blogging for michigan
michigan liberal
new deal 2.0
strange death of liberal america

joe bageant
blended purple
breaking ranks
critiques of libertarianism
death by car
divorce your car
fare-free michigan
'good communication skills'
occasional links & commentary
jack saturday
solidarity economy
trench coat exposed
ultimate superset
underclass rising

anarchist writers
anarhilisme
angel economics
collectif emma goldman
dead time pacifies
robert graham
ideas & action
institute for anarchist studies
poor richard
property is theft!
queering the singularity
spaces of hope
truth, reason & liberty

07 December 2010

Final project for course titled “Thinking what we are doing”

This post is the outcome of an impromptu decision to do some online coursework. The assignment is the final project for Dale Carrico's course Thinking What We Are Doing. The reading list for the course is here. The instructions for this assignment are here.

constraints

restraints

tactics

25. commons

The public, and the need to deal with it.

But whatever the mix, and whichever factor was most significant, the consequence of this strategy was to leave open the field for innovation in telecommunications. AT&T did not control how its wires would be used, because the government restricted that control. By restricting that control, the government in effect created a commons on AT&T’s wires. (Lessig, 2001, p. 45)

48. digital divide

The fact that connectivity is privilege.

I am not as optimistic about the present or the future of Cyberspace as a free and democratic space as is Barlow. We, the homesteaders here in Cyberspace, are at the mercy of the code, at the mercy of the hardware and software, at the mercy of the sys admins and wizards. Economic factors around the world affect our ability to access information; race, gender, class, sexual orientation, and all of the other factors that often interefere with f2f communication also interfere with cyber-communication. (Walker, in reply to Barlow)

51. elite

The de facto powerful. Not to be confused with the so-called intellectual elite.

If the technologically advanced countries can secure property rights over resources that only advanced technology will reach, goes the argument, then patent rights over the genome are a kind of second colonial expansion. (Boyle, …Genome…, p. 5)

95. precarity

Being on the receiving end of a risk shift.

Data-entry workers, shop clerks, and the warehouse staff at amazon.com will face the same problems as ever: depressed wages, battles over benefits, barriers to unionization, and inadequate political representation in a Congress whose resemblance to the House of Lords is for them a matter of economic class more than of anachronism. Their situations will be the less stable for the “creative destruction” of firms and industries that Kelly celebrates. Tribalism will do them little good, as is generally true of lesser tribes. (Purdy)

104. publication

Publish or perish.

One wonders what Macaulay would have thought about the attempt by Margaret Mitchell’s estate to prevent the publication of The Wind Done Gone. (Boyle, The Second Enclosure Movement and the Construction of the Public Domain, p. 56)

105. public good

The public is good.

The maximalists favor expansive intellectual property rights. They tend to view exemptions and privileges on the part of users or future creators as a tax on rights holders and have sympathy for thinly disguised ‘sweat of the brow’ claims. They exhibit a kind of economic bipolar disorder: being deeply pessimistic about market functioning around potential public goods problems in the absence of intellectual property rights, and yet strikingly, even manically, optimistic about our ability to avoid transaction costs and strategic behavior “anti-commons effects” that might be caused by the presence of intellectual property rights. (Boyle, …Genome…, p. 9)

112. rivalrousness

Sometimes life really is a zero-sum game.

In our world, whatever the human mind may create can be reproduced and distributed infinitely at no cost. The global conveyance of thought no longer requires your factories to accomplish. (Barlow)

124. spontaneous order

Spontaneity gives way to order.

Wiener works up to the fantasy by pointing out that there are many organizations whose parts are themselves small organizations. Hobbes’s Leviathan is a Man-State made up of men; a Portuguese man-of-war is made up of polyps that mirror it in miniature; a man is an organism made of cells that in some respects also function like organisms. This line of thought leads him to ask how these “bodies politic” function. “Obviously, the secret is in the intercommunication of its members” (p. 156 [Cybernetics]). The flow of information is thus introduced as a principle explaining how organization occurs across multiple hierarchical levels. To illustrate, he instances the “sexually attractive substances” that various species secrete to insure that the sexes will be brought together (p. 156). For example, the pheromones that guide insect reproduction are general and omnidirectional, acting in this respect like hormones secreted within the body. The analogy suggests that external hormones organize internal hormones, so that a human organism becomes, in effect, a sort of permeable membrane through which hormonal information flows. At this point we encounter his first demurral. “I do not care to pronounce an opinion on this matter,” he announces rather pretentiously after introducing it, preferring to “leave it as an interesting idea” (p. 157). (Hayles)

125. stakeholder

The principal.

A reformed state that operates within a context of multistakeholdership and which is no longer subsumed to corporate interests, but act as a fair arbiter between the Commons, the market and the gift economy. (Bauwens)

131. "Tragedy of the Commons"

Yet another exercise in fundamentalist apologetics.

It is worth noting, however, that while earlier scholarship extolled enclosure’s beneficial effects, some more recent empirical work has indicated that it had few, if any, effects in increasing agricultural production. The tragedies predicted in articles such as Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons did not occur. In fact, the commons frequently may have been well-run, though the restraints on its depletion and the incentives for investment in it may have been “softer” than the hard-edged norms of private property. (Boyle, …Enclosure…, p. 36)

3. access

Rightsestrictions management.

One of the most salient lessons from the copyright wars of the last few years is that if express permission is required before one can post a collection of anything on the Internet, one will be unable to do it. (Litman, p. 14)

4. accountability

A cheap substitute for transparency.

How about an intellectual property ombudsman to represent the interests of the public and the public domain? (Boyle, …Genome…, p. 18)

5. agency

Dignity

We must…take responsibility for every task undertaken by a machine and double check every conclusion offered by an algorithm, just as we always look both ways when crossing an intersection, even though the light has turned green. (Lanier, 2010)

31. control

Kill the controls!

For much of the twentieth century, it was essentially illegal even to experiment with the telephone system. It was a crime to attach a device to the telephone system that AT&T didn’t build or expressly authorize. (Lessig, 2001, p. 30)

32. copyright

Copyright means copy is not a right.

For example, Lindberg and Patterson’s book The Nature of Copyright reverses the polarity from the normal depiction, and portrays copyright as a law of users’ rights. The public domain is the figure and copyright the ground. The various privileges and defenses are not exceptions, they are at the heart of copyright, correctly understood. Copyright is, in fact, a system designed to feed the public domain providing temporary and narrowly limited rights, themselves subject to considerable restrictions even during their existence—all with the ultimate goal of promoting free access. (Boyle, …Enclosure…, p. 60)

59. fair use

That which is not permitted is forbidden. That which is not forbidden is permitted.

Thirty years ago, when you saw something you wanted to use or share, the default rule was that you were entitled to do so. (Litman, p. 15)

89. panopticon

An authority figure wearing mirror shades.

Once a new intellectual property right has been created over some informational good, the only way to ensure efficient allocation of that good is to give the rights holder still greater control over the user or consumer in the aftermarket so as to allow for price discrimination, since the only efficient monopoly is a monopoly with perfect price discrimination. Yet, to achieve perfect price discrimination with digital intellectual property goods, whose marginal cost is zero, the rights holders will argue that they need even more changes of the rules in their favor: relaxed privacy standards so they can know more about our price points; enforceable shrink-wrap or clickwrap contracts of adhesion so that we can be held to the terms of our particular license, no matter how restrictive; and changes in antitrust rules to allow for a variety of practices that are currently illegal, such as resale price maintenance and various forms of tying. Rights holders will also claim that they need technical changes with legal backing, such as the creation of personalized digital objects surrounded by state-backed digital fences, objects that are tied to particular users and particular computers, so that reading my e-book on your machine is either technically impossible, a crime, or a tort—or possibly all three. (Boyle, …Enclosure…, p. 50)

97. privacy

Privacy is a technological impossibility. Get over it.

