Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Let's Talk About International Relations! China Invades India Again

“Tensions between China and India over their Himalayan border have escalated, with China accused of moving thousands of troops into disputed territory and expanding a military airbase in the region.” – China and India move troops as border tensions escalate

I wonder if China isn't here taking advantage of the COVID-19 epidemic, which they claim to have controlled. If their troops are healthy while India's are sick, they are in a good position to press their advantage.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

What Would Governmental and Social Forms Adapted To Change Be Like?

At the end of my post “The End Of 20th Century Democratic Capitalism” I commented that “Our system is not equipped to handle revolutionary change, but the history of the USA has been a story of nothing but. It demands a quick, disciplined response. Instead, we have panic and proposals of revolutionary change and reaction” and it has been this way for over two centuries.

What would institutional forms that responded to change look like?

There is a paradox at the heart of that question: creating lasting institutions that respond to change means to conserve as well as change.

What do we want to conserve? What changes can we allow in order to conserve it?

And here this post ends, at least for the moment because I have no idea how to finish it. In US governmental forms, we have the Executive, which can react quickly, but is autocratic in form, and the Legislative, which is democratic in form and has operated too slowly since the foundation of the Union. What might we reasonably put in place of this system?

Libertarian Capitalism is Brittle

(A repost of part of my “The End Of 20th Century Democratic Capitalism” post. I wanted this piece separate to link to.)

The claim underlying libertarian capitalism: that it is the best way to reliably satisfy human needs and desires in a way which maximizes liberty, has failed. It cannot reliably feed, shelter, or care for a population and it has left the entire world to the mercy of the very wealthy.

During the build-up of libertarian capitalism, when it was accepted dogma, there were all these arguments made that, despite a lack of law and regulation, despite the whole thing working like a bucket of fiddler crabs, each one striving to climb to the top of the heap over the bodies of all the others, the goal of making a profit would result in a emergent stable and productive economic order with unprecedented personal liberties for all.

Oh, sweet naïve capitalists.

Just as grades in a grading system where the stakes are high and there is no discipline, self or imposed, go to the cheaters, profit went to those who cheated. Instead of a stable, productive economic order we got one in which the majority of actors did the minimum work for the maximum profit, and quality and safety be damned. The very wealthy determined that the best way to extract the most profit from workers was to move the work to places where workers had the worst negotiating positions. Profit-seeking business owners each specialized in what they felt they could make the most profit at, resulting in long supply chains. One shock: widespread systemic financial fraud, a change in trade policy by a major actor like the USA, a rise or fall of a major input like petroleum, an epidemic, a panic, and the whole thing breaks.

If this has failed – and it has – what do we put in its place?

Part of an answer has to be the creation of stable, well-funded social institutions which are not primarily based on making a profit. At the same time, checks and balances are required. Focusing all power in a single organization – a single branch of government – is a path to corruption.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Passivity or, Why Doesn't Anyone Do Anything?

In a neighborhood not far from my usual roost, there is a bar with a big old neon sign, proclaiming to one and all that it was once a country music bar. I stopped by one night, to find if it still was. Nope. Just a bar. People in the neighborhood used to go dancing there. What happened?

In Sioux Falls North Dakota, there is a meatpacking plant, owned by Smithfield. It is a coronavirus hotspot, yet people were working there until the CDC shut them down. Why was there no strike?

All over the USA, Amazon endangers people’s lives. Why are there no strikes, no protests. Why?

In Minnesota, Vice President Michael Pence is visited the Mayo Clinic and refused to wear a mask, in defiance of the hospital's “everyone masks” policy. No-one at the clinic is required to obey his orders yet they do not protest. Why?

On the other hand, tiny numbers of people are protesting against coronavirus quarantine measures, brandishing battlefield weapons. The police do nothing. The press reports this as though it were a major movement. Why?

It is like a disease, an epidemic of depression. Somehow, this people that once conquered a continent have turned passive. Only the worst are willing to act.