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Who ordered *that*?

"Your papers, please."

I'm not sure what's more enraging—the casual racial profiling or the presumption of guilty-until-proven-innocent—but it's getting hard to deny that the racists are in the driving seat of policy at the Home Office these days.

The racism is utterly, dismally, predictable when times are bad—frightened, stressed people with no economic security look around for someone to blame, and they can be very easily manipulated into blaming others. It's important also to remember that the 1930s were populated by people coming to terms with rapid technological change-induced future shock, and looking for certainty in the face of the future. Today, we have similar levels of future shock, largely social in nature: thanks to the internet we can't ignore other people whose views we find repugnant.

But racism isn't the key issue here. The real question we should be asking is not "what" but "why".

I have a new speculative hypothesis to stand alongside the Martian invasion and the bad dream. It is this: the over-arching reason for the clamp-down on dissent, migration, and freedom of expression, and the concurrent emphasis on security in the developed world, constitutes the visible expression of a pre-emptive counter-revolution.

The fuse for a revolution was lit by the global financial crisis of 2007/08, in a process that looked alarmingly close to triggering the Crisis of Capitalism (a hypothesized event which is associated with an ideology to which the current political elite of the USA and EU are for the most part highly allergic, for anyone aged over 50 spent their formative years under the bipolar tension of the Cold War). It sputtered briefly in the west in the form of the Occupy and related movements, but truly caught fire in 2009 with the failed Green revolution and in 2010-11 with the Arab spring—which were inflamed by the spike in global food prices caused by capital fleeing into commodities in the wake of the banking crisis. Meanwhile, the imposition of disaster capitalism in the west (as a purported "solution" to the debt-based spending bubbles various western governments embarked on during the boom years of the 1990s-2007) inflamed popular tensions in those countries, with results like this (undirected rioting) that never adhered to any political direction, but nevertheless terrified the ruling elite, leading to their retaliation via draconian punishments.

The wave of revolutions has so far been contained within the Arab world (a part of the globe which—I don't think this is any kind of coincidence at all—is suddenly becoming much less important to the energy geopolitics of the west, with the switch to fracking and renewables now under way). The policy of pre-emptive counter-revolution, facilitated by the imposition of the global internet panopticon, has clamped the lid down tight.

So, in summary: I believe what we're seeing is a move towards the global imposition of a police state in the developed world, leveraging the xenophobia that naturally emerges during insecure times, by a ruling elite who are themselves feeling threatened by a spectre. Controls on movement, freedom of association, and speech are all key tools in the classic police state's arsenal. What's new about this cycle is that the police state machinery is imposed locally, within national boundaries, but applies everywhere: the economic system it is intended to protect is transnational and unconstrained. Which is why even places that were largely exempt during the cold war are having a common police state agenda quietly imposed. There is to be no refuge, other than destabilized "failed states" where the conditions of life make a police state look utopian in comparison.

This system has emerged organically, from the bottom up, and is not the result of any conspiracy; it's just individuals and groups moving to protect their shareholdings in the Martian invaders, by creating an environment that is safe for the hive intelligences to operate in.

As to how I feel about this ...

I'm middle-aged and comfortable and have no great love for revolutions, even though I'd say that the imposition of a global police state deserves a place high on the list of complaints weighty enough to legitimize one. But revolutions almost invariably go bad. A few, like the Velvet revolution, turn out all right in the end; but many more provide opportunities for the vilest dregs of humanity to run amok. Only when the post-revolutionary society stabilizes and the convulsions subside do we get to see whether or not we're better off: and even if we are, that's scant comfort for the bereaved relatives of those who died in the process. As I said, I'm middle-aged, fat, and have health issues: don't look for me on the barricades. If it happens, I'll be over here wringing my hands and writing communiques calling for less smashing of skulls. Because? Fuck every cause that ends in murder and children crying.

268 Comments

1:

Sounds similar to tactics used in the US Southwest, aimed at Hispanic immigrants.

2:

I'd agree with that final sentence. But what about systems that rely on people believing in that to avoid being overthrown?

It's a tricky ethical problem, no?

3:

"There were two 'Reigns of Terror', if we could but remember and consider it; the one wrought murder in hot passions, the other in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other had lasted a thousand years; the one inflicted death upon a thousand persons, the other upon a hundred million; but our shudders are all for the "horrors of the... momentary Terror, so to speak; whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the axe compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty and heartbreak? A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief terror that we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older and real Terror - that unspeakable bitter and awful Terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves."

4:

Charlie, to be honest, this post looks like you are trying to take various events and force then into a narrative that fits your worldview. Which is a great way to write a story, I guess, but less than stellar for prediction of real events.

What about China and the rest of the "rise of the rest"? Don't you think the fact that increasingly large portion of the world economy is less liberal than the West, but still fully integrated into in, might do something with the processes inside the West?

5:

Yes, it's a huge ethical problem. (That last line is a quote from Iain Banks, by the way.)

I'd nuance it a bit, by adding a couple of other guidelines. One is the Jewish rabbinical formulation of the Golden Rule: "do not do unto others that which you would find repugnant if it were done unto you." (Not quite the same as the Jesus version, you will note!) And the other: put people before ideological theories, never the other way round.

The big ethical problem with a pre-emptive counter-revolution is that those imposing it are punishing people for something they haven't even done.

6:

Revolution by Any Other Name

I find it impossible to argue with your analysis or even quibble with your conclusions.

So instead questions: On the continuum of change, do you define revolution as the point at which cities burn, skulls are bashed and children cry? Or would a jarring shift toward rational, humane government also fall into that category?

And don't you think that the self-defining legitimation of current Western systems (a consenting populace and responsive polity) are precisely the features which – if they worked as intended – would obviate revolutionary destabilization and head-bashing, as well as most of the crap we are all now suffering through to a greater or lesser extent?

To appropriate Rage Against The Machine for my Question to All: How do we "Take the power back", for values of power-taking that are essentially bloodless?

I grew up in the States and have spend almost 20 years in Berlin, so I have a fairly nuanced understanding of two large powers, one of which seems significantly more determined to flush itself down the crapper of history than the other.

To be clear: The US reminds me a bit of Later DeNiro with a mean streak: Once capable of greatness but, after casting itself in a series of successively less-appealing roles, now a charmless drunk uncle who won't shut up -- but who also happens to have a VAST gun collection and own half the block and the local factory to boot.

I guess the wish for Philosopher Kings was already a no-go when Plato scratched it onto dried leaves 2400 years ago. But even without the stretch goal of "wise" leadership, what chance have we to enthrone leadership at least based on consensual reality. [NB: Please, no real thrones.]

If tyranny is bad, stateless anarchy predictably worse, and our own systems apparently so far beyond the tipping point that even the few halfway rational bills tht make it to an up-or-down vote fail despite 90% public approval (lookin' at you, gun buyers' background checks), what's the alternative? I'm also comfortable, your age, and just want a little sanity in the world. Good thing I'm used to disappointment.

7:

Agree. But I think there's real hope in the internet, cryptography, and technology in general.

Already feels like the rent seeking capitalists / imperialists are losing control of finance (bitcoin), prohibition (Silk Road), and military power (hacking > tanks). Soon they'll lose control over the means of production (3D printing) and the means of financing / rent seeking (Kickstarter, collaborative consumption).

The downside is I don't think they'll go down without a very nasty fight (drones, militarised police, Orwellian surveillance).

8:

Stella Creasy is my local MP & lives within a very short walk from my house, in fact.
Even though she is Labour, she has inherited the local tradition of being a very good constituency representative (I've met her a couple of times) & - for an MP - she's really nice to know. Personally, I wish her well.
You mention "racism" - but what about sexism & misogyny? I wonder if this isn't actually worse than the racism, which seems to be reviving - I thought it was dying, about 5-7 years ago, but, as you say, I wonder if "hard times" have made things worse again.

Except that WHY should a "counter-revolution" be mounted?
We all know that the communist religion was as murderous, lying, cruel & utterly vicious as all the other religions, & what's more, made economic circumstances WORSE, not better, for people living under it.
Or is it in fact, not a "counter-revolution" at all, but a "simple" economic coup & power-grab by an "elite" who seem to imagine that their time to seize the reins of control has come, & recognise that they have a limited window of opportunity, given the still-proliferating implications for freedom that the Net provides ???

However, I agree with the "ploice state" part of your theory/hypothesis, having just returned from my annual dancing-&-drinking trip to Germany (YAY! Hic) & had to go through "security" & "border control" & Passport inspections (yes plural) to GET ON A FUCKING TRAIN.
Given that the lorries & cars using the Tunnel shuttle are NOT screened for bombs (maybe for drugs & illegals) then why the fuck are foot-passengers sunjected to this farcical & unnecessary indignity?
You tell me - especially whenb people using the Swiss base-tunnels, or the Danish/Swedish bridge/Tunnel are not.
Grrr ...
Agree re. the "common police state agenda, too - scary, isn't it?

Oh, footnote: One very significant revloution ended extremely well, & very quickly.
In 1688.

It's worth noting, too that much of what "The state" is ding is acting illegally, according to the real "Bill of Rights" of that year.
That, of course, is what probably motivated B Manning, when he found out that his country was breaking its own rules.

My one hope is that, in both the USA & here (& other places too, now - Germany is very hot on this, given their unfortunate experiences) sooner or later, "the guvmint" of whichever country is going to be brough up short, simply because they have broken their own, agreed rules.

Charlie @ 5
That's called blaming the victim.

{ Significant, that I saw this pop up - no comments when I started writing my long screed - 7 as I post this & we'll see what number it comes out at, actually?

@ 7
Agree

9:

China: already a police state. India: has different problems but some of the same forces are at work there, too. (Note that the UIDIA database actually serves a valuable social purpose; but it's all too easy to see how it could be misused, too.) The "rise of the rest" is a good thing in general, but I suspect the same tendency towards oligarchy is under way everywhere, and for a simple reason: power likes to talk to power, and a lot of the police state techniques we're seeing are being lobbied for by the US government -- stuff that has come out of the School of the Americas and was previously deployed in South and Central America during the years of Operation Condor is now going global.

10:

My local hospital vanished from the web once, when my ISP tried a default-on porn filter.

It's in Scunthorpe.

The Golden Jubilee celebrated diversity, and the big parade validated the multi-racial mix of cultures in Britain. Ten years later, it was hardly racist, but the joy in diversity had vanished. And look at the frothing rage from some of the racist sods in the media over the Olympics Opening Ceremony.

We live in a country which seems to be tolerating evil. They'll still chase adter you if you firebomb a mosque, but it's the government putting up the modern-day "niggers go home" posters.

11:

>>China: already a police state

Exactly. There is a unapologetic police state which is on the road to become world's largest economy and is fully integrated into the economy of the West. China has competitive advantage in part _because_ it is less liberal. So, a western corporation wanting to compete will either lobby for more liberty in China or for less liberty in the west.

12:

"Fuck every cause that ends in murder and children crying."

Well said, and why am I not surprised that it's an Iain Banks quote.

13:

While I agree with your analysis of the forces behind this, the trigger event seems strange in the extreme. Where are the ministers etc on the 'accepted' media (checked Beeb and Grauniad) outlets banging on about how this is a proactive approach to fighting turrism and dole-scrounging illegals?
They don't seem to be making any hay from it which is deeply strange.
And here I hoped Ken MacLeod's Intrusion was going to be a future we would avoid :(

14:

"Fuck every cause that ends in murder and children crying."

You know, this is nice and all, but almost every cause there is claims it is against murder and children crying.

15:

8 (Greg. Tingey) Channel Tunnel vehicles are all scanned for nuclear 'products'.

16:


I don't really buy into the long term viability of China. It's already teetering on the brink of multiple existential problems; credit crunch, massive pollution, huge corruption, fucked demographics etc.

They'll either be forced to become more liberal and less productive, or more tyrannical and less productive. I don't see a more tyrannical more productive option. That never really works out - see North Korea, the USSR, etc.

17:

sorry should have qualified that statement with "I don't really buy into the long term viability of China [as it stands now]"

18:

P.S. I can't get your specific "scriptonitedaily" link to open directly in either browser.
Is this significant?

It has now finally opened - after about 4 minutes.

AIUI, what is described going on at Kensal Rise (?) station { It must be "Overground - there's a orange-heade sign in the background & the lettering etc is wrong for the "tube" - these things matter when it comes to this sort of thing .... )

And, just to terurn to an earlier item, what UKBA are doing is flat-out ILLEGAL.
They have no cause or reason to stop any of these people, at all.

19:

China has competitive advantage in part _because_ it is less liberal. So, a western corporation wanting to compete will either lobby for more liberty in China or for less liberty in the west.

For once we agree exactly.

More to the point: it underlines the fact that the interests of our corporate hive-AIs are not aligned with those of humanity. (And in an argument between humanism and capitalism I'll take humanism, thanks.)

20:

Where are the ministers etc on the 'accepted' media outlets banging on about how this is a proactive approach to fighting turrism and dole-scrounging illegals?

I think they're embarrassed.

I think they're trying to execute a pivot to out-flank UKIP and the EDL on this issue, but they're holding their noses and it sticks in their throats. Hence the half-hearted Conservative support, the sight of senior LibDems speaking out against it, and so on.

(When Nigel Farage is attacking you for running a "nasty, unpleasant Big Brother" campaign, you have clearly jumped right out of the Overton window.)

21:

Judge them by their deeds, not their words.

(Incidentally, is your nom de guerre a reference to one of these guys, or not?)

22:

Some days, I don't buy into the long term viability of Western Civilization.

This is definitely not the future we ordered.

23:


@22 totally agree, I think neither are viable.

Some interesting reads on China

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/finance/ambroseevans-pritchard/100025237/china-capitulates/ (particularly the alternative GDP calculation)

http://dailycaller.com/2013/02/13/roughly-40-to-50-million-chinese-men-will-be-left-unmarried/

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-07-31/china-air-pollution-triple-who-recommended-levels-in-first-half.html

http://www.cnbc.com/id/100919813 (credit crunch spreading from China to all of Asia)

http://seekingalpha.com/instablog/790526-theforensicfactor/134750-autochina-autc-the-most-preposterous-chinese-reverse-merger-yet (crack cocaine accounting -> this later ended up being charged by the SEC).

www.ft.com/cms/s/0/db5c83dc-da67-11e2-8062-00144feab7de.html (China's ponzi financing)

24:

Nope, my nom de guerre is from "The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana" by Umberto Eco. (Check it out, great book). As you probably can see, I'm not exactly left-leaning and don't identify with anarchists.

My point about China was, we are witnessing a decline in the West, because the economies of the "rest" are rising faster than their moral standards.

Let me give a very primitive example - a person with a working partner who beats his children is more likely to start beating his own. China is our partner. Unlike USSR, which was an enemy.

25:

Slightly off topic, but the Glorious Revolution ended anything but extremely well & very quickly in Ireland, where it resulted in plenty of murder and crying children right down to the present day.

26:

I agree with you up until the SPECTRE bit which I think could do with some clarification. Now, firstly I don't know much about politics in other countries outside the anglosphere, but it seems clear enough to me that in most countries the opposition, that is, actual politicians and movements who opposed 'free' market crony capitalism and the concommitant dismantling of all structures and agencies which increase the quality of life for the majority of people in society, whilst funneling more and more money and power to the rich, are lacking somewhat in organisation, ideology and power.

Or in other words, the elite are worried about something which isn't actually there.
Which comes back to your pre-emptive counter-revolution, a nice way of describing it. Maybe it is history repeating itself.

The thing is, I think that yes, a revolution would be bad, but haven't we, in the UK, 300 year's examples of how to avoid actual revolution and have evolution instead?
Now whatever we try to evolve that goes against the invaders from mars will cause trauma and problems and perhaps even some punch ups, not to mention children starving and crying, but that'll happen, only much much worse, in a revolution. And of course there's still the children crying because their parents have been beaten up under the police state or can't find work because they're on the blacklist or starving and homeless because welfare has been cut again.

27:

P
Hug your supposed glorious misery to yourself, OK?
The RC church (aee discussion on Savita Halappanavar in previous thread) is such an evil & murderous organisation, that I would have thought anyone offering to remove their slave-domination would be welcome.
See also Magdalene Laundries & Priestly child-abuse, whilst you are at it, & the forbidding of birth-control to desperate women.
Far worse than anything ever done by the dreaded Brits ....

Charlie @ 29
You seem to have swallowed a couple of the usual stories about UKIP/Farage - his wife's German, IIRC - & he always says: "We are not against Europe - just the EU"
His stance on call-me-daves' racist policy is entirely consistent.
That's not to say that there are UKIP members who are racists, just as in the Tory & Liebour parties ....

On the original subject, apperently it's all over Twotter, but not in the main news media - yet.
I suspect we might have a feacal-matter/air-rotational interface when that does happen, though.

28:

channel tunnel: about one time in 10 they swab my car. Apparently for explosives.

29:

Many of the accounts I've read attribute global hunger in significant part to the diversion of maize and sugar cane output to fuel ethanol production, under mandates from agencies of the U.S. government and perhaps other governments. This sounds as if it's not the same thing as the global commodities speculation you refer to.

The Arab world revolutions you refer to seem to be associated with demands for an increased level of repression and police state behavior—for example, with blasphemy laws under which Islam cannot be criticized without legal penalties.

Are these things that your view of the current political situation accounts for in ways that I'm not figuring out? Or do you think they aren't actually happening?

30:

Mostly right, if depressing. But I disagree with this:

The wave of revolutions has so far been contained within the Arab world (a part of the globe which—I don't think this is any kind of coincidence at all—is suddenly becoming much less important to the energy geopolitics of the west, with the switch to fracking and renewables now under way).

If I understand correctly, it's saying the West no longer cares about the stability of Arab countries, so they were allowed to explode in revolution. However:
1) The key energy producers in the Arab world have been *least* affected by the Arab Spring. Iraq is still chaotic, the Persian Gulf monarchies are stable but repressive. This might represent meddling by the West, but let's not overlook the fact that the Gulf regimes have lots of oil money to spend on repressing and/or buying off the opposition.
2) Egypt is strategically important because it's the most populous Arab state, it has the Suez Canal, and it's Israel's largest neighbour. For these reasons the USA was (and still is) massively subsidising Egypt's armed forces, and gave at least tacit approval to the recent coup d'etat. So it's not as if the West has given up on trying to keep Arab governments stable and cooperative, it's just that events grew out of their control.

31:

The Arab world revolutions you refer to seem to be associated with demands for an increased level of repression and police state behavior—for example, with blasphemy laws under which Islam cannot be criticized without legal penalties.

Yeah. That's what you get after 50 years of systematic state repression -- first by unstable monarchies installed by the British and French post-WW1, then by ba'athist and other "strong man" juntas which overthrew them and were subsequently propped up by the US in the wake of the Suez Crisis. Any rival democratic political base is repressed, but the one thing that was off limits to the strong men was the mosque, so that's where the uprisings finally kicked off, with the likes of the Muslim Brotherhood in the driver's seat.

Note also that the British and French empires ran on the 90/9/1 principle -- 1% colonial overlords with machine guns to point at the designated 9% minority ethnic group elite, who were armed with rifles to point at the 90% majority population. So we're now seeing unstable dictatorships collapse into near-civil war with ethnic cleansing on top between Sunni and Shi'ite factions (poster-child: Syria).

Saudi Arabian oil money going to pay off the local mosques and export turbulent young trouble-makers to stir up trouble elsewhere (like those charming Mujaheddin in Afghanistan, fighting the Communists with CIA assistance -- Osama bin Laden springs to mind) didn't help.

32:

Oops, numbering fault there - meant 20 @ Charlie

And the media are beginning to notice.
Local blogs & HuffPo have flagged this shite, I'm gald to say.

I have a virulent aversion to these bastards, anyway, pink caucasian though I am.
They remind me, far far too much of the grey-green uniformed Grenzpolizei who used to patrol the outer edges of the "DDR".
Euw.

33:

"Far worse than anything ever done by the dreaded Brits ...."

I think you'll find that the general overweening power of the Church began under British rule, well before the revolution of 1916 - 1923.

You'll also find - if you ever happened to actually read some Irish history - that there were cases where post-independence Irish governments were happy to defy the Church, if they thought that suited their interests, and the elite class interests that stood behind them. Ultimately, the Church was a tool of the class struggle, a tool wielded by the exploiting class.

As for today's exploiting class, I'd say one thing we're witnessing in the developed world is not only a movement towards a permanent emergency state, but also an attempt to "lock-in" the bourgeois domination that neo-liberalism sought to guarantee. Hence Shiny Dave's war not only on racial inferiors, but also on "useless mouths" who claim disability benefit or sign on the dole.

One part of the story of the last thirty years was the huge expansion of the world's workforce, something that tended, globally, to drive down wages. That bulge in the workforce is starting to give way to a situation where the world's working classes might (possibly) regain a better negotiating position . . . hence the need to head them off at the pass.

34:

A couple of impressions from the article...

