This book combines review author’s life history and his scientific experience. Most interesting are stories about scientific discoveries related to the functioning of a human brain especially the separation of duties between its left and right hemispheres. The method of research was direct experiment with individuals who due to an illness had these parts surgically separated and functioning as two brains in the same body.
Part 1 Discovering the Brain.
Chapter 1 Diving Into Science
This chapter is about history of author’s initial involvement with Caltech program in psychology and its outgrowing into neurobiological research. It is also an interesting review of California scene of higher education, scientific research, and even politics in 1960s.
Chapter 2 Discovering the Mind Divided
This is description of initial split-brain research conducted in early 1960s and personalities of leading scientists who participated in this development, their achievement, attitudes, and squabbles. The important discussion here is about difference in scientific research then and now, including continuing growth of dependency on government grants and bureaucratic approvals. Based in this it looks like achievements of 1960s would not be possible today due to bureaucratic red tape. It is also a description of important discoveries such as relative independence of some functions of left and right parts of the brain such as visual perception, combined with significant specialization in some other areas such as speech being nearly exclusively domain of left hemisphere. At the same time some sensory-motor integration was working across semi-spheres. An very interesting experiment demonstrated that some split-brain patients were able to control ipsilateral arm, but not hand, while just about everybody had good control of contralateral hand and arm. The outcome of this puzzle was the great discovery of absence of hierarchical central control system that researches expected to find in the brain. It turned out that it is rather loose combination of the multitude of semi-autonomous and sometime completely autonomous systems only partially synchronized.
Chapter 3 Searching for the Brain’s Morse code
This chapter reviews attempt to find communication code used within brain leading to discovery that such code does not exists. In reality coordination is achieved by using cueing strategy that allowed hemispheres transfer information via external cues even if they were surgically separated. This chapter also describes interaction and cooperation with David Premack and his development of “theory of mind”, meaning ability of a mind to continuously develop and test a theory about status of another mind. The ability to create and use theory of mind could be found in animals, but only to very limited extent. It fully blossoms only in humans and could be considered a very important point of differentiation between humans and other animals.
Part 2 Hemispheres Together and Apart
Chapter 4 Unmasking More Modules
This chapter moves to motivation mechanisms. The experiment was with rats who where fixed to be either want to drink or to run and indifferent to other activity so the setup was to incite rat to do what it does not like in order to get ability to do what it likes. As one would expect animals learned connection and successfully used means to ends procedures. It also describes a number of experiments using people with split brain to identify links between various methods of perception as related to use of right or left hemisphere. Another interesting experiment was with role of emotions. Left hemisphere was trained to make selection by using feedback for right and wrong, while right was not. Initially trained hemisphere quickly learned to make correct choice while untrained, as expected, did not. However after provided emotional feedback allowed untrained hemisphere to learn what is expected and select right answer. Another important discovery was identifying “interpreter” in left hemisphere. When split-brain patient had some stimuli presented to right hemisphere to make him do something and then asked why he did it, the left hemisphere responsible for logic and language processing had no knowledge about the stimuli so it would come up with some logical, even if complicate and twisted explanation of action through conscious intention that was obviously not the case. So instead of a little controller and “leader” in our head we actually have just a spin master who is continuously trying to make sense from whatever we do.
Chapter 5 Brain Imaging Confirms Split Brain Surgeries
This starts with review of experiment demonstrating “double simultaneous extinction” that allowed to demonstrate role of unconscious in making conscious decision even if person does not understand this role. From here author goes to the creation of cognitive neuroscience that he defines as “the study of how the brain creates the mind”. Here is diagram to illustrate this approach:
The final part describes arrival of MRI and with it some limited ability to see what’s going on inside living brain.
Chapter 6 Still Split
This chapter is about farther development based on advances in fMRI, PET and other technologies. Then it followed by description of the next adventure when new experiments seem to be demonstrated connections between hemispheres of split brain. Eventually it was proved experimentally that it was cueing and other non-direct method of communications developed by patients with long experience of being tested that explained 78% accuracy of responses. Another series of experiments directed to mechanism of attentions demonstrated that each hemisphere had its own mechanism of attention control, but at the end attention was unifocal due to demand of resources when attention was on. Finally the chapter describes experiments with patients who had only partially split brain.
Part 3 Evolution and Integration
Chapter 7 The Right Brain Has Something to Say
This one is about new technology that allowed to record brain electric activity and its timing in different parts of brain during experiments. Based on this experiments they were able to identify synchronization mechanism of the brain. Another interesting phenomenon discovered was ability of right hemisphere slowly developing language ability after the split, even if this ability was limited. However it was based more on ability to transfer cues to the left hemisphere than actual development of the new functionality by the right hemisphere. This chapter also describes participation of psychologists in split-brain research that allowed identifying patterns of semantic and episodic memory with both hemispheres capable to do it, but each doing better in its area of specialization: right for visual data and left for verbal.
