably enough. Bitcoin or ethereum? Virtual reality or augmented reality? Who will get quantum computing first, China or Google? Eventually, they edged into their real topic of concern: New Zealand or Alaska? Which region would be less affected by the coming climate crisis? It only got worse from there. Which was the greater threat: global warming or biological warfare? How long should one plan to be able to survive with no outside help? Should a shelter have its own air supply? What was the likelihood of groundwater contamination? Finally, the CEO of a brokerage house explained that he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system, and asked: “How do I maintain authority over my security force after the event?” The event. That was their euphemism for the environmental collapse, social unrest, nuclear explosion, solar storm, unstoppable virus, or malicious computer hack that takes everything down.

I tried to reason with them. I made pro-social arguments for partnership and solidarity as the best approaches to our collective, long-term challenges. The way to get your guards to exhibit loyalty in the future was to treat them like friends right now, I explained. Don’t just invest in ammo and electric fences, invest in people and relationships. They rolled their eyes at what must have sounded to them like hippy philosophy.

Larry Hart said...

The money shot from that Guardian article:

More than anything, they have succumbed to a mindset where “winning” means earning enough money to insulate themselves from the damage they are creating by earning money in that way. It’s as if they want to build a car that goes fast enough to escape from its own exhaust.

David Brin said...

LH preparing a blog on that essay.

scidata said...

"Lost Horizon" tells a similar story, but with a 180° change in values, goals, and philosophy. One of the recurrent plots in the old Rod Serling TV shows was the survivor who realizes too late that surviving in a hellscape isn't pleasant. It's a theme that seems to have haunted Serling deeply.

Don Gisselbeck said...

The preppers should be able to fend off the first couple hundred enraged untermenschen.

duncan cairncross said...

Dunno about Alaska but NZ strikes me as a bad place for the superrich after some sort of collapse

The prevalent culture here is Scots/English/Maori - all of which would be unfriendly to any of the "superrich" in a post collapse world

David Brin said...

Here's the first 1/3 of my proposed blog on the article:


A fascinating essay by Douglas Rushkoff describes how a dozen tech zillionaires - names withheld under NDA - flew him into a private meeting where they asked: “a Marxist media theorist for advice on where and how to configure their doomsday bunkers.”

Among their questions:
“How long should one plan to be able to survive with no outside help? Should a shelter have its own air supply? What was the likelihood of groundwater contamination? Finally, the CEO of a brokerage house explained that he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system, and asked: ‘How do I maintain authority over my security force after the event?’”

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2022/sep/04/super-rich-prepper-bunkers-apocalypse-survival-richest-rushkoff


The… event. Ah euphemism for some calamity killing 99% of humanity, with the remainder expected to bow before lords who helped to make it all happen.

(Doug must have signed a weaker NDA than I did, under similar circumstances, since he feels free to describe the event without names. Though I can tell you that no NDA was involved when Peter Thiel asked me similar questions. Alas, my helpfully pragmatic — if non-sycophantic — critical suggestions to improve his ‘sea steading’ notion led him to storm off and never buy me another meal. Then later to adopt every suggestion that I made. Well, well. I know other former PayPal guys who actually want success for a civilization that’s been good to them. The crux: conflating all such guys together is unhelpful.)

The Rushkoff piece is vital reading for anyone who wants to avoid the apocalypse that these ingrates yearn for, in some dullard combination of sci-fi romanticism and nostalgia for the simplicity and sexual privileges of proper feudalism — presumably in a Mad Max wasteland that corrects all of the errors of modernity that made them comfy-spoiled rich, in the first place.

In fact, I know the exact solution to the ‘security staff question.’ Though I told one such mogul “If you can’t figure it out, you certainly aren’t smart enough to survive any aftermath, without the protection of the enlightenment nations you so despise.”

Indeed, this kind of delusion was laughably illustrated by the number of Russian ’oligarchs’ - all of them hypocrites who grew up reciting Marxist-egalitarian catechisms five times daily - who ensconced their loot, their yachts and their children in western nations, where it all could be defended by rule-of-law from capricious seizure by the Czar…

…only to find that rule-of-law can cut both ways. It has that drawback. Which is why some dream of ending it, altogether.

Alfred Differ said...

locumranch,

All you are missing out on is the fact that one plus one is three because of how they are doing the 'plus' operation.

It's not obvious, though. Far from it. The primary obscuring fog comes from how we monetize everything and think that a price paid is a value received. That makes it look like one minus one is zero.

Turns out life doesn't work that way even though we've assumed it did for a few thousand generations.

DP said...

Dr. Brin,

Be sure your blog post includes references to Vice News' great series "Why the rest of Us Die".

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=vice+news+while+the+rest+of+us+die

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clFlSRxErSY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQin210ZBAQ




DP said...

I have to admit that as I get closer to retirement my dream of a vacation cabin up north on a lake (Minnesota, Michigan, upstate New York, still looking) has morphed into an off the grid survival compound. But I can't figure out how to protect it from vandals and squatters.

I used to watch "Doomsday Preppers" on NatGeo, thinking to myself that I never realized how well organized crazy people can be. And the engineering hacks they use are nothing short of ingenious (solar cells and batteries, septic systems, groundwater pumps, water filtration, water heating, small house shelters, etc.).

They don't seem crazy anymore.

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=doomsday+preppers+nat+geo

And instead of growing your own food (you only need about an acre of intense gardening for a family of four to make a sustaining if boring diet), learning to can food, buy expensive MREs, etc. - the best way is to check out a Mormon canary center. They sell #10 cans (which will keep for decades) containing food with enough calories and nutrients for an adult male (3,000 calories per day) for a year - all for less than $500.

Its the most bang for your survivalist buck.

After a year the worst should be over and then you can safely start rebuilding civilization.

LDS are big on prepping and have this all figured out.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TofaQ3XMaVI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDqHZ-wgd44

Tony Fisk said...

You resurrect mastodons, not for the glory of the hunt, but for the restoration of the steppes.
That is also a form of prepping

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Though I can tell you that no NDA was involved when Peter Thiel asked me similar questions. Alas, my helpfully pragmatic — if non-sycophantic — critical suggestions to improve his ‘sea steading’ notion led him to storm off and never buy me another meal.


Sounds like he wanted sycophancy more than he wanted critical suggestions.


Then later to adopt every suggestion that I made.


I've had that same thing to on at work, especially in the job I had before my current one. I seem to be off-putting in ways that I can't help. So, when I make critical suggestions, everyone in the room looks at me as if I have dog poo on my shoes. But eventually, someone else "comes up with" the same thing I suggested, and then it gets done.

I've learned to take private satisfaction in that.

Tim H. said...

I suspect "Apocalypse bunkers" might be an element of a salable story, something like "Far future archeologists excavate a failed bunker, cataloging the failures that turned it into a tomb".

Unknown said...

The Pharaohs were buried with replicas of everything that they might need in the next life - maybe the archeologists (or, from their perspective, xenoarcheologists, depending on planet of origin) of the future will wonder if the bunkers of our time were just tombs one-upping the lords of Egypt.

Pappenheimer

Unknown said...

I recall reading that one Pharaoh was NOT buried in his pyramid because of claustrophobia - he couldn't stand the thought of all those tons of stone blocks piled over his head.

Pappenheimer

P.S. There's quite a prepper presence in Eastern WA and I had a co-worker a few years back ask me, somewhat hopefully, if civilization would fall apart soon. I pointed out that we'd been in worse shape as a country on 7/3/1863 and recovered, and were quite a bit safer than 10/27/1962 on a global level. But, hey, keep hoping for Armageddon to justify your investment.

GMT -5 8032 said...

Lots of heat here. Not a lot of light. There are certain statements that are an automatic turn-off for me. Accusing the other side of treason is one of them.

