QOTW: Buckminster Fuller

We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. … We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. … The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living. R. Buckminster Fuller 1970

Comments:

  1. Thanks for the Kipling. There's nothing new under the sun, and he said it better and earlier ...

    "we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things"

    "In the Carboniferous Epoch we were promised abundance for all,
    By robbing selected Peter to pay for collective Paul"

    Much better to read the original though ...

  2. I'm not sure what you think Kipling means by this.

    I think it's pretty much unimaginative anticommunism. Although what Bucky Fuller said (and what I write on similar subjects) could be read as naive Marxism, that's not what I'm advocating and I don't think it's what Fuller is saying either.

    What I mean is something like this.

    I appreciate the friendship of some in the upper crust that is part aristocratic and part meritocratic both in Canada and in their old country, but my appreciation of the English aristocracy is not wholehearted to say the least.

    Anyway, I hate to be negative, but frankly, I loathe Kipling. So quoting him is no way to win me over.

    Orwell on Kipling:

    He identified himself with the ruling power and not with the opposition. In a gifted writer this seems to us strange and even disgusting, but it did have the advantage of giving Kipling a certain grip on reality. The ruling power is always faced with the question, 'In such and such circumstances, what would you do?', whereas the opposition is not obliged to take responsibility or make any real decisions. Where it is a permanent and pensioned opposition, as in England, the quality of its thought deteriorates accordingly. Moreover, anyone who starts out with a pessimistic, reactionary view of life tends to be justified by events, for Utopia never arrives and 'the gods of the copybook headings', as Kipling himself put it, always return. Kipling sold out to the British governing class, not financially but emotionally. This warped his political judgement, for the British ruling class were not what he imagined, and it led him into abysses of folly and snobbery, but he gained a corresponding advantage from having at least tried to imagine what action and responsibility are like. It is a great thing in his favour that he is not witty, not 'daring', has no wish to épater les bourgeois. He dealt largely in platitudes, and since we live in a world of platitudes, much of what he said sticks.

    and amen to that.

  3. I can't even begin to respond to somebody who "loathes" Kipling. Like with Candide's ditty on "all's for the best in this best of all possible worlds," Kipling is part of my childhood experience and interwoven with who I became when I was younger, having been brought up with the the Jungle Book and other material. I understand about the elitist outsider racist thing common to Anglo-Indians; Orwell sums it up nicely; there are other narratives about him that don't quite fit here. Given the emotion involved (loathing is pretty strong, and childhood attachments are also emotional) it's hardly worth going off on each other about it. I can take the content and ignore the source; can you?

    What go my attention, as I found this poem outside the norm of what I remember, was that in 1919 the marketing enterprise was identified as redirecting people's attention towards artificial standards. My two quotes say something I find important. Willard's comment about Francis Bacon cited the Summer Open Thread brings up another inherent conflict between exploitation and sustainable use which is now reaching an intolerable endgame of me first trashing the future.

    What really got my attention is that these ideas and arguments are not new.

  4. Sigh, what "got" my attention, but I wouldn't return if that was all.

    I also wanted to indicate that I was going on what the words said to me, not what I can find out about what Kipling meant, but what I think about them. I am not steeped enough in academics, and like my meanings as direct as possible.

    I was also surprised and pleased to get this from Dr. Connolley, whose thought appears not at all limited, even if he likes his arguments tart.

  5. Chasing memory, I found this (author, Elizabeth Kolbert) which encapsulates some of my discomfort with Buckminster Fuller, who was a fixture in my youth. He was much lionized, and full of peculiar as well as brilliant ideas.

    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/06/09/dymaxion-man

    You may . . . want to ask me how we are going to resolve the ever-accelerating dangerous impasse of world-opposed politicians and ideological dogmas,” he observed at one point. “I answer, it will be resolved by the computer.” On the other hand, he rejected fundamental tenets of modern science, most notably evolution. “We arrived from elsewhere in Universe as complete human beings,” he maintained. He further insisted that humans had spread not from Africa but from Polynesia, and that dolphins were descended from these early, seafaring earthlings.