We must defend our own privacy if we expect to have any. We must come together and create systems which allow anonymous transactions to take place. People have been defending their own privacy for centuries with whispers, darkness, envelopes, closed doors, secret handshakes, and couriers. The technologies of the past did not allow for strong privacy, but electronic technologies do. (Hughes)

114. secrecy

Secrecy is to privacy as institution is to individual.

The political power, however, clearly belongs to the pharmaceutical industry, which actually tried to eliminate “notice and comment” requirements for exclusive drug licenses in 1999. Current law allows the public to obtain basic financial information about a drug's development and sale, such as royalty rates paid on licenses, subsequent development costs, sales figures, and so forth. The government must disclose such information and allow the public to object to the approval of a company's license. Fortunately, the industry's attempt to throw a veil of secrecy over the granting of exclusive drug licenses failed—a small victory against the modern enclosure movement. (Bollier)

1. abundance

Abundance is a prerequisite for dignity.

At the very least, there is some possibility, even hope, that we could have a world in which much more of intellectual and inventive production is free. “‘Free’ as in ‘free speech,’” Richard Stallman says, not “‘free’ as in ‘free beer.’” But we could hope that much of it would be both free of centralized control and low cost or no cost. When the marginal cost of production is zero, the marginal cost of transmission and storage approaches zero, the process of creation is additive, and much of the labor doesn’t charge—well, the world looks a little different. This is at least a possible future, or part of a possible future, and one that we should not foreclose without thinking twice. Yet that is what we are doing. (Boyle, …Enclosure…, p. 48)

6. amateur

The luxury of not being in it for the money.

The most powerful engine driving this information space turns out not to be money — at least if we’re focusing on generating and disseminating the content rather than constructing the hardware that it moves through. (Litman, p. 8)

18. broadcast

Shevek's broadcast of transilience theory in The Dispossessed, or John Galt's radio address in Atlas Shrugged.

Broadcast spectrum was originally so plentiful that the government granted radio licenses to anyone upon request. But by the 1920s, the proliferation of broadcasters was producing signal interference, which prompted a debate about how to allocate control of the electromagnetic spectrum. (Bollier)

23. code

Dog whistle. Also program code and genetic code.

The code of cyberspace—its architecture and the software and hardware that implement that architecture—regulates life in cyberspace generally. Its code is its law. Or, in the words of Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) cofounder Mitch Kapor, “Architecture is politics.” (Lessig, 2001, p. 35)

24. collaboration

The privilege of collegiality.

The interesting questions are how far the power of the creator to publish their own work is going to go, how much those changes will be mirrored in group work, and how much better collaborative filters will become in locating freely offered material. (Shirky, 2003)

36. crowdsourcing

Collaboration minus privilege.

What we used to class as trivia (and therefore useless information) becomes a matchless resource when it is combined with other trivia in searchable form (Litman, p. 6)

40. cybernetics

The science of automata.

In March 2002, Kevin Warwick, a professor of cybernetics at Reading University, had his neuronal system directly linked to a computer network. He thus became the first human being to whom data could be fed directly, bypassing the five senses. (Žižek)

42. cyberspace

The domain of automata.

Cyberspace seems to be the consensual hallucination of too much complexity, too much articulation. It is the virtual reality of paranoia, a well-populated region in the last quarter of the Second Christian Millenium. (Haraway)

53. end-to-end principle (e2e)

What goes around comes around.

In the laboratory the behaviorist approach leads to “black box” engineering, in which one assumes that the organism is a “black box” whose contents are unknown. Producing equivalent behavior then counts as producing an equivalent system. (Hayles)

68. gift economy

An oxymoron.

These are communities of shared values in which participants freely contribute time, energy, or property and over time receive benefits from membership in the community. (Bollier)

69. information

Does not want to be free. Must be forcibly liberated.

Recall that Gregory Bateson defined information as a difference that makes a difference; if there is no difference, there is no information. Since entropy tends always to increase, it will eventually result in a universe where all distributions are in their most probable state and universal homogeneity prevails. Imagine Dr. Zhivago sitting at his desk in a cold, cold room, trying to telegraph a message to his beloved Laura, while in the background Laura’s theme plays and entropy keeps relentlessly increasing. Icicles hanging from his fingers and the telegraph key, he tries to tap out “I love you,” but he is having trouble. Not only is he freezing from heat death; he is also stymied by information death. No matter what he taps, the messages always come out the same: eeeeeee (or whatever letter is most common in the Russian alphabet). This whimsical scenario illustrates why Wiener associated entropy with oppression, rigidity, and death. (Hayles)

73. mapping

The art of figuring out what the hell is really going on.

A diffraction pattern does not map where differences appear, but rather maps where the effects of difference appear. (Haraway)

84. network

Friendship is sacred. Networking is profane.

If networking is widespread enough (into ubiquitous embedded systems), it may seem as if our artifacts as a whole had suddenly wakened. (Vinge)

85. node

Vertex

Like Katie King’s objects called “poems,” sites of literary production where language also is an actor, bodies as objects of knowledge are materialsemiotic generative nodes. Their boundaries materialize in social interaction among humans and non-humans, including the machines and other instruments that mediate exchanges at crucial interfaces and that function as delegates for other actors’ functions and purposes. (Haraway)

87. open source

Self explanatory.

The General Public License (which prohibits the appropriation of software code), the related Open Source Initiative, and certain versions of the Creative Commons license fulfill this role. They enable the protection of common use-value and use viral characteristics to spread. GPL and related material can only be used in projects that in turn put their adapted source code in the public domain. (Bauwens)

88. participation

The privilege of inclusion in a group undertaking.

For many of us, the irony made it possible to participate—indeed, to participate as fully committed, if semiotically unruly, eco-feminists. (Haraway)

90. peer

A peer of the Realm, or a source of peer pressure.

[P2P processes] make use-value freely accessible on a universal basis, through new common property regimes. This is its distribution or ‘peer property mode’: a ‘third mode of ownership,’ different from private property or public (state) property. (Bauwens)

91. peer to peer (p2p)

The less hierarchical approach to networking.

The only law that all our constituent cultures would generally recognize is the Golden Rule. We hope we will be able to build our particular solutions on that basis. (Barlow)

102. prosumerism

Getting past the false dichotomy between capital goods and consumer goods.

The web (in particular the Writeable Web and the Web 2.0 that is in the process of being established) allows for the universal autonomous production, dissemination, and ‘consumption’ of written material while the associated podcasting and webcasting developments create an ‘alternative information and communication infrastructure’ for audio and audiovisual creation. (Bauwens)

103. public

All of us.

Do you see why I am worried? I myself have spent sometimes in the past trying to show the “lack of scientific certainty” inherent in the construction of facts. I too made it a “primary issue.” But I did not exactly aim at fooling the public by obscuring the certainty of a closed argument—or did I? After all, I have been accused of just that sin. Still, I’d like to believe that, on the contrary, I intended to emancipate the public from a prematurely naturalized objectified fact. Was I foolishly mistaken? Have things changed so fast? (Latour)

107. reductionism

The important practice of analyzing the subsystems in isolation.

Similarly, if the existence of a species is reduced to a matter of recoverable genetic information, we may be comforted about the loss of the ecosystem that it now inhabits. Still, the reader is right to think that something—perhaps the most important thing—is lost in this view. (Purdy)

108. relational

The privilege of analyzing the data points in aggregate and not only in isolation.

[Norbert Wiener] realized that one of the subtle implications of [the probabilistic] view is that messages are constituted, measured, and communicated not as things-in-themselves, but as relational differences between elements in a field. Communication is about relation, not essence. (Hayles)

116. sharing

The privilege of being able to let your guard down.

