- by Gitabushi
Creepy. That’s one good word for how Silicon Valley tech giants watch all of us.
I think emphasizing the Creepy Line is what might finally get enough people incensed about Big Silicon Brother enough to actually scale back their surveillance of us.
Facebook watches you and everything you do in a way that would freak women out if it were a guy doing it. Instead, women use it more than men. I think it’s because the creepiness of Facebook’s surveillance is downplayed, and so broadly unknown or underestimated.
How did we get here?
I think we naively sold our data for a handful of beads, and for convenience.
We embraced free email, never spending much thought on how a company can make enough money to store all those petabytes of email at no cost to the user.
Well, there is a cost. You just don’t know you are paying it.
Email companies can scan your emails. You are not allowed a presumption of privacy unless you encrypt…and maybe not even then.
Email companies can show you advertisements. But it would be silly to assume they get enough revenue that way.
I don’t have the numbers, but I have to believe email companies get most of their money by selling source code to the Silicon Valley giants. Every email you send has invisible code embedded that track you. They report back where you navigate to, where you navigated from. Almost every webpage you visit has those same trackers. Facebook has a file on you, even if you never made a Facebook account, even if you have never visited Facebook.
That’s why I call it Stalkerbook. The Facebook webpage is just the smiling face of their data-mining and manipulation operation. You make it easier on them by posting on Facebook, but you certainly don’t slow them down by not.
The Internet of Things and 5G are eagerly awaited by Big Corporations. You should not be excited.
Because they will tout “blazing fast data transfer speeds” and then add so much ad bloatware that you’ll still have download pauses and it will still take about the same amount of time to load a page. The human psyche can handle a certain amount of delay/frustration and no more. Silicon Valley and other Big Businesses will use that tolerance to identify and track you.
Convenience explains the rest. It’s *easier* when the credit card company watches your purchases and flags anything that seems fraudulent. Which sounds great, until you have your card declined while on vacation, trying to purchase dinner a time zone away from your normal stomping grounds.
Silicon Valley tracks us because we let them. We were insufficiently suspicious of all the free social media programs.
We aren’t going to get them to stop by passing laws.
The only way they’ll stop is enough people are both aware of the tracking, and creeped out enough by it to demand they stop. We’re gonna need to get the women upset about this, it seems.
But let’s say we burn down Facebook and salt the earth where it stood. Let’s say we break up Google. Let’s say we are all up in arms about tracking and we actually get effective laws passed to regain our privacy.
What happens to commerce? Because one side effect of that is they won’t be able to target advertising for us. It might actually be harder to stumble on something you would like, but don’t know you would like.
I’m not sure how I feel about that. There are times where Amazon’s algorithms have actually helped me find something I wanted, and so my life is slightly better as a result.
I realize that contradicts the first 80% of this post. I don’t have an answer that resolves it.
Do you have one?
Last week, I got in another debate with some Leftists over gun control. The week before, I had come up with a formulation I rather liked: Hands and feet are used more often to kill people than rifles of all kinds put together. So if you want to take away AR-15s from law abiding citizens because other people have used them to murder, we should cut off law-abiding citizens’ hands and feet because other citizens have used them to murder.
That’s obviously satire in the same manner as Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.” I have no power to cut off anyone’s hands and feet. I have no way to cut off the hands and feet of some person who I encountered on Twitter, whose name and location I haven’t the slightest clue regarding. And our society would never countenance such an atrocious injustice.
I perhaps became too enamored with this formulation, and used it several times.
Finally (in the sense it was pretty much my last tweet), the Leftist I was arguing with decided to interpret it as *me* threatening to personally cut off *his* hands and feet.
The context should have made that claim ridiculous, but Twitter isn’t all that rigorous when adjudicating Leftist claims of being victimized by conservatives.
So my account was locked, and I was given the choice of providing my phone number so they could send a text to verify my ownership of the account, or deleting the offending tweet. I felt somewhat stubborn at that moment, and so did nothing. And now I don’t even have that choice, because any attempt to access Twitter requires me to provide my phone number.
I’m not willing to give Twitter more of my information at this time.
