Thursday, January 31, 2013

couple of bros, chattin' about stuff


finzent said...

This is really really good.

Freddie said...

Thanks. It's hard to tell while you're doing it if you're being articulate at all.

Anonymous said...

Freddie... you're pretty!

Afshin said...

This is a good start, and I wish to emphasize start. I felt Conor was unprepared for the topics of this discussion. I definitely see Conor as a unique personality in the blogosphere community and I sincerely appreciate his work especially in critiquing Obama's drone program from a right leaning perspective.

But his responses for the first half of the discussion which focused on economic rights specifically for labor were left wanting. Maybe it was because neither of you provided a definitive diagnosis to the many problems both of you see in today's American economy. But in the end Conor's responses were fueled with a defensive rhetoric through abstraction.

Personally I found the first half disappointing because I felt there was a missed opportunity to provide diagnoses from two well respected perspectives, and maybe even probable solutions.

From Conor, I wished he would have engaged the specific problems more without having employed typical libertarian talking points from the abstract fear of too much regulation or the uncertainty of unexpected effects of policymaking, or evading the problem because he believed the probability of specific yet hypothetical issues are too rare to find significant.

From you Freddie, I wished you have stopped circling the wagons and made explicit what you were after with this opportunity. You did say part of it in passing, that the worth of a human being should not be measured through the metric of their labor. But that was it. I think you spent too much time trying to frame the debate around specific issues that you found poignant, but timid to opening yourself up to providing a sense of direction from that point. Basically the question of 'what next?' was ignored in this discussion.

Overall, there were many astute comments that were made which provided an admirable understanding of the problems we have and I'm personally grateful you two took the time to make this video. I hope though this won't be your last discussion with Conor seeing there's so much potential there.

Freddie said...

It's harder than you might imagine to make the conversation coherent and to explain all the things that you'd like to. I thought it went well, personally, but watching it back there's a hundred more things I wished I had said. But I already talked a bit too much in it.

To express what you wanted me to express.... In the short term (next 100 years) I'd like to undertake the project of socializing the service sector like Conor suggests, while simultaneously working towards pushing a UBI. I'd like to pay for it with the dismantling of the national security state and through capturing the value of luxury and opulence that has never truly served to make people happy in the first place. I'd like a concomitant cultural change that recognizes the dignity of human life that is not currently involved in a project that generates profit. I'd like to dramatically loosen our border, as part of a larger project to expose the moral absurdity of the nation state and the total intellectual poverty of nationalism. Over time, I'd like for technological advances to dovetail with an increasing appreciation of the fundamental value of all human life, and an attendant expansion of the definition of the good life-- the falling away of traditional notions of value, so that a new, beautiful vision of what is productive and useful emerges, one that is based not on dollars and cents but on cooperation, sharing, and mutual respect.

In the longer term, I'd like for the recognition that all people have the inherent and inalienable right to material survival to lead to a dawning realization of the absurdity of market exchange, the notion of reciprocity. In time, this understanding will lead to the abandonment of currency and the death of the market, and the true fulfillment of the ideal of sharing, of mutual responsibility for each and all of us. With currency dead, the fear and anxiety that attends material accumulation will fall away like a snake shedding its skin. "Personal property" will continue to exist, in the basic sense that you will be permitted to have things that bring you happiness. But the idea that the possession of the things will mean something to you beyond their immediate use value will come to seem an absurd idea, a child's idea. And in time, with currency gone and the nation state dead, with the various artificial walls that we erect between each of us, we'd emerge into the full flower of our cooperative hearts, one people, full of diversity and difference-- sometimes angry difference, ugly difference-- but willing to work together towards the ultimate goal: the total and unconditional defeat of material suffering, the ceaseless commitment to the universal dignity of man.

Afshin said...

Thank you Freddie, those are some optimistic and vivid visions. But what is our role in getting there? Is Krugman's strategy the most influential in a discordant society like ours? Or are movements like Occupy still viable despite its discordancy. The best example I have of this discordancy is of the verbal spat this time last year between two figures who are basically on the same side, David Graeber and Chris Hedges, arguing over how the Occupy movement should progress.

I desire similar ideals that you just stated. I am just at a loss setting personal priorities at which causes to give myself to and whether the risks involved are worth it.

j r said...

Who gets to decide what truly makes people happy?

Freddie said...

Themselves. If people are so into things, they can pine for them. But the simple fact is that we live in a society now which is so bent towards providing those at the top with the material opulence that they want that everyone else is getting left behind. And we have a right, as the civil society that creates the conditions that makes life at the top possible, to make demands on everyone's material wealth.

