Wednesday, July 12, 2006

State of Boeing

* all week I've been meaning to get back to reading, thinking about and responding to this comment from long-time reader, first time commentor, Anonymous (AFAIK. anyone who uses 'egadministration' and 'TWOT' is presumably a long time reader!).

I'm still too busy to give it full attention - but i recommend that you read the whole thread.

the whole thing began because i mentioned that i'm actually in favor of compulsory voting - although, yep, i've struggled with the issue - i always thought it was prima facie stupid, but the current situation in america has changed my mind for a few (separate) reasons.

here's the particular comment that i've been meaning to reply to these last days (the italicised bits are where Anon is quoting me):
"Hi Luke, your comments and questions deserve more depth than blogs allow in
the comments section, but here goes nothing:

note that i didnt say that democracy was "the least-evil system" - my only
specific point was that the 'cost' of making voting compulsory seems to me to
be a reasonable price to pay within the structure of a democracy.

Even if democracy would work "better" if voting were compulsory (how is it
working down under?), whenever the state flouts its constitutional limits and
still claims legitimacy because 50%+1 vote for it (even in a fair election),
it's immoral and unjustified. Consequentialism is always wrong -- ends do
not justify means.

This is obviously true when Bushbots say it. Lefties need to avoid the same
trap, because the same unconstitutional power that they believe their elected
officials would use wisely, will be abused by the righties, and especially by
the creeps we have now, who seem to have no principles, right- or left-wing.

It's tempting to want to use force to fix a bad situation perpetrated
by others who themselves abused government power, but it's not going to end
any better, in spite of good intentions. After all, lots of centrists and
righties have good (from their own point of view) intentions. It's a vicious
cycle, and the only way out is through weaker, smaller, more local, and thus
more accountable governments. (And smaller/weaker corporations, but that's a
topic for another day.)

There's an added problem, even if we more libertarian types give up, and
everyone agrees that the Constitution authorizes a federal government that
spends trillions of dollars that it also counterfeits, year after year.
Besides inevitable corruption (government that buys and sells will be bought
and sold), the people working for the government-funded industries will tend
to vote themselves more of the public treasury, as ol' J.S. Mill warned.

How about if voting were not compulsory, but instead (as Mill suggested) the
franchise were restricted to those not sucking at Leviathan's teats? Sure,
much of the State of Boeing^H^H^H^H^H^HWashington might be disenfranchised
for a while. Would that be so bad?

and i'm well aware of the problems with power inherent in what consitutes
'democracy.' i'd tentatively argue that a well-functioning democracy is among
the better systems designed so far - all the while i appreciate the possibility that democracies can become unchecked and unbalanced (as we are witnessing)

Nothing lasts (Shelley's Ozymandias, stone legs next to shattered visage),
but democracies fail in particular long and ugly trajectories going back to
Athens, and the U.S. is following that path now. Can we get off the ride?
It's getting tedious, and damn bloody.

and i'm particularly cognizant of the fact that the war machine is the most
likely corrupter (and the most literally dangerous)

Warfare and welfare statism go together; they have to in the case of the U.S.

The Federal Reserve was created in 1913.

FDR drove the deflationary crunch that followed the Federal Reserve's loose
money binge of the roaring twenties, making things worse throughout his first
two terms until he ginned up U.S. entry into WW2 (see Day of Deceit, Robert
B. Stinnett). War-economy inflation and command and control did not "cure"
the Great Depression (neocon revisionism to the contrary notwithstanding),
but it did leave the U.S. with lots of weapons, tons of gold, and an intact
industrial base.

After WW2, the U.S. had approximately two-thirds of government-held gold, or
one-third of all gold. The post-war Bretton Woods international monetary
system pretty much forced other governments to hold dollars in reserve, and
promised redemption at a fixed gold price.

After the postwar boom, LBJ cranked up both the guns and the butter knobs,
but the worsening dollar debasement caused the rest of the world, starting
with the French under de Gaulle, to demand gold for their greenbacks.

