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Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 635

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A pre-post-mortem of the 2016 Republican debacle

From my blog:


The TPP is such a clear-cut issue that once you see someone support it, you need no further data.

Any politician who supports the TPP is out to make you poorer for their own benefit. It really is that simple, and "third way" is the least of the labels they deserve. If they're liberal on social or lifestyle issues they qualify for the "third way" category; if not, they're plain right-wingers or just as bad.


There's all kinds of other disingenuous lumping-togethering that gets done when someone wants to defend stuff they do... democracy = the two party system, free enterprise = deregulation, liberty = not paying taxes, and weirdest of all, capitalism is Christian.

a distinction that Wall Street doesn't want us to make

We usually hear the terms "entrepreneurship", "free enterprise", and "capitalism" lumped together as if they're all the same thing. But they aren't. They are three separate things.

Entrepreneurship is when you start a small business and hope it can expand beyond mere self-employment. Free enterprise is open competition without barriers or protections. And capitalism... that's when an investor or speculator takes ownership of other people's productivity, in exchange for cash they may or may not actually have.

Why do these three always get conflated? Because capitalists want what they do to seem as valuable and legitimate and necessary as entrepreneurship and free enterprise are. Because they want you to think they're job creators -- a description which is valid for entrepreneurs. Because they want us to see their games as being about freedom and openness, instead of as a narrowing of power and privilege.

Don't buy it. We respect free enterprise and entrepreneurship, but that doesn't mean we have to respect Wall Street's version of capitalism. It's not at all the same thing.

We've been undervaluing inflation for decades

Consumer goods made by machines get cheaper. Real wages drop but you can still afford to fill your house with junk. You don't see how much earning power you've really lost until you try to buy something that can't be made by a robot or a third-world laborer, such as an education or a house or a hospital stay. Wages aren't just stagnant, they've been driven downward by a huge distance. They hide this fact by basing the inflation index on consumer prices for cars and TVs and stuff, which cost far less than they used to because it takes far fewer person-hours to make each unit than used to be needed.

Government of the people, by the people, and for the people

I think Abraham Lincoln's famous description, "government of the people, by the people, and for the people", sums up what defines liberalism. Every form of conservative or antiliberal philosophy amounts to an opposition to some part of it. For instance, anarchists oppose "government of the people". Monarchists and fascists oppose government "by the people". So do theocrats. So does anyone who wants to maintain a ruling class.

But the most interesting bit is government "for the people". This doesn't just mean that government shouldn't be corruptly twisted to serve a minority; it means that government should be actively on our side. It should be "for" us like a sports fan is "for" his team. A government that is truly for us should be actively engaged in promoting our success. Not only should it have no other loyalty than to its people, but it also must not be indifferent to them. It should not be neutral or passive when it comes to its people's interest.

And that's what separates liberals from most of today's conservatives and libertarians. At best, they want neutral passivity -- they do not want a government that is for the people. Even though it belongs to the people.

all that can be done with bitcoin is, in the end, to speculate

It has no inherent value. This, combined with its scarcity and hype, make it an almost perfectly engineered medium for producing speculative bubbles.

self-awareness and "mind" are nowhere in sight... but

"thought" is another matter. If a machine can do rational problem solving with real-world problems that require comprehension of what it sees and hears around it, then I'd say that constitutes thought and intelligence, even when consciousness is absent.

I've heard that the transcript is unimpressive

and that you end up wondering how people could have been fooled.

Computers still fail at actually comprehending English. But once they do, I think we'll have to conclude that this amounts to intelligence, because the other criteria are turning out to be too easy.

Note that intelligence and consciousness are entirely separate questions here. The former is within sight, while the latter still leaves us baffled as to how we'd even make a start.

Japan is not the only country in this pickle, probably not even the worst off...

The good news is, the specter of overpopulation turns out to not be a very big worry from this point forward. Birth rates are dropping almost everywhere. The bad news is, modern capitalism seems to offer so many disincentives to having a family that only those with a strong compulsive desire for children are still motivated to reproduce, meaning that this trait is going to be selected for.
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