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Midnight Thought on the Arc of the Sun

by BruceMcF Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 at 09:51:45 AM EST


Excerpted from Burning the Midnight Oil for the Arc of the Sun, in the Burning the Midnight Oil blog-within-a-blog, hosted by kos, though to the best of my knowledge he doesn't know it.

Nota Bene: Some simplifications to avoid sidetracking in an American context, but, yeah, I know that they're there.

What if They Threw an Empire, and Nobody Came?

Sometimes there is nothing more tedious than an argument over the meaning of terms. It often gets called an argument over semantics but semantics ... that is meaning ... is what is important arguing over.

The trivial argument that brings "arguing over semantics" into disrepute is which meanings to attach to which word. And, of course, if you want to call that an "argument over semantics" and leave the "of words" implied, be my guest ... if I can work out what you are trying to say, that's good enough.

One of those words that spark endless argument is "Empire". Is there an American Empire? Well, like what Empire? Like the British Empire? Like the Austro-Hungarian Empire? Like the multiple Chinese Empires? Like the several Roman Empires? Like the Zulu Empire?

Whether we call it an Empire or Empire-ish or The Natural and Automatic Consequence of Being the Latest Greatest Country on the Face of the Earth ... is there an alternative?

Promoted by Migeru


I start on the tedium of those arguments so that you will excuse me later if I simply ignore any discussions that may emerge over whether or not what we have ought to be termed an Empire. And, yes, I know that there may be some Boomers hanging around, and some Boomers find it critically important to argue over the semantics of words ... so its not like its against the rules ... its just not a type of argument I'll be participating in. I've got a bathroom to paint and HR paperwork to fill out.

So, our waddya call it ... does it make sense?

My concern is about this waddyacallit ... whether it makes any sense to turn ourselves from the richest nation on the face of the earth ... in a commercial economic activity sense ... to something substantially less than that, in its service?

I don't think it is. Look at where its brought us ... trying to establish a police station state in an exposed salient between an ascendant China, a Federalizing Europe, and a Russian polity flush with an oil export windfall and happy to spend it on overseas adventurism to distract its populace.

Does that make any long term sense?

For one thing, that kind of activity requires us to successfully play "the Great Game" of realpolitik geopolitics that the British played so well when they were the leading economy in the world for not one, but two successive long economic cycles. And my thinking is, we are not very well suited to playing that game. It requires giving up too much power to an unelected clique of foreign policy mandarins in order to successfully plan and pursue that kind of "chess game" foreign policy.

In the analogy used in describing software development, that kind of activity is like building a cathedral ... generations may come and go as the building is proceeding, with those doing the work focusing on their own part, knowing their own place, and those in charge of the planning directing the work.

The Bazaar

There is another type of activity, however. The parallel analogy used in describing software development is the bazaar. There are rules of behavior, and different people doing different things, and an incredible hubbub of activity ... and it seems like each person is out for themselves and in contention against everyone they meet ... sellers against all other sellers, buyers against all other buyers, and buyers and sellers in a constant argument over price and value.

And yet, in the din, quite a lot gets done, and often more goods and services are produced and delivered to those who need them than if there was a central administrator, running the whole thing along cathedral lines.

Now, here is a secret, just between you and me and the bright Ohio late winter sky ... when the so-called "free market" people talk about "the market" ... they are not interested in the market. The market is their enemy, in many respects. What they are interested in is promoting the power of the boardroom.

This is behind this Orwellian process that can be seen time and time again, where the benefits of competitive markets are praised, and then that is broadened to the technically meaningless term free markets, and then that is shifted to the term free enterprise and then that is used to justify government provision of one or another monopoly right ... for example, extending copyright expirations by roughly ten years each decade, so that Mickey Mouse will never fall out of the ownership of the Disney Corporation.

After all, its the bazaar that Americans have always been better at than the cathedral building. And so to justify the gifting of power to commercial corporations so they can proceed with their cathedral building ... it is talked of as if it is a bazaar.

But don't get caught in the semantics. We are spending half our federal budget or more on the military, and that military is being brought close to the breaking point in the process of trying to establish a police-station state in Mainland Asia.

That's not what we would be doing if we were building bazaars.

There's Good News

That's the bad news ... but there's good news. The good news is that we still have an opportunity to build a bazaar. We can turn our backs on fighting in the hot dusty zones of West Asia, fighting an old game against nations that are the descendents of long lines of players of that game.

We can turn out attention to dancing among the newer nations of the Arc of the Sun. If we turn our attention to it, we have much to offer them, and they have much to offer us ... and when you come down to it, that's what you need to establish a bazaar that most participants are more or less happy with.

