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Tensegrity in the structure of the United States

By adimovk5 in Culture
Sun Nov 14, 2004 at 11:01:15 AM EST
Tags: etc (all tags)
/etc

Tensegrity is a term used in architecture.

What is tensegrity?

“The word ‘tensegrity’ is an invention: a contraction of ‘tensional integrity’. Tensegrity describes a structural-relationship principle in which structural shape is guaranteed by the finitely closed, comprehensively continuous, tensional behaviors of the system and not by the discontinuous and exclusively local compressional member behaviors. Tensegrity provides the ability to yield increasingly without ultimately breaking or coming asunder”
Richard Buckminster Fuller (excerpt from Synergetics, p. 372.)

The tension of the different parts of the structure gives the structure its strength. Separately each part is a burden on the structure. Together the parts make the structure strong.

Tensegrity structures are distinguished by the way forces are distributed within them. The members of a tensegrity structure are either always in tension or always in compression.

The United States has a similar tensegrity.


THE BRANCHES

The legislative, executive and judicial branches are balanced against each other. The writers of the Constitution feared the concentration of power that might occur in a central government. They divided the central government's powers so that no single branch could dominate. Each has independent authority but it is limited by the other two.

Legislative power was vested in Congress. Executive power was vested in the President. Judicial power was vested in the Supreme Court and inferior courts. Congress was to make laws. The President was to enforce laws. The courts were to settle disputes. The pure ideal didn’t last long.

Today the courts legislate from the bench and enforce their own decisions. Congress holds Congressional hearings that operate like courts and creates agencies that enforce laws. The President issues Executive Orders that have the force of law and his agencies sometimes act as judge and jury. Each has encroached on the powers of the others. A balance still remains but it isn’t the structure created by the Constitution.

THE POWER LEVELS

The federal, state and individual form another power triangle. The constitution gives the federal government certain powers and forbids it other powers. In Amendment 10, the relationship between the three is made clear:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

The federal government was to have only those powers specifically given to it. The states and the people were to have any powers not forbidden to them by the Constitution. Thomas Jefferson had much to say on the subject:
“Our country is too large to have all its affairs directed by a single government. Public servants at such a distance, and from under the eye of their constituents, must, from the circumstance of distance, be unable to administer and overlook all the details necessary for the good government of the citizens; and the same circumstance, by rendering detection impossible to their constituents, will invite public agents to corruption, plunder and waste.”
Thomas Jefferson to Gideon Granger, 1800. ME 10:167

“While smaller governments are better adapted to the ordinary objects of society, larger confederations more effectually secure independence and the preservation of republican government.”
Thomas Jefferson to the Rhode Island Assembly, 1801. ME 10:262

The federal government has increased its share of power at the expense of the states and individuals. Some of the powers it has taken were not granted by the Constitution. Some of it is taken in exchange for grants of money from the federal purse. However, the state governments still serve as a check on federal power and so long as regular elections occur, politicians are never far from unemployment.

THE ARCHIES

The writers of the Constitution had studied ancient Greece and knew of its philosophy:

Plato’s pupil Aristotle was also an opponent of democracy, but his method of determining what was good government was not to draw up schemes for perfect states. Instead he looked at governments as they actually operated. He divided the Greek states into three categories: monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. Each had their virtues, but each tended to degenerate: monarchy into tyranny, aristocracy into oligarchy, and democracy into mob rule. He thought a mixed government, which combined the three methods and guarded against their failings, would be best.
They constructed a mixed government. The executive is an elected monarch (rule by one). The legislature is an elected aristocracy (rule by merit). Both the executive and legislative are periodically elected to prevent their degeneracy into tyranny and oligarchy. In the Greek sense, tyranny was rule by one without regard to law. Oligarchy was rule by a group without regard to merit. The judicial branch is an appointed aristocracy. It is chosen by the elected monarch with the approval of the elected aristocracy. The judicial branch serves for life but has no power other than to resolve disputes. The other branches make laws and control the government.

The last form, democracy, was the form the writers feared most. Again and again in history they saw unstable democracies fall into mob rule. And yet, they believed the power to rule ultimately comes from the people. They decided on representative government. The power of the people, of democracy, is represented by a House of Representatives who serve as a buffer between the people and the law.

THE FACTIONS

Political parties were not part of the original plan for the United States. In his 1796 farewell address, George Washington warned:

“They [political parties] serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community… However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people, and to usurp for themselves the reins of government; destroying afterwards the very engines, which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

They chose not to establish parties as Constitutional institutions. However, in a growing nation, factions were inevitable. Eventually factions did form in a struggle for power between two friends, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. The first parties differed mainly over whether the federal government should be stronger than the states or vice versa.

Today’s political parties struggle over different matters. There are two main struggles. One is the fight over economic rights. Should government control the economy or should the economy be a free market? The tension between the two causes the economy to be somewhere in the middle. The other main struggle is the fight over personal rights. Should people have a right to choose or should the government legislate morality? Again, the tension causes personal liberty to fall between the two extremes.

Currently, the Republican party is for morality by law and against government control of the economy. The Democrat party is for control of the economy and against morality by law. Most power is concentrated in these two factions. Third party factions occasional rise and force a change. In times of near balance between the two major parties, third parties can influence the course of the country.

THE ECONOMIC ISMS

Capitalism was present in the United States when it was born. The country had neither the wealth nor the ability to have much of anything else. Capitalism is the private ownership and private control of resources. Pure unfettered capitalism failed in 1929.

There are cycles in economies. The economy grows and shrinks. In the 1920s, speculation and easy credit drove the stock market beyond the normal trend line. In 1929, the speculation bubble burst. The economy couldn't recover. The recession worsened and became worldwide. People were bankrupted. Governments collapsed. Fascism gained favor.

Governments tried a multitude of methods to rescue their economies. The most successful method was fascism. Fascism is private ownership and state control. Mussolini’s Italy was the most successful example. People from every nation sent observers to Italy to learn, including the US. Many laws were created that controlled economic behavior. The excesses and defeat of the fascist governments in the Second World War ended the popularity of this method.

