The Way Forward

In their groundbreaking essay, The Death of Environmentalism (2004), Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger called for an end to enviro-scare tactics and the beginning of a positive vision of a low carbon energy future.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream speech” is famous because it put forward an inspiring, positive vision that carried a critique of the current moment within it. Imagine how history would have turned out had King given an “I have a nightmare” speech instead.

I think Liberals (including Liberaltarians) need to put forth an inspiring, positive view of the future that will provide a counter-narrative to the “I have a nightmare” vision of Glenn Beck and his Tea Party cohort. Having just posted George Carlin’s rant that ends with the phrase “Thats why they call it the American Dream, because you have to be asleep to enjoy it”, I can rightfully be accused of a bit of blarney. But I defend my sequencing in the following way. Carlin, like the more sober, Edward Luce, asks you to wake up from your delusions about the past 30 years.

Alexis de Tocqueville, the great French chronicler of early America, was once misquoted as having said: “America is the best country in the world to be poor.” That is no longer the case. Nowadays in America, you have a smaller chance of swapping your lower income bracket for a higher one than in almost any other developed economy – even Britain on some measures. To invert the classic Horatio Alger stories, in today’s America if you are born in rags, you are likelier to stay in rags than in almost any corner of old Europe.

But once you have woken up, you have only two choices. You can throw your lot in with a demagogue like Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin, who promise you a restoration of an older, whiter, more Christian America, where magically the 1950’s will be restored and all the socialists will be purged. And if you choose this route, you will be like a character in Inception, willingly plunging into a more complex dream world. Or you can choose the path of liberty and equality represented by Lincoln, the Roosevelts and John Kennedy. Despite all the bombast here, I am going to assert that the Presidency of Barack Obama is firmly in that Liberal Tradition that seeks freedom and equality of opportunity for all Americans. I have been critical of Obama when he has not adhered to those principles, but he still has a lot of opportunity to set this country on a new path to prosperity that is not fraught with such rising inequality. As Luce says,

It is one thing to suffer grinding income stagnation. It is another to realise that you have a diminishing likelihood of escaping it – particularly when the fortunate few living across the proverbial tracks seem more pampered each time you catch a glimpse. “Who killed the American Dream?” say the banners at leftwing protest marches. “Take America back,” shout the rightwing Tea Party demonstrators.

So what are the basic elements of this positive vision? The answer is fairly simple—there is a way forward towards an American future with good schools, transportation and health care; with decent employment opportunities in the businesses of the future; and a great measure of freedom, privacy and opportunity for all of our citizens. Here are 8 steps that could get us there.

  1. Let all the Bush Tax cuts expire.Higher income and capital gains taxes did not slow down the rising economic tide of the Clinton Administration.
  2. Withdraw from Afghanistan beginning on the President’s timetable of July 4, 2011. Let it be a true Independence Day-independence from the burdens of empire.
  3. Commit to a target of reducing our oil imports from 11 million barrels per day to 5 million per day by 2018, most of which we would source from our hemisphere. 
  4. Begin a targeted program of public-private partnerships to assure we are the world leaders in Energy Technology (solar, wind, geothermal and battery). The example of the Obama Administration support for the electric and hybrid car battery business is a clear win. As the President recently stated, “Just a few years ago, American businesses manufactured only 2 percent of the world’s advanced batteries for electric and hybrid vehicles. … But because of what’s happening at places like this, in just five years, we’ll have up to 40 percent of the world’s capacity.”
  5. Institute the recommendations of the Sustainable Defense Task Force, reducing the Defense budget by almost $200 billion per year. Launch a large scale Defense Conversion initiative to move factories from making war machines to making wind turbines.
  6. Return control of schools and their budget to local municipalities. Much of the success of Obama’s Race to the Top education initiative has come from regional experimentation. We need to amplify this a thousand percent.
  7. End corporate welfare now. That means the hundreds of billions of government subsidies to Big Agriculture, Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Banking and the Military Industrial Complex.
  8. Enact the Fair Elections Now Act. Until we get institutional money (both corporate and union) out of politics nothing will change.

To my mind this is the platform the Democrats need to embrace for the next two years. I’m well aware the Republican party will fight like crazy to defend the top 1% earners,  Military Industrial Complex and their other corporate welfare allies. But if we are going to have a real fight for the soul of America in the Presidential Race of 2012, let it be a battle worth fighting for.

This entry was posted in Barack Obama, Liberalism, reform and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

96 Responses to The Way Forward

  1. al says:

    How, if at all, are the 8 steps ordered? I would put #8 first, as most of the others won’t make a blip on the radar while that noise is on the screen. -al

  2. I’d agree on all but #6. After 1 year, it’s WAY too early to claim success for any education program.

    By all means local school boards should be able to figure out how to allocate money, but
    we are moving towards a national educational curriculum – that means that our children’s education gets out of the hands of the Texas board of education and all the local school district pinheads who think their job is to fight culture wars instead of to build an educated, informed citizenry?

  3. Gary says:

    I agree with al – #8 should be the first priority. Lessig has a recent TED talk on the subject –

  4. len says:

    @al: True but once the corporations and unions are out of it, the churches rule. There is a storm brewing on that front because of the SF justice ruling yesterday. As my father in law lectured me, you have to have your own networks.

    @jonathan: Pot, kettle, black. Homogeneneity isn’t the answer. Texas rules the roost because they have the biggest market and the sources of texts are concentrated into a small set of publishers.

    Aside: Even on FB you can create subgroups of your network. RTFM. The problem of the social media companies is they believe they are inventing this stuff. Any half-wit nightclub owner can tell you that you shouldn’t mix cliques (aka, social networks) and they design the club and pick the bands accordingly.

  5. Ron says:

    # 2 I suggest reading Jawbreaker by Gary Berntsen, and War by Sebastian Junger. After doing so, and even after weighing the consequences of pulling out vs the importance to Afghan women of having an outside force to deal with the Taliban’s brutality, nobody could possibly argue the case for continued war and/or nation building. I personally prefer the Jawbreaker approach – special forces and targeted killings, which is apparently the preferred approach by Obama and his gang as well.

  6. The education one (#6) is tough, for the reasons outlined over a decade ago in James Loewen’s “Lies my teacher told me”. In essence, Loewen argues that, despite attempts to create a national identity, American history (and therefore, history education) is still largely parochial. This means that there will always be efforts like those in Texas to erradicate “unamerican” elements from American history, or like those in Pennsylvania a few years ago to eradicate evolution from science classes.

    I’m usually for more local control, but as an educator, having students come into my lecture halls and arguing with me about the rightness of intelligent design, or about the insignifance of slavery to US history makes it more difficult. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be local control, and maybe it works well as a bullet-pointed platform, but the tension between ideologically parochial education needs to be explored.

  7. Ron says:

    #4 Apparently, the drive for renewable energy has completely overshadowed the one resource that we have in super abundance – natural gas, including coal bed methane gas. We are the Saudi Arabia in gas, and yet only one state in the US has made it easy for those who want to convert cars to natural gas usage. Why? Your goal of reducing dependency on oil, easily achievable with natural gas. Tom Friedman et al should use their media platform to push for immediate development of the use of gas.

  8. Alex Bowles says:

    You may be right, Jonathan, and that’s exactly the problem, since this state of affairs is what’s likely to become entrenched.

    Separately, I’d be far less concerned about the wing-nuts if those who are genuinely cut-out to develop and run awesome schools weren’t having their wings so systematically clipped.

    I mean, that’s the whole point of free systems, isn’t it? You know – up front – that some very bad things are going to happen. But you believe that far more truly excellent things will emerge, that on balance, the good will outweigh the bad, and that once a substantial majority have both seen and selected for the good, the forward shift will be permanent.

    Consider this; what do you think would happen in Texas if the Don McLeods were limited to controlling local school boards, and not state-level bodies? Specifically, what do you think would happen to property values in town where these troglodytes held sway? And what do you think would happen if schools took Erica Goldson’s criticism to heart, moving towards engagement and away from indoctrination?

    My suspicion is this: schools that figured out how to make kids genuinely excited to be there would not only develop strong communities around them, but would reduce the incidences of depression, aggression, drug use, and pregnancy within them. These are the real test scores that schools should be adhering to – all of which place the onus on the administration to move away from the horrid environments Ms. Goldson described in her valedictorian speech.

    Inevitably, if not immediately, property values in the area would rise. And over time, communities would realize that they could improve their own holdings not by endlessly redoing their bathrooms and kitchens, but by running the McLeods off the lot.

    But again, none of this can take place under national, or even state regimes. Indeed, if Geoffrey Canada’s example counts for anything, it’s the hyper-local, block-by-block approach that works best.

  9. len says:

    1. If local rule prevails, where do they buy textbooks?

    2. If local rule fails, is home schooling the only option left and how well does that work for the majority?

    3. Is web publishing of curricula and text books a viable alternative (cue Morgan Warstler).

  10. len says:

    Apparently, the drive for renewable energy has completely overshadowed the one resource that we have in super abundance – natural gas

    Given a non polluting means to get at it, perhaps, but so far the results of frakking have been spectacularly polluting and dangerous.

  11. Many of the items on Jon’s list are interrelated. Get rid of union power in politics (including teacher’s unions) and get rid of the lobbying power of the big textbook conglomerates and you make room for that local control of the market. So much of the basics of teaching reading, writing, math has not changed in the last 100 years that for elementary schoolers, I would imagine that material could be drawn from the public domain (one excellent use for broadband in schools).

    Oh, and how about a double whammy of getting rid of the lobbying bucks AND removing the tax-exempt status of churches who fund candidates directly or indirectly?

  12. Alex Bowles says:

    @Quentin – that’s what admissions offices are for.

    And believe me, if colleges with reputations for graduating smart, capable students started focusing less on (easily gamed) systems like grades and test-scores, and focused more on essay questions that placed a premium on actual reading, thinking, and writing, then you’d end up with a lot more students who preferred asking questions to shouting out answers.

  13. Yeah, unfortunately easily gamed = easily judged. Much easier to look at a score than to read and evaluate an essay. It sucks, but it’s true. But what both of you say (Alex & Quentin) makes sense.

  14. Haven’t seen Morgan in a while, but I’m wondering if the generational increase (the ‘something’ effect, sorry, I need more coffee) in IQ scores also reflects the fact that as a society, we’re simply becoming better test takers.

  15. JTMcPhee says:

    All of which gets back to Step 0: Somehow bringing about a moral and spiritual revulsion against the MORE-ism that’s got the species where it is, and a New Affection for all the circumscriptions that are in all of the prescriptions, not only those but all the other Great Ideas floating around out there (with the possible exception of the brain-sucking pipe dream of Pure Randianism.)