Of course, we do have the problem that the Corporate Party has been pursuing a policy ... more rapidly under their radical reactionary wing in the Republican party, at a more temperate pace under their moderate wing in the Democratic party ... of ripping the guts out of the American industrial economy and allowing the entrails to sit and fester in the sun.

Now, to in practice offer all that we are capable of offering, we will need to return to making things that do things ... and, of course, in particular in the area of sustainable renewable power generation. But on the other hand, that industrial-economy-guts-ripped-out-and-festering policy is not one that I ever liked very much anyway, so I won't be sorry to see it gone.

After all, no bazaar trader makes a sustainable living by ripping off their regular customers. So we have to re-orient our focus from serving the interests of transnational corporations while giving lip-service to the needs of low-income nations, toward actually being of service to low-income nations.

And along the way, we will have to focus on what is really happening and what people are really doing, as opposed to what people are saying is happening and what images that raises in our heads.

My approach to this is not to take on the waddyacallit head-on ... be it called Empire, War on Terror, why-ever it is that we have 700+ overseas bases and the sun never sets on US forces scattered around the globe. The immediate response, after all, will be for that entrenched establishment to make a head-on counter-attack ... and that's something that they are well-practiced at.

The strategy is to look for ways to build up the mutually beneficial relationships with the Arc of the Sun ... and in the process build the alternative possibility that can offer us citizens so much more, without the sacrifice of blood and treasure on the Asian Mainland.

Midnight Oil - U.S. Forces (1983 live)
...
Will you know it
   when you see it,
high risk children
   dogs of war
Now market movements
   call the shots,
business deals
   in parking lots
Waiting for the meat
   of tomorrow

Sing me songs of no denying,
seems to me
   too many trying
Waiting for the next big thing

Spoken:
Everyone is too stoned
   to start emission
People too scared
   to go to prison
We're unable
   to make decisions

Political party line
   don't cross that floor
L.Ron Hubbard
   can't save your life
Superboy takes
   a plutonium wife
In the shadow of
   Ban The Bomb
      we live...

Display:
Ditch the American Empire-ish for something with better user-friendliness?


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Mar 12th, 2008 at 05:10:29 PM EST
I reckon: fantastic diary!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Mar 12th, 2008 at 09:49:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I reckon you're correct.

paul spencer
by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Wed Mar 12th, 2008 at 11:38:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... is, I might as well buy a saddle for a kangabloodyroo.

Maybe I'll just start a new thread off from scratch.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Mar 13th, 2008 at 04:01:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Watch out for the kangabloodyroo, if he's a boomer, he likes to discuss the semantics of words.

No such word-chopping from me, oh no.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Mar 13th, 2008 at 06:52:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... the rul...

... oh, wait, no its not. And anyway, that's over in my blog, where I get to set the rules (backed up by nothing more than the threat that I'll make another rule that's even more stringent) ... I guess even if it was, it wouldn't be.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Mar 13th, 2008 at 07:16:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, even if I was a Boomer, I wouldn't be.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Mar 13th, 2008 at 07:33:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For the pair of you!

I think the translation is "Awoomaloomaboomabang!"



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Mar 13th, 2008 at 10:34:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Round of Aplause.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Mar 12th, 2008 at 11:58:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... on the Burning the Midnight Oil blog within a blog (which is ongoing, since the rules allow for talking in the comment thread days after the diary was posted, which would seem to be really scandalous behavior on dKos), for which a new edition appears two or three times a week.

It joins Burning the Midnight Oil for:

  • Living Energy Independence;
  • the Coalition Change Strategy;
  • Progressive Populism; and

  • Sensible Economics
... and probably one more irregular feature is on the way.

So, oh you scary "Federalizing Europe" which on one reading is being used as a bogey monster in the above essay (not the desired reading, but qualifiers on qualifiers can kill an essay, like they are killing the readability of this comment), what are the angles of the Arc of the Sun feature that most urgently need exploring?

  • rediscovering rural development in the Arc of the Sun
  • rediscovering urban development in the Arc of the Sun
  • actual trade promotion for fun, sustainability and profit
  • or ... uh, some brilliant idea you have that I write up and can play a genius on the Daily Kos (well, among the small hardy group willing to listen to progressive realism in the middle of Obamapalooza Fever).




I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Mar 13th, 2008 at 04:14:22 AM EST
I really enjoyed the read, I love the idea of a blog becoming so huge that within it entire blogs can survive and thrive--making their connections across the threads while the big noises up top huff and puff...

But I never go to daily kos so I'm appreciating the ET spin off!

