Assorted links


#1 Well should be another expensive mediocrity. How many of these meticulously planned, high-tech, city-of-tomorrow, "new capitals" ever work out? Brasilia was supposed to be the city of the future wasn't it? I know Tyler is a fan but on the whole it really hasn't broken the mold has it? From the pictures it looks like a big YAWN.

In some sense, Brasilia was city of the future. Totalitarian future walking over human beings. It is positively Orwellian.

Yes, but the core of it was constructed between 1955 and 1961 at a time when comprehensive planning was in vogue. It's a crappy period piece at its heart, not the city of the future.

#3 and #4 cover the same subjects. Environmentalists are nothing more than another fringe religion, anti-capitalist and, indeed, anti-rational.

Please! Don't give anti-rationalists a bad name.

Enviromaniacs are pleased to be irrational.

Boisvert was a brave fellow to tackle Klein's 576-page doorstop. (Poor Naomi's book tour may've been interrupted by last week's fire in the Aurora facility: perhaps she'll have time now to bicycle from coast to coast.)

I like nature (mountains, rivers, wild animals). I like parks, and do not want the best places to be open for commercial development. I don't like worrying about how much heavy metals are in the water I drink.

If that makes me a fringe religionist, then sign me up.

Anti-environmentalist is one of the most unnatural states of being that has ever existed. It is natural to love nature. But there are always trade-offs.

It is irrational to suppose that our evolution has brought us to a stage where iPhones and concrete parks will satisfy all our wants and needs.

I want green space. That's rational.

"I don’t like worrying about how much heavy metals are in the water I drink. .. I want green space. That’s rational."

Your post is a bit of a straw man argument. The modern environmental movement goes far beyond any basic requirement for keeping heavy metals out of drinking water.

2 - It follows from everything Scott writes that a modest guaranteed income - e.g. less than the poverty line anywhere in the US - should be a no-brainer. Has most of the benefits and few of the drawbacks. If $27,000 is just too much, $10,000 should be an unmitigated boon.

Not taking sides personally, just pointing out that this is the obvious conclusion from Sumner's reasoning.

#2 It's counterintuitive maybe, but it's probably the libertarians preventing the guaranteed annual income. It's a no brainier good idea. Libertarians would do well to exile the Paul family and refocus with different leadership

Libertarians would do well to exile the Paul family and refocus with different leadership

There is a whole lot of stupid in this.

How so? Young, socially liberal liberts have the numbers but don't want to associate with Kentucky Libertarians and their kind.

No libertarian I know considers Ron or Rand Paul their "leader".

But hey, don't let that stop your strawman arguments.


No libertarian I know considers Ron or Rand Paul their “leader”.

Which ones do you know? The Pauls actually win electoral contests. You think Will Wilkinson or William L. Anderson could get elected town clerk of South Succotash?

"Young, socially liberal liberts have the numbers..."

Most people I've met that described themselves that way were just socially liberal statists. If their ideology is inherently biased towards a large and intrusive government, then they aren't libertarians.

Don't worry. Paul will look more like a typical GOP the closer we get to 2016

The number needs to be big enough to get rid of everything else (except perhaps k-12 and medical care). If we still have to have social security (old age and disability), SNAP, unemployment, section 8, SSI, Universal Service Fund, refundable child tax credits, and so on than the whole thing is pointless.

The individual poverty line is $11,670/year, so going with that would be a safe and symbolic bet. I'd recommend doing it as a flat stipend to every adult citizen and legal resident as well, both for improving the politics of the program as well as minimizing bad incentives (if it's a flat stipend, then there's no incentive against working unless you really, really want to avoid working and are fine living right at the poverty line).

This is where I differ from standard thinking about this. I actually want to create a disincentive for working.

I think Graeber was onto something with his "bullshit jobs" theory (Tyler was mainly on the right track the ZMP worker concept but obviously not in the same way). Automatic and mechanized systems have spread to the point where a significant chunk, maybe a majority, of renumerative, go-to-the-office-everyday, work is simply not productive. Its there to satisfy government regulations, often themselves crafted to boost employment, satisfy management egos, justify the existence of other non-productive jobs in the same organization, pressure on the employer to "create jobs", and severe inertia. This diverts resources from potentially more productive work and creates rush hour traffic.

