Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

[P]
World's poorest countries not so enthusiastic about WTO.

By elenchos in MLP
Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 06:54:32 AM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

The BBC reports that the 49 poorest countries in the world are meeting in Zanzibar, where they will discuss how to counter what they see as the unfair trade deal that is being urged on them in the guise of the WTO. Their main complaint is that the US and the EU countries are insisting they open their agricultural markets to cheaper western imports, while those rich nations maintain subsidies on their own agriculture.


President Bush accuses G8 protestors of being enemies of the poor, and calls the G8 version of globalization as their best hope. The African Union is facing the harsh reality that the number of African countries among the world's least developed increased from 27 to 34 in the last five years, while the disparity between rich and poor worldwide has increased.

Are those in the West calling for a change in the direction of globalization in tune with the poor? Or are they the problem? Even if more free trade will help everyone in the long term, is the deck being stacked against those who can least afford the costs of the transformation in the short term? Is a level playing field something that the world's poor simply can't afford?

If the African leaders are right, does President Bush have the political capital to force through an end to US agricultural subsidies that farmers have depended on for decacdes, in parity with sacrifices the WTO is demanding of African farmers? Or will there ever be truly "free" trade in agricultural products?

Sponsors

Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure

Login

Poll
It is my government's job to...
o ...liberalize trade rules and bring the benefits of globalization to all countries equally. 47%
o ...protect the interests of my country first, and help others globalize only if it doesn't hurt us. 30%
o ...False dichotomy! Globalization will only help, not harm, my country, and everyone else's as well. 21%

Votes: 46
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o are meeting
o discuss how to counter
o President Bush
o accuses
o G8
o protestors
o African Union
o disparity between rich
o West
o change
o direction
o globalizat ion
o they
o problem
o Also by elenchos


Display: Sort:
World's poorest countries not so enthusiastic about WTO. | 136 comments (133 topical, 3 editorial, 1 hidden)
Go world's poor! (4.00 / 11) (#2)
by Anatta on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 01:49:49 AM EST

It's pretty sad to see Europe (and to a lesser degree America) protecting its industries like agriculture in order to put developing countries at a disadvantage to trade.

However, I'm not sure how much this meeting has to do with the WTO... it sounds like it's going to focus on Europe and America's resistance to actually implementing the WTO's rules and ending ridiculous coporate welfare/government subsidies. Seems to me the WTO is on the right side in this situation, and protectionist goverments are on the wrong side.

It will be interesting to see how the Labor members of the anti-globalization movement respond to this. Not very favorably, I would guess.

Hopefully this meeting will succeed and actually help speed the true liberalization of markets, and true globalization... I wonder how many carnivals they'll have?
My Music

You're glossing over the hard part. (4.71 / 7) (#32)
by elenchos on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 08:53:41 PM EST

And missing the joke.

The WTO is not the pure force of free trade that you wish is was. If it were, there would be much less to complain about. When it comes to weak countries opening up their markets, they are straightforward free marketeers. But when it comes to strong countries doing the same, they are a subservient bureaucracy. This means that politicians can make speeches about the joys of free market capitalism and paint critics of the WTO as being backward anti-capitalists. Yet at the same time, they have no intention of making the sacrifices required by that kind of commitment to free markets.

And therein lies the joke: it is absurd to ask if Bush has the politcal capital to end US farm subsidies. He doesn't have the mandate, or the leadership, to tilt the status quo one bit, and he never will. But he doesn't need to: has Bush ever for one single second even entertained the thought of touching farm subsidies? Hell no. He isn't that dumb. Even if a president wanted to, look at the Senate: there's a good 60 or 70 Senators who live and die by the rural vote, due to the fact that big empty states like Nebraska each get two Senators. The really sick part is that the main beneficiaries of our farm policy are not the poster-child family farmers, but Monstanto and ADM.

You can wish and wish all you want, but in the US, socialism for farmers and welfare for agribusiness is as sacrosanct as mom and apple pie. And this is an example of the reason why all this wishful thinking and all these pretty theories about the beauty of free trade are not only irrelavent, they are a cruel joke. The poor countries of the world may complain and they may try to resist, but in the long run, they will be bent to the will of the West, which means they liberalize, we subsidize, and the media calls it a "free market." It is a rigged game designed to make the rich richer and exploit the poor. The only thing that can stop it is if enough people in North America and Europe wake up and realize that all these slogans and labels with the words "free" or "open" or "fair"or "liberalized" in them are lies, phony eupehemisms for backroom deals set up to benefit big money donors and special interests.

And even if you think you have some magic means of convincing the Western governments to give up all those subsidies and the protectionism hidden in the (secret) fine print of NAFTA or the WTO, is the West willing to make the transition painless for the world's poor? Where "pain" for them means starvation, disease and death, not just a little economic displacement.

These are the ugly realities. Sure, your neat and tidy free market economic models look nice, but they don't exist in the real world, and believing Dubya's hype will not make them any more real.

"Who's making personal remarks now?" the Hatter asked triumphantly.
--Alice in Wonderland
[ Parent ]

How malleable are the G8 Governments? (5.00 / 1) (#46)
by Anatta on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 01:18:22 AM EST

When it comes to weak countries opening up their markets, they are straightforward free marketeers. But when it comes to strong countries doing the same, they are a subservient bureaucracy.

You're right... up to a point. The WTO tends to have power over poor countries because they need the trade, while rich countries do not need the WTO. However, I would suggest that the fault does not lay with the WTO, but rather with the individual governments and their various protectionist policies. We've already seen some signalling from Prime Minister Blair that England would remove at least some of its subsidies if Africa commits to reform... we've seen Bush suggest cancelling the IMF debt... I hear rumors that the Vermont Dairy Compact will be wiped out... with the exception of Steel, most of the new legislation I'm hearing about has been very positive.

And therein lies the joke: it is absurd to ask if Bush has the politcal capital to end US farm subsidies. He doesn't have the mandate, or the leadership, to tilt the status quo one bit, and he never will. But he doesn't need to: has Bush ever for one single second even entertained the thought of touching farm subsidies? Hell no. He isn't that dumb.

That's why I sure as hell didn't vote for him. Still, I think he was better than clinton in regard to trade, and much better than gore would have been. As for touching farm subsidies... as I said, he's pushing congress to end the Vermont Dairy Compact... which is a good start.

The really sick part is that the main beneficiaries of our farm policy are not the poster-child family farmers, but Monstanto and ADM.

I'm still not so sure about that; I haven't seen you, or anyone, refute the statistic that hundreds of millions of Asians rose up from poverty in 10 years. Clearly Monsanto and ADM are doing well, however it's not really their fault; of course they're going to seek to maximize profits. It seems to me that fault lies with the protectionist governments, and the best way to remedy those faults is to vote the offending members out of office.

You can wish and wish all you want, but in the US, socialism for farmers and welfare for agribusiness is as sacrosanct as mom and apple pie. And this is an example of the reason why all this wishful thinking and all these pretty theories about the beauty of free trade are not only irrelavent, they are a cruel joke.

You're right about socialism for farmers and corporate welfare... however again, the best way to remedy the situation is by voting the laws down, and encouraging others to do so. The wishful thinking is not irrelavent, it is a roadmap to prosperity for all. It does work. We know it, we've seen it, we did it, we had it for years. Latin America also had it and prospered... when it went protectionist, it faultered. Now Latin America is removing its barriers once again. My guess is that in four years, we will have fewer social policies than we currently do... though the democratic senate may change that.

And even if you think you have some magic means of convincing the Western governments to give up all those subsidies and the protectionism hidden in the (secret) fine print of NAFTA or the WTO, is the West willing to make the transition painless for the world's poor?

You mentioned in the Libertarian-meets-green article that you felt a market-oriented approach to environmental policy would work, however we would have to show people that it is in their interests to follow the market. It seems to me that our global policies must do the same thing. If we can convince enough Americans that by ending subsidies we will allow developing countries to flourish and result in them purchasing more of our goods, by letting them get more wealthy we will benefit as well, then we may be able to remove some protectionist legislation.

By reducing the size and scope of the federal government in the US, we can move ourselves in the right direction. Bush's tax cut should be a huge help, as it will prevent the democrats from passing a great deal more protectionst legislation. Now if we can just stop the republicans from protecting things like steel, we'll be in good shape. Assuming our economy grows faster than Europe's, due to their (seemingly) faulty move on Kyoto and their protectionist policies, chances are there will be demand in Europe to change to a more American-style economy (as there already is). Hopefully that will push them further towards ending their protections.

Sure, your neat and tidy free market economic models look nice, but they don't exist in the real world, and believing Dubya's hype will not make them any more real.

I don't necessarily believe W's hype, however I will be curious to see what he has done in 4 years. Maybe he'll do nothing, but it seems to me that he does at least have some clue how markets work. He's not perfect, and the fact is that we probably never will have perfect, but he's not awful either.

The problem is not in the economic models... it's in getting leaders to follow them. That comes from educating citizens to how they work, from following the rules and promoting their successes, and from voting the proper candidates into office.

Protests are not the way to solve the issues. By writing, not yelling, we accomplish much. By forming economic models, we accomplish much. By getting into government, we accomplish much.

The most powerful man in the world, Alan Greenspan, is a libertarian free-trader. I've been hearing rumors of Larry Kudlow, an even more libertarian free-trader (and not a Bush lapdog -- at least he ripped apart Bush's energy policy as extremely faulty) as a choice for replacing Greenspan should he step down. These are powerful posts, and the more we can add, the better.

From what I just read from you, our views on the ultimate goal are not necessarily different, we simply differ on the degree of malleability of the G8 governments. I think they're on the road to changes for the better, and soon.
My Music
[ Parent ]

World's S50 (3.40 / 5) (#5)
by leon jacobs on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 04:54:24 AM EST

It would be a great idea to start a S50 group of countries - for smallest 50.

Problem is, they would have no clout. Their combined riches would probably not even be a patch on the wealth of one member of the G8.


--
10 REM sig
20 PRINT "LEONJACOBS.COM";
30 GOTO 20

[OT] Your sig has too much whitespace. (none / 0) (#7)
by Anonymous 6522 on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 05:58:51 AM EST

It's pretty annoying on smaller monitors.

[ Parent ]
fixed (3.50 / 2) (#8)
by leon jacobs on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 06:37:11 AM EST

ok, i took out the p-tags.
--
10 REM sig
20 PRINT "LEONJACOBS.COM";
30 GOTO 20
[ Parent ]
Finally... (2.60 / 10) (#6)
by boxed on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 05:49:16 AM EST

Finally some anti-globalization stuff that actually has some arguments! Personally I think you've got to take the good with the bad though, but that's no excuse for not fighting the bad of course. Remember, though, that the worst effects of globalization are over. Slavery has stopped (at least on a grand scale), the European occupation of the rest of the world is over etc etc. Now is the time to rebuild what the Europeans destroyed. So far it looks to me like it's going in the right direction generally.

Farming subsidies (3.37 / 8) (#9)
by Woundweavr on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 07:36:52 AM EST

Farming subsidies isn't really conducive to free trade. The thing is that what it does ensure is more important.
Farming isn't a very quick way to riches. In fact, you are pretty likely to go poor in the US without subsidies. There isn't very much incentive to be a farmer. It would seem under standard market economics, there'd be less farmers and demand would increase what they get etc. However, farming has huge startup costs and not many are willing to sacrifice their entire lifestyle for one of back breaking work when they could get the same type of money for a quarter of the effort. Some people want to obviously, but there are less farmers now than ever before. The family tradition is passed on less and less.

Now, if this was Hooters waitresses, or ditch diggers or computer programmers, society would shrug off the lack and gradually make more.

Farmers are different though. Not enough farmers = not enough food. The market will not support farmers under the US market (and the same occurs, I believe, in the EU). While we could 'outsource' food production to the third world, thats not the safest thing. For one, it would have to be transported to the first world. Also, third world countries (almost by definition) are the least stable. Without huge efforts that would make the Somalia/Balkan affairs look like nothing, food production would be constantly interupted, and in danger. Plus, if ever the third world were to actually catch up to the first world again, there'd be a new need for subsidies.

IMHO the WTO is all about profiteering etc etc. To me that isn't really in question. However, saying the US is wrong in food subsidies is simply assuming its wrong by assosciation. The third world does not really need the subsidies, but then there isn't free trade, for one side gets an advantage. Just remember, just because it has the word 'free' in it, doesn't mean its a Good Thing.

The nature of free trade (3.40 / 5) (#11)
by simon farnz on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 08:36:16 AM EST

At the moment, some subsidized farmers produce too much food, while other types of food have to be imported. If the US produces too little food, then yes it becomes dependant on imports, but the price of food goes up as the costs of moving and producing it go up (3rd world farmers have the money to live slightly better, cash flows in, and they start to demand a higher standard of living).

In fact, as food prices go up, farming becomes more attractive as a profession, causing more people to make that capital investment. Farmers are not different; if people need more food, they pay more for it. Free trade does not guarantee a good standard of living; it merely makes things fairer between those who trade
--
If guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns
[ Parent ]

Difference of Farmers (3.00 / 2) (#47)
by Woundweavr on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 01:19:31 AM EST

First of all, too much food is much better than too little. Second, even as you increase transport, storage, etc of food go up, so too does the price. Another advantage of subsidized food is that is lowers the a)does not eat up other resources in order to maintain production (fuel, ships, labor, time) and b) it keeps the price of food low and stable. We don't want food prices fluctuating, but rather low and stable.

Farmers are different. Its that simple. To farm, one much own(or whatever) a piece of land. For effeciency's sake, it must be a large piece, possibly in a commune. Work starts before dawn and ends after dusk. There is little leisure time and the work is physically dificult. The average waiter/secretary/low level suit cannot afford the land. The average rich guy/gal cannot stand that amount of labor. It's not a job you can just jumping into either. Perhaps, combining the resources of corps and low level employees lured by high salaries could work, but you'd need subsidizes to pay the workers.

Asking the US to end subsidizes would thus a) decrease stability in the US and thus the world b)lower quality of life in the US, primarily among the farmers themselves, c) either raise the price of food and eliminate much disposable income (depression) and/or not increase the quality of life in the third world farmers because to pay them signifigantly more to ship to the first world would increase prices to absurdity.

[ Parent ]

Missing my point (3.00 / 1) (#65)
by simon farnz on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 08:05:51 AM EST

You assume that subsidies reduce the price of food; they do not. Rather, they ensure that part of the cost of food is paid by your taxes. A free market tends to produce low and stable prices once the rate of change of products slows; for examples look at the prices of telephones, wrenches, screwdrivers and other items that are not subsidised. The prices that are unstable in a free market are those that are unsustainably low.

I agree that farming needs a lot of land to be efficient, but land is just a resource; I could argue that because (say) planes need a lot of fuel to efficiently transport people, air travel should be subsidized.

The argument that subsidies prevent wastage is interesting, but the facts here in the EU do not back you up. Much of the subsidised production results in food mountains; the butter mountain, the olive mountain etc. This is not because the subsidy is meant to encourage wastage, but because the subsidy system is abused.

You also argue that because an individual cannot get in to farming easily, it is a special case; that argument does not hold up. Running a corner store is hard work for one person, involving very long hours, and lots of lifting. By your argument, all small businesses should be subsidised. You also state that you would need subsidies to pay the workers; not true, as the price of food would increase to cover the cost of workers.

