Author Archive

Most of what passes for “economics” is dogma of the “We Will Help You!” religion of the State

June 20th, 2014 No comments

[Copied from a Facebook post, that was itself bumped up from a Facebook comment on a thread on the role of religion in society]

In response to an observation/inquiry from Marie:

What most people think is “economics” and many of those involved in it as a professional or as a policy wonk certainly IS “full of religious and quasi-religious formulations. Is there anything that is fact based about economics?” Most of the “fact-based” stuff REFERS to facts, but is in fact not well-grounded at the micro level on an understanding how people actually behave.

Fortunately, there IS a growing focus on studying HOW people perceive, think and act, both individually and embedded within our groups, mores, and institutions. Behavioral economists and others are looking at human behavior and those in the “New Institutional Economics” school (represented by 2009 Nobel Prizewinners Elinor ‪#‎Ostrom and Oliver E. Williamson; this includes “Public Choice and “Austrian” economists) are studying and publishing on entrepreneurship, social capital, moral hazard, regulatory capture, crony capitalism, fiat currencies, individual and group plan formation, markets, “bounded rationality,” the “information problem,” “principal-agent problems,” etc. THIS is REAL economics, as a human science examining how we interact.

The “Workshop on the Ostroms, the Commons and Polycentric Self-Governance” is a page that I have been putting together in celebration of Lin Ostrom’s life and to explore the insights that she and her many and growing collaborators have:

In addition, The Collaborative Center Community/#CCC, where Marie raised her question, is a group intended for “anyone who is dissatisfied with the state of society, and is willing to build trans-partisan coalitions to fight (1) for stronger, more vital communities and (2) against corruption and crony capitalism. Divided, we are falling/failing, while those who control the increasingly concentrated and coercive levers of power continue both to thrive and to insulate themselves from the problems that they generate and perpetuate. For corrective action, we must act TOGETHER. This group is for people who are willing to reach across partisan aisles to connect with others who are also troubled by corporatism and loss of personal influence in the communities in which we live.”

I hope those of you who have troubled yourself to read even this far will also check out #CCC, which I hope will help redirect people from unproductive and hostile partisanship:

I note that the Vision Statement of the #Ostrom Award provides a good start in exploring the empirically based economics of Elinor Ostrom and her collaborators:

The presidential address to the American Political Science Association in 1997
Understanding Institutional Diversity
“Governing the Commons”
The Nobel lecture
The PNAS article on panaceas
Managing the Commons: Payment for Environmental Services.
Articles on the SES framework

For Practitioners
“Resources, Rights, and Cooperation: A Sourcebook on Property rights and collective action for sustainable development”. CAPRI, 2010.
Managing the Commons: Conservation of Biodiversity.
Managing the Commons: Markets, Commodity Chains and Certification.
Managing the Commons: Indigenous Rights, Economic Development and Identity.
Managing the Commons: Payment for Environmental Services.

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“Dysfunction,” “greed” and “mistakes” are predictable results when people act in systems that absolve them of accountability for harms to others

June 17th, 2014 1 comment

Left and Right keep looking for dichotomies of good/bad, where I see two sides of the same coin - the phenomena of predictably unaccountable, irresponsible, greedy, self-serving, stupid risk-shifting behavior by individuals within organizations where they are shielded by law/lack of transparency/custom/raw power/physical or social remoteness from other people who bear the bulk of the costs of actions that seem advantageous to those who act.

I also observe the ‘dysfunction’ in/of organizations that themselves are protected from the choices of citizens/customers, by virtue of law, monopoly or other coercion, and that such “BLOWBACK” often pays in spades for the group that makes or drives the bad decisions.

This is essentially a scientific undertaking in which many like #Ostrom was and others under the rubric of #NewInstitutionalEconomics are involved in researching and explicating.

Those who reflexively are incapable of looking at the fruit of massive state interventions in the economy (including the corporations that the state makes), who demand MORE and BETTER of what hasn’t been working, are displaying essentially religious and tribal mentalities. We have Sunni and Shia tribes in our #AmericanTaliban!

