Sunday, October 15, 2023

The core goal of tyrants: The "Red-Caesar" Cult and a restored era of The Great Man.

Amid all the recent hubbub and frightening global messes, what can I possibly offer you? 

Perhaps some step-back perspective? A litle context? Not just bigger-picture habits learned from astronomy and science fiction, but also from the real obsession of most SF authors... which is human history.

I refer to the 6000 year litany of pain, crises and dreadful errors that afflicted all our ancestors. That grueling climb from mud, caves and superstition was almost always far worse for those forebears than anything that 99% of us today have ever experienced. Yet, they persevered through a morass of sickness and oppression and death... of mistakes, good intentions, delusions and agony, mixed with streaks of utter malignity, then dollops of heroism and brilliance that - during just the last couple of centuries - finally became something resembling progress... 

...and more recently, something bordering on marvelous! Proving that we can rise up and do and be better. Even if we wind up choosing - tragically - not to.

So let's go for a little of that context. Starting with an absurd (and noxious) notion being pushed nowadays, that the Great Enlightenment Experiment or GEE is no better than our foes - those who aim to bring it crashing down. 

We'll start with the rationalizations offered by foreign rivals... and then by our own domestic traitor nut-jobs.

== Those rivals are busy in ways that seem... frantic ==

Let's begin with the obvious, that both Russia and China have been expressing resentful revanchism for all of this century so far, demanding control over neighboring regions based upon dubious historical claims, over-riding or ignoring local sovereignty and popular will. There are different textures to the same theme, as told by Nathan Gardels in Nōema:

China and Russia are battling different demons of the past. Xi is seeking to rejuvenate Chinese civilization, hoisting it back to its rightful centrality in the world after being subordinated by Western imperialism. Putin, possessed by a millennial vision of restoring the “great Russia” of the 11th century, is seeking to recover from the post-Cold War humiliation of becoming a rump state.

Let's recall that ol' Vlad was recorded many times calling the fall of the USSR "The greatest tragedy of the 20th Century." He and his fellow "ex"-commissars - the very same fellows whom folks on the U.S. right hated, back when they recited Leninist chants and wore hammer-sickles - became darlings of the U.S. right, after simply changing lapel pins and erecting some statues to Nicholas II. Of course the renamed KGB is staffed by the same agents and plotters, using the same methods (including blackmail of western elites), with the same goals. 

‘Multipolar world’ and ‘civilization state’ are phrases used to provide a patina of high minded diversity-cred to those goals, justifying an end to a presumptively bullying American Pax – whose most macroscopic outcome across 80 years (outweighing many awful mistakes) has been inarguably the best era of progress, science, development, prosperity, freedom and per-capita peace the world ever knew. The greatest compared to all other eras… combined.  

(As I write this amid waves of violence in Eurasia, recall that even now, 95% or so of the world's living humans have never personally witnessed war with their own eyes. A figure that would seem incredible to our ancestors.)

In China’s case, there are rightful complaints about past colonialist bullyings that wrought almost as much harm to that great nation as mal-governance by their own feudal castes! (It's hypocrisy to blame one without acknowledging the other.) Though attributing any of that colonialist oppression to America is a real stretch. In fact, that broad-brush untruth is slanderously ingrate fabulation and almost-pure calumny, playing upon clichés and ignorance to justify anger at a nation that - across 4000 years - was China's only real foreign friend.  But that is for another time.

(I do welcome wagers though, with major escrowed stakes, based on actual, historical facts.)

Putin’s revanchist pitch has differences, but there are two shared themes

First, that ‘rule of law’ is only a mythology, spread by Western imperialists in order to justify continued hegemony… 

…and second that lifelong tenure of a single leader and clique – the kingship pattern that made the previous 6000 years a morass of unaccountable misrule – must be preserved! Presumably because their respective nations cannot afford to risk a regular churn of leadership that allows fresh talent to rise from hundreds of millions of fellow citizens. 

It is the tiresomely venerable (veneriable?) myth of the irreplaceable man.

For all of America’s political dysfunction, the regular cycle of leader-churn is observable evidence to the world of a nation unafraid of replacing leaders with fresh talent... though what it all means is a matter vexatiously wrestled for 240 years, along eight phases of America's ongoing culture war.

What's fundamental here is that this is not about multipolarity, or tolerance of diverse civilizations. Hey, you want diversity? Diversity-R-Us! Let eight billion varied flowers bloom! 

Want a fair competition based upon happy-prosperous populations, freedom and measurable outcomes? A fair, grownup rivalry between different versions of state-moderated market economics would seem just fine. I expect that later decades of this century might see loose 'leader-status' of this globe pass across the Pacific. Even the language that folks use for culture and commerce may migrate.

What matters is the core thing that enabled the post 1945 world to flourish as never befere. Some call it Rule-of-Law - much derided by every autarchy on the planet. Others call it Democracy - a word that Fox shills now deride, while riling a re-risen Confederacy against everything that actually 'made America great.'

If rule-of-law and democracy aren't the deepest, fundamental, then what?

I say it's something far more basic. It is recognizing that all humans - especially all leaders - are inherently delusional! (So are you! So am I.) And only one tool ever offered a way to pierce delusions, reducing the wretched litany of error/calamity/misrule that we call 'history.'

That method requires freedom to reciprocally criticize one-another, even ... especially ... the mighty. To spot (and denounce) each others' errors. To form and renegotiate agile coalitions, generated from below. To inconvenience power and encourage negotiation based on facts... and maturity... and transparency & light. 

Freedom, democracy and rule-of-law have proved to be the best methods for delivering that reciprocal error-correction. They are the tools we have used to (partially, so far) save ourselves. They are justifiable - and worth fighting for - not just because they are morally good, but also because they smash any claim by despots to offer better, positive outcomes.

Make no mistake: this is about sheer survival. If we return to an era of delusional Big Man rule, immune from thorough criticism - in a world of nukes and designer bugs and cyber Skynet gods - we're all gonna die. 

Scratch the surface and it isn't about this or that multipolar 'civilization.' It is literally - and not metaphorically - about friends-of-light vs. enemies-of-light.

Which brings the topic back on home.

== Our own neo-feudalists want rule-by-Nero ==

Across America and Europe, the 'populist' Mad Right’s fetish - its only priority - is neo-feudalism. It has always been thus, in every phase of the 250 year American Civil War.

 In 1778 Lord Cornwallis went south because he knew he'd find more king-lovers down there. In 1861 it was "Gone With The Wind" plantation barons who got a million poor whites to march and die for their slaveholder 'rights.' (Mark Twain blamed that Phase 4 of the Civil War on the romantic-feudal novels of Sir Walter Scott!) Today it's billionaires and their inheritance brats who Republicans must protect - at all cost! - from being forced by the IRS to pay their share of taxes. But also from nerds, who keep inconveniently reciting those fell words that oligarchs most hate to hear.

"Sir, that is factually untrue."

Alas for the hopes of would-be lords, it appears that the voting populace is wising up. Soon, citizens are likely to start using democracy to rectify skyrocketing wealth and power disparities. And if voters might do that, then democracy, itself, must be demonized! And then made to go away. Leading at last to:

 “For the last three years, parts of the American right have advocated a theory called Caesarism as an authoritarian solution to the claimed collapse of the US republic in conference rooms, podcasts and the house organs of the extreme right…”


I've been denouncing this trend, ever since it was a festering yammer cult in fetid corners of LaRouche-land and rage sci fi, back in the 1980s. Now, funded lavishly by fellows like Peter Thiel, it is burgeoning, as I said it would. (See the 'Holnists' in The Postman.) 

Let me put it plain: After 6000 years of wretchedly stupid misrule by inheritance-brat kings and lords, we broke from that feudal Divine Right romantic twaddle, accomplishing vastly more - in every conceivable category - during the last 250 years of gradually improving constitutionalism – and especially during the post-Rooseveltean era – than ALL other human cultures… combined. 


Yes, I mean combined. Put up wager stakes.

Anything that is consensus-good and factually verifiable has done vastly better in liberal democracy. Like the % of human beings who have been able to raise healthy children in conditions of light and peace. Or science. Or production, economics or entrepreneurship. Or the thing Adam Smith promoted, but that now the neo-lords hate, above all else. Flat-fair-creative competition.


== Where do they think this will take them? ==

Of course by any name, Red Caesarism is an insane goal, chased by incel yammerers who see no other way to become Top Dogs. So, let me turn and address them, directly.

Sure guys, you will try, and we know you are girding your bluball loins for this. If the 2024 elections don’t go your way, you will unleash on us waves of McVeighs, expecting, in masturbatory fantasy land, that macho howls and basement arsenals will outweigh mature competence. That nerds won't rise up and respond, when everything we all depend upon is attacked.