Socialism is government control plus government ownership. In the United States, quite a few institutions are socialist:

...a certain degree of such state ownership and planning is common in economies that would almost universally be considered capitalist... In the U.S., a semi-private central bank with close ties to the federal government, the Federal Reserve, regulates lending rates, serving as a “bank of banks.” Also, governments in capitalist nations typically run the post office, libraries, national parks, highways, and (in the case of the US) NASA... State, provincial, and local governments within a capitalist system can operate and own power companies and other utilities, parks, mass transit including rail and airports, hospitals and other medical facilities, and public schools (often including a number universities).

The economy is a now mix of capitalism, fascism, and socialism. Sometimes private ownership and private control works best. Sometimes government controls must be used on private property. Sometimes it's best for the government to both own and control. As economic methods none of the three is inherently bad or inherently good. They are tools and the correct tool must be used at the correct time for each purpose.

E PLURIBUS UNUM

The struggles of the various forces for supremacy have the potential to destroy the country if any one succeeded. Fortunately, the opposing forces balance each other out. Like yin and yang, the forces balance each other and give the whole strength.

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o tensegrity
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Tensegrity in the structure of the United States | 102 comments (58 topical, 44 editorial, 0 hidden)
Nice vs Reality (2.66 / 3) (#8)
by Highlander on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 03:24:21 AM EST

Nice topic, although I wouldn't bet on it that the system is balanced and exhibits "tensegrity".

Moderation in moderation is a good thing.
balance (none / 0) (#15)
by adimovk5 on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 06:30:06 AM EST

The system is balanced so long as the users don't try to manipulate the system for nefarious purposes. For example, the Weimar government fell apart when the National Socialists attacked it from outside and the existing members of the government assisted.

When each side is sincerely trying to use the system to benefit the whole country within the rules/laws, everyone benefits. Excesses always result in blowback and the pendulum swings back.

If you go back and examine the history of the country you will find it sways back and forth between isolationism and intervention, fundamentalism and liberalism. The parts are always in conflict. What looks like unity always has the seeds of the next protest quietly beginning.

[ Parent ]

In computer (science) (3.00 / 2) (#63)
by Highlander on Sat Nov 13, 2004 at 08:44:51 AM EST

In computer science, a system that breaks when users try to manipulate it is not considered safe.

Moderation in moderation is a good thing.
[ Parent ]
+1 awesome, new ways of thinking (none / 1) (#11)
by Russell Dovey on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 05:05:49 AM EST

Enlightening stuff. You've given me a great way of illustrating the problems with various political ideas, and for that I thank you.

This article is what people mean when they say that objectivity benefits both sides in politics.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan

Corporatism (2.83 / 6) (#21)
by xria on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 08:22:31 AM EST

The missing Ism from your economic section is where businesses are publicly owned, and they own government. This is clearly becoming a more and more important factor in the US particularly as the costs of getting elected become more and more expensive with every term.

When an attempt at becoming president costs a three quarters of a billion dollars, the only obvious outcome is going to be a plutocracy of some sort - either by the few wealthy individuals that could afford that much, or by the businesses who make enough money to buy influence on that scale.

corporatism=facism[n/t] (none / 0) (#26)
by cronian on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 10:18:15 AM EST



We perfect it; Congress kills it; They make it; We Import it; It must be anti-Americanism
[ Parent ]
A Very Good Overview... (1.66 / 3) (#27)
by DLWormwood on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 11:50:53 AM EST

There's nothing really new in this article, but the content of it is something we USians have to be reminded of again and again. We are not a true "democracy" or "republic," but an experimental fusion of prior government concepts, along with influences due to changes in perception and legal interpretation since the country's founding.

Whenever you hear a politician complain that one branch of the goverment is getting too powerful and must be curtailed, get your gun ready, so to speak. "Activist judges," "bully pulpits," and "action committees" are all just catchphrases and concepts for those who seek to destroy the balance of power. Gridlock is a good thing!
--
Those who complain about affect & effect on k5 should be disemvoweled

definition of "activist judge" (2.00 / 2) (#67)
by partykidd on Sat Nov 13, 2004 at 11:22:40 AM EST

An activist judge is one who legislates from the bench. It's a violation of our government laws. The legislature, not the judiciary, writes the laws. An activist judge doesn't cause gridlock. Put your gun away and learn the terms.

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle


[ Parent ]

Okay, smarty, ENFORCE IT... (2.00 / 2) (#85)
by DLWormwood on Sun Nov 14, 2004 at 11:59:15 PM EST

An activist judge is one who legislates from the bench. It's a violation of our government laws.

"Legislating from the bench" is a buzzphrase of those who oppose the current ideological makeup of the judiciary. Judges don't "write law;" they establish precident. When a legislator whines that a judge overrode a law, he/she is wishing that we didn't have "checks and balances." Legislators don't have carte blance ability to write law, to make a law that drastically changes precident and prior law, a more formal constitutional amendent process must be invoked.
--
Those who complain about affect & effect on k5 should be disemvoweled
[ Parent ]

Riiiiiiight.....like CA's Proposition 22? (none / 0) (#101)
by partykidd on Thu Nov 18, 2004 at 07:22:53 AM EST

"Legislating from the bench" is a buzzphrase of those who oppose the current ideological makeup of the judiciary.
No it's not. I've already stated why.
Judges don't "write law;" they establish precident.
Like in San Francisco? They weren't writing law that overrode current law? And they weren't in the legislature, were they? And they didn't vote on it, did they?

"Proposition 22" states that, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." Now would you care to explain how they started marrying gay couples when it was clearly against the law to do so? And how it wasn't judicial activism?

When a legislator whines that a judge overrode a law, he/she is wishing that we didn't have "checks and balances."
Not at all. I'm wondering about your intellectual capability to understand easy ideas. I've already explained that an "activist judge" is one who legislates from the bench. That is a violation of governmental checks and balances.
Legislators don't have carte blance ability to write law...
They don't have carte blanche to write law. There's a process.
...to make a law that drastically changes precident and prior law, a more formal constitutional amendent process must be invoked.
Where is that in the law? Who determines what "drastically changes precident and prior law"?

