Skin in the Game

When someone has skin in the game, they have some stake in the outcome of their opinion or decision. They are incentivized to act in their own best interest, naturally aligning them with the best outcome. It mitigates effects like moral hazard, which misaligns incentives of the parties in an interaction based on an asymmetry of knowledge, power, and/or other factors.

The metaphor of skin in the game also relates to a number of core concepts in moral philosophy:

  • moral hazard
  • fairness
  • justice
  • transparency
  • authenticity
  • integrity
  • responsibility
  • good faith
  • honor
  • honesty
  • truthworthiness
  • forthrightness
  • earnestness
  • steadfastness
  • being true to one’s word

Skin in the game quotes

The price of greatness is responsibility.

Winston Churchill

Biden’s American Rescue Plan: Democrats’ first big win

The $1.9 trillion covid relief package that passed the Senate this weekend is a major legislative victory just 6 weeks into Biden’s term. The American Rescue Plan will give his Presidency and Democrats in the 117th session of Congress a huge boost — in enacting more of Biden’s agenda, in the economy, in replenishing strained state and local coffers, and in giving the Democrats 100% of the credit for the hope, the recovery, and the return to normalcy for hundreds of millions of Americans. Senator Sanders called it the “most significant piece of legislation to benefit working people in the modern history of this country” — and he’s a tough one to please!

Of course, the right wing is churning out its usual disinformation machine around the contents of the bill. Zero Republicans voted for it, which puts them on record indelibly forever as voting against relief checks, against pandemic assistance, against schools reopening, against… everything of most relevance to most people at this time, according to the majority of Americans polled who favor it (62%). Let’s take a look at all the urgent relief that’s actually in the bill.

What’s in the American Rescue Plan

  • $1400 direct checks
  • $300/week unemployment extension through September
  • Increased child tax credit to $3000-$3600 in 2021 and made it fully refundable
  • Extending COBRA benefits and health benefits
  • $170 billion for safely reopening schools
  • $20 billion for vaccination programs
  • $30 billion for PPE
  • $350 billion for state and local governments devastated and depleted from the pandemic
  • Funding for covid testing, contact tracing, and forecasting
  • Relief for restaurants, small businesses, and farmers
  • Child care and child nutrition funds
  • Tax credits for sick leave and family leave
  • Funding for community health, mental health, and the opioid crisis
  • Emergency rental assistance, rural housing, homelessness relief
  • FEMA funding
  • Funeral assistance
  • Relief to airlines, airports, and aviation manufacturing
  • Extend benefits to rail workers
  • VA funding

Arguments for Diversity

It feels odd to have to make these arguments for diversity, again, some centuries after the Enlightenment. And decades after Darwin, in whose name many fallacious opposite “interpretations” are levied.

Nevertheless, the evidence is there for us as it has always been. Diversity isn’t a bad thing — it’s a good thing. For populations, for economies, for problem solving, for all of us. The more options there are, the higher probability that one of them might be the right match, or the thing that solves the problem, or the best selection for the job at hand.

So there’s a strict mathematical component to the arguments for diversity, but beyond that many fields have weighed in on the utility and pragmatic value of diversity. This assortment is a work in progress I’ll continue to add to over time:

  • In biology, more diverse populations are more resilient to a wider variety of changes. This resilience is one of the best arguments for diversity of all.
  • The best investment portfolio, generally speaking, is the one that is most diversified.
  • In business, a diversity of new ideas leads to better decision-making and increased innovation; studies show a diverse workforce, as well as a diverse board, nets better results and outperforms their more conformist cousins.
  • Cross-pollination is generative
  • Range adds resilience
  • Condorcet jury theorem: the more people there are making a decision, the more right it will be. Plurality makes better decisions. See also: wisdom of crowds
  • Law of large numbers: the more data points you have, the more accurate your distribution will be.
  • A large number of independent transactions helps economies function properly and grow. We speak of the economy “moving” and finding many touchpoints to do business on.

Diversity unhinges us because it unmasks our hidden assumption that if we all look the same, we will think the same and thereby avoid conflict.
Deep down, we still secretly hope that we can avoid having to deal with our differences by magically generating conformity.

Our unspoken wish is that, by being identical, we achieve the harmony and collective togetherness we so deeply crave — the collective harmony we mistake for God.

Monoculture

The opposite of diversity is monoculture. Monoculture represents sameness, stasis, and stagnation — the system or culture feels fairly dull and stale.

Most people like a certain level of variety in their lives. Some though, have great aversion to difference, change, or both. Authoritarian personalities tend to dislike difference, while individuals with conservative ideology tend to dislike change.

One of the more relatable arguments for diversity stems from the fact that a majority of people enjoy and benefit from diverse points of view, experiences, community members, and beyond.

Oversight

There is psychological evidence that people tend to behave more morally when they know, or when they believe, someone is watching them. When observers are present, people’s worst antisocial tendencies tend to be mitigated to some degree. There is also evidence from religious studies, that show belief in a moral god who has infinite access to your deepest motives enhances the effect from more “secular” oversight from experiences like instinctively braking when you see a cop on the highway.

On the other end, there is a lot of benefit to all manner of people and organizations being able to have oversight — from a boss supervising an employee, to a client evaluating an agency, to law enforcement surveilling suspects and surveillance more broadly. Observation is the key to experimentation under the scientific method, and a surveyor prepares land for development. The feedback loops that result from being able to see how a plan, theory, or hypothesis work out in the real world allow the original assumptions to be validated or adjusted, accordingly.

The government is an organization that operates largely in an oversight capacity. The executive branch runs departments that broadly oversee the nation’s transportation, military, national security, diplomacy, law enforcement, justice system, budget, economy and fiscal policy, education policy, energy grid, and stockpile of nuclear weapons — among much else. In a federalized system of 50 states under a larger national banner, many regional and local differences add to the complexity of the policy and enforcement concerns, and the difficulty of managing both a large population and vast land mass.

Conversely, if you believe no one is watching, you are more likely to commit corruption or crime. If someone thinks they can get away with it, they are much more likely to try and grab an opportunity. The growing scale and speed of modern society tends to exacerbate the feeling that “no one is watching,” making it seem like it matters less if small rules are broken here or there — an effect which can continue to snowball into crimes of greater and greater severity.