Chapter 8 Stately living and Call to Service
This chapter contains additional discussion of “interpreter” – the brain mechanics of making sense out of received information regardless of its having sense in the first place. There is an interesting discussion of human propensity to making mistakes as evolutionary advantage of making action possible even when information is incomplete or misleading. This chapter also describes initiation of Human brain mapping project based on dramatically increased capability of computers and neuroimaging.
Part 4 Brain Layers
Chapter 9 Layers and Dynamics: Seeking New Perspectives
The final chapter includes summary of the Brain principles:
- Brain comes with a lot of inherent programs – neurospecificity to handle environment
- Processes of underlying behavior, cognition, and even consciousness are highly modular and work in parallel.
- It has high levels of redundancy and plasticity to resist small to moderate damage.
- Lots of brain processes are not accessible to conscious perception so brain splitting that removes connection between hemispheres makes sensual right hemisphere inaccessible for logical left hemisphere and vice versa creating two conscious entities in one body each perceiving that nothing changed.
- Modularity of control functions is not limited to brain, but rather extended to all systems of the body making it into distributed network of analog control systems.
- Brain is built on an emergence principal when lower level complex systems organize into a new structure, with new properties that did not exist before.
- One issue author believes is still open is application of Supersede notion to the brain, which means that there could be no difference in high level function of the system unless there is some difference in physical condition of underlying lower level systems.
- Brain has layered architecture with different layers being semi-independent.
Author provides a nice metaphor for a brain: symphony orchestra with array of instruments organized into complex sequence of actions creating music, but cautions that in case of brain there is no central control to direct this orchestra.
MY TAKE ON IT:
From my point of view author’s lifetime of experimentation with split-brain patients provides a great insight into working of human brain that is very much consistent with my view at it. I believe that there is no mind/brain duality whatsoever, but rather fully material complex network of semi-autonomous biological analog systems working at some level of synchronization developed through continuing experimentation / system training when millions of experiments result in development of proper response to a multitude of environmental situations. On the higher level of consciousness brain is a complex instrument for past explanation building / future prediction development / communication and coordination with other brains to synchronize explanation-prediction-action / results analysis / explanation-prediction update for next action. All this together evolutionary justify complexity and cost of brain maintenance due to superior ability it provides for adjusting to continuously changing environment via complex cooperative actions.
It is simple: The income inequality is bad because it decreases productivity of society, causes social tensions, undermines rule of law, and even puts democracy in peril. The main causes of inequality are rent seeking, unregulated or under regulated markets, and misguided policies of balanced budgets and suppression of inflation. The remedy to decrease inequality is more government regulation of market, loose monetary policy, and massive wealth redistribution via government transfer programs.
Chapter One: AMERICA’S 1 Percent Problem
Author defines difference in income and wealth as America’s biggest problem and then makes main points of this chapter:
- Prosperity of the last 30 years did not do a lot for poor because they are still poor. It did a lot for rich so they did become richer.
- Unemployment increased and safety net is not capable to handle it
- Standard of living declined.
- Opportunity is not equal because majority of poor kids grow up to be poor adults, and the same applies to rich.
- Internationally US is behind of other countries in equality and opportunity as defined by Gini coefficient
All this analysis is done on monetary basis and abstract shares of population without any attempt to look at personalities such as if today’s richest 1% are the same people that they were 10 years ago, or what actual goods and services available to today poor? Nice example of this analysis is statement at the conclusion of the chapter that obesity-suffering poor today are worse off than hungry poor of the beginning of XX century.
Chapter Two: Rent Seeking and Making of Unequal Society
This is a nice chapter about rent seeking through government support and monopolies. While author attacks Chicago school for claiming that free market would destroy monopoly he seems to be unable to provide example of monopoly in really free market environment. For example his discussion of Microsoft monopoly on Windows does not explains that it was result of government intervention and that this monopoly failed to survive appearance of new technologies from open source operating system to Web based applications and mobile computing.
Chapter Three: Markets and Inequality
At the beginning of this chapter author declares intention to demonstrate how market creates inequality, but he still had to bring government as the force that defines market and therefore makes all discussion about market causing inequality mute. After that he is trying to rebuff attempts to justify inequality by presenting it a source of incentive for oversized effort to achieve prosperity. He also partially accepts role of technology in creating ability for some people produce a lot more than other people, but somehow he does not feel that it justifies for these people getting very high remuneration as well. Surprisingly he clearly sees that in reality government causes inequality, but he meshes it with unidentified “broader social forces”.
Chapter Four: Why it Matters?