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The state as a tool of corrupt and unaccountable elites in enclosing the commons; and climate

June 16th, 2014 No comments

[Excerpted from a 2009 note to John Quiggin on “libertarians and delusionism“. My delusionism is smaller than yours!]

Would domestic cap-and-trade be an enclosure of the atmospheric commons, for the benefit of firms receiving grants of permits and costs flowing regressively to energy consumers, and internationally represents a vast expansion of state authority and bureaucracies, with attendant enclosure of local resources?

Many of the problems that concern libertarians also concern progressives, chief of these being the negative effects of state actions on communities, development and on open-access (and hitherto local, indigenous-managed) commons. This is the same concern that the Nobel Prize committee expressed when extending the prize in Economics to Elinor #Ostrom, signalling their desire for a change in international aid policy. [I have blogged on Ostrom’s views on the climate commons.]

Readers might find these remarks by Nicholas Hildyard, Larry Lohmann, Sarah Sexton and Simon Fairlie in “Reclaiming the Commons” (1995) to be pertinent:

The creation of empires and states, business conglomerates and
civic dictatorships — whether in pre-colonial times or in the modern
era — has only been possible through dismantling the commons and
harnessing the fragments, deprived of their old significance, to build
up new economic and social patterns that are responsive to the
interests of a dominant minority. The modern nation state has been
built only by stripping power and control from commons regimes and
creating structures of governance from which the great mass of humanity
(particularly women) are excluded. Likewise, the market economy has
expanded primarily by enabling state and commercial interests to gain
control of territory that has traditionally been used and cherished by
others, and by transforming that territory – together with the people
themselves – into expendable “resources” for exploitation. By enclosing
forests, the state and private enterprise have torn them out of fabrics
of peasant subsistence; by providing local leaders with an outside
power base, unaccountable to local people, they have undermined village
checks and balances; by stimulating demand for cash goods, they have
impelled villagers to seek an ever wider range of things to sell. Such
a policy was as determinedly pursued by the courts of Aztec Mexico, the
feudal lords of West Africa, and the factory owners of Lancashire and
the British Rail as it is today by the International Monetary Fund or
Coca-Cola Inc.

Only in this way has it been possible to convert peasants into
labour for a global economy, replace traditional with modern
agriculture, and free up the commons for the industrial economy.
Similarly, only by atomizing tasks and separating workers from the
moral authority, crafts and natural surroundings created by their
communities has it been possible to transform them into modern,
universal individuals susceptible to “management”. In short, only by
deliberately taking apart local cultures and reassembling them in new
forms has it been possible to open them up to global trade.[FN L.
Lohmann, ‘Resisting Green Globalism’ in W. Sachs (ed), Global Ecology:
Conflicts and Contradictions, Zed Books, London and New Jersey, 1993.]

To achieve that “condition of economic progress”, millions have
been marginalized as a calculated act of policy, their commons
dismantled and degraded, their cultures denigrated and devalued and
their own worth reduced to their value as labour. Seen from this
perspective, many of the processes that now go under the rubric of
“nation-building”, “economic growth”, and “progress” are first ad
foremost processes of expropriation, exclusion, denial and
dispossession. In a word, of “enclosure”.

Because history’s best-known examples of enclosure involved the
fencing in of common pasture, enclosure is often reduced to a synonym
for “expropriation”. But enclosure involves more than land and fences,
and implies more than simply privatization or takeover by the state. It
is a compound process which affects nature and culture, home and
market, production and consumption, germination and harvest, birth,
sickness and death. It is a process to which no aspect of life or
culture is immune. ..,

Enclosure tears people and their lands, forests, crafts,
technologies and cosmologies out of the cultural framework in which
they are embedded and tries to force them into a new framework which
reflects and reinforces the values and interests of newly-dominant
groups. Any pieces which will not fit into the new framework are
devalued and discarded. In the modern age, the architecture of this new
framework is determined by market forces, science, state and corporate
bureaucracies, patriarchal forms of social organization, and ideologies
of environmental and social management.

