Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Lights

So many people, when the subject of christmas lights come up, they acknowledge they are nice, but go on to add "but they are a waste of energy".

As someone who feels strongly that American's use of energy and resources is morally unacceptable, I would like to be very clear about this:
Christmas lights are NOT a waste of energy.

That 80% of car trips have only the driver or a driver and one passenger, yet seat from 5-7 people is a waste of energy. That we live, on average, 20 miles from our jobs is a waste of energy. Uninsulated attics and unweather stripped doors and windows in houses and power steering and air conditioning in cars, all electric kitchens, and cars that weigh 50% more than they did 20 years ago and have 200% more power are all enormous wastes of energy.
Buying enormous amounts of crap that no one really needs and that get shoved into a closet or thrown out after a few weeks wastes energy in manufacture and transport.

Not one of those things provides any significant increase in quality of life. None of them make people happy to be alive. At most they provide a tiny increase in convince. At worst they do nothing but cost money. None of them create joy.

In a land where profit is considered the only motivating factor for nearly everything in life, filled with people who don't know their neighbors, where 50% of people can't be bothered to take the effort to use their turn signals, for a few weeks a year people do something with no financial benefit, no increase in comfort or convenience, no direct personal benefit.
You don't even see them from inside the house. Everyone else passing by sees them.
They turn an ordinary neighborhood into a magical place.
They create joy.
Which makes them one of the few valid uses of energy in this country.
Because ultimately, making it enjoyable is really the only point there is to life.

So go ahead and enjoy those giant flashy displays and don't for a second feel guilty about it.
Put up your own even.

You can get a strip of LED lights for less than $10 that use less than 5 watts of power, (far less than a single florescent light bulb).
I even found a set for under $5 that runs for days on just (rechargeable) AA batteries.

But LED or no, the lights are worthwhile and good.

A world without christmas lights is not a world worth saving.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Wine Barrel (population and parenthood)

The Earth has been around about 5 billion years, life about 4 billion.
Half a billion years for animals, 200 billion for mammals.
200,000 years of humans.
For the first 192,000 years or so, the human population was under 10 million people world wide.
Increasing 10 fold took 6000 more years.
We rocketed from 100 million to a billion in just over 2000 years.
The next billion only took 120 years.
And then 30.
And since the 1950s, we have added a billion people every 13 years or so.

We are at around 6.75 billion people now.

Its estimated that it will hit 9 billion in about another 30 years.
That new 2 and a quarter billion people will be our children.

We like to point to the 3rd world, to Asia and Africa, but in the measure that matters, the US is by far the most overpopulated country in the world, as well as one of the fastest growing.

Population is only an issue because of the finite resources the Earth can provide. If we had unlimited resources there wouldn't be any reason not to keep increasing indefinitely.

If everyone used the same amount of water, land, and energy, and caused the same amount of pollution as the average person in the third world, we would all be ok for a long time to come. Due to lack of ability, what we call poverty, people in the third world tend to use less than their share of world resources.
The average person in the first world uses 5 times more than the overall world average.
The average American uses 20 times more. Each of us uses about 20 times more water, 20 times more fuel and electricity, 20 times as much land to produce our food, produces 20 times more waste and pollution.
Which means that in the big picture, each of us counts for 20 people.

So our 305 million population may as well be 6.1 billion, far more than China's 1.3 billion. They would have to increase some combination of actual population and consumption per person by far before we could legitimately point the finger at them.

It also means that each child we have counts as 20 people, turning our fertility rate of 2.1 (already above the replacement rate of 2) into the equivalent of 42 per woman, 6 times higher than the highest rate of any third world country - and almost 17 times higher than the world average.

In the US alone there are 200,000 children waiting to be adopted.

It is one of the most basic and universal desires is to reproduce. How could it be any other way? Because if that drive weren't passed along genetic lines, our ancestors wouldn't have bothered, and we wouldn't be here to think about it.

There has been a widespread assumption that because it is natural and universal that therefor it should be considered a human right.

Our modern world does not resemble the savanna we evolved on. We also have biological instincts to eat whenever food is available in case it isn't tomorrow - and the result is rampant obesity - and a good number of us making the conscious choice to go against instinct and manipulate ourselves in ways that take into consideration the reality of our world. Violence is natural and universal, but we agree as a society that the costs are not acceptable and make the conscious decision to repress it, both as individuals and as communities.
Because, we can do that, we can think, and make choices.

To make wine or beer, you start with grape juice or grains and add microorganisms.
For them it is an incredible feast! Sugar and carbs as far as the eye can see, no predators, no competition, perfect weather. So of course they have a really good time, girl fungus meets boy fungus, there's plenty to feed the babies and things just couldn't be better. And then after a while they literally die from drowning in their own waste products as the population gets completely out of control.
(And then we drink that waste product, but that's another topic entirely)

Human beings, in theory, are a lot more intelligent than yeast. They don't even have brains. As individuals we can choose not to have children. But as a whole, an outside observer would not see much difference between the species. As a whole, we continue to breed at a rate related only to the resources available today, with little or no regard to how sustainable those resources are.

A great many people - including liberals and environmentalists and those who are childless by choice - become indignant when this topic is brought up. Reproduction is considered by many to be a fundamental (God-given?) right, and suggesting otherwise brings to mind eugenics programs, or the murder of female infants when China first instituted its one-family/one-child program when sons were the only form of social security the society had. Those are not inevitable outcomes.

As a specie all societies choose to discourage some of our natural instincts in such a way that slight personal restrictions result in a far happier society over all. It may be perfectly natural for me to want to punch some annoying person right in the face, but the government isn't going to give me a tax break for doing it.
Just the same, it is only natural that I want to have my own kids, related to me by DNA, but if it is going to end up making life that much more difficult for all of the people who are already here, perhaps a tax penalty is more appropriate than a credit.

Average cost for fertility treatment is $12,000, and 12% of US couples seek it. In about 1/2 the states this is covered by insurance.
Given the 200,000 existing children who need homes, I find this immoral. Think what medical services could be provided to people who are already here with that $4 billion.

Governments could encourage this simply by removing tax breaks for kids.
I don't actually think that is going to happen.

But you and I can still choose on our own to act, even if everyone else isn't likely to fall in line. Its been calculated time and again that simply having a baby has greater impact than all the imported GMO processed food and single-person commutes in SUVs could ever hope to have. From an ecological standpoint, it would be better to drive a hummer and eat at Mickey Ds but adopt your child then to live the hippy lifestyle in a solar powered yurt with a grey-water garden and create 3 brand new babies of your own.

And now we get to the real crux of the matter.
Being aware of this, just how much personal sacrifice are we willing to make? I want the experience of creating a child. I also want to avoid being an amoral hypocrite. (A moral hypercrite? Yes. I aspire to be a hypercrite someday.)
Like most people, I have developed a defensive rationalization to allow me to not feel guilty about doing what I wanted to all along, even though I really know better.

The way I see it, I personally can't be expected to be held responsible for or make up for the excessive consumption of everyone else around me. I couldn't if I wanted to. I personally have a sustainable ecological footprint (i.e. if everyone on the planet used the same level of resources as me, we'd all be set indefinitely). If me and my hypothetical future partner have 2 kids, once we die, overall, the population hasn't gone up. If we have just one, its gone down by one. That seems like a decent compromise to me. I'd like to have one, and adopt one. (As a bonus, I can choose to have one of each gender, and more precisely choose the age spread).

Many people object to ideas around population control as an emotional response to implied guilt about already having children, and feeling defensive about kids that are already here. A potential person has nothing in common with a real human being who is actually here. Acknowledging that resources have a finite rate of renewal is not a personal attack on you. No one is saying your child isn't wonderful or that you made any "wrong" choices. All I am saying is, however many blessings you have, stop now.

Similarly some people in these discussions suggest that if any one who advocates population control should kill themselves if they really mean it. This equates the mere idea of a person, a hypothetical, potential person, with an actual specific person who is here right now, thinking and breathing and feeling. We aren't talking about abortion here. Not having a kid is not killing by any definition. Any discussion about who a person who does not exist might possibly become is equally ridiculous. That kid who could someday be is no more likely to become the next president than it is to be a serial killer who enjoys torturing victims.

Bottom line is, having less children today will be much less painful than wars of dwindling resources some number of decades in the future.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Spoiled: The Economic Downturn, Luxury as Necessity, and "Struggling" in the Modern Economy.

My original comment was not meant to imply I don't believe that there are tangible effects on people (most notably unemployment, which is certainly up compared to a few years ago).
All I said was that media and politicians largely made it up. I think it is a self-fulfilling prophesy to an extent, where in people hear constant messages that times are tight, therefor they cut back on consumption, therefor retail markets fall, therefor manufacturers cut back, and employers start laying people off. Which fuels the beginning of the cycle even more. This is why business analysts track "consumer confidence". In fact, to a large extent it is what the stock market is all about. Its less a question of how well a company is doing and more one of how popular are they. If people think its doing well, they buy, which itself drives the stock price up. It works both ways, so if everyone is convinced the market is doing bad, they sell so they don't lose too much by waiting, and then companies don't have the capital to invest.


I think it is totally unreasonable to adjust what it means to be "poor" based on those around you.
If we did that, billionaires could claim to be poor if those around them are multi billionaires. In fact, everyone except for the single richest person in the world would be "poor".
Clearly there should be some objective standard of poverty.
I think the only reasonable one is the point at which you have a reasonable fear of not being able to provide the basic necessities for oneself and family. Food, shelter, clean water. If you can afford so little food that it affects your health, you can claim to be poor.

It doesn't have to be a "big" car. If you own a car, you aren't poor. Period. Never mind that most people in the world couldn't even afford the up-front purchase price of a car. Much higher than that in the long run is costs for fuel, insurance, parking and tolls, maintenance, tickets...
For hundreds of thousands of years of human existence even the wealthiest people in the world could not buy cars.
Only in the US do people honestly believe that they are a "necessity".
All over the country people claim to be struggling who are paying for cable TV. They eat out and buy $2 cups of coffee. They have cell phones and internet connections. These are things most people and the world can't afford. They are not basic necessities.

