the 19th century vs. the 20th century

recently, I’ve encountered the odd, neo-con/libertarian meme that says that quality of life improved more in the 19th century than in the 20th century, because the 19th century was more libertarian and less socialist than the 20th. To me, that does not sound right, on so many levels. So, I went digging for some statistics, just to see what the numbers say.

The first indicator I checked was life expectancy changes in the USA. I’ll split the data by gender and race, because that’s how the data is split up, and because the numbers aren’t evenly available. Also, most of the data is unfortunately only available for 1850 and later, except for northern US white males in 1800, where the life expectancy is listed as 36 years (and judging from the data for 1750 and 1700 showing southern life expectancy to be lower than northern (tropical diseases?), I’m guessing it was still lower in 1800 as well1. In another source2, Table 5 lists the life expectancy in the US in 1820 as 39 (I’m willing to bet that’s not including slaves, though). Anyway according to available data3, in 1850, life expectancy for whites was as follows: men 38.3 at birth/48 at 10 years, women 40.5/47.2; in 1900, it was men 58.2/50.6, women 51.1/52.2; in 1950 it was men 66.3/59, women 72/64.3; in 2000 it was men 74.8/65.4, women 80/70.5 Roughly then,the 50-year-increases were, between 1800 and 1850 apparently not noticeable, as far as the available data goes; between 1850-1900, it was 20 years at birth/2 years at 10 years for men, 11/5 years for women; between 1900 and 1950 it was 8/9 years for men, 21/12 years for women; between 1950 and 2000 it was 8/6 for both men and women.
For non-whites, the data only starts at 1900. However, life-expectancy for non-white men increased from 32.5/41.9 in 1900 to 58.9/53 in 1950 and 68.3/59.6 in 2000, while for women it increased from 35/42 in 1900 to 62.7/56.2 in 1950 and 75/66.2 in 2000. For the 19th century to match those rates, all non-whites would have had to have been murdered at birth in the years 1800-1850 (for completeness sake, the only datapoint I found for life expectancy of black Americans was for 1850 and was 23 at birth, most likely due the abysmal infant mortality rates4)
So, to sum it up: looks like in the USA, 1850-1900 was good for white infant boys, while 1900-1950 was great for everybody else. Call me biased, but I’m handing this round to the first half of the 20th century.

Now, let’s look at Britain, for comparison. For some reason, I’ve been unable to find such nicely detailed data for Britain, but what little I did find, mirrors the story in the US: one ghastly little chart (written in Comic Sans, FFS!) for school children noted life expectancy in 1750 as 31 for men and 33 for women, and in 1900 as 45 for men and 48 for women5. The aforementioned table 5, being an international comparison, lists UK life expectancy as 40 in 1820, 50 in 1900, 69 in 1950, and 77 in 1999. And lastly, a government source lists the life expectancy at birth in 1900 for men at 45 and women at 49, and in 1999 at 75 for men and 80 for women6. So, it looks like the 20th century wins in Britain, too.

Now, let’s look at some other data:
GDP per capita (Measured in 1990 international dollars) was $1707 in 1820, $4921 in 1913, and $18714 in 1998 in Britain; in the USA, it was $1257 in 1820, $5301 in 1913, and $27331 in 1998; the average height for US men was 172.9cm in 1800, 170cm in 1900, and 177.4 in 1970 7. For education in the US, data is available once again only from 1850 on. The percentages of 5-19-year-olds enrolled in school were as follows: in 1850, it was 59% for white men and 53.3% for white women, and 2% for non-white men and 1.8% for non-white women; in 1900, it was 53.4% for white men and 53.9% for white women, and 29.4% for non-white men and 32.8% for non-white women; in 1950, it was 79.7% for white men and 78.9% for white women, and 74.7% for non-white men and 74.9% for non-white women; in 1990, it was around 92% for everyone8.

At this point, I could dredge up statistics on other specific living conditions (which, yes, did improve some over the course of the 19th century; generally with the passage of laws forbidding some atrociousness or another) like eradication of diseases, better working hours, etc. However, I’ve now pretty much lost interest in continuing. People’s lifespans have improved, famines are unheard of, people have more money and better education. And all of it improved more in the 20th century than in the 19th. So, Libertarians and neo-cons are wrong. Anyone surprised?

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27 comments on “the 19th century vs. the 20th century

  1. MrFire says:

    But…but…none of that matters! They were FREE!

    I mean: what’s the point of a long and happy* life for if you know THE GOVERNMENT has something to do with it??

    *um, relatively speaking.

  2. MrFire says:

    Oh, should be <libertarian> and </libertarian> tags in the appropriate places

  3. M Stirner says:

    Quality of life depends, above all, on technological advances. Those advances are impossible in a command (socialist or otherwise) economy.

    The benefits of a (free) market economy show up very slowly in the early stages.

    For a more accurate comparison between a (relatively) laissez-faire economy and a government run economy, compare (say) East Germany to West Germany in 1945 and 1985. Same people, same time frame, but a vastly different economic system.

  4. Jadehawk says:

    Quality of life depends, above all, on technological advances. Those advances are impossible in a command (socialist or otherwise) economy.

