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Be careful of what parades as academic research (Uber)

It is Wednesday and I have a long trip by plane and road to Victoria where I am speaking at a major business conference in the mountains outside of Melbourne tomorrow morning. So only a few things today that I have been thinking about. Remember the 2010 film – Inside Job – which documented how my profession had become corrupted by the financial services sector into producing, allegedly, independent research reports extolling the virtues of deregulation etc and not admitting they were being paid for by the beneficiaries of the propaganda masquerading as research. It shows how corruption runs deep in the economics profession to accompany the incompetence that mainstream macroeconomists display. Well, I have been following an unfolding story about how Uber has decided to draw on that corrupt tendency for their own gains. It is not a pretty story. And then we have the so-called social media trend of cancel culture which is meant to be about matters of principles but leave the proponents caught up in a rather dirty pool of hypocrisy.

Uber and the economists

The Pro-Market story (December 5, 2019) – Uber’s “Academic Research” Program: How to Use Famous Economists to Spread Corporate Narratives – is the third in a series from the Stigler Center at the University of Chicago that traces “Uber’s uncompetitive” practices.

I wrote about my concerns for Uber in this blog post – Why Uber is not a progressive development (August 16, 2016).

It turns out that the company has to rig the market environment it operates in order to stay afloat.

The third article traces the way that “Uber’s ‘academic research’ program” appears to be a legitimate exercise in independent academic research of the type that gets through the peer-review process, but, is, in fact, “highly problematic” promotion of:

… important Uber PR claims: that Uber’s growth was driven by major productivity advantages; that the regulations Uber evaded significantly reduced traditional taxi productivity; that Uber’s drivers have higher earnings and greater job satisfaction than traditional taxi drivers; that Uber has created billions in annual consumer welfare benefits; and that any regulatory limits on Uber’s operating practices would significantly reduce driver welfare.

The Stigler Center researchers have found that Uber established support to academic researchers to investigate the taxi market to evalue the impact of Uber’s entry.

The company hired “well known, often brand name economists” to conduct the research, in the same way, the financial sector hired high-profile academic economists to ‘research’ their sector, knowing full well that the research was never independent nor really research at all.

Uber has since held out this so-called “independent research” as unbiased evidence of its efficacy.

The ‘research’ was then filtered through and “widely publicized by pro-Uber columnists and think tanks in non-academic channels such as newspapers and internet blogs”.

The purpose:

This allowed Uber to transform narrowly stated journal claims into much broader, tweetable claims (“academic research proves Uber produces big benefits for drivers”) aimed at the same mainstream press and policymakers who Uber’s overall PR narratives had been targeted at.

The research was not verifiable as “other economists would not have access to Uber’s proprietary data or its research funding.”

The first principle of research integrity is that the data must be available for other researchers to validate the results.

The pliant media also was dragooned into the scam:

Just as Uber knew the mainstream press was largely pliant and uncritical about its overall PR narratives, it knew that none of the reporters or policymakers reading the simplified claims would have the time or ability to scrutinize the claim, or to determine whether it was actually supported by the original paper, or to evaluate the claimed independence of the original analysis.

The Pro-Market story then runs through the journal articles that appeared as part of this propaganda exercise.

I will leave it to you to check if you are interested.

1. Top names in the field – Judd Cramer, Alan B. Krueger, Jonathan V. Hall, Peter Cohen, Robert Hahn, Steven Levitt, Robert Metcalfe,

2. Top ranked journals – NBER Working Papers, American Economic Review,

The conclusion:

None of the … papers actually analyzed their nominal subjects (comparative taxi operating productivity, the labor market for taxi drivers, changes in consumer welfare since Uber’s entry, or factors affecting driver welfare). None of the papers provide readers with any of the relevant pricing, service, utilization or wage/working conditions data.

The four papers failed to mention anything about Uber’s massive losses and subsidies, which invalidate all of the stated conclusions since data about a company that is billions away from breakeven cannot reflect sustainable productivity breakthroughs or permanent welfare enhancements …

the papers only look at very-short term Uber-only data from a single time period. Most of the Uber data used is inappropriate, including the use of gross driver revenue instead of data on true driver take-home pay, and the use of extremely short-term data to measure longer-term supply or price elasticities.

All of the authors claim that the alleged improvements are all due to the superior economics of Uber’s business model (e.g. innovative technology, scale effects) but the papers provide no objective evidence substantiating any of these claims.

GIGO.