Supposedly a person in the bay area needs 3 times the federal poverty level in order to live "comfortably"

They take it for granted that everyone needs a car.
And since when does every 6 year old need her own room?!
In the case of the 2nd article, I have no contempt for the person they profile. She (rightly) considers herself middle class.
(Hopefully, after having been interviewed she doesn't change her own standards).
Now, going into collection, obviously a problem. Thing is, that is another of those uniquely American things: living beyond your means.
The whole recession started because of people deliberately buying beyond their means with interest only loans. The whole idea being, buy something you can't afford and assume that the market will go up enough to cover it. Then, surprise! The people who were living beyond their means defaulted on their loans.
Consider that the size of an average new home has increased 250% over the past half century.

Then banks didn't want to lend. "Credit crunch". Well, again - the solution to a credit crunch? Don't live beyond your means.

Thing is, poor people don't get lines of credit extended to them in the first place. Because they are poor. The people who go to Labor Ready for temp work, the people who live here in the trailer park, they don't get loans for houses or new cars. They don't have credit cards. Most of them don't even have bank accounts. They pay rent with money orders and bring paychecks to check cashing places.

This is poverty:
And it was around long before the foreclosures on sub-prime loans started piling up.

In my line of work, between my low rates, and my green focus and good reputation, I end up having a huge range in terms of the incomes of my customers (hence the sliding scale idea).
I get students and people on SSI who genuinely can't afford more than me. I get others who live in 6 bedroom 3 story houses in the hills. I have been nonchalantly handed $100 tips on more than one occasion.

I also work with day laborer sometimes. These are people who will work for pretty much whatever you offer to pay them, work incredibly hard, and never complain. I ask them about work, about home, they invariably tell me: they are getting very little work here. Very little. But it is still better than the situation back home. That's why they are here. They work for less than minimum wage since they lack language skills and legal papers.
A customer yesterday mentioned her mother used to work for Nike in Vietnam. The company ships the product clear around the world because the people will work for a fraction of the US minimum wage. But she said it was a very decent salary compared to other options available to the people there.

The worldwide average income for an adult is roughly $7000. (note, this is over a decade out of date - the inequality has grown since)
That's including the 1st world; including the US.
This is in "purchasing power parity" - accounting for not only exchange rates, but what you can actually buy with a given amount locally.

Over 80% of the worlds population has an annual income below that rate.
The world median income is $1700.

So, yeah, I do think that is pretty much just the homeless who have a legitimate claim to poverty in this country.

There are plenty claims that the economic downturn hits the poor hardest: but then, they are putting people who own $290,000 4-bedroom townhouses in the category of "working class"

The truly poor don't have far to fall. A recession can not possibly affect them as much as someone who has tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of annual income to potentially lose.


The last thing I wanted to mention is about how profit distribution ties in to unemployment.
In this country it has always been accepted as a given by almost everyone that 100% of the increase per worker in productivity due to advances in technology goes to the owners of the company, and not to the employees.
For example, say someone invents a machine that allows a worker to produce 2 times more widgets per hour.
What happens is (since the market for widgets hasn't grown, so they don't need to produce twice as many) the company lays off half it's work force, produces the same amount of widgets, sells them at the same price, and increases its profit substantially (paying half the wages, but making the exact same revenue).

There is no inherent reason that they couldn't instead reduce all of the workers hours 50%, while increasing wages 100%. Neither the employees nor the company loses any money. They both make exactly the same as they did before. The only change is the workers have half the work hours, and can use the rest of that time however they choose.
In the 2nd option no unemployment is caused.

In actuality productivity per worker has increased roughly 20 fold over the past century.
Over the same time (adjusted for inflation) wages have only increased 7 fold. The entire rest of that increase has gone to profit - ultimately to the upper class, who own the means of production.

Profit is after business expenses and costs and taxes, after wages, even after salaries to the CEO and upper management, often in the millions (even among companies that are losing money - even ones that got federal bail out money paid million+ salaries.)
Profit is what is left over after that. It goes to people who do literally no work for it at all.
There are industries which make as much as 20% profit margins.

So when companies claim they "have to" lay off workers because they are making less revenue, I say they are full of crap. If they are making ANY profit, anything over breaking even, they have no justification for laying people off. If they are paying upper management 6 digit incomes, there is no justification for laying off their lowest wage earners.
In many European countries (and Canada) that is actually illegal. The government can (and will) sue a company for laying off workers unnecessarily. In these places it is understood that the whole purpose of the economy is to serve the needs of the people, not to make people with investment capital even richer.

We could reduce unemployment to the minimum possible by having overtime kick in at, say, 35 hours a week. Then to maintain current levels of production, companies need to hire 15% more people just to get back to the level they were at before.

There is nothing inherently good about creating wealth (or widgets for that matter) just for its own sake.
Going from multi-millionaire to billionaire will cause no overall long-term increase in happiness.

But instead of increasing the income of the destitute and struggling up to the level of secure in basic necessities, as a society we have been allowing - even encouraging - all of the increase in wealth to go to the top levels of society. The ranks of middle class conservatives and libertarians push for this hardest of all:


It's human nature to want more than whatever one has, and to want more than everyone around you.
And everyone wants to believe they earned what they have, no matter how strong the evidence against it, because its easier on the conscious than admitting being greedy and amoral.
Its what explains the "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" myth.
You can see it in everyone who rallies against illegal immigrants. They will insist it has to do with following laws for the sake of laws, but suggest making all immigration legal, and you find out its really about allowing them government benefits and taking American's jobs. The only way to justify it would be to claim that some people "earned" being born in a first world country. (People always have the "us vs them" xenophobic mentality that makes benefiting at the expense of others ok as long as they are "others")
I think that, just like with laws to discourage violence, or the use of birth control, discouraging some of our basic instincts is better for everybody; the desire to always have more, on a planet with finite resources, is what makes people who live extravagant lives in this country think they are poor. I think that's not ok.

The economic downturn means that people who lived excessively unsustainable lives now live moderately less unsustainable lives. It's actually not enough, but its a start.
I think that's a good thing.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Good News

A few days ago, coming home from work after dark, a neighbor came over to ask for a jump.
I took the alternator out of my truck, but the charger I use in its place has a quick charge / jump start option, so I brought that over.
While we waited for it another neighbor, someone new I had waved to but never met, came over to see if we needed any help.
Somehow we got onto the topics of being "green" and the recession.

The neighbor with the dead battery has been involved with a local semi-official flea market. The people running it are conscious of the fact that, along with being a way to make money, selling things second hand is also environmentally responsible. They are actively looking for ways to be more so, for example sourcing "plastic" bags made of plant materials. She had never heard of plastic island, but understood how it happened and the significance as soon as I described it.
The new neighbor talked about the house of cards credit schemes that led to our economic situation, about concentration of wealth, government and banks and the stock markets roles.
While I had plenty of my own to add, I found myself agreeing with nearly everything both of them said.

This in contrast to interactions with neighbors over the past couple years: the neighbor in the 10ft long trailer who blamed all the countries problems on "the liberals", the neighbor who couldn't see any possible reason to run bio-diesel instead of petrol when it costs more - even when I pointed out that even if he doesn't live long enough to see environmental harm affect his life his kids might, not to mention the narrowly avoided fist fight and the 3 year old who buried his dads meth needle.

Like I have written, its funny that global warming is the thing that finally got peoples attention - even though there isn't hard scientific evidence that human activity will change it in a significantly more dramatic way than the natural climate cycles already do - when we have known for many decades that our use of resources is totally unsustainable.
But whatever. Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is better than not doing the right thing at all.

Now combined with economic changes, ideas I have been thinking about all my life are becoming more and more popular. What will life be like after the credit based economy has its debts called in, and we no longer have the capacity to exploit natural resources at an unsustainable level, (as is absolutely vital for the American way of life as we know it)?
Of course there were always others who imagined it coming someday, with varying levels of serious - movies like Six-String Samurai on the one end, cults and militias on the other.
But now I am finding it everywhere.
The Gubbins Experiment, a blog I read about a guy who has given up not only driving, but also accepting rides in any motor vehicle for a year, wrote his most pessimistic post ever. My boss, a small business owner with a contract with BART to run the BikeStation seemed to imply that the end of civilization as we know will happen within the next 20 years, and that it will hit dramatic and fast when it does. I met my most recent friend in part via (literal) dreams of a post-apocalyptic future.
And now, even here in the trailer park, people are thinking in global terms about sustainability and economics.

Contrast it also to discussions I have had recently with some single issue activists, who I found by and large narrowly focused on not just one issue, but one side of one issue, unable or unwilling to consider other points of view, ignoring historical and current contexts that don't support a pre-determined conclusion, and offering more criticism than real solutions.

Maybe I had it wrong all along.

Maybe it is the general public, the random ordinary everyday people in whom our potential salvation rests.
That is the most encouraging possibility I have come across in many years.

Monday, September 14, 2009

strengths and weaknesses

Like anyone else, there are some things that I do pretty well. For example, I’m a quick learner; I seldom do more to study than quickly review my notes and brush up on one or two of the more difficult concepts covered in class. I also have never had trouble with my weight; Though peers have complained about keeping their weight down or up, and calculated the calories of their foods, the only time I usually notice a problem with my weight is when it’s too low (and there have even been people who have told me that, for a girl, there is no such thing). Things like this, that I do well in, have often earned me praise. And although earning high grades and conforming to society’s standards of body composition pleases me, I don’t actually get a deep sense of satisfaction from earning “easy As” or being skinny. When I’m complimented on these things, I am always uncomfortable; especially about my weight. I know that these things are strengths of mine only because they are exceptional, and through no hard work on my part. Other strengths I possess, such as a loving nature, loyalty, and passion, have much more to do with my own choices and personality. But it is still the things I don’t have to work hard at that get me the most attention from those who don’t know me well.
It’s harder to think of things that I don’t do well. Many things I struggle with, such as paying my bills on time or keeping my apartment clean, I can disguise through compensatory behaviour. Social problems, such as over-emotional reactions and antagonistic speech, are so off-putting that I’ve rarely been approached directly about them. As a result, I take my shortcomings much more to heart than I do my strengths, even those that are self-created like lovingness and loyalty. While I attribute even these things more to my situations and genetics than myself, I tend to attribute my weaknesses to personal faults. Rather than viewing them as challenges, I become anxious when they are revealed and defensive when they are discussed.
Although I know that, in principle, I am the same as anyone else in that I have both strengths and weaknesses, I have a very dichotomic view of them; I rank many of my traits as “strength” or “weakness,” with a corresponding value of “good” or “bad.” And because I attribute many strengths extrinsically and weaknesses intrinsically, I find it hard both to enjoy the first and to conquer the other. Also, the fact that it is so much easier to disguise my weaknesses gives others the false impression that it is possible to be smart, skinny, loving, etc, without having a dark side of faults and struggles.
I don’t think it’s only me that sees things this way. I think this false dichotomy of strengths and weaknesses is the way our society is ordered, and the way we are taught to look at things. While it is true I am able to somewhat hide my struggles, they are easy to be seen by a discerning eye. But the fact is, the eye of society does not want to look directly at weaknesses. Although it is easy to get compliments about positive qualities, people often avoid the conflict that results from talking honestly about negative ones. As a consequence, our society has an unbalanced focus on what it means to be a whole human being.
This focus, which sees strengths clearly and yet avoids weaknesses, sets up an environment that is especially difficult for those who find that strengths - according to society’s standards - don’t come easily to them. I am a victim of this attitude as I squirm under compliments about my looks, but I am also a perpetrator of it as I turn it in upon myself and thus unavoidably tint my view of others. It is no wonder that, in such an environment, those with disabilities have struggled so long to overcome prejudice. When we falsely divide ourselves up by “strength” and “weakness,” we set ourselves up to be unable to see the strengths in our weaknesses, and vice versa. We also set up not only intolerance within ourselves for our own struggles, but with other people as well. We can really only see ourselves honestly, and grow together, when we embrace our qualities - both the ones that make our lives easier and those that make them harder.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Racism is Perpetuated by Anti-Racism", or "Refusing to Acknowledge the Effects of Race Inhibits Interpersonal Relationships", or "Rainbows Are Pretty"

