RE: virus: Re: Memes and Jello

Gifford, Nate F (
Thu, 22 May 1997 13:15:10 -0400

Mark Hornberger wrote:

>I would agree that the tractor was a factor in creating the 'dust bowl,'
>but only with the acknowledgement that people abused or overused the lasd
> witness that we have more technology (and tractors) than ever before,
>but we don't seem to be plagued with dust-bowls because we have learned
>to do what needs to be done. It isn't as simple as being a luddite and
>blaming it all on technology.

Pardon me if I come across as an anti-tractor luddite. The reason I
brought tractors into the computers as tools argument is that like
computers tractors are just tools: but they have had a major impact on the
history of this century. 1920 was the first decade when 50% of America's
population lived in a city. The tractor has enabled economies of scale in
farming that make it difficult for a family farm to make it as a going
concern. This has several direct effects on your pocketbook: Your tax
dollars go toward agricultural subsides, your long distance rates subsidize
rural phone service, your postal rates subsidize rural mail delivery, your
state tax dollars subsidize rural roads and schools .... I believe the
thing driving these subsidies is the American ideal that we are a nation of
farmers. I contend this is a meme. I can't prove it, but I think the
power of the "rural ideal" causes the nation to spend more resources than
you might justify rationally.
You can see the rural ideal in children's literature ... compare the number
of farm books to the number of city books and then compare this percentage
to the percentage of the population that actually lives on the farm. But
kids are interested in farm life you say .... No we write the stories so
the kids will be interested...

>> >From a memetic point of view I'd like to point out that the Republicans
>> built Bill Clinton. Would anyone care to agree/disagree with this ...
>> is it obvious?
>I wouldn't say they built him, so much as he saw that their platform
>struck a chord with the voters, so he just copied all of their rhetoric.
>Now he's the anti-big-govt budget-balancer. Presto-chango!
Exactly! The conservatives I know rabidly hate Clinton ... even more than
I resented Reagan. What is so strange is how the rhetoric from
Reagan/Bush/Clinton has so little to do with their actions. Reagan spent
eight years talking about cutting government spending ... and ran the debt
up like a drunken sailor <he cut revenue without cutting spending>. The
electoral process is a wonderful example of memes over mind.

> Can someone help me out with some literature references here? I would
> argue that it is narcissistic intellectual exhibitionism tendencies <two
> beamers and an MBA> that cause them not to feel right....

I admit that $$ won't buy happiness, but I don't think it's inimical to
it, either. If I won the lottery tomorrow, would I suddenly become
miserable and unstable?
You personally ... or you as a statistical entity? A couple of years ago I
read a book on the spiritual aspects of money that pointed out that sudden
increases in wealth can lead to unhappiness. It would be like putting an 8
year old behind the wheel of a car ... they just aren't ready to handle the

>By 'narcissistic intellectual exhibitionist tendencies' I meant the allure
of paying
>someone to sit and listen to you talk about yourself for hours on end, so
you can
>congratulate yourself on how perceptive and in-touch your are with it

Pardon my bias here. My father was a therapist at the County Jail in
Missouri. He encouraged me to go to some of his group therapy sessions so
I could see how people screwed up their lives. The key was that if you
could accept whatever warped premise they started from <Bad memes> then
they really didn't belong in jail ... So the whole point of his
group/individual therapy was to modify the individuals premise just enough
so they didn't end up staying with the county again. I suspect that middle
class therapy is pretty much like jail therapy. I see middle class people
act non-rationally <but legally> and often think that therapy would help
them out. Examples are bad spending habits, ineffective child raising
strategies, compulsions of various types. I think you are way off the mark
on how therapy works and why people go to it.

>>> My favorite example of this is the huge number of
>> >Americans who are in love with big government, the nanny state.
>> This is definitely a Meme with no basis in fact ... please check out the
>> U.S. budget in the World Almanac. Ignoring outlays less than $100
>> <can you believe that?> ...
>> Total military in '93: $279 billion
>> Health Care Finance Admin <medicare> $266 billion
>> Social Security <NOT INCLUDED IN
>> NATIONAL DEBT> $298 billion
>> Interest on the National Debt $298 billion
>> Total Outlays $1,408 billion

>Now if you can call one and half trillion dollars 'no basis in fact,'
>fine, but for me it is soundly tethered to reality.

