"Boobies Did Not Break the Game": The ESRB Clears the Air On Oblivion

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Yes, I am from America...well, I have lived here since I was three years old except for one year in the sixth grade, so I certainly am no less American in the sense of understanding where I live than other Americans.

The reference to the Law and Econ movement and swipe about forgetting post-New Deal America rather plays into my broader point.

First of all, the Law and Econ movement is frankly a tiny and inconsequential force; it seems to just be an Americanzed name for Marxist analysis, ie. applying lessons of economic infrastructure onto the legal superstructure. If you want to talk about Chicago intellectuals who matter, then you have to talk about the Chicago school of neoliberals who benevolently trained imported Latin American economists and sent them back to literally destroy their country's economies in that continent's "lost decade" of the 1980s where the freedom of capital was prioritized over the freedom of human beings.

Second, I don't know if you noticed but the New Deal is rather eroded. The entire social-welfare state concept on which it rests has been castrated starting in the 1980s to the point of near impotency. The greatest "victory" of what passes for the "left" here was partially saving Social Security - a program from more than a half-century ago.

All of which is to say: I stand by my characterization of America as markedly more conservative in its economic spirit than almost any other developed country - and that spirit includes the core definition of freedom as the relationship of the individual to his government, with the role of capital in influencing both individuals and governments conveniently elided.

Liberals like to dismiss Fox News et al. because it makes an unpleasant sight for them, but this is a channel with some of the highest audience levels - and now increasingly mimicked by other television news - because it is a reflection of the rightward shift of American society. If you take a look at any of the survey data on labor unions, social security, militarism, welfare, poverty, the role of the person in shaping his destiny, you will see that America is to the right of not just the Scandinavian but in fact all the European democracies west of and including Germany.

I also stand by my assertion that " what is really being debated is not the greatness of "freedom" versus "censorship" per se, because that is meaningless in an absolute sense, since the positive value of freedom depends precisely upon how socially positive we perceive the action to do freely is."

I do not finding your example of supposed religious pluralism very convincing. That is not really an argument you can say has been tested by history since 90% of the country is Christian. Over in England there is a sizable Muslim minority and the British have scared themselves senseless over the veil enough such that an outright ban of it - as was the case in France - is certainly in the cards. The only significant non-Christian population that faced direct contact with "pluralistic" America, in America, was exterminated.

Perhaps more pertinent is your example of nutritional facts on a box of twinkies. If you are in a store with a fixed or limited amount of income, you note that synthesized fatty foods are cheap, while the nutritional and organic stuff usually is not. Now the government can place whatever nutritional statistics like all over the store, but that doesn't "empower" a lot of people - the "choice" has from the outset been partially structured by a person's economic status, not to mention the availability or placement of fatty foods versus healthy ones.

In such a scenario, let us suppose the government removes corporate farming subsidization for synthetic and mass-produced foods and hands out some kinds of incentive to stores prioritizing placement of healthier items. The government has thus made a decision which will encourage and enable more people to buy healthier food. This is what you would call interference greater than simply making the consumer "well informed." But I think the example illustrates the weakness of simply tossing out information in a context where it cannot be put to practical use. Information is useless without being actionable.

The reason I did not delve into the nuances of what the ESRB is trying to do is because it is mostly speculation by association. The ESRB is still rating games - your problem begins when the distributor, upon seeing the rating, refuses to publish the game widely, diminishing your access to it. But is that really the ESRB's fault? Certainly it is not a matter of censorship as it is commonly defined: monopoly of information and expression by the government.

I would suggest that a lot of prattle about parents taking more responsibility is much like lecturing poor people (who in America tend to be obese more than wealthier income brackets) to eat better food. Parenting is not simply a matter of individual heroism or responsibility and sense. We can all point to extreme cases of parental neglect or stupidity but that is merely a red herring. In a society where both parents often work (but not making twice the real income as earned by one parent fifty years ago, mind you), it is disingenuous to claim that parents should alone have to fend off the undeniably massive amount of violent content in media and culture.

In short there is nothing in the ESRB's ratings assessments that infringes on anyone's rights. It only impacts the profit margins of the game developers and the convenience with which you can access graphically violent content - and only by way of the decision some other party makes based on its ratings.

Therefore there is no basis for drawing up this false dichotomy of the board "telling me on the basis of being better informed or less influenced by capital what I *can* choose, and simply sharing that greater knowledge/impartial viewpoint with me."

All of which is to say: I stand by my characterization of America as markedly more conservative in its economic spirit than almost any other developed country - and that spirit includes the core definition of freedom as the relationship of the individual to his government, with the role of capital in influencing both individuals and governments conveniently elided.

Junaid, I, at least, would not disagree with this at all - it's precisely the reason why America is my favorite nation on earth!

Arbre:
What would you suggest instead of the ESRB?
Pure parental responsability? I don't believe in it one second.

Parental responsibility for everything not covered by the law. Otherwise the law. If it's legal the parents get to decide what's acceptable.

Are kids allowed to buy alcohol? Are kids allowed to buy porno movies?
What happens when someone sells alcohol or porno movies to kids?

They get fined or go to jail. That system works fine right now. Why change it? You're assuming I'd dismantle every other safeguard - that's not the case. I just don't think we need an agency taking on responsibilities that parents have for their children and that adults have for themselves.

From time to time, the ESRB may make a mistake, and be too severe on a certain game, and mysteriously give more leeway to others, but those cases are frankly limited and arguable.

But if censorship happens once - just once - that infringes on my freedom. If it's legal I should have free access to it. If these things are so abhorrent make them illegal. If they're not, people shouldn't be trying to limit my access to them. It's as simple as that.

It's not to the ESRB to be the substitute to the parents' role

Then it should stop doing it.

and it's certainly not the ESRB's fault if a vast group of retailers decide to faint a pious facade and refuse to sell AO games.

Of course it's the ESRB's fault - at least in part. The ESRB issues ratings and offers the moral judgments that give these companies an excuse to take stuff off their shelves. Saying that the ESRB bears no responsibility for the effect of its ratings is like saying that the announcers on the radio stations in Rwanda during the Rwandan genocide bore no responsibility for people committing murder based on their encouragements. I'm not comparing ESRB ratings to genocide - what I'm saying is that words and actions have consequences and when a ratings board gives an AO rating to a product, if that product gets taken off shelves due to the rating the ESRB bears some responsibility for that.

Cheeze_Pavilion:
I don't think anyone objects to the ESRB in principle. No one objects to some third party giving them an opinion on a game. What people are objecting to is that the ESRB has gone from being like the Nutritional Facts on the side of my box of Twinkies to being like the FDA.

That's right. I've read a lot of arguments here saying that "Hey, the game developers know that they'll get an ESRB AO rating" as if it's a cynical manipulation. Well cynical manipulation works both ways and the ESRB isn't above it. The folks at the ESRB know that when they hand out an AO rating it's going to be controversial and a bit of controversy gets the ESRB some good press - I mean the vast majority of the public thinks that games are too violent or too filled with sexual content (which a lot of people confuse with nudity). Don't anyone tell me that the ESRB is all sweetness and light on this issue because it isn't.

Just look at the infamous dichotomy between the ESRB's prediliction for issuing AO ratings to games which feature nudity and its reticence for issuing the same label to violent games. I mean nudity is a perfectly innocent state of dress that all of us (hopefully, for cleanliness' sake) find ourselves in every single day, yet to the ESRB it's an example of appalling moral decay that must be restricted when it's portrayed in a game. I mean that's like issuing an AO rating for portraying the wearing of hats in a game - completely ridiculous - and I get to have the ESRB's childish moral values (i.e. nudity is wrong or icky) imposed on me every time a game comes along featuring characters with their 'naughty bits' covered by non-removable underwear. I mean here I am, a 45 year old guy with a wife and kid. I've seen a number of people naked, yet I'm brought down to the level of a pre-teen - restricted by someone else's arbitrary moral code - due to game developers being so afraid of the ESRB that they can't even show a particular state of dress in a game.

The ESRB is far more likely to issue an AO rating to a game for showing nudity (which is perfectly harmless to kids) than it is to issue an AO rating to a game that shows extreme violence (which seems more likely to be harmful to kids).

If the ESRB's activities were grounded in reality - if the ratings were based on scientific principles and studies rather than on a vague and childish moral code which posits that nudity is far more dangerous than mass murder, I'd have a lot more respect for the ratings board's activities.

Junaid Alam:

First of all, the Law and Econ movement is frankly a tiny and inconsequential force;

That's funny, because in another thread I've got someone complaining about the McDonald's lady case where she got '4 million dollars for spilling coffee on herself'.

Second, I don't know if you noticed but the New Deal is rather eroded.

Right, but it didn't erode because the concept of freedom as an absolute good made a resurgence. Quite the opposite--the New Deal's guiding ideology was expressed in what was to be a second Bill of Rights: http://www.worldpolicy.org/globalrights/econrights/fdr-econbill.html

I do not finding your example of supposed religious pluralism very convincing. That is not really an argument you can say has been tested by history since 90% of the country is Christian. Over in England there is a sizable Muslim minority and the British have scared themselves senseless over the veil enough such that an outright ban of it

Umm, yeah, and over in England there's been one group of Christians oppressing another group of Christians for hundreds of years. Catholic Emancipation only occurred in England in, what, 1825? Has that sizable Muslim minority been treated better or worse than the sizable Catholic minority was back as recently as the 1980s? I'm sorry, but saying that a country made up 90% of Christians isn't a religiously plural country is, well, kinda silly considering how Christians of different sects can treat each other, don't you think?