Obviously you cannot drop subsidies immediately; that would cause a depression. You ignore the possibility of phasing out subsidies slowly, by reducing the value to zero over time. The argument that you would lower the quality of life of the farmers is also untrue; if farming becomes unattractive, then the price of food increases. Eventually, farmers are paid a fair price for their work, and people pay a fair price for the amount of food they consume.

The big issue here for the US (which has an almost welfare state) is how to ensure that the increase in prices does not penalise the poorest members of society; that is a different argument altogether.
--
If guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns
[ Parent ]

Corner Store (3.00 / 2) (#71)
by Woundweavr on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 01:15:59 PM EST

The difference between telephones, wrenches, screwdrives, etc. and food is the first group has an elastic demand and food demand is inelastic. You do no need a constant supply of screwdrivers to live. Telephones, also, require a further service, and in many areas (the UK for one), it is still not cheap.

Land is a resource, but an unique one. Fuel can be moved. Labor and land cannot be so easily. While the people starting the corner store are in a town that can provide help(stockboys, cashiers, etc.), the amount of land required for farming means rural areas with a short supply of people. An individual cannot start a farm as easily because it requires moving to a rural area and huge tracts of land with little chance for entertainment. While a corner store manager might have to move a few cases of beer to the storage room, a farmer would have to move (for instance) 50 bushels of hay several hundred yards in the hot sun. The same goes for those you would pay to work on a farm. The average suburbanite may be willing to commute 30 minutes-2 hours to work a 10 hour day in an air conditioned office in a city that affords stimulating entertainment and convenience. However, most would not be willing to commute, or move, the same distance (and for most it would be more) in order to work 16 hours of hard labor without large monetary benefits.

In the US, people work longer hours than most other highly developed countries. Yet we also demand leisure time. Work hard, play hard if you will. Farmers have very little time for that most of the year, except during the winter. Even in the winter there is work and they are so far from population centers that it becomes inpracticle to go to see a play or a movie etc.

Any discussion on something that will increase the price of a necessity must include how not to hurt the poorest members of the society. Increase food prices by 25% and maybe I don't buy an upgrade to my computer for a few months. For some, it would mean another step towards starvation. At the very least, welfare/unemployment/disability payments would increase. I think it likely that instead of paying a low cost for food and some extra taxes to keep it low, we would pay a medium cost for food and just as much taxes to make sure people don't starve.

[ Parent ]

The capitalist reply (none / 0) (#76)
by simon farnz on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 07:04:15 PM EST

(NB I happen to agree with you, but it is more fun to argue!)

Firstly, farms will always be near cities; otherwise the inefficiencies of transport come into play. A compromise is found therefore between the cost of farming away from the city, and the cost of getting land near the city. Moving on to your next point about labour: I live less than 30 minutes drive from farmland; towns will form around farming communities, providing that farmers have enough money to spend; the theory of free trade says that they will.

Your point about working hours assumes that the price of food will stay where it is. If you take away the production subsidies, the price that farmers charge will increase. Hopefully, the balance will allow you to employ enough people working reasonable hours; 4 people on 5 hour shifts can do at least as much as one person on a 16 hour shift, if not more.

Good management practice (as used in the oil and security industries) can ensure that farmers have the time for leisure; in fact, the farmers I know already do. They work as partnerships; only one partner need be on the farm at any one time. Careful planning would allow them to share a town house (although they are only 2hrs from London city centre). I don't see how this would mean that they have no time for leisure; instead, their leisure time is in blocks.

On then to your final point; it would be nicer if people were all paid enough that government subsidy was unnecessary. In practice this is impossible; however surely it is better to subsidize only those who need the subsidy (ie the poorest section of society)? Maybe this would be a large block, but then subsidies by definition cost as much.
--
If guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns
[ Parent ]

Since no one else has yet spotted it... (none / 0) (#106)
by simon farnz on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 05:44:45 AM EST

The real reason that farming is different is nothing to do with resource use; it is time.

If people stop buying eggs/screwdrivers/milk/telephones etc, the capitalist system means that production will stop. However, screwdrivers and telephones take a short amount of time to ramp up production again; bringing up new cows, chickens, fields of wheat etc takes several months/years
--
If guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns
[ Parent ]

Farming Subsidies Need To Be Reworked,Not Elimated (3.50 / 2) (#49)
by AArthur on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 01:30:54 AM EST

Farming subsidies are the only way that's pratical to attract people into farming. Good wages, and freedom help a lot, but they are not everything.

If you didn't inherit the farm from your family (which is actually the case for 95% of all farmers), you have almost unpayable startup costs. More then most other bussinesses. You have to get a farm, which will start at a quarter of million (for a small dairy farm, for example). Then you have to buy things like balers, tractors, and other equipment.

So there is a real need to help those animal science (and the alike) college majors get the money to get started. And that's only still going to be a drop in the bucket.

And on then there are those family farms it find it difficult to continue, as suburbia creeps up on it, and the demands are high for the property of the farm to become part of suburbia.

These people need legal protection, and they need help with debt / making ends meet. It would be nice if the market could substain them, but it can't always.

By having programs that work towards making a farm profitable again (or at least not highly debt creating -- I'll touch on that later), we ensure that these neccessary services continue.

We also subsidies other neccessary industries. Like it or not, we spend a lot of money subsiding those who want to go into recycling and waste managment, teaching, and the a like.

It should be noted, the vast majority of farms aren't self supporting. 5 out of 6 family farms are supported not entirely on farm income -- members of the family work other places to pickup money on the side. I know around here that's true -- none of the small farms around here don't have at least a parent working part time or full time off the farm.

Andrew B. Arthur | aarthur@imaclinux.net | http://hvcc.edu/~aa310264
[ Parent ]

If the market cannot support a farm... (3.00 / 2) (#66)
by simon farnz on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 08:13:05 AM EST

... then the capitalist free trade model says that the farm should close. If there is a famine in a rich country, food prices increase, and the market will support more farms. Eventually, the price of food stabilises at a point where production of food matches the demand for food. The big advantage is that market economics should ensure that you do not overproduce unwanted food, or underproduce in-demand foods.
--
If guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns
[ Parent ]
Realities of farming (4.33 / 3) (#54)
by Chris K on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 03:33:47 AM EST

The problem with farming as talked about on this board is that most of us do not live on a farm. I live in what is widely regarded (here) as possibly the best farmland area in the world. I also live in a farming community. The problems with gov't meddling in farming are:
1: There is a price minimum. This raises prices for all of us, and entices farmers to produce more in an already glutted market.
2: Farmers were once paid *not* to farm. Nuff said.
3: Small farms (read: family) are inefficient. They just aren't competitive in the modern era of superfarms.
4: Only very large farms get most of the gov't money anyway.
5: Farmers get almost as much money from the gov't as from farming.
The family farm is an anachronism. Large corporate units can produce more food more cheaply than small farms ever can. Small family businesses are not subsidized by the government because they are being run to the ground by Wal-Mart, are they? What about the corner coffee shop? I'm sorry this sounds so cynical, but supply and demand works almost everywhere else in the economy.
duxup: I think people who give should be hunted down and hugged. (IRC)
[ Parent ]
Just remember: (4.50 / 14) (#10)
by MrEd on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 07:51:07 AM EST

If you balk at the thought of just about every USAmerican and otherwise western farmer being put out of business, then you can't say that you're a supporter of free trade. That would entail whoever wanted to sell their products for the least value being able to compete with those with higher living standards, aka us.

Corporate free trade is another matter, in which corporations large enough to afford to can establish factories/sweatshops in other countries desperate for investment. Exchange of items *completely internal to the company*, such as shipping headlight components south to Mexico to be assembled, then shipping the completed headlights north again, counts as "International Trade" and is pointed to as an inherantly positive thing! The only addition to the economy of the poorer country is miniscule wages, without any social benefits, job security, or potential for collective barganing.

Stockholders make a profit, and everyone's happy. But wait, what if the residents of a poorer community decide that they don't want a huge multinational putting up a toxin spilling factory near their homes? Well, call in Chapter 11 of NAFTA or the proposed FTAA agreement, legislation intended to "protect the rights of investors" to maximize their profit no matter what the impact to the people who actually live there.

These documents are being touted as "Free Trade" agreements, hardly something to argue against! If you are against Free Trade then you are by "definition" opposed to Freedom and all forms of Trade, correct? No. Opposing the right of the already rich to enrich themselves further at the expense of the poor and powerless does not preclude supporting healthier forms of trade. Fair trade. Trade which empowers.

Read about some of the lawsuits being launched under NAFTA and decide for yourself.

Apologies for this rant.

Watch out for the k5 superiority complex!


World's poorest countries not too keen on.. (2.71 / 14) (#12)
by marlowe on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 08:44:53 AM EST

democracy, human rights, education or sanitation either. I really don't think the world's most unsuccessful cultures are reliable judges of their own best interest. If they were, they wouldn't be in such bad shape in the first place. And colonialism would never have happened. The strong can't prey upon the weak if there are no weak.

I'm not defending the WTO here. Far from it. I'm attacking bogus logic. Appeal to authority is bad enough. Appeal to the multitude is even worse. Appeal to the opinion of the manifestly incompetent is just plain stupid.

-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
That's a bit authoritarian, no? (4.30 / 10) (#15)
by Anatta on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 09:18:36 AM EST

I really don't think the world's most unsuccessful cultures are reliable judges of their own best interest.

I didn't realize we had reached the point where we could rank the "success" of cultures. I assume instead of culture you mean economic might... which is a fair argument, however just because countries have been unsuccessful so far does not mean they are "incompetent". Could it be that wars and lack of resources prevented these countries from expanding?

If you looked at the South Korea of 1960, you'd see essentially the same thing you see now in Nairobi, but with more rice. Now in South Korea you see big buildings, a fairly wealthy, educated populace, a thriving economy, and democracy. This startling change occurred because S. Korea opened itself up to trade... first it began producing textiles: exports of textiles grew from 8% of its exports in 1960 to 40% in 1980, but then it shrank to 19% in 1993, as the economy moved to higher-value products like electronics and computers. Could any of the poorer countries that will meet do this? They could, though many are buckling under the weight of IMF debt... money that caused more harm than benefit.

Were the South Koreans somehow "better able" to achieve this than African states? I don't think so. The country simply followed the rules of free trande, and they worked. Obviously South Korea still has a way to go, however it is unquestionable that they have benefited from free trade.

You seem to have an authoritarian "we know what's best for you" stance, which it seems to me is quite inaccurate (the western world does not know how the economies of 3rd world nations will work, nor does it even know how the economy of its own nations work... that's what markets are for.) It would be best to let the representatives of the countries in question make their own points about what the western nations need to do in order to achieve free trade, and then let the markets do their work, insuring the freedom for people to do what they wish.
My Music
[ Parent ]

Universal formula? (3.28 / 7) (#24)
by marx on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 06:46:55 PM EST

[...] exports of textiles grew [...], but then it shrank [...], as the economy moved to higher-value products like electronics and computers.

Your argument makes it sound like free trade can transform every economy into a high-tech economy. I have a question though. If every economy "moves to higher-value products like electronics and computers", then who makes the textiles (or whatever lower-value product)?

I have a feeling this economic model relies on a bottom class (of countries/economies) which does all the drudge work (which is exactly the situation today). Of course you can come up with solutions which involve robots doing all the drudge work. But many difficult problems can be solved that way, it's just that the robots never seem to appear.

Every ideology has a utopia which indicates what should happen if all goes according to plan. What is the utopia of the "free trade" ideology? Does everyone become happy in the end? Who becomes unhappy?

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

The part you missed (4.00 / 5) (#31)
by Anatta on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 08:28:29 PM EST

Your argument is fair, and I don't think it's right that you got a 1 on your comment... I boosted it, in any case.

Now, it seems to me that you're missing a simple fact in your analysis. The bottom line is that good jobs and wealth are not the norm for humanity. Poverty is the norm for humanity... reaping a mild, hard lifestyle from the land is the norm for humanity. Globalization counteracts this by creating new jobs for people, and often implemented effectively, the new jobs get better and better.

You are right that eventually as everyone moves to high technology, there will be no one to dispose of trash, no one to make clothes, etc. This argument to me is much more poignant when it is made against communism/socialism than when it is made against capitalism (how would you feel having the pressures and lengthy study associated with being a neurosurgeon, but get paid the same as a garbage collector?)... anyway, the economic argument would simply be that when the world gets to the point where it is cheaper for a robot to make a textile than a person (let's hope we see that day in 10 generations or less!), that person will move up to a higher tech job, and the robot will begin sewing our clothes.

There are 3 billion people in horrible poverty on earth right now. It seems to me that the best way we can fix the situation is by examining what the other 3 billion people are doing, and apply that to the 3 billion poor. I would be overjoyed of we ever actually had the problem that no one wanted to pick up the trash because there were too many high tech jobs!
My Music
[ Parent ]

Humans as tools (4.60 / 5) (#37)
by marx on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 09:55:57 PM EST

The bottom line is that good jobs and wealth are not the norm for humanity. Poverty is the norm for humanity.

This is a very sound approach. You are saying that there is a critical problem, and anything that makes it better is good. I don't have any problems with your arguments (or the WTO) in this context. However, there is always an ultimate goal. If the WTO stated that their goal is to turn very poor countries into suitable places for multinational companies to do their dirty work, I'm not sure the populations of the very poor countries would think this would be a very good idea. This is what I'm asking, what is the ultimate goal? If you look at the WTO website, this answer is suspiciously absent.

I think the core of the argument becomes apparent from this quote from your post:

when the world gets to the point where it is cheaper for a robot to make a textile than a person, ([...]) that person will move up to a higher tech job

Even if it were possible to replace all textile workers with robots, and still have stability, the "free market" mechanism will not do this until it is cheaper. I don't think you realize how cheap a human worker is. How much does the minimum daily nutrition and a cardboard shack cost? Maybe $0.1 a day? Just the electricity for operating the robot will most likely cost more. I don't think it will be an easy task to beat Mother Nature to creating an efficient multi-purpose creature. This is not limited to textile workers of course. There are many extremely boring and monotonous jobs which can be done more efficiently by humans than machines.

how would you feel having the pressures and lengthy study associated with being a neurosurgeon, but get paid the same as a garbage collector?

If the alternative was that the garbage worker would get 0.1x, and I 1.9x, where 0.1x was close or below the minimum living standard, I would happily take 1.0x, no matter how hard I'd worked for my job. Besides, I think most neurosurgeons (or whatever other highly qualified professionals) are really interested in neurosurgery, and enjoy their work, and are not doing it for the money. Would you really force other people to starve or have a miserable life just so you could have luxury? I have a hard time believing that.

There are 3 billion people in horrible poverty on earth right now. It seems to me that the best way we can fix the situation is by examining what the other 3 billion people are doing, and apply that to the 3 billion poor.

What if you find that the wealth of the top 1% (i.e. us) depends on the poverty of the rest, including these 3 billion? Would this make you denounce "free trade"? If you can prove that "free trade" does not involve exploiting a weak section of the population, then I will join its proponents.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

Ideas as tools (4.00 / 1) (#87)
by Anatta on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 09:05:48 PM EST

what is the ultimate goal? If you look at the WTO website, this answer is suspiciously absent.

What is the ultimate goal of Greenpeace? What is the ultimate goal of the US Government, or the French Government? I would say the WTO's goal is to attempt to remove barriers to trade and to create a free market for all... you may see a different goal. Their success is yours to judge.

I don't think you realize how cheap a human worker is. How much does the minimum daily nutrition and a cardboard shack cost? Maybe $0.1 a day? Just the electricity for operating the robot will most likely cost more. I don't think it will be an easy task to beat Mother Nature to creating an efficient multi-purpose creature.