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle


[ Parent ]

Faction (2.50 / 4) (#29)
by cr8dle2grave on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 01:58:13 PM EST

Political parties were not part of the original plan for the United States.

The instincts of the Founding Fathers were, imho, correct, but their collective failure to arrive at a method for formally prohibiting the participation of political parties in the process of governance continues to mar the legacy of their otherwise remarkable accomplishment.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


people are more important (2.50 / 2) (#38)
by adimovk5 on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 05:44:27 PM EST

Any system will fail if the people who are in it aren't up to the task. Government must be tended like a farmer's field. It must be cleared of weeds and defended from predators. It's not an inanimate object that can take care of itself.

Most of the failures of the system are failures of vigilance on the part of the owners.

[ Parent ]

Agreed (2.50 / 2) (#44)
by cr8dle2grave on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 07:04:10 PM EST

I didn't mean to argue a position of constitutional determinism, for lack of a better term, but only to point up what I think is a notable failing in the Constitution itself.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
constitutions (2.66 / 3) (#48)
by adimovk5 on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 08:01:49 PM EST

Have you ever read the Soviet constitution? It's full of rights and protections and power balances. The leaders chose to ignore it and the people failed to do anything about it.

The United States works as well as it does because the first 15 presidents created a myth. Collectively the citizens of the United States believe in and reinforce that myth. Most of the institutions aren't found in the Constitution, they live in hearts and minds. It works because people believe.

[ Parent ]

Able to have political parties = freedom. [n/t] (1.50 / 4) (#68)
by partykidd on Sat Nov 13, 2004 at 11:24:03 AM EST


"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle


[ Parent ]

so? (none / 1) (#73)
by CAIMLAS on Sat Nov 13, 2004 at 01:50:36 PM EST

What, exactly, does that have to do with either freedom or political partisians? Nothing. Political parties polarize the debate and gloss over the real issues with a thick veneer of self-rightiousness.
--

Socialism and communism better explained by a psychologist than a political theorist.
[ Parent ]

It could be argued... (none / 1) (#86)
by hershmire on Mon Nov 15, 2004 at 01:03:53 AM EST

... that prohibiting political parties conflicts with the first amendment. Freedom of assembly doesn't just mean protesting in the streets - it also means meeting at your home or even a convention centre in New York.
FIXME: Insert quote about procrastination
[ Parent ]
aka "Freedom of Association" [n/t] (none / 0) (#100)
by partykidd on Thu Nov 18, 2004 at 07:08:25 AM EST


"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle


[ Parent ]

That may be true. (none / 0) (#99)
by partykidd on Thu Nov 18, 2004 at 07:07:41 AM EST

But it's still freedom.

Nobody said that freedom was always pretty with roses.

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle


[ Parent ]

A good study of the consitution in theory, (2.85 / 7) (#30)
by Kasreyn on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 02:16:46 PM EST

but I think an argument could be made that it's not living up to its promise, or that the system has already been corrupted.

For one thing, Washington was right (as he usually was). Under our electoral system, two parties have come to dominate nearly all political thought, and everyone outside them feels forced into lockstep in order to maintain effective voting power.

In my opinion the greatest threat to representative democracy was one that the founders never could have foreseen, which was the electronic mass media. Control and power in the United States of old was divided into many small communities that could develop independant cultures and viewpoints, and would then make their say heard in national elections such as those for the Presidency. Issues important to that area would be passionately endorsed by its elected representatives, and issues important to the cultures of other areas would be largely disregarded. However, the mass media has largely transformed the United States into a monoculture. Rather than being a group of small communities confederated, we are basically one vast culture with minor local differences, still living under a constitution designed for local differences. This homogenization has led to a much easier time for politicians whose only purpose is to hoodwink as large a portion of the populace into voting for them, without actually representing their interests, as possible.

And I'm not sure if it makes complete sense to say an economic system can be partially fascist or partially socialist; aren't there also cultural facets of those systems which must be present, such as leader-worship in fascism, etc.?

Editorial suggestion: perhaps a word on how the Supreme Court's effective role and powers have changed over time? You say correctly that its purpose originally was to arbitrate disputes, but today it also arbitrates the validity of controversial laws. It seems clear to me that, however beneficial I personally may think this has proven to be for the nation, it was not originally intended by the framers of the constitution.


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Yes. (none / 0) (#34)
by aphrael on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 02:37:53 PM EST

Fascism, unlike socialism, is not primarily an economic phenomenon.

[ Parent ]
economic phenomenon (none / 0) (#47)
by adimovk5 on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 07:43:51 PM EST

.....Fascism, unlike socialism, is not primarily an economic phenomenon.....

I never claimed that fascism was primarily an economic phenomenon. I used only the economic part of it. There's a distinction there.

Socialism started as primarily a political movement too. However unlike fascism it has never been established in any country that I know of. It would be interesting to see what would happen if the people truly controlled all the means of production. However I would like to view the experiment from a distance. Perhaps a European country would be willing to try?

[ Parent ]

Nope. (none / 0) (#50)
by aphrael on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 08:18:37 PM EST

Socialism started as an economic critique of the prevailing system, and developed into a political movement designed to remedy the problems described by that critique.

[ Parent ]
mass media (none / 0) (#39)
by adimovk5 on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 06:17:42 PM EST

.....In my opinion the greatest threat to representative democracy was one that the founders never could have foreseen, which was the electronic mass media.....

While they may not have foreseen electronic mass media, they knew the dangers of mass media. That's why there's no democracy in the federal government. They feared the power of demogogues and the fickleness of mobs.

The Senate was elected by the legislature and divided into thirds so that only one third changed every year. The judges and justices held life terms to shield them from politics. Representatives were elected to provide a step between the people and government decisions.

The current flirtations with popular votes, majority rule, and the "will of the people" are dangerous.