Land, for example, once it is integrated into a framework of
fences, roads and property laws, is “disembedded” from local fabrics of
self-reliance and redefined as “property” or “real estate”. Forests are
divided into rigidly defined precincts – mining concessions, logging
concessions, wildlife corridors and national parks – and transformed
from providers of water, game, wood and vegetables into scarce
exploitable economic resources. Today they are on the point of being
enclosed still further as the dominant industrial culture seeks to
convert them into yet another set of components of the industrial
system, redefining them as “sinks” to absorb industrial carbon dioxide
and as pools of “biodiversity”. Air is being enclosed as economists
seek to transform it into a marketable “waste sink”; and genetic
material by subjecting it to laws which convert it into the
“intellectual property” of private interests.

People too are enclosed as they are fitted into a new society where
they must sell their labour, learn clock-time and accustom themselves
to a life of production and consumption; groups of people are redefined
as “populations’, quantifiable entities whose size must be adjusted to
take pressure off resources required for the global economy. …

enclosure transforms the environment into a “resource” for national or
global production – into so many chips that can be cashed in as
commodities, handed out as political favours and otherwise used to
accrue power. …

Enclosure thus cordons off those aspects of the environment that are
deemed “useful” to the encloser — whether grass for sheep in 16th
century England or stands of timber for logging in modern-say Sarawak
– and defines them, and them alone, as valuable. A street becomes a
conduit for vehicles; a wetland, a field to be drained; flowing water,
a wasted asset to be harnessed for energy or agriculture. Instead of
being a source of multiple benefits, the environment becomes a
one-dimensional asset to be exploited for a single purpose – that
purpose reflecting the interests of the encloser, and the priorities of
the wider political economy in which the encloser operates….

Enclosure opens the way for the bureaucratization and enclosure of
knowledge itself. It accords power to those who master the language of
the new professionals and who are versed in its etiquette and its
social nuances, which are inaccessible to those who have not been to
school or to university, who do not have professional qualifications,
who cannot operate computers, who cannot fathom the apparent mysteries
of a cost-benefit analysis, or who refuse to adopt the forceful tones
of an increasingly “masculine” world.

In that respect, as Illich notes, “enclosure is as much in the
interest of professionals and of state bureaucrats as it is in the
interests of capitalists.” For as local ways of knowing and doing are
devalued or appropriated, and as vernacular forms of governance are
eroded, so state and professional bodies are able to insert themselves
within the commons, taking over areas of life that were previously
under the control of individuals, households and the community.
Enclosure “allows the bureaucrat to define the local community as
impotent to provide for its own survival.”[FN I Illich, ‘Silence is a
Commons’, The Coevolution Quarterly, Winter 1983.] It invites the
professional to come to the “rescue” of those whose own knowledge is
deemed inferior to that of the encloser.

Enclosure is thus a change in the networks of power which enmesh
the environment, production, distribution, the political process,
knowledge, research and the law. It reduces the control of local people
over community affairs. Whether female or male, a person’s influence
and ability to make a living depends increasingly on becoming absorbed
into the new policy created by enclosure, on accepting — willingly or
unwillingly — a new role as a consumer, a worker, a client or an
administrator, on playing the game according to new rules. The way is
thus cleared for cajoling people into the mainstream, be it through
programmes to bring women “into development”, to entice smallholders
“into the market” or to foster paid employment.[FN P. Simmons, ‘Women
in Development’, The Ecologist, Vol. 22, No.1, 1992, pp.16-21.]