Cancel Culture hypocrisy

I was heavily criticised by some progressive elements for my recent trip to Japan where I met and worked with senior figures in the conservative Liberal Democrat ruling party. I also met with the major progressive voices. I took no funds from far right figures nor met with them. All events were public.

The criticism was largely based on ignorance of the facts.

In fact, as a life-long educator, I clearly form the view that most of the distasteful things we read or hear from others are the result of ignorance and a lack of education.

These things are clearly manipulated for ideological and political purposes by others but at the root of the problem is a lack of education.

Education is the path to a more enlightened, tolerant and inclusive society.

That is the driving principle I have always operated on.

Which is why the relatively recent trend on social media that is variously called – Cancel culture or Call-out culture – is disturbing to say the least.

Everyday, progressives are out there on Twitter and elsewhere publicly shaming others for being racist, sexist, mysoginist, anti-semitic, transphobic and more.

The way that Jeremy Corbyn was vilified as a Jew hater was outrageous in fact but highly damaging to his electoral prospects.

My own friends have been accused on social media of holding horrendous views as a result of one reference they might have made or whatever on social media.

I, personally, have been accused of being a fascist for quoting someone who pointed out that Nazi Germany grew faster than other nations in the early 1930s, which was plain fact, not some elaborate defence of the horrible system of National Socialism.

This goes beyond disagreements about how monetary systems operate or whatever.

This syndrome involves people pontificating on a daily basis which humans are worthy and which are not and shaming and vilifying those deemed unworthy.

It resonates with the Spanish Inquisition.

Imagine having to check the complete history of anyone who you were choosing to quote for any aberrant things they might have done in the past, even if the quote was something quite removed from the contentious identity issues that provoke this cancel culture?

When I was young, the debate was whether you could listen to Wagner given Hitler’s predilection.

Someone said to me the other day, who hasn’t seen a Woody Allen movie.

And so on.

The point is that cancel culture is anti-education.

Sure, there are some sociopaths that are probably beyond educative rehabilitation.

But mostly humanity just struggles along in a cloud of misinformation and ill-formed views.

Construal is a process in cognitive linguistics that tells us we can hold completely different (contrasting) views about the same phenomena depending on the framing and language used to talk about it.

If progressives really believe in the basic good of humanity and the need for collective action, working together to educate each other and help each other out of that cloud, then cancel culture is not going to be the way forward.

But it also exposes a deep hypocrisy.

I haven’t seen to many Tweets in the last week from those who actively vilify others as being promoters of transphobic ideas criticising Bernie Sanders’ acceptance of Joe Rogan’s endorsement.

If cancel culture is valid, where is the outrage?

Why, for example, is a Person X, who is unimportant in the scheme of the American presidential race, vilified and cancelled, but Joe Rogan, who can bring a lot of supporters to the Sanders’ campaign not?

Especially, when it would be hard to find someone who has done more to downgrade and abuse the status of those in the LGBTQ community, than Joe Rogan.

Rogan has far-right figures on his show (for example, white nationalist Stefan Molyneux).

He has had anti-feminists, homophobic speakers, and various other hostile elements on his show.

At one point, he referred to a Black neighbourhood as the – Planet of the Apes.

I could go on.

So how can anyone in the Sanders’ campaign accept his endorsement? Where is the cancel culture operating here?

It is not, because there is a bullying element to the culture. If someone matters (Rogan) for some political venture, then pragmatics enters the picture. Apparently, then tolerance of the shocking things he has said is the go.

This tolerance is usually dressed up in terms of viewing the person as broadly reasonable and helping them move beyond their nasty views. I have seen Rogan described as “broadly liberal”. That seems to be sufficient to move beyond his statements that some might find abhorrent.

But cancel culture parades its virtue as being about principles.

In philosophy, students study the on-going conflict between principles and pragmatism.

I accept that it might be true – in practical terms – that electing Sanders over Trump will benefit the US. And so we get the strategy that promotes the end over the means.

This is an age old dilemma.

Socialists use to say that if Stalin created a worker state through oppression wasn’t that worth it.

The problem is that path dependence operates – the means change the path.

If you gain power to create a utopia by indulging in slaughter doesn’t that demean the utopia.

These are all things we discussed in our philosophy and political science classes.

But they are real issues.

Does the Sanders’ Campaign demean its ultimate purpose by dealing with Rogan?

My view is that education should be our guiding light and the cancel culture is bound to reveal its hypocritical tendency because at times we are assuredly better off being forgiving and adopting pragmatic strategies.

But if you believe in declaring one person abhorrent for alleged transphobia and cancelling them in the public sphere then you surely have to cancel Joe Rogan, which means accepting no succour from him ever for anything.