1) The guidance card is misleading and potentially harmful to its intended audience: an agency's internal operational manual is not the same as law. There's a whole thing in Russia about this, with YouTube full of dashcam videos of people intentionally trolling traffic cops with references to some internal regulations issued by the police brass - often with sad results.

2) I'm not impressed with the immediate jump to the racist card. Admittedly these activities by the UKBA are a very poor way to go about things, but is illegal immigration a problem in the UK at all, or no? And if it is, how exactly could anyone possibly go about tackling it without automatically being labeled a racist? (Viewed from all the way across Europe, isn't the stereotypical unwanted immigrant a Polish plumber, eminently white?)

35:

the Arab world ... is suddenly becoming much less important to the energy geopolitics of the west

Let's take a look at Syria. Oil production was about 525 kilobarrels/day in 2004, but as of 2010 (last year available) it's down to 400, presumably falling since. Oil is pretty much the only major export of Syria. It looks to me like Syria is in the early stages of a collapse driven by resource depletion. To the extent that this is correct, its problems are beyond political solution.

reference: http://www.indexmundi.com/g/g.aspx?c=sy&v=88

Your assumption that we have enough fracking and renewables to take up the slack strikes me as incredibly optimistic, at least if your horizon is more than five years.

36:

"And if it is, how exactly could anyone possibly go about tackling it without automatically being labeled a racist?"

You could, for example, tackle the large number of illegal overstayers from the Australian community, who are remarkably pale in the face, yet strangely absent from this debate.

You could also stop instructing an arm of the state to break the law by exceeding its powers in this matter - detaining people when they have no power to do so, for example.

37:

Indeed. Aussie aussie aussie, out out out! (But they're doing the jobs nobody else wants! Who else would be willing to pour your pints and listen to you whine for half the night?)

What the outraged activists should do is leave their entirely genuine UK citizen documents at home, and come up to these UKBA patrols en masse, then respectfully refuse to be identified in the exotic accent of their preference.

38:

Price rises can have more than one cause. Biofuel production has been blamed on food price rises since ~2008 when US subsidies came in; that's a structural rise we're now stuck with until the subsidies go away. There's also the commodities speculation since 2008, as people with money tried to find a way to make more of it since the arse fell out of the market for financial hot potatoes. There was also (and this is the one I've most often mentioned in the "straw that broke the camel's back" role) a drought that ruined the Russian wheat harvest, causing the biggest price hike since the '70s.

Two counter-examples to the idea the Arab revolutions are in favour of increased religious-based repression; Egypt, where the "secular" protesters in Tahrir Square refused to go home and immediately began protesting Morsi's policies, and Turkey, where the protests are against a government in favour of a more Islamic state.

39:

Greg - that makes you a relative neighbour.

The clever thing about the Martian invaders is that by appealing to racism - and migration control - they are tackling the weak spot identified in economic theory - that in a true free market (movement of goods, labour and capital) - labour will seek the best pay.

But if you can lock labour in, particularly into places where organised attempts to improve conditions will be met by force - bingo.

As for China - I think if you look back at the last 25 years, two of the things that really stand out to me are Tiannemen Square - the moment China realised it could do whatever it liked internally, while still participating in world trade - and that time the Chinese premier toured the West, while Western goverments ensured he would not have to see protestors - despite the fact he was obviously aware of them.

This was obviously about power projection, in the same way that the US has historically done so.

I'd have to add that I don't think this has anything to do with 'the Chinese' so much as the current power of China PLC.

Lastly, though - I think us webbies may overestimate the importance of 'web freedom' because it's important to us. 20+ years of unregulated communication don't seem to have produced much in the way of positive political change in the West, especially relative to the ructions caused by the printing press - while actually enabling more surveillance and a LOT more bread and circuses - bit of an own goal.

Maybe Cameron's ban on onanism will actually get the wankers to wake-up.

40:

"But they're doing the jobs nobody else wants!"

And that's entirely the point. Unless the worst happens, and the Austrian corporal rises from his grave, the goal will not be to make an "auslander-frei" society, but to make sure as many people as possible are in an insecure situation through their insecure legal status, making it a lot harder to claim or exercise their rights, either as individuals, or collectively with other workers.

41:

Well, maize and sugar were being diverted to ethanol, but there were also problems with wheat prices, which really spiked the Arab spring. I think, in general, Charlie's right about big banks getting into commodities. The bigger problem is that these banks (see Goldman Sachs) figured out how to make money out of market bubbles, and bubbling global commodities markets are not a good thing for the other 99.9% of humanity, or the biosphere for that matter.

The interesting and scary situation is Syria, which (according to some reports) was sparked by fights over water rights for agriculture (as in people not having enough water to farm). It could easily be the first of the prophesied Water Wars. I wonder if the unrest spreading through Iraq isn't just ideological spread from Syria, it's a fight over the remaining irrigation water in the aquifers and flowing south out of Turkey (which has been building new dams on those rivers, incidentally).

I should point out that this is the general problem with the ideology that says it's good for robots to take over. Billions of hungry, thirsty, and unemployed people are not the consumers you want for a stable market. Indeed, it's a situation ripe for a Butlerian Jihad, which (IMHO) would not be a good thing. Giving people good lives with good work is actually a really good policy for preventing unrest, and it will cause less bloodshed than people shredding the horribly complex global logistics backbone that keeps them fed in the first place.

As for the global police state? I'm wondering when we'll see the rise of the global spoofing state. As nature figured out long ago, even when there's no place to hide, there are plenty of ways to disguise yourself and your actions (see also Tony Mendez' Spy Dust, about how well a police state worked in the 80s USSR). The good thing is that, when the police states go pear-shaped, there will be lots of wires lying around to scavenge for making more useful stuff.

42:

The GMB union has published research in nov showing that 248 of the 1,000 people on the Sunday Times rich list have given money to the Conservative party. They have donated £83m.

With the political wing of banksters and global oligarchs in power we should Expect massive redistributions of wealth. From the "working class" of India and China, who will be relatively wealthier. The working class of the US and EU will be much much poorer. Public services that act to slow increasing inequality such as education, transport and healthcare will be utterly privatised and inaccessible to middle and working class people. The global elite will rule over us with levels of wealth never seen before. At the moment inequality levels in the US and Uk are at the same level as in the 1930s. Expect the one dollar one vote principle to increase. Expect the media arm of the global elite to become more aggressive. Expect ubiquitous surveillance to intensify with all dissent quashed instantly before it starts. Your children will live in a capitalist dystopia. 

Consider that under austerity the relative wealth of the world richest people has increased. For example the Times Rich List of the 1000 wealthiest people in the UK has shown their combined wealth has increased by 5% in the last 12 months to a new record high of £414 billion-

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-17883101

Back to the point though which is to compare the effect of austerity on the super rich and the other 99.999% of the population. The effects of the austerity policies propagated by the Tory led coalition have been severe and immediate 
With average incomes dropping over 6% last year in the UK (according to ONS earnings figures). 

Indeed austerity is likely, with only 10% of the Tories cuts implemented, to intensify and carry on for at least a decade. For example see last years IFS report- 

Presenting its analysis of 2011 autumn statement, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) predicted real median household incomes would be no higher in 2015-16 than they were in 2002-3. In other words, more than a decade will have passed without any increase in living standards for those on average incomes. The same analysis estimates 1 in 4 children will also end up in poverty. 

So the implications are clear. Our current policies lead to rising incomes for the ultra rich but grinding poverty for everybody else. But what would endanger this balance and result in policies that increased living standards for the 60 million UK citizens as the expense of constraint in inequality for the ultra wealthy?

To my mind the answer to this and the reason the entire right wing press, the Institute of Directors, CBI, economic think tanks, Tory donors and so forth are behind the austerity is the role of wage equalisation in international trade. 

It has been known for a long while (
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Factor_price_equalisation ) that when two countries enter a free trade agreement, wages for identical jobs in both countries tend to approach each other. After the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed, for instance, unskilled labor wages gradually fell in the United States, at the same time as they gradually rose in Mexico.[citation needed] The same force has applied more recently to the various countries of the European Union.

The implication of this is that globalisation has begun to open up the huge workforces of China and India who are currently paid much lower wages than their US and European counterparts. 

Given that we know, through Factor Price Equalisation, as long as we continue free trade, that the wages of these workers are going to equalise over the next 20 years. 

There are of course two ways that wages could equalise. In the first scenario governments in Europe and the US deliberately pursue their current austerity program’s and suppress workers wages. The Chinese and Indian wages gradually rise to meet our levels and the converged wage for workers in a decade or twos time is modest. This scenario of course supplies much larger profit margins to the ultra wealthy owners and managers of multinational corporations as their wage bill is low. Bankers are happy to as austerity allows greater indebtedness to them and inflation isn’t allowed to eat into the real interest paid by households on the debts owed to those that have lent the money. As a side benefit, privatising the profitable parts of the state (tuition fees, the NHS, NATs etc) under the excuses of austerity allows further tax payer backed profit opportunities. 

The other scenario for wage equalisation- sovereign debt monetization, tax reform , financial transaction taxes, Keynsian stimulus etc- are not to be welcomed by the global elite.

43:

One of the things I found most interesting about China when I visited was the degree to which their extended flirtation with trickle-down economics is, predictably, leading to significant inequality. The surface gloss of the growth of Shanghai masks substantial cracks beneath. I found it notable that the line taken there, in the English language press, at least, was that the solutions to inequality and corruption should not be those of the cultural revolution.

The massive corruption seems to me, by the way, to be a marker of continuity. Chinese classical literature is quite clear on the prevalence of corruption in the Imperial days, all that has changed is the dominant ideology.

44:

In all seriousness, why not start by writing to your MP? It's easily done through sites such as www.writetothem.com

Whilst the effectiveness of writing to your MP is debatable, it is still the first step to take when you don't like what the gubbermint is doing.

As an example, here's what I've just said to mine; maybe you feel differently, maybe you're in favour (in which case why not write to your MP to let them know you like this kind of thing?). This does give away the constituency in which I live, but that's OK. The NSA already know all that :)

-------------------------

Dear Maria Miller,

I write to you both in your capacity as my MP, and also in your capacity of Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

I note with dismay the current government's actions in having the streets patrolled by large signs on trucks hoping to instil fear in immigrants; presumably trying to frighten illegal aliens into leaving the nation. Whilst I have no doubt that there are illegal aliens present in the UK, I find the actions of the government in trying to enforce law through fear to be utterly reprehensible and evocative, in a small way, of some of the most revolting aspects of history's appalling regimes.

Seriously, enforcing law through the medium of driving around trying to make people afraid? Whilst I expect government to have to make hard moral choices, deliberately trying to instil fear is just despicable.

Coupled with the current actions of the UK Border Agency, who are credibly reported to be carrying out racially-profiled demands for people's papers in public train stations (I don't carry papers or proof of residency status when going to work, and that the UK Border Agency think it's acceptable for them to simply turn up and demand people's papers almost at random as they go about their lawful business is simply reprehensible), this now looks like part of a series of despicable activities on the part of government agencies. This is not the UK culture I expect to see the UK government trying to create.

I look forwards to seeing you make efforts to correct these disquieting developments; alternatively, if you are in fact in favour of them, I would appreciate knowing so that I can vote accordingly. I appreciate I am but one citizen, but this is how the system works. I find these tactics to be so reprehensible that I place as much weight in them as on on many of the "big ticket" policies that different parties advocate, such as the economy and defence. I'd genuinely rather live in a nation doing not so well economically than one that thinks frightening people and racially-profiled demands for papers is an acceptable way to govern.

Yours,

xxx xxx

45:

Personally, I don't expect "ubiquitous surveillance to intensify with all dissent quashed instantly before it starts."

Simply because Brave New World was always the more prophetic book than 1984. Verbal dissent is allowed, because it is powerless. Violent dissent is always quashed, but then - like Charlie - I have a problem with most violent dissent, and most of the people attracted to it.

Occupy is probably the closest we've come to organised international 'resistance' - and if I was at a secret ruler of the world, that would pretty much tell me I had nothing to be scard of.

(Actually, environmentalism might count as a success, but it's hard to measure given that most of the gains in the West have really come from heavy industry moving elsewhere, rather than stopping polluting).

46:

Not so much the title but the instead the content reminded me of the hour-long 2009 Christoper Hitchens talk available on YouTube, titled "Axis of Evil".

47:

I find it fascinating, (and abhorrent) that over in Australia, we are introducing racist policies (shipping nom-white asylum seekers to PNG), when the main problem here is Brits overstaying visas.

48:

And I should mention the disturbing parallels between the #RacistVan and Australian advertising in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the like telling people not to come to Australia. There are some very disturbing images showing one of these billboards as a backdrop to the aftermath of a bombing in Pakistan.

49:

The workforce problem (as in lack of work for the population at large) is not going to go away even if the working population falls dramatically. In the 1950s the National Coal Board employed about 500,000 men in Britain, more than 5% of the entire workforce, to dig coal, usually with picks and shovels and a tonne of coal per man-shift was regarded as a good production figure. By the time of the 1980s miner's strike the total workforce was about 30,000 men and thanks to coal-cutting machines and automation they were producing more coal in total every year from worse seams. Same with British Steel, they went from 100,000 men, some of them shovelling oresands into open-hearth furnaces built in the 1920s to less than 10,000 workers where the ones actually making steel were sitting in airconditioned offices pushing buttons on control panels.

I can't see any way back to full employment, even the call centres and other similar mass employers of today are getting automated thanks to TCP/IP and ubiquitious internet. If you're unemployed nowadays you sign up for benefits via a Web browser rather than spend time in a face-to-face interview with a human being (that comes later) or even a telephone interview.

50:

There's been a passive-aggressive shift in class power in the last 50 years. The wealthy have been able to buy society-wide security separation from the little people and the often sketchy populist movements that spring up among them. Where unions and/or rioting grew in response to widespread casual violence against the little people, the organization of mass violence (unions, riots, mass demonstrations) found themselves neutered when the overclass physically disengaged and began relying solely on commercial and political power to allow them to ignore democratic processes.

So sketchy ideology and violent uprisings don't work among the poor any more, but the same is not true of the sketchy exploitive movements among the overclass, e.g. the idea that the welfare state can be dispensed with. So there's a power imbalance among the classes. Bringing back the violent revolutionary movements of the 19th century isn't going help our cause any more than it will to try to revive 20th century unionism and marching.

It seems that most of the hopeful noises for the future tend to rely on the magic of social media and a new flowering of interconnected compassion to drive the next rebalancing. I think that is only half right. That is what people will remember but we need robust economic and physical leverage: a stick to back up the carrot.

51:

I think you underestimate the significance of automation. It's not just manual labour (as per Nojay's observations about coal and steel processing): a lot of former intellectual grunt-work is being automated out of existence. For example, see the drop in demand for fresh law school grads in the USA -- it used to be the case that big firms needed lots of eyeballs to search law libraries, but that task has been revolutionized by online search and digitization. And now the law school bubble is bursting.

We have a systemic problem brewing: not merely how to handle lots of unskilled labourers who may never work again, but how to deal with those who might formerly have become lawyers or middle managers or sales staff. A Guaranteed Basic Income scheme combined with acceptance of multiple part-time jobs to top it up might work, but convincing the elites to accept a new social contract will be difficult ...

52:

Recent food shortages and Famines are MUCH more the result of resource distribution in the Famine affected areas as much as anything, other than a few "natural" disaster areas like Somalia; Basically the Muslim world population FAR exceeds it's carrying capacity, Egypt was unable to feed itself without outside (fertilizer) inputs during WW II, sufficient that it was a planning issue for UK Shipping allocations (C.D.B Behrens, UK Civil Series). And on, they (Egypt) require substantial (subsidized) food imports to avoid becoming the next Christmas Crisis.

The Landlords do OK, the landless laborers are the ones left to starve. See Ireland, 1845.

BUT, Mr O'Kane, at some point you have to give up your historical grievances, or we will revoke your (provisional) membership in the League of Anglo-Saxon Awesomeness.

And the American South is in a similar position, with similar "historical" grievances and Religious Motivations. It is easy around here to provoke someone to declare that all our problems are because we have been "Murdering Babies" since 1973, and/or due to the leadership of a Muslim Kenyan Socialist. They are unwitting tools of our Martian Overlords.

Our would be overlords don't want a Bourgeois society. It was the Great Satan of Retail) (Walmart, get a clue) who has done more to destroy the American rural Petit Bourgeois in the American South than any other overlord.

The Overlords want a society of by and for the 1%, or is it the .01%? Not understanding that the society that grew their organizations was the Bourgeois Society (I saw the picture of our GOH drinking with Comrade Professor Krugman). But as long as they can recruit enough Thugs (Janissaries?) to guard their gated communities, it is unlikely they will change the trajectory.

54:


This system has emerged organically, from the bottom up, and is not the result of any conspiracy

Hmmm, yes and no. Remember that all of use living on the West are effectively under occupation by the US. The Americans are just smart enough to occupy us in the style of the Roman Empire (we get to keep our customs, our languages, our weird gods and to serve in the Imperial Army NATO) rather than Third-Reich style (where you go waste resources to alienate otherwise sympathetic populations in occupied countries, and piss off your competitors to the point where they want to kill you with fire within a few years).

But the bottom line is: our elected governments do not matter. They are vice-roys who administer US colonies for the benefits of the US, or they'll be replaced more or less violently (it can go from Rudd being stabed in the back by a US-vetted Gillard, to nastier things like Pinochet's bloody eviction of Allende -- never forget 9/11, right?). Therefore, if the USA for some reason want us under a neo-liberal police state, they are quite capable to impose it from the top down, even if it happened from the bottom up there.

Which brings me to my second point: this counter-revolution might have its roots further back then what you suggest. As I understand it, it might very well be a preemptive Pinochet-style-light counter-insurrection operation for fear of a reaction to the excesses of the neo-liberal policies that have been gaining steam at least since the 80s; but it could very well be simply a continuation and completion of this very neo-liberal counter-revolution of the 60s-80s. We simply have reached to point where the plutocracy has consolidated its power to the extent that it needs less and less keep the appearance of democracy and rule of law.

55:

And... the first conspiracy nut is here. Welcome, welcome. Her's your long form birth certificate...

56:

Actually, Vanzetti, I tend to agree with cahth3iK. I surmise that you're American, so it's probably less obvious to you -- but a lot of what's going on is the systematic export of American legal and business forms to the rest of the developed world (who mostly don't like it because they've got their own set of practices).

Empire Lite, in other words. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing -- empires are stabilizing influences -- except that the folks setting policy refuse to admit they're an empire and Walk the Walk, because their foundational myth is that they're plucky little rebels supporting the flag of Freedom against the evil of Empire.

57:

"the imposition of a global police state deserves a place high on the list of complaints weighty enough to legitimize one."

That's just it though-- wouldn't the level of self-awareness and social prescience required to see a pending revolution of some sort rule out an avoidance/oppression mechanism such as this when it is so obviously just as likely to feed into the revolutionary impetus?

58:

I think cahth3iK went a lot further than you did.

>>>Empire Lite, in other words. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing -- empires are stabilizing influences -- except that the folks setting policy refuse to admit they're an empire and Walk the Walk

So what do you want USA to do, as an Empire?

59:

So what do you want USA to do, as an Empire?

Admit it openly. Start taking the responsibilities seriously. If you're an empire and you impose demands on your provinces, there is a quid pro quo -- taking into account the needs of those provinces.

So a good start would be to integrate the entire EU, plus Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Australia, NZ, and maybe every country in Central and South America, as States with senators and congressmen and participation in elections.

(I am only very slightly tongue-in-cheek here.)

60:

Yeah, Humanity also tends to be less and less violent, overall.
But that does not entail that it was more pleasant to be Polish in 1941 than Chinese in 1650.

61:


Really? Err, actually, Good Grief ..HERE, after, is the link that you might have been reluctent to post and that I must admit that I did brief research on with Google since here in the UK we get quite a lot of HEADLINE Daily Slime 'News ' on Imigration/Welfare/Romanian Scroungers..

http://www.news.com.au/national-news/taxpayers-wear-burden-of-60000-illegal-immigrants/story-e6frfkvr-1226200664868


If Scotish Independence actually becomes reality - Real Soon Now - then Scotland may well find itself hosting hordes of we North of England non Tory people who are appauled by the reality of a London City State Tory Hegenomy.

Actually there have been Lots of Sympathetic Scots responces to ...

" Frack attack! Lord Howell under fire for advocating fracking in the "desolate" North East

Fracking"A Tory peer provoked a storm of criticism yesterday by suggesting fracking should be concentrated in the North East of England because it is ‘desolate’. ... Lord Howell, the father-in-law of Chancellor George Osborne, said ‘beautiful rural areas’ further south should be spared the disruption caused by the controversial method of shale gas extraction. ... The peer later apologised for ‘any offence caused’ but his comments are embarrassing for the Conservatives, who must gain seats in the North to have any hope of winning the 2015 election." - Daily Mail

"Downing Street immediately sought to distance itself from the comments, which threaten to further alienate voters in the North." - Daily Telegraph

"He is just plain wrong. I was born and raised in the North East, I know it is one of the most beautiful, varied and geographically dramatic parts of the country." - David Skelton, Daily Telegraph
"The 'desolate' North might actually be the best place to introduce fracking, since it would bring about a return to prosperity" - Daily Telegraph editorial
"A Nimby? No, I'm fighting to save the Britain I love" - Griff Rhys Jones, Daily Mail
"The fracking debate is more about power than energy" - Hamish McRae, The Independent

> Yesterday on ToryDiary: Tory Peer comes under fire for recommending fracking in the "desolate" North East "

To gain some sort of perspective on the liklihood of a Police State we'd need to work out what an actual police state would look like in the next, say ..30 years near future?


