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It’s Not A Privacy Issue: The Economics Of Tracking : Correcting The WSJ’s Sale Of Fear Uncertainty And Doubt:

From the WSJ:

The Wall Street Journal conducted a comprehensive study that assesses and analyzes the broad array of cookies and other surveillance technology that companies are deploying on Internet users. It reveals that the tracking of consumers has grown both far more pervasive and far more intrusive than is realized by all but a handful of people in the vanguard of the industry. The study found that the nation’s 50 top websites on average installed 64 pieces of tracking technology onto the computers of visitors, usually with no warning. A dozen sites each installed more than a hundred.

In this survey, the vast majority of people were concerned about ‘privacy’.

[callout] It’s not like Coca Cola, Nike and IBM want to be associated with cheap european amateur adult videos, snippets of skateboarders doing face-plants, or some silly little group of bloggers fomenting rebellion on some little personal political agenda.[/callout]

To which I respond: Tracking is not a privacy issue. It’s actually good for you, and good for society. (Really.)

Tracking = Legitimate Companies. Privacy Invaders = Illegitimate Organizations.
It’s not like these tracking-companies are doing anything novel, invasive, or even risky. They aren’t capturing your credit card number, or your home address, or the contents of your romantic emails. They are capturing the kind of things you’re interested in seeing online, so that advertisers can promote goods and services that you’re interested in, rather than spamming you with stuff that completely annoys you. The advertising industry knows perfectly well that people want privacy. Brand owners know perfectly well that if they mistreat your private information, that their brand, their products and their stock price, will pay a very high cost for that abuse.

There are plenty of sites that will install malware and viruses. Tracking sites and cookies don’t do that. It’s not in their interest. It would put them out of business if they did install viruses or malware. Advertisers avoid anything negative. It’s too dangerous. Spammers don’t. That’s why spam and certain web sites, or petty criminal web sites (downloading or free entertainment) are the sources of malware and viruses. So, it’s not your absurd searching that will generally get you in trouble. ***It’s trying to get something for free.*** Spammers, Malware and Viruses are delivered by disreputable organizations doing disreputable things on disreputable sites. But advertisers aren’t. Advertisers use TRACKING cookies, and avoid malware, spam and viruses.

Nobody Cares. You Aren’t Special
But lets also look at it another way: Nobody cares if you surf adult sites, read about absurd human behavior at 11pm, or watch silly animal or kung-fu videos, delve into subcultures you would never interact with in real life, and generally prove that you are surfing under safe conditions for novel, absurd, silly , or radical experiences from the safety of your laptop – which is the best way to explore them.

[callout]Why? Because you aren’t special. You aren’t interesting. You aren’t rare. In fact, you’re so average that if you saw your surfing behavior graphed next to everyone else’s you’d be horrified and how much you had in common with people form all walks of life. We revel in the absurd. We like to learn from a safe distance. We like to understand the very limits of human behavior. We like to fantasize about what we could never really do. And there isn’t any harm in it. In fact, all things considered, it seems that just the opposite is true: it turns out that it’s a vent, a safe exploration, and it’s good for you, and society.[/callout]

But that said, no one cares. Why? Because you aren’t special. You aren’t interesting. You aren’t rare. In fact, you’re so average that if you saw your surfing behavior graphed next to everyone else’s you’d be horrified and how much you had in common with people form all walks of life. We revel in the absurd. We like to learn from a safe distance. We like to understand the very limits of human behavior. We like to fantasize about what we could never really do. And there isn’t any harm in it. In fact, all things considered, it seems that just the opposite is true: it turns out that it’s a vent, a safe exploration, and it’s good for you, and society.

The private world of browsing is indeed private. It’s like using the bathroom. Everyone does it. We just don’t talk about it in public. That’s because it’s not risky to browse such things. By contrast, it’s very risky to DO those things in real life. That’s why we keep risky behavior safe, private and on the web. A relationship between you and your browser.

