Intellectualism versus totalitarianism

If the reader is thirsting for pure 100 percent intellectualism, read Harper’s Magazine. The journal always has looked to the abstract reasoning behind society, writing about the contribution of those who already concentrate on the ideas of reality rather than reality itself. Featured online and in the print copy this month is an article by Rebecca Panovka about author Hannah Arendt. Hannah Arendt (1906 – 1975) was an outspoken critic of the trappings of totalitarianism.

Hannah’s most noted work, a book about Nazi totalitarianism, ‘The Horrors of Totalitarianism’, has been brought back into the popular mainstream because of its close similarity to Trumpist authoritarianism. Instead of a crooked government as Trump accuses, in Germany it was the crooked Jews but the effect was the same – to dismember social unity and fragment political influence. This fragmentation allows a small minority to control the direction of society’s ethos.

Further, The Guardian is a British newspaper that also published an article about Hannah Arendt. Apparently Donald’s brand of authoritarianism is similar to Adolf Hitler’s style for dismembering the collective authority of society.

Both publications speak to the incompetence of government and the unsubstantiated reasoning of populist movements when confronted by an elaborate, organized and well-advertised myth that has no foundation in fact. The myth blames the wrong source for the hardships of the people, allowing rebellion against legitimate, if inept, political processes.

The articles imply that there are only two processes to deconstruct growing totalitarianism: war or counter movements aimed at unity – neither of which can guarantee wholesomeness.

Yes, yes. It is up to the electorate and we know how that will turn out in 2022.

Ancient Mariner

Progress for Civilization

Here’s an interesting side note: Bill Gates is the largest farm owner in the United States. Ol’ farmer Bill.

Gates and his wife have acquired more than 269,000 acres of farm in the United States in the past 10 years. Those purchases, made with the help of the Washington-based firm Cascade Investment and a number of shell companies, include farmland in nearly 20 states that cultivate vegetables such as carrots, soybeans, and potatoes (some of which end up in McDonald’s French fries). These details come after the agriculture outlet The Land Report reported in January that the tech billionaire and his wife were the country’s top private farmland owners in the country. An NBC News analysis also identified Gates as the largest farmland owner in the US.

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The launch of Jeff Bezos is a new scale in bad taste – not to mention that Richard Branson looked any better. It is a sign that massive, really massive resources that are needed in the real world are not applied correctly. Mariner’s opinion is that capitalism must, must pursue greater profits or fail – but those profits are stolen from the lifeblood of a society whose resources have run out.

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It appears there will be no more reprieves for the nation’s roughly 8 million households behind on their rent and mortgage payments. According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, more than 4 million of those households face the likelihood of eviction in the next two months. Add this fact to the fact that housing for anyone is hard to find; add the impact on the twenty-somethings looking for anything they can afford and add the fact that plain and simple, there aren’t enough physical, actual homes to go around.

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Oh well, there’s a scant chance that some bridges and highways may be repaired. Mariner thinks he will run over to Misty’s and get a milkshake.

Ancient Mariner

How to have a balanced economy

֎ AXIOS distributed a concise and clear statement about why world population rates are dropping. It is a quality statement about a topic that doesn’t get much news coverage but can be a significant interpretation of social response to unsympathetic governments. It is typical that economic health is measured by GDP, inflation, and stock markets but the Axios article suggests that it is the condition of the population that determines the efficiency of a given economic philosophy. Some excerpts:

Why world population is slowing – Population growth is continuing to slow in the U.S. and China . . . Why it matters: Population growth spurs economic growth because it can increase innovation, workers and goods produced and consumed . . . What’s happening: U.S. immigration, life expectancy and fertility are all trending down.

We focus way too much on percent growth like quarterly GDP. We should think about what people want. What level of immigration people want. What age would people like to die.

Americans still want multiple children, but they’re worried about child care costs, their own student debt and a pause in their careers . . .

China has relaxed restrictions on the number of children families can now have. But the new policy seeks more to bolster the workforce than to promote population: The Chinese Communist Party is also raising the country’s retirement age, curtailing a key source of child care . . .

The bottom line: If countries want population growth to pick up, leaders must first fix underlying causes of the slowdown, including cost of child care and fear of immigration.

