Many political, social, and economic debates take place using simple framings like left/right and liberal/conservative, framings which, for a variety of reasons, have reached the point of near-complete uselessness. All said terms have become so broad that they can be used to explain everything, which as we know, helps explain nothing. In the interest of pushing this forward, I'd like to propose a richer system, one based on a number of continuum graphs representing a range of positions that governments and people can take. Other attempts have been made at this (things like Nolan charts), but I feel this will be more comprehensive and hopefully more useful, while still allowing for conversational shortcuts. These charts consider only effective policy, not written, as what governments (or de facto governments) do can often be quite different than their charters suggest. Using a system like this will allow us to reveal a great deal more nuance, and allow us to see that attempting to classify one's set of beliefs is harder to quantify than it first appears.
High redistribution [-------------------------------------------------] No redistribution
This is the only one where left/right still makes sense. On the far left you have things like Communism, where taxation and redistribution through all mechanisms (social services, direct transfers, etc.) are extremely high, going so far as (theoretically) attempting to give everyone an equal share. On the right you have no taxes or social services, which fits things like Anarcho-Capitalism. In between you have everything from generous Social Democracies (much redistribution, stopping far short of attempts to equalize completely (e.g., Sweden)) down to Minarchist Libertarianism and Objectivism.
High social freedom [-----------------------------------------------] Rigid social laws
On the left here we have systems that do not attempt to regulate non-economic behavior as long as no "direct material harm" is caused, and at the other end, we have systems which attempt to micromanage interactions, sometimes down to the individual level. No real-world examples of the left side of the graph currently; the right side we have many examples, especially Theocracies (like Saudia Arabia) and de facto Theocracies in less-developed countries (rural parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan would fit this bill.)
Invasive domestic security system [--------------] No domestic security system
On the left side we have all-pervasive surveillance states, going so far as to monitor each citizen to the level of individual ankle bracelets, and worn/in-home cameras. Only fictional examples currently exist, but tending toward the left side of the graph would be places like Malaysia, China, and Britain (2007 Privacy International rankings.) There are also no real-world examples of "no-surveillance" societies; even the most unstable, anarchic ones revert to small-scale, local surveillance and enforcement systems.
Aggressive foreign policy [-------------------------------------] Pacifist foreign policy
On the left side we have many of the Imperial powers of the past few centuries, using war to take over, and sometimes run, other countries. On the other side, we have countries which do not even possess armed forces (e.g., Costa Rica, Vatican City)
As we can now see, the simple distinctions in common use imply a picture that is far simpler than the reality. Countries are all over the place on these charts, with examples like Japan (high income equality, somewhat rigid social laws, moderately to fairly intrusive domestic security state, and near-pacifist [officially pacifist, but still has military[-esque] personnel] foreign policy]) vs. the old Soviet Union (high income equality, mixed social laws, very intrusive domestic security state, and [at times] Imperialist) show that a simple designation like "left" doesn't mean much. Though this system cannot show every nuance, it will hopefully allow us to illustrate something more useful when speaking about these subjects.
This is a very basic outline, and I'll likely expand on and flesh out this idea down the line, but it illustrates the direction of my thinking on the subject. It's clear now that the lines we've drawn and the terms we use simply obscure too much to be useful anymore. I hope we can change that.
To Conquer Wind Power, China Writes the Rules - "With their government-bestowed blessings, Chinese companies have flourished and now control almost half of the $45 billion global market for wind turbines. The biggest of those players are now taking aim at foreign markets, particularly the United States, where General Electric has long been the leader.
The story of Gamesa in China follows an industrial arc traced in other businesses, like desktop computers and solar panels. Chinese companies acquire the latest Western technology by various means and then take advantage of government policies to become the world’s dominant, low-cost suppliers.
It is a pattern that many economists say could be repeated in other fields, like high-speed trains and nuclear reactors, unless China changes the way it plays the technology development game — or is forced to by its global trading partners."