You asked the question so:

# rediscovering rural development in the Arc of the Sun

Definitely yes.  The US seems to be moving rapidly ahead in this, maybe because there is a lot of land around still; maybe because all y'all (see, I learn!)--but hey!  You're in Australia, did I get that right?  (And yeah with the qualifiers!)  I think clearly successful projects with a "what we learned" attached are blueprints for other communities; and I want lots of wonderful people growing food and building renewable energy sources and (for me funky please!) houses that grow with the surrounding land rather than being brick houses plonked on top!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Mar 13th, 2008 at 04:27:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
(I would love to read margouillat on the subject of "green housing" for example!  To give it a european perspective.)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Mar 13th, 2008 at 04:30:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not the Bazaar, wich is a variant of what we have, but more of the Karwan Saray or Caravanserai... :-)
I have a difficult end of the week and beginning of the other with tons of jurys and crying students... :-)

But you're right, this is important...!

(Now, why do I shiver each time the word "communities" is used ?) :-)

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman

by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Thu Mar 13th, 2008 at 12:39:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Communities?  Speuuujuuuit!

You'll have to remind me of your preferred word; I'm a (very very) slow learner!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Mar 13th, 2008 at 01:34:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't have problem with words, and I'm used to it here :-)
I just find it funny that we all search for "modernity" in whatever form and still think in "tribes"... <raising eyes to the ceiling>

It relates, of course, with the "cultural barriers" diary :-)

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman

by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Thu Mar 13th, 2008 at 01:44:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... back in the US in time for the warm up act in 2006 for the current silliness going on in US politics.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Mar 13th, 2008 at 07:12:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm interested in rural development, but I don't see how it can in fact be envisaged without consideration of urban development too.

This is a great diary, Bruce, an original, revealing slice through the pie. I've been thinking more and more lately that we need to move forward with concrete proposals/projects, and that these must concern local development (in rich or poor regions) in sustainable agriculture and industry. This can be seen in contrast with the financial capitalism hoax-fest; in this diary, you succeed in opposing it to "whatever it is" that makes the US establish precinct stations around the globe and tell Europe they need to help fight for them.

Just one thing: when I gogole "arc of the sun" I don't find much beyond a link back here or to DK. Er, this may be semantic quibbling, but can you explain arc of the sun a bit for dummies?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Mar 13th, 2008 at 07:17:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... than the other way around, if we stay with the conventional pigeon holes of urban development as cities and big cities and rural development as productive countryside and small towns.

And, indeed, if looking for where to generate a positive cycle of growth between the two, the interaction between the countryside and market town is a good place to look for the bootstrap.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Mar 13th, 2008 at 08:01:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... longitude lifted off a globe, but holding its shape,  that part in the middle of the big arc of the whole world that lies between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, that's the Arc of the Sun, where the sun is directly overhead at least once, and sometimes twice, a year.

Metaphorically, if you lay out a conventional Eurocentric map with the Atlantic Ocean in one piece and the Pacific Ocean split into two pieces at opposite ends, and you take the low-income and middle-income nations that lie wholly or partly inside the tropics, you get a big sweep of countries from China in the upper right through Southeast Asia and the ASEAN Archipelago through India and Southwest Asia and Africa and South America and the Caribbean and parts of North America and if you step back and squint, and especially if at its tallest stretch as it passes through Africa you kind of focus on Central Africa, its kinda like an arc.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 at 04:56:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, thanks. Did you invent the expression? (I'm still wondering why it doesn't come up in Google).
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 at 05:04:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... and elaborated it, but the elaboration is stuck in peer review (not the phrase as such, the balance trade institution policy).


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Mar 22nd, 2008 at 06:36:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If this means, ultimately, "Bust the corporations to smithereens, and their little dog, Media, too, and put America's tax structures and financial systems back into some rational order that serves the general good" then I'm in complete agreement!  

Beyond that, I'm afraid it's past my bedtime, but I'll think about it some more tomorrow.  (At Tara!)  Just wanted to say something now.

by keikekaze on Thu Mar 13th, 2008 at 04:22:26 AM EST
Oh, only some of them. However, the breaking of their stranglehold on power in the US is not going to happen in the US driven by an alliance of interest along these lines ... it will be a alliance of interest focused domestically, and the hard part is working out how to get that coalition to also pursue its common interests on this front.

A major part of the rise of the radical reactionary faction in the Republican party was the breakdown of the alliance between the New Deal Coalition and capital-intensive, growth-sensitive businesses, with Big Oil being a core member.

With peak US oil, the ability to make the market inside the US was lost, and thereon hangs a political tale that ends with a President who is such a lying hypocrite he would rather be seen as a bumbling buffoon, and an obviously doomed effort to establish a police station state on top of what is, AFAIU, the second largest remaining main oil reserve.

