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A different cluetrain

Right now, I'm chewing over the final edits on a rather political book. And I think, as it's a near future setting, I should jot down some axioms about politics ...

  1. We're living in an era of increasing automation. And it's trivially clear that the adoption of automation privileges capital over labour (because capital can be substituted for labour, and the profit from its deployment thereby accrues to capital rather than being shared evenly across society).

  2. A side-effect of the rise of capital is the financialization of everything—capital flows towards profit centres and if there aren't enough of them profits accrue to whoever can invent some more (even if the products or the items they're guaranteed against are essentially imaginary: futures, derivatives, CDOs, student loans).

  3. Since the collapse of the USSR and the rise of post-Tiananmen China it has become glaringly obvious that capitalism does not require democracy. Or even benefit from it. Capitalism as a system may well work best in the absence of democracy.

  4. The iron law of bureaucracy states that for all organizations, most of their activity will be devoted to the perpetuation of the organization, not to the pursuit of its ostensible objective. (This emerges organically from the needs of the organization's employees.)

  5. Governments are organizations.

  6. We observe the increasing militarization of police forces and the priviliging of intelligence agencies all around the world. And in the media, a permanent drumbeat of fear, doubt and paranoia directed at "terrorists" (a paper tiger threat that kills fewer than 0.1% of the number who die in road traffic accidents).

  7. Money can buy you cooperation from people in government, even when it's not supposed to.

  8. The internet disintermediates supply chains.

  9. Political legitimacy in a democracy is a finite resource, so supplies are constrained.

  10. The purpose of democracy is to provide a formal mechanism for transfer of power without violence, when the faction in power has lost legitimacy.

  11. Our mechanisms for democratic power transfer date to the 18th century. They are inherently slower to respond to change than the internet and our contemporary news media.

  12. A side-effect of (7) is the financialization of government services (2).

  13. Security services are obeying the iron law of bureaucracy (4) when they metastasize, citing terrorism (6) as a justification for their expansion.

  14. The expansion of the security state is seen as desirable by the government not because of the terrorist threat (which is largely manufactured) but because of (11): the legitimacy of government (9) is becoming increasingly hard to assert in the context of (2), (12) is broadly unpopular with the electorate, but (3) means that the interests of the public (labour) are ignored by states increasingly dominated by capital (because of (1)) unless there's a threat of civil disorder. So states are tooling up for large-scale civil unrest.

  15. The term "failed state" carries a freight of implicit baggage: failed at what, exactly? The unspoken implication is, "failed to conform to the requirements of global capital" (not democracy—see (3)) by failing to adequately facilitate (2).

  16. I submit that a real failed state is one that does not serve the best interests of its citizens (insofar as those best interests do not lead to direct conflict with other states).

  17. In future, inter-state pressure may be brought to bear on states that fail to meet the criteria in (15) even when they are not failed states by the standard of point (16). See also: Greece.

  18. As human beings, our role in this picture is as units of Labour (unless we're eye-wateringly rich, and thereby rare).

  19. So, going by (17) and (18), we're on the receiving end of a war fought for control of our societies by opposing forces that are increasingly more powerful than we are.

Have a nice century!

Afternotes:

a) Student loans are loans against an imaginary product—something that may or may not exist inside someone's head and which may or may not enable them to accumulate more capital if they are able to use it in the expected manner and it remains useful for a 20-30 year period. I have a CS degree from 1990. It's about as much use as an aerospace engineering degree from 1927 ...

b) Some folks (especially Americans) seem to think that their AR-15s are a guarantor that they can resist tyranny. But guns are an 18th century response to 18th century threats to democracy. Capital doesn't need to point a gun at you to remove your democratic rights: it just needs more cameras, more cops, and a legal system that is fair and just and bankrupts you if you are ever charged with public disorder and don't plead guilty.

c) (sethg reminded me of this): A very important piece of the puzzle is that while capital can move freely between the developed and underdeveloped world, labour cannot. So capital migrates to seek the cheapest labour, thereby reaping greater profits. Remember this next time you hear someone complaining about "immigrants coming here and taking our jobs". Or go google for "investors visa" if you can cope with a sudden attack of rage.

967 Comments

1:

Re point 2: yes, student loans are imaginary.

When I did my degrees (too many years ago) there were no student loans. But imagine this: you're a lender, so you gave 1983-me a loan to go to university and notionally qualify in a profession, and repay you from the increment in my earnings obtained by virtue of having that profession. Which would be ... pharmacy!

The whole idea of student loans rests on the assumption that someone aged 16-18 can have a clear-cut aptitude for some productive occupation that they will pursue for 20-30 years. Or that by virtue of going to the right classes a young person will magically acquire occult powers of money-attraction that they would not otherwise exhibit.

It's basically nonsense, unless you view it as a tool for social engineering intended to intimidate members of the public into shutting the fuck up and doing what they're supposed to do, on pain of financial hardship. Because you increasingly need the sheepskin in order to get a job at all, and without a job you're fresh meat for the workfare slavers. Or you can starve. Right?

2:

"rise of post-Tiananmen China it has become glaringly obvious that capitalism does not require democracy. "

When Tiananmen happened, my brother told me "China is going to become a Democracy." I was far more skeptical. I hate to say, my skepticism seems to have borne out thus far.

3:

On 17, "In future"? It's already SOP, and has been for some
decades. Cuba. Tanzania under Nyerere. Yugoslavia under
Tito. And so on.

4:

On student loans, an eye-watering read is Andrew McGettigans "The Great University Gamble".

As well as the implicit locking-people-into-employment role of the loans, they don't even make sense financially.

The numbers in the book above (don't have a copy with me now) show that the expected excess that the average student will fail to pay exceeds the previous costs of a university education.
That is IIRC the sums were on the order of:
* Previous "free at point of delivery" Uni. : ~14,000 per student, including interest on national debt.
* Total cost of student loan: ~ 85,000 over 30 yrs.
* Total sum paid by average student: ~ 60-65,000.
* Remainder paid by taxpayer after 30 yrs: ~20,000.

5:

Charlie, on twitter, you said

"AR15s are an 18th century answer to 18th century threats to democracy. But this is the 21st century ..."

That does suggest that there is a disruptive singularity in political and social structures in the making. Someone is going to figure this out, someone is going to implement it, and then everything is going to change, radically. Possibly this change will be even more radical than the post Westphalian world.

Our Sad Puppies friends seem to be focusing on 4th Generation warfare as the answer, but I think the answer and origin of this is as likely to be as secular as military

6:

Yep. I think I shall add a footnote to the article above, reflecting that tweet!

7:

The current student loans setup was a mess from the start, and the government were told so, but still carried it out. Now they are talking about changing the loan terms so that the threshold of repayment might be lowered or that you are liable for them for longer (IIRC the remainder gets written off after 20 years at the moment).

The USA has a university system that is now an example of how badly things can go wrong with loans; they are non-dischargeable and prices for university keep going up, although it is often hard to see why, except that the senior people in the hierarchy are generally taking more money home than before.
Moreover this is quite a recent thing, within the last 15 to 20 years. Many people will comment about it all without realising that the world has changed since they were at university, and the economy has changed also.
Again, in the USA and to some extent the UK, the actual income in real terms of what we might call the middle class has flatlined for 30 years, yet the aspiring middle class attending university this century are having a higher percentage of their income sucked away in student loan repayments.

You don't have to be a genius to work out that that means they can't afford to buy stuff and keep the economy ticking over. Except of course that the geniuses of finance don't notice or don't care.

8:

Since the collapse of the USSR and the rise of post-Tiananmen China it has become glaringly obvious that capitalism does not require democracy. Or even benefit from it. Capitalism as a system may well work best in the absence of democracy.

I disagree.

Capitalism as a system is only as efficient as the market. In the absence of the checks and balances of western democracy, powerful players will capture parts of the market, eliminate competition, and the efficiency will drop to 0.

There is no capitalism in Russia. It is at present even more corrupt than USSR, and only thrived because of high oil prices.

China also exploits a single resource, their cheap labor force. They fare better than Russia because they invent their money in infrastructure, instead of storing in off-shore accounts, but that's not due to capitalism - that's just using a method that worked in many countries before.

Once they have more bridges, trains and nuclear reactors than they need, then we'll see how real is Chinese capitalism...

9:

Capitalism as a system is only as efficient as the market. In the absence of the checks and balances of western democracy, powerful players will capture parts of the market, eliminate competition, and the efficiency will drop to 0.

Kindly explain Singapore.

10:

We're living in an era of increasing automation. And it's trivially clear that the adoption of automation privileges capital over labour (because capital can be substituted for labour, and the profit from its deployment thereby accrues to capital rather than being shared evenly across society).

No, it's not that clear. If I'm a plant owner and replaced all my workers with robots, and now my former workers have no money to by my products, what do I have the plant for? Also, if nobody buys my products, how do I pay taxes? In material goods? And to whom?

11:

If I'm a plant owner and replaced all my workers with robots, and now my former workers have no money to by my products, what do I have the plant for? Also, if nobody buys my products, how do I pay taxes? In material goods?

Welcome to the crisis of capitalism, comrade!

(I'm about to go swimming. Replies will be delayed for a while.)

12:

Noticing that their workers don't have enough money to buy stuff that everyone else makes would require hitherto rarely seen amounts of empathy, care or just sheer broadminded intelligence.
All sadly lacking in today's hyperfinancial capitalism. People should remember that there have been/ is Capitalism(global, 2015) and Capitalism (European 1960's), Capitalism (South American, 2nd half 20th century) and so on.

These are all somewhat different ways of having a capitalist economy, with varying levels of tax, public involvement, etc etc.

13:

Kindly explain Singapore.

Deng Xiaoping. Khrushchev. Et cetera. (Relatively) benevolent dictators can exist.

I don't think they reproduce very well thought. That would Tolkien come true. :-)

14:

Or to put it another way, why should you care as long as you are getting your salary and bonuses and your company share price is high? Someone else will sort it out, right?


Or perhaps you could point to examples where the capitalists have actually noticed and cared about such a point?
(Note that Ford does't really count; he forgot to increase the wages for decades after he started paying them what was then a rather high wage, so the relative goodness of it disappeared and they ended up with strikes and suchlike again)

15:

Or perhaps you could point to examples where the capitalists have actually noticed and cared about such a point?

I don't think the situation ever got to the point where automation can render the entire workforce obsolete.

16:

That's avoiding the question entirely. You don't need to make 100% of the population unemployable to see some deleterious effects. WE're already in a crisis of lack of wages and underemployment leading to under consumption, not specifically due this time to automation, but it gives you an idea of how things go.

17:

If I'm a plant owner and replaced all my workers with robots, and now my former workers have no money to by my products, what do I have the plant for?

Here's a metaphor.

When you go to a pot-luck dinner, you take enough food to feed yourself if what you brought was all you ate. If everybody coming to the pot-luck does that, then there will be enough for everyone.

Suppose that half the people coming to the pot-luck didn't bring any food, but instead worked to prepare the food the others brought. Then you'd need to bring enough to feed yourself and one other, right?

And if 90% of the people coming to the pot-luck prepared food instead of bringing food, then the people who brought food would each need to bring enough for 10.

But then say that it's a pot-luck where everybody brings food from the deli that's already prepared. Then you can just uninvite the people who prepare the food, and everybody at the party still gets all they want.

Does this answer your question?

18:

That's avoiding the question entirely. You don't need to make 100% of the population unemployable to see some deleterious effects.

But that's not new. Entire sectors became obsolete in the past, people lost jobs and sometimes literally starved to death. The capitalist system didn't collapse, because there were always new areas to expand into.

It will change if the world will truly become a zero-sum (or negative) game, with existing jobs being automated and no new jobs appearing.

19:

About 100 years ago, more or less, there was a school of thought that said capitalism is self-liquidating. Capital tends to accumulate in fewer and fewer hands. Eventually those hands manage to purchase political power, and from that point on capitalism goes feudal.

This is one of the oldest stories in the book. The Book, of course, is Genesis, where a "market analyst" named Joseph helps a guy called Pharaoh corner the grain market, become wealthy when others are starving, and parlay that into political control of Egypt.

20:

As an American and gun owner, I'll say two things about guns. I enjoyed shooting, I liked it as a precision sport. But having said that, the only gun that I currently own is a little .22 pistol for plinking, everything else was sold off. The AR owners are delusional: guess who has more guns than they do? The government. The local and and higher levels of government have a lot more firepower than you can muster, they also have armored vehicles and tear gas/pepper spray in job lots. If they decide you're going down, you're going down and your AR and 10,000 rounds of ammo that you squirreled away to the gleeful profits of arms and ammo makers isn't going to make a bit of difference.

On the student loan issue, when I was in my late teens/early 20s, community college was about $15 a credit hour (late '70s and briefly beyond). A person making minimum wage could afford a college education. Now that college has become for-profit, as has everything else, it's become stupid expensive, and don't get me started on text books! Fortunately my wife works at an observatory that is managed by a uni, so I get six hours a semester free.

I disagree with you in one regard, Charles. Yes, your degree is dated, but the concepts and methodologies that you learned are not. You probably still know how to properly structure a program and project and file layouts and know good programming theory. Nowadays they usually teach theory as part of a programming language and people can't separate what they learned from the tool.

It's interesting how the most expensive things in life become non-dischargeable through bankruptcy. First medical bills, now student loans. Meanwhile Goldman Sachs helps Greece hide billions in debt so they can get in to the EU, and GS doesn't get a bit of blowback on what they did except for more profit.

21:

All gloomy points. I would like to suggest a couple of + ones IMO:

1. Even the big players are not secure (remember the bank system crisis in US). The change is so fast that success can turn around over night and the biggest players can bust (Noika, Enron).

2. The bureaucracy is not limited to the government, it is in corporations, everywhere where is an excess of money. That is a good thing somewhat because it does lead to redistribution of money by employing more people to turn papers/e-forms.

3. Overall people do have more and can do more. Remember time when exotic fruit was really exotic?

4. Banks do need us to keep threading water. I remember when we went to refinance the loan, bank employee told us that we won't have any problems since there are so many people defaulting their loans, they are happy that someone pays.

5. The excess of money from CS #1 does result in lower prices for average Joe, since they need to adjust it to sell it (plus the competition with excess capital that needs to be invested will try to fight for the piece of the cake).

6. US went in the somewhat right direction with Obama, sharing more wealth, towards universal healthcare etc. So, some choices are better than others.

Now for the bad points:

1. Overall lack of security and high turnaround ruins everything. Big and hard things are not done anymore. And everyone feels miserable because no one is secure.


Yup the overall message is follow the money.
Just my thoughts, I don't pretend to understand this.

22:

A very important piece of the puzzle, IMHO, is that while capital can move freely between the developed and underdeveloped world, labor cannot.

A Los Angeles millionaire can invest in a Shanghai factory, taking advantage of the cheap labor and weak regulation there, and then use the profits to buy a London condominium. But the workers in Shanghai, by and large, cannot move to Los Angeles to take advantage of the higher wages and better living conditions there.

Thus capital can use the threat of “I’ll take my marbles and go home” to influence public policy in a way that labor can not.

23:

Yes, but the investment brings money to the area, gives competitive wages and builds infrastructure and some knowledge.

24:

An interesting thing is that wages in China have risen the last decade or two such that parts of China are now more expensive to employ people than in Mexico, where wages haven't risen at all...

Of course a Mexican capitalist might worry about local people not being able to buy his product except that the USA is very happy to do so, so who cares that they don't pay well.

25:

I want to let this stew a little long (and buy the damn book as soon as possible), but it seems to me that the 18th century liberal (in the sense that they decentralized power and opportunity) institutions: democracy, capitalism, and protestantism, all ran afoul of #4 and became that which they sought to overthrow. Well, I say due to the normal tendency of any institution to become entrench, but they've also all been co-opted by the establishment they were pitted against. Now, instead of operating as agents of change, they serve the powers that be while presenting the illusion of fluidity. The democratic "transfer of power" is symbolic more than anything.

More insidiously, these institutions support the narrative that the forces in power are there due to merit instead of birth or other accident and conversely, that those who fail had the same chances as anyone else; they just weren't good enough. The lucky few (see: "Herman Cain") who did manage to move up in the world are paraded around the same way lottery winners whose stories prove "anyone can do it."

Bottom line: The revolutionary forces of the 18th century have been thoroughly corrupted and no longer serve the purpose for which they were (theoretically) designed. The next fifty years or so are gonna suck.

26:
The USA has a university system that is now an example of how badly things can go wrong with loans; they are non-dischargeable and prices for university keep going up, although it is often hard to see why, except that the senior people in the hierarchy are generally taking more money home than before.

As to where the fees go: look around the colleges. The buildings look wonderful. We have "VPs for Student Experience". There is a push and a pull here; while 9000/yr is supposedly the maximum that can be charged, no college wishes to be seen as second-rate and so (nearly) all charge the full rate, even if they only need(ed) half that or less. Secondly they are competing "in the marketplace". Education is a wierd "product" in that you don't know what you don't know; students can't properly tell what they are not being taught. So colleges compete on appearance. Hence bright, clean new buildings. Student digs are a thing of the past; its all nice apartments.


That explains the first half. Interest on the loans the second half. Student loans translate to about 40k per student income to the financial sector.

27:

A very important piece of the puzzle, IMHO, is that while capital can move freely between the developed and underdeveloped world, labor cannot.

That's a key insight which I forgot to include in the analysis. Thanks! I'm going to add it as one of PS's.

28:

Student digs are a thing of the past; its all nice apartments.

Those "nice apartments" in the student residences will be the family-occupied slums of the 2030s, inhabited by graduates who'd be bankrupt if they were allowed to default on their student debt, and who are unable to afford a "real" house.

Imagine bringing up a child while living and paying rent on a student residence with 20-30 years' of accumulated wear and tear. Charles Dickens with added internet access!

29:

A few more important points that I think both tie into these and provide a failure state for the seemingly entrenched status quo (though one that is no happier for the little guys than the entrenched interests):

1'. All modern economies are founded on a paradigm of permanent growth (indeed all theoretically well-developed economic systems capable of supporting high-tech society; "post-growth economics" is presently more a buzzword and a dream than an actual field). Lack of or even just slowed growth is seen as an economic disaster.
2'. Economic growth is necessarily correlated to energy consumption--for sure, efficiency gains can slow this, but you can't go back to that well forever; in the end, it still takes 1 kCal to raise a litre of water by a degree C).
3'. (1') is a result of (2') combined with the fact that early in the industrial age we figured out how to use eons-worth of inherited solar energy in the form of fossil fuels.
4'. The seemingly inexhaustible endowment in (3') is nearing its end. We are nowhere close to even supporting current energy needs with "alternative" energy sources, let alone feeding our appetite for growth. There are other limits we hit even if we could ramp this up fast enough to push it down the road.

With all that, I don't have much confidence in our ability to transition to a post-growth paradigm, particularly with powers-that-be so reliant on conventional growth capitalism. The one place I am cautiously optimistic is about the second time around--imagine an industrial revolution where we don't go from wind and water-mills to discover a coal inheritance (followed quickly by oil and NG). I think it's a much slower ramp up to high-tech civilization, but it's one that forces development of economic systems that can survive on steady-state with occasional periods of linear growth. I think if you could magically look around the universe, you might find that the civilizations that last (and maybe even the ones that reach the stars, if you're the type to get super pie-in-the-sky) are not the first high-tech civilizations to develop on their worlds...

(To see the above points in much more well-developed form with lots of graphs, I strongly recommend checking out Tom Murphy's "Do the Math" blog.)

30:

A benevolent dictatorship is not a democracy, though; nor is it a republic. In a benevolent dictatorship, the dictator is benevolent insomuch as he is willing and able to predict the wants and needs of the population and supply them, but both communication and power channels are different. (In pure democracy you could argue that the communication and power channels are unified -- with the exception of executors chosen by lottery, plebicite is both the means by which the will of the people is communicated and the way in which it becomes policy. A republic is more along the lines of a benevolent dictatorship, with many would-be dicators competing with each other to be seen as more benevolent. But, the failure states are different.)

(You could view the chinese government structure not so much as a product of maoist thought but instead as an elevation of corporate structure to the scale of the world's largest state. Corporations have internal propaganda engines, firewalls, bureaucracy, firing practices, and varying degrees of violent power relationships between different levels of the hierarchy. Just imagine every chinese citizen as an employee of China, Inc.)

To be really pedantic, it's evident that capitalism does not require Democracy (in its strictest definition as a government where executors are chosen by lottery and policies are voted on by some subset of the population) because capitalism and Democracy have never coexisted at scale. But, the idea that capitalism must coexist with representative government is not supported by governments that happen to be accidentally more representative than they would be by design, and a history of failures of representation coexisting peacefully with capitalism supports the idea that representation and capitalism are not necessarily bound at the hip.

31:

I'm unconvinced by your point 2' -- Economic growth is necessarily correlated to energy consumption.

As I understand it, economic growth in the EEC/EU decoupled from energy consumption after the 1973 oil shock. And if you contemplate soft products (intellectual property goods, music, software, etc) it is not immediately obvious that economic growth in these sectors must correlate with increasing energy consumption.

Your point 2' nevertheless stands pretty much inarguably for the world prior to about 1960.

As for point 4' ... we can do post-growth: just copy Japan (demographic transition stage 4, total fertility rate around 1.3). It looks like deflation, but the economy is healthy because what's actually deflating is the population bubble: according to The Economist a couple of years ago, if Japan had a TFR of 2.1 (static population) they'd have had 4.5% compound annual growth since 1990.

32:

Something to get you angry, if you can stop and think- the current generation of youngster in the UK and elsewhere are the first in 250 years or so who have/ will have a lower standard of living in certain respects. IN the last 250 years or so of precipitous economic growth, the new generation have been able to look forwards to and occupy better housing, more space, better healthcare etc. Now with property prices what they are, the space available is shrinking, and superfast broadband doesn't really make up for living in a shoebox with no prospect for escape.

33:

I disagree, the healthcare and housing is better. Everyone has AC, better insulation on their houses, paints are better, generally better materials and drugs.

34:

I'm in the UK, aircon is irrelevant for most people.
Also you didn't read it properly; is the current crop of people in their 20's going to have better housing and aircon than 15 years ago? Okay, so healthcare is better, for those who can afford it in the USA and everyone in the more civilised countries, but the housing issues in the UK are causing major problems.

35:

Ah, but the healthcare for younger people is going backward. Antibiotic resistance is rising, meanwhile resources go into the last 3 months of life for the elderly rather than helping younger people -- and costs are spiralling across the board to support that end-of-life care. It's not that far a jump to look 20 years ahead and find the NHS privatized, elderlies still benefiting from it (because: ring-fenced) while youngsters have to look for private coverage a la the USA pre-Obamacare.

As for AC, I assume you're talking about air conditioning? Less than 2% of dwellings in this country have it. And "better paint" is pretty pathetic compensation for having to live in a shoe-box (and note that the average British dwelling is around 30-40% of the area of a US dwelling, because our housing market has turned into a capital investment market for sovereign wealth funds, pricing real people out of it).

36:

Housing issues and space are problem everywhere. I imagine that major growth will be in improving and more sophisticated healthcare. While prices for the most advanced (new) therapies are ridiculous, IMO they are bound to get lower over time. Manufacturers are not stupid, they adjust so someone can pay (you, hospital, government).

37:

Child mortality falls, more genetic diseases are treatable/correctable. True, elderly need more help, and they still have the money so target group.

Ok, you'll need AC when global warming starts, in the meantime I assume you have better heating relying on gas not on dirty coal compared to old times, less house fires and better windows to keep the heat in. Young people also have an ability to contact directly a manufacturer in China (Alibaba), negotiate with a free email (just ignore the ads), self-publish and so on. All these things were much harder before but it is also much harder to earn money.
Yes, it seems that other countries (or maybe mostly UK) are trying to imitate US and its bad ways of constant insecurity.

I need to go now but I would for sure like to hear some positive examples of countries with good healthcare and happy citizens. And how they do it.

38:

anufacturers are not stupid, they adjust so someone can pay (you, hospital, government). Manufacturers are not stupid, they adjust so someone can pay (you, hospital, government).

Only after customers stop paing for the things they can't afford.

Note US arms dealers, for example.

Nobody ever made much profit by providing things their customers need at a price they can afford, instead of things the customers want. Not until the customers actually want it.

39:

Actually we switched en masse from coal to gas and electricity for heating back in the 1950's and 60's, driven by clean air acts, improving tech and building of new modern public housing. Better windows came out in the 20th century; about the only real improvement that remains to be rolled out in the UK is passiv haus levels of insulation etc, which is of course expensive and not something that most people can afford.

AS for manufacturers in China etc, hahahaha, that isn't much of an improvement in anything. Back before the UK went in for de-industrialisation you could get your local foundry/ friend who worked somewhere to bash something together for you, and you didn't need to hope that someone the other side of the planet wasn't actually a scam artist or had different ideas of what worked.

40:

I like to think of Das Kapital as our first artificial life form, as yet undomesticated. The purpose of Das Kapital is to increase Das Kapital, and it has no moral, ethical, economic, or political compunctions about who or what it ruins or enriches as a consequence of its increase. There is no one in charge, we're all along for the ride.

41:

I'd suggest you got 15 and 16 wrong.

Let's look at Cuba and North Korea on one side. They're poorly connected to global capitalism, but no one considers them failed states.

Now let's look at Afghanistan and Somalia. Both are intimately connected to the global marketplace. Afghanistan is a major supplier of opium and opium derivatives, while Somalia is quite a player in the international kidnapping market.

While you might object that opium and kidnapping aren't part of global capitalism, I've got to remind you that global capitalism was founded on the trade in human trafficking (slavery, kidnapping, etc.), drugs (including sugar, caffeine, and alcohol, as well as opium), and weapons. Even if we criminalize two thirds of the ancient troika, they still move billions of dollars around the world, and they still operate on capitalist principles even if they're illegal.

No, the problem with failed states is that they fail to conform to the legal definition of a sovereign state, where the government has a monopoly on the use of force within its borders. While I agree that the Cold War and its after-effects made a mess of the Westphalian state model, it is still a major basis for international law.

Basically, because legal international trade requires international law, a failed state is one that can't enforce its own laws inside its own territory, and is therefore a place that is bad for lawful business. A perfectly good sovereign state can also be bad for lawful capitalism (cf: communism), but a failed state is one where any international business that goes in has to find other ways to protect itself, for national and international law won't be enforced. This tends to favor illegal businesses, as well as businesses (like the trade in weapons) that have a proven track record in profiteering from crises.

42:

A perfectly good sovereign state can also be bad for lawful capitalism (cf: communism),

The USSR was quite reasonable for capitalism, once they finished shooting the revolutionaries. Not internal capitalism, of course (although state enterprises bore an eerie structural similarity to their capitalist Bizarro-world counterparts, such that when the USSR collapsed the oligarchs emerged almost overnight from among the managerial caste), but external capitalism. If you wanted raw materials and could pay hard currency, the USSR would happily sell it to you ("sell the capitalists the rope to hang themselves with" as Lenin more or less put it), and in return they bought stuff they were short of -- grain, for example.

A real problem Capitalism has with failed Westphalian states is that the cost of doing business there is raised by the need fo guard labour (to protect your employees from kidnapping and theft). But it's by no means impossible, as witness how long it took for the instability in Libya to finally drive the western oil workers out.

43:

I'm going to make a few points that may appear pendatic

1) Automation will take at least a century in the most optimistic scenario. I only bring this up because when most people discuss the effect on jobs, their scenarios move far too fast compared to what I think will be the real world. For instance, look at the speed of automation of both agriculture (still not complete 2 centuries later) and manufacturing (nowhere near finished).

2) For the next few decades, internationalization of work will matter more than automation to the job makeup. There are still more poor people capable of doing a job than there are robots equally capable.

3) (an example) The US buys goods from China --> China must invest the money it gets from those goods. Now they do invest in their own country, but they are a source of investment for the western financial companies. Thus, the money returns to the US, completing the circulation

4) Wages are following prices of hard goods in equalizing between the first and third world. In other words, prices fell in the 90's, wages are falling to join them. Whether this happens via devaluation or deflation will have a profound effect on politics

5) It's much more profitable for companies to expand the middle classes in the developing world than in the west. A 5% increase in real wages in the west won't make anywhere near as much of a profit for multinationals than a 5% increase in real wages in the rest of the world. This should ensure that stock growth continues without having to worry about wage depression in the former. Capitalism hasn't just decoupled from democracy, it's in the process of decoupling from the West (to a VERY SMALL extent).

6) Modern data analytics allow companies to expand economic theory "to it's fullest potential". No matter how nonsensical, investors are willing to trust anything where a+b=c assuming a perfectly spherical frictionless cow.

44:

How so? I know that health care costs for young people are rising, but are outcomes getting worse or better? Traffic fatalities and crime levels are falling, and these were the major killers of young people (defined to be between 5 and 40) over the past 3 decades.

45:
state enterprises [in the USSR] bore an eerie structural similarity to their capitalist Bizarro-world counterparts

Lenin & Co. gave the capitalist system credit—perhaps more credit than it deserved—for having figured out how to get large groups of people to work together to make steel or automobiles or other industrial goods. They figured they could put apparatchiks in the managerial slots and use the state planning infrastructure to handle investment of capital and distribution of output, without changing the internal structure of the enterprises themselves.

46:

Yes and no. Whether labour can move has little to do with
capitalism or monetarism as such. The 17th and 18th century
British-involved world was as capitalist as they come, but
labour moved fairly freely. There was a saying that you
could look down any mine in the world and find Cornishmen.
Conversely, most Leninist governments have been as bad as
the most hidebound feudal systems.

I agree that the current monetarist governments have almost
eliminated constraints on the movement of capital, and have
imposed draconian ones on labour (except for skills in high
demand in certain directions), but it was not always so.

47:

So for those commenting about more freedom of movement in the 19th century, why didn't more Indians move to the UK during that time period? Why was the freedom of movement of the time restricted to Europeans?

48:

I am so, so curious as to your thoughts on the economics of Gibson's The Peripheral. I think he takes a lot of these trends to their logical conclusion. Which, of course, isn't a very bright future.

49:

Hint: restriction on labour movement isn't purely a functional of capital -- it's a function of a particular type of capitalist process (exploiting relative imbalances of resources and labour) identified by a Mr. Marx as "imperialism".

50:

On health care for young people outcomes are better but the problems are changing, Obesity in the young means that type 2 diabetes id now found in teenagers. Type 1 diabetes is also a problem for teenagers. Diabetic clinics for teenagers usually have much less than 50% attendance becaue they think they are immortal. This has always happened but it seems to me to be getting worse as the young people have more freedom. I can't suggest a solution.

51:

Singapore's economy is dependent on foreign trade. There's no resources there to sell Russia style, and not enough food to eat without buying from abroad.

Singapore is located along major shipping routes and near China, Thailand, Malaysia, Australia, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, and so on. They take cargo off smaller ships there and put it on ships heading for farther off US or the EU.

They're also a meeting place to meet, say, Vietnamese and Cambodian textile factory owners, and compare prices and product samples. If you're a rich white guy, hotel-like (Disneyland with the death penalty even) Singapore beats going out to Phnom Penh, and there's a branch of your bank there, and familiar food.

They can extract rent from this, and the international capitalist system is most comfortable with them extracting this rent in a "free market" form. But they can't seize it outright without a new place becoming the market city of the Indian Ocean.

If Singapore was larger, had the resources to sustain itself without free markets, the markets might well go away. As inefficient as Mussolini's Italy was, it wasn't completely dependent on foreign trade for food.

Small states need free markets when dealing with the world economic status quo, that or a colonial power "protecting" them. Liechtenstein can't just seize offshore bank accounts, for example. They might seize a factory or two, but the economy flows around them as much as through them. Liberia can't seize the ships that fly its flag. Frankly these places might well be corporations themselves if we allowed such things to be sovereign.

I don't believe liberty and free markets go hand in hand myself, but Singapore is a special case.

52:

Automation will take at least a century in the most optimistic scenario.

Part of the problem is which jobs are being automated first; they tend to be jobs involving high levels of logical reasoning or quantitative skill, both of which computers do better than humans. Also, of course, brute force is typically replaced with engines.

The result is a labor market where the vast majority of jobs can be done by anyone with little skill involved; pay is correspondingly low. Jobs either involve things that apes are inherently better than computers at (truck drivers are the most popular job around here right now) or jobs that essentially involve sucking up to the rich, where a computer just wouldn't provide the ego boost.

53:

The purpose of Das Kapital is to increase Das Kapital, and it has no moral, ethical, economic, or political compunctions about who or what it ruins or enriches as a consequence of its increase.

#40: Sounds more like Grundrisse to me.

...while 9000/yr is supposedly the maximum that can be charged, no college wishes to be seen as second-rate and so (nearly) all charge the full rate, even if they only need(ed) half that or less.

#26: try your local F.E. College. One of the ones I work in charges around UKP6k/yr for HE courses. Local employer contacts. Fairly flexible attendance modes.

54:

Charlie: I think you are overlooking two key factors. First, there are more "laborers" than "capitalists." A lot more. Second, thanks to the Industrial Revolution (read "guns") the great imbalance in warmaking skills that preserved feudalism is gone. Yes, one trained soldier can take out 5 untrained dudes with guns, but when the odds are more like 10 or 20 to one you start running out of soldiers.

In short, either the concerns of labor are addressed via peaceful means or they will be addressed via non-peaceful ones.

Now I know saying that makes me sound like a bit crazy, but even crazy people can communicate facts. And lest I sound like an American gun-nut, this really has nothing to do with guns. Syria was not noted for a well-armed civilian populace, but when it came time to shoot lead started flying.

The real problem will be managing some of the labor issues without a bloody revolution. I think we *can* do it - not sure we *will.*

55:

Who said anything about soldiers?

(The system reacts when threatened. And as I noted, as long as people think they need money to survive, money will give the system a powerful lever to cow them with.)

56:

"The term 'failed state' carries a freight of implicit baggage: failed at what, exactly? The unspoken implication is, 'failed to conform to the requirements of global capital'"

Yes, "failed state" is the country-level equivalent of "terrorist"- a vague term that is applied when authorities wish to legitimize their use of force and secrecy against the recipient of the label. It works well because people are pretty hard-wired to put others into tribal categories. See also "Us/them", "citizen/terrorist", "with us/against us".

57:

An interesting post... and I have several comments.
1. There is an article online from Fortune yesterday, about 5 jobs that robots have already taken, and a serious percentage of other jobs are expected to be taken in the next 20 years. Back in the late seventies, there was all this talk of the "information economy", and how it was going to provide more and better, and better-paying jobs, than the assembly-line ones automation and the beginning of offshoring were wiping out.

These days, there is no such talk, because there's no such thing.

For well over a decade, I've been trying to get s serious conversation going about what do we do when a major - > 50% - of all the jobs other than nurses' aid and pizza delivery (oops, sorry, that's for drones) are automated?

My thought is that it dividends are so good for the wealthy, why not for the rest of us? How about that large companies pay, as part of their taxes, *voting* shares of stock, and we get a negative income tax (as they have in Alaska, due to oil revenues)?

Note that it's a separate question as to what we'd all do with our life of leisure, other than play video games and watch the tube.

2. There's a story over on Reuters, today, with the headline that "One in three Germans say capitalism to blame for poverty, hunger". But then, I've been saying for a few years now that what Americans (sorry, Canadians, I mean USans) know about socialism is what Good Germans in the late 30's knew about Jews.

mark "now, when that woman at the little store
stops sending the winning lottery numbers
out away, instead of handing it to me as
I politely ask her to, things will be
different...."

58:

"First, there are more 'laborers' than 'capitalists.' A lot more."

Yes, we have some experience with this in America.

From "Uncle Tom's Cabin" (1854), specifically the "Poor White Trash" chapter:

"This miserable class of whites form, in all the Southern States, a material for the most horrible and ferocious of mobs. Utterly ignorant, and inconceivably brutal, they are like some blind, savage monster, which, when aroused, tramples heedlessly over everything in its way.

"Singular as it may appear, though slavery is the cause of the misery and degradation of this class, yet they are the most vehement and ferocious advocates of slavery.