Heck, wasn't America founded by Christians trying to get away from other Christians? As were the states of Pennsylvania and Maryland? And the city of Providence?

- as was the case in France - is certainly in the cards. The only significant non-Christian population that faced direct contact with "pluralistic" America, in America, was exterminated.

Eh, we got a lot of Jews here too, don't forget. That's why we eat corned beef on St. Patrick's Day. I sure wouldn't call them an insignificant population.

Now the government can place whatever nutritional statistics like all over the store, but that doesn't "empower" a lot of people - the "choice" has from the outset been partially structured by a person's economic status, not to mention the availability or placement of fatty foods versus healthy ones.

Yeah, but how is that relevant to the ESRB? Are people buying AO games because they can't afford any others?

In such a scenario, let us suppose the government removes corporate farming subsidization for synthetic and mass-produced foods and hands out some kinds of incentive to stores prioritizing placement of healthier items. The government has thus made a decision which will encourage and enable more people to buy healthier food. This is what you would call interference greater than simply making the consumer "well informed." But I think the example illustrates the weakness of simply tossing out information in a context where it cannot be put to practical use.

I totally agree with that. However, I fail to see the relevance of it to 'censoring' Twinkies. You're acting as if the government either has to empower them only in an informational sense, or make the decision for them. You've ignored the possibility of empowering them in BOTH the economic and informational sense.

Certainly it is not a matter of censorship as it is commonly defined: monopoly of information and expression by the government.

In short there is nothing in the ESRB's ratings assessments that infringes on anyone's rights. It only impacts the profit margins of the game developers and the convenience with which you can access graphically violent content - and only by way of the decision some other party makes based on its ratings.

I would think you would be a big fan of non-standard definitions that recognize the powerlessness of the individual in the face of the corporation and its capital, and the need for the government to step in and protect the individual :-D

Therefore there is no basis for drawing up this false dichotomy of the board "telling me on the basis of being better informed or less influenced by capital what I *can* choose, and simply sharing that greater knowledge/impartial viewpoint with me."

How 'bout if we amend it by including at the beginning: "after first giving me the economic power to purchase any of my choices" :-D

That pretty squarely lands you back in a false dichotomy in many cases. You won't find a bigger fan of the social welfare state than I, or one who will argue that freedom should mean more than the abstract right, and include the concrete means.

The weird thing is, that's *exactly* what you're arguing *against* here. You're saying that because I have the abstract right to buy an AO title, that no one is 'censoring' me because the government is not involved, just corporations and the effects of capital.

Doesn't that argument feel funny in your mouth when in the other paragraph you're preaching the doctrine that the government should intervene when because of corporations and the effects of capital "the 'choice' has from the outset been partially structured by...the availability or placement" of products in the marketplace?

Why do I the individual deserve less government protection 'from the structuring of availability or placement by corporations or the effects of capital' when I want to buy _Manhunt 2_ than when I want to buy something other than a Twinkie?

Archon, somehow I am not entirely surprised at your enthusiasm for the turbo-capitalist model given that you are, after all, a CEO. ;-)

Though this is likely not the appropriate forum for full-fledged purely political discussion, I would posit that America's lagging performance in all major social indices when compared to other developed countries - child welfare, poverty, health insurance, life expectancy, and literacy - is inextricably related to our conservative definition of freedom, which frequently is a defense of overbearing business and corporate power masquerading as a legitimate hostility to overbearing government power.

I think the case for this view is eloquently laid out in Michael Harrington's lesser-known work written in 1984, 'The New American Poverty.' In my view even the most bureaucratic *elected* government is ten times more representative of the broad interests of the people than any ensconced business elite.

Pavillion, I think you are mixing too many analogies, but I will try to engage your argument tomorrow.

Tonight, I have a date with my wife. :)

Junaid, while I don't mind being put in a "CEO" box, I was frankly just as enthusiastic for turbo-capitalism when I was a 15-year old student in a working class high school with a household income in the mid $30s. I was enthusiastic for it because I could become a CEO. And I did.

I've known a lot of entrepreneurs and small businessmen from Europe and all of them are in despair over their country's bureacratic regimes. I can't express how happy I am that I live in a country where we have free enterprise in a way that, for instance, France does not.

Take a colleague of mine - CEO of a French game developer - that suffered 100% insurance and tax loads on every employee, and had to provide guaranteed 4 weeks vacation to every employee, and maximum 35 hour work weeks. As a result, his company's $11m development budget was the equivalent of maybe $3mm for a US developer - and their game didn't make the cut to AAA as a result. The finale? Two broken-hearted co-founder entrepreneurs and a bunch of unemployed game developers.

Unfortunately, the problem with comparisons of America and Europe is that the advantages of turbo-capitalism are hidden, while the costs (fewer safety nets, more commoditization of labor) are obvious, while with the Euro-welfare state, the advantages are obvious, while the costs (growth that never occurs, businesses that never blossom, individuals that never achieve social mobility, future generations that never enjoy wealth) are hidden.

At my own risk of being inappropriate in this forum :-D

Junaid Alam:

Though this is likely not the appropriate forum for full-fledged purely political discussion, I would posit that America's lagging performance in all major social indices when compared to other developed countries - child welfare, poverty, health insurance, life expectancy, and literacy - is inextricably related to our conservative definition of freedom,

I would say it's inextricably related to the increasing conservative leanings of Americans, not to any definition of 'freedom'. I think the conservative agenda in America pushing the the moral hazards of the social welfare state like some kind of bogeyman has been a much more important factor than any concept of 'freedom'.

I mean, if the conservative definition of freedom masquerades "as a legitimate hostility to overbearing government power" how does that explain something like the backlash against keeping abortion legal? Or how conservatives are winning the battle over sexual education in schools by talking about how "socially positive" the abstinence-only agenda is, and not about parental rights?

The problem isn't that conservatives have convinced Americans that government pursuing "socially positive" policies is an infringement on their freedoms. The problem is that they've convinced them that their conservative programs are more "socially positive" than the ones the liberals are offering.

Of course they're not, but, they've gotten America to buy into the logic of 'teach kids abstinence because abstinence is one hundred percent effective, and is therefore the most "socially positive" policy.'

Why? Because the left says things like 'freedom is meaningless in an absolute sense' which just hands the American populace over to the conservatives. If American liberals would talk more like FDR--characterizing the social welfare state as being about "security" and the "freedom from" undesirable things rather than using terms that smack of Soviet ideology--they'd be a lot more successful in achieving a more complete and effective welfare state.

Yeah, we should really stop calling it the 'welfare state' huh? :-D

Archon:

I've known a lot of entrepreneurs and small businessmen from Europe and all of them are in despair over their country's bureacratic regimes. I can't express how happy I am that I live in a country where we have free enterprise in a way that, for instance, France does not.

I'm sure you are, but how about everyone who isn't an entrepreneur or small businessperson? Is your freedom to pursue your dreams worth the cost it passes on to everyone else? What about the people who don't mind staying working class, if letting people become CEOs means the working class disappears? Why is the dream to be rich necessarily a better dream than the dream to live a comfortable working class life?

I don't think "fewer safety nets, more commoditization of labor" is a zero-sum game when balanced against "growth that never occurs, businesses that never blossom, individuals that never achieve social mobility, future generations that never enjoy wealth." My intuition is that there is a point of maximal returns. Just look at how all that spending on education and literacy paid off in Ireland--one of the reasons for the emergence of the 'Celtic Tiger' is that the population benefited from strong social welfare policies that made the population literate and educated.

My strongest defense of the welfare state is that if we think of the country like a corporation, there's probably an optimal economic strategy for maximizing profits balanced somewhere between 'turbo capitalism' and 'France'. :-D

And I think the job of a country should be more geared towards maximizing profits than ensuring there are as many CEOs as possible. In business terms, it's about when cutting down on golden parachutes in order to give the employees more benefits makes sense because it benefits the stockholders in the end by making the company more profitable.

Archon:
Take a colleague of mine - CEO of a French game developer - that suffered 100% insurance and tax loads on every employee, and had to provide guaranteed 4 weeks vacation to every employee, and maximum 35 hour work weeks. As a result, his company's $11m development budget was the equivalent of maybe $3mm for a US developer - and their game didn't make the cut to AAA as a result. The finale? Two broken-hearted co-founder entrepreneurs and a bunch of unemployed game developers.

This seems dangerously close to an argument for 3rd world style sweatshops. Surely the optimal result is a company that works best for its workers AND its management. I guarantee you that heavy insurance and tax laws and 4 weeks guaranteed vacation and 35 hour work weeks were not what caused the business to fail. After all, Ubisoft manages quite well as a French company and many European businesses are successful with even more liberal policies, while those with less liberal policies often fail because they can't keep good employees from taking offers from companies who offer better employment packages. Things are not nearly as simple as you make them out to be.

With employees, as with everything else, you get what you pay for - compensate an employee poorly and he'll tend to repay the favour. People tend to give back based on how they feel they're being treated. You can have brilliant people working for you but if their talents are being ignored and they're paid minimum wage they'll ignore you and perform the bare minimum. If you look after them and make them feel their contribution is essential they'll look after you.