The Self Interest Of Advertisers
But your eccentric surfing behavior isn’t helpful to an advertiser. There isn’t anything really useful to advertise next to those oddities that isn’t already being advertised there. It’s not like Coca Cola, Nike and IBM want to be associated with cheap european amateur adult videos, snippets of skateboarders doing face-plants, or some silly little group of bloggers fomenting rebellion on some little personal political agenda. Or to be gender-balanced, your favorite little gossip site, compromising celebrity photos, rants about how awful men are for being interested in something other than living to fulfill a woman’s every whim, insecurity, status impairment, and nesting urge, and the fact that you shop for clothes that are too young and fitted for your weight, figure and age group.

Your sense of individuality – the one that makes you want to protect your privacy – is a self imposed delusion. A delusion we embrace because our self image is part of our sense of social status. We guard that self illusion like we guard our property. If that realization seems unpleasant to your self esteem, then you know why advertisers are good at their jobs: they know this simple fact about you. They know you aren’t special, but you need to think that you are.

Brands Only Want To Advertise In Places You Aren’t Ashamed Of Visiting
Because of that, they only care about those places where reputable brands can advertise on the web. Not those things where they can’t. And more importantly, even if you were special, it’s not valuable to big brands to associate with perceived absurdities. Brands are public entities. They have public personas. Mixing those brands with anything that would not be done in public would be damaging to them. In fact, if a tracking organization captures enough data that could associate a group of consumer behavior that was aberrant, with a well known brand, (say associating domestic violence with a brand of alcohol) and if that data was released, it would be extremely damaging to the brand. ie: tracking companies don’t want to know, or capture, you’re extraordinary activities. Even having the data in their possession is dangerous to them. It presents them with a liability. Advertisers don’t want them even to collect it. For exactly that reason.

Advertisers See The World As Groups Not Individuals
Advertisers do not care about you as an individual, or your personal information. They are statisticians. They care about groups. They care about aggregates. About large groups of people doing similar things. They care that of all the people who hit MSN.com, or the NYT or Conde Nast, which kind of things are most of them interested in hearing about? They care about measuring the effect of their ads. They care that if you saw one ad in one place, where else can they show it to you to reinforce it? Because the more targeted the advertisement, the more interested you are, the more times they can show it to you in the hope of making an impression, then the cheaper it is, the more effective it is, and the less chance they will alienate someone by showing them something that they don’t like, while paying dearly for the opportunity to offend someone.

They do care about your email. Because if they have your email, they can advertise directly to you. But they know that if they don’t ask permission, you will literally hate them for invading your privacy, and that will hurt their brand. Email crosses the line into privacy for most people, because you can’t shut out advertising that you don’t want. Email is personal. But traffic measurement isn’t stealing your time, or filling your inbox. It’s invisible.

The current level of cluelessness among advertisers and marketers on how to use this traditional data and traditional advertising strategy on the web, is not clear to the public. Advertisers have not figured out exactly what to do about the decline in traditional media, and the kind of advertising that has been successful in the past, They don’t know how to advertise to you on the internet. They aren’t sure if it’s good money or bad. They know you want content that helps you make buying decisions. But they aren’t sure how to make you aware of new products and services. Or even if they need to make you aware of them.

Tracking Is A Social Good?
So to some degree, you’re doing yourself, and society in general a favor. Society needs advertising not only to help fuel the economy, but to simply help us be aware of our choices. If these people collect enough ‘traffic data’ (data about what you view, not about you yourself) then they will build enough information so that they can tell you about what you want to know, not what you don’t want to know.

Personally, I would love it, if all the advertising I saw, was about those things I really want to know, but miss out on because there is no way to advertise them to me. For example, a small italian suit designer, or an interesting watch maker, or a small b&b in the Lake District, or a new local Porsche mechanic, or even Proctor and Gamble’s new products, or Crest White Strips, or the WSJ, or Precor Fitness Equipment, or Starbucks to reach me with a sincere sounding and useful message using existing mass market channels. It would simply be too expensive. and it’s not that I don’t want to know about all those things. I do. I just never, ever want to hear about weight loss, or, feminine protection, or a new pharmaceutical, or local football jerseys or sales at Sears, or discounts at Target, or any of the other things that are very relevant to other people and completely annoying wastes of time to me.