And, to be honest, I think it’s probably a good thing to get away from Twitter for a while. Ace of Spades left Twitter, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit left Twitter, ClarkHat left twitter. Not that I am anywhere near the level of influence or intelligence they possess, but even just three days with no Twitter access helps me understand why Professor Reynolds said it felt freeing to give up on Twitter.
I miss many of you very much. I feel somewhat bad I didn’t have the chance to say goodbye on Twitter, because even if PC and Kaiju tweet this out, there are probably some of my old friends who won’t see it.
But that’s okay.
In any case, I’m doing well, and will probably write more articles here. Fare thee well, and if you really need to talk to me, contact can be arranged.
Also, PC says I have to have a photo, and I haven’t done it lately, so here’s a random photo I have stored on my computer.
I recently wrote about my opinion of Vox Day, as part of completing an assignment from a friend to read his book, ‘Jordanetics,” to see if I would be convinced Jordan B. Peterson is a con man.
I ended up convinced that Vox Day is a con man.
However, I now think I have a little bit more to add to that.
To be honest, I rushed through my first response. Partly because I was just irritated with having read what felt like a steaming load of nonsense, but partly because I wanted to discharge the obligation. But I kept thinking about it, and I think there are a few more points I want to make.
First, Vox Day gives his own “12 Rules.” The most charitable take is that if he’s going to spend a book criticizing JBP’s 12 Rules, he should have his own. The churlish take is that he wanted to demonstrate his superior intelligence by providing a list better than JBP’s.
Actually, Vox Day’s list isn’t bad.
But at best, Vox Day doesn’t realize what JBP’s purpose is; at worst, Vox Day simply doesn’t care. Because this list is largely inaccessible to the people JBP is trying to reach. “Put a ring on it,” indeed. One of things JBP is addressing is males who cannot attract a woman, because their life is in chaos. “Take the wheel.” The whole point of JBP’s teachings are to help males learn that they can take the wheel, and to avoid disaster when they try. You can’t just tell them to take the wheel; you have to teach them to walk before they can run.
So Vox Day’s rules aren’t bad, they just reveal that Vox Day doesn’t comprehend JBP.
This is a problem.
It indicates that Vox Day is criticizing JBP because JBP’s advice doesn’t apply to Vox Day.
It may even indicate that JBP’s concepts threaten Vox Day in some way.
Vox claims to be very, very smart, and expensively educated. We aren’t told exactly what “expensive” means to Vox Day, but based on his writing, he isn’t very highly educated. It seems very likely to me that he never continued past a baccalaureate.
To characterize Vox Day’s fundamental error that underlies his entire book, his choices demonstrate that he has no interest in constructing a compelling argument, but feels it is sufficient to merely make a plausible one.
You see this error in several places. As I pointed out in the last post on this topic, he comes up with a single plausible argument why Ben Shapiro would get his work promoted over Vox Day’s. Having found that single plausible argument, he assumes and declares it must be true. He makes little attempt to consider other reasons. He doesn’t address all the potential challenges to his theory. He makes his claim, explains why he thinks that, and stops.
This is undergraduate level thinking: “Here’s what I think, and why.” Period. End of thought.
Studying for a Master’s Degree, providing a single plausible explanation isn’t enough. You must make a case for why your view is the most compelling. You must provide multiple chains of logic that support your view, and address competing arguments. Heck, the first thing you have to learn is to recognize that there *are* competing arguments.
Vox Day rarely take that step, and certainly doesn’t do so in any systematic effort.
For all the problems in our education system with Marxist indoctrination, this is one reason I still recommend people go to college, and in some cases, study for their Master’s. Education teaches you better ways of thinking, understanding, and arguing.
Elementary education is mostly (or should be) rote learning.
Secondary education is about regurgitation of what you are told, but with more complexity than just memorized tables.
Undergraduate education is about demonstrating that you understand what you are taught, that you can understand arguments that are made for or against something; to research what others think; to analyze and come to basic conclusions.
Graduate education is about synthesizing conclusions: sorting through existing knowledge to find new connections and new conclusions. Your master’s thesis should result in new conclusions and new understandings of existing knowledge, and learning to make arguments to support your new conclusions, so they can be accepted as accurate.
