Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Embattled Farmers


The topic we've chosen for this week is "whither labor"? Specifically, the implications for the national political and social contract we call the United States in the changes in the composition of our employment we've observed over the past 50 years. Even greater, the changes we've undergone since the turn of the last century.

1. If You White, You Right (well, sort of...)

The United States of 1791 was an overwhelmingly pastoral and agricultural nation; no surprise there - as the natural resource preserve of Great Britain the Brits had no interest in furthering American industry. Americans were, by and large, subsistence farmers, loggers, trappers and hunters. Our laboring and mercantile class was largely confined to a handful of coastal cities.

And this was just dandy with many of the Founders. The rural landowners of the Washington sort believed that republican virtues resided in themselves and the similar agricultural tenantry. The Rousseau admirers, Jefferson and his ilk, had a sort of mystical belief in the nobility of the soil. Even those of the Founders and Framers who saw commerce as the destiny of their nation - men like Hamilton - saw the nation as an overwhelmingly rural, agricultural polity.

And this entity was governed by a pretty narrow class. Women, of course, were ineligible for the franchise because having a vagina makes you stupid.


Or something.

There's 50% of your adult citizens right there. Anyone else not eligible to decide the fate of the nation? Hmmm...well, slaves, native Americans, almost all dusky-hued people...forget it, guys. You're not a Real American. We all know who THAT means, right?

White guy - you're in like Flynn?

Well, no. Most states had a property requirement, and without some means you were just as much a non-citizen as a (shudder!) woman.

Add to that little tricks like legislative appointment of Senators and the rudimentary party systems and you have a government that works in the fashion of the people who designed it: fairly well-off, landed or wealthy white guys.

2. I Hear You Knockin'

So the big story for me, politically, of the U.S. between 1791 and 1892 is the tug-of-war between the original elites and the brash newcomers to the political scene, the farm laborer and the factory worker, the immigrant, the store clerk and the women. The blacks, after 1865.

The story of the U.S. between the Constitutional Convention and the arrival of the modern political era is the story of the populists against the elitists, with the elite slowly losing ground while managing to keep most of the goodies for itself. Every decade, beginning in the 1820s with Jacksonian democracy saw an increase in the enfranchisement of the poor and the working class. This didn't translate into the betterment of those classes - even then, the people who these newly enabled voters elected were typically the "better" citizens of their town, city, or county.

Between 1850-1865, of course, everything takes a back seat to slavery. But after the war the increase in industrialization creates a huge new "class" of people, a working class, a proletariat that is unmoored from the land and unenamored of the traditional triumvirate of gentleman farmer-banker-captain of industry. The slow and complex process of fighting for political power begins to include people who would have been complete outsiders fifty years before.

I would opine that all this comes to a head in 1896, with the Bryan-McKinley election.

3. Money Makes The World Go Around

Bryan with his "free silver" and his populism scares the shit out of the wealthy characters who have been comfortably running the country in the Gilded Age. They are truly afraid that the proles, the small farmers, laborers and assorted riff-raff will get their man into the White House. So McKinley turns to his man Mark Hanna, who, in turn, orchestrates the first public relations election. He soaks the wealthy for "campaign contributions" and pulls in the media for the first swiftboating, associating Bryan with the radicals and anarchists of Europe and the poor niggers and wogs of...well, anyplace not America.McKinley pulls the skilled tradesmen, the kulaks, and the German-Americans into his camp of the rich and the well-born. The GOP holds the White House and much of the legislature for the next 32 years.

The importance here is that most Americans, in particular the poorest and least powerful Americans, are shoved into one party. And that party sees no reason to make things any easier for its enemies - so much so that within half a decade conditions for the urban working poor are SO fucking bad that an entire reform movement (the Progressives") that had been diddling around in the hustings pimping labor, health and safety laws (that were never enforced) since the mid-1870's found themselves voted into national power.

But the Progressives were torpedoed by WW1, and when the nation got back to work nobody wanted to hear jack shit about poor people and workers' rights when there was money to be made. So we speculated and bought on margin and pumped us up a nice big bubble that burst in 1929.

