9 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. 29 May 2017 – the centenary of the birth of John Fitzgerald Kennedy

    One hundred years ago, on 29 May 1917, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, better known to us as ‘JFK’, was born to the business magnate Joseph P. Kennedy Senior and Rose Kennedy. At that time, most advanced industrial countries, including Australia, were fighting each other in the ‘War to End All Wars’ of 1914-1918. The United States was to join that war shortly afterwards. A total of 18 million lives were lost in that war by one estimate. That includes 116,708 from the United States and 60,000 from Australia.

    In subsequent years, the Second World War of 1931-1945 followed the supposed ‘War to End All Wars’. In that war JFK’s elder brother Joseph P. Kennedy Junior was to die heroically in 1944 test-flying a BQ-8 “robot” bomber, or drone, which had been converted from a B-24 bomber.

    JFK himself, after overcoming a medical disability, which prevented him from joining the U.S. Navy Reserve in 1940, took command of the PT-109 Patrol Torpedo boat in October 1943. Lieutenant Kennedy’s courageous conduct as commander of PT-109 in the fight against the Japanese in the Solomon Islands was to be subsequently depicted in the book PT-109 and film of the same name.

    After the war, JFK was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1946. …

  2. Here is something for you to contemplate John knowing your interest (and experience?) in
    Game Theory.

    26 May 2017 of New Scientist entitled – Game theory says you should charge your friends to borrow things?! at least according to economists.

    Now being deeply sceptical of economic modelling that doesnt look capable of passing the laugh test I looked at this with an eye to GIGO. I couldnt find the primary reference so I had to go on the interpretation. Still the message seemed clear cut. Here is the opening section:

    “Want to borrow my tent? No problem, that will be £25 please. That might sound annoying, but it will be better for society in the long run. Surprisingly, this is the conclusion reached by a new game theory analysis of sharing goods. With larger and more expensive items that are used infrequently, like power tools and hiking gear, people often face a choice between buying one themselves or borrowing from a friend. Assuming that this choice solely comes down to cost, Ariel Procaccia and colleagues at Carnegie Melon University in Pennsylvania wanted to see what outcome these individual decisions have on society as a whole. In their first simulation, people were able to borrow items for free from their friends. Considering overall wealth, “in this situation the cost for society was really bad,” says Procaccia. “Everyone tried to optimise their own situation, but this was far from the optimum for society,” he says. To picture what goes wrong, imagine a town where people very occasionally want access to a circular saw. Most of the time the item remains unused, so anyone who owns one is happy to lend it to friends for free.”

    Having recently loaned my Bunnings circular saw to the neighbour the image intrigued, while much of the rest of the scenario was confirmed as laughable.

    The magic daft catchphrase/economist fudge seemed to be “Assuming that this choice solely comes down to cost”. [sounds a bit like Thatcher with her – “They’re casting their problem on society. And, you know, there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families there is no society”]

    In reality of course it all falls down for a range of reasons e.g.:
    * I started by not having a clue how to use the damn circular saw. The neighbour showed me in the course of another project how to use it and lots of neat tricks I would not have learnt otherwise.
    * The scenario mixes up personal intimate loans involving a host of personal interactions and communication beyond money – like building trust or conversely unwillingness to loan due to lack of defensible trust because the human clown last time trashed your chain saw because he didnt have a clue how to operate it – with industrial scale loans that cost you a fortune and mainly aid only some rentier capitalist get filthy rich and regretably do need to be managed commercially or equivalent. The latter though does not negate the significance of the former and one size does not fit all.
    * Scale does matter for other reasons – at a big scale something gets a lot more use and needs much more maintenance else it fall apart and slice your hand off whereas occasional loans are far less likely to.
    * Charging for loans introduces all sorts of liabilities insurance book keeping which mainly make work for a distant paper pusher. The cost/logistics of keeping track of loans. Does it really make sense to start charging for loaning the biggest obvious item of all, books. Corollary – are these clowns now testing their theory by telling all their students they have a personal book hiring service? I can just see the University reaction to that one.
    * The fact we increasingly dont know our neighbours or have a clue about their resources they would be willing to lend raises the problem of communication – and who is about to put up the details of all their stuff on line and run the system – each individual?
    * One driver for buying Bunnings stuff – the example is because that is what people – mostly men – do. We buy and accumulate such stuff because it is self affirming.
    * ‘Lending’ to the neighbour is often ‘paid’ back but not in a crude monetary way – e.g. ad hoc quid pro quo without perfect recompense – I borrow your circular saw, you help me with my balcony, I help you with firewood when you are sick, you help me with picking up groceries etc. etc.. I guess we could have a balance sheet as in some nightmare shared houses I’ve lived in. But really life is too short.

