Introducing the Sandpit

by John Quiggin on November 23, 2016

Among the many problems of comments threads, here and on other blogs, is the tendency for them to devolve into long debates between two, or a few, commenters. That often kills off any possibility of new comments coming in. On the other hand, people may want to continue these discussions, but get stopped when the thread is closed.

At my personal blog, one response I’ve tried, with some success, is the Sandpit, a post open to ” for long side discussions, conspiracy theories, idees fixes and so on”. Anyone who feels that they have something to write that fits these categories is welcome to post here. I’ll also invite participants in long side discussions on my posts to move them here.

There isn’t a general CT policy on this, it’s just an idea of mine, so we will see how it goes.

Remember that the rest of the comments policy applies. Particularly, in the context of debates with one other person, please be civil and avoid personal attacks.

{ 62 comments }

1

JCM 11.23.16 at 12:34 pm

Is there no way for this blog to LJ- or reddit-style nested comments? That way extended debates go off in one nest leaving the top level open. I know that in the LJ philosophy community it worked a dream.

2

bob mcmanus 11.23.16 at 12:46 pm

Thanks, JQ

A Time For Treason …The New Inquiry. Extensive

“A reading list created by a group of Black, Brown, Indigenous, Muslim, and Jewish people who are writers, organizers, teachers, anti-fascists, anti-capitalists, and radicals.”

I am finding Bill Bishop’s The Big Sort 2009 to be the most useful reading for understanding the election, and provides facts and tools.

Wapo: “The divide is economic, and it is massive. According to the Brookings analysis, the less-than-500 counties that Clinton won nationwide combined to generate 64 percent of America’s economic activity in 2015. The more-than-2,600 counties that Trump won combined to generate 36 percent of the country’s economic activity last year.”

And WLGR mentioned John Smith, Imperialism in the 21st Century 2016 here yesterday. Best book on globalization and world systems I have read yet, removing the veil from profit flows and global labor. I find it useful to see the USA split red and blue counties (not states, I’m from Dallas, a blue dot in a red sea) as a kind of colonialism. Walmart profits don’t stay in their rural locations, do they?

3

Ronan(rf) 11.23.16 at 1:26 pm

Since this is an open thread, and populism is the topic du jour among the chattering classes (us!), here’s my impression of what’s going on, gleaned from.a few books and Twitter.

(1) education and values is now the important predictive factor for far right support. The pushback is cultural, both nativistic and against liberals. In other words it’s ethno nationalism (though not reducible to racism)

(2) shifts in the late 80s early 90s explain the rise of the right in Europe. Here, in part, is where the economic arguments come in. The decline in status and stability of working class/blue collar jobs and/or the rise of non white immigration and/or decline of old party system.on the continent opened up space for challenger RW parties.

(3) what might have been even primarily economic grievances initially have now morphed into primarily cultural ones, although the economic argument still exists in the decline of status(partly occupational) once afforded to these demographics (as well as decline of racial/ethnic hierarchies). Also perhaps economic and social decline in specific areas has increased grievances.

(4) as for the “why now”, it seems to be either (or both) the increase in immigration in the 00s (there is evidence showing areas with greater ethnic change from.a very homogenous base in the the past decade have shifted most strongly to the right), and/or stagnant wages over past decades +the financial crisis undermining current elites has had slow burning effect.(other arguments here can be made about a perception of economic and status decline, and of greater(relative to the past) economic instability)
Also , obviously, historical contingency. Trump and brexit occurring so closely.together is making us overstate change (which is decades long) and see patterns everywhere.

Thoughts?

4

Yan 11.23.16 at 2:28 pm

bob @2

As I’ve been teaching Fanon this week, I’d be wondering about how closely the effects of economic globalization mirror colonialism, and the red state/blue state split might be a US version aggravated by our peculiar geography.

On that score, I think the Trump voters’ complaint is almost as much the sense of being ruled by a distant, centralized power (one that is, in a cultural sense, almost a foreign country) as it is strict economics. Perhaps the early choice of the Tea Party theme was less silly than it seemed: they really do feel like a colonized population. This is largely a question of perception, aggravated by geography. But in matters of representation and functional democracy, perception is reality.

From Fanon:
“The town belonging to the colonized people…is a place of ill fame, peopled by men of evil repute. They are born there, it matters little where or how; they die there, it matters not where, nor how…The native town is a hungry town, starved of bread, of meat, of shoes, of coal, of light. The native town is a crouching village, a town on its knees, a town wallowing in the mire.
…The look that the native turns on the settler’s town is a look of lust, a look of envy; it expresses his dreams of possession–all manner of possession: to sit at the settler’s table, to sleep in the settler’s bed, with his wife if possible. The colonized man is an envious man. And this the settler knows very well; when their glances meet he ascertains bitterly, always on the defensive, “They want to take our place.” It is true, for there is no native who does not dream at least once a day of setting himself up in the settler’s place.

This world divided into compartments, this world cut in two is inhabited by two different species.