"The reason is this: They feel the scorn of the upper classes, and their only means of consolation is in having a class below them, whom they may scorn in turn . . .

"The leaders of the community, those men who play on other men with as little care for them as a harper plays on a harp, keep this blind furious monster of the MOB, very much as an overseer keeps plantation-dogs, as creatures to be set on to any man or thing whom they may choose to have put down.

"These leading men have used the cry of 'abolitionism ' over the mob, much as a huntsman uses the 'set on' to his dogs. Whenever they have a purpose to carry, a man to put down, they have only to raise this cry, and the monster is wide awake, ready to spring wherever they shall send him."

Substitute "capitalism" for "slavery" and "terrorist" (or "socialist") for "abolitionism", and the situation remains the same today.

BTW, the entire chapter is a worthwhile read. Stowe does a remarkably good job of really showing how slavery devalued the skills and labor of free (but poor) southern whites, and her analysis seems amazingly modern, even using Wonkblog-style statistical reasoning. She had some sympathy for the "poor white trash," and made an argument that is very analogous to what Charlie is saying above about what capital and automation does to labor.


59:

Soldiers, police, same difference. The first function of any army is to create a monopoly on legitimate use of force in the state.

Money (and for Agent0090) race are ways to keep the labor force down. They are both subject to a hard limit - those being kept down need to buy into the system. The poor man and the "white trash" (as we say in the USA) need to believe that they can rise above their station. If and when that belief fails, goodnight Irene.

60:

Why is it that our lords and masters sell austerity to us by playing on the idea that it is shameful to be in debt, but somehow they neglect to mention the debts they force us into in order to get an education and a roof over our heads?

This is a rhetorical question; I think I know why, but I would be interested in any rationale they might come up with to explain away the discrepency.

61:

Way off-thread: Finally — finally! — persuaded MovableType to log me in (why did no-one tell me about TenFourFox before?). Now, how do I add a profile pic?

62:

Re. fees, what I was told by people who have an interest in HE is that the universities all started at 9k because the funding system was so fucked up and unclear that they reckoned they had to extract the maximum from the students to start with at least because otherwise they might have a budget shortfall.

63:

"Yes, one trained soldier can take out 5 untrained dudes with guns, but when the odds are more like 10 or 20 to one you start running out of soldiers."

There's a question how much warfare can be automated. Modern munitions tend to be made in mostly-automated factories for many obvious reasons. You can kill a lot of people and smash things up thoroughly without needing a big army to do it, if you don't mind considerable expense and you don't mind a lot of collateral damage.

A government that was willing to write off a big chunk of its population, might be able to win a civilian revolt fairly easily. It becomes a question of what it needs to preserve. If you don't need to keep big chunks of the (obsolete) manufacturing base, then maybe you can write off a lot of cities.

And if you don't have to maintain order in the short run, you can simply fail to harvest the crops, blaming it on the dissidents, and within a year or less collect as many survivors as you have use for, by offering them food.

It might be fairly easy for an elite to maintain control, provided they don't mind being psychopathic about it. And it might be easy to get enough elites to go along if they think there's a bloodthirsty mob after them, and that few of the bottom 70% of freeloaders has much sympathy for them.

Traditionally you needed a large population to field a large army to fight off large foreign armies. I don't know how to find out whether that's still true.

Here's another possible approach -- if your own population looks like it's going to turn against you, get into a big war with another nation that has a similar problem, draft as big an army as you can manage and send them out to die. It's possible to interpret WWI that way without too much of a stretch, though that's certainly not the only way to look at it.

64:

@guthrie

Oh yes, transitioning to a 'money follows student' funding model while carrying significant fixed costs is a bundle of laughs (not). FE Colleges in England and Wales did that in 1993. Huge 'boom and bust' adjustments. Fun times. As in union rep standing at main entrance with a faxed list of names of those being made redundant.

There have always been non-university routes to HE (with qualifications guranteed/signed off by universities) in UK. Adult education still clings on, not sure for how long though, as local authorities can draw down national funding: i.e. activity seen as income generating rather than cost centre.

Anyone here who wants to look at creative writing courses (as opposed to self help/self organised writer circles) might want to check out their local adult ed. Mind you, self organisation with online contact with other aspirants might be all you need.

65:

You don't need to look to the future to see what an authoritarian regime combined with heavy collaboration with corporate and business elites looks like. That combination characterized much of Latin America for the twentieth century, as well as East and Southeast Asian countries like South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, and now China.

But look what happened to them - they only proved stable as long as they delivered the goods on economic improvements and income growth to enough of the population (as is China's informal strategy for political pacification now). Once that no longer happened, they all came apart and democratized to varying degrees - even Singapore is more open than it used to be under Lee Kwan Yew.

That's why I'm skeptical you'll see a sustainable combination of capitalism and authoritarianism without the combo providing major economic benefits to most of the population. The only reason it's stable today in Europe and the US is because you have a sizable part of the electorate that supports it, or at least prefers not to vote against it in elections.

66:

If you're thinking about how to make sure "failed states" will be liable, you might take a look at TTIP and its ilk. They will privatize essential infrastructure and services, so even the attempt to gain control over essential things like your water supply will become a fiscal crime liable to the jurisdiction of international courts.

67:

With respect to Point 6: I am so tired of "terrorism" as the worst thing ever; I lived through the end of the Cold War. At least half the population did. How can we listen to them repeat falsehoods this large over and over again as if they were commonplace truths? I cannot remember who raised this point on their blog (maybe Walter Jon Williams?): what bothers us is not that the government is doing stuff it has done before, but that they now longer fear being discovered doing it.

Peter Watts has been dissecting new Canadian laws on what it means to "promote terrorism" and it is downright appalling. The he turned around and found out that 70 per cent of his fellow countryman are in favor of these laws. I suppose it would be the less cynical position to think these numbers were massaged rather to believe they accurately reflect public opinion. Building off the great Seymour Skinner: Welcome to Dick Cheney's World and to his Century.

68:

A lot of the problems we're experiencing currently are due, I suspect, to people getting so fascinated by playing the markets they forget their original purpose. For example, the market in real estate was originally intended to supply people (remember them?) with shelter. These days (in Australia at least) you'd be forgiven for thinking the purpose of the real estate market was to supply investors with profits. Again, the market in education was intended to supply people with education and training - not to ensure the investors in private training firms made a guaranteed profit. The grocery market was supposed to be supplying people with food and drink and farmers with an income - but these days it's warped toward supplying the investors in the grocery industry with profits. It's got to the point where if you're wanting to supply an actual good or service to ordinary humans, you're almost a novelty within the sector (and due to be snapped up by some multi-national which is focussed on providing profits to their investors).

What's happened? Well, in a lot of cases, it's a form of regulatory capture. The capitalists and the private sector have captured the regulatory sector, and they're manipulating it to ensure their current business models remain forever profitable. Which I find somewhat cynically amusing, since I seem to remember the great sales pitch for the privatisation of public assets here in Australia during the 1980s and 1990s was all about the flexibility and adaptability of the private sector as compared to the public sector. These days, it appears their vaunted flexibility mainly consists of a strong willingness to get their friends in the legislature to alter the rules in their favour, and their friends in the judiciary to rule in their favour in any disputes.

69:

Thus, the money returns to the US, completing the circulation

In fact has to complete the circle. National balance sheets require that trade deficits be offset by incoming capital. Michael Pettis has done work showing that trade deficits cause financial bubbles by flooding local economies with excess capital. Excess because the trade deficits reduce the need for local capital (for labor, materials, equipment) but the incoming capital needs to go somewhere so 'asset' bubble.

70:

The day HE is solely about future-profits-of-students is the day we can bend over and kiss our arts goodbye.

71:

The financialisation of government services... There's a simpler word for that: a rent.

If that's a bit puzzling, apply this working definition of a rent: "the extraction of value created by others". It'll get you through the difficult questions about patents and IP: think of toll-booths being a mechanism for achieving a return on the capital that someone put up for building the road, right up until the tolls get so high as to exceed any reasonable return for the risks taken by the investors. A that point, the toll booth operators are extracting a rent from everyone using the road - and they will rub it in by closing all the other roads and railways, and blocking new construction, so that they can exact a rent that extracts *and exceeds* the value added to the regional economy by this useful transport link.

And that is where I get to the point: rent-seeking is intrinsically deflationary, as it suppresses the creation of value by productive industry and services.

The economic fact that we try not to talk about - and try very hard not to talk about, now that inequality has entered respectable conversation - is that there has been a secular shift in the deployment of capital, away from productive investments, and into rent-seeking.

And yes, we see it in government services like new roads, which have numberplate readers and tolls - or 'ghost tolls', paid out of taxes as a rent to distant oligarchs *who do not recycle the cashflow into wages and consumption*...

...And all these government-mediated rents, which used to be value-positive services provided at a fraction of their current cost, are barely half of the rent-seeking that has displaced production in the private sector.

For starters, can you name any sizeable 'tech' company that spends more on R&D than on purchasing patents, litigating IP, and lobbying for legislative favours that entrench monopolies?

That is the future we are already in, of declining investment, declining productivity, deflation and decaying infrastructure.

It remains to be seen what the 'endgame' will be.

72:

Here's one possible scenario for increased automation...

1. Companies increasingly make humans redundant in favor of a robotic workforce.
2. As the general population finds it harder to purchase the products, instead of becoming cheaper, companies increase prices in order to maintain profits. After all, there's a portion of the population that's getting richer through all of this.
3. Eventually the only people who can afford the products produced by the robot factories are the people who are still earning money from their capital investments in the factories.
4. Society has now been split into 2 parts. An wealthy section, who have essentially a robot army producing products for them that don't have to do any actual labor themselves. Then there's everybody else who have few jobs, cant afford to buy modern products and are surviving in a sort of separate slum style economy

73:

I am so tired of "terrorism" as the worst thing ever; I lived through the end of the Cold War. At least half the population did. How can we listen to them repeat falsehoods this large over and over again as if they were commonplace truths?

"Terrorism" has mostly not been a big deal so far.

But when people talk about how the big guys have to provide jobs or something for the little guys that the system doesn't need any more? And how we could get protests and even violent conflict if they don't? That's terrorism they're talking about.

"Pretty please, can't we get politicians running for office we can vote for, who will do what we want?" Not terrorism, only silly wishful thinking.

"They can't ignore the poorest 90% because we will get angry and violent." Terrorism. Opposed by every weapon they can bring to bear, including pre-emptive molding of public opinion.

74:

One nit: 1-11 are axioms, after that they're lemmas, propositions, or theorems, depending on intent. I point this out because the former seem less debatable than the latter.

wrt note b) So is the 21st century equivalent of a gun some kind of pervasive open public surveillance? "Don't bring a knife to a gunfight and don't bring a gun to a PR fight."

wrt note c) Example: http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2013/12/04/247360787/our-industry-follows-poverty-success-threatens-a-t-shirt-business - which honestly I think is a good thing: it's the mechanism by which the proverbial rising tide will lift all boats. The demand for T-shirts is infinite, but the supply of super cheap labor is finite, and will, in another century or two, run out, at which point T-shirts will likely get more expensive - but the standard of living of the entire world will be significantly higher.

75:

I think in terms of economics, the 21st century is going to look like a bad film, the type where there is a lot of conflict and action before the protagonist triumphs over the problem in the end, but the plot falls apart when you realize that if someone had done the obvious sensible thing at the beginning none of it would have been necessary.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that the root problem in our economic system is that the wealthy are collecting a vast surplus of capital, and because they are sucking the demand out of the Western economies, there is a lack of opportunity to invest.

The simple, tested solution to this problem is to tax the wealthy and spend the money on the poor. This creates demand, which gives an opportunity for further investment. It worked like a charm in places like Britain and the US during the 50s and 60s.

But this will be the last thing that will be tried. So most of this century will consist of governments desperately twisting and turning, trying to ignore the obvious.

One of the ways a small to medium country can avoid the problem of surplus capital is to encourage its export: taxing the wealthy but leaving a loophole it the wealth is kept in a foreign currency. The constant outflow of money will cause the country's currency to fall until extra exports balance it. This shifts the lack of demand over to the foreign country. It's like the Japanese buying US bonds to keep their currency from appreciating only its done by private individuals so there are no government fingerprints on it.

If you live in a country with a floating currency that runs a persistent trade deficit, then you are already a victim of this.

Another way the problem of excess capital can be dealt with is by quantitative easing or printing money. The government prints money. It circulates through the economy before ending up in the pockets of the wealthy who then invest it in FFPs (faux financial products). At some point these melt down and trillions of dollars of value is lost. The government prints more money to make up for it. This is in effect taxation of the wealthy by ad hoc means and random chance.

Theoretically speaking, in a country with a stagnant economy where the wealthy collected 50% of the GDP and saved half of it and if government spending was 25% of GDP, the government could finance itself by just printing money as long as there wasn't a run on the currency.

It's a good thing SF writers are beginning to look at economics as economics in the 21st century is going to become increasingly Science Fictional.

76:

One of the ways a small to medium country can avoid the problem of surplus capital is to encourage its export: taxing the wealthy but leaving a loophole it the wealth is kept in a foreign currency. The constant outflow of money will cause the country's currency to fall until extra exports balance it. This shifts the lack of demand over to the foreign country.

Yes, but it isn't really a solution to victimize somebody else and make it their problem. And if it's a small to medium country they'll be vulnerable to various forms of counterattack.

... It circulates through the economy before ending up in the po It circulates through the economy before ending up in the pockets of the wealthy who then invest it in FFPs (faux financial products). At some point these melt down and trillions of dollars of value is lost.ckets of the wealthy who then invest it in FFPs (faux financial products). At some point these melt down and trillions of dollars of value is lost.

How much of the lost money comes from the rich, and how much of it comes from pension funds?

There's a whole lot of value tied up in pension funds, and so if you want to get a lot of money quick, they're one of the most obvious targets. I don't know a lot about this, but I hear stories that they tend to be run by people who can get OK bonuses in a good quarter, and tend to get fired for a bad quarter or two. A whole lot of money managed by people who have no security and no incentive to plan for the long run. Find a way to defraud them that they have no plausible way to understand ahead of time, and cut them in for a share -- and she'll have fun fun fun til her daddy takes the T-bird away....

77:

Speaking of bureaucracy, what do you think of David Graeber's newest book on that very subject? I'm really curious to know what you think on his analysis of science fiction and fantasy in terms of pro and anti bureaucratic sentiment.

78:

I'd thought better of you, but you've repeated the usual USian trick of confusing Marxist-Leninist "State Capitalism" (where the government owns the means of production) with "Communism" (where the people own the means of production in common.

79:

Why didn't more Indians move to the UK in the 19th century?
Because travel was expensive. Lots of them did, from the
17th century on, often by way of becoming sailors and then
settling here. Look up the word "Lascar"!

Younger people should note that long-distance travel before
the 1960s (sic) was either for the rich, someone who was
working for a multinational organisation, or for someone
who was prepared to accept significant hardship. Mere
middle-class people did not travel long distances just
because they wanted to.

And, to Heteromeles, Cuba is not a failed state, despite
its flaws, but North Korea definitely is. I gave two
other socialist examples (Yugoslavia and Tanzania) that
were not, at least during the period I mentioned.

80:

@ 10 & 11
Charlie & Vanzetti
Precisely .... now look for a solution to that nasty little dilemma.
Oh, I diosagree about the trrist threat being "Manufactured" - but guvmin'ts respomses have been pathetically laughably incompetent, to the point where I'm thinking it is deliberately so...
Err ....

Clouidster @ 20:
Yes - the academic TRAINING never leaves you, it becomes a habit of mind & method, assuming you can be bothered to switch it to "on.
And can be very useful in a surprising variety of situations. ( I'm actually doing this, right now in two very different scenarios - though not for money, unfortunately )

81:

In spite of all the scare-stories & the loonies on the right of the tory party, I don't actually think the NHS is going to be really privatised, simply because, as is becoming better-known (finally) the NHS, for all its supposed "waste" is MORE EFFICENT than the alternative.
From up-close-&-personal recent observation, the waste in the NHS is right at the bottom-levels, & down to a complete failure of communications.
Which is management's fault ....

82:

Which thus defines Putin's Russia as a failed sate.
Oh, wait a minute ....

83:

Stalin did exactly this in Ukraine & the USSR generally. 1932 & 1935-9.

84:

HORRIBLY true
TTIP is vile.
Even given the very nasty revelations regarding the racists inside UKIP base-membership, they are one of the few parties agin TTIP.
The (English) so-called "greens " are too, but they are entirely off their rockers to the point of Treason)
This entire argument also centres around Charlie's point #4
BUT
No-one has (yet) mentioned the bureaucracy centred around the Berlaymont -as insidious & unpleasant ans any other & also deeply implicated in TTIP.

85:

The day HE is solely about future-profits-of-students is the day we can bend over and kiss our arts goodbye.

That's already happening in the UK. It takes a generation for this sort of vandalism to filter through into public awareness (because artists tend to keep working in their field for a very long time indeed) but when the impact is fully felt ...

86:

So:
a) it's going to take my head a week to chew that over, but it appreciates the meal; and
b) damn I wish you hadn't mentioned guns, because now the signal to noise ratio is going to suffer because that's the paint colour on the bike shed beside the nuclear plant :(

And for the record, I'm Irish, I own firearms, and I don't happen to agree with the US model of firearms ownership for the same reason I don't agree with giving someone the keys to a car and never teaching them to drive; not to mention I own mine for Olympic target shooting, not taking on the State!

87:

Creativity I believe is the most important trait of our species but my impression is that right now it is a commodity only(hyperbole) accessible for individuals with basic needs assured(even through connections or family). In the long run this imo will gave rise to a caste system, thing that I don't know if it good or bad. But everyone has a gut so I have an opinion based on what I see around.

88:

There are no political solutions to problems caused by political power.

What you're seeing are the effects of some people having political power, ie. being able to impose their will on everyone else.

The only reason you'd do that is to benefit at other people's expense. Otherwise you'd let everyone get whatever they can.

Inequality is caused by some people having political power (or access to it) while the rest of us don't. The biggest banks get massive zero-percent interest loans (~free money) that they can use to buy productive assets.

Imagine someone gives you a $1 billion loan that you don't have to pay interest on, and that you might never even have to pay back anyway.

How easy would it be for you to make money with it? You could buy shitloads of land, real estate, farms, stocks and whatever, and you could use all of that to make money for yourself. People would be paying you rent, dividends and a cut of their proceeds etc. You'd be making lots and lots of money.

Well that's exactly what happens with banks and politically connected people. The ruling class is using vast amounts of money to skim profits off of other people's productive activity, while us little folks actually have to work for every cent we get.

Their (massive) spending pushes asset prices higher because there's increased demand, and people with vast amounts of free money aren't exactly price-sensitive. See the housing market in Singapore and HK for example. But all that freshly conjured free money entering economies also dilutes our currencies' purchasing power. So the net effect is that things get more expensive and our purchasing power decreases, while our wages stagnate.

We can all see that inequality is a big problem, but what almost no one sees is that the root cause is political power - not filthy capitalist oppressors.

When big banks gamble our money and lose their risky bad bets, their toxic assets get bought off of their balance sheets with money that's forcefully extracted from *us*. Yes. We finance their bad bets with our deposits and then we pay for their losses with our future earnings. How's that for a shit-sandwich that we wouldn't have to eat without rulers?

We don't have a say in how our money gets used, and that's exactly why bank bailouts and countless other shitty things happen. That's all predicated on political power. Our rulers take money from us like Kings and Emperors back in the day, and they use it as they please.

Let's say there's Person A and Person B. Both have $1000. Imagine A goes to B and demands $500 from him, claiming that he'd actually be doing B a favour. Would B believe him?

Of course not. How would anyone possibly benefit from *losing* money? He wouldn't - obviously - and that's exactly why A would have to *force* B into giving him the money. In other words, A would have to *extort* B.

Perhaps not coincidentally, that's exactly how governments operate.

I don't want to spend any more time on this now. Discuss.


89:

Yes, guns are an 18th century solution to support democracy.

Then again, democracy is an 18th century mechanism to maintain stability by distributing political power approximately proportional to military power: with the population who own firearms (originally, male landowners who mostly kept firearms and could be recruited into the militia or army.)

That changed with the 20th century, and the political systems are just slowly adapting.

90:

What you're seeing are the effects of some people having political power, ie. being able to impose their will on everyone else.

The only reason you'd do that is to benefit at other people's expense. Otherwise you'd let everyone get whatever they can.

The only reason? No.

Sometimes we impose political will for good purposes, because it's considerably faster, easier, and cheaper than getting a full consensus.

For example, if we had to wait for everybody to agree to end slavery, there would be a lot of slaves today.

And consider the police -- if you aren't enforcing laws on people who don't want to obey them, you're not a cop but something else. You can't have police without imposing the laws on people who want to break them. But what would we do without police? Each of us imposes our laws on whoever is weak enough to impose on? Well of course, most of the time things would just work out because we're mostly reasonable people who get along, but the times when it stops working are important....

Government isn't just about taking stuff from people. When the only alternative is slavery for whoever can't defend himself well enough to take on the biggest slaver, I'd rather have some sort of limited government in place. Preferably one that only passes new laws when at least 90% of the public agrees, but a government has to get pretty bad before no government is better.

91:

The first big question is - when only a small percentage of people are needed as labor for the vast majority of production - how will our economy work?.

The second big question is - how do we get from here to there?.

92:

Charlie wrote: Afternote (c) A very important piece of the puzzle is that while capital can move freely between the developed and underdeveloped world, labour cannot.

Charlie, you write as if unlimited labour mobility was a long-held left wing dream being blocked by our capitalist overlords. Yet across the Anglosphere I see more immigration / more guest workers / abolish work visa requirements being promoted by the same captains of industry who want to deregulate and privatise everything, while the opposition comes mostly from the lower classes and trade unions.

When I was somewhat active three decades ago conservationists worried about sustainable populations. For example, if another three million people want to move to Scotland, how do you house them? Knock down all the heritage housing in Edinburgh and build high-rises? Bulldoze the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries?

We were also worried about brain draining the developing world. If good doctors, sanitation engineers, etc leave for example Sierra Leone for better paid jobs in the West, that's good for them and moderately good for the West (below), but not for Sierra Leone. (People with money don't move to Sierra Leone because it's poverty- and disease-ridden.)

Trade unionists were worried that unlimited guest workers would be used to exert more downwards pressure on wages and working conditions, weakening trade unions and strengthening corporate influence over governments.

OK, as I said that was 30 years ago and times have changed. And just because a libertarian millionaire is in favour of something doesn't automatically make it wrong. But I'd still like to know what the benefits are in return for backing the preferred policy of wealthy capitalists.

93:

The first big question is - when only a small percentage of people are needed as labor for the vast majority of production - how will our economy work?.

There's a whole lot of work that needs to be done. We just don't have anybody who's ready to pay for it.

Like, I know people who search along stream banks for alien invading species of plants, and pull them up. They can't hope to make a dent in the problem, but they do it anyway. If we had enough people doing it, we could eliminate some invasive species. But it can't possibly get funded. Not only is it too easy for the global economy to re-introduce every invasive species, but also most people don't see that it matters. After all, if our forests die off we can replace them with imported forests and be just as happy.

The last time I checked, we used more calories of fossil fuels to produce a pound of wheat or rice than we got back in food calories. By some estimates the USA does better with corn, we can use 4 gallons of gasohol to produce the equivalent of 5 gallons of gasohol next year. We desperately need to grow food using less fossil fuel. But of course, modern agribusiness is cheaper because employment expense is low.

I'm not sure which labor-intensive work is most worth doing. But there's a lot to do that we collectively need done, except we can't afford it because human labor costs too much.

94:

Only we've got over a million people out of work in the UK who could be doing that pulling up of invasive species, and we're already paying a good percentage of their living costs. Only a few billion more, less than tax avoiders get away with, and we'd have armies of people doing such work.

95:

Suggest you add 'depersonalization through scatter'.

Where you live and where you work have long been the loci of group formation. As automation increases, there are fewer long-term jobs. With the commiditization of residences - no longer primarily a place to live but increasingly the key source/point of investment and source of future revenue - we're looking at the demise of one of the oldest means of building a community, i.e., shared lives/life stories. Group formation matters because it leads to gaining strength through numbers. As membership in/feeling of community declines, more people feel they can say 'that's not my problem'. Online communities exist - this site proves that point. However, this and other online communities are scattered around the globe whereas our 'societies' where we have any decision-making capability/voice are primarily geo-physical units. So, a key point going forward, I think, is reconciling online scatter/distribution (feeling of membership) with geo-political constraints/rules.

And also add 'learned helplessness' which pops up here fairly often: "Give up now because no one person/individual matters/can be effective. We are all doomed!"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learned_helplessness

Despite the above, I refuse to give up my optimism and remain confident that implementable solutions exist.

'Professionals' are the only groups I know of that are able to act successfully across geopolitical boundaries. Maybe we need to extend this type of group franchise to other jobs/life scenarios.

96:

"If good doctors, sanitation engineers, etc leave for example Sierra Leone for better paid jobs in the West, that's good for them and moderately good for the West (below), but not for Sierra Leone. (People with money don't move to Sierra Leone because it's poverty- and disease-ridden.)"

As it happens I do have a passing acquaintance with Sierra Leone (and I welcome the opportunity to talk about a country other than Ireland).

The country has a massive brain-drain, it's true. But a lot of the Diaspora do try to come back on an at least partial basis, and make a contribution to the rebuilding of the country. As the current epidemic of Ebola Virus Disease (which is, touch wood, finally abating) proves that's still not enough (for example) to shore up a very rickety health system.

As for non-Sierra Leoneans with money moving to the country, I once had to sit behind an English expatriate on the bus from the ferryport to the airport (you have to cross the world's third-largest natural harbour to get to the airport, if you're coming from the city: otherwise it's a 167km trip by road). This lad kept muttering "I hate this §$"!ing place, I hate this §$"!ing place, I hate this §$"!ing place" over and over under his breath. I felt like reaching out and slapping him on the back of his head.

97:

What you're seeing are the effects of some people having political power, ie. being able to impose their will on everyone else.

The only reason you'd do that is to benefit at other people's expense. Otherwise you'd let everyone get whatever they can.

That's a very popular myth among Americans: looks like you've bought into their usual patchwork quilt of exceptionalist bullshit.

In the real world, we know that there are a bunch of different theories of government, a bunch of different forms of government, a bunch of different motivations for individuals to move into government ... and very few nations stick to just one of these. Indeed, just as human beings aren't perfectly frictionless spheres of uniform density, neither are governments.

Nor is your theory of what governments do complete without actually asking what they spend the money they collect in taxes on. Hint: where I live, my life depends on it -- I get free medical care, a not-terribly-big pension, fire and ambulance services, police when I need them (and unfortunately sometimes when I don't), food purity regulations to prevent unscrupulous merchants or restaurants poisoning me, anti-pollution regulations to prevent my neighbours (and neighbourhood businesses) poisoning me, and so on.

A chunk of what they spend goes straight back into the economy, driving spending, rather than draining away into virtual financial assets held by overseas banks. A chunk of what they spend goes into keeping their citizens alive and healthy. I submit that if you want to do away with "bad" government you need to identify what bits of government you want to keep -- and as with all confirmation bias, you'll find that you spend your time noticing all the stuff you want to get rid of, but once you look at everything you'll find there's a lot you want to keep.

(Unless you really do want to move to Galt's Gulch and hire a posse of mercenaries to protect you from your neighbours. In which case I hear there's a canyon in Chile ...)

98:

1. No, democracy was a ~500BC solution to transfer of power. (See also Athens.)

2. No, the distribution of guns and the rise of mass armies happened in the late 18th/early 19th centuries. Weirdly, the pattern of the post-1945 era is for warfare to stop being labour intensive and become capital intensive and highly automated. As we haven't even caught up with the 1789-1945 era yet, never mind the 1945-2015 era ...

99:

A chunk of what they spend goes straight back into the economy, driving spending, rather than draining away into virtual financial assets held by overseas banks. A chunk of what they spend goes into keeping their citizens alive and healthy.
ISTR that reputable cashflow analysis techniques have found that each pound that the UK government spends (either directly, or through local authorities, who get about 5/6 of their income from central funds) generates another two pounds in economic activity.

If that's even vaguely correct, could this be why "austerity" is only working for the 0.1%?

100:

> Sometimes we impose political will for good purposes

*WE* don't impose anything. Our rulers do, and it's not for purposes that are good *for us*.


> because it's considerably faster, easier, and cheaper than getting a full consensus.

Suppose you've just had dinner with a few of your friends, and one of them decides you should pay for everyone. Instead of getting a full consensus, he pulls out a gun and forces you to do it because it's just so much easier and faster that way.

Is everything alright?

> You can't have police without imposing the laws on people who want to break them.

Sure, it's difficult to rule over people without having some kind of enforcers for your will.

What you're not seeing here is that we basically only need two laws:

- 1) don't aggress against others
- 2) respect other people's property rights.

The rest are meant to benefit some people at our expense. For example smoking weed being illegal is meant to benefit the for-profit prison system, paid for with tax money of course.

> Well of course, most of the time things would just work out because we're mostly reasonable people who get along

I'm glad you see that. The only problem is the psychopaths among us, but fortunately most of them are happier hurting people mentally rather than physically.

> Government isn't just about taking stuff from people.

You're right. It's also about propagandizing us into believing we're extorted for our own good, and divide & conquering us into fighting against each other. Gays in the military! Abortion! Immigrants! Evil capitalist oppressors!!


> Preferably one that only passes new laws when at least 90% of the public agrees

That's not how being a psychopath ruler works.


> but a government has to get pretty bad before no government is better.

So being extorted is just guaranteed to be better than not to? :p


101:

Our capitalist overlords are happy to promote more immigration... on their own terms. For example, the American “H-1B” visa and the UK “Tier 2 Work Permit” tie an immigrant worker to his or her employer: if you are dissatisfied with your job you can’t just quit and look for another one, but the employer can use “I can fire you and send you back where you came from“ as leverage. Again, asymmetric power, above and beyond the normal power that bosses hold over their employees.

102:

As we haven't even caught up with the 1789-1945 era yet, never mind the 1945-2015 era ...

That's a very strange sentence. Who is "we", and what do you mean by "catching up"?

103:

Suppose you've just had dinner with a few of your friends, and I decide you should pay for everyone. Instead of getting a full consensus, I pull out a gun and forces you to do it because it's just so much easier and faster that way.

Is everything alright?

I also pull a gun, hold it to your head and say that, as punishment for trying to extort payment from $person, you should pay instead. Does your argument still seem like a good idea?

104:
What you're not seeing here is that we basically only need two laws:

- 1) don't aggress against others
- 2) respect other people's property rights.

I’m going to resist the urge to get into a general debate over the merits of hard-core libertarianism, and just point out that you can create all sorts of mischief by careful (re)definitions of “aggress” and “property rights”. Two simple examples:

(1) There are places in the United States where farmers living miles downstream from you have a “property right” in the rain that falls on your roof, because they are relying on that water eventually filtering down to their crops. In such states, if you try to collect rainwater in a cistern for your own use, you can be fined or prosecuted.

(2) Under common law, if you own a parcel of land, you own all the airspace above it “up to the heavens”. When commercial air travel became A Thing, jurists had to choose between enforcing this principle strictly (which would require an airline to rent a right-of-way in every property that its planes over) or saying it didn’t really apply. To the regret of everyone who lives near a busy airport, they chose the latter.

105:

MODERATION NOTICE

This is not a forum for the discussion of libertarian ideology (or other ideologies that depend on the availability of perfectly spherical humans of uniform density, for that matter).

Nor is this a discussion for the minutiae of that quaint old-fashioned US-specific "common law" system, which doesn't apply in most parts of the world.

Please do not make me wake up the moderator posse.

106:

Note: I don't believe in absolute property rights -- otherwise you end up with the bottled-water-stand-in-the-desert thought experiment, where everything just goes to shit and descends into epicycles of tail-chasing over "is it coercion if you demand $1M for a bottle of water from a guy who's dying of thirst."

See, this is why I don't want this discussion to descend into libertarianism. It's not so much inviting derailment as organizing a train crash in a switchyard.

107:

Hi Charlie,

How near is your near future setting? Because I agree with the immediate outlook being rather bleak - taking the longer view though it will be more extreme. As in a lot better or us being inexistant.

Here is why:
As much as socialism was/is a utopian idea so is capitalism. One might go so far as to suggest both are two sides of the same coin with communism/socialism (whatever rides your boat here) on the left and fascism on the other side. Your outline suggests a rather fascist expression (not that I disagree).

Now I'm gonna steal a few lines from someone smarter than me but that alludes pretty well to the crises of capitalism on the one hand and maybe offer a different interpretation of what labor actually is. (I'm not gonna name the person, but it is easy to find out. The reason for withholding the name is to read this without prejudice. Glad to update this with links later).

"labour’s two quite different natures: i) labour as a value-creating activity that can never be quantified in advance (and is therefore impossible to commodify), and ii) labour as a quantity (eg, numbers of hours worked) that is for sale and comes at a price. That is what distinguishes labour from other productive inputs such as electricity: its twin, contradictory, nature. A differentiation-cum-contradiction that political economics neglected to make before Marx came along and that mainstream economics is steadfastly refusing to acknowledge today.

Both electricity and labour can be thought of as commodities. Indeed, both employers and workers struggle to commodify labour. Employers use all their ingenuity, and that of their HR management minions, to quantify, measure and homogenise labour. Meanwhile, prospective employees go through the wringer in an anxious attempt to commodify their labour power, to write and rewrite their CVs in order to portray themselves as purveyors of quantifiable labour units. And there’s the rub. If workers and employers ever succeed in commodifying labour fully, capitalism will perish.

Every non-Marxist economic theory that treats human and non-human productive inputs as interchangeable assumes that the dehumanisation of human labour is complete. But if it could ever be completed, the result would be the end of capitalism as a system capable of creating and distributing value. For a start, a society of dehumanised automata would resemble a mechanical watch full of cogs and springs, each with its own unique function, together producing a “good”: timekeeping. Yet if that society contained nothing but other automata, timekeeping would not be a “good”. It would certainly be an “output” but why a “good”? Without real humans to experience the clock’s function, there can be no such thing as “good” or “bad”.

If capital ever succeeds in quantifying, and subsequently fully commodifying, labour, as it is constantly trying to, it will also squeeze that indeterminate, recalcitrant human freedom from within labour that allows for the generation of value."

In my view this means your analysis may be correct but will either dead-end humanity pretty quickly or destroy itself and force its own replacement - or in other words a very different coin.

If you look at the history of capitalism you can see that those who instituted it where neither democrats nor did they enjoy laissez-faire. The rising bourgeoisie just wanted a seat at the high table. Early capitalism didn't look like our democracies today at all. And our democracies still bear those marks - which means they were never meant to be what everybody today seems to take for granted and maybe even in the 60ies never existed for real. So maybe China is more like early England? An early capitalist quasi democracy. The differences in what the little man had to say in both places are not that big. As for laissez-faire the bourgoisie learned fairly quickly that they had to use laws to control that beast the market or be destroyed by it. If you look at history you can see that whereever markets where instituted laws to control them were never far behind - instituted by the same forces that put in the market in the first place.

In the meantime we are just stuffing all the volatility under the carpet and wait for the big black swan. Once our governments have lost legitimacy that will not be long in comming (not that I'm looking forward to it).

Chrisitan

108:

Sethg wrote around #101 Our capitalist overlords are happy to promote more immigration... on their own terms. [ munch ]

So the trade unionists were/are right. Labour mobility is being used against the interests of employees.

109:

A quick note on the curious thing I noticed: "jokuvaan" is "justsomebody" in Finnish. The handle is not a proof of anything, but if you're Finnish I don't quite see the connection to the Finnish government. We do get a lot for the taxes we pay, in my opinion. If you're not Finnish, please disregard this.

Also, about the student loans: I was lucky enough 10-20 years ago that I managed to get through my Master's studies without a loan. Here in Finland even the university studies don't cost anything by themselves, though there are other costs (student association memberships, books and other materials). There are also (too few) student apartments available, where the rent is quite cheap.

