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Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 560

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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.

I've also been taking my first look at PUA/MRA/MGTOW "red pill" ideas

and I notice that nobody seems willing to spell out what their mystical secret "red pill" insights actually are. They're clear what it's not -- feminism, in a word -- but nobody seems to quite agree what it is. It seems to be anything and everything that can be used to justify having less respect for women.

I wonder if racists will also start framing their race science -- excuse me, "human biodiversity" -- ideas as a secret insider knowledge available only to a select elite of superior individuals who have what it takes to face the truth. If it works for the misogyny crowd...

But this red pill stuff doesn't remind me of racism so much as of something like Al Qaeda, where people are recruited to violence through hate propaganda that gives them someone to blame for their lives. Except without the religious angle... of the "manosphere" stuff I've seen, the conservative Christian wing is the least offensive faction. Maybe a better analogy than Al Qaeda would be something like the antigovernment militia movement.

an ex?-Democrat to shun

This morning I woke up to a campaign ad from some dickhead running for assembly named Steve Glazer. (CA district 16, which I lived in a few years ago.) And his campaign issue is that last year's strike by BART transit workers was harmful, and that sort of thing should be stopped. It casts him as mister bravery for standing up to union power. It implied that he was running as an independent, though I could not verify that he does or doesn't have a party affiliation anymore.

Surprisingly, he is, or recently was, a Democrat.

Apparently he thinks that if people are providing a truly vital service, they should not be allowed to strike. He's saying that if you do something that people need, he is ENTITLED to the fruit of your labor.

Let me clarify something. Just as to be employed is a privilege, not a right, it's also a privilege, not a right, to employ someone. If another person is working for you, either directly as an employer or indirectly as a customer, their labor on your behalf is not something they owe you. It is something performed only by mutual agreement. If you disagree with that -- if you think essential labor should be mandatory for workers to perform -- then I hope you also think that it should be mandatory for companies to hire the unemployed, until there's no unemployment. Is holding a job voluntary or not?

Organized labor has of course come out strongly against Glazer, and the corporate media are lining up to label their opposition a "smear campaign". But the only smear I've heard was Glazer's own ad, and that's plenty for me.

I hope it's true that this asshat is running as an independent. I hope that he is thoroughly shunned by his former buddies in the Democratic party. Governor Brown is apparently on that buddy list; let's see how he reacts.

count me as one nerd who isn't transfixed

There are billboards popping up in my area that show a bitcoin logo and say "The revolution has started. Where do you stand?" Where I'm standing is, at a good safe distance from the sign by the cliff that says "watch for falling currencies".

Krugman was right: bitcoin has solved the transactional part of a digital currency, but not the value part. Any value it holds is entirely speculative, with nothing underlying it.

Buying bitcoins is like buying stock in a hot company with no assets or revenue. It's like buying bonds from a popular issuer who never promised repayment. It's like buying commodity shares in neutrinos.

It looks good now because its designed-in scarcity makes it naturally tend to rise in price as people buy in. Considered as a currency, it has built-in deflation (which, by the way, would make it a terrible idea to use it as an economy's primary money). So as soon as anyone pays real money for it, it immediately becomes a bubble. But because of the lack of a base of real value, when this bubble pops, there's nothing to stop the price falling all the way to zero.
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