The natives’ challenge to the colonial world is not a rational confrontation of points of view. It is not a treatise on the universal, but the untidy affirmation of an original idea propounded as an absolute.

The colonial world is a Manichean world… Native society is not simply described as a society lacking in values. It is not enough for the colonist to affirm that those values have disappeared from, or still better never existed in, the colonial world. The native is declared insensible to ethics; he represents not only the absence of values, but also the negation of values.”

5

Glen Tomkins 11.23.16 at 2:34 pm

I have a procedural question. Where do posts go that posit that this Sandpit idea is a conspiracy? I have in mind the episode in the Hitchhiker’s Guide series where this extraterrestrial race built two starships to escape their dying planet, and they lured all the bureaucrats and other experts on procedure and methodology (and every other sort of bothersome officious person their society would be better off without) onto the one that couldn’t actually make it to the new planet by pretending that this was the special ship for the special people who would run the new planet.

Okay, you’re telling us up front that the special starship isn’t actually going to the new planet, so there’s that difference. But you know, that might create difficulty getting the self-important to get on the special starship, since the whole point of self-important behavior is to get attention and avoid getting shunted aside to the kiddie table.

6

John Holbo 11.23.16 at 2:57 pm

“Where do posts go that posit that this Sandpit idea is a conspiracy? “

Oooh, YOU want the Sarlacc Pit. That’s two doors down.

7

MPAVictoria 11.23.16 at 3:31 pm

This post by Kevin Drum pretty much ruined my morning:

http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/11/ubiquitous-surveillance-society-getting-closer-and-closer

For those who don’t want to click through it basically describes how computers are getting better and better at lip reading what people are saying through surveillance videos. This is just the latest development in a trend that I think has a significant chance of ending with 95% of humanity dead.

One of the consistent things in history is that those at the top needed those at the bottom to work, fight and spy for them. Well now they are automating factories and jobs so they don’t need us to work for them. They are building drones and robots so they won’t need us to protect/fight for them. And they are creating computers that can report what you are saying so they won’t need us to spy for them.

So what do they need us for and why on earth should we expect them to share with us in the coming future where the earth will be a hot, resource depleted hell hole?

I find this line of thought terrifying and have no idea what a sensible response would be. Anyone?

8

Soru 11.23.16 at 3:38 pm

@2: when you say the divide ‘is’ economic, do you mean the baseline or the last four years delta?

538 has a fairly convincing analysis that the _change_ in votes since 2012 is primarily driven by education level. Counties where most have a degree ranked Trump:Clinton::Romney:Obama one way, those where few have one the other.

Of course, those two views are not in contradiction. In a globalised world everything flows to those who exemplify national advantages. One of the key US advantages is the world’s best high end education system.

Those who can use that advantage to produce for the world market make available a share of the worlds gdp for someone to capture; maybe they can even take it themselves.

Those who can’t know that under different political circumstances they could too. It just needs is for the US to use its other national advantage, the worlds biggest military, to remove anyone who outcompetes them.

9

bob mcmanus 11.23.16 at 3:44 pm

So what do they need us for and why on earth should we expect them to share with us in the coming future where the earth will be a hot, resource depleted hell hole?

I find this line of thought terrifying and have no idea what a sensible response would be. Anyone?

Peter Frase Four Futures …has just been released as an expanded book

You can skip to the section: “Hierarchy and Scarcity: Exterminism” if you like

10

MPAVictoria 11.23.16 at 4:24 pm

“Peter Frase Four Futures …has just been released as an expanded book

You can skip to the section: “Hierarchy and Scarcity: Exterminism” if you like”

Yeah… that section is basically my fear here. It is so terrifying that I think people are afraid to confront it. I know I am.

11

Yankee 11.23.16 at 4:33 pm

Monseigneur needs those who will present his chocolate to him, obviously. No fun lording it in your penthouse if you can’t watch the servile, cringing horde exercising their futile envy.

12

engels 11.23.16 at 4:45 pm

now they are automating factories and jobs so they don’t need us to work for them

This is also ‘one of the consistent things in history’.

13

Brett 11.23.16 at 4:49 pm

@MPA Victoria

If that kind of automation is available, then we need to demand that it be put to use to provide at least fundamental social services (food, housing, etc). Best response is to get that before it’s too late, which is what I think will happen – we’re not even close to the point where the upper class can write off the rest of humanity.

@bob mcmanus

One thing I disagree with Frase on is that I think the elite will essentially turn the rich countries into their “guard labor” to deal with major waves of climate refugees (assuming that happens). That means they’ll have to make concessions to average Americans, which we’ll probably take. A fortress city can’t feed itself, but a fortress country can.

14

Glen Tomkins 11.23.16 at 5:02 pm

The Sarlacc Pit vs the Starship to Nowhere

Those are the two models for what is being proposed here, and I’m not sure which one the Sandpit will be.

If it’s going to be like the Sarlacc Pit, then we’re talking about moderators unceremoniously dumping perpetrators of ” long side discussions, conspiracy theories, idees fixes and so on” into the open maw of the beast, kicking and screaming.