Nixon reneged and closed the gold window two years later. Soon after, some
familiar faces from today's egadministration "persuaded" the Saudis to take
only greenbacks in payment for oil, which led to petrodollars, eurodollars,
and the further growth of the dollar empire.

The U.S. is truly the empire of debt.

This highlights the pacifist left wing's funding problem: can you have big
welfare-not-warfare government, butter without the guns? Since 1913, the
preferred American funding method has been inflating the currency more than
taxing the rich (since the rich hide their money in unproductive holes when
the marginal rate goes too far north, and there aren't enough "rich" to make
up for the free taxation that comes from inflation).

But sustained inflationary periods, combined with consequent deflationary
busts such as the Great Depression, followed by full-on statist American
military-driven inflations such as WW2, feed the need for empire, since
without force, trading partners over time would shun the debased dollar
and the whole game would eventually collapse.

my default tendency is toward libertarianism (at least at a lay level - i don't pretend to be fully versed) - but i do wonder how libertarianism might deal with global warming (mind you, i'm also aware that none of the other systems are dealing with that propblem either) - can you give me a briefer on that, pls?

It is disturbing how scientific arguments become caricatured into twisted
articles of faith, on both left and right. Scientists, Feynman admonished,
should always set out to disprove their own theories. So even if you are not
a scientist, please be just a little skeptical about "global warming" being
caused by human activity producing CO2 or other gasses. The climate record
and the principal known cause of warming (solar activity) do not support it.
The world was significantly warmer 700 years ago than now, and recent warming
since 1940 has only been climbing back toward the long-term average.

Gore's slur on scientists who dissent as all corrupt and paid for by big oil
is a cheap shot, a Marxist hand-wave. Academic climate researchers do not
get funding from big oil, and they mostly do not agree with Gore's "science".
It is true that some other "scientists", and way too many people with college
degrees who took a few science courses and who subscribe to a narrow form of
green scientism, believe in human-caused "Global Warming". But that isn't
science -- it's more like democracy in the worst sense: the madness of

That dissent aside, let's take your point in general, and stipulate that
there are market externalities that need some wise sovereign or Platonic
republican (as in Plato's Republic, not the GOP) elite to be looking out for
the long run, and coercing people to do what they otherwise would not do.

(BTW, most kings were more circumscribed in whether and how they could usurp
powers not inherited with their crown, and more likely to look out for the
long run, than our modern policritters who screw future generations for a
few perks and a K-street job after term limits kick in.)

The problems with trying to deal with externalities by force boil down to
these two (excluding the usual problem of the state growing more corrupt as
it grows more powerful, with good intentions paving the way to hell):

1. The state forces people away from long-term risk A, and runs headlong
into unintended consequence B. The so-called "precautionary principle" of
the greens is as bad as Cheney's 1% doctrine. You are more likely to create
worse environmental problems, or unnecessary wars, trying to avoid scary but
unlikely scenarios.

2. The use of force to overcome incentives priced into the market leads to
distortions, black markets and worse corruption and injustice. We've seen
this with everything from CAFE standards for fuel economy, to helmet laws,
to DDT, to (I would argue) the WoD.

The best course is to price everything into the market, but "everything"
includes costs we can't calculate now, and low-probability risks where even
though the cost is high, the likelihood is so low that the product is tiny.
The best way to cope with those is to keep any party from sticking future
generations, government in general, or another party with the bill if and
when it comes due.

So carbon taxes are better than banning fossil fuels, from a libertarian
perspective. But even better, since we know less than you think about the
risk of human-caused global warming, would be to make a market where good
prediction ability pays. There's a problem judging such "ideas futures"
markets, and anyway greens are philosophically opposed to markets, so I'll
save space and stop here.

The short answer is that really big externalities become internalized when
enough people can see the costs, and no one has bribed the government to fob
off costs on the taxpayer. If the costs or probabilities are hard to prove
you probably should wait. That's the only sound "precautionary principle"
for global warming, as for pre-emptive or preventive war.

and while i'm asking questions, you wrote "we are witnessing the protracted and bloody death of the nation-state. What's next?" is there a libertarian argument for the existence of nation states?

