What are your thoughts on the 19th century publisher and anarchist Benjamin Tucker?

I think Tucker is important because he is representative of a flavor of individualism that has amplified itself in the U.S. anarchist tradition in fairly pronounced - if not unique - ways over time, and which continues to do so today. In other words, he is an important part of that canon. In addition, as a publisher and translator, he was also an instrumental and seminal influence in the U.S. movement, bringing truly original and disruptive ideas (such as Nietzsche and Stirner) into the fray. As a consequence of all of this, I would also say that Tucker occupied a singular position in promoting some of the fundamental errors in the thinking of individualists, egoists and anarcho-capitalists over time. These include:

1. Differentiating economic equality from equality of liberty (i.e. from individual or collective agency). We simply can’t do this and remain intellectually honest, because concentrations of wealth always result in concentrations of influence and/or formalized political power. There is simply no precedent for real-world situations unfolding differently (whether government is involved or not). Because of this, liberty is always negatively impacted by economic inequality, which becomes de facto coercion. This is an inescapable truth, and is perhaps best illustrated both the consequences of natural monopolies throughout history, and by Nozick’s theoretical elaboration on the inevitability of “voluntary slavery” in laissez-faire environments.

2. Misunderstanding the relationship between collective agreement in civil society and individual liberty (individual agency). Without the collective agreement expressed in and by civil society and its institutions (and I do not mean the State, but what can be diffused and distributed civic mechanisms), individual liberty either does not exist, or it becomes an arduous process of constant renegotiation that itself is prohibitive to agency. One the one hand, it would be like having to negotiate how to progress in a safe and orderly fashion through each intersection when driving - at each intersection, over and over again, coming to a mutual voluntary agreement about how to proceed. And on the other, the individualist anarchist is simply not recognizing the facilitation of liberty that civil society (again, ideally in diffused and distributed capacities) establishes over time; that liberty is in fact positively created by the very conventions that individualists tend to rail against. As I write in “The Goldilocks Zone of Integral Liberty:”

“It doesn’t require much investigation to realize that… the idealized pinnacle of individual sovereignty in modern society is supported by an endless intersection of facilitative factors, like the majority of mass for an iceberg that lies below the water but is invisible to the casual eye.”

3. Being overly attached to the Labor Theory of Value and its corollary/extension via private property and labor appropriation. For me this is the least subtle problem with individualist variations of anarchism. Firstly, this belief inevitably results in the entire world being fenced off by those actively employing their own precious portion of private land for their own purposes, thus depriving anyone else of the freedom to access and use that land. This is simply an untenable proposition, given (among many other reasons) the fact that land is limited, but human population keeps growing. Secondly, what constitutes labor or utility is entirely subjective. If I spit on a stick, am I adding value? If I plant trees on my property to create artwork that is only viewable from space, can’t I claim utility in perpetuity (or at least as long as the trees are alive)? These are just some of the problems inherent to the LTV and theory of labor appropriation, making their suppositions either absurd, or ultimately dependent on the same institutionalized collective agreements that individualists strive to shirk.

4. A tendency to reject a priori, intuitive, emotional, relational and spiritual dimensions of human cognition and experience - in favor of empiricism, reductionism, solipsism, nihilism and egoistic utility. This has always been - and continues to be - one of the biggest divides in philosophy. In my view, it is inherently problematic to exclude any of the input streams available to human experience and consciousness, or claim - as an arbitrary and capricious value judgment - that only one of them has primacy over all of the others. I have written about what I think the model should be: integrating all available input streams in a balanced, careful and conscious way. You can read about that here: Sector Theory 1.0 – Todd's Take on Epistemology; and here: Managing Complexity with Constructive Integralism. (the full PDFs are also available here: Essays by T.Collins Logan)

At the same time, Tucker’s thinking is so diverse that I also find myself agreeing with at least some of it - such as his description of the Four Monopolies and concerns with what came to be called “rent-seeking” behaviors (i.e. what Tucker calls “usury”).

My 2 cents.

From: https://www.quora.com/What-are-your-thoughts-on-the-19th-century-publisher-and-anarchist-Benjamin-Tucker/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What are some reasons on why Anarcho-Capitalism doesn't work?

Here are the basic failure points in anarcho-capitalism, as evidenced by what we know of history:

1. Natural monopolies occur even if there is no government. And once those monopolies occur, there is no longer competition, and the advantages of a free market evaporate.

2. Voluntary contracts can still be coercive, exploitative and oppressive if there is no other way to survive except to submit to them. In anarcho-capitalism, there is nothing standing in the way of of the “haves” effectively enslaving the “have-nots” in exactly this voluntary fashion.

3. Private property is tyrannically oppressive to liberty - the “fencing off” of the world to first-come, first-serve opportunists effectively eliminates liberty and opportunity for everyone who shows up late. Multi-generationally this exacerbates capricious inequity, especially if children can inherit what they haven’t earned. The same is true of wealth accumulation and its relationship to power. Private ownership and its inevitable concentrations of capital ultimately consolidates power and freedom around a select few.

4. The profit motive has been predictably corrosive to social cohesion and civil society in its amplification of individualist materialism, rewarding of psychopathic egotism, and toddlerization of dependent consumers. It’s just not a good idea to rely on the profit motive to sustain civil society. You usually end up with despots and thugs in fairly short order.

5. For any form of anarchism to function, the entire society - down to every outlier - must voluntarily agree to whatever basic assumptions and expectations are in play for things like commerce, transportation, communication, morality and the other nuts-and-bolts of civil society to function reliably. And frankly we just aren’t there yet - the diversity of such assumptions and expectations is just too great.

My 2 cents.

From: https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-reasons-on-why-Anarcho-Capitalism-doesnt-work/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Socialists: How would you deal with the "incentive" problem?

I'm asking in the context of current reality, not in a post-scarcity society. In a world of “from each according his ability, and to each according to his needs”, how would you induce people to work, rather than mooch? How do you avoid having high performers create black markets or leave?

So first I had a good chuckle over the ideological distortions among many pro-capitalist answers. Wake up folks. The data is in. This very old question has been thoroughly answered by real-world successes. For example:

1. **Open Source.** Many years ago I implemented Linux across hundreds of enterprise servers. It worked better (was more scalable, reliable and faster) than every other commercially available server environment. And all of the software running on those boxes was also Open Source. Some of it was authored by coders with pseudonyms, and supported by the faceless, nameless geeks in discussion groups. None of this software production cost anything. No one was rewarded. No one got an “attaboy” or ego boost from my implementations. All of the Linux-based environments were a product of passionate devotion to intelligent, flexible, open design. And because nearly all of the initial implementations were on old, retired hardware destined for the trash heap, there wasn’t even any capital outlay for that (it was like giving Moore’s Law a kick in the nads).

2. **Publicly Funded Research & Innovation.** Again returning to the tech industry, you know who created most of the innovations we rely upon today in our most beloved computing gadgets? Publicly funded academic and government research. Yup. And these students and researchers weren’t incentivized by the profit motive either. They were curious, or competing with their peers, or stubborn problem solvers…not folks working on commission or hoping for juicy patent windfalls.

3. **For Fun, Passion or Compassion.** There are clubs, societies, non-profit NGOs, government agencies, charities and a host of other organizations around the globe that engage the world with innovation, highly professional services, excellent products and high levels of productivity because they care. And the more they care, the harder they work, the more they innovate, the more they create…and so on.

The only reason that these obvious examples seem to be persistently overlooked by market fundamentalists is that they don’t want to see or acknowledge the obvious contradictions to their most cherished beliefs. Classic confirmation bias. In other words, the answer to “Where is John Galt” seems to be “He has no idea, because he can’t see the glaring truths in front of his face.”

My 2 cents.

Comment from Pieter Rossouw: "Great valid point. But, it’s hard to eat or drink Linux and if I wore it to town to see a movie I would be arrested. All 3 your points were made possible by wealth created by free markets affording the creators a good basic standard of living."

Ah that is the fantastical narrative that neoliberals, anarcho-capitalists, Randian objectivists and the like would have us believe. But it is false. What created the conditions for the activities, pursuits and values I’ve described was not “free markets,” but civil society. Without civil society - the rule of law, the willing sense of political obligation, the mutual generosity and support, the active engagement in society’s betterment, protections for the marginalized and exploited, the elevation of prosocial behaviors, etc. - there would be no “good basic standard of living.” There would be no social good at all…just thuggery. All of the wealth would simply concentrate in a few lucky thieves and cunning opportunists. That is the true nature of unrestrained capitalism and laissez-faire “free markets” - at least as demonstrated throughout history and into modern times. It is a lovely fantasy, to be sure, for us to believe that natural monopolies do not occur, that slavery does not occur, that oppression and exploitation do not occur, and that capitalism left unchecked does not simply result in a brutal resurgence of feudalism. But this fantasy is a distortion (and/or a nefarious hoodwink) that we need to leave behind - IMO as soon as possible, so that we can focus on what really matters.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/Socialists-How-would-you-deal-with-the-incentive-problem/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Why didn’t quantitative easing affect inflation in 2008?

A complicated issue which we can attempt to break down this way:

- First it would be good to bone up on the concept of financialization. It can be said with some confidence that the 2007–2008 financial crisis was a direct consequence of some thirty years of the U.S. converting to increasingly financialized productivity where speculation, derivatives, and debt-based financial instruments dominated profit seeking. At a fundamental level, aided as it was by loosening leverage ratios and lax oversight of financial institutions, this meant that there was “no there there” in terms of real assets. This was all pretend…psychological, high risk gambling really.

- Now if banks don’t have adequate cash reserves to cover such risky gambling, and that gambling gets exposed for what it really is (i.e. payments come due and can’t be made), then the whole game falls apart like a ponzi scheme. The “no there there” becomes a financial death spiral - lending seizes up to disrupt the credit cycle, banks and insurers go under, and economic productivity grinds to a crawl. Remember…this shift away from a production/consumption economy to a debt-servicing speculation economy meant that there wasn’t anything to take up the slack in terms of investment (well there actually was…it just wasn’t perceived to be such any longer, but we’ll get to that in a minute). So the bottom fell out, resulting among other things in tremendous deflationary pressure - especially in terms of debt deflation. [BTW, this is a classic example of how the market fails to make good decisions at a macro level…but that’s another discussion. The point is, this face-plant created a huge amount of essentially unsecured debt that couldn’t be rescued.]

- Here is where QE steps in. How do you get banks to start lending again? Well fatten their reserves of course - every dollar in reserves can lead to $1,000s in economic activity once reinvested. But..um…what if they just pocket the money and don’t lend it out? And, well, this is exactly what happened. Credit remained ridiculously tight…ironically, for much lower risk investments than had previously been gambled upon. For example, small business loans and lines of credit just could not be got, even with a sterling business credit history. That seems odd, doesn’t it? Well it is. It’s actually ludicrous. But remember that lenders had essentially “forgotten” any other investments besides their beloved debt instruments…so they just packed QE surpluses away, like rats building a nest in the dark. But remember those “deflationary pressures” I mentioned? Well they kept holding the interest rates down with voracious psycological intensity - collateral (residential real estate, for example) remained both undervalued and in an excess supply…a supply that grew rather than diminished. Which meant there was no inflation. And because that excess supply also discouraged traditional productivity (no labor, materials or other inputs were required), economic growth remained stagnant from such inactivity as well.

- Eventually, of course, the credit cycle did loosen up a bit and businesses and consumers could get loans, which in turned began to generate more economic activity. It has taken several years, though, for those deflationary pressures to relax, and increasing collateral value and pent up demand to evidence themselves. I think it’s still pretty tenuous, still in process, still uncertain, and still sluggish.
Which brings us up to the current political and economic climate, which is happily broadcasting a renewed loosening of financial restrictions, a relaxing of oversight, and and encouragement of shiny new risky gambling behaviors. The good news, of course, is that the American taxpayers are still available to socialize the risk of Wall Street high rollers - a role they seem quite happy to accept, since they voted in 2016 to make the an unstable and unsustainable U.S. financialized economy “great again.” Weehaa!

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/Why-didn%E2%80%99t-quantitative-easing-affect-inflation-in-2008/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Was Thorstein Veblen a social democrat?

This is an interesting question to me because it exposes the critical issue of interpreting how movements/ideologies change over time - and how definitions of those movements/ideologies change over time as well (and not always in a synchronized way). If we take a snapshot of Veblen’s culminated ideas about institutional (social) economics and criticisms of rent-seeking financialization, these do indeed seem to be broadly supportive of what social democracy eventually came to embody after WWII. But at the time Veblen lived and wrote, the term “social democrat” would have been too narrow of a box to confine Veblen’s thought, as I believe it was more specifically focused on transitioning capitalism to socialism at that time. So although there are some similarities of appearance - when viewed from afar - the endgames would have been quite different. I think Veblen was much more interested in restoring industrial production and the LTV to their “rightful place” in a classical economics sense, and either taxing non-value-adding activities, or pointedly excluding them from profit-seeking and shifting them into the public domain. This could then be viewed as pragmatic socialization in the context of a mixed economy - so again this might align with what “social democracy” came to represent in the latter 20th century.

Now at the same time this would also be perceived by neoliberals as extreme “socialist” intervention, to be sure…but Veblen’s provocation of such reactions has, I think, always been and continues to be mostly about his criticisms of those self-serving rentiers, rather than about his proposed institutional remedies or desired linkage between capitalist enterprise and social value. In other words, it’s a knee-jerk reaction. Remember that any regulation, attempts to constrain monopoly, attenuate the advantages of inheritance, reduce worker or consumer exploitation, or shift speculative risk back to the speculators is a direct frontal assault on the neoliberal fantasy. Neoliberals believe that any and all profits (and subsequent concentrations of wealth) are self-justifying…no matter how obscene or destructive they may be to society itself. And since Veblen’s intense criticisms of such views are bound to resonate with Marxists, libertarian socialists, anarchists and the like, it would be (and has been) easy to overgeneralize that proposals from all of these camps share the same goals. But of course they don’t…not really. Further, would Thorstein Veblen agree with all “Third Way” social democratic formulations and trajectories that evolved later still? I dunno. On the surface, perhaps, it might seem that he would. But I suspect that he would also have a biting, snarky and insightful critique to offer about them as well.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/Was-Thorstein-Veblen-a-social-democrat/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What do Socialists think of the statement, "The trouble with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money"?

Speaking as a socialist, I think it’s a pretty stupid statement. But it exemplifies what has happened to our political landscape: the reduction of complex concepts into propagandizing sound bites. It’s how elections are won, and both Reagan and Thatcher were arguably brilliant at jingoistic oversimplification en masse. At the same time, of course, their neoliberal ideologies failed - and continue to fail wherever they are implemented. But such facts don’t discourage pro-capitalist folks from continuing to promote supply-side or trickle-down economics, austerity measures, destruction of social safety nets, and the aggressive obliteration of successful and/or popular government programs. Ironically, the most successful economies in the world are mixed economies - where socialized public sector controls and enterprises coexist with the private sector - rather those economies that lean more towards laissez-faire capitalism.

Now at the heart of the sentiments expressed by this silly sound bite is a profound conviction that welfarism, mixed economies and “The Nanny State” are all antagonistic to both wealth production and wealth accumulation. This is a primary tenet of the neoliberal belief system, and drives resentment of regulatory “government interference” in markets, a general mistrust of government bureaucracy, a constant anti-tax drumbeat, and apoplectic frothing-at-the-mouth over Keynesian economic policies or New Deal styled progressivism. But is this sentiment justified? Part of it is, sure - the interference with obscene concentrations of accumulated wealth is real. But this neatly sidesteps the reality of how much of that wealth is generated: that is, by callous rent-seeking activities, financialization of the economy, the exploitation of cheap labor and perpetuation of wage slavery, wanton destruction and depletion of natural resources, and complete disregard for any and all negative externalities. In other words, the feudal lords of neoliberalism want to oppress, exploit and despoil everyone and everything around them to amass their profit, and then prevent any crumbs from falling from the master’s table onto the floor for the rest of us. It’s a pretty nasty way of looking at the world, IMO, but it gets transmuted into the type of leadership and rhetoric that Thatcher exemplified, and into quips such as “taxation is theft.”

At the other end of the spectrum, we could say “The trouble with capitalism is that eventually you run out of other people’s labor.” But here again, this is a gross oversimplification.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/What-do-Socialists-think-of-the-statement-The-trouble-with-Socialism-is-that-eventually-you-run-out-of-other-peoples-money/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What do you think about Karl Marx's Fragment on Machines?

see: http://thenewobjectivity.com/pdf/marx.pdf

Well I think we have waded into the “deeper waters” of Marx’s complex thought here.

To appreciate what Marx seems to be saying, we need to go back to his fundamental assertion that what makes human labor unique is the creative and knowledge value that human beings add to their work. This is a critical consideration in understanding how capitalism then corrupts, distorts and negates this value - through subsuming labor, objectifying it, abstracting it, appropriating it, alienating it, commodifying it - in this case via mechanical automation. Machines help turn people into predictable, usable, but essentially valueless and non-living variations of fixed capital. At the same time (and here Marx contradicts himself a bit - or at least provides contradictory arguments for similar ends) machinery both reduces the time that human labor is involved in a given measure of productivity, while at the same time prolonging a worker’s capacity to work. In one way or another, Marx sees this as working against capital’s own definition of how wage slaves can enrich themselves, even as surplus value (profit) is expanded for the capitalist. Thus Marx is arguing that both the qualitative and quantitative value of labor is being eliminated in service to capital, and that this is - intuitively, if not obviously - unsustainable and self-defeating.

The second part of Marx’s argument, concerning disposable time, is a bit more subtle. What I think he is getting at is that the increase in worker free time because of automation will result in greater self-development of the individual. And this development, in turn, will inherently set itself against the non-agency of automatic, mindless, lifeless labor - because “real wealth” will then be measured in disposable time, rather than wage income. The irony he points to is that the objective of capitalism is to maximize surplus labor, while a consequence of that very effort is an increase in disposable time, which is antithetical to surplus labor. Further, all of these trajectories - an increase in disposable time, an increase in soulless labor, and a desire for greater profit from surplus labor - are all fundamentally contradictory. And this is what Marx hints to be an inevitable transformative current in society. At least I think this is what he is getting at here. If someone can find the original German for these passages and post it here, I might be able to provide some better insight. Translation is an art…and not always accurate if the person translating doesn’t understand the concepts being discussed.