Right now, the only video host I follow regularly is Alan Dershowitz. I look for people who are critical without being insulting. I see a tendency of assuming positive intent for people on your side and negative intent for people on the other. No, this is not "both sider-ism" though if you want to say that I look for ways to agree with people then I am guilty as charged. If we want society to get better we need people like Dr. Brin who are passionate advocates for their side; but you also need peacemakers like me.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

The… event. Ah euphemism for some calamity killing 99% of humanity, with the remainder expected to bow before lords who helped to make it all happen.


You have more first-hand experience with these folks, of course, but I don't get the vibe off of them that surviving humanity is expected to bow to them. I get the sense that, aside from the servants and soldiers required to maintain their retreats, they want the rest of surviving humanity to be out of sight and out of mind.

Spoiler alert for the climax of Atlas Shrugged below...

* * *

When John Galt flies triumphantly over New York City at just the moment the power goes out for good, he's not expecting the metropolitan citizens to shout "Save us!" Rather, he's leaving them to their own devices, "knowing" that they'll never survive without him. Meanwhile, he gets to go live in comfort in a hidden mountain community which just so happens to have a ready supply of oil, fertile farmland, and of course gold.

Larry Hart said...

GMT -5 8032:

There are certain statements that are an automatic turn-off for me. Accusing the other side of treason is one of them.


I'd agree only that gratuitously throwing the word "treason" around is harmful.

But what is one supposed to do when the evidence suggests actual treason? Not talk about it because doing so is impolite? How did calling out traitors as traitors become more of an indiscretion than the treason itself?

Unknown said...

One side: "This is a witch hunt!"

Other side: "We found actual witches..."

One side: "Nevertheless!"

Peacemakers are very important to keeping a society together. I should note, though, that in places like Germany and South Africa the crimes of the past were not swept under the rug. There had to be acknowledgement and atonement if possible. Currently, a good portion of the Republican party seems to be hellbent on sabotaging the US democratic process, claiming the 2020 federal election was a massive con and electing officials intent on overturning the next one. I don't really care if their intent is positive or negative, because it makes no functional difference. Around here there are blokes advocating forcible secession from Washington state to form a redoubt of Free (white) Men. This is not quite treason, but is sedition.

GMT-5, without heat and hoping for light, how would you recommend I discuss these issues with my fellow citizens?

Pappenheimer

P.S. I'll check back later in the week, as this was my last day of summer vacation. Ta, all.

locumranch said...

Actually, Alfred, I fully accept the fact that "The whole may be greater than the sum of the parts" or, as you argue, that 'one plus one' may equal something entirely different than 'two' ASSUMING some other undefined intrinsic factor, the problem with this 'positive sum' argument type being the total lack of curiosity about what this 'undefined intrinsic factor' may be.

It's like arguing with South Park's underwear gnomes whose 3-step plan involves (1) collecting underwear, (2) an important-but-unknown step and (3) getting rich, so much so that we may as well call this undefined step, intrinsic factor or positive sum component by its true name, MAGIC.

It gets even worse when someone starts talking about ENLIGHTENMENT EXCEPTIONALISM -- which, btw, our fine host does with maddening regularity -- while vaguely defining the term 'Enlightenment' as 'Not-Romanticism' and not offering any definition at all for the term 'Exceptionalism'.

What is this American Exceptionalism of which you speak?

Define your terms already, damn it !! Or, at the very least, make the small effort to differentiate this magical American Exceptionalism variant from the now extinct-but-equally-magical Confucian, Aztec, Roman and Soviet variants.

The dictionary defines EXCEPTIONALISM as (1) the condition of being exceptional or unique and (2) The THEORY or BELIEF that something, especially a nation, does not conform to a pattern or norm.

It's a BELIEF, that's what your vaunted 'exceptionalism' is !!

Exceptionalism is a belief in no way different than any other belief like Catechism or Terry Pratchett's Tooth Fairy UNLESS YOU CAN PROVE OTHERWISE.


Best
____

@DP: If your interest in prepping is genuine, then I recommend the MAKE-A-MIX COOKERY series (by HPBooks), a LDS staple, now out-of-print but available used for a few dollars online, as it will allow you to produce baked goods & casseroles cheaply and easily with very few ingredients.

@GMT-5: You're reacting to the prevalence of the progressive exceptionalism variant at this site, AKA the BELIEF that any change that does not conform to a previously established pattern or conservative norm is unique and therefore BETTER.

Larry Hart said...

locumranch:

the problem with this 'positive sum' argument type being the total lack of curiosity about what this 'undefined intrinsic factor' may be.


It ain't rocket science. I maintain that any time people trade with each other (unless one is being fooled), they each must expect to gain more than they lose. I don't give the local pizza parlor $10 for a slice unless that slice is worth more to me at the moment than the $10 bill is. Likewise, the place wouldn't sell me the slice for $10 unless the a stack of $10 bills was worth more to them than a kitchen full of cooling pizzas. If either of us was just breaking even, then why would we bother with the effort of trading?

The simplest example of positive sum--Person A has food but no water, and person B has water but no food. Separately, they both die. By bartering with each other, they both thrive. Nothing new was created or destroyed in the process of trading, but a whole lot of value was created.

GMT -5 8032 said...

Exceptionalism. Well, something exceptional happened. Look at the wide spread wealth created in the last 500 years and you have to agree that the word "exceptional" is appropriate. Sadly, it is a chore preventing oligarchs from sucking up all the wealth and leaving most everyone else destitute.

David Brin said...

BMT remember I am CONTRARY Brin. I flourish only in a society that protects my right to irritate everyone! Though yes, we are in an era when one ‘side’ is so staggeringly insane and treasonour that one must have a clear emphasis.

LH:
“I seem to be off-putting in ways that I can't help. So, when I make critical suggestions, everyone in the room looks at me as if I have dog poo on my shoes. But eventually, someone else "comes up with" the same thing I suggested, and then it gets done.”

Um, that summarizes my world, alas.

Nothing could possibly illustrate better the color-blind, obsessively masturbatory irrelevance of poor locum than the following Strawman, which is mind-bogglingly dumb. So much so that there is no part of it that can even be addressed. “It gets even worse when someone starts talking about ENLIGHTENMENT EXCEPTIONALISM -- which, btw, our fine host does with maddening regularity -- while vaguely defining the term 'Enlightenment' as 'Not-Romanticism' and not offering any definition at all for the term 'Exceptionalism'.

The saddest part, of course, is the absolute lack of curiosity about HOW his own incantations might be wrong. That, more than any specific, is what proves it all to be fantasy masturbation.


LDS cookbooks are maybe 50% How to utilize the stored stuff that is about to expire so you can make room for the new stuff to store.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Um, that summarizes my world, alas.


Several times in the past here, I've seen reference to three distinct personality types, all of which are necessary to have a successful revolution.

I might be slightly off, but I believe they were something like:

1) A charismatic leader who attracts and holds followers
2) A wonk who thinks of workable ideas
3) Someone who is proficient at selling the ideas to the followers

You're exceptional at 2), but require the others to do more than sing in the shower.

Strangely enough, you do 1) and 3) well enough as a fiction writer, but I suppose that's a very different audience. An audience of fiction only has to be sold on willfully suspending disbelief in order to participate in their own entertainment. A political audience has to be convinced that it's worthwhile to actually do things that require time, effort, and commitment.

David Brin said...

huh.

Alan Brooks said...

Let’s be thankful for small favors: though LoCum is a crank sociologist, he isn’t a quack physician. He appears to attempt to comprehend too much outside of his specialties at one time, as a med school student might cram the curriculum and drop out.
LoCum has great breadth—but not depth. Such is very common.

Cesar A. Santos said...

"Person A has food but no water, and person B has water but no food."

Person A will die first of thirst than person B. Just get his food after he's bought the farm.

Guess that is the mentality of oil tycoons.

duncan cairncross said...

LH and Dr Brin

I have found that the best way around that problem is to say

Hi Boss, remember that idea you had last week that I poo-hood ??
I have been thinking about it and I was wrong - it was a great idea!
(expound the "great idea")

Worked really well when I was in industry

I think a couple of my bosses realised what I was doing - but let it fly anyway

Larry Hart said...