Only, what if we're far more ready than you imagine? Exactly how do you think this is gonna go, when you are waging all-out war vs ALL fact using professions? From science and teaching, medicine, law and civil service to the heroes of the FBI/Intel/Military officer corps who won the Cold War and the War on terror? 

Against ALL the nerds who know cyber, bio, nuclear, chemistry and all the rest?


No, they never think that out. In The Postman I portrayed an aftermath of them succeeding. But far more likely is the scenario portrayed by Robert Heinlein in Beyond This Horizon, in which violent dopes attempt a putsch - hoping to become feudal top dogs - but instead wind up as kibble. Much like the 1930s German brown shirts, just before the Night of the Long Knives. 

(See how Heinlein predicted today's mass anti-intellectualism and racism as a recurring American madness.)

In fact, it goes both ways. Science fiction – sometimes even well-written – has also played a role in nurturing this cult! Foremost among those pushing rejection of the American Experiment has been Orson Scott Card – a writer of unquestionable persuasive genius and gifted psychological manipulativeness. Scott spent his entire career relentlessly inveighing that democracy is futile - all hope of decent institutions is forlorn naïveté - and we all should all throw ourselves at the feet of some super-uber-Caesar, hoping that the demigod will be as nice as Ender Wiggin

Only, as in Card's prescriptive manifesto EMPIRE, the new Caesar should also have an all-chastising whip – and maybe cattle cars and smokestacks – to back up his unquestioned (unquestionable) wisdom.

== The story is the same, inside and out ==

Okay this was a long one, so let's bring it around.  Strip away all the rationalizations... from Putin's rabid ethno-nationalism to 'clash of civilizations' to MAGA nerd-hatred, to vapid "both side-ism."  

Those who plot downfall of the Great Enlightenment Experiment (GEE) seek one thing: a return of the Big Man (feudal) model that dominated nearly all human societies - aside from a few islands of light... e.g. Periclean Athens, daVinci's Florence... that were crushed by surrounding oligarchies and kingdoms, for daring to question absolute rule by imbeciles.

Now, faced with the spectacular successes - top to bottom - of the GEE, they try to counter that undeniable record with magical incantations. I described some of those pushed by external rivals... and other chants fomented (under lavish subsidy) by domestic traitors. There is so much more to say... and I'll get around to more. (You know that!)

How I wish the Good Guys leading the GEE right now had better tactics!  I tried to offer some in Polemical Judo! But for now, what I have tried to say, this time, is...

...about why we (including you) must gather the courage and resolve to fight for a world of light.


mcsandberg said...

Jonah Goldberg notes that:

"The free-market system depends on values, ideas, and institutions outside of the realm of economics to function, a topic I covered in the second half of this book. But for now the important point is this: The free-market system is not merely the best anti-poverty program ever conceived; it is quite literally the only anti-poverty system ever invented. Poverty is the natural human condition, and it remained the steady state of human affairs for nearly all of human history. Socialism as a label is a relatively recent invention. But socialism as an idea is beyond ancient. Socialism is the economics of the tribe. We evolved as a cooperative, resource-sharing species. This is one reason why the idea of socialism keeps coming back. It’s in our brains, alongside myriad other factory-preset ideas and desires: that capitalism is unnatural; individual liberty and free speech are unnatural; liberal democratic capitalism is at war with human nature in every generation.

[Excerpt From: Jonah Goldberg. Appendix to “Suicide of the West.” iBooks. ]"

Our species has been around for perhaps 300,000 years. In all those millennia we never discovered how to prosper. It was only 300 years ago, in England, that everything came together to produce the miracle of prosperity.

I believe that what happened in England to create the miracle were two "inventions".

1. Intellectual property - the idea that ideas could be bought and sold.

2. The limited liability joint-stock company, that flattened the playing field by letting everybody participate in the capital markets.

Unknown said...

Just as an aside - need to go gardening - the "irreplacable man" is the centerpiece of the Warhammer 40K universe. There's no suggestion that any kind of democracy could develop or even survive...but at least its creators don't suggest this would be a FUN universe to live in.


I gotta admit that erasing all social development prior to the LLC is a neat trick. We weren't all grunting, starving humanoids until then. There was a massive surge of population in the 1550's to 1650's in Europe, mostly before 1625, and caused at least in part by improved technology, trade and knowledge. Did this translate into no more prosperity? The kings who relied on this increased tax base to fund huge armies and world-spanning navies would have been surprised to learn this.


David Brin said...

MCS, Goldberg goes way too far. VASTLY more important than the limited liability stock company (which has lately metastacized beyond its purpose) have been "socialist" contributions to the liberal, mixed society. Like mass education, health and transport and public infrastructures, and active discouragement of the establishment of rule by godlike inheritance brats.

Note that all of those are 'socialism in service to enhancing talent and maximizing the number of skilled, capable, unafraid competitors.'

In other words, Adam Smith.

In order to eliminate poverty via markets, you must first eliminate poverty via socialism.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

He and his fellow "ex"-commissars - the very same fellows whom folks on the U.S. right hated, back when they recited Leninist chants and wore hammer-sickles - became darlings of the U.S. right, after simply changing lapel pins and erecting some statues to Nicholas II

You seem surprised every time you mention this, as if there is some sort of unfathomable contraction at work requiring Mule powers to explain it.

No, their position is tragically consistent. They despised the Soviet Union when it threatened the concept of private property and when it denied God, but they now revere Putin as the billionaire Christian warrior and white nationalist that they wish/hope/long for in this country. Like Trump, Putin uses his power to be mean to the same people that they despise.

mcsandberg said...

Dave Brin,

Goldberg probably does go too far, but something weird happened in England around 1700.

The steam turbine was invented by the Greeks, as was the Antikythera mechanism. The Chinese had steel and gunpowder, and The Romans had fantastic civil engineering and a democracy that lasted for centuries. Yet none of them had the most important thing in the history of man - the industrial revolution.

Every thing else - steel, engineering, steam happened multiple times, yet the industrial revolution only happened once.

That's why I point to the two new ideas. As you point out, inventions were kept secret before the idea of intellectual property was invented, hence the loss of the Greek inventions. The joint stock company made possible the creation of plants that could not be efficient except at a giant size. You can't build an efficient small blast furnace, for example.

Even today, the entire world can support only one company, ASML, that can build the lithography machines that lay down 5nm and soon 3nm features on chips.

Adam Smith observed the Industrial Revolution, but didn't really explain what caused it. He did spot some things that could protect it after it happened.

David Brin said...

MCS I took no issue with the value of intellectual property ending 4000 years of invention secrecy. Indeed you might have read about that first, here.

But, like the LLC, IP has metastacized into a lawyer-run system to entrench power and limit inventiveness. Both need updating.

And again, the true takeoff didn't happen till mass education safety, rights and infrastructure: "In order to eliminate poverty via markets, you must first eliminate poverty via socialism."

locumranch said...

It is the tiresomely venerable (veneriable?) myth of the irreplaceable man.

At the onset of this better-than-average post, our fine host first debunks & then fails to consider the implications of the "myth of the irreplaceable man".

It was once believed that the White Christian Male was the one "irreplaceable man" of the Western Enlightenment, as all of the western values that we currently hold dear, from Representative Democracy to Personal Liberty & the Rule-of-Law, all sprang from this homogeneous European heritage.

As noted above, however, it is now our fine host's contention that ALL humans are now entirely replaceable because of Equality & Diversity theory which argues that the any founding demographic variant can be easily replaced by people of any colour, culture, ethnicity, religion & gender, as all human differences are now thought imaginary.

This rule also applies to the Undersexed & Oversexed, the Educated & Uneducated, the Smart & Stupid and the Jew & Jew-Hater because all are equal, all are simultaneously different but not-different and all are interchangeable & replaceable.

This leaves me wondering about all these so-called incel yammerers who, by the above progressive catechism, are just as good & just as interchangeable as everyone else, especially now when the 'involuntary celibate' category includes 40% of all US citizens, including men & women, which implies that western culture produces significant sexual dysfunction.

Yes, I mean combined. Put up wager stakes. Anything that is consensus-good and factually verifiable has done vastly better in liberal democracy.

Another easy bet to win, as this is something that our host just tacitly admitted with his 'incel yammerers' comment. It's called REPRODUCTION. Liberal western democracies have less sex & fewer babies on average than non-western cultures, insomuch as 47% of western women will remain childless & functionally sterile for their entire lives.

And again, the true takeoff didn't happen till mass education safety, rights and infrastructure: "In order to eliminate poverty via markets, you must first eliminate poverty via socialism."

The elimination of the irreplaceable man by making us all equal & all equally replaceable is also a goal of Socialism. Think 'Harrison Bergeron'. To paraphrase Sowell: Only the Intellectual-Yet-Idiot could support something that has such a blatant record of failure.


duncan cairncross said...