I think educating him is the better approach as with others.

GIMMS Events, London and Manchester, February

Please support the following events:

1. February 20, 2020 – I will speaking in London about the recent political events in the UK and how an understanding of MMT is essential to rebuild a progressive political force in Britain. Criminologist Steve Hall will also talk and will focus on the current rise of populism in the West.

The event will be at the Unite the Union (Diskus Theatre) in central London and will run from 13:30 to 17:00.

For – Details.

2. February 21, 2020 – The same show moves to Manchester.

The event will be at the Barnes Wallis Building (The Harwood Room) at the University of Manchester and will run from 13:30 to 16:30.

For – Details.

3. February 22, 2020 – MMTed – with help from – GIMMS – will hold a three-hour MMT Masterclass in London between 14:00 and 17:00.

This is a teaching seminar exclusively and will suit those who want to build their understanding of macroeconomics from an MMT perspective.

For more details – MMT Masterclass, London.

There are still vacancies available.

Music from J.J. Cale

I had a fairly long journey ahead to day to speak at a major business conference outside of Melbourne and so I needed some really nice sounds to be in my ear while I thought about things.

So I turned to – J.J. Cale – who recorded this song – After Midnight – in 1966, when I was in the junior years of high school.

The version I bought was from his 1972 album Naturally, which re-released the song after Eric Clapton had made it a big hit in 1970.

I like the original slower version from J.J. Cale, which is not to say I don’t like Eric Clapton’s version as well.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2020 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

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    This Post Has 30 Comments
    1. The famously reclusive J J was persuaded to allow a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ doco to be done, very unintrusively, mainly on a tour through parts of the USA, in his entourage coach. Maybe it was something about the way that they approached him, their young German naivety, who knows; but we all gained from its being done. Priceless when he and they peer over the back fence of his old childhood home, and he reminisces about life as a kid.
      It’s one of the more precious of my DVDs.
      A trailer, (as the americanos call them).
      https://youtu.be/M0a512RZFcY

    2. It’s not my impression Joe Rogan supports transphobic ideas. He has some weird characters on sometimes, but i’ve never witnessed him agreeing with white nationalist ideas.

      All that to support the argument against cancel culture.

    3. I don’t understand what you mean about the Sanders campaign in regards to the Joe Rogan thing. First of all, there has been quite a bit of criticism of Sanders for not rejecting the Rogan semi-endorsement from some interest groups who are outraged by it. But probably less than you might expect because those same groups mostly realize that Bernie Sanders is the candidate most likely to support their issues should he be elected. And he has the record to back that up. But there has definitely been criticism – the same ‘call-out’ type that you seem to disagree with. I happen to disagree with it also.

    4. One other question Bill- how many episodes of the Joe Rogan podcast have you actually watched before calling the man a racist and trans-phobic? I’ve seen maybe 4 or 5 of them, which admittedly isn’t all that many, but he doesn’t strike me as a hater of people. He seems sort of like a normal, not all that intellectual, not all that political, type person.

      I know you often complain about critics who haven’t read your work before characterizing it dismissively. So I figure you must have done some of your own research before calling him a racist.

    5. Dear Jerry Brown (at 2020/01/29 at 3:11 pm)

      I actually didn’t accuse Joe Rogan of being a racist or transphobic. See how people jump to conclusions. I just said he makes statements that would promotes those sentiments.

      best wishes
      bill

    6. I myself grew up in a misogynistic, hyper competitive world of hopeless hypocrisy. I realized I really didn’t know anything for myself, so I tried to learn and change. I took some wrong turns, followed some false prophets, but finally discovered a corrupter of youth who I took as a guru. That was Socrates, whom youth must not read or learn from. It has been a long trip from there with a long way still to go. Many put them selves out there as gurus who are false prophets, who would deceive and harm those who are honestly seeking the truth. There are also fellow honest seekers coming from many different points of reference at various points of their journey. These people have to taste for themselves and no longer trust the warnings, forbiddings of others. They might even consider disregarding warnings from the orthodoxy and read forbidden ‘het’ thinkers, corrupters of youth. More to the point, is a person a wandering honest seeker who is changing truly before our eyes? Our is this person a false prophet, one who puts himself forward as a guru? I don’t know Rogans history or any statements to quote, but he seems a slightly corrupted seeker claiming a guru wanting to change for the better rather than an evil deceiver and false prophet you would bring to your school as an equal. But, I’m a construction worker, so I’m only a lowly seeker also.