Related concepts:

  • God
  • the watchful eye — annuit coeptis
  • the Oversight Committee
  • the rule of law / spirit of laws
  • surveillance
  • night watchman state
  • police brutality
  • transparency
  • “Hell is other people”
  • Eye of Sauron
  • the peanut gallery
  • hecklers
  • hall monitors
  • judges
  • supervisors
  • parents
  • overseers
  • vantage points
  • command view
  • crow’s nest

American Fascism: a Right-Wing Authoritarianism Dictionary

We glibly believed it could never happen here even though we’ve been warned again and again. And in some sense, even though it’s been here all along — hiding in plain sight. I’ll be adding to this authoritarianism dictionary over time, as I can chip away at it and as new words get added to the lexicon.

TermTopicDefinitionNotesRead more
13th Amendmentwhite supremacyThe Amendment that put an end to slavery. It was passed by Congress and ratified by 2/3 of the states in 1865.
14th Amendmentwhite supremacyThe second Constitutional Amendment passed following the Civil War, the Fourteenth Amendment granted citizenship to freed African American former slaves, along with equal civil and legal rights as specified in the Constitution.This Reconstruction Amendment also contains the critical due process clause that has been so important to the pursuit of civil rights.
15th Amendmentwhite supremacyThird and last of the Reconstruction Amendments, the Fifteenth gave African Americans the right to vote -- and prohibited any type of voter discrimination on the basis of race.
19th AmendmentmisogynyThe woman's Suffrage Amendment gave women the right to vote in the United States.
4chanalt-RightA notorious internet message board with an unruly culture capable of trolling, pranks, and crimes.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4chan
8chanalt-RightIf 4chan isn't raw and lawless enough for you, try the even more right-wing "free speech"-haven 8chan, which is notorious for incubating a large swath of the Gamergate culture.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/8chan
abortionreligious extremism
active measuresRussian
aggrieved entitlementwhite supremacy
America's "original sin"white supremacyslavery
amoral
armed robberyorganized crime
ASPDabuse & controlantisocial personality disorder
assassination
astroturfingPretending a well organized and financed operation is a grassroots groundswell
authoritarianism
banality of evil
banana republicpolitically unstable countries whose economies are monocultures controlled by an oligarchy; puppet stateshttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banana_republic
birth controlmisogyny
bitcoinalt-Right
Black Codes
BLMwhite supremacyBlack Lives Matter
BLM (US)Bureau of Land Management
blockchainalt-Right
blood libel
Blue ChecksReference to Twitter's "verified" feature for certain members, who have satisfied the company that they are who they say they are. Originally the feature was meant to identify the official accounts of news sites and reporters, so it has both an association with -- and a legitimate lineage from -- the media industry. "Blue Checks" is perceived as a pejorative term, to the right wing. It's a shortcut for referencing "fake news," the "lamestream media," and the "intellectuals" all in one fell swoop: The Establishment.
bolt holeEnd TimesA type of retreat or refuge for those in the survivalist subculture, to be absconded to in case of disaster or apocalypse.
Brown v. Board of Education (1954)white supremacySupreme Court decision ordering the desegregation of schools. Resistance to the ruling took the form of "states' rights" advocates, among much else.
bug-out location (BOL)End TimesAnother name for a bolt hole or survivalist refuge location.
CalexitMovement to split the state of Californnia into East and West statesNigel Farage, Scott Baugh, Arron Bank, Gerry Gunster
capital gains tax
civil society
Civil War
Cluster B
collective narcissism
Communism
conscience
conspiracy theory
covert narcissist
cults
deep stateNetworks of opposition within governments who undermine the official regimeWas also used as a concept in WWII Germany to mean anyone "not loyal to the Nazis"https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/16/world/americas/deep-state-leaks-trump.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0
democratic socialism
desegregation
disinformation
domestic violenceabuse & control
Doomsday Clock
double standardmisogyny
down ballot
doxingabuse & controlresearching and broadcasting personally identifiable information about an individual
Drain the SwampCampaign slogan of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential contest.He was referring to the dastardly no-good downright evil of individuals like his campaign advisor, Roger Stone, known for his role in about-to-be impeached Richard Nixon's campaign as a "dirty trickster," a moniker he relishes to this day.
Emancipation Proclamationwhite supremacy
empathy
estate tax
"Eternal Rome"ideology positing Russia as a geopolitical bulwark of conservatism against a weak-kneed West (part of Alexander Dugin's reformulation of Eurasianism theory)
exfiltrationThe removal or copying of data from one server to another without the knowledge of the owner
facial recognition
fake news
false flagRussiancovert operations designed to deceive by appearing as though they are carried out by other entities, groups, or nations than those who actually executed them
fascism
fellow travellers
fifth column
fifth world warRussiannon-linear war; the war of all against allterm coined by Putin's vizier Vladislav Surkovhttp://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n20/peter-pomerantsev/putins-rasputin
Financial Crimes Enforcement NEtwork (FinCEN)organized crimeDepartment within the Treasury that handles and maiontains FBAR filings from US persons holding in excess of $10,000 in foreign banks.
FISA Courtorganized crime
FISA warrantorganized crime
fiscal policy
Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)Legal statute requiring those persons lobbying on behalf of a foreign government or other entity to register such with the U.S. government.
foreign bank account report (FBAR)Required disclosure to the US treasury by persons holding in excess of $10,000 in funds in foreign banks.
forensics
Freedmen's Bureau
FreedomFestConservative evangelical event annually in Las Vegas
free trade
fronto-paralimbic areaPart of the brain associated with empathy, along with the anterior insula
GamerGatealt-Righthttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamergate_controversy
genocide
gift tax
"global cabal"conspiracy theoryeuphemism in far-right Russian discourse to refer to a perceived "Jewish conspiracy" behind the international order of institutions like NATO and the EUsimilar to/related to "cultural Marxism," neo-Nazism, and anti-Semitism in general
Grand Jury16 to 23 people impaneled to hear evidence from a legal prosecution, and decide if said prosecution has a caseworthy set of evidence to bring charges.
Greensboro Massacre
Great Migration
Great Society
human traffickingorganized crime
hybrid warfare
incelmisogyny"involuntary celibate" -- a male individual who believes society owes him sex
inflation
information warfare
interest rates
