An open letter to America's progressive billionaires

Dear Mr. Buffet, Mr. Gates, Mr. Turner, Mr. Soros, Ms. Winfrey, and any other hyper-rich types with progressive political leanings:

If this essay has, against all odds, somehow made its way to your desk, please, bear with me. It’s longish, but it winds eventually toward an exceedingly important conclusion. If you’ll give me a few minutes, I’ll do my best to reward your patience.
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In the 2008 election, Barack Obama won a landmark political victory on a couple of prominent themes: “hope” and “change.” He has since been afforded ample opportunity to talk about these ideas, having inherited the nastiest economic quagmire in living memory and a Republican minority in Congress that has interpreted November’s results as a mandate to obstruct the public interest even more rabidly than it was doing before. Reactions among those of us who supported Obama have been predictably mixed, but even those who have been critical of his efforts to date are generally united in their hope that his win signaled the end of “movement conservatism” in the US.

There are perhaps reasons for optimism. Politics in America can be cyclical, and by that thinking our current reactionary hegemony may have run its natural course. The Millennial Generation, which is between 75-100 million strong and extremely active socially and politically, skews heavily away from the policies that have defined the nation since Reagan. And some believe that Obama is the sort of once-in-a-lifetime charismatic who, like John F. Kennedy, can redirect the course of the culture through sheer force of vision and will. If any or all of these things are true, then there is room for … hope.

But while hope is an occasionally helpful frame of mind, it’s no substitute for intelligence, insight, planning, hard work and cash.

As I consider the state of the Republic some 49 days into the Obama era, I find in that formulation a variety of reasons to worry. For starters, it strikes me that very few people – very few, even, of the most visible lights in the progressive firmament – truly understand the magnitude of the conservative climb to power or the nature of the strategy employed. It’s not well understood how long it took, for instance, or how complex the effort was, or how deeply the foundation was poured, or how much it cost. The shallowness of our popular history is a dangerous condition in an age of instant gratification, when winning a skirmish is all-too-easily mistaken for winning the war, and it’s nothing short of terrifying to think that some saw January 20 as the end of the struggle instead of the beginning.

Yes, it was a triumph, and we were right to pause and celebrate, to mark the achievement of a critical milestone, but afterward the collective sigh was nearly audible. I don’t want to overstate the effect, though. I’m not suggesting that a majority of American progressives think the hard part is over, that we can put our society on cruise control and that the wicked Republican Nosferatu is dead once and for all, because that’s simply not the case. Instead, I’m suggesting that we may not sufficiently understand the nature of our opponent and that the failure to stake it through the heart now, while it’s down, assures that it will rise from its all-too-shallow grave to terrorize us once more. The landscape has changed, for sure, but the fundamental engines that propelled the modern reactionary right to power in the first place are alive, well, and already hard at work plotting their resurrection.

The Long War Against America

Let’s take a second to understand a few of the relevant facts regarding the war that still rages around us.

1: The conservative revolution was a generation in the making. Those who laid the groundwork for the eventual ascent of the Republican kwisatz haderach took a long view – an astoundingly long view by American standards – and accepted the occasional tactical setback so long as the eternal march of the faithful continued. One of the godfathers of the movement, Daniel Bell, published his foundational The End of Ideology in 1960, and his intellectual contributions to the landscape we now inhabit can hardly be overstated. In The Coming of Post-Industrial Society (1973), for instance, he gushed about the coming “information age” and painted a rather rosy picture of the life of the “information worker.” This new post-industrial age would be marked by certain significant shifts in axial principles, and among his more powerful claims was the assertion that growth in the information sector resulted necessarily in prestigious knowledge-based employment. Information sector jobs were depicted as automatically better-paying and more fulfilling.

Krishan Kumar’s 1978 retort (Prophecy and Progress: the Sociology of Industrial and Post-industrial Society) aptly demonstrated the fallacies in Bell’s reasoning. Information-based enterprises, like the industrial sector enterprises which preceded them, have a set of basic operational needs which are neither information nor expertise-based. A software operation, for example, requires the same custodial services as a manufacturing operation. Bell’s rhetoric, however, counts such menial employment by the same standards it uses for programmers and managers. In many practical respects, though, the daily operations of service sector businesses differ little from the industrial sector, and claims that a shift in the type of “product” offered from goods to services equals a change in the fundamental structure of employment ought to be greeted cautiously.

So, there you have a pointed exchange from Daniel Bell and Krishan Kumar, two men that you’ve probably never heard of. But ask yourself, which of the perspectives strikes you as rhetorically familiar? Which argument have you heard, and in service to what kinds of policies?

Right. And here’s how complete the rout was. The most enthusiastic parroting of Bell’s construction I’ve ever run across came from Al Gore when he was Vice President. The Democratic Vice President. Take this snippet from a 1994 speech to the International Telecommunications Union:

Approximately 60% of all US workers are “knowledge workers” — people whose jobs depend on the information they generate and receive over our information infrastructure. As we create new jobs, 8 out of 10 are in information-intensive sectors of our economy. And these new jobs are well-paying jobs for financial analysts, computer programmers, and other educated workers (Gore 1994).

One assumes “knowledge” companies don’t need janitors. Regardless, when we reach the point where our “liberal” leaders are reading directly from the script authored by conservative intellectuals, it’s safe to say that the progressive possibility is in deep, deep trouble.

2: The conservative revolution was built on a strong intellectual and academic foundation. (I do not, by the way, use the term “intellectual” to signify correctness or moral righteousness – one can be intellectual while being wrong and evil.) Given how effectively conservatives have kneecapped education in America, it’s remarkably ironic how important academics were to empowering the movement. Daniel Bell is noted above; he and other intellectuals like Irving Kristol, Milton Friedman, William F. Buckley, Russell Kirk and those associated with a host of conservative “think tanks” like the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and the Hoover Institution worked diligently to re-engineer the very DNA of America’s popular ideology. They sought to understand the collective psyche in ways that could be shifted, altered and exploited, and their efforts to deconstruct and re-encode our shared vocabulary is among the grandest achievements in the history of human propaganda. Turning “liberal” into a dirty word was barely the beginning.

These efforts mattered more than it is possible to quantify. As the neo-Marxist scholar Stuart Hall explains, the “battle of signification” is everything. Whoever wins the struggle to dictate to vocabulary used will win the debate.* Think about the abortion “debate” and the clever, almost-always unchallenged construction of “unborn human life.” If that phrase is allowed to stand, the pro-choicer has nearly zero chance of winning the argument.

3: The conservative movement was incredibly well-funded. And still is. One source estimates that between the late 1970s and late 1990s alone 12 major conservative foundations funneled hundreds of millions of dollars – at least – to think tanks, policy organizations, individual scholars, media apparatuses, legal organizations, advocacy groups and more. The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Koch Family foundations, the John M. Olin Foundation, the Scaife Family foundations and the Adolph Coors Foundation are five of the biggest donors.

In 1988, the Olin Foundation alone distributed $55 million in grants. The Scaife family has donated more than $200 million over the years. Million dollar annual grants to individual think tanks are routine.

These Foundations have also been instrumental in creating the most famous think tanks. The Heritage Foundation, considered the leading think tank in America, was created in 1973 with $250,000 in seed money from brewery mogul Joseph Coors. The Cato Institute, the nation’s leading libertarian think tank, was founded in 1977 by the Koch family foundations. )

….
According to the Center for Policy Alternatives, the major conservative think tanks in Washington had a combined budget of $45.9 million, while the major progressive think tanks had a combined budget of $10.2 million. What this means is that far-right think tanks are better able to publicize their findings, stage more conferences, lobby harder for their policies, and present more and better-packaged information before Congress.

Not too put too fine a point on it, but conservative interests have a lot of cash and they’ve proven conclusively that they’re willing to invest it in programs that assure their continued political, social, cultural and economic domination.

And while I hate to oversimplify complex dynamics, it must be said that the points I have just made go a long way toward explaining the last 30+ years of American political history. Yes, there are other factors, but subtract the cash and the intellectual groundwork it bought and our current landscape would look dramatically different. Whether that’s a good thing I’ll let you decide for yourself. My opinion is probably obvious, but I’m not a billionaire.

What Must Be Done

In The Conscience of a Liberal, Paul Krugman does a meticulous job of explaining how we got here from there – “there” being the New Deal society that stands today as the Golden Age of American prosperity. Toward the end he sounds an optimistic note, suggesting that some of the factors that played key roles in the rise of movement conservatism are waning – racism, for instance – and that without their broad mobilizing power the conservatives are in deep kim-chee. There is ample evidence supporting his claims, so perhaps he’s right. I certainly hope so. But if I might return to my vampire metaphor from earlier, when you have the soul-sucking undead bastard down, you don’t stand around hoping. You drive a stake through its evil, demonic heart.