The internet’s hierarchical elements (such as the stacked IP protocols, the decentralized Domain Name System, etc…) do not deter participation. Viral communicators, or meshworks, are a logical extension of the internet. With this methodology, devices create their own networks through the use of excess capacity, bypassing the need for a pre-existing infrastructure. The ‘Community Wi-Fi’ movement, Open Spectrum advocacy, file-serving television, and alternative meshwork-based telecommunication infrastructures are exemplary of this trend. (Bauwens)

122. sousveillance

The art of seeing through mirror shades.

The flood of information has to go someplace. (Brin)

132. transparency

The neutralization of mirror shades.

The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? It is no use trying to ‘see through’ first principles. If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To ‘see through’ all things is the same as not to see. (Lewis)

03 December 2010

Latest trend in audio engineering at WDTW

At least twice during Thom Hartmann's show today, the a few seconds of the theme music, if you will, of the Workers' Independent News (WIN) broadcasts were clearly audible at various points of the broadcast. If I were paranoid I'd say the traffic managers at Clear Channel station WDTW were deliberately allowing these snippets of the feed to leak onto the airwaves, for the express purpose of rubbing in the fact that the bu$iness model of for-profit radio requires overwriting WIN content with inanities like CNN Radio "News," the V-roll "news" stories of Marketwatch.com and of course the mini-infomercials with their voice-roll mannerisms.

13 November 2010

Quotebag #36

“In a Grand Rapids Press interview Betsy DeVos said, ‘We just viewed this as a really powerful way to leverage creative talents for the benefit and enjoyment of all of us.’ Do we as artists want a future where we are looked at as primarily entrepreneurs? A world where creativity becomes something more valuable when it is thought of as good business? Do we want local [arts] organizations, locally funded, providing programming selected ultimately by local boards trained to look at the arts as a commodity to be ‘leveraged’?”—Richard Kooyman, quoted by Jeff Smith

“Idealistoj neniam maljuniĝos.”—Bonulo

“If you think believing man is innately good is as destructive as believing man is innately evil, then I really have nothing to add to that. That’s your opinion, but I don’t see how it’s tenable. At any rate, are you aware of the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy? That’s what you want to be looking for.”—François Tremblay

“It isn’t about intellectual property you disingenuous fuck, it’s about sticking to a historical and intellectual tradition that existed for near a goddamn century before Murray Rothbard came along and pissed all over the work of Bakunin, Kropotkin, Tucker, et. al.”—Cory Moloney

“Corporate influence over the state extends far, far beyond the mere financing if campaigns. Energy corporations write our energy policy. Insurers write our health care laws. Paying for campy tv spots is such a minor aspect of the system. Campaign Finance Reform is just another distraction.”—matt

“See, how much happy the Ken and Dennis are working on a machine which has (IIRC, 1 MB of RAM) and look at todays kids (both 12 years olds and 35 years old idiots) how much they are in pain when they work on computers with 3.0 GHZ of CPU, 7200 RPM of HDD and 2 GB of RAM, while 10 times smaller than PDP-11. Reason: UNIX way (love) and Windows way (Idiotic).”—Arnuld Uttre

06 November 2010

Another quotebag

“When a man tells you that he got rich through hard work, ask him: ‘Whose?’”—Don Marquis, quoted by Jack Saturday

“Remember kids, you can’t have crucifixion without fiction!”—CultOfDusty

“If we can’t make a dime on the street, will Big Brother leave us alone if we just putz putz around in our own backyard? Not so fast. In Michigan, House Bill 6458, introduced by two Democrats, Gabe Leland and Mike Huckleberry, will prohibit farming in any city with a population of 900,000 or more. Why didn’t they name Detroit outright, since it’s the only one that qualifies? And what’s going on here, exactly?”—Linh Dinh

“The state can never be replaced or transcended by private for-profit logics only, but only if civil society develops its own collective regulation mechanisms.”—Michel Bauwens

“A hobbyist and student of the economy, I’m no economist. I got a B.A. in Math in 1970, and promptly went to work in construction. A few years later New York City nearly went bankrupt. I couldn’t understand that. A year or two later the news reported that local farmers were plowing their crop into the soil, as it would cost them less than bringing the crop to market. That’s when I signed up for a semester of economics. About the first thing I noticed was that hardly any of the graphs in the textbook were based on actual numbers. So I started going through Statistical Abstracts at the library, gathering data, doing calculations (at first with a slide rule, later with a Radio Shack PC-1 Pocket Computer with 1K of memory!) and drawing graphs by hand. I’ve been into it ever since.”—Arthur Shipman

“When information management successfully over whelms the prospect for ...an ‘educated electorate,’ we’re playing solitaire with a deck where every card is a joker.”—Chad Hall

“Dark chocolate is one of my favorite snacks, but if you told me ‘you have no other choice, you must eat this dark chocolate’, I’d be unable to swallow it.”—Ettina

“The elephant in the room: The validity of currency has been separated from its... primary function; labor compensation utilized as a universal bartering tool for trade, goods and services. The religion of economics has subverted it into a measurement independent of its original blueprint.”—mary dohm

Bundles and other package deals

Big Phone and Big Cable know that about 1% of the people out there, like you and me, are in the bottom percentile among movie/TV viewers. For this segment, so much for their so-called Triple Play. The introduction of VoIP makes it so internet access is equivalent to home phone plus internet access. Now all Big Phone and Big Cable have to agree on is that there is to be no such thing as 'standalone broadband,' at least at a rate that is palatable. So VoIP is making it worse. Apple and Amazon purvey their iPad and Kindle wares which need wireless internet access and not much else, so there is another truckload of customers who wish there were such a thing as standalone mobile broadband. Maybe Apple and Amazon are making it worse.

03 November 2010

Is mass emigration from America part of our future?

I've long been an advocate of replacing the word 'immigration' with 'migration' in popular discourse, and the blog entry US Emigration Rates... at Blended Purple illustrates one example of why; namely the ‘brain drain’ factor. Nobody thought Ireland would go from emigration central to immigration central. It’s hardly inconceivable that the United States can’t flip in the other direction.

The discussion of this subject also reminds me of Reagan’s trite slogan about ‘voting with one’s feet.’ This type of voting is of course not an equal opportunity franchise. Within the USA it’s pretty obvious that there's a middle class whose housing arrangements are a matter of at least some choice, and an underclass whose choice is made for them by economic constraints, and turns out to be the so-called ‘low rent district.’ It’s inevitable this pattern will globalize. Blended Purple is talking about “educated potential immigrants” who are “dropping the U.S[.] from their list…”

I wonder whether we may be looking at a future in which working class people are also looking at emigration, most plausibly to less developed countries, specifically those in which their particular occupational skills are still cheap enough to be competitive with capital. Most such countries, it seems, already have high unemployment rates, but the low-income ‘first world’ population may also be forced to emigrate to the ‘third world’ for an affordable cost of living. There might be more likelihood of a place for them there is it’s understood they’re to spend money. Seemingly for some time now the tacit understanding has been that the role of average Americans in the world economy is that of consumers. Maybe ‘offshoring’ these consumers has the potential to extend the potential of this particular form of running on the fumes of the postwar American economy, even beyond the credit bubble.

Another possible emigrant population is elderly people with long-term care needs. Long-term care is one of the few truly labor-intensive industries left, and is also one of the most staggeringly expensive ongoing financial burdens a typical American is likely to have to deal with. Already there is a ‘medical tourism’ industry, and already that industry is expanding from clearly elective services to such staples as major dental work. I wouldn't at all be surprised if nursing home patients at some point become medical tourists with one-way tickets.