Every single person belongs to a certain race. This fact is unavoidable, as racial differences are clearly visible. However, race is often an issue which is avoided in polite conversation since it is considered a controversial topic. Emotions run high when overtly discussing racism because people identify so strongly with their race; after all, what is closer to you that your own skin? Because it is so visible, race is also one of the most immediate ways we judge each other. First impressions are not only made by our handshake, the amount of wrinkles in our shirt, and the sincerity of our smile. No matter how much we would like people to judge us based on such personal details, the unfortunate truth is that stereotypes are formed about race just as readily as they are for such things as gender, disability, and age. But, like other ways we tend to group people, looks can be deceiving: Although being part of a particular ethnicity means you are more likely to be informed by the accompanying culture, this is not necessarily true. Race is merely an externalized likelihood that someone interacts with the world in a particular way, but it does not define who we are as individuals.

I live near San Francisco, a mecca of liberal politics and socially progressive policies, but even here we are not immune to the effects of racism. This spring, I worked in a program where I was one of only two white people in a room filled with 27 students and staff. I never experienced obvious racism in my students, but I did experience it with my fellow co-workers. One day as we had a music activity, I modeled different kinds of dancing for the students, focusing on maintaining rhythm and controlling body movements. A fellow coworker (who I didn’t get along with) danced by me, saying “You dance like a white girl!” The comment was surely meant innocuously, but I didn’t experience it that way. I experienced it as a judgement and an accusation, and it made me feel even more estranged from my coworker. While it wasn’t constructive of me to ignore the effects of race and culture on my students’ dancing and my own, my coworker’s comment was surely destructive. I never interacted with her in a meaningful way again.

Racism is not simply demeaning another race. It is any judgement - positive or negative - formed about someone purely because they look a certain way. By judging a person based on their heredity - something they have no personal control over - racism alienates people and inhibits relationships. Introducing the divisiveness of racism into interpersonal relations makes a personal connection nearly impossible, since it makes it clear that there is nothing the person you are interacting with can do to change your mind; You have judged them based on the color of their skin and the shape of their bones - things they did nothing to receive, and over which they have no control. Examples of the effects of racism abound: they can be found in personal anecdotes, cross-cultural studies, economic opportunity, and even art.

One piece of art I experienced recently was Adrian Tomine’s graphic novel, “Shortcomings.” In this book, Tomine deals with the effects of racism on relationships by illustrating the characters’ ideals and (more hypocritical) behaviours concerning race. Two main characters, Ben and Miko, have been in a long-term relationship but they are clearly becoming increasingly distant from each other. Part of the reason for their distance is Ben’s lack of awareness about racial issues and their effects on the experiences of the people around him.

Although some cases of racism are obvious, some are not so clear. For example, “Shortcomings” begins as Ben and Miko watch a movie about a girl who has assimilated into the American culture, and as a result feels distant from her immigrant grandfather. As they leave the theater, Miko notes that the movie was the best of a series of submissions for an Asian film festival, and Ben gripes that it was actually a poorly done movie. He rants that it only received accolades because it had an Asian director, and that it didn’t deserve any recognition since, on the whole, it was not a good movie. Miko, who helped organize the festival, is clearly upset at his criticism. As Ben continues to complain about the quality of the movie, Miko accuses him of being racist, saying, “it’s almost like you’re ashamed to be Asian." While Miko is proud to be part of increasing the legitimacy and opportunity for people of her own race in the film industry, Ben refuses to view the movie within the context of race. This kind of discrimination is insidious, but not entirely misplaced. I agree with Ben: art is art, and good art should not be defined by culture or race. However, denying the effects of race is not the complete truth either. The fact that the best film in an Asian film festival was not of a high-enough quality to be shown in a theater may not indicate that Asians are bad directors, but rather that their opportunities in the field are inhibited by discrimination. However, this idea was not addressed in the book. Just like I never had a conversation with my coworker about how her comment about my dancing made me feel, Miko avoided pursuing the issue. Rather than initiating a discussion about race and its influence on opportunity, Ben and Miko simply stopped talking.

This failure to pursue the mine-field of racism is not peculiar to Tomine’s book. Even in situations where you would think an open discussion would be encouraged, it does not always happen. This summer, I took an upper-division ethnic studies course. One day I brought up an issue I was confused about; I repeated something I had heard about an ethnic group, and asked why it was true. My professor became upset, and said that it was not true at all, and that the stereotype I had repeated was the result of intolerance, or judging one culture in the context of another. But she did not elucidate beyond that. I became excited, and since it was a college class I expected that the discussion would continue beyond “right” and “wrong.” However, like Miko, my instructor refused to continue the discussion. Rather than pursue the nature of the discrepancy, thereby possibly ameliorating a racist belief I myself held, she perpetuated a segregation of ideas. Both my professor and Miko were more aware than Ben and I to racial judgements and barriers, but neither one of them helped to further any sense of understanding. In this way, they both played a complacent part in continuing the racism that they seem to be trying to combat.

While most people may be able to agree that racism should be ameliorated, it is difficult to completely eradicate because it is actually part of human nature. Everyone is more comfortable with their in-group than they are with anyone else. For most people, this in-group is made up mostly of people who look like them, and act like them, and think like them. This type of behavior is not racist or intolerant or mean; it is simply the way people negotiate interpersonal relationships. Ben has lived most of his life with Asians. His girlfriend is Asian, his best friend is Asian. Even his arch-enemy in college was Asian. Ben’s lack of racial awareness is not only a result of his self-absorption (although that certainly encourages it), but also the fact that he doesn’t have a very diverse in-group. Ben’s intolerance is a product of his environment as much as it is a product of his insensitivity.

Like Ben, we are all a product of our environment. If we continue to segregate each other not only by race but also by “right” and “wrong,” we cannot hope to overcome the misunderstandings and incomplete truths that water the seeds of racism. Overcoming racism will not be achieved by merely stating opinions or truth-telling. Because it is an attitude that is intertwined with very human instincts, open dialogue and validation of everyone’s experiences is most effective in directly addressing racism. Avoiding the topic by encouraging “color-blindness” is not enough. Advocating for minority rights to the exclusion of acknowledging the experiences of the majority is not enough. Attributing harmful stereotypes to individuals without awareness of cultural biases is not enough. What is enough is to keep talking; to continue the conversation as we explore ourselves and our experiences together. Ben and Miko lost their relationship because they couldn’t communicate with each other. May our own society avoid the same fate.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Slow down. My philosophy for life also applies to the road.

I have been requested to post something positive.
In light of that request, I am putting a positive spin on what I was going to write anyway.

While I am generally good at pointing out problems and at complaining, I don't generally offer much by way of solutions.
This time I have a very concrete solution, which is within easy reach of ordinary Americans, with no risk, no cost, and a negligible amount of inconvenience.
It is something you, the reader, can do.

But first, a short history lesson:
In October of 1973 a group of nations got sick of the US "foreign policy" of military intervention, and, knowing we had developed a lifestyle totally dependent on oil, they agreed not to sell us any.
This caused massive and immediate affects throughout the US economy. Buying fuel, at any price, meant waiting in long lines - on those days you were even allowed to buy gas at all (hmm, so maybe Soviet era lines for goods were not caused by the distribution system of communism, but by a plain lack of resources...)

The government took steps to encourage conservation, which (unlike sourcing new oil) could be done immediately, such as banning Christmas lights.

Another major step they took was to enact a national speed limit of 55mph.

The reason for this is that at higher speeds air resistance increases exponentially* relative to speed. Going twice as fast requires 4 times the energy. This is as true of modern vehicles as it was in 1973. All vehicles, small or large, gas or alternative fuel, use more energy at speeds above 60mph. In fact, going from 55 to 70mph typically uses between 20% and 25% more fuel to go the same distance.**

Next, a physics lesson:
Similar to the relationship between wind resistance and speed, momentum varies with the square of speed.
This means that if you are going twice as fast, it will take 4 times as much force to stop - and therefor 4 times the braking distance in an emergency.
It also means that if you do end up in a crash, at twice the speed you will have 4 times the impact. At 4 times the impact, crumple zones and airbags can't stop your organs from hitting your ribs hard enough to explode.

I realize (from the almost universal comment I get when I mention I have a motorcycle) that people actually believe they are safe when they are driving a car.
The number one cause of death of youth in the US in car crashes. It causes more deaths among young people than murder, suicide, cancer, and heart disease combined. It is the number one cause of death up until age 40, at which point it is still in the top 3.
We don't hear about it much in the news precisely because it is so common. There are roughly 16,500 accidents significant enough to be reported in the U.S. EVERY DAY. Of these, roughly 1/3 result in permanent injuries. Every 12 minutes, an American dies in a car crash. Every time you get into a car, you may die.