Right now, almost 50 days into the Obama administration, we have Dracula on the canvas. And this is where you, my friends, come in. The way we assure an enlightened future for our nation is to act, and act resolutely, to make sure that movement conservatism stays down. In order to accomplish this, we need to proceed along the following fronts:

We must empower progressive intellectuals the way the Right has empowered theirs. As researchers like George Lakoff have demonstrated, much of the conservative success emerged from how they framed issues and re-encoded the very language we all speak. Political lingustics is an important field – as noted earlier – and if we can successfully keep the English language from being transformed into Newspeak we will hamstring the conservative noise machine in a meaningful way.

However, Lakoff’s Rockridge Institute recently closed its doors and various of its brightest lights are currently seeking to find funds to build on its work. Put simply, the bright lights on the Right are living well while our brightest and best are, as is so often the case, struggling to survive.

We must restore credibility and integrity to the media. As I’ve noted elsewhere, things began to unravel in earnest when Reagan’s newly appointed FCC apparatchiks were allowed to decree, with a straight face, that “the public interest is what the public is interested in.” Newspeak, indeed. Now reporting has been replaced by “fair and balanced” and there is a frighteningly real risk that journalism – real journalism – is dying.

Its future, if it has one, perhaps lies in endowment. I’ve heard a variety of ideas tossed around, including Mother Jones’ new tilt at non-profit journalism. I can’t say what the successful model will look like at this point, but if it emerges, it will center on the insulation of reporting and analysis from the influence of cash and spin.

We must revitalize our educational infrastructure around the imperatives of intellectual inquiry and critical thought. We have seemingly convinced ourselves that the only proper function of education is job training, and that’s an ideology that serves an identifiable master. Specifically, let’s ask ourselves who benefits when an ed system cranks out people with “marketable” skills but no capability for asking uneasy questions about their condition.

There is no surer innoculation against tyranny than a critically minded citizenry. To this end we must invest in education – and I say “invest” instead of “spend” because every dollar you spend is returned to you several times over – and invest mightily. Invest in educational innovation, in new ways of teaching everything from basic math and science to advanced reasoning skills. Invest heavily in early childhood reading programs, because nothing better energizes subsequent, lifelong learning. And most of all, invest in public education. The next time you hear somebody ranting about the marvels of vouchers and “competition” in education, remember a few things.

First, America has historically out-learned, out-taught, out-researched and out-innovated every nation on the face of the Earth. The people who did that were, in most cases, the products of public education.

Second, we’ve always had alternatives to public ed – “competition,” if you will. Private schools, parochial schools, and so on. If competition cured all ills, then how do we explain the state of contemporary public ed?

Third, we have more alternatives than ever today. We have the options noted in the previous item, plus Montessoris and Charters and again, all this competition seems not to have solved our problems.

Finally, the next time you hear rosy conservative rhetoric that seems at little at odds with the empirical world you live in, remember – we live in an age where the language has been re-tooled to serve the ends of a narrow minority. It’s possible, just possible, that you’re hearing propaganda instead of fact. And always feel free to backtrack the data. It may just come from one of those marvelously well-funded conservative “think tanks.”

In summary: Dear Progressive Billionaires, America needs your money. And I don’t mean a million here and million there. I mean hundreds of millions, even billions. If we are to realize any meaningful dreams of hope and change, we must have a world where our brightest and best can apply their minds to our shared problems as professionals. When their intellects are doing it for a living and ours are trying to carve out a couple hours after work, we lose. When their brightest minds are primarily concerned with crafting winning policy and ours are constantly distracted by desperate concerns about their ability to feed their families, they win.

Money isn’t everything, but since you’re a billionaire I’ll assume that you understand a thing or two about what it can accomplish.

Thanks for your time. If you find some value in what I’ve said but aren’t sure where to start, click the Contact button and drop me a line. I know people who are worthy of your generosity and people who will reward your support a thousand times over.

Sincerely,

Sam Smith

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* See “The work of representation.” in Stuart Hall (ed.) Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices (London: Sage/The Open University, 1997), 13-74.

46 comments on “An open letter to America's progressive billionaires

  1. “: Dear Progressive Billionaires, America needs your money. And I don’t mean a million here and million there. I mean hundreds of millions, even billions.”

    Why is it that the left always wants to spend another person’s money. Instead of hitting up the billionaires for cash, why don’t you open your own pocketbooks.

    Jeff

  2. That’s the only line you read, isn’t it? I’m not going to waste a lot of photons here, but I will do this much.

    How is “the left” wanting progressive billionaires to fund critical initiatives somehow different from conservatives getting bazillions of dollars from the Olin Foundation?

    Or are you somehow acknowledging that the successes of the right are built on handouts and welfare?

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  4. Because, you want everyone else to pay for your hidden crypto-fascist re-education programs and the elimination of free markets.

    What percentage of your income do you personally donate to leftist causes? Any?

    Welfare…isn’t that a tool y’all use to subjugate a whole class of people?

    The conservative base gives from within. The Olin foundation gives of their own free will and doesn’t have to be asked. We don’t write letters to billionaires begging them to give up some of their hard earned money for our causes.

    The reason this was the only line I commented about is because it is typical of the left to want to spend everyone else’s money, but not their own.

    This country is at a junction, with the left composed of looters and moochers, while the right plods along, paying your bills. Rand was right, we should go on strike and let y’all deal the mess on your own. We didn’t enact the laws that got us here in the first place, your excessive programs like “community reinvestment act” pushed us down this slippery slope

  5. “We didn’t enact the laws that got us here in the first place, your excessive programs like “community reinvestment act” pushed us down this slippery slope”

    Wow. Talk about divorced from reality.

    If this is the best you can do when faced with Slammy’s critique, that’s really sad.

  6. All major networks and local television stations should have their “public file” made accessible online, where the public can start holding those responsible for spin, propaganda, lies, and blacklisting of issues will be held accountable at the time they try to renew their station license, and frequency allocation.

    Fairness Doctrine? perhaps… I think the above would be a better strategy to achieve fairness.

    Donations? How about donating to your (NON PROFIT) local public access tv channels.
    (WARNING: THIS IS NOT PBS)

    Mentality? Seems like the bloggers who used to be the Conspiracy Nuts are now the REAL JOURNALISTS. yet they still have no “journalism credentials” So just who deserves a press pass? Someone from FOX who is making millions? Or someone from Public Access who isn’t making a profit, more likely it’s costing him/her to do their production?

    You want to change the world? You better get control of the media. America’s Biggest Looser, and American Idol are not putting felons, banksters, real estate liar loan companies, insider traders in jail, they are allowing these felons to GET taxpayer dollars to bail them out. These shows are sucking up the spectrum wasting time. We have mandated children’s programming, how about mandated non-profit news. No I don’t want to hear CNBC with a mic and a camera in some CEO’s face driving stocks up and down anymore. That should be criminal as well.

    Open your eyes. An uninformed population is essential to fascism.

    How many reports have you heard about electronic vote tabulation devices that failed in our elections? 3? 4? (one for each election?) how many seconds did they run? 20? 30?
    These machines got to go, and you need to break all ties with them, and get the word out!

    Hardware and Software are great for computers, business, economy, I love windows, I love linux both have their place. But hardware and software are an ABUSIVE USE OF TECHNOLOGY for ELECTIONS. You (yes you billionaire) can not SEE the electronic signal. And contrary to what you might believe, electronic vote tabulation devices are the ROOT cause of ALL OUR PROBLEMS. They allowed the camel’s nose under the tent.

  7. “your excessive programs like “community reinvestment act” pushed us down this slippery slope”

    Good thing that the Ownership Society is thriving and the Corporate Fraud Task Force was so effective that Madoff is now considered a folk hero.

    Though I must agree with the notion from the sound of musicman above:

    “progressive billionaires”

    funny.

  8. The problem with your views is that they are inside the box and outdated.
    We will never be able to go back to how things were in 1945. We will never have another New Deal America. This country and the economy have changed permanently. The USA will never remain #1 in education, and it will never matter how much money we throw at it.

    The problem is fundamental, it’s that we as a people are culturally dead. It does not matter how much money you through at a culture bent on self destruction, it only speeds up the destruction. If you give us more technology we’ll only use it against ourselves and our people. The current public education system isn’t designed to teach, it’s designed to keep people dumb. A kid can learn more by accessing the internet with a laptop in most cases than they’ll ever learn in the classroom. It’s not because the teachers are bad, it’s because of standardized tests creating a situation of standardized learning.