The government supports students by giving study grants (depending on various things from about 40 euros a month to a bit over 300 euros a month), housing supplements, and a guarantee for student loans. When I studied, it was possible to survive without the loan, but I and my spouse studied subjects which made us easily employable and of course we studied during boom times.

At least then even the loans didn't amount to that much, so most people I know who took them paid them in less than ten years after the studies. Nowadays, I don't know. The student loans seem to be at most 400 euros a month, and I think most schools don't have studies during the summer, so the students would get them for nine months every year - so 3600 euros a year.

There are limits to those grants and loans. If you manage to graduate from a Master's level in the target time, four years, you have only a bit over 14000 in loans, and I think the interest is somehow limited. (At least it used to be.)

So, I don't think student loans are a problem all the time at all places. I don't like the recurring idea that all the student grant should be loans, though. In my opinion the student loans should be a smaller portion of the student grants, for reasons hopefully clear to most people here.

As said, my student experiences are at least ten years out of date, though.

110:

>> What you're seeing are the effects of some people having political power, ie. being able to impose their will on everyone else.

>> The only reason you'd do that is to benefit at other people's expense. Otherwise you'd let everyone get whatever they can.

> That's a very popular myth among Americans

No it's not, and the only thing I've "bought into" is sanity.

> In the real world, we know that there are a bunch of different theories of government

Of course there are. Everything needs to be complicated to no end for the illusion to be maintained.


> a bunch of different motivations for individuals to move into government

Mostly just psychopaths' craving for power and wealth.


> Indeed, just as human beings aren't perfectly frictionless spheres of uniform density, neither are governments.

True, different governments have set up different PR-facades. They're all fundamentally the exact same though: vehicles for exploiting the masses.

> I get free medical care

If money is free, then it has no value. So no, you don't. Someone has to pay, and eventually you run out of other people's money.


> a not-terribly-big pension, fire and ambulance services, police when I need them (and unfortunately sometimes when I don't),

All the services you get from the government could be produced by private businesses too. After all, all of them are provided by people working in exchange for money.


> food purity regulations to prevent unscrupulous merchants or restaurants poisoning me, anti-pollution regulations to prevent my neighbours

Regulations are only a problem when you haven't bribed politicians yet.


> you need to identify what bits of government you want to keep

That's easy: not a goddamn shred of it.


Oh, and:
----------------------
MODERATION NOTICE

This is not a forum for the discussion of libertarian ideology (or other ideologies that depend on the availability of perfectly spherical humans of uniform density, for that matter).

Nor is this a discussion for the minutiae of that quaint old-fashioned US-specific "common law" system, which doesn't apply in most parts of the world.

Please do not make me wake up the moderator posse.
---------------------

Apparently you're shutting down the discussion. That's lame, but I get it. Cognitive dissonance hurts, so you want to cut out its source.


111:

Re education

Student loans are not collateralized loans, like a mortgage. They are based on a hypothetical future revenue stream, like a business loan or a tax levy based loans. That revenue stream is the future earnings of the person being lent too. I, personally, think they are not a very good way to fund higher education, but they aren't a fundamentally unsound concept.

Education costs to students, in the US, can really be explained by a few simple facts.

1) State funding for university education is a lot lower per student than it was some decades ago. This explains the majority of the increase in tuition for state universities in the US.

2) Median income has been stagnant for the last 35 years, while average income has continued to grow reasonably. If the income distribution today were the same as in 1970 median family income would be $90k instead of $50k. $40k more a year would make current tution rates and loan amounts fantastically more managable.

3) Education is a high labor cost personal interaction business. So it has some "Baumol's cost disease". Like healthcare it should be expected to take a bigger slice of the pie as time goes one, to a degree.

Then, way down below those three big items you'll find your more luxurious buildings, extra services, and football coach salaries. Some wasteful spending to be sure, but small potatoes.

112:

1) I should have written "modern democracy," as the more advanced North Atlantic states shifted from autocratic to democratic government.

2) Yup. The convergence of the Agricultural Revolution and the early Industrial Revolution made LARGE labor-intensive armies possible. And like the earlier (expensive) period of longbow dominance, that drove shifts in power. Not immediately, but still.

And the shift to massively capital-intensive warfare is having its own effect. Not immediately (see "asymmetrical warfare"), but still.

113:

RED CARD

You do not get to ad hominem the owner of the platform. You're banned from this thread. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

114:

How near is your near future setting?

Next 5-30 years.

Both communism and capitalism are ideologies (yes, capitalism as currently practiced is intensely ideological and hegemonistic) for operating an economy in the industrial age. Both of them rely on continuing growth of the energy and resource base, and on the continuing ability of the economy to generate jobs so that workers can be drawn into the virtuous circle of labour/reward.

Whether these doctrines continue to make any kind of sense at all in the post-industrial AI-dominated future (or the post-collapse future) is far from clear.

So you can take my diagnosis to be of an unstable intermediate condition -- a pre-revolutionary one.

115:

Weirdly, the pattern of the post-1945 era is for warfare to stop being labour intensive and become capital intensive and highly automated.
REALLY?
Viet Cong vs USA
Or for that matter Da'esh (otherwise known as ISIL) who are very personnel/labour-heavy - & vulnerable to high-tech strikes if anyone could be really bothered....
Or did I miss something?

116:

You missed the F-35, the F-22, and just about every big armaments procurement program in the past 50 years.

Also, oh, little things like the invasion of Iraq.

Modern capital-intensive warfare is shit at occupying territory and policing it -- for that you need a gendarmerie -- but if you want to punch an armoured spearhead 200 miles through territory held by a well-equipped 1950s-equivalent army in under 24 hours, or reduce a continent to radioactive glowing rubble in half an hour flat, it's just the ticket.

117:

This is not a forum for the discussion of libertarian ideology (or other ideologies that depend on the availability of perfectly spherical humans of uniform density, for that matter).

I just had a thought which appealed to me. If you wanted, you could set up a form for discussion of this and/or other things you want to keep out of your usual forums, and when people bring up such things you could direct them there.

If it didn't show up in the Recent Comments list, then it wouldn't particularly distract people from your other threads.

I won't bother to explain why it appealed to me. If you don't like it then fine, I don't really want to suggest more things for you to do instead of write.

118:

YES
This was the Wedgie Benn argument against the EU - that it was a "giant emnployers/capitalist ramp" (or very similar phrase)
Turns out he was probably correct, oh dear.

119:

Why would you need revolution? The direction where minimum wage and social security benefits and taxes are all slowly increased should enable gradual transition. Also shorter work week would help but not sure how that would be mandated.

120:

Yes
But a "gendarmerie" is NOT an Army ...
Armies are only useful for occupation for brief periods, till the locals are re-organised to look ater themseleves (even if other army type unots remain in samller quantities.
My father was in CivMilGov in Germany & that worked ok - but he quit before it was finished (he said) because it was obvious that by the end of '47 to mid-'48 that what became the BRD was quite capable of managing without "help"

I note you do not address the so-called problem of Da'esh & similar groups of unpleasant miltaristic nutters, whether religious or otherwise.

121:

I'm pretty sure that has been suggested before, but anything that takes time and money and effort away from Charlie's central purpose, which is to write SF/ horror/ fantasy and using this place as a discussion zone of related topics, isn't a good idea. There are of course plenty of other places to bring it up.

Anyway, liberatarian person doesn't even seem to know that Charlie isn't suffering from cognitive dissonance, he's just bored with childish comments that ignore reality.

122:

I note that the banned person seemed to think that (e.g.) food purity regulations could be bribed your way out of.
WTF?
Or/however/contrariwise, in a larger contect, that all "laws" are negotiable - someothing some "bankers" may have thought, esp "Fred the Shred", but they are slowly being eased out, are they not?
Discuss - or maybe not?

123:

Er, no, the renegade Viscount Stansgate was wrong about that,
as about so much else. The EU is a mixed blessing, but its
employment regulations are the main thing that workers can
use them to defend themselves against the employers. In THIS
case, the EU's mobility laws do not allow employers to bind
workers - it's the UK's and USA's ones that do.

124:

That would require an ideological revolution before it could happen. Because all our governing parties currently support the neoliberal consensus.

(Revolutions don't always involve guns: sometimes they happen inside peoples' heads.)

125:

He(?) probably thinks big pharma is a conspiracy too.

126:

China as a model for the future of government is interesting. Basically, we have (say) 10% of the people who are allowed to become party members. It's a privilege bestowed upon the bright and obedient.

The party elects the politburo and the latter appoints a temporary leader with a fixed term - no more Mao's.

The people in turn are quite free to say whatever they like about government and the politicians in it, because it is how the party monitors popular feeling. What is stamped down on, very hard, is any attempt to actually do something instead of grumbling about it.

The result is a party dictatorship, of sorts, where only the top 10% of the population are allowed to have a say in government, in a very structured manner.

127:

College graduates tend to earn more money than people who have never attended college, but the variance among graduates is very large. It seems to me, therefore, that the economically rational way to finance college is to treat it, not as a loan to the student, but as an equity investment.

The government could establish one schedule of income-tax rates for high-school graduates, and a higher (or more steeply progressive) schedule for college alumni. The extra money collected from the alumni could then be used to subsidize the higher-education system.

(The “income-sensitive repayment” option for student loans in the US [and UK?] is a half-step toward this system.)

128:

I was thinking more of the coprorate corruption & lobbying in the EU - as bad as, or possibly even worse than what goes on in Washington.

Oh Dirk @ 126
At risk of Godwinising the conversation, the current Chinese model is somewhat similar to that of the Nazis - with big-corprations being intimately involved with the state.
Provided you didn't crriticise Adolf directly, ( you are not allowed to complain about the "party" directly ) a surprising amount of disapproval was permitted of the NSDAP's behaviour - until WWII of course

129:

Democracy where only 10% have the vote

There is a term for something like that. I believe it is called "aristocracy". And sooner or later China will run into the same problem every aristocracy always did -- children do not necessarily inherit their parents' qualities.

Sure, right now in theory CCP accepts the "brightest and most obedient" of young people. But I am willing to bet that children of party members have an advantage in that particular competition, and children of highly placed party officials have even more of an advantage. After few generations, the party may still be obedient, but it will not be any brighter than population at large.

130:
The demand for T-shirts is infinite, but the supply of super cheap labor is finite, and will, in another century or two, run out, at which point T-shirts will likely get more expensive - but the standard of living of the entire world will be significantly higher.

Infinite? really? I suspect that after the first few hundred thousand tonnes per capita per day, demand will drop.

I think "infinite" in arguments is lazy arguing. It means "larger than this finite thing", basically begging the question.

I'd like to see a proper justification for believing in "infinite" growth, even "qualitative" rather than quantitative. People claim that economic growth will go on forever, but when you ask them to explain something simpler, like what it means for a hairdresser to be 10,000 times more productive than today, with no increase in resources used, you get blank stares.

131:

For starters, can you name any sizeable 'tech' company that spends more on R&D than on purchasing patents, litigating IP, and lobbying for legislative favours that entrench monopolies?

I know of two ($10 billion sized chip companies) that do exactly that; I work for one of them. We don't tend to buy patents, we tend to write them (I've led on four).

You could also take a look at Intel's quarterly results (although it combines R&D with MG&A) but TI and Cypress also look like they have R&D as their single biggest expenditure.

So, I believe that you are wrong in your assertion.

132:

On Investors Visas:

Several years back I was planning to take a vacation to Costa Rica, and attended an informal class about traveling and living in Costa Rica. I remember the teacher telling us that if you put $50,000 into a Costa Rican bank you could live there, but couldn’t become a citizen. It’s gone up to $60,000 since for Rentista status = person of independent means. For a $200,000 investment in Costa Rica you gain residency status. For a C$400,000 investment you can become a Canadian resident. Essentially if you have the cash you can buy your way into a country and reap the benefits.

Or you can marry a Brazilian for a permanent visa in Brazil. One of the easiest and cheapest ways to get a permanent visa.

134:

I saw some of the attempts in that direction with Obama. He managed to get through the health care and some tax changes. He is pushing other good things and increased minimum wage. Considering US is a beacon of capitalism, this is good. Considering US is already good 50 years behind these things that are normal in EU, this is depressing. Also usually pendulum swings to the opposite side so we'll probably have some depressing people after Obama in a couple of years.

135:

We observe the increasing militarization of police forces and the priviliging of intelligence agencies all around the world. And in the media, a permanent drumbeat of fear, doubt and paranoia directed at "terrorists" (a paper tiger threat that kills fewer than 0.1% of the number who die in road traffic accidents).

I sort-of agree with some of this, but it takes a conveniently short memory to do so.

I grew up with a parent who was a soldier, and went to a school full of soldiers' children. Several of whom had been orphaned by said terrorists. I lived in a part of the world where a group of people had chosen to use violence to pursue their political agenda. Please, do go to one of the dodgier parts of Belfast, and try insisting that Irish Republican terrorism is a paper tiger.

I agree that PIRA only had a few hundred active terrorists at any one time, but there are several thousand graves in Northern Ireland as testament to their efforts. I agree that even prior to the mid-90s the risk of terrorism on mainland UK was vanishingly small, but I can assure you that I was most definitely involved in checking underneath vehicles, and arming sentries.

I also agree that the risk of Islamist terrorism is vanishingly small; but... it exists. The attacks on Glasgow Airport, or 7/7, or 21/7 demonstrate that there are at least some murderous morons out there. Where I disagree is in your assertion that we're ramping up a response to it. Consider:

- Your "increasingly militarised" Scottish police has only 275 firearms-trained officers for a population of 5 million. The only "militarisation" I've seen was possibly the replacement of the old "too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter" woollen Dixon-of-Dock-Green uniform tunics for synthetic fleeces, thermals, and jumpers; or the addition of stab vests.

- Your "increasingly privileged" intelligence services were comparatively speaking "running riot" in the UK until the early 1980s; they are under far more scrutiny now than ever, and no larger in size. What privileges do you mean?

- The Police Scotland counter-terrorist group is combined with the organised-crime group as part of the Specialist Crime Division - and the Security Service hasn't got a significant enough presence to rate its own HQ north of Manchester (for that matter, nor have the Intelligence Service, or GCHQ). Hardly an over-the-top response.

- The entire staff of our three intelligence services, including all of the admin clerks, typists, and HR people is probably less than 10,000, based largely in the South of England.

Meanwhile, IMHO the media's "drumbeat of paranoia" regarding terrorism pales into insignificance with their "drumbeat of paranoia" regarding falling house prices, rising house prices, falling economies, the risks to / incompetence of the NHS, the identity of the murderous character in a TV soap, or the ruthless plot to hamper Glasgow Rangers FC's rightful place at the top of Scottish Football (depending on that paper's politics).

So - people don't "get" probability, and worry far more about terrorism than they should; I agree. That also applies to immigration. Unfortunately, politicians tend to react to what people actually worry about, not what they should worry about - as do the media, because that way they can sell more advertising. You don't need a conspiracy theory to explain any drumbeat, just disjointed ignorance and greed.

136:

Nope, I've been around the Falls Road in the early 1990s, I'm not touching that bait, it is stinky.

Only an idiot would deny that insurgencies exist.

... The point I'm trying to make, though, is that in general insurgencies only get off the ground when there's a mass base of silent sympathizers who give aid and comfort to the insurgents, or when civil society has pretty much imploded and the insurgents are the only gang who can provide local stability.

In the case of NI, Sri Lanka, or many other places, the "mass base of silent sympathizers" happens because there's a legitimate political need with mass support that has been frozen out of the political sphere and is being held at bay with guns.

Civil rights usually have something to do with it in the first case. (Apartheid in South Africa spawned the ANC, the Nakbah spawned the PLO/Fatah/Hamas/etc, Unionist violence in NI got the IRA off their backsides in the 60s and Bloody Sunday set everything on fire, and so on.) And the cure is to start talking to the non-violent parties on the side and try to find a negotiaited settlement that deprives the men with guns of their supporting base. It worked in SA, it mostly worked in NI, it hasn't even been tried in Gaza since Rabin was assassinated.

The second case is much tougher, and that's where the likes of the Taliban or Daesh flourish. Civil society got thoroughly trashed in Afghanistan from 1976 to 2001; as for Iraq/Syria, it speaks for itself. And they're set against the background of the systematic predation of the middle east by western powers circa 1791-1956 (or later).

Finally, you missed some signs of police militarisation. Police Scotland may only have 275 firearms-trained officers, but non-specialist officers now routinely carry handguns in the highlands and borders. We've got a problem with the increasing inappropriate use of stop-and-search powers. The static personnel head-count of the intelligence services ignores the outsourcing of large chunks of the intel sector workload (around 80% of the intelligence agency spend in the USA is outsourced to private sector contractors) and the ability to leverage vastly more powerful computing and networking tools. All is not well, and while I don't want to suggest that the sky is falling, I think you're too optimistic.


137:

Charlie, I am still curious what were you trying to say in post #98:

As we haven't even caught up with the 1789-1945 era yet, never mind the 1945-2015 era ...

138:

Not only won't the revolution be televised, it won't be fought with guns. Any attempt to do so will be immediately neutralized by Emergency Response Teams, backed by private and/or mercenary security forces, backed by regular army troops, backed by precision munitions, drones, and, real soon now, armed semi-autonomous and autonomous robots. Worst case, the First Capitalist Mechanized Infantry Division merely needs to seal off the urban or suburban area (in rural areas the drones will take care of them) containing the insurgents and starve them out. An armed revolution will never touch the bosses. Individual assassination will work but won't change much except to make work for private security forces.

The one place where the financial oligarchies that run things are vulnerable to outsiders is on the Internet. The flow of money takes place there, and the storage places have to be accessible. NSA and its fellows have placed a high value on penetrating everyone's computers, but have seemingly not realized that the back doors they're building are accessible by anyone with the knowledge and skills to reverse-engineer their exploits. Stuxnet is a good example of this; I'm surprised sabotage of chemical process plants controlled by Siemens' systems isn't common now. I expect we'll very soon see state actors like China taking advantage of the hard disk exploit that NSA has proliferated, not long after non-state actors will have a field day with it.

Granted that banks and other financial institutions will have better than average security; I don't think that will help them much if the intelligence organizations are willing to compromise everyone's security as they seem to be.

139:

each pound that the UK government spends ... generates another two pounds in economic activity.

That's not possible since UK govt spending is something like 42% of GDP so if every pound they spent made 2 pounds additional activity that would equal 126% of GDP, give or take.

You hear that 'x pounds / dollars spent brings in and additional y pounds / dollars' arguments all the time but they are suspect for any large economic entity. Total economic activity = total spending so it is very hard to spend X and generate additional Y unless your spending is attracting money that would normally stay somewhere else. So doable for local or regional economies (at the cost of other local / regional economies) but very hard on a national level and only possible on the global level if the spending is directly converting raw materials into more valuable 'stuff'.

140:

I'm not Charlie, but I would guess that the significance of the 1789-1945 time frame is the rise of national conscription as the model of military power, starting with the French, and ending in 1945 because nuclear weapons (and other developments since) took nation-mobilizing Total War off the power scale, into the realm of civilizational murder-suicide. One sign we still haven't caught up with the developments of 1945 is that people in the West are still designing/building aircraft on the basis of "this is what we'd need for a full scale war with China or Russia," with apparently no consideration that all the exciting pew-pew and clash of skills in the sky will likely be Overtaken by Events if we're ever so unfortunate as to have a full scale war with China or Russia.

141:

The government spending/GDP correlation varies probably with the absolute value. An interesting result on the last 10 years or so for the USA shows a decent linear regression with a slope at 1.3. In other words, reducing the spending by $1 reduces the GDP by $1.3. Lookup Krugman's column for the graphs.

OG.

142:

Hmm, were you talking about China with that Dick? Or was it the US?

Because the only real difference I can see is that in the US it's less than 10% that are allowed to have any effective say in government.

Vote for Kang!

143:

When I retire, I expect a share of my income to come from investments—that is, from capital. Capital isn't just for the incredibly wealthy.

144:

This runs off the rails a bit after 13, but the essential points seem to be:

(a) jobs will get scarce(r);
(b) our societies will have the potential to be increasingly repressive;
(c) small, poor countries must conform to the wishes of powerful state and nonstate financial actors.

So far I agree. However, contra point 18, we are (at least in democracies) voters as well as units of labor.

To the extent that automation creates an unemployable underclass of 5-15% of the population there is going to be a great deal of suffering, though not necessarily repression. As that percentages rises past 50%, society is going to become increasingly redistributive, even in the United States. Automation implies an increased surplus which can be divided and a fraction of varying size used to help those who are unemployable.


145:

If you make the majority of your lifetime income as wages a tax system which advantages investment income over wage income will not benefit you. It does not matter that you get some investment income, even if during some part of your life you get mostly investment income.

If you are rich and get most of your lifetime income from investment a tax system which advantages investment income will benefit you.

To a first approximation its a zero sum game. Lower taxes on investment = higher taxes on wages.

Only a miniscule fraction of the population in the US or the UK will get more investment income than wage income in their lifetime. In the US (not familiar with UK retirement tax breaks) a lot of investment income for the sub-rich is already tax advantaged via retirement accounts and special exemptions for gains on houses making the investment income tax advantages that keep Romney paying 14% even less relevant.

146:

I'm still pretty optimistic in the long run.

But, you know. 1% of the US population is in prison. 2.5% of voting age citizens cannot vote due to criminal convictions. 7% of African Americans are disenfranchised in that way. Something like 14% of African American males.

147:

In other words, reducing the spending by $1 reduces the GDP by $1.3. Lookup Krugman's column for the graphs.

I think that says more about the current state of the economy rather than anything universal about govt spending. Nice things about Govt's. They spend, they never hoard cash even when everyone else is hoarding cash (I am looking at you Apple). And right now we need spending.

Funny thing is, but since what we need right now is more demand, more spending, we are all better off to pay taxes than to buy a new iPhone. For every dollar the US govt collects in taxes, it spends $1.22 (deficit spending) but for every dollar Apple gets, it only spends about $0.90. Instead of taking its profit and spending it on new equipment or R&D, it is keeping a chunk of it as cash in the bank where it does no one any good (except the Apple shareholders since it increases the book value of the stock).

No, this is not sustainable and clearly sub-optimal but it is what it is.

148:

I accept all these axioms.

I'm half way through Naomi Klein's latest book, and I find the parallels similarly depressing. For some reaon she's somehow optimistic. (suprise ending? all a dream?)

Thank you Mr. Stross for your distraction/provocation/amusement.

149:

Pilger is a raving idiot - he was disoriented by the US' disgraceful & disgusting behaviour over Cambodia (etc) & regards anything at all the US does as EVVVUL ...
Now, I agree that 2nd Iraq was a disaster ... but, if he's talking about the re-emergence of fasicsm, or even outright nazism, it's curious that he doesn't even mention the islamists, whose programme really is nazi.

Um.

150:

Martin & Charlie @ 135/136
What boithers me is that the guvmint's respomse to the very real terrorist threat ( Martin correct) is stunningly incompetent & almost seems designed to stun us into a state of paranoid fear ( Charlie correct ).
How on earth did they get it so wrong?
Reacent article in "Atlantic" - highlighted by the NSS, points out that "ISIS" are really, really muslims, in the same way that the Inquisition were really christians, but every single politicina is doing everything in their power to deny the facts staring them in the face.
Now, are they really tht stupid?
NO
Are they terrified of "offending" some religious believers?
YES
Look at the way all politicians crawl to any & all religious leaders & allow them house-room, irrespective of their individual insanities.
Why don't they fucking grow up & get a pair & tell them all to take their invisible friends elsewhere?
You tll me.
Gah.

As for the regressive redistribution of monies in the "system" ... it's self-defeating in the long run, because (pace the discussion on guvmint spends 1 unit, 2 units get spent in the system) wealth increases with the money IN CIRCULATION - having the money go round increases real wealth.
It is not a zero-sum game.
But, (say Apple) sitting on the money-pile IS a zreo-sum game.

Hence (you may not like this) the boy George's reversal of Thatcherite policies & investing in huge amounts (by our standards) of infrastructure - not only does it generate employment, it makes the money go round & is a huge "force" multiplier.

151:

#123 is almost exactly what I was going to say about #118, beyond a note that the DC-4 ;-) may have renounced the title, but he didn't renounce the wealth that came with it.

152:

The Chinese have been using this same system (bar details of organisation names and switches of rulers) since at least the Han Dynasty, say 1_000 years or so. Why do you think it will collapse for them in the immediate future since it clearly hasn't collapsed since Time Immemorial?

153:

Some of this is "multiple accounting for the same money". When the govt employee (assume average earnings) gets paid, the first thing that happens is that roughly 30% of earnings over £10_000 are returned to the govt.
When they go out for a meal, 20% of that cost is also returned to the govt in sales tax, as is 30% of their waiter's and chef's pay over £10_000...
All 3 of them run cars; 20% of the sticker price of those cars and about 2/3 of the pump price of fuel goes back to the government. When they get those cars maintained, 20% of that cost goes back to the government, as does 30% of the mechanic's and service receptionist's pay over £10_000...
The mechanic also likes to eat out, so when they ou out for a meal...

Point taken?

154:

Another factor may be "real" terrorism. Right now the usual idiots are killing ordinary people at random. The old theory used to go something like this: You blow up or kill a bunch of people and then there is an over-reaction by state security forces that kills a whole other bunch of (mostly) innocent people. The latter then come over to your camp and people increasingly fear their own government.

The problem is, if the government reacts by only shooting the "right" people ie those directly involved in the terrorism/insurgency then the theory breaks down. In fact, it is even worse from an insurgent's POV because now ordinary people do not fear their govt and are indeed discouraged from joining the insurgency because they can see the govt shooting all the people involved with it.

So, the new direction for terrorism is away from ordinary people as targets and much more "Charlie Hebdo". In other words, they start killing the 0.1% who make or form policy. They control what can and cannot be said in the media. They target the rich and the politicians who stand out as their prime enemies. They attack high value targets. etc.

155:

The term "failed state" carries a freight of implicit baggage: failed at what, exactly? The unspoken implication is, "failed to conform to the requirements of global capital"

Lots of other people have mentioned this, but I'd like to as well. That's not at all what I think of when I hear the term "failed state". I think of countries in which there is no coherent, national authority engaged in the business of running the country. Essentially, a failed state is something that used to be a state (i.e. used to have a coherent authority from which power came), and now is not a state.

The DPRK, for example, is not a failed state, but I could argue that they are not conforming to the requirements of global capital. Somalia is a failed state; used to have a government in charge, now doesn't.

156:

ARRGH! That post above (155) went massively wrong. I suspect something happened in the chain of "push reply, have to sign in, go back around". It wasn't meant to be a response to anyone; just to the original post. Maybe some kind mod can fix it :(

[[ We can amend content, but not the 'In reply to' metadata. And once it's been replied to, we dislike removing it - mod ]]

157:

I said nothing about collapsing. Only that whatever advantage (if any) China gets by providing the vote only to "the brightest and the most obedient", is short-lived.

158:

I think the best definition of a failed state is one where the government is either non-existent or which is incapable of exerting meaningful control when it comes to enforcing laws.

159:

I'd have thought it was obvious.

While conscription existed pre-1789, it was the French revolution -- and the British empire's response to it, and Napoleon's rise to hegemonic central power -- that brought the creation of the first modern-style mass conscript armies, orders of magnitude larger than previous European armies, and equipped with standardized mass-produced weapons. (Look into the history of standardization of guns, interchangeable parts, and so on. While govts. were working on it in Europe in the 18th century it really all came together in the early to mid- 19th.)

By 1945, capital-intensive weapons (the Atom bomb is the most spectacularly obvious of these) made the mass conscript armies obsolescent. Note that obsolescence is not synonymous with obsolete -- mass conscript armies are still useful for some functions (defence of the homeland if morale/leadership is decent, occupation and repression of imperial dominions) but for the past 70-90 years the cost and complexity of weapons systems has been spiralling so that the operators need to be skilled professionals and they can individually cause vastly more destruction than an earlier age's conscripts.

Contemplate an F-22 or a Typhoon or a Sukhoi-36 and the impact just one such aircraft would have had on the Battle of Britain, if it had a full supply chain, engineering support, and an AWACS aircraft to tell it where to go and what to shoot at. Now consider the cost: $40M or so for the Sukhoi, $200M or so for the Typhoon or the F-22, compared to £25,000 for a Spitfire (around £500,000 in today's money, correcting for inflation, or $0.7M).

(NOTE: this is not an invitation to work through the implications of a 4th generation jet fighter with beyond-visual-range missiles magically turning up to ruin Herman Goering's day. Just pointing out that such a plane could, flying 3 sorties per day, without even bothering with afterburners or high-gee maneuvering, probably shoot down about half as many enemy aircraft as the entire RAF, at no risk to itself ... but at 200 times the cost of a contemporary fighter. Hence: capital-intensive warfare.)

160:

Ok; I'd still say that there must be some advantage since they're averaging about one rebellion or coup every 500 years.

161:

To the extent that automation creates an unemployable underclass of 5-15% of the population there is going to be a great deal of suffering, though not necessarily repression. As that percentages rises past 50%, society is going to become increasingly redistributive, even in the United States.

The problem is, there's a threshold somewhere between 10 and 20% of the population where, if that proportion become truly disaffected and think they've got nothing to lose, you run into serious civil disorder and a pre-revolutionary situation.

I'm pretty sure that in the [exceedingly unlikely] event that David Cameron wins the May general election in the UK outright, forms a non-coalition majority government, and goes full speed ahead with the Conservative cuts agenda, the UK (and not just Scotland!) will be in a clear pre-revolutionary crisis by 2020.

Luckily that isn't going to happen ...

162:

You want to take a closer look at what Apple is doing with their "cash hoard". Hint: it's invested very interestingly (much of it in loans to suppliers with which the suppliers build factories for next-gen components which Apple then gets first use of). The RoI as I understand it exceeds anything they'd get from playing the market or letting a bank hold it, and they can leverage it for product development.

163:

Check out the Wikipedia entry for most war casualties. China has a lot of the top ones over the last 2000 years.

164:

One sign we still haven't caught up with the developments of 1945 is that people in the West are still designing/building aircraft on the basis of "this is what we'd need for a full scale war with China or Russia," with apparently no consideration that all the exciting pew-pew and clash of skills in the sky will likely be Overtaken by Events if we're ever so unfortunate as to have a full scale war with China or Russia.

No major government wants a nuclear strike. At least none who are not trying to end the world for religious reasons.

But if any nation has a big old fashioned armed force then they get to dictate terms to everyone else. So you get in a situation where all the major players wind up with big conventional armed forces just to keep the other folks from using theirs.

165:

I see your point, but a good case could be made that, short of the kill-us-all-let-God-sort-us-out WWIII scenario, capital intensive warfare just doesn't work. Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, you know the drill.

If anything, it seems to me that capital intensive warfare is driven by the realization that Americans won't tolerate a draft. The US military has been trying to solve that problem with capital, which they have in abundance, but results have been poor.

166:

capital intensive warfare is driven by the realization that Americans won't tolerate a draft

Except everyone else is doing it, at least at the high end. France doesn't have a draft, the UK doesn't have a draft. Germany abolished conscription. In Germany it was seen as a nation-building exercise, not essentially militaristic (civilian service was available as a voluntary alternative) but the Army still let it go. In the UK, Thatcher wanted to bring back conscription -- her biggest opposition came from the Ministry of Defense, who talked her out of it on grounds of efficiency.

So no, it's not just happening because "Americans won't tolerate a draft".

Interesting tidbit: Lithuania just reintroduced conscription. But then, the Baltics currently feel extremely threatened by Russian revanchism. And Russia has a mass conscript army with capital-intensive high-tech support -- they're still running on the basis of how to win the last war, with a side-order of how to hold onto what's left of the Russian empire (clue: using boots on the ground).

167:

"In Greece, as elsewhere, the implementation of budget cuts, the dismantling of social welfare programs, and the deregulation of labor markets have occurred alongside a marked upgrading of the repressive capacities of the state. The more inequality climbs, the more public and private police are required."


https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/02/greece-syriza-police-reform/

168:

"... each pound that the UK government spends ... generates another two pounds in economic activity."

That's not possible since UK govt spending is something like 42% of GDP so if every pound they spent made 2 pounds additional activity that would equal 126% of GDP, give or take.

It's true. It just doesn't mean what I'd want it to mean.

Imagine this situation -- imagine that the British government somehow collected all the taxes they'd usually collect, but they didn't spend any money. A year later, would the money value of everything produced in Britain be considerably less than it was when they started? You know it would. But that could come two ways, maybe less would be produced, or maybe they'd keep producing and lower prices. How much of each would happen? I don't know. You don't know. Nobody knows.

It makes less sense to invest when prices are falling. You spend money making a product, and then you have to sell it cheap. Maybe you wind up with less money than you started with. If you have a big enough pile of money, you can spend a little of it and the rest is worth as much as it was before. The only risk you take is that deflation gets less.

If government didn't tax and spend, would there be as much spending? Nobody knows. We only have one world and no control group. There's strong reason to think that government spends more than anybody else would, but it isn't directly testable.

When government prints money, it's the same in reverse. The dollar value of everything produced goes up. How much is that from more production and how much is inflation? It isn't directly testable, we mostly have to apply theory. Different fools have different theories.

When there's a lot of inflation then it makes sense to produce as much stuff as you can, because it will get more valuable, and in the worst case people will buy almost anything quickly to get the money out of their hands -- they will want something tangible they can barter even if it's something they don't want for themselves. Chances are production will go up, but is it really the production we want?

It's all very complicated. Hard to say it just doesn't work. Hard to say that if we do a whole lot more of it then things will get better. We kind of need to muddle through.

It makes a certain sense to track what resources people and corporations own, and when we see people who are not using valuable resources then take them away and give them to somebody who will be more productive. On the other hand, we need to preserve ecosystems etc and if there's an old-growth forest left somewhere I don't want it taken away and given to whoever will cut it down the quickest.

It's complicated.

169:

If I'm a plant owner and replaced all my workers with robots, and now my former workers have no money to by my products, what do I have the plant for? Also, if nobody buys my products, how do I pay taxes? In material goods?

Welcome to the crisis of capitalism, comrade!

Since basically everybody is starting to realize this, it's a cinch that parts of government and corporate hierarchies have, too. Self interest and bureaucratic propogation requirements should logically kick in, eventually, to sidestep the slow motion train wreck. At least in a semi-rational world. Is that the universe we inhabit? History offers some encouragement, look at how the Corn Laws managed to slowly break the gentry stranglehold over British food supply in the 19th century, or how U.S. depression era programs (WPA, etc.) mitigated some of the harshest deprivation the public suffered. And while a total financial collapse in 2008 would have nicely suited some entrenched interests, the Fed intervention and TARP bailout staved off the worst outcome. Even Walmart's recent wage boost seems to imply at least a glimmering awareness dawning in the boardroom. Chicken feed, one might argue. And of course reactionary pinheads will always try to monopolize resources, but the countervailing power of government and market competitors fight it. Singapore style city-state authoritarianism won't scale up to national or global domains, not that it hasn't been tried repeatedly. The Chinese communist party, looking more and more like old style Chicago Democrats all the time, is too big, loose jointed and sloppily decentralized to enforce tight domination over internal factions with regional power bases. Look how they had to execute Bo Xilai to deal with a non- sanctioned party outgrowth. A real mess, it took forever, and it only happened because of a national change of leadership, a fairly rare event. The point being that a necessarily broad consensus among high level stakeholders defuses the growth of Singaporism beyond local scale. And if that's the case in an East Asian environment, with their Confucian heritage of group over individual, and state over society, how much harder would it be to emerge in a Western cultural background with our vaunted individualism and liberal politics.

170:

What would happen if all money was tagged - that is, you were able to tag it so that you could track it across geographies, types of uses/purchases, etc. indefinitely.

Two reasons for this:
1- Finding out how various terrorist groups are able to fund their armies.
2- The corporate revenue/income tax evasion angle.

By now, there should be a software that can do this.