The number one factor in causing all of these deaths and injuries? It isn't alcohol. It isn't teen drivers or cell phones. Its speeding. Speeding is the single largest factor in injury and fatality collisions. Contrary to popular belief, driving slower is safer even when other cars around you are speeding.****

Note a couple studies on the issue:
"risk of involvement in a casualty crash, relative to the risk for a car traveling at 60 km/h, increased at an exponential rate for free traveling speeds above 60 km/h [37mph]"**

“First, the probability of a crash is approximately proportional to the square of the travel speed. Second, in a crash, injury risk is approximately proportional to the impact forces on a person, which in turn are proportional to the square of the impact speed. These two effects can be summarized in a general rule of thumb: When travel speed increases by 1%, the injury crash rate increases by about 2%, the serious injury crash rate increases by about 3%, and the fatal crash rate increases by about 4% “**

There is, of course, an obvious drawback to driving slower: it takes more time to get somewhere. If you do the math, you discover that slowing down from 75mph to 65mph means it will take you an additional 7 seconds to go a mile. (Slowing down to 55 will cost another 10 seconds)

What all this means is, over a 10 mile commute, you will waste 25% more gas (which also means you spend 25% more money), and increase your risk of death by 160%, all to save 2 minutes.

I am not asking you to give up your car and rely solely on bicycles and public transportation.
I am not asking you to buy an experimental electric or alternative fuel car, an expensive new hybrid, or even a smaller more efficient car.
I am not suggesting you go to the lengths I do and remove your power steering pump and alternator, or drive 45mph on the freeway.

All I am asking is that you slow down.

If you value your own money.
If you value the environment.
If you value national security and energy independence.
If you value the lives of those around you.
If you value your own life.

You don't even have to care about all of those things. Any one of them of them is reason enough.

Leave the house 2 minutes sooner, and slow down.

This will not, all by itself, save the world. But it will make a difference.

Thank you.

"No one can cut you off if you choose to slow down and let them in"

*Disclaimer for math and physics people: I know, technically the curve is parabolic, not exponential, but if I used that term no one would know what I was talking about

**You don't have to take my word for it:

***Mass mean the weight of the car. Velocity means speed

****The chance of a fender bender may be higher if you go slower than traffic around you, but the chance of a crash which causes injury or death is lower.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hate, in a rainbow of colors

A number of things I have read recently have had the same saddening undertones to me lately.

Whether its queer folk expressing prejudice against heterosexuals, feminists who hate men, or people of color claiming that white activists who have no money coming into their neighborhood is a gentrification issue.

I hear about "gentrification" here in Oakland too.
Oakland has rent control, which means no tenant can be forced out or have their rent raised dramatically just because local property valuations have gone up.
Raising the average income in an area serves to increase the tax base, lower crime, and is not bad for a neighborhood. If, thanks to rent control, no one is being displaced this means that, like in the clash between anarchists in Pittsburgh, what people are really fighting for is something activists spent years trying to dismantle: segregation.

Bigotry which comes from an oppressed group is still just as much bigotry as it is when it comes from wealthy straight white men.
In all cases it is counter-productive.
Activists, please - stop alienating your allies just because they look different than you.

That is exactly what they want us to do.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Race (whites are still winning)

Recently a friend of mine suggested the only topics I haven't addressed are racism and sexism.
As it happens, I did write on sexism not long ago ("...feminism is nothing more than the "radical" notion that women are people. Not that women are men. Not that women are capable of being men...Claiming that women are capable of doing anything men are is also the suggestion that men should be the standard by which people are measured.")
I had my own ideas of what to write about next, but in light of another recent conversation, it looks like he was right. Its time.

I have a few (white) friends who have complained to me on different occasions about how unfair it is that ...insert some random instance of perceived "reverse" racism here...
I am, perhaps, the friend that people can point to and say "I am not racist, some of my best friends are black", and being that friend apparently my word carries extra weight if I support them in their argument that 'such and such' is unfair.
(Never mind for now what it implies about me that such a disproportionate number of my friends are white...)

Well, first of all, you are racist. You, reading this right now. Just admit it. I'm not saying you don a white hood on the weekends, but in the very first fraction of a moment you see someone new, you make some assumptions about them based on what they look like, and skin color plays a factor in that. You may not ever act on it in any way. You might be totally willing to look past that initial assumption and give each person a fair chance to show who they really are. But it is part of how the human mind works to seek patterns, and living in our society it is impossible to not be at all racist. I know I am.
Some researchers at Harvard built a test to try to get at subconscious initial reactions, and put it online where you can try it.
If you are one of the exceptions, and score neutral, it really doesn't change anything overall. The issue is bigger than you; and the fact is that the majority of people make the same assumptions we expect. And so long as its true in society as a whole, every white individual in the country directly benefits from it.

A most simple example of what some could see as unfair is Affirmative Action.
When I was younger I saw it as just that. If we want to get past racism, we shouldn't be using race as a criteria, for anyone.
Thing is, pretending that there is equality doesn't make it true.
To call affirmative action (or whatever else) reverse racism is to ignore both history and the reality of today. Being color blind does not, can not, will never, solve existing problems, because we aren't starting from neutral.

First of all (and I wrote about this years ago, but before I had any significant readership...) reparations were never paid. This country has virtually unrestricted inheritance.
(I thought about trying to summarize, but I actually wrote pretty much exactly what I wanted to say here back then. So take a moment to read that one)

Prejudice against blacks by whites has affected a dozen generations of people, and continues to have an enormous effect on millions of people right now, today. If we start from right now, and eliminate all racism, it would STILL have an enormous effect on us, because the effects are inherited.

If someone in your ancestry immigrated more recently the same issue of a non-level playing field applies, because the US generally does not admit immigrants who can't show some level of existing financial security. One way or another, they aren't starting from zero.

So suppose your own parents were drunks or gamblers and you got nothing from your family but food and shelter, left home at 15, had to fund your own education.
You then might get the mistaken idea that you didn't have any advantages.

But the truth is, although you would never notice it, you have had plenty.

You can't tell by just watching individual situations. Because it is more subtle than that.
But you can tell by looking at the overall trends.

You can see society wide racism in the fact that a black person is 5-20% (depending on the offense) more likely to be sentenced to prison time as a white person for the same crime.
(Many studies attempt to account for this by factoring in prior sentences, but this is a circular argument. If you are more likely to be convicted the first time, obviously you are more likely to be convicted the 2nd time too)
Once convicted, Blacks face 10-15% longer prison time.
For drug offenses:

"African Americans make up approximately 12 percent of the population and are 13 percent of the drug users, yet they constitute 38 percent of all drug arrests and 59 percent of those convicted of drug offenses...Nationwide African American males sentenced in state courts on drug felonies receive prison sentences 52 percent of the time, while white males are sentenced to prison 34 percent of the time...When sentenced for drug offenses in state courts, whites serve an average of 27 months and blacks an average of 46 months" - Justice on Trial: Racial Disparities in the American Criminal Justice System, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and Leadership Conference Education Fund, 2000

You can tell from college admission rates - with or without affirmative action

You can tell from the Black unemployment rate: consistently about twice the average for whites.
Or from the percentage of Black CEOs or congress people (1% of the Fortune 500 - the highest # ever; 40 out of 435 in congress and 1 out of 100 senators - these numbers in comparison to almost 14% of the general population.)

There are two ways to explain that difference. Either Black people as a whole actually are less capable and hard-working, or else the affects of society-wide racism are still as relevant today as they ever were.

If we can point to these examples and show statistically that, even accounting for individual intelligence and work ethic, Black people are overall at a disadvantage, another equally valid way to say the same thing is, all other things being equal, White people have an advantage.
Every college application. Every job interview. Every time you walk into a store. In that very first moment that someone takes a look at you, somewhere in the back of their mind is a prejudice in your favor. You will never notice it. You will have no way to know. But it's there.

Having a (half) Black president (who's African ancestry didn't descend from slavery but immigrated here) doesn't change anything of significance, so long as there is that fraction of a second of assumption that people make when they see someone new for the first time.

It's no different than if an Aboriginal American were to make some blanket statement about Americans taking the Indian's land. I am an American. I was born here. I worked for what I have now and am a generally good person. I never harmed an Indian American, never took anyone's land, never deliberately spread disease.
But the fact remains that every day I directly benefit from the people who did do those things.
I have no intention of giving up my own property or abandoning my home on the grounds that Oakland should rightfully be inhabited by Aboriginal Americans, but I certainly have no grounds to be indignant or self-righteous about the issue. As far as the actual effects go, I benefit just as much from Europeans having committed genocide against the people who lived here before them as someone directly descended from them. And merely by choosing to accept that benefit which I was born into, in a way, albeit small and indirect, I share in the responsibility for the fact that Aboriginal Americans today are by and large confined to reservations of land that no one else wanted, living largely in poverty.

We may not be directly at fault, but we are all complacent in receiving the benefits, which are at someone else's expense. So if an American Indian makes a blanket statement about Americans (which includes me) which may be technically unfair, all I can say is "your right, and I'm sorry". I have no counter-argument. I have nothing to complain about. I have no right to be indignant.

And so to, if someone makes a blanket statement such as "white people are racist" or "white people repress others", you don't get to be offended. You don't get to point out the logical flaws in generalizing. You don't get to call double standard or reverse racism.
It may be "unfair" that you are born into being seen as an oppressor, but it is even less fair that I have to prove myself just that much more than you do.
I have had friends "jokingly" say that I am not "really" Black, or not "that" Black because of how I talk and dress and act. Those same associations, those stereotypes, they are racism, even if they aren't inherently negative, and accepting any one association implies all the others to be valid. The fact that I can trace my own family lineage directly to American slavery on both sides of my family makes me Black. The fact that every time I meet someone new, for at least an instant they will make certain associations and therefor assumptions about me makes me Black.

Have I experienced racism first hand? Not overtly. It would be hard to know for sure, since the person it was coming from is likely not conscious of it. Chances are, not so much. All it takes is a few minuets of talking to me and I can dispel any stereotypes pretty thoroughly, make a case for myself as an exception even with someone who is generally (subconsciously) racist, and I live in a place where it being overt is unacceptable (I learned in my travels that this is far from universal in this country).
But the point is I shouldn't have to.
Between being thought of as an oppressor and actually being oppressed, you have the better end of the deal. So suck it up and get over it.