[ Parent ]

added Supreme Court paragraph (none / 1) (#40)
by adimovk5 on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 06:18:47 PM EST

I also commented on the power grabs of the other two branches.

[ Parent ]
That's a terrible definition (2.80 / 30) (#31)
by aphrael on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 02:20:17 PM EST

That's a terrible definition of socialism. It, and your examples, completely fail to understand either the intellectual history of socialism or the history behind the examples.

Postal systems make a good example of this. Government-owned-and-controlled postal systems were a staple of ancient empires; the Maya and Aztec both had one, for example, and the Mongol postal system was renowned for its speed and efficiency. In all cases the systems were an outgrowth of the Imperial need for fast and efficient internal communications - a huge problem in empires which stretched over enormous land masses - without which the government could not function.

Socialism is, of course, a nineteenth-century phenomenon. So, if you're going to argue that government-operated postal systems are socialist, you must take one of the following positions:

  • Socialism existed before there was a word for it;
  • Government-run postal services were not socialist in inception but are socialist today by virtue of there contemporary context.

Lets look at the former first. It's appealing, particularly for a libertarian, but it ignores the degree to which the purpose of government control is necessary for somethign to be called socialism. What makes socialism different from, say, seventeenth century Mercantlism (which held that trade external to the nation should be conducted by the state in the interests of the state)? Both the socialists and the mercantlists would have insisted that there was such a difference; the advocates of mercantilist policies in the nineteenth century (and they existed) were diametrically opposed to the advocates of socialist policies.

Socialism was a primarily economic doctrine which held that all economic value was created by labor, and which maintained that the owners of capitol were exploiting laborers and capturing the added value for themselves. It advocated government control of capitol for the purpose of ensuring that this did not happen, and for government distribution of the value created by labor for the purpose of ensuring that the distribution was 'fair' for some definition of fair.

Government control and/or ownership of other things is not, per se, socialism, no matter how much the libertarian and conservative movements of the twenty-first century would like to associate ancient practices with that word in the hopes of tarnishing them with the horrible reputation of socialism.

The government-run post-office, for example, was originally an essential internal government service that was opened up and made available to people not part of the government. It certainly wasn't 'socialist' in its original form, nor is it 'socialist' now.

Government-owned roads are also not historically 'socialist'. In medieval Europe, government-owned roads were simply the areas where there was a reasonable guarantee that you would be protected from brigands as you were transporting your goods to market. In early America, the government came to own roads because there was a strong belief that it was a fundamentally national interest in expanding infrastructure into the unsettled west (and predated the intellectual development of socialism). Similarly, the fight over whether or not to have a national bank (which, in effect, the Federal Reserve is) not only predated socialism but was discussed entirely in terms that a socialist would find incomprehensible.

Not enough 3s to give (none / 0) (#36)
by GenerationY on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 03:35:13 PM EST

I've never (well rarely) seen socialism described appropriately on Kuro5hin since I started visiting here. I've pretty much given up trying, but well done on this.

[ Parent ]
purely economic socialism (2.00 / 2) (#45)
by adimovk5 on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 07:27:45 PM EST

It's my argument that socialism existed before the socialist movement. It didn't exist as a theory and the people who created and used socialism didn't use them because they were socialism. They used them because they worked.

I'm using socialism as a pure economic method. You want me to take the political theory and history into consideration. I have no intention of going there. I'm describing an economic situation where the government both owns and controls an industry or business. There is no other name that I know of that fits the situation. Whether things were or weren't called by a name doesn't change what they are. A name isn't the same as the object named.

The ancient Greeks pondered the elements and thought all matter was constructed of earth, fire, air, and water. It wasn't until the 1800s that the true nature of atoms began to emerge. Even though men discussed matter a certain way, it doesn't change the fact that matter can be viewed differently than the way they thought about it.

Alternately, what would you call government control of a government enterprise? It certainly isn't capitalism. In my opinion socialism isn't inherently bad. It's a way of getting things done. Sometimes it's the best way. Sometimes other ways are better.

Take the post office for example. For many years there was no better way to deliver mail universally at a decent price. Government mail served a vital link binding the country together. It's a fine example of a government owned, government run service. At one time it allowed competition. The Pony Express delivered fast mail cross country. The only other option was by slow boat via US Post Office. The Pony Express died when railroad and train came to the West. Now the Post Office is competing against commercial enterprises and forbidding competition. The government should provide service only where it can do it cheaper and there is no one else to do it. For example, it could continue delivering to unwanted routes while opening up everything else to competition.

NASA is another great government owned program. It launched satellites and put men on the moon when no private venture could. Now that private companies can put up satellites and men into space, NASA needs to move on to new frontiers where it has no competition.



[ Parent ]

riposte (none / 1) (#52)
by aphrael on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 08:27:58 PM EST

It's my argument that socialism existed before the socialist movement. It didn't exist as a theory and the people who created and used socialism didn't use them because they were socialism. They used them because they worked.

I think that this makes it difficult to understand the politics of the nineteenth century, and it makes it impossible to coherently talk about how socialism was an innovation. Plus, I think that there is an important difference between a system in which a state owns an industry for the purpose of, say, ensuring that the state's needs are met (think, for example, of nationalizing the defense subcontracting industry) and one in which the state owns that industry for the purpose of redistribution.

It's similar to how someone opposing a law banning hate crimes against gays because he thinks hate crime laws are bad is engaged, fundamentally, in a different enterprise than someone opposing a law banning hate crimes against gays because he thinks *gay people* are bad.

I'm not sure what you mean by "government control of government enterprise", so i'm not sure how to give it a name.

[ Parent ]

Parry (none / 1) (#53)
by adimovk5 on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 08:46:20 PM EST

.....I think that this makes it difficult to understand the politics of the nineteenth century, and it makes it impossible to coherently talk about how socialism was an innovation.....

I see your point. Can you give me a concise link to work into the article? I mention socialism several times so it shouldn't be too hard. Many kurons click on all the links. I'd like to point them to a good one.