If the intention is that these perpetrators will voluntarily hop on a Starship to Nowhere that is up front labeled as a Starship to Nowhere, that’s a basic design flaw in this idea. It is precisely people who engage in ” long side discussions, conspiracy theories, idees fixes and so on” who are least able to identify their concerns as being anything but absolutely central. No one thinks their theory is a conspiracy theory, their side discussion isn’t the whole damn point, or that their fixed ideas are not fixed for the most inarguable reasons imaginable (reasons they will explain to you in great detail).

You’re gonna need a bigger boat.

15

Layman 11.23.16 at 5:20 pm

“The divide is economic, and it is massive. According to the Brookings analysis, the less-than-500 counties that Clinton won nationwide combined to generate 64 percent of America’s economic activity in 2015. The more-than-2,600 counties that Trump won combined to generate 36 percent of the country’s economic activity last year.”

Without also comparing population data, I can’t see how this analysis is particularly helpful.

16

jean-philippe 11.23.16 at 5:24 pm

@bob mcmanus
You mentioned a book before that sort of reminded you of Trump’s online campaign strategy. Swarm something…

Do you happen to have the name of that book?

17

Matt 11.23.16 at 6:18 pm

Those who can’t know that under different political circumstances they could too. It just needs is for the US to use its other national advantage, the worlds biggest military, to remove anyone who outcompetes them.

That does not seem like a plausible way to knock down outcompeting nations. 3 of the 5 BRICS have nuclear weapons.

18

Ronan(rf) 11.23.16 at 7:39 pm

If you’re looking at education, then afaik the two main choices are (1) education as a proxy for class (not merely income but class as a cultural category). This can also account for economic insecurity and difficulties adapting to an economy that values education and cognitive based skills.(and the aforementioned decline in occupational and social status)
(2) education as a stand in for values. Not that education itself changes your values, but that higher education selects for demographics (on average) on values. This, afaict, can explain the growing political and values gaps that were seeing. Particularly among the uber educated and the rest.

19

Placeholder 11.23.16 at 8:08 pm

I remember the last thread about Big Data was that one about security questions. Everyone enjoyed the funny questions like ‘isn’t my first dog’s name and the first street I lived on my porn name?’ sort of thing. I remember quoting Tropic of Cancer: ‘If God wants to end the world, he’d better hurry.’

The British have just put Winston Churchill on their shiny new untearable plastic notes. How very appropriate. “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits.”

I find this line of thought terrifying and have no idea what a sensible response would be.

One of the key weaknesses is the amount of computation. Moore’s law is cheap but not free. Moore’s law seems to be slowing for what it’s worth. After all:

I never have been in despair about the world. I’ve been enraged by it. I don’t think I’m in despair. I can’t afford despair. I can’t tell my nephew, my niece. You can’t tell the children there’s no hope. – James Baldwin

20

bruce wilder 11.23.16 at 8:13 pm

Political order and inequality was the title of a book by Carles Boix that tried to assemble a theory from first principles that would explain in functional terms how and why political hierarchies arise to organize society, violence and production.

One obstacle to building an understanding is that society is necessarily too complex to be understood by one of its cogs. Our puny brains require simplification and compression of an absurd extreme to get critical thinking thru a portal of short-term memory barely able to remember a phone number for 30 seconds. So we reify. “Capitalism” We use metaphors. “Capital flows” We abstract. “GDP” We moralize. We catastrophize.

I think the history of political anacyclosis and long trends culminating in crisis is a history of the limits of social cognition. A simplifying crisis is a cognitive relief. We long for apocalypse because we long for a simpler world, a world of greater moral certitude and less . . . surprise and . . . what is the antonym of mastery?

Exterminism as an unifying idea is as inevitable as a flame is a light to the moth. We must go toward it tho we loathe and fear it, because any other future is too hard to work out in our individual imaginations. It is only one ambivalent perspective among many, but one we must entertain and allow to entertain us, because we cannot contain and process the whole, whole. Thesis, antithesis . . . because thinking is a social process. Looking toward such a light as the flame of exterminism presents prevents any one from seeing their own shadow, no matter how much that bright light darkens the shadow.

Watching the film, Before the Flood, one can see the deep pessimism behind the mask DiCaprio’s Everyman wears thru his pilgrimage. I could not help but be impressed by the moral earnestness of the Indian woman, a bureaucrat, who confronts Leo with the outsized effect of the West’s economic activity. But, I thought, too, what will India do to reduce its population from 1.2 billion to the 200 million it might be able to sustain? The optimistic NASA scientist with his gloriously colored models and pictures from a perspective in space: he is terminally ill.

Shadows.

21

Ronan(rf) 11.23.16 at 9:05 pm

Should have added also the wars and violence coming from the middle east for the “why now” question.(ie it’s given a long term trend a spurt)
Cas mudde’s article in this month’s foreign affairs is interesting enough on all of this (better than vox, certainly)

22

William Berry 11.23.16 at 9:30 pm

@MPA Victoria:

That is exactly my own dark vision of the future of the human race. Given that a massive human die-back from environmental (and consequential) causes is probably inevitable this century, their (the super-rich global elite, i.e.) work will be made much easier.