4. Bottom Rail On Top Now

Depression, and the resulting panic fear of Red Revolution, convinced the elites that ran the U.S. that a temporary loss of revenue and power were a fair trade to avoid the noose and the lamppost. Just as the Black Sox allowed Judge Landis to do to the Lords of Baseball what they never would have thought of allowing him to do before scandal threatened the foundation of their profit, the Crash allowed FDR to do to the Lords of Industry and Finance what they would never have allowed themselves to permit before, and have regretted ever since. WW2, making skilled labor at once a necessity and a limited commodity, and the Wagner Act, which finally gave the industrial worker a legal means to bargain with his or her employer for a position other than utter prostration, made the establishment of industrial laborers as a class of freeholders of a sort, no longer completely subject to the whims of employers and the vagaries of the market. Stakeholders, of a kind, in the companies they worked for and the country they lived in.

Not surprisingly, the unions then began ot behave as badly as the malefactors of great wealth they had been fighting. Featherbedding, ruinous contracts, shortsighted the Seventies and Eighties the union bosses had become like Orwell's pigs, looking and acting like the magnates they had been set up to oppose.

5. Back to the Future

And as luck would have it, the GOP finally found its way back from the political wilderness with a perfrect combination of panache in the form of a hack actor turned politician who had a folksy gift for telling people what they wanted to hear and a political imagination that began and ended with "cut taxes".

Since every idiot since Hobbes has wanted something for nothing, the American working class, that had finally begun to profit from things like universal sufferage, public-funded infrastructure from schools to freeways to airports, protective tariffs, labor and economic regulation, dove into this idiocy like microcephalic contestants on some sort of toxic reality TV show. They gleefully took down their own trousers and handed the paddle to their corporate and political masters. Free trade, deunionization, the wild tontine of easy credit and financial speculation...bring it on! Everything that the laboring classes had learned the hard way in the crashes of 1892 and 1929, in the Homestead Strike and the Haymarket "Riot" and the Taft-Hartley Act was forgotten.Why was this important? Why is it so much the worse now, that the ordinary American and ordinary worker is crammed down, is more "productive" and yet not better paid, is less willing and even less inclined to fight the wealthy and powerful that control his or her economic life?

6. Here's What I Think;

a. The original concept of the United States was a nation run by its wealthy, its landowners and its native aristocracy; the President was a mere functionary, the House was limited to the small elite defined by the franchise and the Senate was even more rarified, a playground of the powerful interests in each state in imitation of the Roman Senate.

The idea of the Framers was that this little group would exercise power in a thoughtful, deliberative way because of their very positions. The wealthy farmer and landowner, the rich merchant, the planter aristo - these people were beholden to nobody. They were truly "independent", and as such their vote, and their interest could, in theory, not be swayed but by their own rational self-interest and patriotic beliefs. The entire U.S. system rests on this; that the people making, enforcing, and interpreting the laws will be kept in check by other independent, cussed freeholders, in office and without, who have the time, the inclination and the means to do so. Most of the Framers were dead set against party or "faction" for the reason that it would cause their idealized American voters and leaders to conspire against each other - and, in theory, against the good of the nation - for personal political or economic gain.

b. Over time we have moved to a more egalitarian system. Now, as never before in U.S. history, what the individual American voter knows, thinks, says and does matters. Not, perhaps, individually, but in groups, as parts of parties and groups within parties. The "elites", now both personal and corporate, still have tremendous influence, with their control of the information and entertainment media and - especially now - their penetration of, corruption and cooption of the punditry. But at the moment the individual American has more potential influence than in about 95% of U.S. history.

c. But, at the same time, the U.S. voter has become LESS independent, less likely to have the time, the inclination and the means to take up an argument with his corporate, social, or economic master. That master, whether it is employer, lender, health insurance vendor, government agency, has an overwhelming advantage over him or her. Labor laws have been weakened, employment relations changed (and here we meet the pathetic "independent contractor" and "temporary worker" - only as "independent" as his or her corporate puppeteer is willing to pull on his paycheck string and a temporary as a thought) and economic pressures tightened (between cramdowns, offshoring, loosening of trade and tariff regulations and the race to the bottom of labor and environmental standards) to the point where the average American "workers" don't have time, education, willingness or ability to understand most of the issues put before them, let along make an informed decision.

d. Add to this that the entire composition of the U.S. economy has fallen off the table. There is not even a pretense of balance between the more self-reliant types that the Jeffersonians imagined would run the country; the farmer, the artisan, the mechanic, and the "sturdy yeoman" - hell, there's hardly a fucking yeo left in the country! - and the service industry types, from CEO to cube-rat, copy-shredder and mail sorter.Together the two make up barely a quarter of the electorate. The rest of us depend for our corn pone on the largesse of someone else; a boss, a consumer, a contractor. And we depend, to a great degree, for our opinions on someone else, too: an anchorman, a blogger, a Sunday morning political show.

