19095684_10155558536552350_162069046585892024_o More politics, but since it is cunningly disguised as a reply to mt’s Twitter rant, I think I may get away with it. You should go off and read mt’s post, for context. But not for content; much as I like his take on the science I can never agree with his take on the politics. Here’s a sample:

One reason for the buckling of democracy is the stealing of people’s time and emotional energy in high stakes marketplace hypercompetition. Democracy can be preserved or restored only if & when daily life is secure. A key reason to support Universal Basic Income1 or similar ideas. A calm and confident people can learn, absorb ideas, weigh strategies. A hassled population buffeted by competing shallow ideas cannot… I’m old enough to remember intelligent, respectful, intellectually challenging debate on television. The idea seems almost unimaginable now!2

How could anyone possibly object to that? Everyone knows that things used to be better in the olde dayes, and Modern Life is Rubbish, yes? Well, no. I really wish mt – and others – would read Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies. There is so much in there that you need to know, you need to think about. And of course it is far better written there than I could possibly hope to summarise here. Oddly, I don’t find a post by me on it before, except bookshelf which only lightly touches it. The themes relevant here are: don’t believe in an Age of Gold; and be cautious about trying to design society.

But to address mt’s points myself: people are not short of time. Oh, I know it feels like it, but even I have hours every evening to do things in; so many hours that I generally have time to go rowing in the evening. It is easy to feel terribly busy, and doubtless many do; it is even easy to be very busy if you want to be; but if you want free time to think that is possible. But many people don’t really want free time to think. The idea that “hypercompetition” or modern capitalism or something is “stealing” people’s time is I think just excuse-making. Or, I-would-have-got-away-with-it-if-it-weren’t-for-those-dammed-capitalists.

So if it isn’t that, what is it?

This is my excuse to introduce Public Choice Theory4 which is yet another thing that I have but a glancing acquaintance with. One aspect of said theory is to address people’s behaviour when voting or more generally when wondering how much of their time to devote to politics. What is “rational” behaviour? And the answer, of course, is that rationally most individuals should spend very little of their time working out how to vote, informing themselves of political issues of the day, and so on. Because: their own vote will have very little impact. Any benefits gained from getting it right are diffuse, as are any losses from getting it wrong. Thus although the choice of president will clearly have major consequences, those consequences fall on everyone; and so the rational voter should not go to any great effort in fully evaluating the choice3. This theory, of course doesn’t address those like your humble author for whom interest in politics is an end in itself.

Does this go anywhere? I think it does, in that without understanding we are doomed to fail. mt is trying to go somewhere; he is trying to save the world. It’s a big one; his conclusion – which is less of a conclusion than an aspiration, this was a rant, recall – is I’m not eager to abandon democracy as an ideal, but it demands participation & engagement… Everyone on earth should be guaranteed food and shelter… We might still pull a decent future out if we address our idiotic commitment to a policy of maximum employment at minimum wage. I’m glad he doesn’t want to abandon democracy; just look at the places that have, like Venezuela. And I’d be happy with an UBI; so would many economists; so I suspect would many on the right, if the left would take basic seriously. The last sentence of his I’ve quoted is problematic, though, no matter how much it chimes with Timmy’s repeated jobs are a cost, not a benefit. It just feels like the wrong thing to be pushing, to me. What would I prefer to push? Free trade; a carbon tax; constitutional government. That wasn’t a well thought out list, but it hardly matters; I consistently fail to convince anyone of their virtues.

Notes

1. I am in favour of an Universal Basic Income (UBI), though with some stress on the word basic; I don’t think I’ve said that explicitly but it implicit here.

2. I really can’t remember TV in the old days. I haven’t watched it for decades. Why would you? But if it has lost serious debate, perhaps it is because it has moved to a more serious medium; online perhaps.

3. This of course has always been true. Public Choice Theory is a fairly recent developement, but that’s irrelevant, because most people are unaware of it. So if mt is claiming – with evidence – that people used to think more carefully in the old days, and the current rather thoughtless electorate represents a change, then I’m open to looking at the evidence.

4. Indeed, I was entirely unaware of it until recently. I think it was only the fuss about Nancy Maclean’s “Democracy in chains” that the Libertarians are so sad about that brought it to my notice; see for example More on Nancy MacLean’s Distorted Portrait of Jim Buchanan’s Tax-Reform Analysis. Majoritarianism is another topic that I must return to; Public Choice provides another way to look at co-operation with government, too, helpfully supplementing the Libertarian viewpoint.

Refs

* Hegel does maths
* Milton Friedman: “You must separate out being pro free-enterprise from being pro-business”.
* James Buchanan on the distinction between constitutional and legislative change, a subject I must come back to.
* The Debate is Over – 99% of Scientists believe Gravity and the Heliocentric Solar System so therefore… – Science of Doom.
* Yet More on the Book of Errors Titled “Democracy in Chains” – CH. Some interesting thoughts.
* Rent-Seeking: One Small Example.

Comments

  1. #1 angech
    2017/07/29

    Just back from Russia.
    Where they had UBI for nearly 100 years.
    They seemed very happy and prosperous since they gave it up for western values.
    Christianity and Communism have very basic feel good values that we all agree with but do not work for the best in a Darwinian world.
    Thank you for your strong push on this realisation.

  2. #2 wereatheist
    2017/07/29

    This is my excuse to introduce Public Choice Theory […]This theory, of course doesn’t address those like your humble author

    Of course you are one of the betters.
    I think, if physicsts rule the world (finally, i. e. forever since), they might be temptet to feed economists to the pigs (because this will be better for the general public).
    Tax entropy (increase of)!

  3. #3 wereatheist
    2017/07/29

    I should not comment after some beers :)

  4. #4 wereatheist
    2017/07/30

    because of the typos

  5. #5 Griff
    36.0452° S, 174.5325° E
    2017/07/30

    Fatigue for your FFP electoral system?
    We have MMP a reasonably turn out and a larger hierarchy of party’s to chose the least worse from.

    Politics is an acquired taste.
    Many find it unpalatable to look further than their daily existences horizon and vote on tribal allegiance . Others are persuaded by the simplistic arguments at the fringe.
    We can not disfranchise them because they have different world view.

    Direct representation has its issues.
    How the question is framed being one the propensity to vote for circus another.

    The internet has changed our communication as profoundly as the book or the press.
    There is any number of forums where you can not only be informed, no matter how wrongly, you can also take part in the discussion at both group and personal level with no physical barriers.

    Billions
    Many of whom are entering their own industrial revolution.
    Yet manufacturing is increasingly being dehumanized .
    What are we going to do when only so many hairdressers and telephone sanitisers. are needed.
    My youth was spent reading sci fi, The prospect of billions on maintenance rations is a reoccurring scene.
    How do we keep them amused? Will they require feeding with propaganda . How will we maintain social cohesion.

    Feme pardox
    Is it answered with the more energy we accumulate the greater the chance we cause an imbalance that destroys us.
    To get to the stars we need a lot more energy yet .

    No cohesive argument intended just ideas .

    https://www.newscientist.com/article/2141605-mysterious-mega-swan-once-waddled-through-new-zealand/

  6. #6 Marco
    2017/07/30

    Angech, the USSR did not have UBI.