This suggests we have a long way to go until the whole world is prosperous enough that robots will be cheaper than humans. Again, I would be extremely happy if we ever reach that level of prosperity!

If the alternative was that the garbage worker would get 0.1x, and I 1.9x, where 0.1x was close or below the minimum living standard, I would happily take 1.0x, no matter how hard I'd worked for my job. Besides, I think most neurosurgeons (or whatever other highly qualified professionals) are really interested in neurosurgery, and enjoy their work, and are not doing it for the money.

I agree, most neurosurgeons don't necessarily do it for the money... however malpractice costs are immense, school loans are often immense, the amount of study and continuous education is immense, 5+ years of residency making about the same amount of money as a janitor while working 80+ hour weeks is very costly, etc. I fear the world is more complex than you're thinking...

Would you really force other people to starve or have a miserable life just so you could have luxury? I have a hard time believing that.

I'm not advocating that at all. I'm advocating a system by which anyone with drive, determination, and a creative idea can prosper. No one is stopping the experienced janitor from creating a business... hell, there are plenty of profitable sanitation businesses.

What if you find that the wealth of the top 1% (i.e. us) depends on the poverty of the rest, including these 3 billion? Would this make you denounce "free trade"? If you can prove that "free trade" does not involve exploiting a weak section of the population, then I will join its proponents.

I'd love to see proof of it, but somehow I doubt that it is the case. I have seen no proof of Marx's "ruling class" and "working class"... it may look like that is the case by looking at numbers alone, but (at least in democratic countries) the wealthy for the most part were "working class" who did something different and reaped the benefits. Let's hope others do the same.
My Music
[ Parent ]

Simple experiment (5.00 / 3) (#96)
by marx on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 11:43:09 PM EST

I would say the WTO's goal is to attempt to remove barriers to trade and to create a free market for all...

To me, this is a "means", and not an "end". Ok, so let's say we can create a free market for all, what do we want to achieve with that? If we don't have a clear vision of that, then 10 years from now, we will not be able to say if we have progressed or not. Regardless of if you agree or not with the socialist ideology, I think you will agree that it has always had a clear vision of where society should be heading. I am missing this in the "free market" ideology.

I don't know what kind of goals the political parties in the US have, but the social democrats in at least Sweden (and probably France) have a goal similar to socialism, all they have changed is the "means", i.e. they are pragmatic and say that the free market can be used as a tool to achieve this goal. This is very different from saying that the free market is the goal though.

5+ years of residency making about the same amount of money as a janitor while working 80+ hour weeks is very costly, etc. I fear the world is more complex than you're thinking...

You have to simplify things, otherwise we have to write books instead of these short posts. Of course these things should be compensated, but beyond this I don't see any reason why the neurosurgeon should live in luxury while the janitor lives in poverty.

but (at least in democratic countries) the wealthy for the most part were "working class" who did something different and reaped the benefits. Let's hope others do the same.

This is I think exactly what the WTO is telling the poorest countries. "If you do like us, you too can become wealthy". The problem I think is that this method requires a large body of very poor to work.

Let's say you have a large group of typical people from the world of today. 1% are the entrepeneurish part who have become wealthy in today's society. Now, remove the other 99%, and reduce the amount of natural resources to maintain proportionality. Applying the "free market" model, will everyone in the remaining group remain wealthy?

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

Praise Jeaesus Hallelujah! You've got it! (3.66 / 3) (#113)
by Anatta on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 11:01:56 AM EST

If we don't have a clear vision of that, then 10 years from now, we will not be able to say if we have progressed or not.

That's not true at all. Society will progress no matter what (progression meaning continuing, not necessarily getting better) any market or government does. It seems to me that the question is whether or not society will progress in the way you want it to. This is unclear in a market based economy, but it gets rapidly clearer the further left one goes (i.e. it becomes clear that society is not progressing in the ways the socialists or communists or whomever wants it to... I would argue that it is inversely related to level of command/control).

Regardless of if you agree or not with the socialist ideology, I think you will agree that it has always had a clear vision of where society should be heading.

Exactly. However, socialism fails because no government can know where society is heading. No one can. Market economies are in essense, the sum of millions of individuals making choices as to where society is heading... socialism makes the few choose where society is heading. This is not a good thing.

I don't see any reason why the neurosurgeon should live in luxury while the janitor lives in poverty.

The problem is that by making statements like that, generally you push both of them into poverty. It would be interesting to see, for the average neurosurgeon, how many generations one would have to go back in order to find someone like the janitor: someone who works hard, makes good decisions, saves money, and creates a better future for his children. I would guess not too far, for many of the neurosurgeons.

"If you do like us, you too can become wealthy". The problem I think is that this method requires a large body of very poor to work.

EXACTLY! I couldn't have said it better myself. The poor have to work, to use their bodies and minds in order to generate wealth which they can use as they see fit. This is the essense of capitalism.

Of course, I know by "work" you mean "succeed", but I disagree. Again, "poor" is a relative term. In the US, the poor would be millionaires by the standards of may third world countries. In a million years, will the poorest person on earth have the luxuries of Bill Gates? I recently read a statistic saying that the bottom 10% of America's current economy has higher living standards than the top 10% of America's economy 100 years ago (living standard made up things like quality of healthcare, access to clean water, education, etc.)... I wonder what it would have been if we did the study back 5,000 years...

Let's say you have a large group of typical people from the world of today. 1% are the entrepeneurish part who have become wealthy in today's society. Now, remove the other 99%, and reduce the amount of natural resources to maintain proportionality. Applying the "free market" model, will everyone in the remaining group remain wealthy?

That's an interesting, but illogical, idea. The 1% who got "rich" likely brought 20%-30% more with them, by giving them jobs and salary. That 20%-30% spent thier money on other items, brigning another 20% up a great deal, creating more jobs and income. Now we have about 50% doing well, and 50% not doing well. We have to figure out how to make the 50% doing well buy products from the 50% that aren't doing well, so as to get money into the hands of the 50% that aren't doing well. And that is done through trade.

By just taking the 1% of entrepreneurs, you're leaving out their legacy (the jobs in industry they create)... and without their legacy, they are nothing. If you simply took the Fortune 500 CEOs and put them on an island, would some be richer, and some be poorer? Yes. Bill Gates and Larry Ellison might band together and recruit the other CEOs that they think are the most intelligent, creative, and resourceful... while the CEO of company 498 might not do as well as the others. That said, he would likely not do terrible, either. In any case, turning the fortune 500 into Lord of the Flies might make good comedy, but it doesn't make a good economic analysis.
My Music
[ Parent ]

how would you feel? (3.66 / 3) (#55)
by streetlawyer on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 03:36:13 AM EST

how would you feel having the pressures and lengthy study associated with being a neurosurgeon, but get paid the same as a garbage collector?)...

Remember that this would be in the context of a scoiety in which "how you feel" wasn't so dependent on what you earned.

Given the choice, and the same salary, are you really saying you'd prefer to be a garbage collector (without "pressures", but having to get up at the crack of dawn to haul stinking rubbish) than a neurosurgeon?

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

liberation capitalism (4.00 / 1) (#39)
by Arkady on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 11:01:58 PM EST

Leaving aside whether South Korea has a real democracy (Hell, leaving aside whether _the U.S._ has a real democracy), the major problem I have accepting your argument here is that you're not really making one.

Your comment is well written, and travels nicely to to sharp edge of your belief, where you say "let the markets do their work, insuring the freedom for people to do what they wish". That, unfortunately, has yet to be proven; it simply depends on faith that the all-powerful Market will set you free.

By what virtuous attribute of the universe do the independant actions of the rich (seeking only their own gain, as standard economic theory demands) produce wealth and freedom for the poor? If the whole world were run like Nike, the globalized corporation par excellance, would that give the workers in Vietnam glueing shoes together for $2/day the freedom to do what they wish (such as, say, make $100s/day like the Americans)?

The point is, as far as I can tell from all I've read, this "free trade" simply increases wealth for the wealthy and, by giving them the freedom to move their employment at will, gives them much more complete control over the rest. There seems to be a distinct lack of proof that, even if this "free trade" _were_ free trade, it would improve things for more than a small minority of existing rich.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
I neither said not implied any such thing. (3.00 / 2) (#69)
by marlowe on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 09:33:07 AM EST

I never suggested anyone knows what's best for anyone. Precisely the opposite. I said that some people manifestly *don't* know what's best. And that's true, after all.

I try to be succinct, so as not to place an undue burden on readers. Please try to read more carefully and thoroughly in the future.

-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Wars, lack of resources, and Japan. (4.33 / 3) (#70)
by marlowe on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 09:35:23 AM EST

Japan's had these problems. and they're not living in squalor and slaughtering each other every few years.

No excuse.

-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Funny thing about lack of resources. (3.50 / 6) (#81)
by jeremiah2 on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 07:59:48 PM EST

All these noble primitives held back for aons by lack of resources in their native land. Then one day the white man shows up, and he finds all sorts of natural resources just ripe for exploitation! This whole thread is a battle between politically correct ideology and unappetizing facts of the human condition. And I think the WTO stinks too. It's nasty and evil, but at least it's not brutish and short!
Change isn't necessarily progress - Wesley J. Smith, Forced Exit
[ Parent ]
whose terms? (3.33 / 6) (#17)
by buridan on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 09:59:01 AM EST

that conception of success is not necessarily the one held across the world, there are cultures that are ademocratic, lacking the tradition, not the understanding, etc. and they might not best be successful. Human rights are meaningless overall, they don't relate to the experience of 95% of the world, including most of the western world. Education is fine, but then what kind of education are we talking about? the consumer education of the U.S., a more classic education, or perhaps an education that is more culturally based? yes, it is hard to argue with sanitation, but the real problem with sanitation is urbanization and overpopulation, which is directly rooted to globalization and the propogation of certain western myths and systems. in the end, for many cultures and nations, rarely states, it is precisely your success and the terms that come with it that they want to resist.

[ Parent ]
Arrogance and Stupidity... (3.58 / 17) (#22)
by Rand Race on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 12:53:03 PM EST

... all in one package. How efficient of you.

World's poorest countries not too keen on democracy, human rights, education or sanitation either.

Not too "keen"? Not too "KEEN"!!! Hmmm, could it be because these are the world's poorest nations? These things aren't free you know, sewer systems, schools, and voting mechanisms don't just spontaniously appear. Human rights are a legitamate concern, but they are almost always helped by education and democratic oversite. "Keen", Keerist.

I really don't think the world's most unsuccessful cultures are reliable judges of their own best interest.

So much for being "keen" on democracy. You sure seem "keen" on social darwinism though.

If they were, they wouldn't be in such bad shape in the first place.

In the first place? News flash: They were not in such bad shape in the first place. They may have been primitive in comparison to Western Europe (ie: not like us), but that does not mean they were in 'bad shape'.

And colonialism would never have happened.

Hold on just a fucking minute. Here we have some people living in their traditional way, as they have for millenia. Here comes some western power that destroys their native systems, imposes arbitrary borders that ignore tribal/ethnic lines, pillages the natural resources of the area, forces sweatshop industrialisation on the populace which creates huge semi-urban shantytowns that the colonial powers don't bother to modernize, floods the nation with cheap arms, and then cuts it loose only to bitch and moan about how these people just can't seem to make things work like us good upright white people in the west. And they are the ones who aren't reliable judges of their own best interest?

The strong can't prey upon the weak if there are no weak

And back to the long known to be bankrupt theory of social darwinism.

Appeal to authority is bad enough. Appeal to the multitude is even worse. Appeal to the opinion of the manifestly incompetent is just plain stupid.

And you appeal to...? Nothing, you just trot out arrogant ignorance and call it logic. The fallacy of your argument is confusing cause and effect.


"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear." - Thomas Jefferson
[ Parent ]

Oh, don't be a jackass. (3.50 / 2) (#68)
by marlowe on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 09:30:06 AM EST

At one time, the Anglo-Saxons were living in squalor and political oppression comparable to that of the sub-Saharan Africans. They managed to rise above. What excuse has anyone else got?

It may be normal to go through the Dark Ages. It's not normal or necessary to stay there indefinitely.


-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Where we came from. (4.00 / 2) (#89)
by marlowe on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 09:20:45 PM EST

<a href="http://www.usnews.com/usnews/issue/990816/peasant.htm">We weren't always comfortably middle class</a>, let alone the world's scapegoat.



-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Once more, with HTML (4.00 / 2) (#90)
by marlowe on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 09:22:28 PM EST

We weren't always comfortably middle class, let alone the world's scapegoat.
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
So self-righteous (3.00 / 6) (#112)
by Rand Race on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 10:02:03 AM EST

What excuse has anyone else got?

Easy: The Anglo-Saxons fucked them. The Anglo-Saxons even fucked up the island right next to them. For Kibo's sake, the Anglo-Saxons caused the dark ages in Britain. 1500 years later the Anglo-Saxons (with some Norman help) manged to get their shit together, and we expect these third world nations to do it overnight?

You don't even comprehend what I am saying do you? I'm not saying these people led wonderfull lives free from care before colonialism, I'm not saying we should expect these places to remain primitive, I'm not even saying that they have some ephemeral right to choose their own destiny. I'm saying that we in the west have raped the shit out of these places and that it is the absolute height of arrogance to now expect them to instantly and grovelingly adopt our social and political forms when neither their culture or economy can support them. I'm saying that not recognizing our complicity in making these places the shitholes they are will not sway these people to our way of thinking; That type of attitude just makes them say "What arrogant assholes, fuck them". I'm saying we have to think about more than ourselves and our myopic preconceived notions of how people should live or we will simply continue opressing the third world without even realizing we are doing it.

Just because a system works on some damp godforsaken island in the north chock full of Christians does not mean it's going to work in some dry godforsaken equatorial wasteland populated by Animists and Muslims.


"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear." - Thomas Jefferson
[ Parent ]

I'm sorry, but none of this is even remotely true. (4.66 / 3) (#119)
by plutarch on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 07:17:05 PM EST

The Dark Ages began before anyone had ever heard of the Anglo-Saxons. As for Ireland, it was torn by perpetual civil war centuries before the Vikings turned up, let alone the Anglos. You have a disconcerting tendency to substitute invective for fact.
Leftism is the ideology of resentment. It is is the ideology of the frustrated will to power. It matters not how much or how little power the Leftist has at the moment. The point is, he wants more, and he can't get it.
[ Parent ]
Do some research (3.50 / 2) (#130)
by Rand Race on Fri Jul 27, 2001 at 08:38:27 AM EST

The Dark Ages began before anyone had ever heard of the Anglo-Saxons.

The first recorded instance of Anglo-Saxons was a war band hired by the Sub-Governer of Roman Britannia in the mide 5th century. This is mentioned in multiple sources; De Exidio Britannae (ca. 525), Historia Brittonum (ca. 800), and History of the English Church and People (731). When the Roman government of Britania collapsed in 476 these mercanaries took their back pay by force and called upon their relatives who invaded England destroying the last vestiges of Roman civilization in the islands which is, by definition, the start of the dark ages.

Ireland has always been somewhat screwed up, no doubt. The English have certainly not helped however.