    Your list of good things to try to change seems to me pretty close to right on what’s needed, and it’s a waste of time to debate the order of importance although gutting the MIC and doing something about the squatting toad with the long sticky tongue that the Capitol has become might oughta get a little preference. The pragmatic question is how do you overcome the massive inertia and momentum of The System. My preference might be to do a re-make of the set-building for “Escape From New York.” Wall and moat, razor wire, and I hear there’s a couple of companies peddling “auto-guns” that combine silicon, steel, lead, copper and combustibles to make the nascent versions of the Terminator, clear some fields of fire and let them keep the grasping SOBs REALLY “inside the Beltway.”

    There’s a few seeming examples of maybe real eleemosynarianism, maybe just enlightened self-interest by people who have little armies of security to protect them against what could so easily become a violently unruly mob — BillandMelissa Gates comes to mind. Wonder if he and Jobs and other Rich Hippies From The ’60s, and folksy guys like Buffett who is of course getting very long inthe tooth, could be induced to spend some of their massive financial and intellectual capital and credibility as “successes” here in the Homeland to jump-start a different kind of “movement.” One that goes past the revulsion and rejection that automatically springs forth when anyone dares to talk about “limits,” that being apostasy in the face of the secular National Church of Unlimited Exceptionalism.

    It would take some very generous, future-of-the-species-minded souls to take the spiritual leap that leads people like Nelson Mandela to real greatness. From my dung-beetle perspective in the litter and rot down here on the jungle floor, I don’t see too many such butterflies winging through the treetops. But hey, if you are stuck with compound eyes, you can pick up gross motions but maybe not all the fine detail.

  16. len says:

    That and sharper cheaters, Amber.

    One of the UN papers I’ve been reading on elites points out that the royal road through a meritocratic hierarchy is education but that the effect of preferred culture on student selection reinforces the existing hierarchies of wealthy families. IOW, it really is true that anything worth having is worth cheating for and the meritocracy that emerged after WWII actually defeated it’s own goals eventually.

    An aside I found illuminating is that in America, the road is paved for lawyers, in Europe, economists and in China, engineers. A mastery of all three is the same as an actor who can dance, sing and write.

  17. Jon Taplin says:


  18. @Amber (and others)–In Massachusetts, Mitt Romney’s MCAS, which was introduced to produce “efficiency” and “break the stranglehold of the teacher’s union” has the effect of making students great standardized test-takers, and capable of little else in the way of critical thinking, scientific inquiry, organizational skills, or other things that I think make good citizens and workers.

    Of course, this is a funding problem as well, since state higher education budgets have shrunk every year since the 1980s. It’s a lot cheaper to pay an adjunct to teach 500 students with a standardized rubric and multiple choice tests than to reduce class sizes, increase student-teacher interraction, and utilize more critical and engaged pedagogy.

  19. Jon Taplin says:

    AB-that valedictorian speech you linked to was killer. Can you imagine the principal’s face as she was giving it?

  20. len says:


    Working Paper No. 2010/05
    Globalization and the Emergence of a
    Transnational Oligarchy
    Elise S. Brezis*
    January 2010

    A side effect is the number of top universities that are the gatekeepers grew smaller and more homogeonous which narrowed the topical thinking. As a result, these schools teach more or less the same thing to the transnationals and as a result of that, innovation has been strangled. Any wonder why some of the top innovators/entrepeneurs quit their universities and set out on their own?

    The entire collection of papers at that site is an eye opener. One begins to understand why concentration of wealth and international diplomacy are coupled to produce bewildering chaos.

  21. len says:

    Whoops. Reviewing my notes, one errata: Europe and America both favor lawyers. It is the emerging transnational elite that favors economists. For those who don’t have the time, the following paragraphs are extracted from the cited paper. Again, the collection of the working papers are worth purusing.

    Working Paper No. 2010/05

    Globalization and the Emergence of a
    Transnational Oligarchy

    Elise S. Brezis*

    January 2010

    Examine the evolution of recruitment of elites due to globalization. In the last century, the main change that occurred in the way the Western world trained its elites is that meritocracy became the basis for theirrecruitment.

    Although meritocratic selection should result in the best being chosen, we show that meritocratic recruitment may actually lead to class stratification and auto-recruitment. Due to globalization, the stratification effect will be even stronger. Globalization will bring about the formation of an international technocratic elite with its own culture, norms, ethos, and identity, as well as its private clubs like the Davos World Economic Forum. We face the emergence of a transnational oligarchy.
    At the time of Plato and Aristotle, it was emphasized that the recruitment of the elite is a crucial element in finding the optimal political structure. Aristotle stressed that a city should be ruled by the best (‘aristoi’ in Greek), and government should be in the hands of the most able members of society. These men should be highly intelligent and educated, as well as brave and temperate citizens.

    Despite this enlightened view, over the centuries, recruitment of the elite was actually carried out via heredity, nepotism, and violence, and the word ‘aristocracy’ came to describe the hereditary upper ruling class. Hereditary monarchy was for centuries considered the most legitimate means of the recruitment for rulers, based on the assumption that morality and intellectuality are hereditary, according to God’s will.

    The twentieth century witnessed a major change in the way the elites were recruited. Meritocracy became the basic factor for recruitment of elites, and education and success at exams have been used as prime criterion for recruitment. In consequence, post-World War II, elites are recruited through education in elite universities to which admission was conferred following success at meritocratic exams.

    Education is indispensable to becoming elite. Education, therefore, has become essential for belonging to the elite, and is the entry ticket into the business and political elite. Is there a clear specific training path that can be demarcated to become a member of the elite? It seems there is no clear pattern for the training of elites. In England, where business leaders come from economics, law, sciences, or the arts, it is not clear what ‘ticket’ is best for advancement; while in France, engineering was clearly the necessary training; and in Germany, it was either law or the sciences, although over time, we see some sort of convergence in the training of the elites (Figure 6).

    In the recruitment of the national political elites, there is no doubt that networking leads to concentration of specific training. In the United States, the political elite are trained as lawyers (Obama, Clinton, Joe Biden, Leon Panetta). Moreover, over half of U.S. senators practice law. This is also the case in many other countries of Europe. For instance, in Germany, a third of the Bundestag’s members are lawyers, and in France, nine of 16 members of French cabinet of President Sarkozy were lawyers. It seems that in democracies, lawyers dominate. But, this is not the case in China: The Chinese political elite are mostly trained as engineers.

    The training of the transnational elites presents a different pattern (Figure 7). The political elites are mostly trained in economics and law. It is quite striking that 38 per cent of them have a degree in economics. The business elite are trained mostly in Business and Management (39 per cent). An MBA seems to open the door to the top. However, it is not clear whether over time, there will be a clear pattern, and whether there is an optimal training path for the elites.

    The second point is that elites started to be educated in elite schools during the second half of the twentieth century. At the same time that a ‘democratization’ of higher education took place, reflected by an enormous increase in the number of university students, there was a concurrent emergence of two channels of education: one for the elite and the other for the rest.

    It is striking that this selection is even stronger for the transnational elites. Among the political elites in the world, 35 per cent of them are recruited in elite universities, which we define as the 50 top universities in the world (the list is presented in Table 1). For the business elite, the recruitment is even tighter: 47 per cent of them have graduated from an elite university. Focusing only on OECD countries, we can observe that 50 per cent of the business elite come from elite universities (Figures 8-11). This very thin recruitment base of elites is striking. It means that there is one obvious way to enter the elites, either political or business: that is by getting a degree from the top 50 universities in the world.

    However, despite the wish to democratize selection, over time, it became clear that scores were correlated with family education and wealth. Meritocracy did not mean democratization and opportunity for all. The unrealized dream of the virtue of meritocracy as opposed to aristocracy, has been emphasized by Temin. He has shown that the United States economic elite is still overwhelmingly made up of white Protestant males, a significant number of whom were educated at Ivy League institutions. The picture has not changed significantly from c. 1900: ‘The American business elite come from elite families’, just like in France or Britain. The fundamental irony of the American meritocracy is that the system finally favored the elite’s children. The wish that America would become a classless society through the use of aptitude tests did not come true: meritocracy led to aristocracy.

    Meritocracy is a sort of particular system of picking people for the elite based on one set of abilities, while affirmative action is trying to twist the dials a bit to get more minority representation into the meritocratic elite.

    Recruitment by entrance exam still encompasses a bias in favor of elite candidates, because this type of exam requires a pattern of aptitude and thinking that favors candidates from an elite background. Although meritocratic selection should result in the best being chosen to enter the top ranks of public service or business, elite schools and universities have a tendency to recruit in a non-diversified way, resulting in certain classes being over-represented. In other words, our model emphasizes that despite meritocratic recruitment, elite universities actually recruit from the ‘aristocracy’, and we get a resulting ‘stratification’ of recruitment which is much stronger due to globalization.

    Tests are not perfectly objective, but reflect a culture related to the milieu of the elite with which the examiners for a school are associated. Therefore, students with an equivalent ability, but who are born to the elite and raised in this milieu, will perform better on tests. (Insider knowledge of elite behavior). A very small cultural bias will lead to a strong effect on class stratification.

    Globalization leads not only to the creation of global elite universities, but to a clear path of uniformity among societies and cultures, for example, we all read the same books and see the same movies. Comparing Paris to London or to Prague, the cultural life has become similar. Of course the baguette is still French, and pizza is still Italian; Notre Dame is still in Paris and Ponte Vecchio is still in Italy; yet these are constructions of the past. The Bilbao Museum and the Pompidou Museum could be interchanged without a blink; culture today is transnational. The past has left us a specific culture; the present proposes a unified one. There are therefore universities that transmit knowledge that is transnational. Whatever the country and nationality, the elite can be educated in a top international university in the United States, since there is no longer a specific and idiocratic behavior, except for few minor norms.

    A monolithic group leads to the stagnation of ideas and attitudes, which in turn may prevent the adoption of major technological breakthroughs (Bourdieu 1977). It may also be that belonging to an elite group has consequences for the behavior of the chosen; it might perpetuate the role of their peers, place importance on hierarchy, and lead to conformist behavior, rigidity, and archaism.

    The second line of thought argues that the lack of competition in a monolithic, powerful group generates corruption, with harmful consequences for growth. Indeed, wealthy elites with enough political power to block changes will not accept adopting institutions that would enhance growth, since the latter might compromise their power.

    Today, due to globalization, the elites are recruited through international elite universities, leading to homogenization of the elites. More than 40 per cent of the business and political elites of the developed countries have attended one of the top 50 universities in the world – the international elite universities. In consequence, we face today a scenario where the elite of the world become uniform. They obtain the same education, move in the move in the same milieu, and imbibe the same culture. They use the strategy of distinction which permits them to enter the top elite universities, where they develop their own habitus.

