Friday, July 3, 2015

Bernie vs Builderism

Reason recently published this critique... The Foolish Socialism of Bernie Sanders.  It's a good critique... but it's not a great critique.

Sanders supports redistribution because he wants to help the poor.  A. Barton Hinkle, the author of the critique, responds that conceit (top down control) results in shortages.

The poor are definitely hurt by a shortage of food and other necessities... but we need to clarify how they are helped by a wider variety of beer for example...

While Boston Beer Co., Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and other large craft brewers continue to gain market share, the number of small breweries including nanobreweries at the other end of the spectrum is exploding, providing adventurous offerings to a new generation of beer drinkers who increasingly place a premium on locally produced beer. - David Sharp, Beyond craft brews: Just like foodies, beer geeks go local

A wider variety of products doesn't perfectly correspond to a wider variety of employment options.  But there's certainly quite a bit of correlation.  And the greater the variety of employment... the greater the benefit to the poor.

It's easy to think of the poor as a homogeneous group of people... but they really aren't.  They are all different.  This means that they aren't all going to maximize their individual growth and reach their peak personal potential in the same exact type of environment.  Therefore, it's imperative that we facilitate the creation of the maximum variety of environments.

Entrepreneurs create new environments.  An entrepreneur who starts his own microbrewery creates an environment that isn't exactly the same as all the other environments.  No two working environments are ever going to be exactly alike.  We should encourage, rather than stifle, environmental differences.

J.S. Mill probably put it best...

If it were only that people have diversities of taste, that is reason enough for not attempting to shape them all after one model. But different persons also require different conditions for their spiritual development; and can no more exist healthily in the same moral, than all the variety of plants can in the same physical, atmosphere and climate. The same things which are helps to one person towards the cultivation of his higher nature, are hindrances to another. The same mode of life is a healthy excitement to one, keeping all his faculties of action and enjoyment in their best order, while to another it is a distracting burthen, which suspends or crushes all internal life. Such are the differences among human beings in their sources of pleasure, their susceptibilities of pain, and the operation on them of different physical and moral agencies, that unless there is a corresponding diversity in their modes of life, they neither obtain their fair share of happiness, nor grow up to the mental, moral, and aesthetic stature of which their nature is capable. - J.S. Mill, On Liberty

Here's another way of thinking about it...

Ecological Homogenization - Part of the problem for our native bees is our human desire for neatness and uniformity. Pretty lawns with no bare spots. Non-flowering grass, or pollen-less flowers. Paved spots where a sand bank or brush pile may have been before. All places where a native bee might have made her home or found a snack. - Gwen Pearson, You're Worrying About The Wrong Bees

Diversity of niches is just as important for the economy as it is for the environment.  Maximizing niche variety maximizes the chances that diverse poor people will find spaces where they can thrive and make their unique contribution to humanity.  Diversity also helps us hedge against failure.

Would Bernie Sanders help the poor truly thrive?  Not a chance.  His strategy is purely superficial.  The cover of his book might look good but the content is considerable crap.  There's absolutely no awareness or recognition or understanding of the true importance of diversity.  Like all liberals he'll praise diversity without having a clue what it's good for.  As a result, Sanders' plans won't eliminate the massive barriers to entry... instead, his plans will enlarge these barriers... which will decrease the variety of available niches... which will decrease the variety of employment options available to the poor.  This will create a vicious cycle.

On a related note, here's my reply to The Untold Story Behind the Invention of the Microprocessor


What happened? Did I just read, and accidentally enjoy, an advertisement? How did this happen? Oh yeah…it’s because you “conveniently” put the “Sponsored by Intel” part after, rather than before, the content. As a result of your sneakiness…. now I have to go take a shower and try and scrub off the feeling of being so used. Don’t you know I live in Southern California? And there’s a drought going on? How bad do you feel now?

I sense a conspiracy. Just the other day I watched PBS’s Silicon Valley documentary on Netflix. Maybe it was sponsored by Intel as well? I don’t know… I didn’t read the credits.

I just looked at my computer…. which is so old. At the bottom of the tower is a sticker that says “Intel Inside”. For some strange reason I feel like buying a new computer… that also has an “Intel Inside” sticker.