    A talented teacher will be forced to teach to the test if not to train students for the work place.
    Critical thinking and reasoning skills have never been taught in school. How many people know what natural law is? How many people learn cost-benefit analysis? How many people learn about consequentialism? Utilitarianism? The most important thing a young person could learn would be ethics, and there is no formal ethics teaching, it’s not even on the SAT test. Ethics break down into math in the form of cost-benefit analysis and game theory, and this is not taught in math class. Instead we are teaching calculus, algebra and stuff which people learned 30 years ago even when the skillset needed to last another 30 years requires different types of math and calculations.

    I’m not against teaching arithmetic, but we must create a formal system to objective calculate whether an action is right or wrong based on the consequences of that action. Why should a child care about climate change when we don’t even agree that pollution is wrong? Why are liberals and public schools fighting to keep religion out of the classroom, but these atheists offer no alternative system of morality besides nihilism?

    Science can find the objective right or wrong by measuring the consequences. This is what allows us to judge how correct or incorrect something is by degrees of accuracy. Progressive billionaires ought to find ways to make honest men/women rich. The problem in society today is that the dishonest man is rewarded with the path to the good life, richest and wealth, which gives incentive for people to be dishonest. This is what happens often on wallstreet, we only reward dishonesty in our culture and that is why called it a dead culture.

    How are honest men rewarded? An honest man has a harder life, because being honest is never as easy as being dishonest. An honest man usually isn’t rewarded financially for being honest, so honesty itself has no value in the economy much like how clean air, water, food, etc has no value in the economy. Unless we give value to the honest man, our culture will remain dead, and until we give value to clean air, water, food, then we will continue to pollute ourselves to death.

    The easier way to fix the problem, conduct a thorough backround check before you hire someone. Give the raises and bonuses to reward HONESTY, not simply productivity. Create a tax system which gives incentives to be HONEST rather than a tax system which punishes everyone equally, or which punishes wealth creation. What we need as a society is SMART growth instead of growth for the sake of growth (dumb growth), and the only way to have smart growth is by shifting the economic incentives to reflect the most important values and by rewarding these values financially we will see a broad adoption of those values.

    Apply science to the problem, understand that all behavior is controlled and modify by the movement of incentives. This could be as simple as rewarding an animal with a treat or rewarding a human with money, the concept is operant conditioning and it is always the same. Until we reward people for being good, we can continue to see the trend of people going bad, simply because as a society and culture we don’t value goodness scientifically, financially, or in a non religious rational context.

    Now this this has been said, the typical counter arguments are that: “humans should be good because God says so.” Once again if this is the case why should an atheist be good?

    The second argument people make is that “we shouldn’t have to reward humans for being good, they should be good because its in their nature.”

    This argument is naive, because it neglects the fact that we reward humans for being bad all the time, and on the other hand we naively assume it’s in a majority of humans nature to be good. Assuming every human has an equal capacity to do bad or good, as in 50/50, it is logical and rational to expect that humans must be trained to be good, and this requires rewarding the good humans and punishing the bad humans CONSISTENTLY, something which our culture never truly does.

    To put it in simple terms, if you are rational, logical, and scientific, if you use your money to reward your values, you’ll promote your values in the most efficient manner. Capitalism is efficient whether we like how its used or not, and we know for a scientific fact that if you associate a reward with a certain behavioral pattern, that this behavioral pattern will increase. This applies to all animals, not just humans. Conduct the experiment yourself if you don’t believe it.

    I advise any reader here to give up the naive approach to getting things done and adopt the scientific approach. Measure the effectiveness of every solution. If you have money and you want to see change, use your money to reward the behavior you want to see, and as the reward gets bigger you’ll see more of that behavior being adopted.

    You want the solution? I’ll give it to you straight for everyone to read. Set up an anonymous reward system with your buddies, pool your money together, gather a list of some of the most inspirational, honest, “good” people who are fighting to make the world better or solve the big problems. Choose X amount of these individuals every year and give them a check for $50,000-$100,000 anonymously,
    and treat it like a secret santa service. The people who receive the check will never know who it came from, but they’ll feel recognized for their years of serving the country and it’s interests, and it doesn’t matter what they did, it could be as small as helping the homeless or teach inner city children, or as large as helping to solve the climate crisis, the point is that a lot of people are dedicating their lives to doing good work, they receive no recognition at all, no financial support at all, all while some people running businesses polluting the earth are getting millions of dollars or billions of dollars. Until the money is shifted into the right hands, society will never change. Just making the government bigger wont fix this.

    • Lucian: First you tell me I’m outdated, then you begin quoting me.

      Read more of what I’ve written on education before you convince yourself that I’m hopelessly stranded in the 1940s.

  9. Good Luck!! I would not hold my breath for the checks to come rolling in. Unfortunately we can not afford the rich anymore. People that work for a living have been giving them handouts for a long time. Talk about charity cases. Many elites just hang by the pool while the dividend checks come flying in. Sounds like welfare to me. The other elites manage their wealth or bounce back from government to the private sector where they award their companies no bid contracts (aka welfare) What is it exactly that rich people contribute to society to be valued so highly. The system is rigged and the rich are benefiting. They are not about to fix what ain’t broke from where they stand or is it from where they lounge.

  10. Hi Sam,

    Thanks for writing this excellent call to action. As one of those “brilliant lights” you refer to (I worked with George Lakoff at the Rockridge Institute), I can attest to the lack of investment in our greatest asset – the talent of our people. While millions are thrown away on a regular basis reacting to the latest conservative stunt, our opposition continues to dominate the airwaves and control the discourse.

    We have real potential for staking out strategic advantages by investing in one another. Instead, people like me have to start from the ground up. I am building a new model of political organization (check it out: http://www.cognitivepolicyworks.com) that will, if successful, transform the way that politics is done. This isn’t just pie-in-the-sky dreaming. I am working with some of the greatest minds of the progressive movement and have a few insights into the nature of our predicament.

    Alas, what would the world be like if people like me (there are a lot of us out here!) were supported for our work. We could build a society based on human dignity and shared prosperity. And we could empower citizens to address the major challenges of this age.

    Oh, and to you billionaires, if I have to do all of this on my own, I won’t forget about your negligent complicity in the old and defunct systems that perpetuate human suffering on a planetary scale.

    Best,

    Joe Brewer

  11. Joe: I was going to keep individual recommendations out of it at this point, but yes, you are very specifically one of the people I had in mind as I wrote this piece. Between us we know several more, I suspect.

    I’m not sure I have a lot of faith in my ability to herd billionaires, but if one wanders over this way I’ll be in touch.

  12. Sam: We do know several more in our networks of people.

    I have a thought about bringing them together. Just as Linus Torvald stumbled upon a way to build better operating systems than Microsoft, we can learn to organize in ways that shift the wealth and spread it around. Billionaires or no billionaires, we’ve got ways to get things done.

    Though, if anyone does stumble into your garden with a bit of compost, I’ll be glad to roll up my sleeves and cultivate some fertile soil.

    Best,

    Joe

  13. Joe Brewer theres two ways to shift the reward mechanism(wealth) that I’ve thought of. A) use the tax system to reward/train good behavior into people, and make the taxes individualized. Violent criminals would pay higher taxes, sex offenders would pay higher taxes, etc. We have computers now which can be programmed in such a way that an algorithm could determine the tax rate in the same way that the insurance industry determines how much you should pay. The people who cause the most damage to society should pay the highest taxes while the people who cause the lease damage should pay the lowest. So you read it correct, I’m advocating for tax reform and for the system to work efficiently, in the manner that the insurance industry works. If you aren’t a high risk individual then you shouldn’t have high taxes, and if you are a violent domestic abuser stalking drug addict criminal type person, you should be paying the higher taxes because our entire police state is being built up to manage your behavior. We should also tax the people who supported the war, many of these people profit directly from war so they support war.

    Another way beyond the tax system is to use the private sector to create a new financial reward mechanism. This would contrast the punishment mechanism. If you know somebody is valuable to society, as a network we can decide to give them a different kind of elite status, this would result in higher pay, better living standards, more opportunities, more connections. If I know someone is on that special list, maybe I’ll give them or their business a discount for goods and services, maybe I’ll treat them as a brother.

    There are plenty of solutions but I think the most important part of it all is that it must be based on science. I advocate the operant conditioning solution, and I call the concept behind it change engineering. We have to engineer change, using capitalism and or the barter system as the tools. If you don’t have money you can still barter. Finally if Obama wants to help America out, how about we just let the government bypass the banks and give the loans themselves to startups? How about reserving 500 billion dollars for direct investment by the government for small businesses? Small businesses create jobs, not banks.