So I would be fine with most people living on a modest guaranteed income. The remaining jobs would pay better than now and require more actual skills, so people who could do them would want to for the additional income and prestige. I agree with discouraging people living off of the guaranteed income from having children, but mostly because I think overpopulation is a serious problem, not because it would mean the "wrong people" breeding.

The elephant in the room is: "who counts as a Citizen"?

Can you imagine the current Democratic party (and its ideological equivalents of the EU) to withhold the boon of Universal Guaranteed Income from poor undocumented workers?

And once they let them in, the human tsunami that ensues? Camp of the Saints comes to mind. There are already enough casualties in the Mediterranean, even though the current prospects are much more modest than vision of a lifetime of income security.

It has been historically politically easier to limit welfare benefits to certain favored slices of the population than to make them universal. Even in the US. Especially in the US.

That's what I've always thought was the Achille's Heel of a UGI. You can't afford to give it to everyone who would manage to make it across the border and society won't stand for permanent second class citizens.

Start at $10,000 for the guaranteed minimum for anyone having completed high school and start clawing back 15% at $20,000, for example.

They should have to recite something geared towards expressing appreciation, and how they will try to cultivate their inner Einstein or Picasso until (if) they enter the job market.

It should be high enough to easily afford basic necessities and even to get out a bit, but not enough to be able to afford "luxury".

There is no great stagnation, wearable drone edition:

Imagine a single mom living in the South Bronx with two kids. A typical poor American family. How much do we give them? If we give every single person the same amount, there will be too much incentive to produce large families.

HOLY CRAP somebody else actually noticed the fatal flaw in this plan. Of course if children were fungible the incentive Sumner is talking about above would not (necessarily) be a bad thing. But they are not. Alexei, I was surprised to see you falling for this: children are not equal, and any amount of—what did they keep calling it—GAI above $0 will necessarily incentivize low-quality births and punish high-quality births. Five minutes with Becker will bear this out, and it makes the situation completely unsustainable in the long term. You can gasp all you want about the idea of low-quality births but some productive people will still have to be around in year Tₙ to keep the lights on. Otherwise everyone can finally be equal—in their poverty.

This whole GAI idea is basically a honeypot designed to distract and disarm anyone who has reservations about the existing welfare state.

This is a straw man argument raised by many of those critiquing GAI/MGI/UBI concepts. Advocates of a UBI often stress things like making age of majority a requirement for distribution, or perhaps 'pre-distribution' of a minor's UBI to their education expenses. There is an immense amount of variation here, but the point is that very few such propositions leave open a glaring flaw such as what Sumner points out.

The other massive flaw in this sort of analysis is in categorizing basic income as a welfare program. While it is true that a basic income would make many forms of welfare spending such as retirement, disability, and unemployment distributions unnecessary, the Georgist version at least of a basic income would have it tied directly to the revenues of a land value tax; ie, not from a redistribution of income tax. The underlying justification of tax collection is thereby akin to that of local property taxes, and its outlays more resemble the Alaskan Permanent Fund.

Reader exercise: why is each of Locke's caveats irrelevant?

What's a "Low value birth"?

BS. If the income is guaranteed, rather than conditional on having children as is often the case for welfare, then there will be zero incentive to have children to qualify. Better to allow them unconditional amount for the truly lazy people (and this is rare - given some time most people would rather make something of themselves) than to provide incentive for them to have to have children to qualify.

#3 - Conjecture: People who take Thiel's use of terms like "secrets" (or in the context of an earlier chapter of the book: "monopolies") too literally, may be missing, or misinterpreting, the points he is making. His writing happens to be a bit weird, but more profound than first meets the eye.

#2 is the political ranting of an angry man with some napkin math. It's not economics.

Now now Krugman won the Nobel Prize in Economics for a bunch of angry political rants backed up by napkin math,

You don't know what the hell you're talking about, he won it for trade theory papers which are respected even by economists who don't share his politics.