    7. Dear Bill,

      There is something stated above I disagree with. Let me state first what I agree with.
      1. “Education is the path to a more enlightened, tolerant and inclusive society.” I would say that if there is a path, education must be that path. (I am more pessimistic),
      2. “Construal is a process in cognitive linguistics that tells us we can hold completely different (contrasting) views about the same phenomena depending on the framing and language used to talk about it.”

      If we want to be wise not just “educated”, we should look at the phenomena from multiple directions, not to be prisoners of a single framing and language convention. Otherwise how do we determine, which language convention is the correct one? This is what I was told when I was younger, living on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain.

      I would ask another question – what does it actually mean to be a “progressive”? To me it sounds like a kind of cult, similar to older and already more thoroughly compromised religions and superstitions. I agree that corporations and capitalists enslave people using so-called market forces. But a strong and invasive state even a so-called “socialist” state can do exactly the same. If we accept the critique of neoliberalism from the socialist positions we also have to accept the critique of excessive state ownership of means of production from liberal positions.

      Why should then we be so invested in defending an incompetent British politician who could not have managed to have had his mouth shut about the question of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Good grief, he lost. Perhaps he deserved to lose. Did he have any viable ideas? Maybe. Was he able to convince people? No. If he was a responsible person trying to advance his ideas not just fixated on promoting himself, he should have resigned well before the elections but he decided to carry on.

      Regarding the cancel garbage, why do people like me don’t care? I can say whatever I want and nobody can hurt me because I do not belong anywhere and I am not on Facebook – I am just a curious person, trying to stay intellectually independent. (My schoolmate called me recently an anarchist – so what? I am not even identifying myself with this ideology, why would I?) I have never been a baby boomer protesting against the War in Vietnam or a coal miner hating Margaret Thatcher and I don’t even understand the context of being a post-modern progressive. Actually I do understand when I read about it but for me this culture is as bizarre as eating live or freshly killed snakes and bats in some parts of China, what apparently led to the outbreak of new coronavirus epidemics (not to mention the suffering of animals). But… what does exactly the term “transphobia” mean? (I am against discrimination of anyone, what includes trans people and people who don’t like trans people, even if they are religious ignorants). What else will they invent? me too? Whatever. Should I embed feeling “progressive” in my moral values? Is this “good as gold?” Should I feel emotions about Margatet Court’s tennis court? I don’t watch tennis because I find it profoundly boring. The same about rugby or whatever it is called and watching the guy who said that I would burn in hell. So what? To me he is just plainly stupid even if he is paid millions of dollars for running around with a ball and producing Christian intellectual garbage about “atheists” and “fornicators”. This is the level of sophistication of our public debate in Australia in 2020. We have a little bit more burning issues I am afraid…

      Now the main point. I believe that if we want to liberate ourselves and become wise, we should reject the toxic idea of collectivism in any form. What enslaves us much more than language we use is the feeling of belonging to a greater collective, the longing for being accepted by some random script running in Saint Petersburg and pretending to be our Twitter friend. It is the culture we have to rebel against every day as individuals, to find the truth (or at least eliminate the lies)

      Seeking truth alone does not give that “sugar hit” like playing politics but I would say that the hangover is also much more limited. Cancel culture is therefore not predominantly “hypocritical” but rather just retarded. Political correctness and post-modern progressivism are just plainly stupid and I don’t see a point in seeking popularity in these circles. But if someone goes there, being subjected to this garbage mentioned in the blog post is a logical consequence. We can say the same about the issues which created “mee too”. If a young woman gets intoxicated in a night club known for drink spiking or visits a middle-aged “talent scout”, how can that person be “surprised”? I am not defending rapists, they belong to jail. But there is a very simple solution to dramatically reduce the chance of meeting one. Just do not go there.

    8. The uber scenario reminded me of the cynical worker, who figures out that their boss doesn’t actually check their work properly. They figure out the handful of key elements looked to for legitimacy, and just meet those. Success via KPIs!

    9. Having watched a fair share of Joe Rogan interviews, I can state unequivocally that he is not a hater of any sexual identity or gender, nor is he a hater of black people or any other minority. Over the course of years of numerous conversations with guests with a wide variety of political and cultural views (a selection of interviewees to Joe’s credit IMHO), occasional remarks have been made by him or or his guests that are politically incorrect. So what? If someone would have had a tape recorder running during the countless conversations I have had with people over the years, one would find similar remarks, as one would find with virtually every human being who thinks and talks about hot button issues. The real problem here for those who oppose Sanders is that Joe Rogan has managed to amass a viewing audience far larger than many mainstream media personalities, and his long and substantive interview with Bernie has drawn support for him which crosses traditional party and ideological lines. What we need is more Joe Rogans, more alternative media venues that probe public issues without following a preset narrative or agenda. It would be wonderful if Joe would do a show with Bill, because the upshot would be that MMT would likely gain a wealth of new adherents. And I strongly suspect that, as with Bernie, Joe himself would be convinced by Bill’s principled position and say so.