  7. #7 angech
    2017/07/30

    Marco,
    Communism, in its basic form, is UBI, everyone is equal and everyone gets the same.
    The USSR did this in theory if not fully in practice.
    People did not like it when they experienced it.
    – Griff
    “What are we going to do when only so many hairdressers and telephone sanitisers. are needed.”
    In Hitchhikers guide they put them all on a spaceship and sent them into space.
    Duh, you knew that.

  8. #8 Nathan
    2017/07/30

    That Popper book now comes as “A one volume edition with a new introduction by Alan Ryan…”

    Eek…

  9. #9 Nathan
    2017/07/30

    Also should point out the the UK and US both have rubbish methods of electing peeps. You should move to the Australian or NZ models. Much better.

  10. #10 David B. Benson
    2017/07/30

    Nathan #9 — Kindly explain.

  11. #11 SteveP
    2017/07/30

    Yes, Nathan, please explain. Would the Australian or NZ systems be able to select against a flaming dumpster fire cleverly advertised as a barbecue picnic, with fuel and catering supplied by Putin industries? Here in Murka, about a third of the population is still happily sitting in front of the Trump dumpster conflagration, waiting for their hamburgs and hot dogs. So patient. Here in Murka, the mechanism supposedly put in place to protect against the installation of a tyrant,

  12. #12 SteveP
    2017/07/30

    Here in Murka, the constitutional sop supposedly put in place to protect against the installation of a tyrant, instead, successfully accomplished its true mission of being able to allow the ideological descendants of slavers to install a tyrant.

    Whatcha got in the antipodes that can trump that?

  13. #13 Nathan Tetlaw
    Australia
    2017/07/30

    In Australia we have preferential voting so if your number 1 vote fails to get in, your vote transfers to number 2 and so on…. So you could vote for the Greens candidate first (Jill Stein?) Then Hillary at number 2 and then your vote would go to Hillary.
    We have much smaller gerrymandering here too.
    In New Zealand they have proportional representation, so if you get 20% of the vote you get 20% of the seats.
    Both are much better than first past the post. Or the electoral college nonsense that is essentially first past the post by State.

  14. #14 Nathan Tetlaw
    2017/07/30

    The head of state is Australia hasn very few powers. So we could never get asimilar Trump effect.

  15. #15 Nathan Tetlaw
    2017/07/30

    Also, voting is actually a right in Australia. Employers must give you time off work to vote. All elections are on Saturdays. We also have sufficient polling places that people get to vote. Still done with paper and pencil too

  16. #16 SteveP
    2017/07/30

    Nathan. Thanks. That all seems very sensible. Something to work towards. However, currently, the people here who are expert at gaming the system are too busy working at capturing the attention of their base with flaming dumpster races to pay much attention to sensible people.
    Sad.

  17. #17 wereatheist
    2017/07/30

    ‘Public Choice Theory’ looks like the ideal excuse for ἰδιώτης .
    My personal choice has little bearing on policy, but all voters’ choice, taken together, obviously has. There Is Such a Thing as Society.
    People who don’t care, or who want the perfect solution (Bernie Bros), might wake up under the rule of some surprise like the buffoon in the White House.

  18. #18 Marco
    2017/07/30

    Angech, still no. You may want to look up what ubi really means. Hint: it does NOT mean that a physician gets the same paycheck as a carpenter.

  19. #19 Nathan
    2017/07/30

    SteveP

    I think a big problem in both the US and UK is poor electoral processes.
    In the US the horrible gerrymander and the poor logistics at election time.
    In the UK the upper house is a mess. Start the process again and reduce the numbers in the Upper house. And make it proportional representation.

    Does the UK still have Lords in the Upper House?

  20. #20 angech
    2017/07/31

    Marco, you are right.
    Sigh.

  21. #22 RttB
    2017/07/31

    1. I am in favour of an Universal Basic Income (UBI), though with some stress on the word basic; I don’t think I’ve said that explicitly [before].

    Yes, I also dont think you’ve said that.

    It is a tidier notion compared with most `Libertarian’ (reducing the complexity of government) ideas you’ve tried expounding previously. But in order to get agreement the key question is, What is the reasonable level?

    Given an UBI would be set at a national level, attempting to bear in mind the range of situations (i.e. trying (!) to get beyond the view of a white well-off oxbridge educated man..) of different people across the UK, are you maybe interested in this question. FWIW I think its a good one.

    [There’s a proposal here that would serve as a basis for discussion -W]

  22. #23 RttB
    2017/07/31

    [There’s a proposal here…

    That link is a start – but not UK specific. It also seems to [implicitly] say that children are not people – which is a problem.

    I guess if disability-specific support (and pensions?) were kept separate, then perhaps it could be a fairly simple question. Something like, would £9k per year for every over 16 yo, and say half that (£4.5k?) for every under 16 year old be basic?

    I do kinda like the idea. But I’d worry about the practice/detail.

    [Unfortunately, the idea won’t gain traction if everyone keeps worrying about their own pet boondoggle detail. The idea has the virtue of simplicity and not pandering to any particular special interest group, as well as making a whole layer of bureaucracy redundant. Experience suggests that these virtues will doom it -W]

  23. #24 RttB
    2017/07/31

    Weeelll, I suppose its your blog. So you are free to suggest that disabled people, women (?), and children are boondoggles. But not considering such pet details would likely signal its doom to the Mighty Left.

    And coming back to the question of why people disengage; it might also be to do with them feeling dehumanised. For example, being treated as a joke, or your job threatened, or not taken seriously.

    Boondoggle made me smile tho – nice word :-). And thanks for fixin up my formatting.

    [I don’t really understand you bringing up women. Are you suggesting a different UBI for men and women? Or is that just a kind of left-reflex: anytime disabled and children are mentioned, women must be too? Whether children get their own (and if so at what rate) is a topic to discuss; whether certain-classes-of-people get higher rates, ditto. But over-complicate it and it becomes (a) too expensive and (b) too complicated. Mind you, if you want to kill it, that’s one way. You can also look at other people’s experiments, e.g. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/03/finland-trials-basic-income-for-unemployed -W]

  24. #25 RttB
    2017/07/31

    I don’t really understand you bringing up women.

    Fair cop. I do like to talk about women :-). They are lovely and rather interesting. Dont you think so too?

    But actually, here I mentioned women cause I was wondering who would be left short if some of those who require income (via UBI or whatever) dont get it: i.e. children and those who need care.

    Dont have numbers for you but I believe most single parents are women. And I think the majority of carers are also women. So whether or not children and those who require extra disability-support get a sufficient income impacts most heavily on women.

    Of course, after that the next problem the Left might throw your way is how one deals with all that lovely UBI cash being diverted from the pockets of those who actually need it – and instead the cash finding its way into your high-income pocket..

  25. #26 Kevin ONeill
    2017/07/31

    So, following these last few comments, the big stumbling block to passage of a UBI would come from the left. I must have stumbled into an alternate universe.