Besides having “Intel” inside my computer… I also have a database. Inside this database is a table that stores my quotes collection. There are over 3000 quotes. It helps that I use tags. For example, if I filter the tags by “orchid” there are four results…

Recall the strong path dependence of individual connectionist learning. The use of external memory systems helps ameliorate some of the effects of this path dependence by allowing achieved innovations (“redescriptions”) to be transmitted between individuals. This allows the collective construction of representational trajectories that crisscross individual cognizers and hence increase the chance of a good idea finding a viable niche for further development. This is, of course, an old idea. But it is one whose value cannot be fully appreciated except in the context of our increasing understanding of the boundedness and extreme path dependence of individual reason. — Andy Clark, Economic Reason: The Interplay of Individual Learning and External Structure

Heh, what? Did that hurt your brain? If not, then you must have a lot of intel inside. Go ahead and make a comic to illustrate this quote. Send the bill to Intel.

I think it means something about my quote database (an external memory system)… and… sharing (transmitting) ideas… among more people… increasing the chance of a “good idea finding a viable niche for further development”.

Here’s the next result…

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. — Charles Darwin

Good ole Darwin. Hmmm… was Intel the most responsive to change? Or was it the most intelligent? Maybe it just got lucky?

Next result…

In the 60s at Fairchild everybody looks out there and says why are we sitting in the big city we should be out there panning for gold. Let’s go start our own chip company. Fairchild was like a seed pod and it just scattered new companies all over this valley. And that’s what really began what we think of as the modern Silicon Valley. — Michael Malone, Silicon Valley

Eureka! This is the quote that I was looking for!

Maybe you’re wondering why I choose the keyword “orchid”? A single orchid seed pod can contain around a million tiny seeds that are dispersed by the wind. Talk about hedging bets. Which is, in my estimation, a good part of the reason why the orchid family is one of the most successful families on the planet.

How would you illustrate a million seeds being dispersed by the wind? How much variation is there in distance traveled? How much variation is there in the goodness of the seeds/ideas? How much variation is there in cold/drought tolerance? How far do the apples fall from the tree?

Just in case you’re wondering… here’s the fourth result…

Market reasoning is deeply, essentially smarmy. We live, it insists, in a world that is optimized by the invisible hand. The conditions under which we live have been created by rational needs and preferences, producing an economicist Panglossianism: What thrives deserves to thrive, be it Nike or sprawl or the finance industry or Upworthy; what fails deserves to have failed. 
We all live our lives, we’re told, on these terms. If people really wanted a better world — what you might foolishly regard as a better world — they would have it already. So what if you signed up to use Facebook as a social network, and Facebook changed the terms of service to reverse your privacy settings and mine your data? So what if you would rather see poor people housed than billionaires’ investment apartments blotting out the sun? Some people have gone ahead and made the reality they wanted. Immense fortunes have bloomed in Silicon Valley on the most ephemeral and stupid windborne seeds of concepts, friends funding friends, apps copying apps, and the winners proclaiming themselves the elite of the newest of meritocracies. What’s was wrong with you, that you didn’t get a piece of it? 
Of course this is tyrannical. Of course this is false. Everyone is aware that market judgments are foolish and unfair. But what can you do about it? — Tom Scocca, On Smarm

w00t! I wonder if this guy has an “Intel Inside” sticker on his computer?

If I was a billionaire then I’d buy a million acres of land in Southern Texas and start an orchid reserve. I’d attach 100 million orchids to trees. If an average orchid has 10 seed pods per year… and each pod has a million seeds inside… then how many seeds would be dispersed each year? Errr… my maths aren’t too great. :( How long would it take for every tree in the US to be covered with orchids? Errr… which direction does the wind blow? What if the wind doesn’t blow north? Minor detail? How many people would I have to hire to manually carry the seeds north? Just like Johnny Appleseed…but different.

But I’m not a billionaire! Can I blame the market? What does that even entail? The market isn’t a sentient being… it’s just a bunch of people. Like me… but different.

A bunch of people haven’t put my ideas in their shopping carts. And nobody’s ever made a movie about J.S. Mill! He’s one of the most important thinkers ever… and there’s never been a movie about him!! Market failure!!! Where’s government intervention when you need it?

The government hasn’t made a movie about J.S. Mill… but it did put a man on the moon. And, as a result, we have Silicon Valley!

Here’s the best kept secret in the world. A better world happens when enough people truly understand the value of consumer choice. Then we’ll be able to choose where our taxes go. We won’t all choose the same… because we aren’t all the same. And that’s a good thing.

From where I’m sitting I can look out the window and see a crowd of ripe seed pods on the dozens of Tillandsia aeranthos growing on my tree. They are perfectly happy only getting watered, via drip, twice a week. And the hummingbirds are more than happy to pollinate the flowers. Happiness does grow on trees.

I was just kidding about the needing to shower part. I’m all about the charmercials. And the not showering. Oh man, I stink so good!


See also:  Rights vs Results

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