    10. “Especially, when it would be hard to find someone who has done more to downgrade and abuse the status of those in the LGBTQ community, than Joe Rogan.

      Rogan has far-right figures on his show (for example, white nationalist Stefan Molyneux).”

      Um, what? I can think of a lot more people who have said things far more “downgrading” to people in that community. As far as I know, Joe has merely argued that male to female transgendered people shouldn’t be able to fight in women’s mma. As an expert in his particular field, I believe that his opinion on this matter is valid, and I don’t see how it “downgrades” anybody.

      Joe Rogan has also had “far left” figures on his show, so what’s your point?

      You seem to be calling out call out culture, by calling out recent victims of call out culture. Why are you doing this? You are attacking people who are actually victims of the very thing that you are complaining about. You use the word “hypocrisy,” when I’ve never seen Bernie supporters or Joe Rogan fans engage in call out culture. In fact, Rogan and the Bernie fans seems to be the main liberal voices against call out culture. I’m horribly confused by this post.

      As others have asked, have you actually familiarized yourself with the bulk of Rogan’s work? Or are you just pulling things that you’ve heard off of the internet?

    11. Also, I would obviously like to see Bernie Sanders elected but in my opinion this is plainly impossible. The left-wing leaning people can mobilise but they will never be in the majority in the US even if surveys say Bernie has a chance. The sociologists, social psychologists and political scientists who talk about collective values and identities have in my opinion as a group clear ideological bias because the majority of them are invested in building a “better society”. They also follow their herd and they are stuck with thinking paradigms in the same way neoclassical economists are with theirs. An example? The reaction to the statement or idea that some ethnic groups have higher IQ than the others (“The Bell Curve”). (Personally I have no position in regards to this statement as I am not an expert). How can these academics and commentators who are so engaged in culture wars and in defending political correctness really understand Trump voters? But this could be a very simple task if you step back and practice the long-forgotten art of looking at things from multiple angles.

      The main argument used to ensure that a Republican is elected is the same as the one deployed in Australia. “I don’t want to lose my wealth and I don’t want to be controlled by the government”. In the US this is far more blunt than everywhere else. “Medicare for All” sounds great but these people who already have private health insurance may feel personally threatened by the program because something will be taken away from them. This argument will work even if objectively such a statement is similar in its validity to losing the mythical franking credit and preventing new cases of negative gearing in Australia. People haven’t elected Morrison the Evangelical Christian Preacher, they have elected Mr Prolonged Housing Bubble and Business as Usual.

      Also in the US the word “socialism” is as popular as in post-Soviet Central Europe I am afraid. Talking about the “society” (in fact the state apparatus) taking control is a great way of ensuring that moderate Democrats won’t vote. Either Bernie (or Senator Warren) have to dramatically reinvent and reframe his/her arguments or the humanity will have to cope with another 4 years of climate change denial etc under Trump, Pence or a similar figure. The ideal solution for the Democrats would be a pact between the moderate and left-wing candidates ensuring that whoever is nominated, he/she will stick to the “minimal plan for reforms” that is decarbonising the economy (using whatever tools available, better carbon trading than nothing) , expanding medical insurance system and adding public payer option (with the goal of fully transforming the system in let’s say 10-20 years), clamping down on the excesses of the banking sector, helping people with students debt, etc. Everything else above this is a bonus.

      Perhaps Mike Bloomberg is the only person who is a viable candidate. Better to have Bloomberg than 4 more years of Trump who is actually doing nothing except for making a lot of noise. But what I find is that this kind of revisionist reasoning is precisely what true progressives find offending. Let me separate the “values” and practical steps driven by pragmatism. I am afraid “progressives” are as faith driven as Evangelical Christians in the US or members of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iran. For a person not invested in any faith all these groups are at least slightly deluded. If I see someone chanting whatever slogans loudly the last thing I want is to allow that person to have access to the means of coercion. Because I don’t trust people of any faith. I would not be surprised if a very significant fraction of people in any Western country think in exactly the same way.