֎ From his lofty spot in the esoteric atmosphere, Guru suggests that the problems confronting nations in the 21st century will not subside until it is understood that political theories work best only in tailored economic situations. Guru said:

COMMUNISM works best in primitive conditions where authority is based on contributing to the wellbeing of other citizens and the economy is sustained solely by local labor and predictability. If one watches any of the homesteading shows on television they are watching classic communist behavior. Dictatorships that call themselves communist nations are misleading. Even the term ‘nation’ is stretching the concept. The reader may remember the commune movement in the US during the 60’s and 70’s but it failed because the surrounding economy was too sophisticated.

CAPITALISM works best when authority is based on assuring the freedom of all citizens to compete for available resources – but this works well only in economic conditions where there are plenty of resources to go around. The US was created at a time when an entire continent of unused resources was available and the expansion of worldwide economic resources was exploding as new places were discovered around the world. Capitalism was the perfect economy to scarf up resources at a geometric rate making the US the richest nation in the world. Alas, these resources have been depleted; in the 21st century there no longer are enough resources to go around for everyone. The population is too large to have everyone freely compete for resources.

SOCIALISM works best when authority assures equality among the citizens and the economy is stable and predictable. The Native Americans sustained a socialist economy for thousands of years because the resources, especially on the plains and seacoasts, were stable and predictable – until the capitalist authority killed all the buffalo, beavers, doves and destroyed important estuaries.

AUTHORITARIANISM works best when authority enforces social order in an economy that is inadequate or out of balance with the existing authoritative role. Once authoritarianism is in place it is difficult to remove; authoritarianism has no scruples other than power – just like Lord Acton said in 1887.

There are many other variations on the four basic economic philosophies. Corporatism is a style of capitalism; plutocracy is a form of capitalism; militarism is a variation of authoritarianism; Sheikdoms, China’s communist party and monarchies all are variations of authoritarianism. Tribalism, populism, classism, insurrection and other social movements can become significant and derail unbalanced economies – often allowing authoritarianism to emerge.

To use an allegory, consider the tight wire walker. The walker is authority, the wire is population and the long balance pole is economy. If the wire and the pole aren’t in sync, the situation becomes unstable.

Ancient Mariner

Another Road Metaphor

The authoritarian revolt of the belligerent right still deserves our attention and requires some serious effort to contain the movement. Whether the electorate understands that movement’s threat to the constitutional government known as the United States of America will be shown in the results of the 2022 election. Aggressive authoritarian behavior is a failed consequence of many different economic and cultural changes.

While we keep one eye on the fires started in the last century we must keep the other eye on the road to the future. Another form of authoritarianism is corporatism. If we don’t manage the road properly, the division between the few wealthy and the many poor will become wider and more adverse, perhaps even superseding the role of government – which many claim is already happening. Many of the business regulations and institutions that were created in the last century are virtually irrelevant in this new world of computers and instant communication. The entire perspective about antitrust must be reconstructed. Further, one nation can no longer control an international corporation. It will require a new set of international laws.

Riding the road into the future already is heavy laden with issues. One issue that should be left on the curb is racism. Many millennials and most Zs don’t have this issue. Older folk should just be done with racism and move on – there’s not enough energy for all the issues let alone worrying about skin color.

This is made more complex by domestic police departments which have been trained in abusive racism for generations. Decommissioning a militarized police force will be difficult. It must be done or a significant portion of our society will be stunted as we ride the road into the future.

Just as old or older than everything else is the concept of taxation. Mariner’s old saw about the plains indians whose hunters shared their hunting success with the tribe doesn’t exist in American capitalism. As a consequence the billionaires who hunt money sit on untold trillions of dollars that, from a societal point of view, simply gather dust. Taxation – especially in times when labor jobs are disappearing – should redistribute a significant amount of the hoarded wealth to help pave the road into the future.

So, let’s hop on our hover boards and get moving down the road. Uncross your eyes; it was a bad metaphor.

