American Plutocracy? [UPDATED]

November 10, 2010 at 11:26 pm (By Randy)

(Click on graphic for more readable version)

A plutocracy is a government which is ruled by the wealthy, or controlled by wealthy individuals. The term is usually used pejoratively, as it implies a lack of democratic freedom and social mobility. Numerous historical governments were plutocracies, controlled by an oligarchy composed of the wealthy ruling class, and some modern governments have been accused of being plutocracies, including the United States.

The term comes from the Ancient Greek ploutos, for “wealth,” and the suffix -kratia, for “ruler.” Many nations have experienced a state of plutocracy at some point, since wealth often comes with immense power, especially in the formative stages of a new country. Countries with valuable natural resources like oil and precious metals have also experienced government in the form of a plutocracy, as the entities which control these resources generally want to maintain conditions which are favorable to them.

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Subsidizing Oil Consumption

November 10, 2010 at 11:08 pm (By Randy)

The amount spent on highway construction and maintenance in the U. S. is about twice what gasoline taxes bring in as revenue. The difference is a subsidy to oil consumption.

-Dave Schuler at The Glittering Eye

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Shirky Principle

November 10, 2010 at 12:34 am (By Randy)

Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.

Clay Shirky

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Just In: Deontology, Consequentialism, and Virtue Ethics in Dead Heat

November 9, 2010 at 1:09 pm (By Theo Boehm)

Yes, this new poll of philosophers reveals a surprising diversity of opinion, although skewed in directions you might imagine. The survey was done by philpapers, and is described on the home page of the project this way:

The PhilPapers Survey was a survey of professional philosophers and others on their philosophical views, carried out in November 2009. The Survey was taken by 3226 respondents, including 1803 philosophy faculty members and/or PhDs and 829 philosophy graduate students.

It’s nice to see a number of topics included that we often kick around in our own, strictly amateur way. From what I gather, realpc is outnumbered but not alone in her opinions among philosophers, while the rest of us could learn a thing or two about epistemology and ontology (not to mention zombies) from a quick glance at the survey.

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Economy in Government [UPDATED]

November 9, 2010 at 12:43 pm (By Randy)

Thought now was an appropriate time to pass along this clip of Calvin Coolidge, said to be the first ever film & sound recording of a sitting President. [Yes, I know, Coolidge is standing while speaking ;-)] Coolidge talks about the cost of government in 1924. Total expenditures of all governments within the United States were $7.5 billion, of which the federal government share was $700 million $2.9 billion or less than 10% 39%.

Obviously, times have changed. According to Wikipedia, as of 2006, total spending by all governments within the United States was $4.704 trillion dollars, about half of which was spent by the federal government.

According to the website Measuring Worth, in 2006, the relative worth of $700,000,000 $2.9 billion from 1924 is:

$34,200,000,000.00 using the Consumer Price Index
$28,500,000,000.00 using the GDP deflator
$77,900,000,000.00 using the value of consumer bundle
$113,000,000,000.00 using the unskilled wage
$139,000,000,000.00 using the Production Worker Compensation
$171,000,000,000.00 using the nominal GDP per capita
$447,000,000,000.00 using the relative share of GDP

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Who You Callin’ a Quitter?

November 8, 2010 at 2:45 pm (By Amba)

I really, really thought J had had it, yesterday.  And then . . .


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Cool It

November 7, 2010 at 11:14 pm (By Randy)

Take a moment to watch, read and reflect.

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Banana Republic?

November 7, 2010 at 9:45 am (By Randy)

The richest 1 percent of Americans now take home almost 24 percent of income, up from almost 9 percent in 1976. As Timothy Noah of Slate noted in an excellent series on inequality, the United States now arguably has a more unequal distribution of wealth than traditional banana republics like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Guyana.

C.E.O.’s of the largest American companies earned an average of 42 times as much as the average worker in 1980, but 531 times as much in 2001. Perhaps the most astounding statistic is this: From 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent.

(Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times)

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Way to Go.