    12. Adam K, do you know who was considered to have no chance of winning around this time of year back in 2016? The current President of the US. He was regarded as a joke. Many still regard Trump as a really, really bad joke.

      Bernie Sanders is a totally viable candidate.

    13. Bill,

      “If progressives really believe in the basic good of humanity and the need for collective action, working together to educate each other and help each other out of that cloud, then cancel culture is not going to be the way forward.”

      This is a little disingenuous of you seeing you run your own version of cancel culture in this blog.

      Why is it that some people’s posts are moderated and others even excluded (at least that’s what I have read is other people’s experience)?

    14. Dear Jerry Brown,

      Trump is a joke but these people who are behind him are highly trained professionals. Please read “Trump’s Digital Advantage Is Freaking Out Democratic Strategists” in NYT. Sanders is not a joke but the burden of proof is on his side. He needs a majority to actively embrace his vision of change. But this change will infringe upon the interests of too many people and groups. They will fight him to death. Just think about people working for the medical insurance industry or big pharma. But even an average low-level clerk working for a health insurance company would lose her job. Is she ready to apply for a Job Guarantee position which has not been created yet and the whole program may not get approved by the Congress?

      Trump only needs to shut up a little bit, the economy is not in a bad shape and he hasn’t lost too many wars. He is not more corrupt than the average in the eyes of his supporters and he can always claim that he is persecuted by the media and left-wing lawyers.

      Please have a look at “U.S. Media Polarization and the 2020 Election: A Nation Divided” on the Pew Research Centre

      Also at “By a Narrow Margin, Americans Say Senate Trial Should Result in Trump’s Removal” to see that the level Trump’s approval is pretty constant in time.

      For Trump to win it is enough to get (almost) all his supporters to cast votes and get some Democrats not to vote. For Sanders to win it is required to get all the polymorphous Democratic voters and “never Trumpians” to show up as the Republicans will vote for Trump no matter what, unless there is a very strong “kompromat” on him. Looking at Poland, Australia and the UK it is extremely easy to make lukewarm conservative Democrats not to vote. “You are going to lose your retirement investment, is this what you are voting for”?

      55% of US workers participate in workplace retirement plans and many of these invest in shares.
      source “How many American workers participate in workplace retirement plans?” on Pension Rights Centre

      Nothing will happen until the last very few days of the campaign then there will be a storm of precisely targeted messages which will work as intended.

      Unless you can claim that 30-40% of active voters in the US could fully embrace “Our Revolution” and get immunised to these attacks or that there is a really decent “kompromat” on Trump to be made public near the end of the campaign, regrettably I see no chance for Bernie to win.

    15. Adam K writes:

      “…even if surveys say Bernie has a chance. The sociologists, social psychologists and political scientists who talk about collective values and identities have in my opinion as a group clear ideological bias because the majority of them are invested in building a “better society”.

      Well, yes, working for a better society is a “collective” enterprise; though I suppose working to ensure ‘small government’ is also a “collective” enterprise among those so inclined. (Bill mentioned the “fog of confusion” humans are struggling to deal with).

      I suspect that – like Ayn Rand – you are suffering from PTSD, after having lived behind the Iron Curtain?

      So, let’s stay away from identity politics. (Trans? Why is that anyone’s business except for those affected).

      Let’s get single payer health, debt free tertiary education, and the GND, including a JG.

      All strength and good luck to Bernie Sanders, who I’m told would consider Stephanie Kelton for Fed governor.

    16. Dear Neil Halliday,

      Neoliberalism is based on individualism and the rejection of the group/state domination (obviously we know that the vacuum is filled up with corporations so this reasoning is a scam) . Working to ensure ‘small government’ is NOT a collective action. It is highly decentralised and done by hired specialists, individuals and small groups with vested interests. This explains why they are so successful.

      The failure to acknowledge this objective fact is precisely the blind spot of the progressives and that’s why they keep losing. We have gay rights (what is obviously good) and can smoke marijuana in some places (I don’t care) but the income GINI changed from 0.40 to 0.48 between 1970s and now in the US. This clearly demonstrates who is winning. Progressive wishful thinking is not a way to intellectually defeat my Eastern European PTSD or whatever.

    17. There appears to be a certain amount of irony here. On the one hand, education is held in highest esteem, while at the same time we’re talking about biased, fraudulent and misleading research programs delivered by the very people entrusted to help educate us.

      The social and legal problems being faced by the LGBGTQI community have often been compounded by both academics and speculative theologians who hold deeply conservative ideals.
      In some very important instances, unchallenged (because of lack of interest or funding), biased ,and, flawed research dictated the mainstream perspectives which decide political, legal and even medical positions, with serious negative impacts, over many years, on the lives of many people, over individual attributes that amount to nothing more significant to greater society than a uniquely different hair color ought to have.