The 1700's - Britain didn't "have steel" it had thousands of tons of the stuff

The earlier civilizations "had steel" - but it was EXPENSIVE - it was worth burning an old ship just to get the nails

The steam turbine was just a toy - no use whatsoever - the first useful steam "engines" were the Savery "Fire Engine" - which could pump water out of mines

The Industrial revolution was a whole mass of new technologies that became a critical mass and fed on each other
Everything from steam and iron to crop rotation and the agricultural revolution

And when I re-read Adam Smith a couple of months ago I was struck with just how slow things were changing in his world
While he was marveling about how FAST things were changing "today" I was marveling about how slow compared to our time

Socialism v Capitalism

A society should use BOTH tools
Capitalism is superb for making "things" - from the "working model" stage to full production
To get to the "working model" stage? - so far public money has contributed far more than "capitalism"

scidata said...

One thing great leaps in prosperity/thriving/technology seem to have in common is an emphasis on play. It's how we* learn socialization and set intrinsic goals. It's how we break the chains of our parents' ideology.

* It's amazing how much time other young animals spend on play too.

David Norton said...

I came from doctrinaire libertarianism. Goldberg's "Suicide of The West" helped me by its good empirical argument that the state was an advance over hunter-gatherer existence (anarchism), and then that LDC (liberal democratic capitalism) was the next advance. That includes democracy, rule of law, rights, markets. He leaned too heavily on McCloskey though, with the minimal state stuff.

mcsandberg said...

David Norton,

I really liked the informal way that Goldberg wrote “Suicide of The West”. The alien visitor was a great way of showing just how long our tribal period was!

I lean toward the minimal state due to personal experience .

David Brin said...

MCS: Since long before Spengler and even Nietzsche, bright dopes have raved eagerly about the Decline of the West. Now it’s “Fourth Turning” ‘cycles of history’ bullcrap. Oh how they WANT it to be so! The ENTIRE ‘crisis’ right now is a fabrication. If conservatives had not gone insane, we would be in a golden age, right now.

Duncan: “Socialism v Capitalism. A society should use BOTH tools”
My metaphor. I have both right and left hands. It is completely fair to argue (with evidence) which hand is better at which tasks. Where I balk is when capitalist moguls demand that I CU OFF my left and Marxists scream I should amputate the right.

Poor locum: “ it is now our fine host's contention that ALL humans are now entirely replaceable because of Equality & Diversity theory…”

As usual, he proffers to us a lying strawman, completely unrelated to anything I said or believe or that a sane person would derive from my posting. Doing that right from the start is a mistake because it prevents me from being drawn in to skim, out of curiosity whether syntax shows he returned to the poison air or food or water that lobotomized even his grammar, back home.

I do remain curious abut that. What PART of California are you currently visiting, locum old fellah? You remain a deeply dishonest nutter… but a healthier-SOUNDING one. I do wonder where those therapeutic waters are.

David Norton said...

The second thing that helped me leave the doctrinaire libertarian small government position, was finding out that Economic Freedom is NEGATIVELY correlated with smaller size of government when we look at the actual governments on planet Earth, contrary to the theories of libertarians. This is best illustrated with the Fraser and Heritage Indices of Economic Freedom, which libertarians and the right often point to.

QUOTE The Heritage Foundation and the Fraser Institute measure economic freedom in nations using indices with ten and five indicators respectively. ... Eight of the Heritage indicators and four of the Fraser-indicators are about specific types of institutional quality, like rule of law, the protection of property, and the provision of sound money. ...

Yet, levels of government spending, consumption, and transfers and subsidies appear to correlate positively with the other indicators related to institutional quality, while this correlation is close to zero for the level of taxation as a percentage of GDP. ...

Thus shortened variants of the indices create a better convergent validity in the measurement of economic freedom, and create higher correlations between economic freedom and alternative types of freedom, and between economic freedom and happiness. The higher correlations indicate a better predictive validity, since they are predictable in view of the findings of previous research and theoretical considerations about the relations between types of freedom, and between freedom and happiness. UNQUOTE

Larry Hart said...

But whether the armed forces were careless with their secrets or infiltrated by spies, the revelations have already unnerved officials and analysts who have questioned how the Israeli military — renowned for its intelligence gathering — could have inadvertently revealed so much information about its own operations.

It's apparently uncouth to state the obvious reason Israeli military secrets were compromised. They shared then with Trump who then shared them with Russia who shared them with Iran. Is there any plausible way this didn't happen?

locumranch said...

That's some confusing flop-frippery there after Dr. Brin first rejects the "myth of the irreplaceable man" and then denies this rejection as "a lying strawman, completely unrelated to anything I said or believe".

What then, exactly, is Dr. Brin's contention in regards to the nature of this so-called 'Irreplaceable Man'? Is he mythic & therefore 'unreal'? Or, is he real & therefore not-mythic? It must be one or the other since both claims are mutually exclusive.

Certain conclusions inevitably follow from this initial assumption about either the irreplaceable or the replaceable man, as the former argues for human genetic uniqueness & a mostly White Christian claim to the Western Enlightenment and the latter argues for an interchangeable non-unique humanity & what Voxday calls the 'Magic Dirt hypothesis'.

Therein lies the inherent conflict between Diversity & Equality since one assumes DIFFERENCE and the other assumes SAMENESS, and neither the twain shall meet without considerable cognitive dissonance.

This question of the Irreplaceable Man not only applies to those of White European Enlightenment ancestry who prefer Libertarianism over other political processes, but it also applies to Israeli's continued right-to-exist, as those who possess different genetics may be more biologically predisposed towards Socialism or other social subtypes.

It all depends on your initial assumptions.


David Brin said...

Wow. This is educational. While remaining 2D and incapable of even conceiving the notion of Positive Sum - and crazy - L is actually asking questions that can have parsable answers! They remain strawman dichotomies with no connection to reality. But he is actually trying to defend them with 'logic'

Again I ask, where in California is this step toward lucidity (not sanity, alas) happening?

As for this: "Certain conclusions inevitably follow from this initial assumption about either the irreplaceable or the replaceable man..."

Notice that it must be either demigod lordship - the model that utterly failed for 6000 years - or else Harrison Bergeron flattening of all differences, an absolute repression of competitive merit in homogenized sameness. An idiotic dichotomy! But L does dichotomies. B&W, never color.

He knows that I am a scion of Adam Smith and recent history shows that COMPETITION (a word now banished from the US right) is the wellspring of human creativity (with lots of cooperation swirled in). Note that both og L's dichotomous options repress competition. It's all that he can conceive.

In between... and WAY off axis in a 3rd dimension (hence invisible to him) is the Smithian world in which we evade the calamitous proved-error of autarchy-delusional Irreplacable Man AND the insipidly dum notion of equalized outcomes, that has never happened anywhere on Earth and never been tried. I have spoken (and he cannot hear) endlessly of CCOPERATIVELY USING LAW AND JUSTICE to maximize the number and capability and confidence of thye largest number of diverse competitors.

Alas, the shadows of my words that do fall into Flatland rouse no understanding.

Larry Hart said...

@Dr Brin,

We're often told that "The cemeteries are full of irreplaceable men." No one is truly irreplaceable because death (or retirement or a job change) claims us all, and ultimately if a role is required, someone will fill that role.

That doesn't mean they'll all do it equally well. And there's the rub about irreplaceability. Mankind would have survived without Einstein, for example, but we'd be much further behind for a much longer time. It's not so much that he's "irreplaceable" as that he made a significant difference at a crucial moment which can't simply be waved away as "someone else would have done the same thing."

It's what Major Strasser meant by this:

"Herr Laszlo, you have a reputation for eloquence which I can now understand. But in one aspect you are mistaken. You said the enemies of the Reich could all be replaced. But there is one exception. No one could take your place if anything unfortunate should occur to you while you were trying to escape."

No one is truly irreplaceable, but we're fortunate to have certain people at certain times, and we suffer for the absence of such people at certain times*. What a different world we'd all be living in had Robert Kennedy (Sr) lived to be elected president in 1968. At the micro level, my own life would be much different had there been no such writer as Kurt Vonnegut, or Dave Sim, or yourself.

* The opposite is also true. The world might have been richer had Hitler been "from his mother's womb untimely rip'd."

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Again I ask, where in California is this step toward lucidity (not sanity, alas) happening?

IIRC, it took two or three years to get an answer to why he spells words like a Canadian.

So, good luck.

Don Gisselbeck said...

Speaking of intellectual property, what have the heirs, lawyers and sundry hangers-on of the estate of Leonard Bernstein ever done for society? Some Sousa marches have only recently entered public domain. This is insane. At the very least, copyright should end at the creator's death.

Larry Hart said...

Don Gisselbeck:

copyright should end at the creator's death.

Wouldn't that just lead to a bunch of copyrights owned by immortal corporations?