.....Plus, I think that there is an important difference between a system in which a state owns an industry for the purpose of, say, ensuring that the state's needs are met (think, for example, of nationalizing the defense subcontracting industry) and one in which the state owns that industry for the purpose of redistribution.....

I only see a fine difference between the two. Both are owning for the "good of the people". It's just up to society to decide what is good for the people. Everything can be rationalized if you try hard enough.

.....It's similar to how someone opposing a law banning hate crimes against gays because he thinks hate crime laws are bad is engaged, fundamentally, in a different enterprise than someone opposing a law banning hate crimes against gays because he thinks *gay people* are bad.....

The law fuctions the same for both regardless of the reason behind it. Gays are protected by a certain law. Likewise, repeal of the law will achieve the same result regardless of their intentions for having it repealed. Gays will no longer be protected by that specific law.

.....I'm not sure what you mean by "government control of government enterprise", so i'm not sure how to give it a name.....

If private ownership plus private control equals capitalism.
If private ownership plus government control equals fascism.
Then government ownership plus government control equals _________?

[ Parent ]

No link. (none / 1) (#54)
by aphrael on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 08:58:27 PM EST

This isn't based on web stuff, and I don't have time to track down web links.

If private ownership plus private control equals capitalism. If private ownership plus government control equals fascism. Then government ownership plus government control equals _________?

Ahhh. I think I see the problem. :) Two of them, at least. One, I disagree with your second definition. More importantly, 'capitalism', 'state capitalism', and 'state socialism' (the terms I would use) are systemic terms that legitimately describe the entire economic system. They are not appropriate, in general, for use in subsets of the system. Especially state capitalism and state socialism, which don't apply to subsectors.

[ Parent ]

better, perhaps. (none / 1) (#55)
by aphrael on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 09:03:55 PM EST

entire economy set-up for private ownership and private control: pure capitalism.

entire economy set-up for government ownership and government control: state socialism.

entire economy set up for private ownership and government control: corporatism.

An economy which is primarily private ownership/private control with some mixed elements: mixed capitalism.

A private owned/controlled subset of some other system: capitalist sector

.

A government owned/controlled subset of some other system: government sector



[ Parent ]
Postal changes (none / 1) (#98)
by bored on Tue Nov 16, 2004 at 12:37:27 PM EST

Now the Post Office is competing against commercial enterprises and forbidding competition. The government should provide service only where it can do it cheaper and there is no one else to do it. For example, it could continue delivering to unwanted routes while opening up everything else to competition.

That is probably a bad idea, because then the post office has a competitive disadvantage. They will have to service areas that cost more to service, driving their prices up on normal routes against people who don't have to service the unproffitable parts. This has happened before in other industries, amtrak and maybe the airlines. A better plan would simply be to require that any competitor provide similar service with a similar pricing model. Ie, weight/size based delivery costs, not destination based with 100% coverage in the US. BTW: The post office allow "competion" in areas they don't service. For example UPS delivers large items the post office won't, and Fedex has the next day delivery that the post office didn't have until a few years ago. I think the post office started clamping down when Fedex started "ground" service.

BTW: The post office provides services to US customers that none of the big delivery players will. For example, Registered Mail which has the highest insurable rates of any of the major carriers, and is transported in locked cages.



[ Parent ]
not entirely fair (2.66 / 3) (#65)
by SocratesGhost on Sat Nov 13, 2004 at 11:00:23 AM EST

Most ancient postal systems (and every other government functions) were expressions of the monarch's will. In other word's, they existed for the pleasure of the ruling class. They happened to benefit society as well, though. So, for example, the Romans built aqueducts and roads because this was a good way to build an empire; happy people make happy subjects. It's not socialist in this case, but can be more fairly seen as one of the tools of repression: We Romans come and give you culture and you will thereby prosper; here, take a bath.

The existence of democracy transforms these functions in to public goods. While the monarch had the burden of the cost before, the society does now. As a result, now it's a much more relevant question whether to privatize the rail system or to fund it.

While this seems to argue for your second bullet point, it really is a case for your first bullet point. Socialism did exist before there was a word for it just as anarchy existed before humans came along to invent it. It's just that the type of socialist activities were restricted to non-government related enterprises. For example, the ancient Arabian rules of hospitality required for a host that every guest has a place to sleep, water to drink, and food to eat. A host could not refuse a guest, too, until the guest outstayed their welcome. This is a form of traveller's socialism. Also, you had medieval farms owned by the villagers; each villager would have his own wheat farm, but the pea patches were almost always communal. They had all sorts or rules about how people would go in to there; if you were caught in there when no one else was there, you were automatically considered a thief. The church bell ringing indicated the times when everyone could be in there. You could also look at ancient maritime law as being socialist in structure although in that case, the instrument that kept the ships honest was the sailors who tended to talk a lot and also tended to work on many ships. As a result, the laws of the sea were enforced through social networks and a captain who went against the conventions would not receive help if he was adrift at sea.

So, yes, socialism did exist before there was a word for it. You just make the mistake of thinking it can only exist at the level of government.

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
Badly wrong (2.50 / 2) (#76)
by GenerationY on Sat Nov 13, 2004 at 03:06:34 PM EST

First, socialism is a theory of economics based on a historical analysis informed by Hegelian notions of dialectics. None of your examples have anything to do with economics, be it the means of production, surplus value or the ownership of labour. Therefore, they do not speak to socialism except, in some cases, as being part of Marx's Hegelian view of history (e.g., Marx on peasants and the use of common land). You are giving examples of social contracts and conventions; nothing to do with socialism unfortunately and of course discussion of those topics significantly predates Marx (e.g., Hobbes and "Leviathan" etc.)

Second, this is just plain wrong:
The existence of democracy transforms these functions in to public goods.
I don't know what else to say. Read the Chapter I link to above and pay close attention to the effects of the Act of Enclosure.

I suggest spending some time with Capital. The Manifesto alone doesn't really cut it in terms of finding out what socialism actually is all about.

[ Parent ]

narrow definition? (none / 0) (#88)
by tetsuwan on Mon Nov 15, 2004 at 05:44:49 AM EST

Should socialism only apply to what is called Marxian communism by academics?