Advertising is only bad when you don’t want it. And unless you help advertisers understand what you want, you’re going to continue getting what you don’t: stuff that’s irrelevant, and sometimes offensive to your sensibilities. Tracking your behavior lets advertisers target you with the right kinds of ads, and to keep up with your changing tastes and interests.

So, tracking isn’t a privacy issue. It’s a public good. (Really.)

– An Advertising Agency CEO.
(We don’t do tracking. We just don’t think it’s useful to mislead people about tracking either.)

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Updating English Spelling? Not so fast, maybe.

For some reason, Joseph Fouche from The Committee On Public Safety found a proposal on revising English Spelling interesting enough to write about.

He lifts this example:

It woz in the ferst dae ov the nue yeer that the anounsment woz maed, aulmoest simultaeneusli from three obzervatoris, that the moeshen ov the planet Neptune, the outermoest ov aul the planets that w(h)eel about the sun, had bekum very eratik. A retardaeshen in its velositi had been suspekted in Desember. Then a faent, remoet spek ov lyt woz diskuverd in the reejen ov the perterbd planet. At ferst this did not cauz eni veri graet eksytment. Syentifik peepl, houever, found the intelijens remarkabl enuf, eeven befor it becaem noen that the nue bodi woz rapidli groeing larjer and bryter, and that the moeshen woz kwyt diferent from the orderli proegres ov the planets…

For some other reason known only to those of us who are social science nerds, I felt the need to respond. Possibly because I am a conservative by nature. Possibly because I understand as an economist, the value of CAPITALIZING just about everything. And that language is a form of capital that can either amplify or discount human beings that use it.

SPELLING IN ENGLISH CONVEYS INFORMATION
The odd spelling certainly makes the language harder to learn but conveys with it much greater content, and it solves the problem of homonyms (words that sound the same but have different meanings) and context. Complex spellings approach abstract symbols that reduce the problem of defining context with similar sounds. All those spellings and oddities convey information. That information is useful.

THERE IS NO REASON THE FUTURE OF WRITTEN LANGUAGE IS CONSONANTAL
It might be better to see it as an advantage for a very complex language to approach becoming both phonetic and pictographic rather than purely phonetic. (Which is what has happened with english.) Imagine chinese by contrast, which is a very old language, and is constructed of a myraid of homonyms and complex tones. (languages start with clicks in the ancient past and end with tonal songs in the distant future.) There are only 30K images or words. Not the nearly 1M in english. They speak poetically because they can’t be more precise. It’s an old language but a primitive one. English, the germanic indo european languages in particular, are technical languages. They are the languages of craftsmen and soldiers: meant to convey precision.

LANGUAGES CONTAIN METAPHYSICAL JUDGEMENTS
Try to speak probabalistically in Spanish. Try to speak factually in polish. Try to eliminate emotional experience from Romanian or italian. Try to convey duty in the Slavics. Languages are more than sounds. They are complex constructs that frame and limit as well as amplify, different social ideas. English is wonderful for insulting someone’s intelligence. Eskimo is wonderful for describing weather. Talk about sex or emotional experience in italian or french. See other languages for what they are: vastly primitive.

THE ECONOMICS OF WRITING ARE CHANGING
Another argument might be, that we are rapidly approaching a position where reading and writing, which are very abstract very inexpensive forms of illustration, may be irrelevant to more than half of the population: where the future is most likely constructed of pictograms or videograms – moving illustrations that are constructed by and presented by machines.

The only reason we use letters rather than images is that they are less expensive to produce. Especially for consonantal languages. However, as languages mature (which they are doing rapidly right now) they become lazy and tonal rather than consonantal. And our current symbolic representations of those languages with consonantal symbols that do NOT convey tones is limiting to representing the tonal.

And while the above statement may seem economically impossible, because of the current perception of machines as expensive, we must remember that writing materials were as expensive in the past, during the development of writing, as we consider computers today. Today’s iPad is yesterday’s quill and parchment.

