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The Limits of Human Scale


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#61 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 23 November 2011 - 10:20 PM

View PostGeorge Hannibal Peppard, on 23 November 2011 - 09:07 PM, said:

Capitalism has no such paradox, large companies whose marginal returns on complexity (barring a monopoly environment, one of the reasons we have antitrust laws) inhibit their balance sheet go out of business and make the way for companies who can make better use of their resources.  The only way this is inhibited is by government support, usually through collaborations, uncompetitive contracts, and/or bribes, giving them favorable terms which foster their inefficiencies and make them subject to the same problems as ensconced government agencies.
Their complexity can be offset by driving wages down and they can negotiate prices more effectively, as in the case of Wal-mart.  But that's beside the point, the paradox that he stated wasn't that capitalism results in inefficient bureaucracies (although this may be true), but that the motives of capitalist businesses ultimately and inevitably pit them against the social good.  Really it's axiomatic, if your primary motive is the creation of wealth, other values will eventually come into conflict.  Moreover very large corporations are difficult to counteract in a liberal democracy.

#62 George Obsolete Peppard (GOP)

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Posted 24 November 2011 - 06:01 AM

View PostPLEASUREMAN, on 23 November 2011 - 10:20 PM, said:

View PostGeorge Hannibal Peppard, on 23 November 2011 - 09:07 PM, said:

Capitalism has no such paradox, large companies whose marginal returns on complexity (barring a monopoly environment, one of the reasons we have antitrust laws) inhibit their balance sheet go out of business and make the way for companies who can make better use of their resources.  The only way this is inhibited is by government support, usually through collaborations, uncompetitive contracts, and/or bribes, giving them favorable terms which foster their inefficiencies and make them subject to the same problems as ensconced government agencies.
Their complexity can be offset by driving wages down and they can negotiate prices more effectively, as in the case of Wal-mart.  But that's beside the point, the paradox that he stated wasn't that capitalism results in inefficient bureaucracies (although this may be true), but that the motives of capitalist businesses ultimately and inevitably pit them against the social good.  Really it's axiomatic, if your primary motive is the creation of wealth, other values will eventually come into conflict.  Moreover very large corporations are difficult to counteract in a liberal democracy.

Almost any business that you can say is doing active social harm has already done this because it's a monolithic entity long since taken over by bean counters and sniveling bureaucrats who are only looking towards their internal power struggles.  Lots of moderately sized businesses in my area at least are actively involved in such community activities as sponsoring school sports teams, sponsoring local activities etc. because, first it's good for business, but second because they realize its their community they're making money off of, and that it's worth it in good will to give back to them.  Profit by its nature being against social good?  That's already 90% of the way to Karl Marx, and untrue to boot.

#63 Do You Read Sutter CandH44

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Posted 24 November 2011 - 01:18 PM

Quote

any sufficiently advanced business is indistinguishable from government

stealing this

#64 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 25 November 2011 - 07:58 AM

View PostGeorge Hannibal Peppard, on 24 November 2011 - 06:01 AM, said:

Almost any business that you can say is doing active social harm has already done this because it's a monolithic entity long since taken over by bean counters and sniveling bureaucrats who are only looking towards their internal power struggles.  Lots of moderately sized businesses in my area at least are actively involved in such community activities as sponsoring school sports teams, sponsoring local activities etc. because, first it's good for business, but second because they realize its their community they're making money off of, and that it's worth it in good will to give back to them.  Profit by its nature being against social good?  That's already 90% of the way to Karl Marx, and untrue to boot.
let go of your partisan frame

#65 Tragic Jewlatto

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Posted 28 November 2011 - 01:51 AM

View PostTim Hannibal Tebow, on 23 November 2011 - 09:07 PM, said:

Capitalism has no such paradox [...] One may argue that capitalism inevitably harbors the scale necessary to foster uncompetitive public/private sector hybrid goals that are ultimately parasitic to the people