    Since we know the government wont do that, once again I advocate we simply create a list of people who we want to personally invest in, and then invest in them ourselves in an organized and science based fashion. If we can buy and sell shares in corporations, why can’t we buy and sell shares in people? If we can speculate about corporate behavior, why not speculate about individuals? how much do you want to bet that a certain kid will graduate from college? How about a system which makes all investors richer with every kid who graduates?

    What we need to do is scientifically engineer change, we need to create completely new markets, we need to invent new creative systems of trade, we need to find new ways to reward the behavior we want, whether with money or with new reward mechanisms we invent. It must be done to save our culture and our future.

    Sammy, maybe you aren’t trapped in the 1940s, but your ideas require help from the government. I would prefer if we take a more engineer/scientific perspective. What mechanisms are you going to use to reward people for the behavior you expect from them? if you want to actually get things done you must reward and punish.

  14. One important innovation progressives could make is in neuro-marketing. A neuropolitical perspective isn’t about ideology. For example, I am a supporter of human rights. I’m a consequentialist, I believe when in support of human rights, the ends justify the means. Therefore ideology does not matter, the only thing that matters is whether a particular individual is supporting or harming the human rights agenda.

    Neuromarketing is understanding that because there are different brain types, the human rights agenda must be marketed to each of these different brain types differently. You have to sell the human rights agenda to their particular brain type. If they are compassionate, caring, empathetic and respond to images and visuals, then you show them the starving children and the violent images to get them to side with human rights. Usually the torture videos are enough to win this crowd.

    If their brain type is greedy, selfish, shallow and they have no empathy or compassion, then you must appeal to their greed. How much money are we losing by not making the global economy more efficient? By leaving the undeveloped world in that state, we keep ourselves poor. This type of person might respond to microfinance/investment as a solution, and we must offer these individuals the chance to get rich by fighting in support of human rights.

    The problem progressives have is they assume everybody has the same brain (theirs), and they only market to that one brain type, the compassionate empathetic unselfish type, and they don’t spend any time marketing to the greedy selfish unempathetic types. If you are a consequentialist or understand that the most important thing is to accomplish the prime objective of creating and securing human rights for all, then it does not matter how we get people to do it, or why individuals support it, just that they support it and that human rights created and secured.

    The problem with Lakoff is he only does marketing to himself. He doesn’t market to people who don’t have the same brain type as him, so while he might unite the people who feel as he does, how is he going to get the rest of the people? Marketing is about winning mindshare, not about unity of heart, because in the end the only thing that matters is the effectiveness of the marketing campaign, not how many people cried when watching the commercial.

  15. Great Stalin’s ghost.

    A) use the tax system to reward/train good behavior into people That’s a brilliant idea, maybe next we should try locking children in sensory deprivation chambers to prove our theories of behavioral psychology.

    as a network we can decide to give them a different kind of elite status like commissar or Dear Leader or something equally catchy.

    change engineering will bring us a brave new world of utopian delight where everyone smiles all the time and everyone is polite and friendly. They’ll have to be, because the barcode tattooed on their forearm will be constantly monitored by change engineers in charge of assessing their taxes and their societal status.

    If we can buy and sell shares in corporations, why can’t we buy and sell shares in people? You mean like slavery?

    if you want to actually get things done you must reward and punish. Ja, das finde ich auch. Und arbeit macht frei.

    I believe when in support of human rights, the ends justify the means. And if you want to make an omelet, you’ll have to break a few eggs…or so my Uncle Joe told me.

    If their brain type is greedy, selfish, shallow and they have no empathy or compassion As determined by the government phrenology exam required for the barcode tattoo, required for tax/social status purposes.

    If you are a consequentialist or understand that the most important thing is to accomplish the prime objective of creating and securing human rights for all, then it does not matter how we get people to do it, or why individuals support it, just that they support it and that human rights created and secured. Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.

    because in the end the only thing that matters is the effectiveness of the marketing campaign, not how many people cried when watching the commercial. Nor how many children cried when their parents were dragged off to re-education camps…or any of that other, sissy bullshit.

    Will we be allowed to leave this Skinnerian paradise? Will i be allowed to own a gun to blow my own brains out? Honestly, i’d prefer to perform fellatio on a leper for cheap smack than live in a country run like the above description.

  16. Why do you think that Bill Gates is a Progressive? For one he’s in deep with Monsanto, that truly evil megacorporation which has been brazenly using ever trick they can think up to literally FORCE their genetically engineered crops on a very UNwilling world.

  17. “That’s a brilliant idea, maybe next we should try locking children in sensory deprivation chambers to prove our theories of behavioral psychology.”

    We should do whatever it takes to save the world and our country. Its better to do change engineering than to build a prison state and put everybody in prison. I’m offering an alternative to the police state.

    “Dear Leader or something equally catchy.”

    I said as a group we should reward and punish, I did not say we should give all power to one man. I believe power should be distributed and divided amongst the best people, I want a Republic not a dictatorship. Stalin like Hitler, had a dictatorship, and the USA is moving towards dictatorship as we speak.

    “will bring us a brave new world of utopian delight where everyone smiles all the time and everyone is polite and friendly. They’ll have to be, because the barcode tattooed on their forearm will be constantly monitored by change engineers in charge of assessing their taxes and their societal status.”

    It’s a choice between a brave new world and 1984. We are already headed towards the prison/police state. At least my idea would preserve civil liberties, you could do anything you want under my system, vs the system we are currently choosing where the government and corporations tell us what to do. The point being, is that we have to influence behavior using incentives because its better than simply building a prison state and oppressing everyone. At least with a system of incentives you still have a choice to accept the incentives or not, and this is as far as I think government and corporations should go. I do not believe in using force to control people, but I do believe in using incentives and rewards.

    “You mean like slavery?”

    The government and corporations already own us. Slavery? No, I mean giving incentive for the government and corporations, as well as individuals to invest in human resources. If you think having someone else have a stake in your future is slavery, what better options do you offer? build more prisons? If you have a job where you get paid by a corporation, are you a slave? If you follow the laws of the US government and pay your taxes, are you a slave? By your logic the answer would be yes to both of those.

    ” As determined by the government phrenology exam required for the barcode tattoo, required for tax/social status purposes.”

    How do you think targeted advertising works? When did I ever say I want to have the GOVERNMENT or the CORPORATION do this? Obviously you are a social conservative who is afraid of change, every post you have made is all about trying to make sure nothing can change because you are afraid of the brave new world. Do you like the path we are currently on? We are headed to 1984, so I’d take a Brave New World over that. But honestly, we have to change something and ANY change requires engineering, so if you don’t like the change I’m offering, offer an idea of your own, but to simply say change is always bad is dumb and simple.

    “Ja, das finde ich auch. Und arbeit macht frei.” You should read more books. The Justice system is supposed to be built around the concept of reward and punishment. We do a good job punishing people in our society when they do wrong, but we don’t reward anybody when they do right, and I see people like you don’t mind that millions of Americans are in prison being punished while millions are outside of prison struggling. The only Americans being rewarded as the corrupt and wealthy.

    “Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated” I see you are a flat earther who does not support human rights. Let me guess, you agree with Sean Hannity? Torture is okay? Well I disagree with you on this and on a range of subjects. I believe every human should have certain rights because it’s better for humanity to have rights. If we don’t have human rights, your world of slavery, of Stalin and Hitler style dictatorships, of Brave New World, will surely become a reality across the globe.

    And since you don’t have any ideas or any intentions on stopping it, I’m guessing you are an authoritarian, you like the idea of slavery, of telling people who they can marry, of having the government and or the corporation control every aspect of our lives.

  18. Ann Ivins you say that talented teachers aren’t forced to teach to the test? When you have standardized testing, it requires that teachers teach their students to do well on those standardized tests so that their schools do well, so that they get increased funding, so that they keep their jobs and get bonuses. All the incentives are directed towards doing well on the tests, haven’t you heard about no child left behind?

  19. Um I agree with you, Monsanto is scary as hell. But they’ll never control every seed on the planet even if its their goal.