On a sad note: Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock) has passed away.

171:

Yes it is a bit complicated, but economists have been studying it all for decades now, and I feel it necessary to point out that the austerity viewpoint has bugger all evidence for it, whereas the more neo-keynsian/ whatever you call the likes of Joseph Stiglitz actually has some for it, now we've carried out a number of experiments. (Not exactly controlled experiments mind you but we don't have that good simulation capabilities)

Yet people in the USA keep worrying about massive increases in inflation, despite all the evidence pointing the other way.

172:

It's even more complicated than that... inflation happens when you create money only if the money is actually used. But when you're in a deflation it's better to keep money than to invest, so the money stays put and deflation stays.

Which is why people like Krugman say that you can't get out of a deflation trap with monetary policies, because the money flow stops immediately at the bankers. You need fiscal policies, e.g. ensure the money ends up in the hands of people who is going to use it, also known as "the middle class" and "the poor".

OG.

173:

I think that by now, those who survive in the Western military establishment have bought in to the idea of capital intensive war. But, on land (naval war being a different matter), it still doesn't seem to work, at least offensively. It's too expensive; the locals wait it out and go back to what they were doing.

174:
What would happen if all money was tagged - that is, you were able to tag it so that you could track it across geographies, types of uses/purchases, etc. indefinitely.

I think it is, from what I've read they use cocaine as the marker...

But why not abolish cash altogether? Use cards, or ... the mark of the beast? Could income tax & NI be abolished if every transaction were taxed ala VAT? Would an ability to real-time track cash movements improve the ability to manage the national economy? Oh Tobin, what am I thinking?

Have to be a very secure system though with an unbreakable infrastructure!! Though it might make micro-transactions possible.

175:
or ... the mark of the beast?

A litteral reading of the revelation of st. John the Divine suggests there is some possibility accepting the mark means you get the Beast's credit card.

Which seeing as he's related to the Lord of this world has a large, if not infinite, credit line.

Alas the mark of the beast seems more like a marketing logo on a more "realistic" (YMMV) reading.

176:

"Two reasons for this:
1- Finding out how various terrorist groups are able to fund their armies."

ISIL are making billions by selling oil. This is not some wad of cash being handed over at the border for a truck of oil. It needs to move through the global financial system. Do you really think our intelligence agencies do not know who is buying and selling? Why do you think nothing is being done to stop it?

177:
Do you really think our intelligence agencies do not know who is buying and selling? Why do you think nothing is being done to stop it?

Assuming it's not corruption, I assume they think the info will be a useful leaver at a later date with respect to unforseen circumstances...

178:
If I'm a plant owner and replaced all my workers with robots, and now my former workers have no money to by my products, what do I have the plant for? Also, if nobody buys my products, how do I pay taxes? In material goods?

Welcome to the tragedy of the commons/paradox of thrift. Your advantage from paying more taxes/wages/etc. is relatively small compared to the benefits from slave labor and tax avoidance. Of course, if everyone does the same, the whole system comes unglued and you all lose out.

Which doesn't change your immediate decision matrix. So at best you're in a multiparty prisoners' dilemma: any of the players who "cooperate" will get the thanks of the others as they knife the sucker in the ribs.

179:

Naah.

Crude oil of a given grade is a fungible commodity -- one barrel of sweet light crude is pretty much substitutable for any other.

So: tankers in Da'esh controlled territory haul oil out into somewhere like Turkey or Syria or Iraq or wherever the hell. It gets loaded onto a tanker. At sea, outside territorial waters, it is transferred to another tanker. Meanwhile some money changes hands elsewhere, via middlemen who are charging extra for their services because of the additional risk of maybe being seen to be doing business with Da'esh.

The real action being taken against this trade is coming from the Saudi oil ministry, who are cutting the price of crude to the bone -- provoking howls of outrage from OPEC. Purely coincidentally, those who are most hurt by oil at $60/Bbl are oil exporters who are on the USA/Saudi Arabian joint Enemies List: Russia, Venezuela, Iran, and ... Da'esh.

180:

I had a look at the numbers for the F-22.

Six AIM-120C missiles with a range of about 50 miles
Two AIM-9 Sidewinders
One 20mm M61A1 Vulcan cannon.

I'm assuming that a Sidewinder can lock onto a piston-engined aircraft.

Without having to close to gun range, which has a slight risk, the F-22 could destroy 8 Luftwaffe aircraft per sortie. Three sorties per day is 24 enemy aircraft total.

In the Battle of Britain, average Luftwaffe losses were 18 aircraft per day, but that assumes operations on every day.

So 1 F-22 could replace half the RAF.

Current RAF operational bases cover pretty well the whole of the Battle of Britain combat area from one base, RAF Coningsby, with AWACS aircraft flying from RAF Waddington, a few miles away.

Problem: just one aircraft, even with a 50-mile weapon range, would have problems engaging all the simultaneous Luftwaffe raids that took place.

The Lanchester Laws don't really match air warfare, and when your one 'plane can fly easily out of reach of enemy fighters they get really badly distorted, but twice as many planes have more than twice the effect. How do you compare 1 with 350?

(This could have been much longer: I was getting bored by the Libertarian blow-hards from across the Pond. Researching this post was a little interesting. But I am going back to Kerbal Space Program. I hear there is a Mod that gives you Spitfires in Space.)

181:

So 1 F-22 could replace half the RAF.

Ignoring my own warning, taking my own bait, etc:

I seem to recall hearing that around 1995-2000, as an exercise, students at the RAF Staff College at Cranfield worked out how many F-117As -- configured as deployed in the former Yugoslavia during the Bosnian war -- it would take to duplicate the economic/strategic effects of the USAAF/RAF bombing campaign against the Third Reich, from 1942-45. (And also how long.)

Turned out it was one squadron of Nighthawks with smart bombs, six weeks, and a 50/50 risk of losing one airframe (probably to random flak, possibly to mechanical failure).

And the F-117A was retired as obsolete six years ago.

(Note that the F-22 and Typhoon can both supercruise at upwards of 1000 knots without engaging afterburners. The UK is approximately 800 miles, north-to-south (we can mostly ignore the pressing need to defend Cornwall from attacks from the north-east). So from a position around Newcastle, a 4Gen fighter could run north to Inverness or south to Dover in around 20 minutes -- during which time an attacking Luftwaffe force could only have moved 50-100 miles. So the only way to deal with it would be to mount multiple raids at opposite ends of the country, timed to arrive over target simultaneously -- and to expect that one or the other is going to get very badly mauled.)

182:
Purely coincidentally, those who are most hurt by oil at $60/Bbl are oil exporters who are on the USA/Saudi Arabian joint Enemies List: Russia, Venezuela, Iran, and ... Da'esh.

Sure. Odd co-incidence... Did you ever see the film "Lord of War"[/.1]? Superb start & credible take on the kind of trade mechanism you 're talking about. But I find it difficult to believe that the powers that be don't know who's responsible. In a trivial and at root sense.

If they know and they're not acting, (maybe they are with respect to the price, why not? Presumably because they think the info will be more useful later than now. A species of delayed gratification, which may be a good or bad sign, depending on how you look at it.

[1] "Lord of War". http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0399295/

PS. Mr. Spock is dead. And Radio 4 first announced this as "Dr. Spock", which is the kind of mistake my mother used to make back in the day. Really took me back!

183:

MODERATION NOTICE:

A certain famous actor's death has been noted. Further discussion on this comment thread is discouraged. (You've got the rest of the internet for that.)

Because this blog is so totally not the place for America is going to be allowed to go all Princess Diana on me.

184:

And of course, nobody thinks of bombing the oil production and storage facilities under ISIL control...

185:

I believe the assumption is that they will not remain under Da'esh's control indefinitely, and the cost of rebuilding them exceeds the cost of smashing Da'esh flat.

186:

So what did happen to Dr. Spock, who was not an actor (technically).

Apparently he died on March 15, 1998. And, amongst other things, won an Olympic gold for rowing in 1924, speaking of which why did the death of Dianna have such a big outpouring of emotion?

I liked the explanation posited in the Science of discworld III by Cohen, Stewart & Pratchett.

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=KthSyQRYucgC&pg=PA292&lpg=PA292&dq=princess+diana+science+of+discworld&source=bl&ots=WIHAe60-We&sig=5KWztGJRRLzGp5Lqq6942eANNQE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=dOfwVIuFLMPzavvtgGA&ved=0CCIQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=princess%20diana%20science%20of%20discworld&f=false

for those interested. FWIW, she wasn't an authentic Royal but was the popular conception of what a Princess is/should be. I think what they say is convincing, but persionally I think she was F*cd over by her husband who didn't tell her the score before they married. Living the dream easily becomes a nightmare...

Jesus... I'm a romantic! Pity me....

187:

I feel it necessary to point out that the austerity viewpoint has bugger all evidence for it, whereas the more neo-keynsian/ whatever you call the likes of Joseph Stiglitz actually has some for it, now we've carried out a number of experiments.

I don't think there's any question that a moderate increase in circulating money results in more jobs, which is good in the short run for people who need jobs.

But it also results in a lot of consumer crap getting marketed which is really no use to anybody, and a whole lot of money spent marketing the stuff to people whodon't know better than to buy it. In the process fortunes may be made by people who have no business making them, or more likely competition goes up to the point that nobody can make a profit for awhile until the interlopers have been driven off.

It isn't enough to do things that look good in the short run to one component of the economy. You need to take care of the whole system. One of the things that's going on is that we are giving poor people in other nations the chance to catch up. So for awhile they get first pick of the jobs they can do, and while their standard of living rises to meet ours, our middle-class standard of living is sinking to meet theirs. What we were doing was not at all sustainable anyway.

And of course a whole lot of people want to have security for the future, but with energy supplies so uncertain (and even climate) there isn't really any security to be had. One way or another those savings are probably going to disappear.

188:

Ahem: Let's also say that Charles Windsor was fucked over by his mother, who took a distinctly negative view of the woman he's now married to (now that she's safely past childbearing age) and who was his mistress for thirty years before that. Diana was a politically acceptable reproductive host for a crown prince whose real interest lay somewhere politically unacceptable (at the time).

189:

You wouldn't need a EF2000 Typhoon, or F-22, or a Su-35 Flanker-E.

Just the same suite of missiles [AIM-120 or Vympel R-77] and associated radar [AN/APG-77 or Irbis E0 fitted to something like a Canberra B(I)6

You could probably get six BVR radar AAMs under each wing.

Good time to altitude, good loiter time once there, (something 4th Gen fast jets can't manage without IFR, which is yet more infrastructure), and virtually impossible for any other aircraft to intercept.

About five WAH-64D Longbow Apaches could end most WW2 battles on their own, even the Battle of Britain [at night, without flying over the enemy airfields].

Does it show that I have thought too much about this?

190:

Camilla P-B, unfortunately for Charles, bearing in mind the Act of Settlement and the Royal Marriages Act 1772, was a) Roman Catholic and b) married.

191:

Finally, you missed some signs of police militarisation. Police Scotland may only have 275 firearms-trained officers, but non-specialist officers now routinely carry handguns in the highlands and borders. We've got a problem with the increasing inappropriate use of stop-and-search powers. The static personnel head-count of the intelligence services ignores the outsourcing of large chunks of the intel sector workload (around 80% of the intelligence agency spend in the USA is outsourced to private sector contractors) and the ability to leverage vastly more powerful computing and networking tools. All is not well, and while I don't want to suggest that the sky is falling, I think you're too optimistic.

Except that...

Police Scotland is not giving guns to non-specialist officers. That would open them to huge liability cases; no training, no guns. The Army is the same (you should see the ticking of boxes now required to get someone on a range, with a rifle). The stramash was because the specialist officers were being given jobs that didn't require their skills (i.e. they're short enough of officers that they can't afford to have 275 of them sat around drinking tea and waiting for a gunfight), but also required those officers to carry their weapons while doing so.

As for "increasing use of stop and search", that's explained by the Strathclyde cops subsuming the rest of Police Scotland, and a Chief Constable who assumes that everyone must do things the same way Glasgow Polis does them, no exceptions. If that means "take the guns with you", so be it. If that means "target-driven insistence on the same search tactics used to stifle knife-carrying in Glasgow", tough. Unfortunately, the Scottish Executive are doing rock-all to control him, and he's taking the "it's operational, politicians shouldn't interfere" attitude.

Finally, while the CIA and NSA may have outsourced their gathering or their database maintenance, what evidence do you have that this is being done by GCHQ or the Intelligence Service? I haven't heard a whisper about it, anywhere, and I question whether the UK is outsourcing any of it. This is Crown Jewels stuff; I suspect the closest we get is "civilianisation", i.e. the Police or NCA hiring appropriately-vetted former cops and soldiers with the relevant skills; that's far from either privatisation or outsourcing.

192:

As per usual, as it gets to this stage of a thread, the thing devolves to military hardware and political navel gazing.

However, I'd like to go back and disagree with some of Charlie's 'axioms':

8. The internet disintermediates supply chains.
Nope, it doesn't really. It 'changes' supply chains, disrupts them, give others a chance to win out and replace old chains - but the practical evidence is we still have the Amazons, Tescos, and a million and one other intermediaries between creator and consumer. If anything they've ended up more powerful. Charlie is forever saying that the intermediaries in the publishing supply change have to stay - so it's a bit weird to then say they are going to get blown away in a fit of internet.

10. The purpose of democracy is to provide a formal mechanism for transfer of power without violence, when the faction in power has lost legitimacy.
Nope, democracy is to provide the appearance of change whilst maintaining the power exactly where it was before. At least a good revolution decorates the walls with some of the old power structures, disrupts things in a practical way. One of the main problems with democracy is it's inability to deliver the extent and pace of chance that this modern world needs (eg climate change). It CAN'T deliver change outside the narrow extent of its existing parameters.

17. In future, inter-state pressure may be brought to bear on states that fail to meet the criteria in (15) even when they are not failed states by the standard of point (16).
Why on earth bother with inter-state pressure? You conform to the money or you don't have any of the money. Far more direct and effective than trying to get a politician to act. A 'failed' state only becomes one AFTER the money has gotten withdrawn - it's a consequence, not a cause.

19. So, going by (17) and (18), we're on the receiving end of a war fought for control of our societies by opposing forces that are increasingly more powerful than we are.
Actually the reverse. The level of manpower required to deliver effects has been reducing as technology increases. At the same time the systems of society has become increasingly fragile (call it optimised if you like) with many more interconnections. Upshot is the small group can now have a massive effect. The individual has been getting more powerful over time, not less. Hence why the clamps have come down to try and control that. In the end it's a losing game, and things break apart.

193:

One of the main problems with democracy is it's inability to deliver the extent and pace of chance that this modern world needs (eg climate change). It CAN'T deliver change outside the narrow extent of its existing parameters

Very true. I'm not sure what, beyond enlightened despotism, or a quasi-religious fervor, actually could deliver radical change in a modern setting.

194:

Okay, so you're saying that we need another Snowden-type massive leak, preferably by a forensic accountant who's absolutely boring (i.e., unblackmailable) otherwise. This person will also need to clearly communicate the money trail - graphically.

195:

Re: Point 16 --
I submit that a real failed state is one that does not serve the best interests of its citizens (insofar as those best interests do not lead to direct conflict with other states).

'Best' - this needs definition.

Whenever I see 'best', I immediately think 'ranking' ... Politicians, marketers, etc. often try to force-rank items, concepts, needs, etc. This is foolish and dangerous as most systems are complex and intertwined. Just because you can't see an immediate direct connection between A and H, does not mean that they are not connected. (See 'downstream effect'.)
BTW - ranking is not considered as useful/effective as ratings in many areas of social research because of this loss of what might be very important information.

196:

The point I'm trying to make, though, is that in general insurgencies only get off the ground when there's a mass base of silent sympathizers who give aid and comfort to the insurgents, or when civil society has pretty much imploded and the insurgents are the only gang who can provide local stability.

I agree with everything you're saying, there - particularly with the mechanisms for defeating said insurgencies.

However, the current crop of insurgencies have gone transnational - and this makes it rather difficult to undercut their legitimacy or basis of support. The world's various insurgencies apparently compete for their foreign recruits; currently, Syria is the place to be for the aspiring Jihadi - Somalia is so last year...

In Northern Ireland, the UK worked at cutting down the inherent bigotry in local society, with the Generals being quite clear that the British Army was not there to provide a solution, just to buy time. In Sri Lanka, the Tamils were defeated by sheer ruthlessness and tens of thousands of deaths. Action Directe, the Red Army Faction, and Baader-Meinhof all failed because they had no real support, and could be criminalised (and because the 1980s brought the changes that the late 1960s had been driving towards).

The current reaction may well be driven by the lack of realistic negotiations. Why do 15-year-old girls from London (the best-integrated place in the UK, by all accounts) decide that actually, Syria is the place to go? Why do a bunch of Saudis decide to retrain as airline pilots? And lest I be accused of fixating on religious-based insanity, why do some Americans set off half-ton bombs in Oklahoma City and genuinely believe that the New World Order is a threat to them as individuals?

Politically-driven (or even ideologically-driven but politically-supportable) insurgencies are easier to negotiate with than ideologically-driven insurgencies. Saudi Arabia has the kind of welfare state that untold billions can buy, but there are still nutters who revel in their intolerance and demand that the entire world see things their way.

Exactly how does a European democracy attempt to mitigate the support base of fanaticism driven by nutters in Yemen or Saudi Arabia? (Remembering that "invading the Middle East" only happened after two attacks on the World Trade Centre - both the failed truck bomb and the successful airliners). For that matter, how could the UK dissuade Bostonians from supporting "the boys"?

Are these insurgencies genuinely "bottom-up" reflections of dissatisfaction among the people, led by the vanguard of frustrated, ruthless, but consistent individuals? Or are they astroturfed, and their incitement merely a useful lever for the powerful but fearful types who want to hold on to local power by pointing elsewhere? How do you negotiate with a Pakistan that really doesn't want a successful Afghanistan on its border, or a House of Saud that can't be bought, and would prefer that its potential challengers get angry abroad rather than change things at home? Or a Syrian Government who rather appreciates that ISIS tend to delegitimise all of their opposition?

Either way, the overspill is credibly dangerous and difficult to handle. Whatever ideas you've got, I suspect they're already being tried...

197:

Since the collapse of the USSR and the rise of post-Tiananmen China it has become glaringly obvious that capitalism does not require democracy. Or even benefit from it. Capitalism as a system may well work best in the absence of democracy.

I heard an interesting proposition on a Radio 4 programme, looking back at the Industrial Revolution, and asking why Britain leapt so far further forward in the 18th Century than (say) France and Spain. The answer was that its entrepreneurism was best encouraged by a transparent, swift, and effective legal system; and that lots of small individual enterprises demonstrated greater results than the fewer, larger, more stifling state-controlled enterprises that were the preferred approaches of France and Spain).

That would tend to support the position that true individualist capitalism exists best in a democracy rather than in its absence; it's harder to break through the glass ceiling in a tyranny...

198:

... lots of small individual enterprises demonstrated greater results than the fewer, larger, more stifling state-controlled enterprises that were the preferred approaches of France and Spain).

That would tend to support the position that true individualist capitalism exists best in a democracy rather than in its absence....

Doesn't that need to go in past tense?

... true individualist capitalism existed best in a democracy rather than in its absence....

Isn't it now more like it was in Shakespeare's day? Like the fishes in the sea, the big ones eat the smaller....

199:

As per usual, as it gets to this stage of a thread, the thing devolves to military hardware and political navel gazing.

Perhaps. Frankly, I find the current Russian output even scarier than Fox News, and that's saying something. Here's a taster - I await someone more experienced to put it into context...

http://english.pravda.ru/world/americas/09-02-2015/129738-0/

If OGH is correct, we should see a rapid reduction in overblown terrorist stories, and a rapid increase in poorly-written and ill-informed hysteria from the usual media suspects... (the Daily Express couldn't even spell an RAF aircraft name correctly - "Rivot Joint" indeed :(

200:
Without having to close to gun range, which has a slight risk, the F-22 could destroy 8 Luftwaffe aircraft per sortie. Three sorties per day is 24 enemy aircraft total.

Hawk Among the Sparrows. It's possible someone else remembers it.

Anyway, that F-22 has a rather more devastating weapon against WWII aircraft than the missiles, and I don't mean the cannon. I mean overpressure.

The F-22 can cruise supersonic, and just flying by WWII planes at Mach 1.0x is going to generate an overpressure wave that will blow their wings off. Not to mention being long gone by the time they get lined up on it. Multiple targets per pass, and they pretty much have to fly close together or the Spitfires will destroy them in detail.

201:

I'm not sure what, beyond enlightened despotism, or a quasi-religious fervor, actually could deliver radical change in a modern setting.

It's possible that the inherent complexity of our current level of technology is a major barrier to change. The system has so many interdependencies that nothing much can be fixed without rebuilding everything from the ground up, and we're too dependent on the system to tear it down and rebuild.

202:

IMO it is a misallocation of resources to send your time traveling air force's modern fighters up against WW II German aircraft in the air. The B-52 has a higher service ceiling and speed than German interceptors. Who cares if Germans can see you on radar, or even visually, when they can't touch you? Bomb the air bases, oil refineries, steel mills, and armaments factories from high altitude. For that matter you can destroy the German and Japanese navies with nothing but a few B-52s, quite possibly without the poor sailors ever even seeing where the destruction is coming from.

After that somewhat bloodthirsty comment, my favorite essay on World War II: Losing the War

203:

I believe you are correct in that assessment. However, IS may well become a real Islamic State in Sunni Iraq unless the West re-invades. The locals do not have the will to do anything about them beyond protecting their own patch of land. It would not take much on the PR front for IS to "turn moderate" and start building a real state.

204:

Illegal knife carrying is one of those crimes that will probably be extinct a few months after medium range terahertz scanners capable of being fitted in the back of a van become available. Park up on a main street and scan everyone for weapon-like images. Every search an arrest, every arrest a conviction.

205:

Just a quick note on democracy v rule of law

Capitalism seems to do better under rule of law , democracy is an option, see Hong Kong , Singapore , 18th century Britain etc

V Philippines , ukrain etc

206:

"Why do 15-year-old girls from London (the best-integrated place in the UK, by all accounts) decide that actually, Syria is the place to go? Why do a bunch of Saudis decide to retrain as airline pilots? And lest I be accused of fixating on religious-based insanity, why do some Americans set off half-ton bombs in Oklahoma City and genuinely believe that the New World Order is a threat to them as individuals?"

I can supply an answer to that which will explain why we will see a lot more of it in future. Apparently insane views like these are not insane when the whole group believes they are the norm. When everyone you speak with knows and believes all the NWO crap it becomes the new reality. Now that the Net has replaced the news hierarchy with a flat structure of people who only solely interact with their "peers" but also only select news that reinforces those views, we will get increasingly large sections of the public intellectually ghettoizing themselves and literally living in a world of their own.

Whether their worldview is right or wrong is very difficult to decide objectively when the only evidence available is what is on the Net and major news media cannot be trusted.

207:

"It's possible that the inherent complexity of our current level of technology is a major barrier to change"

Almost correct, but replace "technology" with "legal system"

208:

Correction:
Grandmother.
Elizabeth of Glamis was not a nice person to cross & was incredibly domineering. [ She arranged for Di-th-brailess to "meet" Speaker to vegetables ]
It is said that when "Phil the Greek" went on his world tour during IGY he sent a message saying, in effect:
"If that cow's not out of Buck House by the time I get back, then I'm not moving back into Buck House"

Don't blame Lizzie ....

209:

ONE "Astute" class destroyer, cruising in the Channel?

210:

They can't
See the article in "Atlantic".
They have declared themseleves a Caliphate - which has certain duties & responsibilities.
"Going moderate" is the exact opposite of what they are standing for.
Think the "Cameronians" in the Scottish religious wars - totally fanatic ultra-puritans with "god on their side"

211:

oops, I forgot.
Martin @ 191 point #17
Wrong way round.
Somalia was & is failed & there wan't any money to start with ....
Ties in with Dirk's comment @ # 206
If you have a form of groupthink-insnity, you really do have a problem.
And we do.

212:

IS probably have sufficiently good PR to appear to be anything they like. All they need to do is "create" a "moderate" faction within their org.

213:

Capitalism seems to do better under rule of law , democracy is an option, see Hong Kong , Singapore , 18th century Britain etc

I guess I was too vague. I was responding to

... lots of small individual enterprises demonstrated greater results than the fewer, larger, more stifling state-controlled enterprises that were the preferred approaches of France and Spain).

That would tend to support the position that true individualist capitalism exists best in ....

an idea that many small individual enterprises was a good thing that worked better, as opposed to fewer, larger, more stifled approaches.

So I looked around at my media-influenced view of the USA and Britain, where we have the idea that the market is dominated by a handful of giant organizations that control the government whenever they take enough interest to bother. That are perceived as mostly not creating great results except in increasing their profits at the expense of the rest of the world.

And I wondered whether there was a way to create the sort of democracy or legal system or whatever that might result in many small individual enterprises that would have a chance to get greater results.

It seems like it would take something other than the freedom of the sea, where the bigger eat the smaller.

214:

Politically unacceptable? That she's a minion of the Pope?

A couple of thoughts:

1. That CPB wouldn't give up her faith to become Queen, says something for her. Possibly that she likes the long game, is into delayed gratification, or sees some advantage in it. Or maybe she really believes.

2. Possibly Brenda took against her for other, personal, reasons (the Tree incident and other indisgressions), and it was at root a good old family argument where the political issue was useful. Presumably Brenda has her own foibles, and isn't entirely disconnected from humanity in at least that sense, even if years of Queening doesn't help.

As to the upcoming election. UKIP "policies" are neither here nor there. IMO Voting for them is a percieved as a good way to "stick it to the man" both Labour & ConDem. Though I doubt they'll get in by accident.

So Charlie, when are you founding a new political party? I mean given all this research?

Still as I say: "Vote Cthulhu! Why settle for the lesser of two evils?".

215:
"Why do 15-year-old girls from London (the best-integrated place in the UK, by all accounts) decide that actually, Syria is the place to go?

I favor the Jethro Tull/Pussy Willow explanation:

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

Occasionally, a very talented woman rises to the top. And a woman can be more implacible than a man, according to Anne Desclos. Now off to buy some onion rings & watch the Duke of Burgandy.

216:

"Ahem: Let's also say that Charles Windsor was fucked over by
his mother, ..."

Yes, indeed, but it's a mistake to think in terms of culprits;
almost all of those who could be so called were or are
themselves victims, as Greg Tingey implied. My background
was similar enough (a few social notches down!) that I can
recognise the syndrome from personal experience. Also, we
don't know how much other people were involved (e.g. Prime
Ministers).

Apparently, the same is true of a great many convicted sex
offenders and violent criminals, but the government and gutter
press do their level best to ensure that research and early
treatment are discouraged, or even suppressed.

217:

However, the current crop of insurgencies have gone transnational - and this makes it rather difficult to undercut their legitimacy or basis of support. The world's various insurgencies apparently compete for their foreign recruits; currently, Syria is the place to be for the aspiring Jihadi - Somalia is so last year...

Yes. However, what do we mean when we talk about nations? Usually we mean states as defined by the post-Westphalian settlement: borders, internal control.

Lest we forget, most of the troublesome current insurgencies -- the ones that have gone global -- are taking place in a part of the world that has two distinctive characteristics: they're post-colonial states, carved out of the rump of the old Ottoman empire by the western victors in the first world war, or they're post-colonial states in Africa, where the SOP for the colonial powers was to create artificial states that mixed different previous tribal/national groups so that a minority group could be used as a proxy occupying force to hold down a majority group.

This means that what we think of as national borders are recent artificial impositions on what they think of as natural cultural/ethnic boundaries. (The nearest western analogy would be the Berlin Wall and the East German border with West Germany.) Hence the weird way that Da'esh seems to be spreading in Syria, Iraq, and other "nations" in the Levant.

I'll grant you the essentially ideological nature of the underlying drive. All I can say for sure is that "it's complicated", and there seems to be a monumental power struggle going on in the Islamic world right now between the pragmatic many who are accommodating themselves to the collection of traits we call "modernity", and this group of intransigent, intolerant, back-to-the-7th-century people we consider to be fanatics.[*] From their point of view, they're fighting back against an aggressive, hegemonizing, totalising ideology that claims global supremacy and tramples on their deeply-held religious beliefs: the western enlightenment, of which virtually everything from Nazism through Leninism, neoliberal capitalism, and social democracy are all barely-distinguishable aspects.

I think what we're seeing -- the unrest -- is actually symptomatic of the fact that the modernizers in the Muslim world are actually winning. They're winning slowly and quietly, and their shock troops are TV soap operas, local pop stars, and bloggers. The rest is backlash, with some unfortunate backing from people who have far more money than sense (the Islamic equivalent of the Koch Brothers -- ideological climate change denialists).


[*] I'm bending over backwards here not to say what I think of them. Let's just say I'm not a fan of theocracy as a governing ideology.

218:

So Charlie, when are you founding a new political party? I mean given all this research?

I joined the Scottish Greens. They've got some distinctive twists that differentiate them from the English Greens, notably support for the independence movement up here. They're basically an old-school social democratic party with a strong emphasis on human rights and the environment, and a bit less authoritarian/centralizing than Labour used to be (before they turned into Tory Lite).

It's not ideal -- what would be ideal would be for this planet to be invaded and annexed by Iain M. Banks' Culture: I'd be an enthusiastic Quisling -- but it will do until something better comes along.

219:

However, what do we mean when we talk about nations? Usually we mean states as defined by the post-Westphalian settlement: borders, internal control.

Yes! And 9/11 showed that the USA was unable to control its borders or maintain internal control sufficent to prevent gigantic acts of sabotage. The USA was a failed state.

The attempts since then to repress the US public and control the borders are in fact attempts to stop being a failed state, to get enough internal control and control of borders to keep anything like 9/11 from ever happening again.

The more powerful technology that's available, the less of it can be allowed to people who might not be completely trustworthy.

From their point of view, they're fighting back against an aggressive, hegemonizing, totalising ideology that claims global supremacy and tramples on their deeply-held religious beliefs....

I want to applaud you for trying to see it from their point of view even while you fundamentally disagree.

Reading science fiction, I grew up with the idea that technology would and should continue to change the world, that we would and should develop whatever capabilities we could. I believed that this would provide needed disruption. The canal builders couldn't stay too powerful with railroads coming in, and the railroad controllers wouldn't stay too powerful with automobiles and airplanes, and so on. But now we are getting an increasing consensus that technology should be controlled and allowed to people only after the implications have been thought out. I see it from ISIS and China and the US government.

I try to imagine what the saudi royals think about ISIS, without any inside information. On the one hand, they have similar religious beliefs and run a similar government. ideologically they might like each other. On the other hand, if ISIS becomes successful, and later there's the question who else should run saudi arabia if not the saudi royals, ISIS would be pretty much the only sunni candidate. The saudis might feel like they would be better off if there was no other candidate.

I think what we're seeing -- the unrest -- is actually symptomatic of the fact that the modernizers in the Muslim world are actually winning.

"Modernizers" win if people think and believe various ways but get along well enough to run a mass consumer society. Religious zealots win if they can get enough of a consensus that nobody admits to disagreeing with them.

From my perspective it seems like the modernizers must inevitably come out ahead. But my perspective is limited. People tell stories like North Korea has that kind of control, but I never talk to any North Koreans to see for myself.

220:

I've got to disagree on a couple of aspects. The big problem with this view is that you're assuming that religious fundamentalism is rising up in a vacuum, that the radicals are gaining power in essentially random places created by past politics.

This isn't quite true.

For instance, the Syrian revolt got started after Turkey cut Syria's water supply in half (references are at https://heteromeles.wordpress.com/2013/09/14/the-syrian-water-war/), and currently Da'esh is most powerful basically downstream from the dams of the Southeastern Anatolia Project, which Turkey installed to quell the long-term insurgency in Kurdistan, which was poor, dry, and revolting (in the political sense).

Similarly, Boko Haram seems to be most powerful in the Sahel, which was (is?) still suffering from erosion and desertification. After all, it's just south of that dust-producing engine that's fertilizing the Amazon.

In general, the AQ and its spawn seem to do best in areas that are desertifying. Conversely, moderate Muslims are doing best where they are in better economic and ecological shape.

The pattern isn't confined to Islam. For instance, in the 2012 election, there's an interesting overlap between the most rabid conservative areas and areas that are either in deep, protracted drought (see the blog reference above for links) or are suffering from massive industrialization of farms killing off rural communities, forcing people off their land and onto public support and into low-paying service jobs. This doesn't mean that the US is a failed state, but it does mean that there is a correlation, perhaps causation, between suffering and radicalism, and it's being cynically used by some rich people (cf: the Walmart heirs).

If you believe James Scott's work (looking at his books Weapons of the Weak and The Art of Not Being Governed), two things jump out:

One is the people on the bottom aren't stupid anywhere, no matter what left-wing intellectuals might think. They know they're getting screwed by the rich and powerful, but they also know that revolution is a worse option: it's likely to fail, but if it succeeds, the successor regime might be worse. Revolt is generally the last option.

Similarly, millenarian religious movements spring up when things really get bad. There are would-be prophets everywhere at all times, but they only gain followers when things are breaking down. The classic patten of would-be messiahs is to gather groups of followers during protracted troubles, launch themselves against the powers that be, and die horribly, with their bands dissolving over the succeeding generation or two. Occasionally they change things, sometimes for the better, but normally, they do not.

Violent revolution is typically a last resort. This doesn't mean that would-be revolutionaries don't exist at all times. However, mostly they're marginalized cranks. It takes a crisis to empower them, and that's what's going on with AQ and successors throughout its range. They seem to be most powerful where environmental crises, exacerbated by dysfunctional politics are stressing people to the breaking point. Yes, they draw in some few disaffected from the first world, but as I said, there are cranks everywhere.

I could draw this out and point out that there are analogies here to the evolutionary origins of sex, but I'll leave that for another post if anyone is interested. Connecting sex, parasitism, and terrorism is a bit too brain warping for most people.

221:

You hit on a couple of interesting points there.

1: Non-Combat Losses were significant in 1940. It's a bit tricky getting a number for them, but with several hundred aircraft flying on any operational day, some would be lost through engine failure, crashes on landing, and the like.

The rate of these losses was similar for both sides, and historians find it hard to distinguish them from the effects of combat. Did a plane crash on landing because of a mechanical defect, combat damage, or a wounded pilot?

2: In the 1990s the RAF put a fair bit of effort into figuring the effects of the new weapons, and how they changed strategic bombing. They had seen the laser-guided bombs working in the Kuwait War, and how the old Cold War style of ultra-low attack worked out. What had made some sort of sense over a European battlefield with huge quantities of rader-guided missiles, and with un-guided bombs, was on the way out.

What I recall is an article in one of the RAF Yearbooks describing the modern photo interpreters and the planning for an attack. You didn't need to flatten a factory, if you could put a bomb in the right place.

One instance of a target-type mentioned in the article can be seen on Google Earth a few hundred meters north of the A630-M1 road junction. It's one of the big switching points for the National Grid, and the USA was developing "bombs" that would cover a site like that with long carbon fibres. Massive short circuits there, and Sheffield is dead as a production centre (the way the Grid is designed there are likely a couple of alternate feeds into Sheffield, but after all the shorts it is going to be a long while before you can produce enough parts to fix it).

So there's a big recce job finding the targets, but you can shut down a lot very easily. Compared to the Sheffield Blitz, December 1940, which killed over 600 people and damaged 70,000 houses, and didn't shut the steel industry down, you could get more effect from a couple of laser-guided weapons on a mostly deserted target.

Finding the right target is important. The Germans only had one factory that made the batteries for U-boats, and it was never bombed. Even with WW2 technology, think of the effect one decent air-raid could have had. The RAF did attack places such as Philips in Eindhoven and the M.A.N engine factory at Augsberg.

For bombing, while the aircraft could fly higher and faster, the actual bombing wasn't hugely better for most of the Cold War. The first LGB gave a huge increase in the hit rate, around 1970. That's when you start getting the changes.