I sugest disregarding China for the purposes of a 30 year prediction since their civilization has been arround for a little bit longer than that hasn't it? I expect that the Chinese Empire will absorb some form of 'Democracy tm 'real soon new after they have encompassed Africas natural resources.

Mind you, I wouldn't discount Australia as being a future ..how did "1066 And All That " call it? ... 'Top Nation ' ?


' 1066 and All That: A Memorable History of England, comprising all the parts you can remember, including 103 Good Things, 5 Bad Kings and 2 Genuine Dates is a tongue-in-cheek reworking of the history of England. Written by W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman and illustrated by John Reynolds, it first appeared serially in Punch magazine, and was published in book form by Methuen & Co. Ltd. in 1930.

62:

>>>So a good start would be to integrate the entire EU, plus Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Australia, NZ, and maybe every country in Central and South America, as States with senators and congressmen and participation in elections.

Charlie, that's the opposite of how an actual Empire works. Elections? States? Senators?

How about Provinces, Prefects and Legions? :-)

63:

Okay, that's fair-- What it look like for USA to consciously decide not to be an empire then, i.e., what actions would it need to take to roll back it's imperialism? How much of the current imperialism is conscious control, and how much is simply passive export of culture that would be difficult or impossible to do much about?

64:

Yes, but concluding that the whole world crumbles just because you happened to be Polish in 1941 isn't very smart. Although can be expected, naturally.

65:

Scotland is not an occupied nation held under the yoke of a vile oppressor. The question isn't independence; it's secession. "Independence" is an emotional trigger word being used to manipulate the less thoughtful and give them romantic images of themselves as some kind of resistance movement.

66:

Export of culture isn't a problem. The invisible but influential exports are things like law -- the tendency of US courts to discount the rights and rules of people who are not US citizens and who live outside the USA is highly significant (especially when it comes to things like ruling that the IRS can pursue foreign corporations that don't do business in the USA, or that US arms export laws authorize them to prosecute foreigners for "trading with the enemy", or: legal status of assassination by drone strike).

67:

If you are indeed American, the phrase "no taxation without representation" should ring a bell.

The USA is effectively in a position comparable to that of England in the 1750s. It is a reasonably benign parasite, compared to other empires, but a relatively small level of insult can annoy the colonies considerably.

In terms of public image, there is a large penalty in being the dominant power. Add a few things like Viet-Nam, Iraq or the various pleasantnesses in South America, and you will foster considerable resentment and defiance.

For people to like your occupation, you should bring them something. The Marshall plan was such a thing. Sadly, I believe it is about this time that the USA started to turn bad.

68:

OK, I think this thread now officially twisted the words "Empire" and "Colonies" to the point where they lost all meaning.

69:

I will note that the return on investment the USA reaped from the Marshall Plan was absolutely gigantic: Europe in 1945 was a basket case (ranging from merely bankrupt and bombed -- the UK -- to flattened by the Wehrmacht and the Red Army charging back and forth repeatedly). 1945-1950, the continental economies didn't really get their shit together: nobody trusted anybody else much as a trading partner (it's to this era that the Franco-German Coal and Steel Pact -- which later became the EEC and then the EU -- dates). The Marshall Plan primed the pump for international trade and got trade cycling again, using the US dollar as a de-facto reserve currency. (And thereby opening up huge export markets for the US ...)

70:

Modern United States foreign aid is not a particularly admirable activity in general but I do wish my many fellow citizens who obsess over aid as a waste of money(and think it is a far larger share of the budget than it is) would recognize that sometimes when you help others your help yourself.

Altruism clearly is not enough for many people.

71:

@70:

Actually I don't think it was the Marshall Plan as much as the subsequent occupation of West Germany.

The Marshall Plan was slump change compared to the amounts of money USA poured into weapon systems and soldiers in Europe (~275k when the Berlin wall went up)

And that is where the comparison to the Roman Empire really shines: In both cases the national economy was entirely dependent on the military activity to drive the national economy.

One of the reasons the US congress spends money on military like there is no tomorrow, is that they know from last time how bad things go if they dont: Bush Senior nearly crashed the US economy, by cashing in on the "cold war dividen".

Not only did pulling soldiers home from EU add significant numbers of unemployed, but all the companies that made all the stuff which the soldiers in EU needed, wound down too.

We can argue if that is really a "capitalist economy" or not, but there is no way that USA can reduce their military spending in any meaningful way, it would be like a powerplant shutting the turbine down.

72:

I agree that the ROI on the Marshall Plan was worth it. However, I suspect the chief motivator for the Marshall Plan, as with the reconstruction of Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, was ultimately containment of communism.

Certainly in Japan, MacArthur was worried that doing things like dismantling the Imperium as part of war crimes prosecutions would have resulted in a breakdown of society, making it easy for the communists to move in and start an insurgency.

The interesting part here is that if relations between the US and, oh, China go sour, we may well see a resumption of massive US foreign aid, along with a more liberal swing in US politics.

The other interesting manuever would be if something takes the place of communism as a viable alternative to capitalism. With our new guilded age and the increasing number of people looking for alternatives, it's possible it will happen.

73:

Honestly, I think the biggest reason we're growing police states is that there don't seem to be many other jobs available. If there were, the opportunity cost of all the security would be huge, and police states would quickly be outcompeted.

74:

Rest assured that we in the UK have pretty much the same problem with " Foreign Aid " and the tendency for politicians of all persuasions to denounce the 'ring fencing' of foreign aid at 'a time of austerity.'

Just stick ' 'ring fencing' of foreign aid at 'a time of austerity in uk ' in a web search engine and see what you get ...in addition to the usual suspects from the Torygraph ..

"Justine Greening, the International Development Secretary, neglected to mention the £116.4 million of 'regional aid' that will be spent on South Africa " and so forth ..

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/telegraph-view/10050587/We-need-honesty-onforeign-aid-notring-fencing.html

75:

When 911 happened and the resultant security frenzy in the US, followed by the bombings in Madrid and London I wondered about the international implications.
Those fears were more or less confirmed more recently with what Bradley Manning and Snowdon revealed.

Then we have the current ramping up of "security" and surveillance (of course to protect us from the bad guys) all over the world. Here in NZ with the GCSB as noted in the article you linked to, and now this... http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10906314

It's getting scary, and what is more scary than what the politicians are doing is the apparent willingness of the population to go along with it.

I'm generally an optimist but what is happening now internationally is something that really makes me want to avoid thinking about the future.

76:

"We have a systemic problem brewing: not merely how to handle lots of unskilled labourers who may never work again, but how to deal with those who might formerly have become lawyers or middle managers or sales staff. A Guaranteed Basic Income scheme combined with acceptance of multiple part-time jobs to top it up might work, but convincing the elites to accept a new social contract will be difficult ... "

From the viewpoint of the overclass these people are no longer needed, and good riddance to them. Putting them into desperate unemployment keeps wages down for the others.

I realized the economics behind the enclosures and the conversion of farms to sheep pasture recently - the majority of activity and production for a farm was plowed back into the farming; the gentry didn't profit. If a given area of land had people, buildings, draft animals, etc., those were just costs to the landlord; the same area with sheep need just one or two people and some dogs.

77:

I didn't mean to make a distinction between physical and intellectual labor. It's true that intellectual labor has become subject to the same class depredations now as physical labor was 100 years ago. And that points the way toward the creation of a new stick: it makes it more logistically possible to seize the factors of production in the socialist sense; much easier to do with cleverness against virtual factors than with violence against physical property.

Exclusive patent rights aren't the only thing propping up inequality (other rent-seeking serves just as well for other sectors), but they do prop up the converging monopolies of all the transnational megacorps that make things. Because their market oligopoly power is beyond the reach of social disruption and real competition, even in emerging markets like China which are clamping down more and more on infringement, these megacorps don't have to push the pace of innovation. They don't have to ever raise worker wages in skilled or unskilled labor markets; they don't have to re-invest and the amount of cash they have sloshing around is more than enough to bankroll their narrow political interests as well as make it rain for the rest of the rent-seeking overclass. They don't even have to pay taxes. Economic profits continue forever even as innovation and economic growth slow. Economic profits continue even as the welfare state is dismantled. The overclass doesn't notice that the pie gets bigger, they only notice (and seek to widen) the distance between themselves and the median. The stable stagnation of the world economy actually feels better to them than the wacky risks of more equal prosperity. Hence the need for a new stick to make them stop.

Automation is irrelevant to this equation because the entire economy is stuck in a state of hysteresis at a lower level of development. The efficiencies of automation could result in a service economy and an adequate safety net through continued human-capital growth and cheaper infrastructure for living, but we can't get there because the economic profits of megacorps enforce and maintain the inefficiencies that make being not-rich a downward spiral of declining security, liberty, and health.

Other forms of rent-seeking maintain entirely useless sectors and propaganda outlets—no one thinks CNN exists because it does a good job—but if it weren't for the telecommunications industry being immune to innovative disruption, the telco/cable/broadcast/publishing networks of the U.S. wouldn't be able to maintain their global rent-seeking edifices and wouldn't be able to depress the quality and prosperity of work in the industries of post-modern manufacturing, entertainment, and technical support.

So, exclusive patent rights are a tempting target for the stick of class warfare. This target also provides some guidance as to its shape. This brings me to the Maker culture and the efforts of 3-d printer zealots. There is something there of the shape of the stick, but that shape, I should note, is not to print guns. Folks should figure out a way to print novel microchips instead. Then move on to a wifi phone that works outside the telco networks. Print things that are relevant for a less violent future, don't print things that are throwbacks to the worst of 20th-century paranoid nationalism.

Given the number of guns in circulation around the world (especially the U.S.) and the lack of intrinsic social controls placed on them (unlike our crappy ubercorp phones they're already durable and concealable but tend to enforce social disconnection), printing guns doesn't do anything to disrupt the social controls imposed upon society by the uberclass. It just ratchets things up and justifies ever more harsh controls. Also, did I mention that the plastic fantastics printed so far just blow up like the crappy zip guns they are? Gun-printing is dumb. For the people out their dreaming about AR-15 parts, print something useful *and* disruptive in aluminum or on silicon rather than the same old bullshit in fragile plastic (or even in chrome steel). Make a real stick.

And when metal-printing is possible guns will continue to be the choice of only the folks who don't (or can't) think things through. Printing a connecting rod or a wheel hub will be more disruptive to the rent-seekers. Guns have a range of effectiveness that is far too short and they also put their users downrange of a free-fire zone. Useless, useless, useless.

Sorry about the digression about guns, but given the misunderstanding about manual versus intellectual labor, I wanted to give a better picture of how the New Stick (tm) will be shaped by economic reality rather than in the dodgy fantasies of the paranoid.

78:

But there is no competition to the US Empire, that is the point. During the Cold War, there was a competition between the USSR and the USA, and when the USSR rigidified into the Beznevian stagnation, the mere existence of a thriving Western block condemned it to ruin.

Now, we live in an Occident dominated by a Breznevian USA, and I fear that the US Empire can rot for decades on its feet before something forces it to reform. This is the problem of having a single hyper-power.

Hopefully, the rise of the EU and the BRICS, or the compelling need to do something about global warming, could eventually snap the USA out of their navel-gazing.

79:

Yes. Worrying.

80:

From the viewpoint of the overclass these people are no longer needed, and good riddance to them. Putting them into desperate unemployment keeps wages down for the others.

Ah, no.

Problem #1: this is a systemic problem -- we are so efficient and productive that we can no longer provide jobs for all (unless we create artificial scarcity in some sector). Get rid of the unemployed? There will be more unemployed by and by.

Problem #2: you can't run a consumer capitalist system if there are no consumers because everyone except the elite has been immiserated by a race to the bottom in wages. (The elite don't buy enough shit to keep the rest of the economy going; "trickle down" is a proven bust.)

So ultimately the elite, too, will suffer if they keep going this way. But they'll hire guards to machine-gun the rabble who try to storm their gated community, thus preserving their relative status for a bit longer. But only a bit. This isn't a story that ends well.

81:

The debate over empires trundles on...

Meanwhile, it looks like one of the nastier UKBA officers has been given a free rein, and the bastard has a case of galloping ambition.

Operating street sweeps and demanding papers openly, in broad daylight? Power undreamt-of since the war. Police collusion? Bring it on - and that's fairly new, because senior policemen have long sought to distance policing from immigration checks: you can't do effective protection of the public if a substantial minority of the population cannot approach a policeman for fear of deportation.

So who is in the saddle, loosening the reins and spurring on this ugly nightmare of authoritarian abuse? Someone who buys into UKIP and their Little-Englander xenophobia? Or someone buying their votes with public actions of asseritve racism? Either answer is unpleasant, and quite likely to be true.

The worst answer, the conspiracy-theorist's answer, is that stirring up violent resentments in a summer heatwave is a recipe for rioting; and someone sees that as a good thing. It is absolutely the case that someone in command of paramilitary riot squads (we call them the TSG in London) will gain extra manpower and considerable influence from being in command, in action, in prolonged disturbances; but it is less obvious that they could conspiring towards this outcome - and unlikely that they could move a UKBA officer around the imaginary chessboard of conspiracies so complicated as this.

Likewise, I doubt that any Eton-educated Machiavelli calculated an electoral gain in inner-city riots - but you can be certain that the Party of Law and Order will play up their resolute and decisive leadership in the fight to restore the rule of law against the chaos of the mob, and that the media headlines will shore up their core support, after this unexpected unplanned and frightening event.

My guess is that there's no-one in the saddle, but the loosened reins are real enough; and that someone read the political signals rather rashly in releasing their grip on one or more officers in a 'border' force with very serious problems of arrogance, a culture of oppressive enforcement, and institutional racism that would even horrify the Met. And whatever happens next, some deeply unpleasant individuals and organisations will - as opportunists rather than conspirators - reap political and economic gains that might not be apparent to the public.

82:

So a good start would be to integrate the entire EU, plus Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Australia, NZ, and maybe every country in Central and South America, as States with senators and congressmen and participation in elections.

Jesus, man, we'd swing so far to the right we'd never see daylight. Many of those individual countries have progressive social policies compared to the US, and good for them, but as part of a union, they're as resentful and tightfisted as any post-Confederate state. If Germany doesn't want to help Greece, what do you think it's going to do with El Salvador?

83:

About your Martian invaders.
"Did you ever expect a corporation to have a conscience, when it has no soul to be damned, and no body to be kicked?" - attributed to Edward Thurlow, Lord Chancellor during the late 18th Century.

Real people have long known that these legal persons pose problems. Were they allowed to become widespread because they also served a purpose for wider society? And are they now so dominant that they now cause more harm than good?

If we would be better off without them, are there other forms of economic organisation that will be as effective in producing and, where necessary, operating advanced technologies?
I think that, for now, the best we can hope for is improved regulation where needed, including international agreement on, for example, taxation of multinationals.

84:

(A bit of commentary from our an embodiment of gracious host's political bête noire--a American technophilic libertarian, with some pro-Tea Party sympathies.)

Any nation that's not an utter totalitarian hellhole is going tend to care more about its own citizens than it does about people in other nations. It is the nature of the beast. In the US there are several factors that exacerbate this natural tendency.

First, our government is built around a written constitution that is nigh-impossible to change. For the most part that's a good thing. Both major political parties in the US have done their best to chip away at the Bill of Rights for as long as I've been alive. If the Constitution were easier to change, they would have had a lot more success, using whatever the current crisis was as an excuse.

But the people who wrote the Constitution never anticipated running anything approaching an empire. Thus there are few protections built in for people affected by American power, but not citizens of the United States. Thus we get a situation where the hundreds of (mostly) young men of color killed by Barak Obama's drones only makes the news once in a while (and usually in the most far-left and far-right news sources), while one young man of color killed by George Zimmerman's gun is a national obsession for months on end.

This is unlikely to change as non-citizens adversely affected by American power have essentially no political voice. (Except in the case of Latino illegal immigrants who've managed a political voice by sheer weight of being here in large numbers.)

Secondly, the US tends to be much more resistant to than most nations in signing up to international agreements that it believes will limit is sovereignty. This arises from:

1) A deep suspicion on the part of a good chunk of our electorate, that what goes on in other countries is none of our fucking business, coupled with a deep distrust of international institutions. Their voices of course are usually drowned out by are various neo-conservative and neo-liberal voices (maybe it would be best to just call them pro-empire) who think we can invade and treaty the world into utopia;

2) In order to be ratified all treaties must must be approved by a two-thirds super-majority of the Senate, which consists of 100 people, most of whom think they really should be President; and

3) Concern that treaties will used a leverage against American interests abroad. In some cases, this would be true. And in many other cases, it is politically useful for various interest groups in the use to pretend that this would be true.

Finally, the accident of geography that gave the US the two largest oceans in the world between it and everyone but Canada and Mexico (and France and Russia, if you want to be pedantic about it).

Personally, I'd like the US to get out of the Empire business. I think it will eventually bankrupt us—while making a few people very, very rich.

85:

Interestingly, you seem to be echoing Jerry Pournelle here, a colleague of yours from way on the other end of the political spectrum, who recently wrote:

"I prefer a republic to empire. Incompetent empire is an absurdity, except, of course, for the obvious exceptions. Follow the money.

Competent empire frightens me, but I prefer it to incompetent empire. Competent empire doesn’t expend its own blood and treasure on liberating Iraq and then abandoning it. But that is another story.

The establishment Republicans seem enamoured of expending blood and treasure without favorable results."

http://www.jerrypournelle.com/chaosmanor/?p=12977

86:

Or more simply, making waves during the summer holiday is guaranteed to bring you to the headlines. Simply a more efficient marketing stunt to outflank the UKIP. I think that the lukewarm reactions of the LibDems speak volumes as to how serious they see these measures.

87:

Though I am somewhat sympathetic to the claims of US "imperial" power, I don't think it is quite so simple. For one thing, to some extent we are talking about the influence of international corporate capitalism on the world. While the center of gravity of bespoke system may be in the U.S., it is not synonymous with the US state.

Countries in Europe (and elsewhere) are caught in the fields of force of both Global Big Business and the US security state. But both those force fields are conducted by the local business and security-state elites. In short, if Europe had its own political act together, it would not suffer as much imperial/external influence.

To whit, political democracy is what vaccinates against these influences. The poli sci lit is pretty clear, the most democratic (i.e., the more like proportional parliamentary democracy) the less defense spending and the more social spending.

The largest three economies in Europe are the UK, France and Germany. The first two have pretty antiquated and even anti-majorarian democracies. Germany, ironically, had a more democratic system but has suffered all kinds of peculiar circumstances in the post WWII era (and its system would have been worse if the US had
gotten its way writing the postware constitution).

Looking outside Europe, the other major OECD economic powerhouse is Japan which has a political system that's crazy oligarchic/corrupt (again with a political system set up by the US).

So maybe part of the problem should be addressed via political reform within Europe. If there were such, Europe would be more politically unified, more able to both formulate a counter-US agenda and be more insulated from its influence.

88:

Any nation that's not an utter totalitarian hellhole is going tend to care more about its own citizens than it does about people in other nations.

Yes, to some extent. But consider the difference between the way the EU treats people from outside, and the way the USA do. Recent developments in the so-called "War on Terror" have demonstrated that the USA see foreigners as Untermenschen who are not entitled to basic Human rights. Those who give as much as a hint to piss off the USA are of course free game for torture, arbitrary and unlimited detention without trial, or downright assassination (not news to anyone who's read Torture and Democracy, or studied Latin America); but even the rest is subject to an industrial endeavour of Human Right violation in the form of the various NSA programmes that are surfacing.

The "manifest destiny" doctrine mated with ever-increasing expansion of national interests, compounded by its low resilience to harm and humiliation, are turning the USA into a Herrenvolk democracy of global proportions.

Of course it is a "lite" version of the historical thing. But frankly, I wonder what part of this softness is due to genuine enlightenment, and which is simply an adjustment for global historical progress.

One fot eh most worrying aspects of this is that the USA are imposing some of their worse aspects on others. The EU countries would never be implicated in wide-scale torture if the USA had not insisted to have their illegal CIA "rendition" flights go through our airspace.



First, our government is built around a written constitution that is nigh-impossible to change. For the most part that's a good thing.


Hmmm. Really? Is carving your most fundamental legal corpus in stone and worshiping its letter like the word of God while twisting its spirit beyond recognition a good thing?

The Swiss change their Constitution every odd year or so. They used to have the price of milk in it (no kidding). They are not a crypto-autoritarian society. To give you an example, they are allowed to download copyrighted material from the Internet, courtesy of a legal protection of private copy that is common in most countries, but has been eviscerated almost everywhere due to big major lobbying. How is that for defence of the interests of the actual people?