As to what I think of all this…I think Marx is basically correct, and that history has already proven much his assessment to be valid. I also think that he was essentially inventing language for concepts and dynamics which themselves were relatively new, which is why his wording and reasoning can sometimes be so abstruse.

My 2 cents.

P.S. As I was describing this post to my wife, I ended up summarizing it this way: “Basically if Marx watched Office Space, he would nod knowingly and say ‘Yes, yes, I saw this coming….’”

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/What-do-you-think-about-Karl-Marxs-Fragment-on-Machines/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What are the criticisms against market socialism?

Here’s the thing: there are many different forms of market socialism. I am actually a proponent of one form, which I call a Level 7 political economy (you might call it “market-friendly libertarian socialism”). However, I am critical of some other forms, so I will focus on one of those and describe how my proposals seek to remedy its problems.

Proudhon’s mutualism is probably the most widely-considered version of market socialism - at least when differentiated from authoritarian, State-centric Marxist-Leninist proposals. I actually agree with several components of Proudhon’s reasoning (for example, his arguments regarding property), but differ in a few important areas. One of these is the Labor Theory of Value. The LTV attempts to rigidly constrain the value of a good or service to the labor required to produce it - and then restrict the exchange to other goods and services with equivalent labor inputs. We can quickly see the problem with such a system with respect to the realities of subjective valuation - how people actually value things in a social context. You can also read about additional criticisms here: Criticisms of the labour theory of value - Wikipedia.

My answer to this problem is to create a different system of valuation that is non-capitalist, but still encourages friendly competition for some (but not necessarily all) goods and services. I call my approach to property exchange value “holistic valuation,” and it includes a host of factors - intersubjective use value, effective nourishment value, accounting for negative externalities, etc. - that redefine scarcity as “scarce quality” or “scarce safety,” and advocate consideration of perverse utility that potentiates harm. These concepts are discussed in more detail at this link: Level 7 Property Position, and in the book from which that excerpt was taken (also linked at the top of the Property Position page). Such property then can be part of an exchange economy that includes both limited for-profit and non-profit businesses that are owned and managed by workers and members - with input from the surrounding community. My goal is to include as many democratic controls as possible over larger free enterprise and the markets themselves.

With respect to various forms of market socialism, there are also other questions regarding resource valuation and management, how currency is backed, and how essential infrastructure and services are provisioned. My approach to these also departs from other proposals as well, as I advocate a Social Credits System tied to a Universal Social Backbone, to avoid the moral hazards of a social dividend or basic income. In addition, I believe it is critical to address the issue of economic growth - both as a functional dependency and as an unsustainable trajectory - which is why I also advocate Sustainable Design principles, proof-of-concept piloting, the precautionary principle, etc. Again you can explore these concepts by perusing the Level-7 website links.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-criticisms-against-market-socialism/answer/T-Collins-Logan

How do religious anarchists reconcile their religion and political views?

Most religions of the world (theistic or non-theistic) teach very similar principles with respect to civil authority: don’t make waves, follow the law, be a good citizen, and practice your faith on a personal and interpersonal level, rather than a political one. In fact, nearly all of them advise against overt political involvement (with respect to applying particular spiritual principles, for example), since politics is about worldly or illusionary power, and religious traditions are “supposed” to be about spiritual or ontological concerns. However, many also encourage compassionate action that could be expressed in one’s voting, or proposing legislation, or working to elect a candidate who seems to embody compassionate values.

Now in reality most wisdom traditions eventually get coopted by dogmatic “orthodoxy” and highly political institutions. This is where the worldly and political overtake spiritual, interpersonal and ontological concerns. It is in this context that the spiritual instruction of a given tradition will apply most directly to politics: that is, the politics of one’s own religious institution. Beyond that, the larger political sphere has little or no intersect with spiritual practices and beliefs (in terms of it competing with them), because it is not focused on the interpersonal. So, because the basis of your question assumes that there is a competing intersection, that is really where the disconnect resides.

In my own life, my personal beliefs and spiritual practice will continue regardless of the political environment I happen to live in. However, my investment in left-libertarian political solutions is grounded in my spirituality and informed by my personal beliefs. For me, moving away from individualistic materialism, conspicuous consumption, and corporate exploitation and enslavement is a spiritual as well as pragmatic imperative. Because I care about the well-being of my fellow humans, I would prefer they retain their personal and collective agency and liberty - and have relief from suffering - and the skillfulness with which I approach aiding others in this way is informed by my spiritual beliefs.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/How-do-religious-anarchists-reconcile-their-religion-and-political-views/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What are the main differences between how Bakunin and Kropotkin saw Anarchism?

I think there are some important differences. Kropotkin developed the idea of “mutual aid” as a way of understanding natural forms of cooperation (in Nature and human communities) and what we now call prosocial character traits. This played a central role in his conceptions of a collectivist society. However, Bakunin’s vision seemed to retain the prevailing view that competition and reward were driving social and productivity factors - at least in part. More specifically, he still saw a role for an exchange economy, albeit where prices were set by production costs and labor value, rather than via demand. This is also, I think, why Bakunin still framed human work as something that required specific valuation and remuneration (labor vouchers) - and the question then became whether control over such valuation would lead to problematic hierarchical (and potentially bourgeois) relationships - or even resentment and conflict between different sectors of his exchange economy. By the same token, this is why Kropotkin rejected the idea of money and payment for labor - and the concept of labor value in general - in favor of free distribution and collective production grounded in the sentiments of mutual aid. In Kropotkin’s vision, there would therefore be less of a need for an exchange economy, and indeed little requirement for “work” that was tied to conceptions of productivity. We can also see a parallel contrast in how Bakunin and Kropotkin viewed violent revolution: Bakunin advocated for it almost fanatically, while Kropotkin resigned himself to the possibility while advocating careful preparations of persuasion and education to mitigate bloodshed. In one way, we could summarize their major philosophical and operational differences this way: Bakunin was still oriented to capitalistic scarcity in his proposals and expectation of both competition and conflict; whereas Kropotkin oriented his thinking around a more voluntary, cooperative, relaxed and decidedly post-scarcity system.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-main-differences-between-how-Bakunin-and-Kropotkin-saw-Anarchism/answer/T-Collins-Logan

How can one determine the size and variation of flows on which the incomes of ordinary people depend on in a given territory?

First I think you would need to define your terms more specifically. Who are “ordinary people,” in terms of income and spending habits? What is a “given territory,” in a macroeconomic context? Also, what is the timespan involved? The “size and variation of flows” for any combination of sectors is going to be informed by these descriptors.

Even with specific definitions, this is an especially complicated and dynamic calculation. Let’s say you could account for every sector…when you then attempt constrain those sectors to a given geographical region, the data gets a bit slippery. For example, intersecting financial capital flows with that income data, how can we arrive at a regional representation when the actual assets and exchanges could be anywhere? Imagine, for example, a person who works for a transnational corporation and receives matching 401K contributions as part of their “salary,” and where those contributions, in turn, are invested in a REIT with widely distributed assets. How would all the flows involved (the international employer’s assets, diverse investment portfolio assets, tax-deferred income, etc.) be holistically represented? And how would all of the income velocity and transactional velocity in play over time be captured for any given increment? It could be done, but not without higher quality data than is currently available methinks. Of course, such data could be approximated in order to estimate such flows…but how accurate would it be? Hence the tough nut. Then again, if you restrict this type of speculation mainly to more generalized, large-scale macroeconomic models that are both homogenous and span large periods of time, you could come up with some useful insights. At least…that seems to be the domain where economists get it right more often than not. :-)

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/How-can-one-determine-the-size-and-variation-of-flows-on-which-the-incomes-of-ordinary-people-depend-on-in-a-given-territory/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Why do some people think that anarcho-communism can work?

To me, the idea appears as an oxymoron. Communism requires some authoritative power (government) to be successful and anarchy is a lack of government. Am I wrong with this logic? If not, what can I tell a peer who identifies as an anarcho-communist to talk some sense into them?

Thanks for the A2A…I think.

So first off your assumption is incorrect: no oxymoron here. Your conception of communism seems rooted in Lenin’s version of a rather murderous and authoritarian form of Marxism, which was then exported to China, Vietnam, etc. Marx and Engels had envisioned a much more democratic arrangement (read up on the Commune of Paris | 1871 as an example). Also there were examples of a more spontaneous form of anarcho-communism “in the wild” in many places around the globe. Not just what happened early on in the Russian revolution, before the Bolsheviks killed off the competition and consolidated power, or what arose in Spain prior to Franco. A pretty sound argument can be made for primitive communism being the default mode of political economy in early, primitive societies. In any case, one problem was that Marx presumed some stages of transition did indeed involve expropriation, central controls…and yes, violent revolution. So there is that. But folks like Kropotkin (whom you should read) had a very different vision of distributed, diffused and self-directing communistic transitions and management. His The Conquest of Bread is a fascinating read. Before you engage your friend, I would encourage you to read that book - it’s pretty short and easy reading (unlike most of Marx).

Now your broader misconception - that communism requires centralized authoritative power - is an understandable mistake. It’s one that Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao and many others also made. But I think that is mainly because revolutions involving force were the only examples or models those folks had for change - in a historical sense; their information was limited. In any case, I would encourage you to look into libertarian socialism (of which anarch-communism is a subset) for a broader understanding of nonviolent approaches to cooperative proposals. Also, you can check out my website, which also approaches political economy from a libertarian socialist perspective: Level 7 Overview.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/Why-do-some-people-think-that-anarcho-communism-can-work/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What are Milton Friedman's debate secrets?

LOL. Thanks for the A2A. I would say they include:

1. Lie like your life depends on it. Have real conviction.

2. Dismiss any complex or nuanced positions your opponent offers as if they are an idiot.

3. Cherry pick highly selective economic data to support your position.

4. Sound very reasonable when in fact you are promoting a totally insane position.

5. Revise history to fit your worldview.

6. Smile a lot.

7. Interrupt your opponent precisely when they are summarizing really good data that eviscerates your argument.

8. Admit that your opponent is partially correct, but then accuse them of overemphasizing or over-applying that small slice of truth (when in fact this is exactly what YOU will be doing).

9. Completely exclude entire chunks of reality from your argument, and constantly speak around them as if they are unimportant or don’t exist (for example, underestimating the impact of monopolization and corporate power on market distortions).

10. Don’t have any integrity at all with your own stated ideals with respect to how you actually comport yourself (and advise on economic policy) in the real world.

11. Frequently wave both your hands at your opponents like your are casting a banishing spell.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/What-are-Milton-Friedmans-debate-secrets/answer/T-Collins-Logan

How can one get the best out of the wisdom of the crowd?

For Surowiecki’s assertions to hold, you need to create an environment were everyone a) shares the same motivation (i.e. will benefit in the same way from the outcome); b) is informationally, socially and operationally separated from everyone else, while still receiving the information around their choice at the same time; and c) represents diverse, widely distributed perspectives and positions relative to both the effort and the outcome. In other words, pretty ideal conditions prior to aggregation. Throw in some advertising and marketing campaigns, and the wisdom is disrupted. Social media engagement where people are aware of each other’s input or communicate about the question? Won’t work. Homogenous group sample? Won’t work. Choice or question delivered to different folks at different times? Won’t work. Opportunity for different folks to benefit in different ways from the choice? Won’t work.

As you can see, it is pretty difficult to engineer all of these variables in a consistent way. Further, if the crowd involved knows it is being observed, that tends to change the outcome as well (a variation on the Observer effect). So in one sense, the “getting the best out of crowd wisdom” likely involves remaining an unseen observer of natural crowd behaviors where all of the above variables emerge on their own - rather that inserting oneself into the mix or trying to create ideal conditions.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/How-can-one-get-the-best-out-of-the-wisdom-of-the-crowd/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Is there a cause and effect relationship between supply and demand?

My answer would be “sometimes,” either unidirectionally or bidirectionally in our modern environments.

If there is pent up aggregate demand for a good that is known - i.e. has existed and fulfilled a particular utility for some time - then a new player could decide to begin producing that good, or an existing player could increase their production, or either could find ways to reduce prices on that good…all in order to meet pent up demand. This happens quite frequently in fact, and represents a unidirectional causal relationship between demand→supply. A common example of this would be established communities where there is no inexpensive housing, or that lack any grocery stores or gas stations within a convenient distance, or that only have access to one really pricy ISP. Another example would be a vast array of goods and services after a prolonged economic downturn.

There may also be what I would call “unconscious” pent up aggregate demand for a newly discovered or introduced good. A culture that has never been exposed to something that is commonly produced somewhere else - alcoholic beverages, coffee, silk fabrics, cigarettes, eyeglasses, etc - may quickly ramp up demand once exposed to that good. Likewise, a new service or product that satisfies some basic human need that isn’t being thoroughly provided for in existing society (or has been difficult to access) - such as pornography, social media, spiritual nourishment, for example - may create a boom of commoditization and consumption, and their responsive supply.

If someone invents a new good and exerts tremendous marketing effort to persuade people that they have a need (even if they didn’t before), then they may successfully create artificial aggregate demand. This also happens quite frequently, and represents a unidirectional causal relationship between supply → demand. An example of this would be pharmaceuticals marketed directly to consumers, especially where the efficacy of the drug is questionable, or the symptoms or condition are much less common than are being represented by advertising. Now of course it’s the marketing that stimulates artificial demand - not the supply alone - but in this case many such drugs just didn’t compete well with others for a given treatment, so the companies try to recover their R&D investment by gaining approval to treat conditions unrelated to their initial objective. In other words, without this preexisting supply there would be no marketing, so the causal chain remains intact.

Now I think it is important to note that these different scenarios can exist in both for profit and nonprofit environments, and among both privatized and socialized goods and services.

Where things get more interesting (to me at least) are situations that foster bidirectional causality, where a feedback loop amplifies both demand and supply. This occurs not infrequently in financial and information economies. For example, when psychological momentum builds around a speculative opportunity - such as high tech companies that could, perhaps, produce something that people want, but actually don’t produce anything at the moment (or haven’t made any profit producing what they do). And suddenly the demand for stock in these companies skyrockets - and stock values skyrocket along with that, which stimulates a boom of high tech companies entering the market that could, potentially, meet a demand that could, potentially, exist. But all of this is just make-believe. There is nothing there but a psychological demand-supply feedback loop.

It is also important to note that neither supply nor demand are the end of the causal chain. There are often many other factors in play - things like cultural capital, habituation and addiction, shareholder pressure to increase profits, macroeconomic events, etc. But if you use “supply” and “demand” as aggregate representations of economic function, then you can delve into other factors as subordinate or superior causes and effects.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/Is-there-a-cause-and-effect-relationship-between-supply-and-demand/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What do you think of a basic income for everyone?

UBI is attractive for many reasons, but it also has some problems. Rather than going into all the pro/con details, I’ll direct you to my alternative….a Universal Social Backbone accessed via Social Credits that are tied to civic contributions. This is a setup I developed under my Level 7 political economy proposals, and you can find details about it on that site. Basically, what I envision is a system in which a certain baseline of social credits are provided to everyone - stored digitally and distributed via a Unique Digital Identifier provided to every citizen. These credits provide absolutely basic (i.e. very minimal) public goods and services that are part of a network of essential infrastructure and services in this alternative political economy. This Universal Social Backbone is run by a combination of worker-owned or member-owned non-profit enterprises that are tactically managed at the community level, but strategically managed (in terms of standards and long-term planning) in a more central way, and both management schemas are facilitated by direct and semi-direct democracy, as well as citizen’s councils appointed by civic lottery. In other words, this is a completely different setup than either socialized, centralized State systems or for-profit privatized systems, and aims to conform more to some of the design criteria enumerated by Elinor Ostrom from managing the commons. In any case one of the key characteristics of the Social Credit systems is that citizens can increase their balance of credits by being civically productive - producing a positive impact on civil society in some way. They can also be penalized by committing infractions. In this way, the available social credits incentivize civic responsibility and accountability. As to which contributions are considered the most “civically responsible” or productive, that would likely be left to individual communities to decide. It could mean, for example, active participation in Daily Direct Democracy (another feature of Level 7), or providing sound contributions to a Public Information Database (ibid) the pubic relies upon for “real facts,” or inventing/creating something beneficial for their community, or being a Good Samaritan, and so forth.

My 2 cents.

From Quora post: https://www.quora.com/What-do-you-think-of-a-basic-income-for-everyone/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Why are bad economic occurrences generally seen as being due to “sod's law” when some economic actors are capable of greatly influencing outcomes?

There are a few angles to this IMO, depending on who is making the observation. For an entrepreneurial business owner, there is often a requisite character trait of eternal optimism that can often ignore variables with proven downsides. In a large bureaucratic corporation, there is an institutional inertia and arrogance that often refuses to adjust to new variables, even if they are known to be toxic. For macroeconomics geeks and policy wonks, there can be a deeply entrenched investment in a given economic philosophy that may prevent them from admitting certain variables exist at all - let alone admitting that they might have a predictable negative impact.

And for all of these players, we can reliably observe a “partial reinforcement” phenomenon: because their business strategy or ideology succeeded (or endured) in one situation with a given risk characteristic, they often assume this can happen again. This is why people gamble. And when the environment is dynamic and variable as in most business environments, the PREE (i.e. resistance to letting go of a belief that X behavior will produce Y outcomes, and ceasing the behavior) is amplified. Instead of recognizing this, folks will blame outcomes on Sod’s law (or Murphy’s law here in the States) - it’s a sort of confirmation bias. But you are quite correct that, in many cases, a negative outcome is entirely avoidable - even statistically inevitable. But just try telling a habitual gambler that.

