24 June 2006

Crutches for weak thinkers… …or else manipulative tools exploited by those who want to be our masters

A lengthy but worthy screed by David Brin concerning “Allocation vs Markets” &mdash an ancient struggle with strange modern implications. Another of his invectives that rails against the so-called "left-right political axis".
As most of you know, I have long inveighed against the hoary and almost-meaningless so-called "left-right political axis," a metaphor to which (absurdly) countless millions of people still cling, 250 years after the French (of all people) thought it up -- a "spectrum" that mindlessly narrows and channels all political debate. A tidy model that halves every political IQ, forcing sophisticated, 21st Century minds into enmity with folk who may share many values, and compels you into alliance with others who want a world very different than you do.

Brin details the fallacies of Guided Allocation of Resources (GAR) versus the modern "fetishism" of Faith in Blind Markets. First exactly, what is GAR?

This notion contends that society’s best, brightest and wisest should decide how capital will be invested, which goods will be produced, and who will work at what tasks.

To those who were raised in the 20th Century, this description surely sounds like socialism. But that is a narrow and parochial view of GAR. A glaring logical and historical fallacy. An absurdity, in fact. (As a test of your own flexibility and sagacity, stop here and ponder for a moment why I call this reflex association preposterous. Why do I say that socialism is NOT the foremost or exclusive exemplar of guided allocation? Think "history" and stretch your assumptions a bit, before reading on.)

In fact, GAR has been the fundamental principle of governance and economics in nearly all human societies -- not just socialistic ones -- ever since the discovery of agriculture! Take the cabals of kings, nobles, and clerics that ruled over most of them. Those oligarchs felt just as sure of their superior ability to manage and allocate resources -- including human labor -- as the Soviet nomenklatura commissars were. Perhaps more so!

But what about the logical trap at the other end, the postulation that the wise opposite of GAR is Faith in Blind Markets (FIBM):

In other words, because we have learned that GAR (all capital letters) stinks as a general system, that means we must flee as far as we can, to extremes in the diametric direction! We should reject any use of "gar" (lower case) tools to help markets work better. In extremum, this teaching calls upon us to reject the entire suite of problem-solving methodologies that involve political deliberation, prioritizing and allocating a certain fraction of social resources toward the accomplishment of thoroughly considered and democratically-chosen consensus goals.

Um, has anyone else pondered the unbelievable reductio meaning of this cult incantation? That an ideal human society should make little or no use of our great facility for planing and foresight?

Individuals may peer ahead. Corporations are allowed to do so. Aristocrats may do so in small collusive groups and in secret. But en-masse we must spurn our hard-won propensity for gedankenexperiment and precautionary action!

Astonishingly, those who seek a fetishistic opposite to GAR seem to be declaring faith and fealty to a new godhead. A non-promethean deity who demands quiet from humanity's collective prefrontal lobes. In blithe and devout expectation of externally-delivered salvation, they pray to an idol of mass-social unsapience.

The crux of the matter?

…history shows that we have absolutely no basis for blindly trusting that creative cornucopia explosion to happen all by itself! The engendering of those creative millions is too serious and important a task to leave to such a simple dogma! Especially to a blithe nostrum, that has no support in the long history of nations.

True, hierarchical guided allocation proved dangerous and stupid countless times in the past. But not when it has been applied toward well-focused tasks that enhance the capability of millions of human beings to become sagacious individual citizens and market participants! Our universities and internets and democracies and civil rights and commercial codes and free education and subsidized roads and nutrition programs and countless other measures that mitigated the tendency of society to slump into a pyramidal hierarchy of inherited privilege. By helping each generation of kids to believe - in some confidence - that they are able to innovate and cooperate and joyfully compete, we created the world's first diamond-shaped society.

And we did it using judicious dollops of carefully considered gar... (lower case)... not GAR.

If the left is never satisfied in pushing for such things, sometimes forgetting what they are for, the right has no claim to be smug. They take all of these things (like civil rights) for granted, glad to accept the benefits, forgetting that conservatives fought against every last one of them, and now resist every new fine-tuning that might help the great cornucopian machine to work better.

While I don't agree with Brin on other issues, this polemic here is on the mark and it is my hope that many will grok it and get it. That they will see through the subterfuge advanced by partisans of the two party power base, to grasp the root political principles from which legislation should be based on.


Your messages are getting more sophisticated Naum.

You are going to lose your fan base if you are not careful.

This last message was too sophisticated for me. :(
Too sophisticated? How so?
I still don't know what that David Brin is saying. I am too lazy to find out too. I read enough complex stuff in school, I don't want to read stuff like this in my leisure.

Just an observation, and a compliment.

I have seen a general rise is sophistication and specialization in your arguments, at the same time, the number of people who post on your site has dropped. There may be no correlation, but I think there is.
Well, if I were to paraphrase, I would say that Brin's essay here concerns two models of economic thought, and how they are more similar than different. Also:

* How GAR (guided allocation of resources) is not unique to socialistic governments, that it's been the mode of monarchies and rulers throughout history.

* That markets unleashed a powerful force of civilization advancement, but that swinging the needle totally in the direction of FIBM (faith in blind markets) is really just another form of GAR (guided allocation of resources), endowing a aristocratic class with futhering their goals and stripping democracy and freedom from most all, erasing the "diamond shaped" economic paradigm that catapaulted civilization.

* Focus on left/right political axis poisons the argument - instead of focus on planting, promoting, and maintaining market forces for good, it allows oligarchies to prevail, who end up repeating same ills of GAR prevalent through history.
Excellent points, albeit they are complex ones, that not everyone can understand easily.

I suggest "dumbing" them down more. Words like "paradigm" I vaguely understand.

I barely understand your explanation, let alone the article, and I am a law student--I am supposed to be the one with a big vocabulary, etc. Others who do not use words as weapons as often as I do will have a harder time.

BTW, in regards to using words as weapons, I got booted at wikipedia for a week--for my use of words "incivility" they call it--most long term users here would not be surprised by this.


Last month I was booted indefinetly for alleged copyright violations--I could never edit wikipedia again, but another administrator was kind enough to unboot me.

Hey Naum, is there anyway to:

1. go back and change my old user name (without the one) and

2. delete my email address?

I am getting tons of spam, and I think it has to partly do with this site. Bots search the web for email addresses and then find this site.

Second, I don't want future employers to type in my user name (without the one), and see my political beliefs. I already have had to change the email I use for resumes because of this site.

The hotmail account sucks, and it even has less spam filters, worse, if I don't log in every month, all of my email is gone. That means I may be losing important messages to me from potential employers.

These two problems can be solved if I can go in and delete my email address and modify my user name from the old messages
1. Yes, you can change your "display name" if you have logged in.

2. Can't delete your email address, but you can change it to something else. Or I can delete your account

But I am not understanding your request as:

* your email doesn't display on your posts (if signed in to site) nor on your member page - http://azplace.net/index.ph...

* if its "anon" posts we're talking about, not much I can do there, suppose I could retroactively go back and write some sort of scrubber script to go back and delete history but I just don't have the time to embark upon an effort like that and it kind of violates the spirit of the internet.

Regarding spam, you need to use a better email program - it's estimated that 80-90% of email is now spam, you need to get a client that has good filtering capability or pick a email host/provider that does the job on the server side.
About employers & political beliefs: a little word of advice -- do you really want to work for an employer where you would have to be so sensitive about your "political beliefs" and that your condition of employment would be affected by such beliefs?
About employers & political beliefs...

Welcome to my world: conservative law school :( I am very anti-american, remember?

you need to get a client that has good filtering capability or pick a email host/provider that does the job on the server side.

Yahoo has been good.

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