Post-graduate (doctoral) education is all about creating *new* knowledge: researching, experimenting, and studying to find accurate knowledge that was either not known, or was an incorrect conclusion.
Vox Day’s writing never gets beyond the Undergraduate level.
I can tell he’s intelligent. But his intelligence hasn’t been trained or honed into useful application.
His argument is, in a nutshell: “I’m smart and accomplished. I don’t like JBP’s teachings. Therefore, no one should.”
But let’s look deeper at that first claim.
One of Vox Day’s claims is that JBP’s advice is for Gamma males. Elsewhere, he says JBP is a confirmed Gamma male.
The last time, I criticized Vox Day as not understanding that the high status/low status lobster is just one paradigm of how life works, and JBP likely was saying to reject that paradigm, and *not* to try to end up at a mediocre status of not being bullied, yet not being a high status lobster, either.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Vox Day embraces the paradigm of Bully or Be Bullied because he fancies himself an Alpha Male, and wants to enjoy that status. Naturally, he would resist encouraging people to reject that paradigm: what good is it to have high status if people don’t recognize that status?
Look at the things Vox Day points to for credibility to criticize JBP and to claim the right to dismiss Jordan and his followers as Gamma males:
These are not things to be sneered at, but clearly aren’t accomplishments most people would recognize as providing credibility to criticize the works of a popular Self-Help guru with a PhD in Psychology.
To be sure, you don’t really need credentials to criticize ideas. You merely need enough of a platform to promulgate your ideas and criticisms of ideas, and let the ideas speak for themselves.
I think Vox Day provides his accomplishments as credentials for two related reasons. First, he has a sense his criticisms aren’t compelling, and so wants to claim a status that elevates him above JBP. In a sense, it is a dick-measuring contest. “Pay no attention to his ideas. My dick is bigger than his. You can tell this because I have a hot wife.” Second, he is signalling to an audience that is actually receptive to that sort of posturing. What sort of person would be convinced by the “I have a hot wife” argument? Gamma males. Which is why I emphasized the geekness above.
So when Vox Day is arguing that JBP is a Gamma male preaching to other Gamma males, he’s actually making a Beta male gambit to maintain his standing as leader of Gamma males. He can’t understand that a true Alpha male wouldn’t give a crap about JBP, they’d just go get laid.
And this all goes back to Vox Day being the con man in the scenario. He doesn’t understand the needs of low status males, has absolutely zero interest in helping them improve their lives. His entire criticism of JBP is predicated on maintaining his preferred world order, with Vox Day as an Alpha Male with a bunch of lower status males in their proper position as subordinate to, and in admiration of, Vox Day.
This is Vox Day’s con. He is attempting to protect the brand that is Vox Day.
I wish him good luck.
That probably seems like a strange title for a post. The explanation is, several months ago, a friend challenged me to read “Jordanetics” by Vox Day, and bet me $100 by the time I finished, I would be convinced Jordan Peterson is a con man.
The bottom line up front is: not only was I not convinced Jordan Peterson is a con man, I am now convinced Vox Day is.
“Jordanetics” isn’t a short book, and I don’t really want to spend the time it would take to detail, point by point, what I disliked about Vox Day’s argument. I will make enough points to explain why I wasn’t convinced, and then stop; but I will take specific questions, or respond to any of Day’s best arguments that you might think I missed.
But first, I need to explain what my view of the two men was before I started reading “Jordanetics.”
I had never heard of JBP until recently. I can’t remember whether it was 2 years ago, or less than a year. You know how you can’t believe it’s already been x number of years since some big event like Katrina or 9/11 or the Sandy Hook shooting happened? I don’t think my first encounter with JBP was anywhere near that significant, I’m just trying to point out how memory plays tricks with time.
The first I really heard anything worth checking out was when he was interviewed by a British Journalist and he wiped the floor with her. Full video here:
Since then, I’ve heard about his 12 Rules for Life to Reduce Chaos or something like that, and without having heard many of the Rules, I vaguely agreed.