  26. #27 GregH
    2017/07/31

    MC: …rationally most individuals should spend very little of their time working out how to vote, informing themselves of political issues of the day… Because: their own vote will have very little impact.

    Maybe getting the UBI would be contingent on demonstrating some kind of political commitment, like voting, doing party work, etc.? And of course a ranked voting system would make each vote more effective.

  27. #28 Toby Brown
    2017/08/01

    Of course all jobs are a cost.

    [But if that’s so, why does the govt and other people so frequently celebrate ways of generating energy that require more jobs? -W]

    That’s why there is a big drive to get rid of as many as possible to lower costs. The problem then is how do people with no job and no income contribute to an economy? The neo liberals hate the idea of anyone bludging off the taxpayer*.

    * Tax being optional for the wealthy.

  28. #29 Andrew Dodds
    2017/08/01

    Kevin –

    Actually, support or opposition to a UBI tends to split on the Libertarian/Authoritarian axis, more than Left/Right. To generalize horribly, Left-Authoritarians want to be in control of who gets welfare (Think tax credits; complicated, byzantine systems that are meant to be ‘fair’). Right-Authoritarians want to have economic power over people – think making people work multiple minimum wage jobs with no rights or security. A UBI removes a whole layer of ‘who deserves what’ bureaucracy and also means that people can walk away from jobs with unacceptable pay/conditions without facing destitution.

    [I think that’s roughly right, at least as roughly right as you can get for these kind of things. FWIW, it’s probably also the case that “the left” are more likely to have friends / support working ni the layer of bureaucracy that would be chopped by UBI -W]

    The flip side of this is that benefit traps cease to exist, and people who want to start a business can do so with some safely.

    RttB –

    Note that the levels of UBI generally thrown around, and the basic state pension are very similar numbers. I’d remove the distinction between UBI and pension; a fixed retirement age dosen’t make much sense anyway.

    [That, too, is a nice idea -W]

  29. #30 Dunc
    2017/08/01

    [But if that’s so, why does the govt and other people so frequently celebrate ways of generating energy that require more jobs? -W]

    Because we live in a society which actively punishes people who don’t have jobs (unless they’re independently wealthy). Unemployment carries a heavy social stigma, and generally results in crushing poverty. Therefore most people want jobs, and regard more jobs as a good thing.

  30. #31 RttB
    2017/08/01

    ..most people want jobs, and regard more jobs as a good thing.

    There is good evidence that growing up in a workless home results in poor life outcomes. So it is quite reasonable to argue that jobs are, in this sense, a good thing.

    … the levels of UBI generally thrown around, and the basic state pension are very similar numbers.

    If the UBI is expected to replace all support that goes to workless, the disabled, and children (including on accommodation) the state pension number is too low. Using a measure of the Minimum Income required for a reasonable standard of life could be one (rather more expensive) approach:

    https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/minimum-income-standard-uk-2016

    Think that would imply something in the region of £9-14k… so maybe a cheaper measure would be needed.

  31. #32 Dunc
    2017/08/01

    There is good evidence that growing up in a workless home results in poor life outcomes. So it is quite reasonable to argue that jobs are, in this sense, a good thing.

    Yes, but it’s difficult to say whether it’s the worklessness per se that’s the issue, or the associated poverty and social stigma. I strongly suspect it’s the latter, as wealthy layabouts mostly seem to do OK.

  32. #33 RttB
    2017/08/01

    … but it’s difficult to say whether it’s the worklessness per se that’s the issue, or the associated poverty and social stigma.

    My understanding is that even a part-time low paid position – that really doesn’t bring in much extra – helps considerably. That implies is not (much) about the extra income i.e. the alleviation of poverty. But it doesn’t say whether a reduction in social stigma is part of the reason.

    FWIW I’ve read anecdotes that imply its mainly the example set by simply working: getting up at a set time; dressing to a set standard; concentrating on work outside the home; etc. This is apparently esp important in homes where workless has been the norm.

    Afraid I dont have anything to add about wealthy layabouts.. but I would have thought they’d be less bothered about a UBI – no?

  33. #34 Dunc
    2017/08/01

    Afraid I dont have anything to add about wealthy layabouts.. but I would have thought they’d be less bothered about a UBI – no?

    I wasn’t really participating in the UBI discussion, just pointing out why people like policies which create jobs.

  34. #35 SteveP
    2017/08/01

    With regards to the title of this piece (Why don’t people pay attention to the future of their own world?): Some people cannot extrapolate to the future, and others can but they don’t see how they can have an effect on the future. Others feel that the only thing that they can do is work as hard as they can to provision themselves and their offspring for any coming catastrophes.

    Here are a few words related to the discussion about UBI. Hive mind. Ultimate goals. Purpose. Meaning of life. Evolutionary biology. The need to think. The need to create. The Need to be active. The need to build. The need to procreate. The need to be socially accepted. Belief systems. The need to achieve. The need for rewards. Envy. The need to rest. Economic systems. Wage slaves. Who benefits. Conflicting value systems. Survival.

    Let me think about this for a few years.

  35. #36 Hank Roberts
    instabilitate terram
    2017/08/02

    > he is trying to save the world. It’s a big one

    One of the smaller ones, actually. Not like he’s on a tear to preserve Saturn or something.

  36. #37 Bernard J.
    2017/08/02

    To add to Nathan’s posts at 13-15, Australia also has mandatory attendance at a voting place. All registered voters are required to attend one unless they (subsequently) give good reason. It’s a pretty good mechanism to ensure representative elections.

    And lest the libertarian rail at being forced to vote, it should be noted that one can fill in the ballots any way one chooses. It’s a private process, so if someone doesn’t actually want to select any of the candidates, then they can draw kittens on the paper and fold it and place it in the boxes.

    [That’s why it is besides the point. The point is not to force people to vote, which seems to me utterly futile, designed only to give fake high turnout figures and disguise voter indifference. The point is to align interests so that the voter is motivated to put effort into studying which candidate, parties, policies is good -W]

    The end result however is that most of the voting-age population is captured. The late teenage/early 20s cohort is under-represented because of some slow uptake of registration with the Electoral Commission: this has long been a Thing and probably has no simple solution unless it was tied to access to certain services/privileges. That might irk the libertarians though, and especially so because the weight of voting inclination in this cohort is such that they’re more likely to vote against the precepts of libertarian inclination.

    The system’s not entirely fool-proof – it did elect Tony Abbott. But it’s highly probable that sans excessive Russian/Murdoch interference, Trump would never have been electable under an Australian model.

  37. #38 dave s
    2017/08/03

    Rolling back regulation can also provide lots of jobs, as demonstrated by this rant..
    http://www.marketwatch.com/story/grenfell-tower-is-a-lesson-in-the-dangers-of-rolling-back-regulation-2017-08-02

    As of now, full-size fire tests on cladding systems have shown that 193 tower blocks don’t meet building regulations, and need urgent action to replace combustible cladding. In another example, part of the trauma unit at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital will close on Friday for up to a year to replace cladding.

    [Is that a sensible decision, or panic? -W]

    And the government has announced it’s going to start the review of building regulations it promised to start four years ago.