Ancient Mariner

A New Sport for These Times

Does the reader remember the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)? Twelve nations, primarily along the Pacific Ocean, negotiated a trade agreement. The nations were:

United States • Singapore • Brunei • New Zealand • Chile • Australia • Peru • Vietnam • Malaysia • Mexico • Canada • Japan

The TPP was based on a unique concept that each member nation was assured a commensurate share of income based on the Gross Domestic Product of the partnership. Earlier trade, tax and tariff arrangements were modified to accommodate this unique idea of international partnership instead of international balance of trade.

There were progressive economic concepts in the agreement but there were many loopholes that benefited corporate interests above national interests.[1] While the language touted liberal issues like environment, labor rights and humanist politics, there were just as many backdoor caveats that would permit corporate participants to ignore the ‘nice’ language. A good description of the new trade relationship was that nations were investors in the partnership, not traders.

For the United States, this was all for naught when Congress dragged its feet and Donald officially withdrew in 2017. Nevertheless, the new partnership was signed by the remaining eleven nations in 2018 and became the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.

A characteristic of these agreements is that while there are direct economic benefits for being part of a team instead of constantly manipulating trade and tariff, it is more difficult to shift national politics or apply sanctions to other members of the partnership. Unlike today’s supply and demand free-for-all, being part of a supply partnership introduces permanence to international economics – meaning that whichever partnership has the most important partners, the more likely that partnership will dominate the global economy.

Another aspect is that a partnership needs one partner that is large enough to sustain the overall economy for all the nations in the agreement. There are only three nations that can fill this role: China, the United States and possibly India. The economic ballast needed for a successful partnership requires one partner that has global dominance in GDP, population and land mass. Corporations already know this and have constructed supply chains that depend on one massive corporation to sustain the chain. Amazon, Walmart and Google are examples.

Now that the reader has suffered through the rules for the sport for these times, the sport is which of the three anchor nations (China, US and India) can build partnerships with the most nations, the best nations and the nations with the best natural resources in the shortest amount of time? The winner will dominate the global economy for a long time.

The game already is in play:

China understands the concept; in 2013 China started its Belt and Road project using infrastructure as an international connection between 70 nations and intends to dominate politically and militarily as well as economically. The US along with the G7 nations belatedly introduced its own Belt and Road plan; Joe Biden hopes the plan, known as the Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative, will provide a transparent infrastructure partnership to help narrow the $40 trillion needed by developing nations by 2035.

Ancient Mariner

 

[1] To keep this post from becoming a book, if the reader has further interest just type TPP in your search engine – much has been written pro and con.

Watching the social tide

Mariner has mentioned a time or two that, as we all are well aware, these are changing times, perhaps greater than any war that bookends changes in power or any historical unrest that transforms a social age, perhaps any technological transition since the first wheat was cast on open ground 11,000 years ago.

As we sit in the trenches with the storm of change exploding above us, around us and within us, it is hard to see the horizon; it is hard to know if the storm is passing; it is impossible to feel secure or happy in the maelstrom.

But the storm is moving. The seas are changing. Even as largely dysfunctional U.S. governments struggle with the traditions of the last century versus the unknown icons that are emerging in this century, still there are signs of change. The tide indeed is turning.

A visible measure is the transition of global economic theory already moving from nationally based trade and tariff to internationally aligned supply chains, notable corporate examples are large data firms like Amazon, Apple and Google and, unadvertised, military relationships; last century’s wars of occupation are failing as several technologies render borders irrelevant.

The relationship of jobs to wages is changing. The advances in data technology and automation just since the start of this century have disrupted the centuries old tradition of work for pay. As recently as the last presidential election, one candidate advocated a government-supplied stipend that was not associated with jobs. While upgrades in infrastructure, responses to global warming and new work derived from supply chain development will sustain ‘work for pay’, it is inevitable that working class jobs will diminish due to automation and computer intelligence; for example, 1.7 million long haul truck drivers will not be needed in a decade or two. This struggle between the giant philosophies of capitalism and socialism will not transition quickly but the tide will force continuous reexamination of the relationship.

