1060: “Crowdsourcing”

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Ghostbear
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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby Ghostbear » Tue May 29, 2012 1:07 am UTC

Princess Marzipan wrote:Ghostbear: It IS worth noting that corporations as purely profit-seeking entities is a phenomenon that's developed over time. The problem is with the prioritization of profit, not with the idea of corporations as their own entities with rights and responsibilities.

I have a bit of a disagreeing agreement with this.. the idea of corporations having their own rights and responsibilities is fine, yes. However, I don't think that idea is wholly divorced from the problem, which is corporations being given rights equivalent to people. It rears its ugly head most easily on society because they are single minded profit seeking entities, but even if they had other concerns it would still be a problem. A corporation seeking to further their religious goals (such as banning all beliefs other than their own) would be just as bad with those same rights of people instilled in them. It's the single-mindedness combined with the extra, unnecessary rights.

It's like the example of an AI that absent-mindedly converts the entire solar system into pure energy, in order to solve a math problem posed to it. The AI as a purely problem-solving entity isn't a problem until you give it the ability to convert the solar system into energy (or similar wide reaching actions). The corporation being purely profit driven isn't a problem until you give it the ability to influence the political process -- then it's able to prevent other restrictions being placed on it so that treating employees well, creating better products, etc. are always a part of staying profitable. It's only when it has those rights and responsibilities that it is able to exert its full psychopathy.

Beyond that, the whole claim "corporations are people" is just entirely disingenuous.

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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby Princess Marzipan » Tue May 29, 2012 1:21 am UTC

"Rights and responsibilities" isn't a dangerous concept on its own. Rights aren't problems in and of themselves; some of them are, but more typically the problem is that the rights are not balanced properly with the responsibilities.

Corporations have the right to assume personal risk and liability on behalf of its shareholders, executives, and employees. They have the responsibility to financially benefits the shareholders. They also have responsibilities regarding the treatment of their employees and other behaviors, but these responsibilities are both understated and underenforced.
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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby Ghostbear » Tue May 29, 2012 1:28 am UTC

I'd agree with that, and say it's a good summary. The improper balancing of rights and responsibilities leads to the other issues.

Alegery
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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby Alegery » Tue May 29, 2012 2:04 am UTC

There's a company that really does what the comic describes called Quirky:. http://www.quirky.com/
I wonder if he got the idea for the comic from the same place I heard about them: http://www.economist.com/node/21552902

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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby J Thomas » Tue May 29, 2012 3:11 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
Ghostbear wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:His point being, I think, that if you do something to a corporation you are doing something to people (the people it's made of), and likewise when you do something to corporations in general, you are doing things to people; so our rules for what's acceptable treatment of people apply also to what's acceptable treatment of corporations, as a corporation cannot be interacted with without some people being thus interacted with.

This is going to be true of all properties. You can't interact with a chair without doing something to the person that owns that chair. Are we going to start saying that chairs are people? That whole line of thought is bullshit.

That's not quite the sense I was speaking of.

If you say that a corporation cannot say certain things, you are saying that some people (in some circumstances) cannot say certain things. If you sit on a corporation's chair, you are sitting in some people's (jointly owned) chair.

However, if you say that a chair cannot stand on the sidewalk, you are not saying anything about whether the owner(s) of that chair can stand on the sidewalk. And you sit on a corporation's chair, you are not sitting on the corporation, that is, any of the people which constitute it.

A piece of property is not its owner. However, a joint entity is its constituents; in the case of a corporation, its shareholders. It may own property, and it may employ people, but it is not its property or its employees.


No, a corporation is not its shareholders.

Let's try another metaphor. a computer chip is made of silicon plus a few impurities. But most pieces of impure silicon are not at all computer chips. What makes it a chip is the organization that has been imposed on it. And if you organized a piece of gallium arsenide or, well, anything else you could make gates in, in a strictly analogous way then it would be a computer chip too. What's important is not the particular materials, what's important is the organization and the behaviors that organization allows.

It would be just as wrong to say a corporation is just people as it is to say an army is just people. A defeated army in POW camps is most of the same people -- if you can defeat it without killing anybody then it's all the same people -- but it's nothing like the same army.

Soldiers can be punished and even killed for refusing to do things which would get them punished or even executed for doing as civilians. And employees can be disciplined or even fired for refusing to do things they would not consider doing on their own time.

What makes it a corporation is the organizing which makes people do things, not the people. And in the USA, corporate shareholders have only a tenuous connection to the corporation. They get whatever dividends that corporate management chooses to send them, and they get to vote at an annual meeting, either for the management or for somebody else. Occasionally they can vote on complicated individual issues. Or they can sell their stock, perhaps to somebody who wants a controlling interest. They get to read annual and quarterly reports, and whatever else the corporation sends them to read. That's about it.

Princess Marzipan wrote:The entity exists solely to amass capital and wealth, and it will use any means at its disposal to achieve its goals.


Only because the people who constitute it have decided that that is their purpose.


Well, yes. There was a time when giant US corporations were basicly responsible to nobody, and an idea spread through lots of management teams that they ought to be responsible corporate players. They started donating money to good causes and trying to operate in ecologically responsible ways and so on. On their own initiative and following their own judgement. That lasted until the next big recession. When they saw that corporate profits were down, they changed their focus to becoming more profitable.

A non-profit corporation or a state is similarly just a composition of people, differing only in that they have joined together for a different purpose. There is nothing magical in any organizational charter which compels the organization thus charted to act a certain way (for instance, a constitution does not physically constrain people to doing as it says); it has only the force of the people who believe in it. Corporations are greedy amoral entities because their shareholders are, in their capacity as constituents of the corporation at least, greedy and amoral.


To some extent their behavior is constrained by their environment. A corporation whose stock price drops might get bought by some raider who thinks he can find some way to make more money off of it than he bought it for. There are lots of ways to drain money out of a corporation, starting by making yourself the CEO and getting your BOD to pay you a lot. They can give you options for a very low price that you can sell for a nice profit unless the stock goes down too fast. You can make the company offer great deals to other companies you own -- if it sells stuff to them at a loss, they have a chance for profits from that. Etc.

If you run a public corporation and it does badly, somebody might even think they can run it better than you and buy it up on that belief.

So the CEO has reason to try to satisfy ignorant stockholders every single quarter.

The CEO can fire anybody else in the company, so they have reason to try to satisfy him. They can do anything they want so long as he doesn't find out, but if he does find out they want it to look good to him. And the easiest thing for him to understand is how much money they are making. Etc.

There may be public corporations whose stockholders understand how the business works and who don't bid the stock price up and down for stupid reasons. They would look at the long run and would understand when the business builds up reserves to spend later on expansion, when it spends money to improve its position, and when it profits from its previous actions. Stock in those companies would be boring to buy and hold and sell. It would not get a lot of attention. Maybe there are a lot of businesses that nobody pays attention to except the sort of investors that are good for a corporation to be owned by.

Corporations are not evil in themselves any more than armies are. Or governments.

We have examples of corporations that are mostly free of government regulation -- for example the Mafia. The Mafia tends to be run on a rather personal basis. Individual Mafia members can take considerable initiative. They can personally do you a favor and then expect personal favors in return. It doesn't all have to go one way.

Are we arguing about which of the rights of persons that corporations should have? Ideally the laws about that should be good for the nation and the world.