The point here is that inequality matters because it makes system less productive by removing initiative at the lower level of society, especially when inequality is result of rent seeking. Somehow author relate it to tax cuts and deregulation obviously believing that government intervention could remove accesses despite presenting multiple facts that it was government, or more precise politicians whose intervention created bubbles, rent allocation in forms of subsidies or preferential taxation, and regulation designed to promote politicians’ agenda regardless of economic soundness of these measures. Author makes a point that inequality arises because private rewards are different from social returns due to difficulties of adapting “good policies” in United Sates where majority believes in free market rather than in benevolent and wise politicians.
Chapter Five: A Democracy in Peril
This chapter is combination of two points. One is that inequality undermines democracy through unequal access to political actions for rich and poor, making poor to lose trust in the system and potentially rebel. Another one points to the evils of globalization as it is practiced now, mainly in interests of rich and influential people.
Chapter Six: 1984 Is Upon Us
This chapter is about psychological aspects of politics and economics. The main point here is that perceptions and believes are malleable and rich and powerful frame believes of majority in such way that Americans support mainly free market capitalism instead of what author seems to believes is much better system: limited capitalism with market heavily regulated by wise elite. Obviously this evil manipulation is powerless against acute intellect of the author who can see through it, unlike typical Americans of smaller intelligence.
Chapter Seven: Justice for All? How Inequality is eroding the Rule of Law
Here author goes through impact of changes in legal system that are directed to benefit rich at expense of everybody else such as Predatory lending, Bankruptcy laws, Student loans, and Securities fraud.
Chapter Eight: The Battle of the Budget
This chapter is about budget, more precisely about which government expenses author believes are good and should be expanded: all forms of wealth transfer and infrastructure maintenance, and which are bad: military. Obviously the worst evil of all is austerity that deprives noble government of means to spend money. Lots of space here dedicated to justification of Obama’s stimulus mainly based on bulletproofed logic: It did not work as we said it would, but it was great and worked marvelously because otherwise everything would be even worse than it is.
Chapter Nine: A Macroeconomic Policy and a Central Bank by and for 1%
This chapter is mainly about FEDs policy with critic directed against policy of inflation containment. In author’s opinion monetary policy should be directed first and foremost against inequality and inflation be damned. The logic here is simple: inflation hurts people who have money now such as bondholders and lenders and help debtors and other people who do not have money.
Chapter Ten: The Way Forward: Another World Is Possible
The final chapter contains a number of proposals that author believes would dramatically improve American economy and decrease inequality. They are:
- Curb excesses at the top via more government intervention into financial organizations landing policies including compensation policy combined with clear rejection of any future bailouts
- Tax reform increasing progressive character of income taxes, estate tax, and closing loopholes.
- Additional wealth transfer to low-income population via expansion of government education, healthcare, and other transfers in all conceivable forms.
- Restrict globalization and trade
- Political reforms restricting use of money to promote political views for rich and corporations.
The final point author makes is about choice of alternatives for future: either America of haves and have-nots, or America of haves continuously having less for benefit of have-nots leading to happy time with liberty and justice for all.
MY TAKE ON IT:
There is an interesting contradiction in this entire thing about inequality: author constantly points at government as source of rents for rich, restrictions on poor, bad monetary and budgetary policies, and so on; while at the same time demanding more government intervention in economy including direct control over healthcare sector in edition to education, wealth redistribution, restrictions on political participation for rich and similar movements in direction of unlimited government. However this contradiction is easy to understand if one looks at position of author in the society as academician living off government educational expenses and grants. He seems to be saying that what is going on is not right and leads to dismal results because government is not robbing productive people enough and, even more important, it directs loot into hands of plutocrats rather than bureaucrats and academicians as himself. So it is not about government being too big or too small, but about who controls it so if right people in power, then government should be unlimited, huge, powerful, and unrestricted providing wise distribution of resources to eliminate inequality. In short it is typical progressive mutation of socialist ideas with productive part (economic superiority of socialism over capitalism) dropped due to overwhelming evidence of socialism failure in XX century. Author, as all other progressives, wants capitalism to stick around and keep generating wealth so superior intellectuals have something to redistribute for the best of all members of society. Too bad it is not going to happen as it did not happen in all previous socialist experiments because human beings hate to work without incentive so outcome of author’s ideas is quite predictable: stagnation, misery, and increase of all racial, class, religious, and other tensions in society with the latest demonstration of which provided by Obama’s administration. What is puzzling is why author believe that resulting explosion would not hurt and rather badly people like him. The experience of either international socialism of Chinese or Soviet type or National Socialism of German type demonstrated that their supporters from Academy fared not that well winding up at best in rural areas for reeducation or at worst in concentration camps. I guess history is not strong side of such progressives.