Libertarians acknowledge that government is inevitably found in many forms
throughout human history (they agree with Jefferson that those governments
are best which govern least). The standard historical accounts of the
evolution of the nation-state are not controversial to libertarians.

Van Crevald's point (and he's not a libertarian AFAIK) is that the state as
conceived in the last 300 years or so, as an abstract territorial monopoly, a
corporation not tied to a ruler and his line of descent, is historically an
aberration, and increasingly a harmful anachronism. A priori
philosophies that impose abstract purpose on government (from "Liberty,
equality, brotherhood, to the death!" to TWOT) have been wreaking bloody
havoc since the French Revolution, and on through the national (fascist) and
international (communist) socialist revolutionary states of the 20th century.

The U.S. empire is unique in its imposing taxes through an imposed fiat
currency, instead of by taxing or claiming tribute more directly. But it is
still a modern nation-state in the more abstract sense van Crevald describes.
If you read the neo-con canon, you will see that their vision of the U.S.
as a nation-state is very abstract: the one universal and indispensable
nation, with no ties to particular place or history, and ever-expanding
claims on geography. Anyone can immigrate and become an American, in the
neo-con view, so long as he or she melts into a pot that subscribes as one
political body to a mix of aggressive welfare/warfare statism.

The nation states did a number on much of what's now the third world, leaving
arbitrary new would-be nation-states, Franken-states, stitched together from
what were more traditional governments organized along tribal lines (Iraq is
one such mess). What comes after the nation-state may be seen already in the
disintegration of such bogus states and their regression to earlier forms.

Van Crevald sticks to being a historian, and doesn't try to predict future
history. I won't either, but I'll repeat that in the fairly left-wing elite
U.S. circles I run in, there's a yearning for something beyond that old time
democratic politics. Somewhere between the 'net as the new commons, open
source foo, and green secular religion, there's a movement forming. Since
culture is prior to politics, and religion to culture, this isn't a surprise.

This was way too long. Hope it helped."

certainly not way too long - i totally appreciate the thoughtful response.

i've had a conversation with a few of you (more so in emails than i blog IIRC) about the problem of whether libertarianism can deal with major problems, specifically global warming. I asked Anon about the libertarian position on this - and firstly s/he suggested that global warming is probably bunk - but then added that the best way to deal problems like global warming, to the extent that it exists, is to somehow get the markets to fully-price the externalities:
So carbon taxes are better than banning fossil fuels, from a libertarian
Anon also says:
"greens are philosophically opposed to markets, so I'll save space and stop here."
it'd be interesting to know what would have followed afterwards. e.g i'm not sure it's true that greens are opposed to markets - and i'm not sure what a 'green' is. i probably am more likely to define myself as a free-marketeer first - but am also quite interested in 'green-ness' - not in the specifics, mind you, just at a meta-level.

As an aside, i think that the most moral thing that humans could do - at an extreme level - is get the hell off the planet in one way or other. I'm sure that most species would prefer us not to be here.

One other interesting thing about Anon's comments is that s/he seems to implicitly define libertarianism primarily through the impact on america - or at least through that prism - which is fine as it is, but i'd be interested to learn more about the universality of libertarianism. For example, Anon says:
"Warfare and welfare statism go together"
Is that generally true? It depends how define 'welfare statism ' I suspect - but there are many countries who are generally described as more 'socialist'/welfare statish than america who havent been to war in decades. And according to many metrics out-perform america on a whole range of quality-of-life issues - so aside from the warfare aspect, many 'welfare states' seem to be reasonably good at delivering in many parts of europe, for example.

in any case - lots of interesting stuff there and wanted to bring it to everyone's attention. thanks Anon. i could probably write 50 posts riffing off this.

i have a number of different 'backgrounds' - as a neo-lib corporate type, and also, separately, in gambling - so the whole externalities thing is very interesting - as is the 'ideas market' - i've seen up-close-and-personal how these things are played, and (separately) gamed.

i hope Anon continues to comment.

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