Junaid Alam:

I do not finding your example of supposed religious pluralism very convincing. That is not really an argument you can say has been tested by history since 90% of the country is Christian. Over in England there is a sizable Muslim minority...

By the way, according to the information on this page put up by National Statistics, and the information on this page put up by the U.S. Census Bureau:

Percentage of population self-reporting as Christian:
England: 71.1
United States: 76.7

...as Muslim:
England: 3.1
United States: .05

CIA World Factbook figures are roughly the same:
http://geography.about.com/library/cia/blcuk.htm
http://geography.about.com/library/cia/blcusa.htm

your figure of 90 percent of America being Christian...seems to be pretty off. And it seems the Muslim population is only about six times as big in England as it is in the U.S.

I'm sorry, but, I have a hard time taking your arguments comparing the United States to the European countries seriously when your data are this off.

Now, like I said, I see how you could *think* 90 percent of America is Christian, and the other 10 percent are lesbians practicing witchcraft (if only we were so lucky!) by watching too much Fox News, but, the reality is quite far from the numbers you're basing your arguments on.

Pavillion: That is a silly red herring. So the British Muslim population is "only" six times larger than ours - therefore it's innaccurate to describe it as a "sizable minority" in Britain? Moreover numbers aren't everything. Most American Muslims are assimilated and from wealthy Third World brain-drain backgrounds. In Europe most Muslims are working class or poor immigrants who move to countries of the metropole of which they were former colonies. They are far more demographically segregated and economically marginalized than their American counterparts.

The Census Bureau stuff is also a red herring. 77 percent self-report as Christian, but that's not because 15 percent are Jewish and another 15 percent are Muslim, etc, as if there is some other sizable religious group to compare with and declare we are truly pluralistic. Rather a huge chunk of the non-Roman Catholic/Protestant remainder are either born Christian but don't feel a strong religious connection, or could conceivably be East Orthodox Christian. Only 2 percent of the population describes itself as Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu, respectively.

I don't watch Fox News so I don't know why you keep repeating that red herring either.

Archon: to be blunt, the argument that "I came from working class background, but I rose to the top; ergo, anyone can" has been trotted out since the days Social Darwinism was all the rage. They are anectodally true but statistically marginal.

I don't think these anectodal claims should be given much weight because (a) they are hugely overplayed because, after all, said businessmen have the requisite power to spread this message, whereas all the workers who get stuck with no health insurance and one accident away from poverty have zero power to convey their experiences; (b) social mobility data in the US shows very clearly that in the past several decades the chances of rising upwards have decreased markedly for both middle and lower classes; and (c) there is no reason to believe that a system where the top is so far above everyone else is either healthy or desirable from a democratic standpoint.

If you want to examine (c) more closely, there is a wealth of data showing that CEO pay is about fifty-fold greater than it was in the 1950s, whereas workers' real wages have stagnated or declined, and benefits have declined in proportion with the disappearance of organized labor. That reality makes a mockery of classical American claims that your pay is commensurate with the amount of hard work you put in. There is also complementary data showing that the top 1 percent of Americans own something like 40 percent of total national wealth, which is not only a mockery of the aforementioned claim but of the notion of democracy itself.

One of the more interesting scientific observations of the sheer unhealthiness of inequality comes from a John Hopkins professor of public health, who has a damning article on the subject (http://www.monthlyreview.org/0604navarro.htm), including this passage in particular:

"This situation appears clearly when we compare the life expectancy of a poor person in the United States (who makes $12,000 a year) with the life expectancy of a middle-class person in Ghana. The poor person in the United States is likely to have more material resources than the middle-class person of Ghana (who makes the equivalent of $9,000). The U.S. resident may have a car, a TV set, a larger apartment and other amenities that the middle-class person in Ghana does not. As a matter of fact, if the world were considered a single society, then the poor in the United States would be a member of the worldwide middle class and the middle-class person of Ghana would be part of the worldwide poorâ€"certainly poorer than the poor in the United States. And yet, I repeat, the poor citizen of the United States (although of the worldwide middle class) has a shorter life expectancy than the middle-class person (although of the worldwide poor) in Ghana (two years less, to be precise)."

In light of realities like these, it's hard to simply tally up profit margins and say the American system is more productive. In an economy with steady growth for thirty years, the distribution of this wealth is such that an increasingly small number of Americans capture an increasingly larger share of the pie. Again, a mockery of orthodox free-market rationalizations.

Therefore, Americans work harder not because the Europeans are lazy, but because Americans hand over more of their labor value to their bosses. It's interesting to see how loudly people gripe about paying taxes - because psychologically, you see it taken out in every paycheck - but can remain utterly blind to the vast sums they fork over to their managers, because no one prints out a receipt showing the yawning chasm between company profit margins and personal earnings.

A limited number of work hours and requisite vacation time means more people spending more time with their families, with society, engaging their intellectual curiosities, passions, etc. I think if we are going to talk about hidden costs then foremost we need to talk about the hidden cost of people slaving away for 60 hours a week or having no time off, what that does to them psychologically, social cohesion, etc.

Junaid Alam:
Pavillion: That is a silly red herring. So the British Muslim population is "only" six times larger than ours - therefore it's innaccurate to describe it as a "sizable minority" in Britain?

I'm saying that if you're going to call 3% a 'sizable' minority, that makes .5% sound pretty sizable as well.

Moreover numbers aren't everything. Most American Muslims are assimilated and from wealthy Third World brain-drain backgrounds. In Europe most Muslims are working class or poor immigrants who move to countries of the metropole of which they were former colonies. They are far more demographically segregated and economically marginalized than their American counterparts.

If you're going to use that argument, then you're going to have to deal with the fact that a significant proportion--mainly African-American and Latino populations--of American Christians are similarly demographically segregated and economically marginalized.

Not to mention, it's just not an accurate picture. It ignores the fact that many Muslims in America are part of the Somali community centered in the Minneapolis area: http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/N07465488.htm

The Census Bureau stuff is also a red herring. 77 percent self-report as Christian, but that's not because 15 percent are Jewish and another 15 percent are Muslim, etc, as if there is some other sizable religious group to compare with and declare we are truly pluralistic.

I didn't say we were pluralistic in our actual breakdown. I said we hold freedom of religion to be a good thing in itself.

Not to mention the fact that, well, like I said: it's a bit silly to talk about religions as if sectarian differences don't matter.

I don't watch Fox News so I don't know why you keep repeating that red herring either.

It's a much more polite thing to attribute as the source of your 90 percent figure than what I'm pretty sure the source was :-D

Seriously though--like I asked before: Why do I the individual deserve less government protection 'from the structuring of availability or placement by corporations or the effects of capital' when I want to buy _Manhunt 2_ than when I want to buy something other than a Twinkie?

And I agree 100% with what you said to Archon.

rdeegvainl:

If we had a place to sell the AO games and then alot more games would be rated as such, and it wouldn't be a bad thing at all.

Just wanted to say that's a really good point. A lot of M rated stuff probably should be AO, but just like the difference between an R and an X with movies, an AO rating is a death sentence.

I think it's because every other category explains the rating as "content that may be suitable for persons" above whatever age. The AO rating's explanation is: "content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older." The AO really isn't a part of the continuous scale of the other ratings.

+++

Russ Pitts:
Since my good friend Bill Harris said it so eloquently, I'll simply link to his take on the ratings system and the "tragedy" of the AO rating preventing Rockstar from expressing their artistic identity.

Don't tell me Take-Two didn't know you couldn't release "AO" content on the Wii. They knew, and they also knew what "pliers ripping testicles" action would get rated. ... I'm sure it will be a massive compromise of the team's artistic integrity to change a game where pelotas can be ripped out with pliers. Cry me a testicle river.

The weird thing is, that take on the ratings system is, well, a little weird, isn't it? I mean, is it really worse to use pliers in a game to rip off a testicle than to rip off say, a fingernail or a tooth?

I mean, what's so AO about _Manhunt 2_? Is it "pliers ripping testicles" action, or is it pliers ripping anything action? Is this game worse than, say, "Marathon Man-Hunt" would be?

Wouldn't it be more of a reflection on how messed up *we* are, if it's that we think it's worse to expose kids to "pliers ripping testicles" action than to pliers ripping *anything* action?

Isn't this less a story about Rockstar pushing the boundaries of good taste, then it is a story about how weird our sense of good taste actually is?

Beery.

I believe that too much liberties lead to a complete and absurd dead end.

If there's no system to tell kids, actually, to forbid kids from buying whatever M rated game with their summer money, when they go to the stores without their parents (because their parents can't always be behind them 24/24), not only this clearly shows that the ESRB can do nothing about it, and the fault is on the retailers being given too much leeway, but especially that if you remove the ESRB, you don't solve the problem at all. You may actually enhance it, as there's no way to show that retailers are behaving in such a way that is unethical.

They'll just pretend that they have no clue about what the game contains. It's not their job, they just sell a copy of random game B for console Y. Period.

Yes, that stinks, doesn't it?

With the ESRB system rating, they don't have this excuse.

My analogies with alcohol business and porno movies is simple. There are laws to prevent adults from selling certain products to the kids.
Yes, laws. They cut freedom. Not al laws are bad. Anarchy is just non sensical, and people need to follow guidelines.
These, actually, define boundaries which certain adults must not cross.
These laws, if they exist regarding games (I admit not knowing much about US laws), are not enforced at all, or not enough.