Being in the "service sector" puts us in a particularly weak position. Even if we do everything "right", factors beyond our control can ruin us. This puts us in the position of the small farmer or unskilled laborer of the 19th Century - completely vulnerable and, as such, deeply fearful, suspicious and conservative. When you may teeter and fall at any moment, the inclination to take chances, to open the way for political, social or economic change, is highly circumscribed. We are, instead of the intelligent decision-makers envisioned by the Framers increasingly a nation of the Led, too worried about paying the mortgage, keeping our job and not getting sick than with where the country is going...

e. ...and a LOT of this has to do with the actions taken - principally by the GOP - to tilt the balance of power back to the employer, industrialist and financier. This has gone a long way to returning the U.S. to the pre-1932 status quo, where the government is a wholly-owned subsidiary of its wealthiest and more powerful "constituents". We have become, in all important aspects of the word, an oligarchy.

7. What Can We Do About This?

a. Not much, I think.

b. Historically the trend for oligarchies is, initially, stasis, and subsequently, desuetude. Once the collapse begins there are two typical opportunities: revolution, on the one hand, and tyranny, on the other.

c. Revolution, despite our mythic past, seems to me the least likely. Revolution comes from two motives: despair and hope. Despair, because at some point even the worst horrors of revolution aren't worse than the existing reality, and hope, because there comes a moment that the dreamer, the malcontent and the reformer look around and shrug - why wait? If not now, when?

The enemy of both despair and hope is cynicism. If there is anything that distinguishes our 21st Century U.S. today it is the plethora of cynics. We have been lied to and spun so often and so boldly that we believe in almost nothing. I believe that the most pernicious legacy of the purile gang of idiots that ran this country for the eight years after the turn of the century will be that they shat their stupidity-stool in everything all the time to the point where you can't look at chocolate cake anymore without wondering whether it's really Dick Cheney's used food.

We are too cynical to be good revolutionaries anymore. Besides, it'd require a whole bunch of us to live outdoors and eat infrequently. Can't have that.

d. Tyranny, though, if it was packaged and puffed right?

In a heartbeat.

Remember, we're now the country that is trained to ask not "Who shall imprison this torturer" but "Did the torture work?". That has been schooled to accept ID checks, background checks, taking our shoes off to board an airplane, the notion of soldiers in fatigues driving around off-post...OK, I'm kidding about the last one, but still - we're hardly a nation of cussed individuals. If properly wrapped in a flag, carrying a cross and promising safety, security, free Internet...could we refuse - more, could we even argue against it?

8. Conclusions

a. Economically, We the People are increasingly dependent on others for our livings.

b. Economic independence was considered by the Framers to be an essential criterion of political independence.

c. Ergo, if trends continue, and we are increasingly dependent on consumer debt, foreign manufacture and service jobs, I find it difficult to believe that we can continue to maintain even the limited self-government we retain. Eventually we will become what we were under Great Britain; subjects, hopefully of beneficent oligarchs and corporate rulers, but subjects nonetheless.


  1. Brilliant post, Chief. Very accurate about the intentions of the founding fathers and the limits of their intentions.

    I've got some possible talking points from this but I need to go away and think about them first.

    One minor point that I am confident of: you are correct that revolutions are born of despair and hope. But there aren't very many successful revolutions born of despair and an unsuccessful revolution is worse than no revolution at all, at least in the short run.

  2. On the bright side, you have the shattering of information monopolies!

    Politics has only started to think about the implications of the internet. Now that anyone and everyone can own their very own printing press/distribution channel, it is not clear how traditional representative democracy will adjust.

  3. "Eventually we will become what we were under Great Britain; subjects, hopefully of beneficent oligarchs and corporate rulers, but subjects nonetheless."

    It seems to me we care not whose hand holds the whip, as long as the whip strikes someone else.
    I think it's safe to say, unfortunately and with deep sadness that the American experiment is quite done...all I've been doing is just waiting for the paper to come out to explain to me where it all went it's out and the author is all of us with Chief ghost writing.
    Just makes me say, "shit!"
    Oh well, it was nice a bad it never had a chance to breath.

  4. Wow.

    Brilliant indeed. Chief, if you've never tried your hand at teaching history, you may have missed your calling.