Paradox highlighted.  As PLEASUREMAN points out, the trouble is not so much bureaucracy, but a myopic emphasis on ever greater profits - an emphasis that confers a great deal of power upon successful corporations, since they wind up with the biggest profits.  (Hence the difficulty with regulating big business, since they have the big bucks needed to take-over regulators and reconfigure them to serve corporate interests.  The Civil Aeronautics Board is one such example: while it was supposedly regulating flight for the benefit of the citizenry, the airlines were enjoying levels of profitability never since revisited after dismantling the CAB.)  This is what I meant by "any sufficiently advanced business is indistinguishable from government" - that is, when a corporation reaches a certain scale, its power becomes such that you, as an individual citizen, are as much at its mercy as at the government's, since the two are are almost without a doubt in collusion.

A great example is the H1B visa scam, an issue solely championed by large corporations (and some number of useful idiots) for the purpose of driving down the cost of labor.  As the CEO a large, profit-focused company, you'd be stupid not to support the H1B, and you have the billions to get your way in Congress.  As an individual engineer, there is little you can do.  Government may enact the H1B, but it is only to satisfy the demands of large corporations.

You go on to say:

Quote

it would seem any Constitution that's prepared enough to put safeguards in place to prevent such an action would completely bypass the problems you're talking about.  But then it becomes less of a criticism of capitalism itself and more of a necessary guideline to build a society around to foster it.

This is the Silver Bullet theory of government: "If we just create the thing with the right set of rules, then all this rot can be prevented."  And that may well be the case, but humanity has yet to crack that code, and we have no way of knowing if we ever will.  America got a good 150 years out of our Constitution but now, well, here we are.

Later you praise the virtues of small business:

Quote

Lots of moderately sized businesses in my area at least are actively involved in such community activities as sponsoring school sports teams, sponsoring local activities etc. because, first it's good for business, but second because they realize its their community they're making money off of, and that it's worth it in good will to give back to them.

In this we are in total accord.  At the moment, I work for just such a business, Christian and virtuous.  And while it isn't perfect, it is obviously far less pathological than the standard issue big corporation.  And how could it be otherwise?  Really, I don't see how the CEO of Glaxo Smith Kline would be able to steer his multi-national ship in a virtuous direction even if he wanted to.

Which leads us to:

Quote

Profit by its nature being against social good?

Not at all.  Clearly, capitalism has done more for human economic/material prosperity than any other economic system in the history of humanity.  But recognizing the usefulness of the profit motive is not the same as decreeing profits uber alles, and it is that attitude which tends to emerge victorious in modern capitalist societies, with concomitantly deleterious effects.  The theoretical and empirical truth is that, in unrestricted capitalism, the most efficient and profitable companies will win - and thus, pure capitalism selects for the most ruthlessly profit-focused companies.  And in a utilitarian theory of ethics, the world could hardly be better structured.  For an example of a leading proponent of such a theory of human society, I present you with the hero of my youthful idiocy, David D. Friedman:



If he strikes you as a spergy Jew who knows as little about life as he does about, say, women, well, consider the type of person who would non-ironically argue that the profit-motive alone is sufficient to guide humanity to civilization.

#66 WiRE (moderator team)

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Posted 28 November 2011 - 05:20 AM

View Postniggerfaggot, on 28 November 2011 - 01:51 AM, said:

View PostTim Hannibal Tebow, on 23 November 2011 - 09:07 PM, said:

Capitalism has no such paradox [...] One may argue that capitalism inevitably harbors the scale necessary to foster uncompetitive public/private sector hybrid goals that are ultimately parasitic to the people

Paradox highlighted.

That's not a paradox. There's nothing contradictory (a defining trait of a paradox) about capitalism eventually harbouring the scale necessary to stifle competition. Essentially this is just a special case of the more general phenomenon where if you feed a beast long enough, it will someday be big enough to turn on you.