My point was not to remove safeguards, but to actually point out how they barely exist right now, and are lousily enforced.

This serves to demonstrate that removing the seeds of a system which is meant to help parents to protect their childrens won't help at all. In this case, we're talking about the ESRB's rating system, plus appropriate laws.

In my opinion, the flaw in your reasoning is that you believe a parent can protect a kid when there are no laws to do so.
Not should.
Can.
Not only would the absence of laws in that domain be an absurdity, but there is just no way a parent can survey every single move that his or her kid does.
It's impossible, safe that if you're opting for a police state. Which I don't think you are.

Of course it's the ESRB's fault - at least in part. The ESRB issues ratings and offers the moral judgments that give these companies an excuse to take stuff off their shelves.

Obviously, I do not wish kids to be able to find Manhunt 2 "shelved" next to Super Paper Mario, see? Even less I wish them to be able to buy it.

Saying that the ESRB bears no responsibility for the effect of its ratings is like saying that the announcers on the radio stations in Rwanda during the Rwandan genocide bore no responsibility for people committing murder based on their encouragements. I'm not comparing ESRB ratings to genocide - what I'm saying is that words and actions have consequences and when a ratings board gives an AO rating to a product, if that product gets taken off shelves due to the rating the ESRB bears some responsibility for that.

Yes, but what kind of responsability, again? They put an well desrved AO stamp on a game, and this game is removed from the shelves of stores, stores which apparently have no proper physical structure to be sure that the AO market reaches beyond that self imposed virtue etiquette many retailers bare.

Basically, since the problem lies in the ESRB putting an AO rating on the game, let's see what happens if had not:

A graphically gore game promoting gratuitous violence (which I have nothing against as an adult consumer) is not given an AO rating, but a M one. So it just pops on the marketplace, and is put on shelves which kids have a free access to. Something like 45% of kids trying to buy this game will succeed, according to figures mentionned earlier on.
That makes the situation better... how?

A worst example: there's no rating system at all, so the game is sitting next to Viva Piñata! And no one is going to give a damn if a kid, with his friends, buys this game.
How, again, is it supposed to be a preferable situation?

As I have seen it, even if being strict with kids is necessary (and that, to anyone his own intelligent receipe), sometimes, and precisely to defy your authority, they'll try to do what's forbidden. That means buying a must-not-buy game, and playing it in some random friend's, you know, the kids who lives down the block, who owns a console.

In my views, the ESRB share a good responsability, and ultimately, no one is forced to obey to their ratings.

Then, as I said, you could always argue about your agreement or not regarding the way they rate games - and how it smells of hypocrisy. But it only mirrors the American society.

I find the emphasis on nudity, and the disregard on violence, rather symptomic and telling... but what could be expected from the country which is #1 in the production of violent films and shows, caracterized by the availability of firearms to almost anyone, constantly rating high in deaths by gunfire, and with a conservative christian government openly inclined to go to war?

Many societies are extremely restrictive regarding the effects of nudity, not so much regarding violence. This loss of balance is rather absurd, but it seems to afflict the most powerful of them anyway.

Yet, I think it would be naïve to think in terms of innocent nudity only, when drawing comparisons, when nearly every single time a man sees a nude body, it strongly resonates with erotic undertones.
(I started writing a chapter related to teenagehood and nudity, but that's really off-topic.)

In the end, I prefer 25% of protection than near none, nevermind if the system isn't really effective against violence, and too effective against nudity.
But if you have a problem with that, I think your option lies in your political vote, and whatever letter you could wrote to senators.

Main point:

If enough gameshops had a dedicated space for AO products, you would not be complaining about it right now.
I'm betting that all of this lenghty protestation would quickly become nothing more than mere second thoughts, as you'd nonchalantly walk towards the AO shelves, and pull the dollars out of your pocket to become the happy owner of a copy of Manhunt 2, after presenting your ID papers, as the law would require it by this time.


Actually, here's a question:

In America, right now, what are your legal options if you actually observe a retailer selling M rated games to kids who should not be allowed to buy them?

EDIT: Beery, have you tried the Video Game Voters Network?

Arbre:

Main point:

If enough gameshops had a dedicated space for AO products, you would not be complaining about it right now.
I'm betting that all of this lenghty protestation would quickly become nothing more than mere second thoughts, as you'd nonchalantly walk towards the AO shelves, and pull the dollars out of your pocket to become the happy owner of a copy of Manhunt 2, after presenting your ID papers, as the law would require it by this time.

Arbe, check comment 39--I think maybe you've been misunderstanding Beery's point, because I think you have an incorrect idea on what the ESRB is, and why an AO rating means the game won't be sold anywhere.

Arbre:
Actually, here's a question:

In America, right now, what are your legal options if you actually observe a retailer selling M rated games to kids who should not be allowed to buy them?

To the best of my knowledge: nothing. From the FAQ on their webpage:

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is a non-profit, self-regulatory body established in 1994 by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA)...

While the ESRB does not have the authority to enforce its ratings at the retail level, it does work closely with retailers and game centers to display information that explains to customers how the rating system works. Many major retailers currently have their own store policies requiring age verification for the sale or rental of M (Mature) and AO (Adults Only) rated games, and ESRB encourages and supports these efforts.

Now, I believe that there is a law in the process of being passed by New York state that would adopt the ESRB ratings as law. However, the ESRB--to the best of my knowledge--has no more to do with the Federal U.S. government than Consumer Reports or Rotten Tomatoes or even Hot Or Not. Even the "Parental Advisory" stickers are not required by any law in the U.S. to the best of my knowledge--they are a voluntary practice by the RIAA.

The reason AO games aren't sold next to Mario games is because in the case of all games major retailers refuse to stock them. In the case of console games, console makers refuse to license AO games. It has nothing to do with government regulation, but rather, is a form of industry self-regulation. That is a much different situation than in other countries.

Now, the question is whether an M rated game is *obscene* and therefore is not entitled to any First Amendment protections. Most states have general laws against obscene material or objectionable material to minors. In that case, even compliance with the ESRB rating scheme wouldn't get a retailer off the hook--from what I've read, 2 Live Crew was prosecuted for obscenity even though the album had a "Parental Advisory" sticker on it. And according to this page, guess who was at the center of that debacle? None other than our old friend, Jack Thompson. I did not know that! http://www.hip-hop-music-classic.com/2-live-crew.html

+++

In my opinion, everybody knows what's up here and isn't saying it. Video games are back in the sights of politicians--we do have maybe one of the most important, wide-open elections in U.S. history coming up. The video game industry knows it has to take a fall right now. _Manhunt 2_ is the perfect game to give the politicians the symbolic victory they all want. Even better that it's Rockstar games.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if this was just all one big feat of misdirection. The politicians get their head on a platter. The ESRB gets to look like they do their job. Rockstar looks like it got its nose bloodied for being all naughty 'n stuff.

So Rockstar sacrifices a minor game franchise like _Manhunt_ and makes a bajillion dollars next year when GTA slides through as usual with an 'M' rating for MONEY. I wouldn't be surprised one bit if Rockstar fails to fight this whole _Manhunt 2_ thing.

Not to mention, does canceling the game now allow the new CEO to match the capital losses to this year so his first full year looks even better to the stockholders when they peek at the financials? I head they might delay GTA just for that reason.

Junaid:

That reality makes a mockery of classical American claims that your pay is commensurate with the amount of hard work you put in.

I beg to query: Why should pay be commensurate with hard work? Pay should be determined by a marketplace which takes into account inputs, outputs, and competing choices of options. I'd argue a free market is the only fair way to determine what pay should be commensurate with. The Road to Serfdom explains this at book length far better than I ever will, but I've yet to encounter any argument by welfare statists that explains why their personal opinion of what pay should be is better than the one that the market sets. In short, "classical American claims" aren't that pay is commensurate with hard work and you're setting up a straw man if you claim otherwise.

There is also complementary data showing that the top 1 percent of Americans own something like 40 percent of total national wealth, which is not only a mockery of the aforementioned claim but of the notion of democracy itself.

How does inequality of outcome make a mockery of democracy? Nice rhetoric but the two are unrelated. Moreover, true equality before the law is almost certain to guarantee inequality of outcome, because talent and luck are inequally distributed. The only way to get equality of outcome is to handicap and redistribute away from the talented and lucky.

"This situation appears clearly when we compare the life expectancy of a poor person in the United States (who makes $12,000 a year) with the life expectancy of a middle-class person in Ghana. The poor person in the United States is likely to have more material resources than the middle-class person of Ghana (who makes the equivalent of $9,000). The U.S. resident may have a car, a TV set, a larger apartment and other amenities that the middle-class person in Ghana does not. As a matter of fact, if the world were considered a single society, then the poor in the United States would be a member of the worldwide middle class and the middle-class person of Ghana would be part of the worldwide poor�€"certainly poorer than the poor in the United States. And yet, I repeat, the poor citizen of the United States (although of the worldwide middle class) has a shorter life expectancy than the middle-class person (although of the worldwide poor) in Ghana (two years less, to be precise)."

All you have proven is that (a) material wealth does not guarantee a long lifespan and (b) the average American would rather have material wealth than a long lifespan. Because Americans who felt otherwise would have a fairly easy time moving to Ghana or a similar country, or living a similar lifestyle. We can thus conclude most Americans would trade 2 years of lifespan for an elevation from Ghana-level poverty to global middle class wealth. So, I reckon, would most people in Ghana. If anything, your facts support my world view, not yours.