    1)this is not relevant to the argument of this post. Social Democracies are not command economies, nor was 20th century US/UK a command-economy in comparison to 19th century US/UK

    2)most important improvements in the quality of life were government-funded, either by the US military or through research at various publicly funded institutions. There are exceptions of course, but technical innovations in the free market are so rare, we apotheosize those who achieve this (Steve Jobs, most notably), while taking for granted the basic R&D that brought us most medicine and the Internet

    3)since you include non-socialist command economies, I should probably point out that South Korea became the technological powerhouse it is today precisely because of its command-capitalist system.

    For a more accurate comparison between a (relatively) laissez-faire economy and a government run economy, compare (say) East Germany to West Germany in 1945 and 1985. Same people, same time frame, but a vastly different economic system.

    far more importantly, a different political system, since the reduction of quality of life was primarily caused by the mercantilist approach to trade in the eastern block*, and the fact that it was basically a police state. The lack of diversity of consumer goods on the other hand was not one of those things, per-se. greater variety of and access to crap-no-one-needs does not increase human well-being, and in fact creates psychological effects that decrease mental well-being. However, consumer-goods do satisfy the artificially created need for them, and in situations where the need had been created but couldn’t be satisfied, the negative psychological effect was even greater; this happens across borders as well as across picket-fences. Basically, it’s like addicting everyone to the same drug, but only letting some people have it; everyone is worse off than without the addiction, but those with the permanent withdrawal symptoms are worst off.

    And again, social democracies are not “government run economies”, libertarian propaganda notwithstanding, so this post was never meant as a comparison to any such thing.

    And lastly: I didn’t chose the comparison between the 19th and 20th centuries; the libertarians who trotted out the argument that quality of life improved more in the 19th century because of less “socialist” policies did.

  5. David Marjanović says:

    This blog is such a joy in Firefox 9 :-)

    Quality of life depends, above all, on technological advances.

    Wait, wait, wait. Technological advances make improvements of the quality of life possible; they do not automatically result in improvements. What has the Internet ever done for North Korea?

    3)since you include non-socialist command economies, I should probably point out that South Korea became the technological powerhouse it is today precisely because of its command-capitalist system.

    And didn’t Japan do basically the same thing a decade or three earlier?

    And lastly: I didn’t chose the comparison between the 19th and 20th centuries; the libertarians who trotted out the argument that quality of life improved more in the 19th century because of less “socialist” policies did.

    …which is especially stupid of them, because the worse the quality of life is, the faster it can grow, and this holds twice for growth in relative numbers instead of absolute ones. It’s like how China, and Japan before it, had double-digit economic growth (in %) for decades.

  6. David Marjanović says:

    What has the Internet ever done for North Korea?

    More to the point, wasn’t the sale of the first CD player delayed by several years because of some format or copyright dispute? And what about video recorders, where the worse format outcompeted the better one?

  7. M Stirner says:

    “the worse the quality of life is, the faster it can grow”

    That comment is either silly or ignorant. There was little or no growth for thousands of years, despite the wonders of big government.

    The worse the quality of life is RELATIVE to the technology available from the most advanced countries AT THE TIME, the faster it can grow. Progress was slow in the 19th century, because the industrial revolution had to bootstrap itself (a VERY SLOW process) to get rolling.

    Despite the invention of the printing press, there was much slower progress in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

    Japan and South Korea were able to utilize already available technology – and often improve on it. No bootstrapping necessary. And CONTRARY to U.S. protectionist propaganda, the fastest growing export industries in Asian economies have been industries that the government has NOT subsidized.

    “most important improvements in the quality of life were government-funded, either by the US military or through research at various publicly funded institutions”

    The public sector, especially university research, loves to trot out this “factoid”. Unfortunately, the truth is pretty much the opposite.

    Where government research money goes is determined by politics, not economics. Precious few “quality of life” inventions have happened because of basic research. Much, much more frequently, inventions have spurred basic research.

    You CAN NOT do useful research in a vacuum. Technology almost always comes first and it is mostly trial and error. Ever hear the saying that invention is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration? Precious little of the inspiration comes from research. Research is mostly important to understand cutting edge technology, which may allow that technology to advance with LESS TRIAL AND ERROR.

    Maybe the worst part of government funding of research is that the sheer volume of it makes it very likely that any truly revolutionary results will be buried under mountains of garbage.

    It also drives “the best and the brightest” into doing research where the government money is, as opposed to doing something much more likely to be useful.

    I am puzzled at citing MILITARY RESEARCH as improving quality of life. Better torture techniques? Better crowd controlling chemicals? A faster, less painful H-bomb death?

    “not relevant to the argument of this post”

    It most certainly is relevant, since all actual countries are some MIXTURE of market and command economies. The more market, the better off. The more command, the worse off.

    Does a government bureaucrat wake up one morning and decide to invent the computer? Other than Al Gore, of course!

  8. Jadehawk says:

    That comment is either silly or ignorant. There was little or no growth for thousands of years, despite the wonders of big government.

    neither, you’re just not parsing it correctly. can != will. nonetheless, the principle of diminishing returns exists.