LUDDITES ARE EVERYWHERE
Effectively the author is promoting a pidgin: a language for simple people to hold simple conversations, rather than a language for conveying complex information. As such, he is, like many others, a Luddite. And luddites are searching for a simpler past rather than a complex, safer, and more prosperous future. And we do not need to dumb down our civilization any further. Even if it does make reading easier.

Learning to read a hard language if it conveys greater information increases human capital.

🙂

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The Dystopian Future Of Cities – Concrete And Rubble VS Star Trek

As I spend more of my time trying to understand the different ways by which the USA will degenerate from its position of trade-empire, I have been working on the future of cities, which will even more dominantly influence the future culturally, morally, economically and politically.

There is a healthy literature on it. And it’s quite the opposite future that the libertarians fantasized about.

Writings on our Dystopian Future:

The Feral Cities Paper
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0JIW/is_4_56/ai_110458726/?tag=content;col1
(Local copy for reference)

The Building Blog and Cities Under Siege
http://bldgblog.blogspot.com/2010/04/cities-under-siege.html

The Books
The Fires by Joe Flood
Planet of Slums by Mike Davis
Cities Under Siege by Stephen Graham
Urban Nightmares by Steve Macek
The Unheavenly City by Banfield

Mike Davis wrote in Planet of Slums, “the cities of the future, rather than being made out of glass and steel as envisioned by earlier generations of urbanists, are instead largely constructed out of crude brick, straw, recycled plastic, cement blocks, and scrap wood. Instead of cities of light soaring toward heaven, much of the twenty-first-century urban world squats in squalor, surrounded by pollution, excrement, and decay.”

The future of the world is the south american model. It is quite different from the future envisioned by the Protestants, Libertarians and liberals.

It certainly isn’t the orderly civility and sterility of star trek – as if the upper middle class ran the world rather than the proletariat.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s oft-repeated remark that “the modern city is a place for banking and prostitution and very little else.”

Be careful what you wish and plan for, if what you wish and plan for is counter to human nature.

The approach to Natural Law combined with heroic aspiration is different from the myth of equality and heroic aspiration.

We’re going to see the south american model.

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Losing The Habit: We Will Not Return To The Consumer Economy.

Loved this little paragraph today on “extend and pretend”. Although I can’t remember where I found it.

The government has been playing “extend-and-pretend” based entirely on the idea that pent up demand in consumers would grow until it busted out and the recovery would be on – [a recovery] fueled by consumers. What has happened is the exact opposite. This is very serious. We are running into 3 years now, and 4 if you look at what commodity speculation did to consumers starting back in early 2007. …. And so the concern should be whether or not we have a permanent shift in consumer behaviors. Three or four years is plenty of time to break old habits and establish new ones.

Three weeks and you can develop a new habit. Nine months and you can change your system of habits. Three years and you can forget what life was like in the past. In four years you can even forget a bad divorce, death or tragedy.

The bonds that create an economy are perishables. People forget. They forget skills, relationships, ambitions, ways of thinking. They forget.

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All Costs Are Opportunity Costs. Projections Do Not Include The Alternatives.

This article by a local democratic group led me to this CBPP article, which is a response to a paper by the Heritage foundation.

Some critics continue to assert that President George W. Bush’s policies bear little responsibility for the deficits the nation faces over the coming decade — that, instead, the new policies of President Barack Obama and the 111th Congress are to blame. Most recently, a Heritage Foundation paper downplayed the role of Bush-era policies (for more on that paper, see p. 4). Nevertheless, the fact remains: Together with the economic downturn, the Bush tax cuts and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq explain virtually the entire deficit over the next ten years

Which is another example of pretending that the long-cycle view of the republicans, from the sixties through the previous administration is selfishness rather than a REACTION to the socialist policies and socialist social system that conservatives were fighting for the majority of the 20th century. It was the conservative perception that without reinvigorating business and in particular entrepreneurship, that the american quality of life would perish, as it had appeared to by the 1970’s.

