Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Democrats' and Republicans' Impoverishment Plans

The Democrats have this impoverishment plan:

1. Teach children that production of wealth is immoral while taxation is moral.

2. Tax output of productive Americans and redistribute it to the wealthy-–George Soros, Long Term Capital Management, Bear Stearns, the Washington nomenclatura, university professors and Keynesian economists.

3. Tell the poor that you are acting in their interest because of your “conscience”. Develop a social security and medicare plan that redistributes wealth inter-generationally from low wage earner to low wage earner. When it fails, institute a rationing scheme, call it “national health insurance” and raise the social security retirement age.

4. Convince Americans that receiving $180,000 in social security benefits for $200,000 in out-of-pocket contributions is a good deal. Convince Americans that health care in Cuba at $250 per year is better than in America.

5. Set interest rates at zero so that middle income people cannot save and induce them to invest in the stock market at inflated prices. Further ensure that middle income people cannot save by taxing incomes, property, inheritance, capital gains and sales.

6. Allocate freshly printed money (created to reduce interest rates to zero) to unproductive Wall Street, banking, hedge fund and corporate executives, insuring that wage earners will pay higher prices for milk while hedge fund managers buy $30 million houses in Greenwich, Connecticut and the Dakotas. Facilitate this process through subsidization of the stock and real estate markets, repeatedly inducing long term “sucker rallies”.

7. Convince Americans that taxation of 50% of your income is too little for the same level of services that used to be provided at 10% of your income.

8. Increase tax rates most on innovative and harder working Americans and transfer their money to Democratic contributors.

But the Republicans also have an impoverishment plan.

1. Read and parrot all Democratic Party information sources such as the New York Times and CNN.

2. Never repeal the Democrats’ impoverishment plan.

3. Do not educate Americans as to the effects of the Democrats’ impoverishment plan.

4. When elected, spend more than Democrats.

5. Declare a national emergency and emphasize the need to transfer even more printed money to unproductive, wealthy interests six weeks before the presidential election.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Phil Orenstein On The Question of Obama's Eligibility

Phil Orenstein has an excellent blog on Democracy Project in which he raises new concerns about Barack Obama's birth certificate. As Phil mentions, I had run a petition last summer and obtained more than five thousand signatures. Phil writes that the issue has gone much further. 58% of Republicans now have questions about Obama's birth certificate, yet the Democratic Party organs, Daily Kos and the New York Times, continue to spin questions about it as taboo.

Phil asks:

"The birthers have some valid points when they wonder where is the transparency, openness and change, the bold themes of the new Obama administration, when not only the birth certificate, but also his kindergarten and school documentation, College records, Columbia thesis, his passport and medical records have never been revealed to the public?...Why hasn’t the entire birth certificate been released, which details in its 'long form” the attending physician present and in which hospital he was born?'"

As Phil points out, the Democratic Party position on this as reflected in the New York Times has been one sided. On the one hand, the Democrats sued John McCain concerning his birthplace issue and the Times covered this story. In contrast, the Democrats spin the Obama birthplace issue as off limits and the Times has not covered the story.

Perhaps what is revealing is not that the Democratic media favors the Democrats but that the Republicans have pursued a mentally retarded strategy of relying on the Democratic Party media. Aren't the Republicans smart enough to start their own media?

Phil concludes that:

"my battle will continue to be on the policy issues which will undoubtedly expose the hidden phantoms of the Obama presidency. The immediacy of the battle at hand will hardly leave me time to pursue questions regarding Obama’s birth certificate. The socialized healthcare legislation has just passed the final House committee, clearing the way for a floor vote in September after the August Congressional recess."

Mitchell Langbert Defamed At Brooklyn College

I just received a phone call from a colleague at Brooklyn College. Allegedly, a reader has anonymously called four different Brooklyn College offices, including the Provost's office, and told them that I have done something unethical. The caller did not leave his name and did not provide any specific information about the accusation. I called the Provost's office and they indicated that the caller had failed to provide his identity but made accusations about me, refusing to provide specific information about the accusations.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The World Wide Web, Syndicalism and the New Market for News

The news is dead. There is no news because the amount of information exceeds the abilities of journalists. Paradigms, or applicable models of reality, change too rapidly for mass market reporters. The fundamental obstacle is that elite Americans, including journalists, have been educated in twentieth century modernism, which emphasizes the importance of scale to economic progress; the morality of displacement of violence to bureaucratic systems (as in socialists' belief that because socialist violence is the work of the state it is non-violent); and the inability of university-trained government experts to understand economic change. Thus, reporters are deferential toward advocates of scale, bureaucracy and rituals of expertise.

Most crucially, journalists cannot or refuse to grasp the causes of the chief phenomena that characterize today's world: inflation; declining real wages; transfer of wealth from productive to elite sectors such as in the "bailout"; and repeated financial and economic scandals such as Enron. Arguably the autism of the American news media is linked to its owners' economic interests, but such interests depend on the nexus of primitive twentieth century ideology with news.

The American news media lives in 1969.

This poses a problem for democratic government, which is impossible on a large scale without mass media. The way American government was re-organized in the early twentieth century coincided with Progressivism and modernism. A post-modern government needs to decentralize. This would reduce the cognitive burden on journalists as well as on government experts. It would imply state sovereignty. The commitment to traditionalism, that is, the ideology of economic conservatism, constrains this progression and should be jettisoned. Current institutions, which were libertarian in the 18th and early nineteenth centuries became increasingly non-libertarian beginning with the Dred Scott decision in the mid 19th decision as the federal government intruded upon the states. In turn, large scale industry could legitimately exploit economies of scale but also gain government subsidy. The gains from laissez-faire were so large that they overwhelmed even the corruption, waste and incompetence associated with the construction of the railroads, the development of large-scale commercial banking, oil company rights of way and Wall Street. But as subsidies to scale proceed, the scope of laissez-faire diminishes, and it is small enough today that innovation has stalled except in specialized technological areas.

