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slef-reflections, Year 6


This page will be where most of my date-related short comments appear, newest first. Later comments are on another page. When the year is archived, I'll also replace this with a table of contents.

The Myth Of Deregulation

Posted by mjr 2008-02-21 (permalink)

Russ Nelson: The Influence of Government writes:

"Larry Lessig proposes to lessen the influence of money on legislators. Unfortunately for him, he is trying to hide a symptom without curing the disease. The disease is that governments regulate businesses. The symptom is that businesses then have a profit motive in regulating governments. If you want a government which is free of corruption, you have to eliminate the motive for corrupting them."

which looks like utter bovine excrement to me.

Corporations - and the overpowering profit motive of some corporations - are artificial things, created purely by regulations. If you free corporations from all regulations, you destroy them. If you only free them from taxes, you remove some of the few restraints on their bad behaviour in pursuit of profit.

See Joel Bakan: The Corporation for a better approach. In summary:-

  • Relegislate. Base regulations on the precautionary principle for environmental, health and safety issues;
  • Set realistic enforcement agency staffing levels and punishments;
  • Involve local elected representatives in more of the regulatory system;
  • Protect and enhance the role of trade unions and civil society in advising regulators.

Some of those may seem surprising, but if you read the book, you'll see why those conclusions make sense.

  • Comment on this

nate commented:

""Corporations - and the overpowering profit motive of some corporations - are artificial things, created purely by regulations."

Sorta.. 'Corporation' is a legal device created to insulate individuals from liability when running a business. Other forms of businesses, such as sole proprietorship, the owner of business is complietely liable for their debts.. If their business fails they can have their house seized and other personal assists taken in order to absolve him of some of his debts.

So with a corporation I can invest money or be otherwise involved in a business without the chances of being sued out of existance. I can only loose what I put into that business. So the whole point of corporations is regulation designed to protect individuals from... regulation.

So.. of course without government regulation this would destroy 'corporations' simply because there would be zero reason to have corporations in the first place.

Now on the other hand business and profit motivation are completely natural phenominon. That is without any form of government or other authority people will get together to pool their resources to increase profitability.

How large this can grow without government is debatable. Some people feel that it would grow out of control, other people say that without easy credit nothing will get done.

The key thing to remember in all this is that goverment and big business are essentially identical things. They are large groups of individuals who have their own private reason for being involved in said corporation/government. They are both elected and controlled by popular demand in a democratic capitolistic society. People vote for representatives, people choose what store/products/services to give there money to. Without a large populist base neither will work in a ideal world. They both have their own rules and governments and have similar problems.

If corporations is more profitable/powerfull then they will attract corruption. If governments are more profitable/powerful then they will attract corruption. That is the same sort of people that run large corporations in the U.S. are the same sort of people that run the governments in socialist nations. It's unavoidable.. smart power hungry people don't just go away.

Or, if you want to look at this way, the same people that elected George Bush president are the same group of people that made Walmart successfull. Without those people neither entities would be relevent.

The only significant different between a government a private entity is that the government has granted itself the sole legal ability to seize money, imprison people, and kill people to get what it wants.

Putting the government in charge of corporations makes about the same amount of sense as putting corporations in charge of government. However the most critical thing you want to avoid is government and corporations working together."

Thanks for the comment.

nate replied again:

"Your welcome. This sort of thing is fun and it's nice to get a friendly challenge. To often on the internet people are happy to descend into flamefest."

I'm not sure where to start in reply. There's a few throwaways (like "socialist nations" which don't exist any more, thanks to the fascist-friendly corporations) which I'm leaving alone.

nate replied again:

"It's a relative definition. Western Europe would be mostly made up of Socialist countries. Government ran welfare, government control of business. Government sanctioned businesses. High taxation. Government-ran health care. All these things are aspects of modern socialism.

The USA (unfortunately, in my perspective) is rapidly descending into socialism in a very hard way. It's very seductive thing. It seems reasonable to want to fix society's problems and most people feel weak and helpless when faced with large corporations or large numbers of people that disagree with them on important issues. Using the government to enforce change and do good seems like a correct way of doing things. (In my opinion it's a unfortunate fantasy and very rarely works without huge negative side effects)"

That's a misleading definition. Merely having a bigger public sector than the skeletal USA one does not make a country "socialist" in any meaningful way. Also, there are some things which economics show cannot be provided efficiently by an under-regulated private sector: look at how much more the US spends on healthcare per-person than most of Northern Europe. Now, the UK's NHS is probably not the most efficient model, but nor is an extreme private sector one. Now back to the first point...