The main idea of this book is that the typical approach to understanding history and development of the state and society is insufficient for explanation of many known facts and developments and the new framework for analysis in social sciences is required if we want to understand them. Author provides such framework with Idea of qualitative difference between two types of societies: Natural Order of Limited Access typical for the vast majority of societies when it is controlled by violence of dominant group of elite and Open Access Order when society is not directly controlled by any group, but rather is continuously in process of compromises and accommodations between multiple groups not only elite, but practically of everybody with access to information and organization open for all.
- The Conceptual Framework: 1.1 Introduction; 1.2 The Concept of Social Orders: Violence, Institutions, and Organizations; 1.3 The Logic of the Natural State; 1.4 The Logic of the Open Access Order; 1.5 The Logic of the Transition from Natural States to Open Access Orders; 1.6 A Note on Beliefs; 1.7 The Plan
This book is built on the concept of social order of organization of human society. The original way of organization existed in hunter-gatherer societies. Author calls it foraging order and does not allocate lots of attention to it because it is pretty much gone. The concern of this book is with two contemporary social orders. One is society organization that author calls Natural State or limited access order. It was created as consequence of agrarian revolution about 10,000 years ago. This order based mainly on personal relationships and individual has or does not have access to power and resources based on his/her belonging to various groups divided by family connections, religion, locality, and such. The third order author identifies is the open access order created as consequence of industrial revolution. In this order personal relationship while still matter, nevertheless lose paramount significance opening way for impersonal interactions based only on mutual benefits derived from these interactions. Instead of individual whose value defined by belonging in limited access societies we have individual whose value defined by this individual qualities and abilities with little if any regard to background. Author also provides evidence of correlation between type of social organization and material prosperity of society with more open access society significantly richer than limited access societies. Interestingly enough the difference could be traced not to higher economic growth of open access societies overall, but to their ability to retain achieved economic levels even in bad times. Author provides initial overview of logic for Natural Order, Open Access Order, and Transition from one to another.
- The Natural State: 2.1 Introduction; 2.2 Commonalities: Characteristics of Limited Access Orders; 2.3 Differences: A Typology of Natural States; 2.4 Privileges Rights, and Elite Dynamics; 2.5 Origins: The Problem Scale and Violence; 2.6 Natural State Dynamics: Fragile to Basic Natural States; 2.7 Moving to Mature Natural States: Disorder, Organization, and the Medieval Church; 2.8 Mature Natural States: France and England in the Sixteenth, Seventeenth, and Eighteenth Centuries; 2.9 Natural States; Appendix: Skeletal Evidence and Empirical Results
This chapter is an analysis of Natural state, which is the state with preponderance of limited access order. The key feature of such state is that it is always based on violent dominant coalition that limits access to resources to everybody. All Natural orders of limited access have typical characteristics: they limit access to organizational forms and trying to control trade in order to support rent extraction for members of dominant coalition. Author also defines three types of natural states: fragile, basic, and mature. Fragile are natural states in which dominant coalition does not possess overwhelming power to suppress all competition leading to ongoing violent struggle. Majority of all states start in this way when close by tribes coalesce into one entity. The basic natural states have stable and durable organizational structure with well-defined elites and rules of succession. The rule of the dominant coalition generally accepted by population as legitimate. The mature state is farther extension of basic state when dominant coalition allows creation of elite organizations outside of state. It typically creates codified laws and organizations to support it with increasingly wide share of population acquiring status of legal entity and capability to use laws for their benefit. Author reviews history of Carolinians, Aztecs, Rome, France, and England to illustrate his model including transformational development from fragile to basic to mature Natural state.
- The Natural State Applied: English Land Law: 3.1 Introduction; 3.2 The Chronology; 3.3 The Courts, Legal Concepts, and the Law of Property; 3.4 Bastard Feudalism; 3.5 Bastard Feudalism and the Impersonalization of Property
In chapter author applies concept of Natural state to England in more details reviewing English Land Law, development of court system, and Impersonalization of property with progress of feudalism. This chapter also contains a very interesting statistical data on class structure and income distribution of England as a mature state of Natural order in 1692.