On the same day that this post is written, the news reports cover a large condominium that has collapsed in Miami Beach, Florida. Miami Beach sits on a barrier island, one of many along the East Coast known as the Outer Banks. The geologic history of base sediments in this region is limestone and unconsolidated shelly sand. Given that Miami Beach has installed state-of-the-art pumps in its drainage system since 2014, that sea water has contaminated potable ground water and that every associated industry predicts that the city will be 1 1/2 feet under the ocean surface in 60 years, the condominium collapse is a sign of changing tides courtesy of global warming. Global warming could displace as many as 3.9 million US citizens by the end of the century; fourteen US cities could disappear.[1]

In just the last fifteen years medical science has made life-changing advances. The most significant are CRISPR, which enables genetic modification to individuals to repair or prevent virtually any disorder or tendency, and, courtesy of the response to Covid, the ability to create organic protein. Also notable is the ability to produce a molecule called NAD+ which extends cell life and slows the degradation of aging.

One change within the trench itself is an impact on socialization. Everything from dating websites to smartphones to Zoom education to online shopping to church services online and more have one thing in common: decreasing socialization. The future impact of decreasing socialization is unclear but some studies have begun tracking the effect on society in general. The nuclear family has been around long enough to know that slow cultural change can alter life significantly. What about decreased socialization in addition to nuclear families? The shelter-in from the pandemic perhaps may be basic training for future lifestyles.

Ancient mariner

 

[1] See: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/global-warming-flooding_n_3799019

Just the facts, Ma’am

Mariner has a large window in his living room. It displays the street in front and a few houses across the street. Mariner has dubbed it his personal screensaver. It acts exactly like the ones on cable TV; most of the time nothing happens except an occasional car may pass – sort of like the occasional bird on the TV. There are day-long loops, too. A number of people walk their dogs, the UPS truck drives by morning and evening and the fitness walkers are timely as well. And it gets light in the morning and dark in the evening.

It is ‘Garage Sale Day’ in mariner’s town. Drive the streets and you will see dozens of lawns covered with stuff people are selling (AKA getting rid of). It’s a good excuse to clean one’s attic, closets and basement in addition to what’s in the garage. The house directly across the street has a large sale. Mariner became intrigued by the people visiting the sale.

This led mariner to thoughts about facts, validated facts and confirmed facts that news broadcasts tout. Please! Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and Rush Limbaugh are not included. Mariner pretended he was a news journalist watching the sale across the street to collect information for a news broadcast. Are you ready?

4 out of 5 town residents are noticeably fat. 1 in 10 is obese. All female residents under age 40 have children less than 10 years old. The average age of a town citizen is 70. 1 out of every 2 men has tattoos. So do 1 in 6 women. 8 out of 10 vehicles are trucks or vans.

These are the validated facts, Ma’am. Sean Hannity would agree.

Ancient Mariner

 

Trends

Folks tend to look for clues about climate change in weather patterns. It is true that climates are shifting but on a seasonal basis it is hard to measure how much is change and how much is typical variability. The global indicators, melting glaciers, ocean temperatures and melting permafrost are a more direct way to measure change. All indications are that global warming is accelerating, to wit:

The Washington Post reports that Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier, a river of ice large enough to raise sea levels by 1.6 feet, was already among the fastest-melting glaciers in the world. Now scientists have found that the ice mass is flowing even more rapidly.

Further, Siberia is experiencing active permafrost melt on a grand scale. Some prognosticators suggest that by the end of the century Russia will make more from wheat exports than it does from oil today.

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Mariner has mentioned often that the United States is in the long, painful death throes of Reaganism. Causes are a changing world, changing environment, changing technology and new economic structures. What is trending at the moment is Republican autocracy. Will manipulation of the elections be enough to sustain the twentieth century into the twenty-first?

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Speaking of economics, a growingly obvious trend is the shrinking of Europe’s role in world economics. Europe has tended toward smaller business models; for example, Apple has a larger net value than the top 30 firms in Europe. Perhaps its history of smaller nations and many economies has led Europe to this preference but as a result, there will be only two global business leaders: China and the United States – perhaps, with luck, India. The global trend definitely is toward international, multimarket corporations who will anchor worldwide supply chains similar to Amazon.