Firstly, corporations do not insulate people from liability - they limit liability. Unfortunately, these days, almost no-one checks how much money in total can be extracted from the shareholders if the company goes bad, even in the few cases where it really matters.

nate replied to this:

"Ya sure."

Secondly, is making good your debts mere regulation, or it is justice and honour?

nate replied again:

"Both. Often laws and regulations are passed based on aspects of honor or justice. Other times.. not so much. It the specific case of going after bad debtors, then this seems a good thing.

Of course in the past it has been carried to bad extremes.. like the infamous 'debtors prisons' that were common a couple hundred years ago."

Thirdly, it's not debatable how big and how bad corporations get without government. Look up the South Sea Bubble (in Bakan's book, or countless others).

nate replied again:

"Well the first thing I found when I looked up 'South Sea Bubble' (wikipedia ftw) is that it involved a government-created English South Sea corporation setup under a explicit monopoly in accordance with a treaty with Spain that existed from the early 1700's to the mid 1800's. It was created to counter act the government debt that occurred during the "War of the Spanish Succession".

This is not a example of a corporation going out of control due to a lack of government control. This is a corporation that could of only existed under government control and then abusing that regulation to create a terrible economic problem. This seems one of the odd things that developed out of the government originated monopolies that were created during England's imperialistic time period. Another big example is 'East India Company', which we are still feeling the effects of today.

It also worth mentioning that it took the might and majesty of the English navy to maintain and protect those monopolies.

This sort of bad behavior was one of the primary reasons the US succeeded from England in the first place and why the doctrine of limited government was established.

If you want to convince me that corporations will grow out of bounds without government control then you'll have to do better then that. That happened during a era of total government control over that business and over the economics surrounding it.

If you can find me a different example then I would love to hear about it."

I don't think I need another example. No corporation exists without government bullying and corporations are abusing the modern monopolies (sometimes called the "new enclosures") to create terrible economic problems already. We're still feeling the effects of the East India Company today, but how long will we suffer the effects of the Tescopoly or Wal-Mart?

Fourth, very few corporations are controlled by popular demand. For some people, the choice is between BadCorp 1, BadCorp 2 and not buying an item of food, which I wrote about yesterday. Corporations are controlled by major shareholder demand and they're insulated from true popular demand by all kinds of stupidities (opaque pension funds, for example) which we've sleepwalked into.

nate replied to this:

"You'd be surprised, then. Very few corporations got popular isolated in a bubble. (although when they get big there is a good chance that they'll turn bad)"

Many corporations do get popular in bubbles. That's half the point of bubbles.

"AT&T monopoly, for example, only existed due to the fact that early in it's lifetime it had patent protections. No other company was able to legally compete with them. Total government control of the market place."

Total private control of the market place, enforced by the might of the British Navy^W^WUS courts.

"Later on when those patents expired then other smaller companies started to compete and those companies sold more phone service during that time then AT&T ever sold in it's patent-created monopoly. Then AT&T was able to successfully lobby the government to create more rules and regulations over the phone system and convinced the Military that their network was nessicary for the public defense in case of a war with the soviets. This allowed AT&T to keep out competition although the trade off for them was more restrictions on the markets they could compete."

Fifth, I think both UK and US governments actually took the right to do those things from Kings, rather than granting it to themselves directly. That's just a small change here, though.

nate replied to this:

"Well the UK still has a figurehead monarchy. Of course that is irrelevant nowadays other then for tourism or war-fuzzy-feelings nationalist propaganda.

The US fought to get out of the sort of economic insanity that England was going through at that time period. The US government claims to takes it's rights from the people. 'Government of the people, for the people'. A limited form of government, a sort of nessicary evil to maintain trade between the states and protect against foriegn militaries.

Of course it stopped behaving in that manner during the economic depression in the 1930's and the resulting world war 2.

People forget the reasons behind things like the Boston tea party. Colonies like the ones created in North America were essentially treated like satellite countries that England would use as a sort of money tree. They were allowed to exploit the new world's resources then England would regularly prune them for money to finance their country and foreign policies.

Besides tea taxation another example of this would be how England made it illegal for local tradesmen to produce shovels with metal blades. So American folk had the choice between using wooden shovels or purchasing premium metal bladed shovels from England.