Difficult issue to deal with. If foreign companies stay out, they cede their position (however weak) to another company. If they go in, they find that they're giving away the store and their competitive advantage. If they go to the WTO, they lose to other companies who will keep quiet. Tough one.
It also reinforces the "wait out and win" strategy yet again: someone flouts a law or regulation long enough to become the leader/have their policy work, and suddenly the law doesn't matter anymore due to changed "facts on the ground." Worked for the Republicans (and many Democrats) who wanted to keep the Iraq ball rolling until GWB was out office so they could shift blame (and Democrats swallowed this one whole, even doubling down on the policy in places), it's working for settlers in Israel (built homes mean more than UN resolutions), it's working for the Sudanese government (kill all your enemies while other countries endlessly wring their hands) and it works for international trade. We still reward those who are the best at running clocks out.
Last stand in Kandahar: 'Thanks to the increasingly corrupt Afghan government, the flourishing insurgency, and the massive increase in troop strength and foreign money, this system has now mutated into a vast web of private security and trucking companies, informal militias, and insurgents, through which mega-contracts like the US’s $2.16-billion Host Nations Trucking initiative flowed. "The HNT contract fuels warlordism, extortion, and corruption, and it may be a significant source of funding for insurgents" noted a congressional investigation in Junevii'
My last check on Afghanistan made it seem pretty bad. It's shocking to see that it's actually worse. Eye opening.
Device lag at the FDA - It's no surprise Europe's FDA does better. I'd speculate that they tend to not have an anti-regulatory culture, ultra-low status for regulators, and the likely constant temptation of very lucrative offers in the private sector (compared to working for the government.) Hence, they don't have the high turnover rates we do, which can really slow down the approval process. This leads to bad grades for the agency.
If people want to learn about these things, have them in "Crazy Speculation" class or "X Files" class or something; that'd be fine. I mean, if we're willing to go down the road of teaching Totally Baseless Theories, why not teach FlyingSpaghettism, or AliensAreKeepingUsInAPetriDishIsm, or ThisIsTheMatrixism?
The set of possible theories which don't currently have scientific evidence to back them is unlimited. We could pick any random plot from a sci-fi novel and start teach ing. it. Are we going to teach them all? Pick some at random? No? Then which subset? If they're all equally unlikely, then how can we really decide on that?
I'm a fan of the "Wild and Unsupported ideas" class to point out popular but absurd theories.
Listen on Soundcloud: http://soundcloud.com/opir/rd
Republican policies have defined the modern era in the United States, as many songs on this album explain. However, the state of this country would not, and likely could not, be what it is today without a slew of enablers. Chief among them are a great many Democratic politicians (particularly in the Senate) over the past few decades. To be sure, there are exceptions (Feingold and Kucinich have been staunch defenders of sane policies, for example), but the overarching theme of these politicians has been one of constants sops, half-measures, milquetoast policies, and a "bi-partisanship" that is indistinguishable from near-total capitulation.
So, what is it that makes so many of today's Democratic politicians so spineless, so devoid of resolve, so weak?
* Fear that divisiveness is a "turn off", even if they're totally right.
* Fear that attacking those that are wrong, even blatantly, is somehow rude or uncivilized, and so is "beneath" them.
* The idea that compromise is always a good idea, and has value even if the ends are horrific. Even if that means compromising with war criminals, human rights violators, anti-enlightenment value nuts, or bigots.
* Some twisted belief that compromise shows that you're "civilized", even if that means giving everything away.
* Fear of appearing "radical" and being painted as a fringe minority, even though what they're often challenging is radical.
* Best is the enemy of good. No exceptions. An inability to see that it can be worth losing a fight while sticking to your principles than giving in and losing the confidence of your erstwhile supporters. Not to mention the fact that some compromises can be worse than simply losing.
* Enslavement to the median voter theorem, and (sometimes) polls. Both parties can be guilty of this, but Republicans have been much better at sticking to their guns under fire. Lyndon Johnson's administration proved that governing by polls does not work.
