Sunday, May 31, 2015

A Great Debate

Who is closest to the Truth?

Charles Stross.

Or David Brin.

1 comment:

Bubba Muntzer said...


I should leave it at that.

Sometimes I think like Brin the optimist. At least I see the point. Civilization relentlessly advancing, the long list of achievements in governance and so on. There are troubling signs, yes, but if we pull together we can overcome anything. He doesn't chart a path but that's really hard to do so a lot of his argument is just that he has faith in human nature. The progress he's seen gives him even more. Women gaining rights, Chinese children with fat bellies.

Let me insert that he tries to cast it as optimism and pessimism. I'd say it's necessarily an either or proposition. There's not just optimism and pessimism. There's optimism, pessimism, and realism. What's actually happening.

Women get rights, and use them to oppress other women, as per Carly Fiorina, Fox New babes, Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton and like minded Democrats, one can make the case for but Iron Maggie, who probably did as much to oppress living standards worldwide than any other single person, is enough. In China millions have been forced off their small farms so there will be the supply of cheap labor Chinese State Capitalism needs to survive. It's not that clear whether the Chinese peasantry is better off. Their pensions have been eliminated, they die earlier, they lost their land and their gardens and live in squalid work camps. There are thousands of unreported strikes every year in China, which the government ruthlessly suppresses.

Brin's ideal free market Capitalism isn't going to happen, either. It's going ot be more toward the other side, a rigged system.

Those kinds of facts don't necessarily negate Brin's argument, but he hasn't countered the realism put forth by Charles Stross, which doesn't really go far enough, failing to mention that the western Capitalism/post Enlightenment advances leading to Brin's diamond shaped society were made because and only because there were millions of enslaved, and dead Africans, and civilizations were practically wiped out because their lands and resources were stolen.

That kind of "productivity gain" is called by Marx "primitive accumulation," and it's necessary for Capitalism to continue. We either have to keep finding new resources, and markets, or run out of them, according to Marxian analysis. Brin's arc of progress might be limited by this factor.

Or it might not. Someone might think of something. It's possible. But talk of winning "the war of memes" is just whistling in the dark, in my not so humble opinion.

I look at it this way. Knowing what we know about Capitalism, we can keep trying Capitalism, and see what happens, or try something else that may well result in more people living better lives, and see what happens.

We have nothing to lose, as the man said, but our chains, and credit card bills and 40 hour work weeks and global warming, which Capitalism even this fantasy of a green Capitalism is inherently unable to solve.