View Postniggerfaggot, on 28 November 2011 - 01:51 AM, said:


This is the Silver Bullet theory of government: "If we just create the thing with the right set of rules, then all this rot can be prevented."  And that may well be the case, but humanity has yet to crack that code, and we have no way of knowing if we ever will.  America got a good 150 years out of our Constitution but now, well, here we are.


I think the role of constitutions is overrated. One of the founding fathers (I think Jefferson) said something along the lines of "our constitution is designed for a virtuous people; irreligious and amoral people are unfit for self government". Basically, I understood it as saying the strong constitution of the US was caused by having in place a homogenous, industrious and altruistic society, and not the other way around. After all, Britain has never had a constitution (in terms of something like the bill of rights, which is what was so unique about America's) and it seems both were equally impotent in the face of the POZ onslaught.


View Postniggerfaggot, on 28 November 2011 - 01:51 AM, said:


Not at all.  Clearly, capitalism has done more for human economic/material prosperity than any other economic system in the history of humanity.  But recognizing the usefulness of the profit motive is not the same as decreeing profits uber alles, and it is that attitude which tends to emerge victorious in modern capitalist societies, with concomitantly deleterious effects.  The theoretical and empirical truth is that, in unrestricted capitalism, the most efficient and profitable companies will win - and thus, pure capitalism selects for the most ruthlessly profit-focused companies.  And in a utilitarian theory of ethics, the world could hardly be better structured.


I doubt any society has ever had, or will ever have, what you'd describe as "unrestricted" or "pure" capitalism, so while what you say might be true in some theoretical ideal, it's clearly not the case that our present system, whatever you want to call it, winds up rewarding the most efficient companies (or in any system outside of a goon's mind). Inevitably, many industries will remain heavily regulated and inevitably the regulation will be twisted to suit the insiders in each particular industry (e.g., look at healthcare, education, aerospace or defence).

I think you're missing the point that ultimately a lot of these maladies affecting American capitalism are not problems inherent in (or we're claiming are inherent in) capitalism specifically; they are related to scale and would appear in any economic system increasing in scale indefinitely.

#67 George Obsolete Peppard (GOP)

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Posted 28 November 2011 - 06:27 AM

View Postniggerfaggot, on 28 November 2011 - 01:51 AM, said:

View PostTim Hannibal Tebow, on 23 November 2011 - 09:07 PM, said:

Capitalism has no such paradox [...] One may argue that capitalism inevitably harbors the scale necessary to foster uncompetitive public/private sector hybrid goals that are ultimately parasitic to the people

Paradox highlighted.  As PLEASUREMAN points out, the trouble is not so much bureaucracy, but a myopic emphasis on ever greater profits - an emphasis that confers a great deal of power upon successful corporations, since they wind up with the biggest profits.  (Hence the difficulty with regulating big business, since they have the big bucks needed to take-over regulators and reconfigure them to serve corporate interests.  The Civil Aeronautics Board is one such example: while it was supposedly regulating flight for the benefit of the citizenry, the airlines were enjoying levels of profitability never since revisited after dismantling the CAB.)  This is what I meant by "any sufficiently advanced business is indistinguishable from government" - that is, when a corporation reaches a certain scale, its power becomes such that you, as an individual citizen, are as much at its mercy as at the government's, since the two are are almost without a doubt in collusion.
A great example is the H1B visa scam, an issue solely championed by large corporations (and some number of useful idiots) for the purpose of driving down the cost of labor.  As the CEO a large, profit-focused company, you'd be stupid not to support the H1B, and you have the billions to get your way in Congress.  As an individual engineer, there is little you can do.  Government may enact the H1B, but it is only to satisfy the demands of large corporations.

This is the Silver Bullet theory of government: "If we just create the thing with the right set of rules, then all this rot can be prevented."  And that may well be the case, but humanity has yet to crack that code, and we have no way of knowing if we ever will.  America got a good 150 years out of our Constitution but now, well, here we are.