Cesar A Santos:

"Person A has food but no water, and person B has water but no food."

Person A will die first of thirst than person B. Just get his food after he's bought the farm.


Jeez, work with me, willya? :)

Ok, there are only two people left on earth, one man and one woman. Individually, they will each die and take the human race with them. But if they...trade...with each other, then humanity survives.

Alfred Differ said...

locumranch,

Okay. Fair enough. "Assuming some other undefined intrinsic factor"
Let's ponder that a moment.

We don't really have to make an assumption about these factors if we can find indirect evidence of them. I don't have to see tree roots pulling water from the ground up to the leaves to realize they do it. Somehow. If I can note that water is getting up to the leaves and it hasn't rained in ages, I can deduce the tree has "some other undefined intrinsic factor" at work.

Larry informally described what is underway. In a formal sense, I'd call it the bid/ask spread. I'll get to that in a moment. First, though, is the indirect evidence that some undefined intrinsic factor is at work among us. It's one we missed for ages, but Enlightenment (era) thinkers began to ponder it.

———

In a zero-sum world, human population would grow to the environment's carrying capacity and oscillate around it due to weather variations, disease factors, and other things. What the carrying capacity is depends a lot on how we choose to live, but whatever it is… it is what it is.

At the end of the last glacial period, our estimates for how many human beings were alive is somewhere between 5 and 10 million of us. Exact numbers don't matter for my argument, so let's spitball it at 10 million.

Ten thousand years later, the Romans had an empire spanning the Med. Best estimates for world population at the time are around 250 million. Doesn't matter if it was only 200 million for the sake of my argument, though.

Obviously, something was going on across the entire world because the 'carrying capacity' changed. Equally obvious… lots of things changed. Ten millennia of change happened. Whatever it was that did this, though, wasn't a sudden, sharp change. Best population estimates suggest our population was doubling about ever 1,500 years. Roughly. Six doublings on a base of 10 million gives you 640 million people which was NOT true during the Roman era, but there were famines, plagues, and the Y-chromosome bottleneck between then and the glacial retreat.

Was it due to farming? Some of it… no doubt. The problem with assigning that explanation to all if it, though, is there were no farmers at the end of the last glacial era. We didn't have much experience with domesticated animals and plants. Dogs weren't enough. Agriculture took a while to learn and spread.

Alfred Differ said...

cont'd

There is one small thing we did through that whole period, though. All of us do it and rarely think of it. It's like breathing. We trade with each other. Your pigs for my sheep. My labor for your food. We invented money long ago to track all this trading, but money isn't necessary. We do it anyway.

How we trade is crucial. If I hand over $2 for a slice of pizza, am I getting $2 of pizza? Is the person who made it coming out ahead… or am I? Turns out we both are or the trade wouldn't happen. If the slice was actually worth $2 to me, I wouldn't care whether I made the trade or not. Economists call this Pareto Efficiency when it occurs on a large enough scale. I'm not better off with the pizza OR $2 at that point, so a trade implies an 'inefficient' allocation'. I'd prefer one thing over the other. It applies from both sides of the trade, though. The pizza baker won't trade if they don't care either.

It's a small thing that difference between my $2 and the pizza slice, but it is enough that I do it. It's a small difference between my $2 and the baker's pizza slice, but it is enough that they do it. It's very small and easily overlooked because we don't have a good way to measure it. In fact, people overlooked it for millennia. Surely we can assume it doesn't contribute anything significant.

Ah… but what if it did? What would it look like in the world if it did? Is there a proxy measure for this value? Turns out there is. If those little value improvements make my lot in life better, I'd become slightly wealthier each time. Very slightly wealthier. What that looks like to poor people (most of humanity through the ages) is food for children who would not otherwise survive. Stored wealth consumed by an occasional extra child who survives long enough to have children of their own. The population would grow. How fast? Well… depends on how tiny that value difference is and how often people trade.

If the tiny bid/ask spread could not be neglected, we'd expect the proxy measure of it to be larger in places where trade occurs more often. That means cities. That means empire hubs. That means trade routes. Is that was history shows? Damn right it does.

A little before the Enlightenment era began, though, the population doubling rate shot through the roof. Britain's (main island) carrying capacity before industrialization was around 4-5 million. By the mid-1830's there were 22 million of them. Not starving to death. (The Irish did next door a little later.) What could it be? Industrialization? Nope… that came later. Some "undefined intrinsic factor" changed, though. Something really f@#$ing big. Industrialization happened AFTER that change. What could it have been? Work through all the possibilities weeding out the ones that couldn't be big enough… or could have been done better by the Chinese who had a bigger empire than Europe did at the time… or would have added linearly to the wealth of commoners when population growth was obviously going geometric, and we are left with damn few candidates for that undefined intrinsic factor.

Some of us think we know what did it.
Some of us think we can see what shook the world and changed our doubling rate the the maximum possible for women for awhile.
Some of us have noticed that wealth for commoners grew FAR faster than women could have babies to consume it all.

But it doesn't really matter if you believe us as to the cause. If you can see the proxy measure for what it is, you can work through the process of elimination for possible causes yourself. New world colonies? Nah. The Chinese had colonies. Rome had colonies. Old trick that didn't radically change the population doubling rate until about the 17th century when… BOOM! Something happened.

scidata said...

Alfred Differ: BOOM

Lovely go-through of population growth clearly demonstrating positive sum (or at least disproving zero-sum). I've simply asserted this before, but never offered a formal argument.

Steven Johnson suggested the BOOM started with coffee shops and Lloyd's of London. I have thoughts on the Scottish Enlightenment, but then I'm biased :) Please continue.

Paradoctor said...

Leslie Fish on rich preppers:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O68DedIacWM
Hello, remember us?

Alfred Differ said...

scidata,

Best I've seen is it started with something weird that happened in the Dutch Republic. It spread to England when they tossed their last Stuart King and brought in... yah... the Dutch. Englishmen didn't do it exactly the same way, though. Unruly people. It spread to Scotland in short order where they were even less ruly. Before long, they had mostly robbed the Dutch of their commercial empire, but before that was essentially complete, the real incomes of average people jumped and populations did too.

There WAS a span of beautiful weather increasing crop yields in there too. No doubt communities would have grown a bit on bumper harvests. That was all gone by Napoleon's time, though, and the babies kept adding up.

Lots changed in those early decades. Much of it before industrialization. Much of it before advances in medicine. A great many of the things we want to say are responsible causes turn out to be better described as effects.

For example, Science used to be done largely by rich men deriving income from their lands... until they got outnumbered by all those children who did something. They weren't needed on the farms (not enough room or work) and they weren't going into politics (not from aristocratic families). So what did they do? Anything and everything. Some worked in mills. Some died sloppy deaths as alcoholics. Some invented things and tried to make it in the trades. Soooo many kids trying soooo many things. Only a few of them had to get things right to change the world.

DP said...

Someone at HBO needs to do a mini-series based on John Bruner's "The Sheep Look Up" the ur ecological collapse novel (not cli-fi, though it mentions hot weather through the winter it really didn't focus on global warming, which wasn't a thing yet in the 1970s). Give it the same treatment as HBO's superb "Years and Years".

The opening scene of the novel is a board meeting of an insurance company discussing the shocking news that life expectancy in America was actually falling (something inconceivable back in the 70s).

That's now happening in real time.

The last nation to experience a sustained decline in life expectancy was the Soviet Union - right before its collapse.

Covid-19 is not the cause.

Not old age either, life expectancies are falling in every age demographic.

But don't worry, the very rich are still doing well - hooray!

Compared to other industrial nations, whose life expectancy fell 0.3 years during the pandemic, American life expectancy fell 2.3 years.

Instead try obesity, alcoholism, fentanyl (now the leading cause of death for people between 18 and 45 - that used to be car accidents), opioids, suicide, etc.

We are a deeply sick society, physically and spiritually.

Because the only thing we care about is making money.