In light of realities like these, it's hard to simply tally up profit margins and say the American system is more productive.

No, it's not. The American system is more productive. You'd have a lot stronger ground if you were arguing that, for instance, China's GDP growth shows democracy is unimportant to growth, but trying to argue that capitalism is unrelated to productive growth is a hard road to walk.

In an economy with steady growth for thirty years, the distribution of this wealth is such that an increasingly small number of Americans capture an increasingly larger share of the pie. Again, a mockery of orthodox free-market rationalizations.

I'm not "rationalizing" anything. You seem to be guilty of assuming your personal moral assumptions are the really correct ones, while mine are just "rationalizations".

Cheeze:

Is your freedom to pursue your dreams worth the cost it passes on to everyone else? What about the people who don't mind staying working class, if letting people become CEOs means the working class disappears? Why is the dream to be rich necessarily a better dream than the dream to live a comfortable working class life?... My intuition is that there is a point of maximal returns... My strongest defense of the welfare state is that if we think of the country like a corporation, there's probably an optimal economic strategy for maximizing profits balanced somewhere between 'turbo capitalism' and 'France'."

It may, or may not, be the case that a utilitarian ethical creed ("greatest good" or "maximal returns", asyou put it) would lead to a mixed economy. It rather depends on at whether you believe subjective utilities can be compared across people, at what rate you increase or decrease marginal utility for wealth, and what discount rate you apply to the welfare of future generations versus present wealth. Philosophy can't tell us the answers to any of those questions. You have your discount rates and I have mine.

In general, the problem with utilitarian ethics is that they justify too much. You can justify almost any unspeakable act with utilitarianism. The usual solution is therefore to plug in some rule-based parameters ("no loss of life without due process of law"). But that only hands off the argument - what should the due process of law be? What should the rights be that we can't override for utilitarian reasons? Again, I suspect I'd have my view of what those rights would be, and you'd have yours.

Gentlemen, you have just witnessed the CEO "action grip." Debate capitalism with the CEO holding a law degree at your peril.

Archon:
Junaid:

That reality makes a mockery of classical American claims that your pay is commensurate with the amount of hard work you put in.

I beg to query: Why should pay be commensurate with hard work?

In short, "classical American claims" aren't that pay is commensurate with hard work and you're setting up a straw man if you claim otherwise.

It's true: "classical American claims" are that the bold and the smart are also rewarded.

However, you miss Junaid's point: the basis upon which social welfare programs are rejected is that "pay is commensurate with hard work" for everybody else. And more strongly: that hard work is *necessary* to get paid better than someone else in America. And as we all know, it doesn't take hard work to use the power of compound interest. Or exploit the advantage of making one's money through capital gains as opposed to wages, tips, or salary. Congress Weighs End to Private Equity Tax Break. It might take hard work to *get* to be a hedge fund manager, but, it doesn't take any hard work to figure out that one can make more money than if one were doing the same amount of hard work in a profession where compensation qualifies as income.

There is also complementary data showing that the top 1 percent of Americans own something like 40 percent of total national wealth, which is not only a mockery of the aforementioned claim but of the notion of democracy itself.

How does inequality of outcome make a mockery of democracy?

It might not make a mockery of democracy, but it does make a mockery of your own moral justification for 'turbo-capitalism' The more wealth becomes concentrated, the fewer working class families like the one you came out of will exist.

It brings to light the fact that there's a bit of a 'grandfather paradox' in your reasoning. If it's great that working class kids can become CEOs, what happens when there are so many CEOs there aren't any more working class kids?

All you have proven is that (a) material wealth does not guarantee a long lifespan and (b) the average American would rather have material wealth than a long lifespan. Because Americans who felt otherwise would have a fairly easy time moving to Ghana or a similar country, or living a similar lifestyle.

You're not seriously making the argument that the only thing keeping Americans from moving to Ghana is their love of material wealth at the expense of short life spans, are you? ;-D

Is your freedom to pursue your dreams worth the cost it passes on to everyone else? What about the people who don't mind staying working class, if letting people become CEOs means the working class disappears? Why is the dream to be rich necessarily a better dream than the dream to live a comfortable working class life?... My intuition is that there is a point of maximal returns... My strongest defense of the welfare state is that if we think of the country like a corporation, there's probably an optimal economic strategy for maximizing profits balanced somewhere between 'turbo capitalism' and 'France'."

It may, or may not, be the case that a utilitarian ethical creed ("greatest good" or "maximal returns", asyou put it) would lead to a mixed economy. It rather depends on whether you believe subjective utilities can be compared across people, at what rate you increase or decrease marginal utility for wealth, and what discount rate you apply to the welfare of future generations versus present wealth. Philosophy can't tell us the answers to any of those questions. You have your discount rates and I have mine.

I said that "a utilitarian ethical creed" was my strongest defense of an expanded welfare state (especially to a CEO type), not my only justification. ;-)

So: what do you suggest in place of a utilitarian ethical creed for answering as utilitarian a question as how to distribute wealth in a market economy (which means wealth is not just a reward, but also a tool: when we decide on 'turbo-capitalism' we not only let the market decide where the rewards fall, but where the tools by which to acquire future rewards fall) that is increasingly a global economy? In a world where established countries don't fight with guns and bombs anymore, but with exports and IP lawsuits?

Also remember, saying that my discount rates are no better than yours because we can't compare them is to also say that they are no worse. If philosophy can't tell us which answer is correct--or at least tell us which ones are incorrect--what *can* tell us?

In other words: are you sympathetic with those broken hearted French CEOs because you seem them as the victims of some grave injustice, or just because they remind you of you?

Archon:
Junaid:
I'd argue a free market is the only fair way to determine what pay should be commensurate with. The Road to Serfdom explains this at book length far better than I ever will, but I've yet to encounter any argument by welfare statists that explains why their personal opinion of what pay should be is better than the one that the market sets.

It seems you and as big a fan of that book as Milton Freedman disagree on what that book meant: you are aware that Friedman, who wrote the introduction for the 50th Anniversary Edition, was a major force behind the creation of a social welfare policy designed to do just that, 'commensurate pay with something other than what the market has set'?

It is called the Earned Income Tax Credit--the EITC. You can read more about it here:

http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2006/11/milton_friedman_1.html

and here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earned_income_tax_credit

I'm not saying that it's impossible that maybe you're right and Milton Freedman is wrong about that book; I am saying, though, that a 'super turbo charged' capitalist like Milton Freedman seems to be as big a fan of that book as you are, and yet he was the intellectual catalyst behind a major American social welfare program designed to redistribute income to compensate for the failings of the free market.

He's one of those influential Chicago academics, btw. :-D

(edited to add: I should make it clear for purposes of accuracy that when it comes to the actual EITC implimented, that "At first Friedman lobbied hard for it, but when the NIT proposal was going to be in addition to the current system, instead of in place of it, Friedman ended up fighting it." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negative_income_tax )

Arbe, check comment 39--I think maybe you've been misunderstanding Beery's point, because I think you have an incorrect idea on what the ESRB is, and why an AO rating means the game won't be sold anywhere.

I'm not sure what should be wrong in the way I understand the ESRB works. It's closely similar to the MPAA in most aspects, for example.

The reason AO games aren't sold next to Mario games is because in the case of all games major retailers refuse to stock them. In the case of console games, console makers refuse to license AO games. It has nothing to do with government regulation, but rather, is a form of industry self-regulation. That is a much different situation than in other countries.

I didn't dispute that. That's precisely what I'm saying since page 1. :)
My views simply differ with Beery's ones regarding the nature of the ESRB's decisions and their motives.
I don't think they're the evil as many try to paint them.

As far laws go, there's still this info from Gamesindustry.biz.

So: what do you suggest in place of a utilitarian ethical creed for answering as utilitarian a question as how to distribute wealth in a market economy (which means wealth is not just a reward, but also a tool: when we decide on 'turbo-capitalism' we not only let the market decide where the rewards fall, but where the tools by which to acquire future rewards fall) that is increasingly a global economy? In a world where established countries don't fight with guns and bombs anymore, but with exports and IP lawsuits?

Cheeze, I don't think philosophy can tell us much. Or rather it can tell us anything we want, from Rawls to Nozick, from Rand to Marx. I'm personally an Aristotelian egoist, so I think in general most of the philosophers get it wrong most of the time because they think top-down with goals like "how can we most equitably redistribute the wealth of the nation" rather than with an individualist perspective. Most of the philosophers would say that I'm an apologist for cryptofascist capitalism or something, presumably.

Also remember, saying that my discount rates are no better than yours because we can't compare them is to also say that they are no worse. If philosophy can't tell us which answer is correct--or at least tell us which ones are incorrect--what *can* tell us?

A market for government will tell us. If you decentralize power as much as possible into separate governments, each of which gets a different legal regime that allocates different value to different rights and different methods of government, then allow as much free flow of labor as possible so that people can go where they see opportunity for pursuit of happiness, that creates market-like conditions for international competition. Watch what happens. It becomes pretty evident which systems are preferred and which ones aren't. (The genius of American federalism is that it allows this to happen at the state level, so we can experiment within our own nation to see what works and what doesn't.)