interpositionwhite supremacyDubious theory underpinning the idea of states' rights, which is that individual states have veto power over any laws passed by the federal government
Jim Crow Southwhite supremacy
Johnson Amendmentprosperity gospelAllowed televangelists to funnel tax-free riches into luxury goods and political advocacy
KochtopusTerm for the sprawling political machinery of the Kansas-based billionaire Koch Industries inheritees, Charles and David.
kompromatRussiancompromising material on a head of state or other important figure; typically used for blackmail purposes
lamestream mediaalt-Right
liberalismPolitical and ethical framework based on individual liberty via human rights and equal protectionLiberalism is a political philosophy or worldview founded on ideas of liberty and equality. Whereas classical liberalism emphasises the role of liberty, social liberalism stresses the importance of equality. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally they support ideas and programmes such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, free markets, civil rights, democratic societies, secular governments, gender equality, and international cooperation
lobbying
"Lock her up!"alt-Right
Logan Act
lynchingwhite supremacy
machine learning
Mafia stateorganized crimeA systematic corruption of government by organized crime syndicates.Term coined by former KGB/FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko. See also: kleptocracy
MAGA
malignant envy
malignant narcissismabuse & control
manospheremisogyny
Marxism
#MeToomisogyny
micropenismisogyny
micro-propaganda machineMPMthe “micro-propaganda machine” — an influence network that can tailor people’s opinions, emotional reactions, and create “viral” sharing episodes around what should be serious or contemplative issueshttps://medium.com/@d1gi/the-election2016-micro-propaganda-machine-383449cc1fba#.3iq7mbess
misogyny
money launderingorganized crime
narcissism
narcissistic collusion
national debt
national deficit
neggingabuse & control
neomaniaobsession with the new -- a hallmark of Americsan culture
New Deal
non-linear warfareRussian
novichokmilitary-grade nerve agent developed by Russia and used in the poisoning of former FSB agent turned Putin critic Andrei Skripal and his daughter in Lonson in March, 2018
oligarchy
one-party state
open source intelligence
opposhort form of opposition research
outrage industry
Palantir
pathocracy
patriarchymisogyny
peculiar institutionwhite supremacyslavery
plausible deniability
Plessy v. Ferguson1896
plutocracy
populism
postmodernism
post-truth
Potemkin villageAny structure or facade built expressly for the purpose of making the situation appear more favorable than it really ishttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Potemkin_village
Powell MemoLewis Powell's 1970s memo to the wealthy white male elite, in anger over the crackdown against tobacco companies, as a call to arms to organize politically against "anti-capitalist" forces
PRabuse & controlpublic relations
Progressive Era
propagandaabuse & control
prosocial behavior
psychopathabuse & control
psyopsRussian
PUAmisogyny"Pick Up Artist" -- a self-styled lothario who helps train other would-be casanovas in his ways of manipulative charm
race riots
race war
rape culturemisogyny
Reagonomicsconspiracy theorysee also: trickle down economics, supply side economics, Chicago School econ
Reddit
retweetWhen a Twitter user amplifies the tweet of another, by "retweeting" it out to her or his network
Right anterior insular cortexPart of the brain associated with empathy; psychopaths have a deficit here
right-wing authoritarian
Ruby Ridge
sadopopulism
Second Wave Feminismmisogyny
senicide
sexual assaultmisogyny
sexual harassmentmisogyny
shadow profilessurveillance capitalismData that Facebook collects on people who are not members of Facebook, via association with their friends who arehttps://www.zdnet.com/article/firm-facebooks-shadow-profiles-are-frightening-dossiers-on-everyone/
shared reality
show trials
Signalencrypted messaging app
SJWwhite supremacySocial Justice Warriors -- used as a pejorative by the alt-Right
socialism
sociopathy
sockpuppet accountsFake social media accounts used by trolls for deceptive and covert actions, avoiding culpability for abuse, aggression, death threats, doxxing, and other criminal acts against targets.
SMStexting
special interest groups
spearphishingAn email designed to appear as if from a trusted source, to solicit information that allows the sender to gain access to an account or network, or installs malware that later enables the sender to gain access to an account or network
spite voter
stochastic terrorismhttp://www.vox.com/2016/8/10/12422476/trump-second-amendment-hillary-stochastic-terrorism-anti-abortion-violence
suffrageThe right to vote, sometimes referred to as "the franchise."
swattinghoaxed reports to emergency services intended to provoke a SWAT team response at the target's home; a form of Internet-based attack used by Gamergate, the alt-Right, and other groups and individuals
symbolic violence
tax avoidance
tax fraudorganized crime
tax havens
Third Wave Feminismmisogyny
total war
trial balloonInformation put out or leaked to the media to gauge public reaction.
trickle-down economicsconspiracy theory
truth decayconspiracy theory
The Turner Diarieswhite supremacy
unmaskingcybersecurityIntelligence protocol redacting American identities from transcripts of foreign intercepts
volcel
Voting Rights Actwhite supremacy
Waco, TX
wag the dogabuse & control
wage gapmisogyny
watering holecybersecurityhacker attacks that infect entire websites
whataboutismRussianClassic debate tactic of old Soviet apologists to deflect criticism of Soviet policy; whenever an American would levy a critique, the response would be, "What about the bad things America does?"Trump parrots this strategy in an early Feb 2017 interview with Bill O'Reilly, in response to a comment about Putin being "a killer"http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/04/politics/donald-trump-vladimir-putin/
white nationalismwhite supremacy
women's liberationmisogyny
World War IWWI gave job opportunities to blacks in the North, causing a great migration -- as well as a backlash and resistance from Southern law enforcement.
World War II
Yes CaliforniaMovement to secede from the US entirely, run by Marcus Ruiz Evans, Louis J. MarinelliMarinelli lives in Russia

Capitol Riots: The President led a terrorist attack on Congress

January 6: A Day that will live in ignominy. The day Capitol riots broke out when an angry mob, following instructions from Donald Trump, stormed the halls of Congress and came within minutes of a potential hostage situation or worse: a massacre.

I’m still processing the events of Wednesday, as are many. Even though I fully anticipated something horrifying given the utter obviousness of the confrontation brewing, I did not have a particular picture in mind of what that thing was going to be.

Despite having steeled myself for the past 4+ years, I wept many times at some of the imagery and video footage. The defilement of the people’s halls by a violent armed mob who took selfies with Capitol Police was just not something I could have conceived of.