    Precious few “quality of life” inventions have happened because of basic research.

    dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.

    Technology almost always comes first and it is mostly trial and error.

    no, that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. just because the principles in question often precede the technology by decades doesn’t mean that the technology sprung into existence ex nihilo

    Maybe the worst part of government funding of research is that the sheer volume of it makes it very likely that any truly revolutionary results will be buried under mountains of garbage.

    I see you have absolutely no idea how research publication works.

    It also drives “the best and the brightest” into doing research where the government money is, as opposed to doing something much more likely to be useful.

    lol. double-lol, when compared where “the best and the brightest” in the private sphere go: to finance, where their brains are wasted on destroying wealth

    It should be noted that “grant research” is an American model. In other countries, funding is distributed differently.

    It most certainly is relevant, since all actual countries are some MIXTURE of market and command economies.

    social democracy != command economy. no-one except for you has mentioned command economies. this conversation is about mixed economies and the degree of mixing; not about command economies.

    The more market, the better off. The more command, the worse off.

    this, of course, is exactly backwards. On a whole host of social well-being indicators, the most social democracies do best, the anglo-saxon economies do worst, and the somewhat-mixed economies of central Europe are in the middle.

  9. M Stirner says:

    “I see you have absolutely no idea how research publication works”

    The one thing GETTING a PhD is good for is discovering the total uselessness of most academic research. Even in the mathematical sciences, which is where mine was.

    I am disgusted by the grotesque abuse of statistics by the non-mathematical sciences. The worst offender is probably the pharmaceutical industry, but ALMOST EVERYONE using statistics uses it deceitfully, often without even realizing it. If you’d like, I can cite examples ad nauseam, but unless you understand probability at least somewhat, it will be a waste of time.

    “social democracy != command economy. no-one except for you has mentioned command economies. this conversation is about mixed economies and the degree of mixing; not about command economies.”

    The argument from consensus is NOT a valid argument. Just because most people 1000 years ago thought the earth was the center of the universe did not mean that the earth was the center of the universe 1000 years ago.

    “On a whole host of social well-being indicators, the most social democracies do best, the anglo-saxon economies do worst, and the somewhat-mixed economies of central Europe are in the middle.”

    Social well-being indicators are an excellent example of abuse of statistics. Whatever your agenda, you pick the indicators that fit it.

    As for comparing the U.S. with places like Sweden – the over-riding difference – much more important than their “social welfare” differences – is that Sweden’s population is homogeneous, the U.S. is not vaguely close to that. Try comparing the white populations of the two countries and see who comes out way ahead.

    Systemic racism is government driven, not market driven, so it is not honest to compare total populations if trying to demonstrate a claimed superiority of government choices over market choices.

    “where “the best and the brightest” in the private sphere go: to finance, where their brains are wasted on destroying wealth”

    Finance – private sphere? What universe are you living in?

    Wall Street and the banking system are totally in bed with the U.S. government.

    1. You do realize that the banking system RUNS the Federal Reserve? Anyone who has a license to print money is NOT in the private sphere!

    2. Have you not noticed how the Federal Reserve manipulates the interest rate to jack up and try to keep jacked up the Stock Market?

    3. Lest I forget, those trillion dollar bailouts were from the GOVERNMENT.

    Private sphere, indeed.

    You don’t have much of a crap detector if you don’t QUESTION authority.

    Some of what you are taught is a parable [guide to how to live your life] that resembles the truth. A lot of what you are taught is mythology designed to make you be a good citizen sheep.

    Often the truth is almost the exact opposite of “conventional wisdom”. Do you realize that the early 20th century anti-trust legislation was overwhelmingly passed by the U.S. Senate (then mostly appointed by state legislatures, and very much in the pockets of big business) and that big business had pushed for the legislation?

    Why would big business want anti-trust legislation? Because that was the ONLY WAY THEY COULD MAKE THEIR CARTELS ACTUALLY WORK. By controlling the regulatory agencies (they made sure the right people got appointed), they could both punish those that broke the rules AND keep out new competition that would otherwise arise when too high prices created too easy profits.

  10. David Marjanović says:

    “the worse the quality of life is, the faster it can grow”

    That comment is either silly or ignorant. There was little or no growth for thousands of years, despite the wonders of big government.

    As Jadehawk correctly read, I wrote “can”, not “will”.

    The worse the quality of life is RELATIVE to the technology available from the most advanced countries AT THE TIME, the faster it can grow. Progress was slow in the 19th century, because the industrial revolution had to bootstrap itself (a VERY SLOW process) to get rolling.

    Fine with me; doesn’t contradict anything I said.

    Where government research money goes is determined by politics

    Wrong. Politics only determines how much money is given to research in general. Which grants are funded is decided by peer review.

    Precious few “quality of life” inventions have happened because of basic research. Much, much more frequently, inventions have spurred basic research.

    [citation needed]

    Why do we know about radio waves, never mind microwaves? Because some dude hidden in a German university in the late 19th century sat over the pure mathematics of the theory of electromagnetism, found that it predicted the existence of strange waves, and decided to look whether they really existed. Nobody expected any applicable results.