This sort of thing made Americans want to work around and otherwise cheat on taxes. They wanted to establish trading with other colonies and nations also, so that they can avoid the 'English tax'. This was expressly forbidden by English law, of course. The response from England was to up the regulation and give lots of "Writs Of Assistance" to help enforce the taxation and regulation on trade.

Writs of Assistance gave the ability for (in this case Military and tax officials) for Warrantless seach and seizures. Or maybe it can be better explained as a blanket warrant. Sort of like a blank check for searches signed by a judge were you can fill in the blanks. They were allowed to go into any house looking for financial ledgers or anything else that might indicate illegal trade or tax evasion.

As you can imagine this sort of thing was almost universally abused and lead to fairly radical ideas like the Fourth Amendment.

Heh, tax dodging is sort of a USA tradition I guess."

Finally, the big difference between governments and corporations is that everyone affected should have one vote in a government and be forbidden to buy more. (Note: there are some bugs about that.) That's why governments should regulate corporations and not the other way around - and why neither should be left unchecked.

nate replied again:

"I donno.

Next time Microsoft begins establishing it's own courts and sending ground troops into schools and businesses for rounding up people for failing to pay 'the microsoft tax' then get back to me. :) That's something a government reserves for itself (, although occasionally it will delegate)."

It might happen, but not quite like that. Look at the behaviour of copyright holders effectively instructing government agencies through the DMCA and EUCD. Microsoft doesn't need its own ground troops: it can use government ones now. A dangerous neofeudalist move.

Comment form for non-frame browsers.

Comments are moderated (damn spammers) but almost anything sensible gets approved (albeit eventually). If you give a web address, I'll link it. I won't publish your email address unless you ask me to, but I'll email you a link when the comment is posted, or the reason why it's not posted.

ISPs should not be forced to disconnect filesharers

Posted by mjr 2008-02-15 (permalink)

Requiring Internet Service Providers to bar users for illegal downloading is stupid because:-

1. ISPs can't tell what we're sending over the network and aren't in a position to verify whether we have permission to send it. However, cutting off small businesses and home offices could kill some businesses. I own a share of my ISP (one of 6000 or so equal shares) and would vote against opening it up to that liability. I'm not surprised that ISPA has already said ISPs want to pass any liability back to the accusers.

2. government sometimes doesn't understand what can be downloaded legally. There's a famous case where a Trading Standards Officer complained to a Mozilla Foundation worker about their free Firefox browser because

"it makes it virtually impossible for us, from a practical point of view, to enforce UK anti-piracy legislation"

Source: Times Online

3. there is permission for "fair dealing" in copyrighted material for various purposes, including current affairs reporting and education, unless someone changed the law since I last looked! However, some organisations, including the BBC's 100-million-pound iPlayer, try to deny viewers those permissions, so it is easier to start from illegal copies than it is to deal with iPlayer (only works on some computers, installs bandwidth-using code into the system startup and so on).

Finally, where did the 6 million illegal downloaders figure come from, ultimately? The film and music dominant producers? The Recording Industry Association of America has already spoken out against legally-required filtering, in

Our software is available for free download and free sharing. The music and movie industries need to adapt, not be propped up by making ISPs pay through this sort of bad law. This isn't so much ISP disconnect as BPI logical disconnect!

  • Comment on this

James commented:

"Yes I fully agree. This business of the UK becoming ever more camera ridden and police-state leaning has taken a most ridiculous course when they try to impose this massive requirement on ISPs which one could easily see would lead to horrific abuses and degradation of the Internet almost instantly. And that it would give powers potentially for police surveillance on the very most minimal of reasons. Brown has proved to be a true Neocon Labour nutter. People must wake up and see what exactly is going on around them hopefully before it is too late.---- thanks so much MJ for your post you were right spot on with this one."

No problem. I actually wrote it to send in to a radio station, but it seemed worth reposting it here.

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Sunsets, Bookmarks, Fighting Shadows, Conferences

Posted by mjr 2008-02-14 (permalink)

I've replaced the top banner on my personal site with a sunset panorama taken from the other end of Sand Bay. Yes, it may look green and grassy, but it is Sand Bay.

I've added a shared bookmarks RSS to my site, generated from the first subfolder in my Bookmarks Toolbar Folder by a daft shell script.