Njal's Saga: Just like Romeo & Juliet without the romance
[ Parent ]

Seriously (none / 0) (#94)
by GenerationY on Mon Nov 15, 2004 at 03:36:13 PM EST

its only the narrow definition that makes any sense. Without the backbone of a theory of economic relations between classes, we are left discussing things that are not really at the core of socialism not unique to it, for good and bad; e.g., the social contract, social conventions, altruism, authoritarianism, etc.

[ Parent ]
That's also a bad definition of fascism (2.58 / 17) (#32)
by aphrael on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 02:28:01 PM EST

Although it's become the standard one, and it's one that I subscribed to for quite some time before looking closely at the politics of Germany, Italy, Spain, and Portugal during the time that they were governed by more-or-less fascist regimes.

The thing is that while socialism is primarily an economic theory with political consequences, fascism is primarily a political theory with economic consequences. Or, perhaps, not so much a theory as a gestalt, a mindset about the way things are and should be.

Fascists, in general, are keen on the notion of the nation as a collective unit. They support neither the individualism of the anarchist nor the class-collectivity of the socialist; they believe in the unity of the nation, and it becomes very important to them to protect the nation against those who would undermine that unity. The nation can be conceived as a single organism, in which every person has an assigned role and place, and in which any person who objects to that assignment is considered a threat to the organism as a whole. Dissent is, in a sense, a cancer, to be rooted out and destroyed.

An important concomitant of this is the idea that business should be conducted not in the interest of the individuals, but in the interest of the state. That does result in a situation in which, in effect, industry is privately owned but government controlled. And yet that is not the defining feature of fascism; the defining feature of fascism is an obsessive concern with national unity and purity, enforced by order of the state.

For more information on this, there's a whole series of books published in the 1970s that tried to elucidate a difference between fascism (germany, hungary, italy) and authoritarianism (portugal, spain). I don't buy all of it, and to some degree the debate is rather bizarre, but it's an interesting intellectual exercise, at any rate.

purely economic fascism (none / 0) (#42)
by adimovk5 on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 06:46:32 PM EST

I believe it's possible to have a purely economic fascism without the political baggage, regardless of what experts say. The experts aren't always right, especially when you're discussing theory.

The fascists of the post World War One era were examples of what can happen when deviants gain control of a political system. The same can happen in any government. For example, Napoleon's misuse of the French republic doesn't make republics bad. It just shows that they can be bad.

Admittedly historic fascist governments all seem to share the same charcteristics. To me, this means that all bad fascist governments appear to be bad in roughly the same way. Perhaps it's because the power hungry find it easy to use fascism to achieve their goals.

Capitalism is easier to examine because it has existed longer and in more places. In some countries it has led to great improvements in quality of life for all. In others it has reduced the populace to virtual serfdom. If capitalism isn't constrained to a single political philosophy, why should fascism be constrained?

That's why I submit that fascism can be looked as a purely economic theory of government control of private property. Otherwise what do you call such a situation?

[ Parent ]

capitalism vs. fascism (none / 0) (#43)
by aphrael on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 06:49:13 PM EST

I agree that experts aren't always 'right', but that's not what we're discussing here: we're discussing definitions. :)

If you look at the rhetoric of fascist states, they were pretty much exclusively concerned with politics, not economics. Economics was an afterthought or a tool designed to implement the political decisions.

If you look at the rhetoric of capitalism, however, it's pretty much entirely economic, with politics being used as a tool to further economic ends.

That's the fundamental distinction i'm drawing.

[ Parent ]

historic definitions (none / 0) (#46)
by adimovk5 on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 07:38:13 PM EST

I agree with your assertion. Fascism originated with a political goal and the economics developed to fulfill those goals. Capitalism was the reverse. It developed first as an economic system and then politics followed.

Must I be constrained by historic accidents? The economic portion of fascism places privatly owned land and business at the disposal of the state. As a coherent theory the idea had not existed before. From its conception, the economic side persisted long after the demise of its political uses.

Likewise capitalism is more of a political idea now than a economic force. Politicians talk of free markets when none exist anymore. The two world wars and the depression between them killed free market capitalism. In its place are rules and regulations. There are trade treaties and protocals. There are import and export controls. There are restictions on labor and funds.

[ Parent ]

The problem is (none / 0) (#49)
by aphrael on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 08:17:41 PM EST

that if you take words that have well-defined menaings - such as fascism as a political doctrine - and attempt to redefine them to apply to something you are more interested in talking about, you contribute to the meaningless of the word.

What you are describing as 'fascism' - the economics you are discussing - is usually described by political scientists as 'corporatism' or 'state capitalism'.

[ Parent ]

I'm not alone (none / 0) (#56)
by adimovk5 on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 09:54:17 PM EST

The concept is unfamiliar to you. That doesn't mean that I'm making things up. There are 332,000 hits associated with a google search for economic fascism.

Here is one example:

Promethean Capitalism Part Seven: Economic Fascism

Government which organizes economic activity based on centralized ownership of property acts as a forced monopoly, since it both engages in production and trade, and makes the rules for production and trade. This tradition is commonly known as socialism, and in its complete form, communism. Basically, this involves the state appropriating the functions of business unto itself, removing the decisions necessary to guide economic action from the control of the individual, and making the individual a direct employee of the state. The state attempts to distribute what is created as evenly as possible, working to limit individual advantage.

Government which does not assume the role of a business directly is capable only of appropriation and redistribution of capital which has already been produced, regulation, and other interference with exchanges of existing capital. This tradition in its more extreme form existed as fascism.

In both cases, distribution of what is created tends to be wasted and hits false barriers all along the way, because there is little personal incentive for efficiency. In both cases, corruption is very likely, because in both cases government is composed of real people whose human nature is no longer an asset, but a problem. In the case of interference with private exchange, officials are likely to interfere for their own profit in business activities of their own, or interfere because they have been paid to intervene on the behalf of certain businessmen, or extort money from businesses in exchange for advantages or being left alone. In the case of government which owns property and engages in exchanges like a business, there is little personal advantage involved with being productive, and little personal accountability for mismanagement and failure. This is why officials charged with the administration of property and goods owned by a government frequently turn to the black market to obtain personal advantage. In both fascism and socialism, competition is lacking which might provide a check against corruption.