I have never read any of his books. I haven’t studied his life or his background, and I’ve never watched his videos. I do not think I am the audience for his message.
I do support what I understand he is trying to do. In fact, I think I was trying to be JBP before JBP was JBP. Meaning, all the way back in my early blogging days in 2002, I was interested in thinking about life, trying to understand the key elements of success in life, love, work, marriage, etc., and then share the lessons I learned with others, in hopes of helping them live a better life without having to make the mistakes I made.
I have said several times that I consider myself a philosopher, not that I have come up with any new philosophical precepts, but that I see philosophy as part of the software that determines how you act and react in life. If you are having a bunch of problems in life, you are using the wrong approaches, and you probably have the wrong paradigm.
Often, the difference between laughing off an insult and being deeply wounded lies in your paradigm. The exact same words or actions directed at you can have a widely disparate result, based solely on how you decide to perceive those words and actions.
So what I see JBP doing is trying to teach a better paradigm that leads to better decisions and a happier life. I approve of this, and I support this.
Vox Day, however, says that JBP is not trying to help people. Vox asserts that JBP is actually a Leftist trying to teach an evil ideology by cloaking it in ostensibly libertarian wording. Day asserts that JBP is actually trying to ruin people’s lives, and he devotes an entire book to proving it.
I think he failed utterly to make his case. In fact, it might be possible to see every accusation Vox Day made of Peterson as projection. I’m not going to try to prove that.
One other point to make before I get started: I think Vox Day is an idiot. I thought that before I read this book, and I believe it even more strongly now. By “idiot”, I don’t mean I think he has a low IQ, or is unintelligent, or lacks thinking skills. I mean that I think he believes stupid things. George Orwell is credited as saying, “Some ideas are so stupid only intellectuals can believe them.” I think this applies well to Vox Day. I had previously encountered him on Twitter saying that the US Constitution was written for White People, and only White People can live effectively under it.
This is stupid.
I’m sure he has plenty of reasons for his view. I’m sure he has a logical chain of reasoning that leads him to that conclusion, and he cannot be reasoned out of it.
It is, nevertheless, stupid and wrong. That’s not the point of this post, however, so I’ll leave it for now. The point is just that he is able to talk himself into positions that are wrong, lacks the ability to recognize the flaws in his reasoning that lead him into untenable and incorrect views, and is unable to find his way out of the maze of his own confused thinking.
To me, this makes him an idiot, regardless of his overall intelligence.
More examples that support the idea he is an idiot, but from the book:
Vox Day attempted to address potential criticism of his arguments against Peterson by saying there’s no way he could be jealous, because he has a much hotter wife than JBP has. This is incredibly shallow, and if I were Vox Day’s wife, I would divorce him for that statement. It puts all the value only on his wife’s appearance, which will objectively fade over the years, and downplays her character and any other strong points she has.
He explains that his opposition of Peterson began when Peterson asserted that Jews are not engaged in a conspiracy to keep them in positions of power. His personal anecdote that he thinks proves JPB wrong is that Ben Shapiro was chosen by the Creators Syndicate over more popular authors from among the WND writers; his conclusion is the only possible reason for this is Jewish power brokers in the publishing were helping Ben Shapiro only because he was Jewish. His evidence for this is that Ben Shapiro was only 10th in readership; Vox Day, passed over by Creators Syndicate for pressure bundling, was third, behind Ann Coulter and Pat Buchanan. But that listing right there provides a clue that Vox Day wasn’t thinking the right way. Readership is one possible way of gauging popularity, but not the only way. Sometimes a writer will get more readers by being controversial; a writer who actually has good ideas that persuade people might not even be in the top 10 for readership, but would still be someone a syndicate would want to promote. Other possible metrics to use when deciding on which writer to promote might be reader engagement, or those who were forwarded the most, or even just plain ideology: Barack Obama would surely get more readers than Anne Coulter or Vox Day, but it would be daft to assert Creators Syndicate wouldn’t hire and preferentially promote Obama only because he’s not Jewish.
This inability to think of other explanations plagues the whole book or even choose good metrics upon which to base his reasoning plagues the entire book.