      Education only has value if what is taught reflects reality accurately and that has become a problem.

    18. The Uber Scenario
      I totally agree with the author of the above article. It was the biggest corporate con of this century, with total disregard for other countries rules, regulations and law & order. The man in charge sucked in millions of innocent investors, sold all his shares, he made deceit and fraud out of the thin air. He has started another similar disrupting digital restaurant venture, which everybody should be wary of.
      I wouldn’t invest a cent in his immoral and unethical shameless venture. The “KARMA” slowly but surely, will one day catch up him..
      Ray

    19. Dear Henry Rech (at 2020/01/30 at 8:09 am)

      There is no cancel culture operating here.

      1. There is an explicit comments policy – which sets the rules of discussion on my site.

      2. I moderate comments with links embedded (to protect the site from spam or otherwise unsuitable material).

      3. I moderate some commentators who have previously violated the policy or otherwise provided irrelevant material by way of self-promotion.

      4. I delete comments that are abusive (very few).

      5. I delete comments that seek to promote or link to material that I deem to be unsuitable (very few).

      I do not publicly shame and vilify commentators – which is the base strategy of the cancel culture.

      best wishes
      bill

    20. Adam K: While your comments are almost always worthwhile, knowledgeable and interesting.
      On US politics, here – completely off base. While a foreign perspective is often useful and enlightening, one cannot dismiss local ones. For instance, I would cede to Bill on tough calls about Australian politics – but not on US ones, where he has made mistakes about US history, fooled by bad sources, that the US MMTers don’t – because they have a lifetime of experience and knowledge here. The way BIll has a lifetime in Australia, that provide him with a basis I cannot have.

      What you’re putting is just the sort of mistaken perspective that no USAn could use, nobody who understood from the inside would say. This is especially so because the objective measures, basically ALL polls, say Sanders is the MOST viable candidate. Clearly so. Beyond margins of error.

      Against this, what?: an article in the basically pro-Trump NYT, which says basically nothing, A Pew study about media – and dinosaur media – which is basically irrelevant and doesn’t get the sides right.

      “Also in the US the word “socialism” is as popular as in post-Soviet Central Europe I am afraid.”

      That is simply false, outdated, now. The polls that say the exact opposite – and that is striking and new and largely due to Sanders and his programs and his popularity- and terrifying to the billionaire class. Up to 70% of young people support socialism over capitalism. Close to 50% or even a majority of the general population.

      Bloomberg is a completely unviable candidate, He’s a joke. Sanders is the most viable, obviously. Trump said so in 2016, said he feared Sanders more than Clinton and was happy when he lost and happy again when Clinton didn’t pick him for VP.

      Sanders’ whole problem, whole difficulty is getting the nomination. All the corporate media, party machine and machine pols prefer Trump to him. The “liberal media” is probably biased worse against him than Fox et al. But the people of the USA prefer Sanders to everyone else. Everybody knows that the realest contest is the Dem nomination. Never before have there been anywhere near this number of debates for it, for instance. If he gets it – look at the odds in Vegas immediately after. Sanders will be the favorite. Just like Reagan v Carter.

      “How can these academics and commentators who are so engaged in culture wars and in defending political correctness really understand Trump voters? But this could be a very simple task if you step back and practice the long-forgotten art of looking at things from multiple angles.”

      A better way is to actually talk, respectfully to (working class) Trump voters, engage with their thinking. I did, before the election – which is why the result was not a great surprise to me. From a sane and socially responsible and rational self-interest perspective, Sanders is clearly better than Trump. Which is why they would overwhelmingly vote for him. It is still not clear that Clinton was.

    21. Dear Some Guy,

      I am afraid things are not as rosy as you would like to see them. I still think that the arguments you have presented suggest a kind of group-based cognitive bias which I observed on myself in 1988/9 during my brief active encounter with politics. Make no mistake I would LOVE to see Bernie Sanders elected and I think he may have a chance if he manages to re-calibrate his message and is able to avoid a series of traps set upon him by social groups who would lose if he wins.

      He cannot just keep attacking every target moving in the field of view. He needs to choose who needs to be attacked – the Wall Street, the military-business lobby, the mining companies, etc. Otherwise Trump and his manipulators are far more experienced in manufacturing and directing rage against everything.