    'Course, if you had, you'd probably have been run out of town on a rail, smelling of tar and leaving a cloud of feathers behind you.

    Can you expand a bit on your implication that the current electorate will never reach the point of despair/hope needed to change things?

    To me, the last election indicates that a majority of voters reached the conclusion that republicans have been exclusively serving up shit sandwiches. Isn't it possible, maybe even likely, that this majority will see through the sturm and drang of the republican's current efforts to continue gilding our own age?

    True, the dems are beholden to these special interests, but no longer as much as they used to be. In the 60s, corporate campaign donations were about evenly split between the parties. In 2004, donations were running 75% to 25% in favor of republicans. Might even dem politicians realize they're on the short end of the stick and do something about it?



  5. Pluto: I would suggest that even "successful" revolutions are usually not successful in the medium term, and often in the long term.

    The British "Glorious Revolution" and our own were profoundly conservative revolutions, largely engineered and led by the upper and upper middle classes of the respective countries. I would suggest that this had a lot to do with the resulting stability and prosperity of the results. The antitheses were the French and Russian revolutions, both of which led, fairly swiftly, to a man on horseback. The French turned out well in the long run, though we have no way of knowing whether a constitutional monarchy might have been as or more successful; the Russian, in keeping with the history of that sorry place, not so much.

    JP: The New Deal was explicitly designed to cushion the U.S. against despair; FDR was no bolshie, the cunning patrician gave the American proles enough of a stake in their country, and enough of a social safety net, to prevent the utter hopelessness in enough people to secure the rest of the capitalist and elitist perks. The net still works, at least well enough to prevent the total despair - and, I would add, to discourage hope for something better - that would tend to push the mass of people towards another American Revolution.

    Add to that the soporific effect of mass media, which was barely in its infancy in the Thirties (and that didn't understand the critical effect of the cynical "he said-she said" style of journalism that has managed to blunt the American public's outrage). If Upton Sinclair was publishing today the national reaction would be a massive yawn. Hell, it has been - look at the response to the "revelations" that Americans were torturing helpless prisoners!

    I don't think that things will get so "bad" so quickly that the bulk of the American people will rise up against the powers that be. I suspect that our slide into the imperial twilight will be slow enough, and gradual enough, that by the time our kids realize that they have lost the "freedoms" we took for granted it will be too late. They'll be subjects and happy about it, or at least indifferent to it.

  6. Now that the anti-science, superstition-based initiative presidency is over, we need Manhattan projects to make us great again and boost us out of this Grotesque Depression. First we must provide free advertising-based wireless internet to everyone to end land line monopolies. Better yet, renationalize the telephone companies like in 1917 and now put them and the DTV fiasco and the internet under a renationalized post office. Then we must criscross the land with high speed rail. Because bovine flatulence is the major source of greenhouse gases, we must develop home growable microbes to provide all of our protein. Then we must create microbes which turn our sewage and waste into fuel right at home. This will end energy monopoly by putting fuel in our hands. We must finally join the metric system and take advantage of DTV problems to create a unified global standard for television and cellular telephones instead of this Anglo Saxon competitive waste. We must address that most illness starts from behavior, especially from parents. Since paranoid schizophrenia is the cause of racism, bigotry, homelessness, terrorism, ignorance, exploitation and criminality, we must provide put the appropriate medications, like lithium, in the water supply and require dangerous wingnuts who refuse free mental health care to be implanted with drug release devices. Churches should be licensed to reduce supersition and all clergy dealing with small children should be psychiatrically monitored to prevent molesting. Osama bin Laden and Timothy McVeigh were the ultimate superstition based initiatives. Aborting future terrorists and sterilizing their parents is the most effective homeland security. Preganancy is a shelfish, environmentally desturctive act and must be punished, not rewarded with benefits, preference and leave. Widen navigation straits (Gibraltar, Suez, Malacca, Danube, Panama and Hellspont) with deep nukes to prevent war. In order to fund this we must nationalize the entire financial, electrical and transportation system and extinguish the silly feudal notion that each industry should be regulated by its peers. Technology mandates a transformation of tax subsidies from feudal forecloseable debt to risk sharing equity. Real estate and insurance, the engines of feudalism, must be brought under the Federal Reserve so we may replace all buildings with hazardous materials to provide public works. Insects, flooding and fire spread asbestos, lead and mold which prematurely disables the disadvantaged. Disposable manufactured housing assures children are not prematurely disabled and disadvantaged. Because feudalism is the threat to progress everywhere, we must abolish large land holdings by farmers, foresters or religions and instead make all such large landholding part of the forest service so our trees may diminish greenhouse gases. Darwin led to the worst colonial, militarist, attrocity and stock market abuses in history - Lamarkian inhertiance and mitochondrial DNA show that Darwin was not all he is crackered up to be. We must abolish executive pay and make sure all employees in a company are all paid equally. We must abolish this exploitative idea of trade and monopoly and make every manufactured disposable cottage self sufficient through the microbes we invent. Southern Oligarchs destroyed the Democarts in the sixties and destroyed the Republicans this decade - they would not allow viable candidates like Colin Powell, Mitt Romney or Condi Rice to even be considered!

