Saturday, July 27, 2013

Research funding, spinoffs, and "getting yours"



Spin offs. Among the people who have paid attention to our space program, "spin offs" is fairly large talking point. But I don't generally feel like the population as a whole knows much about them.

A Spin off is a technology, product set, or applicable knowledge that came out of the space program either as a side effect, or as a direct technological advancement. If you start looking into this- from radial tires and highway grooving to medical knowedge, telemetry, and treatement- from prosthetics to household appliances- almost no area of "middle class" life is untouched by the benefits of spin offs.

Few people realize the level of impact that the mass of spin offs have had on the United States. But many people are aware of the funding.

A common, almost "default" argument of many fiscal conservatives and libertarians is that government funded private research is bad- if the company gets intellectual property or an ability to make a profit off of the research. This is generally couched in terms that can be boiled down to "it's my tax money and I didn't get nothin, someone else made a profit!"

I'm going to argue that "didn't get nothin" is completely inaccurate.

This topic came up in a discussion of "global warming" and pollution. I am of the opinion that the latter is a much more important human issue than the variable maybes of the former.

I was presented with a set of options to reduce pollution based on getting rid of the internal combustion engine. What I was presented with was:

1: Supporting stronger aircare regulations.

2: reducing the number of freeways

3: Higher taxes on automobile and related transportation.

4: increased mileage requirements.

Note, specifically, that my goal is to GET RID of the IC engine. None of these solutions actually address that. All of the presented universe of "possible" solutions rely on government restriction or money gathering as a restrictive tax on use.

I have another answer, which I presented. Research.

The response was to suggest "bounty prizes" for specific targeted goals. I don't really think that's an option.  I like the bounties and prize money, but it doesn't have the same impact as the type of funding and results of the 40s through the 60s.

In a bounty system, you have a direct target and less opportunity to make use of spin offs. You also have to fund the research in the hopes of winning the bounty (which isn't really that high in any of the cases I've seen)

What we had at one point- what people complain about as in the opening lines of this essay- was essentially "free money if you have an idea or a lab."

Yeah, there were some paperwork requirements and tracking issues, pork barrels and corporate pushiness. But, it boiled down to "free money if you have an idea or lab- and the oomph to do some paperwork and make a case"

What's the difference? ZERO RISK RESEARCH. You didn't have to justify- to your board, your wife, or your kids' dinners- spending 75% of your annual profits on a research project. You didn't have to shut down a pension plan to do research funding. You didn't have to (and in many cases were not PERMITTED to) outsource a lab to cut costs.

Zero. Risk. Research. With functionally unlimited amounts of money available.

What did we get out of it? Contrary to the common argument that companies made profit off the government and we got nothing- we got spin offs. And jobs, pensions, growth in income, technology, overall standard of living, and national wealth like nothing history has ever seen.

We went through an era of almost complete technological dominance and increasing wealth.

Yeah, private individuals got patents, corporate "entities" got patents, people and companies made money off of the research. And we got...

Rich.

(yes, we had some downsides, but they are identifiable and manageable.)

My answer to the pollution problem? Make the internal combustion engine economically stupid.

How? I don't know. I suggest we throw TRUCKLOADS of money into research and see what happens. Let's do a bailout on our technological dominance instead of banks.

Will you "get yours"? probably. The economic spin off effects are pretty amazing.






Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Fair playing fields.

In a recent discussion on- what else- the economy, I offered the opinion that we aren't really practicing socialism as such, nor "capitalism" (by any real defintion). A lot of our core issues on an individual level stem from a corporate-benefit state in partnership with a progressivist governmental system that seeks to control all non-business economic activity.

We, quite simply, don't have a fair playing field. Of course, I was asked what I consider to be a fair playing field.

Wow. Now, that's huge. I can't answer without also answering something about the direction we'd need to go to get a fair playing field.

But first- capitalism. In speaking of capitalism, at least one of the individuals involved defines capitalism in the Randian terms used by capitalism.org - 

  "Capitalism is a social system based on the principle of individual rights. Politically, it is the system of laissez-faire (freedom). Legally it is a system of objective laws (rule of law as opposed to rule of man). Economically, when such freedom is applied to the sphere of production its’ result is the free-market."