My 2 cents.

From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Why-are-bad-economic-occurrences-generally-seen-as-being-due-to-%E2%80%9Csods-law%E2%80%9D-when-some-economic-actors-are-capable-of-greatly-influencing-outcomes

What are some great reasons for protecting the environment?

It depends on your moral orientation. For example:

1) If your moral orientation is doing everything for I/Me/Mine, then you could justify protecting the environment because it supports your individual existence, health and goals. For example, polluting the air and water where you live will make you sick. Unfortunately this leads to NIMBY attitudes that ignore pollution or destruction of “other people’s” environments.

2) If your moral orientation is more about your family or tribe/community, then you could justifying protecting the environment to create a safe and healthy place for your family to grow up and thrive, or your tribe/community to flourish. Unfortunately this can still lead to NIMBY attitudes that impact other families and tribes.

3) If your moral orientation is around the well-being of the human species as a whole, then clearly you could justify protecting the environment for all of humanity’s continued life and well-being. However, this can still lead to unintended destruction - and harm to humans - if the connection between a given environmental impact and human well-being over time is not fully understood.

4) If your moral orientation embraces a love and appreciation for all life on Earth - inclusive of humanity - then it becomes easier to justify actions that contain or restrict environmental destruction of any kind. When all life is valued and appreciated, it is much clearer and more imperative to protect it. As you can imagine, however, this tends to create tension with the I/Me/Mine, tribal and all-humanity moral orientations, because those are not interested in containing or restricting their own behaviors for anyone or anything else.

For more about this, see: Integral Lifework Developmental Correlations

My 2 cents.

From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-great-reasons-for-protecting-the-environment/answer/T-Collins-Logan

What is the most misunderstood thing about economics?

As a caveat, I’m not an expert in economics. Yes I’ve read a bit, researched a lot, written some…but one thing I’ve learned (so far) is that economics is pretty vast. Lots of different schools of thought. Lots of different angles - a lot of which I don’t have deep knowledge about. But that’s never stopped me from having an opinion before. ;-) First off I’d like to say I appreciate Austin Middleton's post here. Understanding the specific methodology being discussed or evaluated is absolutely critical. All of which brings me to my first point: I don’t think it is possible to generalize with confidence about “the most misunderstood thing” regarding this particular topic. It’s just too wily of a beast to pin down in that way. Of course that was a generalization…but I’m sure you get my drift.
That said, I’ll share some of my own personal misunderstandings about economics - or at least how my understanding has evolved over time. I suspect that others - perhaps many people - have begun with similar initial assumptions to my own. So here goes:

1. Initial assumption: Macroeconomic models and analysis have fully understood and expressed how economies function. Current conclusions: not by a long shot; there remains a level of mystery and complexity to macroeconomic interdependencies that no one has penetrated.

2. Initial assumption: the time for Keynesian approaches is long past. Current conclusions: Keynes is, thus far, one of very few theorists who seems to have made consistently accurate predictions about cause and effect at the macroeconomic level.

3. Initial assumption: game theory is a cool and sophisticated mathematical way to go about evaluating and modeling economic interactions. Current conclusions: game theory is an almost silly, tail-chasing exercise that is mainly relevant only to itself.

4. Initial assumption: It is possible to intuit or deduce the economic dynamics of a given micro or macro situation from a consistent ideological standpoint, prior to collecting empirical data. Current conclusions: Freakanomics.

5. Initial assumption: the Austrian School has something viable to contribute to economic theory. Current conclusions: the Austrian School is a silly, absurd tail-chasing exercise predicated on flawed assumptions about human behavior.

6. Initial assumption: Authoritarian State socialism is the only kind of socialism widely implemented. Current conclusions: there are nearly as many variations of socialism as their are hairs on a cat, at least half of which focus on diffused, democratic, highly distributed models without central controls, and many different models have been tested - or have occurred organically - in the real world.

7. Initial assumption: Milton Friedman was vehemently opposed to crony capitalism. Current conclusions: Milton Friedman’s entire life’s work was spent engineering the tools and techniques crony capitalists use to manipulate markets and maintain their power…and Friedman both knew this and actively participated in it.

8. Initial assumption: Adam Smith was the forefather of neoliberalism. Current conclusions: Neoliberals consistently disrespect the insights and principles Adam Smith championed.

9. Initial assumption: Marx’s conceptions of the flaws of capitalism were simplistic and quickly overtaken by the evolution of modern industrial, informational and financial economies, but his ideas about historical materialism seemed to be compelling. Current conclusions: Historical materialism is probably Marx’s greatest error and has contributed to the worst possible outcomes for socialism, but Marx’s understanding of the flaws of capitalism were spot on, and are still being vindicated today in nearly all of its manifestations.

10. Initial assumption: That the “tragedy of the commons” is an actual real-world inevitability. Current conclusions: The tragedy of the commons is more of a thought experiment that has been overapplied, and is contradicted by empirical studies such as Elinor Ostrom’s common pool resource management research.

As you can see…there are lots of facets here. We could pick any one of them to launch a lengthy discussion on what misunderstandings exist, why they exist, who seems to have them, etc. And then we would probably disagree. So, returning to my initial point: economics is a wily beast.

One last thing I would bring up is that the battles over various schools and methodologies in economics seem to be almost tribalistic or religious in nature. Like whether PCs or Macs are better computers, or whether Democrats or Republicans have better sex. It’s almost as if economics was intended to be vociferously ranted about late at night, over several beers.

My 2 cents.

(I may come back and add more topics as I think of them, just for fun…)

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-most-misunderstood-thing-about-economics/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Cutting Through The Bunk: Why The World Is Self-Destructing, And What We Can Do About It

"Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny; and it is believed that the most effectual means of preventing this would be, to illuminate, as far as practicable, the minds of the people at large..." - Thomas Jefferson, A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge, December 1778

Like most folks who enjoy tracking the news, opinion pieces and stories circulating on social media, I've been deluged with opinions lately. About why Trump got elected, why liberal ideals are flailing, why cultures around the globe seem to be regressing, why the working class is so angry, why there is an upsurge in nationalistic sentiment, why the global economy is sputtering, why Islamic extremism won't go away, etc. And I have to say, nearly all of the explanations I've seen or read seem to be...well...almost complete bunk. Not entirely, but almost. Even the folks that I admire and respect - and whose writing I've followed for years - appear to be missing what is obvious, and choosing instead to follow the crowd down a rabbit hole of elaborate speculation. It's almost as if our cognitive dissonance between the way we expect the world to be, and the way the world actually is, has hit a hard, thick, impenetrable wall. And, perhaps as an understandable consequence, our collective realm of thought is self-destructing along with everything else. It really feels like all of humanity is undergoing a psychotic break.

But enough of this positive, uplifting preamble. Am I now going to sell myself as the one sane voice in the wilderness? The one person who can see through the fog of delusion, into realms of pure causal clarity? Well I haven't performed any miracles lately, or won a Nobel Prize, or even succeeded at ridding our back yard of its prodigious gopher population...so I can't assert any special knowledge or authority on the state of reality. But perhaps I can at least poke some holes in what I perceive to be a sort of mass hysteria around the current state of affairs, and inspire one or two minds to free themselves from what - to me at least - seems like a glaring oversight of several basic facts, and several fairly reasonable, even predictable conclusions about why we have arrived at this rather bizarre moment in global and domestic affairs. I've also got some proposed solutions up my sleeve.

Okay so let's start with the easy stuff....


Trump won the election for four fairly straightforward reasons:

1) Tapping Into a Deeply Felt, Enduring Anger

A large number of fearful, uninformed and relatively gullible people were really angry - and in fact have been really angry for quite a while now - and Trump tapped into that anger and channeled it to his own benefit. How did he tap in? Mainly by amplifying the blame for all white working class sufferings on a Bogeyman painstakingly propped up by decades of propaganda (see #3 below). The groundwork was already laid for Trump in this regard, he simply capitalized on it. And sure, Trump also called upon the timeworn tactics of racism, sexism, Islamaphobia, xenophobia, "pro-life" religious conservatism, and mixed these with extraordinary lies and grandiose exaggerations, even stirring a pinch of Occupy Wall Street speak into the mix. Here again there was nothing new, just borrowed ideas and rhetoric from previous streams of propaganda and populism - his opportunistic tools. I have discussed elsewhere how Trump also deployed a uniquely American flavor of salesmanship, and tapped into longstanding fears about the decline of testosterone and an ascendance of the feminine, and perhaps these were even more representative of his unique character. I've also discussed some of the other factors involved in this post. But the main driver behind the success * of Trump's nationalistic populism was anger - an anger surely shared by many around the globe.

2) Hillary Clinton's Flaws as a Candidate

Hillary Clinton was simply not a winning enough candidate. Despite her capturing the popular vote, a diverse and widely-distributed group of Democrats who showed up for Obama didn't vote at all in 2016 (about 7 million of them I believe), because they simply weren't inspired by Hillary. Another large portion of Democrats in the Rust Belt voted for Trump instead...because they really didn't trust or like Hillary Clinton. And of course when Hillary ran for President previously, she lost the Democratic primary to someone who was simply a more attractive candidate to many people. I'm not saying Hillary wasn't qualified, mind you, just that she wasn't compelling enough to mobilize voters. Imagine, for example, how exciting things could have been if a Sanders/Warren ticket - or a Warren/Booker ticket - had emerged from the primaries. Gosh golly I think some otherwise apathetic peeps might have gotten themselves to the polls.

3) Decades of Relentless Propaganda and Manipulation

A concerted propaganda effort over many years - and costing billions of dollars - was executed by wealthy conservatives (the Koch brothers, Roger Ailes, etc.) to misinform U.S. citizens about anything and everything, mainly to get them thoroughly and irrationally fired up against President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Democrats, the Affordable Care Act, marriage equality, liberal immigration policy, Black Lives Matter, protecting minority voting rights, or anything else smacking of progressive ideology, "big government," liberal elitism or the dreaded socialism. The Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute, FOX News, Glenn Beck and The Blaze, Rush Limbaugh, RedState, Infowars, Breitbart, and carefully organized Tea Party grass roots activism all propagated very similar (sometimes identical) narratives about the failures and "evils" perpetrated on America by these nefarious, malevolent ne'er-do-wells. Most of this propaganda had little internal logic, and relied on few real facts, generating instead a slew of "alternative facts" that conformed with an alternative Bogeyman/conspiracy reality.

This propaganda has also made a concerted effort to vilify "the liberal media," evidence-based analysis of policies and practices, anything that sounded too "intellectual" or wordy, and even the usefulness or viability of scientific research. This was a transparent tactic to undermine contradictory perspectives that threatened the propaganda narrative - that is, a transparent tactic to undermine the truth itself. As a consequence, a new breed of Republican politician began to surface that could provide a charismatic, often hokey or folksy front for this "anti-establishment" propaganda machine, often without an ounce of real substance to back up their facade. This is part of why the ignorant and silly sound bytes of Michelle Bachman, Todd Akins, Sarah Palin, George W. Bush and others seemed to skyrocket them to popularity, and how folks who are clearly unqualified, incompetent or just plain stupid have attained positions of immense power in Republican administrations. It's all part of a clear and deliberate effort to prop up an alternate reality narrative.

We must also keep in mind that any Republicans who disagreed with this narrative or its political offspring were also rapidly ejected from the herd. Skilled, intelligent, well-meaning Republicans were quickly forced to either dumb themselves down and conform to the silliness, or switch parties, or retire. This was all about capturing and retaining political power, a hoodwinking of America to facilitate plutocracy and corporatocracy. And of course we are already seeing the new Trump administration continuing these same distortions and tactics to support their particular reality field.

4) Underhanded and illegal help.

We may not know for some time all the details about Russia's intrusions into the 2016 U.S. elections. We also probably can't know exactly how much they really influenced voter turnout and choices. We do know, however, that these actions were deliberate, well-planned and pervasive. We also know the aim was to influence the specific outcome of denigrating Hillary Clinton, and several other Democrats, so that Trump and other Republicans could win these contests. We also know Russia has been involved - and continues to be involved - in such activities in other countries. And did FBI Director Comey's actions in the weeks prior to the November vote have a significant impact? We may not know that for certain either. In addition, however, we also know that Republicans both gerrymandered many states to provide a majority in both local legislatures and the House of Representatives, and aggressively purged voting rolls of African American Democrats to similarly skew results in their favor locally and nationally. And because the margin of the election wins in some areas (Arizona, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, for example) are relatively small, all of these underhanded and illegal efforts combined could easily have made a substantive difference in the final electoral vote distribution.


Of course it is. It's just been artfully stoked, molded and misdirected away from the real causes of very real problems. At whom - or what - should these folks be directing their ire? Well, let's take a look at what's really going on....

What has caused so much market instability, loss of jobs and a living wage, huge increases in consumer debt, a steadily climbing cost of living, widening wealth inequality, and precipitously declining consumer buying power? Folks, it's not any of the factors being bantered about in the media or expounded upon by most pundits and sages, and it's certainly not anything new (as just one example, real wages have been in decline in the U.S. since about 1968). The underlying problem is kind of like the air we breathe - if we were fish, it would be the ocean we are swimming through; we just can't see it because we are so profoundly reliant upon it. But it's croniest, clientist, commercialist corporate capitalism folks. Really...that's the complete, well-rounded, precise and truthful cause of all these problems. The only things that keep us from seeing this clearly are the fish-in-the-sea/elephant-in-the-room/emperor's clothes phenomenon...artfully reinforced by the carefully crafted propaganda alluded to earlier. But if we are willing to open our eyes to the obvious, this explanation is inescapable.

Let's look take a quick peek at some supportive details.

Capitalism is growth-dependent.

Our current form of capitalism relies on cheap labor, cheap resources and expanding markets to keep growing. Why? Because as standards of living increase, a tipping point is inevitably reached where domestic workers expect to be paid more than companies can afford to pay them and still remain profitable. Why? Because companies are selling products and services to the same workers who are producing them, while at the same time having to pay for other inputs (raw materials, equipment, buildings, taxes, service inputs, etc.), and of course wanting to extract profit from the equation as well. To make matters worse, public owner-shareholders who add zero value to the business itself always want to extract more and more profit for themselves. But you can't have your cake and eat it to. Finally, eventual natural consequences like market saturation, price inelastic demand, and "lower prices are better" consumer expectations add additional restrictions on profit. All of this results in a situation where, once a certain peak standard of living and affluence are reached across a large enough segment of society, there is simply no more room for profit. In this sense, the "middle class" of America is the natural enemy of capitalism, forcing free enterprise to perpetually seek cheaper inputs outside of the United States. This is one reason why the U.S., at only 5% of the Earth's population, has been using close to 30% of global resources to support its standard of living.

So without this growth, profits rapidly diminish and even evaporate. This is a primary reason why globalization has been so critical to the function of capitalism - the desire for inexpensive labor and resources, as well as new populations of consumers, has become increasingly strident. In fact, this growth-dependency can become so urgent and toxic that it causes military conflicts and trade wars in order to secure more low-cost inputs and new market opportunities. And over time, when cheap labor, cheap resources and new markets inevitably become scarce - when there is nowhere else to go - the focus of free enterprise necessarily shifts to increasing various efficiencies. And the first stops on the efficiency train are usually three considerations: labor efficiency, economies of scale, and reducing competition.

1) Labor efficiency. Labor is one of the most expensive inputs to capitalism, and there are a number of strategies to reduce costs once overseas outsourcing reaps diminishing returns. One is automation and computers that permit fewer workers - or cheaper workers with less skill - to create the same output. Another is reducing wages, often by replacing seasoned workers with a younger, lower cost workforce; or by shifting full-time employees to part-time or contract status to avoid paying benefits and taxes; or by breaking and ousting labor unions. Another is increasing the productivity of employees, through expecting longer work hours for the same pay, or restructuring salary to performance-based incentives, or using an intimidating management style of quotas and reprimands.

2) Economies of scale.
Becoming bigger - even to the point of completely monopolizing a given industry on a transnational scale - introduces many potential efficiencies and greater control of all the inputs involved. It also provides greater influence over relationships with suppliers, local governments and distribution channels. The ultimate result is not only a lower cost-per-unit, but more security and leverage over everything from workforce to government regulation. This level of control is very appealing to owner-shareholders who expect consistent profitability.

3) Reducing competition. Here the strategies are also fairly predictable. Either companies will try to position themselves as the only game in town through mergers and hostile buyouts, or they will engage in other anti-competitive business practices that provide a lock on how their products perform in that market. Common anti-competitive practices include things like price fixing, exclusive dealing, dumping products at a loss until competitors have fled the market, and intellectual property protections that guaranty exclusivity or disrupt competition (patenting crops, etc.). There are some very creative and wide-ranging options, though, and I recommend consulting the link above for more examples.

What are the consequences of these practices? Almost always these result in larger and larger monopolies, fewer jobs and lower pay, regulatory and political leverage in governments (sometimes to the point of complete capture of government), and price inelastic demand for an ever-widening array of commodities. At the same time, however, once these approaches are widely and aggressively deployed, the impetus to grow business and profits is still just as urgent...but now the easiest tools have already been used up. The available options have been shrinking. Subsequently, when stagnant or diminishing profits begin to worry investors and frustrate entrepreneurs, the focus has to shift into new territory. This might include:

1) Veblen goods. On the one hand, these luxury items can appeal to a shrinking slice of society with disposable income, who are willing to pay top dollar (read maximum profit) for goods and services with cultural cachet. Innovations in this arena can pay off much more handsomely than a new design for inexpensive mass-produced gadgets.

2) Planned obsolescence, "newer is better" marketing, and meaningless innovation. Ever wonder why everything from dishwashers and vacuum cleaners to housing and cars don't seem to endure as long or perform as well as they once did? Or why there seem to be frenetic updates and upgrades to everything we buy, which a product or service won't work without? Because it doesn't pay to make things that last, or that don't require maintenance, or that can't be upgraded. It's much more lucrative to engineer a rapid turnover of goods, or goods that require constant servicing and enhancement. If consumers can be persuaded to believe that every tiny feature, no matter how trivial or irritating, is a "must have," well then it becomes very foolish to produce anything simple, enduring or fully functional from the get-go...doesn't it?