I've put an old paper online. Fighting in the shadows: moles and activists is about how to keep an open group, but minimising the effectiveness of moles:-

"It does not matter whether an activist is a mole or not, as long as they work well for you. The mole may be working against you in secret, but they would probably work against you anyway. To be an effective mole, they have to do some helpful work in order to avoid detection. They are a resource that we would not have access to if they weren't a mole."

Finally, I've attended a few events recently, so the next few posts will probably be mostly conference reports.

Chris commented:

"I like the new banner, when was the photo taken?"

16:42 on 27 January 2008, according to the camera.

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BBC's Calendars

Posted by mjr 2008-02-08 (permalink)

Fun round-up of web calendars on BBC Click this weekend. Google, Kiko and 30boxes get mentions. I'm mainly using my new phone but reviewer Rob was quite scathing about phone calendars and didn't bother to say how well the different sites integrate with handhelds. Feedback by email was invited... Are there good interoperable web calendars? Any as free software?

Talking of BBC being on a different calendar to everyone else, BBC belatedly announces that iPlayer-for-Mac will come at some point in 2008. Sadly, the DG is still repeating the "only for Sony TVs"-like single-platform explanation and still not mentioning a (DRM-free?) GNU/Linux service.

  • Comment on this

Simon commented:

"I use Google Calendar at the moment, there's a few third party apps out there which allow syncing between my phones calendar and Google but none of them work properly, only allowing the 'default' Calendar to sync - no support for my multiple calendars (work, uni, personal)."

Thanks for the info, but I won't trust Google with my appointments even if they start sync'ing. Too public.

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Posted by mjr 2008-01-30 (permalink)

The Phone Coop (agent link) will hold its workshop and annual meeting on Saturday. If anyone is going and wants to car- share from the N.Somerset/Bristol area, let me know (new comments form follows this post). I can't quite afford a 5h train trip instead of a 2h car trip, but I'd quite like to reduce the damage.

Also, we've just finished and sent the official reports for TTLLP yesterday. We've also various projects which I want to get finished, including the IPC::Open3 for Koha. If I'm a bit hard to reach this week, this might be why. We are still returning calls in batches in our breaks, though, so please please please leave a voicemail.

Social Source South West is next Tuesday in Bristol. I'll be there. Will you?

  • Comment on this
Posted by mjr 2008-01-25 (permalink)

Nick Leeson: The financial storm is not over yet

Surreal to see his byline on an article the same day as a rogue trader comes to light... "Cutting interest rates has stemmed the flow for now, but 2008 will see higher energy costs, higher food costs and higher importing costs which will damage consumer confidence. Right now we can only look to Davos and hope that the global economic leaders can keep positive and stop the markets from spiralling further downwards"

SFinfo TV Schedule for Sunday

SFinfo is carrying some of the Davos meeting live again (where corporations tell governments how to direct their populations). Only interesting thing left in my opinion is the Climate Change forum on Sunday morning. Watch and see where our glorious overlords will be taking us.

How to block all Facebook application and message spam

Practical freedom from Matt Lee's Exploring Freedom.

Valuing Users by Allowing Comments : David Lee King

It makes sense - you know it does.

Internet Psychology: Podcasting? That's old-fashioned - video is the online future by Graham Jones, Internet Psychologist

Maybe I just forgot the obvious, or maybe we haven't really seen what people can do with podcasting yet.

Gaba en San Pancho » Blog Archive » what things to check when buying an used car

Worst used car I ever saw had a split hose leaking petrol from the carb feed onto the engine block - switching that one off when I asked was the fastest I ever saw a car salesman move!

Modern Communicator: Imarco Activ-Media have been acquired

Personally, I find one of the benefits of working in cooperatives is that it's very difficult for us to be acquired and good collaboration is much more common than merging.

sab39 ... O noes, somebody I don't like did something I agree with!

I feel the point about the bozo bit is well-made. Is one of the few features of my weak memory a low probability that I keep the bozo bit set in the long term?

How You Can Fine-Tune Your Blogger Personality Perception

How do you repair a broken perception? Can you repair it, or is it time to delete the blog and start again at a new address? Can you start again, or does web.archive mean past mistakes will hurt you forever?

robmyers - My Ogg Player

I never succeeded in accessing anything besides basic file upload/removal on my YP-U2 and Samsung Support broke promises they made to me.

another blog is possible » Give cyclists a break

"Those of you drive should read this article and change your behavior towards cyclists. You may not like cyclists in the road, but they have every right to be there."
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