222:

> Hawk Among the Sparrows.

Aha! Thank you for the title. [google]

I've remembered the story for decades and never could remember the name or author.

223:

The F-22 can cruise supersonic, and just flying by WWII planes at Mach 1.0x is going to generate an overpressure wave that will blow their wings off.

I vaguely remember a story like that where it was WWI planes. The radar mostly went right through them, the missiles couldn't lock on, etc. But the overpressure killed them easily.

Would it still be true for WWII planes?

If so, the modern plane would have to be very careful not to knock the wings off friendly planes by accident. There would be an intermediate zone where they get stressed just badly enough to fail after 10 or 15 mostly-misses, unless the ground crew notices the coming failure and keeps them grounded until the damaged wings etc can be replaced.

I wonder whether defenders could come up with an effective weapon against it? I could vaguely imagine something like chaff. You make bombs that blow up enough to spread lots of little sheets of aluminum foil around, and if the jet flies through them maybe it gets some in among the fans.... You never know just where the plane will come, but it never knows where you will blow chaff either. Maybe they didn't have anything that could destroy a modern plane, but if they could just get it down for maintenance for a few weeks that would be pretty useful.

Maybe their single best chance would be to bomb it on the ground, and the longer it spent on the ground the better.

Of course, if there were 50 of them they could always keep one in the air to protect the others, unless they take more than 48 hours of maintenance for each hour flying. I've seen estimates that the F-14 required 50 hours maintenance per flight hour, but maybe the reality was so complicated that this sort of factoid doesn't really mean anything.

224:

Non-Combat Losses were significant in 1940. It's a bit tricky getting a number for them, but with several hundred aircraft flying on any operational day, some would be lost through engine failure, crashes on landing, and the like.

A few months ago I was reading on WWII US stats and seem to remember that 1/3 of the aircraft losses for the US were non combat related.

225:

I vaguely remember a story like that where it was WWI planes. The radar mostly went right through them, the missiles couldn't lock on, etc. But the overpressure killed them easily.

I think that was a story in Analog in the 70s. :)

I've seen estimates that the F-14 required 50 hours maintenance per flight hour, but maybe the reality was so complicated that this sort of factoid doesn't really mean anything.

A maintenance hour isn't a clock hour. 3 people working for 5 hours is 15 maintenance hours.

226:

But now we are getting an increasing consensus that technology should be controlled and allowed to people only after the implications have been thought out.

The problem with this approach is that ALL technology can be used for evil. Evil as defined by the rule makers and most any one else who thinks it through. Roll this back 150 years and telephones would be outlawed. Trains. Heck the entire industrial revolution.

227:

Minor (?) nit-pick
the western enlightenment, of which virtually everything from Nazism through Leninism, neoliberal capitalism, and social democracy are all barely-distinguishable aspects.
Not so.
The Nazis were a versy similar raction to the enlightenment - like Da'esh a death-cult.
See also "Viva la muerte!" in the Spanish Cvil war ....
Da'esh are virtually indisitinguishable from Nazis, in practical fact ....
To which, of course there is, unfortunately only one answer.
And, also, to quote Frodo "I wish that it need not have happened in my time."

228:

1. That CPB wouldn't give up her faith to become Queen, says something for her. Possibly that she likes the long game, is into delayed gratification, or sees some advantage in it. Or maybe she really believes.

That was not really an option back then. Religion was(is?) much stickier than a "choice" of the moment. Or decade.

229:

I do hope they are different from the English Watermelons.
I had a very depressing dialogue-of-the-deaf with a group of these ignorant, stupid & bright-eyed traitors in our local market this morning.

If you want your country defended: DON'T vote tory
If you want a good education system DON'T vote Lemocrat
If you want decent workers' rights DON'T vote Labour
If you care for the environment DON'T vote Green
... to which I may add another one, very reluctantly ...
If you want out of the corrupt, corporate EU - don't vote UKIP.

230:

See also:
"Glide Path" by the one & only A C Clarke

For those few of you who have not read it, a very-thinly fictionalised account of (part of) the development of Ground Control APproach radar durin WWII ... where the losses on landings, esp in fouler weather, was really COSTING.
GCA was either not developed in time to be used much, or cam on stream just after WWII.
But it won a very important "battle", nonethless.
The Berlin Airlift could not have worked without it.

231:

"I vaguely remember a story like that where it was WWI planes."

I think that was a story in Analog in the 70s. :)

Yes, it turns out it was "Hawk among the Sparrows" by Dean McLaughlin, published in Analog in 1969.

232:

I don't actually see what your second paragaph has to do with what I typed. You are just describing mass market consumerism, but seem to think it's a bad thing for some reason. To which I would agree, and I think apart from just giving every adult a thousand quid, we should also be investing in research and development.
Worrying about the long term when there's millions out of work etc etc is a bit pointless in my book. The long term finance stuff will take care of itself, probably better than you'd think once we put the laws back how they were before the deregulation which permitted the financial crash to take place.


"Fortunes made by people who have no place making them"? Are you being sarcastic?
I'm also unsure which savings you are talking about. My aim is to get as many people as possible back to work, because oddly enough doing so is good not only for their mental and physical health, as well as communities (The ones devastated in the 1980's have taken a generation to recover) and the wider economy.

Moreover, giving better jobs to foreigners is a bit of a red herring. More money is being creamed off by the bosses and the financial sector, without which the middle classes and others would be noticeably better off, even with other countries going through their developing phases right now.

233:

I agree with Greg here; the things Charlie listed are in some cases reactionary, in others easily distinguishable by anyone except a raving fundamentalist.

234:

A counter argument to the whole "capital vs labor" argument is that technology actually makes most of the things people actually need less intensive both from a capital and labor perspective. It's basically getting easier and cheaper to build anything to the point where no one really has much control over anything (including corporations ) and there is a ton of loose capital sloshing around in the system

Technology and automation does not privilege capital over labor as much as make both increasingly irrelevant

This flies in the face of one of the meta themes, that corporations / capital is becoming more powerful, I think overall it is becoming less, at least less from an economic perspective. The political power wielded by Capital is another story

Similarly with regards to government control over their populace. Technology makes it harder for central governing bodies to exercise control. This is a doible edge sword as it benefits terrorists but also is a trend toward personal liberty. Consider that the most important organ of the economy and communication is essentially unpoliced. To put this in an 18th century context there are bandits freely roaming the highways and pirates sailing the sea lanes

You have central authorities that are fighting back desperately with various security apparatus but with less and less success

235:

"But now we are getting an increasing consensus that technology should be controlled and allowed to people only after the implications have been thought out."

Roll this back 150 years and telephones would be outlawed. Trains. Heck the entire industrial revolution.

To me, the obvious solution would be to try to allow technology that looked like it gave an advantage to the people who get to decide whether to ban things, and try to ban anything that looks like it might give somebody else an advantage over them.

236:

What does it matter? Wanting to control a thing is not the same as being able to. They also want to control drugs. National governments hav zero chance to control technology it would take unified coordinates action by all of them at the same time

237:

I don't actually see what your second paragaph has to do with what I typed. You are just describing mass market consumerism, but seem to think it's a bad thing for some reason. To which I would agree....

I apologize. Without actually intending to, I was sort of trolling. I took up the point of view of somebody who cared about the rich people who would be less wealthy in a booming economy. When we make less stuff but the rich get a much larger share of it, they get more. And at the same time we burn our nonrenewable fossil fuels slower, and put less stress on the ecosystem. How is it a good thing for masses of people to buy consumer junk they have no need for?

Worrying about the long term when there's millions out of work etc etc is a bit pointless in my book.

I would disagree if we were actually capable of predicting the long term and doing something effective about it.

If I knew that humanity would go extinct unless we killed about a billion of us this year, then I would want to do it even if I would be among those killed. But I don't in fact know that. So I tend to agree with you -- we are so incompetent at worrying about the long term that it's probably better just not to do it. And yet, I hate to admit that.

My aim is to get as many people as possible back to work, because oddly enough doing so is good not only for their mental and physical health, as well as communities (The ones devastated in the 1980's have taken a generation to recover) and the wider economy.

Charlie says that automation would take those jobs even if we didn't have poor people in third world nations to take them. I agree with him.

In general, any job that you can explain how to do, can be automated if it's worth the time spent upfront by somebody who has the skills to automate it.

The big exception is sales. People prefer to be persuaded to buy by a real person, a real person who is a good salesman, who has studied NLP or high-pressure sales technique or whatever works.

Apart from sales, the big exception is jobs that require careful judgement which cannot be explained. Probably we could replace those jobs by random number generators, but we don't want to admit it.

How can we hope to create a lot of jobs that pay reasonably well, when the whole point of not automating a job is that it is done by few enough low-paid people that it is worth putting off in favor of other jobs that are mnore profitable to automate?

238:

Setting aside amusing intellectual games along the lines of " Could a zzxxxx Jet Fighter Thingy beat a ZZXXX Wot Not that has a turning circle of ...

Get Over it Folks...it didn’t happen and short of stretching fantasy beyond the rational ... Lightning Bolt sends Protagonist tm back to Ancient ROME tm of choice Compete with a perfect - academic - memory of the WAY things went WAY back then. Protagonist needs to have Perfect Academic Latin and is also possessed of the argot of the actuality of language at the point of Ancient Rome’s History of choice? Does Ancient Latin really resemble the Latin of the Street of the time of, say, Augustus? I haven’t the slightest idea and...I submit...neither does anyone else!


I have enough trouble understanding, and empathising with, the cultural mores and tropes of my Grandparents, who were born in the reign of Queen Victoria at the height of the British Empire...even simple things are something of a puzzle.

Around about the middle of the 20th century in the UK and similar technolological states of the political kind there is a very simple line of division that, at first sight, is technolologic... I’ve just made the term up, so there! But which contains all sorts of implications and subtleties that would mystify Modern Youth.

History that is much beyond the time of our Grandparents is mostly Fantasy beyond those "facts” that can be confirmed by at least three independent sources ...And even then you need to be cautious but looking at everyday life? So, something simple?


Do you know how to light a coal fire? Have you Ever Lit a coal fire?


Well before the middle of the 20th century we all knew how to do it...with knowledge that included the proper place of Newspapers in the Lighting process...such paper that wasn't used in the Lavatory that is...Ye Ancient News Papers were Multi Purpose you see.

And...Now in the era of Central Heating and Worries about Global Warming?

Of course WE all know how the Third World is troubled by such things...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_poverty

But we in the UK are more concerned with the price that our energy companies charge to keep the lights...and the Plasma/LED TVs...Running than the Theory of Global warming tm.

It suddenly occurs to me ...Has anyone ever done a survey and follow up that requires the users of High Tech Electronic Entertainment to give up ALL such entertainment for- just say? - two years in the interest of Saving the World? Such individual sacrifice to be matched by equal value by Successful Democratic State Governments?

It’s bound to work eh? Such a small sacrifice for such a great gain?

Damn! I haven’t solidly locked any of this into OGHs investigatory point by point research.

Not to worry. HE is bound to forgive me, and, given his age, he will not only be able to light a coal fire but will also be familiar with the need for Modern - way back then it the Vasty depths of the middle of the last century’s - Civilisation to dispose of the Ashes from millions of such fires and just how it was done.

Jet fighters and modern bombers? v the Pathetic Stuff THEY had way back then? ..FUN! ..Ashes and Shit? Less amusing?

Should I press the 'Submit' button? Against all good sense? After all,OGH is bound to have thought of this stuff . 263 Comments! Oh. wot the Hell!

239:

The people have to sell themselves into slavery to the land owners. Food, shelter and clothing become the focal issues. This is what happened to Roman citizens after Rome fell.

240:

Lots of “DON’T vote” entries there in your post Greg...How’s about a few...What You should DO entries... “In My Humble Opinion” if you feel in a modest sort of mood?.

Followed by I, Greg, am doing THIS on account of I really believe in it and it IS worth a try....Because ...?

241:

I'm responding because you mentioned meritocracy or merit. Its a bugaboo of mine. People possessing power, money, influence etc will simply commandeer the merit points one way or another. But, also, who gets to decide what behavior is rewarded with merit points? It seems to me, in capitalist society money is going to be fungible with any merit based currency: Merit points are just another bit coin.

242:

Wanting to control a thing is not the same as being able to. They also want to control drugs. National governments hav zero chance to control technology it would take unified coordinates action by all of them at the same time

It depends. As you point out we have robust illegal supply lines for drugs, partly because lots of people are willing to pay high prices for them. I have known various people who told me they had illegal guns, but nobody who admitted to having an RPG launcher. (Rocket Propelled Grenade, not Role Playing Game.) I'm sure it's possible to get one, and a few rounds for it. You could do all the maintenance yourself. If you ever get caught using it or even having it, you will be in a whole lot of trouble. If there were hundreds of thousands of people who were willing to pay thousands of dollars a year each for RPGs, there would probably be a market. I haven't heard of it.

Similarly there appears to be no market for modern land mine systems.

It's possible to get trifluoroacetic acid, you just need contacts. I can't buy it myself. We accept purchase orders from government and public education entities, as well as publicly traded corporations.

I can buy practically any electronics I want, provided its consumer electronics, and the list of things I can't get is pretty limited -- things like klystrons etc. I can get a very good magnetometer for $6000 on Mastercard or Visa, they'll ship to anybody in north america who can pay.

It depends. In general, I find specialty chemicals much less available than specialty electronics. Meanwhile you can 3d-print pretty much anything you want in bronze or aluminum, and there are no restrictions on what you electroplate except your own skill.

There are a lot of restrictions on what you can mass-produce, though. That one isn't even just government, anybody who is able and willing to spend more money than you can stop you with patents.

243:

Athens and Sparta.

One used military advantage and the reputation of its achievements to carve out a hegemonic relationship with other city-states. Its economic basis relied on the ruthless exploitation of unfree labor. This exploitation allowed the privileged classes free time to develop skills and capacities necessary to promote its international standing, as well as the leisure to gratify the tastes of the upper class.

Sorry, I should have said "both" instead of "one."

Obviously, Athens and Sparta look pretty different. Most of us would prefer Athens. Most of us are educated men. A women might prefer at least the chance to be a valued citizen in Sparta, though the downside would be if you ended up a female slave in (probably) even worse circumstances than such a person would have in Athens.

Athens has a much better reputation in modern eyes. Not sure how Sparta looked to, say the Romans. Athens also has the advantage of producing art and literature, which at this remove doubles as the best PR in the world.

Nazi Germany--bad. Stalinist Russia--depending on who you ask, just as bad or much better. Jim Crow America--ahem. Western European Colonialism--how dare you suggest the comparison?

A more nuanced comparison: Mediterranean or Latin American fascism: worse than the worst eras of the Soviets? Worse than American slavery? Completely incompatible with the basic post-Enlightenment concept of the modern West?

244:

Ah, but you're getting confused again. Re. putting people back to work, I'm talking about right now. And then when their jobs get taken away by automation, which is not a right here and now you're all going to lose your jobs, it's going to take a decade or two, we can (If we actually have reasonable politicians who listen to the likes of us) work out what to do here.

To me it seems like you are conflating Charlie's point re. automation with the current potential deflation period after the financial excesses and thus I have trouble working out what you are saying.

245:

Nope, you're going to have to stop asking questions and start making statements before I can properly understand what you are saying.

246:

Note that efforts to reduce the size of government often include setting up new agencies. In the US, the Office of Paperwork Reduction added new forms to be filled out.

Extreme case: The Soviet Union, whose progress toward the withering away of the State was subminimal.

247:

It seems to me that the demographics of most of the terrorists that are now being shown in the media are every young ... this romanticizes their movement/politics. If instead the 'real leaders' were shown - or conjectured based on financial evidence - then it's likely that such groups would become much less appealing to the youth. In other words, the terrorists have mounted a much better marketing/advertising, recruitment campaign. If the various Western government agencies monitoring the Internet could CGI the 'cool-looking', well-armed dudes with a bunch of potbellied old farts, the recruitment would probably drop off.

248:

"Losing the War"

Great essay. Didn't really have time to read it but did anyway.

249:

Point #1 trumps after note c.

As automation advances to the point where labor costs are trivial, there is no need to build factories overseas to take advantage of cheap labor.

No labor is cheap enough to compete with robotics.

Hence the end of off-shoring and the return of industry to America - a process called in-shoring. However these factories which would have employed thousands in the past now only employ dozens due to advanced robotics and automation:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/01/making-it-in-america/308844/

We do still make things here, even though many people don’t believe me when I tell them that. Depending on which stats you believe, the United States is either the No. 1 or No. 2 manufacturer in the world (China may have surpassed us in the past year or two). Whatever the country’s current rank, its manufacturing output continues to grow strongly; in the past decade alone, output from American factories, adjusted for inflation, has risen by a third.

Yet the success of American manufacturers has come at a cost. Factories have replaced millions of workers with machines. Even if you know the rough outline of this story, looking at the Bureau of Labor Statistics data is still shocking. A historical chart of U.S. manufacturing employment shows steady growth from the end of the Depression until the early 1980s, when the number of jobs drops a little. Then things stay largely flat until about 1999. After that, the numbers simply collapse. In the 10 years ending in 2009, factories shed workers so fast that they erased almost all the gains of the previous 70 years; roughly one out of every three manufacturing jobs—about 6 million in total—disappeared. About as many people work in manufacturing now as did at the end of the Depression, even though the American population is more than twice as large today.

250:

A better definition of failed state would be one that has finally burst out of the straight line boundaries drawn by European colonizers (Libya, Somalia, Syria, and of course Iraq).

These political entities were inherently unstable, built on the old ploy of "divide and conquer". Imperial colonizers would deliberately draw these straight lines irregardless of geography or ethnicity to include diverse ethnic and tribal groups. Then they would take one of these groups (often the weakest) and make them the privileged group. They would be given rifles to enforce the dictates of the imperial colonizers on all the other ethnic groups at the village level. The local imperial garrison would have all the artillery, tanks and aircraft needed to crush and real rebellion.

During the post colonial era after WWII, the same pattern of control existed. Only now, the privileged ethnic group became the ruling class of the independent colonies. The French were masters of this kind of neo-colonialism in West Africa. And since these "nations" were inherently unstable they could only be held together by brutal dictators like Assad or Saddam.

VP Joe Biden was right, we should have split Iraq into 3 autonomous or independent states right after invading and ousting Saddam. We have to face the fact that "Iraq" simply does not exist. Neither does Syria or Libya, or most of the countries in Africa (especially Somalia).

These states aren't failed so much as they are just reverting to there natural conditions. Instead of upholding artificial boundaries that result in bloodshed and tyranny,we should promote the dissolution of the countries along ethnic lines.

251:

Re. putting people back to work, I'm talking about right now. And then when their jobs get taken away by automation, which is not a right here and now you're all going to lose your jobs, it's going to take a decade or two, we can (If we actually have reasonable politicians who listen to the likes of us) work out what to do here.

Do you imagine that the automation has not started yet?

An automated plant needs to be near a port that accepts containers or near an airport. It needs good telecommunications. It needs to avoid civil unrest. The programmers can be in India or USA but you need somebody onsite for repair plus whatever work you haven't automated. Beyond that, it can be anywhere the taxes are low. They don't need to be located in first-world nations any more than ships need to be registered in first-world nations.

When we lose jobs to foreign nations, some of it may be cheaper workers and some of it may be automation. Either way, the jobs are not coming back.

If you have a company that pays employees in the USA or Britain, you might keep doing it while they bring in more money than their variable cost. If you shut them down and do something else instead, it will cost money to set up and it might not work.

But if you have already downsized them, and now demand is up so that your unautomated company can't meet that demand with your current employees, why would you expand here? If you do it someplace else where the paperwork is simpler and cheaper and the government is less intrusive, it's likely to work better.

We have lots of jobs at McDonalds because people like to talk to the people who push the buttons for you when you order, and people like to think that human hands packaged their food. It's possible also that McDonalds has about the right size staff -- too few and it's harder to juggle schedules so enough people are always on the job, they get more lonely, they maybe get too attached to each other, maybe too cunning about ways to embezzle or steal, etc. But if people get used to the idea, we might get fast food where your food is not touched by human hands at considerable saving. They might want a friendly security guy onsite to back up the cameras.

We're not going to get a lot of new jobs while we wait for more automation.

252:

Athens has a much better reputation in modern eyes. Not sure how Sparta looked to, say the Romans.

If a PBS (USA) documentary series a few years back on ancient Greece is to be believed, Sparta was a hellhole for anyone not in the ruling class. Sort of a binary situation. Athens was more of a sliding scale.

253:

In addition to "failed states" are 'stagnant states". These are states whose economies rest on a single product. Oil in Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Nigeria. Cheap labor in China. Blood diamonds and minerals in much of Africa. narcotics in Mexico and other Latin American States.

Each resource rich country suffers from some version of the "oil curse". Why develop a manufacturing base when your oil revenues let you import all the goods you want? Why educate scientists and engineers when petro dollars allow you to purchase any high tech you need? Why allow democracy when oil revenues can break the connection between taxation and representation, and can be used to bribe the people into political silence with financial largess?

The truly blessed nations are those like Japan, whose lack of natural resources force them to develop industry, technology and education. The eventual fate of those nations suffering from the oil curse is perfectly described by a character in the movie "Syriana":

"Twenty years ago you had the highest Gross National Product in the world, now you're tied with Albania. Your second largest export is secondhand goods, closely followed by dates which you're losing five cents a pound on... You know what the business community thinks of you? They think that a hundred years ago you were living in tents out here in the desert chopping each other's heads off and that's where you'll be in another hundred years."

Of all the countries in the Middle East, Jordan with its growing knowledge economy, stable constitutional monarchy, relatively homogeneous Hashemite ethnicity, and lack of oil has the brightest future. Combine high tech with Israeli water management and irrigation technology (possibly evolving into economic collaboration), and Jordan could be the leading Arab state 50 years from now.

Golda Meir used to joke that she could not believe that God had Moses wander the desert for 40 years only to find the one spot without oil. God did Israel a favor.

254:

Well, you can see things which I think are worth having, & which none of the political parties I also listed seem to be doing anything about.
I think I might emulate Candide & (continue to) cultivate my garden.

255:

We do still make things here, even though many people don’t believe me when I tell them that. Depending on which stats you believe, the United States is either the No. 1 or No. 2 manufacturer in the world

That's because most people don't by an airplane made by Boeing or an earth mover made by Caterpillar. They and other makers of "large things" are what put us on top. But there is also a lot of things like washers and dryers made here. And many "foreign" cars are at least assembled here. Which many don't understand. I think the largest BMW plant (based on number of autos) is in South Carolina.

Yet the success of American manufacturers has come at a cost. Factories have replaced millions of workers with machines. ... A historical chart of U.S. manufacturing employment shows ... things stay largely flat until about 1999. After that, the numbers simply collapse. In the 10 years ending in 2009, factories shed workers so fast that they erased almost all the gains of the previous 70 years... About as many people work in manufacturing now as did at the end of the Depression, even though the American population is more than twice as large today.

When I lived in Pittsburgh in the 80s it was depressing. All kinds of people without any college or less wondering when the $20/hour jobs were coming back. The local paper ran an interesting article on the steel industry that maybe a few 100 of us read. It basically said that in the 20 years from the mid 50s to the mid 70s per capita consumption of steel in the US was down 50%. And still falling. And while net exports were still positive we were no longer supplying 1/2 of the world's steel. Which meant without productivity gains the steel industry was going to contract. A lot. No matter what slogans politicians and union leaders came out with.

I was back there last summer. The US Steel building is now the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center building.

256:

The truly blessed nations are those like Japan, whose lack of natural resources force them to develop industry, technology and education.
Err ....
Britain?
Where the pre / first & part of the second Industrial revolutions happened?
Coal & Iron ... though the revolution of the 18th C was powered by (stationary) steam & was directed mainly at weaving of cotton & wool ....

Exception proves rule?
Um

257:

If ethnically "failed states" are going backwards, and oil cursed "stagnant states" are going nowhere, then "post states" have advance too far beyond the type of nation created by the industrial revolution and will also fall apart.

The industrial state requires strong central government. Whether it's the suppression of Scotch and Irish independence, the French revolution, the American civil war, the unification wars of Germany and Italy, the Russian revolution - the force of the strong centralized industrial state defeated the defenders of the old decentralized agricultural society.

Now we are seeing a new cycle of decentralization. Whether its America's Red v. Blue state divide, UK devolution, or a dozen other separatist movements in advanced countries, the old industrial nation state is falling apart.

America, for example really has two economies: the high Tech and manufacturing economy of Blue America led by California and the resource cursed economy of red America led by Texas. Blue America emphasizes science, education industry, cultural diversity, tolerance. Red America embraces fundamentalism and creationism, climate denial gerrymandering and voter suppression, and oil:

http://blog.chron.com/goplifer/2014/11/the-missing-story-of-the-2014-election/#28114101=0

"Democrats have consolidated their power behind the sections of the country that generate the overwhelming bulk of America’s wealth outside the energy industry. That’s only ironic if you buy into far-right propaganda, but it’s interesting none the less....Keep an eye on oil prices. Texas, which is at the core of GOP dysfunction, is a petro-state with an economy roughly as diverse and modern as Nigeria, Iran or Venezuela. It was been relatively untouched by the economic collapse because it is relatively dislocated from the US economy in general. Watch what happens if the decline in oil prices lasts more than a year."

258:

In addition to "failed states" are 'stagnant states". These are states whose economies rest on a single product. Oil in Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Nigeria. Cheap labor in China. Blood diamonds and minerals in much of Africa. narcotics in Mexico and other Latin American States.

China and Mexico don't belong on a list of single-product states. China also has one of the world's least stagnant economies. If you think that in 2015 China is cursed with economic stagnation and Japan is a model of economic blessings, I suspect you investigated the matter once circa 1980 and filled in subsequent data via linear extrapolation.

259:

Your analogy would only be correct if Britain made its wealth mostly by the export of coal, the way Russia, Iran Saudi Arabia, et al make their wealth exclusively by the export of oil.

America and Britain had the best of both worlds, having resources and developing industry. High tech japan is so advanced simply due to its complete lack of resources. They had to develop one of the most skilled, educated and capable work forces in the world.

260:

VP Joe Biden was right, we should have split Iraq into 3 autonomous or independent states right after invading and ousting Saddam.

I'm not sure we had the authority to do that. But maybe we could have worked out a ploy to arrange it anyway.

I like the idea of starting by setting up local town councils and "counties", and tell them that they'll be autonomous until they can manage larger regions. Help them arrange local taxation to pay for their local police etc, and also fund them some. Local elections.

Then when the local government is in place, have plebiscites for who they want to ally with to form provinces. It might be mostly along the borders of the old provinces that they'd switch from one to another, but there could be pretty big changes. Local areas that were surrounded by a province they didn't want to join could be left alone until the province persuaded them to join.

As they got provinces sorted out with elected leaders, then they could decide which of them wanted to ally together into one or more nations. If Iraq wound up as three or four or five nations, it wouldn't be because we divided them. It would be their own preference, and not our job to make them join when they didn't want to. Or if they did want to all join together, that would be just fine too. Not our problem.


261:

I suspect your plan would very likely create 50 to 100 Iraqs.

262:

I don't think it would have created 50-100 Iraqs, but the problem with the three state solution is that a lot of the oil is in Kurdistan, Iraq's water comes in through Sunni western Iraq and Kurdistan, and eastern Shi'ites (the majority of people?) are downstream of both. Thanks to the southeastern Anatolia Project in Turkey (22 dams on all the major rivers that flow into Syria and Iraq), there's a lot less water flowing into Iraq, which is probably why Da'esh and Iraqis are fighting over who controls the reservoirs in western Iraq at the moment. AQ and its successors seem to be pretty good at exploiting the chaos caused by drought.

So if we break this up, we don't get three peaceable countries, we get three unstable countries at each others' throats in resource wars. A federation model, a la Switzerland, might work a bit better in the short term.

263:

Saddam was gassing kurds because he wanted to put them down, and nobody in Iraq stopped him. They might still resent that. If they aren't willing to be in a federation with the people who were following orders to kill them, it would be hard to make that work out. But then, they don't have any friends in the region. I figure it's probably better to let them make their own decisions about who to try to ally with. It's their own heads if it doesn't work out, and they might know more about what they need than we do.

Yes, there just plain is not enough water in the region for Israel, much less sharing it with Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq. Ideally we would find a place that would accept a lot of immigrants, because the local population will stabilize at what the land can support regardless whether any of them leave.

Given that attempts to finesse the realities there into more unstable regimes (intended to coerce minorities or majorities who don't get along) will be short-term projects anyway, why bother?

264:

"Yes, there just plain is not enough water in the region for Israel, much less sharing it with Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq."

Scientific advances make material sources obsolete:

http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/02/isreal-scales-up-reverse-osmosis.html

The Sorek plant incorporates a number of engineering improvements that make it more efficient than previous RO facilities. It is the first large desalination plant to use pressure tubes that are 16 inches in diameter rather than eight inches. The payoff is that it needs only a fourth as much piping and other hardware, slashing costs. The plant also has highly efficient pumps and energy recovery devices. “This is indeed the cheapest water from seawater desalination produced in the world,” says Raphael Semiat, a chemical engineer and desalination expert at the Israel Institute of Technology, or Technion, in Haifa. “We don’t have to fight over water, like we did in the past.” Australia, Singapore, and several countries in the Persian Gulf are already heavy users of seawater desalination, and California is also starting to embrace the technology. Smaller-scale RO technologies that are energy-efficient and relatively cheap could also be deployed widely in regions with particularly acute water problems—even far from the sea, where brackish underground water could be tapped.

Earlier in development are advanced membranes made of atom-thick sheets of carbon, which hold the promise of further cutting the energy needs of desalination plants.

265:

“This is indeed the cheapest water from seawater desalination produced in the world,” says Raphael Semiat, a chemical engineer and desalination expert at the Israel Institute of Technology, or Technion, in Haifa. “We don’t have to fight over water, like we did in the past.”

I'm skeptical. Israel has been claiming to have practical desalination since the days it was their cover story for their nuclear bomb project. If they didn't have to fight for water, they could stop taking the lion's share of the West Bank water and the Gaza water and the Golan water. They could afford peace. But there has been absolutely no sign that they are considering such a possibility.

Still, maybe this time is different from all the other times.
Maybe this time it isn't a lie.

266:

*rolls eyes*
Right, because the Israel/Palestine conflict is only about the water.

267:

PS, Crap, I think the Israel/Palestine shit-storm is turning into another Strange Attractor...

268:

We could stay out of it, but in fairness, I think the entire Middle East has been a strange attractor since The Atrocity Archives first appeared in print.

Shall we try North Korea instead? No wait, that's another strange attractor... Lesotho? Oh wait, there's a possible water war going on there. I guess maybe Irian Jaya, or whatever Indonesia calls it now?

That said, I'm interested in that bit about Israel snaking water from the Golan and Palestinian areas. Got references on that? My impression had been that the Israelis were more heavily invested in desalinization than anyone in the region, and if I'm wrong, I'd like to know what's going on.

269:

I think that's enough about Israel and anyone else, until Charlie is awake.

270:

Right, because the Israel/Palestine conflict is only about the water.

Of course it isn't only the water. But currently they cannot negotiate a real peace. Solving the water issue is not sufficient for peace, but it is necessary. And despite many claims over the years that cheap water was available, so far there has been no substitute for water from the Golan (15% of all Israel's water). The West Bank traditionally supplied about 30%, 450 mcm, but with the drought they can't take that much. Desalination is hoped to provide 500 mcm in time or even more, but it is expensive and also there are ecological issues with dumping the salt back into the sea.

But of course there are also issues because palestinians mostly cannot afford sewage treatment, so their sewage contaminates the aquifers that are used mostly by Israel.

Israel does not have nearly enough water, particularly with the drought which might be a climate change thing so no one knows how long it will last. Israel takes water from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank, and Gaza. With peace, it would be necessary to negotiate for the water which Israel now takes by force. (They have an agreement with Jordan, which does not have much water.) Agreement would be at best expensive since the others don't have nearly enough water either. Israel cannot afford peace.

But desalination could make a big difference, although after the expense of getting the salt out, there is also the expense of pumping water uphill to every place above sea level. This is most affordable with cheap energy.

If Israel could get cheap water and reliably permanently cheap energy, peace might be possible. Until then, it cannot be.

271:

I think that's enough about Israel and anyone else, until Charlie is awake.

Sorry, I didn't see that until after I posted. I'll quit.

272:

The UAE and Saudi Arabia are building nuclear reactors in part to provide desalinated water and in part so they can sell more oil and gas that they currently burn to desalinate water on the world market. Other Middle-eastern countries like Egypt and Jordan are talking to Rosatom about similar nuclear plants for power and desalination.

273:

Any chance of re-purposing oil pipelines into desalination water lines? If yes, then the Keystone pipeline might not be such a bad idea - desalinate the rising ocean waters and move the desalinated water to land that because of global warming is getting less rainfall than usual. The repurposing is important I think because it would mean more caution, as in better, sturdier infrastructure - less chance of leaks, etc. Also, more heed paid to the science behind such a policy to avoid another Aral Sea fiasco.

[Aral Sea:

Soviet bureaucrats decided to implement an economic/market policy and become world leaders in cotton production by simply using the Aral Sea for irrigation. The science was ignored during the business/policy decision-making process ...

From Wikipedia:

"Formerly one of the four largest lakes in the world with an area of 68,000 km2 (26,300 sq mi) [vs. Lake Superior at 82,100 km2 (31,700 sq mi) or Lake Huron 59,600 km2 (23,000 sq mi)] the Aral Sea has been steadily shrinking since the 1960s after the rivers that fed it were diverted by Soviet irrigation projects. By 2007, it had declined to 10% of its original size, splitting into four lakes – the North Aral Sea, the eastern and western basins of the once far larger South Aral Sea, and one smaller lake between the North and South Aral Seas.[5] By 2009, the southeastern lake had disappeared and the southwestern lake had retreated to a thin strip at the extreme west of the former southern sea; in subsequent years, occasional water flows have led to the southeastern lake sometimes being replenished to a small degree.[6] Satellite images taken by NASA in August 2014 have revealed that for the first time in modern history the eastern basin of the Aral Sea had completely dried up.[7] The eastern basin is now called the Aralkum desert."]

Playing God/dice with the environment/ecology should be a key part of 21st century economic/social policy.
This could be direct or indirect. I think we're in general agreement that climate and food production are highly correlated ... so consider the impact of the following scenario:

Your corporate overlords find that for certain classes of workers wages paid in food is cheaper and more attractive than coin/$. This would mean negotiations between corps for food production. We already have this 'food supplier-and-corporate client' on small scale, i.e., some large companies already have in-house fast-food joints on their premises. What I'm thinking of as the next step is actual automated on/near-premises food production. This means food production goes the same route as computers - smaller, more flexible/mobile, more widely dispersed but much more efficient/powerful and built on the premise of always being able to connect with a network. And, what could follow from this - again using the computer/PC analogy - is that as costs decline for these automated food production units, individual households might start to purchase them. Probably would go the trickle down route: foodies and gadget fanciers first, then the wanna-be's, until 10-15 years later, there's a unit in 95% of households.

There would still be large-scale agriculture, but its product focus would shift. Such a technological innovation would probably create a market for new food products ... including GMO'd foods to address specific genetic medical conditions and/or illnesses.

274:

"Texas, which is at the core of GOP dysfunction, is a petro-state with an economy roughly as diverse and modern as Nigeria, Iran or Venezuela. It was been relatively untouched by the economic collapse because it is relatively dislocated from the US economy in general. Watch what happens if the decline in oil prices lasts more than a year."

Texas is actually a very interesting case these days.

Texas did relatively well in the recent housing triggered financial collapse in large part because it has an usually heavily regulated housing market. This is because it was the epicenter of the previous real estate crash: the Savings and Loan crisis which hit in the early 90's. It also has very high property taxes, which should discourage property bubbles some.

Also the Texas state university systems (there are two) both have (oil funded) endowments the size of elite private universities. Both systems are in the top ten university endowments in the US (the rest are harvard, yale, etc). They aren't so ridiculously rich as those institutions, of course, because they educate vastly more students, but still they have a secure funding stream the likes of which no other system in the US has.