  20. Dr. Slammy, you had me thinking pretty good until you used the word “professional”. To my mind, America went into the dumpster in the 1960s when suddenly only a college graduate was capable of thinking. Prior to that, “the abliity to think” was measured by one’s logic, one’s ability to see and note upon the classic fallacies of argument. However, when the simple possession of a “degree” was the decisive factor as to who’s argument was “better”, America began it’s slide into today’s economy. Why? Because the operating word to obtain any degree is “professionalism”. Almost no one even knows what “professionalism” means. Everyone thinks it somehow means “the real knowing”. But the word is based on “fess”, the portion of a shield that was shined since David’s army shined their shields and led their opponents into the abyss in battle. The essence is that even a prettily shined shield is an OFFENSIVE weapon, so keep everything looking shined and pretty and if you can’t defeat your opponent properly with your sword, you can perhaps shine the sun in their eyes and confuse them into losing. Truth is that it often works. But America has lost sight of the fact that truth can only be ‘shined into losing’ for a short while. Reality impinges sooner or later (today’s economy is but a SMALL lesson in that fact). America stopped promoting people with an eighth grade education, or high school education, who REALLY KNEW MORE THAN the degree holders, and provenly so. Managers MUST HAVE A DEGREE, even if they know next to nothing about the company, the plant, the people who work in the plant, the suppliers who supply the plant, the customers who buy the product, or the product itself. There are those who will say, “those who have obtained degrees have proven that they can learn that stuff.” No, those who have degrees have proven that they can follow instructions on what to learn from an instructor. Turn them loose without an instructor and they learn when and where to play golf and how to talk down to any intellligent person who disagrees with them through the use of their managerial power. And when the entire company goes into the trash bin, like Bears & Stearn et al, their “professionalism” allows them to see it happen ten seconds before it happens so they can parachute out with their millions and leave everyone else to “rot”. Yeah. That’s professionalism. And that’s where America is right now. We wouldn’t think of promoting someone who hasn’t done “orals”, because “orals” is where you say, “I don’t know, but that’s an interesting question and I’ll look further into it; thank you.” And then you get your degree. While the high school grad, or the 8th grade grad may already KNOW. But HIRE someone because they KNOW? Hey, that’s just plain FOOLISH, ain’t it?

  21. Lucian, when was the last time you taught in a public school with standardized testing? A truly talented teacher can work to create a curriculum which teaches critical thinking and deep reading skills, implement that curriculum and refine it in the classroom, evaluate and respond effectively, and guess what? Those pesky standardized test scores rise all by themselves.

    Also, news flash – no bonuses now, none on the horizon. Schoolwide dollars are on the line with test scores and dropout rates, not individual incentives. And yes, Lucian, I have heard of No Child Left Behind. I spent a year and ahalf analyzing its specific impact on my school district and the gap between its requirements and the actual funding provided to meet them.

    It’s nice to see that a complete lack of knowledge and experience hasn’t dampened your enthusiasm for poorly organized, deeply superficial and narrow-minded pontification. Fortunately, not every progressive assumes every brain works the same way, or I’d be in despair right now – and extremely creeped out to boot. Any valid point you may have is lost in a sea of blathering rage; perhaps you should go back to your marketing studies for a refresher on basic communication.

    That’s all.

  22. Oh man, now i’ve finally been found out…and called out…as the incurious, flat-earth reactionary that i truly am, and every post i’ve made at S&R proves this point.

    I’m actually a freeper mole, sent here to undermine the progressive movement.

    We are “enslaved” by the corporate police state because we chose to allow ourselves to be enslaved. Our present state may well prove Skinner correct in terms of mass psychology. Having been offered trinkets and baubles as rewards we’ve done what we’re told by the marketers and cowered beneath our politicians. But no one forced any of the present state upon us, we did it to ourselves.

    We freely gave the meager fruits of our labors to slick hucksters promising ever growing returns from the stock market. We could have invested that money locally, but we didn’t. We might have deposited that money in local banks that lent to our coworkers and neighbors, but we sent it far away.

    We might use our income as a political tool, purchasing from locals or companies that we believe in…but we poured it into WalMart to save a few pennies.

    The difference, Lucian, between how you see the world and how i see the world is that you seem to believe that we are powerless and we must take power to make things right. I see us as ignoring all the power that we already possess.

    Any deep reading of the totalitarian literature proves one point: that freedom and dignity are aspects of the individual soul. When it is strong, not even decades in the gulag or being tossed into Auschwitz can destroy it. Those things do not come from without or above, they come from within. Consequently, it is not possible to build a system that creates them. At best, a system of governance can nurture these ideals.

    The idea of forcing them only leads down the path of throwing a revolution that ends up creating a tyranny worse than that which it overthrew. As someone who’s read the primary source material in it’s original language concerning the Bolshevik revolution, i can tell you that your best intentions sound an awful lot like those works…not in detail, but in tone. To mold man for the better, whether he knows that he wants it or not, works out fine on paper. Reality can be stunningly different.

    But our differences are probably deeper. I’m not a utilitarian, though that does not suggest that everything about utilitarianism is wrong. I find significant points of agreement with utilitarianism, but not with how those conclusions are reached.

    Finally, your belief that the ends justify the means scares the living shit out of me. That idea has been used to perpetrate the most awful crimes, time and time again. There is no difference between the ends and the means; they cannot be separated. That is, the ends are the means. They have to be, because there is no such thing as independent origination. (see Nagarjuna)

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, i simply must get back to preparing for the big brown shirt rally that i’m hosting.

  23. Ann Ivins I’m a product of public schools. I have first hand experience with teachers telling us straight that they have to teach to the test because their school is being judged by whether or not they have high test scores. No school wants to be a failing school, and a talented teacher is still going to be restricted to teaching the students to pass the test. It’s not a matter of if teachers are teaching to the test, its a matter of how much.

    And I’m not trying to market a specific point of view, you are free to accept my point of view or come up with something better. I offered my point to view because I want your criticism in hopes that somebody somewhere can generate a better idea and apply at least the core mechanisms of scientific approach to generating it.

    When I say progressives tend to think everyone has the same brain, I’m talking about the preaching to the choir mentality. If I’m wrong, some me some progressives offering practical solutions.

    Lex you and I both agree that the present state is unacceptable. If we share the same objective, then we can discuss and debate on practical solutions. If the premise is true that corporations control mankind by manipulating the tools and systems of control (money), then we also could come to the conclusion that the banks and investors are the true controllers of our society, not the politicians or the people. It is the banks and investors who decide where the rewards are and how they are distributed.

    The only point I’m attempting to make in my posts is that any solution we invent will require that we use the same system of incentives and rewards to engineer the changes. Basically you have to use incentives to change whatever the behavior is that is causing problems for society.


    1.The difference, Lucian, between how you see the world and how i see the world is that you seem to believe that we are powerless and we must take power to make things right. I see us as ignoring all the power that we already possess.

    I think you are over-estimating the intelligence and power of the masses. We just had Bush in office for the last 8 years, and he had approval ratings of less than 20%. When you say the power “we” have, you and I have no power. The top 1% of families have all the power, they are the people in all the critical leadership positions. Whether it be the head of all the Banks, the Dean of all the Universities, the Generals in all the branches of the Military, the heads of State, the Governors Association, the all of the top CEO’s and most of richest most influential Americans. Leadership comes from the top down even if the ideas and planning come from the bottom up. What this means is that yes we can decide as a country that we want change, but just changing the faces is a lot like musical chairs. Obama does not control the federal reserve, he does not control the banks, the banks and federal reserve represent a separate shadow government unto themselves. This is why they have been unregulated for so long, they controlled the money so why should it matter who the politicians are? Politicians can be bribed.

    I don’t believe the American people have any real power on the global scale. Corporations don’t respect American citizens, to corporations we are just “consumers” which translates into a type of slave or zombie. A consumer does not even have rights, and there is no constitution which governs corporate behavior. I think the American Citizen is dis empowered for many reasons, but the main reason is because of the federal laws currently in place, and the second reason is the multi-national corporations which are free to commit acts of treason because they aren’t loyal to the nation of their birth, unlike citizens.

    As far as revolution goes, I don’t think we need a revolution. I don’t want tyranny either, I’m a libertarian. What I want is for the government to get out of this authoritarian mode that it is stuck in, because this authoritarianism doesn’t benefit the bottom 99% of the country and only benefits the top 1% of families who are so rich that they don’t really have to work for a living. I’m not saying we should change everything, the people who have money should be allowed to keep what they have. I’m not calling for revolution, the people who aren’t hurting anyone and who just happen to be rich and powerful, can stay that way. The only people who are a threat to our security are the people who are actively trying to harm us and our country.