Still, establishing in a concrete way that "There Is An Alternative" (TIAA) is an important part of the white-anting of the foundations underneath the Corporate Oligarchs, who rely heavily on the Big Lie strategy in trying to convey that There Is No Alternative (TINA).

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Mar 13th, 2008 at 08:14:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't wish to seem hostile to business--because in fact I'm not in the least hostile to small (or smallish), labor-intensive, well-regulated, and genuinely competitive and innovative businesses.  Only to gigantic corporate empires that suppress real competition, innovation, and enterprise.  Every time the game reaches that point, the empires need to be broken up by force, or force of law, unless we put legal mechanisms in place beforehand to keep the game from reaching that point.

I admit I don't know exactly what steps to take in this direction, at this juncture, except, as you say, to keep making the point as loudly as I can that there is another way.

by keikekaze on Thu Mar 13th, 2008 at 05:07:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... I was saying that if I had a hammer, I'd swing it in the morning, I'd swing it in the evening, all over this land ... and if I had a bell, I'd ring it in the morning, I'd ring it in the evening, all over this land ...

... and this part here, its not a hammer, its a bell. There's other parts of the strategy that might swing enough weight to smash something to smithereens ... this requires a bit more of a judo approach, using the weight and momentum (and therefore difficulty in moving nimbly) of the opposition against them.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Mar 13th, 2008 at 09:26:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good topic, I enjoyed this blog, though it's frustrating in some ways because it misses a crucial point of focus I pay attention to.

I agree, semantics should not be a focus of any discussion.  I always try to look under the semantics at the basic structure of the problem, then words aren't so important.  But the structure of the collective systems that make up the world need to be revealed in some way. And that frustrated me just a bit here, so I'll try to say why and where.  

Your discussion of the "free" marketplace as a bazaar is connotative of an anarchically democratic process that gets a positive collective result that appears to be in contrast to the CEO style strategy that is part of a different order of collective organization, the "hierarchy" strategy for accomplishing a set of purposes.  In your narrative, both give a general picture of something complex going on with a similar set of results -- essentially the economic satisfaction of a population.

Before getting too excited about this comparison, I think it's important to recognize the implication is of different orders of organization, and then to note that historically, the hierarchy itself has evolved for practical and logical reasons that make it keep reoccurring and becoming a dominant organizational strategy.  You've noted that:

Now, here is a secret, just between you and me and the bright Ohio late winter sky ... when the so-called "free market" people talk about "the market" ... they are not interested in the market. The market is their enemy, in many respects. What they are interested in is promoting the power of the boardroom.

I think that's true, but not in a conspiracy theory sense, but more, I think, because of the order of margin of return accumulations, how that is measured and stored (as money), and the role that accumulation of capital plays in the collective problem solving of a hierarchically ordered system like a corporation.

First of all, I take note that the corporation is a collective organization designed with a purpose, and has come to be set up in something similar to a military command decision making management hierarchy.  That's a natural result of an efficiency factor and the margin of returns needed with the problem of solving a complex problem with a collective group of human beings, not an intent to create a tyranny (though it does).  

As an evolutionary process in the "civilized" purpose of making war, note that democratically run militaries don't fare well against those organized in a tyrannical, totalitarian nature, mainly because their effort to accomplish a goal is not efficient.  So what we are really talking about is an economic feature, efficiency.  And that's the real beast that will keep reoccurring until we face what it is, and whether we really want it as part of our cultures.  Anyone who's attracted to anarchism has in some way looked at this problem.  

When a collective of some kind sets out to solve problems, if that problem solving strategy involves any level of complexity, then a hierarchy with a management feature becomes just plain more efficient, because it minimizes one complexity, the problem of making decisions by a group, and you get a higher margin of return from the effort -- up to a point.  As I see it, this is the Faustian bargain we humans have been making for about 10,000 years as we tried to move out of small bands of social organization into what we now call civilized societies, with cities, economies and all that.

The thing about hierarchy is it has this problem creating feature, and the complexity itself begins geometrically creating problems for itself, and it must pare down it's strategy even more.  And so you get these periodic reoccurring nightmares, like fascist states, that discover the power of the group, and the group agrees to the power of a leadership. I think that fundamentally we are seeing that in the global economics now.  In the US, the Unitary Executive Theory, which attempts to distance the presidency from the messy checks and balance problems of decision making that come out of the two houses of Congress, is just a feature of that.  

It's possible that the continued presence of a very powerful and expensive military industrial complex in the US is an off shoot of that tendency in the government itself.  The elite, for instance, are pressured by accumulated policy making results to continue making decisions that imply the solutions that such a technical problem solving set of institutions can resolve.  Some of those problems are the result of that institution, like the CIA arm of it overthrowing a democratic government in Iran in 1953, just to name one that comes to mind.