    Why does the iPod have so much storage space? Because another dude hidden in another German university in the early 20th century sat there thinking about the almost philosophical problem of why, given the fact that glowing objects radiate energy at all wavelengths, they don’t radiate infinite amounts of energy (a scenario called “the ultraviolet catastrophe”). This seemed like a totally absurd question – they can’t radiate infinite amounts of energy because they don’t have infinite amounts of energy, duh! –, and yet, it lacked a theoretically, mathematically, sound answer. The dude found one… and in the process laid the foundations of quantum physics.

    Should I go on?

    Technology almost always comes first and it is mostly trial and error.

    [citation needed]

    Ever hear the saying that invention is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration?

    Sure. What you overlook is that Edison isn’t representative. That’s why his career makes for such a good story: because it’s so unusual. Edison took well-understood principles, found practical applications, and then worked out the practical details by trial & error without contributing anything to the understanding of any principles. That’s not normal.

    Precious little of the inspiration comes from research.

    Don’t be ridiculous. Is there any biotech company that wasn’t founded by a university alumnus who tried to sell applications of his PhD thesis or other university-bound research?

    Research is mostly important to understand cutting edge technology

    It’s really rare that a technology is developed but nobody understands how it works. OK, it used to happen a lot with drugs (aspirin hit the market decades before it was understood how it works), but even that hardly happens anymore.

    Maybe the worst part of government funding of research is that the sheer volume of it makes it very likely that any truly revolutionary results will be buried under mountains of garbage.

    Two words for you: impact factor.

    “Maybe” my ass. Stop talking about things you don’t know anything about.

    It also drives “the best and the brightest” into doing research where the government money is,

    *blink*

    Money? What money?

    I’m a scientist. I applied for a postdoc in Zurich a few months ago. When I got a reply a month or two later, I was told the job didn’t exist anymore – the budget had been cut.

    Zurich.

    Fucking Switzerland.

    The country whose currency skyrocketed so quickly around the same time that its federal bank freaked out and threatened to just print money till the craziness stopped.

    It should be noted that “grant research” is an American model. In other countries, funding is distributed differently.

    Yep. Grants exist everywhere, but the US are unique in that there’s no other funding; US researchers waste a lot of time writing grant proposals that are like a scientific paper in size and amount of work but will never be cited*. Over here, university teachers, museum scientists and the like live off their salary and seek grants only for unusually large projects that their institution can’t finance alone.

    And while grants are indeed unusually large in the US (often 100,000 $/year), they pay for entire lab budgets, including the salaries of several PhD students, MSc students, technicians, equipment, materials, and so on and so forth. That’s not how it works elsewhere.

    * Funding agencies and employers measure the quality of a scientist by their number of citations or some proxy for it.

  11. David Marjanović says:

    The one thing GETTING a PhD is good for is discovering the total uselessness of most academic research.

    Dude, if it really took you doing a PhD to figure that out, you’re really remarkably slow. Most research will never have an application in the foreseeable future.

    The trick is we can’t tell in advance which research will have applications. That’s why it makes good sense to fund basic research just for the fun of it. Hey, most research is cheap.

    “social democracy != command economy. no-one except for you has mentioned command economies. this conversation is about mixed economies and the degree of mixing; not about command economies.”

    The argument from consensus is NOT a valid argument. Just because most people 1000 years ago thought the earth was the center of the universe did not mean that the earth was the center of the universe 1000 years ago.

    Please explain where there’s an argument from consensus anywhere in there. I can’t find it.

    Try comparing the white populations of the two countries

    Why would anyone do that?

    …unless one didn’t care about anyone who wasn’t white enough, I mean.

    …But let’s do it anyway. Considering only white people (whatever that exactly means), which is the country of the Working Poor? Which is the country where people can have 2 or even 3 jobs and still be poor in spite of earning 2 or 3 wages? Which is the country where illness can cause bankruptcy?

    Systemic racism is government driven, not market driven

    Systemic racism follows the golden rule: the ones with the gold make the rules. When racists have the gold, they’ll make the rules, and the government can do whatever it wants and won’t change anything.

    People participate in the market, not robots, not Borg, not even straw Vulcans.

    Wall Street and the banking system are totally in bed with the U.S. government.

    How about the other way around?

    If it were the way you say, where the fuck is the Tobin tax?

    Anyone who has a license to print money is NOT in the private sphere!

    And they’re MOST CERTAINLY not True Scotsmen!!1!!!11!

    2. Have you not noticed how the Federal Reserve manipulates the interest rate to jack up and try to keep jacked up the Stock Market?

    So what?

    3. Lest I forget, those trillion dollar bailouts were from the GOVERNMENT.

    And? We were talking about where the best & brightest go, in case you forgot.

    You don’t have much of a crap detector if you don’t QUESTION authority.

    Projection.