If you think the european model is better, go live there for a while. Life in europe is expensive, cramped, dirty and urban. People look, act, and feel poor by comparison. The pretty part of europe seen by tourists was built in prior centuries under the great monarchies. It has nothing to do with the post war model. European cities are vast rings of urban blight, Los Angeles style, around small downtown cores of ancient monarchical elegance. By and large, no matter what social class you live in, america has offered better opportunities to its citizens. People have more choices. Add to their costs the necessity of rearming, and that they have a social problem with muslims on the scale of our post-slavery problem with blacks, and they have tremendous future costs to bear for their model. So go live there. Really. For a while. Life in europe is expensive. An expensive life neutralizes many class status differences. And that’s really the point of those models.

But that aside, what bothers me most about the CBBP analysis, regardless of the figures presented by the heritage foundation, is the belief that our country would not endure OTHER costs, often strategic costs, that are NOT expressed in the numbers, if republican policies were not undertaken.

We have accomplished much of our ambitions with the wars, which is to neutralize Iraqi expansionism, and punish afghans for hoteling terrorists. that we continue to attempt to create democracies is an ideological problem. It would be cheaper to reduce pakistan and iranian capabilities as we have iraqi and afghani capabilities. But we will not do that because we feel that we must be ‘nice’ to people who attack us, rather than punish people who attack us.

But unless we forecast the republican view of the future, which was one in which even worse outcomes existed for the USA’s budget, and in particular, energy costs and decreased entrepreneurship, and decreased competitiveness,

The dirty secret underneath our lack of competitiveness is our education system. We are paying vast competitive costs by forcing education into the private sector, and producing inferior goods, because we do not teach disciplined excellence in schools as do the germans. We don’t teach it for political reasons. We’re dumbing down our citizens. And it’s that cost that republicans are trying to fight as well.

So most of the forecasts based upon assumptions made by both sides are complete nonsense.

All that said, I responded with:

I have absolutely no idea how you are coming up with this chart, and what assumptions it’s based upon. But it’s correspondence with reality approaches zero.

Our tax revenue problem is far deeper and far more structural than whatever assumptions you’re relying upon. These include the dollar, the world economy, structural unemployment, and demographic changes.

Most importantly they involve the class and race issues involved with different occupational distributions, and the resulting difficulty in putting vast numbers of our population (in particular, males) into industries that are permanently lost to us. We have expanded enough of the bottom end of the labor force through immigration, that we cannot push down our existing labor force into less interesting, but certainly productive, jobs. No society can survive 20% of the male population living in frustration. This anxiety will be directed somewhere.

The country, as both a domestic and international empire, is too insufficiently homogenous to permit higher taxation and redistribution. It is contrary to human nature. There is no evidence of it in history. There is no evidence of it in behavioral testing.

The costs of conducting these poorly managed external wars do not account for the cost of not prosecuting them, which are not insubstantial, and perhaps greater.

Our domestic political mythology is a conflict between the erroneous assumptions of the twentieth century, and the expired political technologies of the eighteenth century.

Neither side is going to get their desired future. We are headed toward the south american model of class and racial segregation of urban centers and a powerless central government. This pattern is evident in immigration and emigration moving patterns, demographic changes, domestic trade, domestic cash movement, re-regionalization of identity, and a loss of confidence in both the government and the nation itself.

Conservatives live in a fantasy that the colonial republic is possible to reinstitute. Liberals live in a fantasy of the homogenous egalitarian society. But democratic republican government cannot function at our current scale for the same reason socialism cannot function at scale – information and incentive problems. Even if politicians want to make good decisions, law and taxes are insufficient tools for doing so. Only credit and banking and provide sufficient granularity of management, and our state is not structured any longer to assist in building the economy, only in resolving conflicts between interest groups. Furthermore human beings do not, never have, and never will operate in an egalitarian fashion across status class and race boundaries because status is more liquid and valuable in-group than extra-group. And because epistemologically, human beings do not possess sufficient perception, information, and intelligence to operate as creatures without status signals to tell them which actions are good and bad for them, any more than they can cooperate in large numbers without pricing signals to tell them what actions are good and bad for them.

I am sorry if this is to complex an analysis for a posting on tax and spending policy. But I am speaking to the false assumptions that underly the graph that you presented here.