Of course, Federalist approaches like this don't work if everybody philosophically "concludes" that such-and-such system is the "best" system. They also don't work if monopolist governments (like the UN or EU want to be, or an over-aggressive US Federal government sometimes is) force choices that the individual nation states don't want. (It's amusing to me that the same progressives who rail against the corporate power of monopolies somehow think that a monopoly government is a good thing. )

My own egoistic choice puts me in America, and I'm willing to fight politically to preserve those elements of America that make it attractive to me (freedom of contract, free markets, flatter taxes).

My posts here on this forum could be considered part of this fight, as I'm bringing up points I think are overlooked (higher growth, more material freedom) while doing everything I can to undermine the alleged moral high ground of those who use socialist, utilitarian or egalitarian moral principles without justifying why their moral principles are the right ones.

But I'm content to allow the Europeans and the Chinese and so on their own national experiments. Time will tell. In the mean time, I think it's a positive good that we have different regimes such as America and Germany and so on with different systems.

In other words: are you sympathetic with those broken hearted French CEOs because you seem them as the victims of some grave injustice, or just because they remind you of you?

The latter - it's the nature of sympathy that you feel it with those whom you empathize with because on some level they remind you of yourself. And I don't believe I described him as the victim of a grave injustice - or if I did allow me to clarify that I believe the CEO in question could have started his company in America or elsewhere if he wanted to, so ultimately he's responsible for his choice.

Oh, and I can't speak for Uncle Miltie (RIP). I'm sure he had his reasons.

Archon:

Cheeze, I don't think philosophy can tell us much. Or rather it can tell us anything we want, from Rawls to Nozick, from Rand to Marx. I'm personally an Aristotelian egoist, so I think in general most of the philosophers get it wrong most of the time because they think top-down with goals like "how can we most equitably redistribute the wealth of the nation" rather than with an individualist perspective.

I would agree with most of that. However, I'd say you set up a strawman--you act as if there's no opportunity to take those ideas and turn them into a bottom-up philosophy. That's one of my--and I would say Uncle Miltie's--justification for social welfare programs: not that government knows best, but that a certain level of government provides a good enough ROI on the liberty sacrificed that the government function is justified. That social welfare programs should be based on ideas derived from game theory-like principles, like the tragedy of the commons or the prisoner's dilemma or mutually assured destruction.

For instance, I think Rawls once said that the measure of justice and fairness in a society is one's willingness to be thrown into that society at random. I don't think it gets more individualistic and bottom-up than that!

Of course, Federalist approaches like this don't work if everybody philosophically "concludes" that such-and-such system is the "best" system. They also don't work if monopolist governments (like the UN or EU want to be, or an over-aggressive US Federal government sometimes is) force choices that the individual nation states don't want.

That's good in theory, though I wonder how well it works in practice. The problem is, every time someone doesn't like what the 'monopolist government' is doing, it'll play the card that the 'federal' level has become overly aggressive. I mean, look at the Civil War--the southern states played that card, but then regions of states--like what is today West Virgina--played that card on the card players! The CSA had to create a Confederate Home Guard in order to keep people from seceding from the secessionists!

I mean, your system would work great if we had some perfect distinction between an individual nation state and governments that are inherently federal. If we could discover an 'atomic' level of government that is too small to be be called in some sense a federalist structure above other, more individual structures. No one has so far, though, and based on how badly the attempts so far have gone, I don't think anyone ever will.

You said: "If you decentralize power as much as possible into separate governments" good things will happen because the market will take care of the problem solving. To turn a point you used against what I said in comment 53 back against what you're saying here: 'but that only hands off the argument - what level of separation is possible? What level should be indivisible? Again, I suspect I'd have my view of what level that would be, and you'd have yours.'

(It's amusing to me that the same progressives who rail against the corporate power of monopolies somehow think that a monopoly government is a good thing. )

Because everyone owns one and only one share of voting class stock in the monopoly government, and it is written into the Certificate of Incorporation--the Constitution--that the monopoly government should seek to preserve the freedoms and security of all shareholders.

To turn what you said on its head--why are the EU and the UN bad? Why shouldn't people be allowed to form new governments by way of merger and acquisition? What is inherently evil about one government being controlled by a holding government?

My posts here on this forum could be considered part of this fight, as I'm bringing up points I think are overlooked (higher growth, more material freedom) while doing everything I can to undermine the alleged moral high ground of those who use socialist, utilitarian or egalitarian moral principles without justifying why their moral principles are the right ones.

Well, I don't disagree with you there--quite the opposite, I fully agree: I was pointing out the flaws in Juniad's contention that it's meaningless to talk about freedom, so.

Although, isn't an appeal to "higher growth, more material freedom" as a justification for your model of government *itself* an appeal to a utilitarian moral principle?

In the end, I *don't* think there's as big a divide between socialists and capitalists as people seem to think. I mean, what's the difference between Milton Freedman's Negative Income Tax, and the proposals for a Basic Income Guarantee from modern European socialists?

In other words: are you sympathetic with those broken hearted French CEOs because you seem them as the victims of some grave injustice, or just because they remind you of you?

The latter - it's the nature of sympathy that you feel it with those whom you empathize with because on some level they remind you of yourself. And I don't believe I described him as the victim of a grave injustice - or if I did allow me to clarify that I believe the CEO in question could have started his company in America or elsewhere if he wanted to, so ultimately he's responsible for his choice.

Okay--but I would say that puts you in a different boat than a lot of turbo-capitalists, including Uncle Miltie. Even they think people shouldn't have to take the equivalent of the 'Wall Street Walk' and exchange their stock called 'citizenship and residency' in one country for that of another. In business terms, they probably think the French CEOs should win a 'derivative suit' to have a court strike down the 'bylaws' regarding corporate taxation. Or that joining the EU is an illegal 'sale of control' by a majority stockholder, or something like that.

Hey Mr. Cheeze - what do you do for a living, anyway? You're straining my ability to keep up. I may have to lose this debate by default if you continue to reply so quickly.

A certain level of government provides a good enough ROI on the liberty sacrificed that the government function is justified.

Fair enough, a difficult point to argue with unless you are an anarcho-capitalist.

To turn a point you used against what I said in comment 53 back against what you're saying here...

Touche! And as unanswerable as when I asked you.

In the end, I *don't* think there's as big a divide between socialists and capitalists as people seem to think.

I agree, it's actually pretty easy to collapse the distinctions. Simply imagine a privately-owned island operating outside any particular governmental authority. Imagine that when the owner of the island dies, he leaves it to a corporate trust organized with a board and a president, where each resident of the island gets 1 vote for the board etc. Everything that corporate trust did would be "private" but it's really no different than a government. My buddies and I came up with this thought-experiment in law school and we all got libertarian migraines...

Rawls once said that the measure of justice and fairness in a society is one's willingness to be thrown into that society at random. I don't think it gets more individualistic and bottom-up than that!

The problem with Rawls' approach is that it doesn't take into account inter-generational effects. For instance, if you had to choose between being randomly placed into a hunter-gatherer society of 100,000 years ago or an ancient city-state of 10,000 years ago, you'd want the hunter-gatherer society. You'd on average be more nourished, have a longer lifespan, and more autonomy than in the city-state, where odds are you'd be a serf-farmer with low life expectancy, poor nutrition, and no opportunities (with a 1 in 10,000 chance of being a god-king, of course). Hunter-gatherer society is a better Rawlsian society.

But you don't get to the modern world without going through the city-state period. We know that the hunter-gatheres were static for hundreds of thousands of years, while it only took 10,000 years to claw out of serf-and-god-king city states. So if you're Rawls and you're judging envisioning your ideal society, do you take into account the effect of the society on the wealth and happiness of its future generations? Are you randomly inserted into just the society at that moment, or how about the society's kids, grand-kids, and so on?

Would the Chinese be better off if they suddenly had Europe's system, with single-digit growth rates, highly progressive tax rates, disincentives on wealth accumulation? Or, even though it's less equal, is China's model better because in 100 years, China is going to be richer than Europe? Rawls can't tell us those answers because he assumes society, markets, welfare, and prosperity are static and fixed, rather than dynamic models of change and progress.

Archon:

Rawls once said that the measure of justice and fairness in a society is one's willingness to be thrown into that society at random. I don't think it gets more individualistic and bottom-up than that!

The problem with Rawls' approach is that it doesn't take into account inter-generational effects. For instance, if you had to choose between being randomly placed into a hunter-gatherer society of 100,000 years ago or an ancient city-state of 10,000 years ago, you'd want the hunter-gatherer society. You'd on average be more nourished, have a longer lifespan, and more autonomy than in the city-state, where odds are you'd be a serf-farmer with low life expectancy, poor nutrition, and no opportunities (with a 1 in 10,000 chance of being a god-king, of course). Hunter-gatherer society is a better Rawlsian society.

But you don't get to the modern world without going through the city-state period.
...

How do we know? Just because "serf-and-god-king city states" were quicker, that doesn't mean that all city states had to be 'serf-and-god-king' political entities or else they wouldn't lead to the modern world.

How do we know there wasn't some hunter-gatherer tribe out there with a better form of city state, only they were 50,000 years away from getting there before they were driven off their hunting grounds by some "serf-and-god-king city state"?