    Bottom line is this.
    – On one level its a quaint pop study but so divorced from reality you wonder should anyone take this seriously. The trouble is its dangerous as it reaffirms the rationalisers of neoliberalism aka privatize everything.
    – It comes apart when you apply the reality blow torch too it.
    – But its still an interesting study funnily because it touches on the problem of optimising ownership (common and individual) in that social utopia or ecotopia devotees of Corbyn think they believe in. Like the soviet union of old and Cuba today it sounds very nice and in small close communities efficient socialist sharing is possible. But in mass society we still really dont know what the alternatives are because left theorists to so often ignore reality even when the price of ignoring reality is like that described by Bertrand Russell. Russell, B. (1920). Bolshevism: Practice and Theory: Ayer Company Pub.

  3. @Newtownian

    A further complexity is that a lot of stuff is carefully priced so that you can buy a cheap one for less than any reasonable hire cost, and it will probably work after a fashion for a short hire period. You can buy $50 tents and $20 routers, for example. And places like Bunnings sell those things by offering a replacement warranty that allows customers to buy the $20 router confident that when it fails and if they survive they can just go back to Bunnings and get another one.

    In Australia we also have the “Men’s Shed” movement, and a similar Makerspace one that allows people to go along and be trained in how to use the proper tools. At least if they’re men, because sadly there doesn’t seem to be a parallel “Woman’s Shed” movement. Makerspace in Marrickville is quite good in that regard, there are a decent number of women both as organisers and users. The win for people like me is that I don’t have the space for any one of the bigger tools, let alone all of them, even if I could afford to buy the actual tools (you can fit a tablesaw into a single garage, but you will probably end up wanting most of the single garage for it. But you don’t want it in the same single garage as the welder… sawdust and molten metal are not a good combination).

    One other point is that while I’m capable of using many tools reasonably competently, I’m not capable of teaching someone else to do so. That becomes important even with cheap, easy to use tools like grinders and circular saws. Looking at hospital admissions statistics under “DIY” is scary.

  4. Solid research reported here on heart damage from fine particles at low concentrations. Sample over 4,000, and their heart function was directly measured, not inferred from illness.
    1. Apart from the egregious and totally discredited Milloy, are there any air pollution denialists?
    2. Are Aussies worried at all by this?

  5. Worth taking the time to listen to this Jeffrey Sachs speech, particularly in light of Trump and the Paris agreement.

  6. Thatcher’s “system philosophy” was and is laughable and extraordinarily easy to refute.

    ” … there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families (but) there is no society.” – Thatcher.

    She admits one system to her analysis (a family is a system) but excludes another system (society) with making any analysis. There is no analytical underpinning to explain why one system is admitted ontologically (admitted to exist) and another excluded. An analogy would be as follows;

    “There is no such thing as an ocean. There are individual atoms and molecules made of atoms but there is no ocean.”

    It is so easy to see the risible stupidity of Thatcher’s formulation. Understanding emergent phenomena clearly was not her strong point. Or rather, what she did was to simply and fallaciously deny the existence of something (society) which if admitted to exist raised un-resolvable problems for her neoliberal ideology (one cannot call it a philosophy).

  7. Ikonoclast :
    Thatcher’s “system philosophy” was and is laughable and extraordinarily easy to refute.
    ” … there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families (but) there is no society.” – Thatcher.

    I agree with you on this Thatcherism, but I wonder what you think of a similar notion – somewhere in a Daniel Dennett tome (I haven’t found it again, sorry) he quotes “There is no humanity, there are just billions of humans (I’m paraphrasing) competing for the necessities of life.”

    The point is that humans in their multitude of competing groups cannot be considered as a single collective, at least not in terms of intentionality. And that “humanity” is a philosophical construct lacking real substance.

  8. @rog
    You might add to your map the huge solar PV farm currently nearing completion at Lakeland, 85 km south-west of Cooktown.

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