Personally, I'd like the US to get out of the Empire business. I think it will eventually bankrupt us—while making a few people very, very rich


Bad idea. The USA are too rich and too powerful for it to be healthy to shut its door to the world and refuse to take its global responsibilities. When you are richer than the rest, you must contribute more than the rest (since this is the core principle behind the notion of taxes and you are a Tea Party sympathiser, I reckon the notion must be unfamiliar to you).

Getting the US "out of the Empire business" has happened previously. It yielded the US entering the First World War in 1917, and the Second in 1941. These are not good things, and not only for us Europeans: the selfish apathy of the US allowed the central powers a much more aggressive stance than would normally have been possible on the backdrop of the deterrence provided by an actually allied US. The USA entered the war hurt, humiliated, and on a strategic bad foot; this yielded later allergic reactions to risk (à la McArthur) which are one of the source of your present problems.

The problem with the USA is that it keeps hesitating between two extremes. Things will fare better for everybody when it manages to simply, calmly, benevolently uphold its rank and role among nations. Seriously, look of the EU for inspiration, you'll see.


89:

As for the topic of revolution, there are two distinct definitions which get thrown around, political and social revolution, the later sometimes seen as encompassing the first (though not necessarily).

Political revolutions are reasonably common, whereas soc-rev is not, though some of the most notorious revolutions of the 20C aspired to being soc-rev. Though some pol-revs in recent years have been the counter-revolution to earlier soc-revs (which arguably makes them soc-revs of sort themselves).

Btw, some of the comments have the relation of communism and social revolution exactly backward. Communism (as a hateful ideology) didn't create soc-rev in Russia. A failed soc-rev in Russia (based in a relatively non-hateful ideology) created Communism largely as an attempt to rationalize its own failure.

Classical Marxism never thought a revolution is Russia was a good idea because its backwardness meant a revolution would only re-distribute poverty and end in dictatorship (which is pretty much what happened, though with typical 20C economies of scale in brutality connected to modernization). But the Russian Marxists following Lenin thought they had to do something given the political collapse of Czarism and the hope(soon to be tragically disappointed) that the rest of Europe was on the verge of the Big soc-rev too.

I.e., the Soviet experience was a historical Tragedy not a simple morality tale. Lenin probably died knowing the big gamble had failed (and if he didn't, no doubt he would have realized it had he witnessed the murderous rise of Stalin a few years later).

90:

@78: Actually there is a very intelligent competitor to the US empire, but they're very good at not ending up in the press about it.

But travel to africa, visit a major public construction work site and chances for meeting consulting engineers from EU, USSR or USA are very slim indeed, instead you'll meet chinese advisors.

In the last one and a half decade, China has been on a major shopping-spree in Africa and South America, buying up access to raw materials and goodwill in international matters.

China also owns so large piles of US money and securities, that USA has absolutely no choice but to stay on good terms with China.

A lot of people forget that China is ruled by an utterly rational gang of engineers, and engineers solve problems when they see them, often ruthlessly.

That's how China ended up with the 1-child policy and why Martian Medicals fell to their knees a couple of weeks ago, when faced with the prospect of "more inspections".

It's also why China only has the few hundred nukes which are plenty for any political or military purpose, where USA is planning a next generation submarine force that can carry more warheads than Britain, France, China, Pakistan, India and Israel have in their total stockpiles, combined.

China is a formidable competitor to an empire with a fact-adverse leadership, who only fail to qualify for status as "insane" because of USA's deficient health-care system.

91:

Actually, the USA may be an Imperial Power, but the rest of you are more Client Kingdoms or Favored Barbarians. One reason for pushing the League of A-S Awesomeness....

Provinces yield revenue to buy the proles Bread and Circus's.

The USA is the (essential) Hegemon; It has yet to enter a formal imperial stage, and may self destruct before that happens.

This weird (religious?) belief in "Universal Human Rights", well, you have infected some of the USAians with it, but there was a post in an earlier thread about how Somali Piracy has now become pretty much a non-issue now that armed guards are empowered to shoot to kill.

Some bad guys just need killing, even if they are just overgrown Juvenile Delinquents. There just are n0t the resources to rehabilitate all the delinquents in the world.

On self destruction, the "Sequester" is being applied across the board to Pentagon Accounts, and officials are warning about problems with both readiness and force regeneration.

The Republican dominated Congress is just as eager to cash a peace dividend as they were during Bush I. Funding the Panopticon State, now that spreads spending around the districts much more efficiently.

Australia is unlikely to ever be more than a regional power. As I understand it, the continent is pretty much at the maximum population level the mostly desert land area can support. Any first hand reports about the drought in Western Australia?

92:

You make a series of very good points. Just two things:

1) the one-child policy is in fact neither healthy nor necessary. China was already stabilising her population when this rule came. It's not something from a committee of cold and rational engineers, it's knee-jerk authoritarianism.

2) China is in fact embarked a similar ride as the USA towards a gilded age and massive inequalities. The authoritarian thing I'm not even mentioning. So we have a convergence of models there, and possibly a road to the same systemic problems with Martians that plague the USA. In this respect, China is indeed a competitor, but I'd hesitate to say that China offers a significantly different competitive model of society. And this is the crucial part: not implementing a demented self-destructing model more efficiently than its inceptors, but proposing a model that can improve life for humanity in general.

93:

> The global elite will rule over us with levels of wealth never seen before

I'm not so sure, since they are really taking the education system out of the affordability range of ordinary people, they may break the economy instead.

94:

cahth3iK wrote: "When you are richer than the rest, you must contribute more than the rest (since this is the core principle behind the notion of taxes and you are a Tea Party sympathiser, I reckon the notion must be unfamiliar to you)."

That's somewhat condescending. Of course I am familiar with the principle behind progressive taxation; I live in a nation that has such a system. I just disagree that it is the best way to finance a government. I could elaborate at length, but I'd be going way off topic.

But back on the topic at hand, you seem to be under the mistaken impression that I agree that the way the US often treats people in other countries is a good idea. I'm not sure what gave you that idea. I'm not fond of the War on Terror, the War on Drugs, or any of the US government's other farcical Wars on Nouns.

On the other hand, even a benevolent-by-historical-standards empire has to be built on a foundation of violence--or at least the threat of violence. People generally want to be left alone, or if ruled, at least ruled by their bastards. Regular abuses of human rights is part and parcel of how you get and keep an empire.

As to the US Constitution, its inherent difficulty to change is was designed in deliberately. Personally, I approve. I can't imagine that the current crop of politicians could come up with anything better. I think enumerated and limited powers to the central government, inalienable rights, separation of powers (both among the branches of the federal government and between the federal government and the states) are all good things. They make the overall system more (but clearly not completely) resistant to many failure modes far more catastrophic than gridlock and political infighting. I would argue that because it is so hard to change the US Constitution, most its changes have been for the better. Since change requires an overwhelming majority of elected representatives both at the state and federal levels to approve of them, there must be a broad public consensus.

You wrote "Getting the US 'out of the Empire business' has happened previously. It yielded the US entering the First World War in 1917, and the Second in 1941."

I beg to differ with some of your history. While the US was definitely in a period of isolationism in the years before World War II (for what seemed at the time valid reasons such as the Great Depression and the memories of World War I--or the Great War as they knew it then). However, World War I came at the end of several decades of the US's most imperial period, when we were running about the world actively picking fights and grabbing up colonies. Much of the reluctance of the US to enter World War I was because of public backlash against such imperial ventures.

Incidentally, I believe the virulent anti-German propaganda of World War I contributed to the reluctance of most Americans to recognize the Nazi regime for what it was. People had been fooled once, and were on guard against being fooled again.

I'm going to have to disagree with your conclusion (no surprise there). The US simply can't afford to "uphold its rank and role among nations" anymore. We don't have the money. In order to get our financial house in order, we are going to have to cut our military budget--along with a lot of other stuff. Trying to maintain the capacity to fight two regional wars at the same time (for example) is just not fiscally sustainable. Nor will the world end if the US has to get by with six carrier battle groups instead of nine. I think the moral, political, and financial cost of the empire business is just too high.

95:

@92

The important thing about the 1-child policy is not if it is good or bad or if it was necessary, it is that it was enacted in the first place.

Only a country run by ruthlessly efficient engineers could do that.

And I didn't say that China offered a different model, I said that they were a competitor to the US empire.

Any material difference will come from that difference in political leadership, and I suspect a bunch of heartless engineers, trying to get things done, will be vastly more efficient than a dysfunctional Congress, where more than half the members are actively trying to dismantle their own state.

96:

Charlie,

You are mistaking YOU seeing the wider system and feedbacks that mean discarding the unemployed is unsustainable with the elite seeing it and acting on it.

In contrast they appear very much to be optimising in the short term, immediate environment to them. If it's cheaper to automate, or ship the jobs to china, then that's what happens. If some plebs riot, then kettle them, arrest them, and jail them as a warning to others. Planning longer than 3-5 years is an anathema to the MBA'ed business exec.

To the extent that a police state is constructed, it's in an attempt to have a nice controllable system with no surprises; not some understanding of what might be around the corner.

Well, in most cases.

As for fracking being some kind of saviour, meaning we don't have to care about MENA - you've been listening to too many americans again. Fracking is evidence we're up sh*t creek, not that we have a solution. It's limited, expensive, and about as much use for transport fuel generation as biofuels were.

Take a swift look at this map of N. Dakota and tell me it's going to provide into the future. Active well sites and horizontals.

http://juanvelascoblog.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/high-plains-map.jpg

Each well lasts 1-3 years, and then you have to drill another one in a spot that's not already drained. And it's only worth drilling where the conditions are *exactly* right, otherwise the cost of each barrel gets much more expensive. If each well only generates half as much oil as the best spot, the price has to double to make it viable ...

97:

Sorry, I mean the thing on taxes as a joke. I suppose it lacks a smiley to come across in the tone I meant. I do not and did not suspect you from supporting US imperial policies, I know US politics enough to know the difference between a neo-con and a Tea Partier. Not that I approve of either (I tend to see the Tea Partier as a misguided class ally, and the neo-con as utterly corrupt).

"The US simply can't afford to "uphold its rank and role among nations" anymore. We don't have the money. In order to get our financial house in order, we are going to have to cut our military budget"
I am going to be a bit more incisively critical on this one: the notion that any and all foreign policy will pertain to the military is wrong. It is a trait of US foreign policy today, and reading you gives me the impression that it permeates even the dissidents. You really must read Glain's State vs. Defense.

The only thing the US military needs, beside cutting demented budgets for non-functional weaponry, is better training. Not to kill more efficiently, but to start behaving like the soldiers of a modern army, rather than like "warriors" who smash their way through everything, understand squat to local populations, believe that massive displays of firepower will impress staring populations and hostile guerrillas, and occasionally behave like drunken SS.

When I talk of "upholding its rank and role among nations", I am thinking of things like ratifying and implementing the Kyoto protocol; genuine respect for Human rights; support (even in words, for Goodness' sake!) for the UN and international institutions; treating allies as partners rather than "punishing" and "ignoring" them, as the US did with France and Germany when they vainly attempted to prevent them from running into the brick wall of Iraq. These cost not a penny. Implementing Kyoto would in fact yield enormous benefits. The US must stop seeing itself as an entity surrounded by more or less hostile masses that it must rule as inferiors or ward off, and starting assuming its role as one of the components of the world as a system.

98:

Without obviously favourable results, because 1) the rich people ave gotten what they want from Iraq, i.e. fame and money, and 2) to be fair, when you are thinking about money and ideology and your own self interest it's entirely to be expected that you do things that are in fact wrong, because you can't tell the difference.

99:

ARNOLD @ 74 & other commentators
Problem with “Foreign Aid”.
WHY are we aiding India – a nation with its own nuclear weapons & space programme, or Pakistan, with the former?
They don’t need our “help” any more.
At least half the problem with the present FA programme is that it is going to the wrong nations, the wrong people & the wrong organisations.
Which means, quite correctly (but short-sightedly) that the whole programme is condemned.
What should be done is that the aid-monies should be directed to real actual people on the ground, like Wangari Maathi for instance.
Then we might see some useful results.
In the meantime – not so sure, at all.
And, how likely is my proposal to actually be implemented, by a bureaucracy?
Yeah.

cahth3iK @ 78
You are sounding like Larry Niven – you are describing a “Water Empire”
- see also @ 86

Charlie @ 80
& the more intelligent of the über-class also realise this, & are wondering what to do. It’s the economic equivalent of the spreading of the franchise (in Britain) 1816 – 1929. How one gets from the position where the tiny minority have power (or voting), as post-Waterloo, to full suffrage (or some form of economic stability, without mass impoverishment) & without having a violent revolution(s) in the middle.
Britain, the USA, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, Denmark managed this – did anyone else? [ Note – I’m including “the dominions” with Britain here … ]
… & poltroon @ 84
Yes, that’s another aspect of the same problem.
We need new forms & structures to keep the Martians under control.

Haryears @ 81
You’ve done it too!
Equated UKIP with fascism – WRONG.
How many times do I have to tell you, all of you, that I know quite a few “Old Labour” voters, considerably to the conventional “left” of me, who would cheerfully vote UKIP, if they thought it had a chance.
It looks (shock, horror) as if, back in 1973/5 I was wrong & Anthony Wedgwood Benn was right – the EU is a corporate conglomerates’ wet dream – a corrupt lobbyists “market” several times the size of the USSA.
Note also that, as Charlie has spotted & you have not, that one N. Farage has condemned this outbreak of fascism by UKBA – or was that fact too inconvenient for your prejudices?

pauljmey @ 89
Marxism predicted revolutions in the most developed societies – i.e. Britain, the USA, France, Belgium. Didn’t happen, at least partly because the “elites” of the time graduall saw a way to aoid it & ameliorate people’s lot – see also my comments above about “the franchise”.
Which is also why the whole structure & ideology of communism is false – it’s a religion.

PHK @ 90
Very astute analysis.
However, said gang of engineers can, presumably also see their other problems, of an ageing population, a slow drift to economic stagnation & problems with corruption & internal both organisation & people’s expectations.
What must be done?
- see also @ 92

Saquatch @ 91
I hate to admit it, but you are correct.
There are two groups who just need exterminating & one that really needs sitting on very hard indeed:
Pirates – but that has been so since at least 100BCE – make the buggers walk home.
“The Taliban” (& equivalents) – these people are Nazis & should be treated as such.
The third? Well, my vote for painful instruction goes to the shites responsible for f-g-m.

Tim Whitworth @ 93
Yes. This policy is very self-destructive.
Will they notice though, since it is subtle & takes years to take effect, or to recover from; see my strictures on “selection” in education, previously.

100:

If Germany doesn't want to help Greece, what do you think it's going to do with El Salvador?

Exactly.

At which point the empire runs into a serious internal insurgency problem -- probably several of them, simultaneously -- until it is forced to re-structure.

101:

If we would be better off without them, are there other forms of economic organisation that will be as effective in producing and, where necessary, operating advanced technologies?

I note that employee-owned corporations, and co-ops, seem to have far fewer of these problems. Possibly because there are fewer of them to have the problems, but a good start would be to reform the law governing public corporations so that a majority of the voting shares must be owned by the employees; or to mandate some sort of A/B share split whereby the general public can only buy non-voting B shares. (Goal: to refocus the business on providing sustainable employment and work for its people, rather than maximizing return on investment for disinterested shareholders.) Next, add a mandatory cap on the remuneration ratio, whereby the CEO is limited to a fixed multiple of the salary of the lowest-paid full time employee (goal: to kill the fly-in/fly-out nomadic executive culture and encourage executives to focus on long-term engagement with the business). Companies with these restrictions do exist -- I'll note that some, like the John Lewis Partnership, are multi-billion turnover giants -- and I can't help thinking that they're less likely to fall victim to a predatory executive running amok with an axe in the interest of showing a short-turn profit.

But this is still just putting a plaster on the wound. What to do instead of getting wounded in the first place is another matter ...

102:

The one-child policy is more social engineering than population management.

It is raising a generation who have no siblings; no peer attachments outside the creches, schools provided by the state. The next generation not only has no siblings, they have no uncles or aunts. No social infrastructure for the family to fall back on that does not depend on the state and the party.

This is and was about destroying the family as the alternative power structure to the state.

103:

"Getting the US 'out of the Empire business' has happened previously. It yielded the US entering the First World War in 1917, and the Second in 1941."

I think it's worth noting the importance from a parochial British point of view of nailing the USA to immediate defence of the Channel/North Sea littoral, the invasion launch points from Continental Europe, with none of the previous phaffing about.

104:

#47 - In this context, perhaps it should be noted that, despite the rantings of the Daily Heil, the main sources of "illegal immigration" to the UK are overstaying ANZs as well?

105:

Aren't the main objections to fracking (well other than Luddite "fossil fuels are teh Ebil" ranting) the risk of contaminating the water table (only detectable after the event) and seismological destabilisation (Original source being British Seismological Survey, and if you don't trust them as a source then you are disqualified from making a valid reply to this posting)?

106:

In this context, the said "US Arms Control Laws" have resulted in USian firms re-engineering their products to use non-USian components and hence fall outwith the restrictions of said laws.

107:

Charlie, I rather think that you may be reading too much into the 2011 English riots. As any copper will tell you, there are a good many people in England (at least) who really do appreciate something for nothing and for whom the dictat "Don't get caught" is the whole of the law. Most of the rioters subsequently caught were the thick ones without the sense to avoid being identified, and these fools mostly had very, very extensive criminal records, to the extent of the press wondering why most hadn't had to spend much more time at Her Majesty's Pleasure.

At some point the Government is going to realise that these rioters were not some groundswell of rebellion but merely criminal scum who hadn't been seeing enough punishment for their crimes. The expected response here is to reduce the powers of judges to vary sentencing, remove concurrent sentences and simply build more prisons to warehouse idiots.

Even the trigger for the riots wasn't political, but purely economic. What had happened is that an especially effective drug baron had made a bit too much of a name for himself as a dangerous man, and had been challenged by armed police. Fool that he was, this man then got himself killed by not immediately surrendering to some very nervous armed cops. Drugs gangs work to a very specific model; the boss man is the one with the contacts and it is the boss man who sources the drugs for his minions to sell. Take out the boss and a gang with a high reputation and high local status as THE guys to go to for a little pharmaceutical something go straight to being no-reputation low-level scum.

So, drugs gangs not being composed of the world's greatest thinkers, these muppets decided (for want of a better word that doesn't imply rational thought) to take out their frustrations on the police. A rather larger number of idiots joined in, then many realised that they weren't getting charged by the police at all and thus they controlled the streets and could do what they fancied.

A bouncer I knew from years ago once told me that the truth about the nightclub bouncing trade is that the vast majority of people are what he termed "back liners"; they won't ever cause trouble by themselves, but they'll jolly well join in if someone else starts it. A bouncer's job is thus to spot the dangerous, borderline mentally ill trouble starters and assist them out the back door before they kick off. The police in these riots failed to understand this (or rather the senior commanders did); a more robust response early on, together with deployment of tear gas and dogs, would have nipped the riots in the bud.

I normally work in Manchester, and on the evenings before the riots there, a change in the atmosphere was palpable. There was a very great feeling of "Something's going to happen" and the one great marker for this was that there was a superabundance of kids on mountainbikes in the city. Not doing anything much save lurking about and looking indefinably threatening, but not actually willing to start something themselves. Kettling this lot in a large pen in a square in the city would've stopped those riots before they began, and likely taught a fair few there a lesson about not playing with the police, but the point is this, it was NOT a political protest. That lot weren't starving, had work if they wanted it but most simply preferred to mooch off the state and nick stuff if they thought they could.

108:

Well, a secondary problem is that fracking is still a source of fossil carbon contaminating our atmosphere: we should really be aiming for a combination of solar power (primarily to drive distributed Fischer-Tropsch synthesis of methane, i.e. to switch our petrochemical energy cycle from one extracting fossil carbon to one recycling carbon from the atmosphere so that it's environmentally neutral) and nuclear (for those base load requirements that can't be switched on or off at will).

And there's also the whole vexatious oil shale issue. Sure there's lots of oil there! But the spoil problem is a headache, and it keeps the big oil cos playing the same old game.

But you shouldn't even think about comparing the propaganda surrounding fossil fuel consumption to cigarette marketing. Nothing to see here, no lobbyists, no paid shills, no money at stake.

109:

The freedoms and status that we are losing in the Western world are ones we gained over the course of the 19th century and up to the late 20th. During that time the ruling classes were frightened of revolution and losing what they had, including their lives. From the French through to the Russian revolutions they had examples of what could happen to them if things went bad. After the fall of communism through most of the world after 1990 they don't feel they have anything to fear, so are taking back things like free health care, unemployment and sickness benefits.

China has a communist party ruling in name only. Communism may not have been much fun for those living under it, but for ordinary people in the rich capitalist countries it helped them greatly. The rulers had to give them some of the pie just to prove that their system was better. Now it is gone they can go back to business as usual.