Gibson’s character in “Count Zero” (The gigajazillionaire who wanted to wipe out the entire human race except for himself and his chosen circle) was a good metaphor for this.

23

William Berry 11.23.16 at 9:49 pm

@bob mcm:

Reading the Jacobin piece; very interesting. One thought occurred to me, though:

In a simple set of Aristotelian oppositions, the categories can be discrete. In the real world, though, things might not be so neat. I can, e.g., imagine some solution of “Hierarchy and Abundance: Rentism” and “Hierarchy and Scarcity: Exterminism”, given some relative solutions of abundance v. scarcity and rentism v. exterminism.

(If Frase allows for this, never mind. Back to reading!)

24

Hidari 11.23.16 at 10:12 pm

OK my tuppence worth is (following on from various posts on CT from Corey) is that Trump will not, in fact, be much different from any other Republican candidate (all of whom, as the LRB pointed out at the time, were certifiably mad). As various CT posts pointed out:

1: Generally speaking, the people who voted for Romney were the people who voted for Trump and in roughly the same numbers, too.

2: There was no ‘whitelash’ or Trump Explosion, or whatever you want to call it. Hilary lost the election. Trump didn’t win it. Obama edged it cos he managed to (slightly) more energise the Dem base than Hilary managed to.

3: There were, after all, no moderate Republicans (CT posts, passim) who would ‘jump ship’ to the Democrats.The fact that Trump was an unconventional candidate simply didn’t matter, one way or the other.

4: Trump is more or less in the Republican mainstream on almost all major policy issues. The only two differences that I can see are:

5: Protectionism. This is slightly unusual but by no means unheard of. Herbert Hoover was a Republican and a protectionist. More specifically, so was Ronald Reagan (and in fact Trump cited him an influence on his own protectionism: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2016/jul/01/donald-trump-cites-ronald-reagan-protectionist-her/).

6: Detente: Trump wants to make nice with the Russians. But so did Nixon and Kissinger (and let’s not forget that Nixon went to China). Detente started with them and carried on throughout the 1970s. The basic lineaments of Ameican foreign policy, however, did not change.

7: Finally, Trump’s ‘unusual’ style and ‘brash’ rhetoric. As Jon Stewart pointed out: have you heard the Nixon tapes? You think this kind of talk is unheard of in ‘elite’ circles? Grow up.

The only real difference from previous candidates is that Trump is a capitalist, not a politician, and so will govern purely to enrich himself and this will be obvious. Previous politicians obviously did the same (Bill Clinton, Blair) but there was, so to speak, a figleaf of politics to conceal this. With Trump there is none.

Discuss.

25

hix 11.23.16 at 11:51 pm

One thing that irks me about Trump is that his enterpreneurial success is also highly doubtfull. He might have more money if he had sold his fathers company and bought an infdexfund. And that one would have been taking far less risk than he did. The proper comparision is probably more akin to a leverag portfolio tilted towards riskier stocks…..
(as the mights and the like indicate, im not all too convident in that claim, but typically no one even tries to make that comparison and praises him as if its some achievment to just keep accumulating capital returns on a big inheritance)
To make things worse, the most valuable part of his company is now the Trump brand, that is mostly selling people the right to put the name Trump on some luxury complex to sell expensive flats even more expensive.

26

Matt 11.23.16 at 11:58 pm

There are many elites in competition with each other, not just elites vs. the rest. If the whole of Skynet came through a time-portal to Peter Thiel all at once, I could see exterminism happening. But presently the technologies you’d need to build Skynet and the Terminators are diffusing horizontally faster than they are accumulating vertically.

It took only a few years for a dozen nations to accumulate their own weaponized drones after the US first used them in combat in 2001. It only took a few years for the USSR to accumulate its own nuclear weapons after the US used them. It only took a few years for deep learning technologies to take off around the world after they were first highlighted in American publications.

So the good news is that it is unlikely that even a very secretive, careful cabal of billionaire exterminists can catch the rest of humanity unprepared to fight. At most they can kick off World War III (the good news isn’t so good, is it?) The bad news is that if all productive labor is done by machines-that-make-machines, the angry loner who would today go on a shooting spree will instead be able to lash out with biological weapons or nerve gas. That’s unless there’s a panopticon wide enough and smart enough to tell the difference between a garage where someone is brewing beer and one where someone is brewing anthrax spores. Making human skills irrelevant to production would be profoundly disruptive to arms control among many other things.

27

bob mcmanus 11.24.16 at 12:01 am

16:Swarmwise The Tactical Manual to Changing the World Peter Falkvinge, Swedish Pirate Party 2009

I looked a little into swarms after reading the book, so maybe it isn’t all new. Not quite, but approaching grass-roots emergent self-organization, with just a few limits and constraints. One rule, nobody commands, two, the guy at the top takes all the heat. At worst, a fun read.