At one point, his justification for his views is based on the number and ratio of likes/dislikes his videos received on YouTube. For me to accept this as a valid metric, I would ideally like a control group, but at the very least, I needed him to explain why he thought it was a good metric, and a comparison to a few other YouTube videos.
But no. We are supposed to just accept whatever Vox Day decides is the correct answer. If we’re lucky, he might handwave away one or two alternate explanations, but for the most part, there is only Vox Day’s perspective.
A good example of this is Day’s mocking of JBP’s lobster analogy. Full disclosure: I haven’t read anything by Peterson, and so I can’t be 100% certain Day is explaining Peterson’s views accurately or not.
However, Day hits Peterson on two points on this analogy, and both seem either dishonest or idiotic to me.
First, Day shows off the aforementioned inability to consider other possibilities. He says that JBP says to not be the low-status lobster, or you’ll be bullied by high-status lobsters. And you do that by not acting like a low-status lobster anymore, but instead, adopting some of the appearances and habits of high-status lobsters. But JBP says high status lobsters are bad because they are the source of bullying of low-status lobsters. So Day concludes that JBP is saying to be good, but not *too* good. Be mediocre. Choose the middle way.
Without even reading JBP’s writings, I can see that Vox Day is trapped in a Rule or Be Ruled paradigm, where if you aren’t low-status, you must be high-status, but you can’t be high status, so you must be mediocre. It is actually easy to avoid this trap, and just recognize there is a liberty paradigm, too: I don’t have to participate in Rule or Be Ruled, Bully or Be Bullied. I can adopt the trappings of the high-status to avoid being bullied, but refuse to bully anyone myself. I can reject the whole status system and walk my own path, but do so in a way that doesn’t look like I”m low status.
Why can’t Vox see this?
Next, Vox slams JBP for the poor scientific basis of the lobster analogy. JBP claims we inherited a social order similar to lobsters from a common ancestor, and Vox excoriates that.
This is a dishonest line of attack. Rather than addressing JBPs’ point about dominance hierarchies, he attacks a tangential point, and then pretends that debunks the main point.
This is typical of Vox Day throughout the book. He doesn’t seem to understand when JBP tries to use an analogy to make things easier for people to understand. Throughout the book, he takes analogies as literal, he takes literal things as analogy, he cites JBP’s admonition to speak precisely to make JBP seem dishonest when he says something that might not be precise, takes him at face value when he might be exaggerating for effect, and then assumes JBP is lying when he says something that might make JBP look good.
For instance, when JBP relates a story about his daughter being bullied, and the JBP doesn’t describe anything he did in response, Vox takes that as JBP truthfully relating how he did nothing to protect his daughter, ignoring the fact that JBP is under no obligation to tell us anything of what he said or did at that time, that he is only relating the story to make a point, and the surrounding details were shared or concealed or perhaps even changed in service to the point he was trying to make. And yet, when JBP says, “If I had my druthers, I’d rather not be speaking politically at all,” Vox just assumes and asserts JBP is lying, because he does speak politically. His only evidence is citing JBP saying “I won’t be happy until I’m elected Prime Minister,” but without any context. I can think of a dozen ways both sentences can easily be truthful, but Vox Day apparently can’t. Probably because he doesn’t *want* to.
Basically, Vox Day changes his interpretation of anything JBP said to be able to take JBP’s words in the worst possible light, and never, ever considers any other possible way to interpret.
If Vox Day had used the same style of critique against the Bible, he would call Jesus a madman or a liar for insisting that anyone would actually ever try to make a camel pass through the eye of a needle.
Another dishonest tactic Vox Day uses throughout the book is to constantly compare JBP to three people most conservatives wouldn’t like or trust: Carl Jung, L. Ron Hubbard, and Alistair Crowley. The arguments are mostly on the same order of, “JBP breathes oxygen. Hitler breathed oxygen. Therefore, JBP is *exactly* like Hitler.”