Better to stick to a 50 or 75 year expiration, known to everyone going in, and not subject to exceptions like the ones Disney gets away with.

A.F. Rey said...

Reading locum keeps reminding me of a line from Al Stewart's song, "One Stage Before":

"And some of you are harmonies to all the notes I play.
Although we may not meet, still you know me well.
While others talk in secret keys and transpose all I say,
And nothing I do or try can get through the spell."

He reads the words, but transposes them so that they mean something entirely different, one that goes along with what he believed in the first place. :)

David Brin said...

The argument has some merit (some) that a fellow who got rich delivering better goos/services truly competitively should not only be able to be rich, but have an earned satisfaction of knowing he has taken care of his heirs.

Moreover there ARE cases of scions using an inherited seed fund to do further fine things.


- Society is in wretched danger - always from inheritance brats, who were the principle calamity to afflict almost all feudal cultures... meaning almost all cultures.. weilding power they never earned, to essentially cheat and prevent other sons from copeting against them.

- What is 'earned'? Markets are messy and often those who got rich from an advance did not create it. e.g. railroads.

For these an many other reasons, it should be basic that :

- the second billion is HARDER than the first.

- a trust fund and secured house to prevent the scion from ever losing comfort is something our innovator deserves. Maybe a deed fund for scion to start a business. Scion does not deserve to inherit, say Fox News.

- IP should DECAY across years. Say, after death, 20 years of full control, then 20 years of compelled sale of licenses at the average rate of existing sales. Then 30 years of declining rates and control, as scions learn to make do on their own. And this applies to corporations, too.

duncan cairncross said...

Intellectual Property is a bad bad bad term

"Property" means that if I take it you can no longer use it

We are discussing "monopolies" that are awarded to reward and encourage creative work

The best arguments about copyright were given by
Thomas Babington Macaulay in Parliament in the 1840's

Nearly 200 years ago but still well worth a read

Unknown said...

Both Mark Twain and this other guy Sam Clemens were in favor of a perpetual literary copyright, but settled for author's lifespan plus 50 years. They were right about at least one thing - most copywritten material becomes basically worthless within the author's lifespan. How many people here have read Warner's classic "My Summer in a Garden?" It was all the rage in 1870.


P.S. The UK Peter Pan rights are given by the author in perpetuity to the Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity, exempted from all expiration, and that's a hill I'll die on.

Unknown said...

Aside - I always wanted to write a parody entitled "My Autumn in a Garden: or, A Rake's Progress" but A) didn't have the attention span and B) who would buy such a thing?


David Brin said...

"My Autumn in a Garden: or, A Rake's Progress"


Larry Hart said...


in favor of a perpetual literary copyright, but settled for author's lifespan plus 50 years.

I can see the creator deserving royalties for future publication of his works, and even bequeathing such royalties to heirs for as long as the law allows. That's not the same thing as having the right to determine who succeeds him in being able to carry on a series.

While Arthur Conan Doyle was still writing "Sherlock Holmes", no one else could get away with imitation in any serious way. If their fanfic competed side by side with Conan-Doyle's for audience dollars (or shillings), the real author would win hands down. Same for Ian Flemming and James Bond. For 1980s comics aficionados, same with Howard Chaykin and "American Flagg!" or Alan Moore and "Watchmen".

But once the OG author dies or otherwise ceases to produce new material, I don't see the benefit of preventing others from trying (and possibly failing) to produce new material in the confines of the literary free market. Let the readers decide the difference between diamonds and dross. Let Psychohistorical Crisis and Foundation's Triumph both see what readership they can attract.

I don't have a problem with the estate of Conan-Doyle or Fleming or Asimov demanding royalties for such continuations of their creative product ("after all, we are not communists."), but I don't see it being up to sons or nephews or lawyers to decide who can and cannot produce such product. If a writer can't do so well enough to please an audience, that will be obvious.

* * *

I always wanted to write a parody entitled "My Autumn in a Garden: or, A Rake's Progress"

Heh. For years now, my wife and I threaten to collaborate on a romance novel for the middle-aged, titled, Come Hither and Yawn.

scidata said...

Re: parody/nonsense
One of the few times I ever got kicked out of class was when I could not stop laughing out loud after reading "Soaked in Seaweed: or, Upset in the Ocean" by Stephen Leacock. Only the very best authors can do this genre well.

Robert said...

The UK Peter Pan rights are given by the author in perpetuity to the Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity, exempted from all expiration, and that's a hill I'll die on.

Well, Barrie gave the hospital his rights, which were time-limited. It was Callaghan that extended them in the UK.

The copyright first expired in the UK (and the rest of Europe) in 1987, 50 years after Barrie’s death.

However, former Prime Minister Lord Callaghan successfully proposed an amendment to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act (CDPA) of 1988, giving Great Ormond Street Hospital the unique right to royalties from stage performances of Peter Pan (and any adaptation of the play) as well as from publications, audio books, ebooks,radio broadcasts and films of the story of Peter Pan, in perpetuity.

Alfred Differ said...


The danger for the British in WWI occurred after Russia's collapse and before we were committed. Germany could focus on one front (mostly) and make an already horrific war worse.

It's not unreasonable to believe negotiations might have begun to bring an end to it.


I encourage you to go back and re-read McCloskey. She's pretty clear about what the reasons were. She's also clear that they took them from the Dutch and adapted them to the unruly Englishmen and followed quickly by even less governable Scotsmen.

She's also clear in other books and papers that some minimal regulation helps. She'd draw a line in the sand that is quite different from our host, but she'd tolerate a lot more than most minarchists would.

Anyway... don't take my word for it. She's written shorter books that summarize her position, so you don't have to tackle the giant tome trilogy. 8)

(As for inventions, most can be traced to China where they suffocated in a locked casket if they did not serve the Emperor's Interests.)

David Brin said...

Foundation's Triumph WAS done by permission of the copyright holders. I don't mind author control of a universe fading along a sliding scale, after death. A mega rush to suddenly do kinky stuff atop hia coffer while he is still warm? Nah.

Unknown said...

Dr. Brin,

It's not just my thought that they were doing that to the Duniverse before Herbert's corpse had cooled.

Me, I think some novels don't need sequels and spinoffs, though "Good Omens" was treated respectfully - partly, I assume, because Pratchett's living co-author insisted on it. I wouldn't have wanted Zelazny to write three more novels about Sam or his demigod offspring, either. Some things, like "Casablanca", should just be let be.


(Though I have to admit that "Biggles on Mars" intrigues...and not just me - Charles Stross actually started plotting something out.)

scidata said...

All this copyright and patent talk is becoming sort of quaint and moot with A.I. lurking in the wings. The Hollywood (and beyond) strikes are the Fort Sumter of the 'clone war'. The Terminator's weapon may be a pen.

mcsandberg said...

Alfred Differ,

McClusky is clear that the fundamental change was the merchant, the trader, the entrepreneur, in general, the bourgeois, suddenly became praise worthy, the bourgeois became respectable. What caused this change McClusky describes as:

"What we can show very clearly is that the usual suspects do not work. The slave trade, colonial exploitation, overseas trade, rising thrift, improved racial stock—no such material cause works to explain he modern world. We must recur—as other economic historians like Mokyr are recurring—to ideas, the ideas about steam engines and the ideas about the standing of bourgeois people who make the steam engines and the ideas about liberty that allow the ideas to change. The change in ideas arose perhaps from the turmoil of 17th-century Europe experimenting with democratic church government and getting along without kings. It certainly arose with the printing press and the difficulty of keeping Dutch presses from publishing scurrilous works in all languages. It arose also from the medieval intellectual heritage of Europe, free universities and wandering scholars. In short, it was free people who innovated and kept their just rewards. [ ]"

More succinctly the raising of the standing of the bourgeois in society was the miracle. McClosky certainly disagrees with our host! Here's another bit of data . I'm not sure if that supports McClosky or Dr. Brin.

Larry Hart said...


Some things, like "Casablanca", should just be let be.

That's really a decision for the audience to make. IIRC, someone in this century did write and publish a sequel to Casablanca. I had no interest in it, and in no way is my appreciation of the original bound by what we "learn" in an inferior sequel.

doing that to the Duniverse before Herbert's corpse had cooled.

Same there. I have not been tempted at all by post-Herbert sequels to Dune, and if I were to be, it would be on the merits of the books themselves, not because they are "canon" in the series.

Even when subsequent chapters are indeed written by the original creator, I feel free as a reader/viewer to discard the chapters I feel to be inferior. Obviously, I'm talking about the Star Wars prequels, and to some extent even Return of the Jedi. When I re-watch or remember the original 1977 Star Wars, my experience doesn't need to be tainted by the retcon that Darth Vader is Luke's (not-yet named) father, or that the princess he's hot for is his twin sister.

Larry Hart said...


The Hollywood (and beyond) strikes are the Fort Sumter of the 'clone war'.