So this deepest of deep red states has actually just recently done well due to unusually tight regulations and high property taxes. It also has a very much more socialized higher education system than the rest of the country.

275:

Really? ... Texas is consistently below average in terms of primary and secondary math & science education results.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/11/state-education-rankings-_n_894528.html

http://www.dallasnews.com/news/education/headlines/20140325-texas-improves-school-funding-but-still-trails-most-states.ece

Excerpt:
"The new figures show, though, that Texas tops only Arizona, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Utah in per-pupil funding. It spends about $59,000 less per elementary classroom than the national average, according to the NEA, a teacher union that compiles the figures based on information from state education agencies.

“The bottom line is that Texas is still spending less per student now than it did in 2010-11,” Clay Robison, a spokesman for the NEA-affiliated Texas State Teachers Association, said Tuesday. “That is three straight years of ranking near the bottom in the state-by-state comparisons.”"

Meanwhile Texas spending on its prison system grew; however, there's a silver lining when the budget committee realized that it's cheaper to rehabilitate non-violent offenders than to build more prisons. (Okay - part of the budget worry/realization was that as prisoners aged, their medical costs rose ... pre Obama-care thinking. Quick comparison: Texas has half the population of the U.K. but twice the prison population.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_incarceration_rate


Excerpt:
"Texas now houses more than 152,000, compared with about 134,000 inmates in California, according to recent statistics from both prison systems. Florida was a distant third, with about 100,000 inmates as of June."

276:

Just thought I'd add this, since it seems relevant to this discussion:

"It is infinitely easier to kill a million people than to control them." --Zbigniew Brzezinski

Megadeath, anyone?

277:

Brzezinski's point being that this is a new development, made possible by technology.

It's not difficult to imagine a scenario where a technocratic elite, no longer requiring the services of 90% or 99% of human beings, puts this principle to the reality test, is it? Indeed, the entire trajectory of technological civilization seems to be toward human obsolescence and extinction at the hands of machines, doesn't it? Isn't this where the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution are taking us? For Science and Progress!

278:

Willing to try a thought experiment?

Let's assume all of Charlies axioms are true to fact. Let's even assume the conclusions are true to fact.

Given that, what is necessary to turn enough of it around that, say, the UK/US become as delightful to live in as, say, Denmark? (If you don't like Denmark, pick the polity/economy of your choice).

There's a certain kind of attractiveness in trying to figure out how horrible things are going to be--for me, that's part of the attraction of Lovecraft. it strikes me as much more difficult, and admirable, to try to figure out how good things are going to be.

So, what kind of black swan would have to occur? The first one that come to my mind (I'm a US citizen) would be a well-nigh total remake of the Democratic Party from the grassroots on up, along the lines modeled by Senator Elizabeth Warren. I can see a whole cascade of positive events following from that.

Putting all of this differently, it strikes me as surprisingly short-sighted and straight-line extrapolating to think that things are going to continue to get worse. The trajectory of history is more bumpy than that, in my opinion. It may even be that as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King said, "The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice."

279:

We don't need any technocratic conspiracy. Every nation with a high per capita income sinks below replacement level fertility.

280:

But your autocrats will always need other human beings to do the thinking for them ... to keep enriching them via new insights and technologies. And there is no way to predict which human being will have that creative spark (or when) or what other humans they will need in order to thrive. No - the simplest and cheapest solution is benign leadership/government of a large pool of potential talents.

Computers can do all sorts of stuff, but ASAIK computers do not ask questions and that's the minimum requirement for advancement.

281:

Lovecraft's whole point is that there is no "arc of the moral universe", or if there is, it bends toward something that is utterly incomprehensible and indifferent to us.

Want to be truly subversive and despised (of course you do!)? Go around pointing out to progressives and leftists how deeply in thrall they still are to "arc of the universe" metaphysical delusions, inherited from Christianity and Judaism. Atheists tend to go ballistic and call you all kinds of nasty names, as if that proves anything. Try it -- it's a real hoot!

282:

It's worth noting that the Kurdish population overlaps the borders between Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and Iran. Iraqi Kurdistan was kept within Iraq, at least on paper, for fear of an independent Kurdistan setting off a regional war. An independent Kurdistan might have effects on Turkey and Iran similar to the effects that rebel Sunni areas of Iraq had on Syria (but worse, because Turkey and Iran are far bigger and more powerful countries than Syria ever was).

283:

Creative spark? Is that like a divine revelation? If we're bags of atoms following known algorithms, surely we can build machines that give off more and brighter creative sparks than us? Assuming that we possess a "secret sauce" that ensures our survival is just another religious delusion. GNON (reverse acronym for "nature or nature's god") is a cruel master, and he appears not to care one whit for creative sparks or moral arcs.

Perhaps we need an updated form of Gnosticism to reflect this understanding of reality, and our frightful position therein, lest we go mad from the revelation and flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age?

284:

"Want to be truly subversive and despised (of course you do!)? Go around pointing out to progressives and leftists how deeply in thrall they still are to "arc of the universe" metaphysical delusions, inherited from Christianity and Judaism. Atheists tend to go ballistic and call you all kinds of nasty names, as if that proves anything."

I quite agree. In the absence of God, and honest and courageous atheist must completely embrace abject moral and existential nihilism. From Tom Wolfe's famous essay "Sorry, but Your Soul Just Died":
.
.
.
Which brings us to the second most famous statement in all of modern philosophy: Nietzsche's "God is dead." The year was 1882. (The book was Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft [The Gay Science].) Nietzsche said this was not a declaration of atheism, although he was in fact an atheist, but simply the news of an event. He called the death of God a "tremendous event," the greatest event of modern history. The news was that educated people no longer believed in God, as a result of the rise of rationalism and scientific thought, including Darwinism, over the preceding 250 years.

But before you atheists run up your flags of triumph, he said, think of the implications. "The story I have to tell," wrote Nietzsche, "is the history of the next two centuries." He predicted (in Ecce Homo) that the twentieth century would be a century of "wars such as have never happened on earth," wars catastrophic beyond all imagining. And why? Because human beings would no longer have a god to turn to, to absolve them of their guilt; but they would still be racked by guilt, since guilt is an impulse instilled in children when they are very young, before the age of reason. As a result, people would loathe not only one another but themselves. The blind and reassuring faith they formerly poured into their belief in God, said Nietzsche, they would now pour into a belief in barbaric nationalistic brotherhoods: "If the doctrines...of the lack of any cardinal distinction between man and animal, doctrines I consider true but deadly"—he says in an allusion to Darwinism in Untimely Meditations—"are hurled into the people for another generation...then nobody should be surprised when...brotherhoods with the aim of the robbery and exploitation of the non–brothers...will appear in the arena of the future."

Nietzsche's view of guilt, incidentally, is also that of neuro–scientists a century later. They regard guilt as one of those tendencies imprinted in the brain at birth. In some people the genetic work is not complete, and they engage in criminal behavior without a twinge of remorse—thereby intriguing criminologists, who then want to create Violence Initiatives and hold conferences on the subject.

Nietzsche said that mankind would limp on through the twentieth century "on the mere pittance" of the old decaying God–based moral codes. But then, in the twenty–first, would come a period more dreadful than the great wars, a time of "the total eclipse of all values" (in The Will to Power). This would also be a frantic period of "revaluation," in which people would try to find new systems of values to replace the osteoporotic skeletons of the old. But you will fail, he warned, because you cannot believe in moral codes without simultaneously believing in a god who points at you with his fearsome forefinger and says "Thou shalt" or "Thou shalt not."

Why should we bother ourselves with a dire prediction that seems so far–fetched as "the total eclipse of all values"? Because of man's track record, I should think. After all, in Europe, in the peaceful decade of the 1880s, it must have seemed even more far–fetched to predict the world wars of the twentieth century and the barbaric brotherhoods of Nazism and Communism. Ecce vates! Ecce vates! Behold the prophet! How much more proof can one demand of a man's powers of prediction?

A hundred years ago those who worried about the death of God could console one another with the fact that they still had their own bright selves and their own inviolable souls for moral ballast and the marvels of modern science to chart the way.
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But no longer. Medical science has destroyed the "Self". There is no Soul. There is no "You". Consciousness and free will are nothing but illusions. Therefore, no individual can ever hope to create personal meaning in an inherently meaningless universe, for that too would be just another illusion. If atheists were honest and brave they would squarely face this harsh reality of theirs instead of shying away from it.

They would fully embrace abject nihilism.

285:

Don't know what the 'secret sauce' is but one of its ingredients is curiosity ... so far curiosity is not known to be programmed into machines.

286:

"But you will fail, he warned, because you cannot believe in moral codes without simultaneously believing in a god who points at you with his fearsome forefinger and says "Thou shalt" or "Thou shalt not.""

Except of course that you can, I do, and literally billions of other people do as well.

little nuggets like this is why all modern philosophy is pretty useless.

287:

I've seen estimates that the F-14 required 50 hours maintenance per flight hour, but maybe the reality was so complicated that this sort of factoid doesn't really mean anything.

Actually, that's on the low end of the scale. Apparently, it was nearer 60+ maintenance man-hours per flying hour. The Tornado came in at 27; The F-18 and Typhoon come in between 9 and 10.

The result was that a squadron of F-14 based on an aircraft carrier required 450 staff (mostly maintainers); a squadron of F-18 required only 250 staff, and managed to achieve higher availability rates. At the time, they reckoned that every deployed sailor cost $100k per year; so replacing two squadrons on each of twelve carriers saved you rather a lot of cash.

IIRC, the Canadians reckon that the manufacturing cost of a combat aircraft is about one-sixth of the whole life cost. Paying 20% more on the sticker price to get a 10% reduction in maintenance costs is still a very good deal...

288:

Mankind as a whole will fail despite the efforts of a few individuals.

Besides, you have no reason to even try. To do so is to be dishonest with yourself. From someone more blunt than the eloquent Nietzsche:

We are Atheists. We believe that the Universe is a great uncaused, random accident. All life in the Universe past and future are the results of random chance acting on itself. While we acknowledge concepts like morality, politeness, civility seem to exist, we know they do not. Our highly evolved brains imagine that these things have a cause or a use, and they have in the past, they’ve allowed life to continue on this planet for a short blip of time. But make no mistake: all our dreams, loves, opinions, and desires are figments of our primordial imagination. They are fleeting electrical signals that fire across our synapses for a moment in time. They served some purpose in the past. They got us here. That’s it. All human achievement and plans for the future are the result of some ancient, evolved brain and accompanying chemical reactions that once served a survival purpose. Ex: I’ll marry and nurture children because my genes demand reproduction, I’ll create because creativity served a survival advantage to my ancient ape ancestors, I’ll build cities and laws because this allowed my ape grandfather time and peace to reproduce and protect his genes. My only directive is to obey my genes. Eat, sleep, reproduce, die. That is our bible.

We deride the Theists for having created myths and holy books. We imagine ourselves superior. But we too imagine there are reasons to obey laws, be polite, protect the weak etc. Rubbish. We are nurturing a new religion, one where we imagine that such conventions have any basis in reality. Have they allowed life to exist? Absolutely. But who cares? Outside of my greedy little gene’s need to reproduce, there is nothing in my world that stops me from killing you and reproducing with your wife. Only the fear that I might be incarcerated and thus be deprived of the opportunity to do the same with the next guy’s wife stops me. Some of my Atheist friends have fooled themselves into acting like the general population. They live in suburban homes, drive Toyota Camrys, attend school plays. But underneath they know the truth. They are a bag of DNA whose only purpose is to make more of themselves. So be nice if you want. Be involved, have polite conversations, be a model citizen. Just be aware that while technically an Atheist, you are an inferior one. You’re just a little bit less evolved, that’s all. When you are ready to join me, let me know, I’ll be reproducing with your wife.

I know it’s not PC to speak so bluntly about the ramifications of our beliefs, but in our discussions with Theists we sometimes tip toe around what we really know to be factual. Maybe it’s time we Atheists were a little more truthful and let the chips fall where they may. At least that’s what my genes are telling me to say.”
.
.
.
So its time for you and every atheist to grow a pair and face without flinching the nihilistic consequences of your atheism.

289:

As an atheist, my morals (to the extent that I have them) are simply a practical art of avoiding conflict with other humans. There's no particular need for divinity; the fact that I'm surrounded by seven billion other apes who are just smart enough to be really dangerous is plenty of reason for careful behavior.

290:

Remove the fear of getting caught and punished, and how would you behave?

If someone is powerful enough to do what they want to other people (Wall Street CEO, third world dictator, etc.) without fear of consequences - should they do so?

291:

Let me sum up.
There is no morality only Game Theory and the Will to Power.
Everything else is just the window dressing of strategy and tactics. Human Rights only exist as far as they can be enforced under a particular kind of Will and Power.
Altruism and "Humanity" are just the inputs of Evolutionary Psychology into the mill.

292:

Did I set off a little rantfest? Nice quote Daniel Duffy, who is it from? Agreed about Nietzsche -- a modern prophet, if there ever was one. And Dirk, I think arguments like that were made by Thrasymachus and others before Socrates came on the scene. But Socrates won, and philosophy has pretty much been one series of delusions after another until Nietzsche came on the scene. ;)

Anybody here read Peter Carroll? He models religious belief as a cycle:

Paganism -> Monotheism -> Atheism -> Nihilism -> Chaoism -> Superstition/Shamanism -> Paganism -> ...

So post-atheist Nihilism is just a stage you go through, until you join the real avante-garde of Chaoists (people who create cults out of Star Wars, or Lovecraft or anything), or the even more radical neo-Shamans, neo-Pagans and neo-Monotheists. ;)

293:

Remove the fear of getting caught and punished, and how would you behave?

Pretty much how I behave right now, actually.

Game theory -- and iterated prisoner's dilemma -- is a remarkably powerful tool for understanding where altruism and cooperation come from in human (and other) animal societies. And there's quite a lot of evidence that "altruism" is wired into us (and other primates) at a very low level, because tit-for-tat cooperation seems to be an optimal strategy.

One problem a lot of theists seem to have with atheists is not understanding why, in the absence of a big angry daddy-figure waiting to punish them if they stray, they don't instantly go on a rampaging orgy of murderous violence and depravity. But the real question, I think, is why would anybody do that sort of thing? Because for the most part we don't.

Galdruxian: while I agree with Nietzsche about quite a lot of things, I think he failed to apprehend that the biological determinants of ethical behaviour predate religion.

So, frankly, no. I disagree with you (and Daniel Duffy). We are not doomed, even though we may admit that we live in a purposeless cosmos that is oblivious to our suffering or our desires.

294:

And the Big Existential Problem is wiring those nice altruistic traits into a self modifying AI.

295:

And if Game theory showed that it would be to your advantage to harm others?

"Murderous violence and depravity" is pretty basic to human nature, born of millennia of evolution red in tooth and claw. We are basically not a nice species.

To quote Will Durant: "Every vice was once a virtue, and may become respectable again, just as hatred becomes respectable in wartime."

And

"Pugnacity, brutality, greed, and sexual readiness were advantages in the struggle for existence. Probably every vice today was once a virtue."

Lord knows religion can beget violence. But it is also the only proven means of holding our baser instincts in check.

296:

So nobody wants to play (so far?), but people would rather fight the proposition? Fascinating....

Let's try one more thought experiment, then (noting that the original quote from MLK said nothing about religion!). What if the entrance to mastery of spirituality (as distinct from religion, which is merely a fossilized hierarchy imposed on the decaying remains of a spiritual event) requires as much study and effort as, say, a Ph.D.--maybe 7 to 10 years? If that's the case (and I posit that it is) then all this posturing about atheism seems to be pretty much a display of ignorance, no?

In this same line, my experience has been that nearly all the atheists I've been exposed to seem to be as, umm, belief-based as any religionist. The religionists are just more frank about that, usually.

Two paraphrased quotes to close, from people I respect:

"No one says they believe in electricity. This is because they have experience of electricity, either directly in the form of a shock, or indirectly in the form of electricity transformed, into heat, light, or mechanical motion."

"That God you don't believe in? I too don't believe in that God."

297:
"That God you don't believe in? I too don't believe in that God."

At this point I tend to ask "So care to describe the God you do believe in then?".

298:

Iraqi Kurdistan was kept within Iraq, at least on paper, for fear of an independent Kurdistan setting off a regional war.

Yes, Kurds have been oppressed for being Kurds in Syria, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. The Turks have a history of having to deal harshly with Kurds to keep them subservient, and if those four nations were to lose some territory along with their kurdish populations, would they be better off or worse off? Well of course they all think they would be worse off, which is why they keep having to suppress Kurds.

And so the Americans take this peculiar stand -- we like Kurds, who after all have no other friends and so may very well be grateful to us. But for their own good they must be denied independence and must have arabs who can overrule them. This is partly because catering to our Turkish allies is more important than annoying our Iranian and Syrian enemies, and partly because if the Kurds tried to stand up to all their opporessors they would likely get genocided. So yes, it's for their own good that we deny them freedom, because they might make serious mistakes.

I tend to think this is likely to be self-defeating. While the Kurds are hobbled to an Iraqi government, it serves their interests if Iraq is a failed state that cannot dictate to them. It does not serve US interests for Iraq to be a failed state -- I think. Others may disagree.

Turkey would be better off to lose their Kurdish subjects even if they lose some land in the process. Unwilling Kurdish citizens are more trouble for Turkey than they're worth. On the other hand if the small Kurdish state is cautious enough to avoid a disastrous war, so much the better.

I believe that I'm better off when governments represent their people rather than try to suppress them. I would be better off if Iraq had governments that mostly did what their voters wanted. People mostly want to avoid avoidably wars, they want prosperity as long as things stay reasonably moral, etc. The official Iraqi government has mostly failed, because it is run by and for people who think of themselves as Shias and suppresses people who think of themselves as Kurds or Sunnis. It would have been better if they had built government from the bottom up, noticing who they trusted and relied on, and stopped if they reached the point they couldn't reach agreements.

Because that's what they did anyway, and it was slower and bloodier when they did it the hard way.

299:

" Lord knows religion can beget violence. But it is also the only proven means of holding our baser instincts in check. "

In Check? ! How do you define 'Check ' ...Like This?


"Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius "


" "Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius." was a phrase allegedly spoken by Papal legate and Cistercian abbot Arnaud Amalric prior to the Massacre at Béziers, a massacre in the French town of Béziers that formed the first major military action of the Albigensian Crusade. A direct translation of the Latin phrase would be "Kill them. For the Lord knows those that are His own." Less formal English translations have given rise to variants such as "Kill them all; let God sort them out." Other sources give the quotation as "Neca eos omnes. Deus suos agnoscet."[1] "

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caedite_eos._Novit_enim_Dominus_qui_sunt_eius

Well that would certainly " Check " our baser instincts all right ..As would the various versions of atheism in their suppression of the Wrong Belief Systems in the Interest of Furthering the Right Kind of Political Belief.


Apparently there must be a Limited Quantity of Belief Available at any given time and thus any Belief System that hopes to be dominant must set out to corner the market in Belief.

Hey Ho...I'm probably reading far too much urban fantasy at the moment in order that I be diverted from over much Brooding, but, it does occur to me that there is /may be a kind of FTSE 100 in Belief with Gohds, Demi Gohds and Supernatural Entities striving to Corner ..In Improbable Geometries BEYOND SPACE AND TIME...the MARKET.

300:

Re Texas

Oh, yea in plenty of ways Texas is the stereotypical red state with the results that anyone but an american 'conservative' would expect.

Poor funding poor results for primary and secondary education (note I was talking about higher education, colleges and universities, but actually I was talking only about the two big state university systems, no idea about other state college systems they have).

Lots of teen pregnancy and gonorrhea.

And its an incipient nightmare of car based sprawl.

One of the highest rates of lack of health insurance in the US.

Basically no ability to sue doctors for malpractice, but ordinary healthcare costs.

The imprisonment insanity... well that's pretty much national. Perhaps a bit worse in Texas than in most of the US, but all of the US is vastly worse than the rest of the wealthy world.

301:

NO
You'll just get told that you are "framing" atheists ( like me) in your own preconcieved notions, which err.. happen to be false & therefore your so-called "argument" is a n other load of foetid dingoes kidneys.
Try harder, next time ....

302:

Agree
There are such things as "good" & "evil", but we do not need or require "gods" to define them.
I'm a card-carrying atheist, but I am not a nihilist (which would be pointless (joke)) - but you try convincing a committed RC or Calviniat or devour muslim of this ... they just don;t get it.

303:

I must get around to re-reading this one of these days...


" As Texas Goes...: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda "

http://www.amazon.co.uk/As-Texas-Goes-Hijacked-American/dp/0871404079/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425239996&sr=8-1&keywords=as+texas+goes

" Not until she visited Texas, that proud state of big oil and bigger ambitions, did Gail Collins, the best-selling author and columnist for the New York Times, realize that she had missed the one place that mattered most in America's political landscape. Raised in Ohio, Collins had previously seen the American fundamental divide as a war between the Republican heartland and its two liberal coasts. But the real story, she came to see, was in Texas, where Bush, Cheney, Rove, & Perry had created a conservative political agenda that is now sweeping the country and defining our national identity. Through its vigorous support of banking deregulation, lax environmental standards, and draconian tax cuts, through its fierce championing of states rights, gun ownership, and, of course, sexual abstinence, Texas, with Governor Rick Perry's presidential ambitions, has become the bellwether of a far-reaching national movement that continues to have profound social and economic consequences for us all. Like it or not, as Texas goes, so goes the nation."


I kept losing track as I skipped back through the text whilst muttering...No...SHE just can’t have said that can she?

But then I am ever so English...of Scots Immigrant Ancestry on my Mother’s side of the family...so maybe I'm just incapable of understanding Texan philosophy? Life is too short!! I have enough trouble understanding Vegetarians without I am required to understand Texans!

304:

So this deepest of deep red states has actually just recently done well due to unusually tight regulations and high property taxes. It also has a very much more socialized higher education system than the rest of the country.

As someone who has spent a lot of time in Texas over the last 5 years and who's wife lives there 20 days a month I've come to think of Texas as a strange place. Much of the legend and self image and politics is all about individualism and would seem to be an Ayn Rand hot spot.

But in practice and laws Texas is much more paternalistic and socialistic than much of the US on all kinds of topics.

305:

NOT a new question
Go back to Socrates & START AGAIN

306:

Spirituality and atheism are not incompatible.

307:

Tribes that cooperate well out compete tribes that don't. Evolution is about propagating genes not extending personal lifespan. Hence altruism is built in and is good game theory from an evolutionary perspective, and thus perpetuates itself.

Nietzsche was extremely simplistic in his world view to the point where most of his conclusions end up being wrong. He stops being interesting for most people about half way through college. He also , funnily enough, failed to procreate and carry on his genes, one of life's little ironies for sure (-:

There are plenty of hooks for an ethical code that don't require a big bearded guy in the sky. It may require commitment to something greater then the individual but that is not the same as believing in something supernatural

308:

Thank you
Also those well-known (& still "on the register") christian "saints":
Dominic, Cyril of Alexandria, Thomas More ...
Murderers, all of them.

As we have noted before the arrogant certitude of the religious believers, that atheists have no moral & no "guidance" is astounding.

As for islam, well Mahmud ordered people killed, including a female who mocked him ... c.f "Charlie Hebdo"
[ I froget her name - somoenone help me wit that one .... ]

309:

Remove the fear of getting caught and punished, and how would you behave?

Remove the fear of gravity, and I'd jump out a lot more windows. What difference does it make?

310:

Remove the fear of getting caught and punished, and how would you behave?

Pretty much how I behave right now, actually.

Me too. And on my optimist days I feel that applies to 99% or more of the people I know. But then again I (and likely you) tend to hang with people that share our beliefs.

So I feel that there's a lot of folks out there who don't obey that rule. And when I'm pessimistic I can put the figure at 50%. That essay mentioned above "Losing the War" was somewhat scary. In that the description of Hitler taken from note people took at his dinner parties was too much like many "successful" people I know. Ruthless and rich/powerful.

311:

I appreciate the question, but it's ill-formed--It's a matter of experience, not belief, just as with electricity. I don't believe in electricity, I have experience of electricity.

But if you're interesting in the nature of the experiences I've had, are you willing to read a book or two for a meaningful conversation? If you were asking me to describe my Ph.D.-level experience in any other field of human endeavor--say the fine arts, drama, or high-energy physics--surely it would be reasonable to ask you to develop the background understanding for a meaningful conversation, no?

312:


There's a lot of it about...as it were.

Once upon a time, when there were second hand bookshops in Newcastle Upon Tyne, there was a large bookshop...yes I know, it is hard to imagine it these days but it really was quite large...that had a framed print that was based upon Foxes Book of Martyrs ..NO Not the "Famous Mr Fox” ...another Fox - do try to keep up!

Anyway, I’ll always regret not having bought it for it was wonderful in all of its Glorious Gruesomeness. Not to worry. I've been prodding about the web in your interests...just in case you need an example of non religious/political based altruism... but can’t find an exact equivalent. Oh Well...this will have to do...

http://www.magnoliabox.com/index.cfm?event=catalogue.qsearch&searchString=foxe%27s%20%27book%20of%20martyrs%27&pageStart=1

313:

What if the entrance to mastery of spirituality ... requires as much study and effort as, say, a Ph.D.--maybe 7 to 10 years?

As I have a very finite number of decades, and most of them will necessarily involve more work than study, I can't study everything for years on the off chance that it will turn out to be important. There's just as much chance that Joseon Korean poetry would really speak to me if I took ten years to learn archaic Korean, and I have hundreds of other options that are just as good, as far as I can tell.

The burden of proof lies with those who would teach "spirituality" (whatever that is) to demonstrate that there is some benefit (whatever it may be) to the study (whatever it is).

314:

The result was that a squadron of F-14 based on an aircraft carrier required 450 staff (mostly maintainers); a squadron of F-18 required only 250 staff, and managed to achieve higher availability rates.

So it would not be enough to bring one modern warplane back to WWII. You would need to also bring the maintenance crew of perhaps 50 (including specialists), their equipment, and a mountain of spare parts + munitions.

315:

Actually that was somewhat the point of the story along these line in Analog way back when. Plane from the future lands back in WWI near an air squadron. On the "correct" side of course. Pilot finally convinces them his "airplane" can really fly. Then he spends a few weeks filtering kerosene to get enough fuel for a quick flight. Takes off VTOL and discovers he can't do much except fly fast near other planes and let his wake tear them apart. His modern weapons don't recognize the plane of the era as possible targets. Not enough heat or metal.

He does get back to his time. I can't remember the "details" but I think it had to do with the effects of an experimental atomic test. A fav for time travel back in the 50s and 60s.

316:

The result was that a squadron of F-14 based on an aircraft carrier required 450 staff (mostly maintainers); a squadron of F-18 required only 250 staff, and managed to achieve higher availability rates.

I suspect most of that was in the swept wings.

One thing fighter pilots tend to want is maneuver. So the swept wings let them do that at low speeds. But over the last 100 years stats seem to show the fastest to get there and engage tends to win the fight. So no more swept wings.

317:

Sure, we all need to prioritize. But people tend to assume that they can opine knowledgeably on spirituality, without an adequate basis of knowledge!

So, certainly choose to study what you judge serves you best. And be aware of how that determines the scope of your informed decisions and statements.

318:

Yea ... I know a few folks from Texas and who've moved to Texas from the north east. The extremes are amazing! Overall, pretty schizoid as per the following definition:

'Schizoid personality disorder (SPD) is a personality disorder characterized by a lack of interest in social relationships, a tendency towards a solitary lifestyle, secretiveness, emotional coldness, and apathy. Affected individuals may simultaneously demonstrate a rich, elaborate and exclusively internal fantasy world.'


Re: Doug ...

There seems to be some confusion between atheism (religion) and the ability to get along with people (psychology) ... these are two different disciplines/domains. My interests/comments are generally psychology-related.

319:

Oh, and one more point. My experience (and what I've seen in others) is not that 10 years (5 years, 10 years, 15 yard, somewhere in there) of full time study is required. But that range of time, with a reasonable level of effort, is necessary most of the time. Perhaps a better comparison would be, oh, say, getting a black belt in a martial art....But a some level of mastery is a prerequisite.

320:

Since I have raised two children into their 20s I have come to be very skeptical of people who have not raised kids giving advice on how to do it. Much more so than before I got "involved".

Similar issues. If you're going to opine on "how to" or why you really need to dig below the surface before you start making statements.

321:

But we too imagine there are reasons to obey laws, be polite, protect the weak etc. Rubbish. .... Outside of my greedy little gene’s need to reproduce, there is nothing in my world that stops me from killing you and reproducing with your wife. Only the fear that I might be incarcerated and thus be deprived of the opportunity to do the same with the next guy’s wife stops me.

People don't like to make every arrangement de novo, they like to get patterns where they know what to expect.

If you want to do special stuff, you need to fit into the patterns people already expect for it.

So for example, Gilgamish was king of Eretz, a city between the rivers. Why was he king? Maybe it made a difference that his mother was the high priestess and he was claimed to be genetically 1/3 god. Maybe it made a difference that he was a bull of a man and by far the best wrestler in the city. The text doesn't say.

There was a Irish custom that kings need not be sons of kills or killers of kings, but it tended to come out that way. At one time and place it was the custom that a wise man was supposed to eat beef and drink lots of beef broth, and then he had a dream that revealed the next king. If the dream did not come true he was killed and another wise man was chosen to repeat it. One time the dream said to send searchers along the road looking for a naked man holding a sling. They looked and found the king's son, naked on the road and holding a sling. He told them that while he was walking he saw some geese in the swamp and so he took his sling and went after them, but they kept on moving just out of his range. Then when he got in too deep to run or defend himself well, the geese turned into armed men who surrounded him and threatened him some. They told him he was going to be the new king if they didn't kill him. They took him back to the road and took his clothes. And he was the new king. For the rest of his life he never killed another goose.

If you want to be king you need a good story to explain to people why you're king and they aren't, and you need to stomp on other people who act like kings in your land.


By law, Gilgamish slept with every woman in his domain on her wedding night, and then never again. From Genesis it appears to have been the custom lots of places that kings could have large harems but must not add married women to them. Abraham and Sarah capitalized on that, as did Isaac and Rebecca.

Kings could kill men and take their wives, as note David and Bathsheba, but there were consequences and they didn't always get away with it. The system hemmed in kings with ritual and custom and even kings who got too much out of line could be made to suffer for it.

If you want to kill me and have children with my wife, you'd better make sure she's OK with it. If not, you'd better make sure she's chained up every night before you sleep. Also don't let her cook for you. Also check whether your other women are OK with it. If they get too bothered with you, one of them might get some other man to kill you so he can have children with her.

I guess the bottom line is that things may not work just like the rules that somebody taught you. But it isn't all possum and red-eye gravy when you break the rules either.


Plus, you get to choose whatever goals you want -- to the extent that your goals are not hardwired. Lots of people choose to support a bigger system that works, over getting short-term stuff by smashing it. That's as valid a choice as anything else, there's no rule that they have to choose to maximise the number of children they have. Not like it's a God-given moral imperative.

322:

Other folks brought religion into it; I'm not sure why.

323:

people tend to assume that they can opine knowledgeably on spirituality, without an adequate basis of knowledge!

On the contrary, I find no reason to believe there is a meaningful "basis of knowledge" involved with "spirituality" (whatever that is). Your case is worse than archaic Korean poetry: I can look at an archaic Korean poem, even if I can't understand it, and experts in Korean poetry can talk about its imagery and meter, which are terms I more or less understand. I'm familiar with writing and poetry, if not this particular kind.

Spending ten years studying spirituality would be like spending ten years studying vampire hunting. We haven't even determined whether there's anything there to study, but my guess is that there isn't.

324:

Spending ten years studying spirituality would be like spending ten years studying vampire hunting. We haven't even determined whether there's anything there to study, but my guess is that there isn't.

Or perhaps more accurately (since I'm not aware of anyone actually studying vampire hunting), how about homeopathy? There are people who quite seriously spend years trying to study it, to work out the most effective treatments and the like, and they end up building a huge edifice on top of what most medical practitioners consider absolute bullshit. They too say you can't discuss their subject without years of study.

tl;dr — when the validity of the basic axiom is the problem, insisting anyone has to accept what's dependent on that axiom before a debate can take place is bogus.

325:

Ah yes ...
"Theology, a subject with no content."

326:

"Spending ten years studying spirituality would be like spending ten years studying vampire hunting. We haven't even determined whether there's anything there to study, but my guess is that there isn't."

Quite Right! There is no such thing as Vampires! It is important to remember this!

"Don't be silly, Bob," said Mo, "everybody knows vampires don't exist!"

327:

Unless, of course you mean Like THESE ??

328:

A group of blind people explaining why sight is impossible, otherwise they too would see.

329:

Technically, we're a group of blind people explaining why sight is a poorly defined, unproven conjecture.

But if we were actually blind, and you could actually see, it probably wouldn't be too hard to demonstrate your superior understanding. So feel free.

330:

Perhaps not. The Tornado has swing-wings, but less than half the maintenance requirements.

I suspect you'll find much of the remainder in the avionics and the engines; if you specify the bleeding edge in performance (as the F-14 was in its day) you get Ferrari maintenance needs, not BMW needs... Doubly so if you want it in service "right now", and don't have time to design for maintainability.

331:

... how about homeopathy? There are people who quite seriously spend years trying to study it, to work out the most effective treatments and the like, and they end up building a huge edifice on top of what most medical practitioners consider absolute bullshit. They too say you can't discuss their subject without years of study.

Or how about art criticism? There are people who, after a whole lot of study, claim they can tell the difference between good art and bad art. But I can tell just looking at art, either it looks like the things it's supposed to look like (in which case it's a very expensive substitute for photography) or it doesn't look like it (in which case it's technically not as good).

The very idea that people can make paintings that are better than photographs, or that one photograph is artisticly better posed than another photograph, is plainly bullshit.

Some people think they get deep meaning from art. They've been hypnotized into believing that. But it's all in their heads. There's nothing there but splashes of paint that they read random meaingings into.

People say you can learn more by studying art, but it's obvious there's really nothing there to study, any more than astrology or homopathy or quantum mechanics. It's all bullshit. None of it means anything. Just unreal stuff people made up out of their heads.

[\sarcasm]

332:

Homeopathy works on two well-established principles.

One is the placebo effect, enhanced, in the minds of some serious believers, by the fact that doses that are diluted higher (and have the high number prominently displayed on the label) are more potent.

The other part is that most illnesses get better on their own.

Now I'm not going to knock either treatment, because sometimes they're the only things that work (cf curing warts). Heck, many student medical workers these days go through a "white coat ceremony" as they transition to clinical work, something that emphasizes the well-known placebo effect of wearing that white coat. Only an idiot healer doesn't use everything they have to make the patient better.

Still, my preferred dilution of homeopathic remedies is 1X, because I prefer the (cough, cough) "least powerful" dose. For awhile that was the only obtainable form of an herbal ointment I was using on sore muscles, and I can guarantee that it worked just as well as a full-strength standard herbal prep would.

333:

Technically, we're a group of blind people explaining why sight is a poorly defined, unproven conjecture.

But if we were actually blind, and you could actually see, it probably wouldn't be too hard to demonstrate your superior understanding. So feel free.

Yes. So people who have advanced spirituality ought to be able to show us why it's valuable. Surely it helps them win on the stock market, or get girls. Maybe advanced mind powers would let them levitate stones and build pyramids. Maybe it would help them be lucky in general. Show me somebody who's done all this spirituality, and he's always driving at 90 mph and he's never had an accident and never gotten a speeding ticket, and that's evidence!

If this stuff has value, show us how it helps you get ahead according to our own values. If you can't show us that it helps you get ahead in the world, then it's obviously bullshit that is not worth any attention except to laugh at it.

334:

well it seems to help them better rationalize killing one another, so there is that at least ;-)

335:

Perhaps not. The Tornado has swing-wings, but less than half the maintenance requirements.