Both fascism and socialism focus on the controlled redistribution of what has already been accomplished, rather than more and greater accomplishment. In fact, there is an underlying assumption that what exists and has value is a finite amount with a fixed value. This contradicts any ability of the individual to posit subjective, personal understandings of value.

The difference between fascism and socialism is a fine point in practice. In intent they may differ, but in practice both tend toward consolidation of political power. Socialism typically favors central ownership to a greater degree (in the extreme of communism, all appreciable property is centralized) while fascism emphasizes state control over exchanges more than state control over property itself. With different emphasis, both are based on forced intervention with the individual human acts of creation and voluntary exchange, making creation and exchange involuntary.

And here is another:

ECONOMIC FASCISM AND TAX SLAVERY by Nelson Hultberg

The primary distinction between the two systems is that capitalism is a system of economic organization without government involvement, thus its descriptive adjective of "laissez-faire," which means to leave alone. The government's job is basically to preserve the peace and perform those few limited functions granted by the Constitution.

Under fascism, the government's job is to intervene into the marketplace to control all the various economic interactions of its participants. Its role is to manipulate the economic interactions through regulations and the conveyance of special privileges. Government assumes this power because it is felt that this is the only way stability and order can be maintained in society.

Under capitalism, the term "private" means free of government control or involvement. Thus, PRIVATE enterprise is FREE enterprise. Private businesses are entities in which the individual owners (rather than public officials) make the decisions of hiring, pricing, wage determination, production levels, policy planning, profit disposal, etc. Government is divorced from these economic decisions.

Under fascism, ownership of businesses are left in "private" hands, but the government rigidly regulates all businesses confiscating much of their profits and using them as the government sees fit. Thus business entities are private in name only. The term "private" is still used, but it no longer means free of government involvement. It is used within the context of government-business "cooperation." However, such terminology is a fraud because there is never any cooperation when government is involved. Government simply tells businesses what it wants done and legally mandates that it be done. There is no choice in the matter. Those who don't do as the government says are imprisoned or fined egregiously.

Fascism is thus a command economy where massive centralized government is developed to regulate its citizens' lives. The major power centers of society -- government, corporations, and banks -- form a triad to monopolize and manipulate the economy according to their liking, their aggrandizement, and their profit at the expense of the individual and his rights.

"The essence of fascism," writes Thomas J. DiLorenzo of Loyola College, "is that government should be the master, not the servant, of the people. Think about this. Does anyone in America really believe that this is not what we have now? Are Internal Revenue Service agents really our "servants"? Is compulsory "national service" for young people...not a classic example of coercing individuals to serve the state? Isn't the whole idea behind the massive regulation and regimentation of American industry and society the notion that individuals should be forced to behave in ways defined by a small governmental elite?" [Ideas on Liberty, June 1994, p. 289.]



[ Parent ]
aphrea-1 l-1kes -1t (1.15 / 13) (#57)
by Liberal Conservative on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 11:26:23 PM EST

uh yeah based on aphreal's fucking tomes written below, let's dump this crap

'tensegrity'?

are you kidding me?

let's stop making up words and start dealing with the issues

the issues are what matter here people

the issues are what affect my life

the issues are what matter in the long run

the issues sway current life toward future situations

we must percevere

we must stop complaining and start acting

look toward the future

the ford 500 is a piece of shit

miserable failure

signed,
   liberal conservative

indeed. (none / 0) (#58)
by aphrael on Fri Nov 12, 2004 at 11:29:31 PM EST

i liked it so much i voted against it.

[ Parent ]
-1, Misuse of Engineering Terms (1.25 / 4) (#70)
by thelizman on Sat Nov 13, 2004 at 12:15:20 PM EST

Social Sciences already have words for what you want to pretend to understand, including "provincialism", "sectionalism", and "factionalism".
--

"Our language is sufficiently clumsy enough to allow us to believe foolish things." - George Orwell
Hilariously (none / 1) (#72)
by GenerationY on Sat Nov 13, 2004 at 01:06:56 PM EST

thats not what any of those terms mean in the Social Sciences or outside them.
"Functionalism" (in the Talcott Parsons sense) would be nearer, but still no cigar.

[ Parent ]
-1: YOU FLAMING RADICAL! (1.00 / 5) (#71)
by Peahippo on Sat Nov 13, 2004 at 12:21:47 PM EST

Anyone who quotes the Constitution (especially Article 10) is a dangerous wacko who represents a throwback to the time of the Democratic Republic, hence is a strong threat to today's glorious Empire.

Don't go anywhere, Pal. We've already noted your IP address, the DHS has already used it via a secret warrant with your ISP to determine your physical location, and with satellite imaging to confirm you haven't left the domicile, the SWAT team is already on its way. They may only shoot you in the leg ... but, buddy, but if you run, they'll stitch your torso with about 5 rounds of 5.56mm ball ammo.


what god says about tension (1.75 / 4) (#74)
by robert e gadstone III on Sat Nov 13, 2004 at 01:59:50 PM EST

after perusing this article i turned to the good book

specifically, please turn to deuteronomy chapter 4 verse 30

"when you are in distress and all these things have happened to you, then in later days you will return to the LORD your God and obey him"

there is a tension here

there is a sum-of-parts metaphor here

we rely on the difference but we treasure the tension

look unto god for how to save our fine States

look unto god in time of need and bow in prayer to ask for direction in life

our country was founded to allow for freedom of worship

i worship every sunday in downtown charleston and my life, my state, my country... none would be the same without christ our saviour, our holy, holy, holy lord

yours in prayer and many amens

amen

Stop writing like CTS (2.00 / 3) (#75)
by sudog on Sat Nov 13, 2004 at 02:20:12 PM EST

... fucking moron.