Except Trade theory was developed in the early 19th Century by David Ricardo unless by "trade theory" you're talking about Krugman's innovative approach to increasing subscriptions of the New York Times. Or perhaps you're talking about his breakthroughs in the econometric modelling of Swedish Kroner prize money to US dollar exchange rates.

I don't read Krugman's political NYT articles, but his trade theory stuff moved trade theory beyond the commodity trade theory of the 1930s-50s. Ricardo, as important as he was, was not the final station in economic thought -- Ricardo did not fully understand what created value, for example, believing in the labor theory of value. Dismissing Krugman's economic prowess because of his politics is like dismissing Friedman or Barro because of theirs.

Krugman did not take up obnoxious political rants until he married Robin Wells, and it's a reasonable inference she writes the column. The columns he was writing 15 years ago were not political rants and asinine rebarbative asides were limited to economists he disliked (Lester Thurow and S.H. Hanke to name two). The trade theory for which he wrote the prize was composed decades before he wrote political rants.

Krugman didn't even share Krugman's politics back then.

Donald Luskin, his most vitriolic critic, offered in 2008 that the Krugman who composed the theory which won him the prize had died about 10 years earlier. You can find his works for general audiences published 20 years ago favorably reviewed in National Review of all places. It was difficult to tell from his column in Forbes ca. 1998 just what his politics were (other than he was irritated by the most unadulterated libertarianism). People like Gregory Mankiw and S.H. Hanke stay classy and do not descend to is methods, even when he's attacked them in print.


GAI doesn't solve the main problem with falling into poverty in America. It's not the lack of material wealth, it's the other poor people you live around. Some small proportion of the population in any given place is basically human garbage. And while the vast majority of poor people are decent folk, the vast majority of human garbage is poor. The main anxiety a typical white middle-class breadwinner has about losing his job isn't feeding his family or keeping a roof over their head, it's being exiled to the "bad" census tracts.

If you live on the same block as MS-13, the probability that your daughter gets raped in the next year goes up by several orders of magnitude. Ain't no GAI program in the world that can change this. In fact it makes it worse, set GAI at $27K a year and all of a sudden MS-13 can afford to live next to substitute teachers and bus drivers. At least with most existing means-tested welfare it has various filters that mostly keep out the human garbage. You have to be actively raising children, you have to have been previously employed at some point, you have to try to get a job every couple years, etc. They don't seem like huge hurdles but they keep the gangbangers from getting checks.

If you do see GAI get widespread traction, expect to see a very simple political response. The US has largely reduced crime in the past two decades by throwing a whole lotta people in jail, often on drug and gun charges. It basically acts as a net to scoop up society's human garbage but at the cost of tons of false positives. Plenty of decent people get thrown in jail for years because they were the wrong skin color, in the wrong neighborhood, carrying slightly too much of the wrong substance. Statistically that makes them exponentially more likely to kill a family in a home invasion gone wrong, so off to Rikers they go.

If GAI approaches middle class levels, there's going to be tremendous political demand by the median middle class voter to intensify this process. Tough on crime, lock em all up and throw away the key, drug war BS. Because it's one thing when the gangbangers are the next county over, but like the Jefferson they're gonna be movin' on up. The choice will be either to let young, muscle-bound, aggressive men with face tattoos move into your neighborhood or send them to the state pen, with no other options in between. Any doubt which one voters are going to pick?

It was not until after WWII that the majority of Americans lived in Metro areas with suburbs where it was possible to have large income segregated neighborhoods so people did encounter poor/rich people as part of day to day living. Mixed income small towns are still considered to provide a better enviornment to raise children by most people.

The difference was that the NYC murder rate in 1980 was six times higher than what it was in 1950. Having Cosa Nostra live in your tenement wasn't so dangerous, because if the woman next door got stabbed, the police pretty much knew who dunnit and would go beat him with a phonebook until he confessed. Post-Miranda, the MS-13 gangbanger terrorizing his neighborhood knows to keep quiet, lawyer up and have his homies intimidate any possible snitches. In all honesty phonebooks, or their digital age equivalent, would get statements from, if not the gangbangers, at least the snitches.