JBP’s 12 rules actually echoes Christian precepts multiple times. Vox, however, compares those rules to very similar precepts of Crowley and Hubbard. Rather than emphasizing the connection Christian wisdom, Vox asserts, without any compelling argument, that JBP must be inspired by Crowley and Hubbard.
Again, if Vox Day wanted to critique the Bible in the exact same way, Christianity actually comes from Satan.
As such, Vox Day trying to attack JBP might well be an evil attack trying to keep people away from truths that might actually help them in their lives.
I don’t really think that’s true, but that’s the logic Vox Day uses throughout the book.
I’m starting to get really bored, so:
Other things I didn’t like about the book include Vox Day’s methods of establishing himself as an authority. He mentions no less than three times that he’s a nationally-syndicated writer, as if that means something. He mentions more than once that he was in a successful band, as if that means something. He mentions that he was a National Merit Finalist, and claims to be well-educated. He claims that being an author of 15 books makes him more successful than JBP, who has only written two.
To the extent that all these things are true, JBP’s credibility and authority dwarfs Vox Day’s. JBP is clearly better educated (PhD), clearly more successful, and wasn’t raised in the US so had no chance to participate in the National Merit system. And that is yet another example of Vox Day having no idea how to properly use metrics to make his point. Does *anyone* say that someone’s success as an author is based on the number of books they’ve written? Or do most people point to the number of book sales as a better indicator?
I could get really into the weeds, but let’s cut to the bottom line.
I was not convinced JBP is a con man because for JBP to be a con man or even just a fraud, two things have to be true:
Vox Day attempted to make the second point by arguing that following JPB’s Rules will lead you away from Christianity and into trouble, but it was wholly inadequate. You’d have to accept too many premises that superficial resemblances to Crowley’s writings were more integral to JBP’s teachings than to philosophy and other mental health concepts that they are clearly and more directly based on.
Worse, he completely whiffed on the first point. The Wisdom of Crowds isn’t universally applicable, but it almost always true that if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. That JBP is a runaway bestseller is a testament to the reality that millions have read JBP and found his advice to be useful, even if Vox Day disagrees. He can’t deny that reality; he can’t say that all those people who claim to be helped and have evidence of an improved life are deluded.
So I still don’t think JBP is a con man. I think he intends to help people, I think he does help people, and I think money has flowed to him as a reward for his success in doing so.
I think Vox Day is a con man for four reasons.
I hated the book “Jordanetics.” I think Jordan B Peterson is helping improve society somewhat. I think he’s not the savior of mankind. I think Vox Day doesn’t know how to apply his intelligence effectively, and is a con man.
I’ve been ruminating on some things lately. Having a kid has made me more contemplative of life in general, I think, but I’ve also been considering my job and where things are going with my life. Not in a bad way, mind you, but we’re not as financially well-off as we’d like. Who is, right? But compared to many of my peers, my path has kind of meandered and I feel like I’ve traded some interesting life experiences for economic prosperity. And now I’m trying to make up for it, in a way.
At any rate, I have a lot to be thankful for. I think as a Christian this is especially important to remember, but everyone regardless of creed would do well to count their blessings from time to time.
Alex of Amatopia got me thinking the other day, about the Internet in particular. It’s something he’s been talking about recently, and on Twitter he asked whether people felt the Internet were a net good or bad in their lives.
Now I’m not sure such a thing can be determined, quite frankly. Would the world be better off without electricity? If Nixon hadn’t won the presidency, or if he hadn’t been found out in the Watergate scandal? Would my life be better if I had pursued a different career, or if I had Mexican food for lunch yesterday instead of a sandwich?
And of course if we’re being intellectually honest about this, “good” and “bad” and “better” should be recognized as distinct from more or less convenient.
Do I lead a “better” life because I can do a Google search to access something approaching the sum of humanity’s knowledge in seconds? It’s certainly helpful. But does it make me a better man? Does it bring me closer to God?
I honestly don’t know. As I said to Alex on Twitter and as he notes in the above-linked blog post, the Internet is a tool to be used for both good and evil. Most applications are probably morally benign or banal.