    In consequence, in the twenty first century, we face the formation of a transnational oligarchy with its own norms, ethos, and identity. It is not only harmful for social mobility, but is also not without negative effects on world economic growth.

  22. John Papola says:

    Here’s an alternative vision, though complimentary in many areas, Jon.

    ABOVE ALL, we should have the monetary authority adopt nominal income stabilization. That means, keep nominal GDP flat. This will, in my view, suck the bubbles out of wall street, allow productivity gains to be real income gains for normal American workers, and dramatically flatten (if not eliminate) the business cycle.

    Environmentally, this policy will minimize the kinds of cluster of investment errors that squander our scarce resources. The housing boom was an economic catastrophe. Trillions worth of raw materials have been lost to nonsense.

    Now onto your/my new list:

    #1. Replace our current tax code entirely with a flat consumption tax with no exemptions and an inflation-indexed subsidy for the poor. Any environmentally friendly tax system should be discouraging consumption and ENCOURAGING PRODUCTIVITY. That mean no taxes on capital, which are largely double-taxation to begin with.

    The whole Bush tax cuts argument is nonsense. Government revenue grew under Bush. It was spending that grew faster, which is the REAL problem. And, you may remember, the Clinton boom was a cheap-credit fueled bubble that burst and left us facing deflation in early 2000s. Hardly a sustainable model.

    #2. Bravo. Pull out of all the warmachine nonsense. Afghanistan is a complete fraud. End it.

    #3. Forget empty promised about getting off foreign oil. Let’s do one thing: STOP SUBSIDIZING OIL. PERIOD.

    Your #4 and #7 are completely contradictory. “Public-private partnership” is a fraud. It’s just a corporate welfare boondoggle. According to what track record should we expect Obama’s bets in energy to be the right ones? He campaigned hard for the ethanol boondoggle. It’s a sham. This whole battery deal is nothing more than corporate welfare to the politically powerful UAW. Period.

    #5. BRAVO. End the warfare state. DOD should be FOR DEFENSE. as for the wind-turbines… sell that stuff off and let the market pick winners and losers. Government picks losers like ethanol every time and you KNOW IT.

    #6. BRAVO. Obviously, I want the Feds to get out of education all together 100%. End the DOE. It’s worthless. Dismantle any and all government supports for 1-size national “Standards”. They’re a farce and a fraud.

    #7. Bravo. Seriously. This is the big one. End corporate welfare of all kinds. Period. That means: STOP ALL ETHANOL MANDATES AND SUBSIDIES NOW. The government’s schemes are a fraud and none is more transparent than the Ethanol boondoggle.

    #8. Never going to happen, and shouldn’t. Whereever there is power to pick winners and losers, money will follow. Campaign finance laws have STRENGTHENED incumbents by erecting byzantine rules that only the experienced players can deal with using their expensive lawyers. Decentralize the power. That is the answer. Shrink the government and you’ll shrink the amount of dead-weight-loss to lobbying.

    Case in point. Microsoft didn’t have a presence in DC prior to the faux “anti-trust” case, which accomplished nothing and was driven by Orin Hatch on behalf of Novell, NOT consumers. Now they spend big time and lobby hard. The line of causality is clear.

  23. Hugh says:

    Takes some serious eggs to propound a definite 8-point platform, Jon, especially in midterm, but I like it and admire its idealism; that is, its abandonment of sheer winning in favor of winning back a meaning of Liberalism of which we could be proud, win or lose.

    The DNC customarily asks electeds and their senior staff to nominate Party planks and prospective, overarching themes. DNC does this in presidential years and sometimes in the off season, depending on how things are going. (In other years the Clinton-led DLC ran a parallel questionaire to this effect). Presumably the GOP does this also, but I wouldn’t know.

    In the ’80s and ’90s I consistently recommended, quite sincerely, that the Party should structure its planks around the concept of “democracy”, in keeping with its name, with social and economic justice, with promising models of civic engagement and with more grassroots approaches in the workplace and school site, etc.

    No go. The DLC once sent an expression of interest after Gingrich took the House, but nothing more came of it. It wasn’t until some time later that I learned, the hard way, that our parties labor not for ideals but for perpetuation, that political self-preservation knows not of party and that liberalism is to the Democratic leadership as conservatism is to Republicans: a stalking horse.

    Were I presumptuously to attach a single descriptor to your 8-point platform, I guess I’d call it “Sustainability”. That strikes me now as a worthy theme for the party, however vacuous and illiberal it may be, as a theme more appropriate to Democrats than to Republicans, and befitting Liberals more than it does either party.

    I wholeheartedly support your call for local educational control (with concessions to central authority), as parochial experiment, adaptation and rebellion are necessary antidotes to the unhelpful concentrations of education power that have plagued Austin and Sacramento. The federal alternative is exacerbation, massive concentration in the hands of transitory winner-take-all Jacksonians. The cross-cultural comparison to Old Europe is pathetically un-American (and I husband that term judiciously).

  24. Gary says:

    My own experience in the education system:

    In 7th grade, I was placed in an advanced math class with other 7th and 8th grade students, studying geometry, which was traditionally taught in 9th grade. For the first week or so, we had a young, dedicated teacher who supplemented the textbook with his own notes and who wrote his own tests. Unfortunately, the test was difficult, and the class of “talented” students and their parents were upset because they didn’t all get top scores.

    Shortly after, I came to class to find that we had a new teacher; many of the parents had convened, talked to the school board, and had the previous teacher fired. The new teacher was exactly what the parents wanted, and what I fear many of the people here would be happy with as well – she strove to “engage” the class, and instead of exams, we would often have “projects” that went outside the focus of the textbook.

    While this may sound nice, the class ended up being a complete joke. The projects were infantile, on the level of a student presenting a video game he liked to play and saying, essentially, nothing more than the fact that the video game loosely involved geometry. Without exams, no one had any incentive to really learn any actual principles of geometry. Of course the students were happy because the class was “fun” and the parents were happy because everyone was getting good grades.

    As for the original teacher, obviously being fired does not do wonders for one’s resume, and so this hard-working and diligent teacher was more or less consigned to taking odd substitute teaching jobs, which to me was the most egregious part of what happened.

    So that’s my concern with “engaging students” and “local control”, that standards and rigor will potentially get thrown out the window. While this example was an extreme case, my general experience throughout high school was that, the more a class deviated from a set structure and incorporated more “engagement/enrichment” activities like projects and games, the less rigorous it was and ultimately the less I learned from the class.

  25. Hugh says:

    And I’m delighted to see JTM’s call for a rejection of “MORE-ism”–so in keeping with Sustainability–yet I doubt that even the libertarians here would want to curtail the More Model as it applies to services, especially health or education. Too bad. Don’t expect a DNC reply on that one.

  26. Gary says:

    @JP: “Shrink the government and you’ll shrink the amount of dead-weight-loss to lobbying.”

    How will you go about achieving that when the money in the system is often against shrinking the government? Consider this example that Lessig gives:

    “One year into his administration, Vice President Gore gave a speech at UCLA, laying out the Clinton-Gore vision of the National Information Infrastructure (a.k.a., the Internet). Among the many proposals Gore sketched, one seemed small and technical: Gore proposed recrafting the Communications Act to add “Title VII.” Title VII was intended to deregulate Internet infrastructure. It would have removed DSL from heavy FCC oversight, and provide one consistent regulatory bucket, which would give Internet infrastructure providers a relatively free hand.

    Gore’s team took this idea to Capitol Hill. As described to me by a member of his team, the reception was not favorable. “‘Hell no,’ we were told.” The concern? Translated: “How are we going to raise money from those guys if we deregulate them?””

    more here –

  27. JTMcPhee says:

    Len, thanks for the great reference. Re Ms. Brezis, “Yeah, what she said.”

    Social homeostasis, earlier Chinese style:

    “The entire premise of the scholarly meritocracy was based on mastery of the Confucian classics, with important effects on society.” Wonder which texts (Texas School Board?) will become the New Confucian Classics?

  28. len says:

    The outcome is sad, JtMc. To keep the transnational circuits functional, they have to keep the national circuits forceably connected to their circuits. The more one tries to localize, the harder they will work to keep them destabilized.

    The important wingnut sounding observation is the transnational institutions of government don’t really exist except for the banking groups. It isn’t that a conspiracy is required; it is that emergence of one world government in some form becomes inevitable as long as the transnational elites control the currency exchange.

    Weird, eh? Buffet is starting to look better and better because he at least is thinking about what to do with the wealth lest it become inheritable.

  29. Hey Jon, how about we just elminate Item #6, acheive the other 7 goals and see what effect all of that has on the education system and the level of self-education of our citizenry? If Carlin was right (and I think he was) then big .gov and big .mon don’t want thinking people. If we remove their influence, move towards equality and sustainability, maybe those who are capable of being educated will get educated in one way or another instead of merely consuming this big Chinese superbuffet of misinformation.

    Mc–there’s a thought experiment for you! :)

  30. JTMcPhee says:

    Hugh, I been batting my gums about “sustainability” here and elsewhere for quite a while, but then i have no Idea how to amplify my output beyond sarcasm and ineffectual rage. Marks me as a Failure, I guess. I wonder if it’s off to Purgatory, or straight to Hell?

    As a toiler in the deep furrows of the health care, er, Medical Services Unsurance and Delivery field, I would like to renew another pitch for centralized actual health care “services.” What we got now does not “work,” and there’s no public-private partnership that is going to ever change the mess except for the worse. There might be hope if true “fiat” were possible, but that ain’t happenin’ either. Huge amounts of lost motion doing “unsurance company”-required documentation, “re-prior authorizations” for needed chronic meds, ah, it makes me sick just to think about it.

    I went out to the VA hospital today, after a visit a week ago where my primary clicked the keys and presto! I had an appointment for a consult and then a schedule for a diagnostic procedure. My meds are cheap. And while I can’t really sue my doctor, he’s not so overworked by having to do bulk, ever-less-compensated transactions in order to make his monthly nut that he can’t pay a little more attention. (Everything devolves back to the skills and level of care, in the empathic sense too, of individuals.)

    Our Ruling Elite had a chance to grab the gold ring for us, but they chose to just nab it and put it in their already overstuffed pockets. And a moiety of us stupidly went along with the Palin-drone about soshulized meduhsin. A lot of those same folks are going to be surprised when they need a new knee or hip or non-emergency gall bladder surgery, to be shoved on an airplane (powered by combustion of petroleum, with attendant carbon footprint) and zapped to Costa Rica or Mumbai for Dr. Shastri, trained at the University of Socialized Education, to do the surgery or perform the treatment in National Health Care Hospital. And then have to try to get Dr. Barnard at Baylor to pick up the after-care.

    It would be so nice if people could keep the Categories distinct in their little brains, when it comes to complicated issues having to do with Efficiency and Sustainability and all that jazz.