There's a politically optimal amount of fascism and it isn't zero. We live in a world of walls and those walls have to be guarded. The 1960s marked a major recession of fascism in America. It also marked a nearly overnight quintupling of the crime rate. Since then the NYC murder rate is nearly back to its 1950 levels. That's largely accomplished by the 21st century version of American fascism: throwing a whole lotta poor young men in internment camps (because it's not really a prison when over half the inmates are "guilty" of using politically incorrect chemicals), and having jack-booted thugs intimidate the wrong type of people when they get off at the rich people subway stop.

In the long run democracies are subjected to the law of conservation of fascism. Well meaning courts and activists can change specific policies that are oppressing the most dispossessed groups in society. But then middle-class voters get pissed that the wrong type of people are getting too uppity, and come up with some new scheme to crush them back down. Don't assume that GAI will happen in a political vacuum. There will be a popular reaction, one way or another those people in poverty lifted up by GAI will get pushed back to the fringes of society. Probably in a cruel and capricious manner.

Huh, Doug, as if the forensic science hasn't made a huge progress since 1950 ...!

Back then, it was harder to prove someone's guilt without reliable witnesses - and therefore the phonebook. Note that this approach has a notorious fault, known to the investigators from the Middle Ages - the suspect may confess falsely. Either out of fear of the investigator, or of pure ignorance of the law, or perhaps he fears the real perpetrator more than life tariff in prison - in all three cases, not that an innocent person was locked up, but the real culprit is walking free.

Nowadays, people leave a huge trail of incriminating evidence anywhere they go. DNA, recording cameras on every corner, smartphones that give away their location. With solid police work, you can catch pretty much everyone.

With sloppy work (such as contamination of the crime scene by technics), you don't, but such people need less power, not more - because they are unlikely to use it for the common good.

Nowadays, people leave a huge trail of incriminating evidence anywhere they go. DNA, recording cameras on every corner, smartphones that give away their location. With solid police work, you can catch pretty much everyone.

I see you enjoy Forensic Files, which is entertaining. They only broadcast the cases investigators solve, so the message is somewhat distorted.

It does improve on Dateline, whose message appears to be that the white bourgeois are murderous and that the greatest threat to your safety is your husband.

Art Deco:

I don't watch TV at all. Not that I am a hipster, I just don't like it and prefer other ways of spending the evening.

What is the point of your cute snipe, though? Can you provide any rebuttals?

In the EU, your location data from GSM are stored for 6 months or more (mandatory data retention) and this database will be used by the police in any serious crime investigation. In some countries, such as the UK, they even use the database in investigation of petty crimes such as theft from parked cars etc.

As for DNA, DNA traces will be collected on the scenes of most violent crimes nowadays. Lots of western countries do maintain databases of DNA.

As for cameras, camera recordings are quite often used in courts of law. This is one of the reasons why gas station / bank robberies have been in decline. Even if the record does not show your face, movement stereotypes (gait etc.) are used to identify the perpetrator. I went to the university with a guy who later developed some algorithms for that purpose. At least one habitual robber is now doing 12 years as a result of his work.

The point? About 39% of all homicide cases go unsolved in the United States. The forensic evidence commonly is just not there.

39 per cent???

Here in the Czech Republic 91 per cent of the murder cases are solved within a year, and many of the remaining ones were probably committed by a foreigner who is no longer present in the country.

The real challenge is to distinguish some murder cases from natural deaths, mainly poisonings in old people. If an 80 year-old dies in the intensive care, possible culpability of the staff isn't usually suspected. As a result, here and there, a murderous hospital worker pulls off a series of killings.

@ Marian:

Seems right to me...think of how many gangland type killings never get solved. They still haven't figured out who killed Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur.

The people that will need a guaranteed annual income are going to include not only single moms with kids but men of any age that can't, for whatever reason, pass a background check. These guys won't be able to earn money to eat or be able to get in out of the rain unless they move in with one of the single moms, kind of like they're doing right now. Rather than sit around watching Seinfeld re-runs they'll be hustling on the streets, working off the books or sticking up C-stores. They're not going to have a choice in this. A kid that got sent to the joint for peddling weed near the high school, shoplifting or having sex with the neighbor's daughter isn't going to commit suicide over it. He's going to require food and housing for another 50+ years. How he gets it is going to be the problem for everyone else.