One of the features of a hierarchy is it has an internal pressure from its own solving of problems, to thereby cause more problems from its own complexity.  Middle management evolution, for instance, is one of the "expenses" in a hierarchy of the management process, and the margins must grow to cover the cost of supporting a growing middle mangagement. Middle management must therefore pay for itself by managing more efficient problem solving and creating ever greater margins of return.  So hierarchies must grow, especially as they keeps solving problems and creating more problems.  

The result of that in societies has historically been eventual collapse for many.  Joseph Tainter covers some of those collapses in his book The Collapse of Complex Societies.  That's because the margin of return and the available energy reach a peak and then the ongoing need for increasingly complex problem solving runs into a problem of not enough energy to support that growth.  Not surprisingly, it graphs much like the peak oil graph, or an r-selected species graph.

That peak crisis has been somewhat masked as the world population has sky rocketed (like an r-selected species, say a cancer) since the 1800s.  It appears in the short term that human "genius" has overcome some of that, that Moore's Law has prevailed, but note that it is also correlated with the harvesting of cheap and very abundant forms of fossil energy over the past hundred and fifty years.

"I would pillow myself on the stream, for I'd like to cleanse my ears" - Sun Chu (218-293) Chinese recluse

by Ren on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 12:55:02 PM EST
As an evolutionary process in the "civilized" purpose of making war, note that democratically run militaries don't fare well against those organized in a tyrannical, totalitarian nature, mainly because their effort to accomplish a goal is not efficient.  So what we are really talking about is an economic feature, efficiency.  And that's the real beast that will keep reoccurring until we face what it is, and whether we really want it as part of our cultures.  Anyone who's attracted to anarchism has in some way looked at this problem.

Well, a preface than an important point ...

... first, nowhere did I say anything about anarchism. On behalf of the part of my family living in the Arc of the Sun, I am not going to require such an ambitious goal for a set of institutions as the paradox of the maintenance of an ongoing social order in such a way that it is not necessary for sanctions to exist to enforce the social order.

I referred, rather, to a bazaar.

However, the main point is that the economic efficiency of tyrannical, totalitarian regimes is a static efficiency, not a dynamic efficiency.

However, if looking for an alternative to the current international economic order that looks non-threatening to the status quo when getting established, then gains adherents who benefit from the system to act as champions within the establishments of various countries, to get it to the point where it offers an alternative ... its necessary to have something that can start small and grow, and particularly start small and grow in an environment of rising real costs of material resources.

And starting small means that any static efficiencies available are themselves trivial ... what is vital is dynamic efficiency.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 05:48:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I correlated hierarchy with military command hierarchy.  Hypothetically the hierarchies that are similar to a military command hierarchy would be in my paraphrase "tyrannical." But that can be a semantic quibble we can dismiss for now.

To extend the concept where I was thinking, I would also see that as a way of describing the way corporations tend to organize large groups of people to accomplish their purpose. It's simply more efficient than having the purpose subject to a democratic decision making process.  Now, if you are equating that with "tyrannical, totalitarian regimes" I am wondering what you might mean by "static efficiency" when applied to corporate form of organizing?  I don't see that organizational form as a carefully considered element of the discussions in the comparisons of, say, the efficient firms versus monopolistic firms in my review of "dynamic efficiency vs. static efficiency." (Here are a couple of several sources I just looked at to refresh my memory:  Dynamic versus Static Efficiency, Interpreting Sustainability in Economic Terms: Dynamic Efficiency Plus Intergenerational Equity) If you have some resources that discuss this, I'd appreciate seeing them.

What I'm wondering is this: Are you suggesting a modern, transnational corporation as organized equates to static efficiency?  Because that's the organizational structure I'm referring to.  These organizational structures compose much of the basis for competition for control and allocation of resources, and as organizational structures, they are much more competitive in harvesting the world's "resources" than any other form devised so far. "Competition" is a dynamic feature in the discussions on efficiency.  So organizational form itself seems like a worthy point to examine, and why I've brought it up.

So I'm a little puzzled about how exactly you are applying dynamic and static efficiency at this point, and would appreciate some clarification.

The main comparison I'm making has to do with a general problem of groups of humans organizing for a purpose.  How can that be achieved? I'm suggesting that historically there have been a range of human organizational options experimented with, from various forms of democratic decision making, which is potentially quite efficient on a small scale, to a more managed hierarchical form that generally ends up with some pyramidal decision making shape, correlated with authoritarian organizing, when the scale of the project and the group involved grows to substantial size.