    I don’t really have a political agenda beyond human rights. I do want a libertarian style society which means if you aren’t harming anybody, the government and corporations should leave you alone. I don’t support authoritarianism,I see authoritarianism as the source of all problems. The problems in the USSR and in Germany came from authoritarianism. Socialism isn’t bad, Capitalism isn’t bad, it’s Authoritarianism that is bad. It’s having the government practically enslave it’s citizens to keep them safe, that is what is bad. It’s having corporations practically and functionally enslave it’s employees, that is what is bad. The authoritarianism simply is not necessary.

    I am a capitalist, I do think we need to use capitalism as a tool to make the world better. I do think we should use capitalism and money as a tool to bring about human rights. I don’t believe we can get anything done without using the system of rewards on some level, whether it be rewarding people with money, drugs, beads, it has to be something. Yes technically the common man some power, but it’s very limited at this time because the average citizen isn’t educated, and the media is brainwashing them.

    2. Finally, your belief that the ends justify the means scares the living shit out of me. That idea has been used to perpetrate the most awful crimes, time and time again. There is no difference between the ends and the means; they cannot be separated.

    If the ends do not justify the means, you will never have human rights and your destiny is slavery. You can quote me on this. I will explain why I say this, the ends justify the means in the context of defending the constitution, defending human rights, but the ends themselves must be just. To say that the ends NEVER justify the means is to say that you’ll never fight for any cause and you’ll just let any determined person run you over and enslave you. At some point the consequences matter, and when you find the point where the consequences are more important than anything else, then the ends do justify the means.

    If for example we are talking about defending the constitution and preserving national security, then we should stop at nothing to do that. It does not matter how we do it, whether it be through war, whether hundreds, or thousands of lives are lost. This country was founded upon the ends justifying the means. The union was preserved during the civil war because the ends justified the means. The founding fathers were utilitarians. And I’m going to say a military leader MUST be a consequentialist to win.

    What I mean is, you set a prime objective or mission to be accomplished. Then you gather your best men and you set about accomplishing that mission. There are hundreds or thousands of groups of men who also have missions to accomplish as well, and in this context the ends justify the means in that the mission must be accomplished by any means necessary. This is not to say that blood and death is the best way to accomplish anything. It’s just an acknowledgment that if something truly is worth defending at any cost, then the ends do justify the means. I think human rights are an example of something which must be defended at any cost, much like how the constitution must be defended at any cost.

    In the context of consequentialist ethics, an action’s rightness or wrongness is measured entirely by the consequences. To illustrate: If there is a train track with a fork in the track, on one end of the fork there are 5 people who will be certainly hit by the train unless you pull the lever, yet on the other end of the track there is one person who will certainly hit by the train if you pull the lever, assuming all of these lives are of equal value, what is the most ethical(correct) solution?

    A consequentialist would pull the lever, bringing certain death to 1 person to save 5. Why? Because the ends justify the means to this person. However a person who is not a consequentialist would freeze up, allow 5 people to die, because the ends never justify the means. If the ends never justify the means reasonably it follows that the consequences of an act do not matter. If the consequences don’t matter the how can you measure the correctness or incorrectness of the act? Merely by the nature of the act? Killing is always wrong because it’s killing? Stealing is always wrong because it’s stealing? I’m guessing you are a deontologist, and I disagree with deontology because I do believe the consequences are all that matters, this is from a completely scientific and rationalist perspective.

    I think that not caring about the consequences is more scary than consequentialism. The only problem with consequentialism (the ends justifying the means), is when the ends aren’t just. Human rights are just so unless you have a valid argument against human rights, when your rights are violated thats when the ends will justify the means for you personally.

  24. Lex you and I both agree that the present state is unacceptable. If we share the same objective, then we can discuss and debate on practical solutions. If the premise is true that corporations control mankind by manipulating the tools and systems of control (money), then we also could come to the conclusion that the banks and investors are the true controllers of our society, not the politicians or the people. It is the banks and investors who decide where the rewards are and how they are distributed.

    The only point I’m attempting to make in my posts is that any solution we invent will require that we use the same system of incentives and rewards to engineer the changes. Basically you have to use incentives to change whatever the behavior is that is causing problems for society.


    1.The difference, Lucian, between how you see the world and how i see the world is that you seem to believe that we are powerless and we must take power to make things right. I see us as ignoring all the power that we already possess.

    I think you are over-estimating the intelligence and power of the masses. We just had Bush in office for the last 8 years, and he had approval ratings of less than 20%. When you say the power “we” have, you and I have no power. The top 1% of families have all the power, they are the people in all the critical leadership positions. Whether it be the head of all the Banks, the Dean of all the Universities, the Generals in all the branches of the Military, the heads of State, the Governors Association, the all of the top CEO’s and most of richest most influential Americans. Leadership comes from the top down even if the ideas and planning come from the bottom up. What this means is that yes we can decide as a country that we want change, but just changing the faces is a lot like musical chairs. Obama does not control the federal reserve, he does not control the banks, the banks and federal reserve represent a separate shadow government unto themselves. This is why they have been unregulated for so long, they controlled the money so why should it matter who the politicians are? Politicians can be bribed.

    I don’t believe the American people have any real power on the global scale. Corporations don’t respect American citizens, to corporations we are just “consumers” which translates into a type of slave or zombie. A consumer does not even have rights, and there is no constitution which governs corporate behavior. I think the American Citizen is dis empowered for many reasons, but the main reason is because of the federal laws currently in place, and the second reason is the multi-national corporations which are free to commit acts of treason because they aren’t loyal to the nation of their birth, unlike citizens.

    As far as revolution goes, I don’t think we need a revolution. I don’t want tyranny either, I’m a libertarian. What I want is for the government to get out of this authoritarian mode that it is stuck in, because this authoritarianism doesn’t benefit the bottom 99% of the country and only benefits the top 1% of families who are so rich that they don’t really have to work for a living. I’m not saying we should change everything, the people who have money should be allowed to keep what they have. I’m not calling for revolution, the people who aren’t hurting anyone and who just happen to be rich and powerful, can stay that way. The only people who are a threat to our security are the people who are actively trying to harm us and our country.

    I don’t really have a political agenda beyond human rights. I do want a libertarian style society which means if you aren’t harming anybody, the government and corporations should leave you alone. I don’t support authoritarianism,I see authoritarianism as the source of all problems. The problems in the USSR and in Germany came from authoritarianism. Socialism isn’t bad, Capitalism isn’t bad, it’s Authoritarianism that is bad. It’s having the government practically enslave it’s citizens to keep them safe, that is what is bad. It’s having corporations practically and functionally enslave it’s employees, that is what is bad. The authoritarianism simply is not necessary.

    I am a capitalist, I do think we need to use capitalism as a tool to make the world better. I do think we should use capitalism and money as a tool to bring about human rights. I don’t believe we can get anything done without using the system of rewards on some level, whether it be rewarding people with money, drugs, beads, it has to be something. Yes technically the common man some power, but it’s very limited at this time because the average citizen isn’t educated, and the media is brainwashing them.

    2. Finally, your belief that the ends justify the means scares the living shit out of me. That idea has been used to perpetrate the most awful crimes, time and time again. There is no difference between the ends and the means; they cannot be separated.

    If the ends do not justify the means, you will never have human rights and your destiny is slavery. You can quote me on this. I will explain why I say this, the ends justify the means in the context of defending the constitution, defending human rights, but the ends themselves must be just. To say that the ends NEVER justify the means is to say that you’ll never fight for any cause and you’ll just let any determined person run you over and enslave you. At some point the consequences matter, and when you find the point where the consequences are more important than anything else, then the ends do justify the means.

    If for example we are talking about defending the constitution and preserving national security, then we should stop at nothing to do that. It does not matter how we do it, whether it be through war, whether hundreds, or thousands of lives are lost. This country was founded upon the ends justifying the means. The union was preserved during the civil war because the ends justified the means. The founding fathers were utilitarians. And I’m going to say a military leader MUST be a consequentialist to win.

    What I mean is, you set a prime objective or mission to be accomplished. Then you gather your best men and you set about accomplishing that mission. There are hundreds or thousands of groups of men who also have missions to accomplish as well, and in this context the ends justify the means in that the mission must be accomplished by any means necessary. This is not to say that blood and death is the best way to accomplish anything. It’s just an acknowledgment that if something truly is worth defending at any cost, then the ends do justify the means. I think human rights are an example of something which must be defended at any cost, much like how the constitution must be defended at any cost.

    In the context of consequentialist ethics, an action’s rightness or wrongness is measured entirely by the consequences. To illustrate: If there is a train track with a fork in the track, on one end of the fork there are 5 people who will be certainly hit by the train unless you pull the lever, yet on the other end of the track there is one person who will certainly hit by the train if you pull the lever, assuming all of these lives are of equal value, what is the most ethical(correct) solution?