    Lots of work! Unclear where the skilled workforce will come from, given the gov’s current priority of excluding all those yoorpeens who’ve been doing that sort of thing.

  38. #39 mt
    Ottawa
    2017/08/03

    The question I’m raising is indeed whether jobs are a cost or a benefit. I claim there is an ancillary cost in social stability that eventually dominates the stability of the entire system.

    [When you say “an ancillary cost” I think you mean a cost to the joblessness side. I agree that in current society that is true; both because joblessness => poverty, and joblessness => low status. However, as pointed out by another commentator, rich layabouts don’t seem to suffer from joblessness angst; perhaps because they (a) don’t have the poverty and (b) have high status anyway. The obvious answers are that if “genteel poverty” became accepted, the status loss would be less; and (b) well, we have (relative) poverty anyway; this wouldn’t make it worse -W]

    Neither Venezuela nor the Soviet Union (nor blissfully capitalist Nazi Germany for that matter) is germane as far as I see it.

    [But they are. They’re germane in demonstrating the folly of central planning. You’re not allowed to riposte that they weren’t perfect central-planning paradises, because of course the USA isn’t a perfect free-market paradise either -W]

    That things can be done very badly is a given. There are lots of ways to do things badly. As Tolstoy says “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” I think most will stipulate that America is doing things quite unhappily at present, so much so that it is likely to get worse. Britain, too, is behaving antithetically to its own interests. In both of these cases, it seems a failure of democracy is a key element of the problem.

    [Well, arguably, yes, but I think you’re missing the key element of failure. Because you think you know what the word “democracy” means. The failure-of-democracy we’re seeing is the “tyranny of the majority” failure; what you get in places like Turkey, where the govt thinks that winning gets it all power -W]

    My proposal is first that democracy fails when the voting populace do not have the capacity for sustained discourse leading to rational decisions. Second, that such capacity, among other things requires disposable time, and that contemporary life demands (somehow, despite the increase in labour-saving contrivances) more time per capita to maintain a reasonably safe and comfortable life than it did in democracy’s heyday. If that’s right I think this means we have done something remarkably stupid, and I think it’s worth trying to understand what that is.

    William points out that “rational choice” indicates that it’s always foolish, in that economically rational perspective, to spend much attention on these things. The larger the system (town, province, nation, world) the less impact one can have, This is certainly true. This can only be balanced by altruism; a commitment of resources to the whole.

    This means a commitment to democracy as a preference is rationally connected to altruism. A person can rationally prefer democracy without himself being altruistic, but he cannot prefer democracy without preferring that most others be altruistic, which indeed is economically irrational.

    [Your “economically rational perspective” is potentially misleading. The label “economic” in that phrase means “looking at politics through the analysis framework developed by economics”; not “from the point of view of money”.

    This can only be balanced by altruism: I disagree, in two ways: firstly, i think that making your political system stability depend on altruism is fatally flawed; secondly that you have not demonstrated that it is the only solution -W]

    It is possible that my observation (much affected by stories I have heard from the world of psychotherapy in which my wife works) that people are absurdly stressed and have no resources left for altruism, is not universally true. William’s observation that disengagement is rational may also suffice, given an ideology that does not celebrate altruistic engagement.

    The usual escape is to imagine that everything can be worked out at a town council level.

    [That is certainly part of the solution of “more constitutionalism” that the Libertarians push: grant fewer powers to the centre -W]

    Left and right equally are attached to this ideal local simplicity. There’s little in history that bears this out, unfortunately.

    [I disagree. Left and right are equllay attached to mom’s apple pie, as a nice slogan to lure the masses; but both sides don’t act on it -W]

    The less so in the anthropocene.

    We need to make complex decisions correctly. The correctness, now and forever after, has to apply at the global scale. How this is to be achieved under the combination of unaltruistic homo economicus, competing nation-states, and disengaged democracy escapes me.

    [Seriously, you should read Hayek and his ilk. The stress there is on the inability of the Centre to make complex decisions correctly, and therefore avoid having the centre make complex decisions. This is the thought that you are so reluctant to think -W]

  39. #40 mt
    Ottawa
    2017/08/03

    Oh foo. The trouble with nonlinear editing rears its head again. Please elide the fragmentary second paragraph.

    [“I agree with the point that “rational choice” says we should pay no”? it is now elid.

    Oh, and also: welcome, and thanks for the long thoughtful comment -W]

  40. #41 dave s
    2017/08/03

    re #38 “[Is that a sensible decision, or panic? -W]”

    More to the point to ask if the original cost cutting, ignoring fire safety to meet budgets, was a sensible decision, or panic. At that time, either incombustible cladding materials should have been used, or a full scale test carried out on the proposed system. That’s sensible, and included in the regulations. Instead, decision-makers skipped paying attention to future risks.

    Those tests have now been done for systems used on 193 tower blocks http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40809206 and a considered assessment made for the Oxford hospital, http://www.maidenhead-advertiser.co.uk/news/areas/118801/trauma-unit-at-john-radcliffe-hospital-to-close-for-up-to-a-year.html
    Those who ignored future risks could be found liable under the “duty to warn” principle.
    https://www.dezeen.com/2017/08/02/grenfell-tower-opinion-jason-kallis-lawyer-says-designers-contractors-local-authority-blamed-breaching-duty-to-warn/

    A vague future possibility of risk is easy to ignore when budgets are pressing and shiny cheap options are being sold; wider knowledge of present risks and their implications leads to an informed reassessment. Or do you think it more rational to keep ignoring risks, even when graphically and tragically demonstrated?

  41. #42 mt
    Ottawa
    2017/08/03

    “inability of the Centre to make complex decisions correctly, and therefore avoid having the centre make complex decisions. ”

    It may get easier as the decision making can be subtler now, but the scale of our problems does make it immensely difficult.

    Everything should be as distributed as possible, but not more so.

    Under current circumstances, unfortunately there is a great deal to work out at the global level. We appear to be very bad at that. But concluding that it should therefore not be attempted strikes me as a disastrous fallacy.

    “I have little patience for scientists who take a board of wood, look for its thinnest part, and drill a great number of holes when the drilling is easy.” quoth Einstein. The same applies to policy, only more so. Science making no progress is a missed opportunity, but policy making no progress at a time when crisis is building is far worse.

    There’s no doubt that we have a hard problem. I don’t see how we get out of it without several forms of altruism, among which is widespread attention to sustainability issues and some sort of globally binding agreement.

    The planet provides a globally binding constraints; mass conservation enforce that carbon dug up out of deep storage stays in the biosphere until removed; energy balance constraints enforce that the climate diverges ever more dramatically from baseline as more carbon enters the system; etc. Local councils can all make an argument that they are doing the right thing for their municipality. Meanwhile the planet becomes increasingly inhospitable.

    I’m sorry if this is inconvenient for your ideology. I suggest you modify your ideology to fit the facts. ( I don’t accuse you of trying to modify the facts to fit your ideology. You’re not in that crowd.)