Those who remain on the margins of the new mainstream, either by
choice or because that is where society has pushed them, are not only
deemed to have little value: they are perceived as a threat. Thus it is
the landless, the poor, the dispossessed who are blamed for forest
destruction; their poverty which is held responsible for
“overpopulation”; their protests which are classed as subversive and a
threat to political stability. And because they are perceived as a
threat, they become objects to be controlled, the legitimate subjects
of yet further enclosure. …

People who would oppose dams, logging, the redevelopment of their
neighbourhoods or the pollution of their rivers are often left few
means of expressing or arguing their case unless they are prepared to
engage in a debate framed by the languages of cost-benefit analysis,
reductionist science, utilitarianism, male domination — and,
increasingly, English. Not only are these languages in which many local
objection — such as that which holds ancestral community rights to a
particular place to have precedence over the imperatives of “national
development” — appear disreputable. They are also languages whose use
allows enclosers to eavesdrop on, “correct” and dominate the
conversations of the enclosed. …

Because they hold themselves to be speaking a universal language,
the modern enclosers who work for development agencies and governments
feel no qualms in presuming to speak for the enclosed. They assume
reflexively that they understand their predicament as well as or better
than the enclosed do themselves. It is this tacit assumption that
legitimizes enclosure in the encloser’s mind – and it is an assumption
that cannot be countered simply by transferring what are
conventionbally assumed to be the trappings of power from one group to

A space for the commons cannot be created by economists,
development planners, legislators, “empowerment” specialists or other
paternalistic outsiders. To place the future in the hands of such
individuals would be to maintain the webs of power that are currently
stifling commons regimes. One cannot legislate the commons into
existence; nor can the commons be reclaimed simply by adopting “green
techniques” such as organic agriculture, alternative energy strategies
or better public transport — necessary and desirable though such
techniques often are. Rather, commons regimes emerge through ordinary
people’s day-to-day resistance to enclosure, and through their efforts
to regain livelihoods and the mutual support, responsibility and trust
that sustain the commons.

That is not to say that one can ignore policy-makers or
policy-making. The depredations of transnational corporations,
international bureaucracies and national governments cannot be allowed
to go unchallenged. But movements for social change have a
responsibility to ensure that in seeking solutions, they do not remove
the initiative from those who are defending their commons or attempting
to regenerate common regimes — a responsibility they should take

Might there be good reason NOT to rush into a vast expansion of government world-wide?

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The state-worshipping Left (and Right) are the real “American Taliban”

June 16th, 2014 No comments

[reworked from a comment at the #WBOS Facebook group]

There is all kinds of fevered worrying out there that religious Dave Brat (who upset House Majority Whip Eric Cantor in VA 7 primary) poses a threat to the mission of Govt to save the poor and oppressed, and that Calvinism is really a doctrine to serve plutocrats.

The irony is that the politically dominant group in the country IS the essentially religious group of New England reformers (Calvinists) who took over the Federal Govt, crushed the South, producing a standing army that then crushed the Indians and ever since has been the threat that Washington and other Founders warned of, and wages endless virtuous wars on immigrants/alcohol/drugs/poverty/disease/sexism/unsafe food-organic, etc etc. These wars add to their very securely protected privilege (Harvard/Yale/Ivys that use “affirmative action” to cultivate pet minorities who they keep oppressed via the #DrugWar, while discriminating against Asians).

It’s a wonder that those nasty, threatening Amish/Mennonites/Hutterite Anabaptists haven’t been crushed yet.

I wish these people would buy a clue to the bigger picture, rather than to foment suspicion about people who don’t worship the endlessly incompetent state and the looters whom it really helps to help themselves.

The “American Taliban” is real, but it is the liberals themselves who are it, who are intolerant, and insist on using the state to run everyone’s lives. They intend well and pray daily that the Govt will act to save them and disadvantaged/oppressed people throughout the country, and pray/clamor even harder these days when things don’t work out. They don’t see the inefficacy of their prayers (or indeed, counterproductivity of Govt action in alienating people, weakening communities and DISEMPOWERING people’s ability to act collectively), because for them, it’s good INTENTIONS that matter, not results. If the results are bad, there’s a handy religious elder/court intellectual to advocate more spending, more stimulus, more subsidies, more regulations and more requirements that minorities/oppressed will have MORE help from Govt, so they don’t have to trouble to DO SOMETHING THEMSELVES. The State will make us SAFE!

Fortunately, there are promising signs of apostasy in the Left in NH, CO and WA, in #OWS, and in the “terrorist” protesters against big, govt-made and -coddled corporations and banks.

