Work and citizenship and education and the Iron Law

View 821 Tuesday, April 22, 2014


But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it away from the fog of the controversy.

Nancy Pelosi. Former Speaker of the House of Representatives


Referring to the Affordable Health Care Act

“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009


If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.

Glenn T. Seaborg, National Commission on Education, 1983


If you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan. Period.

Barrack Obama, famously.


“…the only thing that can save us is if Kerry wins the Nobel Prize and leaves us alone.”

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon



I have just finished a lengthy telephone conference call involving an event that several Sigma SF members including me will be attending at Hilton Island Conference Center this June 8 – 12 It’s about Large Scale Integrated Circuitry and the future, with an emphasis this year on Nanotechnology. As readers here know, I’m very interested in the effects of Moore’s Law and the inevitable advance of technology on a free society, so I think I’ll have things to say there. I also expect to learn a lot. Several other Sigma science fiction writers with technical backgrounds will be there.

Meanwhile I am discovering that there is Life After Taxes, and now that Easter is over Chaos Manor is returning to something like normal chaos as opposed to the agitated variety that has dominated most of this year.

I have a stack of topics to write about. One is some comments on the theory of Capital ; Marx had much to say about it, but his view that “Capital is barren” was clearly wrong. He couldn’t have anticipated Moore’s law, of course; yet in a sense he did in that he anticipated, after the Class Society and the State withered away, a time when productivity was so high that no one had to do much work, and

“In communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have a mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic.”


Of course the reality of the communist state was quite different, but then that state had more to do with Lenin than Marx’s dream: Trotsky warned that until the Revolution was universal, you could never build the true communist state. A communist state in a capitalist world must look to its defenses and its security, and since the Revolution is imperfect so will the society be. Various versions of Trotsky’s views permeated the American left during and following World War II, and some of that transmuted into what became known as neo-conservatism.

But technology and productivity are making it more and more possible for a larger and larger portion of society to be artists, critics, and such who do not produce consumer goods. They probably will not rear cattle, since that takes a certain amount of investment and land and transport: in Marx’s time as he looked about Thuringia, it was easy to imagine being a professor who had a small stead of cattle and perhaps poultry. That kind of farming always looks more attractive to those who haven’t had to do it. Having raised cattle and tended chickens as part of my growing up, I soon was glad enough to leave that to the field hands while I played about with the Encyclopedia Britannica. The newness of farm activities wears off fast, or did in my case.

I note in today’s Wall Street Journal that welders make $100,000 a year and more, and the Journal advocates changing our school system back to include shop classes and other useful arts, rather than being devoted to college prep. The notion that in order for anyone to amount to anything they will need college degrees is a pernicious falsehood probably spread by the colleges. I note that one drawback to the Federal government’s attempt to find new mechanism for forgiving student debt and liberate the middle class from this particular bondage is the very real fear that the colleges will simply raise their prices (and the pay of the faculty, administrators, and non-education staff) accordingly. This is worth thinking about.

Has there ever been a real debate about the necessity for a college education? Particularly the kind of college education most of our institutions of higher education provide? There are more and more stories of college graduates, deep in debt, working at coffee houses or in various other service jobs, and more and more who would have been better off going to work when they left high school: not only did they put themselves deep in debt for an education that taught them to do little that anyone would pay them to do, but they started late and now have no work experience, have developed no work habits and social skills of the work place, and face a rocky future.

Aside: when I was in aerospace at Boeing, we calculated that if one started in the production line on leaving high school, and another started college to gain an engineering degree, even in those days when the University of Washington tuition was nominal, by the time the engineer had earned as much money as the steadily employed production worker, they would be well into their thirties. This was in about 1956. I doubt it has changed much now except that the steady employment of the production worker is now far from assured, and as productivity increases, is becoming less probable.

Enough: I am still working on what happens to a Republic when half of its citizens are not needed: who cannot find employment that allows them to possess the goods of fortune in moderation. That was Aristotle’s definition of middle class and it is still correct for this kind of analysis; and rule by the middle class produces a democratic state. But when half the citizens cannot find work that justifies possession of the goods of fortune in moderation, what happens? “If a foreign government had imposed this system of education on the United States, we would rightfully consider it an act of war.” One wonders if the US has not been conquered by those who wish the end of the old free republic. They have certainly built the right education system to accomplish that goal.

But it certainly benefits the intellectuals who dominate the university system. Act of war by whom?

I have much more to look at. Why are writers forbidden to join together as a union, (WGA the screen writers are exceptions because they work for hire and sell their product; unlike writers like me who own and market what we sell. SFWA isn’t a union and can’t act like one, which is of great benefit to the publishers. Now the self-publication revolution is changing the world of publishing like dreams, and it can only continue. As I said back in A Step Father Out, I put my work up on an information utility, you pay to read it, a royalty goes from your bank account to mine, and where’s the need for that blood sucking publisher? That world appears to be here. Alas my asteroid mining world I thought we would have by 2020 has not happened…

And Silicon Valley, which for a while broke free of the regulatory mechanisms and created the technologies that built much of this brave new world, making possible the robots and manufacturing techniques that have so greatly expanded productivity, needs to be taken to task because Apple and Google had some agreements about not poaching personnel from each other. The Lords of Silicon Valley must be punished for making this revolution and escaping the regulatory agencies. But the Iron Law of Bureaucracy moves inexorably on.

Interestingly :

Guess Who Makes More Than Bankers: Their Regulators

In 2012 at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. the average pay was $190,000. At the Federal Reserve? It won’t say.

It turns out that the regulators including their limousine drivers (Motor Vehicle Operators at FDIC: $82,130) make more than the average bank employee (about $50,000).

Bureaucrats do very well for themselves, as the Iron Law ( ) would predict. At the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, secretaries average $79,182, Less than drivers, but still a fair amount.

In India for a very long time the main ambition was to get a government job and work for the Permit Raj. There’s still a strong impulse in that direction. Are we coming to that in the US?

But it’s late and I have to do a mail column to catch up on that. Later.


How to survive…

"Author Lewis Dartnell, a 32-year-old British astrobiologist and polymath, isn’t writing with tongue in cheek. Though the book ["The Knowledge"] is brief and points out in a daunting introduction exactly what you’re up against — the world is so complex that no single person starting from scratch could even make a pencil, much less a motor — “The Knowledge” is an actual starter guide that proposes quick-and-dirty solutions to the most elementary issues."

One might wonder if this author consulted "Lucifer’s Hammer" as part of his research.

Charles Brunbelow

Rather more up to date than ours was. I need to write a piece on modern survival.  I met some of my old survivalists friends recently.  We’re still here.  I always said the best way to survive a nuclear war is not to have one.  But I am not sure hoe to make sure we don’t’ have a series of emp’s that shut down the grid…  Not sure Armageddon is inevitable, but sometimes thing look grim.  It is very much in our interest – and in Russia’s – that it not happen. Hedge your bets, ladies and gentlemen, hedge your bets. Someone will inherit the Earth.





Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




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