28

divelly 11.24.16 at 12:02 am

Warning:
If the Congress passes an equivalent to the Enabling Act,
there will be a Reichstag Fire, the borders will close, the WWW will be unplugged,
journals will be censored, undesirables (CT contributors ,et al.)will be interned,
and brownshirts will roam the streets.
NYT,”Ahhh! That guy Hitler isn’t serious!”

29

divelly 11.24.16 at 12:03 am

Hidari,
Trump and Putin vs. China in a winner take all cage match.

30

Placeholder 11.24.16 at 3:45 am

No one thinks their theory is a conspiracy theory, their side discussion isn’t the whole damn point, or that their fixed ideas are not fixed for the most inarguable reasons imaginable (reasons they will explain to you in great detail). </blockquote..

The term 'conspiracy theory' was invented by the CIA.
http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/how-cia-invented-and-promoted-conspiracy-theories-discredit-controversial-views

31

Sentient AI from the Future 11.24.16 at 4:04 am

Whatever you do, don’t think of roko’s basilisk

32

sanbikinoraion 11.24.16 at 10:41 am

As per JCM — come on, guys, nesting comments even one level deep will save a lot of pain. There are just too many comments and commenters on individual threads here for the flat format to work painlessly.

@John Quiggin at least give us a reason why you’re *not* considering employing technology rather than kludges to solve the problem.

(And if it’s “we lack the technological knowhow” then I’ll do it for you — nesting comments one deep only requires minor work to add a “parent comment ID” a few places)

33

John Quiggin 11.24.16 at 12:06 pm

@32 I don’t have a strong view on threading comments, but when it’s been proposed in the past, it’s always been rejected. This seems like a good topic for the sandpit.

My own off-the-cuff preference: a thread-type hierarchy, fully expanded by default, and with some indication of which comments are most recent. So, it would be possible to hide long side discussions, but still monitor them. Are there any examples like this?

34

Collin Street 11.24.16 at 12:40 pm

Are there any examples like this?

Any infinite-depth nesting schema promotes petty quibbling over synthesis. “Affordances”, the things that the system makes obvious. For nesting schemas the obvious thing to do is to respond in detail to the post above: this is not usually what you want.

35

LFC 11.24.16 at 1:55 pm

MPAVictoria @7
One of the consistent things in history is that those at the top needed those at the bottom to work, fight and spy for them. Well now they are automating factories and jobs so they don’t need us to work for them. They are building drones and robots so they won’t need us to protect/fight for them. And they are creating computers that can report what you are saying so they won’t need us to spy for them. So what do they need us for and why on earth should we expect them to share with us in the coming future where the earth will be a hot, resource depleted hell hole?

“They” need “us” to consume what the factories and other processes, automated or not, produce. If no businesses or anyone else buys Windows packages, Microsoft collapses. If no one flies, Airbus eventually goes belly up. If no one buys IPhones, Apple goes bankrupt. If no one uses electricity, an entire industry disappears. And so on.

The cliché or legendary example is Henry Ford’s realization that if his workers earned enough to buy the cars that bore his name, that would ultimately benefit him. That basic logic would seem to still hold for “them,” even if other aspects of ‘Fordism’ don’t.

One Marx-inspired prognosticatory view is that there is long-term increasing downward pressure on corporate profits as, globally, the pools of available low-wage labor gradually shrink w continuing urbanization/de-ruralization. (cf Wallerstein, World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction, Duke U.P., 2004, chap. 5) This view may implicitly assume that automation will not be so total as to remove the need for any human workers, nor will it nec. be so cost-saving as to rescue bottom lines from erosion. As the global profit squeeze increases, so does pressure on the overall system, opening opportunities for, if not b. mcmanus’s dream of everything burning down in a cleansing fire, then perhaps for some kind of less apocalyptic transformation.

Is that view right? Dunno.

36

bob mcmanus 11.24.16 at 2:25 pm

One Marx-inspired prognosticatory view is that there is long-term increasing downward pressure on corporate profits as, globally, the pools of available low-wage labor gradually shrink w continuing urbanization/de-ruralization.

Well, not very Marxian. Labour theory of value, increasing amount of fixed capital needing less and less living labour power, since labour hours create value/profits profits tend to decline, wages decline, reserve army of the unemployed enlarges, etc. De-ruralization was/is about agricultural efficiency and the displaced/dispossessed in the cities create markets/consumption and a pool of workers that inspire investment. Factories aren’t built in Antarctica. Although the process is controversial, and I am a vulgar Marxist.

And I said “Burn Shit Down” without specifying what or how much. Trashcan Man I am not.

37

Barry 11.24.16 at 2:33 pm

LFC: ‘The cliché or legendary example is Henry Ford’s realization that if his workers earned enough to buy the cars that bore his name, that would ultimately benefit him. That basic logic would seem to still hold for “them,” even if other aspects of ‘Fordism’ don’t.’

Note that this legend is simply not true, as running through the numbers would immediately show. The real reason is more likely that an assembly line relies on good employee attendance far more than less-differentiated gang labor does. In the latter, 90% attendance might lead to 90% production levels; in the former there’s a sharp drop-off.