But consider for example the free speech laws. The US military spends billions of dollars each year -- government money -- to propagandize US voters about how great they are and how well they are doing in our wars. They reward US legislators with bases and military contracts that provide jobs for the voters in those districts, and they spend a good deal of money to propagandize the legislators directly. When the Navy gets to spend so much public money to argue for more and bigger and better warships, shouldn't GM get to spend some of their own money to argue for government subsidies for GM? If not, why not?
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Fire Brns
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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby Fire Brns » Tue May 29, 2012 2:38 pm UTC

I'm tempted to leave this conversation as I'm afraid it will consume my week. Phorrest got it right in his first go at interpretting me.

Princess Marzipan wrote:
Fire Brns wrote:What is man besides the minutes he lives and value he contributes?
Obligatory:
Spoiler:
A MISERABLE LITTLE PILE OF SECRETS

Serious:
Well, to a capitalist, or anyone else to whom people are reduceable to terms present only on the left side of an equation, nothing.
To me, a man person is a ... well, a person. They're valuable in and of themselves, because they're a human being. They have value to their friends and family members whose lives are enriched by their presence. My problem with corporations is that they rely on people to function, but as profit-seeking entities, they fall quite short of caring about the people that make them up. We have to create laws to make them behave properly and treat their component people like PEOPLE, and they still do everything they can to skirt around that.

Everything is inherently based on value, it just happens that there are different types of value from monetary, to entertainment, to educational, ect. Everything done is done in some way productive, even arsonists burn buildings down because they like to. So their happiness is a measurable value. Value is comparable of energy, We have elecromagnetic, kinetic, chemical, ect. Money is elecromagnetic, the most observable; entertainment value is kinetic; educational value can be described as chemical as it is stored untill needed and then transfers often to monetary value. There are many more examples, people choose mates on a collection of their values just as people purchase goods on their likelyhood to turn around.
But our disagreement on corporations and people appears is simply semantical.

To a more recent point of companies focusing on money as their final goal? Our final goal is to secure food, water, ect. As such we act in a way in which we can attain the most of it. A company providing excelent service has more loyal customers, nearly all the factors you described are attempted or implemented by corporations. In dislikable companies it fails at lower levels because people fail to implement them. Customer service depends on the employees that deal with the public to provide "sincere service with a smile".

J Thomas your silicon chip arguement doesn't work either. Earlier Ghostbear made the comparison with people and cells; corporations function on the choices of people to opt in or out, cells cannot. With the silicon chip again the atoms have as much choice to affect the chip as they do to exert gravity.
Both your's and Ghostbear's reads as this: "I've found specific rigid system case X to refute your general flexible case Y. You are wrong I am right HaHaHa"
You disagree with me and as such develop arguements which make sense to you in that moment and are only analagous if you ignore 90% of the situation. The way you are writing I cannot tell if you are trying to make a legitimate arguement or being condescending.
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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby jpers36 » Tue May 29, 2012 2:43 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:Clearly we must reduce mass exposure to new chemicals until they have been tested on humans for at least a few generations.


Who is this "we" that's going to mandate human biochemical testing for a billion people, and mandate a separated primitive lifestyle for another billion?

You're not treating humans as an end. At all. You're treating the prospective future of the race as an end, while treating every actual currently-living person as a means.

C.S. Lewis wrote:'Strange!' said Oyarsa. 'You do not love any one of your race - you would have let me kill Ransom. You do not love the mind of your race, nor the body. Any kind of creature will please you if only it is begotten by your kind as they now are. It seems to me, Thick One, that what you really love is no completed creature but the very seed itself: for that is all that is left.'

[...]

'I see now how the lord of the silent world has bent you. There are laws that all hnau know, of pity and straight dealing and shame and the like, and one of these is the love of kindred. He has taught you to break all of them except this one, which is not one of the greatest laws; this one he has bent till it becomes folly and has set it up, thus bent, to be a little blind Oyarsa in your brain. And now you can do nothing but obey it, though if we ask you why it is a law you can give no other reason for it than for all the other and greater laws which it drives you to disobey. Do you know why he has done this?'

[...]

'I will tell you. He has left you this one because a bent hnau can do more evil than a broken one.'

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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby Fire Brns » Tue May 29, 2012 2:48 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:Soldiers can be punished and even killed for refusing to do things which would get them punished or even executed for doing as civilians. And employees can be disciplined or even fired for refusing to do things they would not consider doing on their own time.

I'm going to come back after I do some productive stuff to day but I wanted to adress the logical disconnect of this specific arguement.

Positive case
Soldier does something. Resulting in execution.
Civilian does something. Resulting in nothing.
vs.

Negative Case
Employee does something. Resulting in firing.
Non-Employee does nothing. Resulting in nothing.

I'll give you a chance to find a better analogy. (hint: the deserter arguement for a soldier may work, try to be prosetical with it)
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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby queueingtheory » Tue May 29, 2012 3:39 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:The problem to be solved, then, is how to make a free-market socialism work; to avoid capitalism without instituting a command economy. It's the only way that we can keep going forward, together; instead of us all staying behind together, or a select few running off to leave the rest behind.


I think you're begging the question of the best system. I don't think we need socialism.

We just want to protect people against bad luck and abuse while having sustainable progress. That can be achieved with a directed free market: free market plus a pushy welfare system plus pushy environmental and efficiency standards.

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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby Princess Marzipan » Tue May 29, 2012 5:18 pm UTC

Fire Brns wrote:But our disagreement on corporations and people appears is simply semantical.
And contextual.
I say this without malice: I think you may be bad at factoring context into communication, received and sent. Between the misread of "corporations are not people", and this last post...
Going back, full context, emphasis mine:
Fire Brns wrote:
Ghostbear wrote:So? Yeah, corporations have people in them. They also have money in them: find a corporation that does not contain a single financial element to it. That doesn't mean that corporations are money. Corporations are as much people as people are lungs (find me a human without any lungs!). All you've pointed out is that corporations are a form of divided property, but so are the houses of married couples, and houses sure as fuck aren't people.
I never stated that corporations were not money so you are skewing the discussion. The divided property was bought with the money earned from the labours of man. What is man besides the minutes he lives and value he contributes?
Your question of value here is in the context of property and labors. But your last post...
Fire Brns wrote:Everything is inherently based on value, it just happens that there are different types of value from monetary, to entertainment, to educational, ect. Everything done is done in some way productive, even arsonists burn buildings down because they like to. So their happiness is a measurable value. Value is comparable of energy, We have elecromagnetic, kinetic, chemical, ect. Money is elecromagnetic, the most observable; entertainment value is kinetic; educational value can be described as chemical as it is stored untill needed and then transfers often to monetary value. There are many more examples, people choose mates on a collection of their values just as people purchase goods on their likelyhood to turn around.
...adds other kinds of values that were implicitly not being considered in your previous statement. When you talk about the value of a man's labors in the context of a discussion about corporations, you need to explicitly state if you're also including values that aren't relevant to corporations.



Apologies to your week's to-do list, but I must add some actual disagreement!

Breaking your paragraph into two parts to make separate points:
Fire Brns wrote:To a more recent point of companies focusing on money as their final goal? Our final goal is to secure food, water, ect. As such we act in a way in which we can attain the most of it.
That's not what companies are doing. Billionaires have secured more food and water than they will ever possibly consume, COULD ever possibly consume, in multiple lifetimes. They are past stockpiling for survival's sake, and are stockpiling to ensure the continuation of their luxury. To compare this to the proverbial ant working merely to survive through winter is improper.

