Some of the monkeyfist folks are talking about trying to take one or two courses from MIT--the one currently being discussed isFundamentals of Public Policy. They're not actually going to MIT, but using the lecture notes and reading lists that MIT has put online as a part of its Open Courseware project. They're talking about taking the course together, and setting up a weblog to collaboratively compile discussion and links to relevant online reading.
The idea, of course, is that anyone who wants to take the course after us will be able to access the discussions and links that we compiled while taking the course. Ideally (i.e. with enough engaged participation), this would result in a kind of cumulative, evolving (dare I say "open source"?) curriculum.
Sounds like fun. For now, it would be nice if a bit more (or any) of the reading list was online (and not so full of broken links).
Some open source types and activists suceeded in convincing the World Intellectual Property Organization to sponsor an international conference on the place of free software in the "intellectual-property landscape", but Microsoft shut it down.
The following series of excerpts are taken from The Unconscious Civilization, a series of lectures by Canadian philosopher and writer John Ralston Saul.
The most powerful force possessed by the individual is her own government. Or governments, because a multiplicity of levels means a multiplicity of strengths. The individual has no other large organized mechanism that he can call his own. Theres are other mechanisms, but the reduce the citizen to the status of a subject. Government is the only organized mechanism that makes possible that level of shared disinterest known as the public good. Without this greater interest the individual is reduced to a lesser, narrower being limited to immediate needs. He will then be subject to other, larger forces, which is necesarily come forward to fill the void left by the withering of the public good. Those forces will fill it with some other directing interest that will serve their purposes, not the larger purposes of the citizen. It would be naive to blame them for occupying abandoned territory. (p. 76)
* * *
People ask: what kind of government? How much government? I think the primary question is: whose government? If individuals do not occupy their legitimate position, then it will be occupied by a God or a king or a coalition of interest groups. If citizens do not exercise the powers conferred by their legitimacy, others will do so. (p. 78)
* * *
The corporatist idea that elected representatives are merely representing interests has led them to apply pressure directly on the politicians. The result has been a remarkable growth of the lobbying industry, which has as its sole purpose the conversion of elected representatives and senior civil servants to the particular interest of the lobbyist. That is, lobbyists are in the business of corrupting the people's representatives away from the public good. (p. 97)
* * *
Virtually every politician portrayed in film or on television over the last decade has been venal, corrupt, opportunistic, cynical, if not worse. Whether these dramatized images are accurate or exaggerated matters little. The corporatist system wins either way: directly through corruption and indirectly through the damage done to the citizen's respect for the representative system. (p. 99)
* * *
It's summer, when a young man's fancy turns toward... staying away from the computer more than usual.
Also, I'm trying to turn misnomer into a place for my own thoughts, while most of the mindless link propagation continues apace at the Dominion Weblog.
But the simple requirement of "my own thoughts" (by which I mean, "someone else's thoughts", just not necessarily from online sources) leads me to psych myself out all too often. Nonetheless, there's plenty on the way; I just need to type it up and click "post".
I've been listening to Pink Floyd's The Final Cut: A requiem for the post-war dream. It's generally dismissed by critics as Roger Waters' self-indulgence gone to far, and not up the the band's usual standards. (The band had effectively split up when it was recorded, and it's usually considered a Waters solo album that that rest of Pink Floyd happens to play on.)
I had that as a first impression as well, but I've recently rediscovered it as a subtle and brilliant (and newly relevant) anti-war album. Considered as something other than a Pink Floyd album, it's a remarkably solid exploration of the horrifying possibilities of war, and the human psychology of what perpetuates war, and what resists it.
And some of the lines are brilliant:
The sun is in the eastOr:
Even though the day is done
Two suns in the sunset
Could be the human race is run
They flutter behind you your possible pasts
Some brighteyed and crazy some frightened and lost
A warning to anyone still in command
of their possible future
to take care
In derelict sidings the poppies entwine
with cattle trucks lying in wait for the next time
A simplistic and yet apparently common-sense policy occured to me the other day. I call it "market communism", though it may as well be a flat tax of the far left, as it is undoubtedly too simple to work well. And yet, I find it compelling.
It works like this. First, a cap is placed on all salaries, everywhere. No one can be paid more than four times the amount paid to the lowest-paid employee. Any time the top-paid folks want a pay raise, they have to raise the salaries of all of the lowest-paid by 25% of their desired raise.
The rest is details.
A whole new set of laws would be needed to keep people from finding ways around this, and substantial sum would be needed to enforce it. This could be accomplished with the death penalty. Not that death penalty, the corporate death penalty. If executives at a certain corporation were found to be paying themselves more than 4x the lowest paid, the corporate assets would be used to pay severance to the employees of the firm, and the rest could go to an unemployment insurance fund.
Aside from some fine-tuning (the range of pay might need, to some extent, to be calculated by state, by type of business, etc.) I have trouble seeing any problem with this plan.
There is nothing about capitalism that says that one has to accumulate insane amounts of money. On the other hand, the more evenly income is distributed, the more it is likely to be spent or reinvested, making for a much more dynamic economy. Even Warren Buffet agrees with me on that.
A lot of other problems would be easier to solve after a few years of market communism. It would be easier to find funding for decent journalism, for health care, for new environmental and cultural ventures. As the "money primary" states clearly in its name alone, money is power, and the easiest way to get power to more people is to give them more of the money.
This also explains why market communism isn't likely to happen. For some strange reason, rich people never have a strange need to be richer than everyone else. Mutual prosperity doesn't cut it.
The inverted version of the market communism policy is concisely addressed by Conceptual Guerilla's piece on cheap-labour conservatives, which I recommend.
The symbolism here is a little disturbing:
Apparently, the contractors building the massive 80 mile fence to further cut up the west bank are uprooting olive trees and selling them to rich Israelis.
So what's next? The systematic theft and export of Palestinian doves?
Linux Journal: Getting a Windows Refund in California Small Claims Court
A very complete explanation of how the author got a $199 refund for bundled Microsoft software that came with his PC... through small claims court. Apparently, there is a line in the license agreement that says you can get a refund if you don't agree.
The main thing to remember throughout this process is to remain calm and reasonable. The more reasonable you seem, the more silly they seem. Remember you're dealing with a large company, and the larger an organization, the higher its potential for collective stupidity.Excellent.
When that stupidity crosses the line and the company won't follow the law, that's where small claims court comes in. In court, most of the time common sense and reasonable win, even when it's a small guy against a big big company. And the case always ends with those magic words, "It is so ordered."
My refund check will be arriving this month.