Perhaps the Butlerian Jihad?

Larry Hart said...

Does anyone else worry that Jim Jordan as second runner up to the presidency while President Biden is visiting a war zone could be a recipe for disaster?

locumranch said...

It's nice to know that Dr. Brin & I both agree that nothing is either black or white, just endless variations of indeterminate gray. Except in moral & political situations, of course, as that's where Dr. Brin applies the all-or-none Good v Evil dichotomy and I do not.

This is why I've been pressing him as to where he stands on the topic of the so-called Irreplaceable Man, as this is strictly a moral question of intrinsic human value. Or, perhaps, a lack thereof.

It's no secret that our host is a big booster of the Western Enlightenment, but he has always seemed somewhat ambivalent about the European Enlightenment's White Christian origins.

More often than not, our host even seems to argue that these predominantly European Enlightenment systems no longer require these specifically White Christian human components in order to function, as almost any replacement human being will do, which is morally tantamount to arguing that the continuing functionality of Israel no longer requires the ongoing existence of actual Jews.

But, here we are, veering back into the realm of the Either-Or Dichotomy. Instead, let's address the 'Irreplaceable and/or Replaceable Man' topic on purely quantitative terms:

How many Smart People can we replace with Stupid People, percentage-wise, before our Enlightenment society becomes too stupid to function ?


I also dreamed of writing a parodic memoir of medical school titled 'The Deliberate Sociopath' with chapters on destructive diagnosis, the selective use of poisons, creative cutting & mechanical reassembly, but it did not test well with the 7 & under target audience.

David Brin said...

“the raising of the standing of the bourgeois in society was the miracle.”

Marx deemed it the inevitable outcome from the alliance between Kings and urban merchants vs. residual feudal lordshop-power. Once the merchants had strong cities supported by Royal troops… and together they built safe roads and river traffic, bourgeois rise was inevitable. A couple centuries later, their alliance with kings vs nobles was no longer needed and became a vexing conflict.

That part of Marx… tracing past events into a cohesive pattern… worked. When he tried to PREDICT the future path of prol-bourgeois relations and the course of revolution, he fell completely flat.

“It's nice to know that Dr. Brin & I both agree that nothing is either black or white, just endless variations of indeterminate gray”

Again with the utter crap. One could quibble whether Hitler loved his dog and was avegetarian, therefor not 100% evil, but that doesn’t matter. There’s no ‘gray’ there… and very little ‘gray in the current, confederate utter treason and hatred of everything that ACTUALLY made America great.

Your vile cult wages all-out war vs ALL fact using professions, from science and teaching, medicine and law and civil service to the heroes of the FBI/Intel/Military officer corps who won the Cold War and the War on terror.

Skimmed crapt to the bottom. “How many Smart People can we replace with Stupid People, percentage-wise, before our Enlightenment society becomes too stupid to function ?

Seriously? ALL the nerdy smart folks know that yours is the idiocracy.

Larry Hart said...

Profiles in cowardice. "I won't vote for him, but I'll help him win."

Representative Victoria Spartz, Republican of Indiana and one of House Republicans’ most unpredictable votes, said walking into the chamber that she’d vote present if Jordan doesn’t have the votes. That would lower the threshold of votes Jordan needs to capture by one, as he needs a majority of those present and voting for or against.

Larry Hart said...

Not to be too optimistic, but it looks like Jordan won't win the speakership on the first round. I don't think he can even beat Jeffries unless some who already voted change their votes.

Larry Hart said...

In hindsight, the process to vacate the speakership should involve replacing the position with someone else, not leaving it vacant.

After all, if a president dies or resigns or is impeached, the VP immediately takes over the office. We don't leave the office vacant while a new election is held.

Don Gisselbeck said...

I stand corrected. Sousa's George Washington Bicentennial march wil be under copyright until 2026! Sousa died in 1932. That means if I want to practice the trombone part (it's knarly), I have to buy it or make an illegal copy. This is absurd. The beneficiaries of Sousa's genius have done fuckall for society. They are layabout rentseekers. The main reason for putting the weight of government power behind copyright protection is to maximize the production of good, beautiful, useful things. This will probably offend a lot of people, but if a J. D. Salinger can't produce more works of creative genius after 15 years, let him get off his butt and do something useful.

Larry Hart said...

Do I have this straight?

Matt Gaetz and his fellow Freedom Caucasians ousted Kevin McCarthy as speaker for the unforgivable sin of passing legislation with Democratic votes when there weren't enough Republican votes to pass it on their own. Gaetz then used Democratic votes to augment the eight votes he had to oust McCarthy.

So then the Republican caucus votes on their replacement with the idea that they will all vote for the winner. Except Steve Scalise wins that vote, and a bunch of Republicans won't agree to vote for him in the actual election. Jim Jordan runs in his place, insisting that Republicans should stick together and vote for him no matter their personal feelings because "a speaker is better than no speaker," even though that was not reason enough to elect Scalise.

And somehow, this is the Democrats' fault.

Ok, got it.

Larry Hart said...

Too true...

Given this political reality, how much can any nation trust U.S. assurances of support? How can we expect foreign enemies of democracy to fear America when they know that there are powerful forces here that share their disdain?

Yes, the Pax Americana is in decline. But the problem isn’t lack of toughness at the top. It’s the enemy within.

Alfred Differ said...


The tome-triplet of McCloskey's makes it clear that she feels the enrichment came about as a result of a change in rhetoric. She shoots down all the other, more physical things people have proposed leaving only what some would consider a cause that couldn't do it. Very Sherlock Holmes.

When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

The cause left standing, however improbable, is that we began to see each other different. The EVIDENCE of this is found in the stories of the time.


Limited liability corps came about BECAUSE we liberated and dignified each other. A bit. Well… more than we ever had before then. With each generation we liberated and dignified each other a bit more because those who did in the earlier generation generally got richer. Shocking!


The tome-triplet also points out that NO ONE saw the enrichment for what it was during the time if they had anything to do with economics and other academic studies. The academics MISSED IT! Many of them kept missing it well into the 20th century until economic history became a more solidly practiced field.

If I remember right, the first spoken-out-loud statement by someone in the moment that something seriously big was happening involved a journalist(?) in the 1830's(?) who noted that Britain usually faced starvation when the population rose over ~5 million. (Maybe a bit more with Ireland included back then) They were passing 25 million. Lots of doom and gloom predictions were made and some came true in Ireland, but at 25 million, the starving should have already occurred.

Something big had happened.
Yes, but the world misunderstood the cause for many more generations.
Our host does not… even if we might reasonably disagree on how much regulation is tolerable.

duncan cairncross said...

Mcsandberg and Alfred

To me the "change" had something to do with the "cultural changes" and the "financial changes" but those were relatively minor effects

The BIG difference was that we had achieved an overall state of engineering and science "Critical Mass" - a point where changes fed on themselves and produced more opportunities

A point where an apprentice had access to tools and materials that would have been worth a "Kings Ransom" a hundred years earlier

Alfred Differ said...


Critical Mass


I see the Industrial Revolution as more Effect than Cause.

We broke out of our old dependence on muscle power (animals and slaves) as a result, but we broke out in so many other ways too... like this odd belief I have that I don't have to kill my political rivals because it's not worth it to them to kill me.


I DO believe our changes were feeding upon themselves before all this, but so were our babies. However, what finally happened resulted in a whole lot more happening than our babies could consume... even though populations absolutely shot upwards.

duncan cairncross said...


I see it as not so much "muscle power" as durable "things" - cast iron and steel made more "things" possible and made turning wood into "things" a lot easier - along with glass and pottery and cloth

The agricultural revolution also made enough food available

David Brin said...

Well, Marx believed our social patterns resulted from poverty - hence dominance by bully males... then through successive class phases as humanity gets richer in both knowledge and productive capital. That view overlaps - more than a little - with Adam Smith. Though Smith predicted the future vastly better.

locumranch said...

One could quibble whether Hitler loved his dog and was a vegetarian, therefor not 100% evil, but that doesn’t matter. There’s no ‘gray’ there… and very little ‘gray in the current, confederate utter treason and hatred of everything that ACTUALLY made America great.

Ok, I stand corrected. For all his fine condemnations of the Either-Or Dichotomy and 2D black & white thinking, Dr. Brin's own words tell a far different story, as he is more the moral absolutist than I will ever be.

I don't know if any of you ever visited Minnesota in the 1980s, back in its 'Lake Wobegon' days when it was a clean, polite, civil, charitable, well-meaning & slightly stoic collective of homogeneous Scandahoovians, just before it imported about 90,000 underprivileged Somalis who turned Minneapolis into the crime-ridden hellhole of Little Mogadishu that it is today.

Well, Marx believed our social patterns resulted from poverty - hence dominance by bully males... then through successive class phases as humanity gets richer in both knowledge and productive capital. That view overlaps - more than a little - with Adam Smith.