  12. Jadehawk says:

    The one thing GETTING a PhD is good for is discovering the total uselessness of most academic research. Even in the mathematical sciences, which is where mine was.

    which is a decidedly different thing from what you’ve claimed previously, and like David said, rather sad that it took you that long to discover that basic fact. Also, as both David and I have already said, most basic research that ultimately will have practical use eventually won’t do so until decades after the discovery (in the rare instances that’s not the case, the discovery makes you insta-famous). That’s why it can’t be done in the market; the market has no mechanism for thinking decades ahead, nor for the necessary but not “efficient” work of doing a lot of basic research.

    I am disgusted by the grotesque abuse of statistics by the non-mathematical sciences. The worst offender is probably the pharmaceutical industry, but ALMOST EVERYONE using statistics uses it deceitfully, often without even realizing it. If you’d like, I can cite examples ad nauseam, but unless you understand probability at least somewhat, it will be a waste of time.

    irrelevant to anything in this thread

    The argument from consensus is NOT a valid argument. Just because most people 1000 years ago thought the earth was the center of the universe did not mean that the earth was the center of the universe 1000 years ago.

    “argument from consensus”? are you talking to me or the people in your head? Because absolutely no one here mentioned consensus or came even close to committing an ad populum

    Try comparing the white populations of the two countries and see who comes out way ahead.

    still works the same, but of course with a smaller sample. also works the same for comparing immigrant-nations, such as Australia, Canada, and the US. In fact, while you can shift around data to make places like Australia and Canada look less bad, the US is such a massive outlier that nothing makes it look not-bad.

    Systemic racism is government driven, not market driven

    wrong; systemic racism is society driven, which includes ALL organizations within a society. Including those that participate in the market. That’s because the rational actor of classical economics is a fiction long-disproven by wads of behavioral economics research. The nonexistence of systemic racism in the market would require a market in which there are no people participating; that not being the case, systemic racism exists. But I bet you’re one of the clowns who hates the Civil Rights Act.

    so it is not honest to compare total populations if trying to demonstrate a claimed superiority of government choices over market choices.

    not an argument I’ve made, so not really worth addressing.

    Finance – private sphere? What universe are you living in?
    Wall Street and the banking system are totally in bed with the U.S. government.

    ownership of a government (not by a government) does not make something non-private, but nice No True Scotsman

    You don’t have much of a crap detector if you don’t QUESTION authority.

    I question all authorities, not just those an ideology tells me to question; and I accept data as an answer to those questions, instead of using the term “questioning” to mean “reject at all costs”.

    Some of what you are taught is a parable [guide to how to live your life] that resembles the truth. A lot of what you are taught is mythology designed to make you be a good citizen sheep.

    and what do you imagine “I’ve been taught”? Where do you imagine I’ve acquired the knowledge of socioeconomic systems that I possess?
    IOW, you’re stereotyping and strawmanning so hard, it’s funny.

    Often the truth is almost the exact opposite of “conventional wisdom”.

    sez the American “I hate the gubmint” dude. You’re awash in your own cultural conventional wisdoms and you don’t even notice

    Do you realize that the early 20th century anti-trust legislation was overwhelmingly passed by the U.S. Senate (then mostly appointed by state legislatures, and very much in the pockets of big business) and that big business had pushed for the legislation?

    irrelevant, actually. Not to mention that most of the laws I’ve mentioned here directly and indirectly were not liked by the businesses at all. Picking one or two for your precious narrative is cute, but ultimately not relevant to the effects described in this post.

    Incidentally I do love me the “anti-trust legislation keeps out new competition” myth. Love it to bits for its incoherence.

  13. M Stirner says:

    “I do love me the “anti-trust legislation keeps out new competition” myth. Love it to bits for its incoherence.”

    It does sound totally stupid, doesn’t it? Therefore you shouldn’t be bothered to check whether it is true or a myth.

    The problem with KNOWING you have the answer is that it shuts down thought. Don’t you ever wonder if your fore-gone conclusion might be off?

    Through licensing and other laws and a mountain of onerous rules and regulations, anti-trust legislation (actually the regulatory agencies that are created by the legislation) erects barriers to entry that typically only very large corporations can hurdle – and even they can’t in some cases.

    If the anti-trust laws actually did what most people think they do, how come only with DEREGULATION was AT&T’s monopoly finally broken?

    Regulation protected AT&T’s monopoly. It kept out ALL competition (there were some small towns that had a local carrier, so AT&T and the government could pretend otherwise).

    Incoherent comment? If you say so.

    Gabriel Kolko has written an entire book on this subject called “The Triumph of Conservatism”. If you aren’t too sure of yourself, you might enjoy it.

    I assume you see that, for example, the Republican Party makes up “facts” to fit their agenda. Can you or can you not see that those whose agenda you agree with ALSO make up “facts”, that almost EVERYONE plays fast and loose with the facts (if they think they can get away with it) to fit their agenda?

    Most everyone thinks that “their side” is MUCH more honest. LOL.

    It is natural to REJECT out of hand “facts” that go against one’s agenda (or world view); it is equally natural to be largely UNCRITICAL about “facts” that fit it.

    I toss out (pun intended) my [sometimes half-baked] thoughts to force me to continue examining [and gradually change] the way I see the world. It is a never-ending process.

    Make fun of what I say all you want. A dose of that is always useful.

    Since each of my replies seem to double the number of critical comments, I can’t reply to all of them.