- Open Access Orders; 4.1 Introduction; 4.2 Commonalities: Characteristics of an Open Access Order; 4.3 Institutions, Beliefs, and Incentives Supporting Open Access; 4.4 Incorporation: The Extension of Citizenship; 4.5 Control of Violence in Open Access Orders; 4.6 Growth of Government; 4.7 Forces of Short Run Stability; 4.8 Forces of Long Run Stability: Adaptive Efficiency; 4.9 Why Institutions Work Differently under Open Access than Limited Access; 4.10 A New “Logic of Collective Action” and Theory of Rent-Seeking; 4.11 Democracy and Redistribution; 4.12 Adaptive Efficiency and the Seeming Independence of Economics and Politics in Open Access Orders;
This chapter is detailed discussion of Open Orders, which is kind of description of contemporary developed Western societies. Its main characteristics defined as having open access for individuals to organizations, impersonal control over violence, protected property rights and generally preponderance of rule of law, competitive elections leading to restriction on rent seeking by political means, and, finally, relative autonomy of market economy. One interesting and non-trivial part of this discussion is author’s understanding of role of creative destruction in prevention of monopolies, something that usually missed, substituted by unwarranted believe that government prevents and controls monopolies by regulation. There is a very interesting point made about Open Access framework that it explains why relatively free market continue survive in developed western countries despite proliferation and power of bureaucracies and rent seeking special interests. This point is that Open Access to organization allows creation of wide variety of conflicting special interest groups that happily expose and undermine each other’s rent opportunities leading to continuing political equilibrium, restricting overall rent extraction in society, and leaving space for free market. Another difference of Open Access framework from general approach is that it does not consider Democracy as conduit for income redistribution. It is considered more as the tool to create complimentary to market sources of goods and services that some groups of population have difficulty obtaining from market system such as social insurance, infrastructure, and such. In short author believes that this complementarity substitute of market with limited government changes the zero sum game of redistribution into positive sum game of public goods generation.
- The Transition from Limited to Open Access Orders: The Doorstep Condition:
5.1 Introduction; 5.2 Personality and Impersonality: The Doorstep Conditions; 5.3 Condition #1: Rule of Law for Elites; 5.4 Doorstep Condition #2: Perpetually Lived Organizations in the Public and Private Spheres; 5.5 Doorstep Condition #3: Consolidated Control of Military; 5.6 The British Navy and the British State; 5.7 Time, Order, an Institutional Forms;
This chapter is about when and how transition from Natural to Open access orders occur with special attention to doorstep conditions for such transition:
Step 1: Establishment of Rule of Law for Elites
Step 2: Establishment of Permanently lived Organization in the Public and Private Spheres with continuously widening access to such organizations for everybody
Step 3: Consolidated Control over Military that prevents any possibility of armed clashes for dominance between various groups of elite.
All these conditions are intertwined and build on one another.
- The Transition Proper: 6.1 Institutionalizing Open Access; 6.2 Fear of Faction; 6.3 Events; 6.4 Parties and Corporations; 6.5 Transition to Open Access in Britain; 6.6 Transition to Open Access in France; 6.7 Transition to Open Access in the United States; 6.8 Institutionalizing Open Access: Why the West?
This chapter is review of actual process of transition as it occurred historically in the most advanced countries of Open Access Order: Britain, United States, and France.
- A New Research Agenda for the Social Sciences: 7.1 The Framing Problems; 7.2 The Conceptual Framework; 7.3 A New Approach to the Social Sciences: Violence, Institutions, Organizations, and Beliefs; 7.4 A New Approach to the Social Sciences: Development and Democracy; 7.5 Toward a Theory of the State; 7.6 Violence and Social Orders: The Way Ahead;
The final chapter is about suggestions for use of the new framework of Natural Order developing into Open Access Order for research agenda in Social Sciences. This includes concentration of research on use of violence, lifecycle of Institutions, Organizations, and Believes that drive human actions.
MY TAKE ON IT:
I found the new concept of access orders (Limited versus Open) very interesting and well thought through. I think application of this framework to historical research would be very enlightening and its application to current situation especially in relation to developing world could lead to a very practical recommendation in regard to how to use both aid money and violent intervention in order to achieve real progress in their situation. These requirements become imperative if we want to stop civil and religious wars, economic and other man-made disasters in the third worlds that spills out into lives of people of the First world in form of terrorism, flows of refugees, and continuing need for humanitarian aid.
The main idea of this book is to thoroughly describe the main points of libertarian ideology and discuss contemporary issues, problems, and solutions that could be derived using consistent application of this ideology.
- The Coming Libertarian Age
This chapter is an attempt to explain libertarianism as philosophy of freedom and define link of freedom with economic prosperity based on historical data. It is also about libertarianism as specifically American philosophy based on national character of Americans as children of immigrants creating the new world from a scratch. It also discusses contemporary decline of American creed and political fights between conservatives and liberals currently under way. Author presents fundamental ideas of Libertarianism and positions this philosophy in 2-dimensional space of Economic Freedom and Personal Freedom versus one-dimensional left-right continuum typically used. In this space Libertarianism is high on both dimensions while Conservatism is high on Economic Freedom and low on Personal and contemporary Left Liberalism is high on Personal and low on Economic Freedom. Author believes that eventually people prefer Freedom in all areas so Libertarianism will grow to be the dominant ideology of America.