Now, here is another interesting question.

As soon as "guaranteed annual income" becomes the norm, the government will realize that credible threat of its withholding is a very strong coercive tool.

Will the GAI be an absolute right? I doubt it. "Guaranteed" will soon, in reality, become "guaranteed with exceptions" (a similar process deformed the meaning of the word "Freedom" beyond any recognition). Will the protection be weakened by successive waves of political fashions? Almost certainly so. Who will be "exempt" from that universal right, and what will the mechanism be? All felons, or just sex offenders? Anyone with outstanding debt against IRS? People who haven't "voluntarily" donated a sample of their DNA to the national security database? Those who voted against a pet project of the chattering classes? Hell knows.

Remember that various authorities mandate drug tests for those in subsidized housing. Remember the highway robbery under color of law that is called "civil asset forfeiture".

This really is a case of the government big enough to take everything from you.

This is what Ran Prieur posted earlier this week:

"But here's a thought experiment: how could we get a guaranteed basic income that somehow is still evil? Imagine if the largest retailers arranged with the government so that instead of getting $10,000 cash, you got $10,000 in credits that you could use at Amazon, Walmart, Starbucks, Comcast, and so on. All your physical needs are met, but not your emotional need to participate meaningfully in the economy. You can't support your local coffee shop or bookstore, and if you're an entrepreneur or small business owner, you can't serve the poor because they can't pay you -- you have to serve the rich. This leads to cultural inbreeding, as the only way to join the world of money is to echo the values of the world of money, and that world might veer off into insanity. Even with no economic poverty, there can still be great political poverty."

So can you create a guaranteed annual income that is evil? Yes, though it will involve negating the "guaranteed" part. An evil, powerful government will corrupt everything that it touches. Its interesting that so much libertarian thinking in the US is based basically on the idea that the US government is so evil that no government programs, even ones that work reasonably well in other countries, can be trusted, but stopping short of the logical implications of this thinking.

Anyway, there already exists an guaranteed annual income in the US, its just not universal. Its called "social security". In its eighty year history, there have been attempts to abolish it and to divert the dedicated taxes to fund other programs, but it has not yet been used for social engineering.

The US prison system is a graduate program in social security engineering. When prisoners are released they have the knowledge needed to do and say what's required to get total or partial disability through social security. My neighbor, who rode a bike everywhere he went, was an ex-con on total disability.

I find your comment about "human garbage" to be highly offensive.

When people like you drum shit like that into people's heads, what do you expect? Some people will believe they are trash. GAI should be proposed in a framework where the fact of being human is sufficient for them to be considered as highly worthwhile, and that they should use the benefit in a way to take as much time as it takes to get their shit together to contribute something to society. Clearly people will take advantage a little bit in some cases. But even then, they are not "human garbage".

People who say stuff like that are net very worthy of respect.

#4 is the substantial takedown of Klein's dogmatic imbecilism that her work deserves.

As an environmentalists from the long hair 60s, I agree. And I agree with the author of 4 that Klein is useless in laying out an action plan for the great challenge of ending the pillage and plunder of the earth by burning fossil fuels and destroying capital.

The only time it makes sense to burn capital is when you have a labor shortage. We do not have a labor shortage in the US. China has had a labor shortage, but that shortage is ending for the time being. Still, China has devoted its labor freed by burning natural capital to build built capital assets for the future, while the US has burned capital to create labor surplus and reduced both natural capital and built capital.

The accumulated deficit in US capital investment to offset entropy and growth is estimated by civil engineers at $2 trillion. Civil engineers estimated the cost of the chunnel (a private venture), nuclear power plants (private ventures), and projects like the Big Dig and rebuilding the WTC (public-private partnerships) at half the final build costs (finance costs resulting from failing to have enough upfront funding to do these jobs fast which saves money are responsible for the much higher overall costs).