Whether or not you intended to suggest anarchism is of no significant concern to what I was trying to point out, as far as I'm concerned. Again I agree with your point regarding quibbling about semantics.  However, the implications are potentially there in yours suggestions if one wants to carry out some of the thoughts.  I would be happy to ignore the term anarchy entirely and replace it with "democratic" if that will help to further discussion.  

I'll just mention that some of the US libertarian thinkers, for example, are considered by a number of folks to be a unique American form of the broader anarchic libertarian philosophic traditions.  Not that I'm identifying anyone here as that, just noting its basic form and its traditions. I believe the term "anarcho capitalists" has been applied from time to time. The free market is in that sense a kind of anarchic form.  If you are suggesting some economic form devoid of all forms of coercive forms of control and authority, I would consider that implicational of anarchism, by the nature of that definition of anarchy.  

Of course, "Objectivists" are known to be suspicious of correlating libertarians with individual anarchism.  And I don't try to press it with them.  But in their free market formulations, the don't pay attention to any inherent problems with corporate hierarchical organizing, and merely point out that once it achieves a size that creates diminishing marginal returns, it fails to be competitive, and naturally fails.

I don't think the status quo of what might be called "international order" is a description of a decision making entity that gives a damn one way or another about what individuals or groups do, until some grouping starts proposing changes to the structure of the elite form of plutocratic governance they are now quite comfortable with.  Until something revolutionary of that nature appears, I hypothesize it is neither threatened nor could be by alternatives that are chosen on a level that's non governmental.  The system as it is in its present form works mainly because people have little choice but to partake in it.  

If people can invent other options and turn to them, the international order isn't likely to even notice until enough people change the way they live that the international order begins to fail and their margins of profit begin to shrink.  

Then what will happen?  Will the elite begin to formulate laws whereby people will be legally forced to comply with certain organizational patterns that support the corporatocracy and the system it creates?

"I would pillow myself on the stream, for I'd like to cleanse my ears" - Sun Chu (218-293) Chinese recluse

by Ren on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 08:46:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ren:
Will the elite begin to formulate laws whereby people will be legally forced to comply with certain organizational patterns that support the corporatocracy and the system it creates?

the most egregious example of this happening already is when motorists get fined in england for running their diesels off wesson oil.

it's busybodying shit like this that makes voters apathetic and disgusted.

in fact, your statement sums up the near-total disempowerment of the individual by the state, with the added bonus of persuading the hapless cog-unit that he/she has never been so 'free'.

sauce bernais...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Mar 23rd, 2008 at 09:15:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the most egregious example of this happening already is when motorists get fined in england for running their diesels off wesson oil.

!!!!OMG!!!!

These folks are just so ingenious in their infinite and intricate abilities to figure out means for population control.  A never ending source of uh...musement.

"I would pillow myself on the stream, for I'd like to cleanse my ears" - Sun Chu (218-293) Chinese recluse

by Ren on Mon Mar 24th, 2008 at 09:45:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... between hierarchy and democratic, as if they are opposites on a single continuum.

To extend the concept where I was thinking, I would also see that as a way of describing the way corporations tend to organize large groups of people to accomplish their purpose. It's simply more efficient than having the purpose subject to a democratic decision making process.

Its hierarchical if there are levels, each "higher" level tending to be smaller in population than the one immediately "below" it, and each level communicating primarily with / relating primarily two those directly "above" and "below" it.

That can be a chain of command, with information passed up and orders passed down. It could also be representative democracy, with demands for service passed up and successes or failures to be of service passed down.

There are also unstructured systems, matrix-networked systems, and others. That's just one pattern of social interaction.

A corporation can be subject to democratic decision making, as when the board of directors of a syndicalist corporation is elected by the workforce (sometimes including, sometimes excluding the management) on the basis of one workshare, one vote. It can be quasi-democratic, as when the board of directors is formally voted by a collective of equity owners, but in reality a majority of the board of directors is selected by the executive management that is in turn hired by the board of directors. That latter situation is what we tend to have now among large transnational commercial corporations, which is subject to less accountability and control than most military hierarchies.

So using hierarchy as a shorthand for those types of hierarchies where ultimate authority runs from top-down confuses me, since in general terms ultimate authority can run in either direction, depending on the system of governance in place.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Mar 24th, 2008 at 04:48:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... between hierarchy and democratic, as if they are opposites on a single continuum.

If what I've said is confusing you, I suggest you ignore it.


"I would pillow myself on the stream, for I'd like to cleanse my ears" - Sun Chu (218-293) Chinese recluse

by Ren on Mon Mar 24th, 2008 at 06:20:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... attention to based on whether they look interesting, rather than based on how confusing it is to translate between frames of reference.

So you're not going to get off that easy. I'll wade through it eventually.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Mar 25th, 2008 at 12:42:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So you're not going to get off that easy. I'll wade through it eventually.