  7. Not to be snarky here, but Colin, Mitt and Condi are "viable" candidates? For what, deputy assistant director of sanitary engineering for Forks, Idaho?

    I woulnd't trust any one of these three mooks with the authority to lead four privates to the latrine.

  8. And while we're on the subject, Lamarck has been pounded flat so many times he'd have to roll down his socks to take a leak.

    Just sayin'.

  9. Okay, I've finished thinking through my discussion points and they still seem to make sense (at least until somebody points out something obvious to me), so here goes nothing...

    The Chief has presented an excellent bit of history (skipped the Andrew Jackson presidency but that's quibbling) to support his very logical arguments. So I'm going to use the same information and go in a different direction.

    The founding fathers were living a dream after the revolution. They more or less owned a large, mostly empty (courtesy of European diseases) continent with tremendous natural resources. They really bought into the theory that the independent yeoman farmer/craftsman was the ideal citizen for their new nation. This person would economically independent from all other people and always make the best decisions to meet their needs. Unfortunately, this person was also mythical. But the large ratio of resources to people in colonial times not only this mythical person seem reasonable, they made him seem likely.

    The Europeans of the 18th century already knew better. They were beginning to feel the winds of the industrial revolution and see the amazing things that could be done when you organized labor and resources in particular combinations. The Jeffersonian model for America was doomed before it began. And this was probably a good thing for America.

    One of the things you learn in the study of economics is that people represent wealth. They convert raw materials into finished goods and services, transport them to market, and buy and sell them from each other. The yeoman farmer/craftsman has limited resources because he can't hire other people to work for him because they'd all rather work for themselves.

    Furthermore the yeoman farmer/craftsman is subject to quite a few issues outside of his control; weather, availability of resources, the health of his family, etc. I'd even go so far as to say that Jefferson's yeoman farmer lives on today in the "independent contractor" position that the Chief rightly describes as rather risky and uncomfortable.

    I work with quite a few of these contractors and they uniformly love their lifestyle (they'd stop doing it if they didn't) but recognize that it isn't for everybody and that they pay a fairly large price to participate (lack of stability, lack of medical insurance, unpredictable and frequently terrible hours, etc.). They are also frequently true-blue Republicans, which makes sense when you think about it.

    These are essentially self-made men and women who have had the courage to step up to a situation most of us wouldn't enjoy and have had the good luck to thrive in it. They tend to believe that things would be better if everybody behaved the way they do. They might even be right.

  10. 2 of 2

    But people won't behave like they do and wouldn't necessarily succeed if they did (wrong skill-set, wrong temperament, or just plain unlucky).

    Another problem with their beliefs is that they frequently view themselves as independent when nothing could be further from the truth. As an example, they ride in vehicles that somebody else made and maintains on roads that were built by other people. This was also true in Jefferson's time, but not as obvious.

    As the country grew older, bigger, and more interconnected, the myth grew with it and mutated into the cowboy, the settler, the prospector, the self-made millionaire rags-to-riches robber baron, the professional athlete, the independent contractor, the astronaut, even actors and politicians have had their moment in the myth.

    It is only now when the frontiers are (at least momentarily) inaccessible that we now look at ourselves and perceive that our nation was founded on an archaic myth. That, along with many other things, is a natural cause for the cynicism that now pervades the country.

  11. Another comment I'd like to add, but in a completely different vein, is that I disagree with the Chief on his comment about the US being in for a long slow steady decline.

    Again, the Chief is being very logical but this time he's making a mistaken assumption; that the ruling elites are aware of the problems plaguing this country and will have a palliative ready to control the masses when the time comes.

    The ruling elites of this country (both parties) are drunk on the spiked kool-aid they've been drinking for the last 50 years and firmly believe that this great, powerful, and monolithic country can survive anything they do, no matter how stupid.