It's no accident that the ‘free world’ consists of the top tier of countries in terms of GDP. Globalizing the already-apparent economic reality that mobility and habitational choice are determined by income and career potential, begs even harder the question of whether political freedom itself is an economic good, to be enjoyed by those who can afford it.

29 October 2010

Unattainable pensions

Sometimes I wonder whether I should be using and promoting ClustrMaps, given that about 90% of their ad sponsorship is from far-right websites, but it's pretty useful for something free-as-in-beer.

The following ClustrMaps ad grabbed my attention:

Unsustainable Pensions Many government pensions are out of control. Learn more & take action!
www.TheFreeEnterpriseNation.org


I couldn't help but think: Is the real problem unsustainable pensions or unattainable pensions? One side-effect of the pervasive trend toward two-tier payrolls is that the tier with the actually livable jobs, the jobs with bennies, is getting smaller and smaller, soon to be completely phased out, I'm sure. Americans, to their disgrace, have largely been cowed into submission. Instead of mobilizing against the fact that private sector workers are underpaid, they have successfully been conned into griping about 'overpaid' civil servants.

28 October 2010

People transcend property and prices

The trouble with the idea of "free markets," including the idea of free markets, is that the market finds a price for everything, including people.

The trouble with the idea of "self ownership" is that it sets a precedent for the self as ownable. Particularly, if property rights include the right of transfer, and self ownership is the foundation on which property rights are built, the implications are staggering.

At the risk of being labeled a mystic, or worse, a religious person, I hold that personhood transcends commerce.

To quote (pdf) Republican State House candidate Marc Goodson:

What is the inherent value of a man? What should be the limit of public subsidy for each? According to Democrats, there is no limit, our inherent value is priceless. This belief is anti-social, inhumane, and unjust; we are not priceless.


The candor is certainly refreshing. It's always interesting when conservatism reveals its true colors. At least free market advocates, unlike "free market" advocates such as Goodson, understand that the path to a subsidy-free society must start by kicking away the supports at or near the top of the food chain, not the kick-em-when-they're-down variety of self-righteousness to which some are apparently addicted.

26 October 2010

Comment on post at 'My Aspergers Child'

The following is my comment on Best and Worst Jobs for Aspergers Adults at My Asptergers Child. As has become habitual for me, it resulted in a

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It is of course debatable whether the incidence of Aspergers/autism is anywhere near 1:110, or whether the incidence is higher among current children than current adults, but let's assume for the sake of argument that it is true. In that case there will be 1% of the adult population plus their parents, let's say 3% of the adult population, plus an unknown number of allies and supporters, forming a voting bloc or whatever you want to call it, that will demand a more introvert-friendly labor market, which is to say, a world in which what you know is actually worth something; maybe even as much as who you know. Large numbers of the 'subclinical' element, say people suffering only 'social anxiety,' will also affiliate and identify with this growing movement. What should we demand? I propose the following:

What I think is needed is a return to a large or at least economically significant civil service, with provisions that the existence of job openings is part of the public record, signed applications and not resumes are used as documents of first contact, and interviews (i.e. introvert filters) are a late stage in the selection process, after application processing and competitive examinations. I’m not above advocating holding private sector human resources practices to similar standards. If that makes me a commie, so be it. I also advocate a database of public record for announcements of vacancies, public and private, or at least a proof-of-publication requirement when new employees are added to quarterly withholding tax returns. These reforms would still leave de facto employees who are de jure “independent contractors” as a loophole. Perhaps you can think of a policy strategy for de-gaming that aspect of it.

25 October 2010

Writer’s block --> quotations with links

“Who would have thought that it would be easier to produce by toil and skill all the most necessary or desirable commodities than it is to find consumers for them?”—Winston Churchill, quoted by Jack Saturday



“When you vote for a centre-right candidate to keep a right-wing candidate from getting in, you help move the centre further to the right. And every time the centre moves rightward, so does the right wing. And progressive thought becomes ever more marginalized, and more people say the progressive candidate has no chance of winning, and so they vote centre-right, and on it goes.”—laura k



“Can you keep calling for Freedom and yet tolerate control of your credit and other economic rights by hidden and arbitrary credit ratings and credit scores? What Freedom do you have when you have to sign industry-wide fine print one-sided ‘contracts’ with your banks, insurance companies, car dealers, and credit card companies? Many of these contracts even block your Constitutional access to the courthouse.”—Ralph Nader



“Rick Michigan’s belief that picking winners and losers is wrong is the same thing as saying that we shouldn’t apply vision to our collective future. A visionless future isn’t a future of prosperity. It’s a future where things happen because of luck, and if you aren’t gaming luck then most of what you get will be bad.”—Eric B.



“It would be cool to see Jared graduate from high school next year, but you know what? It would be a lot cooler to see Christ come back in five minutes.”—Clay Brown, quoted by Jen

23 October 2010

Fill-in-the-blank approach to sponsored links in search engines

  • Hand Flapping: Cheap
    Everyone Wants to Pay a Low Price. Best Value for Hand Flapping.
    www.NexTag.com
  • Hand Flapping
    Find and Compare prices on hand flapping at Smarter.com.
    www.smarter.com

More Sponsors:

18 October 2010

Still more writer’s block, so more quotations with links

“If anything, perhaps one should support these web filters if it removes those who support IP maximalism from having access to a more enlightened community? ;-)”—Crosbie Fitch

“No one can argue that direct government creation of jobs would not actually create jobs while waiting for tax breaks to work is like waiting for Godot. ”—John Lawrence

“Not even dust to dust - Stardust to stardust, that’s how it is! Hi Luke!”—Monica

“Stringent equality, the crushing of indigenous elites and the socialization of the benefits rather than the costs ought to be a quid pro quo for open borders…. In the absence of these it should be seen as what it is…a scam to squeeze the poor.”—Parvulesco

“Yes, it looks big time from the cheap seats. But the truth is that when we are looking at the political elite, we are looking at the dancing monkey, not the organ grinder who calls the tune. Washington’s political class is about as upwardly removed from ordinary citizens as the ruling class is from the political class.”—Joe Bageant

13 October 2010

Putting it in 'park'

It's said by some that American politics is like a car: Use 'D' to go forward and 'R' to go backward. What then does 'P' stand for? I suggest: pragmatism.

06 October 2010

More writer’s block, more quotations with links

“It’s only going to get worse. More and more we’re exporting our cognitive functions to software, forming a sort of rudimentary exocortex, and that pushes increasingly significant portions of one’s self into realms subject to IP controls. The logical endpoint of this seems to be a choice between forgoing a transhumanist future and uploading into locked-down hardware that applies DRM to your memories of experiencing copyright cultural products or of learning patented skills. Building robustly open technologies to allow it to remain possible to participate in modern culture without falling under the control of the IP industry seems imperative.”—Andrea Shepard

“Remember this about web services: if you’re not paying to use it, you’re the product being sold.”—Jeremiah

“Water officials in Queensland seem to have confused flunitrazepam with fluoride; this place is laid back like a banana lounge…”—Jason Ryan

“One requirement to be able to work in America is to have transportation, if you don't own a car in most places with the exception of a few you are stuffed.”—Mark

“I'm not of the opinion that the libertarian spectrum can or does play out like a political buddy movie. There is common ground, and there are even areas where opinions from the left and right compliment one another. But the elephant in the room is the economy, stupid, at as a result there will always be antagonism.”—Phil Dickens

“Bisexuality implies a binary gender mod...el. I disagree with this fundamentally and believe that binary gender models are as outdated as the 3/5ths compromise.”—Anarchism

“A note to Tea Party activists: This is not the movie you think it is. You probably imagine that you’re starring in ‘The Birth of a Nation,’ but you’re actually just extras in a remake of ‘Citizen Kane.’”—Paul Krugman, quoted by LVT Fan

30 September 2010

Comment on Winton Bates' blog entry Will the elderly poor fare better under pensions means tests?

