Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Different kinds of elites (and different kinds of elitism) | quixotic1.com

Interesting post at an interesting blog:

Different kinds of elites (and different kinds of elitism) | quixotic1.com

It seems important to me to keep these different types of elites in mind as we think about the intersections of technology and social change. One way of achieving change is by appealing to the state's powerholders — traditional power, that is. But throughout history, coalitions of people without this power have banded together to effect change. It may be that among the three other types of elites, a social movement can emerge that represents true democratic change.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

New York decriminalizes the female body: This is what it looks like

Originally published at the Freedom Democrats site, please comment there.

I just stumbled upon a collection of photos by Jordan Matter of all types of women going topless in NYC.

It took me a few minutes to get used to the images of topless women on the street, but eventually it started to look natural. Two pictures really emphasized how natural it is: one of a woman breast-feeding in the park, and another showing an older couple running up the steps from Penn Station with their shirts off.

There's also a video on the front page of Jordan Matter's website, which includes the photographer reading (bare-chested) from a court decision striking down laws that prohibit women from going bare chested just like men.

The USA has eliminated a lot of sexism from its laws, but we're not quite finished yet.

Voting guide: support the opposition

I've been meaning to write up a little "Guide for the common voter", to express my ideas on how regular folk should approach elections.

Basically, elections are a big waste of time and effort; no regular person has any hope of influencing the outcome of an election.

But regular folk should still vote. We should just get in, pull the lever, get out, and get back to doing the real work of the world (because we know that the politicians and lobbyists aren't doing anything useful).

However, an miscast vote is no better, and possibly worse, than no vote at all. Is there any way that we can quickly come to a decision on who to vote for, but still be confident that we will generally vote for the "right person"?

In this article, I propose two strategies for quick and efficient voting: vote for gridlock, and vote for change. They are both based on the observation that "power corrupts".

Vote for gridlock: When one party controls all branches of government, the government goes to shit. The opposition party is powerless to force accountability on the dominant party. Basically, the dominant party just uses its power to steal everything it can get its hands, and divides the spoils among its politicians, its campaign donors, and its voting constituencies. When power is split between the parties, each party will have the ability to hold the other accountable for any abuse of power, and legislation will only get established with near-consensus. So, if power is not evenly divided between the two major parties, vote for the candidate from the weaker of the two parties.

There's a nice piece on this from Reason: Vote for Gridlock: It's the patriotic thing to do

Politicians are like diapers; they need to be changed often and for the same reasons.

Vote for change: If it isn't clear how to produce greater gridlock, then just vote against the incumbent. Incumbency provides too of a re-election advantage, and too much power in Washington. A constant turnover among politicians assures that they don't forget what its like to have a real job, and also provides the people with a constant supply of ex-politicians who can openly debrief us on what they saw in the halls of power.

Before we end, I'd like to address one common objection to these strategies: both of these strategies decrease the power of the elected representative from the voter's district, but a voter should want his representatives to have more power to advance the interests of his district. Poppycock. This is a simple choice between advancing parochial interests or advancing the general interest. Voters are free to use their votes to support the interests of a narrow group in society, and many (if not most) voters do just that. However, a narrow approach to politics undermines the entire purpose of having a political union. If voters are acting out of selfish aims, we should just dissolve the government, and end this farce.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Know your place

I recently stumbled upon a friend's copy of Jack Welch's recent management book: Winning.

Being familiar with Kevin Carson's analysis of the motivational propaganda put out by corporate management, I was wondering if this book espoused the same rankist ideology.

Looking at the Table of Contents, one chapter subtitle caught my eye: "That damn boss". So, what does the great Jack Welch have to say about disliking your boss?

I was pleasantly surprized that he quickly got to business by recognizing that "The world has jerks. Some of them get to be bosses."

However, for the most part, he goes on to advise the reader to just deal with it and hope for protection within the system. He phrases this in terms of "don't be a victim"--which on one hand is sensible and self-empowering: you don't give up on your life or your career just because you have a bad boss. On the other hand, among the "victim" behaviors he includes "bitching and moaning to your coworkers." I don't see anything wrong with expressing your opinions and concerns with people who might have some insights into the situation or might be able to help you overcome this crappy situation. Yes, it is painting yourself as a victim, but you may have actually be in an unjust situation. The solution to victimization is to find effective remedies for the injustice. By saying that we shouldn't even discuss any victimization we experience, Welch seems to suggest that there's nothing to be done about it, and we should just "deal with it."

He goes on to suggest that quiting is not a real option: He describes the outcome as being "out on the market, with no recommendations...". You might need to quit as a last resort, but you have to realize that your current boss not only controls your day-to-day worklife, he controls your future prospects as well. So much for free markets.

Next, he examines reasons why your boss might treat you like dung. One possible explanation is that you are a "boss hater", and your boss is just reflecting your own attitude on you (amplified tenfold, of course). You might be able to get away with this attitude if you are really talented, but most poor schmucks can't pull it off.

So basically, unless you are really sure of yourself, you should just give everything you've got to your boss and hope that he's a reasonable person and will reward you. If he isn't, you can really only hope that the corporate system will solve your problems: the higher-ups will eventually learn that you are a good worker and the boss is a bad boss, and will put you out of your misery by transferring you or firing him. You can cross your fingers and hope for this emancipation from above, but of course there is rarely a formal remedy built into the system, and talking to the boss' boss is generally counterproductive.

He finishes the meat of this chapter by saying that you need to decide whether to endure the bad boss or quit. Then you need to "come to grips with the fact that you are staying with a bad boss by choice. That means you've forfeited your right to complain." Of course, you owe your boss your unswerving loyalty. Know your place, slave.

I don't doubt that Welch is dispensing sincere advice, unlike the cynical crap put forward in Fish! and Who Moved My Cheese?, but the takehome message is still the same: you are not a free person. The (economic) world is not structured around the exchange of goods and services among equals; instead, it is a huge hierarchy and the only way you can move up (or get out from under the others) is to play the game and win the good graces of those who are already at the top.