I find it hard to take Klein seriously. She's the Leftist Thomas Friedman, in that she's a popular author on the left who jumps around to whatever issue happens to be currently "hot" in the global left without bringing any particular knowledge or specialty to the table. Back when it was corporate logos and sweatshops, she wrote a book about logos. Back when it was globalization and financial liberalization, she wrote a book about the "shock doctrine". And now that it's "climate justice", here she is again.

Friedman is the leftist Thomas Friedman. Naomi is the extreme leftist Thomas Friedman?

As Walter Russsell Mead often notes, for such a popular cause, the environmental movement has embarrassingly bad leadership.

The wikipedia entry for #5 makes the entire 'Sydney Push' seem like a bunch of arrogant self-righteous ass-hats. Which I guess it probably was.

I liked this phrase from the Wikipedia article;

"and the homosexual radio repair men who had science fiction as a religion".

Shortly after I joined the new international studies program as a lecturer at University of Technology Sydney I was introduced to Eva Cox (of Sydney Push fame). She looked me up and down. Soon as she could she leant over and asked - “Why has a straight white English MAN like you come to teach us about Latin America?”

This explains the multi-decadal decline in really weird pubs in Sydney.

Not precisely, they just were 100% normal young people. They thought they could live life with ideas when they were 20 and never change. When they were 20, they were radicals. By 40 they were normal, by 60 society is more liberal and open mind than them.

By 40 they were normal, by 60 society is more liberal and open mind than them.

Ralph Nader's 'consumers' democracy' is a dead letter as are wage and price controls. The clothing and haircuts are not nearly as ugly as they used to be. The violent crime rate is somewhat lower. I cannot figure how (otherwise) you fancy either Australia or the United States live in a wiser and more congenial time than was the case 40 years ago.

The numbers never add up for a GAI. And like Sumner, I really want to believe they do.

That depends on what your calculations are.

Which numbers?

I think the fatal flaw is less the numbers, though they are flawed, but the who counts and who doesn't.

Taking Naomi Klein seriously is a good indicator of intellectual standing.

"1. An underclass of illegals doing the hard stuff, and living in shantytowns.

2. Tens of millions of poor Americans watching TV, and giving zero incentive to their kids to study hard in school, because they’ve got the GAI awaiting them too.

3. The upper class, in their gated communities."

Ok, if welfare were eliminated, all the people in the gated communities would move into the inner city?

Or they would rush into the fields to pick the food for a couple dollars a bushel?

How does eliminating welfare move the poor into the gated communities with the cars required to drive to a job?

Jobs were once located in the cities and cities then became the places people lived so they could get to the jobs, often with the employers providing the housing and transportation when the city became too large for people to live near the job. How does eliminating welfare force employers to provide housing and transportation for the workers they need?

Scott Summer sees a problem caused by turning everything about the economy into a profit seeking separate business practice.

No longer are farmer responsible for providing the means for workers to live and get to the jobs.

But on the other hand, Summer does not immediately argue that farmers must be required to pay a wage high enough so the farm workers can afford the housing and transportation Summer has accepted as the proper separate profit making activities no longer provided by farmers, contrary the economy that Adam Smith assumed.

The illegals today live in the same shanties farm workers lived in during Adam Smith's day - Americans believe farmers should pay the market wages sufficient for the workers to pay for market rents and market costs of transportation. But farmers and economists believe workers should be paid wages as if the farmer was providing housing and everything else. That is highly inconsistent and contradictory.

The 50s and 60s when I was growing up was better because workers were valued factors of production and paid as such. Today, we have workers considered liabilities by most economists, and factors to be eliminated from the economy. Ironically, consumers are never considered workers, but somehow given money from nowhere based on the "wealth created" by Wall Street from higher profits from eliminating workers and cutting wages and benefits, like housing for farm workers.

I note that economists never refer to FDR who considered the dole to be degrading and that the government must provide jobs for those the private sector will not, jobs that are "self liquidating" - meaning jobs that build or repair needed and useful infrastructure with decades to recover the investments. But then FDR did not assume that magic put money in people's pockets so they could buy the production of the economy like is currently done today. Nor did FDR argue that tax cuts will put money in people's pockets and boost consumer spending.

FDR never had an original thought in his life. He was probably more of a ventriloquist's dummy for Harry Hopkins and James Byrnes than anything else. In a mental wrestling match with Bismarck FDR would have been pinned in seconds.