"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear." - Thomas Jefferson
[ Parent ]

Getting a bit pendantic here. I don't see how (4.00 / 2) (#133)
by hjones on Sat Jul 28, 2001 at 11:06:17 AM EST

this lends any real support to your original, and frankly racist, point. Still, it's an interesting detail. Just not a telling one.
"Nietzsche is dead, but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown. And we -- we small-minded weaklings, we still have to vanquish his shadow too." - The Antinietzsche
[ Parent ]
I'll take part of that back, partly. Your (5.00 / 2) (#134)
by hjones on Sat Jul 28, 2001 at 11:13:53 AM EST

anti-English stance may or may not be racist in the strictly literal sense. But it is certainly bigoted, and displays an unreasoning hatred buttressed by an unfair distortion and filtering of the evidence. Some mercenaries kicking the Romans after they were already down, and at the tail end of a very long decline at that, is a far cry from causing the Dark Ages. And weren't there many other barbarian tribes milling round during Rome's decline?
"Nietzsche is dead, but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown. And we -- we small-minded weaklings, we still have to vanquish his shadow too." - The Antinietzsche
[ Parent ]
White is black! Black is white! (1.00 / 2) (#135)
by Rand Race on Mon Jul 30, 2001 at 11:31:17 AM EST

Hold on a fucking second, some dingleberry says, in effect, that the colonies (you know those nations with black, brown, yellow, and red people in them) deserved to be pillaged and enslaved by the English (white people very much like us Americans) because their culture was less 'advanced' than the English were. This is called Social Darwinism and has been recognized for a century now as the flimsy pretext for institutionalized rascism that it is. I point out that the British took a millenia to reach the level of civilization where they could project their power, and as an aside mention the fact that the Anglo-Saxons had destroyed a high civilization at the begining of that millenia and I'm somehow a rascist?

Simply making miserable excuses for our actions by claiming some psuedo-scientific rationalization while continuing to exploit the third world just makes us look like a bunch of arrogant self-righteous assholes. Pointing that out is not bigotry or racism, ignoring it is.


"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear." - Thomas Jefferson
[ Parent ]

Though you constantly finesse your position... (2.00 / 1) (#120)
by marlowe on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 08:15:07 PM EST

you always manage to exemplify wanton ignorance and anti-Western bigotry of the worst sort.

Truly you are a piece of work.

-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
About their traditional way of living. (4.00 / 3) (#94)
by marlowe on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 10:55:19 PM EST

The more I look into it, the harder it is to see what's so all fired great about it. Anyway, for those whose left wing idelogy prevetns from even thinking of doing any research, I've collected these links to leave them without excuse:


The Myth of the Noble Savage and Other Cultural Scripts
http://www.hillary2000.com/boardmain/290.html
Noble Savage Hypothesis Refuted

This is just whay I came up with after 15 minutes with Google. There's plenty more, but this'll do as an illustration.
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]

Fallacies abound (1.66 / 3) (#110)
by Rand Race on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 08:30:36 AM EST

Straw man, I never said jack shit about the noble savage.

Thank you, come again.


"Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear." - Thomas Jefferson
[ Parent ]

Okay, so what was your point? (3.50 / 2) (#111)
by marlowe on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 09:05:51 AM EST

Somebody was going on and on about "Here we have some people living in their traditional way, as they have for millenia. Here comes some western power that destroys their native systems, imposes arbitrary borders that ignore..." and so on, as if all this, plus the fact that we have them decent vaccines against all their nasty parasites, somehow left the natives significantly worse off than they had been. I'd say that's too close to call, and that's being generous.

And then went on to ask rhetorically: "And they are the ones who aren't reliable judges of their own best interest?"

Yes, they are such. As the abundant evidence has demonstrated. QED.

Whether you choose to admit it or not, my scorn is based on facts, and yours is based on nothing but itself.

-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
Isn't that... (3.50 / 6) (#23)
by Trencher on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 02:46:56 PM EST

kinda like saying that spider monkeys don't have the right to keep their habitats because they were too stupid to evolve into homo sapiens?
These underdeveloped nations are poor because we have become rich at their expense.


"Arguing online is like the Special Olympics. It doesn't matter if you win or lose, you're still a retard." RWR
[ Parent ]
Monkeys got rights? (2.66 / 3) (#79)
by jeremiah2 on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 07:48:06 PM EST

When did this happen? Are they allowed to vote yet?
Change isn't necessarily progress - Wesley J. Smith, Forced Exit
[ Parent ]
All right, you caught us.... (2.58 / 12) (#13)
by daystar on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 08:57:42 AM EST

Us free trade-types, we're really just trying to crush poor countries. We never thought you'd figure out our method: We're going to bring them down by allowing their citizens the option to buy cheaper food.

We're really sorry.

--
There is no God, and I am his prophet.

You can't buy cheep food without money (4.00 / 8) (#14)
by codemonkey_uk on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 09:04:08 AM EST

If their citizens only source of income is farming, and the ultra competitive government subsidised, ecologically unsound farming practices of western countries drive them out of business, then cheep food will be unaffordable.

Cheap to you is expensive to an unemployed 3rd world farmer. Why sell food to him at 1c a kilo, when they can sell to you at $1 for a pack of 3?
---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

I don't know what 3rd world citizens want... (2.16 / 6) (#16)
by daystar on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 09:57:42 AM EST

... but I think that the option should be there. You're sure that they're going to be economically damaged if food gets cheaper?

As for "ecologically unsound farming practices", modern western agriculture gets more food, more sustainably out of less land than any third world farmer could dream of. What are you trying to protect?

--
There is no God, and I am his prophet.
[ Parent ]

ecologically unsound farming practices (4.28 / 7) (#20)
by codemonkey_uk on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 10:39:08 AM EST

Soil saturated with synthetic fertilisers; rivers become polluted with the water runoff from these areas. The people of the United States are pouring into the sea, lakes, rivers and underground waters six to 12 million pounds of nitrogen, two to four million pounds of potassium and 75,000 to three million pounds of phosphorus per million of adult population annually.

I would argue that this scale of pollution coupled with massive scale mono-crop farming is actually unsustainable in the long term, as it is more susceptible to failure. Short term economical efficiency is not the only factor to consider. Think about the effect foot & mouth has had on modern British farming, or should I say, look how modern British farming effected the spread of foot & mouth. And don't assume the US is immune to catastrophe. The only "immunity" it has from the harm it does is in the comfort of its profit.
---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

You first. (2.40 / 5) (#33)
by physicsgod on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 09:00:23 PM EST

I read somewhere that the carrying capacity for Homo Sapiens as hunter gatherers was estimated to be 500 million, if you allow organic farming you'll probably be able to support 2 billion or so. This means that if we stop using synthetic fertilizers ~2/3 of the world's population will DIE, would you care to volunteer? If you're serious about saving the enviroment, kill yourself, use you net worth to buy a 30 second spot on TV explaining what you did and why you did it. Unless of course you think that "our brown little brothers" should make your life easier by starving so you can feel good about your organic produce.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
Instead of sacrificing codemonkey... (4.00 / 2) (#51)
by poltroon on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 02:03:13 AM EST

and all the other proponents of sustainable farming, why don't we sacrifice the beaf eaters of the world? Or well, not actually sacrifice them, but alter their appetites. If people put food directly into themselves instead of through the two tiered meat system, there'd be a lot more room for good farming practices...

[ Parent ]
Run your tounge across your teeth. (none / 0) (#58)
by physicsgod on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 05:47:33 AM EST

Feel those pointy bits? Those are for the ripping and tearing of flesh. We're evolved to eat meat (and damn near anything else we come across), not to mention some of us happen to like it.

You'll get my canines when you pry them out of my cold, dead gums! :)

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
That may be (4.00 / 1) (#59)
by codemonkey_uk on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 06:31:25 AM EST

But you have to accept the fact that the (majority of the) meat industry is grossly unethical and ecologically unsound.

Perhaps you could actually hunt wild animals instead of paying unnaturally low prices for unnaturally produced flesh.

I think the posters point was that the meat industry was a problem, not the consumption of meat.
---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

Flesh isn't unnatural... (3.00 / 2) (#78)
by physicsgod on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 07:34:53 PM EST

By definition, especially since I have yet to perfect my genetically modified steak tree. I also fail to see how you can treat a cow or chicken unethically, these animals have a hard time understanding sewer grates, much less ethics or morality.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
I didn't say it was (4.00 / 2) (#101)
by codemonkey_uk on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 04:32:41 AM EST

Have you heard of cruelty to animals? Unless you dismiss this concept (in which case, you are in my opinion, an asshole, and I refuse to continue discussing this with you) you have to accept that keeping chickens in cages so small they can't turn around as cruel, and therefore, in my opinion, unethical.

What's unnatural is feeding herbivores (such as cows) feed made from the same meat, often from the same species. Unless you consider cannibalism and consumption of sewage natural.

The meat industry actively engages in all these practices (and more), which is why I avoid it.
---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

Depends on the animal (3.00 / 1) (#107)
by physicsgod on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 05:46:57 AM EST

If you're cruel to a cat or dog they're something wrong with you, if you're mean to MY cat or dog I'm coming after your ass.

Chickens and cows are a different matter. Both are quite dumb creatures, and complaining about keeping them penned up is quite similar to bitching about not taking your computer outside, IMNSHO. And then there's the "goldfish syndrome" the memory span of a goldfish is so short that by the time it's swum from one side of the tank to the other it's forgotten about the first side. Therefore a goldfish spends its life constantly discovering "new" territory. As for the recycling of animals into feed, that's either banned or highly frowned upon in the US, and the ban is spreading due to fears of Mad Cow, etc. Anyway, cows naturally eat on their own toilet, I don't think a little cannibalism would bother them all that much. Just because it's something we don't like doesn't mean it's cruel to animals.

rat != dog != boy

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
Its a question of degrees, not sets (5.00 / 2) (#108)
by codemonkey_uk on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 06:36:00 AM EST

Ahhh, its the old "cute animals are special" problem. I'm sorry mate, but if you think that a cat is somehow neurologically / phisiologically "seperate" to a cow or chickin, then your in denial, because its simply a question of degrees.

What you've done is arbitarily drawn a line and said: Its okay to be torture and kill this set, but not this set. Well, I think your wrong. You nead to come up with some kind of scientific measure of the subjective experiance of pain, and prove that the set you plan on treating like an object is somehow different before you can say something is okay for one animal, but not another.

Chickins and cows may be "dumb", but they feel pain, and distress, and experiance suffering.

And don't forget that it is a cultural distinction your making. In China / Japan keeping a dog or cat in a cage and eating it is perfectly acceptable. Who are you to say that your distinction is right, and yet theirs is wrong?
---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

It's not the animal... (3.00 / 2) (#114)
by physicsgod on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 11:53:02 AM EST

It's us. We are the ones to assign personalities and emotions to our pets. That's why I think hurting a pet is wrong, not because of the pain to the animal, but because it shows no respect or outright disrespect to another person's emotions.

Nature is chock full of continuums, but the human mind works best with discretes. Is a chicken self-aware or not? Is Pluto a planet or a asteroid? Until you can come up with a scientific answer to both these questions I'll exercise my Natural Right: I have the right to whatever I can take.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
Lets just switch ends of the argument (4.50 / 2) (#115)
by codemonkey_uk on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 12:16:21 PM EST

And ask - are you self aware? Do I have a right to put you in a cage and fatten you up for consumption? Is that my natural right if I have the strength to force it upon you?

If not you, because (tenuous argument that it is) you are able to communicate your conciseness to me coherently, what about a baby? Or a deaf/dumb? The answer, quite obviously is no. Now what about a chimp? Or does your ego require you to put humans above the other animals? If so, how would you feel about being farmed by an alien race, should it land on earth?
---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

Yes I'm self-aware (2.50 / 2) (#118)
by physicsgod on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 02:03:59 PM EST

I pass the mirror test. Every normal human older than ~6 months can figure out that the image in a mirror isn't another person. Chickens and cows can't do that, in fact most animals can't figure it out. As for babies and the retarded, it's a simple matter of applying a characteristic of a majority to the whole (that and it's just not worth the effort to hunt down infants and the ill for food). I can't remember if chimps pass or fail, I think they pass, and recently I've heard tell that dolphins might actually fail. I don't enjoy causing pain to other creatures that haven't done anything to deserve it, but if the discomfiture of a chicken is what it takes for me to get good, cheap, KFC I say fuck the chicken.

I'm not even going to touch your hypothetical aliens argument, after all, how do we know meat comes from animals? All I see are bits of food I call meat in styrofoam trays covered in plastic. They could come from a machine in the back of the supermarket, or when you're talking about meat you mean those green things that get water sprayed on them.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
The discussion ends here (4.00 / 2) (#122)
by codemonkey_uk on Thu Jul 26, 2001 at 05:31:12 AM EST

You've changed your key point so many times that its not worth continuing. Initially I argued that the meat industry was cruel and unnatural, and you said that it was not. It seems that you now simply don't care ("if the discomfiture of a chicken is what it takes for me to get good, cheap, KFC I say fuck the chicken" - physicsgod ). Well, fair enough. If you can accept these things that's your decision.

Oh, and PS - The mirror test is completely arbitrary and subjective, and only useful as a relative gauge, not as a black & white scientific test of conciseness.
---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

My point... (3.00 / 1) (#123)
by physicsgod on Thu Jul 26, 2001 at 01:39:04 PM EST

Has remained constant. You cannot be cruel to an animal that isn't self-aware. I think the mirror test is a pretty good test of the concept of self, correlating your actions with the actions of the image. And if you would be so kind as to provide a scientific definition of conciousness I'll be glad to design a test.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
Mirror test (3.00 / 1) (#128)
by codemonkey_uk on Fri Jul 27, 2001 at 04:30:04 AM EST

So your saying blind people aren't self-aware?
---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]
No. (none / 0) (#132)
by physicsgod on Fri Jul 27, 2001 at 01:20:02 PM EST

Because a polished metal surface doesn't act as a mirror to a blind person.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
'scuse me. Dr. Science? (4.66 / 3) (#73)
by elenchos on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 04:15:53 PM EST

How come gorillas are vegetarians? Since the males have sharper canines than the females, does that mean the males are really evolved to eat meat, but the females aren't? If so, why don't they eat it? Are they victims are liberal propaganda?

More generally, is it correct to argue that whatever we may appear to have adapted to in our evolutionary past is the ideal behavior for us? Would returning to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle that we are adapted to lengthen or shorten our lifespans? Are we really evolved to drive cars or wear polyester?

"Who's making personal remarks now?" the Hatter asked triumphantly.
--Alice in Wonderland
[ Parent ]

Maybe (3.66 / 3) (#80)
by physicsgod on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 07:50:07 PM EST

Because they're too big and slow to catch anything faster than plants. In captivity they do eat meat, I don't know how much they enjoy it. However one would expect a slight difference between a forest-dwelling ape and a savannah-dwelling ape.

More generally, is it correct to argue that whatever we may appear to have adapted to in our evolutionary past is the ideal behavior for us? Would returning to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle that we are adapted to lengthen or shorten our lifespans? Are we really evolved to drive cars or wear polyester?
We're not evolved to be hunter-gatherers, we're evolved to be intelligent. Neanderthals were H-G's, but Homo Sapiens beat them out, even in climates where Neanderthals were better adapted to. Why? Because we were smarter than they were. So, inasmuch as we're evolved to use whatever tools we can come up with, yes, we're evolved to use polyester, cars, and agriculture.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
How DARE you sir! (3.33 / 3) (#83)
by elenchos on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 08:22:46 PM EST

I will NOT stand by and let you post blatant falsehoods about our friends the gorillas! Gotta link? Huh? Source? Quote? Huh? Do ya?