    [I suggest you modify your ideology to fit the facts is not a good thing to say at this point. What you said earlier was I don’t see how we get out of it without… and that’s correctly an opinion, not a fact. We have different opinions about the most promising route forwards. Yours appear to rely heavily on altruism; I think that’s not a route likely to succeed, and so am looking for alternatives that work with the grain (pace CIP, who will insist that altruism is inbuilt. I agree it is, to some extent, but don’t think it likely to work en masse) -W]

    But the end result is still, I think, that you are a defeatist. I am not very optimistic anymore (there was a time when I expected this problem to be solved), but I think you are effectively advocating surrender.

    [I think on a personal level, I’m not a defeatist. But I do remain unconvinced that we have a good, or close to optimal (whatever that means) path forwards -W]

    If this is wrong, if you’re not a defeatist, I’d be happy to hear what you propose.

    Some libertarians who understand our predicament wave vaguely in the direction of Elinor Ostrom, but I find that when it comes down to brass tacks, they haven’t any on hand and none on order. Have you?

    [Some libertarians who understand our predicament: once again this smacks too much of you knowing what to do; if only you could persuade others. In terms of the science, you do. In terms of the policy, I doubt it.

    Elinor Ostrom: I am not familiar with her oeuvre nor of Libs reffing her. I’ve watchlisted her.

    You’re looking for a solution. My “proposal” (which isn’t a proposal, it’s a vague hand-wave towards the direction of a proposal, as is your scheme, so you’re not allowed to ask for more) is towards the Libertarian side of things. So, external costs of fossil fuels to be embedded in their price via carbon taxes; rather than a regulatory approach of subsidising solutions, for example. If we’re concerned about waste-of-time work, which we should be, then I (along with the Libs) would urge massive simplification of the tax code to remove loopholes and remove tax lawyers -W]

  42. #43 mt
    Ottawa
    2017/08/03

    “When you say “an ancillary cost” I think you mean a cost to the joblessness side. ”

    No. I mean that jobs are bad for aggregate wealth, as economists say “at the margin”. Which is to say, there is some N where having N+1 full time workers is worse than having N, and that I think we are past that point.

    Clearly SOME jobs are needed; I wouldn’t want my surgeon to be an AI at this juncture. But many jobs are not about creating wealth but about extracting wealth from the commons or from posterity. We’d be better off on the whole without them.)

    [Oh. In that case I think I (channelling orthodox economics) disagree. All jobs are a cost, not a benefit (errm, by definition). Trying to second-guess the market on exactly which ones are “good” and which ones are “bad” is bad, too -W]

    The question, of course, is what “better” means. It’s probably true that gross economic product goes up as more people are employed.

    [Ah, hold on. Are you confusing the sum total of “costs of employing a worker, plus value that worker produces in the course of their job” with my “jobs are a cost, not a benefit”? Obviously, in terms of economic analysis, the “cost” of a job is the money you have to pay that person to do it, and of course the time that person no longer has to to other things. But the “value” that worker produces in the course of their job is always treated as a benefit, even if you happen to dislike what they produce -W]

    It’s also true that any individual is better off employed than unemployed.

    [That is far from obvious. As a general principle, I would certainly disagree, and ask to see your evidence. Obviously, evidence in the form of “this is an unemployed person and they are not well off” isn’t useful -W]

    But it doesn’t follow that we are all better off for it.

    The question of what the right metric is follows immediately. I don’t know. But for us to all have less and less time even as aggregate wealth increases and machines’ capability does too makes no sense to me.

    [I’m not convinced you’ve even demonstrated your “less and less time”; nor do I even know what time span you’re thinking about. Since say the 1950s? And are you including the costs of labour-saving devices? Is this just a thing you think, and your friends agree, or have you any statistics to back it up? -W]

    This isn’t just me being silly. There’s a great deal of literature making this point, going back as far, at least, as Bertrand Russell.

    http://www.zpub.com/notes/idle.html

  43. #44 mt
    2017/08/03

    “It’s also true that any individual is better off employed than unemployed.”

    Sloppy of me. Some classes of people are exempted, of course.

    But the pressure to work is built in to our systems. I think we should systematically reduce that pressure.

    [Agreed. I’m happy with that. The UBI helps, because after that, the State no longer cares whether you work or not -W]

  44. #45 mt
    Ottawa
    2017/08/03

    It’s largely anecdotal.

    [I think that’s a problem for you. This isn’t some minor side matter (for you); it’s a major part of your “platform”. So it has to be defensible and solid and clearly true. Instead, it looks to me to be, as you say, “anecdotal” and only something you look for evidence for when people push you -W]

    I did find this on a quick troll of the Google:

    “The increasing number of full-time, dual-earner families continues to make work–life balance an important issue. Fewer families have a parent at home, either full-time or part-time, to help manage the household, to provide child care, and, increasingly, to provide elder care. Fewer one-earner families suggests that “a decline in support at home rather than an increase in the working time of individuals underlies the growing sense that families are squeezed for time and that work and family life are in conflict” (Jacobs and Gerson 2001). Around one in four men in dual-earner families with young children at home, and more than one in three women, reported feeling severely time stressed—a state associated with significantly lower rates of WLB satisfaction. Not surprisingly, women also expressed more dissatisfaction with work–life balance than did their male counterparts. Interestingly, the majority of both men and women who expressed severe time stress and WLB dissatisfaction reported a preference for their current work hours or for even more hours, suggesting perhaps that in some cases family economic security is seen as more important than personal welfare.”

    http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/75-001-x/2009104/article/10837-eng.htm

    Seems about right.

    I suggest that many of those not claiming “severe time stresses” may also be moderately time-stressed.

    Measures of time spent at work appear misleading. There’s lots of other stuff – time spent commuting, time spent negotiating childcare, time spent emailing after official hours.

    De jure hours worked per individual are not increasing, but hours worked per household have increased dramatically in our lifetimes in the western democracies.Women entering the workplace has not resulted in more free time for men, but in lower wages and essentially reduced time for family, never mind for one’s community or the world. (It doesn’t take a lot of economic sophistication to see why, though it appears that it wasn’t widely foreseen.)

    [So in reply I’ll offer you the semi-anecdotal https://www.adamsmith.org/blog/economics/so-where-has-all-of-keynes-leisure-gone -W]

  45. #46 Hank Roberts
    ah, here's the problem
    2017/08/04

    Well, if we can’t come up with a plan for a future that includes most everybody, who will we be working to save?

    This https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/aug/02/preppers-survivalist-summit-constitution-americas-midlife-crisis

    raises —–excerpt follows—–

    … a question that had been haunting me from the Canadian sidelines since the election: is America falling apart for real this time?

    The idea has never been more popular. Prepping is by no means an esoteric hobby anymore; it has become a Silicon Valley cliché. Neo-billionaires, with their typical taste and decency, are building elaborate status-symbol bunkers for themselves, and are planning escape routes to New Zealand for their families. Every American I know is – even if it’s just emotionally – preparing for a fall.

  46. #48 David B. Benson
    2017/08/04

    Hank Roberts @#47 — So much for the libertarians. Thanks for the find.

    [No. This is the std find-something-failed-and-call-it-libertarian game.

    As mayor, Martinez de Vara’s first priority was to lure chain stores with the town’s low-tax, low-regulation branding. This is fail #1: having pols actively pick winners is the antithesis of Libertarianism.