It would require one amendment to the Constitution to fix this, all federal elections are to take place with public funds, and make it a class one felony and immediate expulsion from any federal post to accept gifts or contributions from any party known to be affiliated with a corporation.  This should probably apply to state positions too, but I'm not sure if their budgets would be quite as friendly.

Without the backing of anti-competitive legislation, it would be much easier for any startup companies to challenge big business, and it would help to alleviate the scale problem.  There are so many insane fixed costs to a business as soon as you hire the first employee that are nearly insignificant once you reach mega-corporation status that anyone challenging them is already kneecapped to a significant degree, and the debt that most folks have to get into just to open a business, along with the risk that some f****t is going to sue you at any time, a disgruntled employee wants to make your life hell, your landlord coming down on you for whatever reason, let's just say small business is always at risk for going under.  You have to not only be good, but also incredibly lucky to make it.  Evening the playing field would be the first step to resume actual capitalism, and removing the fuckbuddy relationship between legislature and corporations would be the beginning.

Quote

Not at all.  Clearly, capitalism has done more for human economic/material prosperity than any other economic system in the history of humanity.  But recognizing the usefulness of the profit motive is not the same as decreeing profits uber alles, and it is that attitude which tends to emerge victorious in modern capitalist societies, with concomitantly deleterious effects.  The theoretical and empirical truth is that, in unrestricted capitalism, the most efficient and profitable companies will win - and thus, pure capitalism selects for the most ruthlessly profit-focused companies.  And in a utilitarian theory of ethics, the world could hardly be better structured.  

No, unrestricted capitalism favors whoever happens to be rich at the moment and makes it nearly impossible for labor to fight on an equal footing with capital, as once you can simply buy your way out of having to follow legislation, be it through bribes or unrealistically small penalties, you reach the end game pretty quickly.  Unrestricted capitalism should never be a goal, you obviously need a set of laws that recognize basic human rights, remove competition crushing practices in terms of monopolies, allow labor to organize in certain specialized niche industries and particularly hazardous occupations, and a few other guidelines to keep the market healthy.

I really believe in a utilitarian sense this regulated, well structured capitalism is what provides the most motive to improve.  Monopolies and guaranteed profit chains generally seek to keep the status quo in place at all times, why risk upsetting the boat when you have a guaranteed killing on your hands?  Hell, look at the drug companies, which in the land of insane insurance rates are practically printing money - their most profitable ventures are mass marketing, wining and dining doctors to promote their products, then buying legislation that makes it illegal to reimport drugs from places where they sell them cheaply (Canada and Mexico) to where they can charge full price (the USA).  Since when has capitalism in America been about blatantly anti-competitive practices like this?

#68 PRCD: Death (and Taxes)

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 10:31 PM

Against my better judgment:
http://www.ecology.e..._Management.pdf

#69 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 04 January 2012 - 12:50 AM

View PostPRCD, on 03 January 2012 - 10:31 PM, said:

Against my better judgment:
http://www.ecology.e..._Management.pdf
looks interesting, and they seem to make a familiar argument for robustness over efficiency, however their conclusions ignore the sociological reasons why command and control (what we refer to as "managerialism") becomes entrenched

#70 Chef Boyhowdy

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Posted 16 April 2012 - 11:05 PM

View PostC B, on 16 April 2012 - 07:26 AM, said:

For it must be sharply realised that the peasant proprietors succeeded here, not only because they were really proprietors, but because they were only peasants. It was _because_ they were on a small scale that they were a great success. It was because they were too poor to have servants that they grew rich in spite of strikers. It was, so far as it went, the flattest possible contradiction to all that is said in England, both by Collectivists and Capitalists, about the efficiency of the great organisation. For in so far as it had failed, it had actually failed, not only through being great, but through being organised. On the left side of the road the big machine had stopped working, _because_ it was a big machine. The small men were still working, because they were not machines.

The Soviets' bloodiest and grandest class war project was de-kulakization, since they represented a natural, achievable, and local model for peasant aspirations.