Alternatives to the way things seem to be going aren't well worked out yet. Lots of people are looking for something that won't go bad in the way that old style communism did. Anything that scares the rulers is put down. Occupy for example. Cooperatives and employee ownership or control, rather than the Martian Corporations look like they have potential. The 1 to 0.01%'ers are not going to like that at all!

(First post here. One of the few places I've found with intelligent discussion going on. Hope I don't lower the tone too far.)

110:

In my view the biggest problem with fracking is that it's much less sustainable than traditional oil extraction. I've read an article that traditional oil wells start low, raise gradually and fall gradually in productivity (similar to a sine curve between 1 and pi). Fracking starts high, falls fast and then fades out (similar to a 1/x curve). That means you have to drill new holes for fracking faster and faster in order to keep up a constant or rising production. That might work for 5 years, but the longer you keep on, the harder the fall will be.

111:

On restructuring of the corporate legal framework, focus on profit seems a key issue.

Related to that, my father was in the US Air Force, and held jobs as an MP, Drill Sergeant, and for a period of time in their mess/food service area-- At that time at least (since been outsourced) the food services were not allowed a profit above 2%. The goal was to maximize their resources towards the service & food quality rather than a min/max on profit.

Could similar "rules" on max profit be feasible for corporations? Or are the problems of a different sort?

112:

Single well of shale oil less being sustainable than a well of classic oil doesn't mean the entire thing is less sustainable. If the reserves are comparable to regular oil and you can keep on drilling, then there's no difference.

I'm not saying it's a good idea. Just that it may prove to be as viable as regular oil.

113:

Could similar "rules" on max profit be feasible for corporations? Or are the problems of a different sort?

Alas: companies are taxed on their profits. But a well-run (private) company never makes a profit: any surplus is ploughed back into growing the business. Amazon is a classic example of this, and slightly inexplicable -- the shareholders are astonishing in their willingness to defer gratification in the interests of growth. Eventually you need to show a profit, but I once worked for a corp. that went from two-man startup to IPO with turnover of $250M/year over 20 years and only showed a profit in the two quarters prior to IPO, when they needed something to convince investors that there'd be dividend payments.

Now, a progressive tax on gross turnover could work -- the first $100K is exempt, then tax at 5% up to $1M, 10% up to $10M, then add 5% per order of magnitude (i.e. tax turnover at 25% for $1Bn to $10Bn, 30% at $10Bn-100Bn, and only a handful like Exxon or Apple would ever get taxed in the 35% band). But the macro effects on the economy would be interesting, and we'd see ever more creative attempts at sheltering from tax by hiving off business units into self-contained companies with turnover just below the next tax band ...

114:

At which point the empire runs into a serious internal insurgency problem -- probably several of them, simultaneously -- until it is forced to re-structure.

Eek. Insurgencies in the American system don't work that way (see the current sesquicentennial festivities). With that set up, and unlike the Civil War, the industrial might of the selfish states is probably larger the industrial might of the generous states.

So you've put together a scenario where Germany, the Confederacy, and Japan keep down the New Yorkers, the Californians, and the Scandinavians so they can put the screws to Latin America. I think I read that book once.

115:

Hmmm, I hadn't considered the tax side, only the operational incentives. That distills the issue into a a single question for me:

How do you restructure corporations to be more humanist and less sociopathic in their "base" drives?

Stock value &/or profit give us sociopathy. Is there a concrete metric to replace those? E.g., # of jobs? Or jobs to revenue ratio? Quality of life seems too vague... what does shareholder investment incentive look like without share value as the fundamental drive?

116:

Mmm, rethink needed ...

What we need is an intervention by the Culture, or failing that an all-powerful self-interested Evil Overlord who's in it for the long haul rather than short-term profit optimisation.

117:

Since I've had family members involved with the oil industry, I'd take their estimates of what's out there as largely bogus. They're akin to me saying that I just became a millionaire, because I have a lottery ticket in my pocket. There's a non-zero probability that this statement is true, but it's not likely.

There are three problems that I've seen.

One is simply the veracity of the companies. One contract I was involved with had the following stipulations: The oil company took most of the profits, while the mineral rights owner (my relative) was left on the hook for all damages and cleanup costs, in return for a small royalty. One should note that this was under farmland, so if the drilling ruined the farm, the farmer would sue my relative, not the driller. Then the property lines were wrong, as were the names on various contracts. And finally, the oil company threatened to sue my relative or to use something akin to eminent domain to shift ownership of the rights to the company if my relative didn't sign immediately. This came along with daily harassing calls from contractors hired to push these contracts through.

So, when a company that behaves this way tells you that they've got huge reserves, do you believe them? I sure wouldn't. Their maps are accurate, and their tactics aren't honest. It certainly appears that they're trying to generate a gold-rush mentality so that the people who actually own the oil don't look too closely at the long-term costs they're saddling themselves with.

The second, more technical issue, is energy return on energy invested (EROEI). Right now, they're using pressurized steam to force oil out of the tar sands and similar. Great idea, but it takes a lot of energy to make pressurized steam. Currently it makes sense due to technological advances in the efficiency of making steam and blending fracking chemicals to lubricate the process. However, once technical innovation stalls(where the process stops getting more efficient), or if critical fracking chemicals develop chronic bottlenecks (which they have, repeatedly, over the last three years), a lot of that oil will be uneconomic to get out of the ground. We're reportedly already in that situation with much of America's coal. It's there, but the EROEI is less than one for a lot of it, because the coal is low-grade, mixed with rock, and deeply buried. Extracting it will cause a net loss of energy.

So anyway, I'd take the projections of the oil sector as dubious. We're stuck with them for the moment, but unfortunately, they don't have any incentive to be honest or transparent. What I've seen of their data keeping leaves a lot to be desired. It's certainly not worth trusting any geology-based company that doesn't have accurate maps.

118:

I agree that crowdsourcing is going to be a gamechanger. We're only using it to finance cartoons and gizmos so far, but eventually someone is going to successfully kickstart a hospital. Or a bridge. Make enough tax deductible donations like those and you eventually have a la carte taxation.

119:

So you want an utopia or a distopia. That's an interesting proposition. :-)

120:

You are remembering that Banksie never really wrote about The Culture? Really; all the books are about Contact and/or Special Circumstances. The closest I can come to a book about The Culture is The Business http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Business_(novel) I can't find the relevant quote just now, but ISTR he explicitly denied that the The Business was The Proto-Culture.


121:

Who says, that we don't live in a distopia?

122:

But there is no competition to the US Empire, that is the point.

If the basic dynamics of labor and investment worked the way they did 50 years ago, any sizeable economy that avoided the huge security deadweight would rapidly grow to become a competitor to the US. It might be Japan, Brazil, Korea, India, or someone else, or several.

123:

sizeable economy that avoided the huge security deadweight would rapidly grow to become a competitor to the US.

But the US would not allow any such sizable economy to avoid the huge security deadweight. See also PNAC, et al.

124:

Problem is that once a country or nation-group grows big enough it externalises a lot of its interests such as markets to sell into and buy resources from. At that point they have to defend their trade routes, leverage resource suppliers and use force or the threat of force to defend "allied" nations. See, for example, tiny little Britain which had the world's best navy in terms of ships and quality of service and all to protect the Empire and its trade for the century or so it lasted.

The US is doing the same as Britain did for the same reasons, maintaining a world-spanning (and even extraterrestrial) military dominion because its interests depend so much on oil being pumped in Arabia and wheat being shipped to Taiwan without let or hindrance. If Brazil or Korea ever makes it big then they'll have to follow in their predecessor's footsteps and pump cash and effort into building a similar military footprint. The only hope we can have is that their military footprint doesn't lie too heavily on the necks of others (see: Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere).

125:

@99: The reason India and Pakistan gets aid is exactly that they have nuclear powers.

The deputy foreign minister of India summed it up some years ago: "USA will only take you seriously if you have atomic weapons."

Iran got the message.

@113: I did the math for Denmark: Remove 25% VAT, remove all corporate tax, add 5% turnover-tax for all corporations (non-refundable) and you have the same tax-revenue with a lot less ways of cheating.

126:

OGH is advocating, as a least-worst option, a government of "One Man, One Vote." And say what you will about Ankh-Morpork, it has a ferociously competent executive branch.

127:

>>>Who says, that we don't live in a distopia?

If we live in a distopia then the entire history of the human race is a distopia.

128:

Where's Baron Wulfenbach when we need him?

129:

"So you've put together a scenario where Germany, the Confederacy, and Japan keep down the New Yorkers, the Californians, and the Scandinavians so they can put the screws to Latin America. I think I read that book once."

(I strongly suspect Mr. Carlos of some sort of backhanded levity. Just in case, however:)

What book are you referring to sir? It sounds interesting.

130:

I am not sure what your point is. In fact, I was suggesting communism (which I think you are conflating with Marxism, a common but somewhat unhistorical confusion) is something worse than a religion, it was a cynical attempt to argue that a dystopia (the Soviet Union) was a utopia.

Communism as an ideology did really not exist until after the Russian revolution, prior to that the dominant socialist ideology (by a wide margin) was that dominated by Marx, et al, working as the house intellectual of the workers movement (i.e., the rising trade unions and political parties).

19th C Marxism did take on the flavor of a secular religion (probably the cause of Marx's famous quote, "I am not a Marxist").

To try to stay relevant to the thread topic of revolution, Marx definitely was wrong about the unfolding of history in the 20th C (a fact that that many socialists beginning with Bernstein acknowledged in the early 20C). Marx was largely predicting a social revolution (which may or may not hav entailed a pol-rev) based on the dynamics of social structure he observed in the 19C.

Part of that predictive failure was the rise of the welfare state, as you observe though it wasn't simply a "give-away", and part of that was the fact that class structure became complicated and not as polarized as expected (i.e., the "vast majority" did not end up as factory workers, marginalized yes, but not in factories where the means of political organization were well established).

131:

I consider Vetinari to be the _least_ plausible thing on the Discworld. :-)

132:

I think you confuse the development of pre-industrial countries with the declining fortunes of regular people in developed countries. Taking the average can be a useful statistical technique but it can also be used to hide a problem from view.

The development cited in the article is indeed good news but it is irrelevant to the discussion.

133:

As the Buddha said, existence is suffering. As Woody Allen said, it's also the only way to get a good steak.

134:

Wait, what is the only way to get a good steak, existence or suffering?

135:

I think those two thinks are connected. Decline in developed countries is happening in part because the developing countries are out-competing them due to cheaper workforce. It will continue as long as there is free trade between them and a gap in wages.

136:

America's control over Indian or Brazilian policy is not that large, especially as the topic approaches those states' core economic interests.

It seems to me that the police state is, as much as anything, a jobs program for economies that aren't otherwise adding jobs any more.

137:

(sorry if this is a repeat - read through about 1/2 the comments, but I'm at work so time is limited)

I think that the starting salvo of the counter-revolution may need to be located a bit earlier. It seems to me like what we are seeing is the playing out of processes and forces set in motion back in the late 1970s, many of which go under the heading of "neo-liberalism." The rise of Thatcher and Reagan is a generally accepted starting point.

The financial crisis and other events were hiccups and working outs of various process set in motion back then. They got a lot of attention and caused a surge of "revolutionary" sentiment, but I think the "counter-revolution" is against all the limits on capitalism put in place after the Great Depression and during/after WWII.(Unions, an expanding middle class, etc., etc.)

We can also think of things in the cultural sector - including academia - as being counter-revolutionary responses to events in the 1960s, particularly 1968.

But there's a ton of stuff going on at the same time, and I think thinking about recent events being (somewhat panicky) responses to Occupy and the Arab Spring makes a lot of sense.


I was talking to my kids about this the night before last, and they were feeling a bit down about it all, as was I, but I argued that what we see is a back and forth struggle, very broadly, between (capitalist) elites and a broad spectrum of forces and tendencies aimed at greater equality, freedom, and opportunity for greater numbers.

I think - and I think this is what you are pointing out - that the good guys are losing ground at the moment under a concerted counter-attack.

And things like the racism in the UK, and the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in the US, are part of that.

(As for the victory for gay marriage in the US, while I applauded that - as someone who said he would never marry while all his friends were not able to, and as someone who has been best man at gay and lesbian weddings - I also think that the pairing with the Voting Rights Act decision suggests that gay marriage is less of a problem for corporate capital than an empowered, voting poor and/or non-white electorate. Which is interesting to think about.)

One could factor in educational developments here: the decline of the traditional university, particularly in the humanities and social sciences, and the rise of the MOOC.

But... back to work.

138:

No, the Friedmanite/Chicago school thing wasn't a counter-revolution in these terms; it was just the strategic response of the moneyed elite in the wake of the US New Deal of the 1930s and the postwar European social democracy of the 1950s.

The police state stuff I'm pointing to is new in the past decade-and-a-bit.

While we're talking about revolutions it's worth noting that we've had a social one in the past 50 years in the west. The civil rights movement, anti-racism, second and third wave feminism, widespread progress on gay rights, hell, even the right to contraception (and abortion) are all part of a really big cultural shift.

The 1960s got the cultural revolution to stick (mostly -- enough that the conservative fight-back is notably visible and not terribly successful), but lost the economic war. What we're living in now is the fallout from that.

139:

Reading some more comments, there's a bit of discussion about empires, and the powers and responsibilities of the imperial overlords, etc.

But I do think we need to consider how much we are living in a post-national moment, where the empire is a much more chimerical and complicated thing.

In particular, culture was mentioned, and this is an area where there is often a disconnect between the nation-state and the culture-controlling corporations.

Culture is of course waaaaayyyy more complicated than a gun pointed at your head. There's interpretive leeway, which there isn't much of when people are bludgeoning you with their monopoly on the legitimate application of force. But even so... What I see when I look at the history of film over the past 50 years, and at recent WTO discussions around culture, is a disturbing imperial trend that can't be precisely mapped onto the "USA."

140:

Okay, Charlie, I certainly agree that the emerging police state stuff is significant, and significantly different from the triumphal ascension of neo-liberalism since the late 1970s.

But I feel like bringing in the financial crisis and Occupy muddied the waters a bit.

We might need some Cory Doctorow thinking here, and maybe seeing the police state as a combination response to: terrorism in general, but also to the possibilities for surveillance and control that the initial response to 9/11 suggested; and the internet/hacking/making, etc., which someone else pointed to, and the way that certain things seemed to be becoming a bit too free and easy. So we get: PRISM.

141:

(I really want to be sitting down with Charlie and a couple of the rest of you over a pint or three to talk about this. It's very difficult to mull over properly in comments/posts like this, esp. at work.)

142:

Charlie @ 101 and 108: I am sceptical about a workers' co-operative developing and running the next generation of fission power plants, or the first generation of commercial fusion. Perhaps it could be done, but risk reduction might suggest the job go to the devil we know. So, sticking plasters all round?
If reforms along the lines you suggest are to be imposed on corporations, the more international co-operation the better, so as to reduce the scope for companies to take their business elsewhere.

143:

I think the value of Charlie's point is that there are a number of ways achieving the same the thing, supplementing the power of a propertied (even if the "property" is functional, i.e., state security power) elite with some mechanism that can take the public good (and the preferences of the majority) into account.

Democratization and the break up of concentrations of power (economic or political) are intertwined goals though there are myriad ways to implement and balance against each other. Co-ops represent devolution of powers. But decentralization could also entail public and/or regionally based non-profit profits, government chartered corporations, etc. Many ways a cat to skin.

144:

One concept I'd like to throw into the mix is "parasite load," in the ecological sense.

I tend to see things as an ecologist anyway, but my diagnosis of the problem we're facing here in the US (at least) is that there are too many parasites at the top. There are some all through the system, of course, but the problematic ones are on top.

In this case, I'm thinking of parasite in the strict sense of "as they do better, their hosts do worse." I'd say that much of what passes for our financial markets falls into this category, for instance. I've got no problem with using markets to help money find people who need it, in return for a cut or a service. I do think that people trying to get rich by betting billions on how fast the money is moving is parasitic, because it's not clear that they're adding anything to the base transaction.

Similarly, much of Washington DC seems to be in parasite mode right now, from big military projects that make unusable weapons to a Congress that is about playing games to determine who's in charge, rather than doing the dull business of running the country.

Now, I'm not saying a system should be without parasites. Most healthy ecosystems support a lot of them, and they can perform some really important regulatory functions, including increasing diversity (yes, I think that law enforcement and bureaucrats can be both parasitic and beneficial). Problem is, a system over-run with parasites can also crash and burn, and that's my concern with where we are now, in this

It's interesting to think about how to shed parasites, too. It takes everything from legal prosecution (or persecution) to revolution. As with real ecosystems, one good way to get rid of the parasites (as well as much of the diversity) is to have a major disturbance.

145:

@140

I agree with your point, but with a few minor corrections.

New Scientist had an interesting article a couple of weeks ago: 1978 was the year where the GPI index peaked, whereas GDP continued to climb.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21929254.600-the-wonder-year-why-1978-was-the-best-year-ever.html

Reagan and Thatcher were not the origin of the refeudalism, they got elected to reflect politically a shift which had already happened.

The real trigger were probably the energy-crisis of 1973-74 which in more than one way ended the plastic-fantastic party.

Let the hangover and realization that the fun is over fester for a couple of years, push the right kind of lobsters into the front line and let Murdoch loose on the tabloids and there you are...

But the other interesting thing is that 1978 is also right about where computers start taking jobs away, with typographers being the first major casualty.

From there computers and robotics have hollowed out what used to be solid middle-class jobs.

The computerization of retail alone has wiped about 20% out of the middleclass jobs, replacing them with low-paid unskilled computer-slaves.

Soon chaffeurs will be the next to see their jobs disappear to robotic cars, and the medical profession is starting to see computers give more correct diagnoses and robots being better at surgery.

There's no way to put the technological genie back in the bottle, nor should we, our ancestors longed for the day they wouldn't have to toil.

The tricky question is how we structure a society where only a dwindling fraction of the potential workforce is required for keeping the wheels on the track.

All of capitalism, communism, socialism, liberalism or libertarianism have as fundamental assumption that we need people to work to keep the wheels turning and therefore they are all worse than useless in the present situation.

146:

The parasite load viewpoint echoes a similar idea I've heard from an economic/political science viewpoint. The idea is that an empire is, essentially, a wealth pump, taking resources from subject populations for the use by elite populations. To neutralize resentment in the subject populations while coopting their leaders, most empires allow a limited amount of upward social mobility. Over generations, this results in an increasing number of elites trying to sustain the traditional privileges of such from the wealth of increasingly impoverished subject populations. Revolutions usually get their core from the people who met the elite's stated criteria, expected to become elites themselves, but found themselves impoverished anyway.

147:

@143
I don't disagree that there are different options to try, some of which will better suit some sectors than others. My point is that, for those of us who are not revolutionaries, potential reform looks slow and uncertain. Revolutionaries can always believe that everything will change, so the the practical problems will all be solved more readily in the new reality.

It may be comforting to think that capitalism did not replace feudalism by means of a political revolution driven by an "anti-feudalist movement", but by means of a whole series of developments, corporations being one of them. So if alternative economic forms can grow, that can be part of a long-term transformation of society and the economy. To do that, however, they surely need to be able to provide goods and services at least as effectively as the corporations that we may wish them to replace.

148:

This the zero-sum fallacy of international trade. There is _not_ a ceiling on the amount of global economic activity (or a floor on normalized wages) that countries "compete" for. The fallacy is old—it goes back a hundred and more years to cockeyed justifications for imperial expansion and genocidal misbehavior—and it has hung around as a kind of received wisdom. But it's still wrong.

I understand, I think, why the fallacy hangs around. Mainly I think that it's because the dogmatic claims about gains-from-trade inspire a team sports element to choosing one side or another without examining both.

The fallacious nature of gains-from-trade is more subtle than with the zero-sum fallacy. For example, industrial regions have greater productivity in the industries that happen to grow there because of the informal education, received knowledge, and cheap and rapid access to complementary industries and resources. Simply dumping that workforce for a cheaper one overseas destroys the human capital, abandons the complementary local networks, and reduces overall productivity. To keep margins up for less productive overseas production the manufacturer must rely entirely on the margins provided by low wages, which bodes poorly for the development of democracy, stability, and long-term productivity of developing areas. So the claims that free trade is always better because of the gains from trade serve the overclass as a disingenuous lie as much as the zero-sum fallacy.

But the key to breaking the zero-sum fallacy—and breaking the link between "free" trade and rising inequality—is to focus on the reasons why labor areas in both developed and undeveloped areas have no negotiating leverage. First, in developed areas a megacorp doesn't have much competition in its industry (certainly not in the labor market) so if they wish to break the negotiating power of their workforce all they have to do is open loss-leading operations in other labor markets and cut back their use of the offending labor market. They don't have to worry that other employers will come in to make use of their former employees because the megacorp owns the IP for the employees' knowledge or is in a non-aggression pact with the few other firms that share its IP. No one will come along and reopen their old factories. The employees are legally barred from using their expertise to open any business to compete. We in the West have seen how this goes.