There must be accountability

This was one of the darkest days of our nation. Even during the Civil War the Confederates never stormed the US Capitol, so to see the Confederate flag waving in Congress was a desecration. It twisted me up to have such a raw display of America’s deepest gash of white supremacist history taken symbolically and literally to the nation’s capital.

This event was broadcast around the world, to our allies and to our enemies. We received rebukes from Moscow, Beijing, and Tehran. We — the supposed bastion of democracy. The country that lectures other nations around the world on how to do democracy better. We have been humiliated for the entire planet to see.

We need answers about what happened here. The people deserve to know who planned this, who helped this along, who looked the other away, and perhaps most importantly: who still agrees with it (Hawley and Cruz, for one — they must go).

We must stop fascism in America

The rot of fascism has been allowed to spread to the point where a violent mob of white supremacists, QAnon conspiracy nuts, MAGA faithful and a demon’s host of all stripes came within minutes of taking hostages inside the chambers of Congress. Five people lost their lives and already are being made into martyrs.

This did not begin with Trump, but he certainly amplified the signal at a much more psychotic rate than under previous administrations, certainly of my lifetime. We are now at a dangerous precipice: in a time of staggering wealth inequality, a once in a century health crisis largely being ignored by the right wing, deeply bitter partisanship played out over decades, the creep of authoritarianism around the world — and now at home.

Wednesday’s Capitol Riots did essentially mark the “crossing of the Rubicon” that the Trump cult begged him to do — it was a coming-out day for fascism. It was the President of the United States instructing an armed mob to walk up to the Capitol where lawmakers were certifying the election for the guy who won it, and telling them to “take our country back” and give it to him — by force if necessary. Which, of course, was necessary.

That is the Rubicon — the Rubicon is the willingness to use political violence when you have exhausted all other legal, shady, illegal, and hideously criminal means. That is the fascist twist. If we do not react now; if we do not censure, remove, and allow justice to hold these individuals accountable — both inside and outside of the government — they will take it as permission to try again and again until we deal with this.

We must hold the insurrectionists accountable — if we are to keep this republic.

Sources and Media Outlets

I try to be choosy about my news, yet also read widely. I make it a habit to routinely consult sources outside the US, and to mix up the types of media ownership to avoid a monolithic class view.

Other habits: try to corroborate stories amongst multiple publications; evaluate the credibility of authors and references; read source material; do my own calculations; consult public data when available; go back further into history to understand the trajectory of preceding events; keep listening for new information on the subject. Adjust my views based on new incoming information, if warranted.

Having worked in media for most of my career, I have a lot of practice evaluating the quality and veracity of reporting. Cross-referencing comes second nature. I’ve studied the media industry as a professional imperative and understand a bit about its ownership structures and its history, both technical and economic. As a political philosophy buff, I’m aware of the great importance of a free press to our democratic republic.

NameCountryFundingYear foundedAgeLink
The GuardianUKPrivate1821200https://www.theguardian.com/
The EconomistUKPrivate1843178https://www.economist.com/
Scientific AmericanUSPrivate1845176https://www.nature.com/
Associated PressUSNonprofit1846175https://apnews.com/
The New York TimesUSPrivate1851170https://www.nytimes.com/
ReutersUSPrivate1851170https://www.reuters.com/
The Daily TelegraphUKPrivate1855166https://www.telegraph.co.uk/
The AtlanticUSPrivate1857164https://www.theatlantic.com/
NatureUSPrivate1869152https://www.nature.com/
The Washington PostUSPrivate1877144https://www.washingtonpost.com/
LA TimesUSPrivate1881140https://www.latimes.com/
Financial TimesUKPrivate1888133https://www.ft.com/
The New RepublicUSPrivate1914107https://newrepublic.com/
BBCUKPublic192299https://www.bbc.com/news
TimeUSPrivate192398https://time.com/
The New YorkerUSPrivate192596https://www.newyorker.com/
CBCCanadaPublic193685https://www.cbc.ca/news/world
SpiegelEUPrivate194774https://www.spiegel.de/international/
Radio Free EuropeEUPublic194972https://www.rferl.org/
New ScientistUKPrivate195665https://www.newscientist.com/
Rolling StoneUSPrivate196754https://www.gregpalast.com/
PBSUSPublic196952https://www.pbs.org/
Foreign PolicyUSPrivate197051https://www.euronews.com/
NPRUSPublic197051https://www.npr.org/
C-SPANUSPublic197942https://www.c-span.org/
CNNUSPrivate198041https://www.cnn.com/
The IndependentUKPrivate198635https://www.independent.co.uk/us
Sky NewsUKPrivate198635https://news.sky.com/
Greg PalastUSIndependent197645https://www.gregpalast.com/
EuronewsEUPrivate199328https://www.euronews.com/
MSNBCUSPrivate199625https://www.msnbc.com/
VoxUSPrivate200516https://www.vox.com/
PoliticoUSPrivate200714https://www.politico.com/
BellingcatEUIndependent20147https://www.bellingcat.com/
Gaslit NationUSCrowdfunding20156https://www.patreon.com/m/1844970/posts
AxiosUSPrivate20174https://www.axios.com/
Just SecurityUSAcademic20174https://www.justsecurity.org/
The ConversationalistUSNonprofit20192https://conversationalist.org/

Lost Einsteins

A concept that describes the impact to the world of children in poverty, under excessive inequality, and in other circumstances that contribute to the loss of that individual’s gift to the world. It is one of many ways to try and measure the effect of the negative externalities of lightly regulated capitalism.

There is both a human cost and an actual financial impact on collective wealth: it goes down. It will be lower than it otherwise could have been. We all miss out, because the size of the economic pie is smaller for all of us.

Ethical questions

How can we justify not helping the poor on any basis then?

  • We all lose out; the pie is smaller
  • It’s a very small amount of money relative to other traditional parts of public budgets
  • It improves various measures of civil society, public health, crime, and other public services
  • It’s the right thing to do
  • The Golden Rule indicates it
  • Jesus commanded it

What rationale remains?

And if we still insist on metering talent development out to spite our own face, then who do we allow to have that kind of mental space, to spend enough time pondering the Big Questions? Who do we assume will do those things?