#71 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 30 June 2012 - 09:00 PM

Fripp is great, one of the very few rock musicians I would say is a serious artist

#72 tommy

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Posted 30 June 2012 - 10:40 PM

Quote

Chesterton offers a nice illustration of it in his collection of essays on Ireland; long but worth it.

Great find!

As hunter-gatherers all of our motivations and goals ran together for the most part.  There was little difference between helping yourself, your family, or your community.  Work, family, and communal life weren't so compartmentalized and for all but the most nomadic, there was commitment to location.

With increasing scale, especially in the last couple centuries, all motivations and interests have increasingly come into conflict with one another and all the ideologies that have sprung up are just weak attempts at treating the symptoms of what is really ailing us.  

Unfortunately, the current system has no inherent interest in developing either institutions or technologies that would permit a serious descaling.

#73 jlsam490

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Posted 01 July 2012 - 12:22 AM

View PostPLEASUREMAN, on 23 November 2011 - 10:20 PM, said:

...the motives of capitalist businesses ultimately and inevitably pit them against the social good.  Really it's axiomatic, if your primary motive is the creation of wealth, other values will eventually come into conflict.

Your saying this reminds me of why the contemporary right is such a joke. Because progressivism is all-pervasive in the West, today's so-called conservatives are bereft of any principles or arguments that either don't originate from the left (yesterday's communists being today's conservatives and tomorrow's reactionaries) or are not utterly dependent on the existence of progressivism to exist. Like the proverbial fish, would-be rightists don't realize that they're swimming in progressivism.

So the right venerates corporate predation not because they've put any disinterested thought into whether it's actually beneficial, but because the left claims to be against it ("claims" being the key word here). They advocate pointless military adventurism because the left appears to want peace. They argue for low taxes on millionaires because the left argues for high taxes. No critical thought involved whatsoever.

(Of course, the left favors progressive taxation not out of humanistic principle, but as a way of shutting out the upper-middle class, the high income earners, from the upper class, whose accumulated wealth is unaffected by high income taxes.)

Lacking any stable metaphysical ground from which to derive their beliefs, the right, the beta males of Western discourse, look to the alpha left for leadership. Long resigned to this subservient fate, the right pursues one of two options: either it adopts progressive notions wholesale--e.g., racial and sexual egalitarianism masquerading as "liberty" and "self-determination"--or it exists merely as a foil for the left, reflexively contradicting anything the latter says, for the same reason a 5 year old contradicts his parents, namely, to enact the illusion that he has autonomy of thought, let alone any say in the final decision.

What's so vexing about all this is that even when the right is correct policy-wise, it's only by accident. They don't argue for low taxes on millionaires because it's economically prudent, they argue for low taxes to spite those commie redistributionists, blithely unaware that they themselves, these bastions of conservative principles, would be considered communists if they got in a time machine to 50 years ago. Because the leftward march of the West is both inexorable and invisible, we are faced with the current farce: the Godless denouncing the Godless for their Godlessness... forever.

But there's something heartening in all this: the infinite possibility enumerated by Dostoevsky in Brothers Karamazov, the elusive yet everlasting possibility:

Quote

Have faith to the end, even if it should happen that all on earth are corrupted and you alone remain faithful: make your offering even so, and praise God, you who are the only one left. And if there are two of you who come together thus, there is already a whole world, a world of living love; embrace each other in tenderness and give praise to the Lord: for his truth has been made full, if only in the two of you.

If you yourself have sinned [ :hardship: ], and are sorrowful unto death for your sins, or for your sudden sin, rejoice for the other, rejoice for the righteous one, rejoice that though you have sinned, he is still righteous and has not sinned [ :sippin: ]


#74 jlsam490

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Posted 01 July 2012 - 01:01 AM

View PostC B, on 16 April 2012 - 07:26 AM, said:

To him, we were all fallen, and we were all fools. The sooner we realized that common quality, the better.

The only idea that matters.

#75 Marxist Hunter

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Posted 01 July 2012 - 02:19 PM

Dunno if this has been said already, but I see 2 very big reasons for the increase in scale: cheap energy and nuclear weapons.