Well, Marx & Smith had this exactly backward, as social problems like poverty & lack of economic success are downstream from culture, rather than our "social patterns (being the result of) poverty". That's why all our attempts at importing third-world culture have resulted in third-world conditions here in the EU & the US, rather than vice versa.

Rather than intelligence, its the CULTURE of our citizens which determine their relative economic success, and that's why some immigrants from an impoverished Nigeria can start with nothing and become hugely successful, and that's why all those future socialists who were born in both the US & the EU can start with every advantage and end up with nothing except unpaid student loan debt.

For all his vitriolic condemnation of Red State Idiocracy, Dr. Brin assumes that there is only ONE TYPE of intelligence (his nerdy subtype), rather than recognizing that there are many different types of intelligence which give different results. This mistake is typical of what N Taleb terms the IYT, and this error has led to a failed US educational system that confuses book learning with practical knowledge, critical thinking & creative intelligence.

Alfred, Duncan & McSandberg miss the forest for the trees as they quibble over the missing Industrial Age ingredient for western economic success (above), as the obvious answer is CULTURE, specifically the manufacture of an Industrial Age-specific Christian variant called 'Methodism' that preached piety through hard work, temperance, self-sacrifice & personal effort and led directly to both the Scottish Enlightenment & the Abolition movement in the US.

Try googling 'Methodism & the Industrial Revolution' lest you remain in perpetual ignorance.


mcsandberg said...


I don't think we missed the culture issue, McCloskey sure didn't. We're asking how the heck something like that culture change could happen? That's why McCloskey called it a miracle, in spite of our host's claim that Marx explained it, his explanation is far from convincing.

Robert said...

duncan: The agricultural revolution also made enough food available

Which agricultural revolution? There have been several. The switch from two- to three-field rotation, for example, greatly increased the available food supply. Medieval farmers (and landowners) were constantly improving and innovating — early medieval agriculture is not the same as late Medieval agriculture. The horse collar, along with heavy horses and horseshoes, greatly increased the speed of plowing and thus freed up farmers for other tasks — a significant productivity boost (and one some credit with helping end the feudal system).

Years ago I read an agricultural manual written by an English Steward about improving productivity, and he constantly writes (in effect) "if you don't believe me, try this with one of your fields and you will see your yields increase for yourself".

Which is a long-winded way of saying that a lot of people discount the amount of change that happened in the past

Larry Hart said...


Which is a long-winded way of saying that a lot of people discount the amount of change that happened in the past

I loved the issue of Neil Gaiman's Sandman called "Men of Good Fortune". The Morpheus character meets with the immortal human Hob Gadling on the same date every hundred years, from 1389 to 1989. It's fun to see the changes in the tavern and surrounding environs.

Darrell E said...

Off topic, but I thought some here might find this interesting.

For many years Dan Dennett has written or said things that I wish I had come up with. Sometimes about things I've never thought of, sometimes just saying something I've thought very much better than I've ever managed.

I just saw a video link to a new "Closer To Truth" conversation with Dennett.

Daniel Dennett on the Mysteries of the Mind | Closer To Truth Chats

I've only had time to watch about 10 or 15 minutes of it so far, but sure as shit, he says something in the first 3 minutes that I wish I had said, because he said it so well.

"I think a lot of philosophy is in danger of being schmess*. It's a technically possible playpen for intellectual work, it's just not worth doing.

The great Canadian psychologist Donald Hebb once said,
"If it's not worth doing, it's not worth doing well." I think a lot of philosophy is very well done, very well done by experts, but it's not true that it's worth doing.

*Schmess is a game Dennett invented to explain this point. Schmess is just like chess except the king can move 2 places.

Now, don't get me wrong, it is unreasonable to expect that every attempt to create something is successful, whether it be song writing or philosophy. Most music that has ever been composed is somewhere between awful and meh, but if no one ever tried to compose a song unless they knew their idea for a song would lead to a hit there wouldn't be very much good music.

But philosophy seems to have an order of magnitude more bombs than the average human endeavor! Dennett has always been critical about academic philosophy and has explained many times that it is important that philosophers maintain at least some relationship with empiricism, which he does.

David Brin said...

"For all his vitriolic condemnation of Red State Idiocracy, Dr. Brin assumes that there is only ONE TYPE of intelligence (his nerdy subtype), rather than recognizing that there are many different types of intelligence which give different results. This mistake is typical of what N Taleb terms the IYT, and this error has led to a failed US educational system that confuses book learning with practical knowledge, critical thinking & creative intelligence."

Alas, he knows nothing about scientists or other nerds, who are also very broad and also practical. Even theoreticians spend a lot of time in the lab with folks who absolutlely depend upon making equipment work perfectly and then checking the factual results with ruthless precision. Scientists also almost all have artistic hobbies. In other words, his stereotype shows he knows no science types at all and is incurious to even wander over to a nearby university and ask questions.

(Try the meteorology or chemistry depts, son, and ask to actually actually learn something about how your cult is assasinating the planet our children need.)

While most of his assertions remain diametrically opposite to fact - L's screeds keep getting syntactically better expressed, hence again I ask - ROUGHLY what part of California are you visiting, that is giving you such better water/sustenance? Kinda curious!

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

what part of California are you visiting, that is giving you such better water/sustenance? Kinda curious!

Probably some place that doesn't have FOX News continuously blaring on telescreens.

Larry Hart said...

@Congressman Jim Jordan,

You don't have the votes.
You don't have the votes.
You're gonna need congressional approval, and
You don't have the votes.

Such a blunder. Makes me wonder
Why I even bring the thunder.

Why he even brings the thunder.

Larry Hart said...

As outrage grew over a blast that ripped through a hospital in Gaza, American and Israeli intelligence said early evidence showed the deadly explosion was caused by an errant rocket fired by Palestinian fighters.

Any chance it dampens down the outrage against Israel if Palestinians were the ones who bombed the hospital?

Didn't think so.

In 2016, a recurring caller to Stephanie Miller's radio show kept saying that the Republicans had a chance to choose between fiscal conservatism or racism, and they chose racism. Likewise, many of my fellow liberals have a choice between anti-terrorism and anti-Semitism, and are choosing the latter.


scidata said...

Hebb's Rule: neurons that fire together wire together

Corollary: mirror neurons that fire together aspire together
(note that they need not be in the same brain!)

I used to be heavy into Hebb, Dawkins, and Dennett back in the days when I was working on "Future Psychohistory". I've long since moved on to an agent-based model, more similar to OGH's ideas about A.I., economics, & stuff. Neural networks were for when we didn't have enough available computer power to work on agent-based models. That is, the 2nd half of 20th century.

Larry Hart said...

I also hope that Biden’s leadership can remind the decent left — and what’s left of a decent right — of what American moral leadership looks like. To stand with our allies and hold our friends. To see our enemies for what they are and treat them accordingly. To remind ourselves that as others see us, so should we see ourselves: as the last best hope of earth.

Alfred Differ said...


I don't think our host claims Marx explained the enrichment. Marx explained the historical pattern, but his projection of ideas into the future were problematic.

Smith did a decent job of explaining what was wrong too. He even had a partial fix for it. STOP doing it!


Where McCloskey has added to the discussion is in pointing out where the evidence is for the change in our rhetoric. How the bourgeoisie self-perceived is part of recorded history, but not where economists usually look for data.


I wouldn't read too much into locumranch's myopia. Not long ago he as pointing at peet reserve usage as the initial cause of our enrichment. Now it's Methodism? Well... he obviously didn't read the triple-tome.

Unknown said...

A long time ago I revealed to my RPGers that the world they were in had a secret society dedicated to reestablishing the Empire that had ruled over all the local of the players, a Dwarf Libertarian, said that reestablishing central control was a bad idea. The Secret Society member noted that most of the cities of the old empire had been unwalled. War had been banished beyond the boundaries, and the cities had been linked by teleporting Gates that allowed cheap, mass trade between cities and therefore regions.

So what happened?

Civil war had happened, and the Gates had been broken or closed in fear of reaving mercenary armies, religious massacres and plagues. The Optimate had been built, city by city, over a millenium. It broke in a year.


So yeah, I am not at heart an optimist.

Alfred Differ said...

Trade between the cities was too weak to discourage civil war?

(Bottom line motivations help traders tolerate each other at least to some degree.)

If I were playing in such a game I'd probably try being a trade zealot. Religious frothing and all that. 8)

Larry Hart said...

Plus ca change...

Republicans approve of the American farmer, but they are willing to help him go broke. They stand four-square for the American home—but not for housing. They are strong for labor—but they are stronger for restricting labor's rights. They favor minimum wage—the smaller the minimum wage the better. They endorse educational opportunity for all—but they won't spend money for teachers or for schools. They think modern medical care and hospitals are fine—for people who can afford them. They consider electrical power a great blessing—but only when the private power companies get their rake-off. They think American standard of living is a fine thing—so long as it doesn't spread to all the people. And they admire of Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it." — Harry S. Truman

Larry Hart said...