Hyper Partisanship: How to understand American politics today

Buckle up, we’re in for a wild ride. Many of the serious scholars of political history and authoritarian regimes are sounding the alarm bells that, although it is a very very good thing we are getting rid of the Trump crime family soon, it is still a very very bad thing for America to have so rapidly tilted towards authoritarianism. How did we get here?! How has hyper partisanship escalated to the point of an attempted coup by 126 sitting Republican House Representatives?

These are some of the resources that helped me grapple with that question, and with the rapidly shifting landscape of information warfare. This outline is a work in progress, and I’m planning to keep adding to this list as the tape keeps rolling.

Right-Wing Authoritarianism

  • Karen Stenner — Australian political psychologist Karen Stenner found that approximately 1/3 of populations are authoritarian, or have authoritarian tendencies.
  • Hannah Arendt — The Origins of Totalitarianism
  • Derrida — the logic of the unconscious; performativity in the act of lying
  • ketman — Ketman is the psychological concept of concealing one’s true aims, akin to doublethink in Orwell’s 1984, that served as a central theme to Polish dissident Czesław Miłosz‘s book The Captive Mind about intellectual life under totalitarianism during the Communist post-WWII occupation.
  • Erich Fromm — coined the term “malignant narcissism” to describe the psychological character of the Nazis
  • Fascism — elevation of the id as the source of truth; enthusiasm for political violence
    • Jason Stanley — How Fascism Works
    • Robert O. Paxton — The Anatomy of Fascism
    • Tim Snyder — On Tyranny
    • Federico Finchelstein — A Brief History of Fascist Lies
  • Tyrants
  • John Dean — 3 types of authoritarian personality:
    • social dominators
    • authoritarian followers
    • double highs — social dominators who can “switch” to become followers in certain circumstances
  • Loyalty; hero worship
    • Freud = deeply distrustful of hero worship and worried that it indulged people’s needs for vertical authority. He found the archetype of the authoritarian primal father very troubling.
  • Ayn Rand — The Fountainhead
  • Richard Hofstadter — The Paranoid Style
  • Lakoff — moral framing; strict father morality
  • Neil Postman — Entertaining Ourselves to Death
  • Anti-Intellectualism
  • Can be disguised as hyper-rationalism (Communism)

Cognitive and psychological data

  • conservative minds don’t accept new information coming in
    • vs. Bayesian logic
    • vs. Thomas Kuhn scientific revolutions
  • Psychological biases
    • Status quo bias
  • The Asch Experiment — more than 60% of the time, people bow to social pressure
  • Stanley Milgram 1974 — we will submit to the demands of authority to a far greater extent than we might expect
    • it absolves us of responsibility
    • a “loophole” to quickly route around our conscience, making “normal” persons susceptible to the appeals of psychopaths
  • The Marshmallow Experiment — drive towards instant gratification
  • Edward Bernays — Propaganda
  • Narcissism and Sadism | The Dark Triad — difficult personalities
    • narcissism = seeing oneself “above”
    • Christopher Lasch — Culture of Narcissism (1979). Idea that narcissism is a defense mechanism against social change and instability in the modern world. It’s a method of psychological self-preservation in a hostile, threatening world; a cynical ethic.
    • Tom Wolfe — The Me Decade
    • Jerrold Post — authoritarian parenting
    • The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump
    • Mary Trump — Too Much and Not Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man
    • narcissistic injury
    • narcissistic rage
    • aggrieved entitlement — elevated expectations combined with resentment at society for not meeting them (Michael Kimmel, 2013)
    • dehumanization of the Others
    • splitting; black and white thinking
    • object permanence
    • magical thinking — relation to Norman Vincent Peale and prosperity gospel
    • Political ponerology — the nature of evil; interaction of difficult personalities with power and politics
      • pathocracy — Andrew Łobaczewski (2007)
      • sadopopulism — Tim Snyder
    • Narcissistic collusion — the interplay of the grandiose expectations of the tyrant and his followers. It gives him power as a meshing of mutually compatible needs.
    • Narcissism of small differences — Freud 1991
    • Scapegoating
    • Psychological decompensation
    • Psychopath World
      • The Upside Down — up is down, black is white
      • No conscience
      • No empathy
      • The ultimate narcissist
      • Obsession with power, dominance, and hierarchy
      • Primitive goals, relentlessly pursued
      • Rigidity; inflexibility
      • No access to higher human ideals
      • Performative; mask-wearing
      • See people as objects for their use
      • Control issues
      • Cruel and sadistic
      • Empty and thrill-seeking
      • Enjoy breaking rules
      • Inauthentic; insincere
      • Projectivity
      • Destructiveness; recklessness
      • Conspiracy-minded
      • Cold and inaccessible
      • Reptilian
    • Terminology: ASPD and the shifting umbrella of personality disorder and Cluster B
    • Malignant narcissism as a historical conception of this group of personality traits
  • Paranoia
  • Abuse culture
    • Bullies
    • Emotional abuse
    • psychological abuse
    • physical abuse
    • financial abuse
    • legal abuse
    • abuse of power
    • Alice Miller — Her work identified the psychological impact of childhood neglect and abuse, not just at the individual level but at the societal level — where it has a tendency to produce a hierarchical worldview characterized by the need to control the environment.
    • One-sided development — Dąbrowski (1996)
  • Cults
  • “Big Cults” — rise to the level of nation-state and even beyond
  • Psychological warfare
    • Propaganda
      • Bernays –> Goebbels
      • Michiko Kakutani — The Death of Truth
    • Emotional abuse
    • Interrogation techniques
    • Disinformation
      • Conspiracy theories
      • Fake news
        • “Flood the channel” strategy
        • Overwhelm and drown out the truth
        • Deep fakes
      • Lying with statistics
    • Bot networks and cyborg botnets
      • agents
        • distraction
        • confusion
        • probing
        • persuasion
        • conversion
        • neutralization
      • flying monkeys
      • automated response
      • timed response
    • Extortion
    • Doxxing
  • Religious extremism
    • Evangelicals
    • Dominionism and extremist religious circles believing literally in the End Times and the rapture coming soon (Tim LaHaye et al), including at the highest levels of government (Pompeo, Pence, etc.)
    • Calvinism
    • Prosperity gospel
  • Living on Fantasy Island
    • Norman Vincent Peale — the power of positive thinking (1952)
    • Ernest Becker — The Denial of Death & the basis for fundamental self-deception
    • Buddhist / Shambhala conceptions of “The Cocoon” — a mental place of safety we construct for ourselves to remain shielded from Real Reality
    • Republican Denial Bubbles: climate change, trickle-down economics, “no one is racist,” birtherism, covid is a hoax, everything is hunky dory, you are getting very sleepy…
    • It Was All a Lie — Stuart Stevens, former GOP strategist and co-founding member of the Lincoln Project, spills the beans on the Republican capture of civic discourse with a set of false narratives all spinning out from the white supremacist backlash to the civil rights movement of the 60s.