I don't use the word capitalism that way in most of my writing. Capitalism is an economic system. It's based on individual ownership and control of wealth generation, production, profit, and means.

(this is sometimes defined as private, especially by corporate "personhood" advocates and government program progressivists. My use of the word "individual" by no means eliminates groups of individuals, but avoids the false "private/government" issue.)

When our nation was founded, we put a fair amount of effort into the protection of individual rights- through the Constitution, Bill of Rights, the idea of representative democracy instead of direct democracy (mob rule), and restrictions on corporations. Yep- originally a corporate charter had to be approved by the community  was relatively local in scope, had a time limit, and other restrictions. Notably, people involved in the corporation were not absolved of personal responsibility, corporations could not own corporations, and could engage only in their chartered activities.

Some of the goals of these restrictions were to prevent undue accumulation of power into oligarchical groups, prevent anti-competitive activities against individuals, and ensure that corporations served the accepted goals of the local social compacts.


Oh, yeah, social compacts. One area where we often go wrong discussing capitalism and its variants such as our current LAWCAP system is that we tend to ignore that our nation was founded with an idea that we did, in fact, have social compacts. That locales and communities had duties, responsibilities to each other, and that this also applied to economic activities.

Currently, due to manipulation of the debates, the idea of social responsibilities and community interaction - and social compacts- is seen as "anti-capitalist" in many circles. 

This couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, Adam Smith, one of the great formulators of capitalism, was very cognizant of the needs of communities and the benefits to communities and nations of a well regulated system of capitalist economics.

Adam Smith also had a lot of distrust for unregulated markets and businesses. "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices."

"Wherever there is great property, there is great inequality."

Smith also suggested that people should support the government in accordance with their means AND that the general population should not pay into the government for things that are of benefit only to a few. (apply THAT to the budget debates!)

Now, given the specifics of our Constitution these social compacts and communities can do many things, but aren't permitted to take things away. (there has been a change over time from the original interpetations of various states that "states can do anything" to "these are individuals liberties" in our thought and interpretation.)

***

Our current system, in allowing the growth of corporations and regulations that favor corporations over the individual, have twisted our "fair playing field"

We have also engaged, due to the early Progressive Movement of a bit over a hundred years ago, in manipulation of our citizenry to not accept responsibility for their lives. 

Responsibility, at the highest level, is a creative thing. It is a POWER, not a punishment. We have, systematically, through the movement of schooling into government hands, through the governmentalization (and privatization, which are related) of support systems and charity, through regulation of the individual, removed the positive aspects of responsibility from our populace and thoughts.

***

The idea of the social compact applying to our communities, our free associative groups (clubs, churches, fraternal orders, etc) *and* our *economic activities* has fallen out of favor. With full involvement and sovereign franchise of the individual, the social compact applies to both government and "private" activities and there is, beyond the guaranties of our liberties, no real distinction between "government" and "private" in the sense used by most modern people to discuss economics.

***

How does this lead us to thinking about a fair playing field?

Note that I'm not using the term "level playing field" - as humans are not lightbulbs to be interchanged anonymously and identically in any given area, the playing field can never be said to be level. It just isn't so.  The best you can do to level things is to have the community, the society at a fairly LOCAL level, engage in performing its duties to provide a better society than existed before. 

Fair as an adjective means - Having or exhibiting a disposition that is free of favoritism or bias, just to all parties,, equitable, being in accordance with relative merit, consistent with rules and ethics.

A fair playing field, then, is one in which no one is *deprived* through interference (I include coercive schooling and invasive programs that seek to control behavior or development in this), special interest lobbying, inequitable application of rules, rules designed to advantage a particular group, or other means- of their essential liberties and the concomitant opportunities that arise therefrom.

A fair playing field is one in which protections designed to enhance those opportunities, without special privileges*, and specially contrived to advantage the individual and family over the business group, are in place and enforced. 

A fair playing field is one in which there are no punishments, fines, special taxes, or other forms of redistribution levied against the individual and family for their activities.

A fair playing field is one which also recognizes, protects, and improves the social compact to greater secure the guarantees of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. 


Still working on HOW we do that :)


Thursday, May 17, 2012

A post I saw mentioned, in passing, something that's terribly important about negativity.The example given was "Liberal view on the economy are wrong" without ever providing a thought on what is right.