  14. M Stirner says:

    Wall Street and the banking system are totally in bed with the U.S. government.

    “How about the other way around?
    If it were the way you say, where the fuck is the Tobin tax?”

    I’m confused. What is the difference between saying “Al is in bed with Bo” and saying “Bo is in bed with Al”? Where I come from they mean EXACTLY the same thing. Is there something peculiar about Australian, British, Canadian or some other version of English for this grammatical construction?

    If Wall Street and the banking system are controlling some of the functions of the government, this DE FACTO makes them part of the government. This makes it a [fascist or maybe corporate, as opposed to socialist] COMMAND economy component in the U.S. mixed economy.

  15. M Stirner says:

    You don’t have much of a crap detector if you don’t QUESTION authority.

    I question all authorities, not just those an ideology tells me to question; and I accept data as an answer to those questions, instead of using the term “questioning” to mean “reject at all costs”.

    Some of what you are taught is a parable [guide to how to live your life] that resembles the truth. A lot of what you are taught is mythology designed to make you be a good citizen sheep.

    and what do you imagine “I’ve been taught”? Where do you imagine I’ve acquired the knowledge of socioeconomic systems that I possess?
    IOW, you’re stereotyping and strawmanning so hard, it’s funny.

    Hm. You assumed I was talking about you. I was using the word “you” in the sense of “one”, which I try not to use too often, because it sounds rather stilted. I would not presume to know that much about you.

  16. Jadehawk says:

    It does sound totally stupid, doesn’t it? Therefore you shouldn’t be bothered to check whether it is true or a myth.

    assumption not supported by evidence, but nice strawmanning

    The problem with KNOWING you have the answer is that it shuts down thought. Don’t you ever wonder if your fore-gone conclusion might be off?

    this, from an American libertarian? you’re precious, with your projections. again, this very much goes back to your assumptions about where my knowledge comes from.

    Most everyone thinks that “their side” is MUCH more honest. LOL.

    again with the assumptions. just who do you imagine is on “my side” in the US?

    I was using the word “you” in the sense of “one”, which I try not to use too often, because it sounds rather stilted.

    it’s also more accurate; accuracy is not an elitist statist conspiracy, I promise

  17. Jadehawk says:

    I cannot fathom why anyone would bring AT&T into this discussion. AT&T’s entire history is one of one anti-trust issue after another, all under the 1890 Sherman Act, and every single one only temporary. or do you think AT&T isn’t back to being a monopoly again, at least for large swaths oft the country?

    anyway, all AT&T is is an argument against allowing for-profits to be responsible for extensive infrastructure networks

  18. David Marjanović says:

    Through licensing and other laws and a mountain of onerous rules and regulations, anti-trust legislation (actually the regulatory agencies that are created by the legislation) erects barriers to entry that typically only very large corporations can hurdle – and even they can’t in some cases.

    Licensing, regulation etc. are parts of anti-trust legislation in the US? That’s strange. I can’t see any logical connection between them.

    Gabriel Kolko has written an entire book on this subject called “The Triumph of Conservatism”.

    Ah, yeah, America, the land where you’re called conservative if you want to destroy the state instead of, you know, conserving it.

    By the measures of the rest of the world, the conservative party of the USA is the Democratic Party. The Republican combination of ultraconservative social policies and ultraliberal economic policies is really hard to find elsewhere.

    each of my replies seem to double the number of critical comments

    I know you don’t mean to, but what you’re doing here amounts to a mild case of a Gish gallop. Dealing with all the half-truths and falsehoods you pump out takes time and space.

    We’ve even started to leave out the inconsequential ones. For instance, did you mean to say that “parable” means “guide how to live your life”? That’s not at all the case. “Parable” means “symbolic story in which the characters stand for real people or real groups of people and the plot symbolizes something that happens or is prophesied to happen in reality”. Literally, it means “understatement”, related to hyperbole, “overstatement”.

    I’m confused. What is the difference between saying “Al is in bed with Bo” and saying “Bo is in bed with Al”?

    Context strongly suggested that you meant Wall Street does the government’s bidding. I said it’s the other way around.

    When I started writing scientific papers, the first thing my thesis supervisor told me was (paraphrasing): “You will be misunderstood – by someone, somewhere, sometime –, so it’s your responsibility to minimize the number of opportunities for misunderstandings.”

    And not that it matters, but my mother tongue isn’t English in the first place. :-)

    If Wall Street and the banking system are controlling some of the functions of the government, this DE FACTO makes them part of the government.

    OK, fine.

    This makes it a [fascist or maybe corporate, as opposed to socialist] COMMAND economy component in the U.S. mixed economy.

    ~:-|

    Wall Street is a command economy?

    what

    Hm. You assumed I was talking about you. I was using the word “you” in the sense of “one”, which I try not to use too often, because it sounds rather stilted. I would not presume to know that much about you.

    As I just wrote: you will be misunderstood, so it’s your responsibility to minimize the number of opportunities for it.