    Not gonna happen. Wouldn’t be prudent.

  31. JTMcPhee says:

    len, sticking with my favorite analogy-producing area, some folks experience seizures so often that the simple act of muscular contraction and neuron firing uses so much energy that they can literally starve. If they don’t drown on their own secretions.

    One therapy has been a semi-hemi-frontal-lobectomy, basically just excising the misbehaving tissue. Wonder if the same operation would benefit the Body Politic, Worldwide?

  32. Hugh says:

    Usually, Dan, I have to deal with huge numbers (e.g. CA now has 9 milllion school wards, so just imagine the cock-up of a fully federal one-size-fits all, and imagine too the state legislators in TX who come from the classroom or the school board accustomed to spelling “Million” without the “B”), so I bracket anecdotes like yours. But as my methodogical training is historographical I dig also the telling anecdote. Yours is one of them.

    In years past we used to say that “one must not legislate curriculum”. We said that partly because former educators-turned-lawmakers could’t anymore make the micro- to macro- transition than they could resist the scope of their cocksure, new powers; partly because their dictatorial content management frustrated efforts to professionalize teaching by recognizing the special expertise of frontline educators; and partly because the counter-grassroots trend ultimately trended toward hyper-centralized, over-politicized, exceedingly facile and impermanent federal control. (One of several disturbing implications, besides, is that there is no shortage of educators who will agree to teach 10th Graders the same curriculum of West Point plebes, provided you avert your gaze whilst the urban educators sweep 50% dropout rates, as well as massive failure rates, under the rug)

    I don’t mean to be negative here, but merely real. You clearly want young people to enjoy the best of what you once saw without their suffering the decadent experimentalism that raged then an still does so. OK. Let me ask you to try something on. It’s partly metaphorical, but please mull it and let us know whether it shows some promise to get past this 30-year feud of local v. state v. federal, standards/assessment/accountability, drill ‘n’ kill pencil tests, teacher v. parent, etc.

    Permit me to draw your attention to the scout’s sash, to embroidered, certainly won merit badges. I mean this as a metaphor, so please ignore that I myself was never a Scout; ignore recent ACLU controversies regarding the BSA’s and GSA’s exclusionary policies; ignore Baden-Powell’s putatively pederastic proclivities, etc., and just focus on the merit badges as metaphor.

    Let’s say we have a figurative 100 badges to achieve, some mandatory and some elective (the Hutchins Model). Let’s give the Feds 4-6 core competencies, grouped around fundamemental literacy and modern numeracy. Let’s then allow the states about 10 manditory competencies to demand. Let’s further permit local, and locally elected, educational authorities to elect 10 or 12 further competencies particular to the genius locus–the genius of that place–and then leave it up to individual learners, with the guidance of their elders, to decide and choose how to fill out their sashes.

    Does this even begin to work for you? I could list a number of advantages over the present put-up…

  33. T Bone Burnett says:


    As one who adds little of value to these discussions, I would like to say this is a thread worthy of its contributors. You have risen above iSpeak. Thank you, and congratulations.

    T Bone

  34. JTMcPhee says:

    Just an aside to JP on “causality” and Microsoft lobbying efforts. As I remember it and as i look up the articles on it, Microsoft leadership took the attitude once taken by Engine Charlie Wilson of GM: “You can’t mess with us; we are Too Big And Too Important.”

    Desperate to both defeat and retain the protections of RuleofLaw, Gates and his minions found they had to at least pay tribute to the Tribunes and Solons if they wanted to continue their business practices with less “lost motion.”

    There’s a ton of stuff on this bit of higher stakes games-and-brinkmanship, but here’s just one little interesting selection from the commentary: Learning From Microsoft’s Error, Google Builds a Lobbying Engine.

    And now of course MSFT is trying real hard to backstab and backdoor Google who is trying to cut the nuts off MSFT and back and forth, all of which is Supposed To Be Good For The Nation And The People. and lots of other Financial Gossip Pages stuff. GaGa over Google?

    Some days I wished I’d a continued playing the Legal Game… Just not smart and sharp and mean enough, though. I’d rather give enemas, and clean up the results, that do lunch with a Congressperson. My personal failing, of course.

  35. len says:


    Big Brother Uses A Mac.

  36. JTMcPhee says:

    len — smart fella, Jobs thanks him for his service.

  37. len says:

    @jtmc: Jumpin’ the shark of the topic, but ya gotta be creative. Doc Swenson was complaining about the coyotes on his farm and asked how to deal with them. A friend suggested he call a coyote in Arizona and order a truckload of undocumented road runners.

  38. len says:

    Back on topic, from the NTY via Robert St John on FB (the beauty of the web is to have the same conversation on multiple sites with different players):

  39. Hugh says:


    I apologize for addressing the earlier post to Dan instead of you. It was indeed meant for you, and I apologize for such a stupid mistake. Years of scholastic experiment have left this lab rat with gaping caverns where the frontal lobe should be…


    Granted that the term Sustainability, like the term Meliorism, is an invitation to mischief. To use these words we must define or at least delimit and exemplify them, but that’s such a tiresome epistemological exercise, and I for one lack the knack for definitional witticisms a la Ambrose Bierce or Will Rogers. I mean sustainability in the sense of replenishment improving in both quality and rapidity, and I’d meant meliiorism in the simplest sense of getting and doing better, of individual and collective betterment (the former in service of the latter). I’ve some illustrations in mind but I’d prefer not to belabor it, in part because, as you must know, we’ll almost certainly fall into counterexemplification, naming the many things we don’t mean by those terms and unnecessarily alienating folk who do embrace those other meanings. See wot I mean?

  40. Alex Bowles says:


    With regard to #8, I’m suspect you have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Obviously, you’re on the honor system here (i.e. no Googling), but can you actually summarize the essence of the Fair Elections Now Act for us?

    Heck, I’ll narrow it down; can you describe – briefly – what single feature included in this bill separates it substantially from every campaign reform effort that’s preceded it?

    I’m not asking whether you agree with it, but the way, or have reason to believe that it won’t be effective. I’m just wondering if you can say what it is.

  41. JTMcPhee says:

    “topic” is such an elastic concept, at the dinner table…

    Speaking of iCrap, here’s one little iNugget from the iWSJ, the Voice of iDom: Tech Gadgets Steal Sales From Appliances, Clothes

    And of course, more apropos of the strands of this Thread, before it is cut off by old Clotho or whatever her name is: U.S. Super Rich to Share Wealth , U.S. Only-Grossly-Wealthy Tell Everyone Else To Eat Cake And Fuck Themselves.

    Do they hear the approaching sound of tumbrels rumbling over the cobblestones? Or the stink of burning buildings and burning HERETICS and TRAITORS? Do they remember what Beirut and Baghdad and Ulster looked like and may yet again, if the Armed Rabble once start moving? Is Melinda For Real? Does “Charity” include anything more than symphony orchestras, museums and public polo grounds?

    Enquiring minds want to know!

    And Hugh, I have neither brief for nor beef with you on any exegesis of words that ought to have as much currency and freight of meaning and power as “Tea Party” and “Don’t Tread On Me!” and “Enemy!”, but don’t, for all the usual reasons. My heart knows that Stability and Sustainability and Betterism are attainable, I just don’t know if the path has to pass through the Valley of the Shadow of Megadeaths before it comes to the place where there’s milk and honey enough for everyone to have their Needs filled. And enough social pressure to keep the Wants under tight rein. And where it would be a violation of the RuleofLaw to be named “Jones.”

  42. Alex Bowles says:

    Correction: ‘I’ suspect. I may be suspect too, but that’s for others to say.

    The challenge to you, JP, remains the same.

  43. Hugh says:

    I don’t know, either, about the parade of horribles.

  44. Jon Taplin says:

    T-Bone-I agree. A very substantial conversation.

    JP-I don’t understand your opposition to the Fair Elections Now Act. You keep complaining that all politicians are basically corporate bagmen. Well the way to change that is to take corporate and union money out of politics.

    As far as public private partnerships, I ink you are wrong. You have not even bothered to look at what’s happening in battery tech in the U.S. Check it out first, then comment.

  45. Alex Bowles says:

    Separately, JT, that paper is wonderful. Those of you who haven’t read it should know that it extends the “I have a dream vs. a nightmare” perspective with gems like these;

    So long as the siren call of denial is met with the drone of policy expertise — and the fantasy of technical fixes is left unchallenged — the public is not just being misled, it’s also being misread. Until we address Americans honestly, and with the respect they deserve, they can be expected to remain largely disengaged from the global transformation we need them to be a part of.

    When you look at the long string of global warming defeats under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, it is hard not to conclude that the environmental movement’s approach to problems and policies hasn’t worked particularly well. And yet there is nothing about the behavior of environmental groups, and nothing in our interviews with environmental leaders, that indicates that we as a community are ready to think differently about our work.

    The arrogance here is that environmentalists ask not what we can do for non-environmental constituencies but what non-environmental constituencies can do for environmentalists. As a result, while public support for action on global warming is wide it is also frighteningly shallow.

    The unmentioned irony in all this is that the environment is a quintessential system-of-systems. And yet environmentalists are some of the narrowest, and most parochial policy advocates out there. That leads to a big problem with credibility, and an even bigger problem with currency.

    Interestingly, the diagnosis from Shellenberger & Nordhaus is terminal

    “We have become convinced that modern environmentalism, with all of its unexamined assumptions, outdated concepts and exhausted strategies, must die so that something new can live.”

    That ‘something’ isn’t a environmentalism at all. It’s something much bigger that counts environmental harmony as a form of social validation.

  46. John Papola says:


    Gore’s team took this idea to Capitol Hill. As described to me by a member of his team, the reception was not favorable. “‘Hell no,’ we were told.” The concern? Translated: “How are we going to raise money from those guys if we deregulate them?”

    Wow, what a great find.

    I have no idea how to unwind the predator state. My guess is that it will take insolvency. In fact, that’s not a guess. It’s happening now in Europe, whose silly socialism has bankrupted them. Sweden has private roads and national school vouchers.

    So, give it time. Maybe 16 years of Bush/Obama will finally bring the empire to it’s knees.

  47. Hugh says:


    The excerpts from Elise S. Brezis are historically hinky and even spurious, but the omniscient voice of the UNESCO types comes through loud & clear, and pitch-perfect. Please don’t think that I make light of your study of transnationalism or of the importance of mass education in achieving covert, elite ends. It’s just that I know the “International Education” crowd well and they’ve always had their heads up their arses as they fart together in Brussels and Paris and New York. A few of them have been really visionary but as a rule they think they’re the choke-chain on the guard dog when really they’re fleas on the smelly, remaining tail. Not one of them foresaw the key role of Westernized education in the dissolution of the Soviet, the normalization of China or the destabilization of Iran. They still miss the causal linkages and still privilege education as indoctrination. Indeed it is indoctrinating, just not substantively, as they suppose. It is, indeed predictably reproductive, but mainly structurally, not substantively. Globalists don’t begin to construe its basic structure, which they disastrously assume is culturally neutral, so they consistently miss its dangerous edginess while meanwhile they make their idiotically portentous pronunciamenti.