HISTORY

  • Capitol Riots and Putsch — insurrectionists storm the Capitol
  • Raffensperger extortion call
  • Georgia runoffs
  • Biden elected + Big Lie begins (continues, really)
  • George Floyd murder and summer of protest
    • long struggle with police brutality and “driving while Black”
  • Votings Rights Act gutted
  • Citizens United
  • Growing nationalization of politics parallels the demise of local news

Hyper Partisanship in Congress: The Gingrich Years

  • Newt Gingrich and the Contract on America — Steve Kornacki, Julian Zelizer
  • Rise of Evangelicals and the deals with the devils (Paul Weyrich, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, prosperity gospel, etc)
    • ALEC
    • abortion as a 180-degree turn for use as a wedge issue
    • Brown v. Board of Education & the fight over segregated Christian private schools
  • White nationalism’s reputational laundering
    • David Duke popped back up in both the 90s and the 2010s
    • Some Vietnam vets nurtured their own “stabbed in the back” culture after the war
    • Rise of the militia movement
      • Many returning soldiers saw the fringe left Communist movement in the US as an “enemy at home”
      • Greensboro, NC massacre
      • The Order
      • KKK & KKKK
    • Paramilitary operations in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, and elsewhere in Latin America to “bring the war home”
    • After the fall of Communism, the movement needed a new enemy. During the immediate post-Vietnam era they claimed to be working on behalf of the state, but towards the end of the 80s they did a 180-degree turn to a hard anti-government stance
    • Survivalist fringe
      • Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing
      • Waco
      • Ruby Ridge
      • Unabomber / Ted Kaczynski
    • Intersection of militia movement with NRA
      • Intersection of NRA with Russian active measures

Post-Soviet Capital Flight and the Rise of Russian Organized Crime

Rise of Dark Money

The explosion of Super PACs and other seemingly endless vehicles for anonymous money lending to political campaigns exploded after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling in 2010. The hyper partisanship tilted even further when the GOP quietly began accepting far more foreign contributions than many people realized.

  • Citizens United
  • Koch Brothers / Kochtopus
  • offshore tax havens
  • unregistered FARA agents (Flynn, Manafort, Elliott Broidy, etc)
  • Jane Mayer
  • Panama Papers — biggest offshore data leak in history
  • FinCEN files

Rise of Russian Hybrid Warfare

  • Gerasimov Doctrine
  • Vladislav Surkhov’s surrealistic war theater
    • Fifth World War: all against all
  • Cheka –> KGB –> FSB / GRU
  • Psychological warfare
  • Cyber warfare
    • energy grid
    • US Treasury
    • election infrastructure
    • nuclear weaponry
  • Information warfare
    • Disinformation
    • Cyborg bot networks
    • IRA & Robert Mueller indictments
    • Cambridge Analytica, data theft, and microtargeting
    • Astroturfing, fake activism, paid crisis actors
  • Financial warfare
    • Magnitsky Act
      • Bill Browder
      • Natalia Veselnitskaya
      • Trump Tower meeting June 9, 2016
    • Campaign funding
      • Marie Le Pen (France)
      • Viktor Orban (Hungary)
      • Brexit (UK)
      • Trump / GOP (US)
      • Law and Justice (Poland)
    • Corruption — organized crime, money laundering, bribery, human trafficking, drugs, arms, fraud, racketeering, etc.
  • Proxy warfare
    • Private security forces and arms’ length deniability
      • Yevgeny Prigozhin
      • Erik Prince
    • Ukraine
    • Belarus
    • Syria

Role of Facebook, Google, and Big Tech

Silicon Valley played its part in enabling — and profiteering from — hyper partisanship not just in the U.S., but around the world. Facebook in particular has a reputation for being callously cheap about moderating content from hate speech to live mass shooting video, including arguably playing a significant role in the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar.

  • Facebook as a rogue nation state with almost 3 billion non-voting citizen-serfs
    • Reluctant moderators require regulating
    • Questionable ethics
      • Moral hazard in political leanings
      • Paid propaganda machine for dictators and authoritarian regimes around the world
      • Allow disinformation to “skirt around” the rules too often, or fail to police bad actors at all
      • Fail to live up to their own moderating standards repeatedly
      • Refuse responsibility for arguably essential roles in geopolitical disasters including the Rohingya massacre in Myanmar and
      • A business model that fundamentally benefits from human conflict
      • Cambridge Analytica
      • Traumatic conditions of the Facebook moderation team, in the US and abroad
  • Google’s capture of the web
    • monopoly powers
    • surveillance powers
    • AI powers
    • collapse of online advertising market
    • collapse of local journalism
    • Youtube radicalization
  • Surveillance capitalism
  • Data as the new oil

Economic insecurity and staggering inequality

  • Piketty
  • Gilded Age
  • Progressive Era
  • Anti-Trust
  • Herbert Hoover –> FDR
  • Great Depression –> New Deal prosperity
  • Keynesian economics
  • Hillbilly elegy
    • Bowling Alone
    • The Big Sort
  • Globalization
  • Opioid crisis

Republican Myths

As further enabled by the rise of the PR-state

  • White supremacy and the myth of American innocence
  • Trickle down economics –> Reagan
  • Powell Memo –> Think Tanks
  • McCarthyism; John Birch Society
  • America as a Judeo-Christian nation
  • Immigration is bad
  • Climate change denialism
  • Smoking is good for you