PS: There is evidence that much of the we-will-use-Government-to regulate-your-choices Right is also in the #AmericanTaliban:

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Outrageous police brutality? Police behavior will improve if even a small % of damages must be paid from police pensions.

May 28th, 2014 2 comments

A few thoughts, that I have posted on Twitter (and Facebook):

May 28 at 2:38pm

The best way to get cops to self-police their “bad apples” (and retired cops to help) is to make local pension pools contribute 10% or more of every damage award or settlement. Then personal skin in the game will incentivize them to rein in the damage done by “rogue” cops.

More on the idea here, if you don’t mind following a link or two:


Police,inclg retired cops,will police themselves when their pensions are hostage to misbehavior.10% contribution @DavidCorreiaABG


How to police the cops?


How to police the cops? @DavidCorreiaUNM


Vigilantes With A Badge: The War Against The American People Headcams and make their pensions liable.


If cops had to wear cams+their pension funds were on the hook for part of damage awards/settlements, then cops old+new wd police each other.


When will cops finally police their own ‘bad apples’? When cops’ PENSION pools are used to contribute to paying damage claims.


Must make cops interested in policing their own ‘bad apples’ — We must insist tht police pension plans pay 10% of all damage claims awarded


Best way to police the police is to require pensions be used to defray % of damage awards resulting from misbehavior.


Outrageous police brutality? Police behavior will improve if even a small % of damages are paid from police pensions.

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What are the “commons”? Are they un-ruly, without central formal management?

May 14th, 2014 No comments

[cross-posted from #CCC, the Collaborative Center Community group on Facebook]

What are the “commons”? Are they un-ruly, without central formal management? (Is #CCC similarly unruly, and require top-down management?)

Below is a comment I posted in the #WBOS group, spurred by various comments by others (I’ve tagged those who are also members here):

CB: “To me, any such claim [to property rights] is only valid because of its direct dependency on [an individual’s] rights over their own life.”

“This is actually one of the key libertarian points that I am still struggling to fully grasp. I have asked a number of people about this and gotten (what feel to me, at least, like) a number of different answers. Specifically, could you go over the reasoning that connects a person’s right to life (and/or control over that life) to the ownership of property?”

TG: “The only problem I have with private ownership is that it can, and currently IS, conflicting with the issue of the commons. If we can somehow ramp down on the me me me and exclusivity issues of private ownership, it will be less of a challenge to the notion of the public trust or good.”

NB: “Most of the commons is held as public land, not private. The worst cases of abuse are occurring on public land (and sea).”

JH: “The problem with the commons is that, supposedly owned by all of us, not all of us can be there to make each decision, so we have to delegate to an agent – that agent of “The People”. The agent starts making decisions based on what he says is the general interest, but there’s an interesting correlation between what the agent represents as the public interest and what lines his own pockets.”

Allow me a few quick thoughts.

– There is much that “New Institutional Economics”, “Public Choice” economics and “Austrian” economics researchers and thinkers bring to the perception and understanding of our “commons.” See especially Nobel Prize-winning Elinor Ostrom and her husband Vincent and their enormously influential and collaborative research and thinking.

– Our commons are not “simply” the pervasive commons which are our physical environment and the ubiquitous, deep and extensive informal/formal institutions/practices/norms in which we all swim and that undergird all of our interactions. Our languages themselves are commons (which grammar Nazis provide a crucial and selfless function in protecting :P); so too are much of what I consider to be “social capital”. We are born wealthy, thanks to millions of years of evolution, and millennia upon millennia of social experimentation in myriads of changing environments.

– I am a practical commoner; I see much (but certainly not all) of the “libertarian” effort to structure principled bases for human interaction to be shallow, self-deluded and convenient for a few people who actually run the show. In this, libertarians are very much like (yet not as bad imho as) the statists who scorn them.