3) Recurring consumer reliance or addictions. This is a subtler, longer-term strategy that can be very effective. Moving away from single sales to a subscription model, for example. Or medicating the symptoms of chronic conditions with expensive pharmaceuticals, instead of treating the underlying causes. Or pricy "club" memberships that lock consumers into a single source for their purchases, so that they are compelled to recoup their membership fees via that one retailer's "deeply discounted" products. Ironies abound of course. Consider, for example, e-cigarettes marketed to help nicotine addicts wean themselves off of traditional cigarettes, simply trading one addiction for another for equally negative health effects.

However, once again these strategies are only sustainable if there is a large pool of consumers still available with adequate disposable income. But, recalling that labor reduction and impoverishment is one of the prominent efficiency strategies, and that worker-consumer exploitation and dependency have already been in play for some time, existing markets inevitably will contract or become saturated. Add to this the hallmarks of "lowest price!" consumer expectations, owner-shareholder profit expectations, spreading price inelastic demand, and the other pressures we've enumerated so far, and the final straw pretty much breaks the camel's back.

What's left? Where can capitalism go from here...?

Once the easiest efficiencies, marketing strategies and product choices have been exhausted, there is only one thing left to do: abandon production of traditional goods and services altogether. The next step in capitalism's decline is financialization - that is, transitioning to a financial economy. Here profit is sought mainly through speculative investing, elaborate financial instruments, litigious enterprises (patent trolling), increased loan leveraging, and the cultivation of ever-increasing consumer debt. In other words, making money directly from money or through manipulating the law, without the intermediate step of providing an actual service or producing an actual good. And, in keeping with the previously established aims of efficiency, monopoly, dependence and so forth, owner-shareholders become more and more wealthy, while jobs for worker-consumers become fewer and lower-paying, buying power continues to decline, benefits and privileges that were once ubiquitous become more scarce, and debt-slavery replaces wage-slavery as the new norm for the working class. For most people, life gets harder, more stressful and a lot less fair; the American dream of a middle-class lifestyle becomes harder and harder to achieve or sustain. And all of this is happening against a backdrop of promises that each generation would be better off than the last.

Is it any wonder that people are really pissed off?!

But we're not done yet. Eventually, towards the end of this final phase, capitalism flails around for additional labor sources, natural resources, efficiencies, speculations, lending avenues and so forth...but these are increasingly hard to come by. The strategies just aren't working as well anymore, even as owner-shareholders are expecting greater profits, workers are clamoring for more jobs and better pay, consumers are insisting on lower prices, markets are becoming more saturated and less competitive, and more commodities become subject to price inelastic demand. The pressures on the capitalist system only increase. Which is how bubbles are formed, and why crashes occur. Which of course only pisses everyone off that much more.

However, there is one remaining avenue of new inputs, and that is to privatize public goods and anything socially owned. To facilitate this, corporations must aggressively roll back or capture as many regulatory and trade restrictions as possible. And, over the last decades, we've seen all of this playing out not only in the U.S., but globally. In the U.S., we've had the FCC selling off the public broadcast frequency spectrum to corporate bidders; school voucher programs that direct public funds away from public schools; the freezing of EPA enforcement via executive order; the SEC loosening leveraging restrictions; staunch opposition to the ACA and single payer healthcare; vociferous advocacy of privatizing Social Security....It's all clear as day. As for the rest of the world, check out the consequences of the World Bank and IMF's "structural adjustment policies," or who benefited most from our biggest trade deals. At the same time, the capitalist system self-protectively socializes as many risks as possible for its increasingly unreliable experiments, so that it can - like a self-destructive gambling addict - expend a final set of borrowed inputs for a last spasm of profit. Bailouts anyone? Too big to fail? And of course all of the stages I've described generate instability in boom-and-bust cycles along the way, which is exactly what we've been experiencing on a global scale.

Now, rather unfortunately, we are finally and irreversibly arriving at the very end of a death spiral, where capitalism has busily begun consuming itself. There is nowhere else to go. In the next boom-and-bust cycle (or maybe, optimistically, the one after that), there will be nothing left to feed into the world's economic engine. In our current trajectory, stock valuations are a consequence of magical thinking and psychological reactions, with no correlation to anything real. And, like most conditions that are not based in reality, it is totally unsustainable. Yes, it is possible that some new storm of innovations will create a new, temporary ecosystem for profit, and perhaps extend the death rattle for a few more precious months or years. But the end of capitalism is, I think, truly and irrevocably upon us.

So perhaps now it has become clear why people have become so desperate, agitated, angry, and afraid. Not just in the U.S., but all around the globe. Intuitively and experientially, they know the writing is on the wall. Human beings - even the folks who voted for Trump - are not entirely stupid. They sense the game is up, even if they can't admit the underlying causes to themselves. They are witnessing a capitalist system that is no longer generating returns adequate to support civil society - let alone the opulence, excesses and tremendous wastes of U.S. consumerism - and that system is going to take them down with it. And, as the global economy teeters on the edge of the abyss, a rallying cry of the pro-capitalist propagandists gurgles forth: "Just give us one more try! Do if for your country! It's not your fault and it's not our fault...it's the Bogeyman's fault! Just trust us and we will make you great again!" Oh yes, the worker-consumers of the world have every reason to be lividly pissed off - now and for many decades past. But unless we all work together to turn the Titanic, and soon, our suffering will only intensify and the options decrease, until all that is left of capitalism is a set of rotting teeth, gnashing away at nothing in the dark.


As folks have been waking up to the reality that our current capitalist system isn't working, a number of dead-end proposals have been put forth for our consideration. These have included:

1) A return to FDR New Deal style solutions engineered by government. This would undoubtedly soften the blow for those feeling the most economic pain, and perhaps create some temporary, well-paying jobs. Increasing taxes on the wealthy to pay for this expansion would also work - in the short run. This was what Bernie Sanders was championing. And this probably would have ushered in a temporary golden age of flourishing quality-of-life for mainstream America, possibly even expanding the middle class once again. But it still wouldn't have solved the underlying self-destructive currents in capitalism that we've explored in this essay, and so, in the long run, it would not have averted inevitable decline and collapse being witnessed. In fact, it might have even accelerated destabilization - by encouraging capital flight, for example, or by amplifying boom/bust cycles and comorbid inflationary pressures, debt burdens, and so forth. So, not a reliable long-term solution.

2) Freeing up the engines of capitalism with laissez faire reforms, reducing government deficit spending, and expanding tax cuts for the wealthy, then attempting to focus beneficial outcomes on the U.S. economy with trade protectionism. This seems to be the solution Donald Trump and Paul Ryan are offering. Unfortunately, not only does this approach fail to address the flaws in the capitalist system itself, it also exacerbates some of the more pronounced factors that undermine overall economic productivity, stability and mobility. In fact, all of these strategies have already been tried in the recent past, and they have just made things worse, and very quickly. Just follow these links or do quick web searches on "trade protectionism," "regressive taxation" and "austerity economics" for relevant disastrous examples and analysis. Oops!

3) Try to maintain a status quo crony capitalist arrangement, with a government just strong enough to facilitate corporate interests, a monetary policy that effectively controls inflation, and taxes just high enough to keep social safety nets from becoming exhausted. This is what Obama did fairly successfully, and I think it is also what Hillary Clinton would likely have done in some variation. It is a strategy that promotes stability, and stretches out the timeline of decline and collapse, likely to its greatest possible limit. If we added Picketty-inspired wealth taxes to this scenario, it might actually stretch things out for decades. But...oh well. The underlying issues we've raised here are still not addressed in any substantive way. We would still be looking at the collapse of capitalism over the longer term.

Okay...if these options would work, what's left to try? Is there a viable escape hatch?

Well that's what I've been thinking about for the past few years. And my unsurprising conclusion is pretty straightforward: we need to replace capitalism with a more egalitarian political economy. Not State socialism - absolutely not. But there are other options, the components of which have actually already been tested and proven in the real world. I provide detailed proposals and supportive information for those on my Level 7 website. But in short, consider thinking of a new political economy as you would a new kind of air to breathe...or a new kind of ocean to swim in...realizing that it will take some time and effort to fully grok all of its dimensions. Then take a steady, considered breath, and dive in.


I've summarized the basic idea of a Level 7 political economy in the acronym EPIC-SEEDS, which stands for:

E ngaged - Civic engagement and political obligation become fundamental expectations of all citizens, and are tied directly to proportional access to public goods, infrastructure, services and privileges.

P iloted & Precautionary - Starting small, proving the concept, replicating, and measuring the outcomes, impacts and externalities in a multidimensional way.

I ntegrity - Embodying the values, principles and approaches of the desired political economy in all revolutionary activism and successive phases of execution.

C ommons-Centric - Neither privatization nor State ownership, but migrating resource ownership and governance to a user-based, self-organized and self-managed model.

S ubsidiarity - Shifting the center of all decision-making, service provisioning and economic production down to the most local level possible, ideally the community.

E galitarian Efficiency - The aim of both equality of opportunity and equality of outcome for all citizens, in all circumstances.

E volved - Supporting individual and collective moral evolution beyond I/Me/Mine or Us vs. Them, to a more cohesive and compassionate We.

D irect Democracy - At all levels of government, and all levels of free enterprise, in concert with elected or appointed technocrats and managers, while holding representatives and civil servants accountable, and overriding them when necessary.

S ustainable Design - Systems designed to ebb-and-flow in cyclical steady states, without depleting natural resources, destroying cultures or ecosystems, or creating new forms of slavery.

For the full overview of what I think needs to be done - with lots of supportive information and resources on how it all works - please check out http://www.level-7.org. Although the website is becoming fairly comprehensive, the objective was to create a starting point for a more participatory long-term solution. So I hope you will check it out and offer some feedback. We have a long way to go, but the roadmap is clear.

*Footnote regarding the prevalence of anger: It should be noted that the angry voter percentage in the 2016 U.S. elections really wasn't that large in electoral terms. For example, Ronald Reagan won the Electoral College 489 to 49 over Jimmy Carter, whereas Trump only won 306 to 232 over Hillary Clinton. Trump's margin ranks him 46th out of 58 Presidential elections...hardly a decisive win, even when we ignore his record-breaking margin of loss to Clinton in the popular vote.

What's the most unhealthy thing that society encourages us to do?

A lot of answers on Quora have touched on the symptoms that are unhealthy, without touching on the root cause. Nearly all of the most destructive “unhealthy things” that have been described so far are the product of one thing: a belief that capitalism is the most viable economic system, and our perpetuating and participating in that system unquestioningly. If we want to move away from conspicuous consumption, unhealthy diets, addictive products, self-destructive lifestyles, an obsession with accumulating “stuff,” wanton destruction of the planet and exhausting of its resources, etc., all that we really need to do is transition to a different political economy. One where corporations are not in charge, where we aren’t programmed to solve all our problems through purchasing decisions, and where people actually participate in self-governance through democracy. One where caring about our fellow human beings takes priority over exploiting them. One where wage-slavery, obscenely disparate concentrations of wealth, and fencing off the world into private property are abandoned in favor of a commons-centric, worker-managed, more directly democratic model. One where technologies, innovations and advances are designed primarily to improve the well-being of the greatest number for the greatest duration…instead of just making shareholders happy. One where civic responsibility is mainly about enhancing the public good, rather than just championing childish individualism. There are many ways we could do this, but the primary feature of any new system will be giving up on capitalism altogether. We need fundamental change, not a facelift to hide our mistaken trust in a broken concept.

To that end I have a work-in-progress, which you can view here: Level 7 Overview. This is intended to be a participatory effort, so please feel free to send me your thoughts. Just please take time to look over what’s there first. :-)

My 2 cents.

Is it possible for the State to no longer exist?

Yes. There are a few options:

1. Let corporations take over all of the functions that the State currently provides, offering what amounts to “voluntary” contractual slavery to maintain concentrations of wealth and power in the hands of a few. This is where anarcho-capitalism, laissez-faire objectivism, and Nozick-style minarchism eventually lead, and doesn’t really present much of a difference to traditional Statism in terms of the coercive force of poverty or enforcement of the rule of law. It’s basically just stripping off the facade of political self-determination we have in our crony capitalist “representative” democracy. I find it rather humorous U.S. right-libertarianism is so critical of the “excessive and inefficient police state,” when their solutions would likely enhance corporatocracy’s interferences with liberty even more - especially as monopolies consolidate over time.

2. Maintaining a mixed economy and a welfare State, but introducing more direct democracy into the mix - following Switzerland’s hybrid setup, for example. Then, over time, attenuating the responsibilities and authority of the State, and shifting more and more decision-making and accountability to direct democracy and/or down to the community level. The problem with this approach is that, if corporations aren’t democratized and diffused in the same way, they will still represent huge concentrations of wealth and power that disrupt civil society and usurp or countermand democratic will. So this approach is, at best, a temporary fix.

3. Combine semi-direct democracy with worker ownership of production, and rapidly diffuse political and economic power out to the community level. As direct democracy is increasingly implemented across all civic and commercial institutions, centralized power will likewise become more distributed. All that remains is an examination of accumulations of private property and for-profit activities that sabotage egalitarian conditions for liberty, and gradually migrating those into a commons-centric model. For this shift to be voluntary, however, those who have accumulated much power and wealth will of necessity need to mature far enough along the moral spectrum to “gift” their accumulations back to society. In other words, we’ll all need to grow up a bit and graduate from an “I/Me/Mine” toddler mindset. Personally, I think most people have an intrinsic propensity to act prosocially and collectively for everyone’s best interest, it’s just that capitalism has arrested our natural development by constantly reinforcing materialistic individualism.

My own proposals around how and why humanity should transform its political economies away from capitalism and towards left-libertarianism can be found here: Level 7 Overview (http://level-7.org/).

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/Is-it-possible-for-the-State-to-no-longer-exist/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Which is more useful for society to believe in, free will or determinism?

Thanks for the A2A Robert.

Historically speaking, the answer to this question has generally depended on what utility is being sought, and by whom. For example:

- Theological determinism and religious fatalism have been quite helpful in pacifying followers within many different religions over time. So from the perspective of the religious elite who are interested in the conformance of followers, it has been quite a useful tool.

- In the same way the Divine Right of Kings - which has a similar flavor to theological determinism - helped stabilize the right of succession and pacify the unruly masses. So again, for Kings and Queens it was extremely useful.

- In any form of democracy, if the people believe that they have “free will,” this can provide a similar pacifying utility when the democracy doesn’t really represent the will of the people. Here again, it is quite useful for anyone in an elected position of power - and for the folks who bankrolled their campaign - to encourage this belief among the electorate in order to maintain an oligarchic status quo.

- It is also quite handy for owners of corporate monopolies when consumers believe they have “freedom of choice” - that market competition is providing better products at lower prices, whether or not that is actually the case.

- In the U.S., we routinely see the enhancement of free will promoted in competing political ideologies. Quite often, however, the outcome of persuading voters that one ideology is better at promoting or providing free will than another is usually increased oppression and exploitation of those same voters. In other words, just as with the previous examples, the “belief in free will” is most useful for the hucksters trying to establish or maintain their own influence.

Now, lest anyone think I am being overly pessimistic, I personally think it is vitally important in a democracy for the electorate to both believe in and insist on free will. Because whenever voters become fatalistic or begin to think their vote doesn’t really matter, they tend to abdicate their civic responsibility and obligations, and disengage. The greatest corrosive force to democracy is apathy - which is essentially letting other forces determine outcomes, instead of actively participating to shape an outcome. The challenge, however, is to protect and educate democracy sufficiently for the voice of the people to be artfully expressed using their own judgment…instead of their just being conned by snake oil salesmen.

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/Which-is-more-useful-for-society-to-believe-in-free-will-or-determinism/answer/T-Collins-Logan

Open Letter: Apology from U.S. to the World for Electing Trump

Hi Folks. We’re sorry about Trump - for a number of reasons.

On the one hand, we’re sorry that nearly half the U.S. electorate:

• Is unable to think critically or separate fact from falsehood.

• Could not see Mr. Trump for the erratic, narcissistic, blowhard demagogue that he is.

• Is swayed by conspiracy theories, irrational fear-mongering, neoliberal propaganda, yellow journalism and false advertising.

• Confuses gambling of inherited wealth with business acumen.

• Has the mistaken impression that voting once every four years is the only political obligation necessary to support civil society.

• Allowed entertainment value to override wisdom and common sense.

• Actually believed that Trump would follow through on his campaign pledges.

You might wonder why so many people fell under the spell of this mass-hysteria. Here are some likely contributing conditions:

• Poor diets and insufficient exercise, which negatively impact brain development and function.

• Tribal conformance and groupthink brought on by insular and homogenous communities.

• Frustration, anger and mental illness, brought about in part by the multigenerational stresses of waning social status and economic immobility.

• The immaturity and entitlement induced by commercialistic habits, compulsions and dependencies.

• Economic insecurity resulting from globalization and the boom/bust cycles of growth-dependent capitalism, along with the ever-enlarging wealth inequality created by monopolization, cronyism and clientism.

• Rapid cultural and technological change, which were also accelerated by growth-dependent capitalism.

• Below-average analytical and emotional intelligence, which interfere with the capacity to comprehend or navigate complexity.

• Willful ignorance as a lazy, amoral choice.

We are sorry about these conditions, too, because they are a consequence of our ongoing committment as Americans to invest in conspicuous consumption, atomistic individualism and greedy materialism as our guiding lights, while at the same time decimating our public education system, news media integrity, and cultural truth metrics. We have also routinely abdicated our political obligations to corporations and individuals with huge concentrations of wealth, allowing them make more and more of our decisions for us – and take over more and more of our government and civic institutions – and we’re sorry for that, too.