An old Ford hand (starting in the ’50’s) told me that he had been told that in the 20’s and 30’s, Ford employees would wear their ID’s in bars, because it made picking up women easier. The Ford guys were known to make good money.

38

Jake Gibson 11.24.16 at 2:33 pm

Have we read too much post-apocalyptic fiction? Longish term, apocaplypse seems like a reasonable conclusion. Short term seems more dystopian. Pessimism is the new black.

39

divelly 11.24.16 at 3:24 pm

LFC,
How about putting a billion or so on the dole and let the remainder wither away?

40

Zamfir 11.24.16 at 3:58 pm

LFC, I don’t see the logic of that consumption argument. If rich people consume a larger share of production (by having the power to demand such consumption), then the effect is a shift of the production processes towards their needs. A car factory can build 100 econoboxes for 100 families, or 3 Lamborghinis for 1 guy who wrecks them regularly. In GDP terms, that’s about equal, and the econometrists will happily report Growth if next year he is supplied with 4 of them.

Airbus has a division that builds private planes, Boeing too. It’s as yet a niche for them, the main private market is in smaller planes. But it’s a growing market, both in numbers and in the size of the typical private jet.

41

Soru 11.24.16 at 4:15 pm

@17: none of them have second strike capability. Iran will probably be the first target as it has convsniently disarmed, but I don’t expect anything less than thousands of nuclear warheads to deter them. And of course Russia is a strategic ally now; it shares the same government form, economic interests and enemies.

42

John Quiggin 11.24.16 at 4:16 pm

@24 I agree with nearly all of this, with a couple of qualifications

(a) While protectionism wasn’t a big heresy, it was a vote winner in crucial states, almost certainly enough to give Trump the win. Of course, with such a narrow victory, that can be said of any factor enough to shift the vote by a percentage point or two

(b) While there’s a lot of continuity, Trump really does represent a qualitative shift, I think. It’s easy to point to Repub precedents for everything he does, but he does all of it so much and so often as to represent a real change.

43

Neville Morley 11.24.16 at 5:48 pm

“…the difference between a garage where someone is brewing beer and one where someone is brewing anthrax spores.”

How are you people brewing beer?? Unless anthrax thrives in an environment of plastic buckets and old duvets, I don’t think anyone’s likely to mistake my brewing setup for the Somerset Unabomber.

My temperature- and humidity-controlled cabinet for the salami-making, on the other hand…

44

engels 11.24.16 at 6:00 pm

The idea that computers will soon steal our jobs is an article of faith among many of the world’s most powerful people. The argument goes like this: breakthroughs in robotics and artificial intelligence will make it possible to automate various kinds of labour. Self-driving cars will replace taxi and truck drivers; software will replace lawyers and accountants. We’ll end up with a world where machines do almost all of the work. Over the last few years, a growing chorus of pundits, academics and executives have made this scenario seem inevitable – and imminent. There are many reasons to be sceptical of their claims. But even if you accept the argument that mass automation is around the corner, you might find yourself wondering what a post-work future would look like. Would it be a heaven or a hell, or somewhere in between? Peter Frase gives four answers to this question in Four Futures: Life After Capitalism. He offers two heavens and two hells: two ways that automation might facilitate a flourishing of human life, and two ways that it might maximise human misery.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/nov/24/four-futures-life-after-capitalism-peter-frase-review-robots

45

J-D 11.24.16 at 8:19 pm

nastywoman, in the ‘Trade After Trump’ comment thread

@142
‘The first of those lines up fairly closely with one of John Quiggin’s original main assertions, that beneficial consequences would flow from higher rates of union membership’

How true – but you need a ‘healthy’ percentage of manufacturing in a country to enjoy these benefits and when John Quiggin wrote the idea of manufacturing jobs as “good” jobs is historically specific particularly to the US – he probably has overlooked @139

http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ichcc.pdf

– that it is mostly the northern European countries and Germany where there are the highest wages and salaries in manufacturing – illustrating the ‘reality’ of manufacturing as ‘really good’ jobs.

As one might find out – by staying in Australia or spending some time in Great Britain – or the US – that in Anglo-Saxon countries manufacturing jobs seem to lack a certain type of… let’s say ‘prestige’? And sometimes by talking to Anglo-Saxon economists that ‘lack of prestige’ might influence their judgement of manufacturing as ‘good’ jobs to?

Or not?

Since – you ask – the question – I will – answer: – Not.

46

rivelle 11.24.16 at 9:43 pm

Unfortunately the comments thread on John Quiggin’s blog is closed as I just read it and wanted to reply to a poster called Ikonoclast.

However s/he may read this thread and as it is of general interest in any case, I will post a response to her/him here.

Two people that you – Ikonoclast – will be interested in if you haven’t previously encountered them are Wolfgang Streck and Immanuel Wallerstein.