November 5, 2010 at 10:48 pm (By Amba)

I had a peaceful day with J today.  Stopped pushing him to drink and eat and swallow medication-laced applesauce.  If he was through with all that, okay.  He knows what he’s doing.

He slept most of the day but to my surprise wanted a little water — three swallows — in the morning and again in the evening, and three teaspoons of coffee ice cream in the afternoon.  The hospice nurse told me dementia patients can sometimes go on like this for months.  He seemed much happier and more comfortable not being nagged and force-fed.  He basked in his favorite Errol Garner CD with a few blurry but familiar exclamations and sighs of savoring.

Our friend Axel the hospice volunteer, who usually comes on Fridays, offered to come over, but I told him we were okay.  I had work to do (yay!), and a workout that was overdue, and I figured he had things to do, too.  He was over on J’s good day a week ago, and J hadn’t said much but reached out to touch his face affectionately, which was very . . . touching.  I wasn’t sure whether or not he would have responded to Axel’s presence today.

And I was practicing being alone.  I might as well get used to it.  After all, in a way I’ve craved it.  And been frightened of it.  And it was easier than I thought.  J slept and slept; I made lentil soup and talked to the cats and started the CD over again whenever it ended.

Then our karate friends called and said they’d come over for dinner.  I got in my workout before they arrived.  J woke up enough to greet them quite sociably, with a sort of drunken bonhomie.  Then he sank back into his half-asleep jazz bliss, cheeks sunken and mouth open in that hollow O of the demented and the dying.  It was okay:  a part of life, the rounding-off.  We dragged a couple of little tables into the bedroom and sat there and ate, told stories, and laughed within his sight (if he cared to open his eyes) and hearing.

I thought:  Yes!  This is how we’re supposed to die:  with life going on all around us.

(Right.  He’s not dying, yet, tonight or tomorrow or even next week.  But he’s started on the way, and very peacefully, so far.  Will it stay that way?

Meanwhile, my New York subtenant called:  the landlord has sent me a renewal lease!  If I wasn’t back, my tenancy was supposed to end this coming February, but the lease-renewal department may be operating on automatic pilot.  Or the recently cured case of bedbugs, which the landlord is legally required to disclose, may have cooled their zeal to deregulate the apartment.  Whatever — if I sign the lease and they countersign it, that’s two more years.  If they question it, I can tell them I’m coming back.  My subtenant won’t have to leave, and I won’t have to decide, by February.

This is good.)

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Ok skeptics, explain this

November 5, 2010 at 6:28 pm (By Realpc)

Parapsychology has been around a long time, about as long as psychology. Parapsychologists have been claiming to find evidence for paranormal abilities, and mainstream “skeptics” have been refusing to believe it. Parapsychologists are vastly outnumbered by mainstream psychologists, and the mainstream journals seldom publish parapsychology research. I have had many arguments over the years with mainstream materialist “skeptics” who will not even consider the evidence. They just discount it, or ignore it, because, they say, it cannot possibly be true. It would defy the laws of physics.

Oh really? Do we actually have the laws of physics all figured out? Alternative scientists keep pointing out that physics has shown us how weird and incomprehensible our world is. That time can travel backwards, that things can be connected through empty space, for example. But the “skeptics” always respond that the quantum levels have no relevance whatsoever to our level of reality. You have to wonder how these “skeptics” know all that.

But in any case, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, the “skeptics” have to say against a recent article published in a very respectable mainstream journal by a very respectable psychologist at Cornell. The research is summarized in this Psychology Today story:

I heard about this type of research years ago. I loved it because, unlike most parapsychology research, it doesn’t depend on subjects consciously trying to use their psychic powers. Bern’s experiments do not involve the subjects’ conscious minds.

Ok, so what happens if it turns out this research cannot be discounted or refuted or ignored? Are we beginning to enter a new era, where mainstream scientists are allowed to doubt the materialist dogma? And once that doubt is allowed, where does it stop? If our minds can be influenced by future events, maybe fortune-telling isn’t all nonsense. And if fortune-telling isn’t all nonsense, what else might not be all nonsense?

This kind of research, if it turns out to be impossible to refute, could profoundly affect our society.

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