Neither lowland nor mountain gorillas eat meat. And they certainly are not slower or weaker than us puny humans. Some gorillas eat bugs, but you don't need big canines to chew up a grasshopper, do you? Chimps do sometimes kill and eat other animals though. Chimps have pointy canines, too. So we have primates that are vegetarians and primates that are omnivorous. Both have pointy canines. Conclusion: no correlation between eating meat and sharp canine teeth. We do have a correlation between sexual displays and meat eating (same as with human males trying to appear macho by bragging that they eat dead animals), but that is a social issue, not a dietary adaptation.

Now admit you are talking out your ass (your understanting of human evolution is as in need of support --link?-- as your blarney about gorilla eating habits, btw), or I shall regale you with more examples of animals with pointy teeth that only eat plants. I might, if you provoke me further, even mention one or two with eyes on the sides of their heads that are predators, so watch yourself here...

"Who's making personal remarks now?" the Hatter asked triumphantly.
--Alice in Wonderland
[ Parent ]

links... (3.00 / 3) (#91)
by physicsgod on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 10:05:21 PM EST

My support for the meat eating gorillas comes from your own link, dipwad.
Contrary to popular belief, only captive gorillas eat meat.
Gorillas eat meat, they just don't do it in the wild. Probably because there isn't much made of meat a gorilla could catch in the forest.

As for details about Neanderthals, most of my information comes from a Discovery Channel show on them. However I'm fairly certain they're extinct. ;)

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
Is so-called natural really better? (5.00 / 4) (#95)
by elenchos on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 11:27:48 PM EST

Ok, so if you put meat in front of a gorilla, he will eat it because it is easy to get. Not unlike a civilized human who will eat hamburgers because they are easy to get. But does that make it the best diet for them?

You started off saying that our canines proved that our evolved, therefore natural, therefore best, diet is meat. But now we see that while our ancient ancestor may have been adapted to eat meat, the gorillas and us have evolved away from that. Should we argue that the more advanced and superior diet is therefore vegetarian?

The whole method of reasoning is invalid. Look at the example of the chimps, and then toss in all the vegetarian rodents with pointy teeth. What we see is adaptation to changing circumstances, not one "best" diet.

This misuse of evolution is the third face to the Beautiful People myth. The other two versions of it are the Judeo-Christian Garden of Eden, and the New Age peaceful, matriarchal, vegetarian society that they dream existed before civilization. All three are nostaligic nonsense.

Doesn't it make more sense to ask what is the best diet for me, today in the world I live in now ? I'm not an Inuit who needs massive amounts of fat and protein. They don't live long enough to worry about cancer and heart disease. But industrial people do live that long, so the huge amounts of fat in meat do us no good at all, and the best way to extend our lifespans is to avoid cancer and heart disease, which means cutting out the meat. The unsustainable amount of water, petroleum and land that cattle require is all the more reason why we no longer can live that way.

Trying to use evolution to justify a modern desire is just not going to work. You'd be better off just saying you like meat and leaving it at that.

"Who's making personal remarks now?" the Hatter asked triumphantly.
--Alice in Wonderland
[ Parent ]

Oh, for the love of Fermi. (4.33 / 3) (#97)
by physicsgod on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 01:15:55 AM EST

OK, look, get off the damn gorillas already. They're a different species, and probably have slightly different dietary habits. I understand you were attmpting to refute my canine-meat-eating link, but I gave you a couple of reasons why you haven't refuted it. To summarise:
  1. Gorillas face an evolutionary pressure to become vegetarians, the fact that their digestive tracts can still handle meat indicates the switch to vegitarianism is fairly recent, therefore there hasn't been enough time for the now useless, but harmless canines to dissappear.
  2. The canines came from a omnivorous common ancestor to gorillas, chimps, and humans, and in the vegetarian gorillas the canines became sexual signals (I haven't been to many singles bars lately, but I don't think "hey baby, wanna see my canines?" is an oft used line).


As for rodents with sharp teeth:
  1. Rodent's don't have canines.
  2. Rodents have smaller teeth, therefore they feel sharper.
  3. Rodents for the most part have flat chewing teeth and sharp incisors. The incisors are sharp for the same reason an axe is sharp, but is different from the way canines are sharp. Just look in a (FRIENDLY!)dog's mouth and all will become clear.


As final support for my position, I don't know of any historical society that was composed entierly of vegetarians. If you know of one I'd be interested in hearing of it. But since the majority of people(now, and AFAIK historically) do eat meat, and they seem to handle it rather well, one can rather safely conclude that we, and our ancestors, have had meat as an important part of our diet. I'm not saying an all meat diet is good for you, far from it. Every time I go 24+ hours eating only meat I get cravings for something green, crunchy, and slow. Likewise, when I go 24+ hours without eating any meat I get cravings for someting grilled, juicy, and warm and pink in the center.

It is possible to eat a balanced diet and be a vegitarian, but it's damn hard and usually requires havily processed foods. I for one would rather get my vitamin B12 the Natural Way: Waiter! Bring me a steak. ;)

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
balanced diet (4.50 / 2) (#102)
by codemonkey_uk on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 04:49:30 AM EST

Just for the record, I'm a healthy vegetarian, and I don't eat much processed foods. Pasta is probably the most processed thing I eat. Its not that hard really.

I'm pretty sure my non-vegetarian friends eat less healthily than me, simply because a stodgy fast food meat fix feels like a proper meal, whist not providing the necessary vitamins and nutrients.
---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

fast food. (none / 0) (#104)
by physicsgod on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 05:19:54 AM EST

You really think fast food contains meat? :) The only thing fast food is really good for is to shut the stomach up quickly. But be honest, if you could find a place that offered to deliver peanut oil fried zuccini (or whatever tasty vegitarian treat you want) quickly and cheaply wouldn't you occasionally be tempted?

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
So primitive is better? (4.50 / 4) (#116)
by elenchos on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 12:22:59 PM EST

You really need to learn more about the shape of animal teeth and their diets. Real meat eaters, like my dogs and cats, use their back teeth like shears to cut meat from bones. They are well-adapted for that, whereas monkeys, even with their canines that are sharper than humans, are not well-adapted for eating meat, even if they do sometimes. It is pretty clear that with all primates, the canine teeth are mostly there for show, not function. Most primates are herbivores. Being herbivores, they have flat back teeth like a cow which work well for that. Still, exceptions abound, because there is no one "right" path in evoluion.

Think about how some mammals evolved back into the ocean and others took to the air. What is the ideal mammal environment? There isn't one.

Your lack of knowledge about any primitive society that is vegetarian is simply another example of the Beautiful People myth. Why do I want to live like them? As someone once said, they have the life expectancy of a WWI fighter pilot. I'm thinking about how healthy I will be in my 70's and 80's, even my 90's. Primitive people are faced with an entirely different set of problems to solve. One of them is that they don't get to eat just whatever they want. If their environment offers them seals and fish, they eat seals and fish. If they have no maize or potatoes to grow, they don't grow them. What possible basis is there to say "If our ancestors did it, it must be best for me?" If they drank a half gallon of ale every day, should I? If they kept slaves, should I? If they exposed unwanted babies or old people, should I? What if it is suddenly discovered that pre-civilized people really were were matriarchal, as the New Agers want to believe. Should we suddenly become matriarchal? What if new evidence proved that they were vegetarian? Would thay make you change your diet? Why?

There nevere were any Beautiful People, you know.

Instead, look at the present. In today's industrialized environment that I live in, meat eaters have all sorts of health problems that vegetarians don't. Those facts are far more important to me than any sketchy history, especially since we are only extrapolating and theorizing about how our ancestors lived, and since different human cultures lived in many different ways, not one single "best" way.

One thing we are pretty sure of: they didn't live long.

"Who's making personal remarks now?" the Hatter asked triumphantly.
--Alice in Wonderland
[ Parent ]

Humans aren't carnivores (none / 0) (#124)
by physicsgod on Thu Jul 26, 2001 at 01:51:52 PM EST

Humans are OMNIVORES, which means our molars need to do double duty, they need points for gripping, tearing, and chewing meat and flat parts to chew vegetable matter(as well as sideways moving jaws, which cats and dogs don't have).

Why do you keep generalizing the issue? First you bring up gorillas and other primates, now your talking about mammals. We aren't talking about mammals, or primates, we're talking about Homo Sapiens, and Homo Sapiens is an omnivore.

My entire reason for saying our ancestors ate meat is to counter the assertion that humans weren't meant to eat meat.

You keep confusing health with vegetariansim. The simple fact is vegetarians have to eat a balanced diet or they will suffer from nutritional maladies. Those who eat both meat and plants generally don't have to worry about nutrition factors, so they can overeat and indulge. There are all kinds of people who live to be 80, 90, 100+ who eat meat. Like I've been saying the key isn't to avoid meat, it's to eat a balance diet.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]

Lots of smokers live a long time too. YMMV. (none / 0) (#125)
by elenchos on Thu Jul 26, 2001 at 03:10:22 PM EST

Who asserted that humans aren't meant to eat meat?

What does "meant to" mean? This implies telelogical purpose, which implies an actor or designer, who can be none other than God. In which case you should be reading the Book of Genesis to decide what we were "meant" to do.

Your claim that modern omnivores have no worries in choosing a balanced diet is an egregious howler. The unhealthy diet of the typical modern USian is notorious. To claim that you simply may slouch along, eating what you find in on the typical menu today and you will be fine is absurd; that is a recipe for obesity and the road to heart disease and cancer. The long term effects of the excessive antibiotics, pesticides and hormones that build up in USian meat products are all the more reason to worry. Everyone needs to eat a balanced diet. The claim that vegetarians have some special burden to be particularly careful was proven false many years ago. It was based on the idea that meat contained the "ideal" kind of proteins, and the "ideal" mix of other nutrients, and that vegetarians had the formidable task of replicating these proteins and nutrients without the benefit of meat. The false premise was that meat is the ideal food. It is a 1960's/70's notion called "complete proteins" which was an interesting theory, but it is defective. The fact is, a random diet without meat is far healthier than a random diet (what most USians eat) with meat, simply by virtue of having far less fat, if nothing else. Any steps taken beyond that to create balance can only make a meatless diet even better than one without meat.

Simply look at the top killers in the US: heart disease, cancer, stroke. How to avoid them? Quit smoking and exercise, obviously. Cut out fat (easy for vegetarians) and cut out all the toxins and hard-to-digest tissues that animal products deliver.

You really make a fool of yourself going around acting like you have some special understanding of science and rational thought, as in your embarrassing habit of scrawling $TOPIC 101 in your subject lines, prior to some pompous lecture. Tell me, Dr. Science, is saying "There are all kinds of people who live to be 80, 90, 100+ who eat meat" a valid kind of reasoning? May we use data points like that in our attempt to reason inductively about the probability of encountering health problems if we eat meat? If I show you someone who survived a terrible car accident in spite of not wearing a seat belt, does that mean seat belts do not save lives? Does the existence of an octogenarian smoker prove that cigarettes are safe? William S. Burroughs grew quite old as a heroin addict. Is heroin therefore not dangerous? Does it therefore prolong life?

You are shameless! Today is the day for you to repent your pompous, blowhard ways, my friend. Enough with your disingenuous attempts to dispel liberal myths. You have proven again and again that you cannot use rational, scientific methods to your advantage. Quite the contrary, you are an ideologue who merely puffs himself up, dropping names like Fermi and condescendingly lecturing about science, when the truth is you are an emperor who has no clothes. Such hubris!

Your quasi-religious ideology is bracketed by two fantasies, like bookends: the first is some mythical, imaginary past, which is supposedly ideal. You use it to argue how we were "meant" to be. Science, and the science of evolution in particular, cannot tell us how things are meant to be. They only tell us how they are. They attempt to describe reality as is has happened and as it is, not prescribe how it should be. Your other fantasy is an idealized future, in which things like infinite free energy will solve all our problems. This is not rational thinking. It is pure religious faith. It is no different than a farmer who will not store seed against famine because he thinks he is God's chosen one, so providence will protect him. It is safe to predict that technology will advance in some way, at some speed. It is nothing but fanaticism to claim to know for a fact that it will advance in a specific direction, and that it will advance quickly enough to save us in time.

A genuinely rational person will look at the present and will plan for the future conservatively, not counting on some deus ex machina to carry us to safety at the last moment. If luck has it that this wonder of technology does appear, than we are doubly fortunate, and will doubtless take advantage of it. But if this panacea does not arrive in time, or at all, your kind of Pollyanna optimism would leave us high and dry. It is insane to gamble our shrinking resources because of some faith that a streak of luck will happen before we are tapped out. Live your own life that way if you wish, after all, you have a social safety net to catch you when you go bust. But cease the insulting condescension towards those who exercise prudent, adult caution.

Fie! You may not speak of science. Go into marketing, propaganda, public relations, but stop dragging the name of science down to your fanatical, ideologically blind level. This is my farewell to you. I have had enough dialogue with you to learn what your major malfunction is, and so I no longer need to go on playing you. Time to move on to other victims.

You seem very, very young. I have hope that you will wake up and realize your mistakes, and when you do, I expect you will have some quite interesting things to say. I'm looking forward to that.

"Who's making personal remarks now?" the Hatter asked triumphantly.
--Alice in Wonderland
[ Parent ]

How DARE you, sir! (none / 0) (#126)
by physicsgod on Thu Jul 26, 2001 at 05:32:43 PM EST

You spout idiocies like cutting fat will eliminate heart attacks, cancer, and stroke then have the temerity to call me fanatical? What about the fats, toxins, and hard to digest plant matter, such as tainnin and cellulose? What about TRYPTOPHAN, LYSINE, METHIONINE, PHENYLALAINE, THREONINE, VALINE, LEUCINE, ISOLEUCINE, and Cyanocobalamine?

The reason I go on "pompous" lectures is because you and others have demonstrated an appaling lack of knowledge in the fields of physics and biology, and I consider it my duty to educate the ignorant.

You have never expressed "prudent, adult caution" in any discussion with me, instead you've expressed chicken-little alarmism that has impeded progress throughout history. "Meat will kill you!" "The oceans are dying!" "Our resources are being consumed!" "The sky is falling!"

As for the "panaceas" I've suggested each and every one could be implemented, to some degree, in a matter of months using TODAY'S TECHNOLOGY. The only hinderance is cost, but coming catasrophy has a lovely way of opening pocketbooks.

I would rather have blind faith than your belief that billions must suffer and die to sooth your concience. But I don't have blind faith, I need evidence to convince me, something you've NEVER provided.

Am I arrogan? Hell yes, look at the handle, who the fuck would call themselves physicsgod without a touch of egomania? Be sure to look me up when you get more than two brain cells firing.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]

And another thing... (4.00 / 3) (#85)
by elenchos on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 08:47:45 PM EST

Well, um, I meant to say pointy teeth are used in sexual displays by gorillas, not meat eating, because gorillas don't eat meat.

But the other thing is, even if zoos were feeding gorillas meat for some reason, how the hell did they evolve pointy canines in captivity??? You are trying to argue that our pointy teeth are evidence that eating meat is "natural" for us. But natural eating for gorillas, and many other creatures with pointy canines, is vegetarian. So what is your point about captivity? Making stuff up again, huh?