  19. M Stirner says:

    “assumption not supported by evidence, but nice strawmanning”
    “this, from an American libertarian? you’re precious, with your projections. again, this very much goes back to your assumptions about where my knowledge comes from.”
    “again with the assumptions. just who do you imagine is on “my side” in the US?”
    “it’s also more accurate; accuracy is not an elitist statist conspiracy, I promise”

    You like playing semantic games. I don’t, after a while it becomes old.

    You assume an awful lot about my supposed assumptions.

    I certainly NEVER assumed you grew up in the U.S. Your attitude seems like European snobbery, however I have never assumed that that is what it is. Much as I dislike American boosterism, given a choice I prefer it.

    European or American, we can all benefit from a bit of humility.

    “anyway, all AT&T is is an argument against allowing for-profits to be responsible for extensive infrastructure networks”

    Don’t try to argue about something you do not understand. It doesn’t flatter you. Here is one example of the effect of DEREGULATION, as opposed to anti-trust:

    >>>
    When long distance opened to competition in the 1980s, Sprint immediately seized the opportunity. By 1986, Sprint led all U.S. telecom companies by completing the first nationwide, 100% digital, fiber-optic network. At the same time, the company was a pioneer in data communications, establishing the world’s third largest commercial packet data network in 1980.

    “I cannot fathom why anyone would bring AT&T into this discussion. AT&T’s entire history is one of one anti-trust issue after another, all under the 1890 Sherman Act, and every single one only temporary. or do you think AT&T isn’t back to being a monopoly again, at least for large swaths of the country?”

    As a “regulated” monopoly, AT&T was allowed a certain rate of return. This meant the more efficient they were, the less money they would make. This is the type of perverse incentive that existed under anti-trust. Periodically, the government would file an anti-trust suit against AT&T, which was always settled for a TINY fraction of AT&T’s profits. The government was thus able to placate the phone users / voters and AT&T certainly wasn’t complaining. The lawsuits were for show, they HAD NO REAL EFFECT. Not surprising.

    A myth [like anti-trust] repeated often enough may be believed, but it is still a myth.

    “parable” means “guide how to live your life”

    If you thought I meant it literally, you wouldn’t be responding.

    “Context strongly suggested that you meant Wall Street does the government’s bidding. I said it’s the other way around.”

    Making assumptions? That’s what I keep getting accused of. But I guess here it’s “context”.

    “Wall Street is a command economy?”

    To the extent that the prices of stocks as a GROUP are manipulated by the Federal Reserve, to the benefit of those working on Wall Street. The manipulation doesn’t always work as desired, witness the last several years or the 1929 crash, for examples.

    “As I just wrote: you will be misunderstood, so it’s your responsibility to minimize the number of opportunities for it.”

    Not necessarily. If you want someone to ENGAGE what you have to say, as opposed to MINDLESSLY absorbing it, it is useful to be SLIGHTLY obtuse.

    But maybe that just means you shouldn’t gloss over any difficulties.

    Anything profound enough, complicated enough, has to be struggled with.

    Of course, something being obtuse doesn’t [necessarily] make it profound.

  20. Jadehawk says:

    You like playing semantic games.

    no, I’m amusing myself at your expense

    I certainly NEVER assumed you grew up in the U.S.

    that’s not actually the point of any of these questions; it has not yet happened that someone has thought I was an American on this blog. Nonetheless, you made sweeping statements that assumed a very narrow range of possible sources of information and allegiance.

    Don’t try to argue about something you do not understand.

    this, from the guy who was whining about basic research earlier. still precious.

    If you want someone to ENGAGE what you have to say, as opposed to MINDLESSLY absorbing it, it is useful to be SLIGHTLY obtuse.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    no, being deepity does not lead anyone to honest engagement.

    Incidentally, do you think you actually said anything about AT&T I didn’t already know? quite quite precious.

  21. M Stirner says:

    To David and Jadehawk.

    What a burden it must be to have so much wisdom at such a relatively young age.

    Good luck with your lives.

  22. David Marjanović says:

    Periodically, the government would file an anti-trust suit against AT&T, which was always settled for a TINY fraction of AT&T’s profits. The government was thus able to placate the phone users / voters and AT&T certainly wasn’t complaining.

    So you’re actually complaining that the anti-trust laws were not strong enough?

    If you thought I meant it literally, you wouldn’t be responding.

    *blink*

    What?

    Of course I would. If you meant it literally, you were wrong on the Internet.

    Making assumptions? That’s what I keep getting accused of. But I guess here it’s “context”.

    Trying to deny all responsibility for writing clearly enough. I see.

    the prices of stocks as a GROUP are manipulated by the Federal Reserve

    Please explain.

    Not necessarily. If you want someone to ENGAGE what you have to say, as opposed to MINDLESSLY absorbing it, it is useful to be SLIGHTLY obtuse.

    Please do explain.

    Do you perhaps mean “skeptical” instead of “obtuse”?

    this, from the guy who was whining about basic research earlier. still precious.

    He’s probably forgotten about all that stuff. Or he hopes we’ve forgotten because he was clever enough to change the topic again. His complete lack of responses to those points can be explained either way…

    What a burden it must be to have so much wisdom at such a relatively young age.