Over the period running from 1933 to 1941, the country saw a 90% increase in real domestic product. The president then went on to preside over a comprehensive national mobilization and successful global war effort. Whether or not combox blowhards fancy his thought sufficiently 'original' matters little.

We'll probably have to give the credit for polio vaccine to Eisenhower and the eradication of smallpox to King George III if your logic is valid.

The President was not running Albert Sabin's laboratory. He was, however, the supervisor of the Army Chief of Staff and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

That presupposes that people prefer doing nothing to doing constructive things.

For some people, I think dependence on welfare is in part a "stick it to the man" kind of thing. Frustrated after a decade or two of butting their heads against walls, working like a dog, etc., and only able to cover expenses, and seeing the rich get richer, they give up and go on social assistance.

Framed in a way where society has their back, so to speak, without all the derogatory insults laid into these sorts of discussions, it is not difficult to imagine that people would respond to a GAI by trying harder to contribute something positive, instead of refusing to contribute their sweat, blood and tears in a rat race they simply cannot win.

6 is very cool

6 awesome (would have been appropriate around world-cup time)

#1: no mention on Songdo's internet speed, but I'd like to have it by 2017 ;)

What's so great about the Sydney Push? The principal manifestations of it outside Australia have been Germaine Greer (screwball) and Robert Hughes (repellant piece of work). Our public life would not have been the poorer if these two had been deducted from it.

Robert Hughes did repel some people that's true. He was an angry man (even more so after the car accident). He was 'Nothing If Not Critical' to quote the title of his Penguin collection of essays on art and artists, which contains a nice piece on American Art Deco (mostly critical of the "mostly feeble and derivative" painters, while full of praise for the engineers and designers).

But he was undoubtedly brilliant. Art history & art criticism would be considerably poorer had he not lived.

The three most impressive survivors of the Sydney Push were Robert Hughes, Clive James, and Les Murray (of anti-postmodernism poetry wars). By the time they had grown up and moved on all three men were, in their contrasting and idiosyncratic ways, notable conservatives. To have been consistently and intelligently conservative on important issues is also a rare and good contribution to public life.

'Brilliant' at what? At the use of the language of insult?

Art and architecture criticism is largely hoodoo and the best these people can do is call attention to features a casual observer might not have noticed. That's an act of appreciation. Hughes did not specialize in that.

Hughes poured vitriol on the likes of Martin Creed and Seward Johnson alike. There's nothing wrong with what comes out of Seward Johnson's studio; it's just that schmucks like Hughes are not his audience. Get in into your alcohol sodden head, Robbie; your kind are not the only one's who live here or who merit being pleased. A character like Creed, by contrast, gets his blood supply from art critics trading in their franchise to certify experiences of 'art'. It's all a scam, and you do not need someone who writes art criticism for a living to tell you that. You just need a boy who knows a man in his underwear when he sees it. John Derbyshire was at least as effective as Hughes in critiquing Creed, and he scarcely ever writes art criticism (and is funnier than Hughes).

That aside, you had Hughes' asides on American history and on religion, subjects on which he was not particularly well-informed or perceptive. And what excuse did he have to be an 'angry' man? He was the issue of Australia's patriciate, fat and saucy. From 1973 to the end of his life he had regular salaried employment courtesy Time-Life. His own personal heartaches were derived from his own wretched judgment. His one and only child was estranged from him for a reason. There are loathsome people in this world, and Robert Hughes was one.

You're entitled to your opinion. But you could be wrong. Or you could be overdoing it. Obviously he is not the sort of person you would choose to have a beer with.

#3 Maybe cults are down because the Tea Party and "mainstream" Evangelical/Pentecostal Christian movements are crazy enough to eliminate the cultural need for crazy people to have institutions of their own.

In my (likely futile) Quest for Truth, I roam the Internet.

Lo and behold, I stumble upon a site for avowed rationalists. That site is LessWrong. I poke around, and there's a lot of cool and smart stuff.

After a while though, I get a cultish vibe from the participants. Right there, in the heart of Rationalism. Oh well.

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