Really, aren't all our problems a function of the fact that the modern world *is* a product of "serf-and-god-king city states"? From mp3 file sharing to IP lawsuits to markets flooded with sweatshop labor exports to compound interest, aren't most of the problems we have to solve in the modern world the legacy of having culturally evolved out of "serf-and-god-king city states"?

Shouldn't we face the fact that "serf-and-god-king city states" only succeeded because there were better adapted to out-compete other forms of human cultural organization? That democratic capitalism, for all its advantages, should have been strangled in the cradle by monarchical mercantilism but for the fact that it first evolved in North America, the Galapagos Islands of human cultural evolution?

Maybe, maybe not. I just wouldn't be so quick to look at what actually happened in history as what necessarily had to happen to get to where we are now...or as proof that we wouldn't be somewhere better if it had all happened differently, if human society had moved through societies more just and fair by a Rawls standard along the path to the modern world.

Cheeze_Pavilion:
How do we know there wasn't some hunter-gatherer tribe out there with a better form of city state, only they were 50,000 years away from getting there before they were driven off their hunting grounds by some "serf-and-god-king city state"?

Yup. 'Survival of the fittest' doesn't necessarily equate to 'survival of the best possible'. The fittest for one environment may be completely unsuited to another and the best possible creature might be eradicated when subjected to an environment that suited a creature that was specifically adapted to that environment. This applies to political and economic systems just as much as it does to the natural world. The world we're in is not necessarily the best possible world. The fact that its institutions have evolved doesn't make them best, or better, or even worthy. It just means they exist.

... I will repeat: Rawls' theory of justice is weak because it fails to deal with the very important question of when you enter society, not just who you enter society as. It falls down as soon as you apply it to anything but a static model.

If your answer to my point is that "when you enter society is moot, because on a long enough time horizon, hunter-gatherers might become super-utopias" then I will respond that is a weak answer. On a long enough time horizon, earth life gets wiped out by an extinction-level event. Given the frequency of super-volcanoes and asteroids, I could argue with a straight face that the only moral system is the one that grinds us towards extraterrestrial industrial capability in the very brief time window between extinction-level events. Anything else just gets everybody wiped out. So stop with the silly counter-factuals.

Archon:
... I will repeat: Rawls' theory of justice is weak because it fails to deal with the very important question of when you enter society, not just who you enter society as. It falls down as soon as you apply it to anything but a static model.

And how is 'turbo-capitalism' any better in that regard? How has 'turbo-capitalism' dealt any better with the problems of a dynamic model, like left-over industrial waste or childhood poverty?

Aren't most social welfare programs designed to deal with the shortcomings of 'turbo-capitalism' in a dynamic model? From bankruptcy discharge to public education, 'turbo-capitalism' comes up pretty short.

Like I keep asking you, and you keep avoiding: what happens where there are so many CEOs like you, there are no more working class kids like you?

Archon:
If your answer to my point is that "when you enter society is moot, because on a long enough time horizon, hunter-gatherers might become super-utopias" then I will respond that is a weak answer. On a long enough time horizon, earth life gets wiped out by an extinction-level event. Given the frequency of super-volcanoes and asteroids, I could argue with a straight face that the only moral system is the one that grinds us towards extraterrestrial industrial capability in the very brief time window between extinction-level events. Anything else just gets everybody wiped out. So stop with the silly counter-factuals.

No, that's totally different. Hunter-gathers don't live without any benefits of the modern world while waiting for the ability to prevent extinction-level events. They just live without the knowledge that they could stop them. That's totally different than living without the internet or antibiotics or movie theaters--the lack of all those things are felt (possibly) on a daily basis. The lack of the ability to prevent extinction-level events are only felt when the extinction-level event arrives.

And in any case, why are you convinced that hunter-gatherer life is so bad? Humans were happy being humans for thousands of years without city-states. What makes you so certain that modern life is better? How much technology do we need to fall in love, play sports, put on dramatic performances, make music, play games, hunt and fish, raise a family, keep pets, and tell jokes?

If all those things are possible given the 'when' of entering a society, how unjust could it be?

Isn't there not just a quantitative, but a qualitative difference in fairness between asking a generation to live without the comforts of modern life if they have all those things I listed, than to ask a generation to live under a "serf-and-god-king city state" that executes them for poaching on the King's Forests or denies them the right to have a family because their father went broke and sold them into slavery?

Not to mention--I think it is a far more just society that delights in its time on the planet before falling victim to an extinction-level event it is powerless to prevent, than one which survives only to spread its nasty, short, brutish and dull existence to the stars until the Big Crunch ends it all.

And I don't see how anyone could disagree with that without invoking some sort of metaphysical belief about the true purpose of human kind. So much for my individual rights!

And how is 'turbo-capitalism' any better in that regard? How has 'turbo-capitalism' dealt any better with the problems of a dynamic model, like left-over industrial waste or childhood poverty?

First off, I'm not quite sure what "turbo-capitalism" is as compared to "free market capitalism." I would appreciate a clarification so that I'm not standing up for something I don't necessarily agree with, and so that I know we're arguing about the same things. I worry you are positioning me as an anarcho-capitalist, which I'm definitely not.

With regard to your questions, I'd answer that capitalism is the only solution to "childhood poverty" (by which you must mean low GDP / absence of material goods, since you and Junaid have both alleged that poor people can be happy and healthy and thus not impoverished in a "wellness" sense). Prior to capitalism, the entire globe endured material poverty, including adults and children. We can worry about childhood poverty in segments of our population only because capitalism has given us the luxury of not worrying about the majority of the adult population living in poverty.

Capitalism can also pretty readily solve industrial pollution, provided the market is structured to take into account externalities (as it should). I don't believe any honest defender of capitalism believes that, for instance, corporations should be able to dump nuclear waste into your backyard.

Like I keep asking you, and you keep avoiding: what happens where there are so many CEOs like you, there are no more working class kids like you?

I'm not avoiding it, I thought you were being tongue in cheek. Obviously, if there are too many CEOs and too few working class kids, then the wage rates will rise for workers and decrease for CEOs. That's actually likely to occur in the next several decades as the Baby Boomers retire, as the Baby Bust (i.e. my generation) is half their size and simply can't fill all the positions. This is going to be a real strain on the economy. Half of the immigration war currently happening is corporations trying to figure out how they're going to deal with the manpower gap, especially since Europe, China, and Japan are also going to have a manpower gap at the same time - labor is about to become scarce worldwide. Modern demographics of 1.5 child per family are going to be very interesting for a capitalist system that's used to bigger populations every generation.

The reason real wage rates have declined among workers in the past several decades is because the size of the workforce doubled in one generation with the entry of woman into the workplace. No one wants to talk about it, but there it is: Corporations took advantage of the fact that twice as many people were now willing to work as before, and wage rates fell or held steady rather than grew with productivity. The increase in the work force has now been priced into the system and even if we wanted to turn back the clock, competition with developing nations would prevent us. But, as I said above, wage rates are about to climb again.

And in any case, why are you convinced that hunter-gatherer life is so bad? Humans were happy being humans for thousands of years without city-states. What makes you so certain that modern life is better? How much technology do we need to fall in love, play sports, put on dramatic performances, make music, play games, hunt and fish, raise a family, keep pets, and tell jokes? If all those things are possible given the 'when' of entering a society, how unjust could it be?

I'm personally convinced it's bad because I abhor camping and hate the outdoors.

On a more general levle, I'm empirically convinced that modern society is preferred by human beings because it is, you know, actually preferred: Most hunter-gatherers, given the choice of entering modern society, choose to enter modern society. Most members of modern society, given the choice of entering a hunter-gatherer society, don't choose to do so. The fact that hunter-gather populations are everywhere in decline would seem to point out that tribal living has lower utility than modern living. Any modern American who really wants to live a simpler life is more than capable of doing so, but very few choose that way of life.

Not to mention--I think it is a far more just society that delights in its time on the planet before falling victim to an extinction-level event it is powerless to prevent, than one which survives only to spread its nasty, short, brutish and dull existence to the stars until the Big Crunch ends it all.

I don't consider my existence nasty, short, brutish, or dull, and I'm sorry to hear you find modern society so dreadful. I personally would have found medieval France, 19th century Afghanistan, Ancient Assyria, and the Paleolithic a lot more nasty, short, brutish, and dull, but obviously you feel differently. In any event, I shall look forward to my descendants planting copies of Atlas Shrugged on Mars, Jupiter, and Alpha Centauri, from where they will take laser-photoes of your regime's mud-huts with their galactic mega-scopes and wave goodbye as the land is liquified by the Yellowstone supervolcano. :)

And I don't see how anyone could disagree with that without invoking some sort of metaphysical belief about the true purpose of human kind. So much for my individual rights!

Why is that I can accept that some people would prefer Europe's way of life, or that of the Amazon tribes, to my way of life, simply on the basis of different utility functions; while you believe that anyone who disagrees with you has to invoke metaphysics?

Archon:
Hey Mr. Cheeze - what do you do for a living, anyway? You're straining my ability to keep up. I may have to lose this debate by default if you continue to reply so quickly.

For the most part, I'm currently fixing up a property to sell, in a very lackadaisical manner. So I'm free to be near a computer most of my day.

I don't believe debates are there to be won or lost--they are for the benefit of the people participating and the parties observing. No better way to figure out what one believes than to put it into text and have it questioned in text.