    "Although he looked to nature as the exemplar of efficient design, he was not terribly interested in the natural world, and mocked those who warned about problems like resource depletion and overpopulation. “When world realization of its unlimited wealth has been established there as yet will be room for the whole of humanity to stand indoors in greater New York City, with more room for each human than at an average cocktail party,” he wrote. He envisioned cutting people off from the elements entirely by building domed cities, which, he claimed, would offer free climate control, winter and summer. “A two-mile-diameter dome has been calculated to cover Mid-Manhattan Island, spanning west to east at 42nd Street,” he observed. “The cost saving in ten years would pay for the dome. Domed cities are going to be essential to the occupation of the Arctic and the Antarctic.” As an alternative, he developed a plan for a tetrahedral city, which was intended to house a million people and float in Tokyo Bay.

    He also envisioned what he called Cloud Nines, communities that would dwell in extremely lightweight spheres, covered in a polyethylene skin. As the sun warmed the air inside, Fuller claimed, the sphere and all the buildings within it would rise into the air, like a balloon. “Many thousands of passengers could be housed aboard one-mile-diameter and larger cloud structures,” he wrote. In the late seventies, Fuller took up with Werner Erhard, the controversial founder of the equally controversial est movement, and the pair set off on a speaking tour across America. Fuller championed, and for many years adhered to, a dietary regimen that consisted exclusively of prunes, tea, steak, and Jell-O.

  6. Fascinating! And I think Kolbert is the best writer on the environmental beat, especially since David Roberts wandered off.

    But I think Bucky is right on this point. And his "utopia or oblivion" (title of a book he wrote) framing seems to me to make sense. At some pint "muddling through" (as I was taught was the English Way) just fails. We have no choice but to think big, I suspect.

    I don't like to say or believe this but... it's hard to see the next two centuries proceding smoothly and continuously from the present. Something's got to give. It's up to us what that is.

    ---

    As for Kipling, he meant nothing to me as a child. Hypocritical and arrogant English colonialism is not my favorite thing, and whatever Jungle Book really is like (I have no idea) this particular bit of doggerel fits right in with the sort of conservatism that is just protection of privilege that I associate with colonials.

    Everywhere you turn (Quebec, Palestine, Iraq, Bangladesh) you ase the detritus of the shabby arrogance of the Empire. So, no, I don't enjoy this smug defense of the status quo.

    This is tapping a deep reservoir of anger in me that people with more ordinary North American perspective won't share so perhaps it had best stay buried. So I will not defend my loathing. Suffice to to say that this smarmy bit of doggerel did not sway me one iota from the idea of public guarantees of necessities.

  7. So, in my usual way, I'll miss the broader ideas and deep philosophy and focus on the trivialities. But how in Heaven's name are the people who do the things that enable everyone to eat, for example, going to be convinced that it's ok to feed and clothe me while I noodle on my guitar, surf the web, write poetry, and think deep thoughts (assuming that I could think such thoughts)?

    Is the vision of, for example, food production that robotic factories will produce and ship robotic combines on robotic trucks to fields where they'll harvest food to be robotically packed and delivered to me? Even then, someone is writing the software, performing the maintenance, doing the upgrades, etc. If not, I guess we've reached the singularity and all bets are off anyway.

    Will cotton be harvested robotically to be shipped to robot clothing manufacturers which will make my clothes and ship them via drones to my front door?

    Will a robotic ambulance come to my house to take me to a hospital where I'll be scanned by a set of tricorders, diagnosed by an AI robodoctor and operated on by a robotic surgeon? Again, who will do the work above?

    Will the system you envision have such feedbacks that there will be exactly the right number of people who enjoy doing what must be done as much as I enjoy noodling on my guitar, surfing the web, and thinking deep thoughts to do those things? What if there aren't? What if it turns out that everyone enjoys laying at the beach or skiing or immersing themselves in virtual sex or engaging in real sex and would just as soon not do things that require hard effort to make it possible for everyone else not to need to exert any?

    I'm sorry, but such a scenario will, it seems to me, require reprogramming of humans more than machines unless you postulate that no humans will be necessary to do any grunt work (by "grunt work" I don't refer specifically to manual labor, but rather those things still needing to be done to feed us, clothe us, make our musical instruments and our paints, etc.). If not, those who must punch a metaphorical time clock are pretty likely to develop resentments.

    At the moment I do ok and, rightly or wrongly, don't consider myself to be a niggardly person. But much of my work isn't especially fun (though some is just fine, thanks) and I probably put in 60 hours per week. I like being "productive" but, even still, I'm capable of nursing resentments regarding others, even in my family, who do no work but sit around pretending to make hip hop music on Garage Band, watching sports on flat screen TVs, and smoking weed in vape devices. Do you think that I'm exceptional in this regard? I doubt it.