Ethan Gach said...

Star Trek all the way.

This was great to listen to. Many thanks to you and Conor for putting it together.

Some thoughts:

One of the big questions, and one which I'm sure (hopefully?) much economic scholarship is trying to address, is whether the efficiency gained by technological advancement is equal, in some way, to the worker displacement that results.

In other words, does the amount of money I save by taking the robotic taxi (assuming the price is lower--rather than higher, seeing as how the service might be faster/safer now)will be equal to the amount that that worker loses when an increase in unemployment puts downward pressure on wages--will those wages recede to the prior equilibrium point by me being able to now spend that extra bit on another product/service?

I think the clear answer here is no. Too much capture happens along the way. A patent holder for the new technology gets a cut. The owner of the capital gets a cut. And the person taking the taxi has arguable seen their wage recieve downward pressure, i.e. their disposable income is not fixed, but is also going to react to more displaced workers joining the pool.

On the workplace problem (suck me or your fired/bathroom breaks) two things strike me.

First, its not an original idea, but it certainly appears like increasing levels of division of labor tend toward worker coercion. Especially when more capital is introduced, and ever greater and more efficient amounts of machinery can be leveraged against you. On the one hand you have particle colliders that are monstrous and need irreplaceble scientists to utilize it, but on the other and much more common one you have workers pushing buttons that can easily be replaced by others. The more the tasks are divided up and routinized, the more fluid it makes the potential labor pool waiting in the wings.

Second, it seems pretty obvious that rather than market regulation, worker exploitation would be addressed by the same mechanism that the rest of the market sorts itself out by: bargaining power. You get that from associations (unions) or from less individual dependency (safty net). Conor didn't really jump on either solution (other than to say he's not against unions in principle), but there are a good number of libertarians who support something like the negative income tax for this reason I think. Why set a minimum wage arbitrarily when what you really want to do is just put the money in people's pockets directly (I'm curious how you feel Freddie about nanny welfare, e.g. here's money for food, but only X kind of food?)

Something I'd like to see Conor define better, and other libertarians/policy skeptics who employ it, is his standard of proof when it comes to doing no harm. What criteria would need to be met in order for his suspicion of the potential negative downsides to X policy to be alleviated? This is a standard that constantly seems to shift, resulting more from the gut feeling of those enforcing it than any logical reasoning or analysis.

And finally Obama. As I've gotten into more and more arguments lately with liberals kneed deep in post-structuralism/post-colonialism, I've had a growing aversion to the kind of identiy politics and discourse policing that liberalism seems to feast on. I think Conor recognized something similar when he proposed that liberals might find their breaking point with the President if he said something racist or homophobic, even while his war policies leave them unphased.

Conservatives, on average, don't care about shaming gays, they care about outlawing gay marriage. They don't care about making abortion shameful (on average I think), they care about outlawing it. On too many issues liberals are concerned more with the discourse surrounding an issue, and changing people's sensitivities and language, than lobbying for specific legislative action.

N. Eugene said...

"Conservatives, on average, don't care about shaming gays, they care about outlawing gay marriage. They don't care about making abortion shameful (on average I think), they care about outlawing it."

Which conservatives have you been observing or talking to recently? If your point is that they are better at advancing their moral agenda via political action, then I might agree. But I'd say that absolutely the primary goal of that agenda is to shame and harass those whom they view as immoral.

N. Eugene. said...

Freddie, really enjoyed this conversation, and hope to see more of these in the future.

It's obvious that Conor has the typical libertarian blind spots when it comes to dealing with the real-life coercion that people face every day in their work lives. But he's got a generous mind, and maybe he'll eventually try to articulate a libertarian response to those issues. Keep pushing him.

Ethan Gach said...

@N. Eugene,

It was an inarticulate way of trying to say that shaming is not their primary goal...effecting political action is. The discourse is a means, if it is anything at all, but increasingly for liberals it is an end in itself, and one which requires much less work for each ounce of righteous satisfaction is allows.

Brett said...


. . . I don't see it. I'm sorry, but I don't.

There's just been too many utopian communities who tried to build up communities that eliminated market exchange in favor of sharing, compassion, and so forth. And they all foundered, many of them quickly. 19th century America had many of them, including one I found out about because of the religious background I grew up with (the United Order).

Freddie said...

History is long, Brett! In the meantime, let's do our best.

Charles said...

This was awesome. Wish I'd gotten around to watching it sooner. Thanks!