Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Eat the antebellum rich!!!

I've shared a meme over at http://www.facebook.com/peteschult/posts/10205994540155402 that I won't be taking down but that does need some extended discussion and criticism.

A kinda overly simplified meme on the Interwebz? Im shocked!!!
A kinda overly simplified meme on the Interwebz? I'm shocked!!!

Here's the data I found in the census report for 1860:

US population in 1860
People Families
Free states 19.2 million 3.63 million
Enslaving states 12.2 million 1.52 million
Total 31.4 million 5.15 million

Enslaved population: 3.95 million

Number of enslavers[1]: 0.385 million (= 385,000)

0.385 is

  • 3.16% of 12.2 (enslaving states)
  • 1.23% of 31.4 (total US)

The 1.6% figure in the meme is, thus, not far off, but it is a bit misleading. If I'm not mistaken, the 0.385 million would have basically been the number of households that enslaved, so the comparison should be with households. Moreover, it should only be with those in the enslaving states. 0.385 is 25.3% of 1.52 million.

Thus, we have around a quarter of the households of the enslaving states being active enslavers. This is still a minority, and it may be that many of the households with few slaves were not necessarily better off financially with enslaved workers than they would have been with free, so the meme's central claim that a definite minority of the population of the confederacy was able to get much of the rest of the white population to fight against its own interests stands, but the ratio of beneficiaries to pawns is more like 3:1 than 62:1.

  1. I couldn't find this figure in looking through the census report itself, but I was not thorough. I got it from the online copy of a print publication for state legislators (State legislatures, June 2008), and they claim to have gotten it from the 1860 census.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

My politics will be intersectional, ...

So I have mixed feelings about Minnesota United's campaigning on behalf of GOP legislators who voted for marriage equality in Minnesota. I'm quite aware that politics makes strange bedfellows and that laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made. Nevertheless, it seems, in the bigger picture, to be counter productive to ally with an organization committed to hierarchy and oppression. My idea of social justice is not getting individual groups let into the Club for Cis-Het White Dudes. As Flavia Dzodan might say, that's bullshit.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

I'll be a post-feminist in a post-patriarchy.

People talk about how Steve Jobs often was and Linus Torvalds often can be a**holes, but they excuse them on the basis of their genius.

It occurs to me that before we can say we're in a post-patriarchy, we'll have to have it be such that women who are creative, dynamic geniuses can also be a**holes and still command respect rather than being called b***hes or worse.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11 irreverence

A reminder for Americans about what many of them were saying during the Kosovo War of the late 1990s:

Why are they so concerned about the Battle of Kosovo? That's ancient history.

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Aphorisms #9-#15

More aphorisms from my .sig file:

  1. Ankh if you love Ra.

  2. Apple doesn't have many motivational speakers because, think about it: There is no I in iPad!???

  3. If the system is such that good enough isn't good enough, then the system may not be robust enough.

  4. It was predestined and foreordained that I would have presbyopia.

  5. Reality is what happens whether you believe it will or not.

  6. Some look at the dependent variable and ask y? I look at its initial value and say y0?

  7. There's the lost Taoist episode where Kirk does nothing, but the computer, knowing that Kirk destroys computers with illogic, senses that Kirk's inaction is paradoxical and then explodes.

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

If there is a Ponzi scheme, it's not Social Security but retirement itself

tl;dr: In an sense, all retirees are parasites, whether they have large cash reserves or rely on a system like Social Security. Retirement itself is what is a Ponzi scheme that takes what workers produce and gives it to unproductive retirees.

The right-wing seems to have declared a War on Social Security to go along with the more general War on the Welfare State and the War on Women. Their propaganda tries to get people to focus on the idea of ownership of a personal account as the ideal so that they'll demand an end to the pay-as-you-go system that Social Security uses.

Their shell game with personal accounts relies on faith to a greater extent than does the fiat money that they like to condemn as having nothing at its base. Even if an economy uses hard, imperishable commodities like gold for its money, that money is not what the people in that economy ultimately want. What people want is those things, services, experiences, and so on that they spend their money on. Even in an economy with no credit, no paper money, and no base-metal coins but only with gold as the medium of exchange, if there are no things, services, experiences, and so on that people want, the gold will have no real value to them. To claim that gold or personal accounts will provide for people in their retirement is to require them to have faith that the economy will be productive enough when they retire and that their accounts will be flush enough then. A system like Social Security, on the other hand, only requires that the economy be productive enough.

In any economy, whether retired people have personal accounts filled with 1s and 0s on hard drives at banks or have personal stashes of gold under their mattresses or rely on an authority to move currency from people still employed within the productive economy to them, it is the total output of the productive economy that is relevant. Again, remember that it is goods, services, experiences, and so on—not 1s, 0s, or gold—that people want. Retirees are, by definition, unproductive and must take from the productive sector. That they give the productive sector some of their 1s, 0s, fiat paper, or gold does not negate the fact that they take output from production without having themselves produced anything during the relevant time period!

Assuming that the productive economy produces enough to meet everyone's needs, there is no reason that anyone in the society should have unmet needs. Relying on the market + personal accounts, though, virtually guarantees that some portion of the society will. If labor is heavily exploited and poorly paid, then laborers will not be able to buy what they produce, and only those with fat accounts will. If inflation erodes the value of accounts or if too many have been unable to save (see the previous scenario after several decades), then most retirees will not have enough even though the economy produces enough for everyone (see the 1920s).

The solution is for society to actively distribute wealth (that is, goods, services, experiences, and so on) by the proxy of taxing those in the productive economy and transfering the revenues from that tax to retirees. That is what Social Security does. All the talk of Social Security accounts was necessary to sell the idea to people in the 1930s who were too proud to accept welfare, but all that Social Security is is a formal system for transferring wealth from the productive to the nonproductive. However, private accounts are also just a system for transferring wealth from the productive to the nonproductive but with the element of high-stakes risk thrown in. Both systems for retirement are, thus, Ponzi schemes, but Social Security results in justice instead of in a casino.

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Pun rooted in the archaic

The Gaffer was down at the pub having a pint or two and expostulating on Russell's Paradox:

Ah, the class of all classes that aren't members of themselves. That's a right, proper class, that is.

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