The government role is to develop supply chain style arrangements between nations. One new example of this is an agreement by the G7 to levy a worldwide 15 percent tax on corporations to prevent corporations from avoiding taxes by moving operations to the nation with the least tax.

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Several news items have been about seafood. It seems the warming oceans have had an effect on everything from seals and whales to lobsters and commercial fishing species. From Science Magazine:

“… basically what we found all over the ocean, wherever we had data, is that the abundance of large fish, in terms of numbers and weight, were ten times higher originally than they are now. That is, that what we’re left is one-tenth of the original number and weight of large, large fish.”

Here in the United States it already has been noted several years ago that the ‘Maine’ lobster has moved on to other locations.

Ancient Mariner

Purgatory

Is Purgatory required by God, the Holy Roman Catholic Church or the medical profession? Mariner is of an age where he no longer is a mainstay of society, economics or politics. Like millions of other citizens, he represents past accomplishments, past memories and lost faculties.

It causes mariner to ponder – Was the Roman Church right to declare that purgatory was after death? It seems that would make a situation similar to the American immigration policy at the Mexican border. Would God be that disorganized? True, the Church made a lot of money buying and selling souls – sort of like the smugglers bringing immigrants from Central America.

Another explanation is that, similar to the penances of the Church, the medical profession has declared that purgatory is before one dies, not after. The medical industry makes lots of money by extending the human lifespan but not extending the physical or mental capabilities that existed earlier and further makes it feel more like purgatory by prolonging half-cured illnesses and disabilities. Is purgatory a medical phenomenon?

What is God’s take on this? As best we can tell, God created humans as part of his Garden of Eden. Things were perfect until the snake came along. So because we consciously knew the procreation game, God had to modify some things. He changed humans and all creatures into beings that passed on. He said “Instead of living forever in the Garden of Eden, humans will exist as a three-generational creature then die.” So purgatory doesn’t seem to be in God’s plans.

It is true that Jesus offered a get-into-heaven-free deal in exchange for promoting God’s agenda but that quickly disappeared when the Church became the gardener.

All mariner knows is that he is not the human he was when he was forty. Purgatory, apparently, is a real thing; we just don’t know who to blame.

Ancient Mariner

Teaching is changing

There are two very prominent moments when how students were taught changed dramatically. Today, a third seems to be emerging.

֎ The first moment was when the ‘University’ of Bologna was created in 1088. It was a defensive legal gesture to protect young people who were not citizens who otherwise would be charged with reparation fees. As the university became a permanent institution over the next decades, instructors were hired to teach many of the subjects that still exist in today’s curricula. Today the University of Bologna remains one of the premier universities in the world.

֎ The second moment occurred when the first grades were issued at Yale in the year 1785, when President Ezra Stiles, after examining 58 seniors, recorded in his diary that there were ‘Twenty Optimi, sixteen second Optimi, twelve Inferiores, ten Pejores.’ By the 1850’s what a student learned was defined strictly by their grades, not by what they may have actually learned in terms of usefulness and applicability. The pejorative term for learning something just to get good grades is ‘bullimic learning’ loosely interpreted as “compulsive studying usually followed by self-induced test taking”

Everyone is familiar with contemporary grading from primary to post graduate studies. Refinements include grade averaging with GPA, SAT, and even social accomplishment as a comparative. Disparities have grown reflected through race, class and prestigious selection.

֎ Today, however, things are changing. The transition has been gradual, more an effort to accommodate the psychological wellbeing of pre-schoolers; recently the new approach has seeped into primary grades. Speaking very broadly, students are taught in small groups and the group is “graded” on its accomplishments – which often are not strictly about the ABCs – and students are not individually graded.

Ironically, for many decades in the corporate world employees are made part of a team whose job is to accomplish some new goal or function. The team gets the credit while individuals benefit by being a member. The experience almost entirely is one of learning useful and applicable knowledge.

The future of higher education will use integrated, multi-subject classes, job-focused education and move beyond the two or four year model to provide lifelong learning. Successful universities must aggressively prepare their institutions to avoid further disruption.

It is likely that the line between corporate employment and college enrollment may become a continuously integrated relationship. Collaboration with unions, trade associations, libraries and other peripheral organizations is likely.

Ancient Mariner