      Pew Research Centre published last year “In Their Own Words: Behind Americans’ Views of ‘Socialism’ and ‘Capitalism’”

      55% of Americans had a negative impression of “socialism,” while 42% expressed a positive view. About two-thirds (65%) said they had a positive view of “capitalism,” and a third viewed it negatively.

      Regarding Trump voters I haven’t met any for quite obvious reasons but let’s say that I had a few chats with people who have a similar way of thinking here, in Australia. I do not buy American exceptionalism, sorry about that. Not to mention interacting with ethnic Poles here and there, you will be shocked to know that almost the same stuff had emerged earlier in Poland than in the US.

      Do you want to see a deepfake video from 2010 of the scene of the plane crash which killed President Lech Kaczyński in 2010? Search for “10.04.2010 SMOLEŃSK… Cała prawda / Niewygodne fakty” on youtube and get someone to translate. “Nie ubivay” = Don’t kill me (in Russian). This is how the currently ruling party seized power – by cultivating conspiracy theories that Donald Tusk and Vladimir Putin had killed Lech Kaczyński, etc. BTW the poor guy who was the minister of state organising the doomed trip was my schoolmate (I don’t have any links with these people any more). They sentenced him – for what? Effectively for the fact that the pilot was coerced to land the plane it thick fog without instruments by Lech Kaczynski’s entourage. Enough about the dispensation of “justice”. My lawyer is bigger than your lawyer… especially if I can nominate the judge.

      I can see a lot of momentum and enthusiasm for Bernie but what you have on the other side is well-paid professional manipulation and a carefully manicured wall of hatred.

      Regarding the polls it is true that they predict that Sanders can win with Trump but they also still predict that Biden will get Democratic nomination despite the momentum building behind Sanders.

      I would say that we haven’t seen anything in regards to possible attacks of Trump’s camp against Sanders or Warren. Once the Republicans finally dispatch of Biden who seem to be weakened enough (even if he manages somehow to win the nomination), they will go full steam ahead with personalised brainwashing on social media and a more conventional Eastern European scare campaign of whispers flying under the radar.

      If the target is Bloomberg unless there is a kompromat on him, (I doubt), he knows how to use the technology and he can buy the services of the best of the best. Also – the IT moguls and the banking oligarchy may even support him for free. As long as Bernie endorses Bloomberg in return for clear concessions about the social program, Trump is finished. But I am afraid that the society may never be ready for a radical direct experiment with Bernie’s ideas. “Time will tell”.

    22. @Some Guy,

      As you say, Sanders first has to win the nomination, and to do that, he has to counter some formidable opponents in his own party (if we accept that Sanders is a Democrat, which I believe technically he is now, although apparently still planning to stand as an independent in the Senate in future (if he doesn’t become President, that is). Such opponents as Hilary and Obama, I’m talking about (not Biden).

      There seems to be a high danger that he will get the “Corbyn treatment” from his own side, as well as from a biased media.

      (I admit to being limited in my knowledge of the US political scene, but the above is based on reading what is easily in the public domain).

    23. Bill,

      “I do not publicly shame and vilify commentators – which is the base strategy of the cancel culture.”

      Maybe not, but you have allowed some of your commentators to make unacceptable remarks even though you say you remove these comments.

      Cancel culture might at times use vilification but its prime aim is to discredit and to shut down and contain debate and discussion. The criteria you outlined above are more or less designed to do this.

      I would argue that this is what happens

    24. Don’t let Adam K’s ‘analysis’ from Australia dissuade you from voting in a primary if you have that chance. Bernie Sanders absolutely can win both the primaries and the general election. Just get out there and vote. We got this if we get out there.

    25. Dear Jerry Brown,

      I never suggested not voting for Bernie Sanders in the primaries. I think that if he changes his approach to much more pragmatic after wining the nomination and builds a broad coalition with moderate Democrats, without betraying what he stands for, he has a significant chance to defeat Trump and implement real changes. But if his supporters do not abandon wishful thinking, it is pretty easy to predict how Trump and his oligarchy will steamroll the “socialists”.

    26. Dear Adam K, I love you man. Mainstream Dems have been all riled up about foreign interference in US elections the last few years. The President of the USA is actually on trial (sham trial unfortunately) in the Senate for a tiny part of his ongoing corruption that has to do with the ‘foreign interference’ in elections. This is, by and large, mostly bullshit- in my opinion. But I don’t see why Sanders shouldn’t benefit in some way from that hysteria since it is already out there. Keep telling us Sanders has no chance- it isn’t going to hurt his prospects. And maybe it helps those prospects in some strange way.

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