Both sides don't do it, and the one who does should be treated when they do as if they are Holnists. How we've normalized the "usual death threats" from the right, I will never know. And sorry, but chalk drawings on Susan Collins's sidewalk are not the same thing.

His [Jim Jordan's] supporters, including outside groups and media figures like Sean Hannity, ran a hard-edge pressure campaign, looking to rally the party’s base against Republicans who stood in Mr. Jordan’s way. This is not a minor threat. In the Age of Trump, Republicans targeted by the MAGA-verse have learned to fear not only for their political fortunes but also for the safety of themselves and their families.

Larry Hart said...

Washington’s strong support for Israel against Hamas is contrasted with Russian and Chinese efforts to align with the Palestinian struggle.

Who do Republicans root for, Netanyahu or Putin?

Does Saudi Arabia mind that Russia is aligned with Iran?

Do the American and Middle-Eastern factions who condemned Israel for bombing a hospital care at all that it was Palestinians who actually did the deed?

I'm very confused.

locumranch said...

The Middle East makes perfect sense, as this is the epitome of a diverse low trust society wherein every identity group and/or individual (who cares only about themselves) is busy playing both ends against the middle in the pursuit of personal advantage.

All the Middle East players are bound together by the common interests of proximity, economics (in this case oil) and their historical fears & hatreds:

Iran & Saudi Arabia hate each other so they seek an ally in Russia; Russia allies with both by playing one off against the other because of its hatred for the USA; the USA allies with Israel & Saudi Arabia out of its hatred for Russia; Israel & Saudi Arabia are bound together by their mutual hatred of Iran; Iran, the crybully Palestinians & Saudi Arabia are bound together by their mutual hatred of Israel; and pretty much all concerned are bound together by their common fear & hatred of the untrustworthy Palestinian crybully.

I wish I could tell you that human beings are bound together by love & goodwill, but evidence suggests otherwise. See the 'Selfish Gene' by Dawkins. Our own Dr. Brin is an interesting tactical case study in this regard as, for all intents & purposes, he appears to be a very (1) urbane, (2) intelligent, (3) competitive and (4) magnanimous individual.

Dr. Brin seeks allies in his pursuit of personal advantage through the judicious use of fear & hatred:

(1) He amplifies the growing rural vs urban divide in order to gain (blue) urban allies against a perceived (red) rural threat;

(2) He attempts to ally himself with other intelligent people via an imaginary 'War on Smart people' against a common but poorly defined enemy;

(3) He seeks other competitive allies by pairing the fair-level-open competitive model with a burning fear & hatred of 'cheaters'; and

(4) He uses Marxist class-based rhetoric to protect himself from the enmity of the very poor by uniting with them against a common 'enemy' that is the rich ruling class.

Make no mistake about it, Dr. Brin is everything that he appears to be -- he is in no way bad -- since his pursuit of self-interest may often coincide with the greater interests of the collective, but that detail is unimportant.

The main point here is that Dr. Brin truly understands the great Game of Allies & Enemies and true nature of social & community cohesion.


Paradoctor said...

Cooperation and competition are yin and yang. They are mutually interdependent. It's a dilemma, of the "prisoner's dilemma" sort. Anthropology has long established humanity's pro-social instincts. (In dynamic equilibrium with our anti-social instincts, natch.)

So of course it is standard practice to unify contentious groups by unifying them against other groups. I'm glad to see that you agree with Dr. Brin, and even call him 'in no way bad' for his political pragmatism.

I don't think the opposing groups you mention above are entirely imaginary. For instance, the upper classes are fully class-conscious, and militant in the class war, for their own interests. To this end they have mobilized anti-intellectualism, America's cultural weak point.

mcsandberg said...


It's not really anti-intellectualism as much as it is attacking institutions that have gone bad. Here's a bit from an interesting column:

"Among people paying attention, academia's reputation is already in the garbage bin. From political correctness to administrative bloat, from its inability to teach basic concepts, from its greed to its arrogance, those of us who know what time it is already despise it. But these last couple weeks have been clarifying for everyone else. It’s almost beyond the point to go through the litany of the moral illiteracies that idiots in and around academia have demonstrated over the last two weeks. We’ve all seen them cheering on the slaughter and hating the Jews – a lowlight was a Cornell associate professor of history who found the mass rape/murder spree to be “exhilarating.”

His words. Uttered in public. Uttered without shame. "

Larry Hart said...


attacking institutions that have gone bad.

You mean like the Republican Party?

Larry Hart said...

After the horror Tuesday night, when hundreds of Palestinians were reportedly killed in a strike after seeking shelter from Israeli bombing at the Gaza hospital, Russia and China are expected to intensify their calls for a U.N. resolution and an immediate cease-fire. According to RIA Novosti, a Russian state news agency, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, called the explosion a “crime” and an “act of dehumanization,” and said Israel would have to provide satellite images to prove it was not behind the attack.

So now that we know it was a Palestinian terrorist group who blew up the hospital, do Russia and China condemn them instead? No, of course not. It still proves that Israel is in the wrong.

Larry Hart said...

From the point of view of many in the Global South, she said, “the United States fights Russia, the occupier of Ukraine, but when it comes to Israel, the U.S. is on the side of the occupier, and Russia taps into that.”

Because Russia was responding to a series of unspeakably horrific acts of terror committed by Ukrainians inside of Russia? Sorry, but I don't see the equivalence. Also they sided with Russia long before this war in Israel began.

I know this is incredibly simplistic and I lose liberal cred points for it, but if the global south thinks that Russia and China will treat them better than the West does, they are free to find out for themselves. Meanwhile, someone needs to explain to me why I should give a fig about what they think.

scidata said...

Jim Jordan bows out: a good day for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan.
Sidney Powell pleads and flips: another horrible day for DT.

David Brin said...

I am back to skimming, even though very clearly the waters in his mysterious California locale (why not tell us, roughly?) are doing him good. While much better parsed, syntactically, of course his strawmen remain utterly (and I now believe intentionally) detached from any relation to me.

Clearly, locumranch enjoys being a gadfly in this community and I have kinda enjoyed the pokes, as a sign of maturity and patience with contrariness on my own part, traits that are a theme at Contrary Brin.

What I do regret - and hereby apologize for - is my occasional use of excessively pejorative language in response to his strawman fantasies. I have - at times - been excessive in responding with harsh tones and words. I am trying - late in life - to control my temper. Also, he clearly cannot help himself. He likely actually sees the things that he claims to see.

Larry Hart said...

This is why we can't have nice things. Even when liberals have a good day, the same fight has to be relitigated again and again and again. Just like Supply-Side and civil rights.

Just hours after the hard-right Republican said he would hit pause on his candidacy and support elevating the interim speaker, Representative Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina, to temporarily lead the House, Mr. Jordan reversed course yet again and said he would move forward with his bid to win the post. It was not immediately clear when another vote could be scheduled.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Clearly, locumranch enjoys being a gadfly in this community and I have kinda enjoyed the pokes

You and some others refuse to listen when he tells you who he is--a disgruntled old man who would gladly shoot me, you, Jews, liberals, women, blacks, Hispanics, urbanites, etc., etc., if only given the method and opportunity. And that's without even mentioning the lying and slander.

In the past, I've engaged, but no more. I'm no longer even curious.

Unknown said...

Got to go with LH here. I was curious as to how the loc was supposed to be making sense, so I got out of the boat...right into this:

"...our host even seems to argue that these predominantly European Enlightenment systems no longer require these specifically White Christian human components in order to function, as almost any replacement human being will do..."

You're damned right he does. He's not racist.


David Brin said...

Pappernheimer please parse carefully.
You spoke to something I had skimmed-past:
"...our host even seems to argue that these predominantly European Enlightenment systems no longer require these specifically White Christian human components in order to function, as almost any replacement human being will do..."

You commented: "You're damned right he does. He's not racist."\

Yes, I am loyal to the GEE's (Great Enlightenment Experiment's) fundamental methodology. And Obama was pretty good proof that you do not have to look like James Madison or Adam Smith to be a champion of thei methodology - the only one EVER that escaped from romantic-twaddle feudalist drooling and cruelty to instead deliver science, justice and effective competitive markets.

(Oh, and Obama and Clintons and Carters were all see on camera reciting the Apotles' Creed by heart at the GHWBush funeral, while the Trumps stared ahead and did not even glance at the cheat sheet, looking bored. So much for "Christian Identity.)

BUT, if someone WILFULLY MISTINTERPRETS that phrasing offered by locum... that I think white Christians should be EXCLUDED... well that is plain strawman lying. Jimmy Carter has long been a hero of mine... and while I dislike some doctrines, his 8o YEARS teaching Sunday school kinda puts him at a higher moral plane than poor locum.