  We are on the buildup to election time here in the US, and as it happens, I do think the Progressive democrat view on the economy is wrong. I also think the mainstream Republican ideas on economic fixes are wrong.

  I feel this comes from some basic misunderstandings in words, history, and goals.

  First- jobs. Jobs has come, in national political terms, to mean *almost exclusively* employment by a large entity capable of (and often required to) provide a secure wage, health care, retirement, vacation, and pay schedule following some metric of "fairness."

  I prefer to use other terms. Work, or wealth creation. You have to go back in history for a bit to figure out what we started with, what we ended up with, and what's potentially wrong with it.

  Originally, job in the sense we are looking for meant a temporary or set piece of work, or to let out for hire for a specific task.

  Our earlier American economic model was based around some central points- the yeoman (independent) farmer- the journeyman jobber, the master craftsman. While many people worked for another for their whole lives, the idea was that one had the ability to build skills, move employment, create wealth, and have an adequate opportunity to go independent.

  We have, yes, always had "cradle to grave" employment with a given family or individual in some instances. But the Industrial Age idea of career employment and retirement as a... right, guarantee, ideal- this has changed some views.

  A couple years ago I asked a friend who was having a hard time finding a "job" if she wanted a job or wanted to make money. It really was a definite reframing for her, and she's now a rapidly developing sheath artist. At this point, it's more or less up to her to make an adequate amount of money through effort, advertising, and service- the market is out there.

  This points out a key shift- from "initiative" to "dependence" - and I use the terms very loosely. These two words have meanings that are incorrect, but are useful for the moment.

  I see the progressive side of the democratic party as attempting to ensure fair *results*- and dependency.

  I see the mainstream republican party as trying to fix the economy by increasing the power and profit potential of large corporations- again, dependency.

  I have, in the past, gone into the history of corporations in the US and how and why the idea of a corporation now is so different from the idea of a corporation in the late 18th century. They are very different.

  Second - goals.

  The goal, as I see it, is to increase the ability of the *citizens* to *generate* prosperity. That requires an environment allowing, protecting, and encouraging independent action, work (which doesn't necessarily mean corporate employment), to innovate and generate wealth.

  The presented goals by both parties are - essentially- involved in dependency and security. The Progressives have a century-plus old platform that includes the idea of a set of professional classes to take care of people, operate politically, and "manage" economics and society.

  While it's never stated, and often resisted- the result of this is dependency. And it goes strongly against the ... call it the Puritan Work Ethic that has been essential to our historical development.

  The republican "business" side of the aisle - also including the confused capitalists (more on that later)- insist that the goal is to create an ever improving environment for unregulated business. The result, proven historically, of this is "robber baron" capitalism, which again creates a dependency in the general public while creating a weird sort of aristocratic dependency among the corporate and political upper echelons on governmentally generated advantages- such as corporate personhood and special access rights to natural resources, and "tax haven" bidding wars among local governments.

  In neither case does the goal of *opportunity* for "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness" shine.

  Third- capitalism.

  Oh, hades. The complications surrounding this word are insane. It's worthy of a separate post. Briefly- capitalism isn't a single thing, it's a set of definitions, types, scales, and implementations which vary all along among things such as individual opportunity, economic efficiency, corporate and aristocratic protection, denial of public access to resources.....Capitalism itself is often confused with our social work ethic, esprit, initiative. (tell that to a deep rock miner!)I'll get into that later.

But there are many people who think that my ability to have an independent business is somehow tied to protecting the "rights" of corporations- confused capitalists.

For now, there's more than enough post here to put anyone to sleep, so I will delve into capitalism again later.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

timocracy


The assorted definitions of assorted political terms are amusing at times. The word for today is.... timocracy.

The primary definitions of timocracy are :

1. A state described by Plato as being governed by persons whose political power accrues through (primmarily military) honor and glory.

2. An Aristotelian system in which civic or political power increases with wealth.

Wellllllll, okay. sorta. Not that these definitions have conflict and that there are several modern alternative usages.

Let's break it down to "governance by worth"

Disregarding, for the moment, the national party system we inherited from the post-Nixon reforms- and looking solely at grass roots political activism, consider this question:

Is traditional american party politics- republican and democrat- in local organisations, with local effort *required* to acheive position, power, influence- is this not, in a very essential way, timocracy in the sense that those attaining power have the worthiness of stepping forward and *trying*?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Occupy!