Perhaps it is a peculiarity of a party that is steeped in traditions of academic debate, civility, careful consideration of arguments, and an often unshakable belief that all players at the table are honest. I doubt this was ever true, but even if it was, that time is long passed. We've been in an era of increasing communication speed, bitter divisions, ad hominem attacks, non-stop scandal creation and exploitation, mini-cults of personality and celebrity, and hardened positions. Democratic politicians, however, seem stuck in the (possibly imagined) past time when everyone came together in earnest and tried to hash out differences, really listened to the positions of others, and came to a sane compromise. They've failed to internalize the fact that the divisions are so deep, that in many cases, it's like we're living in two (sometimes more) different countries, completely devoid of common ground (a country that, at times, seems like it would function better if calmly split in two.)
Finally, fear of the Republican noise machine saying every conceivable terrible thing you can imagine about them - which they do. They shouldn't be afraid of it, they should paint it exactly as it is - enemies attacking them - but they are. Republicans are right about politics as warfare. It's not a game. Ideas and policies have real consequences. The idea that you can play politics like a game where you're far removed from the consequences of those policies is a huge problem. An absolutely enormous one. We're talking about the fate of people in this country and the country itself; if one party is destroying things, treat them as what they are: the enemy. Republicans learned this lesson long ago.
This song is written from a first-person perspective. Basically, me singing to the entire Democratic Congressional leadership, governors, state legislatures, party bosses, and influential ex-officials. Preferably while they're tied town and forced to listen. Repeatedly.
Lyrics start with a ">" and are italicized. Full lyrics without the explanation at the bottom.
From the album "America: 25 years in review"Read more
Eliezer Yudkowsky has cogently explained the Illusion of Transparency and Double Illusion of Transparency, which define (in very simplified terms - visit the links for a complete explanation) the belief or feeling by an individual that 1) others understand their expressed meaning in communication and 2) the belief by that individual's interlocutors and listeners that they too believe what the original communicator intended to communicate, respectively. I'd like to propose two related concepts: the Illusion of Symmetric Information and the Double Illusion of Symmetric Information. Similar to the original ideas, I'd define them as the belief that others have the exact same information you do, and the belief by said others that, they too, have the same information you do, even though they don't.
Every time we have a conversation, debate, or argument, these two assumptions, if not dealt with carefully, can lead to misunderstanding (obviously) and to endlessly repeated cycles of argument and counterargument, often using cached thoughts, with no attempt to deal with (and correct, in many cases) the underlying beliefs or knowledge that are the cause for disagreement in the first place.
Two honest participants can sit down with the absolute best intentions, but due to disagreements about underlying facts, can sometimes find themselves trapped in an ocean-boiling debate (or worse, meta-debate when it comes to disagreement by fact gathering, fact verification, research methods, or argument style/etiquette) that enlightens no one. As honest seekers of truth, we should in fact strive to, if we find ourselves in these loops, to step back and dig into the underlying ideas or biases causing said loop. In some cases, we should be asking, as Eliezer asks "Is that your true objection?"
Perhaps then we can avoid and correct for the Illusions of Symmetric Information.
Brilliant quote from her wikipedia page.
The progress of economic science has been seriously damaged. You can’t believe anything that comes out of [it]. Not a word. It is all nonsense, which future generations of economists are going to have to do all over again. Most of what appears in the best journals of economics is unscientific rubbish. I find this unspeakably sad. All my friends, my dear, dear friends in economics, have been wasting their time....They are vigorous, difficult, demanding activities, like hard chess problems. But they are worthless as science.
The physicist Richard Feynman called such activities Cargo Cult Science....By “cargo cult” he meant that they looked like science, had all that hard math and statistics, plenty of long words; but actual science, actual inquiry into the world, was not going on. I am afraid that my science of economics has come to the same point.
— (Deirdre McCloskey, The Secret Sins of Economics (2002), 41, 55f)