    This is in large part because they've been using adulterated statistics for so long they've got no real understanding of how desperate the country's situation truly is. Unfortunately they aren't alone, nearly everybody in the world has been drinking the same kool-aid and coming to the same conclusion.

    For example, if you check out the statistics at, you'll see that inflation (as measured by 1982 government measures) tends to run about 6 percentage points above the official number.

    So if inflation was 3.5% and you got a 3% raise, you didn't lose 0.5% of your purchasing power, you lost 6.5%. That hurts a lot if it happens year after year (as it already has). Between two small pay cuts and inflation, I personally have lost 10% of my purchasing power this year alone. And I'm expecting another pay cut late this year. Believe me, I'm beginning to feel the pain pretty seriously.

    The situation is getting increasingly out of control without our leaders in Washington noticing it and I expect another, much larger wave of credit defaults some time in the next 3 years that may well wipe out public confidence in the US government (and the dollar at the same time).

    That loss of confidence might well make large sections of this country essentially ungovernable from Washington without the use of force (and we've all seen how well that worked out for the US in Iraq and Af-Pak).

    Even if the government survives the coming wave (caused by government debt and a commercial real-estate implosion), another wave of economic disruption (fueled by an ever-growing public sector and an ever-shrinking private sector) will very likely ensure that the country falls apart by 2020 at the latest.

    Too big to fail is an oxymoron. Too big to succeed is more accurate.

    If you don't believe me, then tell me whether you personally see these "green shoots" that the government keeps talking about sprouting in your neighborhood. Most likely you'll tell me that everything seems to be getting slowly worse in your neighborhood instead.

    I'd rather be wrong on this but I don't think so. The current government, for better or worse, will fall before most of us are safely in the grave.

    May you live in interesting times is not only a curse but prophetic right now.

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  13. Pluto: I am not comforted by the fact that your analysis is frighteningly similar to that of John Robb over at Global Guerrillas, who postulates a similar nasty, brutish and short end to the American Dream.

    I cannot argue against you except to suggest that both outcomes are possible, the turning point towards each is a black swan that we will recognize - perhaps - when it occurs...

  14. I'm sorry to increase your discomfort level, Chief, but I had never heard of John Robb until you just mentioned him so I can't say that my ideas were influenced by him at all.

  15. I'm really looking forward to reading Pluto's treatise but I don't have time right now. I did want to say something about Vernon Malcolm's post, though.

    I can't (or rather wouldn't try to) argue with most of it, but his point about the resurrection of Lamarck's ideas has a grain of truth to it.

    Recent study in the realm of epigenetics shows that some of the effects of prenatal -- or even adolescent -- environment can be passed on to later generations. See this for more details:

    However, these findings have not laid a glove on evolution, nor do they provide any support for Lamarck's amusing notions like giraffes having long neck because each generation stretched upward to get leaves that had been out of reach.

    As for Darwin, some people have indeed perverted his writings to support atrocious behavior. E.g., "social darwinism" had nothing to do with anything Darwin ever wrote.

    This perversion is typically embodied by misusing the term "survival of the fittest" (a term coined by George Wallace, not Darwin) to mean "If we kill a class of people, it follows that they were less fit than we are, and so that's ok."



  16. Pluto: Robb is always worth a look-in. He has a hobby horse to ride (in his case, the notion of nation devolution and "resilient/sustainable communities") but his analysis of what he likes to call "open-source insurgencies" seems more incisive than the CW on these non-state actors we seem to be seeing more and more of.

    And the uneasiness comes not from the connection between you two but rather that you both seem to have arrived independently at the same depressing conclusion.

  17. Chief,


    And now I'm really depressed. I guess it's time to party like its 1999... 'cause the tyrannical hangover is going to suck. Badly!


  18. Chief-

    Excellent and stimulating thread. The whole "independent contractor" issue is very complex, and very disheartening. First, many people working under such contracts suffer all the legal disadvantages of contractor status, yet are expected and required to behave as employees. And, more and more occupational fields that were once seen as stable, semi-professional fields are being converted to contracting, many reasonable people now work under terms much akin to migrant farmers.

    I won't bore everyone with the details, but it is a very classy way of exploiting skilled labor.