I've been scanning reports, and listening to interviews with the Occupy movement.

As with many things, there is some meat in there I do agree with.

It's not corporate and political corruption I have a specific problem with, as is most often stated by and about the Occupy movement.

Corporate rights and power are definitely an issue with me. Our nation does and should exist for the citizens, not for corporations. The Supreme Court made its biggest and most fundamental error, in my opinion, when it started granting rights and personhood to corporations.

In this, limited, specific idea that corporations are a problem, I agree with the Occupy movement. How and why corporations are a problem I don't think we agree on.

We certainly do not agree whatsoever in politics. The Occupy movement wants to replace representative democracy with mass "consensus" democracy. Pure, undiluted, addictive, mob rule.

Their answer to our current political system isn't to look at what is broken and what has worked for so long, but to chuck the whole thing. In listening to interviews, I have gathered evidence of reasons that vary from a complete lack of knowledge on what our political system is, a refusal to play on a gameboard where individual X doesn't get to make the rules. And, most damning, a Harrison Bergeron styled insistence on forceful inclusion of anyone deemed under-represented by specific social goals, sociological theories, or census.

Many of the most basic points and goals are covered simply in becoming active in local politics- and moving to reverse the Nixon era changes that catapulted NATIONAL level parties to prominence.

Of course, in suggesting this, I have run into the seemingly endless stream of rationalizations. "local parties don't matter" - "local parties won't listen to us" - "we can't compromise with politicians" and so on.

And so, the answer- throw away our current system, from the municipal to the federal level, and play by their rules.


One poor girl stated "this is new, no one knows how big it can grow. Nothing like this direct concensus democracy has ever bee tried before." (she's an organizer of one of Nevada's Occupy movements).

I suggest a reading of history. mid 19th through late 20th, centered in Europe, while incomplete, should suffice to educate.

Will the Patriotic primary candidate please stand up?

An open letter to the primary candidates- incidentally to our sitting President, as well.


We have some issues here to focus on in this election cycle. Jobs, regulation versus environmental protection, the economy. The role of government in creating jobs or commanding the economy. The role of corporations in job creation and commanding the economy (sorry, guys, but that's even worse than the government- corporate "persons" have neither patriotic, nor philanthropic reasons to do anything for the US citizenry as such.)

We're Americans, we can, have, and will argue endlessly on these issues.

But all of you have lost me on one crucial topic.

So I ask you, each and every one-

What is patriotism? How would you answer that in an interview?

How can you demonstrate your own patriotism, civic virtue, and sense of duty to the nation?

What is civic nationalism? Why is it important and how does it differ from ethnocentrism or "national party" versions?

Why do you feel it is your own patriotic duty to stand for election to the office of President of the United States?

I'll be down at the local VFW post 1002 in Fallon, Nevada when you want to come talk about it.

I'm nobody. I don't think the candidates will see this. I certainly don't expect an answer. I'm a knifemaker, a father, a veteran, and a patriot. That's all I am. I'd like to see and hear you - those who do see this- asking these questions, though.

I will tell what I think- my answers.

Patriotism is defined simply by a dictionary as "
devoted love, support, and defense of one's country; national loyalty." (dictionary.com)


Mirriam Webster states that the synonym for patriotism is nationalism. (this is wrong)


Samuel Johnson, in probably his most famous quote, stated
"Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel." (He was referring to a false- and loud- psuedo-patriotism which translates to "what I want is patriotic. If you are patriotic, you must agree with me.")

George William Curtis wrote: "A man's country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers, and woods, but it is a principle and patriotism is loyalty to that principle. "

And, because it's sort of the opposite of Godwin's law to bring up The Man- George Washington stated: "Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism. "


Patriotism- possibly only in the US, but certainly in the US- is more than a sense of loyalty to a nation. It is a sense of loyalty to our principles, beliefs, and methods of increasing liberty. With that loyalty comes the civic virtues of responsibility and duty to promote, defend, and enhance these principles.

Nationalism is, perhaps, related. But it is certainly distinct and is commonly used negatively. I believe this is due to a lumping of things like ethnocentrism, fascist Party nationalism, and such with the American civic nationalism.