"Who's making personal remarks now?" the Hatter asked triumphantly.
--Alice in Wonderland
[ Parent ]

evolution (3.66 / 3) (#92)
by physicsgod on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 10:12:49 PM EST

Gorillas, chimpazees and humans are all descendend from a common ancestor, which most likely ate meat. As gorillas got larger, they got less capable of catching smally scurrying things, so those that could subsist on a vegetarian diet reproduced more often, soon you'd end up with big, vegitarian gorillas. They have canines for one of two reasons 1) New purpose for old things, in this case sexual displays or 2) there hasn't been enough time since becoming vegitarian to "de-evolve" the canines, in fact since gorillas CAN eat meat it indicates that vegitarianism is relativly new.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
right! (4.33 / 3) (#98)
by poltroon on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 01:31:28 AM EST

You beat me to it. I was gonna say, pat your head, there's a big brain in there somewhere. Use it to ponder the fact that there weren't 6 billion people on the planet while your pointy teeth evolved.

Based on my ever so labored deductions, there's no good reason to eat meat. It has various health consequences, and meat production isn't healthy for the planet.

But honesty, I don't care if you eat meat. My point is that the meat industry is relevant to discussions about agriculture and farming practices, since much farming around the world is feeding the meat industry.

[ Parent ]

you do realize... (3.00 / 3) (#99)
by physicsgod on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 02:11:41 AM EST

That hominids have had pointy teeth all along, right? They've always been eating whatever meat they can get thier hands on. We are able to feed 6 billion because of modern food growing techniques.

I for one have a damn good reason to eat meat. IT TASTES GOOD! That doesn't mean it's good for me in excess, but as part of a balanced diet (unbalanced diet is the main reason Americans have major health problems) it's not going to kill me.

According to your own link 1/3 of the world's cereal harvest goes to feeding meat animals. Of course those oxford vegetarians(hardly unbiased, now are they?) neglect to mention how much of the meat animals goes into fertilizers. So, you could either get rid of meat, OR you could increase your cereal production by 1/3. Both would get you to the same place, but in the latter I still get my London Broil. If you don't mind, I'll be working on my hydroponic corn...

BTW, if you're going to use links about the health problems of meat, avoid sites that imply the phrase "heart attack proof" appears in a peer-reviewed journal. And just so you know, I could provide "irrefutable evidence" that water causes cancer, diabetes, and ostioporosis.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
I'm certainly... (5.00 / 2) (#100)
by poltroon on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 03:59:23 AM EST

not arguing about the origins of your puny canines. For all I care (in terms of relevance to the meat industry), somebody's God spat you out that way.

I don't understand your point about eliminating the meat industry being equivalent to keeping the meat industry and increasing cereal production by 1/3. The later scenerio would appear to use vastly more resources. What am I missing? Are you saying bonemeal byproducts of the meat industry are so vast that getting rid of the meat industry would necessitate putting all of the resources currently used by the meat industry into fertilizer production?

[ Parent ]

well... (3.00 / 1) (#105)
by physicsgod on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 05:34:23 AM EST

Bonemeal is a damn fine source of phosphate, and we don't eat a lot of bones.

The way I see it, we're in no danger of running out of resources. Fertilizer runoff goes into the ocean, where it could be extracted, the stuff that doesn't runoff goes into the plants, in fact there's a strong incentive to decrease fertilizer runoff, the stuff's damn expensive, and farming isn't exactly a high-yeild business. Nitrogen can be fixed by leguemes, or genetically modified crops. CO2 isn't exactly something we're running short of. While the trace metals might be a bit more difficult to get out of seawater, we have huge reserves of all kinds of usefull stuff sitting around isolated from groundwater, they're called landfills. The land issue can be solved by either irrigating sea-side deserts, plowing under the vast subdivisions, or hydroponics. Those are pretty much all the resources I think you need for growing cereals, or any other plant.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
synthetic fertilizers (4.00 / 2) (#52)
by Arkady on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 02:31:02 AM EST

Of course, at some point we _will_ have to stop using synthetic fertilizers anyway.

Specifically, much (and increasingly most) of the phosphorous used in fertilizers is mined from the crust's limited supply of phosphate ion (PO4)-bearing rock. Naturally, this is actually a limited resource, though our use doesn't destroy or even alter the majoroty of it; the majority of fertilizer phosphorous ends up as runoff (or leached into the groundwater). From here, after contributing to the poisoning of that water supply, it will cycle back through the water table and into rock once more. The phosphorous cycle, however, takes an _extremely_ long time to gather phoshporous runoff from the oceans into rock, which then becomes available again for human use once vulcanism has lifted those new rocks up to where we can get at 'em.

So, at some point, phosphorous must logically join petroleum on the list o' non-renewable resources. ;-)

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
No such thing as non-renewable... (3.00 / 1) (#57)
by physicsgod on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 05:45:10 AM EST

It just depends on how much effort you want to put into it. We could extract phophates from seawater, just as we could make oil in a lab. The only reason we don't is because it's cheaper to get it out of the ground. Not to mention finding new sources. There's enough phosphate in the asteroids to supply us for trillions of years, and the organic chemistry of Titan is still pumping out Ph.D.'s.

Remember, necessity is the mother of invention, and nothing focuses the mind as sharply as the threat of imminent demise.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
Absurd (4.00 / 2) (#60)
by codemonkey_uk on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 06:36:56 AM EST

Surly you realise the absurdity of using large, expensive, polluting labs (or -gasp- space mining) to produce phosphates / nitrogen to maintain farming practices which are inherently flawed. Its a band aid on gangrene. Its a bad idea. Natural sustainable farming is much less expensive in the long term once external costs are factored in.

Of course, this is all rhetorical, because the costs would be astronomical, and the levels of food production we have now are unnecessary anyway.
---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

Also (4.00 / 1) (#75)
by Arkady on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 06:52:25 PM EST

It's absurd just to say that there's no such thing, simply because in a finite universe _every_ resource is non-renewable. It's just a question of time and use rates. On a human scale, the term is still meaningful to refer to things whose regeneration rates are either nil (such as gold, for example, which does not naturally regenerate in a human accessible environment) or whose rates are in geological or greater scales (like petroleum, which regenerates over millions of years, given proper carbon inputs).

It's also absurd to build your plans for the future based on the uncertain guess that you'll be able to come up with some technology tomorrow to solve a problem you're creating today. Doesn't it make _much_ more sense to design your actions to use today's technology to avoid creating the future problem?

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Not time and use rates. (4.00 / 2) (#84)
by physicsgod on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 08:36:31 PM EST

Energy. That's all we need. Renewing resources involves addition of energy and a local decrease in entropy (which is just another way of saying we need more energy). Energy we've got in spades. The sun provides about 1kW/m^2 at earth's distance, that's about 35 Megawatthours over the earth's surface EACH SECOND. If you think we need more, there's always fission, fusion, and a Dyson's sphere.

Doesn't it make _much_ more sense to design your actions to use today's technology to avoid creating the future problem?
No, for two reasons. 1) you're always going to have problems, no matter what you do, and 2) the problems you THINK are going to be show-stoppers usually aren't.

For example, when automobiles were first introduced the big concern of the day was startling horses, there wasn't much thought given to fuel economy or crumple zones. In fact the model T's were designed to roll down a hill virtually unscathed, of course anybody in the car would be better suited to spreading on toast than buying cars. When authorities began noticing people were getting thrown through the windshield in front end collisions they required safty glass to be used, unfortunatly the glass was elastic enough to allow someone's head through on impact, but not on recoil, resulting in severe neck injuries and even decapitations.

The best way to proceed with any technological advance is to realize there are going to be problems, and try to estimate the severity and solutions as soon as they can be identified. Some problems can be detected in planning stages (well if you twist this knob that way the thing will explode) and you can design around those, but other problems (if you twist this knob and push that button on a full moon the thing will burn the house down) will just have to wait until the idiots in the field get their hands on it.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
leetle optimistic there (3.50 / 2) (#88)
by Arkady on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 09:12:49 PM EST

"Renewing resources involves addition of energy and a local decrease in entropy"

Fine and good, if we were medeival alchemists, but unfortunately even if we had unlimited energy (and we certainly have no way to harvest even a minute percentage of solar energy and are nowhere near the ability to construct a Dyson sphere), humanity has neither figured out nor even theorised a possible way to transmute elements. So _that's_ out.

I have no objection to the statement that "you're always going to have problems, no matter what you do", certainly. ;-)

Your other, however, seriosly overstates its certainty. "the problems you THINK are going to be show-stoppers usually aren't" is way too strong for any reasonable epistemology. I'd certainly accept "often aren't", since my personal experience has quite a few instances where I encoutered unanticipated problems, but I won't accept "usually" without some serious statistical analysis to back it up.

And the problem we're debating here is precisely what happens when "the idiots in the field"s got their hands on (among other things) industrial fertilizers. ;-)

Naturally, unanticipated problems often arise, but that's no excuse for refusing to deal with the anticipated ones.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
You are an idiot. (1.50 / 4) (#93)
by physicsgod on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 10:31:47 PM EST

Fine and good, if we were medeival alchemists, but unfortunately even if we had unlimited energy (and we certainly have no way to harvest even a minute percentage of solar energy and are nowhere near the ability to construct a Dyson sphere), humanity has neither figured out nor even theorised a possible way to transmute elements. So _that's_ out.
Bullshit. You have no fucking idea what in the name of all that's unholy you're talking about. First off, just because we can't do it now doesn't mean we can't do it at all. 300 years ago human flight was impossible, 100 years ago heavier than air flight was impossible, 50 years ago supersonic flight was impossible.

We can't transmutate elements, eh? What the fuck do you call nuclear fusion or fission? You might also want to contact these guys, among others all over the world creating transuranic elements, and tell them their life's work is impossible. Next time you have a thought in the realm of physics you feel you must share, do the world a favor and don't.

Finally, when you encounter a problem it doesn't mean you should stop whatever's causing it. Especially if you don't have an alternative and billions of lives depend on it.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
get a grip, boyo (none / 0) (#117)
by Arkady on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 01:13:07 PM EST

You'll blow a capillary. ;-)

In response to your optimism that nuclear reactions constitute transmutation, please remember that humanity's mastery of fusion is currently limited to _very_ short time periods and its mastery of fision is limited to packing a bunch of stuff together and giving it a kick. In niether instance can we control the reactions to any useful degree, nor can we force them to yield useful elements. Fision is stuck fiddling around up at the uranium/lead end of things; fusion is stuck down at the hydrogen/helium end. Plus, fision has all these _really_ nasty byproducts, and fusion currently takes far more energy to start up than it produces, though that problem does seem to be on the path to being solved; none of the other problems with these two (most importantly, the fact that niether can do anything useful from a transmutation perspective) are within a reasonable expectation of immediate solution.

I'll certainly agree with your final statement there, with a few useful qualifiers:

1) if you don't _currently_ have a solution, then you should definitely look at stopping whatever you're doing that's causing the problem; it may be that that's the only viable solution

2) billions of lives don't currently (and, if these dingalings would slow down their breeding, never will) depend on industrial fertilizers and all the other happy technologies we're talking about; in all likelihood, current production levels can be sustained with fewer inputs for the life of the current population; curtail your breeding and it won't be a problem

I won't just make those assertions off the cuff either; I'll give you a source:

"How Many People Can The Earth Support"; Joel E. Cohen, ISBN 0-393-31495-2

It's probably the best overview of the professional research on population and resource use written, and will provide you with all the info you need to understand the issues. Perhaps, were you to read it, you might lose some of the technophilic optimism that seems to be driving your argument here.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Nuclear physics 101 (4.00 / 1) (#121)
by physicsgod on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 09:01:32 PM EST

True, if you want an exothermic nuclear reaction you have to give up some control (in the case of fusion all control). But we have a great deal of control over the endothermic nuclear reactions, in fact it's controlled transmuation of elements that is used every day in hospitals around the world for PET scans. Every element above 94 is created by controlled fusion. In the early days of nuclear physics controlled fission was fairly commonplace, but I think interest has died down in that area. True, feasable fusion is, as they say, ten years away, give or take 30. But there are some rather interesting developments in the works, not only in stellarators and tokamaks but in muon-catalyzed fusion as well. You're also misinformed about the dangers of nuclear fission waste. The most dangerous products of fission are Cs-137 and Sr-90, both of which have a half life of ~30 years. Fortunatly they're both beta emitters, so while they would wreak havoc loose in the enviroment as long as you keep them contained in anything more substantial than a wet paper bag you'll be fine. The other radioisotopes produced are either very short-lived (they stop radiating quickly) or very long lived (they don't radiate much per unit of time).

curtail your breeding and it won't be a problem
Now this is rich, my suggestion of electrostatics or GM seaweed to filter phosphates out of seawater is " technophilic optimism" and your grand solution is to curtail breeding. Enlighten me, oh great master, how do we succeed at a task that has foiled the greatest minds of the last 250 years?

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
.01? (none / 0) (#127)
by Arkady on Fri Jul 27, 2001 at 01:29:29 AM EST

"The most dangerous products of fission are Cs-137 and Sr-90, both of which have a half life of ~30 years. Fortunatly they're both beta emitters, so while they would wreak havoc loose in the enviroment as long as you keep them contained in anything more substantial than a wet paper bag you'll be fine. The other radioisotopes produced are either very short-lived (they stop radiating quickly) or very long lived (they don't radiate much per unit of time"

I'm curious, then, as to why the U.S. Government (which is _not_ known for being particularly cautious about this sort of thing) is talking about 10,000 year contracts with companies to manage the storage facilities for this stuff? I certainly won't claim to be a physicsgod, but that certainly _implies_ that the stuff is pretty dangerous and for much longer than 30 years. Here's a thought: there are waste dumps older than 30 years already; how 'bout you swallow a few mouthfulls of the stuff leaking out of the barrels on one and then let us know in a few years if you're still OK?

You're point on breeding was a good one if, as seems normal, still obnoxiously said. Certainly the slowing in the birth rate has taken a long time to establish, but many "developed" countries have actually achieved negative native growth rates (the U.S., for one) and most countries have managed to slow the growth rates for the past 20 years. So, though it's slow, it is actually working; the growth rates are slowing globally.

Even if they were not, we can at least point to reduced population and say (with absolute certainty) that it's a solution that would work if implemented. You can't say that about non-existent technology; that's sort of the point, as on controlled fusion; it _doesn't exist, though it _may_ at some point.

All of that is, of course, irrelevant to the original discussion of phosphorous in fertilizers, since as I mentioned niether fision nor fusion reactions as humans can do anything with can be used to transmute (say) lead into phosphorous. You're right that they do represent transmutation of elements (and I had forgotten that when I first brought up the term), but not in a way that's germane to any agricultural issue (except as regards radioactive pollutants in the water supply, for example, or irradiation as a preservative mechanism).

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Because... (none / 0) (#131)
by physicsgod on Fri Jul 27, 2001 at 01:18:45 PM EST

1) The US government is _very_ cautious about nuclear waste, the nucleophobes go into hysterics whenever someone talks about moving a few Curies on the interstate.
2) The long lived stuff isn't as dangerous per mole, but lots of the stuff brings your radiation dose right back up, I've probably taken more radiation living my life at 6000' than I would get from a "few mouthfulls" of whatever's in those barrels, but with a family history of cancer I don't feel like pressing my luck. 3) The government is insistant on using one of the dumbest forms of storage around, put it in a mountain and hope nobody fucks with it. A much better solution would be to put it someplace where nobody CAN fuck with it.

Well by the time the world population growth reaches zero the world population will be around 10 Billion, according to the estimates I've seen. Good luck trying to speed things up.

There's nothing non-existant about the technology I'm proposing. Either a modified de-salination plant to remove phosphates from seawater, or a (possibly) modified seaweed to do the same. Talk to a chemist on how to extract phosphates from a salt mixture, or a biologist on how to get them out of seaweed.