Carrier based plans in general have much higher maintenance requirements (and capital costs) due to the landing and takeoff stresses. Plus they have a different refueling system which means more costs over a common system for US land and carrier based planes. Plus the US tends to gold plate more than the rest of the world.

The F111 was supposed to have both land and carrier based variants. When the carrier based variants costs got out of hand it was dropped. And there's a lot of speculation that the F35 carrier version will not turn out be, ah, optimal.

336:

Homeopathy works on two well-established principles

There's a possible 3rd. Very diluted substances seem to be able to build up tolerances for allergy inducing agents. But that's more an intersection of events than standard homeopathic principles. Especially when the dilutions start to approach (and go past) 0 molecules of substance per dose of formulation.

It is my very vague understanding that the French are big on Homeopathy. Is this true and if so does anyone know why?

337:

Different beast. I've had allergy shots, and the point is to increase the amount of allergen to try to deprogram the immune system from reacting to an allergen as if it's a pathogen.

Conversely, homeopathy's placebo effect works on the "Big Numbers=More Powerful" effect. I'm not being cynical, because I've heard practitioners (or at least dose takers) tell me this, and get highly incensed when I tried to explain what dilution meant.

338:

Here's the answer to why spirituality has value.

The first part is a grafitto apocryphally found in the restroom of a biology department in an American University:

Someone wrote on the bathroom stall, "Oh Lord, why are we born only to suffer and die?"

To which someone replied, "Because those who suffered and died left behind more offspring than those who did not."

A complementary way to think of it is that the universe is playing a joke on all humans, and the enlightened have figured it out. That's why they're so cheerful.

If this makes no sense to you, then spirituality won't make any sense to you either. But then again, I suspect that entomology won't make much sense to you either, but it makes your life better too.

Don't worry about it.

339:

Except that most people who claim to be enlightened, are not cheerful at all. Some are openly hostile to the very concept of cheerfulness.

So while graffiti part makes sense to me, I do not buy your "complementary way".

340:

Homeopathy works on two well-established principles.

Here is a third: Advanced medical science does not have a very long half-life. Sometimes you're better off without it.

I listened to statisticians who were studying therapies for heart problems. It took them about 5 years to determine that a particular operation tended to do no good on average. Some people would get dramatically better results. But the ones who were sickest tended to die right away, which brought down the average. When they carefully triaged their patients to make sure that only fairly healthy ones got treated, then it didn't help as much, but it took longer to prove that it didn't. After 5 years, when they were ready to say that the treatment was on average ineffective, there would be a newer treatment which was supposed to be better, and they would start over.

With most things progress is slower. In 20-30 years they find that half of what they were doing before was worthless or harmful. By 1980 something like half of what they did in 1950 was considered bad. By 2010, around half of treatments from 1980.

Homeopaths provide a control group. When they do things that are ineffective apart from placebo effect, but which are guaranteed to do no harm, we can compare how healthy their patients are on average compared to more standard treatments, and that gives an indication how much good the standard treatments do.

If homeopathy patients had survival rates no better than the average in the 1950's, that would tell us that modern medicine has gotten a whole lot better. Unless there's something special about people who choose homeopathy. It's possible they might die faster for other reasons. They might for example have death wishes, and do various things to kill themselves including choose medicine that they know doesn't work. It's hard to get a really good control group. But homeopaths provide the best control we can get without denying service to people who want it.

341:

A complementary way to think of it is that the universe is playing a joke on all humans, and the enlightened have figured it out. That's why they're so cheerful.

If spirituality gets you to be more cheerful, that sounds like a good thing. I like to be cheerful. Some people will figure that the way they feel about things must be the right way, programmed by evolution or by God or something, and anything they do to tamper with that is bad. But I doubt that. If most of our evolutionary history was hunting-and-gathering, we might not be ideally suited to living in cities and spending much of our time dealing with bureaucracies.

So if you do something that feels better, it might possibly work better too. And even if it doesn't work better, at least it feels better which is a plus.

When I think about it, believing in a god who gave me some sort of guarantee might provide just as much psychological advantage in today's world as it did for hunter/gatherers. I'm not sure that's spiritual enlightenment but it sounds like a useful strategy.

342:

Chekhov said "Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass."

or we can go buy G.K. Chesterton premise:

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

343:

1. Again, I'm not the person who introduced the religion/spirituality thread to this discussion.

2. Your examples (stock market, 90 mph, getting girls (but what about those who want boys? Or watermelons?) might suggest a certain narrowness of scope. What if a benefit of spirituality is to help you grasp a whole new range of values, rather than to merely reinforce possibly shallower values already held?

3. Why do you assume that spiritual mastery doesn't lead to stock market success, etc. I'm not saying it's necessary; I'm saying that depending on a person's roles and goals, spiritual mastery may be sufficient for those kinds of successes. For other people, those kinds of successes may be irrelevant.

4. Your position could be seen as similar to someone who is perhaps 10 or 11 saying to a college professor, "But what use is your class in physics if it doesn't help me succeed at Pokemon?"

344:

Here's the longer version. I hope it is at least entertaining--it's certainly long.

Once upon a time there lived an ideal community in a far-off land. Its members had no fears as we now know them. Instead of uncertainty and vacillation, they had a purposefulness and a fuller means of expressing themselves.

Although there were none of its stresses and tensions which mankind now considers essential to its progress, their lives were richer, because other, better elements replaced these things.

Theirs, therefore, was a slightly different mode of existence. We could almost say that our present perceptions are a crude, makeshift version of the real ones that this community possessed.

They had real lives, not semi-lives.

They had a leader, who discovered that their country was to become uninhabitable for a period of, shall we say, 20,000 years. He planned their escape, realizing that their descendants would be able to return home successfully, only after many trials.

He found for them a place of refuge, an island whose features were only roughly similar to those of the original homeland.

Because of the difference in climate and situation, the immigrants had to undergo a transformation.

This made them more physically and mentally adapted to the new circumstances: coarse perceptions, for instance, were substituted for finer ones, as when the manual laborer becomes toughened in response to the needs of his calling.

In order to reduce the pain which a comparison between the old and new states would bring, they were made to forget the past almost entirely.

Only the most shadowy recollection of it remained, yet it was sufficient to be awakened when the time came.

The system was very complicated, but well arranged. The organs by means of which the people survived on the island were also made the organs of enjoyment, physical and mental. The organs which were really constructive in the old homeland were placed in a special form of abeyance, and linked with the shadowy memory, in preparation for its eventual activation.

Slowly and painfully the immigrants settled down, adjusting themselves to the local conditions. The resources of the island were such that, coupled with effort and a certain form of guidance, people would be able to escape to a further island on the way back to their original home. This was the first of a succession of islands upon which gradual acclimatization took place.

The responsibility of this “evolution” was vested in those individuals who could sustain it. These were necessarily only a few, because for the mass of the people the effort of keeping both sets of knowledge in their consciousness was virtually impossible. One of them seemed to conflict with the other. Certain specialists guarded the “special science.”

This “secret,” the method of effecting the transition, was nothing more or less than the knowledge of maritime skills and their application. The escape needed an instructor, raw materials, people, effort and understanding. Given these, people could learn to swim, and also to build ships.

The people who were originally in charge of the escape operation made it clear to everyone that a certain preparation was necessary before anyone could learn to swim or even take part in building a ship. For a time the process continued satisfactorily.

Then a man who had been found, for the time being, lacking in the necessary qualities rebelled against this order and managed to develop a masterly idea. He had observed that the effort to escape placed a heavy and often seemingly unwelcome burden upon the people. At the same time they were disposed to believe things which they were told about the escape operation. He realized that he could acquire power, and also revenge himself upon those who had undervalued him, as he though, by a simple exploitation of these two sets of facts.

He would merely offer to take away the burden, by affirming that there was no burden.

He made his announcement: “There is no need for man to integrate his mind and train it in the way which has been described to you. The human mind is already a stable and continuous, consistent thing. You have been told that you have to become a craftsman in order to build a ship. I say, not only do you not need to be a craftsman – you do not need a ship at all!

“An islander needs only to observe a few simple rules to survive and remain integrated into society. By the exercise of common sense, born into everyone, he can attain anything upon this island, our home, the common property and heritage of all.”

The tonguester, having gained a great deal of interest among the people, now “proved his message by saying: “If there is any reality in ships and swimming, show us ships which have made the journey, and swimmers who have come back!”

This was a challenge to the instructors which they could not meet. It was based upon an assumption of which the bemused herd could not now see the fallacy. You see, ships never returned from the other land. Swimmers, when they did come back, had undergone a fresh adaptation which made them invisible to the crowd.

The mob pressed for demonstrative proof.

“Shipbuilding,” said the escapers, in an attempt to reason with the revolt, “is an art and a craft. The learning and the exercise of this lore depends upon special techniques. These together make up a total activity, which cannot be examined piecemeal, as you demand. This activity has an impalpable element, called ‘baraka,’ from which the work ‘barque’ – a ship – is derived. This word means ‘the Subtlety,’ and cannot be shown to you.”

“Art, craft, total, baraka, nonsense!” shouted the revolutionaries.

And so they hanged as many shipbuilding craftsmen as they could find.


The new gospel was welcomed on all sides as one of liberation. Man had discovered that he was already mature! He felt, for the time at least, as if he had been released from responsibility.

Most other ways of thinking were soon swamped by the simplicity and comfort of the revolutionary concept. Soon it was considered to be a basic fact, which had never been challenged by any rational person. Rational, of course, meant anyone who harmonized with the general theory itself, upon which society was now based.

Ideas which opposed the new one were easily called irrational. Anything irrational was bad. Thereafter, even if he had doubts, the individual had to suppress them or divert them, because he must at all costs be thought rational.

It was not very difficult to be rational. One had only to adhere to the values of society. Further, evidence of the truth of rationality abounded—providing that one did not think beyond the life of the island.

Society had now temporarily equilibrated itself within the island, and seemed to provide a plausible completeness, if viewed by means of itself. It was based upon reason plus emotion, making both seem plausible. Cannibalism, for instance, was permitted on rational grounds. The human body was found to be edible. Edibility was a characteristic of food. Therefore the human body was food.

In order to compensate for the shortcomings of this reasoning, a makeshift was arranged. Cannibalism was controlled, in the interests of society. Compromise was the trademark of temporary balance. Every now and again someone pointed out a new compromise, and the struggle between reason, ambition, and community produced some fresh social norm.

Since the skills of boatbuilding had no obvious application within this society, the effort could easily be considered absurd. Boats were not needed—there was nowhere to go. The consequences of certain assumptions can be made to “prove” those assumptions. This is what is called a pseudocertainty, the substitute for real certainty. It is what we deal in every day, when we assume that we will live another day. But our islanders applied it to everything.

The words “displeasing” and “unpleasant” were used on the island to indicate anything which conflicted with the new gospel, which was itself known as “Please.” The idea behind this was that people would now please themselves, within the general need to please the State. The State was taken to mean all the people.

It is hardly surprising that from quite early times the very thought of leaving the island filled most people with terror. Similarly, very real fear is to be seen in long-term prisoners who are about to be released. “Outside” the place of captivity is a vague, unknown, threatening world.

The island was not a prison. But it was a cage with invisible bars, more effective than obvious ones ever could be.

The insular society became more and more complex, and we can look at only a few of its outstanding features. Its literature was a rich one. In addition to cultural compositions, there were numerous books which explained the values and achievements of the nation. There was also a system of allegorical fiction, which portrayed how terrible life might have been, had society not arranged itself in the present reassuring pattern.

From time to time instructors tried to help the whole community to escape. Captains sacrificed themselves for the reestablishment of a climate in which the now concealed shipbuilders could continue their work. All these efforts were interpreted by historians and sociologists with reference to conditions on the island, without thought for any contact outside this closed society.

Plausible explanations of almost anything were comparatively easy to produce. No principle of ethics was involved, because scholars continued to study with genuine dedication what seemed to be true. “What more can we do?” they asked, implying by the word “more” that the alternative might be an effort of quantity.

Or they asked each other, “What else can we do?” assuming that the answer might be “else”—something different. Their real problem was that they assumed themselves able to formulate the questions, and ignored the fact that the questions were every bit as important as the answers.

Of course the islanders had plenty of scope for thought and action within their own small domain. The variations of ideas and differences of opinion gave the impression of freedom of thought. Thought was encouraged, providing that it was not “absurd.”

Freedom of speech was allowed. It was of little use without the development of understanding, which was not pursued.

The work and the emphasis of the navigators had to take on different aspects in accordance with the changes in the community. This made their reality even more baffling to the students who tried to follow them from the island point of view.

Amid all the confusion, even the capacity to remember the possibility of escape could at times become an obstacle.

The stirring consciousness of escape potential was not very discriminating.

More often than not the eager would-be escapers settled for any kind of substitute.

A vague concept of navigation cannot become useful without orientation. Even the most eager potential shipbuilders had been trained to believe that they already had that orientation. They were already mature. They hated anyone who pointed out that they might need a preparation.

Bizarre versions of swimming or shipbuilding often crowded out possibilities of real progress. Very much to blame were the advocates of pseudoswimming or allegorical ships, mere hucksters, who offered lessons to those as yet too weak to swim, or passages on ships which they could not build.

They needs of the society had originally made necessary certain forms of efficiency and thinking which developed into what was known as science. This admirable approach, so essential in the fields where it had application, finally outran its real meaning. The approach called “scientific,” soon after the “Please” revolution, became stretched until it covered all manner of ideas.

Eventually things which could not be brought within its bounds became known as “unscientific,” another convenient synonym for “bad.” Words were unknowingly taken prisoner and then automatically enslaved.

In the absence of a suitable attitude, like people who, thrown upon their own resources in a waiting room, feverishly read magazines, the islanders absorbed themselves in finding substitutes for the fulfillment which was the original (and indeed the final) purpose of this community’s exile.

Some were able to diver their attention more or less successfully into mainly emotional commitments. There were different ranges of emotion, but no adequate scale for measuring them. All emotion was considered to be “deep” or “profound”—at any rate more profound than non-emotion. Emotion, which was seen to move people to the most extreme physical and mental acts known, was automatically termed “deep.”

The majority of people set themselves targets, or allowed others to set them for them. They might pursue one cult after another, or money, or social prominence. Some worshipped some things and felt themselves superior to all the rest. Some, by repudiating what they thought worship was, thought that they had no idols, and could therefore safely sneer at all the rest.

As the centuries passed, the island was littered with the debris of these cults. Worse than ordinary debris, it was self-perpetuating. Well-meaning and other people combined the cults and recombined them, and they spread anew. For the amateur and intellectual, this constituted a mine of academic or “initiatory” material, giving a comforting sense of variety.

Magnificent facilities for the indulging of limited “satisfactions” proliferated. Palaces and monuments, museums and universities, institutes of learning, theater and sports stadiums almost filled the island. The people naturally prided themselves on these endowments, many of which they considered to be linked in a general way with ultimate truth, though exactly how this was so escaped almost all of them.

Shipbuilding was connected with some dimensions of this activity, but in a way unknown to almost everyone.

Clandestinely the ships raised their sails, the swimmers continued to teach swimming…

The conditions on the island did not entirely fill these dedicated people with dismay. After all, they too had originated in the very same community, and had indissoluble bonds with it, and with its destiny.

But they very often had to preserve themselves from the attentions of their fellow citizens. Some “normal” islanders tried to save them from themselves. Others tried to kill them, for an equally sublime reason. Some even sought their help eagerly, but could not find them.

All these reactions to the existence of the swimmers were the result of the same cause, filtered through different kinds of minds. This cause was that hardly anyone now knew what a swimmer really was, what he was doing, or where he could be found.

As the life of the island became more and more civilized, a strange but logical industry grew up. It was devoted to ascribing doubts to the validity of the system under which the society lived. It succeeded in absorbing doubts about social values by laughing at them or satirizing them. The activity could wear a sad or happy face, but it really became a repetitious ritual. A potentially valuable industry, it was often prevented from exercising its really creative function.

People felt that, having allowed their doubts to have temporary expression, they would in some way assuage them, exorcise them, almost propitiate them. Satire passed for meaningful allegory; allegory was accepted but not digested. Plays, books, films, poems, lampoons were the usual media for this development, though there was a strong section of it in more academic fields.

For many islanders it seemed more emancipated, more modern or progressive, to follows this cult rather than the older ones.

Here and there a candidate still represented himself to a swimming instructor, to make his bargain. Usually what amounted to a stereotyped conversation took place.

“I want to learn to swim.”

“Do you want to make a bargain about it?”

“No. I only have to take my ton of cabbage.”

“What cabbage?”

“The food which I will need on the other island.”

“There is better food there.”

“I don’t know what you mean. I cannot be sure. I must take my cabbage.”

“You cannot swim, for one thing, with a ton of cabbage.”

“Then I cannot go. You call it a load. I call it my essential nutrition.”

“Suppose, as an allegory, we say not ‘cabbage’ but ‘assumptions,’ or ‘destructive ideas’?”

“I am going to take my cabbage to some instructor who understands my needs.”

~ ~ ~

The Islanders – A Fable, from book The Sufis, by Idries Shah

346:

"Spirituality"
( @ 329 - 333 ish )
aka talking about BigSkyFairy ....
Why is no form of BSF detectable AT ALL ...
And the better our detectors get, the less BSF (i.e. none at all) di we find?
All the way from massless particles, (photons) throught really difficult-to-drtrct low-mass ones (neutrinoes) all the way up & bigger & more complex & out to supergalaxy clusters millions if not "billions" of parsecs away & back to COBE ... no BSF anywhere.
Logical conclusinon - it doesn't exist, game over.

On Homeopathy, it has been properly double-blind trialled & it doesn't work - equally game over.

347:

Your examples (stock market, 90 mph, getting girls (but what about those who want boys? Or watermelons?) might suggest a certain narrowness of scope. What if a benefit of spirituality is to help you grasp a whole new range of values, rather than to merely reinforce possibly shallower values already held?

Yes. And yet, how can you expect to persuade anyone this way, who does not want to be persuaded?

"My values are better than your values. Come accept my values and then your values will be better too, and you will see that they are better and you will be pleased that you changed."

People generally don't accept this line from communists or libertarians, why would they accept it from you?

So maybe we should each do our own thing, and preach to the people who are open to it. We can't hope to prove much to those who aren't!

Although possibly some might be persuaded by the argument from success. If Jimmy Buffett announced that all his riches came from studying Scientology, maybe a lot of people who wanted to get rich would study Scientology.

So if one person wants to dedicate his life to growing the world's largest cabbage, and another to growing lots of cabbages, and a third to having lots of the most enjoyable sex he can manage, and a fourth to study of military history, maybe it's not worth arguing with them. Unless they try to keep you from your spirituality. Depending on how they do it, possibly study of military history would help you resist them....

348:

"If this stuff has value, show us how it helps you get ahead according to our own values. "

The blind man speaks. If it doesn't make money or get women it's just shit.

349:

""Spirituality"
( @ 329 - 333 ish )
aka talking about BigSkyFairy ...."

Instant fail. You do not even understand the distinction between the two.

350:

"He predicted (in Ecce Homo) that the twentieth century would be a century of "wars such as have never happened on earth," wars catastrophic beyond all imagining."

By inference, that means the twentieth century would be the most catastrophic in human history.

Interesting fact about that quote. It's only true if you don't look too closely at it. The twentieth century wars were catastrophic beyond what Europe had experienced for a few centuries. But it was maybe the 6th worse in the past 20 centuries (I'm excluding the BC era because I don't want to have to quantify events such as the Bronze Age Collapse)

Was this century worse for humanity than the 16th century. Let's see, in that century, you had the genocides of the Americas. I would argue this was the worst event in human history. N. America didn't recover its pre-Columbian population until the 1800's and S. America didn't recover its population until around WWII. You also had the destruction of several African and Filipino kingdoms. The perpetrators were people of faith.

Was this century worse than the 17th century? Let's look at the continents. N. America and S. America was still very genocidal. Africa: this was the golden age of the slave trade. Asia: this was the century when the European Indian empires emerged. It's also when the Dutch began to colonize S. Africa, Java, and tried to colonize modern-day Taiwan (the Chinese finished that little endeavor). Europe experienced the Thirty Years War, which on a per capita basis was probably worse than either world war. Atheists weren't running the show then either

Next is the thirteenth century. One word: Mongol Empire. In my opinion, the second worst event in A.D. history after the genocide of the Americas. I don't know Genghis Khan's spirituality, so I'll leave the possibility he was an atheist.

Next is the 19th century. The completion of the genocides in the US and Canada, and expansion of the genocides in the Southern Cone and Brazil, the scramble for Africa, the genocide of Australia. Finally, let's not forget the Taiping Rebellion. It killed 20 million people, more than WWI, more than Stalin, and it probably approached Mao in death toll when you consider that the war weakened the Quing dynasty to such an extent that it collapsed in the early 20th century. I have no idea how many deaths in the following decades were due to the instability brought about by this War. Again, this was caused by people of faith. Still, this was Europe's golden age, so I can see why Nietzsche would ignore those.

Now, I am tempted to include the 18th, 4th, and 7th centuries, but I'm not that familiar with them. However, those crimes were also done by people of faith.

In short, a world were God reigned supreme was far more violent than one where that wasn't the case.

351:

On Homeopathy, it has been properly double-blind trialled & it doesn't work - equally game over.

You are looking at it too narrowly.

Homeopathy got its big wins in the 19th century and early 20th century when other forms of medicine tended to kill people. By prescribing medicine which was at worst harmless, homeopaths got far better survival rates.

Modern medicine has eliminated the worst of the lethal treatments so they do much better than before. But we still need homeopaths *as the control group*.

Often the result of actual use of a new treatment comes out very different from the controlled studies. Nobody knows why this is, but it's true. Possibly in the real world conditions are sometimes subtly different from in the controlled studies because other variables are not controlled. When homeopaths do as well as other treatment, that is strong evidence that the other treatment is in fact completely worthless.


http://www.interhomeopathy.org/hydrocyanicum_acidum_and_the_purple_death_1

Here is a typical result. An epidemic where standard treatment resulted in 25%+ mortality, but untreated cases were 15%. Homeopathic treatment gave death rates much lower. Maybe the use of aspirin in standard treatment killed a lot of people, so much so that the rest of the care was worthless.

Much of homeopathic theory does not make sense. But medical results don't depend on theory. Lots of medical theories don't make sense. Homeopathy gives us a treatment which is guaranteed harmless, and when we learn to compare those results on a large scale with conventional results in practice, we may get valuable lessons from it.

352:
Instant fail. You do not even understand the distinction between the two.

Spirituality: how you feel about the
big Sky fairy?

353:

"Nietzsche said that mankind would limp on through the twentieth century "on the mere pittance" of the old decaying God–based moral codes. But then, in the twenty–first, would come a period more dreadful than the great wars, a time of "the total eclipse of all values" (in The Will to Power). This would also be a frantic period of "revaluation," in which people would try to find new systems of values to replace the osteoporotic skeletons of the old. But you will fail, he warned, because you cannot believe in moral codes without simultaneously believing in a god who points at you with his fearsome forefinger and says "Thou shalt" or "Thou shalt not.""

Bull. Bull.

The century would have to be pretty horrible to counter the fact that for the parts of the world not named Europe, Australia, or N. America it is the first Golden Era since Columbus. A pity God had to die to get us such a world. Even for those continents, formerly oppressed minorities such as the Aborigines, native Americans, Jews, Gypsies, Sami, etc. have it better in godless Europe (I don't know if I should include Jews and Gypsies, since the Holocaust did happen in this era).

354:

Oops. I meant the fifth and eighth centuries, not the fourth and seventh.

355:

Fail. How can you even pretend to have an informed opinion on the subject with a comment like that?

356:
Fail. How can you even pretend to have an informed opinion on the subject with a comment like that?

A flip comment certainly, but not an entirely inaccurate one I think. How would you define spirituality then? In less that half a million words for preference?

One of the things I've noticed over recent years is the increasing reluctance of believers to make any claims for their beliefs that are capable of verification in any sense what-so-ever. Recently Giles Frazer springs to mind as an example.

357:

How many AMRAAM (or Sparrow or Skyflash) your Canburra variant can carry will depend on space around the wing hardpoints rather than load; you can reckon on 3 radar AIMs per hardpoint given sufficent space, and a further 3 in the bomb bay given extensible launchers (like F-102, F-106, F-22, probably F-35). You can probably make it pretty uninterceptable by operating at 45_000 feet (it can go higher, but why bother?)

358:

That was originally stipulated. But as noted, this wasn't a subject for discussion here. Please drop it.

359:

Your understanding of aerodynamics is so wrong I don't know where to begin.

(Hint: the F-14 has variable geometry wings. The term "swept", as in wing sweep, applies to virtually every jet-powered aircraft built since the early 1950s, and you've got the significance of wing sweep for the speed vs. lift trade-off entirely backwards.)

360:

192(8)
Amazon mostly does 2 things:-
1) It buys from importers/manufacturers *This places them in the place in the supply chain traditionally held by wholesalers and sales reps), and sells direct to punters (and this in that held by "shops"). Any disruption that this causes is felt by wholesalers and "traditional retailers" rather than necessarily that held by manufacturers or end users.
2) It offers "shops" an aggregating service for web sales, saving them the effort of advertising their websites (for a fee). Clearly the shops feel this to be an advantage, as do the customers who can find $item "for a good price" using a 1 stop service.

361:

The F-22 can cruise supersonic, and just flying by WWII planes at Mach 1.0x is going to generate an overpressure wave that will blow their wings off.
You'd have to get pretty close to do this, and sooner or later either you'll get too close or they'll make a lucky shot.

They only have to get lucky once, and you have to be lucky every time.

362:

Lord knows religion can beget violence. But it is also the only proven means of holding our baser instincts in check.

That's sarcasm, right? When you check history, religion is the only proven method to turn a group of regular people into a murderous mob. Especially the "my god is the only one, yours is a blasphemous idol" kind.

363:

OK - Spirituality for Dummies

(a) That dealing with timeless qualities, objects or concepts often associated with Platonism. Things that are not time-bound and hence not subject to decay. Includes everything from mythological archetype abstractions to mathematics.

(b) The direct perception of Being or reality without logical interpretation. In effect, direct apprehension of the brain states preceding conscious interpretation and filtering of sensory input.

(c) Direct apprehension of ones own conscious being with minimal perceptual overlay.

364:

For the price of one F22 you can buy 10 Su35s.
I think the latter could do somewhat more damage.

366:

Carrier based plans in general have much higher maintenance requirements (and capital costs) due to the landing and takeoff stresses. Plus they have a different refueling system which means more costs over a common system for US land and carrier based planes...And there's a lot of speculation that the F35 carrier version will not turn out be, ah, optimal.

Errrr.... no, again.

Firstly, if anything it's the USAF that has the "different refuelling system" - because the USN and USMC, like the rest of the world that isn't flying USAF types, uses probe-and-drogue refuelling.

Feeble and tiny drift back to topic, but the USAF boom refuelling system was driven by the most excessive capital-intensive warfare; namely, the need to have an intercontinental manned bomber force, especially if you've got one of your bomber wings turning and burning at a fail-safe point at any given time. Think of Dr. Strangelove (the need to have a guaranteed retaliation using bombers only went away once the solid-fuel land-based ICBM and submarine-based at sea deterrents came on-line).

Filling up a B-52 / B-58 / B-1B / B-2 is a big job to do quickly - so the USAF uses a boom system where the tanker "flies" the probe into the receiver's socket. It's a rigid system, that delivers fuel at a higher flow rate and pressure, AIUI - so if anything, it's the carrier aircraft with the simpler and more robust systems.

As for "F-35 carrier variant non-optimal", which one and why? The USN will be flying F-35C off carriers, the USMC and RN will be flying the F-35B off carriers. If you're implying that the F-35B is hauling around few thousand pounds of lift fan instead of fuel, perhaps; but then, it doesn't have to slam into a deck at high speed every time it lands, and has a far lower training burden on its pilots. Even with a lift fan, it carries more internal fuel than just about anything else (Tornado, F-15C, Typhoon) - and handily outperforms its predecessor in RN service, the very short-legged Sea Harrier.

367:

So, back to your point, we had the era of mass conscription, where the biggest army won. Railroads let us pour tremendous men and resources into a small space, culminating in WWI. Blitzkrieg was an aberration on that, which let a numerically small army win for awhile. Atomic weapons made giant armies obviously obsolete but the USA and the USSR kept them anyway, not yet having the war which actually proves it.

More recently we have had the approach of intensely capital-intensive war. This culminates with special forces -- you can have essentially an elite group of forward observers, who flit around the countryside finding enemies to bomb. You hardly need big forces on the ground to be targets if you can adequately target their forces. The air force that can back up those forward observers is even more expensive, but if it wins then who should complain?

Mass armies are obsolete but you need one in case your neighbor invades and the USA doesn't intervene on your side. But doesn't the USA usually intervene? Usually. Kind of. But before they fight a big war they spend 6 months to a year prepositioning supplies. A major part of the expense of the war has already been spent when the supplies are prepositioned -- the replacement munitions have already been ordered and are beginning to be delivered -- it would be a logistic nightmare to decide at the last minute not to do it. The USA basicly cannot negotiate a settlement in the last months before a big war. Or they could, but they'd need the foresight to plan it ahead of time.

The USA and Russia can destroy anything they want to destroy. The challenge is to get control of things they want to not destroy. Primarily oilfields. Maybe economies. After we destroy a mass army on another continent, what does it get us? If it's oilfields, do we get more oil than the war burned?

We found out how to protect an oil pipeline. A single man with a small bomb can cause a whole lot of damage. But drones can patrol the pipeline and cheaply kill anybody who gets close to it.

How can you protect a supply convoy? Anybody with a bomb and a shovel can take out one of your fuel tankers. But you can use drones to patrol the road and kill anybody who gets close to it.

Hate to do this sort of thing for years at a time.

The capital-intensive approach to counter-insurgency. Identify people who may be plotting against you and kill them from the air, attempting to minimise damage to people and structures you might need. Local police might do better if you could trust them, but you can't.

How can politics catch up to this?

And what comes next?

368:

For the price of one F22 you can buy 10 Su35s.
I think the latter could do somewhat more damage.

To your pocket, yes. The F-22 is generally regarded as an exceptional (i.e. peerless) air-superiority fighter. The fact that even one mock kill at RED FLAG was quite a big deal, should be taken as an indicator

You might also want to consider the maintenance burden of 10x Sukhoi, their availability rates, and their airframe and engine lifetimes. The cost of training 10x as many pilots, and keeping them current in their skills. Remember, the West designs its combat aircraft to last a long time in peace; the Russians design them to for an (expected) short lifetime in war.

By way of example, you apparently expect to buy 10% spare engines for your western fighter (e.g. 2.2 engines per Typhoon), but several multiples of engine sets for your MiG / Sukhoi (i.e. 6 to 10 engines per Su-35). The advantage of this is that you swap in a set of "new" engines at/just before the start of the war, in the knowledge that the aircraft is extremely unlikely to use up all x00 hours of engine life, before the war ends or the aircraft is shot down...

369:

"Freedom of speech was allowed. It was of little use without the development of understanding, which was not pursued." - Good quote. There's a difference between spirituality and religiosity ... Excerpt from Wikipedia ...

"Spirituality .... an individual’s search for meaning and purpose in life. Spirituality is distinct from organized religion in that spirituality does not necessarily need a religious framework. That is, one does not necessarily need to follow certain rules, guidelines or practices to be spiritual, but an organized religion often has some combination of these in place. People who report themselves to be spiritual people may not observe any specific religious practices or traditions.[96] Studies have shown a negative relationship between spiritual well-being and depressive symptoms."

My experience: 'spiritual' folks have no problem with my atheism; those driven by reliogisity, do. The religion discussion usually crops up when talking about family get-togethers/holidays: what do you do to celebrate and why, decor and food. Years ago we started an office 'holiday' pot luck lunch - end of project rush/deliverables. It's been a fun/non-threatening way to learn about different cultures/religions and foods that you wouldn't normally get at a typical 'ethnic' restaurant. (We also put up a world map with pins identifying where everyone is from: every continent except Antarctica.)

370:

What comes next is better psychology, as in: win the war before any shots are fired. I saw some media coverage to the effect recently - a Google search pulled up a story in The Independent. (Caveat: I've no idea what the editorial policy is of The Independent.)


371:

We're seeing quite a few attempts to define spirituality, and they really don't agree all that much. Heck, Dirk posted two without realizing that the Platonist version ((a) in his post) is traditionally opposed to the nominalist version that emphasizes brain states ((b) in his post)*. I'm getting the distinct impression that we don't have enough agreement on basic premises or even vocabulary to begin to have an intelligent conversation on this topic.

*BTW, neuroscience comes down pretty heavily on the nominalist side of that issue.

372:

I do realize that. It's just that there are multiple definitions of the same word depending on context. Hardly unique in the English language. I could also add a few more.

373:

What comes next is better psychology, as in: win the war before any shots are fired.

That's always been a part of it. And so wars that cost the victor more than he could possibly get from them, might still be valuable because of the nations that knuckle under without a fight. This cannot be measured without knowledge of alternate worlds, so there's no real way to do science or accounting about it.

In the same way it makes sense to kill a few peasants so the rest will remember they are only peasants, it could make sense to destroy a few third-world nations so the others will cooperate. Or maybe not, there's no good way to test it.

It's good to offer people a deal they can live with, as opposed to something they'd fight hopelessly against.

And the guy who was writing in another topic about southeast asian hill people has a point. If a region already offers enough tribute that there would be some loss to disrupting that, and they have arranged things so they are hard to organize to squeeze more from them, they might escape invasion.

I think one consequence of capital-intensive warfare is that we will burn all the oil, despite everything. We may eventually arrange to stop burning oil for any other purpose, but while it wins wars it will keep being burned until it's gone.

374:

Well Greg, maybe the Big Sky Fairy is like the quantum wave function: not directly detectable by any instrumentality we possess, purely metaphysical, but responsible, or so we’re told, for the state of the entire universe.

But as others have said, there's no requirement to anthropomorphise this metaphysical thing into some old guy with a beard; we can call it "the Tao", "the Force", "Mana", "Shakti", "Baraka", "Ein Sof" or whatever. Pretty much every human culture in history has spoken of something like this outside of the hardcore modern atheist subculture, so given this empirical fact perhaps we should ask whether there is something wrong with *you and your kind* that you can't sense what seems so obvious to the rest of us? Are you blind man, or do you just refuse to open your eyes?

375:

It may interest you to know that Colonel Michael Aquino, PhD, a U.S. military intelligence officer, has written a book called "MindWar" that proposes to do just that: make physical warfare obsolete via psychological and memetic warfare.

It may also interest you to know that Colonel Aquino is the founder of the Temple of Set, former left-hand man of Anton LaVey, and a rather nutty guy who believes that he channeled the ancient Egyptian deity Set in 1975 and is the prophet of a new Aeon of Set. But the dude is quite rational and progressive and often posts at the 600 club forum.

I guess this is why I criticize hardcore atheists; because compared to all the religious and occult weirdos out there, they're just *so boring*.

376:

Oh, my--a cute picture of a cat. I find myself utterly refuted.

377:

I think this may be am expression of bias towards the side with the best story.

Non-theistic science tells stories which some people don't get. They want things explained by some anthropormophic entity.

Er, hold on. Does this mean that God is a furry? Were the Egyptians right? Or am I just being an evil Bastet?

378:

I'm certainly biased toward the side with the best story, aren't you?

Yes, it means god is an aardvaark. Do you have a problem with that?

379:

Here's a very strong belief voiced by some on this blog: God doesn't exist.

What is God? BigSkyFairy, apparently.

Okay, a large number of Christians would agree that God is not BigSkyFairy. Does that make them atheists?

No, because someone who believes that BigSkyFairy does not exist is emphatically not a Christian.

So the fundamental question for the atheists who believe that BigSkyFairy does not exist is, do you have a concept of god/God or whatever that's coherent enough to test whether this concept doesn't exist? If not, then your atheism is a statement of faith unsupported by experience or data, isn't it? Isn't that the definition of a religion?