    But there was a problem: Von Ormy lacked a sewer system and it would be expensive to connect to San Antonio’s main wastewater system. The San Antonio Water System, which services most of Bexar County, told town officials that the connection would cost $4 million to $5 million… recommended floating a bond, standard practice for most cities. But Martinez de Vara rejected the recommendation. Liberty cities aren’t supposed to take on debt, after all. This, too, I think is wrong for Libertarianism. There’s nothing wrong with bonds, and debt, at all. Though you may care about exactly which entity incurs the debt. If there’s something in “liberty cities” that precludes that, then they’re something different. Come to that, what even is a “liberty city”? Wiki doesn’t know -W]

  47. #49 dave s
    2017/08/04

    further to #41, the perception of risk of inflammable external cladding was so little affected by three spectacular tower block fires in the UAE in 2012/2013 that the Grenfell tower recladding used the same material. During the Grenfell work, the Torch Tower at Dubai marina had a spectacular fire, but similar cladding continued to be used in the UK.

    Oh look, it’s just done it again… https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/03/flames-engulf-86-storey-residential-tower-in-dubai
    “Earlier this year Dubai passed new fire safety rules requiring buildings with flammable cladding to replace it with more fire-resistant siding. Authorities have previously acknowledged that at least 30,000 buildings across the UAE have cladding or panelling that safety experts have said accelerates the rapid spread of fires.”

    Is that a sensible decision, or panic?

    [What is “that” decision, in this context? I presume the less people took from the previous Dubai fires was that even rather spectacular fires can be harmless; whether the (govt, regulators) that took that lesson were correct is another matter -W]

  48. #50 dave s
    2017/08/04

    Re libertarians and prepping, an article discusses how Robert Mercer has funded the Heartland Institute, Breitbart, Brexit, and Trump, and his connection to Cambridge Analytica which specialises in “election management strategies” and “messaging and information operations” to sway public beliefs and opinions.

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/26/robert-mercer-breitbart-war-on-media-steve-bannon-donald-trump-nigel-farage

    [But the Cambridge Analytica stuff was massively overhyped BS. No? -W]

  49. #51 Nathan
    2017/08/04

    “[That’s why it is besides the point. The point is not to force people to vote, which seems to me utterly futile, designed only to give fake high turnout figures and disguise voter indifference. The point is to align interests so that the voter is motivated to put effort into studying which candidate, parties, policies is good -W]”

    It’s not futile – the Australian experience shows it is good.

    [In what sense is it “good”? In the sense of increasing voter turnout, or in the sense of leading to better-considered elections? -W]

    And to say that it is “designed only to give fake high turnout figures and disguise voter indifference. ” is simply bollocks.

    I think what it shows is you have no idea of Australian Politics or how Australians vote. If voters were truly indifferent they can simply not mark any boxes, or write swear words all over the ballot. Whatever they like. The Law may say it’s compulsory, but the truth is very different. The only compulsion is to have your name marked off as having attended the polling station, and given that employers must allow you to do it, means that people have no excuse.

    You should also note that this only applies to people ON the electoral role. If you’re truly indifferent, don’t register to vote.

  50. #52 Nathan Tetlaw
    2017/08/04

    It is good because the outcome is good; high voter turnout and low informal votes. Combined with the preferential voting system, the voters gets the best opportunity to affect the outcome

    Do you want to retract the made-up claims you presented?

    [No; because you’re abusing the word “good”. Merely increasing the turn-out by forcing people to vote is stupid, not good. The only problem that answers is the poor dahling pols feeling illegitimate due to low turn out. It does nothing to address the underlying reasons for the low turn out -W]

  51. #53 Nathan Tetlaw
    2017/08/04

    Must say that it would be impossible to measure your indicator of success: better considered elections.

    [True. But just because the “real” measure of success is hard, there’s no good reason to substitute a poor metric and call it good -W]

    Who would decide who has considered the candidates better? I have been a “spruiker” at elections for the past 17 years, handing out how to vote cards. That’s about 8 elections, and what is clear to me is that people do consider who they vote for. Possibly they are mistaken in their beliefs or they have faulty logic, but everyone I have met has thought about it. Possibly feeling obliged to attend elections or simply not being given an easy excuse for not voting leads to people actually taking it a little more seriously.

  52. #54 Nathan Tetlaw
    2017/08/04

    Of course increasing the numbers who vote is for. It’s a Democracy!

  53. #55 Nathan Tetlaw
    2017/08/04

    *good.

  54. #56 Nathan Tetlaw
    2017/08/04

    So you won’t retract poor claims s because I have missed the word good?

  55. #57 Nathan Tetlaw
    2017/08/04

    I should also point out that you are wrong that anyone is forced to vote in Australia. You’ve been told by both Bernard and myself that this is not the case.

    [Sigh. I’m rejecting your claim that pushing people simply to vote is “good”. When pushed (and it really doesn’t matter if it is “pushed” or “forced”), you seem to admit that it isn’t really “good”, unless your definition of “good” is “higher turnout”. I’ve explained why I think that’s poor thinking -W]

  56. #58 Nathan Tetlaw
    2017/08/04

    I said Australia has a good system, and no one is forced or pushed to vote. Democracy, by its nature, requires as many people to vote as possible to ensure that the result is an accurate representation of the will of the people. There is no other real measure that I am aware of.

  57. #59 Nathan Tetlaw
    2017/08/04

    You also can’t reject my “claim” as I never claimed that “pushing people simply to vote is good”
    It’s a straw man.

  58. #60 Phil Hays
    In the smoke from distant fires...
    2017/08/04

    No reason to panic, could just wait for another blaze.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/03/world/middleeast/torch-tower-dubai-fire.html?_r=0

    Easy not to panic when you don’t live in a tower.

    [I was going to say: oh look, there has been another one. But is that a reason to panic? -W]

  59. #61 dave s
    2017/08/04

    re #49 “[What is “that” decision, in this context? I presume the less people took from the previous Dubai fires was that even rather spectacular fires can be harmless; whether the (govt, regulators) that took that lesson were correct is another matter -W]”

    The decision is, after a dozen flash fires consuming large areas of aluminium/PE sandwich cladding, change the cladding to something non-combustible.

    [Ah, I see. But let me supply the original context: You: In another example, part of the trauma unit at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital will close on Friday for up to a year to replace cladding. Me: Is that a sensible decision, or panic? So the question is not whether replacing the cladding is panic; the question is whether closing part of the JR for a year is panic -W]

    Your “the less” is presumably the lesson that, in modern luxury buildings with sprinkler systems and provision for firefighting within the building as well as adequate escape routes, fires don’t always lead to loss of life.

    Calling that “harmless” with frequent fires is unduly optimistic, and of course discounts loss of property and disruption of having to flee the fires. At best it’s “no loss of life until Grenfell Tower, but plenty of damage to houses.”

    #60 gives some interesting details, including working fire alarms and “building staff members pounded on residents’ doors to evacuate them from the building’s hundreds of apartments”, a luxury not available at Grenfell, though maybe a good idea for job creation. Also, it took one occupant “two hours to come get out of the building because the stairwell was crowded with other residents”, odd grammar but surprisingly long to get out, makes me wonder about means of escape standards in Dubai.