Being color blind is not a solution. It is a cop-out. Pretending that slavery didn't happen, that racism has not been an enormous factor, and just focusing on the basic equality of man will not do anything to change things. If you need to here everything logical and fair, take a logic class, or a justice class, or a love everybody class. If you don't want to hear people say white people are racist and that's a bad thing, don't take a racial studies class.

Is it unreasonable for people to make blanket statements? Yeah, of course it is. But focusing on it isn't much different from telling a holocaust survivor that some Nazis didn't hate Jews, or stopping a conversation about rape because of improper grammar.

I don't want to end without offending everyone equally, so now is as good a time as any for another rant I have.

This one is directed to Black Americans.
Stop acting like jackasses.
We have centuries worth of stereotypes to put behind us.
Don't deliberately jaywalk extra slow just to make people wait for you.
Don't evade the fare on the train.
Don't drink or smoke weed in pubic.
Don't play music on the bus. When is the last time you saw a white person playing a boom box in the back of the bus?
Don't get into fist fights. People tried to make the shooting of Oscar Grant by BART police into a race issue. There were no white people involved in fist fights on the train. If he wasn't fighting on a crowded train, he wouldn't have gotten shot. Simple as that.
I have a 400watt stereo system with a separate powered sub-woofer behind the seat. I like my music loud, and to roll around with my windows down and my system bump as much as anyone. But when you are in a residential neighborhood at 11pm, turn that shit down. What the hell is wrong with you?
Years of oppression and poverty don't change the basic rules of being a decent respectful human being.
Remember earlier when I pointed out I have to prove myself each time I meet someone new? That's not because of a legacy of slavery. That's because of you.
People build impressions based on what they see, and each time you act a fool, it makes us all look bad.
Its true that Blacks are given disproportionate prison sentences, but it is also true that Blacks commit a disproportionate amount of (non-drug-related) crime
So when there is a statistic like 35% of the prison population is Black or 1/3 of black males between 18-29 has been, is, or will be imprisoned, part of that is systemic racism, but part of it is Black people committing crimes. It seems it has become un-PC to say so.
That's not OK. No amount of history or social issues can excuse individual behavior.
Obviously this behavior is the minority of the Black population, (although it is, inherently, a very visible minority). But if it isn't you, chances are its your friends, or your children, a family member or neighbor. And if you don't say something, no one else will. The single best way to change the perception of us is to eliminate unfavorable associations at the source.

I think its actually pretty simple and straight forward. We just need to eliminate all forms of inheritance, standardize education from preschool through university for everyone, make all hiring blind, and change young Black culture to emphasize respect of others. Those 4 steps and all this will become a non-issue in no time.
And when that happens, then we can finally have a purely logical and intellectual discussion on the subject.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The last one; anarchists this time

I posted my essay equating the free market with anarchy on a discussion board for anarchists. The following is the comments it generated.

(I am David Craig Hiser. All the other comments are various random anarchists. Many comments were off topic, and are not shown here.
All of the comments, as well as my original essay, are here:


Is this fellow trying to say that capitalism (with leaders and all) and anarchy/anarchism are all one and the same? Cuckoo Cuckoo.


More or less, yes.
Capitalism has no leaders.
Capitalism has only the market.
Democracy (or rather, what we call democracy, actually a republic) has leaders.
Our political system is the only thing which stands between our (the US) system and true capitalism / free markets.
Each move toward deregulation is a move toward economic anarchy.


Seems you're forgetting bosses. economic hierarchy. Anarchism is against hierarchy (hier-ARCHy).
You're equating anarchy - as in, a lack of laws - with anarchism - a classless, stateless society.
Capitalism is brutally authoritarian. It depends on police and armies to keep the masses of workers from being able to take the products of their labour from those who are robbing them (their owners, the bosses).
Capitalism is the antithesis of anarchism. It is the single most hated ideology amongst every authentic anarchist. I understand you want to call yourself an anarchist because its a cooler label than being a capitalist, but sorry, you may not use it. Actually, I'm not sorry. Anyone who supports all the evils of capitalism must be a douche, and I don't apologize to douches.
Go read the Infoshop FAQ and learn what anarchism is. Read the section on 'so-called anarcho-capitalists'. Go post on an Ayn Rand messageboard.

You have greatly misunderstood my own position.
I am in no way advocating capitalism.
I am totally opposed to capitalism.
The reason I am opposed to anarchy is that I believe capitalism can (and likely will in the modern world) arise from it. That was the point I was trying to get across.
I am not forgetting bosses. Being employed by someone is a voluntary relationship. An employee can quit, and even open a competing business. The occasional "American dream" story not-withstanding, people generally can not choose to join the upper class.
I am claiming you can not have a classless society without a mechanism to enforce equality. You must somehow prevent individuals from accumulating wealth.
If individuals have complete freedom, sooner or later someone will accumulate wealth, and then they will be able to take advantage of that accumulation, which is capitalism.
If society prevents that from happening, then individuals are not free to do as they like, even if their actions do not directly hurt anyone else, and this entails some form of authority.
I believe the latter, while dangerous, is the better of the two options. I believe that having classes is the greater detriment to humanity than lack of complete freedom.
Communalism, by nature, requires a loss of freedom.
If individuals care for, help, are responsible to, family, friends, neighbors, each other, than they must consider their actions in relation to everyone around them.
In a global world the actions of every person affect everyone else in the world (us in the US most of all). If every decision impacts others, and we have any sense of morality, then we can not be free from coercion. Unfortunately, not everyone is moral, and so the presence of some force to prevent some people from harming others (the state) becomes a necessary evil.
I don't consider myself an anarchist.
That's why I posted in this section.
I have not heard any one theory I agree with completely.
I am a secular humanist.
I am socially libertarian (anarchist even)
I believe in economic fascism.
I know that is a huge knee-jerk word, especially among Americans, and ESPECIALLY among anarchists, but if you are interested in a more indepth explanation, you can read it on my blog here:


"It also means "justice" via the lynch mob."
No it doesn't. I've never heard an anarchist advocate that. As such, it's a straw man.
"If they have no family, or for whatever personal reasons have lost their family's sympathy, they starve."
Your critique is a critique of anarcho-capitalism, not anarchism. Anarcho-capitalism can not exist peacefully for any length of time for the reasons you describe. This critique does not apply to anarchist communism however as all of the problems you mentioned are not problems with communism where needs are freely satisfied by society.


Submitted by DavidCraigHiser on Sat, 2009-04-04 00:21.

"No it doesn't. I've never heard an anarchist advocate that. As such, it's a straw man."
I'm not talking about some theory. It is not a straw man. It happens. It has happened countless times in the real world. It doesn't matter what you advocate. It is what will happen. It is what DOES happen in places where law breaks down due to civil war or natural disaster or whatever.
I am claiming Anarcho-capitalism is the natural state of anarchism.
Communism requires organization, cooperation, and some sort of property management system, and it requires that some people be coerced in some way to do things which they would not necessarily want to do.
If the less privileged are to be taken care of, and there is no state, WHO takes care of them? Specifically. By what mechanism are the needs of the disabled taken care of?


"I'm not talking about some theory. It is not a straw man. It happens. It has happened countless times in the real world. It doesn't matter what you advocate. It is what will happen."
You need to demonstrate that it occurs more in anarchistic societies than capitalistic ones.
"It is what DOES happen in places where law breaks down due to civil war or natural disaster or whatever."
I'm pretty sure this has already been pointed out, but anarchism is not equivalent to lawlessness - it's opposition to hierarchical laws.
"Communism requires organization, cooperation, and some sort of property management system..."
Again, anarchism is not incompatible with those things.
"...and it requires that some people be coerced in some way to do things which they would not necessarily want to do."
How so? Also note that anarchism cannot remove all coercion - no human is truly free, being as we are slaves to our passions and needs - it seeks only to remove illegitimate coercion i.e. from centralized authority.


Submitted by DavidCraigHiser

"You need to demonstrate that it occurs more in anarchistic societies than capitalistic ones."
-Granted. I'd say this is the best counter-argument I've gotten here!
I'll have to look into that one.
"I'm pretty sure this has already been pointed out, but anarchism is not equivalent to lawlessness - it's opposition to hierarchical laws."
-In a true, pure democracy, laws are not hierarchical. Note, what the US commonly calls democracy has very little in common with the real definition of democracy.
A simple example: 4 students are assigned a group project.
They each have a different idea of what to do it on. They have to pick one idea. It is obviously unrealistic to believe you will get 100% agreement 100% of the time. However, if they do not come to an agreement, they may all fail the class.
If 3 of them agree on one idea, and the 4th gives in and goes along with it, that right there is democracy.
No one student has any more say than any other. No hierarchy.
There is no coercion involved. No force or authority.
Their participation is voluntary. They could drop the class. [in the equivalent to this example on the nation level, all laws are followed voluntarily, because the US does not prevent citizens from leaving the country permanently if they so choose]
If you have laws, either they were made by one person or group (which implies hierarchy) or they are made collectively, which by definition is democracy.


I'll just assume the author has never read anything about band societies, the non-hierarchical (anarchic) mode of existence that humyns lived in for 99% of our existence on the earth. Maybe you could read James' Woodburn's "Egalitarian Societies"


I suppose we COULD go back to that 99% of human history and live like cave men/women again. That would be great fun huh? People sitting around fires, eating dog, and speaking in made up localized dialects without any communicability between the tribe 5 miles away...


