Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/#9a417fe513f58988c3b5b1e84cfc57397194a79b 2020-04-04T16:00:36Z Ran Prieur http://ranprieur.com/ ranprieur@gmail.com April 4. http://ranprieur.com/#9557f8793e6feabe5b9e790ffb17ab18f4e07d98 2020-04-04T16:00:36Z April 4. Yesterday's post was a bit dramatic. It's hard to not get caught up in this stuff. It's like in Star Trek, when they come to some messed up planet, and they're just supposed to observe and not intervene. Except none of us have a starship -- the reason we can't intervene is that we have no participation in power.

Linked from weird collapse, an interesting argument about comparative competence under Coronavirus, that there's a strong correlation between countries that are handling it well, and countries that have been recently destroyed: Vietnam, Korea, Germany, Japan. "The first generation builds, the second generation manages, and the third generation wastes and takes it for granted because they've never known anything else."

I'm so tired of being serious. I'm sure I'll get back to it next week, but for the rest of the weekend, here's a fun video: Doctopus - Wobbegong.

April 3. http://ranprieur.com/#aac816cded89c7daf6f5cbbe816fce520f4a7cce 2020-04-03T15:50:19Z April 3. I keep thinking about how Trump is more popular than the media. Neither one of them are doing their job. Trump's job is to manage the federal government in the interests of the American people, and when you look at his actions, he's doing everything he can to help Coronavirus kill as many of us as possible, while remaining popular enough to keep destroying America for a second term.

I'm not saying he's wrong. Maybe America needs to be destroyed.

Meanwhile, the job of the media is to give us the information to make our own decisions, and what they're doing instead, is treating us like sheep, preaching at us about what to do, with the goal of saving the most lives.

But that's not their decision to make. I wonder how many of us are secretly cheering for the virus. How many of us cheer for earthquakes and hurricanes, even when they're nearby? They make life more interesting, and maybe they kill you, and either way you don't have to go to work tomorrow.

I'm envious of the countries that have handled this well, like Taiwan and South Korea. As an American, I can't imagine what it's like to have everyone put trust in public institutions, and have them earn that trust. Matt writes:

I wonder what it will take for the people of the United States to stop seeing the British Empire in their own government. Our founding mythos is steeped in rebellion and so there's a tendency, I think, for Americans to define themselves in terms of the rebel. If you think of yourself as a rebel, then there has to be a shadow king.

April 2. http://ranprieur.com/#edc6e0a309bce1a50d9962e31e170525634ad2d2 2020-04-02T14:40:38Z April 2. I was planning to take the day off, but I just wrote some stuff over email that I think is worth posting. Yesterday, when I said Utopia doesn't have the concept of freeloading, I didn't fill in any details. But that's actually been done. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Hunters and Gatherers mentions tribes where some people do no productive work their whole lives, and nobody cares. The reason they don't care is, their society is built completely out of activities that people find intrinsically enjoyable. Obviously not every tribe has done it, but even if it's just one, that tells us that it's possible. Then our challenge is to do it at a high level of technology.

This is not something Bernie Sanders can do -- it's hundreds of years in the future, or thousands. It requires a system built from the bottom up with zero coercion, so that jobs that nobody wants to do don't exist in the first place. But I think a UBI would move us in the right direction, by giving workers more leverage to make their job environments more enjoyable.

New subject. Coronavirus polling shows that most Americans approve of Trump and disapprove of the media. I see only one way to make sense of this: most Americans would rather feel confident through a million deaths, than feel scared through a thousand. Trump's supporters think empathy is something you reserve for people you know personally, and the president's job is to maintain the mystique of authority.

April 1. http://ranprieur.com/#97ac5af79e8ef8703ac353aaf27b617f28191439 2020-04-01T13:30:34Z April 1. Following up on economics, I mentioned Piketty and Graeber, two guys who are good at explaining the larger context outside of what the present economy takes for granted, to its ruin. Here's a Thomas Piketty interview with some thoughts on Coronavirus, and a review of his new magnum opus, Capital and Ideology. The key quote:

The discourse of meritocracy and entrepreneurship often seems to serve primarily as a way for the winners in today's economy to justify any level of inequality whatsoever while peremptorily blaming the losers for lacking talent, virtue, and diligence.

And a blog post about David Graeber's ideas, Bullshit Jobs in an age of Coronavirus. The author doesn't explicitly support an unconditional basic income, but it's pretty clear, if "bullshit jobs have turned into a sort of 'workfare' for the educated classes," then it would be better to just give money to every class, so we can at least do useless stuff that we enjoy.

Also, linked from the weird collapse subreddit, a piece about collapse from the bottom: "Collapse of this kind means that we are undernourishing and impoverishing the weakest things around us... But that is exactly what capitalism and neoliberalism say we should do."

A nice trick for understanding economics is to factor out money. An economy is just a bunch of people doing stuff that keeps the system going. The strength of an economy is the overlap between what's necessary to keep it going, and what people want to do anyway. By this definition, a weak economy has to threaten people with hunger and homelessness to get them to do their jobs, and at the other extreme, Utopia doesn't even have the concept of freeloading.

Then it's just a matter of distribution, getting stuff to people who aren't making stuff. Communism tried it through central management, which didn't work, and capitalism is trying it through money, which is now also failing. I think the failure of capitalism is a slip between two functions of money: 1) a mechanism of exchange, and 2) a source of the meaning of life.

The problem is, money is zero-sum. If you hang meaning on it, then meaning is zero-sum, and it gets sucked up by people at the top. The poor become NPC's in the quests of the rich.

That system is now breaking down. Human motivation is the most powerful force on the planet, and as the economy collapses, there is more and more human motivation languishing, waiting to be tapped.