I would love to live in an egalitarian redistributive society. But to accomplish that goal, you will have to fragment the empire into regions, reduce the federal government to banking and military functions, return the legislative control to the localities, and allow the natural preference that people express to associate within race and class. And that is antithetical to the underclass fantasy – a fantasy which is more concerned with status than it is with money.

But every society is composed of classes. Not just economic classes, but social classes, and ‘greater and lesser productive classes’. And each of these groups pursues its own interests. And because those interests are epistemological in nature ( people need to know how to act ) they are permanent. And as permanent features, they will, especially under prolonged economic duress, be expressed by citizens. Either openly or in black markets, racism, and corruption.

You will never achieve equality outside of a few million people of very similar racial and cultural preferences, with very similar economic interests.

Otherwise, The only equality is in poverty.

And that set of problems underlies the reason why people will become more conservative. ie: they will express sentiments of group persistence and attempt to implement those sentiments by legislation.

So, we are destined to decades of political hostility.

Because the US is now an empire, both domestically and internationally. And while internationally the government has lost legitimacy. THat is irrelevant compared to the loss of legitimacy of the government here at home.

The only thing we can do is contract the empire and attempt to get our people employed in, while getting the upper and middle classes to try to create jobs and we may have permanently displaced our society by trade policy. THe germans build their society to produce disciplined craftsmen. This is important, because craftsmen can create exportable hard goods. But we have tried to create a service economy. And a service economy must bring people INTO the country in order to serve them. We can create a medical tourism industry. But that is not sufficient. We can close our educational system to foreigners. but that is not sufficient. We can devote vast labor to building nuclear power plants, a new power grid, and electric automobiles. And that might be enough. But we can never put people back into building houses. It creates expensive sprawl. But most importantly, it doesn’t make people ‘skilled’. It’s the intellectual equivalent of ditch digging, and as such it is a vast loss of human capital.

Thats the reality of it.

So your deficit prediction is based on the assumption that the nation was not at a structural crossroads by the fall of socialism in 1989. It is based upon the assumption that american productivity will continue as it has. But neither the society we call america, or the advantage that was western, or the advantage that was american, persists any longer.

We are in for another decade of this economy, and if history is any measure, we are also in for something unpleasantly disruptive in the next generation. And neither side has a plan for getting us out of it.

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Krugman Watch: Barking Up The Wrong Tree

Paul Krugman writes, in Permanently High Unemployment

I really don’t think people appreciate the huge dangers posed by a weak response to 9 1/2 percent unemployment, and the highest rate of long-term unemployment ever recorded

Paul,

You will not get consensus on general liquidity (unbridled credit). You will not get consensus on government spending (expansion of the bureaucracy). You will not get consensus on redistributive infrastructure (city projects).

But you will get consensus on investment in strategic competitive advantages if you can identify them. We are going to have long term structural employment. These people are not going to go back to work in their previous careers. You’re right that government can provide a solution. but that solution is to concentrate capital behind investments in competitive production that the market cannot create largely because of regulatory hinderances, or regulatory uncertainty, or regulatory competition. The greatest benefit to the country will be to invest in a new grid, triple the number of nuclear plants, and to convert as much infrastructure from hydrocarbons as possible. There is no mystery why this is a competitive advantage. It will create millions of jobs, especially in skilled trades.

You’re just recommending the wrong platform for getting money into the economy. And no one is buying it.

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“What do you think about China?” I Think You Are Confused About The Virtues Of Political Systems

Kenneth V. asks:

I’m curious about your opinion on China’s future. As the democratic empire collapses in the west and power shifts its balance, do you think that the Chinese people will demand more political freedom, especially since libertarian books are bestsellers? Or do you think the oligarchy will be successful in suppressing dissent? What do you think of the demographic trends there? Chinese couples do a trial-and-error with childbirth where babies who are less than perfect are killed. The massive gender imbalance of 40 million more males than females. What do you think of this kind of extreme eugenics? I personally find it abhorrent, but I’d like to ask your opinion.

Ken,

The Chinese are driven by the conflict between northern government, southern trading prosperity, interior poverty, and hostile borders. The cultural tradition is ancient and it’s purpose is to avoid civil wars at all costs, simply because civil wars were so common for them, because they are exposed to what they see as threats (their country needs the china seas open in order not to be starved into submission), and because of natural conflicts between the regions.