Even if we wanted to go back to not having modern society (and I admit, its not a bad idea) it isn't going to happen.
Pandora's Box has been opened, Prometheus has made his delivery, and those things can't be undone.
Given that the vast majority of people in the modern world do not wish to give up the technology they already have (are we really even having this debate on the internet?) it makes more since to deal with the way the current world, with technology and 21st century mindset is likely to deal with various political and economic systems rather than pointing to examples from times past.
History is very important for teaching us, but just because we dismantled the government doesn't mean people would go back to nomadic foraging.
Aside from that most people would be unwilling, there are far too many of us, and we have done far too much environmental degradation for the natural level of productivity to support us. [For all its faults, the fact remains that industrial agriculture can feed many more people with an acre of land than hunting/gathering can]

1) the article you linked admits there is generally some form of leadership or at least informal democracy, as group decisions sometimes need to be made (for example in deciding when to move the camp). Communism is (in theory) non-hierarchical. Democracy (real democracy, not what the US calls democracy) is non-hierarchical. That alone does not make it anarchic. The article also points out "Many hunter-gatherers have social systems in which there is very marked inequality of one sort or another, sometimes far more marked than the inequalities in certain simple agricultural or nomadic pastoral societies."
2) the lifestyle described necessitates that there are abundant and easily accessible resources, such that everyone, regardless of age, gender, strength, etc is able to acquire enough food water and shelter to survive without help.
Which is wonderful if you are lucky enough to live in a place with an ideal climate and habitat. 99% of human existence there were fewer than 100 million people in the entire world. We now have 6.5 billion (and climbing).
Barring WWIII, it will never be possible for the entirety of human society to live as described.
3) as someone else pointed out, very few of us would be willing to give up all forms of technology (besides those we can make ourselves by hand from trees and rocks)
4) "There are instances in which the Hadza have abandoned the seriously ill when they moved camp, leaving them with their possessions [note, even if this most extreme example, they have possessions] and with food and water but knowing that they were unlikely to be able to provide for themselves. I was very surprised by the neglect of a previously popular grandmother in one of the settlements when she became senile..." This was one of my original points. Just because a certain system can work does not necessarily mean it is desirable overall.
5)"...there are sanctions against accumulation." Sanctions by whom? Of what sort? How are these "sanctions" decided in any particular case, and how are they carried out? It may be only sloppy language, just meant to imply it is generally frowned upon in general. Or, might it be that the author glosses over the details in order to maintain the premise that there is no control over anyone? If each individual is free to do as they choose, they can choose to accumulate. If some social force prevents them from accumulating, that is a form of coercion.


David if I may ask why the fuck are you so obsessed with the weak, the weak must be protected, have you ever thought that your reifications of the weak create more weaklings?
Also capitalism is nothing more then a behavioural paradigm as landuaer said. Yes there are places in the world where a vacuum creates your haitis but it is precisely because of the behavioural paradigm. We end capitalism by behaving differently, in terms of conflict resolution, nothing will ever be perfect, yes there may be cycles of revenge and killing that break out I'm sure it happened in pre civilized contexts but better that then a system of confinement with the surrounding enforcement agents.
With the flawed delicate little species of ours you take the good with the bad and as the french say let it run, the right way that is bourgeois ideology aside.


Obsessed? By the same token I might ask why anarchists are so obsessed with authority.
If we accept "survival of the fittest" as a legitimate view of human society, then perhaps the lower class is exactly where it should be, naturally subjugated by the more powerful and capable people above them.
This is exactly the argument so called "social-darwinists" make.
I agree, nothing will be perfect, and a lot of it stems from mindset.
I don't believe the ideal comes from any one dogma. I believe there are positive elements to be drawn from the ideas of anarchy, socialism, democracy, fascism, and libertarianism, but any one of them applied without question causes problems which could easily be solved with a more open minded approach.
My point in writing this post was to point out some of the problems inherent to pure anarchy.

Part 2, gas tax digression

This one was on my hypermileing forum, and began as a question about gas taxes.
That quickly degraded into an argument about taxes in general, and from there fell further to a general condemnation of government.
Since it was the off topic message board anyway, I decided to weigh in:

(original, including what I am responding to, here:


Of course 80% oppose raising gas tax. Not because they think it won't work, but because they personally enjoy the luxury of driving an inefficient vehicle. It has nothing to do with the cost of a hybrid. Trucks vans and SUVs make up 1/2 of new car sales, and all of those buyers knew they were buying gas guzzlers. It would cost less money - not just in gas, but upfront - to buy a small (non hybrid) car.

I am for the freedom of choices that we all have in this country. In my opinion, you cannot tell me what to do if I am not hurting anyone else.
1 You do have total choice if gas prices are raised. You can choose to buy whatever car you want. In fact, even if CAFE standards were raised you would still have choice, because they only refer to fleet average, not individual models. The only way anyone's freedom is restricted is if it became illegal to buy a car that got less than XX mpg.
2 Buying a big car DOES hurt others. In addition to the fact that they do far more damage in an accident, there is this little thing called "global warming" (to be honest, I am not 100% convinced, but it is undeniable that burning fuel does environmental and health damage to all living things, including ourselves.)

I oppose all taxes. period.
Forget about social programs and libraries.
Government pays for things which are not profitable, and which the free market could not provide, or which are essential and the free market could not provide equitably. Things like roads, harbors, airports, bridges, military, police, fire services, courts. How long do you think it would take for private security to turn into mercenaries? If you want to go back to living in teepees, maybe, but giving up government in the real world means who ever has the biggest gun and most friends gets to do whatever they want.

Originally Posted by theunchosen View Post
(because 50% of government spending goes to those programs).
Last I checked, the top three uses of federal tax money was:
1 the military (we spend literally as much as the rest of the world combined)
2 payments made to private health care companies (contracted medicare and health care for government employees)
3 interest on the debt.
(Social security is basically a mandatory savings account. You get back more than you pay into it. It isn't counted as part of the federal budget; although unfortunately in order to pay for massive budget deficits the government has been illegally "borrowing" from it which is why the fund is in trouble)

A government that rewards the lazy (welfare for fat slobs with no intention of getting a job, and pumping out children they are teaching that lifestyle is okay)
Welfare makes up about 1% of the budget.
Even before Clinton's welfare to work program, the average welfare recipient received benefits for less than 2 years. Currently, after 2 years, if you don't get some job - any job - you get cut off, even if they are in college at the time. So it encourages people to get minimum wage jobs instead of actually bettering themselves and getting a job which might actually support their family.
Look up some data, and turn down the Rush morning show.

I wonder how many of the people who propose alternate taxation schemes have actually crunched the numbers (or consulted a reliable unbiased source).
I haven't, so I won't say they are all impossible, but they mostly sound like fantasy to me.

to say that you are for higher gas prices means you are not for a free and open market, which requires the gasoline and other products to set their own prices, via supply and demand.
When the US military is assigned to guard pipelines (which is a lot of what they do in both Iraq and Afghanistan), that is an oil company subsidy. 100s of billions of dollars of subsidy, which never get counted for what they really are on the oil companies bank sheets.
Our over-sized military budget is what allows our gas prices to be artificially low (several times lower than what any other net importing nation pays).

If you want to cut taxes, instead of cutting social safety net programs which are a insignificant amount of the budget, start with reducing the military budget to no more than 10% more than the next highest spending country.

military is what keeps the enemies that want what we have away.
If we were not exploiting the 3rd world, we wouldn't have so many enemies in the first place. Scandinavia has a higher standard of living than the US but no one is invading there or blowing stuff up.

Next nationalize all health care. Believe it or not, most projections actually show the government would SAVE money by giving free health care to everyone. This is because, as it is health care is the governments 2nd highest expense, but much of that money goes to the shareholders of insurance companies, for-profit hospitals and drug companies, not to actually providing services to sick people.

Then balance the budget. This might mean *gasp* raising taxes! In the long run we have to pay for all those interest payments on our loans. It should go without saying that living on credit is unsustainable, but for decades conservatives have ignored that obvious truth by pretending that that "growth" would absorb the deficit. It didn't.

Alright pal, why attack the wealthy? They are those that create wealth. Without wealthy people (not rich), there is no capital to create jobs and continue functioning as an effective entity on this planet.
You got it right about the rich inheriting their wealth, but the idea that the wealthy contribute their fair share is a stretch too. If you own a factory, you aren't creating the jobs. If that same factory was a coop, the jobs would still be there, the same work would get done, the only difference is you wouldn't be able to skim some of the profits off the top. If a few people didn't hoard most of the resources the same capital would exist, it would just be spread out a little more. If a landlord hadn't bought a particular house, the house would still be there for people to live in. They aren't actually providing anything. If someone invests in the stock market they have not actually produced anything of value. Anyone who uses money to make more money is a leech on society, just as much as welfare recipients. Only differences are they live alot better than any of us, and we glorify them.

Government has 0 provisions for interfering in the market, and Adam Smith would tell you you're always worse off when they do.
"Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.''
"The pretense that corporations are necessary for better government of the trade is without any foundation. "
-Adam Smith.
His argument against government was the EXACT OPPOSITE of modern libertarians. He was opposed to the corporation as something which interfered with the free market. To Smith the market consisted of INDIVIDUALS freely trading with one another, not companies, and certainly not corporations. He was opposed to government because of its tendency to protect and support corporations.

In the past 20 years GDP has grown steadily. Over that same period (accounting for inflation) median income has decreased. This disparity is because all of the increase has gone to a very small portion of society. The reason for the historic levels of inequality is a direct result of deregulation under our last 4 presidents, Regan and Jr. in particular.
Its the ideas that the wealthy must be more valuable to society and any increase in economic activity is inherently good which lead to the state we are in now.
The top 10% holds more wealth than the entire 90% added together.
Those 10% don't have to work, because they can invest instead.
The rich have not been working harder. US multinational corporations have just been able to consolidate and outsource at unprecedented levels.
This is the modern reality of the free market and deregulation.
It hurts American workers.
It hurts the middle and working classes (ie the vast majority of the population).
It hurts the federal budget.
It hurts 3rd world economies which are forced via predatory lending and threat of military action to open their markets.
It benefits one group, and one group only. Those who have the resources to live entirely off of stock dividends. They make us believe our interests coincide with their own by pointing out our 401k is in the stock market. However if not for their manipulation of the economy for their own benefit we could have higher wages and less inflation, less taxes and more stability.

Consider the Great Depression
Consider CA electricity market after deregulation (prices soared, service became terrible)
Consider Enron
Consider the recent bank bail out

Ford likes to ***** about the costs of union benefits, but they paid their CEO $21 million in a year they did terribly, lost money, begged the government for help. Meanwhile Toyota, which is doing far better in every way, paid their CEO less that 1 million. Follow that trend for the assistant CEO, the CFO, the president of the company, the president of the board, the lead project manager, etc.
The reality speaks for itself. The trickle down theory does not work.

...gas is an essential...
Why do people, even here, keep claiming gas is a necessity?
Food, water, clean air, a place to live, shelter from weather extremes, these are necessities.
People in places with no cars survive.
Before cars were invented, people lived.
Cars are no more a necessity than cable TV.
This is a free country. Nobody forces you to live in the suburbs.
Actually, I lived in the suburbs for a year, in a place where it snowed all winter and rained all summer. I didn't have a car.