    :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D :-D

    Worst case of sour grapes I’ve ever encountered!!! I can’t stop smiling…

    Good luck with your lives.

    Why, thank you.

  23. Jadehawk says:

    So you’re actually complaining that the anti-trust laws were not strong enough?

    no, he’s complaining about enforcement. but yeah, the breakup he’s taking about happened under the Sherman Antitrust Law or 1890, which, no, has nothing to do with regulation or licensing or any of that shit; it’s lumping completely different things together

    what happened with AT&T was actually that after they created* this extensive communications network, it was declared a matter of national security, first during WWII and then during the Cold War. so they didn’t have the nerve to break it up into chunks that were meant to compete with each other, lest they again refuse to connect people from competing networks and other such hijinx from the early ages of telephony; this being the US, they of course also didn’t have the guts to just declare it a public property or at least a utility, so that would have been simply one of the first versions of the idiotic “privatize profit, socialize risk”, “too big to fail” method of running things

    Do you perhaps mean “skeptical” instead of “obtuse”?

    no, he probably meant obscure**. From what he actually wrote, he seems to think unclear statements confuse enough that people don’t just soak up the statement thoughtlessly, but rather are forced to contemplate it. It’s just not how brains work. When faced with an ambiguous statement the brain simply removes the ambiguity; what you want is a glaring (seeming) contradiction or (seeming) nonsensicality about something that should make sense, which then makes you go “wait, what?”
    And then you use the socratic method of getting the person to think about the contradiction/nonsensicality.

    But that only works with someone who habitually expresses themselves very clearly, so that any nonsensicality/contradiction cannot be simply interpreted as deepity non-statements or word salad

    – – – – – – – – – – –
    *I suppose “be responsible for” can be read as “create”, so I won’t fault Stirner for misreading me as saying I don’t think for-profits can/should create infrastructure. But that’s of course not what I meant, I was talking about running it. Generally, when a company creates infrastructure where none existed, they make themselves a monopoly (or they’re unsuccessful or rarely, you get competitors who are evenly matched, and you get a patchwork of non-compatible systems; but that’s a different issue), and then you have to figure out what to do with it. See also: Net Neutrality

    **Though “obtuse” would work if he had been talking about using the socratic method of asking rather than telling, and while that would just be a massive non sequitur in relation to what we were saying, that hasn’t stopped him before either.

  24. Jadehawk says:

    I meant to do that before he flounced, but oh well.

    on the topic of those precious fiber optics that wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Sprint:

    the physical principle behind them is medieval, but the first applications were developed by people like Tyndall(1820 – 1893), who worked as a physicist at German and British universities, and Heinrich Lamm, a medical student in the 1930’s.
    There was a period where not much was done with fiber-optics because it all seemed to fall under a patent established by two engineers/inventors (of the type Stirner claims are responsible for technological progress) in the 20’s for transmission of images along hollow pipes/transparent rods. It took until the mid 1950’s until anything more happened, and it happened as the result of a scientist* at the Technical University of Delft publishing his work on reducing light-loss due with specialized cladding material, which was published in Nature, and two other scientists from the Imperial College in London who also worked on coherent bundles, invented the fiberscope, and published “Wave Theory of Abberation” in Science (other papers on this topic were apparently published in Nature). These three (Abraham van Heel, Harold Hopkins, and Narinder Kapany) were physicists who worked at universities and published in peer-reviewed journals; and they’re considered the founders of modern fiber optics.
    Then followed a period of tinkering by assorted students, physicists and physicians (and inventors) to develop fiberoptics for medical use. It took the invention of the laser to be able to use fiberoptics in communications. Primary work on masers and lasers was done by Charles Townes, a physicist and educator; and Arthur Schawlow, another physicist; both are Nobel Prize Laureates for Physics, and both published a lot of their work in scientific journals. The actual development of the first laser was by Gordon Gould, a doctoral student at Columbia University in 1958, and independently by the engineer and physicist Maiman while doing R&D for a private company in 1960; the last step, the gas laser, was developed at Bell Labs and other R&D departments of telecommunication companies** (though, even the stuff developed in privately owned R&D departments was often published in various engineering journals). Cables capable of proper long-distance transmission showed up, IIRC, just at the end of the 70’s or the beginning of the 80’s, so just in time to be implemented by Sprint.

    So anyway. Technology. It totes precedes theoretical research; and public universities, research, and peer-reviewed journals are worthless.

    – – – – – – – – – –

    *who apparently was also co-responsible for developing one of the first electronic computers, called “Turtle”; which I didn’t know. Neat.

    **oh, hey, and apparently at a physics research facility in Leningrad(!)

  25. Paul says:

    If you just implemented a filter that would DELETE posts that contain randomly CAPITALIZED words, you wouldn’t have to deal with the cliche American libertarian.

  26. David Marjanović says:

    Thanks for all the information! :-)

    no, he probably meant obscure

    …by which you mean opaque, right? :-]

    **oh, hey, and apparently at a physics research facility in Leningrad(!)

    :-D

  27. Jadehawk says:

    by which you mean opaque, right? :-]

    AFAIK, obscure means both “relatively unknown” and “not readily understood or clearly expressed”

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