Another blog comment gone wild. What can I say? Some topics really get me going—and going and… Again, second person ('you') pronouns reference Winton Bates, author of this.

The present essay strikes me primarily as calculated to score zingers on behalf of Public Choice Theory. The assumption taken as axiomatic here is that a voter is simply a specimen of Homo economicus in a ballot box, which can be used as an instrument of extraction from the 'golden goose,' by which I can only assume you mean that portion of the population actually worthy of dignity, or even existence.

Public Choice Theory, like any conservative school of thought, is predicated on reductionist assumptions about human nature. In this case it is assumed that voter behavior relative to public policy governing retirement finance, like all human decisions, are implicit in the voter's individual self-interest. So, the main stakeholders are the older voters and to a lesser extent the middle aged. I suppose the assumption is that younger and prime-working-age voters are the actual golden geese and accordingly view retirement pensions as a burden on themselves. Please correct me if I'm misreading your editorial statement. While not stated explicitly, it's not exactly subtle.

Let's assume for the sake of argument that the population breaks down neatly into golden geese who create wealth and parasitic pensioners and other people on benefits, who only consume it. "As the number of retirees rises relative to numbers of people in the workforce, their interests are increasingly aligned with those of the community at large in maintaining incentives for the goose to continue laying golden eggs." What you seem to be saying is that even low income retirees are smart enough to realize that being 'entitled' (right-wingers here in America absolutely love that word) to a slice of the pie is only worth something if the pie actually exists. Fair enough. If means testing shrinks the total outlay of the retirement program, it is more likely that the GDP will be sufficient to its funding.

My concerns about means testing are dramatized (perhaps overdramatized) in the made-for-TV movie Prairie Giant, about the life story of Tommy Douglas, preacher, activist, politician, Father of Medicare, and voted 'greatest Canadian' in a nationwide poll by the CBC. In one of the opening scenes in this film, the Rev. Douglas is present at a 'means test,' in which some elderly farm woman who as applied for aid is examined to see how many ribs are showing. While I understand the folly of getting one's worldview from the movies/TV, it rather galvanized my position that 'means tests are mean.' Realistically, I think means tests need not be an affront to dignity if one gets the implementation right. It is best, I think, if the means test is simply an income test, with the income tax return the only document necessary for reporting income. This is the basis of America's Earned Income Tax Credit, a crude approximation of a 'negative income tax.' A version of the EITC for seniors should probably allow some investment income to count as earned income for such purposes. Eligibility income should not be a cut-off, but a phase-out. Another policy mathematically equivalent to means testing Social Security benefits (or the equivalent in other countries) would be taxing a portion of benefits for high-income recipients. Of course, this idea has so far been soundly defeated by conservative interests in America, who have been remarkably successful in cultivating in their support base a reliable knee-jerk reaction against taxes, regardless of who is affected. While I don't agree with this particular political tendency, I should point out that it doesn't exactly fit the Public Choice Theory model of what a voter is and does.

The debate here in America on how to 'save Social Security' has largely become a matter of 'pick your poison.' It is widely accepted that the centerpiece of the program will be diminished expectations. The question is whether future retirees will take the hit in the form of higher payroll taxes (contributions to the plan), lower benefit levels or later retirement age. As indicated in the previous paragraph, taxes are always a non-starter in America's mythic 'rugged individual'-bound culture. Social Security benefits are already way below the poverty line. What is the point in a safety net program which does not provide safety? So, later retirement is the probable outcome. Happily, later retirement is more palatable to me than the other two options. I'm a career 'late bloomer' (to put it charitably) as it is. Knowing my luck, and at the rate I'm 'going,' I'll probably run into some mandatory retirement age; very shortly after finally somehow advancing my pitiful introverted self, in this salesy boiler room called a market economy, to a position of actual responsibility, or professional esteem, or a job actually requiring intelligence; if not before. So, my cherished hope is that I actually have the opportunity to work long enough to actually accomplish something worthy of my underrecognized and underutilized talents, which in my case could be well into advanced age. So, I'm worried not just about whether Social Security will still be there when I'm old, but even more, whether there will be some actually-actionable recourse against age discrimination in the workplace.

Like most conservative and some progressive thinkers, you seem to think that the demographic crunch is the main threat to the future of retirement. I'm worried not so much whether the working-age population will be large enough to support me when I'm old, as whether the GDP will be sufficient. For the good of society, and the good of future generations, which is actually important to me, in spite of the implications of Public Choice Theory, my sincere hope is that future generations enter adulthood in a climate in which there are enough jobs to go around. If there is mass unemployment, the question of whether the worker-to-retiree ratio is sufficient becomes moot. It also doesn't help if the lion's share of the GDP is literally the lion's share, concentrated at the top of the food chain as the returns on investment in automation accrue to capital, not labor. In such a future neither the young nor the old will flourish; only the wealthy.

Yet another trend in broadcast advertising

The announcers are still using the exaggerated inflections and 'voice roll' cadences of a carnival barker, but now they are speaking in that stilted way very s-l-o-w-l-y. It's a little reminiscent of 'special English' broadcasts on Voice of America. In many cases it's obvious that they are going for the senior market, as with the durable medical equipment firms whose business model is obviously built around Medicare (and just as obviously carries enough overhead to absolutely saturate the low-budget airwaves). It makes the commercial breaks seem ten times longer than they are, and one side effect has been that I have largely stopped listening to the radio.

26 September 2010

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23 September 2010

Back again due to writer’s block, Quotations with links

“We must not kid ourselves. Social responsibility is inefficient in a global free market, and the market will not long abide those who do not avail of the opportunities to shed the inefficient. And we must be clear as to the meaning of efficiency. To the global economy, people are not only increasingly unnecessary, but they and their demands for a living wage are a major source of economic inefficiency. Global corporations are acting to purge themselves of this unwanted burden. We are creating a system that has fewer places for people.”—David Korten, quoted by Jack Saturday

“[Doug] Henwood is right—about the current trends concerning wages, profits, and the lack of change in elite opinion. But I do disagree with him about one thing: it’s not that the Left doesn’t have ideas about what to do. There are plenty of ideas, both criticisms of capitalism and suggestions for ways of creating noncapitalism. What the Left hasn’t been able to achieve in the United States is a form of organization either inside the Democratic Party or outside, in order to make its ideas known and to inspire others to participate in creating a different common sense in this country. It’s one of the key differences between the current crises and the 1930s.”—David Ruccio

“Anyone concerned with social justice should grasp the implausibility of tycoons like Bill Gates, Peter Thiel, and Ray Kurzweil undermining the very hierarchies they benefit from. If radical and progressive Singularitarians want a future that’s not controlled by money and guns for the pleasure of the bosses, we’re going to have to struggle.”—Summerspeaker

“By the time I got to the end of this essay, the videos were done, and still, nobody had said word one about this simple fact: almost the only form of political activity that has mattered since the 1960s is the running of 15-second broadcast television political campaign advertisements, and those are (a) prohibitively expensive and (b) to some extent, auctioned.”—Brad Hicks

“I think a lot of you are missing the point about rental contracts’ slavery-like provisions. Sure, they’re unenforceable, and sure, you can get them thrown out. But how many people actually know this and are capable of getting this to happen? Most likely, they’ll just assume they have to abide by the terms, and the case never makes it to court. It’s still a problem that people are putting language into contracts, knowing it can’t be enforced, so they can take advantage of the weak. If you don’t see that as a problem, I don’t know what to tell you. Contracts should mean what they say.’—Silas Barta

15 September 2010

Comment on Poor Richard's comment on data deluge, Google's Black Box, etc.