If you want to make your atheism rational, that's fine. Rationality requires some testable hypotheses, and that starts with the definition of whatever it is you believe doesn't exist. It's also not a bad idea to find out whether your disprovable definition coincides with what other people believe exists, so that you know who is and who isn't on your side. Knocking down a straw god is easy, but it's also kind of lazy, is it not?

Incidentally, I'm neither an atheist nor a theist, and that's why I'm stirring things up here.

380:
Incidentally, I'm neither an atheist nor a theist, and that's why I'm stirring things up here.

If you are without theism, then your are an atheist.

381:

If you are without theism, then your are an atheist. "stir".

And athough Aquino is quite bright, he suffers under the vice of Yesod! And the dominion of Lilith...

382:

"...do you have a concept of god/God or whatever that's coherent enough to test whether this concept doesn't exist? "

Yes. Personifications of Nature and the embodiment of cultural archetypes capable of dynamically interacting with society. Got a problem with that or are we talking about some simplistic strawman (not) believed in by BillyBob the illiterate televangelist?

383:

This is why some of us technically regard ourselves as "igtheists", people who do not believe the word "God" is sufficiently well defined to permit a definite opinion on its existence or nonexistence. We usually go by "atheist", because it doesn't confuse people as much, and the kinds of God we regard as possible aren't the kinds of God religious people want to believe in.

384:

How would you distinguish such a thing from internal elements of a society interacting with each other?

385:

There's room for argument for this, but at least since the Lanchester Law it's been believed that fighting power is not in linear proportion to the number of units.

Let Fighting Power F=k.xn
where n ≥ 1 and x ≥ 1 and k > 0

So if k1 is the Fighting Power of an F-22, and k2 is the Fighting Power of a Su-35, and k2 = 10.k1 then an F-22 can only equal 10 Su-35 if n = 1

The special case of n = 1 is based, originally, on one-to-one combat, swords and spears rather than longer-ranged weapons. Since the F-22 carried only 8 missiles, 2 of them short ranged Sidewinders, while the Su-35 can carry 12 total, 4 of them short-ranged, a sequence of 10 one-to-one combats is unlikely.

It's possible that, while ECM and RCS matter, the number of missiles is almost more important than the number of aircraft. The original Lanchester Laws are about a century old, and maybe only give a direction. Once guided missiles came on the scene, especially the fire-and-forget types, things get complicated.

It's not plane v. plane any more, it's two missile v. plane attacks, and that poor F-22 might have 80 missiles incoming while it can only destroy a maximum of 8 of the 10 radars giving those missiles target updates.

And at long engagement ranges the missile is running short of energy to engage a manoeuvering target, for both sides. But can you afford to fire second so as to give your missiles more terminal energy. And, at long range, even AMRAAM doesn't hit every time.

386:
igtheists

Seen a TV programme about that, called Game of Thrones, IIRC... Something about the Iron Isles....And a flame haired Bitch with fire in her eyes!

Serously though, I agree that the term "God" is not well defined. In fact I was so annoyed about this I wrote tp Theos, asking if there was any research focusing on what believers mean by "God,"not least because I conjecture what believers believe with respect to God differs considerably from that laid down by the major religions. Now answer so far...

387:

Actually, I do understand the difference ...
But, the moment some handwaver starts talking about "spituality" you can bet your boots, they are going to introduce BSF into the conversation, fairly soon.
Plese, don;t do that, it's a distraction - if spirituality does not mean a BNSF, thenm can the raiser of the s-waffle plese define theoir terms?

Like what is "spirit"?

388:

Blitzkrieg was an aberration on that, which let a numerically small army win for awhile.
Err.
Jena? Auerstadt? Ulm? Agincourt?
Pleant others.

389:

Your understanding of aerodynamics is so wrong I don't know where to begin. (Hint: the F-14 has variable geometry wings. The term "swept", as in wing sweep,

Yes I got the term wrong. My bad. But my point was the ability to rotate the wings added a LOT of maintenance requirements to the plane. And weight. Which reduced range.

390:

Oh do come on!
"Cannot be detected either directly or indirectly"
But the Q-wave functions behaviour is predicted & lo & behold, the predictions turn out to be true!
The Universe is TESTABLE, for results.
So, where is your mystical other that you are positing?
If we can "feel" it, as many religious believers claim, then why cannot any of our senses or instruments do so?
And, as our instrumentation (etc) gets better, there's (less & less of the BSF 9or whatever) anywhere.
As always, if you seem to be making the extraordinary claim that BSF or spritiuality or whatever exists. Please produce some evidence that will stand up in a laboratory &/or a court & preferably both.
I'm waiting.

Heteromeles @ 379
Sorry, not allowed (I think) ....
The religious/spiritual are making the claims, let's see their proof.
For thousands of years they have been scamming us with "Can't disprove a negative, nyaah!" well I am not buying it, & neither should anyone else.

391:

I just hope Colonel Aquino is less successful at his enterprise than Major-General J. F. C. Fuller (inventor of Blitzkrieg and disciple of Aleister Crowley).

(Because? Weaponized memes might sound innocuous at first, but then again you might want to go read "Directive 51" by John Barnes ...)

392:

A way I like to think of it:

Every theist (of any stripe) rejects vastly more versions of god than they accept. (It's a fundamental thread in arguments with atheists, of course: No, that nasty god you say don't believe in is not my god. My god is different.)

Those who define themselves as atheist are only infinitesimally more atheistic than the most ardent religious person. We share almost all the same disbeliefs as you - we just add your own flavour of god to our shared roster of disbeliefs.

393:

Different is different. Doesn't matter which comes first. Are you saying that land based variants of the F35 will switch to the same fueling system as carrier based planes? If so I'm somewhat surprised. Of course this is a no win situation for the USAF. Have two different variants for fueling F35s or have all new tankers (if they are ever built) which can fuel plane via either method. Either choice adds costs.

If you're implying that the F-35B is hauling around few thousand pounds of lift fan instead of fuel, perhaps; but then, it doesn't have to slam into a deck at high speed every time it lands, and has a far lower training burden on its pilots.

I have a really hard time believing that SVTOL will become the standard way for flight operations off carriers. At least for the US. Fuel burn is just huge. SVTOL is for when it must be used.

I just visited the Wikipedia page. It's worse than I thought.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_Martin_F-35_Lightning_II

The SVTOL variant looses 1/3 of the fuel capacity of the USAF version for the vertical fan system. Plus this interesting statement.
"Vertical takeoffs and landings are riskier due to threats such as foreign object damage."
In general it seems that the SVTOL will be the if we have to option. Not SOP.

And the carrier based variant is heavier,more costly, and more complicated than the pure USAF variant. Not nearly as much as the SVTOL variant but still.

And the article states that the main variant will include both refueling systems. And seems to imply that it will also include a landing hook.

What's that saying? That the entire Pentagon budget will be consumed by the single new plane delivered about 2050?

394:

I'll grant you the complexity of early variable-geometry systems -- the F-14, the F-111, the Su-17. But these were 1960s developments. Today we see both the B-1B and Tu-160 strategic bombers in service with this design, and the Panavia Tornado being retired after 30 years of hard use -- all of them 1970s or 1980s implementations that seem to have had considerably less maintenance problems and which were designed for long-ish range (the Tornado in particular was used by the RAF as a patrol interceptor, and with in-flight refueling sorties could last up to 6-7 hours).

395:

"How would you distinguish such a thing from internal elements of a society interacting with each other?"

Sometimes it is impossible, other times it is blindingly obvious, like when the Inquisition or ISIL come for you.

396:

"Like what is "spirit"?"

The unique defining essence of something at a single point in time. If you want to be really picky, enumerate the totality of an object's quantum states.

397:

Is that possible, even in principle?

398:

Probably not, with underlines how unique a spirit really is.

399:

I have a really hard time believing that SVTOL will become the standard way for flight operations off carriers. At least for the US. Fuel burn is just huge.

There was this aircraft, used by the USMC, Spanish Navy, Italian Navy, and Indian Navy, and formerly used by the Royal Navy, that uses short takeoffs and vertical landings to allow it to generate high sortie rates from a small-deck carrier. It's called the Harrier, you may know it better as the AV-8...

If you can afford the ultimate statement of capital-intensive warfare (namely, the nuclear-powered large-deck aircraft carrier), then you have the choice of CATOBAR or STOVL. It is noteworthy that the USMC have chosen the F-35B for similar reasons to the RN, even though both had the choice to buy the F-35C.

The reason is simple. Carrier landings in a fast jet are one of the most stressful activities a pilot can perform; keeping current in carrier landings is a large part of working up a carrier air wing, to the extent that at any one time, at least one of the USN's twelve-ish carriers is driving around in circles allowing baby pilots to learn their basic "landing without crashing" skills.

If you've only got one or two carriers in your Navy, this is an expensive option. The Royal Navy briefly considered it, and then went back to STOVL because of the whole-life cost implications; namely, your pilots can concentrate on the flying and fighting side of their training, rather than the landing. By way of example, several RAF pilots performed their very first carrier landing as they arrived on their way to the Falklands War. The choice of the F-35B means that the UK can have a single fleet of aircraft that can operate both at sea and ashore, and be able to surge its resources from one to the other if necessary.

Note that if you use the "ski-jump" on your carrier, you can launch aircraft at a higher rate than if you have to strap them onto a catapult. While the fuel burn of landing vertically may be large for a short period, you don't need to keep as large a reserve of fuel as you do for a conventional carrier landing - because you don't have the risk of missing the wires and having to fly around for another approach...

"It's easier to stop and then land, than to land and then stop..."

400:

That the entire Pentagon budget will be consumed by the single new plane delivered about 2050

Yes, the USAF will use it Monday to Wednesday, the USN Thursday to Saturday and USMC on Sunday. The US Army will have their one helicopter to play with all week.

see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augustine%27s_laws

and peace shall reign o'er mankind

401:

Today we see both the B-1B and Tu-160 strategic bombers in service with this design, and the Panavia Tornado being retired after 30 years of hard use -- all of them 1970s or 1980s implementations that seem to have had considerably less maintenance problems

But these didn't have to land on carriers. Carrier pilots and others in the field I've talked to basically say carrier planes get the crap beat out of them. Take off somewhat. Landings a lot. Everything from tires to airframes to seats are more complicated. Even on the mail/supply planes. A hard landing for a typical land based plane is smoother than a typical landing for a carrier based plane.

A friend told me about how he had to take off downwind one time and thought he left his colon on the deck. They had to add about 40+ knots of speed above typical via the catapult and it was rough.

But this started out talking about 450 staff vs. 250 staff. All of those extra parts require people trained to work on them. And likely make it more complicated to deal with other issues.

And my main point was that carrier based planes are always heavier and cost more than the equivalent land based plane. Which is why a common design never made it until now.

402:

Some things are relatively low cost. Adding probe-and-drogue to a flying-boom tanker aircraft needs some extra internal pipework, but could be done with a couple of underwing pods. Adding a centreline system is a bit harder, because of where the probe is.

Similarly, it's not unknown for Air Force planes to have an arrestor hook. You have the wires at the far end of the runway, as a last-resort stopping method, rather than some sort of crash barrier. And there's more space for the arrestor wires to stop the plane, which means less force needed to stop the plane in time.

Incidentally, probe-and-drogue means that carrier aircraft, with an underwing hosereel pod, can refuel other carrier aircraft if there are problems that stop a landing. So the USN isn't going to give that up. And USAF tankers have already been fitted with several probe-and-drogue add-ons. So the F-35 doesn't force any changes on the USAF.

403:

The Inquisition and ISIL are both elements of their respective societies, and so is anyone within reach of their actions.

404:

Clearly this is MY day that is dedicated to bone headed stupidity? For I just dont understand your points.

" (a) That dealing with timeless qualities, objects or concepts often associated with Platonism. Things that are not time-bound and hence not subject to decay. Includes everything from mythological archetype abstractions to mathematics."

" timeless qualities" ? You consider that 'Qualities ' can’t change with human perception of TIME, Space and Pain?

Don’t suffer from Arthritis do you?

Or Mathmatics given its changes since the time of Newton, and even that of Einstien.


“Things that is not time-bound and hence not subject to decay." EH!!! Things that aren’t subject to decay? Name One ..Even stars Die...we are all subject to the heat death of the universe.

Though, I supose that it may well be ' True ' for a given value of 'True 'that WE can’t properly appreciate TRUTH on account of, err ...COS FOR, SO THERE!!

The standard response to all reason is ...WOT DO YOU KNOW OF THESE THINGS you Poor Fool?

I was once told, by a young colleague - who had every reason to be grateful to me for favours recieved - that My SOUL would be Dissolved upon my Death ... this on account of my not having been born into an obscure Christian Cult centred upon HIS Church in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, UK, The World, The Universe etc.

I suppose that I should have been appreciative of the Warning of Soul Dissolution not being Everlasting Pits of Torment and all that sort of thing.

And just to think that there are people who believe that the present Muslim Death Cults, that are all the rage in the popular press and social media just lately, are something NEW in the World?

I really DO hope that my young colleagues’ weird Christian Religious Death Cult was of some comfort to him when he developed a brain tumour and died of the same leaving a young family - who doubtless were all raised in his really strange Christian cult.

405:

"Blitzkrieg was an aberration on that, which let a numerically small army win for awhile."

Err.
Jena? Auerstadt? Ulm? Agincourt?
Pleant others.

Sure. Did my one sentence sound too dogmatic? My point was that since Napoleon and particularly since railroads, it was possible to get more stuff to battles and so the winners tended to be those who could get there "the fastest with the mostest". By WWI that had gotten entirely out of hand.

Blitzkrieg provided a tactic that let a highly mobile force win, temporarily, and it took years to train armies to counter it.

I didn't mean to imply that there had never been examples of smaller armies winning battles.

406:

I like the Argument for the Existence of God about how God is the Greatest Being, and there must by definition (definitions vary quite violently) be a greatest being, and therefore there must be a God.

However, I suspect that the God of that argument
a: probably doesn't live within a million light years of us, and
b: probably doesn't give a toss about us even if we met it.

Hey Arnold! You might like Tim Minchin's take on the God that resides at Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, UK, The World, The Universe etc: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZeWPScnolo Enjoy.

407:

"..." timeless qualities" ? You consider that 'Qualities ' can’t change with human perception of TIME, Space and Pain?"

No. The old qualities are replaced in use by new ones. The notion of the "flat earth" still exists, doesn't it? It is just that it no longer gets the use it once did. Ditto everything else spiritual.

408:

"“Things that is not time-bound and hence not subject to decay." EH!!! Things that aren’t subject to decay? Name One "

The definition of a sphere in flat space.

409:

Blitzkrieg provided a tactic that let a highly mobile force win, temporarily, and it took years to train armies to counter it.

* Blinks *

It still seemed to work well enough in 2003 in Iraq, didn't it?

(The occupation of Iraq was botched, but the actual invasion went swimmingly, to the extent that you can use that adverb of a desert country. And the invasion was a pretty much textbook example of modern blitzkrieg practice.)

410:

"Blitzkrieg provided a tactic that let a highly mobile force win, temporarily, and it took years to train armies to counter it."

It still seemed to work well enough in 2003 in Iraq, didn't it?

I think it isn't at all absurd to call the Iraq war a blitzkrieg. There are things I would consider highly significant differences, but no need to argue about picky details.

To me the most important thing was that the USA had total control of the air. So Iraq ground forces could not move without being killed. Since they were immobile, we could ignore any of them we didn't need to destroy at the moment. They didn't exactly have lines for us to break through and then encircle from behind, they more had concentrations of forces and if we wanted an airfield or an important road intersection we then had to kill the troops defending it -- otherwise we could just bomb them whenever we felt like it and otherwise forget them.

Our bigger problems came from lightly-armed, mostly-unarmored "specialists" in our own rear, who damaged our supply lines before we realized we needed to find them and kill them.

Anyway, I didn't mean to imply that nobody could ever again win a blitzkrieg war against anybody. More that in 1940 it worked for Germany against every army they faced, and by 1944 it did not work against the USA or the USSR. That might be partly that their enemies' weapons had improved faster than theirs had, and definitely it was partly improved training by their enemies. When they broke through a front line they couldn't just go anywhere they wanted, they were facing more enemies ready to stop them. They could be encircled themselves.

But of course the Iraqi army couldn't do that to the US army. If they tried to move they became targets. Maybe they had the training to know how to defeat a blitzkrieg attack, but they were not strong enough, and were even weaker after 10 years of sanctions.

411:

I do. I'd rather not believe in Aardvarks.

412:


But do Aardvarks believe in You?

413:

Blitzkreig worked against the Japanese in 1945 in the largest land battle ever fought, the Battle of Manchuria when the Soviets steamrollered the Japanese/Manchuko army into the ground in just over two weeks.

414:

Ah, let's have a few God definitions:

a) A set of natural laws that cause our world to behave in a consistent and testable manner.

b) Cats. Why have one bug god when you can have lots of little furry gods? You can adore them, make them offerings (sometimes they make offerings to us) and pray to them ("Please kitty, don't walk over the couch with your muddy paws"). Like most gods they usually ignore our prayers.

c) A being which is conscious, nearly all-knowing, nearly all-mighty and means well for humans. (Notice how I weakened the almighty/all-knowing stuff to make the definition internally consistent).

d) A being which is conscious, nearly all-knowing, nearly all-mighty and is intend on making humans suffer.

Personally, I believe in a) and to some extend in b). I don't think either c) or d) exists, but when looking at the available data, d) is more likely than c).

415:

Oops, of course "big god" instead of "bug god"

416:

I like the Argument for the Existence of God about how God is the Greatest Being, and there must by definition (definitions vary quite violently) be a greatest being, and therefore there must be a God.

If you had experience with the mathematical concept of partial orders you'd know that
a) things don't need to be comparable
b) maxima do not necessarily exist
c) even if there is a maximum, it doesn't need to be unique.

So no, this argument is seriously flawed.

417:

But do Aardvarks believe in You?

What Aardvarks?

418:

Or ill-defined. Is it even possible to separate one object's quantum states from the rest of the world?

419:

Oh, I remember the good old times when you could talk about the definition of a sphere without bothering about flat space, Euclidean space or the dimensionality of it.
I wonder where it's all going to end; in the future you might even have to tell what distance metric you are using or people wont believe that the volume of a sphere is 4/3 pi r^3.

420:

I guess this is why I criticize hardcore atheists; because compared to all the religious and occult weirdos out there, they're just *so boring*.

With *so boring* you mean "hard to make fun of"?

421:

Haven't we gone through many, many iterations of the blitzkrieg? I'm thinking of the old nomad style attack of high-speed raiding and pillaging.

As for conquest being harder than invasion, that's also a classic military problem that probably dates back to before the Babylonians. The most interesting thing about the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan is that a massive technological edge doesn't necessarily guarantee that conquest will work, especially when the supply lines go halfway around the world.

Of course, as a pure hypothetical, I wonder if the US could actually successfully conquer Canada with a blitzkrieg, if it came to it. My guess is that it would be difficult at best.

422:

Our bigger problems came from lightly-armed, mostly-unarmored "specialists" in our own rear, who damaged our supply lines before we realized we needed to find them and kill them.

You'd think... (although it's worth noting that the Iraqi Army was mounting counterattacks in battalion strength in and around Basra during the invasion). The bigger problems came from overmanned headquarters.

http://dodccrp.org/events/9th_ICCRTS/CD/papers/068.pdf

The Army Rumour Service has several threads running on the problems of becoming a "learning organisation", etc...

423:

Adding another wooden spoon and stirring vigorously:
1) God (specifically the Judeo-Christian god, but true of any supernatural supreme being) is a concept defined and constantly redefined to be immune to logic and reason. Therefore attempting to conduct an argument about god's existence is perhaps the single most pointless effort one can engage in.

2) The arguments for homeopathy sound rather like someone carefully explaining how a broken clock works perfectly twice every day.

3) It very much seems that those attempting to define spirituality are saying something along the lines of: "This is how I feel and therefore must be *a universal truth*"; when in fact what they mean is: "This is how I feel and is therefore *my personal truth*". (Hint: One of these statements starts wars and begets religion, the other allows us all to get along peacefully even when we might quietly think our friends and neighbours are a bunch of loons.)

424:

Can I be neither a theist nor an atheist?

Ah yes, the trap of binary logic.

Here's another system (catuskoti) that the Buddhists like. If the choices are A and B, the following outcomes are possible in catuskoti logic:
A is true, B is false
A is false, B is true
Both A and B are true
Neither A nor B are true.

So if you ask a question like "is the color red more black or more white?" it's impossible to answer the question using binary logic. Using catuskoti, the answer's obvious (red is neither black nor white).

With theism and atheism, it's worth thinking about the assumptions that go into classifying all people into two non-overlapping categories of theist and atheist. I'm simply saying that, based on my experiences and beliefs, I'm neither.

425:

So if you ask a question like "is the color red more black or more white?" it's impossible to answer the question using binary logic.

Your example looks very much like Boolean logic to me... in fact, your example is a fairly minimal Karnaugh map.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karnaugh_map

426:

I can't resist it, I just can't.

Why would you rather not believe in them? After all, Aardvark never hurt anyone :)

Thankyou, I'll be here all week...

427:

God's existence or non-existence can never even in principle be proven or disproven either logically or empirically. it's a matter of faith (or lack thereof) in either case.

The question of God's existence is non falsifiable and as such it is a meaningless question under the Popperian standard for science.

Its also the wrong question from square one.

The real question is whether or not existence has meaning or purpose- whether the universe has reason for being.

A Godless universe can only be an accident. And accidents can have no inherent meaning. As such, at the macro level atheism is inescapably nihilistic.

428:

There is really nothing new about blitzkrieg. Genghis Khan's Mongols practiced it on horseback by combining shock cavalry (modern equivalent - tanks) with horse archers (modern equivalent: TAC air).

Mongol horseman actually moved faster than Hitler's panzers, and were not slowed down by winter.

429:

When you crunch the numbers, you see that Nietzsche accurately predicted the 20th century.

As AN Wilson rightly pointed out, all of the atheistic totalitarian regimes of the 20th century (Bolshevik, Stalinist, Nazi, Maoist, Khmer Rouge, etc.) committed mass murder, democide, on a scale that ISIS can only dream about. Look up Prof. Rummel's study on democide in the 20th century. Rummel's work can be accessed via Marginal Revolution at:

http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2005/11/democide.html

What I found most interesting was the following comparisons:

"So, the famine was intentional. What was its human cost? I had estimated that 27,000,000 Chinese starved to death or died from associated diseases. Others estimated the toll to be as high as 40,000,000. Chang and Halliday put it at 38,000,000, and given their sources, I will accept that. Now, I have to change all the world democide totals that populate my websites, blogs, and publications. The total for the communist democide before and after Mao took over the mainland is thus 3,446,000 + 35,226,000 + 38,000,000 = 76,692,000, or to round off, 77,000,000 murdered. This is now in line with the 65 million toll estimated for China in the Black Book of Communism, and Chang and Halliday's estimate of "well over 70 million." This exceeds the 61,911,000 murdered by the Soviet Union 1917-1987, with Hitler far behind at 20,946,000 wiped out 1933-1945.
Discounting the 3,446,000 killed in the Sino-Japanese war prior to the start of Mao's rule, the Maoist PRC (with these new numbers for the deliberate, man-made famine during the Great Leap Forward) killed over 73,000,000 people. Over the 38 years of Maoist rule, this comes to an average of about 1.92 million per year."

The democide rate of Hitler's 12 year Reich was about 1.75 million per year. The democide rate of the 70 year Stalinist USSR was about 0.88 million per year (about half that of the Third Reich). Stalin's (and the Stalinist system's) much greater total was the result of its much greater longevity. Hitler's democide rate was smaller, but still comparable to Mao's.

The total for the three largest atheist regimes of the 20th century (Stalinist, Nazi and Maoist) comes to approximately 160 million over 70 years. This does not include mass murder by secondary Communist regimes in Eastern Europe, the Khmer Rouge and other atheist totalitarians, which raises to total to an estimated 200 million innocents murdered by atheists. AN Wilson is correct, the horrors of the 20th century stem from atheism and were carried out by atheists.

By comparison, the religious equivalent - the Inquisition - was mild by comparison. From an Internet FAQ on the Inquisitions:

"How many were executed by the Spanish Inquisition? By most standards, the records of the Spanish Inquisition are spectacularly good and a treasure trove for social historians as they record many details about ordinary people. Nothing like all the files have been analysed but from the third looked at so far, it seems the Inquisition, operating through out the Spanish Empire, executed about 700 people between 1540 and 1700 out of a total of 49,000 cases. It is also reckoned that they probably killed about two thousand during the first fifty years of operation when persecution against Jews and Moslems was at its most severe. This would give a total figure of around 5,000 for the entire three hundred year period of its operation."

Compared to the ocean of blood spilled by the murderous brotherhoods predicted by Nietzsche, the blood spilled by crusades, jihads, pogroms, inquisitions and persecutions is but a drop.

430:

There is more wisdom in my cat picture then in all the combined writings of all the Sufi's (-:

There is also a difference between the absence of a belief in a God and the presence of a belief in the nonexistence of a God. The first is pretty much demanded by logic, the case has not been made hence do_i_beleive = null.

I have an absence of belief on all sorts of things without being able to empirically prove their nonexistence. For instance I have an absence of belief that as I write this an orangutan is playing polo with a zebra on the top of Mt Fuji. However I cannot disprove that assertion

431:

"The first is pretty much demanded by logic"

Why? What evidence demands that God not exist? How are the statements "God exists" or "God does not exist" in an way falsifiable? Not being falsifiable, how is either a meaningful statement?

"I have an absence of belief on all sorts of things without being able to empirically prove their nonexistence."

Again, wrong question. The meaningful question is "Does existence have inherent meaning?"

432:

Which is why I did not include the inquisition. I know that it was relatively mild

Per capita (adjusted for the smaller population), the slave trade and the conquest of the Americas were worse than those numbers, adjusted for population.

It's also interesting that you use the Spanish Inquisition to "refute" me. I did not list it for a reason. Hint: Just because it didn't happen to white people, it was still important. Although I know that theists will use the lower population numbers an agricultural society had to excuse their crimes. You want to prove me wrong? You're going to have to prove to me that the 20th century was worse than the colonies, slave trade, AND the genocides of the Americas ON A PER CAPITA BASIS.

433:

Finally, let's not forget the Taiping Rebellion. It killed 20 million people, more than WWI, more than Stalin, and it probably approached Mao in death toll when you consider that the war weakened the Quing dynasty to such an extent that it collapsed in the early 20th century.

You forgot to mention that the leader of Taiping Rebellion claimed to be younger brother of Christ, and replacing of Confucianism with a (form of) Christianity was a major part of his platform. You do not get much more religious than that.

434:

"Although I know that theists will use the lower population numbers an agricultural society had to excuse their crimes."

Apologies for this statement. It was way too rude. Too bad I can't edit it out.

435:

You can have capitalism without democracy, but you can't have democracy without capitalism. This is obvious from Charlie's own list, some parts of which are quite right. The alternative to private actors controlling the allocation of capital is for the State to do it, and that means that State and capital merge even more than they do in the usual course of 1st-world events.

"Regulatory capture is inevitable." This should be engraved in letters of fire on everyone's forebrain.

436:

"Failed State" means "failed at the basic reason for the existence of the State".

What is the reason for the existence of the State? To monopolize the violence function; that is, to wage war externally and to suppress rivals to its monopoly of coercion internally.(*)

This is the minimal reason for the beast.

Government is force; it is coercion. Its basic function is to -govern-.

(*) this is much better than a "state of nature". Pre-State societies have levels of violence which, in the aggregate, puts the Great Leap or WWII to shame. The violence is more diffuse, but it's constant.

437:

BTW, saying that terrorism is "imaginary" because it doesn't kill as many people as "X" (traffic accidents, whatever) is purest baloney.

Everyone dies eventually. Traffic accidents are one of the innumerable ways in which you meet the inevitable. Life is so dangerous nobody gets out of it alive.

Terrorism is an act of war -- that is, it's intended to exercise political coercion through organized violence or its threat.

Intentional harms are (quite rightly) treated differently from accidental ones.

And harm intended for political purposes is (quite rightly) regarded as a different order of threat than, say, random criminal violence, which in turn is regarded as more of a threat than accidents.

It's a threat to something far more important than individual lives. It's a threat to the collective, to its interests, to its freedom of action, to its existence.

Several million years of evolution have "taught" us to regard threats to our collective -- tribe, clan, nation-state, whatever -- as a deadly serious matter.

And human beings being as they are, this is just as it should be. It's a very bad sign when people -don't- think this way.

438:

Capital flowing towards profit centers is a feature, not a bug. It's what capital is -supposed- to do.

That's what the Smith's term "invisible hand" means. The factors of production flow towards the most renumerative use.

That's why people in China aren't eating their children now, which actually happened in the early 1960's.

Until the 1970's much of the world was cordoned off from capital flows; by Communism, or by extreme dysfunction (Somalia, contemporary example) or by sheer fuggheadedness like India's "permit Raj".

When that situation changed, the 1945-1975, capital began flowing towards the opportunities. Massive improvements in the lives of lots of people resulted. The Chinese now have the luxury of worrying about pollution.

There were also losers, of course, because as the world market was unified, prices tended to rise/drop to the same level, and that includes the price of labor. This is good for the people whose incomes rose (China, Brazil) and bad for those now competing with those people.

439:

There is also a difference between the absence of a belief in a God and the presence of a belief in the nonexistence of a God.

Yes! That's important. Belief in the nonexistence of every god is pretty stupid, but absence of belief could be quite reasonable.

Pretty much everybody has had direct experience of a god. But some people interpret it as a god, while others think it was a dream or a hallucination, and others try to forget.

We know something now about the part of the brain that let's people have these experiences. Some people figure that means they aren't really real, on the theory that if it was a real experience of a god you would experience it without your brain being involved at all. A god could have evolved us to have that capability because he chose that method to communicate with us while we are made of meat.

If somebody claims they have the only right way to intepret something, I think that there's room for doubt.

440:

- & also unjolyguy @ # 430

Dave - err, yes ... BUT
The "believers" constantly redefine their pet BSF, as you say, & AT THE SAME TIME persist in taunting unbelievers that we can't disprove a negative.
Therefore, they deserve everything they get in rhetorical terms, at least.
Starting, of course with vast heaps of sneering ridicule.

Ah yes, "mysticism" - a deliberate attempt to NOT UNDERSTAND something & to weave a web of fanatsy around the object under not-consideration, etc.
SOmetimes described as a deliberate worship of ignorance, too.
[ Classic christian example, of course is the "virgin birth" - we know it's impossible, but (we believe) it happened anyway, so we will contemplate it's mystery ... ]

There is a technical term for this:
Festering bullshit.

441:

The question of God's existence is non falsifiable and as such it is a meaningless question under the Popperian standard for science.
UTTER COBBLERS

But not if you turn it upside down, actually.

"If BSF exists, then BSF will be detectable.
If BSF cannot be detected, then it cannot be held to exist, unless & until such a detection is made.
In the meantime, BSF is held not to exist"

The burden of proof on the proponents of BSF is now to produce a valid detection.
Standard requirements for proof/validation claims, extraordinary (or otherwise) hold.

When presented with this simple requirement, I have found that the believers in BSF do at least one, or some combination of the following:
Lie.
Wriggle.
Try to escape by reversing the argument.
Claim that all atheists are murderers, because of the religious beliefs of communism.
Run away.

442:

Oops, pressed "send" too soom:
As such, at the macro level atheism is inescapably nihilistic.
REALLY?
Got any evidence at all for that statement?
So, "the universe just happpened & has "no meaning"
So what?
We can always GIVE it meaning, can't we? If we want to.

Your argument is one of the classic & regular pieces of blackmail practiced by the religious, & I am seriously unimpressed.

443:

Grrr
& again @ 429

Sorry, time ytou gre up & learnt some hostory.

Communism is a classic religion:
When in power, it persecutes all the competing religions - check.
It operates by a combination of moral & physical blackmail - check
It has "holy books" which, even though shown to be false &/or in error, are nonthelss taken as err.. "gospel" - check.
It has competing sects & schisms ("heresies") whiose followers are worse than unbleievers - chack.
The "holy cause" will bring paradise ( On Earth in this case, but islam has the same idea in some sects as does christianity) - but at a cost - who cares how many dead bodies we pile up if paradise is achieved? - check.

444:

"Regulatory capture is inevitable."

Capitalists believe this, because they believe that nobody has morals, that everybody will do whatever gets them the most money.

But if they're right, then it's inevitable that someone will find that they get the most profit by selling a product that causes genetic damage in its users, and they will successfully suppress the evidence, and humanity is doomed.

If they are right we cannot survive, because we don't have enough morals to survive.

445:

"If BSF exists, then BSF will be detectable.
If BSF cannot be detected, then it cannot be held to exist, unless & until such a detection is made.
In the meantime, BSF is held not to exist."

Your third step does not follow. You can do it, but it's an esthetic preference with no particular logic requiring it.

When we do not have evidence, we are not required to decide one way or another. If you decide in the absence of evidence that something does or does not exist, you are jumping the gun -- which is a valid personal preference, if it is your preference.

Occam's razor says that in the absence of evidence we should use the explanation we find simplest and discard all others, because that way we don't strain our little brains. This is a valid heuristic, particularly for people who have little brains. We get to pick one explanation and hold tenaciously to it until it is definitively disproven.

But it is only one possible approach to dealing with a complex world, not the only valid approach.

446:

"Is it even possible to separate one object's quantum states from the rest of the world?"

No, and since we are nothing but quantum states you are starting to re-invent Buddhism

447:

Mongol horseman actually moved faster than Hitler's panzers, and were not slowed down by winter.

That's hardly surprising, given that Hitler's logistics were largely horse-drawn, and his infantry largely on foot - even after six years of war, the Wehrmacht still had a million horses pulling things, instead of (say) half a million trucks. Instead, they had invested in massive lumps of steel that sucked up huge amounts of capital sat and achieved little or nothing to further their strategic aims (see: Bismarck, Tirpitz, Graf Spee) or looked totally k3wl, but couldn't drive twenty miles without breaking down (see: Tiger tank).

It's easy to forget just how logistically incompetent the Germans were - their troops were regularly under-equipped and underfed, and required to scavenge locally.

448:

And that's before we look at, say, Eurofighter Typhoon or SAAB JAS-39 Gripen with Meteor and active homing under power and own navigation at maybe 100km from shooter. Typhoon can carry 6 of those and 4 ASRAAM (which works despite the claims on the Wikipedia Sidewinder entry) (4 and 2 for Gripen). Now, if the poor Raptor is minimally configured for "swing-role" it's down to two AMRAAM and 2 'winders...

449:

First off, since about 1980 it's not been so much VSTOL as STOVL, that's "Short Take Off & Vertical Landing". It's proven that this reduces fuel burn for vertical flight, not least because this only occurs when the aircraft is at its lightest for a given mission.

Secondly, is this a good time to mention the F-105 as having both probe and drogue and flying boom refuelling capability, in the USAF, in the 1960s? In point of fact (source being Ed Rasimus; do you want to argue with him about F-105s?) this capability saved aircraft which were deploying trans-Pacific and had problems with the flying boom kit.

450:

Er, the Tirpitz tied down an entire battlefleet for most of WW2 just by existing. Or maybe you think that that the Murmansk convoys were escorted by battleships and heavy cruisers purely for fun?

451:

"The first is pretty much demanded by logic"


Why? What evidence demands that God not exist? How are the statements "God exists" or "God does not exist" in an way falsifiable? Not being falsifiable, how is either a meaningful statement?

Read Unholyguy's post again. He said "absence of belief in existence of god" is demanded by logic, not "presence of belief in non-existence of god".
And "God does not exist" is easily falsifiable: He just has to tell us so.


"I have an absence of belief on all sorts of things without being able to empirically prove their nonexistence."


Again, wrong question. The meaningful question is "Does existence have inherent meaning?"

Or: Does existence have a meaning
- independent of the individual,
- detectable by the individual, and
- relevant for the individual?

In my view meaning of life is produced by humans,
not given by the outside world.

Andreas Vox