    The alternative is a retreat to where everyone is responsible (at least everyone's tribal group) for producing that which they need but I doubt that that's your vision.

    Perhaps such a scenario could be worked out in a "system dynamics" model and you could tell me how the balancing act could be accomplished without people who had to spend time doing what they don't enjoy so that the rest of us could enjoy being creative and contemplative saying "f this."

  8. I thought that was a quality rant! Some random thoughts back. It isn't about whether automation can take over every single production task or whether there still needs to be a race of Gamma/Delta/Epsilons to do the drudge. The issue's about where the benefits of automation go.

    The obvious historical comparison is the whopping shift in farming production (graph for American % of the labour force in agriculture 1840 to 2000, goes from ~70% to ~2%) through a combination of new energy sources and automation - still needing humans, but vastly less.

    My basic point there being that the robot world you're describing would only be an extension of automation processes that have already transformed the planet, the economy and people's lives. The disrupted workers might be different this time (cf. Krugman) but the principle hasn't changed. It's still all about where the efficiency gains go.

    The outcome of the farming revolution was a massive Cambrian Explosion of economic diversity (see also Engel's Law) as ~30% became ~98% making stuff other than food. But the Buckminster Fuller quote asks an entirely sensible question about that: is it / should it be an economically immutable law that as efficiency increases, people's time should just be rechannelled into more and more diverse outputs? Where is it written that time given to production must stay constant and the production frontier must always be pushed out into new goods?

    One might argue we've benefited from that explosion of goods. I think that's true. But society didn't consciously chose that path. It's fair to question whether we might want a more conscious steer (and whether we can get it).

    Looked at from another angle: see this lovely visualisation of US hours worked? That's not a natural law either, is the only point I wanted to make. They're the result of sometimes very violent fights between labour and capital (now more often ritualised/legalised fights). If no-one had fought, we'd all still be working seven days a week all day and so would our children. So clearly someone wanted more time and freedom and I'm glad for my sake they fought for it.

    Maybe I'm reading the quote differently. I don't see him saying that people should stop working altogether, immediately - he's just questioning the assumption that any spare capacity introduced by technology should get sucked up by further economic activity.

    Your point about the fairness of the distribution of jobs that remain is fair. The kneejerk rightwing economist answer is "sewage workers will be paid hansomely in a world of highly trained workers because no-one will want to do it - so someone will, for the right price." That's obviously bollocks with a little sprinkling of truth, since it misses the point that inequality is built into the nervous system of globalisation. But that seems like a different fight: I can imagine a world where people doing paid work have made that choice entirely voluntarily (like economics tells us they all already do) where others have decided their time's better spent making bad hip hop on Garage Band. But we'd have to do a massive amount to address inequality before that kind of world could exist.

    The Krugman link above says something about that too: robots - like many other machines - just means efficiency gains going to the owners of the robots. That ain't usually the workers. So the Fuller quote's asking a deeper political question: is there any chance of us ever having more than token control over our time without a much firmer grip on the means of production? As it stands, the capital gains go back to sloshing around the system, laying workers off until somewhere down the line the capital has found new stuff to make and found ways to pay the unemployed to buy it (which is my over-verbose way of saying the same thing: "we keep inventing jobs"...)

    I do sometimes wonder if capitalism will reach a point where it doesn't need people to do the consuming - robots can do that too, the entire system can eat itself and human beings can just slink off and die somewhere.

  9. What a rich vein in which to tap; just some responses.

    The Fuller objection could plausibly apply to both post-Marxist and the 'Protestant Work Ethic' way of seeing Human Value. There is a generous interpretation, which sees these words as promoting the value of mental improvement over 'drudgery', and attacks the tendency of post-depression Politics to define 'Social Good' in terms of 'Available Employment'.

    A less generous interpretation might suggest that this is a naive, pseudo-Enlightenment, bourgeois fantasy promoting the liberation of 'thinkers' from the obligations of earning a living, a position which might easily slide into an Objectivist, proto-fascist nightmare.