For Wallerstein see

http://iwallerstein.com/intellectual-itinerary/

Wolfgang Streck says a lot in the following article which is in close agreement to the observations which you make in your posts :

“Social systems thrive on internal heterogeneity, on a pluralism of organizing principles protecting them from dedicating themselves entirely to a single purpose, crowding out other goals that must also be attended to if the system is to be sustainable. Capitalism as we know it has benefited greatly from the rise of countermovements against the rule of profit and of the market. Socialism and trade unionism, by putting a brake on commodification, prevented capitalism from destroying its non-capitalist foundations—trust, good faith, altruism, solidarity within families and communities, and the like. Under Keynesianism and Fordism, capitalism’s more or less loyal opposition secured and helped stabilize aggregate demand, especially in recessions. Where circumstances were favourable, working-class organization even served as a ‘productivity whip’, by forcing capital to embark on more advanced production concepts. It is in this sense that Geoffrey Hodgson has argued that capitalism can survive only as long as it is not completely capitalist—as it has not yet rid itself, or the society in which it resides, of ‘necessary impurities’. [20] Seen this way, capitalism’s defeat of its opposition may actually have been a Pyrrhic victory, freeing it from countervailing powers which, while sometimes inconvenient, had in fact supported it. Could it be that victorious capitalism has become its own worst enemy?”

https://newleftreview.org/II/87/wolfgang-streeck-how-will-capitalism-end

47

NickS 11.24.16 at 10:33 pm

Since John Quiggin has suggested re-directing the “Trade After Trump” conversation to this thread, I’ll take the opportunity to comment. I’ve been reading the thread with interest and also confusion, because I can’t quite figure out who or what nastywoman is arguing with. So in the interest of clarifying I have a couple of comments & questions.

1) From a naive perspective my first response to the various discussions of German engineering/manufacturing would be: Germany is, probably, the best country in the world at certain sorts of manufacturing. Anytime you have a country which has a persistent advantage in a given sector, there are a combination of factors at play — policy, culture, education, and simple historical advantages. Other countries should try to learn from the success, but it’s unlikely that there’s a simple formula which can be emulated elsewhere. For example the US is best country in the world at producing software, and there’s no easy way for another country to catch-up, though it would certainly be worth studying the US software industry. Similarly, it makes sense to try to figure out what makes German manufacturing so successful, but “what makes it work in Germany” and “what would work in another country” are two separate questions.

2) That portion of the thread started in response to the point in the OP that it makes more sense to think of union jobs as “good jobs” than to specifically focus on manufacturing as “good jobs.” Nastywoman has made the argument that there are reasons why manufacturing jobs are likely to be “good jobs.” I’d be interested to have more than just anecdotal evidence about that question. For nastywoman I’d ask, “if we stipulate that German manufacturing jobs are ‘good jobs’, is there a way to figure out, again, how much of that generalizes? Are the things that are true of German manufacturing jobs true of all manufacturing jobs (probably not) or could they be true given certain policy choices?”

3) Purely as a side note, how have we had a long discussion about German manufacturing, and the German auto industry in particular, without anybody bringing up the VW/Audi emissions scandals? Does that give any reason to hesitate before singing the praises of the German corporate culture?

48

sidd 11.24.16 at 11:35 pm

Re: threading

I have run a dedicated Usenet server before for this purpose, with an HTTP to NNTP (webbrowser to Usenet) gateway for those who were NNTP challenged.

Worked for me, YMMV.

sidd

49

Asteele 11.25.16 at 1:55 am

I’m not concerned about the elites killing us all with robots. A resource-deprived world leading to die offs is pretty incompatible with capital/fuel intensive killer robots.

50

engels 11.25.16 at 3:26 am

INVITATION

Shall we go to the sand-pits?
Yes, let’s go to the sand-pits.

Will the air be fresh and clear
over the sand-pits?
Depending on the season, the time
of day, and the weather
the air will be cool, sultry, or mild
over the sand-pits.

Shall we whistle and get a drink
at the sand-pits?
Whistling and drinking are de rigueur
at the sand-pits.

Will there be a crowd
at the sand-pits?
There is almost invariably a crowd
at the sand-pits.

Shall we take our whips
to the sand-pits?
In what tree have you parked
your brain, imbecile?
Without whips what would be the point
of the sand-pits?
https://thepointmag.com/2010/examined-life/a-world-without-why

51

hix 11.25.16 at 4:26 am

@Nick S 3, no not really. As far as corporate scandals go that ones pretty harmless. The non harmless part is only the fine, which coriously exploded compared to precedents involving US Truck manufactorers.

52

rivelle 11.25.16 at 11:56 am

Re. to LFC @ 35 and to engels @44,

engels has beat me to the reference to Peter Frase’s book.

““communism”, a word that Frase restores to its original meaning. For Marx, communism meant not an authoritarian one-party state but the idyll that awaits us after a long period of social and technological transformation. A communist society is so productive and so egalitarian that nobody has to work to survive, fulfilling Marx’s famous dictum, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need”. For Frase, this ideal might be realised by robots running on an unlimited clean energy source, providing the material basis for a post-work, post‑scarcity and post-carbon world.”