Cheap and abundant energy, especially oil, has increased farm yields considerably, which enabled the many-fold increase in population since then. Many millions of people live now today because food is cheap. Peak oil is fat approaching, and when it does, there will be war. The wars itself, combined with the increasing scarcity of oil (and cheap food), will lead to famines and death--a two way decrease in scale.

Ever since nuclear weapons were invented, nations have been a little more cautious to engage in conflict. This leads to high population growth. See this comic for an explanation.

#76 Laughing Lt. Columbo

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Posted 22 August 2012 - 12:40 PM

I thought I'd jot down some thoughts on an unusual early contributor to a critique of the SCALE of modern materialist culture.

Ralph Adams Cram, an architect of the early 20th century, is deservedly well known for his work in the United States as a sort of American Pugin. He drew from the English medievalist revival of the 19th century and developed, in various books on his craft, an intelligible explanation of what he was doing in architecture, and the duty he felt to contribute a positive English and Christian civilizing influence to the protean American culture of his time: a culture which, as the rest of the century would show, was vulnerable to drastic shifts of direction and the disintegration of its racial, cultural, and spiritual self-understanding. Bits of this are strewn across his works on architecture; I ran across some of them at the end of his book, Church Building. (All his books are free at Google).

One aspect of his work has mostly been forgotten; a curious little book called Walled Towns, in which he criticized the rapid disintegration of the physical and tribal matrix of the rural village and the small town in favor of the industrial and commercial  megalopolis.

Much of it is unpractical and romantic, tendencies to which the more famous Distributists were also prone. I don't agree with some of his prognosis, which is lacking much background in economics or political philosophy. And yet he makes many trenchant criticisms of technology, the ideal of efficiency, and the impossible conservatism which simply rewinds to a past political regime in the face of a new mass society — a criticism PMAN has made. However, I have had some interesting thoughts while reading some of his stuff.

A quote describing several problems already emerging as mass capitalism and socialism matured before the Second World War — partisanship, globalism, consumerism, materialism — from Walled Towns:

Quote

"We can neither return nor remain but — would we go on, at least along the lines that are at present indicated? Are we tempted by the savage and stone-age ravings and rantings of Bolshevism? Have we any inclination towards that super-imperialism of the pacifist-internationalist-Israelitish "League of Free Nations" that comes in such questionable shape? Does State Socialism with all its materialistic mechanisms appeal to us? Other alleviation is not offered and in these we can see no encouragement. It is the eternal dilemma of the Two Alternatives, which is nevertheless no more than a vicious sophism: "Either you will take this or you must have that," the starling-cry of partizan politics by which "democracies" have lived. In all human affairs there are never only two alternatives, there is always a third and sometimes more; but this unrecognized alternative never commands that popular leadership which "carries the election"...Reactionism or Bolshevism: "Under which king, Bezonian? Speak or die!" We are told that the old world of before-the-war must be restored in its integrity or we must fall a victim to the insane anarchy of a proletariat in revolt, and for many of us there is little to choose between the two. We have seen how fragile, artificial, and insecure is civilization, how instantly and hopelessly it can crumble into a sort of putrid dissolution the moment its conventions are challenged and the ultimate principles of democracy are put in practice, and we do not like it....On the other hand, we saw the triumph of "Modern Civilization" in the twenty-five years preceding the Great War, and as we realize now what it was...an impossible farrago of false values, of loud-mouthed sentimentality and crude, cold-blooded practices; of gross, all-pervading injustice sicklied o'er with the pale cast of smug humanitarianism; a democracy of form that was without ideal or reality in practice; imperialism, materialism, and the quantitative standard."

His answer is leisurely elaborated in the rest of the book. In short, it is a drastic reduction of social life away from the mass society addicted to expansion and specialization, towards purposely less efficient, more intimate and social, less financialized, less multicultural communities.