In the United States, nationalism traditionally has not been state-centric. That is to say, our nationalism doesn't tend to promote the State over the Citizen.

Nor is our variety of nationalism limited to a particular ethnic group or specific religious flavor.

Our nationalism, our particular civic variety, rests on the idea that we, as citizens of a nation that we own- or run- share a common identity as a beacon of liberty.

The Declaration of Independence is one of the leading documents defining civic nationalism.

"We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states...."

The representatives, with the authority of the people.

Our "statism"- our nationalism- is based on this simple premise. The authority of the citizens.


I can't answer why it is anyone's patriotic duty to seek a presidential nomination- I have no desire to seek such a thing, myself. But if the desire is not flowering out of the basic sense of civic virtue, then we need to worry.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The General Welfare

A friend of mine brought out a quote from Madison the other day:

"If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions." — James Madison, letter to Edmund Pendleton, 1792



In response, I wrote a little something about what, exactly, the general Welfare means- and which form of it Madison may have been referring to in his letter.

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."


Welfare, or "the general Welfare" - doesn't in the terms of the Preamble refer to what we commonly call Welfare in current times.

In the case of the Preamble, it refers to the need to structure the government around protection of rights, liberties, and opportunities- welfare- of everyone, instead of selecting narrow or special groups. Think "commonwealth" instead of Reagan's "welfare queen".

Now, when you get to the clause in the Constitution where the general welfare is mentioned for the second, and only other time:

(Article One, Section 8)

"The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States"

Here you get into territory where different interpretations can be made.

Specifically relating this to the Preamble, it becomes clear that providing for the general welfare could- should- mean defending liberties against transgression or limiting by special interests.

Our founding fathers had a great deal of suspicion and experience around this topic, and structured early corporate law, citizenship, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights specifically to prevent the rise of oligarchal forms. (*cough*)

The Hamiltonian interpretation, which I believe is what Madison was arguing against the letter you quoted, is that the Congress has the right to tax and then spend the money to provide supports- what has evolved into modern welfare entitlements.


In terms of Federalism, the quote from Madison isn't a stand against the third of the four basic core elements of the Preamble, then. The idea that congress can tax, and then spend to support certain groups of persons through subsidy to ensure the "general welfare" does, hoever, seemt o bug him a bit.

***


Madisonian Federalism relies on 3 factors to maintain a balance- separation of powers within the federal government, the existence of state constitutions, and representative (as opposed to direct) democracy.


The first of these is commonly discussed, especially when it comes to items like a push to put congressional oversight onto the Supreme court, or when a President "deems" legislation into law.

Or the creation of law-enacting and enforcing agencies that are non elective and answer not at all to the populace of voters. (Such as the FCC, FDSA, USDA, etc)

We're all, over here on the blog, pretty familiar with the need for a separation of powers within the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches.


The second two legs, though, are a bit less thought of.

The second one- state consitutions standing alongside (and sometimes opposed to) the federal Consitution- this is often covered a bit under the much bandied topic of States' Rights.

But it's more than that. Insofar as the federal US Constitution does state in the Tenth amendment: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." - The states have a whole selection of duties and responsibilities. The federal government has increasingly encroached on these, in my opinion.

To use a basic example, education is a state responsiblity, or a local one (depending on the relevant state constitution) and thus not a federal responsibility.

The third leg is often the most overlooked. A completely direct democracy is a tyranny of the masses.

The Madisonian idea here is that in a direct democracy, the majority has no controls on behavior and can become very "rude" (deadly). A small group or selection of lone symbols can and will be used in a pure democracy as targets- and this is the surest way to develop a majority of minorities when a clear majority is not present.

While representative democracy- republicanism- will "refine and enlarge the public views" through the acto f election to a council or congress. More space and effort will be given to working with other representatives, and this form is less likely to devolve into a messianic mob. (The contrast with this is evident in several European nations throughout the last several hundred years.)

One of the keys to progressivism in general is a desire to switch to more direct democracy when things don't go their way. The idea is that the individual will somehow have more power by voting directly for a president and federal legislation than he will if he votes for a representative. This is great for California, but really SUCKS for a small population state such as Nevada or Montana. The more direct the democracy gets, the less protections you have against rule by density. Take that either way.