On the other hand, those who appreciate complexity, want to champion progressive values, and believe in a more participatory, informed and egalitarian future are also sorry. Because we didn’t make our case to the American people, or effectively counter the ridiculous spectacle of Donald Trump…or in many cases even go out and vote. Shame on us.

So for all of this…and for the inevitable suffering of so many millions of people that will result from a morally and mentally crippled Trump administration…we are also truly and deeply contrite. In our confusion and pain, we the people of the United States of America have allowed an impulsive, feckless idiot to become our leader. Intuitively, most of us knew this was a bad idea, and that “making America great again” was really just a last-ditch attempt for poor and middle-class white people to feel like their penises mattered (or feel like their father's, husband's or son's penises mattered, as the case may be). But, like tantruming children, too few wanted to face the reality of that shrinking decline…or have much compassion for it...so a lot of folks lashed out.

Again, so sorry.

What is needed to improve the amount and quality of civic engagement in the United States?

I think there are several issues in play, and we will need to address all of them for civic engagement and a sense of responsibility to be fostered. This means removing barriers as well as inspiring participation - and also holding folks accountable to some degree. Mainly I think we need to return governance more directly to the people - and in a more distributed and localized way - so that citizens have “skin in the game” as it were. Currently, our elected officials and their work are too far abstracted from the day-to-day concerns of average citizens, and this creates a “consume and forget” model of electoral abdication.

To address this I think we first and foremost require more frequent and direct forms of democracy, and some of my ideas about that are discussed here: Direct Democracy. Also for the long term, I would offer proposals around community involvement (see: Community Engagement) that emphasize non-governmental as well as governmental institutions and processes - many of which are well-tested in the real world. I also envision a system of social credits for utilizing essential infrastructure and services that is tied directly to civic participation (see: Social Credits System).

At the same time, we will also need to remove substantive barriers to folks even wanting to be involved - and ensure they have enough accurate information to do so skillfully and meaningfully. Regarding the former, I discuss the some of the primary concerns here: The Spectacle; Commercialist Distortions; Neoliberalism; Oppression of Women; and The Tyranny of Private Ownership. Regarding the latter, I would promote major revisions to education, the press and public information management that depart from today’s coopted and corrupted practices (see: Education).

Of course not all of this can happen at once. But if we don’t address all of these issues to a radical degree, I just don’t see change happening. The systemic failures and opposing forces are just to great. In terms of first steps, I discuss some of those here: L7 Action

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/What-is-needed-to-improve-the-amount-and-quality-of-civic-engagement-in-the-United-States)

Why do the top 1% of people in the world have half of the world's wealth?

Setting the statistical details of your question aside, and focusing on the underlying observation of extraordinary wealth inequality, I believe there are a combination of factors. Here are the most significant ones (in no particular order):

1. Capitalism. It is the nature of capitalism to concentrate wealth by rewarding owner-shareholders while exploiting worker-consumers and capturing everyone and everything else (i.e. environments, governments, technologies, etc.) that can be placed in service to profit.

2. Consumer Mindset and Addiction. This is a bit more subtle, but essentially imagine a world where everyone is convinced (individually, socially, culturally) that happiness, well-being and success are all externally consumed, and that the self-actualization principle with the highest efficacy is conspicuous consumption. Further, imagine that the products and services being offered are habit forming in nature, so that the pressures to consume create a snowball effect, thereby infantilizing the public and making people perpetually dependent. Why perpetually? Well because those products and services don’t actually deliver happiness, well-being or success…so the cycle continues.

3. Cronyism and Clientism. Through regulatory capture, revolving door self-empowerment, corruption of democratic institutions (corporate personhood, SuperPACs, the Hastert rule, gerrymandering, etc.), authoring legislation (A.L.E.C., etc.), quid-pro-quo political dealings and so forth so that the wealthy maintain de facto control over any government that is supposed to counter their overreach…thus expanding plutocratic wealth and power.

4. Financialization and Speculation. A nasty runaway train that often involves socialization of risk, extensive leveraging, and huge amounts of debt…all in order to enrich the captains of banking and industry who are already wealthy enough to play such high stakes games.

5. Monopoly. Consolidation of production, assets and influence in every industry - and often across multiple sectors - that concentrates economic controls and wealth production in the hands of fewer and fewer people.

6. Clever Propaganda. I think Milton Friedman was the first to really champion neoliberal delusions for the common person, persuading them that government, taxes and “socialist” policies would sabotage their well-being and the American success story, and that all challenges could be solved by a “free” market. It was of course a fabricated narrative without any basis in fact, but it has sold well. So now we have everyone from the Tea Party to Trump supporters voting against their own best interests, and blindly throwing their energy into this perpetual hoodwink.

7. The Spectacle. This is a complex idea that I elaborate on in the link provided, but essentially think of an elaborate, self-perpetuating engine of panem et circenses, executed via mass media and mass consumption, that anesthetizes the masses into complacency. Just enough affluence and entertainment to make them forget that their votes don’t really count for much, their “freedom” is becoming much more limited, and their real wages have been stagnant or declining since 1968.

I explore many of these topics and more on this website: Level 7

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Why-do-the-top-1-of-people-in-the-world-have-half-of-the-worlds-wealth)

Are there any libertarians that are critical of the Non-Aggression Principle?

This is a bit of a hot potato IMO. In the U.S., there is a somewhat myopically individualistic and self-referential version of libertarianism that not only embraces the NAP, but expands it (via Murray Rothbard) into all property, treating individual ownership as an extension of one’s person. This is a pretty extreme distortion that imposes a tyranny of private property equally on all, thereby depriving all of significant liberty. So, in this context, the answer to your question would be a resounding “most libertarians;” meaning most libertarians outside of the U.S. (and indeed most throughout the history of libertarian and anarchistic thought) would reject the application of the NAP to property as U.S. Libertarians tend to do. Of course, there are also left-libertarians (libertarian socialists) in the U.S. who also take exception to the…er…aggressive application of the NAP to property by right-libertarians. As I said…a bit of a hot potato.

As for the underlying sentiment of non-aggression, I think that is more widely shared by anarchists and libertarians of most persuasions. But even here what precisely constitutes “aggression” (or coercion, compulsion, etc.) is widely debated. Where right-libertarians seem to see all actions of the State (and sometimes even community-level government) as executed “under the threat of force,” a minarchist libertarian socialist would defer to collective agreement around a given issue to assert its persuasive legitimacy, and not view it as coercive or oppressive in the same way. In other words, for a right-libertarian individual sovereignty tends to be the central compass for defining non-interference (negative liberty), while the left-libertarian views collective cooperation as a preferred standard for facilitating liberty for all.

I think all of this orbits around the question of political obligation, and I write more about that here: http://www.tcollinslogan.com/resources/IntegralLiberty.pdf

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Are-there-any-libertarians-that-are-critical-of-the-Non-Aggression-Principle)

Do non-college educated, financially disadvantaged people think they know more about economics than educated white-collar professionals do?

I’ll try to answer this question by describing what I see going on underneath it. In this instance, several forces are at work that undermine “educated” assessments of any kind:

1. The human-created economic realities-on-the-ground have become much more complex - and globally interdependent - than perhaps any time in human history.

2. At the same time, consumers have been trained through commercialism and advanced communications technology to pay only a vague amount of attention to reductionist, hyper-simplistic sound bytes offered by mainstream media - and often ones crafted by supposed “experts” - that generally ignore complexity or nuance in favor of truncated, black-and-white quasi-facts.

3. Those whom the media selects - or who have self-selected - to become representatives of the “expert” class are often not all that bright, and not all that educated, but simply have the drive and/or language skills to become valued sound byte wizards.

4. In order to package lockstep ideologies for mass conformance, politicians and political propagandists further muddy the waters with deliberate distortions of reality-on-the-ground that frame their POV in the most favorable light, further disrupting their adherents’ grip on what is really going on.

5. Add to this the psychological stresses of modern society, poor diets, lack of exercise, lots of neurologically and biologically active chemicals introduced by human industry, and a seeming increase in the incidence of mental illness.

Now when you take all of these elements, stir them into a big cauldron of fascist populist sentiment, then superheat that concoction with the flames of authentically felt economic pressure (shareholder impatience, job insecurity, stagnant wages, resource scarcity, growing income inequality, exploding financialization and debt, boom-bust volatility, price-inelastic demand, monopolization, narrowing profit margins, etc.) the result is fairly predictable: poor choices in an increasingly nonfunctional democracy.

So I would say it has little to do with education or class, and a lot more to do with the pathologies, anxiety, economic insecurity and societal tensions created by capitalism itself.

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Do-non-college-educated-financially-disadvantaged-people-think-they-know-more-about-economics-than-educated-white-collar-professionals-do)

The Unseen Tragedy of a Trump Presidency…and Our Collective Responsibility

Between A Rock and A Hard Place

Like many other progressively-minded folks, I am in still in shock over what happened last night, and likely will be for some time. I have an image burned into my memory of a team of seasoned journalists finally conceding to what the voting results meant, sitting around the table in stunned silence, staring at their hands. Fifteen seconds of dead air said it all. And now those same pundits are attempting to explain away the errors in their predictions, pointing to a much deeper and larger pool of angry white folks than anyone imagined as a primary factor for Trump’s victory. So I wanted to speak to that group, along with my more like-minded progressive friends, in exploring exactly what this election means for the United States of America.

The real tragedy in this election will not be the thousands of young women who, once Roe v. Wade is overturned, are either forced to obtain illegal abortions, or to live in poverty without support as they struggle to raise an unwanted child. The real tragedy also won’t be the millions of Americans who lose their health insurance, are unable to obtain adequate coverage for chronic conditions, or can’t afford healthcare once the Affordable Care Act is repealed. It also won’t be the immigrants whose families are ripped apart by accelerated deportations, or the millions of businesses – including the farming backbone of America’s food supply – that close down because they can’t find workers for entry level jobs at subsistence wages. And it won't be a runaway train of "Trump effect" bullying against the LGBT community, people of color, nerds, disabled folks, social outcasts and the other traditional objects of fear and hatred by ignorant white people. The real tragedy will also not be those billions among our next generations who, because of the U.S. abandoning global climate agreements and strategies, will have to navigate a chaotic weather, rising sea levels and an explosion of tropical diseases. All of these may be predictable outcomes of a Republican majority under Trump’s leadership, and they might be very unpleasant for Americans to suffer through, but they are not the most extreme travesty now in the works.

What is really the most tragic and distressing consequence of this election actually pertains to all those angry white folks who voted for Trump. Why? Because he promised he could help them. But here’s the rub regarding that, folks: Trump can’t help you. The demographics of the U.S. are still going to shift to a white minority population, even if all immigration were to be cut off. All those people of color who are U.S. citizens are still going to have families, and the population trends will remain basically the same. Good jobs are still not going to be available to U.S. workers, because no industry can afford to pay U.S. workers a decent wage and still produce a profit for goods sold either in the U.S. or on the global market – it has been true for some time that U.S. companies depend on cheap labor and resources sourced outside of the U.S. to maintain the growth and affordability of their products. This is one reason real wages have been in decline for many decades. In fact, you could say that the economic isolationism championed by Trump is about the most effective way to destroy any chance of jobs or a living wage in the U.S. And because Trump’s tax policies will focus on benefiting the most wealthy Americans, and will do absolutely nothing beneficial for the middle and lower classes (possibly even raising taxes on those groups - see Batchelder), this whole combination of tactics is almost guaranteed to make the plight of most white, middle class, blue collar Americans already struggling to make ends meet a hell-of-a-lot worse. Trump’s strategies will also burden Americans with increasing amounts of debt, as we must of necessity plunge further and further down the rabbit hole of financialization. A ballooning national deficit will merely be the tip of this spear.

In terms of international relations, jihadi terrorism, friendliness with Russia and so forth, the prospects for improvement are equally dire. But of course the U.S. isn’t the only player on the world stage, so who knows: maybe these issues will resolve themselves despite any poor choices we make in terms of U.S. trade or foreign policy. But my main point – and the one that I hope will evoke some empathy and compassion for angry white America from my progressive friends – is that all those folks who voted for Trump are now truly and resoundingly fucked. Because of their blindness and resentment regarding the inexorable realities of the modern world, they have chosen a government that will make things much, much worse for themselves over the short and long term. Americans voting against their own best interests has happened before – most recently with the eight years of a Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz debacle – but this hard lesson hasn’t yet been fully learned by the American electorate. Perhaps it never will be. Perhaps we humans are just prone to making irrational choices when we are fearful and distressed, and the consistent Republican investment in amplifying such fear and distress in order to win elections is now reaping its just rewards.

But, for our dear angry white Americans: remember those “elite” you have blamed for taking away your liberties, eroding Christian values, creating terrorism, ruining the U.S. economy and threatening your way of life…? Well, you just elected more of them into office. Gingrich, Juliani, Trump, Pence and their ilk are not your champions or your friends, they are a potent team of self-obsessed, arrogant, power-hungry sociopaths who will take America deep out into the woods, bend her over a log of lies and delusion, and violently ravish her – economically, politically, socially and spiritually – very much against her will. All the while they can of course invoke Randian, Libertarian or neoliberal propaganda that rationalizes such actions as “American exceptionalism,” further empowering corporate oligarchy at the expense of U.S. citizens. But you will likely be too busy trying to survive to fully appreciate how you have been duped. This is what you’ve done…to yourselves. And so this is why I sincerely feel progressives should go beyond patience, beyond endurance and tolerance, beyond kindness and sympathy, and reach out to console and, yes, help Trump voters as best they can in the coming months and years. Those who understand what the outcome of this election really means must overcome our disappointment and grief, and arm ourselves with agape. Because when the Trump Administration is done raping and pillaging its very own supporters, those fellow Americans will not just feel doubly betrayed and doubly hurt, they will feel cold and alone in those haunting woods, with copious amounts of patriotic blood streaming endlessly from their…wherevers. And they will need our help.

So to explore longer term and more realistic solutions to our current dilemma – as well as what activism we can engage in to move us toward those solutions – I would encourage folks to visit my latest website: http://www.level-7.org, and in particular the Action Guide. What we are now facing may indeed be a chaotic transition of sorts (take a look at my friend David MacLeod’s thoughts on this topic at his Integral Permaculture blog), but if we can shift our focus away from damage control to a new, truly workable vision for tomorrow, we just might emerge from the next few years with a chance of healing and hope. This is our collective responsibility. We can no longer be passive consumers of domestic politics, trusting the advertising claims of the product we are being sold during the election season, then disengaging from civic responsibility the rest of the time. To fuel our optimism, we also know that left-leaning folks are the real majority in the U.S. - it's just that half of us didn't vote in this election. So we all need to be more conscious, informed and proactive purveyors of our democracy persistently and perpetually. Together, we must fully understand what is happening in our country and around the world, and make thoughtful decisions about how to proceed. And if we can care enough about each other to recognize the real pain we all share – and how to remedy the conditions that caused it through our own cooperative efforts – then our vision for a more harmonious and mutually supportive future could actually become real.

My 2 cents.

Are the views of Karl Marx still relevant today?

Yes, Marx’s views are still relevant today. In fact I think everyone should read Capital. Not only are his critique of capitalism spot-on and his predictions salient, but the sheer originality of much of his thought is awe-inspiring. I have my own disagreements with Marx about how he fetishizes the proletariat, his approach to systematizing economics, his encouragement of violent revolutions, his lack of clarity around certain issues (democratic structures, religion, etc.), and a number of other details that helped allow horrific distortions and destruction via Lenin. But the vast and insightful body of Marx’s thought still has much to offer us - and we have yet to answer many of the most important questions and concerns that he raised.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Are-the-views-of-Karl-Marx-still-relevant-today/answer/T-Collins-Logan)

Why do people say that neoliberalism has made capital flight easier?

It’s simple really. Neoliberal agendas have created the following circumstances in developing countries (as an openly expressed matter of neoliberal policy):

1. Increasing capital movement within a global environment, and thus increasing opportunities for capital flight (out of a developing country).

2. Privatization of public resources and economic liberalization in general - frequently transferring ownership to foreign corporations, as well as reducing controls and oversight of industry, thus enabling additional avenues of capital flight.

3. Excessive concentrations of wealth - especially in a few very large corporations or opportunistic individuals, which in turn makes it fairly easy for large chunks of capital to exit a given country.

4. Economic instability - ultimately, the greater the economic liberalization, the greater the tendency for extreme boom-and-bust cycles; during a localized bust, all the capital that has been accumulated by the wealthiest elite is going to look for safer, more lucrative opportunities…usually outside of the country.

As an example, if you look at how the IMF and World Bank have manipulated developing countries, the structural adjustment policies (which are all-too-often transparently neoliberal in nature) engineer the perfect environment for capital flight. It’s a travesty.

The neoliberal promise has always been: let free markets make you rich! Well, those unfettered markets actually only benefit the folks who started out with the largest chunks of capital - or who quickly obtain it, often illicitly - at the expense of everyone and everything else.

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Why-do-people-say-that-neoliberalism-has-made-capital-flight-easier/answer/T-Collins-Logan)

Revolutionary Integrity: Chaotic Transitions vs. Compassionate Transformation

There is a potent mythology circulating within our modern Zeitgeist that revolutionary transitions must be chaotic, disruptive and destructive. I think this is a mistaken assumption, but it is grounded in reliable observations and experiences that permeate history, psychology, biology, spirituality, politics and personal growth. First we can take a look at those evidences, and then some alternative examples from which we can discern a more sensible course for constructive change.

Where did this investment in chaotic transitions come from? Here are a few of the enduring memes circulating today:

• From ancient times, the Greek, Judeo-Christian, Hindu and other mythological metaphors of violent destruction and rebirth: the fiery rebirth of the Phoenix; the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (and other “dying-and-rising God” narratives – see Dying-and-Rising-God); the Great Flood myths; and the trials and temptations of the Hero’s Journey (Campbell); the chaotic End Times scenarios from various spiritual traditions, etc.