– There is something to the “self-ownership” concept, but “property” flows not from “principles”, but from MUTUAL ACCOMMODATIONS in particular societies/environments. As I said elsewhere:

“My key point is that it is cooperating individuals in societies with shared values, mores and customs who come up with “property rights” in the form of agreed practices that they find mutually suitable, not thinkers who are coming up with “principles”, and using them to tell others how stupid they are.

“Societies of cooperating individuals are the sine qua non of ALL property. Those who focus on the “principles” but ignore the need to build community are trying to grow trees at the risk of damaging the forest.”


– Much of what passes for “property” isn’t principled at all, but rammed down our throats by the 1% via “our” governments.

For example, without government-made corporations, our dialogue on what claims by others we should recognize as legitimate/worthy of respect would be much clearer.

Further, most of us fail to see that allowing our governments to claim ownership of our commons — whether physical ones like our public lands, waters, air and the resources within them, or less tangible ones like our self-defense, welfare, communities and the right to use and allocate our personal or shared financial resources — is in many cases simply a scam and a device to privatize and destroy our commons, which, left to our own devices without large central governments and bureaucracies, real life shows IN FACT that we are quite capable of managing collectively (after all, we live in and need our commons!).

The history of our governments is in fact one deep in the gore of the theft of the commons from native peoples and other commoners; see the “enclosure” movements, see the acquisition of and gaming of the allocation of US/state “public lands” for the benefit of the wealthy, see the ongoing #Avatar situations at home and abroad where central governments claim ownership, accept corrupt extraction deals from faceless govt-made “corporation” fronts for more elites, and then use their army/police etc. to arrest/steamroll/kill/starve protesting locals.

– even “self-ownership” is a shorthand and not absolute; societies all differ, but in none are infants/toddlers/juveniles accorded full rights to make their own decisions, and curtailed rights for others of limited mental capacity are similarly ubiquitous.

As “ownership” is essentially shorthand for what individuals, either alone or in groups, will act to defend, the ownership of oneself and personal physical objects differs only in extent (not nature) from the “ownership” of children, of commons, or even of friends or other community members.

I hope the members here will dedicate themselves to a better understanding of, and greater love and defense of, our many shared and overlapping commons.

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All ye who enter here–abandon purist “Markets!” or “Government!” positions; let Elinor and Vincent Ostrom guide us in getting our hands dirty in the garden of self-governance

April 29th, 2014 No comments

[Cross-posted from the Collaborative Center Community on Facebook]

Leaving purist “Markets!” and “Government!” positions behind — I ask members to consider the relevance and the inspiration of the ‪#‎Ostroms(2009 Nobel Prize-winning Elinor and her husband Vincent) in getting our hands dirty in the garden of self-governance.

There’s a helpful paper by Paul Dragos Aligica and Peter Boettke that I invite you all to take a look at:

“More often than not Bloomington institutionalism is seen in a narrow way, i.e. only in relationship to the common pool resources studies, which are, indeed, very salient, yet, in fact, only one of the many dimensions of this research program. The reality is that the study of the “commons” emerged from a broader and deeper intellectual perspective that frames at a foundational level the work of the Bloomington scholars. As such, it is only one of the ways in which this intellectual vision becomes operational in the research practice. A closer look at this “perspective” reveals the fact that it is complex and profound enough to deserve to be considered what the literature calls a “social theory” or a “political philosophy.” Both explicit and implicit in the Ostroms’ work are attempts to understand, chart, evaluate, and articulate the basic categories with which we think about the social aspects of human life, as well as a willingness to deal with philosophical questions about social order and social behavior. Encapsulated in their studies are views about the nature and desirability of alternative systems of social organization and an effort towards their philosophical understanding. Even more, their empirical and policy-relevant contributions could be positioned in a very telling way at the intersection of several major trends in modern social thinking. Such exercises in interpretation reveal that the Ostroms’ contributions not only have a well-defined place in this intellectual history context, but also that, in many respects, their originality transcends the standard schools of thought and disciplinary boundaries. To focus only on the more salient and publicly visible pieces of the research produced by the Bloomington scholars — such as those on “governance” and “commons” — would be to miss an important part of Ostroms’ perspective on social order and institutionalism.