    MT at least will be pleased to know that, although Media and bad habits push us in the other way, in general we British have got over our Aristocracy phase and, to all intents and purposes, we now inhabit a Plutocracy - which may not be an improvement. The Aristocracy as a power and a force was destroyed first by WW1, then by legislation and taxation, through the course of the 20th Century. Its residual influence persists mainly within the class-conscious bourgeoisie that reads the Daily Mail.

    But I share a dislike of all Imperialisms - including Cultural ones - since they are no more than the application of military dominance to subjugate and exploit other people, and are dependent, though history, on slavery or servitude for their viability. I'm not sure the British kind was especially worse (or better) than the other Empires - arguments are often made on both cases.

    Which leaves Kipling. As a figure, he is a real polariser, and fans and detractors are likely never to agree on much. Gunga Din (the poem) encapsulates in some way: it is casually arrogant, racist and so forth, but then what do we make of the poem's message?:

    Though I've belted you and flayed you,
    By the livin' Gawd that made you,
    You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

  10. I thought that was a quality rant!

    Me too. Applause to Rob!

    I do sometimes wonder if capitalism will reach a point where it doesn't need people to do the consuming - robots can do that too, the entire system can eat itself and human beings can just slink off and die somewhere.

    Yeah.
    But what somewhere?

    Alas economic debate still widely assumes continuity of the biosphere...

    Now heck, what if I chose to spend my time with raising chicken and feed them hemp seed. What if my leisurely produced hyper quality eggs would shake the market and reduce the robotics eggs ad absurdum? Will the invisible hand smite me or my little forest farm? Actually, I would make natural smoked ham, too: pigs are more fun to co-operate with. I'm working on employing them in truffle mass production. Methinks it will get problematic when I start using the waste hemp to make my own clothes during winter (dyed with real indigo from home grown woad. Priceless. Forget Gucci.). All that to pay maintenance and update of my dentist robot.

  11. Shoot. I had a really insightful and brilliant reply 75% composed and accidentally swiped the touchpad on my computer in such a way as to cause it to go back to the previous page and my gem was lost. When that happens (this isn't the first time), I tend to lose my mojo and it's hard to motivate myself to try to recreate it. But I have read your reply and will try to re-gather my thoughts.

  12. That's a mighty broad brush you're paintin' with there padnah...

    I'd counter with The modern liberal is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for generosity with the wealth of others." (Robert M. Ryan)

    That is, I would, were I inclined to engage in such sweeping generalities.

  13. Were I inclined to engage in such sweeping generalities, I'd say that too often it's the search for self-congratulation, tout court. What happens to wealth, theirs (the modern liberals') or anyone else's, is pretty much incidental.

    But I'm not, so I won't.

    (D'oh!)

  14. Hmm, but consider this: http://cdn0.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/677236/health_spending_this_one.0.png via http://cdn0.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/677236/health_spending_this_one.0.png

    Note also that health outcomes in the comparison countries come out ahead of the US. Thus we see that treating health care as a private matter rather than a public matter yields much greater aggregate expense. And while I have heard some grumbling from Canadian MDs (e.g. "I'm gonna move to the States. I am sick of working for Quebec for peanuts.", an actual, in my opinion inappropriate, quote from a doctor in context of an actual treatment situation) the work does somehow get done.

    So how much would it actually cost to provide everyone with a roof, a cot, minimal climate control, access to plumbing, and some gruel? I don't just mean in the US, by the way. I mean everywhere. And how much do we spend instead trying to prevent the people without those things from murdering us in anger? I think the tradeoff has long since swung around. Generosity aside, it's in our self-interest that everyone be fed; my estimate is that the balance isn't even close.

    Bread and circuses for all Romans, and everyone a citizen of Rome!

    You'd have to do some work to get the guitar, though.

  15. Michael,

    That's quite a different discussion though. I don't even disagree (yet) at first blush. But Fuller's quote had a far different implication and, frankly, I can't even make sense of his one in ten thousand phrase. Further, any interpretation that I try to apply leaves me feeling that he pulled it out of his a**, even given that he obviously pulled it out of his a**. His vision is of a world where brilliant thinkers and visionaries such as himself can lead us to the promised land. Even if such capabilities exist (and I would argue that they don't and won't), everything I know about human nature screams out against it.

  16. The worst imperialists are the post-empire ones in the colonies, though.

    Imagine the English-speaking people running mostly French-speaking Montreal ca 1965. What would they be telling themselves? And how would they react to an influx of immigrant families?