- The Roots of Libertarianism
This is review of history of Libertarianism starting with 6 century BC Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu, then it goes into discussing old testament where God cautions people against kings, and finally it is looking at relatively contemporary ideas of Pluralism, Religious Tolerance, and Natural Laws. Review of contemporary history of implementation of these ideas is based on European and especially English and American history as it should be, because nowhere else they had any serious influence until very recently. In view of this history author discusses classical Liberalism of XIX century and its decline at the beginning of XX century. Final discussion is about Ayn Rand as promoter of Libertarianism in Philosophy, popularization of these ideas among population, and impact of Austrian School of Economics that provided strong support to the idea of freedom as the only effective method to achieve economic prosperity.
- What Rights do We Have?
This is discussion about rights and from libertarian point of view the valid rights relate to right for self-ownership and what people can or cannot do to each other without violating these rights. Author reviews not only libertarian position of basic self-ownership right, but also alternatives: rights by some people over others from monarchy when a king is the owner of everybody to communism when formally everybody owns everybody. For libertarians rights means first and foremost equality of rights, but only as equality before the law and equality of opportunity, but not equality of results. The right for private property augments the most important right for self-ownership because the property is extension of self. However original acquisition of property is treated in completely fantastic way as a right of the first comer to declare whatever is not owned by anybody as his property. Author also provides details of Nozick’s theory of justice:
- Person who acquires a holding in accordance with principle of justice in acquisition is entitled to this holding.
- Person who acquires a holding in accordance with principle of justice in transfer, from someone else entitled to the holding, is entitled to the holding.
- No one is entitled to a holding except by applications of 1 and 2
The complete principle of distributive justice would say simply that a distribution is just if everyone is entitled to the holdings they possess under the distribution
Author supplements libertarian definition of natural rights with the Nonaggression Axiom: No one has the right to initiate aggression against the person or property of anyone else.
Through the balance of the chapter author discusses application of natural rights and their limitations.
- The Dignity of Individual
This chapter starts with discussion of trust and complex network of associations to assure validity of this trust as basis of contemporary economy using example of worldwide ATM network. From here analysis goes to individual as the basic unit of libertarian social analysis. It goes through history of expansion throughout American history of notion of individual with rights to all human beings and then reviews contemporary condition of individual in American society and attacks against individual rights from all kinds of collectivists who seek to establish group rights as superior to individual’s.
- Pluralism and Toleration
Pluralism here includes moral pluralism when morality of individuals derived from diverse religious and philosophical backgrounds. Contrary to both liberal and conservative attitudes libertarians believe that the only legitimate role for government is to establish such rules of interaction that everybody could practice his/her morals without interfering with others. Such rules necessarily should include religious tolerance and separation of conscience and state,
- Law and the Constitution
The libertarian attitude to law is based on simple rules: Do not hit other people, do not take their staff, and keep your promises. Author also provides a bit more sophisticated requirements for laws based on Hayek’s “Constitution of Liberty”:
- The laws must apply to everyone including rulers
- No one is above the law.
- Power should be divided.
- The law should be made by one body and administered by other.
- The independent judiciary should control administration of the law
- The administrators of the law should have minimal discretion.
The following up after these definitions is the review of contemporary conditions in USA demonstrates significant deviations from these rules, rending contemporary America in material breach of the Constitution.
- Civil Society
Libertarians believe that government should be limited and main support for human’s pursuit of happiness should come from the Civil Society defined as pretty much all voluntary associations either commercial or not. Author reviews different types of voluntary association and their various functions including all sorts of cooperation, mutual aid, and charity.
- The Market Process
This is about libertarian attitudes to the Market. It is reviewed as usual in relation to dominant ideas of XX century: socialism and central planning. Author expresses the Hayekian idea of impossibility of central planning at the society level and posits that planning is possible and necessary at the low level of complexity such as individual enterprise. From this point of view he reviews usual market related issues: information processing and coordination, division of labor, competition, entrepreneurship, prices including price controls, economic growth, jobs, regulation, taxation, and free trade. Finally he takes page from Frederic Bastiat and discusses “what is seen and what is unseen”.
- What Big Government is all About
Author reviews growth of government and increased prosperity of bureaucracy in Washington and concludes that it is not different in any way shape or form from all other governments in the world history, which in their essence are just a group of bandits. The democratic character of American government does not make it into “government of us”, but rather just provide people with a limited choice of which group of bandits would use direct violence to satisfy their needs for the next period of time. One of the most important points libertarians make is that people incorrectly assign government characteristics of benevolent individuals, when in reality it is just a bunch of politicians and bureaucrats as flowed as any other group of humans and not particularly different from groups of politicians and bureaucrats in control of corporations. He also reviews process of special interests obtaining what they want because of government’s ability to concentrate loot by taking so little from many that they would not resist and gives it to a few making it highly justifiable for a few to fight for. It leads inevitably to situation when everybody is a loser and everybody is a winner of this redistribution process except from politicians and bureaucrats with sticky fingers who are winning all the time. There is also a very interesting reference to work of Amilcare Puviani who identified 11 strategies governments use for robbing people without igniting any serious resistance. Author also discusses tremendous support provided to politicians and bureaucrats by intellectuals in art, education, entertainment, science, and other areas of intellectual pursuit that has little or no value on the free market and exchange for a share of the loot. Without such support allowing building ideological justifications the robbery on existing scale would not be possible. The final point in this chapter is that government based parasite economy is growing exponentially and getting close to choking real economy by the minute.