Second, in developing nations the megacorps have considerable leverage in bringing in both capital and IP so if they are willing to cut in the existing overclass of the developing country they never have to go through that inconvenient stage where labor and small entrepreneurs have leverage or a chance to compete.

But if exclusive patent rights were abolished (not patent rights altogether, just the exclusivity), then expertise would regain some leverage while IP would flow even more freely in informal means to the developing world. The IP would flow from developed to developing world over the internet to local entrepreneurs (who may or may not be in the existing overclass). The artificially induced stagnation of the global manufacturer-rentseekers would be broken and there would be considerably more churn and disintegration of low-margin, low-creativity, international corporate edifices.

In developed countries employers would have to fear their workers and entrepreneurs wouldn't be artificially limited about what kind of field they are allowed to enter. Right now in the West entrepreneurs are limited largely to the fields of hospitality or other retail franchise bullshit. Anything really creative in the realm of physical things can only be attempted in the hope of getting a payday from a megacorp VC takeover. If exclusivity were broken, however, the economic rents from patents would be greatly diminished for those in the overclass who are unwilling to compete. Across the overclass, the drop in economic rents would make it more difficult to maintain other rentseeking enterprises through political and media power. The social contract in developing countries could begin to reassert itself.

In developing countries the focus of economic activity would be internal rather than solely for export. The limiting factor would be capital, not IP. It wouldn't be necessary for a developing country to court international megacorps to access technology and expertise. Local firms could simply hire back expatriates and reverse the brain drain. Returning expats could arrive as entrepreneurs in their own right rather than as figureheads for a megacorp's strategy.

The optimum amount of global economic activity or trade barriers is then, in my view, essentially irrelevant. What's important is to allow IP to flow freely and allow individual countries to establish their trade agreements and safety net on democratically determined grounds.

This talk about "the global American empire" that everyone else seems to be having on this thread is also, in my opinion, pretty irrelevant. Any global empire exists only as much as it is based on transnational rentseeking. It is not really based at all on race, culture, etc. If the transnational rentseekers decide to overturn Western standards of freedom they will do so because it's a way to extend their rentseeking scams in the media and security industries. It will have nothing to do with what city the overclass rentseekers grew up in. It has nothing to do with shifts in power from West to East or from North to South or any of that crap. It's about market power and easy income for an increasingly useless class of ignorant parasites.

149:

pauljmey @ 130
So, you are claiming that Marxism & communism are in some way different?
The exact opposite trope to the usual Tea-Party supporters who claim that all "socialism" (as they define it) = communism.
An equally wrong idea, actually.
Sorry, but certainly at this time, communism, based on Marx's writings is a classic religion, give its false premises ...

zerode @ 137
To save effort - can you explain about the apparent destruction of whatever the (presumably US) "voting right Act" is about?
No comprende senor!

Charlie @ 138
Yeah.
My wife (Rhona - whom I think you've met) is considerably to the "right" of me politically, but her stance (being of NZ origin) on women's rights & the social revolution, make her an extreme "leftie" by some peoples' metrics - or, in other words, she is for much greater social freedoms.
BUT, as a result, even she is suffering in the economic sense, simply because she is female & working in the City - the diamond ceiling is alive & well, I'm afraid.

PHK @ 145
The tricky question is how we structure a society where only a dwindling fraction of the potential workforce is required for keeping the wheels on the track.
I believe it is called: "The Culture" isn't it?

Jay @ 146
Which is exactly the situation we are in now, isn't it?
Oh dear.


150:

Andreas,

Conventional wells start and ramp very fast (knocking out the bugs), stay on a plateau for a while (maximum production rate possible with the equipment), then decline away over time (geology, pressure), till they are capped (return on costs).

Fracking basically declines from the get go, and can lose 90% of production in 1 year. Fracking is the original Red Queen race - you HAVE to keep drilling to keep production even stable. It's also very geology dependent, even though companies talk of large reserves, only some have the right fault structure to allow money to be made.

As shown in @96 above, the best prospects have been drilled on a comprehensive scale, yet have only delivered ~1 Mbpd of extra usable oil. The US has saved more than that since 2007 in reduced demand.

They are a footnote on oil production, a last desperate throw of the die - they are not a solution or replacement. If someone tells you otherwise, they are trying to sell you something.

151:

This the zero-sum fallacy of international trade.

I understand that the number of jobs in an economy can rise. I want you to understand that, for the last few decades, it hasn't, at least for non-menial jobs in the US and probably much of the West. Automation would be the main reason, outsourcing to poorer countries another, diminishing marginal returns to research are a third, and there are more. If you have any good ideas about how to turn these trends around, we're listening, but I've worked for five entrepreneurs and I've never met one who let the patent situation get in his way.

152:

@106:
In this context, the said "US Arms Control Laws" have resulted in USian firms re-engineering their products to use non-USian components and hence fall outwith the restrictions of said laws.
---
That's ITAR, originally designed to handle things like the sale of warships, aircraft, cannon, etc. Now it's being applied to "anything an army might use", from candy bars to condoms. There's a "registration fee" of $2,250 per year. The fine for an ITAR violation is a quarter of a million dollars. ITAR is self-regulating and self-enforcing, so there's no appeal should you come into their sights.

The Fed has used the Commerce Act for decades as its universal legal/economic hammer; ITAR is being used as a hidden tax on being in any kind of manufacturing business. Rather than ITAR's fees and paperwork, many small businesses are just sending .dxf files to Chinese shops and selling off their own equipment.

153:

@ 148: But if exclusive patent rights were abolished (not patent rights altogether, just the exclusivity)...

How would that work, then? Surely the power to exclude is the foundation of any IP right?

154:

"I understand that the number of jobs in an economy can rise. I want you to understand that, for the last few decades, it hasn't, at least for non-menial jobs in the US and probably much of the West. Automation would be the main reason, ..."

You appear to be talking past me in the general direction of some other collection of ideas. Perhaps you think I'm replying to you, though I'm not. I'm replying to Vanzetti.

But to address your comment, yes, the economic data show stagnation of wages driven by things like the move to outsourcing domestic jobs (shunting a sizeable portion of wages to a middleman agency/rentier while substantially reducing benefits and security as well) and offshoring to an even more powerless pools of labor. More recently the financial crisis and resulting demand collapse has reduced the number of jobs available but none of the recent problems have anything to do with automation, outsourcing, and the increasing lameness of the increasingly underfunded research efforts of public and private institutions. Those are problems of twenty or thirty years duration, not five.

Even if I granted that there is nothing to be gained by stabbing the rentiers' rights to IP exclusivity in the eye (I don't) there's nothing that implies that the supposed increase in the meniality of jobs (I don't concede that assumption, either) means that wages shall fall. Negotiating power, differences in information, and political power seem to me (since we're making blind assertions with no specific evidence) to be much more important.

"...but I've worked for five entrepreneurs and I've never met one who let the patent situation get in his way."

They weren't very disruptive entrepreneurs, then. Did they add more than a patent or two to the pool? Did they create complicated new products that would require rights from other IP owners to move forward? No. They did not. Perhaps you are confusing "entrepreneur" with "inventor" or assuming that I'm confusing the two. Or you are reaching.

I don't think that targeting exclusive patent rights will fix every labor market's problems directly, but they will remove a key component of undeserved stability from the rentseeking megacorps which cannot innovate well, which cannot grow well outside specifically crafted situations of market exploitation, which cannot manage people well, which cannot be good citizens, and which funnel wealth into inactive, hoardey areas of the economy.

Finally, all the received truisms about zero/limited-sum international growth, automation, diminishing returns on research, etc., are only true in the context of an economy ruled by rentseeking corporate oligarchies. Disrupt that downward spiral and you disrupt those unpleasant dynamics that everyone seems to take for granted.

155:

@ 153 *How would that work, then? Surely the power to exclude is the foundation of any IP right?*

There's the concept of compulsory licensing which is used in some areas of copyright and pharmaceuticals. Royalties are a right too, and if an innovation is disruptive it will be widely used, probably more widely used than any corporate strategy could intentionally exploit. The key is that innovations couldn't be held back or released only in concert with some other market-controlling feature. Market disruption would be a feature, not a bug.

Personally I think the biggest problem with changing the patent system is the fact that patent lawyers are *lawyers* and are just a job title away from being lobbyists. So any modification to the system must preserve and expand their function. They're rentiers as well, but you can't win every battle.

My own proposal is that there should be a second system of patent usage which a firm may choose to use to access patents outside the current system of exclusive rights. In exchange for being able to use whatever technology they like, they must set aside a portion of revenues as a bond (say, 10%) and post in good faith the full plans, documentation, and source code of their products, as well as the full financials of the firm to a public database administered by the patent authority. It would be the responsibility of rights holders to note usage and make claims against the bond. All claims would be limited to the bond and competing claims would go through arbitration managed by the patent authority. This is where patent counsel comes back into the system.

Crucially, though, there is no prior restraint on the firm when it comes to securing patent rights. The firm would never have to talk to an patent lawyer unless they decided to file for a patent themselves or negotiate for rights outside the compulsory system. The firm could focus on meeting other regulations for product safety as well as health and safety of workers, etc. That's what manufacturers and architects and builders should do. Taking firms' attention away from product and people are part of why returns are becoming more marginal.

156:

A+, gold star, sit at the front of the class.

Only minor nit: typographers design typefaces, the people who got put out of work were type-setters (who lay out text). They're still around, but about 90% of the jobs have gone due to automation.

In fact, I couldn't have put it better myself. Do you mind if I quote that comment extensively as most of a new blog entry? (I'm also going to riff on Heteromeles' point about parasite loading in ecosystems.)

157:

Burning oil to get oil out of shale seems daft. I can imagine sense in generating hydrocarbon fuel and feedstock by using nuclear power to produce the steam and process heat though.

158:

Not as long as you get more than you burn. Regular oil needs power for extraction as well.

159:

Vanzetti @ 11: China has competitive advantage in part _because_ it is less liberal.

I expect that will change given the huge stresses their rapid growth has caused. The environmental degradation has been staggering, and it will have to be reined in if they don't want masses of people dropping dead in the street. They have the same problem with defective and hazardous products; the Chinese don't like babies dying from poisoned formula any more than anyone else. Implementing regulations with bite probably would break the current modus vivendi that the government and business stay out of each other's way. Since I'm no China expert I can't say what exactly will happen, but what they're doing now is not sustainable, and if something is not sustainable it will stop.

Charlie @ 66: when it comes to things like ruling that the IRS can pursue foreign corporations that don't do business in the USA

I'd be interested about the details about that. If, say, the companies involved are technically not operating in the US but are knowingly and actively selling illegal tax shelters to Americans I'd tend to look at it as a victory against soulless corporations. But again, details matter.

@90: China also owns so large piles of US money and securities, that USA has absolutely no choice but to stay on good terms with China.

Their piles are also so big China has no choice but to stay on good terms with America. If you owe the bank a thousand dollars and can't pay, you're in trouble. If you owe the bank a billion dollars and can't pay, the *bank* is in trouble.


j.carl.henderson @ 94: The US simply can't afford to "uphold its rank and role among nations" anymore. We don't have the money. In order to get our financial house in order, we are going to have to cut our military budget--along with a lot of other stuff.

We could afford it if we wanted to. It's only the Republican refusal to raise any government revenue under any circumstances that's hurting the current budget.


Charlie @ 101: Goal: to refocus the business on providing sustainable employment and work for its people, rather than maximizing return on investment for disinterested shareholders

I myself would outright repeal laws and regulations that require companies to maximize shareholder value. They aren't something that's necessary for the system seeing as they're only around three decades old.


As for the police state stuff I'm only really qualified to talk about the US. As far as the NSA stuff the main problem is that technology has raced quietly raced ahead to the point that existing law isn't equipped to deal with it. This specifically is how information that has previously been treated as public takes on a very different character when you can both easily collect almost all of it and analyze it with some efficiency. As an example, American conviction records have always been public, but being able to find them on the internet instead of going down to the police station to check is a major change. I don't think this is just a government problem either; a large part of what the NSA seems to be doing is peeking at what companies are already collecting.

The main cause for repressive police tactics inside the US has been the War on Drugs. The supposed threat from drug violence has lead to a paramilitary police response, and that has been slowly spreading into all other areas of law enforcement.

The other thing going on in the US is that older whites and especially older white males are completely freaking out about losing their grip on power and becoming a minority like everyone else. This is what's behind all sorts of crazy from lax gun laws to vote suppression to attacks on illegal aliens to the stupid sequester. California was a bellweather for this sort of craziness, and hopefully that pattern holds and in a few years the Republicans will become a permanent minority party (or sane, but sadly I see very little chance of that happening).

160:

>>>I expect that will change given the huge stresses their rapid growth has caused. The environmental degradation has been staggering, and it will have to be reined in if they don't want masses of people dropping dead in the street.

China isn't doing anything that the developed countries haven't gone through already. They are just developing much faster, because they are not a democracy and the road is already marked. I don't see why they would suddenly fail. They don't invest all their money into tanks, they are building infrastructure like crazy.

161:

I've been of the opinion for the last 40 years that burning oil is a criminal waste of a flexible chemical feedstock.

Still, so long as there is nothing quite as power-dense as a Rolls Royce Trent-900 burning kerosene, I'm prepared to concede its use in certain cases.

162:

I worry about the fact that revealing state secrets is now considered an international crime and nations are expected to deport such evil characters back to their state of origín to face suitable punishment. This is exactly what the US said to the Chinese and Russians.
In fact when the EU thought they could get their hands on Snowden and return him to face US justice, they didn't hesitate at all, even though it meant bashing the rights of poorer South American countries. Britain was even going to invade an embassy in order to give Assange to the Americans/Swedes.

163:

To the Swedes, who are not the Americans. And in connection with a rape charge.

For many it seems that because Assange had done great things for transparency he should be immune to normal justice for other offences. The extradition from Britain was not to be to the US but to Sweden for an offence allegedly committed in that country. For some reason Assange didn't want to face prosecution there.

Perhaps he thought that he might not be found innocent.

(Personally, I'd trust the Swedes more than the UK government.)

164:

>>Perhaps he thought that he might not be found innocent.

Or perhaps he, like some people in this thread, thinks USA can secretly control everything, including Sweden.

165:

Bellinghman
To a faked-up very spurious looking possible not quite rape allegation, made long after the supposed events.
Now, I know that men get away with far too much, but this particular one smells very strongly of "put-up job" to me.

Oh, & repeat question - what is this supposed persecution/suppression of US voting rights being spoken of?
or is this just another aspect of the know Republican attempt to rig the electoral rolls in key areas, so as to disenfranchise voter whom they *know" won't vote for them?
And, if the latter, why is nothing being done about such flagrantly illegal acts?
As illegal, in fact as UKBA trying it on, right back at the start of this discussion.
Though I note that it has just started to trickle into the mainstream media - & that the bastards have tried it on at my home station, yesterday!

166:

To a faked-up very spurious looking possible not quite rape allegation, made long after the supposed events.

At risk of trolling my own blog comments -- so you're saying we can safely ignore odd-looking rape allegations made long after the supposed events against respectable-looking men? Like, oh, Catholic priests?

(Yes, Greg, I'm pushing your hot-button deliberately.)

Yes, there are odd aspects to the Assange business. He deserves an opportunity to formally clear himself in front of a court hearing. I have some sympathy for his anxiety about potential deportation to the USA where the Espionage Act might be applied; as recent events wrt. Mr Snowden and Bradley Manning have shown, the US authorities are willing to go to great lengths to lay their hands on people involved in wikileaks. But the women who have made these sexual assault allegations also have rights and deserve a hearing in court. And Assange has at a minimum behaved strangely and disreputably.

It's possible for a man who is a major public intellectual and opponent of tyranny in his public life to also be a sexual predator and alleged rapist in private life -- the two issues are orthogonal, and the glory of the one does not excuse the shame of the other.

167:

@156:

I plead Danglish: In Danish "typograf" was somebody in front of a Linotypes keyboard.

Feel free to use as you like, I quote you all the time, so it's only fair :-)

168:

They weren't very disruptive entrepreneurs, then. Did they add more than a patent or two to the pool? Did they create complicated new products that would require rights from other IP owners to move forward?

Actually, yes. Actual entrepreneurs, in my experience, have an unreasonable level of optimism and lack a realistic understanding of the patent situation in their field. They build their business, they patent when they can, but generally they're blind to other companies' patents until those companies actually send lawyers.

For what it's worth, I would have no objection to eliminating the patent system entirely. It worked pretty well at a certain time and at a certain scale, but it's not working now.

169:

For what it's worth, I would have no objection to eliminating the patent system entirely. It worked pretty well at a certain time and at a certain scale, but it's not working now.

Alternative option: if the patent-owning organization isn't actually selling a product that embodies the patent, they should have no standing to sue others for doing so. (If they are selling a device that relies on their patents, then they can have standing to defend it in court.) Not "use it or lose it", but "squatters and patent trolls shall not profit".

170:

I'm not at all sure that this new police state isn't a response to encryption. People have been talking about taking control of the economy and society away from governments for decades now, what if someone heard them?

171:

I think there's a lot of truth in that analysis. But, interestingly, this isn't the first time that some heavyweight thinkers have pondered these sorts of topics. "In Praise of Idleness" by Bertrand Russell and "Economic Possibilities for our Grand-children" by Keynes are both essays that try to take a rough stab at what a post-labour-scarcity society might look like. They're both notable for being rather optimistic, too, which may strikes modern readers as odd.

But they're well worth a read for anyone interested in the long-run impacts of computers and automation.

http://www.zpub.com/notes/idle.html
http://www.econ.yale.edu/smith/econ116a/keynes1.pdf

172:

Your response to comment 90 sounds familiar; IIRC, war in Europe was thought to be deeply unlikely due to the increasing closeness of economic ties (among others) - in the 1910s.

173:

"persecution/suppression of voting rights" or
"Republican attempt to rig the electoral rolls"

Sort of both. Rationally, rigging the voter rules with difficult id requirements to prevent "voter fraud", gerrymandering etc, is one way (the only way?) for Republicans to compete when they are becoming more and more a minority party.

This also connects to the long history of keeping (mainly) blacks from voting that was addressed in the 60s by the Voter Rights act. Now people of a certain persuasion are exercised because a black guy won the presidency. Obviously, he couldn't possibly have done so without cheating. So the issue has become a real priority.

The Voter Rights act forced some states with a history of discrimination, mainly in the south, to get pre-clearance of any change in voting rules. That provision just got challenged and the Supreme Court struck down it down as no longer being relevant; because we've made so much progress. (I'm not making this up. That was Chief Justice Roberts reasoning)

The old rule allowed looking at the discriminatory effect of voter rules. In the remaining parts you must prove discriminatory intent. That's why you can now introduce non-flagant measures; which is what's happening. Maybe the NSA spies could look into that.

174:

Regarding Assange it should be noted that Swedish law doesn't allow for extradition for political or espionage offences, and they take this pretty seriously. As demonstrated by the following:

In 1985 a former Edward Lee Howard, who had briefly been a CIA agent, defected to the USSR after coming under suspicion for spying. In autumn 1991 he moved to Sweden the USA requested his extradition, he was arrested in august 1992 on visa violation charges he was released a week later. Sweden had refused a request for extradition on very serious charges. It was alleged that Howard had sold the USSR secrets of the CIAs Moscow station, including the identities of its Soviet agents, at least one of whom was reportedly executed on the basis of the information. Basically Howard was indicted for extremely serious offences with fairly good evidence and Sweden would not extradite. Assange, as far as we know, hasn't been indicted and the allegations are at worst relatively minor. The information released by wikileaks was confidential but at a much lower classification than what Howard was accused of giving the KGB. If they wouldn't break the law to extradite Howard it seems unlikely that they would do so to extradite Assange.

175:

I might like to believe that nothing has changed in Sweden in the past 28 years, but I'd be wrong.

176:

" One concept I'd like to throw into the mix is "parasite load," in the ecological sense.

I tend to see things as an ecologist anyway, but my diagnosis of the problem we're facing here in the US (at least) is that there are too many parasites at the top. There are some all through the system, of course, but the problematic ones are on top."

This is a metaphor I find more and more useful.

177:

"As for the police state stuff I'm only really qualified to talk about the US. As far as the NSA stuff the main problem is that technology has raced quietly raced ahead to the point that existing law isn't equipped to deal with it. This specifically is how information that has previously been treated as public takes on a very different character when you can both easily collect almost all of it and analyze it with some efficiency"

I heard that the. Odern legal structure in the USA on taking people's pictures in public was developed only well after good cameras came into use. When taking somebody's photo required a half-hour setup and ideal conditions, papparazi were simply not a problem.

178:

"Or perhaps he, like some people in this thread, thinks USA can secretly control everything, including Sweden."


Wrong. All that's needed is the Swedish government yielding to pressure and extraditing Assange to the USA. And it needn't be a legal extradition, either, unless the Swedish system actually punishes their elites for breaking the law.

And after all of the EU countries closing their airspace to a jet with th Bolivian president because Snowden might be on board, Assange's fears were clearly justified.

BTW, I have heard that Assange stated that he'd sureender to Swedish authorities, if they guarranteed that he would not be extradited (i have not confirmed that).