For decades they've been preaching conservation, handing out rebates for "energy star" appliances and the like, and what has that gotten us? Double the household electricity use of 20 years ago?!?
As it happens, back 40-50 years ago utilities were literally giving away tank based water heaters just so that people would use more electricity and gas (solar and instant water heaters already existed back then) so they could sell more. The campaign was extremely successful.
Its only fairly recently that utilities haven't been able to keep up with demand and environmental concerns made people rethink the idea that maximizing consumption is inherently good, and began trying to persuade people to conserve.
However, even "energy star" rated appliances consistently use far more power than we have the technology for. Consider how often a fridge has its hot coils on the bottom, where the heat will just rise back into it, instead of on top. They do it cause it looks nicer.
Even so, individual appliances have been getting more efficient, but Americans have been upsizing everything for for the past 20 years. The average new home size is more than twice what it was 30 years ago. That means twice the area to heat and cool and light. TVs are bigger, sound systems louder, computers many times faster. If the technology is 2 times as efficient, but everyone uses 4 times more of it, you double your energy demand. Just like with cars. Engine technology is far better than it was back then, but car companies and consumer choose to use 100% of those gains to make cars faster and larger.

I promise you what will happen is states that have strict emissions and specialty registrations will see a sizable exodus to states that have no such policies
uh... the car companies have been making CA specific models due to additional air quality restrictions for decades. Either that or they just make all of their cars to CA specifications to avoid having to make 2 versions. No one is exodus-ing away. Unless they are selling at a loss, companies aren't going to overlook any market.

Still wanna trade?
(progressive taxes heavily burden the rich)
If you tax someone with a $10,000 income 10%, he is left with $9,000
If you tax someone with a $100,000 income 80%, he is left with $20,000

Even at that rate, the person with the high income is doing far better, and is "burdened" less.
And of course in the real world the higher tax brackets are stepped and only apply to the income above the threshold, not the entire amount, (so a 80% income tax would only be 80% of the money above some amount, say 90k - the first 10k would still be taxed at the 10% rate. In other words, he would keep much more than just 20k at that rate)

Unless someone drives more than 100 miles a day every day changing vehicles in light of fuel expenses is never an economical decision
No one has to go out and buy a new car tomorrow. Eventually people buy new cars. When they do, then they can buy a smaller one. They save money upfront AND save money in gas.
This could take some time, but the idea is to look long term at the big picture. If we act only for the moment we will regret it tomorrow. Individuals and corporations often can't see beyond instant gratification, and that's (hopefully and in theory) one of the useful things that large scale organization (ie government) can do.


[key points of the response to the above are included in my next reply]

the number one expenditure of government is welfare spending, which you failed to mention completely.
Budget of the United States Government: Historical Tables Fiscal Year 2009

Define "Welfare"
If you choose to count SS as "welfare", maybe, but the benefits people get from it are directly proportional to what they paid in. Same goes for unemployment. If you don't work, you don't get social security or unemployment. These things are revolving funds which legally the government doesn't get to spend (although they do anyway). Part of the category of human services also includes education. Education is an investment that pays for itself by having an educated workforce. Veteran's benefits, which should properly be classified as military expense, are also lumped here.
Most of all, medical payments is counted under the same category, which I addressed earlier, and is by far the 2nd biggest sub-component after SS.
Yes, if you count all of those things as "welfare", then it adds up to more than the military.
But if you are looking only at direct AFDC payments to poor families, it is less than 1% of the budget.
If you have a source that says otherwise, please feel free to share it.

Military spending only makes up 1/3 of all government spending. With the expenditures lately. . .its not even remotely close to 1/3.
If you remove SS (which is a trust fund, not a government handout) from the budget, "national defense" come to well over 1/3. Check the numbers at the link I provided above if you don't want to take my word for it.

Ford never asked for any money. You lose all credence when you post overt fallacies.
Ford's bailout plea to include pledge for smaller cars

Ford CEO on bailout opposition: Past is past -

Back to the top, you can throw all of those things the government provides away and allow for the private sector to pick them up. Bodyguards pick up where police forces are useless.
So, in other words the wealthy should be protected, and no one else should. I didn't say it was unviable.
What I said was, in the absence of law, body guard = mercenary. Whoever has money can buy guns and take what ever they want from those who can't afford a mercenary force. I'm not saying it is impossible, I'm saying that isn't a world any of us want to live in.

Look at situations in which there is no military to speak of. Rich families in Mexico have their own para-military body guard service. They pack automatics body armor and bullet proof vehicles. They don't hold trials and they don't take prisoners.
Yeah. Exactly. That's my point. Besides, there IS a military and police force in Mexico. The Federales carry sub machine guns and ride around in pickups with 6 guys in the back.

A justice system that provides quick and immediate punishment to murders, thieves and what the CIA classifies as "abrasive" crimes or "assualt" crimes typically has fewer of them and it costs far less. I don't have to hold criminals in jail for months before trial feeding them and I don't have to put up with appeals and other issues. If someone breaks into my home there will not be a trial. I might have to go into a civil case with their surviving family but as I live in the south I know my local judges will throw it out and the appelate judges will also throw it out.
Sounds like someone hates America. There is this thing called the "constitution" - they put it there for a reason. Thing is, sometimes innocent people are accused accidentally. You do realize that, right? And sometimes people accuse the innocent on purpose, out of spite, or to draw attention away from themselves. Trials are not to coddle criminals. Trials are to determine the facts as best as possible so that the wrongly accused aren't punished.

Adam Smith did not argue that the government was out to protect the poor from the rich. If you read your quote again he said that government is necessary to protect those who have(corporations) from those who dont(employees).
He didn't say it was "necessary". He said that's what actually happens. He was not suggesting it was a good thing.

At Smiths time the East India Trading company were a racketeering organization that stole from honest traders by imposing their own taxes on their goods so that they wouldn't be attacked by privateers. Smith was against this practice.
Exactly. He further suggested that corporations only exist because governments create them, and that they are inherently anti competitve.

He obviously was not against a corporation in and of itself because he had his own.
An individual can not have a corporation. Their is a difference between a corporation and a company.

I won't repeat all the points about how libertarians distort Smith's work, because someone has already done it for me:
The Betrayal of Adam Smith Adam Smith Hated Corporations

Jacob do you honestly believe that taxing one person 80% is fair and one person 10%?
That was an example to show the numbers involved.

If you do I'm leaving Ecomodder. What you are saying is. . .because I work 2 full time jobs and 2 part time jobs I should only be allowed to have 2x as much as someone who works never and gets a welfare check? I put in 80 hours a week(2 full times) I mow for 6 hours a week and I work for a neighbor for about 5 hours a week. You are saying that some slackass that works 0 hours deserves the same amount of money I get when I work vastly more hours than he does(90 compared to 0 and he gets the same amount as me)?

That's not what I am saying at all. First of all, someone who works 0 hours pays 0 taxes, no matter what the tax rate is. Someone who works 2 (or 4) jobs likely does not make that much per hour (or else why would they be working so much?) and so isn't going to be in a top tax braket no matter what.
What I am saying is NOONE earns a million dollars a year through working. It can't be done. You have to understand just how rich the rich are. There was a guy who owned a chain of casinos who made one million dollars an hour on average for a year. He didn't have to work. He added nothing of value to society. He didn't build the casinos. He didn't even pay to have most built, he bought them. So he didn't earn that money, which means he didn't "deserve" any of it. Bill Gates took open source (free) software, made a few minor changes, and patented it. He was not an innovator. He was a predatory businsess man who made exclusive deals with hardware manufacturers in order to form a monopoly. Now he pays other people to come up with (often inferior) software, and he gets to skim some of the profits. He is not creating jobs. If Microsoft weren't there, those same people would be working at smaller companies.

The market does not assign wages based on how valuable the work done is to society. Consider an ad company executive. The ad company has big clients which don't make the best or cheapest product, but have momnetum on their side. The ad companies job is to convince people to buy their products. This in no way betters society as a whole, but its valuable to the corporation that hired them. So they make big bucks. Meanwhile someone who does a job that actually creates something valuable, say the day laborer that builds a house, a auto plant assembly line guy, a public school teacher, makes a tiny fraction of what the ad guy makes.

Damn straight I think people who work hard for little pay should be taxed less than someone who makes their money on the stock market, or by being a landlord, or any other job where you make a lot of money without doing any actual work!
I think you should pay less taxes.
I think anyone who makes over 200k a year or has more than 2 million in assets should pay more taxes.


[several less relevant posts]


I'm somewhat looking at it as likely as a small business owner.
Laws which help corporations and the wealthy hurt small business owners.

The moment someone says they want 60% of my income I'm working to profit you not me and I'm going Galt to get under your tax bracket and I won't make a dime more.
Tax rates apply to a bracket of income. a 60% tax bracket does not mean they take 60% of your income. It means they take 60% of what you make over a certain amount.
It a bit like people saying its not worth in to win a lottery because the government takes 2/3rds. That means you keep 1/3. Thats better than not having 1/3.
If you don't want to work anymore because you feel its too high a rate, fine. Why is that a problem?

Our military is very streamlined as far as how it manages cost effectiveness.
I won't dispute that, because I know nothing about it. I am saying its total size is unnecessary, regardless of how efficient it is. It is also the largest single expense, and so where we could save the most.

And honestly do you want them cutting money from the system that protects you
What are they protecting me from? The "terrorists" want to steal my old 1983 truck? They want to force me, personally, to become Muslim? We have only had one foreign terrorist attack here - ever. The last time a country attacked us was at Pearl Harbor.
Our military budget is 5 times larger than the 2nd highest country in the world. We have nukes. We have unsurpassed technology. We are capable of doing more with a dollar of spending on military than any 2nd or 3rd world country (read China and the Middle East). I can see no justification for spending as much as the entire rest of the world combined unless we plan to literally invade every country in the world at the same time.
The military budget is about imperialism, diplomacy via unspoken threat, predatory free trade, and protecting corporate interests abroad. To tie this back to the original thread, the taxes you pay is what keeps our gas prices so low (again, US troops protecting pipelines in Iraq and Afghanistan.)

or from the system that allows people to sit around and do nothing?
I already addressed this. 1) AFDC makes up about 1% of the budget (vs over 33% for the military). Cutting it won't make a dent in government spending. 2) welfare recipients can not sit around doing nothing. Finding work is MANDATORY. If you aren't actively looking, you get cut off. There is no exemption for students. I know this because my mother was cut off when she, a single mother, was working towards a masters degree from UC Berkeley and refused to cut classes to attend their job training seminars. No matter what happens, they cut you off after 2 years.