Technology and political change go together. American democracy was a development of Medieval decentralization, and decentralization occurred because of the fall of Rome twelve hundred years earlier. Medieval decentralization led to innovation that eventually overcame the loss in economies of scale associated with the end of the Roman slave system. The medieval period was far more innovative than was Rome. By 1300 or so the economic growth from the three field crop system and other agricultural innovation had caused the western Europeans to exceed the economic level of Rome, and in turn led to the invention of the printing press and the discovery of America. As the economy led to increasing education and awareness of rights, kings began to displace local sovereigns in part by energizing the people against local tyranny. The increasing centralization and scale of society led to expansion of markets and economies of scale.

Thus, two forces coincided: the creation of monarchy in the late Middle Ages reflected the centralizing trend while the long pattern resulting from the fall of Rome reflected the decentralizing trend. The Founding Fathers, who were able to establish the United States in a "state of nature" observed the two patterns and arrived at the Federalist system, which involved a balance of scale and decentralization. But republican processes had to permit changing the balance, and subsequent patterns led to increasing centralization well past the point of diminishing returns.

By the late nineteenth century economies of scale still contributed to efficiency but also to claims for government subsidy. In the 1500s the Elizabethan Statutes of Artificers had limited monopoly and this led to limits on labor unions in America, but utilitarian claims as to the advantages of economies of scale led to direct subsidies to business, overcoming the common law. Indeed, privileges for large scale enterprise had been the theory of Mercantilists, Federalists and Whigs. Scale has both positives and negatives with respect to economic change. The positives tend to be shorter term and involve lower cost per unit. The negatives tend to be longer term and involve increased coordination and communication costs and limits on innovation. Subsidization of large scale has short term advantages but long term costs. In today's world communication costs have declined because of technology, but have not been eliminated. In fact, technology may in some ways increase the onus on communication and interpersonal skill. There is no known optimal size of a business that can be theoretically derived, but increasing scale is not by definition increasing efficiency. Rather, the optimal scale can be derived by empirical observation over decades, but where society is set up to subsidize large scale, empirical observation may involve circular logic. The larger the firm the greater the subsidization, so apparently the more efficient. Objective measures like the performance of real hourly wage suggests where the economy is going in general. Gross domestic product does not because it includes considerable waste and economic dislocation. Real hourly wage is the best indicator of how well Americans are faring. According to it, the American economy has not been faring well for nearly 40 years.

Technology affects economic change but also the intellectual process by which social debate occurs. Technological change has permitted increasing decentralization at limited or no scale costs. Newspapers were necessary because the cost of acquiring information could be spread over many readers. Today, the World Wide Web permits the dissemination across a billion readers without the need for a single source. The problem remains, though, as to divisibility, paying the source of information. Much information can be acquired by local citizens, possibly for free. The problem arises with respect to centralized political power and acquisition of difficult-to- obtain information, such as war news or news arising from monitoring of legislative processes. How, for instance, can the president provide information to the Web?

It would seem that basic citizenship skills need to be updated. Acquisition of information directly from government Websites (e.g., the White House Website) ought to be a form of good citizenship in a Web-dominated world. In turn, bloggers ought to begin to consider obtaining information from public source material. Pressure should be brought to bear on political office holders to hold open press conferences via the Web, open to the public, that is. Public Q&A ought to replace the press conference.

Obtaining on-the-spot news such as concerning crimes and earthquakes can be obtained by bloggers who live near events and can feed to centralized websites. People interested in crime news ought to be able to turn to specialized blogs that rely on independent, local sources. Reporters need not work for a single newspaper but rather could sell stories to pay-based websites. The model of employee-employer can be converted into one of subcontractor. This already exists with respect to the Paparazzi. Reporters who develop relationships with police officials can sell information to commercial websites and blogs. Pricing might facilitate blogger participation in various reporters' news services.

Organization theorists have long considered that market forces might cause the importance and scale of organizations to diminish. Movie companies, for instance, assemble a team of labor that collaborates on a specific film and then disperses. News could follow this model. Assemble a group to report on a specific topic and then disassemble it. Websites specialized in a given form of news, for instance, war news, could put together a team.

With respect to policy issues, it seems evident that newspapers and television news that cater to general audiences are incapable of understanding specialized issues sufficiently to know what is important. Rather, industry- and interest- based organizations are better at disseminating news to their constituents. For example, the National Rifle Association provides excellent updates on anti-Second Amendment legislative proposals. Likewise, organizations that specialize, such as Citizens Against Government Waste, English First, the Manhattan Institute, the Milton Friedman Foundation (which specializes in education issues) and the like can provide ongoing feeds concerning their issues. Reporters can contract with organizations to provide reporting services to their newsletters.

Syndicalism is the idea that government ought to reflect producer interests. Thus, a syndicalist congress would include representatives of farmers, manufacturing, service and similar kinds of interests. William Appleman Williams in his Contours of American History argues that this was the idea that the last Progressive, Herbert Hoover, advocated.

Syndicalism can be applied to news and other excessively centralized organizations. There is no reason, given today's technology, that a single organization ought to provide information about (a) the economy (b) hurricanes (c) war (d) terrorism (e) political debate (f) science and so on. The information burden is too great and this results in the debate becoming too stupid.