But I’ve been thinking about how it’s improved my life, and decided to list some of the ways. If nothing else, sometimes these thoughts need to be forced out and formed to word. It’s too easy to yield to anger and despair and bitterness in this world. So sometimes I need to count my blessings:
1. My Family
This one is pretty straightforward. I met my wife through online dating. If not for the Internet, I wouldn’t have met her, and my son wouldn’t exist.
The Internet has been a real boon in my life for keeping in touch with the people who are important to me. After college, I lived in Japan for several years. Because of the Internet, I was able to keep in touch with my family and friends. I recorded videos of my life there to share with them online. I frequently talked and played games with Kaiju. Hell, I’m talking to him online right now as I write this.
My wife and son have been in Thailand for the past three months visiting her family, and I’m so grateful that I can use FaceTime to see them almost every day.
And through this blog, I get to interact with you fine people!
I can’t say that anyone I’ve met online, aside from my wife, has become one of my best friends, but I’ve made some good ones and otherwise forged some solid connections. Back in the Age of the Message Board, I befriended a few people who I still correspond with now and then. We’ve exchanged baby shower gifts, for Pete’s sake.
Nathan (Gita Bushi) is a good example of someone I’m grateful to have met online, as are a number of other people from the blasted landscape called Twitter. I’ve met some people who share my tastes in fiction and are of like mind in theological matters, and it’s been a blessing to know them.
4. Exploded Marketplaces
You no longer have to go to the library or the bookstore to get books (though they can still be fun places to visit). You can buy books online for mere dollars and have them arrive at your doorstep within days. You can download e-books online, in some places for free! Throughout much of history, literacy was a privilege many common people missed out on, and books were treasures. In this respect, we truly possess an embarrassment of riches through the Internet.
The big publishers’ and retailers’ ability to gatekeep has been significantly diminished, now that anyone can put out their own book on Amazon or another online platform. There’s a lot more out there, for good or ill!
Don’t even get me started on video games! The rise of Steam was a real gain for gamers. There’s a lot of crap out there, sure, but there have been a ton of excellent independently published video games now, and consumers are no longer at the mercy of AAA studios and their myriad loot box variations.
And of course there’s media. I’m grateful I can hop around the Internet gleaning news and information from a ton of online sources rather than having to rely on a handful of TV networks and newspapers to tell me what they think I need to know.
Sliding into this from the last item, I’ve been afforded many opportunities in my life because of the Internet. I worked for a stretch as a contractor for a small publishing company, and I did all my work remotely from home. After returning from Japan, I also did a few jobs translating from Japanese to English, done online.
(Update): And geez, how could I forget – I’m a published SFF author because I was able to submit a story online to Cirsova magazine!
And several months ago my wife and I started a family business that’s run primarily online (still not ready to go into the particulars at this point). We are actively improving our lives and working to better our family’s well-being because of the opportunities provided by online marketplaces.
I should add that almost all of the jobs I’ve had since college were advertised online and were applied to online. Of course not all of us have to worry about this (I think many jobs are still gotten through connections), but can you imagine having to go back to searching the newspapers for job ads?
The Internet has definitely had some negative impact on my life, as well, but I’m not going to dwell on that right now. For the time being, I’m grateful.
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you probably reject Socialism. You know it doesn’t work, you know it has never worked everywhere it’s been tried, and you know that as soon as it fails, it is deemed “Not *real* Socialism” so the True Believers can retain their dreams of a successful implementation, someday, somewhere.
But because we know Socialism doesn’t work, we often take it as an axiom, and we don’t look deeper. However, in the marketplace of ideas, we must constantly hone and refine our ideas. We must put these ideas out there for the unconvinced and unpersuaded to see and evaluate. If we never argue against Socialism, we increase the chance that a younger generation will fall sway to its siren call.
Here, then, are some of the arguments I’ve seen for Socialism, and my debunking response.
Under quasi-Free Market Capitalism (or the Current System, to whatever degree of Free Market Capitalism we have), the rich are encouraged and allowed to be selfish, rather than sharing their wealth with the poor.
Accepting for the sake of argument that rich people are motivated by selfishness to use their skills to exploit others, adopting a Socialist system doesn’t change human nature. Selfish people with ability will figure out what it takes to be promoted to positions of power within the Socialist government structure and use their position to ensure they get the best food, best clothes, best living spaces, etc.