Fire Brns wrote:A company providing excelent service has more loyal customers, nearly all the factors you described are attempted or implemented by corporations. In dislikable companies it fails at lower levels because people fail to implement them. Customer service depends on the employees that deal with the public to provide "sincere service with a smile".
Let's talk about bank and credit card support lines. Do you know how hard it is to get actual customer service from those lines? It's pretty hard! And it's not because the people you talk to are bad at customer service. Employees are an important part of the customer service equation to be sure, but you are claiming here that bad employees are wholly responsible for negative perceptions of customer service. In reality, the biggest factor is how far the company will allow its employees to go to make sure interactions end with a happy customer. No matter how much the person on the other end of the phone empathizes with me over high interest rates or ridiculous overdraft fees, more often than the support rep's hands are tightly tied. I seriously had a support rep tell me I should pay the credit card company instead of my utilities, because the latter gives me a larger window in which to pay before incurring a hit to my credit score. That's NOT customer service, but it's still the best service they could actually offer me. As a PERSON, they're being pretty helpful, as much as they can in the context of our conversation, but as a representative of a company, they're useless, and that is the COMPANY'S fault.
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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue May 29, 2012 7:09 pm UTC

queueingtheory wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:The problem to be solved, then, is how to make a free-market socialism work; to avoid capitalism without instituting a command economy. It's the only way that we can keep going forward, together; instead of us all staying behind together, or a select few running off to leave the rest behind.


I think you're begging the question of the best system. I don't think we need socialism.

We just want to protect people against bad luck and abuse while having sustainable progress. That can be achieved with a directed free market: free market plus a pushy welfare system plus pushy environmental and efficiency standards.

I suspect, but am not entirely clear, that you have overly narrow conceptions of what socialism is.

In its broadest sense, socialism is any system concerned with benefit to society as a whole, all of its members equally, rather than the benefit of any one class over another. I suspect you are thinking of socialism as meaning a property-less economic system, or a government-controlled economic system, when my entire point was that the problem to be solved is how to avoid having one class oppressing another without those things.

If we are trying "to protect people against bad luck and abuse" as you say, we have social ends in mind, and so are looking for a form of socialism. Your "pushy welfare system" would be a form of (partial) command economy. Environmental standards might be construed as broadly socialist, inasmuch as they deal with the protection of public property, but don't necessarily have to stem from a command economy. And commanded efficiency standards neglects the original point that markets provide a greater incentive to efficiency than any mandate can, because the market as a whole is better at finding the true value of something to society (who comprise the market) than any individual entity in it is; i.e. a mandated efficiency standard might either demand the impossible or not demand enough, and without market feedback mechanisms those inefficiencies won't get corrected.
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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby Ghostbear » Wed May 30, 2012 12:47 am UTC

Fire Brns wrote:Earlier Ghostbear made the comparison with people and cells; corporations function on the choices of people to opt in or out, cells cannot. With the silicon chip again the atoms have as much choice to affect the chip as they do to exert gravity.
Both your's and Ghostbear's reads as this: "I've found specific rigid system case X to refute your general flexible case Y. You are wrong I am right HaHaHa"
You disagree with me and as such develop arguements which make sense to you in that moment and are only analagous if you ignore 90% of the situation. The way you are writing I cannot tell if you are trying to make a legitimate arguement or being condescending.

No, this is you moving your goalposts. Your argument was "being made up of [x] makes something [x]" (re: corporations -> people). Chips & transistors are an example of how that doesn't hold -- the inability for the individual transistors to consent to such is completely and utterly immaterial. It is refuting that one simple claim. Choice has nothing to do with it.

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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby Cygnata » Wed May 30, 2012 5:48 am UTC

It's been done. See etsy or ebay. Etsy's catching some flak for their practices, too.

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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby J Thomas » Wed May 30, 2012 8:41 am UTC

jpers36 wrote:
J Thomas wrote:Clearly we must reduce mass exposure to new chemicals until they have been tested on humans for at least a few generations.


Who is this "we" that's going to mandate human biochemical testing for a billion people, and mandate a separated primitive lifestyle for another billion?


"We" is humanity. The organization required to actually get the results we need has not yet been created. But don't worry, it will be composed of human beings and therefore will be just as human as a corporation or an army.

The closest we have to an organization with a long-term goal is the Catholic church. It has survived something like 1500 years. A similarly long-lived Taoist organization in china has apparently been destroyed by the communists. If there are any other organizations that have lasted very long, they are secret societies whose histories are uncertain. We currently have no method to deal with big problems or long-term problems. Well, we have a "method". When people notice a big problem they can get the governments of the world to hold a series of meetings with the intention of producing an agreement which those governments might then do something about. :roll:

You're not treating humans as an end. At all. You're treating the prospective future of the race as an end, while treating every actual currently-living person as a means.


Well duh! You say that like it's a bad thing.

At present nobody at all takes responsibility for the survival of humanity. And you accuse me of going too far in that direction!

Meiotic drive is real. I gave you a brief description and an example. Here's a link. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intragenomic_conflict

Random mating in a too-large population will predictably cause disaster. So which is more important? Mitigating the disaster, or preserving your right to reproduce with anybody in the world you can successfully impregnate?

I want to point out that it isn't necessary to have a "world government" with a law that you can only reproduce within your own large clan. That would probably not be an effective way to do it. What is needed is some approach that has the result that you will only reproduce within your own large clan. If you're perfectly happy with that and wouldn't want it any other way, that's just peachy.
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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby Zamfir » Wed May 30, 2012 11:19 am UTC

J Thomas your silicon chip arguement doesn't work either. Earlier Ghostbear made the comparison with people and cells; corporations function on the choices of people to opt in or out, cells cannot. With the silicon chip again the atoms have as much choice to affect the chip as they do to exert gravity.

Yes, people have an ability to influence the cooperate efforts they are part of, but unless the total effort is very small and localized, they only have a very limited influence. After all, pretty much all people are replacable or expedndable. At a cost, but usually a limited cost compared to the entire effort.

"Voice, exit, loyalty" was a brilliant concept here. Hirschman coined it for dissatisfied consumers, but the same choice applies in many places. Up to people near the top of hierarchies, like a general who disagree with strategy. And in many cases, the exit of a single person has little to no effect. Even generals or CEOs can be replaced, usually by other very competent people.

Voice is the powerful alternative: explain your satisfaction, hope that others who silently agreed will raise their voices in support, or that people change their mind towards your view, whether it's about Afghanistan or fluorescent patches on the new sneakers.

But succesful voice can be hard work and it is very uncertain. It often requires a new organization within the larger organization before the voice becomes loud enough. An Asics Sneakers Fanclub, or a Committee of Concerned Officers. Then there will be disagreement within the fanclub about the club's position on fluorescent patches, or the Committees position on drone attacks. And the same "voice exit loyalty" choice repeats on a smaller scale, etc.

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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby queueingtheory » Wed May 30, 2012 12:36 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
queueingtheory wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:The problem to be solved, then, is how to make a free-market socialism work; to avoid capitalism without instituting a command economy. It's the only way that we can keep going forward, together; instead of us all staying behind together, or a select few running off to leave the rest behind.


I think you're begging the question of the best system. I don't think we need socialism.

We just want to protect people against bad luck and abuse while having sustainable progress. That can be achieved with a directed free market: free market plus a pushy welfare system plus pushy environmental and efficiency standards.

I suspect, but am not entirely clear, that you have overly narrow conceptions of what socialism is.

In its broadest sense, socialism is any system concerned with benefit to society as a whole, all of its members equally, rather than the benefit of any one class over another. I suspect you are thinking of socialism as meaning a property-less economic system, or a government-controlled economic system, when my entire point was that the problem to be solved is how to avoid having one class oppressing another without those things.