    It turns out it wasn't entirely an academic question in my case. I have no serious grudges, but there was, I think, something in the air that whispered about my unworthiness. I've always been more sympathetic to Quebec nationalism than an English-speaking Montrealer is expected to be. That has a lot to do with why I left young and never returned.

  17. The 10,000 number is obviously not a measurement of anything so much as an indicator.

    My point is that keeping everybody from starving or dying of exposure is entirely affordable, and much cheaper than having the military needed to keep them from trying to break the existing order. But I don't think that's unrelated to Bucky's point that "earning a living" is no real indicator of virtue.

    Consider, what do the economists mean by productivity?

    Here's the conventional wisdom - this graph (via here). It shows a near-quintupling of productivity in the US since 1947. That is, one person nowadays produces what it took five people in 1947 to do. I think there are huge problems with this sort of long term chart, but let's take it at face value; there's some underlying truth here after all.

    Does this mean that everybody produces five times as much stuff? Well, no doubt our gadgets are better than they were in 1947, but thinking quantitatively, maybe not that much. Thinking like an earth scientist, consider the opposite "end member" of the set - the average person has about comparable utility to what their grandparents had. This means that one person is producing five times as much, and four people would be doing things non-productive. Think advertising, marketing, sales, middle management, website design, grant writing, etc. etc. And then there are all the services that support those people - IT, printing, air travel, hotels, expense account restaurants, etc. So on the one hand we have the theory that we are five times better off, and on the other, the theory that things are roughly the same except that four fifths of the labor force is wasting its time "producing" stuff that we could get along well enough mostly without.

    That fascinates me but is a bit tangential.

    More to the point is where all this extra productivity came from. The standard economist's answer is "technological advancement". But what percentage of the population contributed to the advancement that led to the quintupling of productivity? Suppose one person in a thousand contributes substantially to technological advancement. Then a thousand people in 2014 can produce as much as five thousand could in 1947. So effectively that one person has produced the difference - i.e., as much as 8,000 people.

    Now engineers typically don't have 63 year careers, so your mileage may vary, but a number in the thousands appears reasonable. It depends sensitively on how many people's backs the actual progress is riding on. It would be hard to come up with an exact figure, but a ten thousand fold multiplier doesn't seem totally outside the ballpark even on aggregate.

    Surely, there have been individuals whom economists, if they admitted that "progress" was actually achieved by talented individuals, would credit with the productivity equivalent to ten thousand median workers. So while the number is just illustrative rather than rigorous, I don't find it jarringly implausible.

    But the real issue is how resources are to be allocated when most wealth is created by capital and not labor.

    The logic of capitalism yields a simple result. If labor is valueless, people whose only resource is labor are expected to die, Mr. Bond. The trouble is that this doesn't lead to a happy future.

    As I see it, and as I think Bucky already saw it in 1970, the compromise we have reached is "job creation" - we amass ever-increasing amounts of bullshit for people to do. The trouble with this compromise is not only that it crushes the human spirit with meaningless labor. This also squanders resources in an ever-accelerating fashion, resources which are not themselves increasing exponentially to keep pace.

  18. Again, I don't even specifically disagree with some of your argument. I'm not an economic Darwinist, I wouldn't expect them to die (kudos for the nod to Auric Goldfinger). Heck, I don't even support the death penalty for pickpockets and shoplifters. Taggers - well... no, no, no, not even taggers. Criminal hackers? Hmm.. quite possibly.

    But... there are serious issues. Your, say, Biafran with his or her roof, cot, climate control, plumbing, and gruel will still resent you in your (apartment, condo, house, whatever) typing away on your computer and driving around in your Prius. Maybe even more than he or she did before because he or she will have more time to contemplate how unfair it all is. And, looked at from some points of view, it is. He or she has to do a lot more to achieve my standard of living than I've had to do, if it can be accomplished at all. And it almost certainly can't without a huge stroke of good fortune.

    I certainly agree that the argument must apply to the world and not just the US, otherwise I have to point at my usual iconic examples of the idle "doing ok." Even they are known to resent that I seem to be doing better than they, and they aren't shy about asking to share in my bounty.

    So my argument is not that you're wrong about "wouldn't it be nice," merely that a way to accomplish it in harmony with 7 billion tribal, sexual, acquisitive humans is not something that I can see.