  60. #62 Phil Hays
    In the smoke from distant fires...
    2017/08/04

    “But is that a reason to panic? ”

    Not when you don’t live in a tower. Of course not. Never. Not a possibility.

    [I was hoping for an answer more like “panic is generally a bad idea; reason is usually better” -W]

  61. #63 dave s
    2017/08/04

    re #50 “But the Cambridge Analytica stuff was massively overhyped BS. No? -W]”

    Well, the combination of millions in funding and spreading of disinformation via the internets, Facebook etc. seemed to contribute to the successes or global warming denial, Breitbart and Trump’s campaign, and of course Brexit.

    Don’t know if Cambridge Analytica’s use of data mining to influence people was effective, it seems to work for Google.

    [I don’t understand that comment. What do you mean, Google trying to influence people? Google sell advertising -W]

    Some interesting stuff about how “one third of all traffic on Twitter before the EU referendum was automated “bots” – accounts that are programmed to look like people, to act like people, and to change the conversation, to make topics trend. And they were all for Leave”, and “hundreds of thousands of “sleeper” bots they’ve found. Twitter accounts that have tweeted only once or twice and are now sitting quietly waiting for a trigger: some sort of crisis where they will rise up and come together to drown out all other sources of information.”
    Rather like those dear old socks that keep popping up on Wikipedia, but much harder to counter.

  62. #64 dave s
    2017/08/04

    #83, “[I don’t understand that comment. What do you mean, Google trying to influence people? Google sell advertising -W]”

    My limited understanding is that Google analyse the info they have on their users to be able to direct adverts to likely marks, and sell advertisers the hope the advertising will be well directed.

    Similarly, Cambridge Analytica use data analysis to send political advertising to people likely to respond positively to the [usually right-wing anti-science] message. These messages have had considerable political effect recently, whether Cambridge Analytica can really claim credit is beyond me.

  63. #65 Phil Hays
    When the fire alarm goes off ...
    2017/08/04

    … Sometimes panic isn’t a bad idea.

  64. #66 Hank Roberts
    hunkered down
    2017/08/04

    > the question is whether closing part of the
    > JR for a year is panic -W

    Like I said earlier, somewhere — we’ve got all these buildings wearing suicide vests, and made it easy to identify them. Ya think any of the nuts out there will be tempted to set one off?

  65. #67 Hank Roberts
    https://hankroberts.wordpress.com
    2017/08/04

    P.S.: not a small problem.

    “After the 2015 Torch Tower fire, the authorities announced added restrictions on exterior paneling on new construction, and forbade it on towers taller than nine stories. But the new rules did not immediately apply to older buildings.

    The authorities have previously acknowledged that at least 30,000 buildings across the United Arab Emirates were built with siding that could potentially cause a fire to spread rapidly, according to news reports.”

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/03/world/middleeast/torch-tower-dubai-fire.html

  66. #68 Phil Hays
    Evolution
    2017/08/04

    Suggests that panic can be a lifesaver.

    Otherwise, we wouldn’t panic.

  67. #69 dave s
    2017/08/04

    re #68 Phil Hayes;

    Panic implies a likeness to the mythic god Pan, the ‘pedia suggests that when woken unexpectedly he’d shout, causing herds to stampede; an evolved response, hence a lifesaver, but instinctive rather than rational.

    Our host appears to use it to suggest that reviewing safety and changing something that has failed disastrously is irrational, especially if given rational consideration embodied in research based codes or regulations.

    My suggestion it that it’s more irrational to brush aside safety considerations when rushing to get a project under budget, as Kensington & Chelsea did with Grenfell Tower. And equally irrational to keep using cheap products which literally go up in flames once the first few went up in flames five years ago, even though other fire safety measures prevented loss of life. Short term budget measures are proving very expensive now.

  68. #70 Russell the Stout
    the Lake Placid of the mind
    2017/08/05

    “Panic” seems a remnant of flight or fight activation and fails in either human stampedes or when technological complexity requires level heads to escape. It’s often an accusation from deniers regarding those emphasizing a need for more rapid policy change regarding global warming, so I notice its use as an accusation. And I don’t think much of it, as those making it so often seem more “hysterical” than the ones it’s aimed at. The people who continued to use that cladding seem a lot more irrational than those who have strong desires to not dismantle regulations and enforce the entirely reasonable ones that exist, such as that one we’re discussing.

  69. #71 Phil Hays
    Arts and such
    2017/08/05

    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” – Upton Sinclair

    “The great corporation which employed you lied to you, and lied to the whole country—from top to bottom it was nothing but one gigantic lie.”

    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/140/140-h/140-h.htm

    I can see how someone not living in a tower with flammable cladding might not see any reason for even concern, much less panic.

    [Really? I don’t. I think the cladding stuff is indeed a topic of concern. But it should not be one of panic -W]

    After all, it doesn’t affect them or their upper class children and/or their upper class friends, and doing something might raise their taxes. Better not panic. Of course, someone who happened to break a leg, and be bedridden on the top floor of Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital and then the fire alarm went off, a very very sudden change of attitude might happen shortly afterwards.

    I can see how someone working for a company selling flammable cladding to tower construction might not catch on to the problem. Salary depends on not seeing the problem. Government regulations are always the real problem, right? Or is that nothing but one gigantic lie?

    Can you tell the difference between a Leave Twitter bot run by Russia, and a real person? Always?

    Now move this on to an even harder problem, climate change. Just as the cladding when up on building after building, so the CO2 level keeps going up.

    https://scripps.ucsd.edu/programs/keelingcurve/wp-content/plugins/sio-bluemoon/graphs/mlo_full_record.png

    How does it stop? Replacing fossil fuels would be hard in the ideal world of rational people.

    [I’m not sure that’s true. rational people would indeed look to the future, and would prefer carbon taxes to subsidies. The difficulty is in the real world of irrational behaviour. Which, often, isn’t actually that irrational; its more perverse incentives. getting the incentives right is a good idea; working against them is hard -W]

    Great Corporations find fossil fuels profitable, so lie to keep them in use. Lies work.

    [I think your – and so many other’s – view of Great Corporations as being The Great Satan is as silly as Iran’s use of the term. They are artifical entities owned and run by People -W]

    Perhaps when South Florida is underwater the lies might stop working. Perhaps.

    Carbon tax? Corporations would find a carbon tax expensive. Cheaper to implement and more effective are small scale subsidies for things like LED light bulbs and electric cars. I don’t see even these tiny actions surviving the Putin/Trump/Leave political years, much less implementation of any carbon tax over significant economies.

    Do you have real hope for a carbon tax? Why?

    Too long, probably should edit it down. Oh well.

  70. #72 Russell the Stout
    USA
    2017/08/05

    Corporations as “the Great Satan”. I must remember that and use it at least once so no one accuses anyone of a straw man argument. Previously I just called the psychotic behemoths “The Beast. “

  71. #73 Phil Hays
    East India Revolt Redux
    2017/08/06

    (Corporations) are artifical entities owned and run by People -W

    Exactly. As are governments artificial entities run by People.