If we are trying "to protect people against bad luck and abuse" as you say, we have social ends in mind, and so are looking for a form of socialism. Your "pushy welfare system" would be a form of (partial) command economy. Environmental standards might be construed as broadly socialist, inasmuch as they deal with the protection of public property, but don't necessarily have to stem from a command economy. And commanded efficiency standards neglects the original point that markets provide a greater incentive to efficiency than any mandate can, because the market as a whole is better at finding the true value of something to society (who comprise the market) than any individual entity in it is; i.e. a mandated efficiency standard might either demand the impossible or not demand enough, and without market feedback mechanisms those inefficiencies won't get corrected.


Actually, I think your definition of socialism is overly broad. :D

To me, the minimum requirement for socialism is that it is not just concerned with, but aims for benefit to all of its members equally.

What I suggest is a system that seeks only to guarantee a minimum quality of life for current and future populations but otherwise expects personal responsibility and allow individual and market freedom.

And, I think you are wrong about the free market. What the free market does well is to provide solutions to problems. However, the effectiveness of the market depends on consumers recognizing and wanting to fix the problems. Since consumers don't do that, either through ignorance, miscalculation, short-term thinking or self-centered behavior, we end up with energy crises, debt crises and credit cards.

While efficiency mandates are also imperfect, they help protect against both producers and consumers acting against common interest. (And by common interest I mean the minimum standard that protects the future population, in particular). For example, a truly free market allows consumer to favor cheap and inefficient over expensive and efficient, even when they are acting against their own and others' interest through ignorance or miscalculation.

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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby J Thomas » Wed May 30, 2012 1:14 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:If we are trying "to protect people against bad luck and abuse" as you say, we have social ends in mind, and so are looking for a form of socialism. Your "pushy welfare system" would be a form of (partial) command economy.


Could we get a definition for "command economy"? I thought I knew what it meant but it seems to be used generally to just mean something bad that government does to businesses.

Environmental standards might be construed as broadly socialist, inasmuch as they deal with the protection of public property, but don't necessarily have to stem from a command economy.


They have to restrict somebody's freedom somehow, or they aren't standards. If everybody just did whatever-the-hell they wanted independent of anybody else, that would be a free market and not socialism at all.

And commanded efficiency standards neglects the original point that markets provide a greater incentive to efficiency than any mandate can, because the market as a whole is better at finding the true value of something to society (who comprise the market) than any individual entity in it is; i.e. a mandated efficiency standard might either demand the impossible or not demand enough, and without market feedback mechanisms those inefficiencies won't get corrected.


This is the fallacy of the excluded non-market feedback mechanism. There are many feedback mechanisms possible. Some will be quicker than markets, some more informative, some cheaper, etc. For that matter there are many possible varieties of markets, and it's a high art to design the best market for some particular purpose.

Possibly this discussion might work better at a lower order of abstraction. Talk about markets and command economies inevitably includes a variety of assumptions which will not fit particular examples.
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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby Zamfir » Wed May 30, 2012 1:57 pm UTC


Actually, I think your definition of socialism is overly broad.


To me, the minimum requirement for socialism is that it is not just concerned with, but aims for benefit to all of its members equally.

What I suggest is a system that seeks only to guarantee a minimum quality of life for current and future populations but otherwise expects personal responsibility and allow individual and market freedom.

And, I think you are wrong about the free market. What the free market does well is to provide solutions to problems. However, the effectiveness of the market depends on consumers recognizing and wanting to fix the problems. Since consumers don't do that, either through ignorance, miscalculation, short-term thinking or self-centered behavior, we end up with energy crises, debt crises and credit cards.


Socialism is primarily a method (or a range of methods), more than a specific goal. Or call it an intermediate goal. Common ownership of the means of production. The common owners can then decide which goals they want to aim at. Which might be extremely egalitarian, or your proposal of a guaranteed minimum, or something else altogether.

Where common ownership can mean different things depending on who you talk to, or the scale on which they want to implement these methods is also different, or how they want to accomplish this.

Compare it to democracy. Democracy is not a goal that the government should do this or do that, it's an idea about who decides what the government does.

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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby jpers36 » Wed May 30, 2012 2:16 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:
You're not treating humans as an end. At all. You're treating the prospective future of the race as an end, while treating every actual currently-living person as a means.


Well duh! You say that like it's a bad thing.


I referenced it earlier, but let me make this explicit. Go read CS Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet. He deals with your flavor of insanity head-on, and much better than I could.

The future of humanity is not the highest good. Sacrificing the agency and lives of actual humans for the sake of potential humans is immorality of the worst sort. If you can't honestly grapple with this, we're at an impasse and I have nothing more to say on the topic.

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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby J Thomas » Wed May 30, 2012 5:47 pm UTC

jpers36 wrote:
J Thomas wrote:
You're not treating humans as an end. At all. You're treating the prospective future of the race as an end, while treating every actual currently-living person as a means.


Well duh! You say that like it's a bad thing.


I referenced it earlier, but let me make this explicit. Go read CS Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet. He deals with your flavor of insanity head-on, and much better than I could.

The future of humanity is not the highest good. Sacrificing the agency and lives of actual humans for the sake of potential humans is immorality of the worst sort. If you can't honestly grapple with this, we're at an impasse and I have nothing more to say on the topic.


I must disagree. There is no reason that the present of humanity and the future of humanity should be opposed. People can have perfectly happy and satisfying lives without doing things that will cause a giant disaster that might drive humanity extinct.

I don't know how we'll do it, but it has to be a way that very few people will rebel against. We have no hope of getting humanity as a whole to follow a plan for twenty generations if the methods generate resistance. See, you are strawmanning. You object to my goal because it reminds you of something a disingenious christian apologist said.
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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby Princess Marzipan » Wed May 30, 2012 6:47 pm UTC

Maybe they disagree with the part where you think a community of humans is going to be okay with being subjected to random chemicals and the point of their lives will be reduced to seeing whether or not their offspring are genetically defective because of said chemicals?
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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby J Thomas » Wed May 30, 2012 7:04 pm UTC

Princess Marzipan wrote:Maybe they disagree with the part where you think a community of humans is going to be okay with being subjected to random chemicals and the point of their lives will be reduced to seeing whether or not their offspring are genetically defective because of said chemicals?


Oh, that! Hey, that's no big deal. Simple solution.

Until we find enough people who're ready to agree to that, we can just keep those chemicals banned. Fair enough?

Because, see, what we're doing now is we expose people at random to the same chemicals and we don't keep records to see what happens to them. Or even who was exposed. I was proposing a compromise for the people who want random progress, but we can do better if people will agree to just not use the stuff.
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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby BrianX » Wed May 30, 2012 7:08 pm UTC

Fire Brns wrote:The sherman antitrust act is in place so it's not like free market would result in an anarchistic road warrior society run by men on the top floors of skysrapers. If I remember correctly government control of supply and demand can do worse than the free market. I like how you challenge assertions I didn't make. Thanks for making a lighthearted discussion uncomfortably political.


I would stop short of assuming that government control will do worse, though; free market control ignores situations where its services are necessary but not profitable, and not all government control is necessarily a command economy (which is what free market fundies seem to assume is the case when you talk about government running the show, and which manifestly never ever works). The free market also has a tendency to set commodity prices unacceptably low for producers -- that's why the government spends so much on farm subsidies. The farmers need to stay in business one way or the other, because we need the products they produce.