- Contemporary Issues
Here author reviews contemporary issues the libertarians have to deal with if they to achieve success. Number one is to restore economic growth, which he believes could be done by adhering to libertarian principles: individual responsibility, rule of law, and property rights. The second most important is cutting budget, meaning decrease in size in power of government. After that author goes through the list of issues from inequality to healthcare and presents brief libertarian recommendation for each of them.
- The Obsolete State
Here author discusses what he believes is incorrect notion of market failure. Too often people understand this term as failure of market supply them with what they want at price they would agree to pay. When it does not happen they ready to ask government to interfere and provide goods and services using force either via nationalization, or price control, or subsidy, or something else of this nature. Author quite reasonably points out that typically when it happens people do not really get what they want, instead they get government created low quality and insufficient quantity goods and services that could not match similar goods and services provided by market. He provides laundry list of such situation in education, healthcare, and other areas where people run away from government to market sometimes even if they have to run to the dangerous black market where government could use violence against them just for participating in this market.
- The Libertarian Future
The final chapter formulates the believe in bright libertarian future that is getting closer and closer with each government failure to deliver on its promises and each increase in deprivation caused by government takeovers of various areas economy. Author makes important point that libertarians do not believe and do not suggest utopia as it did communists and socialists of all types. Libertarians propose framework for free people going about their business with voluntary exchange and cooperation, the situation that inevitably becomes framework for utopia the form and details of which is not possible to imagine.
MY TAKE ON IT:
I consider my ideology as closed to libertarianism as I can possibly be close to ideology of any other human being who is not I at this time (I would definitely have a huge fight with me as I was at some other times of my life). However I am the Equal Rights Libertarian meaning that I do not except idea of validity and fairness of current distribution of private property especially for natural resources. I believe that whatever this distribution is it is much more result of violence, banditry, and robbery, than some idealistic original discoverer of use for some natural resources and therefore owner of property on this resource with consequent fair transfer from hand to hand over generations. However I do not believe that this existing unfairness could be somehow corrected by additional acts of banditry and robbery in transferring and/or redistributing these property rights. As to nationalization of property history decidedly demonstrated that violent transfer of resources into hands of bureaucrats and politicians would do nothing but create more misery and suffering for vast majority of people. So my remedy is to leave property owners in control of their property, but declare equal rights of everybody for natural resources, and not as formality, but as practical method of providing everybody with something to trade on and live off with people who use less than average being able to sell these rights to people who use more than average. I believe that it would make everybody property owner and therefore defender of property, free markets, and ideologically libertarian. Without some kind of similar reform vast majority of people, who do not have any property to speak of and who had to sell their labor for living at exceedingly lower price because of competition from automation, would never support libertarian idea of sanctity of private property, rule of law, and free market all of which for them are nice thing in theory, but having no relation to their real live on practice. .
The main idea of this book is that the new class – the Clerisy in alliance with High Tech Oligarchs is taking over America and trying to destroy traditional American middle class and its dreams about house, good job, family, and suburban live. This new class conducts ideological war against American Middle class dream and trying substitute it with some kind of minimal environmental impact existence with low levels of consumption and high level of reliance on government. While this attack was successful so far, it seems that this success is coming to the end. The next generation begins to express its alliance to traditional American dream despite years of indoctrination in schools and universities. The real live consequence of expensive education not delivering good job and necessity of coming back to parents’ house to live in childhood room will probably override indoctrination leading to resurrection of America and defeat of Clerisy and High Tech Oligarch in their quest to subdue it.
- The New Class Order
This chapter is about changing class structure in America. The main features are:
- Rise of new high tech oligarchs who do not need a lot of workers to create their products and therefore get to keep newly created wealth without sharing it with unionized militant workforce
- Expansion of Clerisy and Gentry Liberalism – groups sustained by government either as government employees or recipients of government transfers to education, science, art, and similar activities that would have little value on free market.
- Two groups above push changing attitude to growth mainly directed against improvement of life for other people. A good example are liberals who after obtaining nice housing out of city fight against urban sprawl and demand government to protect their good life by forcing these “others” to live in overcrowded cities.