    [Ah good; we agree. There are similarities between the two. We can, if we like, attempt a theoretical analysis of the distinction. One component of which is that government asserts a monopoly on coercion -W]

    Under a reasonable government, corporations are more limited.

    [Or we can say things like that. “more limited” than what? Than under an unreasonable government? I think you’re presenting a false choice; and you haven’t even said what a “reasonable” government might be -W]

    Under a very limited government, corporations might have armies, imprison and or kill opponents, overturn laws and so on.

    [They might. Or they might not. AFAIK the idea that they might has no place outside wild-eyed discourse, so why bring it up? -W]

    East India Company had a larger army than Britain. Opium wars to fund their tea trade. The tea tax dispute in Boston.

    [I think you’ve pushed the EIC example further than makes sense. EIC was essentially operating in an area where law didn’t run – at least law that England recognised. But the EIC “army” couldn’t operate in England. This isn’t a useful example to discuss the present day -W]

  72. #74 Phil Hays
    East India Revolt Redux
    2017/08/07

    “One component of which is that government asserts a monopoly on coercion” is true for some governments at some points of time. Not all, and not over time. Today is mostly true that governments tend to frown on corporate violence.

    EIC is one, of course, historically. But armed private security is and has been allowed in the USA. For example, the history of:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinkerton_(detective_agency)

    Also for current amusement, the USA’s crazy bail bond business.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bail_bondsman

  73. #75 Dunc
    2017/08/08

    Under a very limited government, corporations might have armies, imprison and or kill opponents, overturn laws and so on.

    [They might. Or they might not. AFAIK the idea that they might has no place outside wild-eyed discourse, so why bring it up? -W]

    It’s not a question of “might”, and it’s certainly not wild-eyed. It’s a simple matter of fact that in many “frontier” jurisdictions (e.g. Sierra Leone or the DRC), many corporations (principally those interested in resource extraction) employ private “security” companies with military capabilities roughly equivalent to the national armies of smaller nation-states, and imprison or kill their opponents (environmentalists, trade union organisers, and the like).

    [I’m still a bit baffled. Places like SL are failed states, where law doesn’t operate. Why are they relevant to the discussion? -W]

  74. #76 Dunc
    2017/08/08

    [I’m still a bit baffled. Places like SL are failed states, where law doesn’t operate. Why are they relevant to the discussion? -W]

    Where, exactly, is the boundary between “very limited government” and a “failed state”?

    [I’m not sure what *you* mean by “very limited government”. It isn’t a term I introduced or used. But, conceptually, the difference is between having few laws but a system of law to enforce them; and having many (or perhaps few) laws, many (including important ones, like “you may not go around killing) of which are unenforced -W]

  75. #77 Dunc
    2017/08/08

    [I’m not sure what *you* mean by “very limited government”. It isn’t a term I introduced or used. But, conceptually, the difference is between having few laws but a system of law to enforce them; and having many (or perhaps few) laws, many (including important ones, like “you may not go around killing) of which are unenforced -W]

    Well, to be entirely honest, I’m not 100% sure what anybody is meaning by any of these terms. Anyway…

    You seem to agree that in jurisdictions where there is no effective legal regime to prevent it, then corporations do, in fact, ” have armies, imprison and or kill opponents, overturn laws and so on”.

    It doesn’t seem to me to matter very much whether the lack of effective legal prevention is due to the absence of the rule of law in general, corruption, or the absence of specific applicable laws in particular. In that respect, it makes no difference what you call it.

    [then corporations do…: I’m not sure why you pick out “corporations” here. More often it is local warlords, militias, individuals.

    I disagree on your last point too: there is a huge difference between generic disregard of the law, as seen in places like SL (or, in the past, the USAnian “wild west”); and a juristiction with a more limited set of laws, which are enforced -W]

  76. #78 Dunc
    2017/08/08

    [then corporations do…: I’m not sure why you pick out “corporations” here. More often it is local warlords, militias, individuals.

    Local warlords, militias, and individuals generally can’t afford to hire the sort of high-end private military companies that can field their own air support and overthrow governments. Anyway, I didn’t start this particular thread of discussion, I’m just pointing out the bits of an earlier discussion where you’re most obviously and egregiously wrong.

    I disagree on your last point too: there is a huge difference between generic disregard of the law, as seen in places like SL (or, in the past, the USAnian “wild west”); and a juristiction with a more limited set of laws, which are enforced -W]

    You do realise that the Pinkertons (referenced earlier) were operating (by which I mean “engaging in obviously illegal strikebreaking activities”) in major US cities well into the 20th century, right? Are you aware the the UK construction industry was colluding with the police and the security services to operate an illegal blacklist until 2009? Are 20th century America and 21st century Britain also “failed states”?

  77. #79 Hank Roberts
    hunkered down
    2017/08/15

    Hey, why would anyone do science in Antarctica?

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/scientists-discover-91-volcanoes-beneath-antarctica-ice-article-1.3411025

    http://www.geos.ed.ac.uk/homes/rbingha2/48_2017_Vries.pdf

    A new volcanic province: an inventory of subglacial
    volcanoes in West Antarctica
    MAXIMILLIAN VAN WYK DE VRIES*, ROBERT G. BINGHAM & ANDREW S. HEIN
    School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, Drummond Street, Edinburgh EH8 9XP, UK
    *Correspondence: gmaxvwdv@gmail.com
    Abstract:
    … We identified 138 volcanoes, 91 of which have not previously been identified, and which are widely distributed throughout the deep basins of West Antarctica, but are especially concentrated and orientated along the [greater than] 3000 km central axis of the West Antarctic Rift System.
    Gold Open Access:
    This article is published under the terms of the CC-BY 3.0 license

  78. #80 Russell the Stout
    Near the path of totality
    2017/08/16

    Now it’s the Olive Group.
    https://warisboring.com/is-blackwater-back-in-iraq/

    Or there’s Google.

  79. #81 Hank Roberts
    ah, here's the problem
    2017/08/16

    > Are 20th century America and 21st century Britain
    > also “failed states”?

    No, they’re poorly organized assemblies of corporate fiefdoms, but they’re working on it:

    http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2017/08/06/ze-robots-are-comink/#comment-59958

    As we used to say in the 1970s, if you want a copy of the memorandum on surveillance, just pick up any [device] and ask about it. They’ll get back to you.

  80. #82 Hank Roberts
    ah, here's the problem
    2017/08/17

    “I have always found it quaint and rather touching that there is a movement [Libertarians] in the US that thinks Americans are not yet selfish enough.”
    ― Christopher Hitchens

  81. #83 Phil Hays
    Americanistan
    2017/08/26

    “Should the president indicate that he does not think Mr. Arpaio should be punished for that, he would signal that governmental agents who violate judicial injunctions are likely to be pardoned, even though their behavior violated constitutional rights, when their illegal actions are consistent with presidential policies.”

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/24/opinion/trump-arpaio-pardon-arizona-sheriff.html

    Trump’s attacks on Congressional leaders make the health care fiasco look more like a plan than a bobble.

    I fear for the Republic.

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