  19. Not sure why Lamarck has been pounded flat by Darwinists. After all, he was the first to put forward evolutionary theory 60 years prior to Darwin. His detractors seem to flaunt and scorn the giraffe as an example of his thinking, which is far from the truth. He may have missed mutations role in evolution but then his "inherited-traits-based-on environment" was the basis for Darwin's later discoveries. Without Lamarck's shoulders to stand on, Darwin would be a nobody.

    I think the reason he never got his due was the paranoia of the English speaking scientific community that the Froggies might have beat them to the punch. Kind of similar to how they tried to marginalize Liebniz in favor of their native son Isaac N.

  20. Interesting article about money looking for a place to make more money without producing anything. Seems like no one wants to produce anything tangible anymore. Just come up with a mathematical scheme and pump money into it. Anything that requires no workers, no sweat and no labor is the way to go.



  21. Al - Better yet, make a buck using someone else's money. Why risk your own?

    Isn't Wall Street wonderful?

  22. mike: The reason Lamarckism is so poorly regarded is that even the stuff that Lamarck got right he got right for the wrong reasons.

    His theory predated Medelian genetics, so he can't be accused of failing on that point, but his explanation was based on the misconception that evolution is caused by orgnisms passing on adaptation developed during life. Even without genetics his ideas lack support, and that was pretty obvious even before we understood the genetic basis of natural selection. It appears that a handful of organisms can do a modicum of this, but the overwhelming mechanism appears to be some version of Darwinian natural selection (my favorite is the Eldridge/Gould punctuated equilibrium).

    Lamarckists like to cite his influence on Darwin, but my reading of the man's life suggests that when he was introduced to Lamarck (by Bob Grant at the U of Edinburgh) he was unimpressed - his grandpa Erasmus had had similar ideas and hadn't made much from them...Grant in Scotland and later Henslow at Cambridge were the main early influences, and the ideas of natural selection were the man's own - he is deserved considered a genius in that respect.

    Nope: Lamarck is like phlogisten chemistry; ingenious, but mistaken.

  23. Al: Yeah, I saw that in the Sunday NYT. OK, fill in the blanks: "A _______ and his _______ are soon parted."

    Fuck me runnin'...

  24. Chief -

    Darwin a genius, yes. But like most geniuses he did not develop his ideas in a vacuum. And BTW, his grandpa Erasmus's poetical theory on evolution came a year or two after Lamarck's work was published.

    But I will not call you a koolaid drinker because you at least recognize that Darwin's 'gradualism' was dead wrong just as Lamarck's 'adaptation' was wrong without natural selection. I like Eldredge and Gould's theory, but my favorite (reticulate evolution) goes one step further, at least in the botanical world.

  25. Darn it, the post I wanted to write ... excellently put.

    As usual the future in uncertain and unseeable and no trends continue forever.

    I still have a lot of confidence in the US in the long run as remaining a major and vital contributer to the World ... but there is a lot of agony and rubbish to go through first (as in many other places as well so you are definitely not alone in this). I mean, the concept that 300 millio0n people could 'dominate' a World of 6.7 billion, only someone who smokes strage chemicals or works in Washington (same thing I suppose) could think that.

    The US founders had no illlisions about the US in this position and clearly and explicitly rejected the notion as nonesense.

    We've seen the US dominated by oligarchs before and then seen them swept away, couple of times actually. Currently I see the anger in the US is is not high enough as sloth, disbelief and lack of focus (and sheer thick headedness) are dulling a natural reaction.

    Look at the French, they riot at the drop of a hat ... and it keep the politicians and the elite on their toes (kidnapping bosses, I love it).

    But, there are a lot of US middle class, educated people hitting the wall right now and when they come to their senses they will become natural leaders of various mass movements and unions (or union like organisations) as well as creators of cooperatives, etc. So watch out oligarches there is a clock ticking I suspect.

    Look the US people have been the victims of 'divide, distract and conquer' for decades now, with people like the working classes wasting their time, emotions and energy on distractive issues like 'gay marriages', instead of concentrating on more money for themselves or a better health service or education or investment in real things. So it will take time for new attitudes and organisations to form.

    But looking at the blogosphere you can see a natural nucleus forming.

    People like you guys for example.

    PS just back from holidays out in the Australian Centre, Lake Eyre actually. Nice just to worry about getting wood for a fire and how long the water, fuel and food will last, and whether I have enough films left for the great shots I can take. The old truck (20 years old and counting) ran brilliantly and, as usual, never let us down. Beautiful country, awesome skies, good friends, good food and the grog was always cold .. what more can you ask for?