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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby Fire Brns » Thu May 31, 2012 3:11 am UTC

I'm far to lazy to respond to the other stuff so you can chalk it up as a victory if you want. I still disagree.
BrianX wrote:
Fire Brns wrote:The sherman antitrust act is in place so it's not like free market would result in an anarchistic road warrior society run by men on the top floors of skysrapers. If I remember correctly government control of supply and demand can do worse than the free market. I like how you challenge assertions I didn't make. Thanks for making a lighthearted discussion uncomfortably political.


I would stop short of assuming that government control will do worse, though; free market control ignores situations where its services are necessary but not profitable, and not all government control is necessarily a command economy (which is what free market fundies seem to assume is the case when you talk about government running the show, and which manifestly never ever works). The free market also has a tendency to set commodity prices unacceptably low for producers -- that's why the government spends so much on farm subsidies. The farmers need to stay in business one way or the other, because we need the products they produce.

10 million died of starvation because of government control of grain production in the Ukraine, this was intentional genocide so is ignorable for this arguement; but then 50 million in China also starved because farmers were redirected to produce crude iron, until Mao realized rice farmers could not produce usable metals.

Subsidies allow corporations to undercharge farmers as well. If farmer's incomes were not subsidized there would either make do or close shop. A decrease in supply would force consumers to pay more for the goods. While this sounds immoral rather than an individual's money going through a store and the government to get to the farmer it would only go through the store. Government in more cases rather than helping is the equivelant of sticking training wheels on everyone's bike wether they want them or not.
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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu May 31, 2012 4:25 am UTC

BrianX wrote:I would stop short of assuming that government control will do worse, though; free market control ignores situations where its services are necessary but not profitable, and not all government control is necessarily a command economy (which is what free market fundies seem to assume is the case when you talk about government running the show, and which manifestly never ever works).


A command economy is one where the state says who will trade what with whom for how much of what else. It is the literal antonym, the logical negation, of a free market, one where all trades are voluntary. So an economy is a command economy exactly to the degree that the state is controlling it. That's not some fundie dogma, that's just what words mean.

None of this is to say that every economy is either entirely free market or command. Just that to the extent it's not one, it's the other.

The free market also has a tendency to set commodity prices unacceptably low for producers

If they're unacceptably low, why would anyone sell for them, given a choice sell to whomever they like for whatever they will agree to (i.e. a free market)? And if nobody will sell for that price, how can the market have set that price, since the market price just is whatever price trades stabilize at? A market price is defined by its mutual acceptability to both buyers and sellers; it's the price that buyers and sellers collectively agree upon.

Now, whether any particular market is actually free or not is still an open question at this point, and I'll gladly argue that a lot of markets that some people call "free" aren't as free as some people think.

J Thomas wrote:Until we find enough people who're ready to agree to that, we can just keep those chemicals banned. Fair enough?

Or, we can let everybody decide for themselves whether or not to be exposed to those chemicals (i.e. whether they are in the test group or the control group), and ask nicely, or maybe offer some incentive, for them to record data, or allow us to record data, about the impact of those chemicals on them. Which is how we do things now.

J Thomas wrote:Could we get a definition for "command economy"? I thought I knew what it meant but it seems to be used generally to just mean something bad that government does to businesses.

See above.

Environmental standards might be construed as broadly socialist, inasmuch as they deal with the protection of public property, but don't necessarily have to stem from a command economy.

They have to restrict somebody's freedom somehow, or they aren't standards. If everybody just did whatever-the-hell they wanted independent of anybody else, that would be a free market and not socialism at all.

A free market doesn't mean that everybody does whatever they want with no restrictions whatsoever. No free market advocate would abolish laws against vandalism, for instance. It just means that nobody is imposing on their rights to their property. If we consider natural resources to be joint property of everyone, then protection of them can be justified by protecting property rights -- everybody's mutual rights to those natural resources -- rather than by imposing on them. Pollution is vandalism of public property, in essence.

Also, you seem to be missing my point that "free market" and "socialism" are not antonyms. "Free market" and "command economy" are antonyms; "socialism" and "capitalism" are, well not quite antonyms, but at least contrary. (There are other things besides capitalism which are contrary to socialism too). The whole point of that comment was that environmental protection is a socialist goal (public good) well-suited to being modeled as a free-market problem (for a market to be free it must be well-regulated, in the sense that property rights must be protected; if they are not, then one player in the market can impose his will on others and the market ceases to be free; so if some market players are allowed to trod on the property rights of all others -- in natural resources, for instance -- then to that extent, the market has not been kept free, one player is imposing himself on the others).

queueingtheory wrote:To me, the minimum requirement for socialism is that it is not just concerned with, but aims for benefit to all of its members equally.


I'm not sure what you're getting at here. To me those sound like synonyms. Everyone aims to alleviate their concerns.

And, I think you are wrong about the free market. What the free market does well is to provide solutions to problems. However, the effectiveness of the market depends on consumers recognizing and wanting to fix the problems. Since consumers don't do that, either through ignorance, miscalculation, short-term thinking or self-centered behavior, we end up with energy crises, debt crises and credit cards.


If nobody considers something a problem, how is it a problem? Problems are failures to provide people with what they want (roughly speaking; I have some technical quibbles I'll refrain from making here). If everybody is fine with something, there is by definition no problem.

While efficiency mandates are also imperfect, they help protect against both producers and consumers acting against common interest. (And by common interest I mean the minimum standard that protects the future population, in particular). For example, a truly free market allows consumer to favor cheap and inefficient over expensive and efficient, even when they are acting against their own and others' interest through ignorance or miscalculation.


I think there is some confusion over the meaning of the word "efficient" here. I am using it in terms of economic efficiency; loosely speaking, "bang for your buck". The most reward for the least loss, and thus, the greatest gain. In this sense "cheap and inefficient" and "expensive and efficient" don't make sense, unless "cheap" and "expensive" are in terms of only cost and not cost/value ratio, while "inefficient" and "efficient" are only in terms of value (some other kind of efficiency?) and not cost/value ratio.
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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby Zamfir » Thu May 31, 2012 8:49 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:If they're unacceptably low, why would anyone sell for them, given a choice sell to whomever they like for whatever they will agree to (i.e. a free market)?

Cause they don't have something else to sell? People try hard not to become a producer of a commodity, unless economies of scale can give you market power. So small-scale commodity producers are the people who had no attractive options left. In general, markets that are close to perfect competition (in the economist's sense) suck for the people in it. It squeezes the surpluses on their income side, without an accompanying gain on the consumption side.

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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby Widmerpool » Thu May 31, 2012 9:48 am UTC

Isaac wrote:
gormster wrote:
Isaac wrote:
Qaanol wrote:Ah, middlemen. Extracting cash without adding wealth. Yum.


I believe you've just demonstrated a greater understanding of basic economics than either Ben Bernanke, Tim Geithner or Paul Krugman possess.


Except that's almost always not true. If middlemen were valueless nobody would use them, unless they have a monopoly. Which is not that uncommon... but still, middlemen like Amazon or iTunes provide a bunch of valuable services to both seller and buyer. Middelmen exist to make life easier for the people on opposite ends of complex transactions.


Even when middlemen provide value, do not produce wealth. They may facilitate the creation of wealth, but do not create it themselves. Which makes it desirable to remove them when possible but it doesn't make them parasitic. I probably should of snipped out "Ah, middlemen" and changed "wealth" to "value", but I also set the bar for basic understanding of economics pretty low.

