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ref: -2011 tags: government polyicy observability submerged state America date: 09-23-2021 22:06 gmt revision:0 [head]

The Submerged State -- How Invisible Government Policies Undermine American Democracy. By Suzanne Mettler

(I've not read this book, just the blurb, but it looks like a defensible thesis) : Government polyicy, rather than distributing resources (money, infrastructure, services) as directly as possible to voters, have recently opted to distribute indirectly, through private companies. This gives the market & private organizations more perceived clout, perpetuates a level of corruption, and undermines American's faith in their government.

So, we need a better 'debugger' for policy in america? Something like a discrete chain rule to help people figure out what policies (and who) are responsible for the good / bad things in their life? Sure seems that the bureaucracy is could use some cleanup / is failing under burgeoning complexity. This is probably not dissimilar to cruddy technical systems.

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ref: -0 tags: Vanity Fair American dream control theory in politics and society date: 05-03-2009 17:11 gmt revision:3 [2] [1] [0] [head]

Rethinking the American Dream by David Kamp

  • check out the lights in the frame at the bottom, and the kid taking a picture center-right (image courtesy of Kodak, hence.)

  • (quote:) "Still, we need to challenge some of the middle-class orthodoxies that have brought us to this point—not least the notion, widely promulgated throughout popular culture, that the middle class itself is a soul-suffocating dead end."
    • Perhaps they should teach expectations management in school? Sure, middle class should never die - I hope it will grow.
  • And yet, this is still rather depressive - we all want things to continuously, exponentially get better. I actually think this is almost possible, we just need to reason carefully about how this could happen: what changes in manufacturing, consumption, energy generation, transportation, and social organization would gradually effect widespread improvement.
    • Some time in individual lives (my own included!) is squandered in pursuit of the small pleasures which would be better used for purposeful endeavor. Seems we need to resurrect the idea of sacrifice towards the future (and it seems this meme itself is increasingly popular).
  • Realistically: nothing is for free; we are probably only enjoying this more recent economic boom because energy (and i mean oil, gas, coal, hydro, nuclear etc), which drives almost everything in society, is really cheap. If we can keep it this cheap, or make it cheaper through judicious investment in new technologies (and perhaps serendipity), then our standard of living can increase. That is not to say that it will - we need to put the caloric input to the economy to good use.
    • Currently our best system for enacting a general goal of efficiency is market-based capitalism. Now, the problem is that this is an inherently unstable system: there will be cheaters e.g. people who repackage crap mortgages as safe securities, companies who put lead paint on children's toys, companies who make unsafe products - and the capitalistic system, in and of itself, is imperfect at regulating these cheaters (*). Bureaucracy may not be the most efficient use of money or people's lives, but again it seems to be the best system for regulating/auditing cheaters. Examined from a control feedback point-of-view, bureaucracy 'tries' to control axes which pure capitalism does not directly address.
    • (*) Or is it? The largest problem with using consumer (or, more generally, individual) choice as the path to audit & evaluate production is that there is a large information gradient or knowledge difference between producers and consumers. It is the great (white?) hope of the internet generation that we can reduce this gradient, democratize information, and have everyone making better choices.
      • In this way, I'm very optimistic that things will get continuously better. (But recall that optimality-seeking requires time/money/energy - it ain't going to be free, and it certainly is not going to be 'natural'. Alternately, unstable-equilibrium-maintaining (servoing! auditing!) requires energy; democracy's big trick is that it takes advantage of a normal human behavior, bitching, as the feedstock. )
  • Finally (quote:) "I’m no champion of downward mobility, but the time has come to consider the idea of simple continuity: the perpetuation of a contented, sustainable middle-class way of life, where the standard of living remains happily constant from one generation to the next. "
    • Uh, you've had this coming: stick it. You can enjoy 'simple continuity'. My life is going to get better (or at least my life is going to change and be interesting/fun), and I expect the same for everybody else that I know. See logic above, and homoiconic's optimism

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ref: bookmark-0 tags: RonPaul American presidential candidate libertarian date: 10-30-2007 22:38 gmt revision:0 [head]


  • claims that the solution to our problems is to deregulate environmental control - e.g. disempower the EPA, maybe even dissolve it, and allow litigation and property rights to regulate pollution. That is, if a polluter destroys some resource say a river, then another user of same resource will sue them for damages & polluting.
    • This is retarded because it replaces one system (hopefully transparent laws) with another system (wasteful litigation), the latter which will be codified anyway within the legal system. I would argue that it is more efficient to simply fix the original system directly, and eliminate this bureaucracy which he complains. Otherwise, it will take some time for the 'bugs' in the legal, litigation based regulatory system to be eliminated.
      • a centralized authority is arguably more efficient & direct in deciding say which compounds are pollutants and which are not, whereas an iterative, litigation based system may be eventually more accurate but possibly more abstruse & opaque (e.g. you have to look up many many cases to figure out the 'law') and may possibly take more time.
    • Perhaps, though, he is correct on one thing: by making the end users (people subject to pollution) more directly involved, they will have more power, hence 'law' will more directly represent collective interest.
    • My conclusion: the present system includes some end-user litigation; it makes not sense to overhaul it. It only makes sense to tweak the 'coefficients' on the control paths, or possibly add other control paths.
      • however, has anyone proved that collective interest is sufficiently far-sighted, pragmatic, and free from spurious manipulation by the media. This is why we have a republic, I guess.
  • He does not support the Kyoto protocol. not the 'free-market'. well, he is a libertarian after all.
  • He thinks it is a good idea to de-regulate large polluters like coal fired electricity plants; he claims that in a free market economy the costs of a dirtier energy source will be internalized and the consumers will choose the optimal source.
    • This is naive, too. Companies will manipulate those effected by the pollution to make them forget about it, perhaps by simply bribing them. Besides, it makes sense to have a centralized regulator where the expertise, intelligence, and data can be concentrated. But, then again, this system was setup itself by the public (?) which therefore must have some degree of farsight, therefore the public can be responsible for holding companies responsible for selfish, greedy & polluting practices. (I would argue not - the public and/or those farsighted leaders - have set up centralized agencies for offloading the effort of regulation & enforcement.