- Traditional backbone of America – Yeomanry: small business owners, middle level workers, and independent professionals are loosing ground under attack from these new forces against their livelihood. This attack is not only economic, but also ideological attack against their American Dream, middle class way of live, and their religion.
- New oligarchs and statists also expand lowest and poor layers of population by using multitude of welfare programs, and opening door for massive illegal immigration in hope to obtain reliable voting block with numerical advantage over middle class.
- Valley of the Oligarchs
This chapter analyses the new high tech oligarchs, their background and attitudes. It also looks at source of their power that author calls technocoolies – educated people from third word countries massively imported into Silicon Valley who attracted by American dream and are much cheaper and a lot more dependent on companies than similarly qualified Americans. Author also look at the huge divide created by this new development in Silicon Valley when small part of population is extremely rich, while vast majority especially immigrants extremely poor with very little in between unlike regular America.
3.The New Clerisy.
This chapter is describing the new class that author identifies as clerisy – educated people employed in various forms of white color jobs related to government bureaucracy, media, education, science, entertainment and similar highly subsidized areas. Generally this class very much similar to old religious classes of clerics in premodern society fulfilling the similar function of justifying and supporting existing order and indoctrinating young people. They also constantly in conflict with free market forces of society that they despise and consider undeserving to keep wealth they created. Author also discusses singularity as a Clerisy’s Dream of High-Tech Nirvana where deserving people merge with computers in all-powerful combination while undeserving people become superfluous mass reduced to human animals.
- The Proletarianization of the Middle Class
This chapter describes ongoing process of degradation of middle class (Yeomanry) that includes elimination of small independent businesses and semi-qualified jobs that used to provide for middle class income. It includes some history of this class from its beginning as farmers in the country of easy available land, then its blossoming in the middle of XX century as middle class employees of big unionized companies and owners of small businesses, and finally its dramatic decline at the end of XX and beginning of XXI century due to automatization and globalization of production. The Clerisy’s vision of future live for this class author provides reference to Obama’s propaganda clip “Live of Julia” where each step in the live of woman depends on government and all decisions in this live made by wise bureaucrats.
- Geography of Inequality
This chapter is about growing fight between clerisy and yeomanry for living space. Clerisy is working hard to convince or force yeomanry into crowded cities claiming that it is “progress” and living in small spaces without car is the best way to save environment and achieve economic progress. They practically declared war on Suburbia and “urban sprawl”. Interestingly enough they do not apply it to themselves preferring spacious living from big suburban houses for lower levels of clerisy to the huge estates for the members at the top.
- A Screwed Generation?
This chapter takes on the generational problems encountered by Millenials who seems to be moving in direction of becoming the first generation of Americans who have it worse than their parents – baby boomers. Everything from destruction of family and disappearance of middle class jobs to extended live span of their parents and correspondingly declined Social security and Medicare, and especially raise in globalization seems to be working against them. However the most painful is lost of traditional path to the top via education. It became very expensive and does not bring such returns as it used to be, leaving the new generation with degrees and huge debt, but without professional jobs and staff that used to be coming with these jobs: homeownership and middle class lifestyle. However at the end of chapter author noted that Clerisy’s propaganda seems to be failing miserably and young generation still wants its American dream with all its attachments: home, family, children, and suburban living.
- Renewing Aspiration
The final chapter is brief review of multiple previous crises of capitalism and how each time capitalism would come out of this restructured, renewed, and stronger than ever. Author hopes and believes that it is going to happen again and to make it happen the decisive ideological and cultural war against clerisy should be waged. The victory would probably include wide suburban middle class running tremendous amount of independent self-employed businesses and pushing aside high tech oligarchs with their environmental and middle-class killing agendas.
MY TAKE ON IT:
Generally speaking I agree with analysis of current situation especially as to the role of High Tech Oligarchs and Clerisy. However I see it not as a new phenomenon, but a continuation of all American tradition of middle class bureaucracy that just moved from middle management position in various private enterprises to Clerisy positions in governmental and government dependent organizations. The biggest problem in my opinion is actually psychological. If in the old system all these middle managers and professionals were a necessary component of the productive machine, the clerisy is pretty obviously is not productive, consistently demonstrating its uselessness to everybody capable to see. It dramatically decreases agreeableness of actually productive people to confiscatory taxes or unsustainable debts necessary to feed the clerisy. Ideological attack by clerisy on religion, culture, lifestyle, and families of these people hardly could be considered a smart strategy for clerisy prosperity or even survival even if it’s numbers continue to grow. The old paradigm of propertied man buying labor from non-propertied and all paying taxes for social safety net and relatively small clerisy overhead is disappearing. The new paradigm that would give meaning to people’s live and resources to make this live into American Dream is needed and Singularity is not it.