???

Get off of what?   You're the guy with the big plan for solving the world's problems.  I'm just suggesting some organizational impediments you might run into.  This is all just hypothetical to me.

I tell you what, when you get it off the ground and working, why don't you give me a call, if I'm still on this planet.  I'll be happy to come check it out.

If you are confused, or if you aren't interested, it hardly matters to me in the slightest.  But here's what you said that seems to be causing you confusion:

A corporation can be subject to democratic decision making, as when the board of directors of a syndicalist corporation is elected by the workforce (sometimes including, sometimes excluding the management) on the basis of one workshare, one vote. It can be quasi-democratic, as when the board of directors is formally voted by a collective of equity owners, but in reality a majority of the board of directors is selected by the executive management that is in turn hired by the board of directors. That latter situation is what we tend to have now among large transnational commercial corporations, which is subject to less accountability and control than most military hierarchies.

So using hierarchy as a shorthand for those types of hierarchies where ultimate authority runs from top-down confuses me, since in general terms ultimate authority can run in either direction, depending on the system of governance in place.

All those "can be, what ifs" and so forth are included in what I was pointing out.  The can be's have to solve a problem of complexity, and I don't see you addressing that.  Maybe you are in your mind.  But raising a bunch of what ifs I've already included isn't getting you anywhere near it I can see.

I didn't use hierarchy as a shorthand for authority, as you suggested in your above quote, you did.  Here are a couple of the things I said to explain why I'd say that:

Hypothetically the hierarchies that are similar to a military command hierarchy would be in my paraphrase "tyrannical." But that can be a semantic quibble we can dismiss for now.

----->

The main comparison I'm making has to do with a general problem of groups of humans organizing for a purpose.  How can that be achieved? I'm suggesting that historically there have been a range of human organizational options experimented with, from various forms of democratic decision making, which is potentially quite efficient on a small scale, to a more managed hierarchical form that generally ends up with some pyramidal decision making shape, correlated with authoritarian organizing, when the scale of the project and the group involved grows to substantial size.

I was overly hasty, I see, and I used "forms of democratic decision making" and I see I needed to be more specific in order not to be confusing. I should have begun with "individual participatory decision making," which is in my mind democratic, but there is a range of decision making in what's referred to as "democratic" that goes into various degrees of separation from participation to representative.

Again, the quibble here would seem to be with semantics, and I would suggest not simply democracy, then, as a base line, but participatory democracy.

As the core problem, I'd point out that I merely suggested that, as the problem solving and the the size and differentiation of group activity gets more complex, the tendency is towards top down management and CEO style decision making, because of the efficiencies of that style over a participatory decision making style, which I said is messy.  To make that point I called attention to the possibility that militaries that could make their decisions by participatory means in the heat of battle, or by hierarchical chain of command structures.  I didn't think it would take that much imagination to figure out what would happen if every decision was made by group discussion and put to a vote in the heat of battle.  I'm thinking there's a correlation to heat of battle when for profit corporations are under intense competition.

If you know of any large multi tiered and complex corporate organization, it could be for profit or governmental, organized on a participatory decision making basis, I'd like to know about at least one that can work.  Give me an example.  I've been a participant observer in some in corporate training programs and I'm aware of a range of modernizing tactics designed to attempt to improve the information flow so that it will also come from bottom up.  But all of those I'm aware of always have the default for emergencies that resort to command style decision making, just as the US government has its war time president default.

I asked that you explain what you mean by "dynamic efficiency" with regards to this problem of complexity and decision making, you haven't offered anything yet.  If you have some literature to reference, I asked that you would, again you haven't.  To refresh your memory, here's what I wrote:

Now, if you are equating that with "tyrannical, totalitarian regimes" I am wondering what you might mean by "static efficiency" when applied to corporate form of organizing?  I don't see that organizational form as a carefully considered element of the discussions in the comparisons of, say, the efficient firms versus monopolistic firms, in my review of "dynamic efficiency vs. static efficiency." (Here are a couple of several sources I just looked at to refresh my memory:  Dynamic versus Static Efficiency, Interpreting Sustainability in Economic Terms: Dynamic Efficiency Plus Intergenerational Equity) If you have some resources that discuss this, I'd appreciate seeing them.  (note that the links to those two sources can be found in my post further up)

What I'm wondering is this: Are you suggesting a modern, transnational corporation as organized equates to static efficiency?  Because that's the organizational structure I'm referring to.  These organizational structures compose much of the basis for competition for control and allocation of resources, and as organizational structures, they are much more competitive in harvesting the world's "resources" than any other form devised so far. "Competition" is a dynamic feature in the discussions on efficiency.  So organizational form itself seems like a worthy point to examine, and why I've brought it up.