They are more dream and vision than definite political tracts or manifestos. But Crams's thoughts suggest to me that the discomfiture in 20th c. Western minds at the changing economic and social scale of their civilization was much broader than a few isolated political and economic thinkers. And that suggests a new dimension to politics separate from the tug-of-war over which policies the managerial superstate chooses to deploy.

#77 Kevin Wall

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Posted 04 May 2013 - 10:16 PM

Calhoun's experiment in real life:

http://www.dailymail...it-hutches.html

Quote

For some of the poorest, like Leung Cho-yin, home is a metal cage.
The 67-year-old former butcher pays 1,300 Hong Kong dollars (£105) a month for one of about a dozen wire mesh cages resembling rabbit hutches crammed into a dilapidated apartment in a gritty, working-class West Kowloon neighborhood.
Home to tens of thousands, such cages - stacked on top of each other - measure 6ft by 2.5ft.

...Legislator Frederick Fung warns there will be more if the problem can't be solved. He compared the effect on the poor to a lab experiment.
'When we were in secondary school, we had some sort of experiment where we put many rats in a small box. They would bite each other,' said Fung.
'When living spaces are so congested, they would make people feel uneasy, desperate,' and angry at the government, he said.
Leung, the cage dweller, had little faith that the government could do anything to change the situation of people like him.

'It's not whether I believe him or not, but they always talk this way. What hope is there?' said Leung, who has been living in cage homes since he stopped working at a market stall after losing part of a finger 20 years ago.


#78 DJKhalid

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Posted 19 May 2013 - 12:33 PM

Population density and fertility is a fascinating example of the trade-off of societal complexity and growith - one I hadn't thought of before coming to MPC. It seems that all advanced societies (which are just complex organisms) seem to have a self-limiting capacity that triggers once immediate population density increases (correlated in our evolutionary past with increased competition for resources and thus less chance for the survival of offspring) Historically, this notion has been well-supported - Polybius decried the childlessness of the Hellenistic Greece of his age, despite the world-city expanse and hubristic greatness of their cities (particularly Alexandria); the urban centres of central and northern Italy had significantly lower fertility and family size than the surrounding countryside; and the Australian state of Tasmania is the only Australian state or territory with an above replacement total fertility rate. Tasmania is sparsely populated, with extremely rugged wooded terrain and the significant population centres feel more like country towns than the mainland megapoleis - the absence of high-rise buildings, the rural feel and closeness of the city to the river and the bush are probable psychological factors in fertility.

Population density and fertility have long been understood to be negatively correlated (Singapore's single digit fertility comes to mind), although this never seems to be addressed by any public policies. My state government is busily formulating a plan for urban development that will either create more urban sprawl and infrastructure pressures OR will mean the building of dozens of hideous high-rise apartment buildings in the inner and outer suburbs, all in response to the unchecked immigration that has been occurring over several decades. The consequences of this will mean more sprawl or building, more demolition of our architectural as well as historical heritage, as well as the myraid social problems associated with increasing population density - social alienation, declining fertility, declining altruism, increased mental illness etc. There is of course a problem with measuring population density and fertility and that is - that the population density of the country is irrelevant. Australia is an enormous country, but the vast majority of the population are cramped along the east coast. The density of urban centres needs to be taken into account.

The study Population Density is a Key Factor in Declining Human Fertility looked at the correlation between human fertility and population density - Australia was a outlier, with low fertility and low population density, but as I discussed that's not taking into account the high density of population centres, which are a tiny fraction of total land area. The study found that the deciding factor in fertility was not infant mortality, female education or per-capita GDP, though those were factors, but was population density (the correlation itself, when other variables - immigration, education levels etc. were controlled, was .73). The study is itself behind paywalls, but from what I can gather that, the actual preferences of people changed with population density not just their behaviour - Americans and Australians express the desire for more children whereas Singaporeans and Dutch express a desire for less children than Americans and Australians.  

Singapore's population density

Posted Image

Singapore's total fertility rate

Posted Image

Edited by KhalidSheikhHorowitz, 19 May 2013 - 12:36 PM.