    Meanwhile the knowing ones usually lose, sometimes hideously. As always, the sycophants win by flattering the powerful in the pandering language of powerlust. So be it! It’s a godsend!

  48. Hugh says:


    Thanks. I wondered what becamE of the “Dream Speech” metaphor. Do you see how liberalism, especially on the environmental-IST Popular Front, could resurge without it’s alleviating popular fears about governmental intrusion into spheres held as “private”–that is, beyond the reach of governmental arms? Best I can see, this is the big barrier against voter support for environmental sacrifice and stewardship. The cocky smartass generational nannyism. Get rid of that, and we’ve got miles to go before we sleep…

  49. John Papola says:

    The fair elections act doesn’t seem too bad, though the levels in it all spear arbitrary.

    It also utterly misses the point. Elections aren’t where the action is, because our elected “representatives” are a bunch of cowards who pass the buck on all hard choices to bureaucrats. Witness the handoff of all decision making to unelected regulators in the finance bill.

    So the REAL decisions will be made by the regulators. The real lobbying will happen there.

    Go ahead. Pass that election act. It’ll solve very little about he problems I see. Good luck getting it signed by a guy who didn’t accept public funding for his presidential election by the way.

  50. nt says:

    A grand discussion indeed. If you believe the models discussed here we will soon be forced by circumstances of peaking just-about-everything in to, at best, a steady state economy.

    If you want to be radical about it, paying interest on debt forces continual growth as the capital borrowed must generate more than the debt payment. Pension funds have fallen badly afoul of this with their allocation assumptions of being able to obtain 6% to 7% growth in their portfolios. Doing a linear extrapolation of what will most likely be an S-curve economic growth was a bad mistake and means many retirement assumptions will be out the window. The Greeks are discovering just how much this annoys people. Mind you, the concept of retirement in a post industrial society is rather meaningless, particularly as lifespans have extended so much despite the pollution of our precious bodily fluids by nasty chemicals.

    I would like to add an even more radical item:

    #9. All laws should have a way of measuring what they are trying to solve attached. Laws that do not solve what is intended are be eliminated.

    It is much easier to create a law than it is to remove one. Let’s make it symmetric. Naturally, this would never happen…

  51. John Papola says:


    Do you want to engage in a discussion/rebuttal of my list? Let’s have a dialog, here. Your one comment is more of a snipe. Do better.

  52. JTMcPhee says:

    Maybe some of you have been to the Liberal Mountain and seen what the particularization of preferences and perversion of predilections can do. I’m old enough to be thoroughly sick of people whose idea of politics and leadership is to trade picayune niggardly bits of “support” for each others’ pet “issues,” usually tiny little concerns about this bit of imagined disrespect or Trampling of Rights or that Pocket Park. All the strolling and chatting between rooms full of finger-sandwich eaters, by people fixated on “building this Coalition” or that “energizing this or that Working Group,”
    or trying to hammer some plank into the already stuffed and compromised and internally structurally inconsistent and therefore pre-lost platform of one ineffectual group or another.

    Maybe you remember the Horror Of The Threat To The Microlayer, that magical imaginary universe that these folks were just sure exists in the first few molecules of thickness of The Mighty Oceans. (Actually a good-bad example, since microlayer studies and impacts really are harbingers of coming doom, but these guys and gals with their white wine and blah-se patter so polluted the discussion with High Thoughts and condescension that once again the grinders-away who seek profit in discharging their Externalities into all our mouths kept Getting Away With It.)

    When I worked for EPA, Greenpeace “activists” tried to make inroads with the reactionaries of Hinsdale by telling them that an experimental combustion of a couple hundred pounds of polyester film chips was going to poison them with (gasp!) cyanide! Never mind that worst case, the total CN that might be produced was less than what you inhale from a pack of Kool Lites. It’s a long story, but when you called them on the bullshit, they basically said “Hey, it’s a good issue. And we’ve already raised $56,224.80 in door-to-door collections!”

    Same response from the lawyers at the Natural Resources Defense Council, who had stopped promulgation of a regulation further limiting discharges of toxins from plants owned by Dow and Monsanto and others, basically carrying the polluted corporate water as it were, because as they explained it, their notion of what constituted proper public notice and comment had not been satisfied in a very minute way. The DC Circuit was happy to oblige, and when these Perfect Environmental Activists were reminded that their cavils allowed nasty shit to keep coming out the pipes for years to come, they said, and I quote, “So what? It’s a great issue! And We Won!”

    And I’m also referring to the Snail Darter approach to stopping Corps of Engineers dam projects and stuff that focusing on forcing a public, honest simple economic impact disclosure (not what the rednecks losing their homes and towns and livelihoods viewed as some bit of effete Eastern Establishmentarianism, a huge Environmental Impact Statement) would show had a huge negative economic effect, let alone the effect on a small fish that became a rallying cry for all the assholes who stupidly support all the nasty stuff that is done to them by outfits like the Corps and Monsanto, just because of their reaction to the elitism. Same principle when it comes to air pollution.

    Seems to me that a major challenge is to take back the Town Meeting forum, shout down the liars and deniers, and get people concentrating on real common threats and enemies, from the military-industrial culture to the power of transnationals to subvert and pollute and get away with all those externalities.

    My list of Importants is:

    1. How do you get people into the right spirit to act in their own ultimate interest?

    2. What tools do you have for them to wield, other than pitchforks and assault weapons?

    3. How do you encourage the elites to see that the Soylent Corporation business model is not really in their best interest either? Since most of them seem purely in it for the pleasure they can cadge while yet they live, and screw the rest of the species, present and future?

  53. Alex Bowles says:

    @Hugh – Yes, exactly.

    @nt re: #9 – The Bush Tax Cut, for instance?

    @Papola – Paying attention to you is like reading the business plan for an Amish muffler shop.

  54. Morgan Warstler says:

    It is this simple:

    When liberals are serious about carbon, they will offer a straight revenue neutral tax trade.

    End corporate taxes, and implement a $1-1.50 gas tax.

    It HAS TO BE that simple. Multi-step plans and blah blah WON’T happen, they will become legislative abortions.

    It is almost a PERFECT revenue trade (no more or less in taxes), start at $1 and increasing the gas tax an extra .50 cents, as gas consumption goes down.

    Suddenly we have the #1 corporate tax policy in the world. The best possible job strategy available.

    This is enough for conservatives to really come to the table.

    Jon, you NEED to start to think about the next 2-4-6 years as far more moderate, that means two choices:

    1. play politics with everything.
    2. think about what the other side really wants, and hand them a fair trade, where both sides feel like they gained, but gave up something basic they wish they could have. Let me put it in playground terms: you aren’t getting more than me.

    EVERY post you write should be judged by that standard. It took less than 1 year, for the best shot you’ve had in 40 years to go down the drain.

    You don’t have another 40 years. Old dogs. New tricks. If you aren’t sacrificing, it isn’t real.

  55. Jon Taplin says:

    JP-It seems our only real differences are on points 1 & 4, since you have conceded point 8 isn’t bad. I was trying to be realistic on taxes. To a certain extent I agree with you that a consumption tax with a poverty subsidy would be preferable. When I look at both Germany and Canada which came out of the Great Recession in pretty good shape, I think it was partly a reflection of their VAT tax structures. However, an overhaul of the tax system of such massive proportions would be tougher than anything Obama has attempted.

    So that leaves the #4. when I look to my own academic specialty, digital media policy, I can say with confidence that those regions in which the government aided technological progress, have a far more advanced telecom infrastructure than the U.S. Korea, EU, Japan all had some guidance on both cellular and broadband policy. We are now 16th in the world in Broadband diffusion and arguably the worst mobile communications system in the developed world. All because of a “hands off” mentality at Reagan’s FCC that was continued for 30 years.

  56. Alex Bowles says:

    Your tone makes me wince, Morgan, but I must admit, the essence of your remark (about starting with what the other guy wants, and working out how you can deliver it), really is missing element (almost by definition) in every special-interest aim.

    Saying we’ve got foxes guarding henhouses doesn’t do justice to the fiascoes resulting. Going sailing with bulldozers is more like it.

    In truth, it’s hard to say which side is further-gone. Reps in the party of Hell No have removed even the suggestion of accommodation from the table, which it a fairly big disqualifier for, um, professional negotiators.

    At the same time, equally moronic intransigence is alive and well on the Democrat’s side of the aisle. Only here, it’s obstructing the emergence of mutually-beneficial positions among players on the same side, crippling the kind of formidable unity that could respond to the Republican’s Pearl Harbor with surrender-inducing attacks on their Hiroshima and Nagasaki (capitals, if you will, of war and international trade – both of which have become venues for the wholesale inversion of Conservative principle over the last 30 years).

    The problem with Obama is that he’s not working the big picture. Yes, he’s making remarkable (if heavily compromised) progress in very choppy water. But it’s all very technical and opaque. That’s fine in addition to (or perhaps as an extension of) an animating and relentlessly promoted vision. But not once has he turned to any of his major constituencies (labor, lawyers, environmentalists, etc.) and read them a JFK-inspired version of the riot act by letting them know that he wasn’t going to waste an ounce of his time talking to them until they’d come to him with a laundry list of ways in which they were prepared to help and support every other major player in the Democratic caucus as well as the key interests supporting Republicans and the cause of dignified human liberty at large.

    But then perhaps we’ve gotten too soft for that, and too detached from the world we live in. When Kennedy demanded that Americans ask not what their country can do for them, he was also pointing out that America had been granted a special role in defending world peace and liberty from obvious and well-armed tyranny. We were #1, whether we liked it or not. And then he set our sites on the Moon.

    Today we seem to see global dominance as a form of entitlement, paid for (in full) by a previous generation. The only thing people want from government is personal advantage (or at least, people dominating the process from perches on K St.) Meanwhile, nobody in government is talking about America’s unique capacity to do anything at all on behalf of all mankind (our traditional source of genuine greatness and sometimes-justified exceptionalism).

    So what is it? What’s that one thing we can do – right now – that no one else can imagine, and that everyone else will see as a victory for humans everywhere, not just Americans living here?

    What program of domestic regeneration carries seeds of self-evident global pride and advancement?

  57. len says:

    Please don’t think that I make light of your study of transnationalism or of the importance of mass education in achieving covert, elite ends.