    Your discussion about grandparents and us brings to mind a conversation I've had multiple times in the last month. My grandmother was born in 1901 into a world without airplanes, almost entirely without cars with few telephones, no broadcast radio, let alone television, no record players, etc.. She died in 1984 owning a Commodore 64, had flown to many countries, owned several cars, etc. The world she entered and the one she left were categorically different.

    You and I, on the other hand have more channels but it's still tv, have cars with more gadgets but they're still cars, have 3D Imax but they're still movies, have music on our iPhones or Androids but we're still just listening to recorded music, etc. The only categorical changes I could think of were the fact that, almost wherever I am and at any moment, whatever anybody knows, I can know, and the things that go wrong with me that can now be fixed. The world I leave may very well not be categorically different than the one I entered, apocalypse, singularity, whatever notwithstanding.

    The productivity discussion is an interesting one. The source link you gave was broken and the graph is unclear as to the metric. Constant dollars of output/hours worked? US only? I would speculate (not guess, "I never guess. It is a shocking habit — destructive to the logical faculty") that those are what's portrayed. I suppose that it's inflation adjusted GDP divided by hours worked. GDP is an interesting thing though. When my son broke his arm in 2010, it cost some $35,000 as measured by what my insurance paid plus what I paid (though bills still come in from that at a seemingly random rate from unknown entities who claim to have provided some sort of services). I don't think that would have been the price, even allowing for inflation in 1965 when my friend Ornie Hutchcraft broke his. But it's in the GDP.

    As I understand it, the billions spent on Sandy cleanup and repair, WTC demolition, disposal and rebuilt, Katrina recovery, the Napa recovery to come, etc. all add to GDP. I pay a gardener, a pool guy, a cleaning service, etc. because when I'm not working I'd rather play with my wife, study mathematics and physics, surf the web, argue discuss on blogs, etc. than do those things. I may be regarded, arguably, as upper middle class but I'm middle class. When I grew up in Wheaton, Urbana, and Rockford, I got $5 to mow a neighbor's lawn. It didn't show up in the GDP. People have au pairs and nannies, my parents paid neighbor kids to babysit. That didn't show up in the GDP. So I'm just not sure what is in those figures and what is not and what is meaningfully derivable from them.

    "Gadgets" covers a lot of ground. Dishwashers, refrigerators that dispense water and ice, microwave ovens, etc. all free people from chores on which they used to spend time. And yet... From this page we can learn that, in 1948 the labor force participation rate was about 59%, that it peaked around 1996 at around 67% and has fallen steadily since to about 62.5% now. So we're finding stuff for a greater percentage of a much larger population to do so that they can be called "gainfully employed" Than was the case in 1948. Of course, that was right after WWII and there were a lot of returning veterans and the entire productive system had to be reoriented (well, sort of anyway) to a peacetime economy. But then you and I were born along with millions of others. And, though some of us have retired, most haven't. But labor force participation, while declining, is still ahead of 1948.

    Am I perfectly satisfied with the status quo? Of course I'm not. But I don't see anything of value in Fuller's (Buckminster, that is, not Tom) vision. And the end result of the trend toward robotics and automation is very troubling to me. When capital is valued and labor isn't then ... oh, but wait, you said that.

    My usual disclaimer: If I had more time (ha ha) I could argue discuss more coherently. But I have to get up at 5am to go to work.

  19. Here is a long semi-defence of Kipling written by Christopher Hitchens (who is also not everyone's favourite writer).

    http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/2002/06/hitchens.htm

    I particularly liked the passage where Hitchens reads "The Harp Song of the Dane Women" to Jorge Borges in his study in Buenos Aires.

  20. Regarding grandparents and us, not only do we agree, I think we've actually had that conversation in person recently. Regarding GDP as well we agree. I said I was taking the graph at face value.

    Thanks for the labor force numbers; I would have thought the entrance of women as at least putative equals in the workplace would have amounted to more than that. Would appreciate a reference if you have one handy.

    Mostly I agree with your "finding stuff for them to do". My point and Bucky's is what we are indeed doing. I think a lot of this "stuff" adds no actual value, and it's essentially back-door socialism, twisting policies subtly to promote employment which is not intrinsically useful.

    Though in America, there's also lots of valuable stuff that isn't getting done, because explicit socialism is so terrifying.


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