“The main objective of this paper is to explore what we call the “social theory” or the “social philosophy” that presumably shapes, inspires and defines the Ostroms’ research program. Our argument is that what we have called the “social theory” behind the Bloomington School’s research agenda has in fact two facets that may or may not be consistent with each other. Even more, they may or may not be necessarily and inseparably connected with the rest of the program. The first is built around the concept of “polycentricity” and a series of Public Choice insights, and is a challenge to two of the deepest assumptions of political and economic sciences in the 20th century: the monocentric vision of social order and the “market” versus “state” dichotomy. The second is built around a view of social order seen as a knowledge and learning process, along with a series of observations about the human condition, fallibility, coercion and error as well as about the factors engendering institutional order as a response to the challenges posed by them. But irrespective of how we approach and consider the relationship between these two facets, one thing is clear and stays unchanged: both feature an unambiguous normative engagement on behalf of self-governance and a robust faith in human freedom and human ingenuity.”

Some of my own blogging on Elinor Ostrom (often fighting misunderstanding libertarians) is here:

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Colloquy on “Government” versus “society”

April 26th, 2014 No comments

[cross-posted from Facebook]

– “Govt evolves like society has evolved, like we evolved.”

Formal “Governments” are human artifacts, and subject more or less (depending on size and many other factors) to conscious human manipulation. But as social, cooperative and competing animals, we also “govern” each other in myriads of informal mechanisms, which are also both part of of evolution and cultural heritage. These, too, can in part be shaped.

– “Govt does solve problems but what it does well we can’t see, what it doesn’t do well we notice.”
Well, we all have limited time, energy, cognitive ability and information, and also face competing priorities. We DO tend to notice more when things are broken, in ways that impose significant negative costs or inconvenience. But it is possible to notice what “Govt does well”, as well as to overlook countless things that it does not do well.

– “What you want is the next evolution of govt. You want it to be a society without govt.”
I’m not sure where you’ve derived these conclusions from (or entirely what you mean). Yes; I see many things about formal Govt now that are gravely broken and damaging to many people. But no, I do NOT want “society without [formal] govt”. In fact, my purpose in CREATING this group is to band together with others of many different persuasions to try to CHANGE formal government — not to end formal Govt altogether. But yes, humans did evolve without formal governments, and most of our interactions still take place informally, so I would hope to see formal Govts altered in ways that allow more of what Nobel Prizewinner Elinor #Ostrom called “polycentric” government, including much more self-government and participatory government.

– “Perhaps we as a society think we are ready for that, I am not sure we really are.”
I share your doubts that we are ready to live without formal Govt. In any case, it is not my objective. But we have before, can again, and imho definitely need to live again, with much more robust self-government that is more resistant to central corruption and looting by distant and unaccountable elites.

– “After all, you think there is no community.” 
I don’t think that there is NO community, but that growing crony capitalism and a growing Big Brother has steadily ERODED our communities and our mutual reliance and accountability, and set us up against each other in fighting over the crumbs that fall from the table, and for an illusion of who is really in charge.

Hence, my objective here is to BUILD community among others who are also waking up to the stinking mess that is America. Allies of all political stripes are welcome. We need to unite and build coalitions in order to push for changes that will rein in crony capitalism and restore more power for people to manage their own affairs and communities.

I am concerned much of BIG BROTHER actually arises out of what community may still exist, the desire to control women, the desire to suppress atheism in the US…

My own view on the growth of Big Brother is that it has fairly steadily centralized power, reducing the ability of people to live their own lives and manage their own communities, turning Govt into a one-stop shop for corporate welfare, contracts to provide military/defense and other services and for regulations that limit competition, and turned we the people into eternal supplicants for welfare and for more regulations to make the Frankensteins play nice.

Big Brother doesn’t so much “arise from community” as from a dynamic whereby it arrogates the right to solve the problems that it creates (by serving elites who fight to coopt it and to use its power).