179:

"Regarding Assange it should be noted that Swedish law doesn't allow for extradition for political or espionage offences, and they take this pretty seriously. "

It should also be noted that torture is illegal in the USA. This doesn't mean that the government doesn't do it; it means that the government does it, classifies it, and illegally punishes those who leak.

180:

I have no objection to your proposed change, but I don't think it would fix the system by itself. I've gone through stacks of patents trying to figure out what a given project would infringe, and found them to be nearly unintelligible. Because of some peculiarities of patent law and the natural desire of every inventor to claim as much as possible, the claims wind up being lists of 10-100 self-referential items ("75: A device as per claim 37 where the tube is made of aluminum, steel, copper, or other metal or ceramic"). I was in a fairly small field with about 30 current patents when I did this; the number of patents related to a microprocessor or cell phone may be 100,000.

181:

There's an EFF crowdsourcing initiative to combat patent trolls, apparently it's easier that it looks to knock out a patent claim

https://trollingeffects.org/

182:

It's often not that hard to overturn a patent claim, but you have to go to court to do it. If this happens in the entrepreneurial phase of a business, the cost and distraction are likely to sink the company.

183:

In think the idea of no jobs for anyone in the future is overplayed. What we've been experiencing over the last 20 years is the shock of large parts of the WOrld joining the capitalist global economy and the shockwaves from that will continue for many more years but there is some argument to say that we are over the worst.

In this weeks Economist there is an interesting series of articles on it.

First of all we had Eastern Europe and Russia, and the effects on Europe are still not finished. But of course we just had 2 and half billion being added to global economy in India and China and the rest of the Brics.

There are plenty of signs that the easy early gains leaping up the development ladder is losing steam as wages in these countries begin to rapidly rise. This bulge in low wage workers is falling and won't be repeated with other developing countries (the next 11 as they are called now) because they have much smaller populations and they will be a much smaller percentage of the much larger global total.

We can see the effects of this recent bubble from the mass shifting of manufacture, the excess imbalances in currency reserves and the glut of cheap money that flooded the West.

In the future Europe and the USA will no longer be the only global big markets, China India and Brazil will be massive global demand centres as well. Other newly industrialising countries will be targeting them as well as the old west.

Also there is also something to the idea that during technology shift benefits tend to accrue to the holders of capital, but over the following years the benefits shift towards labour again.

The problem of course is who has the time to wait 20 years until the new world order to settle down and corporations to moan about high wage China and India and how its important to have production close to your customers in this age of mass customisation (rather than manufacture).

184:

@169 charlie Alternative option: if the patent-owning organization isn't actually selling a product that embodies the patent, they should have no standing to sue others for doing so.

The problem with the patent system is that yes, there are trolls and squatters, but the restraint they place on economic activity pales compared to the way the patent system is used by market controlling oligarchies to restrict the possibility of disruption in their markets. Ignoring this eight hundred pound gorilla in favor of targeting relatively small-time griefers does nothing for the problem I'm trying to address, which is that the gorilla of globalized rent-seeking does not need to fear the little people in any way whatsoever.

Abolishing patents might work but I personally feel there is still value to recording inventions for posterity (and global re-distribution) and to having a way of funneling royalties to inventors.

So yes, limiting standing will help with the small-time griefers and the most blatant examples of burying technology but I don't think with will help with the larger problems of overwhelming market control by nominally productive oligarchies.

185:

I don't know; the pattern of industrial globalization has so far been "factory full of workers in the US" -> "factory full of workers in China" -> "factory full of robots in the US." What other commenters have been pointing out is not low-wage countries taking the jobs, but jobs being automated and no-one having them. We're heading for a situation analogous to when the Luddites roamed the English countryside, but I don't see the satanic mills that will provide replacement employment.

Related but off the point: China's low-wage dividend appears to be nearly paid off, and there's questions as to whether internal demand is large enough to sustain their economy; on top of which, they're going to have the mother and father of property crashes in the next five years or so. The Chinese Communist Party is heading towards breaking their pact with the people - Interesting Times lie ahead.

186:

@185 Factories don't run on robots alone. There is increasing productivity per worker unit, but because that productivity is limited to the global corporate strategies of increasingly uncreative rent-seeking, unproductive capital, the reduction in high-paying jobs only appears to be the result of automation.

The real problem with wages is that workers in all sectors are limited to only taking jobs in industries that are structured to shunt all the margin to the individuals with the greatest market power. The lack of number of jobs follows from the demand crisis that results from low wages and no negotiating power. Devolving that market power will distribute the profits better among those who create value: i.e. the robot-babysitters as well as the rest of the employees, as well as the people who serve them lunch, entertain them, educate them, etc.

187:


This is Completely and Utterly OFFTOPIC but entirly excusable.

Every now and then I glance at Our Gratious Hosts Twitter thingy - It will rain UP rather than down before I have a twitter account - and I've just come upon .."Charles Stross ‏@cstross 9h

@lavietidhar Shite. Okay: Laundry titles I must write: The Girl with the Dagon Tattoo and My Beautiful Launderette Files. Official."

Ho ..Hum ..it does occur to me that the only Two Shopfronts that you will find on the UKs sadly eroded High Streets are Tattoo Parlors - which produce sadly pathetic tattoos that are often exposed on the legs of both male and female prsons especially now that shorts are almost obligitory in this DIRE heatwave - and also Tanning Salons -which produce people of a Strange Orange Colour. Just saying ..and no doubt my awsome powers of Observation wont put me at peril ...Oh! and oh course you will always find a Launderette on any minor Highstreet in the UK ..or as we say in the UK .." It Makes You Think Don'it?"

188:

My response would be to rewrite this (short, quick read) article and pretend it was all my own work, but why bother when I can just link to it? ",)

189:

It was 21 years ago not 28, Howard defected in 1985, entered Sweden in 1991 was arrested in August 1992 for visa violations released a week later and returned to Russia. He was a lot less well known than Assange and faced much more serious allegations. There aren't that many extradition requests made to Sweden by the USA so finding any example of a request involving espionage is pretty surprising, the fact is the last time anything like this came up the Swedes refused the request. Basically if they wouldn't extradite Howard then it hardly seems likely they would extradite Assange.

The illegal deportation of two Egyptians more recently caused a massive scandal, so that's hardly likely to happen again. Especially given how well known Assange already, the political cost of allowing a clearly unlawful extradition would be far too high.

The USA has not in fact even requested extradition, they do not appear to have any possible charges that Sweden would not be bound to immediately refuse. Espionage is a non-starter

190:

An historian on a radio call-in show went on and on about the very real terror of the Terror; I called-in and said simply, 'The Ancien Régime was a slow-motion guillotine that would have never stopped on its own.' It combined the {protective law}-lessness of Somalia with the most effective police-state possible then (full of holes, but not for lack of trying).

I have (comme nous en français disons) rachmones for aristocrats' suffering and death (they had no choice in their birth and little easy choices thereafter, since to fall was to fall so low...and 'Homo sum, humani nihil alienum a me puto,' is _not_ a statement of Bill Burroughs' about rent-boys from space). I have less for people who should know better but only see suffering and death when it happens to aristos. (Probably not too brave to say in these precincts, admittedly, but I'd say the same at Free Republic.)(And says the man sitting on a piece of land taken from natives by religious fanatics who hasn't given it away...because who would listen to a fool like that?)

191:

Charlie @ 166
You should know better than that!
What I was saying - as if you didn't know - is that the wole thing stinks.
No, I am emphatically NOT claiming that Assange is whiter-than-white & "pure" - in fact I suspect not.
But, but, but - there is something very odd going on here & needs very careful inquiry.
See also you OWN COMMENT @ 175?

See also 178
What I'd understood was that Assange was quite happy to be interviewed by Swedish police under Swedish Rules/Law, in the UK, as long as extraditon was not an issue.
IF they then still wanted him - it was IIRC an open question.
Which really makes one wonder.

[ Personal suspicion, nacked by no evidence at all: - consensual sex occurred, & THEN the woman changed her mind some considerable time afterwards ( like more than 12 hours ) - well, I'm afraid we all to do that/have it happen to us, of either sex ... it really happens to men as well, actually (!) - tough, unpleasant, that's one of the messy things about life! ]

192:

@188

Nice link.

Another way of looking at it is that robots are not customers, so the revenue of commerce, regardless of the increase in productivity, needs to find its way back to the customers. This has to happen one way or another and can occur through strongly progressive taxation and redistribution or by dismantling the protections that large-scale enterprise (and its owners) have against small-scale innovation and competition.

The overclass is implacably opposed to the former option. Perhaps the latter option (or still other ways of de-protecting the rentier class) is the next escalation.

193:

Please note that since that case, the US government set up secret prisons in a number of EU countries, disappeared people into rhem, tortured them, and probably killed some.

And got away with it.

194:

Torture may be illegal in the US, but you can still be confined for life in a in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day in a cell the size of a large bed. It is bizarre that our media and politicians argued for years about water-boarding, yet few have a problem with SuperMax prisons.

195:

If the Catholic Priest in question had just pissed off the largest military and economic power in the world, and then the rape allegations surfaced, I'd be extremely suspicious of the charges.

196:

IMPORTANT UPDATE
The BBC "Today" Programme "right now!" ( i.e. 08.32hrs, Saturday, 3rd August )
The programme is questioning the mere legality of these behaviours, never mind anything else ....

The programme also contains an interview with the "immigration minister" (Mark Harper) ... who appears to be wriggling furiously, to claim that the stop-&-enquire is "not random". And also spouting "tu quoque" regarding the previous guvmint. And also claiming that theese stops are "consensual" - which I certainly don't believe, AT ALL.
Should be possible to hear on "Listen again", soon.

This will need watching, very, very carefully, won't it?

197:

Low Wage Workers in the USA

Just a couple bits of information for European Readers,

The average Walmart (store) worker receives $1000 in government assistance per annum; Store management passes out informative handouts on where to go apply for your "food Stamps". Not sure how much of that figure includes various low income medical programs ("Medicaid) and or the "Earned Income Tax Credit", a guaranteed minimum income for working families.

And that kind of wages has become the default setting for much of the US "service" work force, and represent 60-80% of the "new" jobs being created.

Meanwhile, the "Tea Party" faction insists these moochers have it far too easy, those programs are riddled with Fraud (less than 1% on every audit), and we can solve our Federal Budget Program by cutting those programs. To the extent the Republican Congress passed a Farm (subsidy) bill without the usual attachment of the Food Stamp program.

Things have gotten so dire, Fast Food Workers are staging (Limited so far) wildcat strikes in major cities. I'll have to post a link separately (crummy little netbook, one window at a time...). They can't really live on those part time minimum wage jobs.

198:

Link to the US Fast Food Strike Story;

At least it is being reported; The interesting (sad?) thing to do is drop down into the middle of the comments and read the predictable right wing rants about how dare these people ask for a living wage.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/01/business/strike-for-day-seeks-to-raise-fast-food-pay.html?emc=eta1

199:

"Soon chaffeurs will be the next to see their jobs disappear to robotic cars"

Late comment on this:
In some countries the traffic is so bad that it is very unlikely for robotic cars to make chauffeurs redundant until all the 20 and 30 and 40 year old cars driven by mad men (and mad women of course, but mostly it's men) are off the roads.

200:

A professional chauffeur can be more than a car driver. Some are trained to be able to cope with a terrorist attack, special driving techniques, for instance. Any of them are more than just drivers. How long before road vehicles can give up entirely on having drivers? Would you trust your children in a robot car on the way home from school?

And a good many of the chauffeurs are a status symbol, part of a package with the limo. Having the bride taken to her wedding by a robot? I don't quite think so.

And when there is limo hire for the Prom, wouldn't a parent want a human driver, just as a calming influence?

201:

Let's not talk about chaffeurs then: taxi drivers, of which there are far to automate onto the breadline.

@Michael: computers react quicker than people, and don't panic and wrench the wheel in a random direction. Why exactly would insane road users be a bigger problem for self-driving cars than they are for people-driven cars?

202:

I accidentally a word, sorry: "far _more_ to automate..."

203:

You are following the California protests over the "Security Housing Units" (eg supermax solitary confinement cells)?

http://www.latimes.com/local/political/la-me-ff-hollywood-stars-and-civil-rights-icons-join-protest-against-solitary-confinement-20130729,0,887744.story

Note that (AFAIK) this started as a hunger strike inside the prisons both inside and outside the supermax system. To the degree it works, one might hope that the tactic spreads to other states.

As for the whole American prison-industrial complex, I think it will go down (along with slavery, our treatment of Indians, and the whole extraordinary rendition abyss) as demonstrations of the worst things Americans are capable of.

204:

Attention conservation notice: Here is a devastatingly apposite analysis piece by Bruce Sterling. Best read with a tub of popcorn, a rueful grin, and a broad sense of historical irony as Chairman Bruce explains the ongoing 2010-2013 (and continuing) crisis of surveillance on the interwebbytubez ...

Seriously: it's indispensable. Go read.

205:

Charlie, I have a serious question that will not appear so. But it is. Deadly so.

Why should an outside reader who clicks the link to Sterling not simply mutter, "Fucking idiot" and stop reading at the first line of the third paragraph?

206:

OK ... I read it. Can somebody explain the argument? It reads like an out-of-breath shaggy dog story, with the occasional bon mot that comes across to me like a dog whistle that I can very faintly hear but don't understand.

Not following. Apologies. I am old.

207:

It all depends on how relevant you think the State Department is.

Having been following Bruce for a few decades, I think I can take a guess at his angle: which is, State is all about realpolitik and the soft-power defense of US interests in international relations (while the Pentagon is the hard-power backup). The trouble is, State's priorities are set on the basis of prior probability: support of US business interests overseas, support for ruling elites of nations that are friendly to US interests, energy security (delimited in terms of coal, oil, and prevention of nuclear proliferation): that sort of thing.

All of which would be instantly recognizable to someone from State who magically arrived through a time machine from 1953. But which may well not be relevant in as little as 10 years, much less another 50.

Bruce is what used to be quaintly known as a "rootless cosmopolitan". He's interested in global, rather than nation-state-delimited, issues. He was sounding the alarm about anthropogenic climate change in the mid-nineties and pointing out that the FBI, Secret Service, et al needed to skill up and get a handle on these computer things in the late eighties/early nineties. He's so far ahead of the eight-ball that I sometimes find it hard to keep up with him. What's going on here is you're getting the sort of attitude to today's shenanigans that will be prevalent circa 2043, when the dust has long-since settled on our pretensions. By which time, the behaviour of today's State Department is going to look about as fusty and archaic as, say, the chancelleries of Europe circa 1890 look from today's post-First World War perspective.

Permanent wikileaks or Orwellian panopticon nightmare: those are the only options on the menu today. But tomorrow's menu may well will be different.

208:

On the other hand, I am almost sure that he knows he is talking nonsense when he says that electronic civil liberties advocates had no idea what the NSA was doing to their beloved hardware. Everyone who cares has known that the US monitors all the electronic communications which it can reach, and that it can reach most communications, since the 1990s! And I don't appreciate people who lie for rhetorical effect.

209:

You know he's been involved with the EFF for rather a long time? (And was giving keynotes at CFP conferences in the mid-90's ...)

When you say everyone who cares has known that the US monitors all the electronic communications which it can reach, and that it can reach most communications, since the 1990s, you seem to miss the ironic point that the person who was telling us this stuff was Bruce Sterling. And you also seem to miss the significance of the clause "everyone who cares". Because most people don't care. Or, at least, didn't care until the most recent round of revelations.

What you're misreading here as lies is actually the fully justified ironic snark of a guy who's been warning us about this shit for twenty years.

210:

Hi, agree with probable end (Police) state. Not sure about the causes and mechanisms.

I am sure that capitalism was not the recent problem.
I predicted the current economic problems at a political meeting just before the Blair Government got into power for the second time, and got laughed at. Ho Hum. Not that I'm embittered, no not at all. At least my family remember (and I keep on trying to big it up even more). Any way the basic problem was political mismanagement both of the market and of the Governments own spending. All the western governments were being naughty little boys and girls, spending what they didn't have in ways that even the basic understanding of humanity would show would not work.
It was not a question for the markets as to who was good, but who was least bad.

The best shaggy dog story I have later heard since then about this was a wonderful play on radio 4 about the problem of sub prime goats. If you get the chance listen.

If you are a politician ( Political Philosopher )and are daft enough to believe in Fairness ( It depends what you take behind the veil of ignorance ) then what do you do with those who do not believe as you do?

If you are a politician and you know your society is based on cheap energy and cheap food and you, your colleagues and predecessors have not invested enough in the development of cheap, sustainable energy sources and the distribution of that energy, and you have let your population expand when you know world food is going to get more expensive, and it will become harder to grow food in your own country, then what do you do?

I am afraid that as the stresses grow a police state will be the only answer the Politicians can come up with.

The question is how will they sell it to us. If you pay protection to the Mafia you are protected. If you pay it to the state ????

I am a white middle age guy, fat, with health problems, and children. I have been in the last two years knocked to the ground more than once, blocked from going down major roads more than once, insulted in public more than once - all whist going shopping and for no apparent reason other than either ignorance of common courtesy in a public place or because of another groups self interest. When I and a West Indian lady and her child in a pram in Tesco's were knocked down by a group of yet another ethnicity should we have responded (the child in the pram took some comforting). When I and my wife were knocked out of the path of yet another different group rushing through Ikea should we have responded.

I am unsure what it the best answer, but fear more a local version of Yugoslavia, Syria, Rwanda, Iraq, etc if the politicians are as incompetent with civil society as they seem to be with economics and basic reality

Perhaps we will meet on the barricades after all

211:

I'm pretty sure that he has been following these issues since before I was old enough to use a keyboard. That is why I am pretty sure that he knows he is talking nonsense. I still don't understand why he is doing so. But I know that I can't trust any statement in that essay, because if the parts that I know something about are wrong, the parts which I don't know anything about are probably just as bad.

212:

@211

Intelligent and knowing snark being revised by humorless opponents into a slur isn't just you. E.g. "Paul Krugman created the housing bubble." It seems to be a common failure mode.

213:

I for one loved the article by Bruce Sterling, but I can see why the average 'normal' person would hate it. It shows up the absurdity, fakeness and blind self righteousness of the modern world and its institutions.
The staid moral types will also be shocked by the article because it 'praises' four flawed heroes that the institutions of state and the Murdoch press has told us are very bad people, who should be hunted down and punished severely (if only they could have caught Julian talking to children or better still taking their photographs).

214:

Sean, I think the problem here is that Bruce's piece is gigantically full of "meta." To really understand it would require that you either follow Sterling's work and the work of some other seminal people, (going at least as far back as Cliff Stoll's "The Cuckoo's Egg") closely and carefully, OR that each sentence in the piece be hyperlinked to numerous other pieces.

For example, note the sentence fragment "...once people figure out that networks just aren’t governments." This is pregnant with meaning, as the issue whether the network can be a government first went before the public some 20 years ago, and it's been floating around among specialists for the previous 20 years. The issue has been argued about by various important thinkers (like Bruce Sterling) and it's spawned multiple science fiction stories and novels, including work by OGH. If you hyperlinked each separate letter to a decent article or piece of fiction, you'd only be scratching the surface...

If you've been paying attention to these issues, the whole piece has that kind of information density. If you haven't you'll never understand. Sorry.

215:

Phrase from Bruce Sterling, that we should all remember - ranks alongside "all animals are equal, but ... "
Here it is, again:
Personal computers can have users, but social media has livestock.
And do not let us, the livestock, forget it, ever.

[ As good a reason not to use arsebook, as any other I've seen, incidentally! ]

Rick Adams @ 210
I find the physical knocking-down deeply worrying.
Where (approximately) was this - & why was nothing done about it - these places have "security" CCTV after all, don't they?
And, was it *simply* stupid selfish total lack of consideration for others, or were these groups trying to make some thuggish point?
Of course, if you are cynical enough, it's a wonderful excuse for the state to rack up yet more "security measures", isn't it?

roberth2309 @ 213
Yes, well, this ties in with the interview I mentioned up-page, where the minister claimed that the "interviews" at railway stations were consensual [ Yes, he really did! ] & that, "of course" the stop-&-searches were *not* on racial grounds, because that would be illegal, perish the thought.

How can you tell if he's lying?
/
His lips are moving.....

216:

"Never" is both pompous and inaccurate in this context. You've just insulted Sean and claimed secret deep knowledge impossible to explain to the uninitiated.

That wasn't your intention, but it is what you wrote.

You are right about the essay.

217:

" Sean, I think the problem here is that Bruce's piece is gigantically full of "meta." " ... "If you've been paying attention to these issues, the whole piece has that kind of information density. If you haven't you'll never understand. Sorry."