This history is as important to china as the sense of freedom is to the west. (a sentiment which is in no small part a reaction to the middle eastern model – which westerners considered horrid.)

[callout]I suspect that they will never achieve the middle-class society as we understand it. They will bypass that phase of development. They will go from totalitarian rural poverty to totalitarian urban poverty, and maintain their corrupt bureaucracy. The reasons for retaining that bureaucracy will simply evolve to support a different set of objectives.[/callout]

Now, to avoid drinking our own Kool Aid, we probably should understand that the west has always had an advantage of being a society filled with craftsmen rather than laborers, not the least of which was the result of widespread metal smithing, easy river trade, and the western agrarian cycle which was very seasonal. The importance of that sentence may not be obvious to you unless you think of the 360 day a year job of a rice farmer. So Romans conquered northern europe because the ‘barbarians’ were fairly wealthy by contrast, and presided over resources. While they exploited the warmer climes for food.

But western wealth over the past 500 years, has largely to do with selling off the american continent to immigrants. Not to any particular western genius. IN fact, the continental view of exploiting the continent as they had the islands, by bringing resources back home paled by comparison to the money that could be made by settling, populating, and selling consumer goods to immigrants to the north american continent.

In this broader context, our political order is more dynamic, and by that I mean, flexible, and the republican model with capitalistic institutions (for cooperation) is the only one that is effective for mobilizing enough people to accomplish such a task.

China by contrast is simply doing the same thing without inventing it: they are selling off apartments, electricity, water, and food to immigrants to the coastal cities.

Their model is better for doing their migration under their circumstances. Our model was better for doing our migration under our circumstances.

The question is, for them, for us, what will happen when that’s done. Because we are going to have very densely populated cities, and in that model FARMER ETHICS AND MORALS EVAPORATE. Traditional religious principles, ethical constructs, and the ability to manage class differences become very difficult in those environments.

The difference is that the chinese have the benefits of monarchy (long term thinking), the capital concentration of totalitarianism (which is very useful) and the institutions of capitalism (banking, finance, accounting, interest and credit, western laws), and they get to profit on the implementation of western technology – without having to have had to discover it.

This is a very good model for competing externally. it is not a good model when you’re the ‘winner’. It’s a very good model for when you’re a century and a half behind the rest of the world.

I suspect that they will never achieve the middle-class society as we understand it. They will bypass that phase of development. They will go from totalitarian rural poverty to totalitarian urban poverty, and maintain their corrupt bureaucracy. The reasons for retaining that bureaucracy will simply evolve to support a different set of objectives. But the damage that they will cause in that transition, to the world in general, if they are faced with uprisings, is substantial.

I think your question begs the wrong assumptions: political models are utilitarian goods, not absolute goods. Societies need to concentrate capital in order to compete and cooperate with other societies. Then they need internal institutions for everything else. Complex market capitalism when combined with totalitarian command of large investments, with the least corruption possible is probably the most competitive form of political order. As long as investments are competitive rather than redistributive. Redistribution is the result of competition. Not a replacement for it.

There is no inherent value in political freedom on its own. It’s not a virtue. It is an acceptable risk in a homogenous society. But it is a net danger in a pluralistic society. The struggle for power must never be available to factions or minorities. Only the struggle to compete in the market. Political freedom is the freedom to usurp the market. THere is no other reason for it. The only value of political freedom is in reducing corruption, which is an impediment to trade, exchange and capital formation. The problem for a people is suppressing corruption, not obtaining political freedom.

People don’t really choose their political system. It’s determined by their circumstances and they are pragmatic in adopting it. They don’t pick idealistic things, and if they do, they fail (Iran).

Democracy is just slow moving communism. As Schumpeter said, Democracy will just lead to socialism. Republicanism and oligarchy are rule by the middle classes (trade). Totalitarianism is rule by the upper classes (force). Theocracy by definition, rule by the lower classes (fraud). (IQ and Atheism increase with class structure, although under capitalism moral behaviors tend to emerge with the decline in religiosity.)