The only thing we value as a nation is maximizing ROI.

Profits matter more than people's lives and a burning planet.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5uv1LkQ6I8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwr9eQYOw1c

P.S. There was a 21% increase in people diagnosed with type 1 diabetes between 2001 and 2009 under the age of 20 - and nobody knows why.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/a-diabetes-cliffhanger/

Diabetes Mystery: Why Are Type 1 Cases Surging?
Researchers are baffled by the worldwide increase in type 1 diabetes, the less common form of the disease

For reasons that are completely mysterious, however, the incidence of type 1 diabetes has been increasing throughout the globe at rates that range from 3 to 5 percent a year. Although the second trend is less well publicized, it is still deeply troubling, because this form of the illness has the potential to disable or kill people so much earlier in their lives. No one knows exactly why type 1 diabetes is rising. Solving that mystery—and, if possible, reducing or reversing the trend—has become an urgent problem for public health researchers everywhere. So far they feel they have only one solid clue. “Increases such as the ones that have been reported cannot be explained by a change in genes in such a short period,” says Giu­seppina Imperatore, who leads a team of epidemiologists in the Division of Diabetes Translation at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “So environmental factors are probably major players in this increase.”

(The UK is looking at economic collapse this winter. The US economy, for now, may be stronger but deep down inside we are much sicker than the UK.)

scidata said...

Alfred Differ: Soooo many kids trying soooo many things. Only a few of them had to get things right to change the world.

A few of the citizen science aficionados I know have precisely that mindset. I'm mainly a category 2 (wonk) on the Larry Hart scale, but they're much more.

Larry Hart said...

It's not just me...

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2022/Senate/Maps/Sep07.html#item-5

Forgive us for saying so, but it sure seems like Republicans want to decide elections by just about every set of rules possible, except for the ones that are actually in effect. Maybe this is a crazy idea, but what about winning on your merits, as opposed to trying to do end runs around the system with voter ID laws, lawsuits, and demands that your opponents drop out and immediately prostrate themselves as they participate in your coronation? Guess we are just old fashioned.

David Brin said...

An exaggeration... someone will buy it. Still: "World's Largest Cruise Ship to Be Scrapped Before First Voyage
It may have cost around $1.4 billion to built, but the Global Dream II is destined to be trash."

https://jalopnik.com/worlds-largest-cruise-ship-to-be-scrapped-before-first-1849501828

There is a win-win (sorta) to moor it in a nice place as a destination rather than a fuel hog transporter of fat humans. In SF I have posited that cruise ships are ideal habitats for visiting aliens(!) since they are maybe halfway to being sealable enclosed systems on Earth.

Criminy! I just thought of it. Thiel should buy it and set it up for seasteading!

David Brin said...

"In a zero-sum world, human population would grow to the environment's carrying capacity and oscillate around it due to weather variations, disease factors, and other things."...

...While that carrying capacity steadily declines due to shortsighted degradation. In fact, #2 or #3 on my list of "Fermi" theories for absence of aliens is that most become world wreckers, with neolithic arts like goat herding and irrigation, long before they rise to science to see what they were doing. Our mere 12,000 years may have been genius level speed and maybe even give us a viable planet and then galaxy.

---

DP - Jeez man. Breathe? Criticism is the Only Known Antidote to Error.... but acting on it requires both twins, competition and cooperation. And relentless sourpuss gloom gets neither.

I agree with every argument for urgency! But without an optimistic, can-do spirit, all your list argues for is nihilism.

Alfred Differ said...

World wrecking should be right up there with 'biome optimizing'. Wrecking is just one way of altering our environment such that we limit ourselves. Removing threats that drive adaptation towards more intelligence or higher tech capabilities would stifle us too. I'd put optimization slightly above wrecking on the most likely culprits list, but both have to be up there near the top.

"Early" Man with a stone hand axe was pretty damn good at dominating the landscape. They didn't need tool improvements for a LONG time. (Long for a primate species anyway.)

I'm not sure the carrying capacity would drop steadily with time, but unforeseen consequences could easily produce a step change. That's what I think happened with us except the step was upward. It would be a race between biome degradation and tech improvements where curiosity and the freedom to be wrong without dying from it would be HUGE advantages on the plus side.

Solution space can be searched faster when we are more forgiving of failure than Mother Nature.

So... yes... that's why I have to agree with the necessity of ensuring all kids get a fair start in life. Ignoring the moral implications for a moment, it's simply the smart thing to do if one wants their culture to live longer.

David Brin said...

Brad DeLong’s new book is called Slouching Towards Utopia, though, not Achieving Utopia. It covers the period from 1870 to 2010 when nearly all human progress — for well and ill — took place. Everything before that could be likened to humanity grudgingly and haltingly taking its foot off the brakes… monstrous mistakes like feudalism, that stymied almost every cooperative or competitive innovation, aside from warfare.

After 1870 (DeLong asserts with evidence) it became more like slamming on the gas. Spectacular acceleration… though the steering, through massive veers and devastating wars, seemed more like the gyrating tugs of a terrified drunkard. The unprecedentedly fast change brought with it profound political instability and conflict. Though, as DeLong notes and I have, elsewhere, there are reasons (despite the news) to see glimmers of utopia ahead… once we get past a few cliffs…

Interesting interview. https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2022/9/7/23332699/economic-growth-brad-delong-slouching-utopia

Oh, the title is a take off on W.B. Yeats’s poem The Second Coming.
“And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,. Slouches towards B

David Brin said...

Oops The whole line from Yeats

“And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,. Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"

David Brin said...

Alfred stone spears did not change carrying capacity. Setting fire to prairies to drive herds over cliffs likely did. As did using those spears to protect goat herds that over-grazed. As did primitive irrigation turning the Fertile Crescent into a desert.

locumranch said...

Gawd.

I ask a question about Enlightenment-type Exceptionalism, specifically as to how this particular exceptionalism exempts its adherents from the Human Condition & the Eternal Human Verities, and all I get is a preschool level explanation about mutualism and the well-known positive sum benefits of trade & barter which predate Enlightenment Exceptionalism by >>> 5000 years.

Unfortunately, most of this b.s. has absolutely NOTHING TO DO with either a definition or defense of exceptionalism, and so I repeat myself.

EXCEPTIONALISM is (1) the condition of being exceptional or unique and (2) The theory or BELIEF that something, especially a nation, does not conform to a pattern or norm.

In other words, Exceptionalism equals Aberrancy, Abnormality & Deviance.

So, I ask again.

Q: Where are all of these mutant X-Men superpowers that all these enlightenment EXCEPTIONS claim to possess, specifically the ones that exempt them from the mistakes & errors related to the human condition?

A: They don't exist as all these frauds, despite their credentials & belief systems, are in no way exceptional, being just as flawed & fallible as every other human being throughout history,


Best

GMT -5 8032 said...

@David Brin: "BMT remember I am CONTRARY Brin. I flourish only in a society that protects my right to irritate everyone! Though yes, we are in an era when one ‘side’ is so staggeringly insane and treason our that one must have a clear emphasis."

As I wrote, you are needed. Whenever I get bothered by something you write, I remember a recording of an interview you did. The tone of your voice added a lot of content to the words you were saying. It added a necessary amount of humor and reflection.

A long time ago I was part of an online forum in Columbus, Ohio called Columbus Underground. Comments on the forum were quite active and sometimes there was a lot of conflict. I used to get into regular arguments with a person who used the handle "Cookie."

One feature of Columbus Underground was in-person meetups where we would gather for pizza and adult beverages. I was at one and a woman came up to me and identified herself as "Cookie." She worried that I was taking offense when I should not have been. We had a long, wonderful talk. From that point on, our online interactions were much more pleasant. It was rather funny when one of the other people noticed that Cookie and I were no longer flaming each other and wondered what happened.

A problem with online communities is that we never have the opportunity to actually meet each other. Most of us are less likely to be nasty to a person online if we have an important, real life connection with them.

Don Gisselbeck said...