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The movie “Avatar” is an allegory for “property”, and for what is worth banding together with other people to defend

April 26th, 2014 No comments

What are YOUR thoughts on the movie “Avatar“? Is it just an enviro fantasy? Or is it an allegory for what is “property”, and what is worth banding together with other people to defend?

The struggle to protect community/common property that James Cameron addressed in Avatar is still very much underway; see this from recent news?

It differs only in degree from the role of governments and corporations in resource development and pollution in the US, Canada, Europe, Japan, China, India, etc. etc.

“They want us to give up our traditions, work in the mines, and let them pollute our land. But we will give our lives to defend the land, because the end is the same for us either way.”

Here are two libertarian takes on Avatar, and on “property rights”:

Stephan Kinsella

– Yours truly: I think we need to rethink the roots of corporatism, and to attack them.

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David Stockman and Larry Lessig suggest a Left/Right reform platform

April 26th, 2014 No comments

[Facebook cross-post]

Larry Lessig said earlier this week:

D.C. Needs a Grassroots Fix That Will Come When Left and Right Find Common Ground
Citizens on the left and right agree that the government is in dire need of reform. So why are the political parties, including the Tea Party, of so little help when it comes to working for legitimate reform?

Lessig refers to a talk/workshop by David Stockman, in which Stockman suggested the following Left/Right reform platform (I quote):

1. For Peace: “Empire America,” as Stockman calls it, must end. No longer can we serve as the world’s policeman. And to staunch our Superman urges, we must radically reduce our military budget so that any urge to intervene takes affirmative action by Congress.

2. For Compassion: The government’s number one job, Stockman believes, is an “appropriate defense.” Number two is to care for those who can’t care for themselves. Yet only a tiny fraction of the transfer payments within our government today actually benefit the poor or needy. Whether or not we can afford entitlements for the middle-class or rich, in Stockman’s view, we must at least guarantee proper support for those who need our help.

3. For Liberty: Both the Big Brother and Nanny State must go. Prohibition (aka, the “war on drugs”) is an illiberal failure. We should declare peace, and call our troops home. And the perpetual surveillance of us by our government is not the America of our Founders. If the police want to invade our privacy, let them get a warrant.

4. Against Corruption—of the Democracy: Congress, Stockman believes, is a failed state. The economy of campaign fundraising has driven the institution to the brink of collapse. Nothing serious will get done so long as this system survives. And no reform, whether from the Left or Right, will get passed so long as the number one job of members is raising money from the especially interested to get reelected. The only way to fix this corruption is to radically change the economy of fundraising. Stockman therefore supports full and exclusive public funding of public elections, term limits and the end to any revolving door to K St.

5. Against Corruption—of the Economy: Our government has been seduced (this former Wall Street executive tells us) by the Wall Street economy. It needs to refocus on the Main Street economy. Government policy systematically tilts towards Wall Street growth. In the process, it tilts against Main Street growth. Stockman would enact a super-Glass-Steagall, separating banks from investment banks, and breaking up the big banks. He would level the taxes between capital and labor (no more special capital gains tax), and put an end to the “Greenspan put”. (Suffice it: Wall Street wouldn’t like the policies of its former executive.)

Lessig concludes:

“[W]hat is striking is just how much there is to agree upon, and yet how little of this agreement is even utterable by lame-stream politicians (to remix that slogan just a bit). Exactly why is it that 25 years after the end of the Cold War, our defense budget is larger (PDF) than it was then? Even if Social Security should be expanded (a view the Left holds but not the Stockman Right), why isn’t our first priority to make sure the poor and the helpless have the support that any decent society would give? Who really is for the NSA-state? Or the war on drugs? Whatever a “financialized economy” means, is there any non-campaign-fundraising-related reason why Democrats and Republicans continue to fall over themselves to keep Wall Street happy? And with 96 percent of Americans believing it “important” to “reduce the influence of money in politics,” why is this even a question to debate?

“The striking fact about American politics today is the gap between America and its politics. If this were a market, entrepreneurs would quickly fill that gap. If this were a democracy, a new generation of leaders would claim it.

“We’ll soon see just what we are—and who the real “reformers” are.”

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