    I’ve certainly not your experience with these folk. I came to those papers serendipitously while trying to understand why elites always emerge in any area where humans live at some density, more an anthropology exercise than a political one. I’m looking at mezo-american cultures trying to fathom a) why the further back we dig, the more advanced they get which defies the common model b) ritual blood letting was pervasive c) whatever the common root, they collapsed like paper tigers in the face of inferior forces. The persistence and propagation of elites keeps coming up as part of that history.

    I think that any attempt at a way forward that does not account for the pervasive power of the emergent transnationals is doomed. They may or may not be covert and the model doesn’t need the Illuminati to work. It seems that elite emergence is organic, or at least simply a property of networks. Yet there is a disquieting similarity in what I see today and what happened in mezo-america and this is eerily similar to what we know about information and network behavior that starts flat and relies on reputation and goodwill to keep things sane. They all go chaotic.

    There are several papers at that site. One has to read more than one to get the thread of what they are on about.

  58. JTMcPhee says:

    “What program of domestic regeneration carries seeds of self-evident global pride and advancement?”

    Rhetorical question? Lead-in and invitation to suggestions from the crowd?

    Taking down a big part of the military-security apparatus, something more than the same fraud pulled with the selling of “health care reform,” a 5% reduction in the RATE OF GROWTH of that part of the drain on the national exchequer? Depending on how it’s spun, that could be a negative rather than a positive action. “Unilateral disarmament” versus “wise draw-down.” Is the notion of a “peace dividend” a dead letter?

  59. JTMcPhee says:

    Another take on AB’s mirror neuron invocation.

    One has to wonder if people who torture, Hellfire or pink-mist others either lack the mirror neurons, find satisfying pathways around them, or maybe are all sado-masochists.

    Got any hints as to how to encourage the bulking up of mirror neuron pathways in people who seem immune to their presumed effects, or maybe lack the structures? Or whether there is a scale phenomenon, which is what I would expect — tribes can only get just so big before the bonds of empathy and altruism are submerged by the fear of and usual reaction to The Other. I would bet that more than one sense has to be affected before the effect kicks in, which requires a certain measure of propinquity.

    Wonder if len will get demographic insights on any population-size effects as the various mezo-american tribes “developed” toward extinction?

  60. len says:

    Wonder if len will get demographic insights on any population-size effects as the various mezo-american tribes “developed” toward extinction?

    The Mayans, Incans, and Aztecs are alive and well and living Central America, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Panama, Guatamala, Mexico and so forth.

  61. len says:

    “What program of domestic regeneration carries seeds of self-evident global pride and advancement?”

    The Indians will be proud to show you their shiny new highways, hotels, software firms, call centers and so on. What they won’t show you is this:

    Hard to believe.

  62. JTMcPhee says:

    What, len, are you getting a dose of La Nausee too? Take heart — I’m sure Pangloss and Pollyanna still have reasons to smile in their sleep.

    What I asked about demographics was the part about when their “advanced” and “sophisticated” and for them “modern civilizations” collapsed, relative to levels of complexity, stratification and population. I’m sure there are lots of humans with relatively intact genetic markers for Mayan, Inca and all that, along with lots of muttstizos and drugmule-attos. If we the people are going to survive as something other than a vestigial population in some Andean valley, seems to me we need to look our real nature as a species right in the eye, warts and perversions and all, and maybe set a goal of figuring how much pain and misery is tolerable, how much abuse is allowable, how much “slack” is needed to let the machinery of trade and rulership float around without running us all onto the rocks, all that stuff. All well and good to have an Eightfold Path, maybe even a few people can walk it to salvation or Nirvana or Nothingness. But without some constant effort to teach the Most Adaptable Of Animals some limits and tolerable behaviors, presumably NOT including these…

    Takes a much bigger soul that I have got to visualize a world at peace. But hey, with my wiles and weapons and willing friends, I ‘spect I can keep a little peace in the areas within my reach and range… 7 billion, going to 9 or 10 billion, as the Worgon Generation starts to feel the claws of their children at their throats in the night. “‘Bye, Daddy, off to the Ice Flow for you…”

    “Say it ain’t so Joe!”

  63. len says:

    So far:

    1. Best not to make war on neighbors to obtain sacrificial bloodletting victims. When the legendary bearded guy or someone who looks a lot like him arrives with his crew, the neighbors are all too happy to help him assume his rightful position.

    2. However bad the guys you knocked off were to drag big blocks of stone for, take away whatever was working, in this case, the ability to grow the most diverse crops on the worst possible land, hydrothermal heating and a wicked sense of color styles. The farming these folk were doing was even more unbelievable than the stone dragging.

    3. If the lowlands are filled with big critters that eat your kind, move to the highlands and adapt to the thin air until disease, meteors or alien intervention knocks off the big carnivorous road runners.

    4. If you want to escape the new guys on the block, push deep into the jungle where their armor just drags them down.

    5. If you want to leave monuments for those that follow, don’t build them over land with lots of oil underneath. If you want to keep records, don’t leave them out where fire happy priests can find them and don’t let them attend your ritual bloodlettings. Best to avoid earthquake zones altogether when you build in stone.

    6. Try not to live where there are lots of gold deposits. Everyone from the bug-eyed aliens to the bug-eyed conquistadors will come a knockin’. No matter how much you give them, if they think you have more they will take more.

    7. Don’t share your drugs with the new guys. They just won’t understand and you won’t enjoy their parties.

    8. Ultimately, immigrants with diseases you don’t have should be welcomed with diseases they don’t. If you see them burning their ships, burn your bridges.

    The fundamental skill of the elite is their ability to find new resources, distribute them, and spend the surpluses on items they like even if you don’t. In a ritual bloodletting culture, one heart equals three parrot feathers symbolizing their power to trade hearts for feathers. Understand the trades and the caste skilled in obsidian carving and the economics are laid out like a chest cavity on an altar.

    When in drought, move out.

  64. Alex Bowles says:

    I like this chestnut from Sagan.

    Human history can be viewed as a slowly dawning awareness that we are members of a larger group. Initially our loyalties were to ourselves and our immediate family, next, to bands of wandering hunter-gatherers, then to tribes, small settlements, city-states, nations. We have broadened the circle of those we love. We have now organized what are modestly described as super-powers, which include groups of people from divergent ethnic and cultural backgrounds working in some sense together — surely a humanizing and character building experience.

    If we are to survive, our loyalties must be broadened further, to include the whole human community, the entire planet Earth. Many of those who run the nations will find this idea unpleasant. They will fear the loss of power. We will hear much about treason and disloyalty. Rich nation-states will have to share their wealth with poor ones. But the choice, as H. G. Wells once said in a different context, is clearly the universe or nothing.

    Paul Johnson, writing about George Washington, sums up a relevant anecdote quite nicely.

    The actual resignation of his command, having made peace between the civil and military powers of the new country – and, in an emotional ceremony, bidden farewell to his officers on December 4, 1783 – took place in Annapolis, Maryland, on December 23, when he formally handed back to Congress his commission as commander in chief, which they had given him in June 1775. He said he would never again hold public office. He had his horse waiting at the door, and he took the road to Mount Vernon the next day.

    No one who knew Washington was surprised. Everyone else, in varying degrees, was astonished at this singular failure of the corruption of power to work. And, indeed, it was a rare moment in history. In London, George III qustioned the American-born painter Benjamin West what Washington would do now he had won the war. “Oh,” said West, “they say he will return to his farm.” “If he does that,” said the king, “he will be the greatest man in the world.”

    Could America follow Sagan by following Washington?

  65. Hugh says:

    Durheim, Freud, Mauss, Levi-Strauss, Burkert, Girard et al. The origin of human culture–of originary ritual and myth (religion), of prohibition and taboo (law)–is sacrificial violence. Excavation of the most ancient sites yet discovered on each continent almost invariably locks onto burial mounds as the deepest, darkest loci of tribal origins. As Freud posited, these graves often signify a founding regicide, the theory being, more recently, that the homicidal founding moment bound together its perpetrators who, in their complicity and bonding as co-murderers, discovered themselves able to coexist and cooperate in accordance with a kind of omertà pending the next ritual reenactment of the magical, mythical first murder. In primitive thinking, surely the advent of this feeling of togetherness, of shared identity, was a magical gift from the slain regent or patriarch!

    For ritual you gotta have props. Props are all the rage come time for ritual reenactment. In the Mayan wells are found the skeletons of ritually sacrificed young females. In the recently disovered remains of the Biblical Jericho, sacrificial infants served as lathe, as primitive rebar. Virgins and first-born sons are best, but unblemished lambs or even kosher pigeons sometimes will do. In a pinch, Jews or Gypsies work, as evidently do temple prostitutes in contemporary India, that most splendid of Asian tigers.

    Extrapolations of this ugly anthropoesis (ethnopoesis) suggest that groups can bind (“religio” means glue, a binding agent) only as long as the violence, however sublimated, however hypocritically substitutional, retains the terrible psychic force of the originary slaughter. The larger, more heterogeneous or more modern the group, the harder it is to find a binder other than escalating violence.

    The pre-Columbian empires may have, variously, vanished or waned from overextension, from the homogeneity owing to conquest, from more peaceful and elightened ideas (whether indigenous or imported), or even from the logical extension of mass violence institutionalized, a Gotterdammerung of two rival sides of roughly equal might.

    Mutually assured destruction.

  66. T Bone Burnett says:


    A mighty post.

  67. Hugh says:

    Well I’m mighty gratified that you should say so, and mighty humbled by the luck of drawing some effective Anthro teachers. The Anthro theory is all so heady that frankly I shrink from developing my own speculations, but I wish I could report to Len and Jon, JTM and Alex and others the really surprising roster of folks I know to be interested in these things in pusuit of possibly stanching human bloodletting.

    BTW, that luminous essay that Simone Weil wrote, “The Illiad: A Poem of Might”, she entitled in French as “A Poem of Force”. A might word, Force. She argued that Homer had made a study of the mythologization and perpetuation of vengeance. Satyagraha may be read as what the ethologists call a “breaking mechanism”–a short-circuiting–over against this human dynamic that perpetuates violence somewhat somnambulently.

    Oh well.



  68. John Papola says:

    Jon, are you seriously comparing the enormous, 300 million-person continental United States to South Korea and Japan on broadband penetration? How does that comparison make even the slightest amount of sense? These arbitrary, nationalistic pissing contests are ridiculous. The Japanese government as also kicked our but on reaching a much higher debt to GDP ratio and suffering from two decades of sluggish economic growth.

    The Japanese “industrial policy”, aka cartel-corporatism, is a failure. Holding it up as a model because one of the Keynesian ditches they managed to dig was gobs of fiber optics across their tiny island nation is silly.