This is yet another case of comment-blogorrhea, in this case in reply to this. Any second person pronouns in the text below are references to Poor Richard.

====8<----------------

I don't necessarily agree with your contention that the myriad species of utility in your taxonomy of utilities can or should be rolled into one framework of general utility. I don't necessarily disagree with the contention, either. Like Mr. Anderson, I'm 'agnostic,' preferring to wait and see what the data say. Pubwan, of course is my proposed methodology for gathering the (hopefully) relevant data. Like any human, I have an idea of what I'd like the data to prove, and it seems not to coincide with your framework of general utility. More specifically, I question the assumption held by economists at least since Walras that utility is a scalar quantity, conveniently measurable in units of currency. One reason I want to believe either that utility is BS or else that utility is vector-valued or irreducible or otherwise non-scalar is because I've taken a liking to various ecological and other groups and causes that are questioning the legitimacy of GDP as a measure of quality of life, or even of economic development. As someone whose career never really took off, I also have a personal vested interest in the idea that 'money isn't everything.' My take on the notion of vector-valued utility is here. I had a little trouble finding it as I misremembered now that I had worded it "quality of life as vector-valued function." This little bit of serendipity led me to the discovery that Google Blog Search knows of exactly one instance of the phrase "vector valued utility" in the blogosphere. (Discussion of your discussion on Google later, BTW) For your amusement, here's what's been said about vector-valued utility. I think the concept of vector-valued utility (or at least vector-valued income) underlies the notion of 'multiple bottom line' accounting that has been applied to various types of politically-correct businesses. I seriously doubt this practice is sufficient for capitalism to buy its soul back, but I highly value the empirical opportunities that this practice should open up, if combined with the introduction of radical transparency to accounting.

Now for Google guy Chris Anderson and his data deluge. I'll read the pdf later (really). Right now I'm commenting on your comments on it.

"At the petabyte scale, information is not a matter of simple three- and four-dimensional taxonomy and order but of dimensionally agnostic statistics."

That's called factor analysis, and statisticians have been talking about it since before I was born. Yawn. I do agree with Mr. Norvig that the point is that data are available (to some) with unprecedented fidelity. That is exactly the point. Using Google again to trace my own activity log (another example of the pervasiveness of cloud computing) I retrieve the quote "plotting high-resolution demand curves" from pubwan wiki, and in the process discover exactly one other page containing (at the time of indexing, anyway) the word "pubwan" and the phrase "high resolution". Needless to say, I've been aware for some time that 'pubwan' is a word in the Thai language. I never got a round tuit and decided to satisfy that curiosity. Unfortunately, Google Translate doesn't yet include Google Transliterate, at least for Thai->English. The other page about pubwan and high resolution contained a Facebook link so I inquired there. The person on the other end might think I'm an idiot, or an example of why Americans are dumb, but maybe not, and I'm overcome with curiosity. Aaaaanyhoooo, combined with the emerging instrumented ecosystem, etc., yes, it is both technically exciting (for the few) and politically chilling (for the many). Interesting you should mention dupermarkets, BTW. Did you get that one from me? :-) More or less, I would say that I would like to see as much of these data make it into the public domain. As far as privacy, transparency and democratic regulation, well, as a nominal anarchist sympathizer, I'm supposed to believe in neither democracy nor regulation. At any rate, I think they are both irrelevant to the issue of symmetric transparency. Otherwise, I would say yes to transparency and no to privacy. Privacy no, not because I don't believe in it in the normative sense, but because I don't believe in it in the positive sense, and transparency YES, because the cause of transparency (but only if it's symmetric transparency) has become the one cause to which I am most fervently committed. Informationally, I'm a militant communist.

ONE MORE THING: You are eminently qualified to edit pubwan wiki. Everyone is eligible to edit pubwan wiki. That is the whole point. It runs on Media Wiki, so in theory it's impervious to both vandalism and incompetence, neither of which apply to you, anyway. The thing is absolutely dying on the vine as a one-person wiki; which is one thing that is not meant to be.

09 September 2010

Back due to writer’s block, Quotations with links

“Taxes and regulations should be eliminated from the bottom up and subsidies and welfare should be eliminated from the top down.”—Keith Preston

“Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.”—Steve Bieda

“Confusion to Big Sib! Clarity to little sib!”—Necrodata Thanatos

“…for many people, defenses of individual autonomy and deep suspicions of authoritarian concentrations of power will be complemented by equally foundational defenses of a need for fairness…”—Dale Carrico

“Idealists consider the revolution successful only if the ideals are adopted by 100% of the people. On the other hand, pragmatists consider themselves successful if they are able to rule with 100% of the power.”—Jeremy Weiland

“It’s a devil’s bargain. While in a vacuum, winning greater rights and acceptance for the queer community is obviously desirable, such gains can serve to bolster other systems of oppression. I demand liberation for all of us, not just respectable white gay men. Instead of trying to do better under the current rules of hierarchy and competition, we need to move to a new game where nobody loses.”—Summerspeaker

“If patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, pragmatism is the first refuge of the scoundrel. Bakunin always shines a critical light on the compromisers and those who insist that we have to settle for less.”—Anarcho

“The gift of $100, though not much - is in fact something. Whereas, in today’s money-based economies, being alive is not a guarantee of economic access - hence the greater value of the $100.”—Rebecca Burlingame

“The reality is Lake Wobegon in reverse. About 80% of us are below average. Not you or I perhaps. But then again, I read somewhere that 19% of us consider ourselves to be in the top 1%, and many more think we have a real shot at being there. And so we toe the line, and tow it, I suppose.”—Wyn, a.k.a. LVT Fan

“Firstly, to identify as market anarchist places undue emphasis on the economic aspects of life at the expense of broader social concerns. I want a market economy (at least partially), but I do not want a market society. Secondly, why should we emphasize market production at the expense of, say, household or peer production? Are these not equally as important and liberating? Thirdly, the term ‘market’ should not be used loosely to mean all voluntary actions.”—Ernst York Gander

07 September 2010

Yet another astroturf takes to the airwaves

This one calls itself Public Notice. So far, Source Watch has nothing to say about them (or maybe I just don't know how to navigate Source Watch). Their rhetorical spin could perhaps be called piig-baiting, but I call it civil-servant-bashing.

30 August 2010

Lee on Boettke on Ostrom, in reply to Bates

As has become my habit, I again blew way past the character maximum for blog comments. This is a response to Winton Bates' comment of 29 August, 2010 21:32 on this blog.

On first inspection of the above comment I was half wondering whether Lin Osrom was short for Elinor Ostrom, and to my delight it is! Elinor Ostrom's claim to fame seems to be at least a partial debunking of the 'tragedy of the commons' understanding of free and/or public goods, which in itself is enough to make her a hero of mine. If only I had a penny for every time my ideals have been whacked over the head with the wet noodle called 'tragedy of the commons' by some snarky libertarian. Another barometer of true brilliance is the impressive and diverse variety of groups and causes that seem to want to claim her as one of their own, or at least claim some measure of vindication in her findings for their own pet theories, and pet bodies of theory. Only a year or so post-Nobel, and she's right up there with Thomas Jefferson by that barometer. Laissez-faire types love her for demonstrating that central authority is not needed for optimal allocation, while commies like me celebrate her finding that apparently property rights aren't needed either. What isn't exactly clear to me is what exactly is needed, and what exactly is the range of problems to which these group dynamics are applicable. I need to read up on these things.

As for this Peter Boettke, the name looked familiar, and of course following the link burned the name "George Mason University - Department of Economics" onto my retinas. Just day before yesterday one of the blogs I subscribe to posted a link to this claim that GMU Econ is essentially a wholly-owned subsidiary of the David H. Koch Foundation.

Of course, in the spirit of fairness, I read all 23 pages, at least twice.