[edited for clarity]

Hmm. Value means anything you're willing to pay for; having someone deliver my newspaper for me has value, though the deliverer is a pure middle-person. I wouldn't say it's desirable to remove that person from the chain.

The only people that create wealth...um...doesn't it depend what you mean by 'wealth'? If you mean 'stuff' then it's farmers, production line workers, bakers, brewers etc. If you mean 'money', well, money is just a derivative ("stuff futures"), a way of rationing stuff. It only means anything if there's stuff for it to buy. But 'stuff' includes things like services (having my paper delivered). So I'm not really clear what the difference is between wealth and value.

You might notice I've never studied economics, so I'm bracing myself to learn here :-)
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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby queueingtheory » Thu May 31, 2012 1:02 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
queueingtheory wrote:To me, the minimum requirement for socialism is that it is not just concerned with, but aims for benefit to all of its members equally.


I'm not sure what you're getting at here. To me those sound like synonyms. Everyone aims to alleviate their concerns.


The key difference is whether the government would act continuously and directly to raise living standards for all. Providing minimum protections that don't shift over time is very different.

If my suggestion is socialism, all government is socialism and the term socialism is redundant.

And, I think you are wrong about the free market. What the free market does well is to provide solutions to problems. However, the effectiveness of the market depends on consumers recognizing and wanting to fix the problems. Since consumers don't do that, either through ignorance, miscalculation, short-term thinking or self-centered behavior, we end up with energy crises, debt crises and credit cards.


If nobody considers something a problem, how is it a problem? Problems are failures to provide people with what they want (roughly speaking; I have some technical quibbles I'll refrain from making here). If everybody is fine with something, there is by definition no problem.


It's not that nobody considers it a problem, it's that in a free market in an industrial society the actions of individuals are insignificant: there has to be sufficient market to allow support economies of scale so that a producer can meet the needs of a group. Ignorance and selfishness cause harm.

We end up with the prisoner's dilemma on a grand scale. For example, taken as a whole, credit cards are bad since they add a costly overhead to transactions and people would be much better making almost all of their purchases in cash. Merchants will adjust their prices to include the credit card transaction costs. Some people will make cash purchases anyway. A merchant could offer discounts for payment in cash, but if they do, the price for credit card users must be higher. But if a competing store doesn't offer cash discounts, the fraction of cash purchases subsidizes the credit card purchasers and the price for credit card users can be lower. So, the merchant is stuck: they could increase cash custom with discounts but in doing so they could lose credit-card custom. To make matters worse, credit card companies offer incentives on credit cards that make the individual customer's incentive to pay with credit card greater.

While efficiency mandates are also imperfect, they help protect against both producers and consumers acting against common interest. (And by common interest I mean the minimum standard that protects the future population, in particular). For example, a truly free market allows consumer to favor cheap and inefficient over expensive and efficient, even when they are acting against their own and others' interest through ignorance or miscalculation.


I think there is some confusion over the meaning of the word "efficient" here. I am using it in terms of economic efficiency; loosely speaking, "bang for your buck". The most reward for the least loss, and thus, the greatest gain. In this sense "cheap and inefficient" and "expensive and efficient" don't make sense, unless "cheap" and "expensive" are in terms of only cost and not cost/value ratio, while "inefficient" and "efficient" are only in terms of value (some other kind of efficiency?) and not cost/value ratio.


Cheap and expensive as in purchase price. Inefficient or efficient in terms of energy use or running cost. Miscalculation or simply being capital poor can lead to bad economic purchases. But even if the purchase is economic for an individual consumer limited energy supply means that poor energy efficiency reduces overall productivity and wealth.

But it's not just that: since in a free market investment and research is directed by profit, if the market largely doesn't care about an attribute in the short or medium term there will be less investment in it, even if the long-term benefit would be greater.
Last edited by queueingtheory on Thu May 31, 2012 1:16 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby queueingtheory » Thu May 31, 2012 1:15 pm UTC

Widmerpool wrote:Hmm. Value means anything you're willing to pay for; having someone deliver my newspaper for me has value, though the deliverer is a pure middle-person. I wouldn't say it's desirable to remove that person from the chain.

The only people that create wealth...um...doesn't it depend what you mean by 'wealth'? If you mean 'stuff' then it's farmers, production line workers, bakers, brewers etc. If you mean 'money', well, money is just a derivative ("stuff futures"), a way of rationing stuff. It only means anything if there's stuff for it to buy. But 'stuff' includes things like services (having my paper delivered). So I'm not really clear what the difference is between wealth and value.

You might notice I've never studied economics, so I'm bracing myself to learn here :-)


(I haven't studied economics either.)

I think they're being very specific about "create" rather than wealth. That is, middlemen affect wealth but don't create it. That is, in a producer-enabler-bureaucrat-consumer model they are either enablers or bureaucrats. Either way it's desirable to eliminate them by coming up with systems that efficiently connect producers and consumers. That's why the Internet is so incredibly awesome.

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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby J Thomas » Thu May 31, 2012 4:03 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
BrianX wrote:I would stop short of assuming that government control will do worse, though; free market control ignores situations where its services are necessary but not profitable, and not all government control is necessarily a command economy (which is what free market fundies seem to assume is the case when you talk about government running the show, and which manifestly never ever works).


A command economy is one where the state says who will trade what with whom for how much of what else. It is the literal antonym, the logical negation, of a free market, one where all trades are voluntary. So an economy is a command economy exactly to the degree that the state is controlling it. That's not some fundie dogma, that's just what words mean.


So a state can buy whatever it wants on the market and the market is still free. But whenever the state does any kind of regulation, then it's not free. But what about when public opinion restricts people's choices? Or private thugs? Unless we choose to give special legitimacy to governments, they are only a particularly organized and powerful variety of thug restricting people's choices. Shouldn't all the others count too? If you want to get a bumper sticker advertising NAMBLA but you realize that it would get your car vandalized and cause all sorts of trouble so you don't buy it, haven't you been coerced just as much as if a government did it?

And what about false information? If an advertiser succeeds in stirring your irrational subconscious desires so that you buy something you have no use for at too high a price, is it really your free choice? That doesn't sound like a free market to me.

None of this is to say that every economy is either entirely free market or command. Just that to the extent it's not one, it's the other.

The free market also has a tendency to set commodity prices unacceptably low for producers

If they're unacceptably low, why would anyone sell for them, given a choice sell to whomever they like for whatever they will agree to (i.e. a free market)? And if nobody will sell for that price, how can the market have set that price, since the market price just is whatever price trades stabilize at? A market price is defined by its mutual acceptability to both buyers and sellers; it's the price that buyers and sellers collectively agree upon.


The traditional example was family farmers. They wanted to farm because it was their way of life, so they tended to keep doing it until they lost their farms and had to stop. The story I got told in grade school was that there were a few middlemen buying and a lot of farmers selling, so the farmers tended to lose. As the small farmers got pushed into the cities they were replaced by fewer, bigger businesses that could negotiate more effectively. So it could be argued that there was nothing wrong. The businesses that for whatever reason could not compete went under and were replaced by businesses that could compete better.

By the 1960's the US public had gotten nostalgic for small farmers and accepted legislation to help them. One of my friends was doing that. His father had a government job in DC and the wife and children ran the farm during the week, then the father came home on weekends and worked hard. They had their own gas pump in their driveway that had subsidized gasoline, that could only be used for farm business. They ate beef they grew themselves; it had a weird taste because it wasn't corn-fed. The father wrote a letter to President Johnson explaining that taking advantage of the farm subsidies intended for small farmers required so much paperwork that only large farmers could do it. He got investigated and nearly lost his job. Then the IRS told him that unless he could prove he made a profit for the past 5 years they would reclassify his farm as a hobby and charge him full price for everything. Under the old rules he had charged lots of stuff like his commute to DC as a farm expense rather than a job expense, because he got a better deal that way. They suddenly changed the rules. He had to sell and they all moved into a tiny apartment in a high-rise in Crystal City.