A semi-crackpot theory, the Islamic world did not land on the moon in the 1800s because of fundamentalism. This is based on the history of people like Averroes who were hundreds of years ahead contemporary European scholars but lost their influence because of more strict interpretations of Islic texts.

Alan Brooks said...

“What is exceptionalism?”

This is a broad question! It would take a series of books to explain albeit one brief answer can be provided in a comment, plus an anecdote or two.
One reason for American exceptionalism is a twin reason: the Atlantic & Pacific protected America from the number/severity of the wars that Europe experienced during the last 250 yrs.
An anecdote: when I was in Europe, sensed the guilt so many harbored regarding Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, numerous others; plus harking back to the wars of Ancient Greece, Rome (and further back in time, naturally.)
Scandinavians are an exception today. They used to be Vikings, now they are civilized, but they’re c. three percent of the European population... close-on half live in Sweden. As you know, Britons have had the Channel to protect them.
At any rate, I much prefer the exceptionalism of the US; for starters, the wars in America were practically battles next to Europe’s conflicts.
Am not against you, LoCum—you are an Exceptional blogger, yet you write as if you are a retired country doctor who doesn’t wish to know excessively much of the world outside your substrate.
What we could perhaps do someday is write a 1st volume on exceptionalism, sending you a copy. The Enlightenment might be a later tome.

Paradoctor said...

Larry Hart:
<<
"Reality is that which, when you stop believing it, doesn't go away."

In fairness, moral authority is not like a law of physics or mathematics. It's a compact between people belonging to a society. People are better off living by the compact than they would be in perpetual war with each other, but the compact is something people agree to, not something that exists apart from their agreement.
>>

There are non-negotiated laws of human action. For instance, Acton's Axiom, that power corrupts. That one didn't need to be legislated. Ditto with the Peter Principle, Murphy's Law, Parkinson's Law, and the SNAFU principle. ("Communication cannot cross a power gap.") These are not prescriptions; they are descriptions and predictions. I would count them as Seldonian. It would immensely please me to read a story in which some of Seldon's psychohistory is revealed as these laws.

I propose, as replacements for the prescriptivist Georgia Lawstones, exploded by persons unknown, these as worthy lapidary inscriptions:

Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
Work expands to fill the time allotted.
Employees rise to their level of incompetence.
Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Communication cannot cross a power gap.
Nature sides with the hidden flaw.
There is no free lunch.
Bad money drives out good.
Everything takes longer and costs more.


That is a decalogue worthy of our age to give to the future!

Paradoctor said...

Whoops, that's only nine. Okay, what for the tenth? Any nominees?

David Brin said...

GMT... such wisdom! Post of the day.

What's SO weird about locum is not his blindness to even realizing the dimensions he cannot see... nor the utter hypocrisy of shrugging off his cult's betrayal of Smithian competition.

No, it is the amazing way he keeps hurling at us accusations of being bad in ways that no one would consider bad except by our modern standards.

DP said...

Dr. Brin, with al due respect I have spent most of my life doing environmental clean ups (hazwaste sites, nuclear sites, surface mines, acidic mine spoils, landfills, etc.) throughout Appalachia (from Arkansas to central PA). I've seen with my own eyes what "deaths of despair" (overdoses, alcoholism, meth, OxyContin and other pain killers). Once prosperous little towns boarded up, emptied and impoverished.

And the Sackler family got relative slap on the wrist as punishment for pushing oxy. Being fined for killing 100,000s of Americans is nothing to them, just a cost of doing business. Even after all those fines they are richer than the Rockefellers.

I've seen companies get away with worker safety and environmental violations because of political connections while performing perfectly legal acts like devastating entire river valleys with mountaintop removal mining operations. I've read the studies that show cancer clusters downgradient from old mines and waste dumps. I know what the people of Flint, MI and Jackson, MS are going through because it occurs at smaller scale all over Appalachia.

All to squeeze out a few more dollars of profit.

No sir, I will not breathe.

DP said...

And if you care to escape you white collar professional bubble for a while and look at the reality of America I would suggest you start with the "Big White Ghetto"

https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/11/the-white-ghetto/

It works like this: Once a month, the debit card accounts of those receiving what we still call “food stamps” are credited with a few hundred dollars — about $500 for a family of four, on average — which are immediately converted into a unit of exchange, in this case cases of soda. On the day the accounts are credited, local establishments accepting EBT cards — and all across the Big White Ghetto, “We Accept Food Stamps” is the new E pluribus unum — are swamped with locals using their public benefits to buy cases and cases of soda; reports put the number at 30 to 40 cases for some buyers. Those cases of soda then either go on to another retailer, who buys them at 50 cents on the dollar, in effect laundering those $500 in monthly benefits into $250 in cash — a considerably worse rate than your typical organized-crime money launderer offers — or else they go into the local black-market economy, where they can be used as currency in such ventures as the dealing of unauthorized prescription painkillers — by “pillbillies,” as they are known at the sympathetic establishments in Florida that do so much business with Kentucky and West Virginia that the relevant interstate bus service is nicknamed the “OxyContin Express.” A woman who is intimately familiar with the local drug economy suggests that the exchange rate between sexual favors and cases of pop — some dealers will accept either — is about 1:1, meaning that the value of a woman in the local prescription-drug economy is about $12.99 at Walmart prices.

DP said...

I also recommend Vice News' great series "While the rest of Us Die".

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=vice+news+while+the+rest+of+us+die

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clFlSRxErSY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQin210ZBAQ

Tim H. said...

It looks like the world may have a chance to see what happens when "Conservatives" become self-referential, abandon common sense and sever ties with morality:

https://eand.co/this-winter-collapse-is-coming-to-britain-72ace84ab0b4

Unfortunately, we can't honestly say it can't happen here, The United States is big enough to take longer to die.

Larry Hart said...

@Tim H,

That article you posted about societal collapse in Britain juxtaposes eerily with the just-breaking news about the queen's ill health.

Tim H. said...

Yes, it will be a mercy if the Queen is spared the ordeal of the next years.

Larry Hart said...

From Tim H's article:

Let me make that really, really concrete. By next spring, March, it’s eminently possible that Brits won’t have any of the following things, or at least a lot less and fewer of them, to a degree that’s almost undreamt of in a modern society. Pubs. Care homes. Healthcare. Ambulances, doctors, nurses. Businesses and the jobs with come with them. Infrastructure, like heat. Affordable food and water. The tax base to maintain it all with, as people plunge into dire poverty.


So conservatives don't really believe in a God-given right not to have things change? Who'd have thought?

GMT -5 8032 said...

Queen Elizabeth II of England has died. Rest in peace. I am willing to bet 500 quatloos that Charles will reign as King George VII.

Larry Hart said...

GMT -5 8032:

Queen Elizabeth II of England had died.


Just like my grandmother, she held it together until age 96. I'm not a fan of the concept of monarchy, but she seemed to be a decent one.

It's going to be weird for Brits my age and younger (and even a few years older) who have never known another head of state in their lifetime.

Peter said...

In uplifting news: In Minneapolis Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction bookstore has just re-opened. Just 2 miles from its original location. I will soon visit and get some books for my teenager son. I'll see if they have our host's new young adult science fiction books. (^_^)

GMT -5 8032 said...

I lose 500 quatloos. News reports indicate that Charles will reign as Charles III.

matthew said...

Arthur II was right there! Why Charles III when he could have had Arthur II?

GMT -5 8032 said...

Don't know if he would have been Arthur II; I don't know if they count the names of any monarchs prior to the House of Normandy and William I when adding numbers. There were plenty of Edwards before William I, but Edward I was several generations later.

Jon S. said...

Don't know if he would have been Arthur II; I don't know if they count the names of any monarchs prior to the House of Normandy and William I when adding numbers. There were plenty of Edwards before William I, but Edward I was several generations later.

So you're saying he could have gone with King Arthur. And he settled for Charles III. Pity.

matthew said...

I honestly thought that the Royals had given up on the Charles name after the first two. If I was Liz Truss I'd be worried by the new developments.