While you've noted the owners might have some quasi democratic something or another to say about the organization of these corporate entities (usually has to do with how they get repaid for their investment), you haven't exactly addressed the fact that the functional bureaucracy of the corporation, from the top management to the individual workers, remains this sort of command hierarchy for most of these major transnationals.

By the way, your convergent version of a syndicalist  corporate democracy with a transnational corporations confuses an ownership of investors with an ownership of workers in the same paragraph sort of blended those features.  I would think they need to be looked at separately and in the context of size and complexity that I'm suggesting, which is the problem I see that groups face in organizing to achieve a purpose.

You've described some things about hierarchy and you've mentioned some possibilities that appear to me to be well within the spectrum I am referring to.  But it doesn't seem to me you have really heard what I'm saying about the problem of complexity and group organization.  

Hierarchy, whether it's a democratic form or whether it's a chain of command organization, is what occurs with a complexity of coordinating tasks in a group problem solving set of events.  With that goes a specialization process, as the solution involves more and more elements.  That's what I see as the key force driving the evolution of hierarchies.  

I've suggested that the movement has been towards an authoritarian management style when efficiency becomes a factor.  The pressure for efficiency can be described in terms of margins of return. This is merely a body of theory I've encountered, if you are interested, I can steer you to better minds than mine.  If you aren't, it wouldn't bother me in the least.

"I would pillow myself on the stream, for I'd like to cleanse my ears" - Sun Chu (218-293) Chinese recluse

by Ren on Tue Mar 25th, 2008 at 08:03:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... and its more of a framework to give people trying to solve problems more leverage.

I've got more plans than the balanced trade one, but I've got no big plan to fix the world. Every plan to fix the world creates new problems, and the bigger the plan, the more surprising the new problems are likely to be.

You're the guy with the big plan for solving the world's problems.  I'm just suggesting some organizational impediments you might run into.

I get that impression, but to read the suggestions, I have to first see what sense I can make of it. The suggestions reside within a distinctive frame of reference, and so I have to see what terms translate directly to one I am comfortable working with, and what changes when moving from the one to the other.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Mar 26th, 2008 at 10:17:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've got more plans than the balanced trade one, but I've got no big plan to fix the world. Every plan to fix the world creates new problems, and the bigger the plan, the more surprising the new problems are likely to be.

That's a fundamental concept in complexity theory.  If you recognize that, then you have a basic framework to work with.  

Solutions to problems are like karma, they create sets (or waves, if you will) of reactions that can and usually do become new problems.

Hierarchy is one recognizable result of efforts by a group to solve an increasing complexity that results from attempts to solve problems.

Managing hierarchy then becomes another problem.

Competition and margins of return in a capitalist system, for instance, can be seen as organizing principles that drives efforts to solve problems, and to create more efficient management strategies.

One of the driving forces behind this is the very initial efforts to control nature, as in the onset of agriculture.

I'm just suggesting these are some basic principles to take into account.  It seems to me in looking at them they have their own ontological logic that takes place once a process is underway and groups of people involved become systemically committed to the solutions.

"I would pillow myself on the stream, for I'd like to cleanse my ears" - Sun Chu (218-293) Chinese recluse

by Ren on Wed Mar 26th, 2008 at 12:05:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... stop following the line of argument.

Now, here is a secret, just between you and me and the bright Ohio late winter sky ... when the so-called "free market" people talk about "the market" ... they are not interested in the market. The market is their enemy, in many respects. What they are interested in is promoting the power of the boardroom.

I think that's true, but not in a conspiracy theory sense, but more, I think, because of the order of margin of return accumulations, how that is measured and stored (as money), and the role that accumulation of capital plays in the collective problem solving of a hierarchically ordered system like a corporation.

I do not think, and never said, that what they are interested in promoting is a self-conscious political conspiracy. Rather, its what they are interested in promoting. If they were not interested in promoting it, they would not have reached the level of the corporate boardroom.

It is, in other words, the normal institutional process that any bureaucracy that selects its own leadership has a strong bias toward selecting those who are loyal to the interests of the bureaucracy as a whole. There is no conspiracy there except for people who prefer to disbelieve in emergent characteristics at the level of organizations and social institutions and offer complicated unlikely hidden conspiracies to account for normal organizational and institutional processes.

The fact that hypocritical homage made by the bureaucracies of commercial corporations are to "the market", substantially different in content to the hypocritical homages made by the bureaucracies of the medieval catholic church, is due to both the universe of discourse in which the hypocritical homages are being made, as well as the specific details of what institutional rules work to the benefit of the particular bureaucracy.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Apr 6th, 2008 at 10:29:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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