#79 PLEASUREMAN

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Posted 19 May 2013 - 01:02 PM

It all looks very much like Calhoun's rat experiment, where the organisms spontaneously cease reproductive behavior but in addition they take on other behaviors that complement the cessation of reproduction--including, most dramatically, the pathetic "behavioral sink" of rats huddling together (see http://en.wikipedia....Behavioral_sink).

This suggests that space--and for humans this includes a number of conceptual definitions of "space" such as room for advancement--is an incredibly important variable in the lives of social organisms.  The realization of its importance is what makes the suggestions by economists like Bryan Caplan and Tyler Cowen that Western countries dramatically increase their populations seem so starkly insane (and it's ironic that borderline autistic intellectuals would make such a suggestion).

This was all much-discussed at the time of Calhoun's research because it fit in with a foreboding of Malthusian disaster.  Overpopulation was a major concern in the 70s, but this concern became derailed in the 80s when economic prosperity and the failed predictions of dramatic shortages relieved this anxiety.  I think generational shift also contributed, as people more accustomed to increased crowdedness assumed power, and concerns of older generations were muted.  In addition, the economic populism (or quasi-populism) of the 80s renewed a sense of conceptual expansiveness even as population density was increasing.

However, this adaptation to increased crowdedness seems to have been temporary.  I think the culture today presents a fairly stark picture of increasingly dysfunctional behavior led by a desire to compensate for crowdedness, complexity, and diversity.  Increasing hedonism should be expected as people turn to repetitive pleasure-seeking behaviors to numb themselves to the low level anxiety that modern society generates.  More autism, more neoteny, more bizarre behaviors.  Once mass societies become entrenched in a dysfunctional cycle of behavior, I think the risk of a lot of bad outcomes increases greatly--another world war, severe resource shortage, widespread poverty and disease throught the "first world", etc.  If history is any guide, one can't underestimate the irrationality that can seize entire nations in such circumstances.

#80 George Obsolete Peppard (GOP)

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Posted 19 May 2013 - 02:08 PM

View PostPLEASUREMAN, on 19 May 2013 - 01:02 PM, said:

However, this adaptation to increased crowdedness seems to have been temporary.  I think the culture today presents a fairly stark picture of increasingly dysfunctional behavior led by a desire to compensate for crowdedness, complexity, and diversity.  Increasing hedonism should be expected as people turn to repetitive pleasure-seeking behaviors to numb themselves to the low level anxiety that modern society generates.  More autism, more neoteny, more bizarre behaviors.  Once mass societies become entrenched in a dysfunctional cycle of behavior, I think the risk of a lot of bad outcomes increases greatly--another world war, severe resource shortage, widespread poverty and disease throught the "first world", etc.  If history is any guide, one can't underestimate the irrationality that can seize entire nations in such circumstances.

Well, the main difference between Calhoun's rat experiment and everyday life is that aside from areas where there is no physical space to branch out into, like Hong Kong or Europe to a degree, a vast amount of people are choosing to stay in a higher population density area when at least in America there are numerous small towns that are being depopulated rapidly as the populace concentrates to larger cities even as total fertility declines.  I know we've both jawed ad infinitum about the reasons why - no job opportunities, limited potential for socialization, etc, but the fact remains that there's no reason why most couples couldn't build a small house out in the boonies and live fairly comfortably even on the smaller paychecks.  This is oddly in stark contrast to the moves of the 60's and 70's, where the push was to go "back to nature" and form communes, small, tight knit communities etc (even if the sentiment was halfhearted and most people moved back).  Less oddly, the few couples that I've known who have done just that seem to be doing fairly well - the question is why don't more people do it?  Clearly the push is there from the media angle to live in bizarre urban situations, considering the tripe pushed on the Boob Tube, rather than in semi-rural life, but I can't imagine everyone who leaves small town America does it because of some f****t on TV.  Any ideas?


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