As for Dr. Boettke's thesis that the only reasonable regulation is self regulation, I find it interesting that he finds Dr. Ostrom's findings to include "informal, and sometimes
even tacit, rules that communities live by." This sounds to me like neither government regulation nor self-regulation, but social norms. So, perhaps we should rejoice in the triumph of the normative over the positive; calling into question another mainstream economics dictum with which my most cherished beliefs have been pummeled many times.

As for the beekeepers and apple growers, maybe the jury is still out on that. Just last night David Suzuki's TV show was looking into the phenomenon of colony collapse disorder that has been decimating the honeybee population. It seems that bottling up, 'mixing labor with' and commoditizing the 'service of nature' that is pollination has had the effect of bringing the bees, like the other livestock, into the world of monoculture, which may be a contributing factor to CCD. In fairness, the show was inconclusive as to an exact cause, positing that the honeybee is facing so many stressors from so many sources that any one of these stressors could be the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.

Here's a gem:

It is arguable, that not since Kenneth Boulding (see, e.g., Boettke and
Prychitko 1996) have we seen a social scientist allow their sheer curiosity
about the world to take them on such a methodological journey of so
many different approaches to get at the phenomena she wants to
understand…

Sounds to me like the everyday practice of anthropology. I'll probably file it as yet another example of mainstream economists being dismissive of the other social sciences.

All in all, the article read to me like a salvo of the standard talking points I have come to expect from 'Masonomists,' but I did learn something. I didn't know that Dr. Ostrom had cred in both public choice theory and political economy. Public choice theory is a discipline people of my ilk tend to dismiss as just another school of thought created in service to incumbent interests. Political economy, I always assumed, was the exact opposite; a discipline scuttled (for similarly mercenary reasons) in favor of economics as a science apart from politics. It seems obvious (or let's say intuitive) to me that all economic relationships (e.g. employer-employee, landlord-tenant, franchisor-franchisee, principal-agent, and yes, government-citizen) have a political (i.e. dominance-submission) dimension. I'm inclined to believe that the movement from political economy to economics is in service to the agenda of defining the political in the ultra-narrow terms of 'monopoly of the initiation of force,' while the invention of public choice theory is an attempt to make political science a branch of economics, in keeping with Steven Landsburg's project of making all sciences branches of economics through sophistic demonstrations that everything from particle interactions to evolutionary biology to matters of the heart (is nothing sacred?) are basically manifestations of market forces.

Snarky, but definitely food for thought, and much reading for me to catch up on.

29 August 2010

In reply to Winton Bates, on whether the next generation will have it even worse

The following is intended as a comment to Winton Bates' post titled Are Americans pessimistic about the prospects for the next generation?

Speaking as a 'Generation X' American (born 1965) I'm inclined to believe that (1) my generation's coming-of-age years occurred during that ratcheting-down of working class expectations called Reaganomics, (2) future generations can expect further ratcheting down of expectations and (3) the high point of American civilization was what was called the 'post-war period,' maybe 1946-1979. Some put its definitive end as early as 1973 (OPEC embargo). I'll go along with that, but human resources made a strong campaign of working with rather than against the trends circa 1980; what Jacob Hacker has termed the Risk Shift.

Whether the American standard of living is rising or falling, it should be undisputed that the structural trend is for Americans of modest means to be expected to eat more and more of the risk inherent in enterprise. All of the trends in human resources practice point in this direction, be it the trend from union to non-union workplaces, gainful (permanent, full-time) to 'contingent' employment, employee status to 'independent contractor' status, fee-per-service to HMO in health benefits, and defined benefit to defined contribution in retiree benefits. I would say that whatever gains (if any) have been made in median income have been more than offset by the losses in economic security. Even if it's true that risk was systematically underpriced by employers and insurers (perhaps due to incompetence or lack of 20-20 hindsight) during the postwar period, that underpricing enhanced quality of life in very tangible ways.

I think at least the next two or so generations are facing a continuation of this trend. For them, debt-financing of education, unpaid internships, attrition hiring, and self-employment by default are being added to the expectations placed on individuals generally.

There are of course many very important ways in which the present is much better than postwar America, which was far more racist and sexist. It was also more bureaucratic and conformist, but in these areas I think the present-day trend toward a surveillance state, and more significantly, a surveillance workplace, more than cancels out the relative cultural freedom, which in practice has more to do with expression than with substantive rebellion.

I don't expect a reversal of the Risk Shift trend until the painful market correction between global-north and global-south wage expectations has run its course to equilibrium. I think the odds are against this particular elephant being swallowed and digested during my lifetime. The only hope for a mercifully quick (though possibly more traumatic) resolution of these structural inequities is to 'liberalize' human migration with as much ideological ram-rodding as has been applied to the 'liberalization' of trade and of capital flows. The necessary adjustment of global-north consumption norms to the reality of global warming should also help, as will the projection that we will probably clear the population hump (though at a staggering 9 billion) by about mid-century.

Toward a thick individualism

Toward a thick individualism



Thick individualism as I intend to formulate it is not exactly the same thing as thick libertarianism. Of course I don't regard individualism as exactly synonymous with libertarianism. Libertarianism, both thick and thin, it seems, is anti-government first and pro-individual second. Another reason I tend to distance myself from libertarianism is because while libertarianism draws the battle lines between the public sector and the private sector, I tend to draw the battle lines between individuals and institutions. The latter category definitely includes all governments and businesses, and I generally also tend to throw in nonprofits, religions and perhaps families. I'm the type of anti-authoritarian for whom the creators of the Geek Code invented the PE>$ designation, which translates to "Distrust both government and business." That statement pretty much sums up my worldview, and it's been my worldview pretty much since my first job.

The apparent cluster of ideologies that includes thick libertarianism, left libertarianism, market anarchism, market socialism, and mutualism (at least in the American sense) seems to have a decidedly anti-corporate flavor (which, curiously, is starting to emerge in right-wing 'libertarian' circles) but it isn't clear to me whether they are pro- or anti- 'business,' in a sense that would include, for example, small business. I'm decidedly anti-business, as my working definition of capitalist is 'someone who owns and/or operates a business.' Like the IWW, I understand a worker to be 'someone who isn't a boss.' An employee of a small business is an employee, which is to say, used. From the vantage point of the employee, the employer is definitely an institution. Granted some employers are individuals, but here we're generally talking about work in personal service and other situations involving explicit social rank, which would logically be an affront to all schools of anarchy save the capitalist ones.

Needless to say, at some point I started to refer to my system as anti-institutionalism. This left a disturbing aftertaste, however, since it seems the only thing more trite than a neologism ending in -ism is one that also begins with anti-. Besides, it is fashionable these days, for some reason I can't quite fathom, to chide people for expressing with precision what they are against without describing what they're for. The formulation neo-individualism occurred to me, but the neo- prefix is perhaps even more trite than anti-. Then a few days ago, I saw yet another reference to thick libertarianism and it hit me. Why not call it thick individualism, describing it more or less as individualism as if individuals mattered.

The practice and advancement of thick individualism should logically avoid the creation of institutions. This begs the question of the legitimacy of organizations such as syndicalist unions and federations. One way around this is to regard these as part of a dual power strategy, although I'm generally inclined to think of power itself as a dirty word. Small-f federalism as a decentralizing tendency is, I think, of real value, so I would say that if we must have organizations, they should be federations of smaller organization, which devolve in a transparent way all the way to the individual. Given my general anticapitalist (which to me implies anti-market) bias, I'm inclined to think that if we must accept organizations as a necessary evil, they should also ideally be nonprofit organizations.