    I know you think that everyone in America should have 50mbit Internet, but I fail to see how you or any central planner can arrive at such a one-size fits all “policy” in the face of hundreds of millions of people facing real tradeoffs in their choices. It’s arbitrary. It’s a vision that crowds out decentralized priorities so that taxpayers can flip the bill for the digital version of Amtrak. Who pays for this “policy”? Not the policy makers. Nope, the forgotten man, the taxpayer, pays for this new utopia. I’m not interested. The Internet has demonstrated the amazing power of competitive, decentralized standards emergence even if it’s often rivalrous and messy.

    All that said, I want to hear out your case in a fuller way. Do you have any videos or papers I can read?

    As for Canada, it seems that canada’s banks have LONG been much better run than America’s. However, it sounds like there may be a housing bubble brewing there so let’s hold the phone on celebrating them. Australia also beat the recession, and I believe they have better monetary policy as well. But you what? who knows?

    One thing is for sure, the US housing policy has been a historic disaster.

    We need to end all housing nonsense. Liquidate fanny and Freddie. Eliminate the real estate tax exemption. Say goodbye to the 30 year mortgaged, which is an also uniquely American option, unnaturally high home “ownership” rates aka home indebtedness rates. If you want to talk about real reform, we need to attack the heart of our boom and bust.

    Monetary policy is something that, one would think, could be changed toward something that doesn’t suck easier than ending the fascistic IRS. Yet change didn’t come.

    As a side dig… It looks like Christina Romer is making room for a new job to be “saved or created”. She seems to be a nice person and I believe she’s made serious contributions to economics history research. I wish her well. Her stimulus was utter BS though. What a total failure.

  69. John Papola says:

    One more thing on Christy Romer. Here’s Scott Sumner’s summary of Romer’s research:

    “Christy Romer did a lot of research showing that monetary stimulus was the main factor boosting the economy during the 1930s, not fiscal stimulus.  She also found that tax cuts are a particularly effective form of fiscal stimulus.”

    No wonder she left. Obama’s economic policies are basically doing everything wrong based on her own work. How tragic to be there and have your name attached to such train wreck. I honestly feel terrible for her. This must be crazy for her to go through.

  70. len says:

    The bottom line is the blood letting cultures declined irrevocably and as soon as a culture with superior firepower arrived, they collapsed. The neighboring elites joined the newcomers to put their temples to the torch. They have never recovered.

    Omerta is code for “bleed the innovators”.

  71. JTMcPhee says:

    Blood-letting in our “culture,” as much as one can dare to use the singular form for that notion:

    Death penalty (though all this effort to make it seemingly bloodless, when public hangings and drawings and quarterings and disembowellings ala Mel Gibson in “Braveheart” make such good public theatre)

    Cool thing is that in the new age of asymmetric warfare, where only a few (so far) are prepared and excited by coloring outside the lines of the so-called Law of War, the guys with the Really Cool Weapons and Latest Shit From The MIC that finally makes it through the ponderous procurement and supply chain and the Up-Down-Sidelinks to the Networked Battlespace regularly get their butts blown away by 16th-century “towel-headed Hajjis” that they treat with the same disrespect, disdain and now a bit of fear that has been the case through many acts of the longest running dramacomedy in at least “our” history. So “we” shed innocent blood (Our Hallowed And Dishonored-in-Reality Troops, and gook– sorry, Hajji kids and fellow humans, and etc.) And maybe the Deep Files in the Pentagram are waking up to the utility of displaying the shattered, tatterred remains of dead GIs, or at least their flag-draped coffins, who made the once and perfect “sacrifice” to Protect Our Democratic Way Of Life.

    So a Hajji in one of the video clips highlighted here could observe, if the translation was accurate, “Why should we believe that you can protect US against warlords and insurgents? With all your weapons, you can’t even protect YOURSELVES.”

    Homo sapiens sapiens is code for “bleed anybody you can get away with bleeding.”

    Lots of other examples, got to go take the dog to the vet.

  72. Jon Taplin says:

    JT, Len, Hugh, AB- The flow of the anthropology (sub) thread is truly inspiring and yet sobering. I suspect that JT’s earliest question as to whether the size of a cooperating group became a self limiter to comity, is the crucial test.

    In the spirit of trying to find common ground (I do read your posts Morgan) perhaps Mr. Papola’s notion of decentralization which both AB and I have championed earlier in this epic string in regard to school policy, is a way to overcome JT’s demographic bind.

    Similarly JP, I am all for local governments being the spur to innovation. However, when the EU decided that a single cell phone standard should apply across the region, they guided innovation and cooperation just enough to have a much more efficient and workable mobile phone system. In this country AT&T GSM towers are erected 20 feet from Verizon CDMA towers. It’s just stupid and a waste of resources.

  73. John Papola says:


    Agreed on the shared thread in decentralism. I don’t expect or desire any government to be the source of innovation, but to the extent that it meddles, being accountable to a real community os the best hope for that meddling to be successful.

    Beware your quest of “efficiency”, jon. It stand in opposition to innovation, even as it enables some benefits through scale. Your concept of “efficiency” only exist ex-post. There is nothing “efficient” about the ermergent order of web standards, and yet they provide a foundation for amazing applications. It would surely be more “efficient” if all programmers adopted one programming language, yet it would end innovation in languages in the process.

    I don’t want efficiency. I want freedom to tinker and experience the trial and error that invented these “standards” in the first place.

  74. len says:

    Invidually, John, yes, but for any infrastructure once the number of functions shared in common exceeds 80%, it is time for standardization. Not before, not later. Otherwise, innovation is just greed.

    We’ve been through this in the 3D markets for almost a decade now where as one astute player put it the business model is lockin/invest/develop/publicize/fail-to-scale/crash/divest/restart.

    No one is winning. At that point it’s better to put the right people in the right meetings and negotiate because all investments are lost until you do. It’s the different between freedom and pigheadedness.

  75. Alex Bowles says:


    The question of size is particularly sharp, since the thing driving the demand for a more globalized sense of common destiny is the explosive growth in human population, and its newfound ability to create problems (and realistically imagine solutions) on a transnational, and even global scale.

    From what I understand, the 8-10 billion mark we’re reaching is likely to stabilize in that neighborhood, making the rough measure of human population for the coming centuries (assuming mismanagement doesn’t crash it completely).

    The interesting thing about Dunbar’s Number is that it has persisted through the exponentially growing sequence described by Sagan. In other words, even if the capacity of our brains is still defined by the limited needs of our longest evolutionary plateau, there’s no reason to think that industrialized nationalism represents some absolute limit to the scope of our social organization.

    If you start looking at differences in culture the same way that you’d look at regional differences in climate or vegetation, the common basis for all cultures becomes distinctly clear. The question, then, is how do you cultivate the global perspective that merges the universally human with the geographically particular?

    My suspicion is that a combination of culture and compulsion will be the key. Culture as disseminated via an increasingly borderless communications web, which can – with increasing sophistication – translate back and forth between localized expressions. Compulsion by way of natural events (disasters, diseases, and discoveries) that don’t discriminate based on individual characteristics.

  76. John Papola says:


    Standards are great, but they too must face ongoing competition and evolution through trial and error. Government-chosen standards aren’t the answer or a necessity. We have voluntary standards bodies galore and when one becomes clearly bought off, it withers and dies to be replaced.

    Yes, innovators that create new standards are being driven in part by “greed” just as the innovators of the pre-standards were. So what? Apple’s greed gave us webkit which is now the defacto standard for mobile device browsing. the real greed is in those who seek to pay off the standards. Witness Microsoft’s office XML “standard” process through ISO. It

  77. John Papola says:

    …it was as if they were getting a grant from government. Only, thankfully, ISO isn’t government, so people ignored it and the organization lost credibility as a result.

    That is competition always at work.

  78. Morgan Warstler says:

    We’re seeing how real standards work on Net Neutrality.

    Google is shutting its mouth and bending over for Verizon, as it should, not because it is big and can pay, but because all of a sudden SEARCH was in the “neutrality” cross hairs.

    That’s how standards work. Private agreement and use that comes from self interest defines standards. Period.

    And NO ONE but losers have a vested interest in a government strong enough to regulate ANY part of tech, because it WON’T STOP. It’ll come fuck you too.

    Horror stories are fun!

    Do you know how much time was wasted because Microsoft strong armed VC1 into chip sets to compete with H.264, only to have all those supporting companies lose money when VP6 based FLV took over like wild fire. Market rules! That’s a positive story, NOT a negative one.

    Imagine if we had lock in, and flash video didn’t take over, and we suffered through Microsoft trying to leverage their codec online into browser power.

    Another example: BluRay and HD-DVD both deserve to be dead and basically are, market rules! – but how long did they both to waste time fighting? – over a disk!? downloads for everyone please.

    If you let the government “oversee” that stuff, suddenly there is institutional lock in, bureaucracy, and rent seeking.

    And frankly Jon, you never really want to have a serious debate on broadband policy, because you’ll get crushed.

    The government job is to lease spectrum, cable rights, for the most money possible etc. and FOCUS brutally on keeping those PROPERTY rights protected, not the buyers, the property.

    The better the job the government does at property rights, the more valuable the leases are and the more revenue they can bring in.

    The FCC should be nothing more than referee, and there should be as few rules as necessary. Simplicity rules the day.

    For any CDMA minor example – hows that brilliant off-deck stuff working in europe anyway? (ask apple), there are 100 examples where we all benefited immensely from letting the greedy corporate bastards go at it.

  79. len says:

    It didn’t work that way, John. I hosted one of the meetings that brought the open sourcers and the Microsoft folk together. It wasn’t terribly consensual on either side. It had nothing to do with The People. It had and has everything to do with IBM attempting to capture government markets and Microsoft fighting that to hold on because of the cascading effects of government RFP-centric procurements and policies for procurements. The irony has been to watch the open sourcers use Apple as an example of anti-MS victory only to see Apple slam the door in their faces once their roles as useful dupes were done.

    With IBM’s incursion into the 3D market, things got worse yet at the end the products they spent millions on are dieing on the vine and X3D, the ISO standard, is still standing. It didn’t have to work that way and investors should be very wary of market capture through predatory investments.

    IBM attempted to game the ISO process both in meetings and in the press. Eventually the ISO process ground down under the weight of increasingly company led efforts financing the so-called open efforts. It got quite ugly and everyone realized it was not an effort to get a standard but an effort to unhoist competitors.

    The document standards such as XML were taken from ISO SGML and that set the stage for consortium thin specifications that also ground to a halt under the same kinds of games. XML is dead in the water as far as any further innovations are concerned, a side effect of success early on, see HTML, is becoming mired in fielded implementations.

    Now we see the rise of closed systems led my Apple but they are stumbling publicly and Android (say Google) is chopping them up at the knees. Too bad so sad. But that is an open competition.