Alfred Differ said...

The first few George's would have dissuaded them from the later ones had they been so inclined.

GMT -5 8032 said...

Henry VIII was the second oldest child of Henry VII. Henry VIII's older brother was named Arthur and according to a few histories, there was a hope that he would go to the throne as King Arthur in an attempt to add to the legitimacy of the Tudor dynasty. The Tudors had a very tenuous claim on the throne...I think that Owen Tudor, grandfather to Henry VII, was a commoner who married the dowager Queen Catherine of Valois (wife of Henry V). That marriage was a bit of a scandal. If you want to read a fun history of the Plantagenets, read Thomas Costain's five volume series: The Pageant of England.

Alfred Differ said...

locumranch,

You are shifting the goalposts a bit, but I'll play along this once.

That preschool explanation was deliberately about ensuring you followed my argument for the existence of evidence demonstrating that something exceptional happened. In a nutshell, population doubling went from 1500 years (on average) to so f@#$ing fast in places and nations that were part of "The West" (or became so) that arguing against something exceptional would be a denial of the obvious.

What has been figured out recently (last generation or so) is that a commoner's real income (measured against a basket of necessities) blew up right around the same time. In the Dutch Republic while they were at war with the Habsburgs, real incomes doubled or tripled depending on how close to Amsterdam you were. WHILE AT WAR with a European Great Power, the Dutch suddenly started getting really rich. Not just a few Dutch traders. Average real income doubled or tripled.

When the English threw out their last Stuart King and went Dutch (House of Orange), their commoners began to see their real incomes increase. In short order they were double or triple what they used to be. It obviously wasn't about adopting a Dutch nobleman as King because real incomes for the average man increased. Something had spread from Amsterdam to London and then went inland and north to Scotland… were they saw average real incomes jump.

When real incomes jumped, so did the rate at which babies survived. No shock there. Well fed babies surviving isn't exception. Huge numbers of them surviving without a "wonderful weather we are having here" explanation is.


Get over your hunt for mutant superpowers. There aren't any. What happened is exceptional at the level of a civilization and merely odd at the level of individuals. The Dutch tripped into something that made them all filthy rich while the Great Power fighting them went bankrupt. Repeatedly bankrupt.

Do you see the evidence that something exceptional is underway?

Lorraine said...

Okay, what for the tenth? Any nominees?

Dunning-Krueger, Imposter Syndrome, and how each finds its way to exactly where the other is needed.

scidata said...

I'm of Stuart descent. The punch line of every family joke I heard as a kid was "King Charles III".

locumranch said...

Preceded in death by British Exceptionalism, Queen Elizabeth II passed away today in an unexceptional manner, after wielding imaginary authority over an imaginary empire for more than 70 years.

Her role was largely ceremonial:

It is said that she ruled by both divine right (although in no way divine) and popular mandate (although never elected), but mostly she ruled others because others believed that she should rule.

She was thought exceptional because others thought her exceptional and she was given authority because others chose to give her authority [Circular logic in both instances].

It therefore follows that her Authority (like all authority) is all about BELIEF, as there is nothing 'real' or 'scientific' about it, which is also why it can quickly lapse and go poof, just like exceptionalism.


Best
____

@Alfred:

Income, wealth & money are proxy markers for tangible goods, insomuch as more tangible goods equal more income, wealth & money, and vice versa. This is hardly 'exceptional' in the sense of "not conforming to a pattern or norm", this NORMAL relationship between tangible goods & their proxies.

I suspect that you're using the alternative definition of 'exceptional' in the sense of "unusually good; outstanding". If this is the case, then I agree with your assessment that more wealth is GOOD, as opposed to less wealth (poverty) which is BAD.

Perhaps it is this very conflation of Exceptional (defined as unique; different; special) with Exceptional (defined as unusually good; outstanding) which has led to the proliferation of progressive morons who have redefined aberrancy, abnormality & deviancy in terms of being unusually GOOD.

OMG, this explains everything about our inverted Clown World!! (1) Abnormality is now GOOD, (2) deviants are the 'new normal', (3) Up is now down and (4) the old normal is now BAD.

All this insanity makes sense now, once I assume that the new phrase 'stunning & brave' really means 'freakish & abnormal' in the old usage. Thanks much.

David Brin said...

"Exceptionalism' and arrogance are only sins according to new moral standards of an Enlightenment civilization that strives for inclusion and widespread opportunity, in order to maximize opportunities for flat-fair-open competition and cooperation and an end to talent wastage. Yes, that is an 'exception' to dreary-stoopid feudal/theocratic rule in which claims to be 'exceptional' were standard among ruling castes.

I'd call attention to the irony and hyposcrisy of attacking that civilization by its standards of rising opportunity and flat-fair-competitive inclusion, which it imperfectly fulfills... only orders of magnitude better than all others....

...except that would be hopeless. Poor locum and his fellow cultists could not parse the sentences above if they had a year.

Don Gisselbeck said...

The death of Queen Elizabeth provides a good reason to listen to the best funeral music ever written. (Suspension of disbelief is critical.)
https://youtu.be/AYELAu9hqdU

Alan Brooks said...

LoCum, if Elizabeth wielded imaginary power over an imaginary empire, then why did you bring up her case?
If she was insignificant, shouldn’t you ignore her?

Paradoctor said...

Lorraine:
The Dunning-Kruger Effect as a lapidary inscription on the Murphy Guidestones? I want a modern folk saying that's snappy, sardonic, and instantly recognizable. "The incompetent are incompetent at knowing their own incompetence"? Hmmm...

Unknown said...

One of Peter David's funnier novels had the Once and Future King returning and deciding to run for Mayor of New York, partly because the current English monarch was unlikely to vacate the throne just on some dude's say-so. And no convenient swords to pull out of stones.

Alfred - you mentioned average income increasing. Can you point to any statistics on median income? Average income isn't helpful if it's 6 paupers and the Duke of Buckingham in a room.

Pappenheimer

P.S. The deal with modern European monarchs is that they get their Pomp & C. as long as they don't try to rule. (Caveat - her representatives have intervened in Australia and, I believe, Canada during periods of "colonial" government deadlock.) If you want a view of the monarchy without all the soft focus, Charles Stross has a post on his blog. He's a republican in the best sense of the word.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Guys
The latest news is that the Queen has died -
A monarchy (constitutional monarchy) appears to be the most free and successful model these days
Lots of advantages
There is one LARGE advantage that NZ did not get as the Queen lived in Britain
In the UK the "person with the power" - the PM had to defer to the Queen and once a week he/she had to discuss his/her plans with "their superior"
THAT - IMHO has got to be good for keeping their egos under control !!

We did NOT get that benefit

Having a "Monarch" actually living in NZ and providing that function would be a good idea

We do have a "Potential Monarch" - somebody who could "do the job for us"

The Maori King

Making him our Constitutional Monarch - with the same powers as the Queen had would have LOTS of advantages - and as far as I can see NO disadvantages

What do you think??

Regards
Duncan

Tony Fisk said...

All British ex-PMs have been unanimous in saying their weekly meetings with the Authority were a good deal more than tea and tiffin.
Liz did her homework, and was not shy of asking some pointed questions about matters.
We'll see how Charles goes.

Dunning-Kruger is framed by 'A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.'

DP said...

James Bond has a problem.

He's always been "On HER Majesty's Secret Service"

"On HIS majesty's Secret Service" just doesn't sound right.

Either way, Miss Moneypenny will have to order all new stationary.

Larry Hart said...

DP:

"On HIS majesty's Secret Service" just doesn't sound right.


I don't suppose "On THEIR majesty's Secret Service" will ever catch on.

David Brin said...

zseen online: "Ihear thsy plan to make a MAN Queen! This woke stuff has gone too far!"

David Brin said...

" I'm not a fan of the concept of monarchy, but she seemed to be a decent one."