• Milton Friedman’s theory that, in order to implement a new policy or system, one must engineer an economic and/or political crises, accelerate a nascent crisis, or simply take advantage of a crisis in process at a regional, national or international level. Friedman demonstrated the effectiveness of this approach in different countries during his lifetime in order to promote a neoliberal ideology. Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism explores this process in vivid detail.

• Clear evidence that, in natural ecosystems, death is a necessary component of ongoing viability: one species will routinely consume another; parents must die for their offspring to flourish; evolutionary adaptation generally follows a fitness advantage passed on and refined in subsequent generations; and so on.

• The belief embodied in many spiritual traditions that each individual must relinquish a sense of self-importance or ego-identity in order to grow spiritually; a “death-to-self,” obliteration of individual ego, or realization of “no-self” is a necessary component of spiritual maturity.

• “Hitting bottom” in the Twelve-Step tradition. In this view of addiction and recovery, a person’s self-destructive behaviors must first produce substantive and irrefutable damage in their lives before they will consider seeking help or beginning the road to recovery.

• The observations of historians, philosophers and economists that cultural revolutions and societal advancements throughout history have been facilitated by highly volatile historical circumstances, rebellious grass-roots movements, new information or disruptive technologies. From religious wars to new economic systems to new forms of government to advances in individual and collective freedoms, turmoil seems to have been a reliable precursor for change.

However, I think this widespread assumption that chaotic transitions are inevitable is no longer as reliable as it perhaps once was. There are a number of reasons for this, and here are what I believe to be the most important ones:

• Superagency – Individually and collectively, humanity has exponentially increased its power through communication, transportation, industrialization, militarization and other technology. This has an amplifying effect on both deliberate outcomes and unanticipated ones, so that each personal, regional and cultural choice produces an enormous cascade of enduring consequences. In this context, previous patterns of death and rebirth cannot apply; the scope and reach of human will have now obliterated any Phoenix opportunity. And as our technology and population footprint expands, compassionate transformation must replace chaotic transitions as our standard of change – or the human species and possibly even the Earth itself are not likely to survive.

Exponential Complexity – This is close kin to superagency in terms of its impact on change. The level of complexity with which the modern world operates – and upon which an ever-increasing number of human beings rely for existence – has surpassed the level of any of the take-down-and-rebuild upheaval witnessed by previous eras. Our systems of commerce, resource distribution, healthcare, global transportation, energy, food production, education, research, innovation and just about everything else require extraordinary coordination, standards-based planning and specialized skillsets to implement and maintain. Rebuilding such complexity in a new form from the ashes of chaotic collapse is simply unrealistic and naïve.

Strong Evidence for Alternative Approaches – For me this begins at the individual level, witnessing how client-based psychotherapy grounded in trusting relationships are so much more successful than confrontation groups or highly directive approaches; because empowering the client allows them to heal themselves and keep using tools to maintain their own well-being. In organizations, I have witnessed firsthand the constructive impact of shifting from top-down management styles to more inclusive, bottom-up decision-making as the result of a voluntary choice to empower workers – and of course this has been documented in many places (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workplace_democracy). Elinor Ostrom’s research on Common Pool Resource Management schemas arising organically around the globe also has demonstrated the viability of bottom-up, collective decision-making. On larger scales, throughout recorded history we have successful nonviolent movements in many countries (see Nonviolent Resistance and Nonviolent Revolution). Although the outcomes often involve compromise, nonviolent approaches have provided a more fluid avenue to healing and reconciliation among opposing viewpoints (for more information on nonviolent action, visit http://www.aeinstein.org/). And finally we have the evidence of state initiatives and referenda in the U.S., and of a more pervasive direct democracy in Switzerland at all levels of government, which came about without a single riot or drop of blood.

In my own efforts to envision and reify positive change on many different levels, I have sought to explore and embody transformative practices and ideals that are fundamentally constructive, additive and synergistic – a multidialectical synthesis rather than an inherently dominating or destructive process. Which is why I am calling this compassionate transformation. It involves these primary components, the details of which are discussed in more detail throughout my writings about Integral Lifework:

• An acknowledgement of personal responsibility, consciousness and planning to bring about constructive change; a commitment to personal agency must supersede reliance on institutional agency or externalized dependence – which ultimately lead to disconnection, apathy and self-disempowerment.

• The persistent guiding intentionality to work toward outcomes that provide the greatest good, for the greatest number of people, for the greatest duration – doing so skillfully, in ways that acknowledge and support both obvious and obscured interdependence.

• A focus on nourishing, nurturing and strengthening all dimensions of being in ourselves and others, with the primary aim of exercising compassionate affection, but also to encourage moral maturity and higher altitudes of individual and collective moral function. Our core strengths, resilience and creativity will issue from these mutually supportive relationships.

• A profound investment in understanding, respecting, including, honoring and celebrating diverse experiences, perspectives, cultural traditions and levels of understanding in all participatory mechanisms, while at the same time integrating them (in the sense of interculturalism), rather than encouraging isolation or separateness. Here we appreciate our togetherness, necessary interdependence, and uniqueness all-at-once.

• Patience and acceptance with the process of healing, educating and transforming self, family, community and civil society. This will be a difficult challenge. There will be setbacks. All of us are likely to stumble through confusion, loss, distractions and emotional turmoil; there will be internal chaos in the midst of liberation. And the only meaningful answer to this pain is self-directed compassion - a stubbornly enduring love-consciousness.

At the same time, I recognize that some things do pass away in the process; the synthesis may sometimes be subtractive regarding previous perspectives, memes, values systems or ideologies. For example, regarding the state of our current political economy, we do need to disrupt the status quo’s glamorous spectacle of excess and distraction, built as it is on unsustainable overconsumption and self-absorbed materialism. Together, we must prompt an awakening of conscious participation from our fellow worker-consumers, and definitively end the exploitative reign of owner-shareholders. And yes, this will likely involve attenuation of individualism, acquisitiveness and ego. But it is not necessary to drag “the man behind the curtain” out into the public square and flog him to death, or burn his palace to the ground. We can wreak havoc on the illusion, overturn the banksters’ tables, and eliminate complacency and dependency among our fellow citizens…without inducing chaos or a complete breakdown of society. Instead we can remove the curtain, throw open the palace gates, inspire and educate mass movements, and demand pervasive change – all without rancor, murder or rage. The more profound difference between compassionate transformation and chaotic transition in this regard is that our grounding attitude is a letting go – a careful, caring and tempered relinquishment of previous patterns, rather than their violent or aggressive destruction, oppression or repression. Passion with compassion; activism with humility. This is not passive by any means, but accepting, supportive, nonjudgmental and active from a place of loving kindness; it just invites the same collective participation it designs into reforms, and doesn’t excuse itself to lord it over others “for their own good.”

This combination of reasoning is what led me to promote what I call revolutionary integrity. Many throughout recent history, from Gandhi to Friere to Martin Luther King, have expressed the intuitive logic of embodying the values one desires for the future in the current modes of revolutionary action. Carl Boggs, Wini Breines and others wrote extensively about this idea with respect to sociopolitical movements of the sixties and seventies, describing it as prefigurative politics. Many years earlier, Ralph W. Sockman said this about the issue: "Be careful that victories do not carry the seed of future defeats." And long before this, a rebel from Nazarus told his overzealous disciple: “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” So this is really the core of what revolutionary integrity is about: we are just amplifying the assumption that, if we don’t embody our values in a transformational process, we will in fact sabotage the outcome. The means must embody the ends. There will be re-synthesis and adjustment along the way – that is obvious, as ideological and methodological purity almost always obstruct common sense solutions – but this does not mean that our quality of dialogue, standards of ethics, the vision towards which our incremental steps lead, the intensity of compassion with which we regard all participants, or the humility by which we relinquish personal opportunities at power for the common good will ever be compromised in any way. But if we insist that crisis is a necessary precondition for change, we will be inviting crisis to be an integral part of whatever new systems we invent.

In a very real sense, our lingering attachment to the idea of chaotic transitions is a substantive impediment to collective progress. It is a sign of our vestigial attachment to patterns of behavior which probably made sense when ancient tribes found themselves under constant threat of conflict, resource scarcity, existential uncertainty and violent power struggles. It is much like an abusive family’s expectation that all their communication and emotion be mired in excessive drama; or how a codependently enmeshed couple might catastrophize all disagreements and disconnections; or how someone with a personality disorder might threaten to commit suicide if someone doesn’t return their phone call. And perhaps it will take a generation or two of promoting holistic, multidimensional nourishment, healing from trauma, breaking familial cycles of abuse, and relaxing PTSD-like cultural reflexes in order to fully open ourselves up to more complete and effective ways of compassionately being. But I sincerely believe that is exactly what we need to do to both envision an egalitarian, thriving future for humanity, and to actualize it.

My 2 cents.

Why should a young person be a Socialist?

Simply put: because democracy should not - and in fact cannot - exist only in the political sphere. It must also be part of the economic sphere. At its core, this is what various forms of socialism are all about. That said, economic democracy in socialist proposals has often been coopted the same way democracy has been coopted in capitalist societies: by concentrations of wealth. Well, to be truly “democratic,” a society can’t have a small number of folks who a) make all the decisions, or b) control all the wealth. Wealth and power concentrations are how oligarchy and plutocracy are created and maintained - there is no “freedom of choice” in markets where corporate monopolies dominate, for example. This is such a fundamental historical fact, but it often gets overlooked in mainstream discourse on both the right and left halves of the spectrum. Socialism (and I think most specifically libertarian socialism…but that is my bias) acknowledges this reality and seeks to remedy it - so this would be a great starting point for any young person. The challenge, of course, is how to evolve such notions into a new, functional paradigm that replaces the tyranny of private ownership.

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Why-should-a-young-person-be-a-Socialist/answer/T-Collins-Logan)

The Problem of Feminine Power: Testosterone, Cultural Evolution & the 2016 U.S. Elections

Western culture has a problem with empowered women. From a historical perspective this is easy to observe – and we’ll cover some of that briefly – but the more interesting and relevant question is: why? Why have women been so persistently held back, oppressed, dismissed, denigrated, ridiculed, shamed and abused both institutionally and culturally in so many Western societies? Why, in a country like the U.S.A. where liberty and opportunity are so highly prized, have women been subject to these same prejudices? And lastly, it seems obvious that any cultural currents underlying the denigration of women are particularly relevant in the 2016 U.S. election – but what is really going on here?

About the history. Some potent reminders of the subjugation of the feminine:

• Around 85% of the witches executed in Europe and the American Colonies during the witch hunts of the 15th through 17th centuries were women.

• In medieval Europe, women who spoke their minds in public – or challenged their husband’s authority – could be subjected to public shaming via iron masks that they wore for a day or longer.

• It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that women began to receive substantive rights to their own property in the U.S., Britain and Europe; before that, husbands and fathers controlled their property.

• The post-enlightenment awakening to the importance of higher education for women resulted in the first all-women colleges in the mid-1800s and a growing concern for primary school education for girls all around the globe. Up until this time, however, it was mainly men who were encouraged to pursue education (other than in a religious context, such as Catholic convents). In many Muslim countries, however, female education has trended in the opposite direction in recent decades.

• Women’s suffrage around the globe is a particularly glaring indication of female disenfranchisement: it wasn’t until 1920 that women had the right to vote in the U.S.; 1928 in the United Kingdom; 1944 in France; 1946 in Italy; 1952 in Greece; 1954 in Columbia; 1955 in Cambodia; 1990 in Samoa; 2015 in Saudi Arabia.

• In terms of basic human rights, 189 members of the UN felt it imperative to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1981. As of this writing, Somalia, Sudan, Tonga, Iran, the Holy See and the United States have refused to sign on.

• Considering that women in many parts of the United States – and many parts of the rest of the world – still have challenges asserting both their reproductive rights and their right to equal pay, we can see that the double-standards regarding female empowerment persist into modern times.

Shaming Masks - Photo Credit Craige Moore, Creative Commons License 2.0

Is this longstanding prejudice in the Western world a consequence of religion? No. The mistrust and disempowerment of the feminine has nothing at all to do with religion – though religious institutions have happily taken up female oppression and regressive conservatism in service to their parent cultures. As Christianity has been the dominant religious institution in the West, we can explore it as an example. In the New Testament, Jesus is a radical feminist for his time. He elevated women’s positions above cultural norms, honored female disciple’s behaviors and attitudes above his male disciples, responded to women’s requests and admonishments even as he chastised men's, ignored cultural prejudices around female sexuality and physiology, and forgave women of their most culturally despised sins. And, for a time, this liberation of the feminine endured; in the early Church, women held positions of authority, influence and honor. In fact, there are only two short Paulian verses in all of the New Testament that place women in subjection to men, and there is a high likelihood that those were introduced (“interpolated”) into the scriptural canon long after the earliest Christian texts were written. (For more on this topic, see this excerpt from A Progressive's Guide to the New Testament.)

So what happened? Pre-existing culture happened. Everywhere we look in those first few centuries of spreading Christianity, the surrounding cultures were astoundingly oppressive toward women: beginning with North African culture, Jewish culture, and Roman culture…and eventually arriving in Northern Europe. These were societies where women were treated as slaves, traded like chattel, and sometimes killed (“exposed”) at birth because they were less desirable than male offspring. And as Christianity gradually gained institutional authority in these regions of the world, it also gradually adopted the dominant memes of those cultures. Jesus’ example and the practices of the early Church regarding women were almost completely abandoned. So what began as a seemingly deliberate attempt to liberate women was often turned on its head in favor of existing cultural traditions.

Now Northern European cultures are an interesting, diverse and complex study in themselves – so can we really generalize about “anti-feminine” sentiments in this way? I think we can, mainly because of the historical evidence. We know of only one European culture that had hints of strong matriarchal traditions, and that was the Picts, whose culture and language had been diluted, assimilated or erased by the end of the first millennium. But, as alluded to, the West isn’t the only place where women are second class citizens. Many North African cultures have a problem with empowered women as well. And here again it has nothing to do with religion, colonization by Northern Europeans, or any of the other lazy explanations that are frequently invoked. Take for example female genital mutilation and child brides – these traditions predate the arrival of Islam, Christianity and the northern invaders by centuries, and persist equally across these cultures regardless of the dominant ethnic, religious, economic and political orientations. For example, Ethiopia is a predominantly Christian country with completely different geography, ethnic groups and politics than Mali, a predominantly Muslim country; but they both practice FGM to an astonishing degree (74% and 89% respectively), and child brides are bartered off at about the same rate in both places (41-60%). Here again, cultural traditions seem to be the dominating factor, far outweighing any other influences.

But we must return to the why. Why are women so habitually denigrated? One theory that has been advanced by anthropologists and other researchers is that the cultural value of women was higher in peaceful and resource-abundant regions of the world than where resources were scarce or there was more competition with other inhabitants (see Hayden, Deal, Cannon and Casey). As the theory goes, because men had the physical advantages to become successful hunters and warriors, men gained prestige and authority in environments where those traits were important, and women’s roles became more supportive or subservient. Another theory posits that the introduction of writing and literacy pushed institutions and cultural authority away from the holistic and concrete oral traditions perpetuated by women, and into a linear, abstract and reductionist realm dominated by men (see Shlain). Another theory promotes the idea that the advent of privately owned land, agriculture and animal husbandry introduced the idea of reproductive ownership and control of resources through inheritance, where provable lineage and female reproductive capacity became essential mechanisms of patriarchal power that men felt compelled to control (see Ryan and Jethá). Yet another theory is that male-centric, warlike tribes steeped in cultural habits of domination invaded more egalitarian, cooperative and peaceful regions where women participated as equal partners, and proceeded to subjugate those cultures to the warlike-masculine-dominating archetype (see Eisler).

Although all of these theories have interesting evidence and merit, I don’t think any of them adequately explain female oppression. There is simply something missing – something more fundamental, more persistent, more universal…and more inherent. What is it? Well I think the underlying issue centers around the relationship between testosterone and similar dietary, cultural and physical habits that have arisen independently around the globe. Yes…you heard me: testosterone and dietary, cultural and physical habits. Bear with me here, as I think this will all come together nicely. To appreciate how this synthesizes, we need to understand something about human physiology: specifically, we need to appreciate the effects of testosterone on human behavior and development. Here are some of those well-documented correlations. Testosterone:

1. Beginning in the eighth week after conception, testosterone stimulates fetal differentiation to become male.

2. Strongly influences development of muscle mass and strength (and retention of these over time).

3. Has tremendous impact on sexual desire and impulses.

4. Increases feelings and expression of vitality, aggression and confidence.

5. Strongly correlates (and changes) with position of social dominance (higher testosterone reflects a higher position of dominance) and a desire to compete.

6. Seems to correlate with increased objectification of sex partner as a means to gratification (higher testosterone = higher objectification; interestingly, there is evidence that estrogen has a similar effect).

7. Offers strong correlations with violent criminality (higher testosterone levels in the most violent criminals).

8. May contribute to impatient, impulsive, risk-taking personality traits.

We should note that there are genetic predispositions, socialization, learned behaviors and other factors in play as well in all of this – and that correlations between certain behaviors and testosterone may indicate more of cofactor relationship than direct causality – but for now the details of those discussions will remain outside of our scope. Also, we should appreciate that many of these correlations are equally true for both women and men. What, then, in the most simplified terms, stimulates or sustains testosterone production as people age? Here are some broadly held conclusions regarding that:

1. Intense exercise, especially in bursts of activity and using the largest muscle groups.

2. Intermittent periods of fasting.

3. Having lots of sex, and lots of thoughts about sex.

4. Low carb, low sugar, low grain, high protein diet that includes healthy fats.

5. Receiving regular doses of Zinc (oysters, crab, other shellfish, beef, chicken, pork, beans, garlic, mushrooms, spinach, whole grains).