[ Parent ]
Yup! (none / 0) (#82)
by Robert Acton on Sun Nov 14, 2004 at 06:32:05 AM EST

This here U.S.A. sure is complicated, huh?

--
I am cured.
Tensegrity? (none / 0) (#87)
by daigu on Mon Nov 15, 2004 at 01:26:56 AM EST

Let's see if I follow the argument:

1. "Tension of the different parts of the structure gives the structure its strength."
2. The United States has a structure that includes various branches of government, geographic levels of government, styles of government, political parties and principles of economic organization.
3. ?
===============================================
C. "[T]he forces balance each other and give the whole strength.

There seems to be an implicit assumption 3. that diversity of all the things described in 2. makes for a stronger whole a la the whole E Pluribus Unum line.

The main problem is you have not described the relationships of these different components, the tensions between them and how they come to be balanced. Once you address that you might find that you need to talk about other aspects such as how these tensions work themselves out over time, the role of mass media or how the system deals with dominance of a particular political ideology.

I think it would be fairly easy to come up with a counter-argument along the lines that the current U.S. political environment is neoliberal with a more or less uniform ideology that extends across all branches of government. This political idealogy is systematically redefining the economic and political environment to consolidate its power and is creating a monoculture.

If the above is true and your implicit assumption of diversity is also true, then how does the Tensegrity of the system correct for this situation?

Applying the concept of tensegrity to political systems is an interesting idea but you need to flesh it out in more detail and with greater clarity.

"Failure" of capitalism (2.33 / 3) (#89)
by smithmc on Mon Nov 15, 2004 at 09:24:10 AM EST


Pure unfettered capitalism failed in 1929.

Pure, unfettered capitalism has never really existed, but to the extent that it might have, it was killed in 1929 by the actions of the then-decade-or-so-old Federal Reserve, which messed around with the money supply after WWI to prop up the British pound, and in doing so created the runaway market that inevitably led to the crash.

Read More... (3.00 / 3) (#91)
by anaesthetica on Mon Nov 15, 2004 at 10:39:26 AM EST

You can read a short treatment of the parent's point in Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom which summarizes in a few pages some of his findings about the Federal Reserve System in that era.

It is worth noting that the Federal Reserve System unwisely concentrated too much power in the hands of a very few technocrats who throughout the onset of the Depression managed to do nearly everything wrong. The problem wasn't capitalism: it was over-concentrated power in an "independent" institutions set up by government mandate. That's far more akin to central planning economies than it is to pure capitalism. It's entirely fallacious to say that the Depression was capitalism's failure.

—I'm the little engine that didn't.
k5: our trolls go to eleven
[A]S FAR AS A PERSON'S ACTIONS ARE CONCERNED, IT IS NOT TRUE THAT NOTHING BUT GOOD COMES FROM GOOD AND NOTHING BUT EVIL COMES FROM EVIL, BUT RATHER QUITE FREQUENTLY THE OPPOSITE IS THE CASE. ANYONE WHO DOES NOT REALIZE THIS IS IN FACT A MERE CHILD IN POLITICAL MATTERS. max weber, politics as a vocation


[ Parent ]
Another source... (none / 0) (#102)
by smithmc on Tue Nov 23, 2004 at 02:08:01 PM EST


You can read a short treatment of the parent's point in Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom which summarizes in a few pages some of his findings about the Federal Reserve System in that era.

Where I first read about it was a 1966 article entitled "Gold and Economic Freedom", written by... wait for it... one Alan Greenspan, current Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Go figure.

[ Parent ]

tensegrity in the structure of the human body (none / 0) (#90)
by bithead on Mon Nov 15, 2004 at 09:24:36 AM EST

In "The Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapies", by Thomas W. Myers, Leon Chaitow, Deane Juhan, the concept of tensegrity is applied to the role in supporting structure that the myofascia plays. I don't recall if they actually refer to tensegrity as such, but the way in which they propose how the myofascia plays a role in supporting the human physical structure is, whether they directly refer to it or not, very much in vein with the idea of tensegrity.

I think there is a point here, somewhere (2.50 / 4) (#92)
by cdguru on Mon Nov 15, 2004 at 12:59:36 PM EST

The problem is that the "outsider" view of the US government is that there are all these factions battling each other and nothing gets done. This is a common view from people familiar with European systems of government. I think it is also shared by a lot of younger people in the US today.

The point they are missing is the government was set up as three divided bodies with different elections and different responsibilities to prevent "things from getting done." Yes, if we had a government where one party or the other was not continuously blocking efforts by the other we might have a chance of some really serious changes occurring. Similarly, even with the House, Senate and Presidency all controlled by a single party there are still serious blocks to "getting anything done." This is inherent in the structure of the government.

You can moan about this being a terrible state of affairs, but if you think about it for a bit this is actually better. Very little gets done "to" the people. Government in the US is constrained from accomplishing very much and this limits their ability to do much "to" people. While it also limits the ability of the government to do things "for" the people, in general the people are best left on their own to determine what is in their best interests rather than having the government tell them. In the last 50 years or so we have easily had several rather "activist" governments in the US which would certainly have done many, many things "to" people all in the interest of doing things "for" them - had they been given the chance.

The US government is structurally designed to have a weak and ineffectual central government and most of the problems are actually where it has gained power rather than continuing to be weak. This is a human trait - to accumulate power - and the origin of the US government has done a pretty good job of setting up a system to defeat this accumulation.

IAWTC (none / 0) (#97)
by adimovk5 on Mon Nov 15, 2004 at 09:04:01 PM EST

I get funny looks when I tell people that the federal government was designed to be inefficient. The Constitution provides many checks on what the federal government can do. The writer's didn't want a far off central government running the country.

The states are only required to be republics and forbidden those powers solely given to the federal government. Otherwise there was no requirement for them to have separation of powers or anything if they didn't want it. I think many states have been made far too weak by well meaning citizens.

[ Parent ]

Tensegrity in the structure of the United States | 102 comments (58 topical, 44 editorial, 0 hidden)
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