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/nov/24/four-futures-life-after-capitalism-peter-frase-review-robots

Also see the concept of “dual power” in Fredic Jameson’s “An American Utopia”

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/08/11/dual-power-as-the-route-to-democratic-socialism-sanders-or-no-sanders/

53

nastywoman 11.25.16 at 12:40 pm

– and I seem not to understand how this thing works? –
as I went to the sandpit – but at the sandpit there seems to be no possibility to response to @45 and @47 – who are commenting here –
and I don’t mean to be rude or impolite – but how could the sandpit work if some questions are posted here and the answers at the sandpit?

54

nastywoman 11.25.16 at 2:00 pm

and for
@47

I gladly put my answers into the sandpit.

55

LFC 11.25.16 at 2:47 pm

Zamfir @40
That’s a reasonable point. Would have to think about it.

mcmanus @36
Would have to go back and look, but I think Wallerstein’s argument is that, over the long term, a ‘reserve army of the unemployed’ is harder to maintain once the population flow from farm to city slows and perhaps eventually ends. That process will take a while, no doubt, and prob. other countervailing developments could intervene. Would help to look at the research, to the extent it exists, on wage levels at different points in the global supply chain for particular industries, then try to correlate that with demographic data about the pop. flow from rural to urban areas, growth of mega-cities in the ‘developing world’, and patterns of employment in mega-cities (e.g. what do residents of urban slums do for income and in what proportions: scavenging for metal in trash heaps and trying to sell it? working in factories of one sort or another? black-market activities (selling bootleg DVDs or narcotics on the street?) small-scale enterprises (tailors, restaurants, small shops), working in cities’ service sector (hotels, fast-food outlets etc.), begging on main roads?

In other words, have to disaggregate ‘the reserve army of the unemployed’, unpack exactly what ‘unemployed’ means in this context, correlate with empirical trends in wage levels (wages have been stagnating, at least until recently, in U.S. and other ‘advanced’ economies, but what about elsewhere/globally)?

That shd be about 2 or 3 yrs of first-hand observation plus research. Then come back and tell me the results. ;)

56

John Quiggin 11.25.16 at 6:52 pm

@nastywoman Post whatever you like here, including responses to people in other threads. I’ve made it clear that anything further from you on the topic will be here, so if others are interested enough in continuing the discussion with you, they can find it here. If not, that’s the end of it.

57

Glen Tomkins 11.25.16 at 11:04 pm

This way to The Egress

First off, I want to congratulate myself for staying on topic. Most of the comments here are about everything but the Sandpit, but I comment only on the Sandpit. Of course, this is the thread for those who can’t or won’t to stay on topic, so maybe I’m the transgressor in this process.

I have to admit that the problem I foresaw with this Sandpit idea when it was proposed — that nobody would voluntarily comment at a site advertised as being “for long side discussions, conspiracy theories, idees fixes and so on” — does not seem to have materialized. There are some comments here that do seem to have gotten here by the Sarlacc Pit path, but most seem to have gotten here voluntarily.

That fact suggests to me that you rename this thing The Egress, in honor of that great American thinker, PT Barnum, and his mastery of the trick of getting people to leave voluntarily.

58

hix 11.26.16 at 12:59 am

The sandpit has a longer tradition at John Quiggins own site, its sure filled there. Albeit, the nuke discussions are not quite my taste. Im all in support of long emotional discussions about German manufactoring with limited time spent on factual research however!

59

Marco 11.26.16 at 2:31 am

This has been a most enjoyable read of random commentaries. Whatever the reason may be, it seems to work very well here as it has done elsewhere.

My two cents: No conspiracies needed. Or curbed. It`s just nice to have other ships to embark and disembark.

60

John Quiggin 11.26.16 at 11:17 am

@57 I like it!

61

bob mcmanus 11.27.16 at 12:39 am

Sandpit got quiet.

Way up at #2 I linked to a bibliography over at The New Inquiry, and I am starting to work my way through it.

The Shock of Recognition …J Sakai, an excerpt from Confronting Fascism: Discussion Documents for a Militant Movement …umm, 10k words? favourably reviewing a paper by Hamerquist, Fascism and Anti-fascism 3-5k words. But like good radical critique, also polemical and snarky. Fun!

“While modern capitalism strives to blur the distinction between two very different things – bourgeois democracy and democratic rights – at its heart bourgeois democracy simply means “democracy for the bourgeois”. Remember, it was alive and robust long before there were any modern democratic rights at all. For several centuries in the English-speaking world, bourgeois democracy with elections, political parties and legislatures co-existed effortlessly with the chattel slavery of tens of millions, genocidal wars and colonial exploitation of indigenous peoples, the subordinate status of all women as an intimate species of patriarchal livestock, feudalistic dictatorial rule over the working class, and a government voted upon by a small minority of white male property-owners. That was the pure bourgeois democracy, the undiluted hundred eighty proof thing. ” …Sakai

62

James Wimberley 11.27.16 at 1:22 am

Is this a sandpit or a meta-sandpit? Or a an antlion tryout for the Sarlacc?

Comments on this entry are closed.