    A consequentialist would pull the lever, bringing certain death to 1 person to save 5. Why? Because the ends justify the means to this person. However a person who is not a consequentialist would freeze up, allow 5 people to die, because the ends never justify the means. If the ends never justify the means reasonably it follows that the consequences of an act do not matter. If the consequences don’t matter the how can you measure the correctness or incorrectness of the act? Merely by the nature of the act? Killing is always wrong because it’s killing? Stealing is always wrong because it’s stealing? I’m guessing you are a deontologist, and I disagree with deontology because I do believe the consequences are all that matters, this is from a completely scientific and rationalist perspective.

    I think that not caring about the consequences is more scary than consequentialism. The only problem with consequentialism (the ends justifying the means), is when the ends aren’t just. Human rights are just so unless you have a valid argument against human rights, when your rights are violated thats when the ends will justify the means for you personally.

  25. Lex you and I both agree that the present state is unacceptable. If we share the same objective, then we can discuss and debate on practical solutions. If the premise is true that corporations control mankind by manipulating the tools and systems of control (money), then we also could come to the conclusion that the banks and investors are the true controllers of our society, not the politicians or the people. It is the banks and investors who decide where the rewards are and how they are distributed.

    The only point I’m attempting to make in my posts is that any solution we invent will require that we use the same system of incentives and rewards to engineer the changes. Basically you have to use incentives to change whatever the behavior is that is causing problems for society.


    1.The difference, Lucian, between how you see the world and how i see the world is that you seem to believe that we are powerless and we must take power to make things right. I see us as ignoring all the power that we already possess.

    I think you are over-estimating the intelligence and power of the masses. We just had Bush in office for the last 8 years, and he had approval ratings of less than 20%. When you say the power “we” have, you and I have no power. The top 1% of families have all the power, they are the people in all the critical leadership positions. Whether it be the head of all the Banks, the Dean of all the Universities, the Generals in all the branches of the Military, the heads of State, the Governors Association, the all of the top CEO’s and most of richest most influential Americans. Leadership comes from the top down even if the ideas and planning come from the bottom up. What this means is that yes we can decide as a country that we want change, but just changing the faces is a lot like musical chairs. Obama does not control the federal reserve, he does not control the banks, the banks and federal reserve represent a separate shadow government unto themselves. This is why they have been unregulated for so long, they controlled the money so why should it matter who the politicians are? Politicians can be bribed.

    I don’t believe the American people have any real power on the global scale. Corporations don’t respect American citizens, to corporations we are just “consumers” which translates into a type of slave or zombie. A consumer does not even have rights, and there is no constitution which governs corporate behavior. I think the American Citizen is dis empowered for many reasons, but the main reason is because of the federal laws currently in place, and the second reason is the multi-national corporations which are free to commit acts of treason because they aren’t loyal to the nation of their birth, unlike citizens.

  26. As far as revolution goes, I don’t think we need a revolution. I don’t want tyranny either, I’m a libertarian. What I want is for the government to get out of this authoritarian mode that it is stuck in, because this authoritarianism doesn’t benefit the bottom 99% of the country and only benefits the top 1% of families who are so rich that they don’t really have to work for a living. I’m not saying we should change everything, the people who have money should be allowed to keep what they have. I’m not calling for revolution, the people who aren’t hurting anyone and who just happen to be rich and powerful, can stay that way. The only people who are a threat to our security are the people who are actively trying to harm us and our country.

    I don’t really have a political agenda beyond human rights. I do want a libertarian style society which means if you aren’t harming anybody, the government and corporations should leave you alone. I don’t support authoritarianism,I see authoritarianism as the source of all problems. The problems in the USSR and in Germany came from authoritarianism. Socialism isn’t bad, Capitalism isn’t bad, it’s Authoritarianism that is bad. It’s having the government practically enslave it’s citizens to keep them safe, that is what is bad. It’s having corporations practically and functionally enslave it’s employees, that is what is bad. The authoritarianism simply is not necessary.

    I am a capitalist, I do think we need to use capitalism as a tool to make the world better. I do think we should use capitalism and money as a tool to bring about human rights. I don’t believe we can get anything done without using the system of rewards on some level, whether it be rewarding people with money, drugs, beads, it has to be something. Yes technically the common man some power, but it’s very limited at this time because the average citizen isn’t educated, and the media is brainwashing them.

    2. Finally, your belief that the ends justify the means scares the living shit out of me. That idea has been used to perpetrate the most awful crimes, time and time again. There is no difference between the ends and the means; they cannot be separated.

    If the ends do not justify the means, you will never have human rights and your destiny is slavery. You can quote me on this. I will explain why I say this, the ends justify the means in the context of defending the constitution, defending human rights, but the ends themselves must be just. To say that the ends NEVER justify the means is to say that you’ll never fight for any cause and you’ll just let any determined person run you over and enslave you. At some point the consequences matter, and when you find the point where the consequences are more important than anything else, then the ends do justify the means.

    If for example we are talking about defending the constitution and preserving national security, then we should stop at nothing to do that. It does not matter how we do it, whether it be through war, whether hundreds, or thousands of lives are lost. This country was founded upon the ends justifying the means. The union was preserved during the civil war because the ends justified the means. The founding fathers were utilitarians. And I’m going to say a military leader MUST be a consequentialist to win.

    What I mean is, you set a prime objective or mission to be accomplished. Then you gather your best men and you set about accomplishing that mission. There are hundreds or thousands of groups of men who also have missions to accomplish as well, and in this context the ends justify the means in that the mission must be accomplished by any means necessary. This is not to say that blood and death is the best way to accomplish anything. It’s just an acknowledgment that if something truly is worth defending at any cost, then the ends do justify the means. I think human rights are an example of something which must be defended at any cost, much like how the constitution must be defended at any cost.

    In the context of consequentialist ethics, an action’s rightness or wrongness is measured entirely by the consequences. To illustrate: If there is a train track with a fork in the track, on one end of the fork there are 5 people who will be certainly hit by the train unless you pull the lever, yet on the other end of the track there is one person who will certainly hit by the train if you pull the lever, assuming all of these lives are of equal value, what is the most ethical(correct) solution?

    A consequentialist would pull the lever, bringing certain death to 1 person to save 5. Why? Because the ends justify the means to this person. However a person who is not a consequentialist would freeze up, allow 5 people to die, because the ends never justify the means. If the ends never justify the means reasonably it follows that the consequences of an act do not matter. If the consequences don’t matter the how can you measure the correctness or incorrectness of the act? Merely by the nature of the act? Killing is always wrong because it’s killing? Stealing is always wrong because it’s stealing? I’m guessing you are a deontologist, and I disagree with deontology because I do believe the consequences are all that matters, this is from a completely scientific and rationalist perspective.

    I think that not caring about the consequences is more scary than consequentialism. The only problem with consequentialism (the ends justifying the means), is when the ends aren’t just. Human rights are just so unless you have a valid argument against human rights, when your rights are violated thats when the ends will justify the means for you personally.

  27. “2. Finally, your belief that the ends justify the means scares the living shit out of me. That idea has been used to perpetrate the most awful crimes, time and time again. There is no difference between the ends and the means; they cannot be separated.” <- if you came to this conclusion on fear alone, then it’s probably not a rational conclusion anymore than fear of spiders/snakes/police is rational.
    If the ends do not justify the means, you will never have human rights and your destiny is slavery. You can quote me on this. I will explain why I say this, the ends justify the means in the context of defending the constitution, defending human rights, but the ends themselves must be just. To say that the ends NEVER justify the means is to say that you’ll never fight for any cause and you’ll just let any determined person run you over and enslave you. At some point the consequences matter, and when you find the point where the consequences are more important than anything else, then the ends do justify the means.

    If for example we are talking about defending the constitution and preserving national security, then we should stop at nothing to do that. It does not matter how we do it, whether it be through war, whether hundreds, or thousands of lives are lost. This country was founded upon the ends justifying the means. The union was preserved during the civil war because the ends justified the means. The founding fathers were utilitarians. And I’m going to say a military leader MUST be a consequentialist to win.

    What I mean is, you set a prime objective or mission to be accomplished. Then you gather your best men and you set about accomplishing that mission. There are hundreds or thousands of groups of men who also have missions to accomplish as well, and in this context the ends justify the means in that the mission must be accomplished by any means necessary. This is not to say that blood and death is the best way to accomplish anything. It’s just an acknowledgment that if something truly is worth defending at any cost, then the ends do justify the means. I think human rights are an example of something which must be defended at any cost, much like how the constitution must be defended at any cost.