The decisions I saw... re Diana and making Thatcher a hereditary Baron etc. unimpressed me. Her wealth did not seem to flow in beneficent directions. The Queen of Netherlands abdicated for her son obliquely saying it was no mother's duty to shame her son by clinging to such things.

"The deal with modern European monarchs is that they get their Pomp & C. as long as they don't try to rule. "

While our aunts kvell over the upcoming pomp (and my condolences), let's note in passing that Scandinavian monarchs do their 'constitutional stability" thing and "symbol of the nation" without gathering $trillions. Most of them also have part-time careers in the professions.

In fact, the thing I liked best about Andrew, William and Harry is their gigs as helicopter search and rescue and/or combat pilots. Even if there was a Potemkin aspect, that is worth a nod.

See my highly pertinent (and not exactly anti-monarchy) utopian short story "The Fourth Vocation of George Gustaf."

http://www.davidbrin.com/riveroftime.html

reason said...

DP - the first book came out in 1953. She ascended to the Throne in 1952.

Alan Brooks said...

Charles may decide to take up the cause of Ukrainian humanitarian issues. It’ll be a cause continuing for a long time.

locumranch said...

"Exceptionalism' and arrogance are only sins according to new moral standards of an Enlightenment civilization that strives for inclusion and widespread opportunity, in order to maximize opportunities for flat-fair-open competition and cooperation and an end to talent wastage.

That's the textbook definition for hypocrisy right there:

The refusal to judge oneself by one's own professed moral standards, as in the case of an enlightenment civilization which (1) declares itself exceptional (unique) while preaching equality, (2) self-identifies as unusually good (exceptional) while condemning arrogance, (3) champions inclusion by marginalizing those they deem deplorable and (4) attempts to cultivate & conserve talent by excluding all who oppose them.

It is a matter of definition that I am not guilty of hypocrisy, although I fail to live up to someone else's moral standard, because this moral code is not the one by which I live.

Again, I assert that most justifications for power & authority are imaginary, the sole exception being that of physical force, but only a fool ignores the fanatic with his illogical motivations & imaginary fancies, as most atrocities are committed by those who believe in ideals, king, god & country.

Just as the Royals once justified their rule by Divine Right, today's nerds make the similar claim that their Right to Rule comes from mostly being right, if only slightly more often than those they claim authority over.

Either way, imaginary justifications for authority never last:

Leadership is a fool's quest when only a single 'S' separates the headman from the headsman, especially if a head & body are easily separated when a body feels misled.


Best

Alfred Differ said...

locumranch,

My use of 'exceptional' is somewhere between the distinctions you make. The vast enrichment of the common man is both unique and good, but if someone wants to debate whether it's good I'm willing. The existence of the enrichment trend isn't realistically debatable without descent into Flat Earth territory… and I don't think you would want to do that.

The proxy I'm pointing to, though, is child survival. That wealth shows up as goods is actually a recent thing. Through most of human history it showed up as surviving children who consumed any surplus their parents generated. That's what carrying capacity is really all about when wealth growth is very slow. When the population was doubling about ever 1500 years (roughly), surpluses generated by parents was tiny. That's no longer true making whatever caused this exceptional in the unique sense.

Surviving babies is generally considered 'good', right? So both definitions apply.

If you see the proxy, you should be able to see that something exceptional happened. Something unique to human history happened with this civilization and NO OTHER. See it?

Alfred Differ said...

Pappenheimer,

I get your point about averages. When Bill Gates walks into a seedy bar, the average wealth in the room makes for multi-millionaires.


The data on which I rely is present in pseudo-summary form in Deirdre McCloskey's giant tomes describing the bourgeois economy. She wrote a ton of reference pointers, but I honestly haven't followed more than a fraction of them.

The thing with her argument (much better worded than mine) is that you can subtract the top 1%-10% and still see the same effect. The size of the real income growth changes a bit, but not much because it currently involves billions of human beings. In other words, if the seedy bar into which Bill Gates walked was big enough for all of us, he would be a statistical blip.

———

Her argument requires that we make an effort to attach a monetary value to things rarely monetized. Got kids? You prepare and serve food to them? I doubt they pay you for that, but if you had someone else doing it you'd have to pay. Right? If you try to work out everything you do for which you might get paid and roughly what it might cost (economist's wet dream), your daily real income is a sum across all that. Only some of that shows up as salary, royalties, dividends, or capital gains on investments. Only some of that is actually monetized.

Imagine you could do it, though. Stick to the simplest version of the problem for now and imagine doing it for a subsistence farmer. It doesn't matter if you denominate it in pigs, wheat, or silver. Just denominate it in something. For the sake of spitballing, I'll represent an average subsistence farmer's daily income as three US silver dollars. Why subsistence farmer? Because most humans for the last several thousand years have been peasants and we have pretty good documentation on the kinds of lives they lived. The sources of their 'income' are fairly well known.

In empire hubs, that subsistence farmer often made closer to four of those coins than three. Maybe even five. Near empire provincial capitals, they made a bit more than three. Maybe four. Exact numbers aren't critical because the point is that empires where generally good for subsistence peasants if they weren't near the perimeter. Britons near Londinium had an interest in preserving Rome's local power.

Outside empires averages were closer to three. If the weather hit a bad stretch incomes dropped closer to two. Famine and plague might reduce it to one. At about two, a subsistence farmer gets by if there are no shocks, but they are slowly eating at their reserves which are usually stored in the value of what property they own or use. Their homes might not be as clean or weatherproof if they can't bring in enough to store their surpluses as maintenance efforts. At about 1.5 the kids start dying of malnutrition. Youngest first.

Alfred Differ said...

Pappenheimer (cont'd),

The exceptional thing that happened in the Dutch Republic while they fought the Spanish Hapsburgs is the average jumped to about six. Near Amsterdam it was closer to nine. While they were at war facing an existential threat. They'd seen what happened to Antwerp a little earlier and knew all to well what could happen to them. Somehow, though, this wasn't a shock that destroyed the incomes of average farmers. The reverse happened and average incomes grew.

For the Dutch, we have a decent way to document this growth and it is one Locumranch described. Farm houses had stuff in them that indicated growing wealth not being eaten by new children. Some of that surplus even got used to drain land and push back the North Sea. A lot of it showed up in their commercial fleet, but that's because it wasn't just the local farmers who were getting richer. Everyone was. (The folks at the top of the heap were becoming immensely richer, but they weren't moving the average the way commoners were.)

After the contagion spread to England and then Scotland and adapted into a new variant… well… the Industrial Revolution occurred shortly afterward and by about 1830 there were a billion humans in the world.

———

What McCloskey points out is that average real income grew in multiples. Growth wasn't through addition. It's best thought of as multiples of a subsistence farmer's real income. Start with those three coins and realize a Dutch farmer was making 2X during a war with a Great Power. Near Dutch commercial hubs, the average commoner was making 3X. When the English went Dutch, their farmers began to see 2-3x improvements.

Now… imagine your salary doubling or tripling. That's a huge f@#$ing deal, right? One question to ask of modernity is what that factor actually is for the average person alive today. Ignore the rich billionaires for a moment and ponder how many factors of improvement the average person sees today above subsistence farming levels typical of a few thousand years ago? McCloskey provides that number in her books and backs up the argument for it.

It's staggering.

DP said...

Meanwhile, back in Ukraine....

The Russian army appears to be collapsing. The UA has blown a hole in the Russian front lines and advanced 70 km, retaking 1,000 square km in 5 days, surrounding Izyum. Russians appear to be abandoning rear area garrisons and retreating from the front lines.

Yes there is the fog of war and Ukraine also indulges in propaganda, but these moves have been documented and even corroborated by Russian sources. The whole thing looks like it is beginning to crack and crumble.

Putin isn't Hitler, he's Mussolini. Hopefully he'll meet the same end on a lamppost in St. Petersburg.

Dirtnapninja said...

@ DP Yeah...when this offensive ends like the ardennes offensive because the Russians have superior mobility, logistics and firepower, we'll see what folly it was.