Now, whether any particular market is actually free or not is still an open question at this point, and I'll gladly argue that a lot of markets that some people call "free" aren't as free as some people think.


No markets are very free. But maybe that isn't the point. Most markets have some aspect of freedom, and we can look at the value of that.

J Thomas wrote:Until we find enough people who're ready to agree to that, we can just keep those chemicals banned. Fair enough?

Or, we can let everybody decide for themselves whether or not to be exposed to those chemicals (i.e. whether they are in the test group or the control group), and ask nicely, or maybe offer some incentive, for them to record data, or allow us to record data, about the impact of those chemicals on them. Which is how we do things now.


Well, no. How we do it now is: For pharmaceuticals utterly inadequate testing is done by the patent holder who desperately wants a favorable result. If the owner of the drug can provide scientific evidence that the drug is safe and effective for something, they are allowed to sell it to anybody they can get an MD to prescribe it to. Nobody tracks the result. But if after a time somebody finds the drug does have bad results, then there will be a class-action suit on the part of everybody who took it. There may be TV ads telling people who think they took it to sign up and get some of the money. A court of law, run by lawyers with perhaps a jury composed entirely of people who were carefully chosen to not understand the science, will decide what happened and how much money is owed.

For nonpharmaceuticals, even less adequate testing is done, and then the chemical can be put into products that will eventually be sent to the dumps, flushed down the drains, broken into scattered pieces, recycled, etc. In the meantime those products can go anywhere, though there's some effort to keep non-food-grade materials from having direct contact with foods.

Nobody is in any position to make an informed choice. The amount of money available for testing is an absurdly low fraction of the money available to market new chemicals. I think that money does tend to be used well -- they sometimes notice health problems in workers who produce the new chemicals, and they watch chemicals that are closely related to known risks, etc. They use what they have effectively to catch the most toxic chemicals that are easiest to spot.

But you do not know what you have been exposed to. And there is no way for you to find out. So much of the public has been exposed to so much that there is no control group. When the state of California required that manufacturers label products that contained known carcinogens, it turned out to be so many labels that the warnings became a joke. People assumed that California was being unreasonable because there were too many warnings, and a product which didn't have the warning was most likely in violation. Is there something about free markets which makes this situation somehow acceptable?


Environmental standards might be construed as broadly socialist, inasmuch as they deal with the protection of public property, but don't necessarily have to stem from a command economy.

They have to restrict somebody's freedom somehow, or they aren't standards. If everybody just did whatever-the-hell they wanted independent of anybody else, that would be a free market and not socialism at all.

A free market doesn't mean that everybody does whatever they want with no restrictions whatsoever. No free market advocate would abolish laws against vandalism, for instance. It just means that nobody is imposing on their rights to their property. If we consider natural resources to be joint property of everyone, then protection of them can be justified by protecting property rights -- everybody's mutual rights to those natural resources -- rather than by imposing on them. Pollution is vandalism of public property, in essence.


Now you are putting new restrictions on it. Property rights are fundamentally arbitrary. Different societies give people different rights, according to the needs of the particular society. There isn't much reason to say that one is better than another, except the argument that we are rich and powerful so we can impose our values on them, and that's proof that we are doing something right.

So in addition to a free market you require a government that decides who has what rights, and the government then enforces those rights. Whew!

I want to propose a simpler idea. You have a free market when the participants agree about who has what rights, and they freely choose to trade their rights.

Here are some free markets, by that approach:

http://www.sideshowworld.com/13-TGOD/20 ... beach.html
Hundreds of street performers played with fire, chainsaws, broken glass, etc on Venice Beach. How did they sort out who got to perform where on the beach? It was public property, anybody could go wherever they wanted, and the performers depended on tourists doing exactly that. A little old woman sold them spots. Why did she have the right to do that? A lot of performers and "locals" liked it that way. It would be hard to buck the system. Everybody who agreed that "Mom" had the right to assign spaces, were engaging in a free market transaction when they bought a space from her.

Tourists in theory could watch all the performances and not pay anything. They could walk wherever they wanted and see whatever they wanted. But the performers who made money, learned ways to persuade the tourists to pay. They would turn the payment into part of the show. They would good-naturedly embarrass somebody who didn't pay. Etc. But they did not threaten anybody with violence. Nobody was physically or legally coerced. The tourists who chose to pay small amounts of money to see a show they could have seen for free, were engaging in a free market.

http://www.orientalist-art.org.uk/rosso.html NSFW*
At a slave market where the buyers agree that the sellers have the right to own the slaves, and buy that right without coercion -- the market is free. The slaves are not free, but the transaction between buyers and sellers is no different from that between people who buy and sell apples or oranges or whips or manacles. They have an agreement about their rights and they buy and sell those rights.

In all cases, what is bought and sold in a free market is rights. Buyer and seller agree that the seller has those rights and has the right to sell them. The rights themselves are arbitrary and assigned by social consensus or sometimes merely by agreement between the parties involved.

Also, you seem to be missing my point that "free market" and "socialism" are not antonyms. "Free market" and "command economy" are antonyms; "socialism" and "capitalism" are, well not quite antonyms, but at least contrary. (There are other things besides capitalism which are contrary to socialism too). The whole point of that comment was that environmental protection is a socialist goal (public good) well-suited to being modeled as a free-market problem (for a market to be free it must be well-regulated, in the sense that property rights must be protected; if they are not, then one player in the market can impose his will on others and the market ceases to be free; so if some market players are allowed to trod on the property rights of all others -- in natural resources, for instance -- then to that extent, the market has not been kept free, one player is imposing himself on the others).


OK, here you agree that it isn't just the state that can make a market less free, but any participant who disagrees about what rights others have and who enforces his own view of the rights. Or maybe you mean it's an unfree market if he imposes his view of rights when he is objectively wrong and other people's concept of their rights is objectively right. I don't want to go there....

And, I think you are wrong about the free market. What the free market does well is to provide solutions to problems. However, the effectiveness of the market depends on consumers recognizing and wanting to fix the problems. Since consumers don't do that, either through ignorance, miscalculation, short-term thinking or self-centered behavior, we end up with energy crises, debt crises and credit cards.


If nobody considers something a problem, how is it a problem?


What, me worry? What I don't know can't hurt me.

Random guys wrote:"Hey, J Thomas says there are probably 10,000 carcinogens floating around that weren't even invented 50 years ago, and nobody's even measuring how much of them there are."
"Nobody knows, and nobody cares except J Thomas. It's nobody's problem but his."
"Yeah, OK. Oh, also I just got diagnosed with cancer."
"Ouch! Man, you got a problem. You got insurance?"
"Yeah, and they say it's a really good thing I do because the treatment will cost over half a million over the next six months unless I die quicker than that."
"Ouch! Man, your insurance company has got a problem."
"Say, about those carcinogens...."
"Don't worry about them. As long as nobody cares they aren't anybody's problem."


Problems are failures to provide people with what they want (roughly speaking; I have some technical quibbles I'll refrain from making here). If everybody is fine with something, there is by definition no problem.