    In the context of consequentialist ethics, an action’s rightness or wrongness is measured entirely by the consequences. To illustrate: If there is a train track with a fork in the track, on one end of the fork there are 5 people who will be certainly hit by the train unless you pull the lever, yet on the other end of the track there is one person who will certainly hit by the train if you pull the lever, assuming all of these lives are of equal value, what is the most ethical(correct) solution?

    A consequentialist would pull the lever, bringing certain death to 1 person to save 5. Why? Because the ends justify the means to this person. However a person who is not a consequentialist would freeze up, allow 5 people to die, because the ends never justify the means. If the ends never justify the means reasonably it follows that the consequences of an act do not matter. If the consequences don’t matter the how can you measure the correctness or incorrectness of the act? Merely by the nature of the act? Killing is always wrong because it’s killing? Stealing is always wrong because it’s stealing? I’m guessing you are a deontologist, and I disagree with deontology because I do believe the consequences are all that matters, this is from a completely scientific and rationalist perspective.

    I think that not caring about the consequences is more scary than consequentialism. The only problem with consequentialism (the ends justifying the means), is when the ends aren’t just. Human rights are just so unless you have a valid argument against human rights, when your rights are violated thats when the ends will justify the means for you personally.

  28. I equate “the ends never justify the means” as the anti-war position. War is always wrong because no war is ever justified because the ends never justify the means.

  29. If the teachers you had didn’t have the courage to do what they knew was right, you didn’t have “truly talented” teachers. You’re still profoundly ignorant about the entire system. That can change – it’s called research, and you can do it yourself.

    Further, either you’re interested in exchanging ideas in a way which engages others, promotes real conversation and provokes further thought (“I want your criticism”) – or you simply want to screech your own frustration and ideologies in a public forum (“you can take it or leave it”). Which one? If it’s truly the first, then I refer you back to the term I borrowed from you – marketing, or learning to express yourself courteously, concisely and clearly.

    Courtesy in public dialogue does not connote weakness, Lucian. On the contrary, your arguments will gain weight and force if you can at least pretend to respect your opponent – perhaps your potential ally, if you tone it down long enough to listen.

    Concise means focus, Lucian; self-editing which forces you to deal in specifics to support your ideas is the ultimate credibility booster. It will also help you avoid contradicting yourself, which you’ve done frequently in this thread. Authors get lost in their own words all the time; that’s why editors have jobs. I’d suggest you a) compose your response in Notepad or something first and b) leave it alone for oh, five minutes and then LOOK AT IT before you copy and paste, which will almost inevitably lead to greater…

    Clarity. There’s no prize for posting speed, Lucian. The thread will be here. Make sure the words you use are the ones you mean, throw in a bit of punctuation to help the reader, and then read it aloud to yourself, for the love of God. Your “ends and means” comments degenerate almost immediately into drivel; your enchantment with “-ists” and “-ologies” seems to make you forget to make sense.

    Does the end ever justify the means, Lucian? Is that equation a valid form of ethical measurement? Are ends ever fully separate from means, or does every consequence become an action in itself? You’ve expressed multiple and mutually exclusive opinions on every one of these questions so far. I still don’t know what you think, or even if you do, and I suspect a lack of critical, rational, calm thought may be precisely the problem.

    Have a drink, shut up for a minute, think and then post. You could very well be worth listening to.

  30. “It will also help you avoid contradicting yourself, which you’ve done frequently in this thread.”

    Point it out. It sounds like you are only critical of me personally, attacking me personally because you cannot attack my ideas. You can disagree as Lex has done, he disagrees with utilitarianism and consequentialism, which is an intelligent and legit criticism of the basis of my ideas. All you are critical of is how I express myself, you are resorting to being critical of how I speak rather than what I say.

    It’s not important to me that I win any of you over. What I wanted to do is trigger an intelligent discussion about practical solutions, and you have offered none.You now make the claim that my teachers weren’t talented or were all bad, which is not the case. Yes a lot of them were bad, but some were talented and very good and it was the good teachers who complained about the standardized testing the most. They wanted the freedom to focus maximizing knowledge rather than simply teaching students to ace the test. The test decided not only who could graduate and who could not, influencing the graduation and drop out rate, the test scores also make teachers look better and the school itself look better. This brings more funding to the school in the future.

    The no child left behind as a system is up for debate, and it’s not coming from me but from teachers who claim to not support the system. I personally do not support the no child left behind system, I don’t think there should be any teaching or testing standards beyond reading, writhing and arithmetic and it should be done anonymously so that the schools which are doing bad don’t have to look bad but the government can still track the US ranks. I do not think students should hae to pass that test to graduate. Students have enough to worry about with the ACT and SAT.

    “Does the end ever justify the means, Lucian? Is that equation a valid form of ethical measurement? Are ends ever fully separate from means, or does every consequence become an action in itself? You’ve expressed multiple and mutually exclusive opinions on every one of these questions so far. I still don’t know what you think, or even if you do, and I suspect a lack of critical, rational, calm thought may be precisely the problem. ”

    Just because you aren’t logical enough to make sense of consequentialism it does not mean that what I said is without logic. The ends/results/consequences are more important than how we reach them. To take any other position is to be a pacifist. It took violence and bloodshed to put an end to the aggression of Germany, Italy and Japan. The means were brutal, violent, and bloody. The end result is that many more lives were saved. This is an objective conclusion based on the fact that Germany was conducting genocide and had plans to spread it globally. If you value human rights then you will agree that it is justice to put an end to genocide whenever we see it and are capable of doing so. In the case of stopping genocide, the ends justify the means.

    If you want to talk about whether it’s rational or not, and you can shut your emotions up and stop “feeling” how I express my words and start paying attention to the content and reasoning behind it, you’ll see that there have been no contradictions at all. What I have said has been relatively consistent. I never made the claim that all ends are equally just. I claimed that when the ends are just, the means are just. This does not mean the ends and means are the same thing, or mutually exclusive.

    The ends/results/consequences of an action decide whether or not an action was correct on a rational level. If a man decided today to try and drive humanity into extinction by building some death ray device, it is logical, rational, and ethical to kill that man to save humanity from extinction. In this case the ends would justify the means. This is saying that no action is always wrong in every situation, every action must be evaluated within the context of the situation it is placed in.This allows us to objectively measure the correctness and incorrectness of an action based on a set of core principles such as whether or not those actions preserve human rights, or protect the human species from extinction. Extinction from a natural law perspective is never an option for a reasonable actor.

    Killing/steaing/lying, these are acts. If a bunch of people kill some guy, we cannot obectively say this is right or wrong until we know the context with which this happened. A deontologist will believe killing is always wrong because the nature of the act itself is wrong. A pacifist will say killing is always wrong including in self defense. I’m not a pacifist, and I don’t think pacifism is a realistic/rational political policy.

    I don’t think we have any more to say to each other because you care more about my “tone of voice” and how I put it out there than what I’ve put out. You can agree with me, or disagree and its fine, but do not attack me personally.

  31. Lucian, I’m not going to read your entire comment, because it looks to be much of the same and life is short, but as far as your last thought goes: if all you can see in my message to you is a personal attack, you’ve confirmed everything I said.

    As far as “how” and “what,” wasn’t the point of your first comment that “how” was not only important, but neglected by progressives? You bring up a failing, you’d better check to make sure you’ve looked in the mirror, and leave the whining and demands for special treatment at the door. Your “what” is just as senseless as it was before.

    So I’ll scroll and you can vent.

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  36. “Are ends ever fully separate from means, or does every consequence become an action in itself? “<-

    Ann I take that back. You weren't personally attacking anyone. I was just angry the day I posted that apparently.

    On whether the ends and means can be separated, on the level of math and logic everything can be broken down to a yes or no. So logically the ends and means can be separate such as the case where the end may be maximum preservation of life, but the means to do that would be to take lives. It would seem odd, but this is the sort of choice that is presented all the time in violent conflicts.

    As far as promoting or marketing a system, I'm not really trying to market a system, I was merely trying to spur on or attempt to redirect the debate down a certain path. The only thing I promote with certainty in these posts and stand by is the scientific process.

    Science is a progressives best friend. The scientific method is a progressives best friend. And no science cannot work if a progressive has limited access to quality information. So I do not claim to have the best solution as level of information would have to continually rise in quality in order to generate the best solutions.

    The first step I would say would be to collect as much information as possible on the problem, and make sure that is as accurate as possible. The misinformation out there is what will hamper progress. Facts, statistics, and think thanks which collect these will be valuable for progressives. After the facts are known, then you can measure the success rate or failure rate of different strategies, techniques, etc.

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