    But these are not the infrastructure standards, the systems all customers can share and which do create a larger market through standardization rather than a captured market such as Apple is attempting. The kinds of standards Jon seems to be talking about are the kind that put two cell towers next to each other performing identical functions but taking up twice the resources. This isn’t about innovators creating standards. This is about picking a standard and making it part of shared infrastructure over which innovation at the next layer can occur. This is OSI seven layer kind of thinking that makes TCP/IP possible so HTML can emerge.

    These are the cases where government regulation can have a beneficial effect for the customers.

  80. JTMcPhee says:

    Part of The Way Forward is disconnecting perception and understanding from the good old Parallel Port of Common Wisdom, and then applying Honesty and Truth Tests, and a series of Common Sense algorithms, before plugging into the DSL socket. In other words, if the idea is to move forward, one might want to see whether there is enough energy and intention in the whole freakin’ world to deflect the Juggernaut, or at least knock the wheeeeeels off it so it can’t be dragged and shoved any further and people have to kind of do like Tom Robbins suggested in one if his wonderful books, “Skinny Legs And All”: You have to figure it out for yourself.

    In the meantime, the bitstream is just FULL of WISDOM about all the things that EVRUBUDDY KNOWS ARE ABSOLUTELY TRUE ABOUT HAJJIS AND TERRORISTS. Time out for a brief reality check?

    Not that The Narrative will let go, or that we will let go of The Narrative, any more than a terrier in a killing rage who will let itself be beaten to death rather than release its grip on a dead and rotting rat.

  81. John Papola says:


    Did a government regulator pick TCP/IP and set it as “THE” standard?

    All the worry about duplicate cellular towers is missing the point. Yes, that will happen in a bottom-up free society. People will duplicate efforts. This kind of “inefficiency” was the very same target of attack by the 19th century socialists. But it’s BS. It’s pissing in the ocean compared with the fruits of constant rivalrous competition at all levels. Focusing on the areas of overlap and mistakes is missing the forest for the systemic trees, despite believing the opposite.

    Morgan put it right. When you have some anointed body that sets the standard by dictate, you replace competition for customer adoption with competition for monopoly privilege from the monarchs.

    THAT is real monopoly. Grants from the monarch. Today’s nonsense definitions of “monopoly power” and “market power” are utterly blind to the history of real monopoly. There’s nothing more ridiculous than those who point to the British East India company as an example of markets run amok. I mean, how many times have I heard this lie. That firm was the very definition of a monopoly granted by the monarch.

    The same is true of today’s broadcasters and others carrying monopoly grants from the state, including so-called “intellectual property”, which I’m pretty sure is a sham.

    Government “Standards” are monopoly grants. Adam Smith and the rest of the classical liberal tradition was an explicit reaction to and reject of these merchatile “public-private partnerships”. The notion is archaic special-interest garbage, just like protectionism.

    Forget the state. Let standards emerge, and re-emerge. If you see an opportunity for synergy and shared interests, start a voluntary association and seek to bring the players on board. Turning to government is nothing but an act of grotesque cowardice by social parasite corporations. That’s my take, for what it’s worth.

  82. Hugh says:

    “Standards? I’m in favor of ’em. I think everybody should have one.”

    –John Sculley

  83. len says:

    Forget the state. Let standards emerge, and re-emerge. If you see an opportunity for synergy and shared interests, start a voluntary association and seek to bring the players on board. Turning to government is nothing but an act of grotesque cowardice by social parasite corporations.

    You don’t quite understand what happens, John. The government IS a customer and a very big one. They buy in bulk, they have an approved purchase list and if your products aren’t on that list, your business suffers. Turning to the government IS capitalism and competitive. The way they are able to maintain the interoperability and cost savings by scale is using standards for products that conform. The reason for the standards is precisely to enable competitive procurements instead of large scale market capture by a few or one using proprietary IP capture to lockin the market and STOP innovation which is precisely what happens.

    You really really really need to be in business and not simply theorizing. This isn’t about a studio equipping itself with wall-to-wall Apple or Microsoft to ensure the purchases work. This is about procurements at huge scales with millions and millions of dollars of real and potential business. Without standards the landscape is like the power grids when AC and DC were duking it out.

    You’re a smart talented guy but you don’t have experience with this and as a result you’re jumping to conclusions the same way a Tea Partier or a Coffee Partier does: following the lemming way right off the cliff that you can’t see because your nose is up a butt. It looks right but it doesn’t work. I don’t mean to insult you there, but you aren’t understanding how bigCo company competition actually works. Follow the RFPs to Follow the Money.

  84. JTMcPhee says:

    Dare one ask, “to what end” all this “innovation” and standards wars and waves of bidness models, from conglomeration to divestiture. Anybody remember Beatrice Foods? And of course Goldman Sucksthelifeoutofeveryoneelse, LLC?

    “To What Fekking End?” A handheld gadget with even more functions and features and benefits that even the most “competitive” tapeworm does not use already? My little favorite tale is of a little bird, a subspecies of the kinds called “crossbills,” that extincted itself by pursuit of a certain marker of “success.” The species fed by extracting seeds from a certain pine cone, its upper and lower bills crossed over to aid the extraction. Seems the females got turned on by the guy with the biggest, most crossed-over bills, which of course translated to those birds getting the most sex and seed-planting. Up to the point that the next generation had really big bills, that they could not even open wide enough to engage the seeds in the cones, so that once past being fed by their parents’ crop contents, and kicked finally out of the nest, they just up and died off. Took a few generations, but hey, there’s lots more birds in the tree, right?

    Wasn’t it Reagan who said something about “how many trees do we need to have trees to look at?” Can I suggest strongly that you-all read the Snopes article on what Reagan probably actually said, including the little part about how the fight between loggers and treehuggers over redwoods was eventually resolved by a “political” compromise brokered by some set of people in the federal government? Redwood makes dandy decks and furniture and siding, but TO WHAT END? So the wetbacks can have more Yard Structure to work around when they are using that Waste Blower to blow your schmutz onto your neighbor’s lawn or into the public streets and sewers?

    Psst, Hugh, please don’t stick a Post-It ™ with “Sociologist” Magic Markered ™ on it to the back of my shirt — you KNOW what the Gingrich D-Generation will do to that moniker…

  85. JTMcPhee says:

    Or this?

    Just think, an adept, like Worgon for instance, could send a little batbot in the mail, so very anonymously, and when the package opened itself violently, why one such as him could make good on threats to have people’s heads off before they knew what hit them. Think of the fun that YOUR kids could have! Be the first on your block…

  86. Morgan Warstler says:

    Len this is exactly what happens:

    “If you see an opportunity for synergy and shared interests, start a voluntary association and seek to bring the players on board.”

    IEEE and all that. My god, private corporations have been great at creating standards. My point is simply that, MOST WILL FAIL, and that’s a good thing.

    If the government gets involved, they won’t be able to fail.

    And government RFP’s do nothing for picking them – not in any communication system I know (cell, cable, satellite, web, you name name it). If anything, government because of DOD ends up with a bunch of specially built tech they use – that sometimes can pass over to private use – but mostly just get used and used until it is so old school and worthless, they can scream they need some new weird shit.

    Jesus, JTM, you know me long enough, take your tin hat off – the only thing coming in your mail from me might be a book you need to read… to fix you.

  87. John Papola says:


    Of course I realize the way things are now with government being a massive buyer of all manner of things. I don’t like it. It’s certainly not “capitalism” and I find it bizarre that you would say it is. Capitalism isn’t profit-seeking. Capitalism is free enteprise. Government procurement is NOT free enteprise.

    Look at medicare. It’s the biggest player in medicine. As a result, our country is trapped using the 40 year old ICD9 coding system instead of the much newer ICD10. the result is totally avoidable insurance billing and approval errors, needly fraud and abuse. That is precisely the kind of “standardization” that comes from big government with it’s massive scale and outsized market power as a buyer/regulator.

    I don’t want it. I want tiny government that more or less only produces in-house. Want government roads? Have government employees make the roads. Want a military? No contractors. The sick hybrid chimera of public/private/contractor activity is the nexus of corruption, rent seeking and looting.

    I don’t take offense at your non-insult super insults, but next time try not being so crude, ionsulting and condescending when you’re not meaning to insult. There’s a much better way to for you to say you think I’m wrong than saying I’ve got my nose up a whatever. I work for a big company. I understand bureaucracy and procurement and all that. I don’t do it. I’m a creative director. But if we can only have options about those things with which we have deep personal experience, surely that renders the entire political class invalidated. After all, what the he’ll has Barack Obama done to warrant the control he has over so many areas? Where’s his experience in all the facets of life his administration can influence?

    Let’s be civil, shall we? I assert that government standards are too slow, far too rigid and subject to far too much political influence and lobbying over merit. I don’t want them to be large buyer of anything. That they are and will continue to be does not alter my opinion even if it renders it unrealistic. So what of they are? It’s not like anyone is listening to me.

  88. len says:

    And government RFP’s do nothing for picking them – not in any communication system I know

    Haven’t done much of this, have you? Voluntary associations are a dime a dozen these days. It worked for a short while at the beginning of the web, but now every time anyone spits out a clump of code they start a ‘voluntary association’. WHATWG and the W3C might as well be two sewing circles at this point.

    ISO works because a) national representation b) well-codified processes. It can be gamed like any organization can. The W3C worked as long as they remembered they were a specifications body and not a standards body. The IETF works because they issue specifications by the truckload.

    Try to get your head around the difference between specifications created precisely to engender innovation and standards created to pick among established technologies in need of market convergence for economies of scale and firmer interop.

    I am being civil, lads. I’m also saying that most of what you know you know by reading the wires not by participating in the organizations that standardize them. You’ve been had and now you are acting just like the Tea Partiers spouting a line that has only enough truth to rile you but not enough to convince a pro.

  89. Morgan Warstler says:

    Excuse me Len, I’ve been involved in all of it, from web video standards, to SIP codecs, to bandwidth auctions, to wifi, wide-band, zigbee, MBUS, blah blah more crap than I can remember – I gave real examples from thousands of hours of discussion with engineers, of business I’ve owned equity in and experiences I have had dealing with the ins and outs from the wafer to the sdk to the OEM/ODM, to retail brand. Right now, I’m spending time learning about new proposed standards in high capacity VOD switches and next-gen EBIF.

    And personally I have no idea what the hell you are talking about except that maybe you’re depressed from the way 3D has gone – which I can understand – remember VRML? The lack of an FPU in most silicon drove me crazy for years.

    In the end, I’ll stick to my guns, GOVERNMENT has no reason to to be involved in defining tech specs.

    Jesus, we’ll end up with something ridiculous like Jon saying we need 50Mbps UP, like we need 50Mbps DOWN. We don’t. And the ONLY danger of it happening, is letting government agencies get involved.

  90. Hello, after reading this amazing article i am as well delighted
    to share my know-how here with colleagues.

Leave a Reply