If a private sector had to make a road its like a nuclear power plant, its very expensive up front and it takes a good bit of time to pay for it, but after that its dirt cheap.
The ancient Roman and German roads you mentioned were all built by government.
No nuclear plant has ever been built that was not heavily government subsidized. Private industry will not go into something with such a high initial investment which takes such a long time to show any return. Why would they, when there are so many other more profitable opportunities? A corporation is not concerned with what happens in 400 years. It is concerned with the quarterly report and shareholder dividends.

Social security is a ponzi scheme. Its not an investment. I have several relatives now drawing social and they are going to draw far more than they ever put in even with inflation and whatever else.
An investment means you can draw more than you put in. Its called interest. In addition, baby boomers not-withstanding, it is generally a valid assumption that there will be more workers each year than the one before, so the pool should consistently grow.

If you fired all the bureacrats, didn't pay all the politicians
I posted a link to federal spending. You can check exactly how much is spent on various things, and therefor how much could be saved by cutting any particular thing.

and just made the tax code simple(and fired all IRS agents)
see example above of what happens with a flat tax.

you would be taking one huge leap towards reducing deficits. If you then took another leap and cut any form of social safety net systems
Good way to create a whole lot of desperate people who will do anything to survive. You can either spend a little on education, job training, unemployment, and healthcare, or spend a bunch more on police and prisons. This has nothing to do with morality or personal responsibility, it is just a straight forward realistic cost/benefit analysis.

Places with more of a social safety net have lower crime.

the private sector could do everything else more cheaply.
I am not totally anti-private sector. From what I have read education would be greatly improved and the costs reduced by privatization. However with healthcare, every other 1st world nation has universal healthcare, and most have both higher quality care and more simplicity, yet the US spends more per person. There are some things the private sector is good for, and some it isn't.

can make a profit much easier and are able to sell their products for less.
why would anyone sell their products for less?

Some things in effect will cost the same whether its a tax or a toll, but I would bank on the service always being superior(go to a DMV).

haha, granted!

In some cases though(maybe in alot of cases) the toll would be less than the tax and the service would still be superior.
I would agree with "some".
But I don't think money is the only issue.
The real reason government is necessary is the phenomenon called the "tragedy of the commons"
The classic example is a lake open to the public. It has 1000 fish. If everyone just takes 1 every once in a while, no problem. They breed and replenish. But how long is "once in a while?" How many people are there? What if I take 2, one for me and one for my family? No one person is responsible for taking an unreasonable amount, but sooner or later, there are no more fish.
The free market can not responsibly allocate a finite amount of resources in the long term w/ no external regulation. The free market leads to massive environmental degradation, massive wealth inequalities, and a disregard of the value of anything other than money.
Consider the formula from "fight club", for decideing whether to do a recall for a fatal design flaw:
"Take the number of vehicles in the field, (A), and multiply it by the probable rate of failure, (B), then multiply the result by the average out-of-court settlement, (C). A times B times C equals X...If X is less than the cost of a recall, we don't do one."
This is a real job. There is actually a specific dollar value attached to a human life (if I remember correctly, it is generally around 2 million)

I don't mean to say I support everything about the current US political system - not by a long shot.
I just think total deregulation and total trust in a market economy will make things worse than they already are.


[The response from the other guy]
You said why would anyone sell their goods for less(I'm not quoting because the quotes are getting long lol and I don't want to snip).

The reason is because I am greedy. I see you have a business that makes 40% on its product(you used to make 10% and now with lower taxes you make an extra whatever percent), but I have a crappy job. I take out a loan get some investors and start a business model doing exactly what you do, but I sell mine for 75% of what you do so I make only 30% profit per item. All of your customer switch suppliers because I am cheaper. You undercut me and this continues until someone like walmart shows up and sells the product for .01% profit but sells trillions of items. Thats Free market.

And it is beautiful. If there is enough money to be had the single greatest force in human innovation and production comes to play. Greed. Beyond a shadow of a doubt its the most powerful force on the planet. Its predictable and powerful.

If there is enough room to make a profit better than what I am doing now I will do it. So if that means undercutting my competitors because my business just became cheaper to do and driving all their customers into my queue well then thats what I am going to do.

It is natural selection at work. The leanest most efficient wolf will be the one to survive. The bloated fat pig will be the first one eaten, because its too slow, inefficient and has too much excess weight to rapidly restructure its survival patterns.

If you believe in evolution you have to believe in a free market. Yes there will be "robber barons"(I prefer Captains of Industry) but there will always be some clever little fellow(Aptera vs GMC) who can outmaneuver you because he's not carrying baggage and your profit margins got wide enough for him to squeeze in between you and the customers. It might not be a big profit compared to your business. . .but what matters is, is it more profit than he had working for someone else or running a competition with some other industry.

Every other country in the world has universal health care. Ask someone who lived in a Foreign country if they like it. I have family(in-laws) that lived and grew up in Italy. He moved here married into my family and loves Healthcare in the US depsite the fact it comes out of his paycheck. Thats my anecdotal evidence, and I've seen a few interviews with Canadians that much prefer US healthcare. I'm sure people will speak out about it, but all I can say is I have been to a French Hospital(friend got hit by a car while in Paris) and it wasn't impressive by any means. It was far less technical than a visit to MSHA(Mountain States Health Alliance, Johnson City's Hospital) or my own personal experiences with surgery here in the US.

Looking at the fight club example. . .there is always a cost of human life. Free Market systems just tell it like it is. They don't try and hide it behind systems to make everyone feel comfortable with it. Free Market is about market value. I know you will agree with me that each person has a value. If you don't think everyone puts a value on anyone else think about it this way. You have a sniper and terrorists plan to kill some hostages. Your sniper has to chose which terrorist to kill first, the terrorist with his gun pointed at 10 civilians or the one pointed at 1 civilian. After the first shot there are no guarantees the other can be killed before he fires on his targets. Obviously you shoot the terrorist guarding the 10 people because 10 people are more important than one. If you have one person in the hospital and it will cost 10 mil to make them completely healthy and live to die of old age and you have 10 people that only need 1 million each. . .what do you do? Free Market dictates you spend 10 mil and save 10 people. Universal healthcare by definition(provide the aide people need) you spend money on whoever gets there first. So 10 mil boy gets there and the other 10 people die while waiting for the funds to do their transplants.

Market Value is true blue transparence. We don't like to admit that we would just assign a value to someone's life because that seems shallow. . .but we do. A doctor who is capable of saving lives through medicine or a painter? You have to chose. Market value and Free economy dictates you save the doctor because directly he can save more lives than the painter(assuming he's not a superhero). In anything less than a Free market there is no justification to rescue someone who is dying already rather than a teenager or some young doctor.

In all honesty there are more valuable people than others. Bill Gates has done more for the human race than I have. Bill Gates simply put if I had to chose between which of us existed. . .I would have to chose him. I won't revolutionize the world. You can play "if" history all you like and say that Bill Gates didn't do anything but we don't know, we do know that since he did what he did we arrived here today, whether its his fault we can't say. Free Markets require comfort with perfect honesty, what is something worth to you, what are you willing to do for it?

I prefer completely deregulated Free market because it allows true honesty in market value rather than fixing a price because you feel that some moral induced idea that that product is bad(sin taxes on cigarettes and gas). The product is worth what people will pay for it no more no less, whereas in regulated systems. . .its what you say its worth and who dictates who choses values? what if I get to pick? What if I say you're favorite brand of soda is an unneccesary good because its harmful and got bad flavor(Gas is harmful and not the most efficient mode of transport).


[me again]
Evolution has nothing to do with the free market. We are all the same specie. Nature has no end of examples of individuals within one specie working cooperatively instead of competitively. If you really want to live in survival of the fittest mode, it does not imply the free market. It implies me shoving up at your door with a shot gun and a bullet proof vest, and whichever of us has the most training gets to keep all your stuff.

The WalMart model is beautiful - unless you are one of the local business run under, or one of their employees who now has to take a minimum wage WalMart job, or one of the people who used to supply the local business who is undercut by outsourcing, or the worker in a 3rd world country making 1/2 a cent per hour. What you save as a consumer you lose through repressed wages.
The only people its really beautiful for are the WalMart shareholders.

Your examples of choosing 10 peoples lives over 1 has nothing to do with my example of choosing profit over people's lives.

I disagree that it is ok to knowingly cause the death of anyone because you can make money from it - any amount of money.
Thats not about honesty. Its just a basic level of morality.

You did read my comments about Gates, right? I wasn't making that stuff up. Look it up. You still think he is more valuable than you?

It isn't just an arbitrary application of morality, but a question of democracy. If the market decides everything, than the more money you have (and as someone - I think it was you - pointed out earlier, the very richest often got their money from inheritance) the more influence you have over society.
That is already too true as it is.
Basically, the real result would be a return to serfdom, with the working class (ie you and me) being reduced to peasants.

I said an awful lot you didn't address to claim that I "hung myself" with an argument.
Explain how the market can resolve the tragedy of the commons.


[He responds again, basically acknowledging his view is amoral, but that this is the cold hard reality of the world. He expresses faith that the market can solve the tragedy of the commons - that in fact someone can get rich from the threat of environmental destruction itself, but does not offer an explanation of how that might happen. At this point, given that his comments seem to me to be mainly based on faith, I did not continue responding to the specific points, but after having a dream the next morning in which I came up with a very suitable analogy, I closed with the following]

the single greatest force in human innovation and production comes to play. Greed.
Here is another incredibly powerful force: the nuclear attraction between protons and neutrons. That force can be harnessed to power aircraft carriers and entire cities. But if it is not very carefully managed and regulated, that same force gets out of control and produces Chernobyl and 3 Mile Island. In some cases its destruction is deliberate, and you have Nagasaki and Hiroshima. In the greed model, you and I are the citizens of Hiroshima, and the top 1% of society is the bomber plane. The Great Depression, CA electricity market after deregulation (prices soared, service became terrible), Enron, the recent bank bail out - these are all examples of what happens when you give up government control in favor of totally free markets. Everybody ends up losing.