However, if you are going to 'lose' this debate, it won't have anything to do with reply rates. It will have to do with the fact that, well, what you have to say implies that Milton Freedman is a "welfare statist" which is, kinda absurd, don't you think?

I've been poking around, and found this passage from _The Road to Serfdom_:

But there are two kinds of security: the certainty of a given minimum of sustenance for all and the security of a given standard of life, of the relative position which one person or group enjoys compared with others. There is no reason why, in a society which has reached the general level of wealth ours has, the first kind of security should not be guaranteed to all without endangering general freedom; that is: some minimum of food, shelter and clothing, sufficient to preserve health. Nor is there any reason why the state should not help to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance in providing for those common hazards of life against which few can make adequate provision. It is planning for security of the second kind which has such an insidious effect on liberty. It is planning designed to protect individuals or groups against diminutions of their incomes.

I think the problem is that _The Road to Serfdom_ explains capitalism *too* well; frankly, you've fallen right into the trap the book warns against: "It is important not to confuse opposition against the latter kind of planning with a dogmatic laissez faire attitude." I see nothing in what I've said that conflicts with the "belief that it is desirable that men should be free to develop their own individual gifts and bents." However, I see there is plenty in what you are saying that does.

I mean, ask yourself--who does this passage:

For instance, to limit working hours, to require certain sanitary arrangements, to provide an extensive system of social services is fully compatible with the preservation of competition. There are, too, certain fields where the system of competition is impracticable. For example, the harmful effects of deforestation or of the smoke of factories cannot be confined to the owner of the property in question. But the fact that we have to resort to direct regulation by authority where the conditions for the proper working of competition cannot be created does not prove that we should suppress competition where it can be made to function.

sound more like, me or you? If it's okay to limit working hours despite the 'fairness' to future generations, you really think F.A. Hayek would hesitate to limit the powers of a "serf-and-god-king city state"? Do you think he's saying that the road to serfdom is okay as long as it leads to turbo-capitalism? Especially when he writes: "neither the past nor the existing legal rules are free from grave defects"?

In the end, I *don't* think there's as big a divide between socialists and capitalists as people seem to think.

I agree, it's actually pretty easy to collapse the distinctions.

Then ahh, what are we debating again? :-D

Mr. Cheeze, if you'll see my prior note, I was specifically asking you to define what you were trying to position me as with this "turbo-capitalism".

If you'll recall, my original opposition was to Junaid's position that America was out of step as too conservative, and I said that America's conservative economic spirit is why I loved it, and that I preferred it over that of, say, France. I've said repeatedly I'm not an anarcho-capitalist who thinks you don't need government at all. I think America from Reagan to Clinton has been a pretty damn skippy place and would happily defend that model over those who indict capitalism and try to turn it into the Welfare States of America.

But if we aren't in disagreement with that, then rock on.

p.s. with regards to Hayek, I know he carves out a place for social welfare. But I don't believe he would disagree that the free market was the only true determinant of something's price or commensurate value.

Archon:

First off, I'm not quite sure what "turbo-capitalism" is as compared to "free market capitalism." I would appreciate a clarification so that I'm not standing up for something I don't necessarily agree with, and so that I know we're arguing about the same things. I worry you are positioning me as an anarcho-capitalist, which I'm definitely not.

See my response that crossed in the postings.

Prior to capitalism, the entire globe endured material poverty, including adults and children.

That is totally untrue. Hunter-gatherers did not endure material poverty at a rate anywhere near as endemic as humans have since the development of the city state.

Capitalism can also pretty readily solve industrial pollution, provided the market is structured to take into account externalities (as it should). I don't believe any honest defender of capitalism believes that, for instance, corporations should be able to dump nuclear waste into your backyard.

But how about into their own backyards under the guise of property rights?

Obviously, if there are too many CEOs and too few working class kids, then the wage rates will rise for workers and decrease for CEOs.

Right--because CEOs will never engage in wage-fixing...

The reason real wage rates have declined among workers in the past several decades is because the size of the workforce doubled in one generation with the entry of woman into the workplace. No one wants to talk about it, but there it is: Corporations took advantage of the fact that twice as many people were now willing to work as before, and wage rates fell or held steady rather than grew with productivity.

Again, completely untrue--industrial capitalism began in America with the textile mills, which employed women from the beginning. Women have *always* been a part of the workforce in the overwhelming majority of families, from prostitution to textile weaving to maid and domestic service to female agricultural slaves. It would be much more accurate to say that the workforce *halved* after WWII, and now things are back to the way they have been for all of human history. And even that would ignore the phantom GDP of all the tasks those housewives performed that are now part of the service economy.

Women were working during those years, willing or not. The consequences of not working were just as real, only the difference was instead of getting fired, they'd get divorced or get smacked around.

On a more general levle, I'm empirically convinced that modern society is preferred by human beings because it is, you know, actually preferred: Most hunter-gatherers, given the choice of entering modern society, choose to enter modern society.

Man, even the Soviets didn't dare re-write history with that kind of flair!

Most members of modern society, given the choice of entering a hunter-gatherer society, don't choose to do so. The fact that hunter-gather populations are everywhere in decline would seem to point out that tribal living has lower utility than modern living.

Again, you're joking, right? It has nothing to do with the fact that their land has been taken away and that agricultural populations explode with each generation compared to them?

Any modern American who really wants to live a simpler life is more than capable of doing so, but very few choose that way of life.

No, they are not. They were not educated how to live a simple life like members of hunter-gatherer tribes were. They are not part of a cohesive identity group of fellow hunter-gatherers. And last I checked, it's not nearly as good an idea to live in a tent in Manhattan and drink water out of the East River as it used to be.

I don't consider my existence nasty, short, brutish, or dull, and I'm sorry to hear you find modern society so dreadful.

Neither do I--where did I say I did? I said that I'd rather see a hypothetical society develop into one that can't stop the huge rock from space than develop into one in which existence is nasty, short, brutish, or dull, but, I never said my current existence was such.

In any event, I shall look forward to my descendants planting copies of Atlas Shrugged on Mars, Jupiter, and Alpha Centauri, from where they will take laser-photoes of your regime's mud-huts with their galactic mega-scopes and wave goodbye as the land is liquified by the Yellowstone supervolcano. :)

Unless of course your descendants are the property of pimps (who don't let Aristotelian egoists out of the brothel, let alone to take pictures), because they lost a finger in the lunar mines and had no other way to support themselves since you dismantled Workers Compensation. ;-D

Why is that I can accept that some people would prefer Europe's way of life, or that of the Amazon tribes, to my way of life, simply on the basis of different utility functions; while you believe that anyone who disagrees with you has to invoke metaphysics?

Because these are inherently metaphysical questions. Ones that as much as possible, people should have the individual liberty to answer for themselves, and to live in accordance with those answers.

Archon:
Mr. Cheeze, if you'll see my prior note, I was specifically asking you to define what you were trying to position me as with this "turbo-capitalism".

Somewhere to the right when it comes to market controls than Milton Freedman. Which is to say, to the right of Clinton, or even Reagan's America. I'm just pointing out that you don't actually speak for most capitalists, and the America you love is not the country you are advocating for here. Just as I pointed out that Junaid didn't speak for me!

But if we aren't in disagreement with that, then rock on.

I don't think we are about the importance of individual liberty. I think we are in disagreement about how best to protect that liberty, and the lengths the government should be allowed to go in protecting it with some kind of intervention. Since in a sense, we *all* want government intervention, if only to protect our property rights with police and jails and courts. Besides, of course, anarcho-capitalists. Who, frankly, I have to respect for their ideological consistency. In a way, they are the best example to show what socialists are actually talking about.

p.s. with regards to Hayek, I know he carves out a place for social welfare. But I don't believe he would disagree that the free market was the only true determinant of something's price or commensurate value.

I don't think many socialists do either; I think they just disagree on what a 'free' market looks like, and how many other liberties to sacrifice for the sake of a free-er market.

Archon:
That's actually likely to occur in the next several decades as the Baby Boomers retire, as the Baby Bust (i.e. my generation) is half their size and simply can't fill all the positions. This is going to be a real strain on the economy. Half of the immigration war currently happening is corporations trying to figure out how they're going to deal with the manpower gap, especially since Europe, China, and Japan are also going to have a manpower gap at the same time - labor is about to become scarce worldwide. Modern demographics of 1.5 child per family are going to be very interesting for a capitalist system that's used to bigger populations every generation.

As a side note, I agree: the question of immigration is going to be flipped on its head as it becomes a question not of how many immigrants we can take, but rather, how many do we *have* to take. I'm not so optimistic: I think most of those positions will be eliminated, and instead will be replaced by positions that only do the work that can't be sent overseas, which means wages will go down as global employment rises.

It will also be very interesting to see what happens when that Baby Boom generation starts drawing down their stock investments that are part of their Defined Contribution employee benefit plans. One has to wonder if so much of the U.S.'s prosperity isn't simply on paper as an unusually large generation was channeled by ERISA into sinking their money into stock market investments. We'll see how scarce labor gets when all people can pay for it with are the plummeting investments of their retirement accounts, or how many of those corporations struggling to fill positions will be left when their stocks go into free fall as the mutual funds flood the stock market with their holdings when Boomers begin to demand their money from those funds.

Like you said, it's going to be very interesting for a capitalist system that's used to not only bigger populations every generation, but also a pre-globalized economy and a stock market dominated by people investing to make a profit, not saving for retirement.

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