6. Receiving regular doses of Vitamin D (seafood, egg yolks, beef liver, beans, mushrooms, cheese).

7. Maintaining low levels of body fat.

8. Consuming foods with BCAAs (like cheese and cottage cheese).

9. Engaging in aggressive, risk-taking or violent activities.

10. Maintaining a competitive, dominance-oriented worldview and behaviors.

Can you surmise which cultures – historically – have promoted nearly all of these testosterone-enhancing components of diet, cultural values and physical habit as part of their societal norms…? Quite interestingly, most of them happen to be the very same cultures that have dominated the globe for centuries. Speaking specifically to pre-industrial proclivities of British, European and (post-colonization) North American cultures: what were the dominant features of day-to-day living in terms of diet, social mores and activities? Consider the habits, attitudes and appetites of explorers, the colonizers and imperialists, warmongers and revolutionaries…all those dominators who reveled in engineering competition and subjugating others in every aspect of life? Certainly we could have a chicken-and-egg debate around which came first – high testosterone levels or the conditions that helped to maintain them – but the historically prevalent power brokers and change agents in these cultures seem to be poster children for testosterone-enhancing lifestyles.

We can then even piggyback onto Jared Diamond’s hypothesis in Guns, Germs and Steel, asserting that perhaps testosterone has been one more actor that helped facilitate the Eurasian hegemony. And inherent to that testosterone-reinforced dominance (or at least thematically and biologically consistent with it) is patriarchy, male chauvinism, and general devaluation of the feminine. Even when women are themselves “masculinized” by testosterone and testosterone-enhancing activities, they likewise become aggressive, competitive, dominating, risk-taking and violent – establishing their primacy over everyone else who is “weaker.” Thus a primary feature of testosterone-reinforcing diets, culture and physical habits could at once be both the subjugation of other cultures, and the principle of “masculine” dominance, objectification and commoditization of others – from slaves to sex workers to sheeple...and most certainly "the weaker sex."

Testosterone-Dependent Dominance Systems

Now when we take a moment to step back and think about this hypothesis, one thing that rapidly becomes clear is that much of modern Western society is no longer conforming to its historical testosterone-producing advantages – at least not in many substantive ways. Habit-wise we have become much more sedentary, are consuming a lot more sugar and carbs, are gaining a lot of weight, and are generally amplifying the preconditions for Type II Diabetes in several ways. We are also exposed to a host of industrially produced antiandrogens (pesticides, insecticides, phthalates in plastics, and parabens in soaps and pharmaceuticals) that disrupt testosterone expression. Which begs the question: is the same level of testosterone-induced behavior still in play? Well I think it is…but only for those who succeed within the vestigial socioeconomic systems, traditions and institutions preserved from earlier eras. Remember the correlation between social position and testosterone? Well when human beings deliberately operate within a system that encourages and rewards aggressive competition, dominating tactics, oppression of anyone perceived as “weaker,” physical and sexual prowess, and patriarchy, the primacy of testosterone and its ongoing production is also encouraged in those who dominate. And that symbiosis amplifies itself over time, as testosterone in turn reinforces the attitudes and behaviors that produce it. It is a classic “The Wolf You Feed” dynamic where the testosterone-rich dominate the testosterone-poor.

Which is certainly one reason why – in our competitively capitalistic, hierarchically corporatist, domineeringly commercialized culture – men receive more pay than women, owner-shareholders lord it over worker-consumers, law enforcement perpetrates violence against citizenry, girls are sexually objectified at a young age, nearly half of all women experience sexual assault, the Stanford Prison Experiment had such predictable results, and nearly half the electorate fears allowing an empowered and experienced woman to become POTUS. It all fits hand-in-glove. And it doesn’t seem to matter how cooperative, genteel, educated, mutually supportive, peaceful or egalitarian a society becomes – the tyranny of testosterone can still undermine all such progress and reverse cultural evolution toward fascist sentiments and masculine-authoritarian leadership styles. More than just promoting a “Strong Father-Ruler” archetype to quash any spark of matriarchy, the tyranny of testosterone becomes a biological imperative to perpetuate reproductive primacy and control. In a pervasive – perhaps even global – societal reflex to stave of cultural male menopause, the fear of feminine power has become a sort of mass hysteria; irrational to its core, but also grounded in the physiological realities of the developed world that explicitly or implicitly erode testosterone-dependent dominance systems. One has to wonder whether the rise of Islamist fundamentalism in the developing world isn’t at least in part another indicator of this same hysteria: men seeking to reassert masculine power as they see it being eroded around them.

Thus feminine power is not merely about a woman having positional influence, it’s about a woman exercising power dynamics that are alternative and contrasting to testosterone-related, "traditionally masculine" ones. It’s about a different mode of social organization, a different flavor of collaboration, a different pattern of interaction and communication, indeed a radically alternative political economy. Is it time to let go…? To elevate and embrace feminine power, and attenuate the masculine? I think it probably has been for some time, but even as the collective balls of society continue to shrink, the more conservative and fearful elements of our culture thrash against the inevitable, hoping through their frantic, last-ditch efforts to secure just a little more time for testosterone’s rein. And so we arrive at the 2016 election, where the archetype of feminine power has at least partially been embodied in Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump, by contrast, has clearly expressed himself to be shaped by traditional masculine power, with no hint of the feminine and a clear discomfort with anything resembling feminine power. And now Hillary, as the Democratic nominee for U.S. President, has become the sole locus for cultural male menopause hysteria, with all its attendant fears and worries around demasculinization. But it is not because Hillary is a woman and Donald is a man that this archetypal tension runs so deep – it is because they each represent such different orientations to power…and to testosterone.

Before concluding, I think it responsible to at least give a nod to men’s movement. I actually think that issue of oppressive gender roles applies equally to men, in that men often feel trapped in the same cultural expectations that should concern all equal rights activism. In terms to causality or blame, it doesn’t really matter that the mechanisms that brought, for example, male dominance of civic institutions into being were “patriarchal” or “misogynistic” by nature, if the roles and responsibilities regarding men that are championed or imposed by those institutions are subjectively oppressive for men. For example, the gender inequality we find in military service, or high-risk jobs, or how custody and child support are awarded, or the imposition of a breadwinner role, or indeed differences in suicide rates and criminal sentencing. In these areas, the men are definitely at a disadvantage, and any remedies we seek to enable greater equality should take such disadvantages into account. In this context, I think we should be aiming for a clearer demarcation between what I have described as testosterone-driven attitudes, proclivities and behaviors, and what “should” define masculinity. In fact I think we can point to testosterone as a central actor in the systemic oppression of everyone - both women and men. That said, I realize that I have probably reinforced a dualistic gender bias by referring to masculine and feminine power…so perhaps we need to come up with a more gender-neutral, multidimensional language in such discussions. In this sense, it appears I still need to escape the cultural conditioning of my own language, as I have admittedly been immersed in some fairly radical feminism from a very young age.

To wrap things up, there are currently a few contrasting theories about the impact of testosterone on human cultural development. One indicates that lowering levels of testosterone in humans around 50,000 years ago facilitated more prosocial behaviors, and therefore stimulated the first art, technology and blossoming of culture (see Cieri). Another goes to the opposite extreme by asserting that testosterone is responsible for critical masculine functions and advances in human civilization (see Barzilai). Another hypothesis elevates the role of cultural conditioning in how much testosterone is generated in certain situations, indicating that biology itself is shaped by culture and reinforces that culture (see Nisbett & Cohen, and Richerson & Boyd). It is this last theory that I think is the most interesting, because it indicates a more nuanced relationship between the internalized beliefs that result from cultural conditioning, and how our bodies respond and adapt to culture according to those beliefs. The implication is that our choices and experiences over time will shape both our individual psychology and collective cultural evolution – not just in how we consciously shape our institutions, but in how our internal hormonal cocktail conforms to, and facilitates, those societal expectations.

For further reading:

















What exactly does "social ownership of the means of production" mean?

Thanks for the A2A.

Generally it means one of the following scenarios - which may or may not be combined into elements of a given political economy (predominantly, this tends to be a Mixed economy):

1. Workers control and own the means of production. See Mondragon Corporation as one example.

2. The community controls the means of production. See Elinor Ostrom's 8 Principles for Managing A Commmons as one avenue of research.

3. The State owns and controls the means of production. See State-owned enterprises.

4. Consumer-members are both the primary stakeholders and primary beneficiaries of the means of production. See Canadian Credit Union Association as one example.

Therefore “social ownership of the means of production” exists nearly everywhere around the globe in one form or another. The main differentiation from “private ownership of the means of production” is simple: it’s democracy. In some way, democracy guides these enterprises in a bottom-up way - via the electorate in State enterprises or CPRMs, or consumer-workers in the case worker/member-ownership. Contrastingly, in privately owned and managed enterprises, a few owner-shareholders make decisions in a top-down manner, and democracy (and the interests of anyone but the owner-shareholders) is not in play. Interestingly, the performance of socially owned and managed enterprises exceeds that of private ownership in nearly every metric (worker productivity, efficiency, innovation, customer satisfaction, worker satisfaction, etc.) except the profitability that benefits those private owner-shareholders. One has to wonder, then, what the point of private, for-profit institutions really is, since they are only benefiting already wealthy owner-shareholders who do not, in turn, pay taxes, give to charity, or stimulate the economy in a proportionate manner (that is, dollar-for-dollar in comparison to worker-consumers). In other words, they just pocket the profit or start another money-making enterprise with the cheapest labor and resources they can find - usually in the developing world where exploitation, pollution and eventual resource exhaustion are overlooked. So what’s the point of having private ownership of the means of production at all, other than concentrating wealth in the hands of a few…?

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/What-exactly-does-social-ownership-of-the-means-of-production-mean/answer/T-Collins-Logan)

What kinds of limits did Adam Smith think free market capitalism needed?

Smith believed that a diffusion of wealth and the relative independence of labor were a natural byproduct of commerce. What he saw occurring across Europe was a gradual liberation from feudal forms of economic and class structure where both concentrations of wealth and servile relationships had been fixed. Manufacturing and commerce seemed to have eroded those traditions and established more liberty and economic security for everyone. This resulted in what Smith called “good government,” where there was no longer anyone with sufficient means or positional influence to manipulate circumstances exclusively to their own ends (as had been the case in prior centuries), and sufficient authority to adjudicate the disposition of property and any disputes of custom. And Smith is clear about what he believes always occurs when such “good government” is absent, when disproportionate concentrations of wealth and power emerge: “All for ourselves and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.” Clearly, from his historical perspective, Smith could never have anticipated the rise of megalithic corporations whose wealth and influence far exceeded anything that has ever existed, and whose owner-shareholders have consequently pursued the “vile maxim” to an extraordinary degree on vast scales — restoring both the servile relationship of worker-consumers through wage and debt slavery, and the weakening and perversion of governmental authority to suit their own ends.

Smith did, however, recognize the problem of monopolies, and warned against them this way:

“Merchants and master manufacturers are, in this order, the two classes of people who commonly employ the largest capitals, and who by their wealth draw to themselves the greatest share of the public consideration. As during their whole lives they are engaged in plans and projects, they have frequently more acuteness of understanding than the greater part of country gentlemen. As their thoughts, however, are commonly exercised rather about the interest of their own particular branch of business, than about that of the society, their judgment, even when given with the greatest candour (which it has not been upon every occasion) is much more to be depended upon with regard to the former of those two objects than with regard to the latter. Their superiority over the country gentleman is not so much in their knowledge of the public interest, as in their having a better knowledge of their own interest than he has of his. It is by this superior knowledge of their own interest that they have frequently imposed upon his generosity, and persuaded him to give up both his own interest and that of the public, from a very simple but honest conviction that their interest, and not his, was the interest of the public. The interest of the dealers, however, in any particular branch of trade or manufactures, is always in some respects different from, and even opposite to, that of the public. To widen the market and to narrow the competition, is always the interest of the dealers. To widen the market may frequently be agreeable enough to the interest of the public; but to narrow the competition must always be against it, and can serve only to enable the dealers, by raising their profits above what they naturally would be, to levy, for their own benefit, an absurd tax upon the rest of their fellow-citizens. The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order ought always to be listened to with great precaution, and ought never to be adopted till after having been long and carefully examined, not only with the most scrupulous, but with the most suspicious attention. It comes from an order of men whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly have, upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.”

And of course we have long since arrived at the very place Smith warned about; we have been subject to the “absurd tax” for many generations now. What is Smith’s solution? I think his sentiments about what constitutes “good government” elaborate on that: a government with enough authority and independence to restrict monopoly, encourage competition, and ensure the liberty and security of its citizens without interference from business owners.

In what ways and by how much is Neoliberalism hurting America and its citizens?

Thanks for the A2A Nicholas. Here is my take:

Neoliberalism is doing tremendous damage in the U.S.A., and has been for quite a while. Probably the most transparent illustration of this was escalation of the neoliberal agenda during the G.W.Bush administration at the hands of Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld et al. Here are some of the highly destructive fruits of that effort:

1. Disabling the EPA’s enforcement of environmental law for eight years (via direct executive order and more indirect hogtying of administrative processes) allowed runaway corporate pollution and untold environmental damage from business activities.

2. Weakening of NIOSH oversight across all industries resulted in a runaway increase of risk to worker health and safety - and consequent death, illness and disability of countless workers as regulations went unenforced.

3. Opening up of BLM lands to unchecked exploitation by industry resulted in horrific destruction and misuse of these public resources, with very little benefit to U.S. taxpayers (who collectively own those resources).

4. Initiating a war on false pretenses resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people - including thousands of U.S. military personnel; war profiteering of U.S. companies at the expense of U.S. taxpayers; creation of ISIS (under very similar circumstances through which Al-Qaeda was formed); destabilization of Middle East and radicalization of its populations; strengthening of the position and influence of enemy states (Iran); undermining of U.S. standing among allied governments and populace.

5. Increased financialization of U.S. economy (and encouragement of speculative risks using public funds) while loosening the regulatory reigns (SEC oversight, etc.), resulting in the most precipitous economic crash since 1929.
6. Orchestrating propaganda that encouraged some 50% of the U.S. electorate to vote against its own interests (i.e. cutting of federal spending in their geographic regions, increased income inequality, increased poverty, decreased economic mobility, decreased jobs, stagnant wages, decreased buying power, etc.).

7. As a classic consequence of crony capitalism, the largest jump in government spending (to 33% of GDP, with most of the increase benefitting big business and wealthy shareholders) since WWII.

8. The radical erosion of the provisions of the U.S. Constitution’s 4th Amendment and establishment of invasive, coercive, unjust, punitive and ideologically extreme expansions of a Police State.

9. The dismantling and distortion of U.S. democratic institutions, civilian protections and environmental protections through a targeted appointment of activist neoliberal judiciary that baldly favors corporate enrichment at the expense of everyone and everything else (Citizens United is just the tip of the iceberg).

10. The subsidizing of below-subsistance wage workers (Walmart) with taxpayer-funded welfare programs, once again enriching corporations at the expense of everyone else.

11. A general weakening of all capacities of government to serve its citizens, apparently with the deliberate aim of undermining the confidence those citizens have in their government and increase their willingness to vote for candidates who promise lower taxes and alternative “free market” solutions that enrich owner-shareholders.

To fully appreciate just how bad things can get under neoliberal ideology, read about Milton Friedman’s influence on other governments around the globe (a decent source for this is Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine) and the “structural adjustment” policies of the IMF and World Bank in developing countries. For more on all the fun stuff that happened under G.W.Bush, focus on pro-corporate SCOTUS rulings, expansion of A.L.E.C. legislative influence, the revolving door of government, regulatory capture, clientism, campaign finance corruption and the explosion of SuperPACs, corporate welfare, war profiteering, Red State government spending, origins of ISIS, coal mining safety violations, timber industry expansions into BLM, coopting of Tea Party by Koch brothers, impact of Patriot Act and Homeland Security on U.S. civil liberties, environmental destruction and exploitation, wealth disparity, FEMA failures (due to incompetent appointments), the USPS retirement prefunding fiasco of 2006, etc. It’s really rather incredible how much damage was done, and why upcoming presidential and congressional elections are much more important than naysayers from all corners of the political spectrum would have us believe.

I also have copious references for anything you might have questions about. Also, Noam Chomsky has some good lectures on YouTube about the deleterious course of neoliberalism in the U.S. You might also be interested in this post: T Collins Logan's answer to How is it that in the US the idea of Libertarianism become conflated or gobbled up by anarcho-capitalism and laissez-faire capitalism? (https://www.quora.com/How-is-it-that-in-the-US-the-idea-of-Libertarianism-become-conflated-or-gobbled-up-by-anarcho-capitalism-and-laissez-faire-capitalism/answer/T-Collins-Logan)

My 2 cents.

What is the long term effect of rent seeking on the economy?

Thanks for the A2A Joel.

IMO “rent-seeking” is just a smokescreen for the profit motive. Sure, Tullock’s conception of rent-seeking illustrates one of many “easier” ways to make a profit…but the issue is really that, regardless of the level of “government interference” in markets, unethical capitalists will still attempt to capture other people’s surplus with as little effort as possible. Here are some common examples brought to you by corporate America:

1. Engaging in high-risk speculative investments using other people’s money.

2. Perpetuating debt-slavery (among poor consumers using excessive interest and predatory lending, among developing countries using “structural adjustment policies,” etc.).

3. Exciting artificial demand (through blatantly false advertising, deceptive persuasion, etc.) for products that either do more harm than good, or don’t deliver on what was promised.

4. Using publicly funded discoveries (i.e. academic and government-funded research) to create products and services that enrich owner-shareholders (extremely common in pharmaceutical and high-tech).

5. Paying workers less than a living wage to perpetuate wage-slavery and tax-funded welfare subsidization (i.e. Walmart).

6. Relying on publicly funded infrastructure (roads, bridges, communications, utilities, etc.) to facilitate free enterprise while avoiding or evading paying taxes or otherwise funding that infrastructure.

7. Patent trolling.

8. Callous disregard for health and safety of workers and consumers - and/or environmental destruction - in order to maximize profits.

9. Anti-competitive practices (hostile takeovers, price fixing, corporate espionage, kickbacks, single-sourcing, etc.).

10. Crony capitalism (cronyism, clientism, regulatory capture, pork barrel projects, A.L.E.C. legislation, etc.).

11. War profiteering (i.e. Halliburton)

Please note that although only a few of these examples can technically be categorized as “rent-seeking,” all of them represent the same essential qualities of unethical behavior.