You do realise that this sounds uncommonly like Theology? It’s almost as if you are proselytising for a NEW Church that has a New Religion that can only be understood when it is properly interpreted by a NEW Priesthood. Let’s Call it " The Matrix " shall we, and appoint Bruce Sterling its Prophet and First Pope. As far as I’m aware Sterling hasn’t applied for the post – beyond perhaps obliquely in so far as he does make Prophecies - but few Religious leaders do apply their role and I’m sure that if he hasn’t already got used to Prophet hood he will come around to this Neo Sainthood in time ...perhaps if his fans /acolytes were to club together to buy him a Gold Throne it would help him to take the hint that a towering weight of expectation now hangs upon his every word? In the mean time “ Sterling “ does have a ring to it as a Name ...he should lose the ‘Bruce ‘ part though ..St Bruce of Stirling just doesn’t count right somehow. Cardinal troutwaxer sounds good though.

What you need is some sort of emblem and that could be a probem since all the really spiffy ones – crosses, crooked crosses of every conceivable kind and Hammers with or without sickles and so forth – are already taken. Never mind, I'm sure that you'll think of something.

218:

Oops ..that should have been ' St Bruce of Stirling just doesn’t SOUND right somehow 'and not 'count right' unless 'count ' had some DEEP Hidden meaning which revelation only came to me as I Spoke/posted in tongues after I had drunk from my morning pot of Earl Grey Tea.

219:

> If you pay protection to the Mafia you are
> protected. If you pay it to the state ????

Sorry if this is snark, or just a private hobby-horse, but I feel the need to point out that the Mafia only effectively protect you from themselves: though some unorganised criminals do end up getting exemplary punishment from them to burnish their local image, they don't do that good a job. For one thing, the conditions that produce organised crime are great for producing all crime---only a few criminals get into the Honoured Society, the many rest who would do crime must free-lance because they can't do anything else...for another, and importantly, to be in the Mafia is to think little (in both senses) of anyone not in it, they feel they have the right to do anything to anyone not in it, so those outsiders get good value for their money just for getting protection from _them_.

Similarly: only Mussolini's own trains ran on time.

220:

ARNOLD @ 217
how about the "Lazy-Eight" - the usual symbol for infinity?
∞ - like that?

221:

Ah. Then I will ignore it. I enjoy trading learned allusions myself (such as all the programming references in “Atrocity Archives”) but they are no way to make an argument.

222:
The US simply can't afford to "uphold its rank and role among nations" anymore.

This is simply not true. US fed govt expenditures are running approx 25% of GDP, way below where most advance economies. Defense spending is running at 4.5% of GDP, well below the 6% it was during the cold war. (Yep, that is right, the US is currently financing its global empire with all its WOT fighting cheaper than it did the cold war. Drones and Special Forces are much more efficient for running an empire than air craft carriers and armor divisions).

We are currently running something like a $700 billion deficit. We have over $1.1 trillion in tax loopholes currently in the tax code. You dont even have to raise rates, just eliminate all loopholes and we are running a very large surplus.

Of course that would mean that corp like GE would have to pay 39% in taxes instead of the current 3% and people like Mitt Romney would have to pay 39% instead of 15% (or 0% depending on the year).

Of course that can not be allowed to occur, so instead of stating the obvious that we can in fact pay for the govt we currently have, we instead get propaganda about how we cant afford to keep doing what we are doing.

The bad news is that the lack of money will not stop what the US is doing for the near or even mid term. Long term it will be a problem but we are not anywhere close to that yet. For the next decade(s), it will take an act of political will by the American people to stop it.

223:

Since i have been a union member& found that the cost to me (dues & time paying attention) were far outstripped by the benefits to not just myself, but the general society (more taxes paid)This column from Business Insider struck a tone that reverberates

"Hate To Say It, But If Companies Don't Start Paying People Better, We May Need Unions" by Henry Blodget

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/we-may-need-labor-unions-after-all-2012-12#ixzz2b1WRUuWs

224:

Arnold, please don't be silly. If I was creating theology I would insist that Sterling was automatically right, and of course I don't believe this. But since Bruce is a very deep expert in this issue, anyone who can't decode the subtleties probably shouldn't be commenting on his work. Saying, "I know stuff and I think he's wrong," as Sean did isn't remotely convincing.

225:

For a depressing summary of the 'hidden' subsidies low-wage corporations get, I'd recommend Raj Patel's book "The Value of Nothing":

http://rajpatel.org/2009/10/27/the-value-of-nothing/

226:

Bruce Sterling is certainly writing for an audience which has been paying attention to the issues, but I didn't find the information density overwhelming. And I think a big part of the article is getting across that the whole NSA business is nothing new.

Politicians in general just don't seem to be paying much attention to computer-related issues, and they keep saying silly things when they do notice, and think they need to do something to gain votes.

227:
I've been of the opinion for the last 40 years that burning oil is a criminal waste of a flexible chemical feedstock.
An essay question from a 1970s O-level chemistry paper that has stuck with me for a similar length of time:

"The Shah of Iran has decided that oil is too valuable to burn. Explain what else can be done with each fraction."

229:

Now? IMSI-catchers are at least a decade old: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IMSI-catcher

230:

>>>"The Shah of Iran has decided that oil is too valuable to burn. Explain what else can be done with each fraction."

Oh, its easy. You burn the fraction that supports the Shah of Iran. :-)

231:

A few weeks ago a prominent American Zero State member was stopped at Heathrow, interrogated for 5 hours and deported. His crime? Involvement in Bitcoin projects - all quite legal.

Expect to be similarly treated, as well as being put on no-fly lists, if you do more than mouth off ineffectually in public.

233:

"Intelligent and knowing snark being revised by humorless opponents into a slur isn't just you. E.g. "Paul Krugman created the housing bubble." It seems to be a common failure mode."

Freudian projection is the most common right-wing propaganda technique (it's pretty much the go-to). Also, if I'm guilty of something, it's a good idea to accuse you of that, because then you're trying to refute the charge, and many will think that we're both guilty (the sophomoric refrain 'both sides do it'). And that's a step up from me being dirty and you being clean, in people's minds.

234:

"We are currently running something like a $700 billion deficit. We have over $1.1 trillion in tax loopholes currently in the tax code. You dont even have to raise rates, just eliminate all loopholes and we are running a very large surplus."

And it's going down, as the economy recovers (slowly, because of the f-ing Tea Party). And right now, the US government can borrow at rates ranging from zero to negative.

235:

No links - we all know him in ZS and Amon was waiting at the airport to collect him.

236:

I didn't find the information density overwhelming either, but I read both "The Cuckoo's Egg" and "The Hacker Crackdown" in the mid-nineties and I've paid at least passing attention to the issues since. On the other hand, someone who hasn't been following these issues...

On the subject of surveillance, I finally picked up a copy of Neptune's Brood today and had a funny realization at the Barnes and Noble cash register, which was that I couldn't ever again use any kind of customer loyalty card at a bookstore again. Given the current level of surveillance, any book I buy will go straight to a database!

237:

I'm curious again: why do you think I am trying to convince someone of something? My previous reading and watching convinced me that Sterling is not being truthful, so I asked why. You told me that he was using coded language which only the learned can understand, so I lost interest in his essay.

238:

dirk @ 231
If he had committed no crime (in either the USSA or here, then why was he deported & will he be able to: [a] appeal & [b] come back here?
( Assuming he wants to, of course? )
& #235
Is someone going to appeal, against abuise of process, at the very least?
&/or raise a public stink - since you don't appear to have anything to lose?

deccecio barry @ 233
Except, of course, that "ti quoque" is often very true, especially in politics, sicne they are, all too often both lying crooks.

troutwaxer
It's why no-one I know closely will go anywhere near a "store loyalty" card (Not even Sainsbury's or Waitrose ) because of the data-mining.
Um.

239:

Oh Greg, Greg, Greg. Being granted access to a country is not a right, it's a privilege, unless you're actually a citizen. Anything else is an open door policy, and in these UKIP days, we can't be having that.

More pertinently, when it comes to allowing people into a country (citizens mostly excepted), the guys on the entry desk have pretty much carte blanche. At least one person I know is now unable to visit the US, which is rather problematic since that's where her boyfriend lives.

It's also why my sister took up US citizenship - she never wanted to be held for 6 hours at her place of work (Orlando Airport) ever again.

Both these examples are going UK to US, but it's bad both ways.

So yes, expect the UKBA to continue being utter c*nts. After all they're the ones sending racist poster vans out onto London's streets.

240:

Bellighman
There are public policies in place.
Officialy, at least the shites in power & their even shittier petty-hitler subordinates must: "Show cause"
Arbitrary holding is still illegal.
Which is why there's such a stink over this UKBA business.
And, nothing to do with UKIP - it's a wonderful smear campaign, but given that Farage has denounced it (UKBA) as racist, it won't wash.
No, I do agree though, they are just shites, through & through.

241:

Sure - But: We have secret laws, secret evidence and secret courts, so any cause for being detained could quite conceivably be secret too so the secrecy of the secret "legal" system is not violated?!

242:

I've just been fed extra info ...
The USSA have for some considerable number of years, now, been giving both UK & EU citizens a real hard time at their boders, green card et al.
Now, it's payback time!
If you are a US citizen, you, too have to jump through the hoops.
And this will carry on, ujtil the US administration (NOT the guvmint, notice) notices ....
So, Dirk's freind might have been on a visitor's permit ... but he might have been going to give talks & presentations - NO! - you will need a WORK PERMIT, because you are giving talks etc for money.
Or he might have been (thought of as) a "visitng academic" - in which case, he would have needed an DIFFERENT WORK PERMIT ...
etc, ad nauseam.
THe fault here, lies with the USSA - what is now happening is a long-delayed "tu quoque" response.
If you crap on our people, see Bellinghman @ 239 .... then we'll crap on yours, or until you notice....
Or something like that, anyway.

243:

Sorry for coming to the discussion late but want to share signs of a police state in the US:
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/08/03/1228675/-Unarmed-Couple-Shot-At-137-Times-By-Police
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/08/04/1228854/-2-More-Women-Internally-Probed-On-Public-Road-By-Texas-Troopers-Video (read the discussion here were men say they will willingly die to prevent their wives from being treated like this.)
University of Virginia student arrested in near fatal mix-up with police—for buying bottled water

Frankly, the news we know about is scary. Wish there were statistics about whether this is business as usual or are things escalating?

Combine this with the fact that every time anyone makes a serious effort at gun control, sales of guns and ammunition skyrocket.

So someone please tell me what happens when an empire collapses with citizens armed with automatic weapons, and the government is armed with drones?

Seriously, I'm 66 and wondering if I will get to live out my life in peace or should I find a place to hide now? I lived through the Cold War and really never felt as anxious then as I do now.

244:

jwylieblog @ 243
Ask the inhabitants of, oh Massilia or what became Milan in about 400 - 600 ACE ...
errr ... not good.
Warlordism is what you get, also, very probably something like the: The Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists
Together, of course with foreign intervention ( & looting )
Nice!

245:

They apparently can nick all of your stuff and you have to sue to get it back (tough if you cannot afford it):

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/08/more-american-stasi-us-drug-agency-fabricates-cover-stories-for-data-collection-including-from-intelligence-intercepts.html

And lie to the Judge in court on how evidence is obtained:

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/08/more-american-stasi-us-drug-agency-fabricates-cover-stories-for-data-collection-including-from-intelligence-intercepts.html

One could suspect that there are traveling groups of semi-retired mischief-consultants left over from the different "War On $WhatEver" that are now teaching the local police all the latest methods of suppressing the natives, the real Peace Dividend. Possibly with some scummy "business consultants" from the dot.bomb and real estate busts now marketing this "training" as a good idea.

... And lawyers twisting the law as hard as they can and then extending it with scaffolding planks to prove how smart they are. Which becomes a problem with the surveillance state in full operation: Minors sending a naked picture of themselves over the phone are getting the Full Treatment for being a Child Pornographer. The legal version of "having to destroy the village in order to save it".

Best not get involved, bad for the health to grind ones teeth all the time.

246:

And ... from the same web-site (admittedly in the USSA, where the cops need to be corrupt to make a living) this delightful piece about illegal siezure of property, which you then have to sue (if you can afford it) to recover what the cops have stolen.

Looks like the only answer is David Brin's "sousveillance".
And, straw in the wind - personal, streaming camers (as many cyclists wear here) - Google for "GoPro" & "Looxcie" cameras - presently apparently only available in the US, but I suspect a BigRiver order might get you one.

247:

While we're on the subject of racist organisations (particularly ones who cry 'Smear!' when called out on it), today's example involves young Jacob Rees Mogg, who a while back gave a speech at the annual dinner of the 'Traditional Britain Group', and is now apologising for having done so.

They're not racist, of course, and Rees Mogg rightly took them at their word when they said they were being smeared by people who called them that.

That they want out of the EU, and want to stop immigration, and want to repatriate all those they consider undesirable (i.e those of ethnic minorites) is not at all racist, oh no, no more than Farage is when he's objecting to the hypothetical flood of Romanians and Bulgarians that EU membership theoretically permits to move here to work.

Now all those Polish plumbers have gone home again, I wonder how well Bulgarians can fix pipework. And if those closed Polish delis get replaced by Romanian ones, what delights do we have in store? The only interesting one we've got in our small town now the Polish one has closed is an Italian one, and those are so passé.

248:

Bellinghman
We have a problem.
There are too many people in Britain, as it is already.
And
Immigration has proved a boon to the "clique of the capitalist explotationist bosses" (ahem) - ever since Empire WIndrush docked.
If you allow ( or encourage) your labour market to be flooded with immigrants (irrespective of skin-colour or ethnic origin) from "poorer areas/countries" ... then ... you can easily keep wage-rates down, if only because there is always a "reserve pool" of labour permanently avalable who will do the work for *less*.
This is another aspect of the vile "zero-hours contracts" scandal presently unfolding.

There is a perfectly reespectable "left-wing" argument against open immigration, as I, a centre-right person, but with a strong sense of social justice & love of liberty have tried to express here.

It's a lot more complicated that that, of course, but I hope you take my attempted point?

249:

He was coming here for a holiday, and to meet some of us in ZS. No work, no lectures, just social.

250:

"Immigration" ... according to the 8.00 BBC radio news, the "shadow immigration minister" will today give a speech castigating employers - for encouragng low-wage foreign immigration (even though legal)

Seems I was ahead of the curve?
Meanwhile, the blatant hypocrisy of it ... since under nice Mr Blair, Labour did all it coud to encourage this sort of thing.
Bah.

Dirk
Nasty.
Quite possibly they were playing spiteful tit-for-tat.
Quite possibly, they were being deliberately nasty - to him.
Who knows?

251:

There's a difference between the USA and the UK on immigrant labour.

The USA has a long history of Mexican immigrant labour, a lot of it quite legal. When the border was open, even when the legality percentage was low, the net immigration was low. Mexicans worked for a few years in the USA, and mostly went home.

When the border became militarised, crossing became difficult enough, even if you wanted to go back to Mexico, that the illegal immigrants stayed.

Britian is in, roughly the same situation as the USA of 60 years ago. There is large scale legal immigration, and a lot of it is temporary. It might even be more than one block of working in the UK for an individual. What doesn't get mentioned is the number of British people who work elsewhere in the EU.

But the illegal immigrants, once they get in, we're stuck with.

What makes the difference between the situation in the USA and the UK is that the USA is in a trading bloc which only has a free trade in goods. The UK is in a bloc with free trade in goods and labour.


As for there being too many people, one of the problems which the UK is maybe facing is the shifting demographics, as the post-war baby boom passes out of the workforce and starts drawing pensions. Part of the answer, besides some major rethinking of what employment means, could be a pool of young migrant labour which pays taxes here for a few years. But the people who talk about that are glossing over the downside, the insufficiency of employment makes a temporary increase in the labour pool rather pointless.

I distrust the motives there, but I wouldn't want to see a legislative system develop which was rigidly unchanging. Though I am not sure who I would trust to decide whether there should be change.

252:

Capitalism in its purest form requires the free movement of capital, goods AND labour. All countries who cleave to the capitalist ideal allow free movement of all three but only within their own borders. The owners of capital and goods have arranged that there is also free movement of their property across international borders but the labour does not have the same freedom to cross borders at will to work possibly because they were never given the option to install their own puppets as the creators of the laws that prevent it.

253:

The overt and given reason was his involvement with Bitcoin

254:

Dirk
Fascinating.
So it was (apparently) deliberately directed at him & his *"associations"*
Next question - perhaps others can help here ...
What's to EVIL about Bitcoin that they don't want their people in GB?
Been quite a bit of discussion aout Bitcoin on radio & the press (I have no idea if TV mentions it) ... but no implication that it redendered Bitcoin-people persona non grata in the UK.

Also, if so, why was he allowed on the plane in the first place?

Grounds for an appeal?

255:

There are too many people in Britain, as it is already.

Cite needed.

256:

Paws
Population density & ability to feed ourselves.
Compare & contrast with other countries.
Data available on web, after all.

257:

Population density is variable, and probably lower than you think.
Food production - Well, there's lots of UK agricultural land that is under or mis-used; for instance grouse moor could be rough pasture for sheep at several times the mass food output per acre, similarly with coniferous "commercial woodland"...

258:

According to Kevin Cahill's 2002 meisterwerk "Who Owns Britain?"

[Short version: not you mate!]

[Slightly longer version: same type of people that owned it in 1689, or 1485.]

59 million people of Britain live on 10% of Britain's land - when you factor in roads, airports, commercial and industrial property, its actually closer to 59,000,000 people living on 4,400,000 acres.

In Scotland the stats are even worse

Land ownership one of the reasons democracy has ceased to function in Britain, and staying in the EU, or leaving it, and Scottish independence, are meaningless distractions.

If you don't know who owns which bit of your country, you don't control it.

259:

von hichtofen:
And, even worse ...
lots of those landowners are not individual people.
They are Charlie's Martian invaders .
Individuals are easily open to persuasion (unless your name is Hoogstraten - & even he has run off to Zimbabwe, I notice).
But persuade a corporation not to crap all over the little people?
Much harder.

Paws
I was aware of that & actually, lots of "grousemoor" makes really shitty sheep-heaf.
You are out of date w.r.t. coniferous woodland too - might have been true 20-30 years ago, though.
When you discount the "mountainous" areas, that's when it starts to get scary.
No, I still maintain that we are (practically speaking) overpopulated.
Now what?

260:

No, I still maintain that we are (practically speaking) overpopulated.

well, the bits we are permitted to live on by the Crown, the aristocracy and the financial markets are overcrowded, yes...

...but then that's always been the case.

261:

There still has to be agricultural land, doesn't there?
I think you misunderstand some of this argument (not all of it, just some of it)

262:

There does yes, but there is plenty of land in urban areas that is owned by corporate landowners, aristocrats, government bodies and/or the Crown that could be utilised in order to improve the quality of life for existing British subjects.

I have heard it said that the landmass of Britain could accommodate a further 20 million by developing an additional two percent of Britain land mass as living space. It's unlikely a Britain of 80 million people would be pleasant place to live, as Britons have the smallest homes by floor area in Europe as it is [and just think how massive private houses owned by the top 0.1% skews that statistic!]. Public and private transport would be nightmarish.

If you have ever flown over Britain low enough and slow enough, it is quite easy to fly a straight[ish] line from Bristol to Newcastle, and NOT pass over any major population centres.

I did it as a passenger in a friend's DHC Chipmunk, Kemble in Gloucestershire to Middleton St George. The largest conurbation we passed over was Barnsley.

A similar route can be flown from Manston in Kent, to Glasgow.

Green and pleasant land in every direction, all owned by people "considerably richer than yow" to quote a Harry Enfield character;-)

263:

>as Britons have the smallest homes by floor area in Europe as it is

The trick is losing the aversion to living in a box high up in the air. Gardens are nice and all, but there's too many of us for us not to live in hives.

264:

Nestor @ 263
With sdjacent neighbours who play beating "rock" non-music until 03.30 hrs, or have screaming kids, or nightly "domestics" - how nice.
And, no matter how you slice it, on average 100% of the land is going to be owned by 25% of the people, or less, isn't it? [ Think about that! ]

265:

The former problem can be solved through the amending and application of a document known as "Building Standards." The latter is a little more knotty, yes, and I have no solution to propose.

266:

You'll never guess who gutted the building standards we used to have? Go on, guess...


It's ridiculous these days that houses and flats are still built in the UK wherein you can hear any loud but normal things your neighbours are doing, and are so poorly insulated that you notice they aren't.

267:

Y'know,

Once upon a time I was horrified by 'One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich'.

Nowadays it is commonplace. Gitmo, rendition, etc, etc. The West embraces the tactics of it's so-called enemy because of an expected dividend.

We have become our own enemy. I am pretty sure, but unable to source it, that James Blish said this yonks ago. In order to protect ourselves, we become what we despise.

It is ironic, is it not?

268:

DG @ 267
Yes, we were having this conversation yesterday, re. the USSA & the USSR Russia.
Putin is an old-fashioned Russian autocrat, but he knows what to do with a principled "holy fool" like Mr Snowden ... meanwhile, the USA is thrashing around, trying to jail him for 2000 years, whist Snowden protests his american patriotism, because he discovered his own guvmint breaking its own supposed rules ...
As you say, the irony is delicious, provided it isn't falling on your head like a ton of scrap.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on July 31, 2013 11:19 AM.

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