Anarcho-capitalists, of course, self-identify as individualists. Like thick libertarians and thick individualist(s?), this to them means they are anti-statists. They seem to think the state is collectivism taken to its logical extreme. I think of it is inequality taken to its logical extreme. Meanwhile I struggle with certain questions, like, whether it's possible for an organization not to be an institution, and whether my professed love of collectivism is simply out of spite toward the capitalist types. My provisional answer is that I can imagine no non-collective strategy by which the mice can bell the cat, whether the cat is the boss or the state.

Market anarchy is for markets

Market anarchy means anarchy (i.e. freedom) for the market. Real anarchy means freedom for the people, which means, among other things, freedom from the market. If the market enjoys freedom to find its equilibrium, that doesn't help me if the equilibrium price of my talents happens to fall short of the equilibrium price of my needs. Unmet needs are the basis to all forms of exploitation. Those who have what they need within easy reach are those who have the freedom to take this (or another) job and shove it. Freedom for the people may require the ability to override market outcomes. Obviously a nongovernmental means of accomplishing this must be invented, but such an invention is necessarily part of the struggle.

22 August 2010

My ways of being religious

I'm not the religious type. If anything, I'm the irreligious type. I definitely do not harbor a theistic viewpoint. 'No gods, no masters,' etc. In spite of all this, I have a tendency to think in terms of a supposed dichotomy between the categories of 'sacred' and 'profane.' I've been meaning for a while to blog on this subject, and what finally broke that particular writer's block was a comment I received from David Gendron:

I disagree about your anti-market stance. Even sexual relations and gifting are realizations of market mechanisms.

I hear claims like this every so often. My reaction is always the same, and it is a verbal thought, and it's worded exactly thus: Is nothing sacred?

Perhaps it is significant that David Gendron refers to sexual relations rather than romantic relations. His hobby horse over at anarchopragmatisme seems to be the vileness of statism applied to the criminalization of so-called vices, including the flesh trade. I regard sexual relations as sacred in the context of romantic relationships and profane in the context of commercial ones. I should point out that I don't have any opinions whatsoever of the ethical or unethical nature of any kind of sexual conduct. Sacred and profane, to me, is not analogous to ethical and unethical. A slogan I came up with that I delight in throwing around: Friendship is sacred. Networking is profane. Here of course I mean networking in the careerist sense; networking meaning working with rather than against the fact that in the real world, who you know is more important than what you know. Friendship is the more organic practice of simply gravitating to those people with whom you are most at home, or who reflect your interests or values. Networking is the practice of sizing people up as useful or not, influential or not, in the loop or not. Who is worth spending time with is determined by pragmatic considerations.

16 August 2010

Market is a verb

In a market economy you have to market yourself. That, for me, is the single most compelling argument against market economics. The fact is, some of us detest everything about sales, marketing and promotion. As Killer says, "The present economy is organized to produce a considerable amount of crap that wouldn’t be needed in a post-capitalist society and industry can be made more efficient if organized differently."

05 August 2010

Pick-and-choose agorism

When deciding whether one has common cause with movements like 'market socialism' or 'free-market anticapitalism,' it makes sense to figure out just what it is that these people mean by 'market.' What are the essential properties of the market mechanism?

What about strong efficiency? Is transparency a necessary condition for efficiency? If it is, there may hope for a non-dystopian yet market-oriented future. Under strong efficiency, informational outsiders are nevertheless treated to 'efficient prices,' which suggests the dismal possibility that we're living in the best of all possible worlds. A related question is whether market equilibrium is the best of all possible worlds. I may be wrong (I'm often wrong) but this seems to be the main bone of contention between the neoclassical and Austrian schools of economics. From my perspective, they both look far-right and laissez-faire capitalist (if anything the Austrians more so), but if the Austrians are de-linking equilibrium-seeking and (global) optimum-finding, perhaps that should be interpreted as a form of optimism, and it can be understood (to some extent) why so many 'left'-oriented anarchist and libertarian blogs link to mises.org, despite the snarkiness and the 'yes Virginia TANSTAAFL' tone.

Most of these seemingly paradoxical market≠capitalism schools accept the exchange paradigm but not property. But what is exchanged in this actually-free market if not property?

Another question is whether market economics can be had without marketing, or the related dark arts of salescrittership and advertising. If forced sales is inherently authoritarian, how is it that involuntary unemployment is not? Maybe it's a lesser evil thing, prioritizing freedom over security or equality. Or is the libertarian left in full agreement with the libertarian right that not only doesn't the world owe anyone a living, but it doesn't even owe them a job offer or the equivalent? I can see how there is a problem if someone's particular handiwork (and gift to society in the gift economy sense) is neither needed nor wanted. But assuming one is flexible about what work they will perform, must the opportunity to perform it be a privilege? Perhaps this is the fatal weakness of gift economics based on doing your own thing—the likelihood that the outcome of doing it is not what is needed by others. So it is that Henry David Thoreau had to "make it worth men's while" to buy his particular kind of basket of a delicate texture. In what to me is the spirit of anti-authoritarianism, he elected instead to study "how to avoid the necessity of selling them." He of course pursued this by attempting a minimalist and subsistence-based lifestyle. We all know this strategy has its limits.

These class struggle agorists also tend to embrace competition, at least between group endeavors, be they cooperatives, syndicates, federations, etc. I fail to understand how this type of competition can help but lead to competition between individuals over opportunities to participate. Inevitably at some point some individual will be seen as a competitive liability to a work group and will face rejection, and possibly failure, insolvency or non-survival, or is this not as inevitable as I imagine? Even if competition is somehow magically limited to ersatz institutions and not individuals, what is being competed over? Wealth? Power?? Market share? What is the penalty for being a loser?

It's hard to imagine a movement rallying around what it terms 'the free market,' but also having a shared social goal of eliminating the necessity of selling. Perhaps mutualists have no complaint with the necessity of selling, per se. The question becomes, what organized or at least self described movement or school of thought does? Whoever they are, I wish to join them.

16 July 2010

Chromatic blogroll

I've added a blogroll of sorts to this blog. The positioning and coloring is based on the 'political compass' displayed in the upper left corner. The coloring is copied directly from the political compass for the four corners, and RGB-interpolated for the other five positions in my 3x3 grid. The left column of my 3x3 grid is in the left column of my blog template, likewise for the right. The center column I didn't quite know what to do with. For now I decided to place it in the center column under the blog entries. It's too obscure a placement for blogroll-type lists, but seemed for now more appealing than arbitrarily assigning it to either left or right, or putting it above blog entries, which shouldn't require navigating past much and should certainly be visible without pressing page-down or the equivalent.

Assigning blogs to pigeonholes of course is on a call-'em-as-I-see-'em basis. If anyone has complaints with their placement (where or if) they will be honored. Just send email to november-eight-charlie-hotel-zulu-at-yahoo-dot-ca.

15 July 2010

Another likely 'sporadic E' event

Or it could be the fog. Morning of Thursday July 15, 2010 was hopping for ATSC (i.e. DTV) DX-ing from my QTH north of Detroit. Picked up the following stations:

  • 11 WTOL Toledo CBS (+ 11.2 'News 11')
  • 15 → 5 WEWS ABC Cleveland
  • 17 → 3 WKYC Cleveland NBC (+ 3.2 weather radar)
  • 23 ION, Qubo, ION Life (local Christianist station WUDT still logging as 8 → 23.1)
  • 26 → 25, WVIZ Cleveland PBS (+ 25.2, 25.3, 25.4)
  • 27 WBGU Bowling Green, OH PBS (+ 27.2, 27.3))
  • 31 ION, same routine as channel 23, above.
  • 34 → 61 WQHS Cleveland Univision

Antenna is a simple single 'bowtie' UHF antenna in the attic.

There were also those pregnant pauses suggesting the receiver really wanted to pull a signal out of digital channels 10, 12, 13, 20, 47 and 50

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