Americana and Hyper Partisanship through the ages

  • 2020 election
  • 2016 election
  • Obama years
  • 2008-09 financial crash
  • 9/11, WMD delusions, Iraq War, Islamic terrorism
  • 2000 Bush v. Gore
  • Welfare queens
  • Clinton and the Crime Bill
  • Reagan years
  • Watergate
  • Spiro Agnew
  • Nixon’s war on drugs as a proxy for the war on 60s counterculture
  • White militia movement
  • Civil rights & Vietnam
  • Cold War
  • The Holocaust; Stalin’s Great Terror; Mao’s famine
  • WWII & fascism
  • New Deal
  • Great Depression
  • WWI
  • Gilded Age
  • Snake oil
  • PT Barnum
  • Great Awakening preachers George Whitefield & Jonathan Edwards
    • they argued that church authorities should not own people’s direct relationship with God
  • KKK
  • Jim Crow
  • Reconstruction
  • Civil War & Confederacy — the ur-Hyper Partisanship.
  • States’ Rights
  • Anti-Intellectualism
  • Slavery
  • Racism, Misogyny
  • Federalism vs. Decentralization
  • The Constitution and the Rule of Law
  • Democracy overthrows monarchy
  • Spirit of the Laws — Montesquieu
  • Social contract; consent of the governed
  • Puritans
  • Religious freedom
  • Liberty vs. freedom
  • The Enlightenment
  • Magna Carta
  • The Bible

Public education makes us all smarter

The state has an interest in educating its citizens. There are a number of reasons a nation could benefit from attending to the education of its citizens, creating a state interest in public education. Many of them are economic, and contribute to the growth of industry and health of communities:

  • More people generating more value increases GDP, compounded over time
  • Increased entrepreneurship
  • Increased innovation, and dynamism in the economy along with it
  • Improved public health and saving cost on health care
  • Longer life spans means more working years at greater seniority levels, contributing a lot of surplus value to the economy
  • Increased incomes provide more free time to contribute to civic life and be informed voters
  • Decreasing the number of “Lost Einsteins” — talented individuals who do not get a chance to shine their lights and contribute their gifts

We all have an interest in investing in the development of our human capital, because it is rational to do so. It will pay many dividends over time, both directly and indirectly.

Mass death is actually a bad thing for the economy

This past week we had a serious, unironic “debate” about whether or not senicide is a reasonable “plan” for handling the coronavirus crisis. This under the pretense that the other course of action — following the advice of medical professionals and epidemiologists to stay home and socially distance ourselves to curb the spread of covid-19 — is tantamount to shutting down the economy, which is tantamount to killing more people than the virus will.

Meanwhile, Congress passed a $2 trillion relief package, one quarter of which will go to the billionaire class with precious little oversight as to how it can be spent — and still apparently no one seems to have the slightest bit of confidence that the world’s richest economy can possibly weather the storms of depressed consumer demand for even several weeks much less the potentially many months this pandemic will rage across the planet. Perhaps this reveals that The Economy simply isn’t as robust as we tell ourselves it is during better times.

Dead Men Pay No Taxes

The proposed Sophie’s Choice between weeks or months of physical separation and allowing many people to die all around us is a false frame.

Millions of people dying is bad for The Economy in a very similar way to how having ICE eject millions of people from the economy is bad for The Economy. Insofar as economies require a labor force, and insofar as governments require revenue from taxation to pay for the infrastructure upon which The Economy rests, having millions of people depart from them is not a pathway to improving the economy — it is the opposite.

However, perhaps The Economy itself has become a contested concept. There may be a class-based and/or ideologically-based difference of opinion on what this concept means. Perhaps there is now:

  • the economy: the traditionally-held view of economies as markets in which individuals labor and contribute value, and trade assets in mutually beneficial ways to allocate resources efficiently
  • The Economy: a sort of shell game played by the right-wing authoritarian cohort in which the Plebes are starved of infrastructure and resources to the point of being mired inside an Eternal Present — in which we lurch from crisis to crisis — that brokers no hope for the future and no actual policy being made, other than the “policies” which continue to print money from the Federal Treasury for the purposes of propping up the precariously fragile billionaire class whose claims of meritocratic supremacy are stretched thinner and thinner each time the shells are moved yet again

Starving the Beast kills it: Feature or bug?

On paper, “Starving the Beast” is passed off as deeply held ideological libertarianism regarding the fundamental goodness of small government. In practice, starving beasts tend to die of preventable causes — and if governments are to retain the kind of power needed to be a check and balance on a growing hypercapitalist economy, they must indeed grow as well.

But beyond the general case, our specific circumstances of global pandemic lead us to a reasonable question: if laissez-faire capitalism and the free hand of the market is supposedly both sufficient to solve all human problems and vastly superior than the socialist hand of government at doing these things, then why are we in such a pickle? Why hasn’t the Invisible Hand managed to come up with its own solution to the mass death we are currently experiencing?

Or is the answer we might hear one that is too grim to bear — having been provided a clue this week in the grumbling of sacrificing the old to save the young — that a certain part of the political spectrum believe this is the market working as intended. That mass death is an acceptable “negative externality” of laissez-faire capitalism and that we bleeding-heart liberals ought to suck it up and grow thicker skin, rather than demand that governments step in to prevent preventable human atrocity.

Not only am I afraid of the answer — I’m afraid we’ll never get a straight answer in the world of political ketman we seem to have blundered into. In this world, right-wing elites including numerous elected officials continue to give lip service to a democracy that has been systematically hollowed out since the redoubling of the conservative movement in the 1970s to present, to currently resemble a geopolitical reality closer to that of modern Russia than to anything James Madison or Alexander Hamilton would have recognized.

It is technically possible that psychologically speaking, they themselves are actually unaware of this seismic shift in ideological views from that of democratic power and Constitutional authority to one of authoritarian rule and total technocratic control — but I think it’s more likely they’re simply not saying it out loud.

Funny how you never see any Libertarians volunteering to…

fund or maintain civic necessities such as:

  • clean water delivery
  • sewage removal
  • electricity generation and delivery
  • garbage and recycling removal
  • public safety
    • police forces
    • fire protection
    • emergency response
    • flood control
  • a justice system
    • courts
    • jails
  • transportation
    • road planning and construction
    • bridge planning and construction
    • street lights
    • traffic lights
    • driver licensing
    • airports
    • railroads
    • subways
    • buses
    • parking
    • snow plowing
  • mail service
  • sidewalks
  • parks and recreation
  • schools
  • libraries
  • property and county records
  • land surveys
  • research and development
  • public health
    • hospitals
    • pollution control and remediation
    • food supply testing
  • legislation

Notes: Surveillance capitalism dystopia, with Zeynep Tufekci

speak, sistah!

see also: Shoshanna Zuboff (who wrote the seminal work on surveillance capitalism), Don Norman

Some takeaways:

  • surveillance won’t be obvious and overt like in Orwell’s 1984 — it’ll be covert and subtle (“more like a spider’s web”)
  • social networks use persuasion architecture — the same cloying design aesthetic that puts gum at the eye level of children in the grocery aisle

Example:

AI modeling of potential Las Vegas ticket buyers

The machine learning algorithms can classify people into two buckets, “likely to buy tickets to Vegas” and “unlikely to” based on exposure to lots and lots of data patterns. Problem being, it’s a black box and no one — not even the computer scientists — know how it works or what it’s doing exactly.