To my way of thinking, you have defined away an important problem. Your glib assertion shows me that there is something wrong with your thinking, because if there was nothing wrong you would not arrive at this reductio ad absurdum.

While efficiency mandates are also imperfect, they help protect against both producers and consumers acting against common interest. (And by common interest I mean the minimum standard that protects the future population, in particular). For example, a truly free market allows consumer to favor cheap and inefficient over expensive and efficient, even when they are acting against their own and others' interest through ignorance or miscalculation.


I think there is some confusion over the meaning of the word "efficient" here. I am using it in terms of economic efficiency; loosely speaking, "bang for your buck". The most reward for the least loss, and thus, the greatest gain. In this sense "cheap and inefficient" and "expensive and efficient" don't make sense, unless "cheap" and "expensive" are in terms of only cost and not cost/value ratio, while "inefficient" and "efficient" are only in terms of value (some other kind of efficiency?) and not cost/value ratio.


There's a question of time scale also. Something that looks cheap and quite efficient in the short run may have costs that won't show up until later.

Also economies of scale. Say you can make an important product. You can supply it to a nice US paying market for $X/unit. You can supply it to everybody in the world for $X/20 per unit. But a whole lot of the world population cannot afford to buy it even though they would want it. Of course you will produce only as much as you can sell at a decent price. If you increase capacity and as a result your variable cost goes way down, you're only asking for trouble.

In reality you don't know many of the variables you would need to figure out ahead of time what would be better. You don't really know the potential market, you don't really know the costs, etc. But if you did know all those things the answers you computed would depend on subtle details in the way you laid out the questions. Something that looks like the obvious best answer to you will look inefficient to somebody who chose a slightly different problem to solve.

* I wanted a nice, tasteful NSFW picture of a slave market in the old US south. So I google imaged <southern slave market> and found nothing. Just in case I counted the first few NSFW pictures. 67 NSFW arab slave markets. 18 NSFW roman, brazilian, or african slave markets. 9 copies of a Salvador Dali picture of a melting slave market, 13 cosplay or science fiction slave markets, and 30-some BDSM. Not one NSFW US south slave market.

The last time I looked for that, years ago, I found it. It seemed like the ratio of arab to roman portraits was a lot lower, too. There was a time that artists made a lot of oil paintings of arab slave markets because it gave them a legitimate excuse to paint nudes. They mined the classical world just about as much. But now it's 7:2 in favor of arabs. Is that left over from 9/11? And what happened to the old low-quality black-and-white southern pictures from the 1800s? Just to see, I tried <"black slave" NSFW> and got mostly BDSM, in most cases with white women. I'm sure that stuff is available somewhere, but did something happen to Google?
The Law of Fives is true. I see it everywhere I look for it.

Randomness
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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby Randomness » Fri Jun 01, 2012 12:53 am UTC

My, what a thread full of circular logic. All I will say is;

I don't care what daddy says, I'm going to marry that cooperation some day (though as it is genderless I may have to move to a state that allows homosexual unions first).

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Widmerpool
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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby Widmerpool » Fri Jun 01, 2012 2:39 pm UTC

queueingtheory wrote:
Widmerpool wrote:Hmm. Value means anything you're willing to pay for; having someone deliver my newspaper for me has value, though the deliverer is a pure middle-person. I wouldn't say it's desirable to remove that person from the chain.

The only people that create wealth...um...doesn't it depend what you mean by 'wealth'? If you mean 'stuff' then it's farmers, production line workers, bakers, brewers etc. If you mean 'money', well, money is just a derivative ("stuff futures"), a way of rationing stuff. It only means anything if there's stuff for it to buy. But 'stuff' includes things like services (having my paper delivered). So I'm not really clear what the difference is between wealth and value.

You might notice I've never studied economics, so I'm bracing myself to learn here :-)


(I haven't studied economics either.)

I think they're being very specific about "create" rather than wealth. That is, middlemen affect wealth but don't create it.

OK...but I don't understand what's meant by 'wealth' here.
Is it money? I thought only central banks could create that.
Is it 'stuff'? That makes miners and farmers and construction workers (and so on) the only wealth creators - so middle-folk are, by definition, not wealth creators. But so what? My dentist doesn't make stuff, but she's worth every penny.

And what does 'affect' mean?

That is, in a producer-enabler-bureaucrat-consumer model they are either enablers or bureaucrats. Either way it's desirable to eliminate them by coming up with systems that efficiently connect producers and consumers. That's why the Internet is so incredibly awesome.

The internet is, indeed, awesome; but when I buy something on eBay, not only do I need a middle-person to bring the package to my door, I also need eBay to mediate the trade in the first place. And I'd like the postal service to be well-managed and supervised, so that my stuff gets brought to me and not stolen, broken or lost. This all needs middle-people, and bureaucrats to manage the middle-people. And all that creates value. I know it does, because I'm happy for eBay and PayPal and the post office to take their slice so my stuff gets to be in my house instead of a hundred miles away in someone else's house.

OK, a short chain of connections is probably good in some way, for some people. Not for the people who get cut out of the chain, of course, but that's economics.

I still don't understand the difference between 'value' and 'wealth'. I suspect that, until I do, I won't understand what creating wealth means.
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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby Princess Marzipan » Fri Jun 01, 2012 6:49 pm UTC

I think wealth is generally objective and value is generally subjective.
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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby Quicksilver » Sat Jun 02, 2012 2:45 am UTC

My plan is to crowdsource a plan.

Hafting
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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby Hafting » Fri Jun 08, 2012 12:08 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:
Fire Brns wrote:You guys, middlemen do increase wealth.

Without any government interference, we'd get free competition and nothing bad could happen, right? I've heard it argued that the only thing that ever lets middlemen collect all the profits and not let anybody else have any, is government interference. Do you believe that?


"Without government" is usually not a viable option. With no other government around, people will form some sort of goverment anyway. There are always some who see that they have strength in numbers, and use this to get real power. Initial spontaneous "governments" may be in the form of mafia or gangs. If you are very lucky, you might get some sort of nice government this way. But with enough people, someone will try to force a goverment that is nice for themselves.

Having a reasonably democratic government around is useful. If nothing else, it prevents unhealthy spontaneous governments from forming, and the violent power struggles that tend to follow.

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Re: 1060: “Crowdsourcing”

Postby J Thomas » Fri Jun 08, 2012 2:49 pm UTC

Hafting wrote:
J Thomas wrote:
Fire Brns wrote:You guys, middlemen do increase wealth.


Without any government interference, we'd get free competition and nothing bad could happen, right? I've heard it argued that the only thing that ever lets middlemen collect all the profits and not let anybody else have any, is government interference. Do you believe that?


"Without government" is usually not a viable option. With no other government around, people will form some sort of goverment anyway. There are always some who see that they have strength in numbers, and use this to get real power. Initial spontaneous "governments" may be in the form of mafia or gangs. If you are very lucky, you might get some sort of nice government this way. But with enough people, someone will try to force a goverment that is nice for themselves.

Having a reasonably democratic government around is useful. If nothing else, it prevents unhealthy spontaneous governments from forming, and the violent power struggles that tend to follow.


Yes, I think you're right. A good government is kind of like a big watchdog that keeps the wolves away. You have to feed it, but that's better than fighting wolves up close and personal yourself. A bad government is more like a wolf.

Of course, in the monarchy days they made the same argument for kings. A good king can be expensive but he keeps the bad kings away. Now we think we don't need kings to oppress us. We can oppress ourselves instead. It's progress....
The Law of Fives is true. I see it everywhere I look for it.


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