Oh, by the way, you CAN go from lead to phosphorus via nuclear reactions. It's a rather roundabout method, and isn't currently economically viable, but I don't care if something works well, as long as it works.

FYI, food irradiation relys on gamma radiation, so there's no transmutation involved.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]

You keep saying... (2.50 / 2) (#82)
by physicsgod on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 08:01:09 PM EST

Current farming is inherintly flawed. And yet it's the exact same farming practices that enable the earth to support all 6 billion people currently on the planet, as well as billions more. Sure doesn't seem flawed to me. So far all your objections rest on our use of "non-renewable" resources, then call my system of renewal a "band-aid on gangrene", I'm sorry, but renewal of a non-renwable resource is a solution, period.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
You sound familiar ... (1.25 / 4) (#34)
by kurioszyn on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 09:01:47 PM EST

Face it. You are no different from these misguided folks who raged against machines during beginning stages of industrial revolution.
Get on with times dude ... Your resistance to change is futile.
"Think about the effect foot & mouth has had on modern British farming, or should I say, look how modern British farming effected the spread of foot & mouth. "

Yeah, as if there were no tragedies like that before , without new technology and farming methods being a factor.


[ Parent ]
Blind acceptance of tenological solutions... (4.50 / 4) (#56)
by codemonkey_uk on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 05:12:11 AM EST

Blind acceptance of technical solutions to social and economical problems is just as stupid as blind Luddism, which is what your doing, and what your accusing me off, respectively.

The difference is, of course, that I'm not a Luddite , and am basing my argument on scientific principal.

The last foot & mouth outbreak in the UK was significantly less damaging to British farming, simply because the farming practices at the time where less conducive to its spread. Modern farming *is* much more prone to disaster than "traditional" farming practices. That's not to say that we should return to "traditional" farming practices, which are less productive, but that we need to move forward and find new, fault tolerant, ecologically sound, sustainable farming practices. Organic farming is a step in the right direction, but may not be a final solution.

Of course, the simple fact of the matter might be that food is currently under priced, and that as a resource it has yet to return to its true market value.
---
Thad
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

superstitious nonsense... (2.00 / 2) (#42)
by daystar on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 12:09:09 AM EST

I know you WANT to believe that modern farming practices will be unsustainable and susceptible to failure, but there really isn't any reasoning behind that, is there? There's no evidence that convinced you that a disaster was going to humble arrogant american farmers, you just think that that's what should happen. You certainly weren't convinced by declining food production.

As for mad cow, yes, that's a nasty mess. Life is full of nasty messes, and as we learn more, we'll avoid them better. Like the nasty mess of historic agriculture, which we're much better off without.

--
There is no God, and I am his prophet.
[ Parent ]

whose? ;-) (5.00 / 1) (#45)
by Arkady on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 01:15:45 AM EST

Now, it would seem pointless to simply contradict you, so I'll let a professional do it for me. To quote from Miguel M. Altieri's "Toward Sustainable Agriculture" in the second edition of Agroecology (the first book on the topic I pulled off my shelf):

"Dramatic increases in crop productivity in modern agriculture have been accompanied in many instances by environmental degradation (soil erosion, polution be pesticides, salinization), social problems (elimination of the family farm; concentration of land, resources and production; growth of agribusiness and its domaintion over farm production; change in rural/urban migration patterns) and by excessive use of natural resources. Recently, agriculture has become increasingly subject to the constraints of inflationary petroleum prices.
...
Modern farming has become highly complex, with gains in crop yield dependent on intensive management and the uninterupted availability of supplemental energy and resources."

I won't type in the rest of the book for you, but you can find it (and a very large number of other professional works on these topic) in most good University bookstores. Oh, and before you dismiss the author as a crank, allow me to point out that he was (at the time of publication) an assiciate professor at U.C. Berkeley and general coordinator of the United Nations Development Programme's Sustainable Agriculture Networking and Extension Programme; so he's not just some guy writing random guesses and superstition.

So, if he doesn't think modern American farming practices are sustainable, perhaps the rest of us should listen up. ;-)

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Three problems. (2.00 / 1) (#67)
by daystar on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 08:48:27 AM EST

1) Environmental degradation
I'm much more likely to listen to environmental hysteria if it's accompanied by examples of how people are affected by the changes to the environment. Generally, environmentalist warnings come in the form of "This hasn't harmed anyone YET, but in a couple of years we'll all be irreversably DOOMED." These predictions are consistantly wrong, so I've stopped listening. Do you have an example of environmental damage due to modern farming practices that shows them to be unsustainable?

2) social problems
Stop whining. Life changes. People move to cities and it's not a catastrophe. None of the social ills listed are actual problems.

2) "excessive use of natural resources"
By whose standard? Yours? God's? Some former farmer who couldn't make a living without investing in better, more competitive technology?

I think that the cheap and available food around us is evidence that modern farming at least WORKS. The fact that this incredible quantity of food is produced on LESS land than ever before indicates to me that it has less of an environmental impact that traditional farming. And ultimately, all you're arguing against is the right of third world citizens to have cheap food for their kids.

And people call CAPITALISTS heartless.

--
There is no God, and I am his prophet.
[ Parent ]

read the literature (none / 0) (#72)
by Arkady on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 01:47:09 PM EST

"By whose standard?"

Well, as I said, by the standards of a U.C. professor who is also director of a U.N. project, who edited that book and wrote the paragraph I quoted, among others.

Look, if you want to get all anxious about it, go read some of the professional literature on the topic, instead of just getting your knickers twisted over "environmental hysteria". These people are professionals who spend their time studying this, so if they tell you that these farming methods degrade the environment, use resources in a non-sustainable way and have begun changes in social structure that are problems, then you should be paying attention. You can, of course, feel free to question or contradict them (that's how science works), but do it with real information (also an important part of how science works).

If you want "an example of environmental damage due to modern farming practices that shows them to be unsustainable", fine, you should, but you can get multitudes of them from reading the professional literature. The book I listed is a good start and, as I said, pretty much any university bookstore will have a whole shelf of them.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Agricultural Subsidies (3.37 / 8) (#18)
by Merk00 on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 10:01:15 AM EST

I was under the impression that agriculture subsidies were for the most part to increase prices. The government would then pay a farmer either to destroy his crop or to not plant anything on a field. This helps prices rise because of a greater scarcity. I don't understand how that would hurt the third world.

------
"At FIRST we see a world where science and technology are celebrated, where kids think science is cool and dream of becoming science and technology heroes."
- FIRST Mission

Not necessarily (4.33 / 6) (#26)
by garbanzo on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 07:16:28 PM EST

Some subsidies are payment to not grow. Others are payments to support the farmer who grows. Say domestic farmers can produce a bushel for 2x but foreign farmers (due to lower cost of living or better conditions or beter methods) can produce the same bushel for 1.8x. The world price remains 1.8x and to keep the domestic farmers in business, the government pays them .2x to make up the difference. They "steal" the advantage of the low price producer in order to keep their own farmers in business. Much of this (but not all) has been removed from US agriculture. Periodically it leads to tiffs with Canada (over winter wheat) or Europe (over bananas and many more items).



sure, it's all fun and games--until someone puts an eye out

[ Parent ]
Famine Relief (3.28 / 7) (#19)
by Merk00 on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 10:34:05 AM EST

One of the possible culprits of food prices being too low are because of faminerelief. By bringing food into a country for either free or below cost (as a lot of humanitarian aid is), does provide some relief of starvation but also manages to destroy the local agricultural economy. The farmers simply can't compete with the free or below cost food brought in. The other consequence of this is that future famines can be much worse because of more people and a lack of agriculture.

------
"At FIRST we see a world where science and technology are celebrated, where kids think science is cool and dream of becoming science and technology heroes."
- FIRST Mission

Not my experience (4.85 / 7) (#30)
by johnny on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 08:22:38 PM EST

I was a Peace Corps volunteer in an agrigcultural program in norther Senegal (west Africa) from 1974--1976. I arrived in the middle of a 7-year drought. For two years my diet consisted primarliy of famine-relief food.

The villagers among whom I lived did harvest some crops during the time that I lived there, but not nearly enough to keep us all alive. Instead we lived on food donations from France (wheat flour), the UK (wheat), the European Union (butter oil), the United Nations (CSM--corn soya milk) , Saudia Arabia (figs, dates) and the United States (Sorguhm, maize).

Contrary to the idea in the above post, the famine relief food allowed the village to remain an agricultural entitiy. And in fact when the drought broke, farming production returned to levels adequate to sustain the village. Had there been no famine relief, without a doubt the people would have decamped for St Louis or Dakar, and their would have been social instabillity and urban unrest.

Contrary to another stereotype, the food in my village (Fanaye Dieri, between Dagana and Podor) was fairly distributed buy the local authorities, weighed out, in public, acording to the official census figures of the village. I saw no corruption (which does not mean that it didn't happen). In general there was much more civility in the distibution of life-giving sustenance than there is in the USA in distributing parking places or popular toys at Christmas. During a short vacation I rode along with a buddy of mine who had taken a job as a truck driver for the United Nations. I rode from Ross Bethio to Matam distributing food, and I saw order and process at every stop.

After leaving the Peace Corps I went on to graduate school at a large midwestern land-grant University (Purdue) to take a Master's Degree in agricultural economics, with a concentration in the agricultural economies of poor countries. I there did some research which corroborated my impression that famine relief often (not always) stabilizes rather than destabilizes food production.



yr frn,
jrs
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]

(oT) very impressed (none / 0) (#103)
by thePositron on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 05:17:15 AM EST

I am greatful for your knowledgeable, lucid and well thought out posts. HAve you per chance read any David Korten?

It seems that he had similar experiences of western development styles and as you have described in previous posts.



[ Parent ]
Thanks & comment (none / 0) (#109)
by johnny on Wed Jul 25, 2001 at 08:27:54 AM EST

Thanks for the word up.

I think I may have come upon the site that you sent me, but if so I had forgotten to bookmark it, which I have now remmedied. I believe that people like Korten represent-- forgive the hyperbola here, but I really believe this-- the only hope for our species.

I try to stay aware of (& support) people in this general movement, but like everybody, I have real-world concerns that seem to prevent me from jumping in with both feet.

I am very lucky to have an activist twenty-year-old daughter who keeps me plugged in, & I appreciate notes like yours that remind me that there are kindred spirits all around.



yr frn,
jrs
Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
[ Parent ]

Interesting point ... (4.00 / 1) (#61)
by craigtubby on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 06:38:33 AM EST

Except you will find there is a reason fo famine - usually drought and/or a massive displacement of people. Drought being not enough water for crops to grow or millions of people in one area that cannot support them.

Most (obviously not all, coffee crops being an example) people farm at a subsistance level. ie they are not farming to make money so that they can go out and buy tins of carrots, but farming so that they themselves/thier villages can eat what they produce.

[ Parent ]

Unfair economic support for European crops. (3.16 / 6) (#21)
by SnowBlind on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 10:58:54 AM EST

The unfair government support of crop prices is not for US grown food, but for Euro food. We in america have the same problem, many European foods are subsidized (such as cheese in Britain and France) and under cut our farmers.



There is but One Kernel, and root is His Prophet.
Not exactly (4.33 / 3) (#25)
by garbanzo on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 07:09:26 PM EST

Being largely a free-trader, I wish that it were so. It is not. Sugar is one pretty salient example that comes to mind. The US supports the price of American produced sugar, largely from Florida. This same crop is pretty water intensive and has a substantial, negative impact on what little there is left of wild Florida.

It has gotten so bad that candy companies such as Brachs are leaving their US factories behind, with some regret. But if they move to Mexico, they can buy sugar at world market rates. They are that much lower.

Dropping the sugar subsidy would be good for Cuba, which produces sugar MUCH more cheaply than the US can, so perhaps that is one reason we keep the subsidy.



sure, it's all fun and games--until someone puts an eye out

[ Parent ]
Other reason for the protectionist policy (4.00 / 2) (#29)
by Anatta on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 08:20:33 PM EST

Dropping the sugar subsidy would be good for Cuba, which produces sugar MUCH more cheaply than the US can, so perhaps that is one reason we keep the subsidy.

That could be, but my guess is that because the subsidy is only $0.01 or so on each pound of sugar, no big group of individuals care about it. However, those cents here and there end up giving the sugar industry billions of dollars.

The Vermont Dairy Compact is similar... it protects Vermont farmers who compete inefficiently with Wisconsin farmers, to the tune of billions of dollars per year. While protecting the charming, small farms in Vermont sounds nice, when you realize the subsidy is essentially a highly regressive tax on a consumer staple (milk) that adversely affects the poor more than anyone else, it begins to sound pretty unfair. But strangely, people don't really seem to care about a cent or two on each gallon of milk, or pound of sugar, and the industries most certianly do care to keep their subsidies...

Oh well, hopefully America will change its ways sometime soon...
My Music
[ Parent ]

False trichotomy in the poll (3.80 / 5) (#27)
by johnny on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 07:42:49 PM EST

Other comments to follow later, maybe, but I wanted to point out that the poll misses two obvious options, either of which I would have voted for before any of the three (none of which is reflective of my views, hence my abstention):

  • "'Free Trade' is a misnomer, especially in the era of the WTO, which is managed by and for large corporate, not national, interests."

  • "It is my government's job to promote the security and well being of the citizens of my country. As much as we might like to live in a simple world where 'trade' is always good for both parties, in reality the world is more complex. Nations have the right, and the duty, to limit trade that may increase national wealth, and yet be inimicalble to national well being (as, for example, the US has the right to restrict international trade in heroin and cocaine.) Trade arrangements that quote, increase wealth, unquote, may in fact decrease the security and well being of the citizens of my country in any of several ways. Other countries, of course, have the same rights."
  • With respect to the latter point, by the way, I think that the "war on drugs" is a horrible, horrible waste. For any who care, I haven't used an illegal drug in decades, but I abhor our national hypocrisy. However, I think the US has the right to restrict free trade in dope if the US decides that it's in its national interest to do so.

    yr frn,
    jrs
    Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.

    Many questions unanswered (4.00 / 4) (#28)
    by garbanzo on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 07:45:58 PM EST

    The article poses several questions without answering them. Some are unanswerable:

    Are those in the West calling for a change in the direction of globalization in tune with the poor? Or are they the problem?

    The answer to this double query is "yes." The west is no more monolithic than anything else. Make a law and watch the people, like water finding its way around rocks, change their behavior to gain advantage. No matter the law or how well intentioned. And to the hungry poor third world farmers, intentions are not very filling. It is results that matter.

    What would the result of truly free food trade be? Here's my theory: third world factory farms. The very evil decried in the west because it squeezes out western "family" farmers by outcompeting them will migrate overseas even more readily than it already has. Deals will be made, land will be bought. Some of it fairly, some not as fairly. Many in the third world would sign their land away too cheaply for cash in the hand today.

    Don't think so? Consider how organic farmers in the US are finding themselves in the same squeeze. (Sorry, no URL, the source was NPR) The food is just as organic as it was when a small producer was making it, the rules for organicness are well defined. But many of the people who pioneered the rules and methods are now unable to compete, due mainly to the size of their operations. When enough money is being made, corporations will either buy the action or come in and compete for it. It's what they do.