What are the negative long-term effects? Simply put, they contribute directly or indirectly to the vast and ever-compounding negative externalities of capitalism:

Endangerment of consumer health and well-being.

Exploitation and abuse of workers.

Corruption and capture of political institutions.

Increased infantilization and external dependencies of consumers.

Huge concentrations of wealth in a decreasing minority of owner-shareholders at the expense of an ever-deepening impoverishment of worker-consumers.

Monopolization and consequent lock-down on new innovations.

Dumbing down of the general populace in order to facilitate exploitation agendas.

Environmental destruction and resource depletion.

* Economic instability (boom/bust cycles).

So, in summary, the “long term effects” of rent-seeking and the many other expressions of the profit motive on a growth-dependent capitalist economy are, ultimately, self-destruction.

I would also recommend perusing these posts as well:

1) T Collins Logan's answer to What are some common misconceptions people have about capitalism? (https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-common-misconceptions-people-have-about-capitalism/answer/T-Collins-Logan)

2) T Collins Logan's answer to Is Capitalism morally justifiable? (https://www.quora.com/Is-Capitalism-morally-justifiable/answer/T-Collins-Logan)

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-long-term-effect-of-rent-seeking-on-the-economy)

What can a government do to make houses affordable in a market economy?

Thanks for the A2A.

A couple of thoughts on a combination of factors that could help increase residential housing affordability:

Increase density for all new construction. Increasing supply won’t help unless that supply is concentrated in desirable areas. Expanding into suburbs without mass transit, job availability, services, etc. just makes the problem worse. So instead all new construction could be higher density (town homes, condos, etc.) with provision for local services and mass transit hubs as a requisite part of the mix.

Get rid of Realtors. Realtors add zero value to residential real estate transactions - they do not work for the seller or the buyer, only themselves, and their commissions add substantial additional cost to transactions. Instead, we could easily institute non-profit “listing clearinghouses” with fixed transactional costs of just a few thousand dollars and a much more detailed inventory system where each listing includes results from pre-sale inspections, crime stats for neighborhoods, comparison calculations (price per square foot) for neighborhood, local zoning, ownership history, build quality, previous permits, demographics, etc.

Outlaw speculation, and limit ratio of income properties to owner-occupied properties (new and existing). Institute severe penalties for “flippers” and use the clearinghouse database just referenced to track and expose anyone trying to game the system. At the same time, increase pressure on buy-and-hold (usually rental) properties by sharply controlling supply; there could even be a sunset on existing rental properties, where they must be converted to owned properties within a window of time.

A Land Value Tax would also help here.

Eliminate mortgage brokers and for-profit lending institutions, and vary the mortgage rate based on the type/value of property. The U.S. and Canadian credit union systems works well as a non-profit lending model. The additional consideration would be changing the interest rate on different types of realty. For example, a modest single-family home in a high-density area would be X%, and a McMansion on a huge chunk of suburban property could be 2X%.

Expand policies that assist first-time and low-income homebuyers (FHA, MCC, etc.)

Get developers out of politics. Developers routinely try to influence all levels of government to their favor - from town councils to state legislators to federal agencies. This usually results in higher profits for the developer - and, consequently, higher real estate costs to consumers.

Of course, it should be noted that you’ve restricted the focus of your question to solutions within “a market economy” as facilitated by “government.” A more sensible long-term solution IMO would be to remove both the market economy and government from the mix, and have housing (and land) allocated to common pool resource management schemas like those documented by Elinor Ostrom. It is, after all, the tyranny of private property itself that ultimately creates the majority of people that will always be too poor to participate in the housing market at all.

My 2 cents.

What will come after the modern era? (Assuming modern includes modernism and postmodernism) And what will define it?

Thanks for the A2A Jeff. To my mind there are three options, all of which are all probable to varying degrees at this point:

Catastrophic failure of capitalism. Mass disruption of human civilization as a result of expanding disease vectors (climate change), environmental destruction, social unrest, degradation and homogenization of food supply, toxic pollution, human health decline (poor diet, stress, toxins, disease), exponential extinction of species, genetic manipulation, etc. All precipitated by industrialization, income inequality, exploitation of resources and labor, bleeding edge research, overpopulation, and homogenization of both culture and biodiversity - all of which would be consequences of elevating the profit motive above all other concerns. The result will be chaos - an apocalypse of our own making. It is possible that we could resurrect ourselves hundreds of years afterwards, but not likely in a form of civilization we would recognize.

Enslavement to ASI. Capitulation of management of all complex systems to self-replicating Artificial Superintelligence that postpones the catastrophic failure of capitalism at the expense of human freedoms, managing the problems created by previous eras of resource exploitation, industrialization and profit motivation in a top-down fashion, with ASI at the top of the hierarchy, and humanity at the bottom. At first this will seem to be a “necessary sacrifice” because humans could not manage the problems they created; eventually, however, it will become evident that the sacrifice was too great.

Rejection of capitalism and blossoming of diffused, rhizomatic political economies. Several populist movement have hinted at this grass roots revolution/evolution, but have all fallen short in the face of almost universal de facto dependence on status quo power relationships and commercialistic programming. In other words, the masses return to a medicated state and the plutocrats remain in control simply because most folks are afraid to break free of their commercialistic dependence. However, it is possible that disruptive events short of a complete, catastrophic failure could trigger a resurgence of these populist sentiments, which - if they coincide with cogent and fluidly transmittable alternative memes - could generate the necessary focus and change agency for moving beyond the status quo and dismantling monopolies of power, production, administration and wealth.

Inherent to all of these options is a new relationship with complexity: either complexity will be exploded back into simpler relationships; complexity will be managed by superintelligent agents; or we will begin managing complexity in a more distributed, interdependent fashion. In addition, the defining characteristics of “the next era” will also include a new moral orientation: either regression to primitive tribalism; hyperindividualism and dependence to an extreme of debilitating infantilization; or a more unitive, compassion-centric view of human relations that engages civil society with conscience and conviction.

My 2 cents.

Comment from Brian Johnson: "And I take it these are all possibilities and not probabilities like you suggest? They are just maybe’s and speculation."

Nope. They are all probable - just to varying degrees. A “possibility” would be that we will send a manned mission to Alpha Centauri and start a settlement there. That is “possible” but far less “probable.” In contrast, the collapse of capitalism is impending, not just possible, unless something like ASI intervenes (ASI is also an impending technology, not just a possible one). Alternatively, we could sidestep the collapse with a new form of political economy…now THIS is more of a possibility than a probability, but my own optimism regarding the resilience and creativity of the human species prompts me to place it in the “probable” column.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/What-will-come-after-the-modern-era-Assuming-modern-includes-modernism-and-postmodernism-And-what-will-define-it)

How can I contribute more to society?

Thanks for the A2A. This is a huge question and could take you in many different directions depending on how you begin to answer it. So I’ll focus mainly on that beginning. In order to ferret out how you - with your unique values, resources, perspective and abilities - can best contribute to society, you will first need to:

Clearly define your personal, interpersonal and social values. I saw that you began to do this in your response to one of the answers here, but IMO you could really drill down deep to understand and document what you think is most important in your relationships, your personal standards of ethics, and in what you believe to be societal standards and mechanisms for good.
Clearly understand what you bring to the table. What are you strengths, aptitudes, skills and resources? What is your work style, relationship style and communication style? What are you really good at, and what do you enjoy doing the most?

Begin to explore how your values intersect with your individual strengths, aptitudes, skills and resources. This can be the trickiest part of the process, and it is important to avoid locking yourself into a single trajectory too quickly - instead, you can remain open, and look at what is already being done in the world that resonates with both what you care about, and what you are good at.
Identify communities, collaborators and institutions that support your values and strengths. Make an extensive list of these, research them online, and talk with as many people as possible about the options that already exist (there are likely many!). There are probably whole communities whose philosophy of values and approaches to societal contribution align closely with yours.

Try things on for size. Try out a number of different possibilities that you think will allow your values and strengths to be put to good use. Take some classes in a promising field, do some volunteering at a promising organization or work in an entry level position, engage in some activism with a like-minded group of folks, etc.

Be willing to start something on your own if you need to. For me, it became clear after a few decades of “trying things on for size” that there wasn’t a prefect match for me already out in the world in terms of a career, volunteer organization, community, etc. So I started my own business, wrote exclusively about what I was passionate about, and began more informally connecting with folks who had similar values and concerns.

This can be a lengthy process - it took me nearly twenty years to figure all of this out. So be patient, and persistent. Also, to begin with step #1, check out the Self-Assessment Resources on my Integral Lifework website.

I hope this was helpful.

Why did the United States become a capitalist society?

In short: because wealthy Americans wanted it to. Before industrial capitalism came into existence, our Founding Fathers held the view (which was fairly common throughout Europe during preceding centuries) that people who owned land were somehow better (smarter, more educated, more blessed, etc.) than those who did not, and should hold the most power in any government. In fact this is how the term “entitled” originated. We inherited this mainly via the cultural heritage of Great Britain, IMO, but what was unique about the U.S. was that it maintained this prejudice in a democracy. And, since then, we’ve never really shaken off that legacy. So when industrial capitalism did take hold, the wealthy quickly began exerting their influence to bend government to their will, as well as manipulate the democratic process. It’s how we ended up with bizarre concepts like “corporate personhood” as a feature of law, and why so many politicians throughout U.S. history have been in the pockets of big business. In many ways, U.S. commercialism is just a revised formula for feudalism - a new face on a very old concept. The main difference - as reflected by many of the answers in this thread - is that the modern serfs have swallowed the propaganda that they now have economic and political freedom. Which of course is true only up to the point where the modern serf’s actions begin to interfere with the status (i.e. wealth and influence) of the modern vassals.

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question: https://www.quora.com/Why-did-the-United-States-become-a-capitalist-society)

How long can a growth-based economy remain sustainable? At what point, if at all, will it be necessary to transition to a more stable economic model?

Thanks for the A2A Steve. IMO we’ve already passed the tipping point and have entered into a declining spiral. This is one reason why the focus in many developed countries has shifted to greater and greater financialization of markets, which abstracts (and thus conceals) the underlying problem via debt and speculation (i.e. creates “bubbles” that later burst). But this is just delaying the inevitable, which is a series of increasingly severe crashes. The reality is that the world is running out of cheap resources and cheap labor, which have always been relied upon to prop up unsustainable first-world consumption, and generate the illusions of increasing demand and profitability. One interesting trail marker within this process is the shift of goods and services from price-elastic demand into price-inelastic demand. I would encourage you to research the causes and consequences of this phenomenon. Very interesting window into why the promise of continued growth has long gone stale.

My 2 cents.

What should we as a society do to end capitalism?

I’m going to sidestep the details of your post - I think I understand what you’re getting at so I will answer the main question instead.

To end capitalism, which I agree would be a very wise, important and increasingly pressing direction to take, will require a multi-pronged approach, and a different emphasis of approach in different parts of the world. Here are some possible components that could be combined into different transformative forces to bring about that change:

1. Disrupt the status quo. There are countless ways to do this, but essentially we need to make “business as usual” unprofitable for corporations and shareholders, while at the same time reducing access to commercialistic distractions that have medicated consumer-workers into a sort of reflexively compliant, self-gratifying infantilized state. The choices here are things likes hacktivism, boycotts, disruption of commercial transportation and communication, etc.

2. Educate the consumer-worker. The neoliberal propaganda you see reflected in many of the answers in this thread must be countered with both facts about our current reality (i.e. the consequences of capitalism that are destructive to civil society, nature, human health, etc.), as well as a new vision about how we can move forward.

3. Educate the owner-shareholder. There are plenty of wealthy people in the world who understand the problems inherent to our current form of capitalism, and who see the wisdom of moving away from it. We can provide them with resources, information, alternative proposals, etc. to allow them to help enable such a transition.

4. Empower the consumer-worker. We can return democracy to the people, removing it from the hands of corporations and their wealthy shareholders where it is now. One way to do this would be to follow Switzerland’s implementation of direct democracy to counterbalance our corrupted legislative processes. In the same way, all institutions and organizations can shift away from owner-shareholder control to consumer-worker control; this has already been successfully modeled around the world. Essentially, this is just implementing direct democracy in all enterprises and institutions, and can be accomplished via any number of mechanisms, from consumer-worker organizing to legislation to the philanthropic acts of the owner-shareholders themselves.

5. Decentralize political and economic institutions and controls. In the words of E.F. Schumacher, “Small is Beautiful.” Every business, institution, process, etc. can orbit around community-level decision-making. This reflects the principle of “subsidiarity” and is essential to preventing the inefficiencies and disconnected abstraction of decision-making that occur through larger central government controls - or via large corporate monopolies. This process of decentralization can also be accomplished voluntarily - once enough consumer-workers and owner-shareholders have awoken from their consumption-medicated sleep.

6. Make rational, world-tested choices about which services and products should be generated via not-for-profit mechanisms. For me this is a pretty long list, and includes things like healthcare, mass transit, energy production, public safety, education, water, roads, communications infrastructure, credit unions, etc. I call these “essential infrastructure and services,” and see them as falling under common ownership and management (i.e. all of society).

7. Institute a system of social credits that moves us away from a money-based economy. It will take time to accomplish this, and it could happen gradually in conjunction with an exchange economy, but the valuation of goods and services would be based on a more multifaceted assessment (inclusive of a more comprehensive array of externalities) via direct democracy. I call this “holistic value.” Ultimately, I also think the concept of private property also has to be relinquished for humanity to gain true freedom, but that process may take a few generations.

8. Encourage moral maturity, and hold everyone accountable. This is probably the most challenging aspect of transformative change. As individuals, as cultures, as a society - perhaps even as a species - we really need to grow up. The materialistic individualism that capitalism reinforces works mightily against this maturation process, keeping us fixated on lust for stimulation and stuff, childish power trips, competing with each other and so forth. So the dismantling of capitalism alone (if it is done in a compassionate, inclusively democratic and orderly manner) should help people nurture a sense of civic participation and communal identity that capitalism destroys. But we probably also need to encourage moral maturity - looking beyond I/Me/Mine - through various culturally encouraged practices. My own approach to this is Integral Lifework. In terms of accountability, social credits could be accumulated for actively participating in civil society, and earning those credits could at a minimum provide access to higher quantities or qualities of “essential infrastructure and services.” In the opposite direction, there could be social credit penalties (less access to services, lower quality services, social debits, etc.) for not participating in civil society or violating its agreements. But really direct democracy itself creates an excellent self-regulating means of accountability: when government is authentically by the people, the people come to recognize their own responsibility.

Unlike many revolutionary radicals of the past, I do not believe that forceful expropriation of property or persecution of the elite is a wise course; in fact I think violence begets violence, and the methods of any revolution will taint the new systems and institutions that follow from that revolution. I also disagree with those who would encourage the hastening of capitalism’s “natural conclusion,” or letting everything crash and burn to see what arises from the ashes. The problem with this approach is that humanity has become far too powerful - and its society and infrastructure far too complex - to permit a constructive catastrophic reset. Higher-order solutions require a solid foundation of civil society, technological stability and peace. Like any other form of suicide, our options become rather limited after we make a self-destructive decision. In the same way, we will want to move forward on all of the components discussed here, rather than just a few of them; all of the pieces are required for any transformation to sustain itself over time.

As to proposals of what a post-capitalist political economy could look like, I’ve written a few essays and a book on that topic.

My 2 cents.

(see https://www.quora.com/What-should-we-as-a-society-do-to-end-capitalism)

Is Yanis Varoufakis right that we must rescue democracy by a mix of libertarianism, Marxism, and Keynesian economics?

See TED talk video

First off, capitalism has already eaten democracy in many places around the globe – that’s a current reality, not a future possibility.

Second, Yanis experienced first-hand the oppressive, authoritarian oligarchy of the Eurogroup/IMF/World Bank triumvirate and its complete and utterly condescending dismissal of all democratic will in Greece.

Thirdly, his elaborations on the deliberate historical separation of the economic sphere from the political sphere a la capitalism are absolutely correct – the evidence is undeniable as cronyism, clientism and regulatory capture have become runaway trains, utterly disruptive to democratic institutions. From the farce of “corporate personhood,” to legislators being spoon-fed legislation by groups like ALEC, to the revolving door of corporate lobbying, to overwhelming pressure on elected officials to reward their wealthiest campaign contributors…democracy in the U.S. has been mercilessly crushed into corporate compliance. And of course this pervasive corporatocracy has been replicated all around the globe.

Fourthly, Yanis’ proposal to reunite the political and economic spheres via a democratic political economy is an obvious solution. As he alludes to, it’s really what the Athenians (and Aristotle’s proposals in particular, if anyone wants to read up on the details) were aiming to accomplish. And to whatever degree the interests of the populace have really been represented by democratic government throughout history, this has resulted in limiting the oppressive tyranny of wealth concentrations.

Fifthly, some of the components that Yanis gleans from each proposed system referenced have already been proven in the real world – and on large scales. To wit: various forms of worker or member ownership (Mondragon Corp, credit unions, etc.); as a global monetary system, Bretton Woods worked fairly well during its implementation and achieved what it set out to do, though of course it overly favored the U.S. at the onset and overly burdened the U.S. after the Vietnam war; and a libertarian view of individual sovereignty informs most civil rights in the U.S.A. and IMO is really the basis of any functional democracy (one that truly includes the demos). Yes he gives credit to the architects of some of these ideas (Marx, Keynes) but that’s just to help folks grasp the obviousness of the propositions.

Sixthly, twenty-minute TED talks are a silly standard for comprehensive proposals or conclusive discussion of complexity.

So really all Yanis is doing is pointing to a rather obvious path out of our current corporatocracy. Sure, the details need to be worked out, but the thoughtful and informed already know what works to restore power to the people…which is precisely why such efforts are being disrupted by an aggressive neoliberal agenda that aims to maintain the plutocratic status quo.

My 2 cents.