Ukraine is launching a meme offensive against a soft sector after getting hammered badly in Kherson. The point of this is not to hold the territory, because they cant. Ukraine does not have the resources. Its to look good for western politicians to justify sending more money down a moneyhole. In a week or so when the momentum shifts, and these spearheads are smashed with artilley and cut off by armour, Ukraine will be worse off then it was when they started.

Ukraine should have negotiated a peace in the first few weeks. But the people driving this war want to hurt Russia, even if it destroys Ukraine in the process, and this plan is a perfect example of that.

Alan Brooks said...

Place Putin in a cell where his own speeches are played over a loudspeaker 24/7.

DP said...

A two-star Russian general commanding forces in the Kharkiv region seems to have been captured by the Ukrainians.

https://www.newsweek.com/russia-ukraine-sychevoi-capture-commander-1741356

GMT -5 8032 said...

I absolutely LOVE this story about the late Queen Elizabeth II:

A favorite story about the queen’s wicked sense of humor involves the time she happened upon an American tourist hiking near her Balmoral estate in the Scottish highlands. He clearly didn’t recognize her, asking: Had she ever met the queen? “I haven’t,” the queen responded. Then she pointed at her protection officer, Richard Griffin, and said he “meets her regularly.”

The hiker asked Griffin what the queen was like — “Oh, she can be very cantankerous at times, but she’s got a lovely sense of humor,” he replied — and then asked for a photo with the bodyguard, handing the queen a camera. (She happily obliged.)

What a hoot. Lucky for the hikers, Griffin then took a photo of them with the queen. After the hikers left, she said that she wished she could be a fly on the wall when the hikers were back in America and showed those photos to their friends...and hopefully someone would recognize her.


https://twitter.com/davidmackau/status/1567894552744271872

locumranch said...

I like your argument, Alfred, that something exceptional & magical happened when the Dutch fought the Spanish Hapsburgs in the Eighty Year War (circa 1566 to 1648) that led to a doubling of farmer wealth as evidenced by either monetary & child survival proxies.

Unfortunately, you fail to take into account the proxy problem, most specifically that the proxies may not represent what you think they represent, as a doubling of monies could reflect something as trivial a change in monetary value & an increase in child survival is a mere matter of comparison.

Let me offer you an entirely different narrative in regard to the Dutch Miracle, which coincides with something much less miraculous:

It's called the Renaissance, circa 1400 to 1600, a name which literally indicates 'The Rebirth' that occurred immediately after 'The Black Death' killed off almost 50% of the total population of England & Europe, which HALVED the relevant population & effectively DOUBLED resource availability for the plague survivors.

You claim 'child survival' doubled during the Late Renaissance (Eighty Year War) as compared to what?

As compared to the Black Death & its 50% mortality rate which STOPPED shortly thereafter, leading to a DOUBLING of survival during the Renaissance !!!

At least there's no need for MAGIC in my scenario.


Best

Alfred Differ said...

There is no magic in the Dutch scenario I describe either. Plague and famine still occurred through Europe during that century, but on a smaller scale than The Black Death. I'll assume you know medical history better than I do, though. I know enough to know that a lack of a massive outbreak doesn't mean the little ones weren't still occuring.

Economic recovery after The Black Death is one of those oscillations around the carrying capacity of the region. Real incomes dropped as people did and then recovered as survivors woke into a world with a labor shortage. Within a century, though, average real incomes were back down to usual peasant subsistence levels.

The unique thing about the Dutch experience is they had no labor shortage to start it and the doubling/tripling didn't go away. In fact, as England and Scotland caught the contagion, average real income went up. The early 18th century saw population growth from a non-plague base. Britain's carrying capacity was exceeded in the 18th century and no one really seemed to notice until the 19th.

The 'contagion' spread back onto the European continent and up the Ruhr valley. Where it went, average real incomes doubled and tripled. Where it went, the bourgeoisie clade grew in size at the expense of the peasant clade. Some of those extra surviving children began moving to the cities. Their wages were piss poor by our modern standards, but relevant to subsistence farming peasants they weren't half bad.

Ideas for what the 'contagion' was are numerous, but I've only ever seen one that doesn't fall easily to counter-arguments or evidence. The counter-arguments are easily categorized.

1. There were civilizations and even republics before the Dutch. Why didn't {Idea X} happen with them earlier?

2. {Idea Y} made the elite richer, but isn't enough to account for the peasantry seeing higher real incomes.

3. {Idea Z} started happening after real incomes began to multiply making it more of an effect than a cause. It might still work as a multiplier for later real income multiples, but not the initial ones.


The point being that among the Dutch, their real income growth didn't follow the usual curve seen in other empires. Instead of a bell experience for peasant farmers, it was closer to an S (saturation) curve. Something changed. Something caused a "phase change" in the way we lived.

None of this is magic. No mutant superpowers. The Dutch did something that the English and Scots could copy and adapt. It worked well enough that it got copied on continental Europe as well and then massive political disruptions eventually culminating in broad rebellions around 1848-9.

That contagion was brought to North America by pretty much all European immigrants with a few exceptions who colonized some of our southern states. The Scots-Irish had it in spades, though.

Alfred Differ said...

(Sorry. Forgot a footnote.)

Population excesses in the 18th century were noticed by some, but writing about it was discouraged. Malthus did and was told he was leading people toward despair. He adjusted his tone a bit after that advice. If you read his earlier content, though, it paraphases roughly as "A whole lotta people are going to die soon."

Andy said...

Lmao Dirtnapninja, what a bunch of BS. HIMARs have changed everything. The Russian troops in Kherson are more or less trapped and cut off from resupply because all the bridges have been blown. They have to use helicopters and pontoon bridges now. Ukrainian talk about a limited offensive in Kherson seems to have been a successful ploy to lure away Russian manpower, leaving them weakened in the Kharkiv region.

"Ukraine should have negotiated a peace in the first few weeks. But the people driving this war want to hurt Russia, even if it destroys Ukraine in the process, and this plan is a perfect example of that."

Sounds like in your world, freedom from dictatorship isn't worth fighting for. Sad.

"In a week or so when the momentum shifts, and these spearheads are smashed with artilley and cut off by armour, Ukraine will be worse off then it was when they started."

I bet you $200 that Izyum is still in Ukranian hands a month from now. Let's both send the money to Dr Brin (Paypal? Venmo?) and in a month he can send it to the winner. Put up or shut up.

Alfred Differ said...

locumranch,

Sorry again. Writing about economics related stuff is something I enjoy, but I tend to run off at the mouth. Verbal torrents. 8)

I forgot to include a line about how real incomes work out value changes in exchange currencies. If the local Prince waters down the silver content of the coins, prices in the market tend to adjust once people realize it AND won't be killed for making the adjustment.

The average real income I'm describing measures against a basket of things like they try to do when dealing with modern inflation. It doesn't matter what the local piece of silver will buy if you use this approach. Pigs for sheep. Eggs for bread. Work with a variety of ratios and you can get around currency devaluation to some degree.

While it is easier for the richest people to do it (FOREX in modern terms), even the peasants get into the game when they barter. Any avoidance of devalued coins is worth it to the people who try. So... it's an argument easily avoided.

On top of that, Dutch silver was actually valued quite high. Amsterdam had a huge reserve bank. Their silver and notes traded across Europe. Over the span of their war with Spain, they came out rather well while Spain went repeatedly bankrupt.

Oh... Care to guess what the real income was like for Spanish peasants not right next to empire cities? Heh. They didn't document it as much because real income growth didn't happen in Spain for ages.

David Brin said...

Criminy, ‘dirtnapper” thinks the Ardennes offensive was a Nazi victory! Nothing could better show the fellow is a clueless nut. ALL of the German ready mobile offensive reserve was utterly destroyed. Romantics overstate the danger, which was never great. The 116th division was smashed, sure and much is made of the 101st at Bastogne. But it was the 82nd a few miles north of St. Vith who trivially and easily held the line against all of Hitler’s delusional hopes. What a marroon.

onward

onward