So the AI may have discovered that bipolar individuals just about to go into mania are more susceptible to buying tickets to Vegas — and that is the segment of the population they are targeting: a vulnerable set of people prone to overspending and gambling addictions. The ethical implications of unleashing this on the world — and routinely using and optimizing it relentlessly — are staggering.

Profiting from extremism

“You’re never hardcore enough for YouTube” — YouTube gives you content recommendations that are increasingly polarized and polarizing, because it turns out that preying on your reptilian brain makes you keep clicking around in the YouTube hamster wheel.

The amorality of AI — “algorithms don’t care if they’re selling shoes, or politics.” Our social, political, and cultural flows are being organized by these persuasion architectures — organized for profit; not for the collective good, not for public interests, not subject to our political will anymore. These powerful surveillance capitalism tools are running mostly unchecked, with little oversight and with few people minding the ethics of the stores of essentially a cadre of Silicon Valley billionaires.

Intent doesn’t matter — good intentions aren’t enough; it’s the structure and business models that matter. Facebook isn’t a half trillion dollar con: its value is in its highly effective persuasion power, which is highly troubling and concerning in a supposedly democratic society. Mark Zuckerberg may even ultimately mean well (…debatable), but it doesn’t excuse the railroading over numerous obviously negative externalities resulting from the unchecked power of Facebook in not only the U.S., but in countries around the world including highly volatile domains.

Extremism benefits demagogues — Oppressive regimes both come to power by and benefit from political extremism; from whipping up citizens into a frenzy, often against each other as much as against perceived external or internal enemies. Our data and attention are now for sale to the highest bidding authoritarians and demagogues around the world — enabling them to use AI against us in election after election and PR campaign after PR campaign. We gave foreign dictators even greater powers to influence and persuade us in ways that benefit them at the expense of our own self-interest.

Design guru Don Norman’s shortlist of everything wrong with the internet

When usability pioneers have All the Feels about the nature of our creeping technological dystopia, how we got here, and what we might need to do to right the ship, it’s wise to pay attention. Don Norman’s preaching resonated with my choir, and they’ve asked me to sing a summary song of our people in bulleted list format:

  • What seemed like a virtuous thing at the time — building the internet with an ethos of trust and openness — has led to a travesty via lack of security, because no one took bad actors into account.
  • Google, Facebook, et al didn’t have the advertising business model in mind a priori, but sort of stumbled into it and got carried away giving advertisers what they wanted — more information about users — without really taking into consideration the boundary violations of appropriating people’s information. (see Shoshana Zuboff’s definitive new book on Surveillance Capitalism for a lot more on this topic)
  • Tech companies have mined the psychological sciences for techniques that — especially at scale — border on mass manipulation of fundamental human drives to be informed and to belong. Beyond the creepy Orwellian slant of information appropriation and emotional manipulation, the loss of productivity and mental focus from years of constant interruptions takes a toll on society at large.
  • We sign an interminable series of EULAs, ToS’s and other lengthy legalese-ridden agreements just to access the now basic utilities that enable our lives. Experts refer to these as “contracts of adhesion” or “click-wrap,” as a way of connoting the “obvious lack of meaningful consent.” (Zuboff)
  • The “bubble effect” — the internet allows one to surround oneself completely with like-minded opinions and avoid ever being exposed to alternative points of view. This has existential implications for being able to inhabit a shared reality, as well as a deleterious effect on public discourse, civility, and the democratic process itself.
  • The extreme commercialization of almost all of our information sources is problematic, especially in the age of the “Milton Friedman-ification” of the economic world and the skewing of values away from communities and individuals, towards a myopic view of shareholder value and all the attendant perverse incentives that accompany this philosophical business shift over the past 50 years. He notes that the original public-spiritedness of new communication technologies has historically been co-opted by corporate lobbyists via regulatory capture — a subject Tim Wu explores in-depth in his excellent 2011 book, “The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires.

Is it all bleak, Don?! His answer is clear: “yes, maybe, no.” He demurs on positing a definitive answer to all of these issues, but he doesn’t really mince words about a “hunch” that it may in fact involve burning it all down and starting over again.

Pointing to evolution, Norman notes that we cannot eke radical innovation out of incremental changes — and that when radical change does happen it is often imposed unexpectedly from the outside in the form of catastrophic events. Perhaps if we can’t manage to Marie Kondo our way to a more joyful internet, we’ll have to pray for Armageddon soon…?! 😱

The New Deal –> Raw Deal

In the 1930s and 40s we had the New Deal. In 1938, Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act, setting legal limits on the maximum number of hours worked and the minimum wages allowed.

Republicans fought it then, claiming it would be essentially socialist, and an economic enemy to business and growth. However, it was the very opposite of that — the war and post-ware years were ones of productivity and prosperity, widely and broadly. A strong middle class was formed, changing the life and culture of America forever.

In the mid-1970s this growth engine finally began to falter, and since the 80s, we’ve instead had the Raw Deal. An ever-escalating version of a Libertarian’s wet dream: deregulation of numerous industries including finance (leading to the housing crash of 2007-8) and energy (leading to Enron), a steadily less progressive tax system (down from a whopping 94% in 1944 down to 28% under Reagan), and endless waves of cuts to social programs designed to level the opportunity playing field.

The thing is, when people feel hopeful, they work harder.

When there is hopelessness, there is less urgency to work hard to maintain the conditions and systems that make one feel so hopeless. If you know the game is rigged, how futile does it seem to keep playing?

Libertarians lament about the size of the pie, which is as good a modern version of “let them eat cake” while the plebes swill McD’s and pay through the nose for health care as any.