Laurent Weppe said...

Larry Hart«who he is--a disgruntled old man who would gladly shoot me, you, Jews, liberals, women, blacks, Hispanics, urbanites, etc., etc.»

Oh but he would not shoot you. He’d call the cops and give them your address, which is what “civilised” men do: order uniformed goons to dirty their hands for they well bred “betters”.


Unknown«predominantly European Enlightenment systems no longer require these specifically White Christian human components in order to function,»

The funnier part is that the “White Christian Component” is a dying breed in Europe. Most White people on my side of the pond are Atheists nowadays, and the conservative “cultural Christians” who dominate Western Europe right-wing parties have grown too lazy and complacent to convincingly fake religious belief.
Which has become a problem especially in my country: the old secular equilibrium between Conservative Catholics and Anticlerical Leftists has broken down and been replaced by a three bodies problem between Secular Progressives, Authoritarian Atheistic Neoconservatives who originally hailed from the left but nowadays are openly arguing for the outlawing of left-wing parties and Atheistic Conservatives who perceive religion as nothing more than genealogical marker (hence why they claim to be the inheritors of Christian *roots* and not Christian *morality* or *values* because you can claim the first simply by virtue of your genealogical tree while the second and third demand some behavioural efforts that they are unwilling to make).

David Brin said...

"He’d call the cops and give them your address, which is what “civilised” men do: order uniformed goons to dirty their hands for they well bred “betters”."

I think you misunderstand him and his ilk.

Larry Hart said...

Did anyone see even part of President Biden's speech? I only caught ten minutes or so, and I'm already thinking, "Who are these Democrats who think he's a weak president who needs to step down because he'll lose to Trump?" My God, he's the best president we've had in my lifetime. President Obama might have risen to the same level in these same times, but he didn't face the same crises that Biden does, all at once. No one else is in the same ballpark.

In a rational country, his reelection would look like Reagan's.

Listen, surely I've exceeded
Expectations. Tried for three years.
Seems like thirty. Could You ask
As much from any other man?

Larry Hart said...

Laurent Weppe:

Oh but he would not shoot you. He’d call the cops and give them your address,

No, he has said explicitly he wants a shooting war. It's expected to surprise us when it begins, and to serve us right.

«predominantly European Enlightenment systems no longer require these specifically White Christian human components in order to function,»

The funnier part is that the “White Christian Component” is a dying breed in Europe.

The founders of the Enlightenment may have been nominally Christian in the same way that I am nominally Jewish. But they didn't place dogma above the evidence of their lying eyes. Jefferson, to name one, was a scientist and engineer, and he published a version of the Bible with the miracles excised out of it.

To mangle a Ronald Reagan quote, "Religion isn't the solution to the problem faced by the Enlightenment; religion is the problem."

Earlier today, I saw a quote attributed to England's Victorian-age PM, Benjamin D'Israeli. It went something like, "Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he'll eat for a lifetime. Give a man religion, he'll starve while praying for a fish."

I can't argue with that.

David Brin said...

I am told that my second novel STARTIDE RISING - which kind of launched my career and won all the awards - dolphins in spaces - will have its e-version available tomorrow (Friday) on most sites for $1.99.

Darrell E said...

Startide Rising was the first of your novels that I read. I'd been browsing the shelfs at a giant brick and mortar book store (pre-internet shopping days) for at least an hour trying to find something new that piqued my curiosity and wasn't having much luck. Finally I noticed Startide Rising, a single copy, that I'd missed even though I'd scanned that section of shelf at least 5 times already. I knew nothing about you as an author, never heard of you before, and purchased the book solely off the cover art.

It was sort of like winning the lottery. Pretty much every characteristic I like in a science fiction story was there. It was easily a contender for the best science fiction novel I'd read till then. I've reread it quite a few times and it has withstood the test of time effortlessly. Still to this much later date, Startide Rising and The Uplift War are easily in my top 5 all time best science fiction novels list.

Larry Hart said...

I always think of The Postman coming first, probably because it was the first Brin book that I read.

Startide Rising is clearly science-fiction. The Postman isn't so easily pigeonholed. While it does take place in a speculative future, I can't offhand think of any part that technology which is not available today plays in the book. It's more a clash of ideologies--Enlightenment vs feudalism--which is as relevant today as it was when the book was published, if not moreso.

mcsandberg said...

This might be of interest .

Larry Hart said...

Needed to be said about the "usual death threats"...

AOC on Twitter:

It is honestly sad how after GOP downplayed colleagues’ warnings about the volume of death threats from their base, mocked ppl assigned details, & voted to defend GOP who depicted himself killing a member, they are now experiencing what we have for years.

Darrell E said...

Larry Hart,

There were two science fiction elements in the Postman, enhanced warriors and sentient AI. Though of course the last sentient AI had "died" well before the events of the novel.

But yes, most of The Postman feels positively contemporary.

scidata said...

Chesebro flips, pleads guilty to a felony, and walks. A very big fish is going down.

A.F. Rey said...

You can almost hear Chesebro singing the Barenaked Ladies "Bank Job":

And now that the whole thing
Has gone down the drain,
I think we all know who
Should shoulder the blame.

'Cause you made a choice there,
Almost sublime.
I'm all for compassion,
Just not on my dime.

You look like an amateur
And that's the real crime.
So I'll take a walk now
And you do the time.

Slim Moldie said...

mcsandberg (link to the WD)

I think if the folks that signed that document got their way (and we keep going the direction we're in) we'll end up in a situation like Vernor Vinge's short story, the Ungoverned.

It's a bit of a conundrum. How can you maintain free speech without legislating and regulating and holding voices (which could be corporations) accountable, even if they choose to amplify speech with malicious intent or speech intended to inflict harm on others?

Our host wrote a book proposing a solution.

Tim H. said...

Slim, you might rephrase part of your comment as "How to get people who reject societal norms to accept enough of them to stop disrupting society?". From my perspective, contemporary "Conservatives" are tired of being good, and they're too old to stand in a corner.

Slim Moldie said...


To me, rejecting societal norms or even disrupting society isn't the issue. Slavery was a societal norm that needed to be disrupted. My ancestors on one side of the family immigrated to America after my x-times great-grandfather was stoned to death (with rocks) by his putrid fish-breathed neighbors in a Scandinavian village (free of criming Somalian refuges) as punishment for choosing to reject their societal norm of attending church. He believed he should be able to mind his own business and worship by himself in a corner. RIP. At least the remaining members of his family got a boat ride, Midwest summers, and baseball out of the move.

To preserve individual freedoms society has to be constantly arguing and agreeing on constantly evolving norms that induce people (?) into taking accountability for actions that are harmful to others within a reasonable context of MYOB.

It seems to me these days that contemporary "conservatives" along with the tiny, statistically insignificant fraction of their screaming nut-job cousins on the far left...are both suffering from an inability to coalesce the vapor of human experience into a viable and logical comprehension.

mcsandberg said...

Slim Moldie

Which book is that?

Slim Moldie said...

The Transparent Society

Larry Hart said...

I didn't think so.

As the Israeli columnist Nahum Barnea pointed out to me, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (P.I.J.) achieved more this week with an apparently misfired rocket “than it achieved in all of its successful missile launches.”

How so? After that rocket failed and fell on the Palestinian hospital in Gaza, killing scores of people, Hamas and the P.I.J. rushed out and claimed — with no evidence — that Israel had deliberately bombed the hospital, setting streets ablaze across the Arab world. When Israel and the United States offered compelling evidence a few hours later that the P.I.J. accidentally hit the Gaza hospital with its own rocket, it was already too late. The Arab street was on fire and a meeting of Arab leaders with Biden was canceled.

David Brin said...

LH: the missing question is always "Who benefitte?"

There is no way that Israel benefitted from the hospital calamity. WHy would they?

Larry Hart said...

@Dr Brin,

My sarcastic comment, "I didn't think so," wasn't meant to mean "I didn't think Israel bombed the hospital." It was, "I didn't think any anti-Israel blathering based on the hospital bombing would change just because we now know Israel didn't do it."

So you know where I stand, I favor a two-state solution and normalization between Israel and any Arabs whose raison d'etre is other than death to Jews and eradication of Israel. I am not a fan of Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition which makes me believe that the lesson they took from Hitler was "To keep from being the victims, we must be the oppressors!"

But when I hear "From the river to the sea!", I hear Jueenrein, and whatever point the chanters have is immediately lost on me. I'm ashamed that those people consider themselves to be liberals.

Larry Hart said...

Since many may not know the term, that was supposed to be spelled Judenrein, the Nazi term for "Jew-free".

scidata said...

Fascists eat their own. The vile intraparty threats against some Rs and their families prove it.

David Brin said...