This plays out a number of different ways.
The argument is that Socialism has always failed because it was authoritarian socialism, imposed by force. Democratic Socialism will come into being via Democracy, and being voluntary, will actually work.
Has there ever been anything in the history of the US that has had 100% agreement? One representative (from Montana, alas) voted against declaring war for the US entry into WWII.
Some people are always contrary. Some people will choose to go against the tide *because* it is against the tide.
Socialism is based on the principle, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” There are no exceptions allowed. Socialism requires *everyone* to be on board to work.
And universality really is a foundational concept for Socialism. If people could opt out of the supplying part, well, what stops people from giving according to their ability now? Is there some magic spell that makes people more generous if the society adopts formal Socialism? So why would you even need to vote it into place? If Socialism is a great idea, convince people ot give up their wealth now, voluntarily, in a charity system. Make virtual Socialism.
If you can’t, then you can’t make it work in a government, either, without force.
Socialists complain that the wealth gets locked up in a rich class, where the parents pass on wealth to their children, who use that wealth to maintain their position, locking out the poor. They own the houses that the poor must rent, they own the businesses and factories where the poor work, and they can skim off the top without working.
Again, human nature doesn’t change. One of the main motivations for people to work is to give their children advantages. In a Socialist system, there may not be wealth to pass on to children, but the children of the Socialist leaders will go to the best schools, where the best teachers are assigned. The children of the Socialist leaders will have the best opportunities to excel in competitions and events. The competitions and contests may even be adjudicated in favor of the children of Socialist leaders (to curry favor). But as sure as the sun rises, there will be a class system where the children of Socialist leaders do not have to work in factories or in the fields, but the children of factory and field workers will have no chance to enter the Socialist leadership. It will be systematic nepotism, rather than the conditional nepotism of our quasi-Free Market Capitalism system. There is some economic mobility in our current system. Less than a few decades ago, but the Elite Coastal Democrat class has gotten itself more entrenched since the boom of the 50s and 60s has faded.
Under Socialism, everyone will be equal, and everything will be fair. We’ll get Socialism when we achieve a post-scarcity society, like when almost all occupations are filled by robots and AI software.
Humans will never be equal, and things will never be fair to satisfy everyone. Human nature is such that we always overestimate our own contributions, underestimate the efforts and contributions of others, and underestimate how much trouble we cause other people.
Aside from that, responsibility varies from individual to individual.
The basic concept of Socialism is to ensure that no one starves, no one goes without housing, no one goes without clothes and other basic necessities.
Consider an analogy: Assume that by law, every child deserves a stuffed animal or an action figure.
Child One wants stuffed animals. That child cares for the stuffed animal, sleeps with it, protects it from harm.
Child Two wants action figures. But the action figure is put through the wringer, its arms ripped off, its accessories chewed on, and it is ruined within a month. So you provide another one. Rapidly ruined. You provide another one. This goes on and on.
Child Three doesn’t want a stuffed animal *or* an action figure, but rather a fire truck. Too bad.
This is all neither fair, nor equal. You put a dozen times the resources into Child Two. Is that fair? Child Three doesn’t get its preferred toy. Is that equal?
This is the same argument against providing a Universal Basic Income sufficient to house and feed everyone. What if individuals use the money for something else besides food and housing? Well, then you have to give them additional money for food and housing. What if they *still* don’t use the additional money for food and housing?
So you don’t provide UBI, you provide food and housing. We’ve seen this with food stamps: an economy develops where people sell their food stamps for pennies on the dollar to buy other things. Then they still starve and activists hold them up as examples of our unfair society. Or the amount given via food stamps gets to the point that the people on welfare eat better than the lower levels of working classes.
The problem is that once you *guarantee* a certain benefit, or a certain amount of money, you run up against the perversity, selfishness, and exploitive nature of human beings.
The weakness of Socialism is that it is a system, and humans will always exploit any system to extinction.
These are some of the fatal flaws of Socialism. Add more in the comments section.