    Don't think it's fair? But it's free trade! Okay, if that's not fair, what is? What would you propose? I ask the question in all honesty. I think we can all describe, in general terms what the good life might be: food is affordable worldwide, people have at least the opportunity to work and if they do, they can provide for themselves and their children. We ain't there yet, I agree about the problem, but what is a good solution?



    sure, it's all fun and games--until someone puts an eye out

    Defense strategy? (2.75 / 4) (#35)
    by valency on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 09:09:32 PM EST

    I always thought we had farm subsidies for defense purposes. Without them, agricultural production would naturally (and rightly) migrate to areas with low labor costs -- basically outside the USA. Once we're critically dependent upon other countries for food, we're in a much weaker position with respect to national defense.

    I'm a pretty hardcore libertarian, but I tend to give the government a blank check when it comes to protecting me from foriegn invasions. It's the only time that taxes don't piss me off.

    ---
    If you disagree, and somebody has already posted the exact rebuttal that you would use: moderate, don't post.

    Can you fault other countries for the same thing? (4.80 / 5) (#36)
    by elenchos on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 09:20:46 PM EST

    Even if worrying about dependence on food imports weren't a little meaningless for the US, given how much we depend on imported oil, is it right for us to cling to our own protectionist policies yet tell other countries they must give up theirs? And even if it were right, doesn't that put the lie to all these grand claims about all this wonderful free trade and open markets that we say we are in favor of? The truth is that we want free trade when it benefits us, and socialism and protectionism when it doesn't, which means that this is not about creating an international free market. It's about re-packaging the same old raw deal under a new name.

    You might also want to think about what dependence on food imports means to an impoverished country. What happens if their economy takes a dip and they can't afford to buy Nebraska wheat? The die. Signing on to the WTO's so-called "free" trade means accepting that risk, and they'd be crazy to do it. And what kind of people are we to ask them to do so?

    "Who's making personal remarks now?" the Hatter asked triumphantly.
    --Alice in Wonderland
    [ Parent ]

    Corroboration (5.00 / 5) (#64)
    by johnny on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 07:48:55 AM EST

    As a graduate student in Agricultural Economics at Purdue University, I spent 7 months (1978) at the Nianga Farm in northern Senegal. This farm was built with World Bank money, managed by the FAO in cooperation with the govenment of Senegal, and farmed by peasant cooperatives.

    This is an area near the Sahara desert, and it was during a drought. But there was water at the farm from the Senegal river, which has its headwaters in moutains much further south.

    My study involved figuring out where the people were spending most of their time, and where mechanization might help. I devised questionaires and polled 11 cooperatives weekly.

    This was a tricky endeavor, as people had good reason to be wary of outsiders poking around in their agricultural practices. I did manage to gain the trust of several cooperatives, however, because, having been a Peace Corps volunteer in the same area, I spoke a fair amount of the local languages, etc. And I sometimes worked among them in the fields.

    There was great pressure on the co-ops to grow tomatoes. The conditions were perfect, and the government jointly owned a canning factory 70 miles down the road. (As I recall there was some kind of public/private deal with some French company, but I've long since forgotten the particulars.) Obiously the government was interested in foreign exchange.

    The locals, however, wanted to grow wheat and rice. Why? Because you can store wheat and rice, and eat it when you're hungry. You cannot store tomatoes in the Sahara, and you cannot eat foreign exchange. As a compromise, the people grew a lot of tomatoes, some rice, and less wheat.

    Sometime I'll try to find my write up of what happened when the government came to pick up the tomatoes, and after deducting for the water, seeds, fertilizer, etc that the Farm had supplied, paid pennies instead of the dollars that the peasants had been expecting. Here's the nickel summary: the national guard had to be called out, and while awaiting them we europeans (who had good relations with the locals AND with the Senegaleze farm management staff) had to put the management in our care to prevent them coming to harm until reason prevailed. It was tense. (Resolution: a partial debt amnesty.)

    Moral of the story: in a starving time in a poor and hungry place, people want food and autonomy, not money or indenture to "public/private" ventures that "Free Trade" in practice, calls for.

    As to the objection that what I've described is socialism, not truly free trade, I answer that free trade is a myth. It exists nowhere in the world, it only exists in econmoic textbooks. There are *always* side-deals and conditions. And "truly free trade" CERTAINLY does not exist between the weak and the strong.

    The question in my mind thus becomes, who crafts the side deals? Is it corporations and their wealthy, powerful patrons, or is the hungry and hardworking powerless?

    yr frn,
    jrs
    Get your free download of prizewinning novels Acts of the Apostles and Cheap Complex Devices.
    [ Parent ]

    US should end protectionist policy (4.00 / 2) (#41)
    by Anatta on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 12:03:59 AM EST

    I always thought we had farm subsidies for defense purposes.

    Nah... we have them because of a strong labor movement and a big government.

    Without them, agricultural production would naturally (and rightly) migrate to areas with low labor costs -- basically outside the USA.

    Not necessarily... the US is extremely efficient at growing food, but not necessarily all food. We may lose some types of food to other countries, but my guess is that enough Texas meat eaters would spend more $ to buy 'Merican beef that we'd sustain that industry. Much dairy is hard to transport long because of short shelf lives and other issues. We would lose sugar and a few other items, however we would also be promoting the free trade that our republican president supposedly espouses.

    There is also the issue that trade tends to lend to peace, as people generally don't want to fight with one another when that means losing trade... however obviously other issues (racial, religious, etc.) can easily trump trade.

    Overall, it seems to me that if we are going to promote free trade as a real answer to problems, we should follow our own advice. Anything else is hypocrisy.
    My Music
    [ Parent ]

    That's sort of the point (4.50 / 2) (#43)
    by Arkady on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 12:52:13 AM EST

    "Overall, it seems to me that if we are going to promote free trade as a real answer to problems, we should follow our own advice. Anything else is hypocrisy."

    That's certainly true.

    It's important to remember, though, that actually free trade has very little to do with any of this; it's just called that to keep the punters complacent. For the most striking examples, look at the handling of "intellectual property", especially in the medical and technological areas. All of these "free trade" agreements, especially TRIPS. To quote from a recent article evaluating economic news coverage:

    "The theme repeated by the protesters' critics is that developing nations must export to the industrialized nations in order to escape poverty. It is worth noting that a large share of export earnings, especially for the poorest nations, are used to service past debt. If this debt were cancelled, poor nations would have to divert far fewer resources to producing goods for export and would be better able to develop their domestic economies. The TRIPS agreement, which extends U.S.-type patent and copyright protection to developing nations, will increase the flow of royalty payments and licensing fees from developing nations, further increasing the need for developing nations to export. In short, the industrialized nations are seeking to impose a situation in which developing nations must increase their exports. This need is not a natural development, as implied by the protesters' critics."

    This is niether free nor trade, it's merely colonialism by other means.

    -robin

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


    [ Parent ]
    citation (4.00 / 1) (#44)
    by Arkady on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 12:54:31 AM EST

    That quote, by the way, comes from Economics Reporting Review, Week of July 14 - July 20, written by economist Dean Baker (co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research).


    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


    [ Parent ]
    Globalization and Corps (4.80 / 5) (#38)
    by Lugh on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 09:59:50 PM EST

    Here's the thing that makes me leery of the type of globalization that is currently being pursued- The supposed goals aren't in the best interests of the corporations that are pushing it. Think about it. What are the supposed end results that are being pursued? Democracy, higher standards of living worldwide, and greater freedom for most of the world's population, ushered in by free trade. Why are the corps moving so many of their operations to poor, third world countries? Cheap labor, compliant governments and more control over what happens to their property. Why in the world would the corporations want to promote higher standards of living and more democracy? If things stay as they are, they have low labor costs, no problems with those pesky unions, and government regulation? What government regulation?

    Western style corporations have demonstrated a high level of skill at making long term plans to maintain the status quo, but an inability to anticipate changes (witness the MPAA and RIAA). I just don't find it believable that the corporations have actually figured out how to deal with a generally affluent population (at least in comparison to today), and are working towards that end.
    Remove the obvious falsehood to e-mail me.

    the interests of corporations (3.33 / 3) (#50)
    by helmer on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 01:34:03 AM EST

    For-profit corporations are chiefly concerned with maximizing profits. In the long-run, it pays to help 'develop' other countries because this 'development' increases the number of consumers who will buy whatever a particular corporation is selling. In the short-term, corporations benefit from cheap labour and lax environmental regulations. In the long-run, they benefit from an overall increase in profits.

    It may seem odd that corporations are for globalization, and the increased standard of living, et cetera that results from globalization, but it's not. Corporations wouldn't support anything that will not, eventually, increase profits. Nice, eh?

    [ Parent ]

    the interests of people (4.00 / 2) (#53)
    by streetlawyer on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 03:30:40 AM EST

    why should the development of poor countries be restricted to the pace which corporations view as optimal? Why should they be maintained as a "source of cheap labour" until developed markets are saturated?

    --
    Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
    [ Parent ]
    They're not ready for it (5.00 / 2) (#63)
    by Lugh on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 07:17:42 AM EST

    I agree with your statement that corps won't support anything that won't increase profits. It's just that I don't think that they're willing to take the short-term hit required to maximize the long-term gain. American corporations in particular are ridden with a vision for the future of about one quarter- you'd damn well keep increasing profits every three months. To my mind, the long term changes that globalization will theoretically bring are too far ahead and too different from today for the corporations to really be thinking about.
    The way that industialization is being carried out in the third world looks frighteningly like the way that it was carried out in the first world during the industrial revoloution. It's a little better, but it could be much better, if the corps were interested in something other than exploitation. I've never seen a good response to the question 'Why do they have to do it just the way we did?' (ie- sweatshops, disenfranchisement, environmental rape, etc.). I don't really give a damn if even, someday, in some rosy future, things are going to be better the way we're constantly being told they will be (and I don't believe things will be better). There's no reason why we have to subject the rest of the world to the same pain that we went through, other than the fact that globalization is being organized by a bunch of jackasses who only give a damn about their bottom line.
    Remove the obvious falsehood to e-mail me.
    [ Parent ]
    BS (3.50 / 4) (#40)
    by MSBob on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 12:03:16 AM EST

    The least developed countries are in such shape because of the constant civil wars and in some cases years of ruthless colonialism. Lack of functioning democracy and rampant corruption are amongst the main reasons. Just about every contry I know that opened their borders to free trade came out better off as a result. Every government has the natural tendency to play with duty rates and such. That too is a corrupting factor. Politicians love regulations they can benefit from. Don't let the governments of Zanzibar and Sierra Leone tell you that they are starving because of the US or EU. They are starving because their military regimes which are in power in most of those places are milking the countries at the expense of lives and resources of its people.

    Rethorical question. How many of those countries have functioning democracies?

    I don't mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

    odd (4.28 / 7) (#48)
    by Arkady on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 01:22:19 AM EST

    I think this must be the first time I've ever seen it postulated that humans do not need food to survive; all they need is freedom. It's primarily curious because I've never heard of a case where the establishment of a "functioning democracy" has ended a famine.

    Besides, give the poor folks a break here. It's _hard_ to set up a functioning democracy with somebody's foot on your neck, telling you to hand over half of what you produce so that you can get foreign currency you need to participate in this "free trade" thing you've heard so much about. The fact that this foot (say, the military gobverner of your happy South American bannana republic) is merely at the end of the long leg of American neo-imprerialism.

    (Sorry about the tangled metaphor there; I got started on that sentence and it just kept going.)

    -robin

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


    [ Parent ]
    Yes, it's hard. But what's the alternative? (5.00 / 2) (#74)
    by plutarch on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 06:39:35 PM EST

    The American Revolution began precisely because the Brits' foot was pressing a bit too hard down upon our necks.
    Leftism is the ideology of resentment. It is is the ideology of the frustrated will to power. It matters not how much or how little power the Leftist has at the moment. The point is, he wants more, and he can't get it.
    [ Parent ]
    heh (4.66 / 3) (#77)
    by Arkady on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 07:10:30 PM EST

    Good point; well said.

    My point, though, was not only that it's difficult but also that most of us engaging in this discussion happen to live in those wealthy countries who're doing the standing, not the poor countries on whom "we" are walking. It's particularly egregious to argue that, not only do "we" know better than "they" what they should be doing, it's actually right to keep the foot on because of that. Worse is then condemning them for having failed at something the countries in which we live are actively trying to prevent them from doing.

    That's just disgusting.

    -robin

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


    [ Parent ]
    Democracies could help with famine relief.... (5.00 / 1) (#129)
    by jwilliam on Fri Jul 27, 2001 at 08:37:47 AM EST

    I agree with the first sentance, but you might want to check out Amartya Sens work on famines (He has a whole book on the topic which I've never read, but he also discusses it in "Development as Freedom).

    I don't remember enough of it to give a complete account, but I can try to sketch some of it here. The basic notion was that most major causes of famine have relatively little to do with lack of food production, and have alot more to do with economic systems and "entitlement failures". For example, "the Bangladesh famine of '74 occured in a year of greater food availability per head then any other year between 71 and 76". The reason for the initial phases of the famine was a flood which wiped out the roads, and many of the peoples jobs. Without jobs they couldn't pay for the food, so they starved. In such instances, it's obvious that the famine is preventable through government intervention (He qoutes Maharashtra in '73 as an example, the government created 5 million temporary jobs in order to support people). And it's easier to pressure a democratic government to take the necessary action to prevent it, so being in a democracy can help [And, as I'm sure you'd point out, being in a workable non-market based economic system would help out too. Sen is center-left liberal though, while he acknowledges the deficiencies of the market, he is still a supporter of them]. He also claims that "there has never been a famine in a functioning multiparty democracy".

    In any event, I never really spent much time to critically analyze the argument, but I just wanted to point out that there are possibly credible arguments in support of the idea.

    [ Parent ]

    How many indeed? (4.25 / 4) (#62)
    by MrEd on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 06:58:40 AM EST

    Well, if you listen to the talking sock puppet in the White house, all the countries slated to be included in the FTAA agreement are democracies. Even lovely 'fully functional' dictator... er President-for-life countries like Haiti are to be welcomed.

    Only Cuba, a country with one of the lowest infant death rates in the third world, (and an embarrasing history of kicking the American Fruit Company out on its ass after the revolution) is excluded. President Bush states that he hopes one day that the people of Cuba will enjoy the same freedoms that their fellow humans in Guatemala do. Whee.

    Watch out for the k5 superiority complex!


    [ Parent ]
    And why so few? (4.75 / 4) (#86)
    by gigio on Tue Jul 24, 2001 at 09:00:34 PM EST

    Why does the US have a blockade against Cuba?
    Because the cuban government expropiated a few rich guys.

    Why did the US support Pinochet's coup against Salvador Allende (who was democratically elected)?
    Because Allende expropiated Chile's copper mines.

    Now, did these contries did that out of selfishness?, anti-US feelings?, evil plans to overthrow democracy in the world and bind us all in darkness? No. They did it because their people was poor, and needed help. When the US protects it's poor (rarelly these days), it's called 'National Defense'. When another country does it, it's called 'Communism'. Particularly if some filthy rich guy gets scratched.

    It is in this climate that 3rd world countries are supposed to develop a democracy. A world where it is OK for Israel to kill those Palestinans that protest the unlawfull invasion of their country, just because Israel has the money to lobby in Washington.

    PD.
    By the way, America goes *all* the way from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, so stop stealing the name for yourselves.

    [ Parent ]
    World's poorest countries not so enthusiastic about WTO. | 136 comments (133 topical, 3 editorial, 1 hidden)
    Display: Sort:

    kuro5hin.org

    [XML]
    All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
    See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
    Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
    Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
    My heart's the long stairs.

    Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!