What part of the above is not a civilized necessity? My parents and
in-laws are dependent on medicare for medical insurance. If medicare
hadn't existed in the seventies they might have made different career
choices. Their lifestyle would be diminished without social security. Not
only that, but they did pay into it ... We HAVE to pay interest on the
national debt ... and well defense .... So how are the above symptoms of a
self-indulgent nanny state? To keep this focused on memes ... I contend
that you are infected by "the capitalist - conservative" meme that really
flourished in the eighties. Ultimately this discussion should devolve into
"what is just" ...but on the way we may discover assumptions about what is
real that aren't backed up by the statistics in the World Almanac.
>>> They decry 'unequal distribution of the wealth' and sundry other ills
>>> they
>>> attribute to capitalism, and propose socialistic alternatives that are
>>> touted to cure our problems.
>> Check out the sources of income:
>> Individual taxes: $510 billion
>> Corporate taxes $117 billion
>> Social Security $428 billion
>> Total Revenues: $1,153 billion
>> The discrepency between individual tax revenues and corporate tax
>> is the source of people's disgust with the tax structure.
>I disagree with that. I am disgussted with how much I pay, and more
>specifically with how much of what I pay is collected for the sole
>of giving to someone else.
Why do you care? Do you think that the people the government "supports"
are living better lives than you?
>Taxing corporations is taxing their customers and the investors.
No its not ... how much of how corporate profits are spent benefits
humanity? The economic system is a means for allocating resources ...
taxes are a feedback mechanism for ensuring equal distribution of those

Now the common retort to that is "investors don't make products - workers
But not in America ...

Fine. So if every GM stockholder dumps their stock on the market,
Have you looked at the historical value of the market? Why did it take
such a massive leap in the eighties? Who has benefited from this leap?
the value plummets, the compamy slides into bankruptcy
How much does stock price have to do with economic viability? If GMs stock
went to zero tomorrow wouldn't GM still be making a profit?
and all -not some, all- of the factories close
Why have GM factories been closing lately?
, who volunteers to tell the former workers that they don't need the
investors to preserve their jobs?
The point of this is not to argue politics ... its to try to predict the
future based on simplified economic models. I contend that your assumption
that a company's viability is directly correlated with its stock price is
confusing cause and effect.

>> > Yet when I point out the history of China, Russia, Cambodia, etc.,
>>> trying to illustrate
>>>the dangers of a government that can take and do
>>> whatever it wants to achieve the >ends that those in power deem
>>> they refuse to see the correlation,
>> As do I ... Lets talk about Switzerland, Sweden, Canada, New Zealand.
>> Would someone care to comment on the range of mechanisms that a
>> uses to maintain power? The choice between the current American govt.
>> A communist dictatorship is a false one. Logical arguements like this
>> symptoms of pathological memes. A pathological meme to me is one that
>> incapable of self-modification.

>Incapable of self-modification? I mention China (40 million or so killed
>by government),
I'm unaware of this ... could you give me dates so I can put it in
historical perspective?
>Russia (over 50 million killed under Stalin),
I don't wish to defend Stalin ... but the people he killed were Kulaks ...
peasants. He killed them by starvation to solidify his govt. This is a
rational third world policy ... see P.J. O'Rourkes All The Trouble in The
World. Famine is a result of govt. policy, and the famine benefits the
govt. To see how capitalism can be as bad as communism look at East Timor
<thank you Mr. Chomsky>.

>Cambodia (over 40% of the population killed) and in retort you mention
some small
>countries (with the exception of Canada, which is racing to privatize
Can you justify this? "Racing" is a pretty strong verb.
>that have managed to preserve a bloated welfare state and high taxes
>without concentration camps. I did not say it happened *every* time,
>that there was a correlation. How is it people see sinister things in
>corporate power, yet consider government our benevolent protectors, when
>it is the government that has the army?
I'm sorry if I am giving you this impression. I distrust government and
corporations. A government with good PR doesn't need the army to rule.
See North Korea, Cuba, Iran ... Compare to Turkey, Israel, South Korea.

>Show me a corporation that has done what Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong,
Mussolini, >Lenin, Mobutu, Amin have done.
Shell Oil. The Union Pacific Railroad. United Fruit. How many fortunes
were built on the golden triangle of Rum-Slaves-Sugar?
>Coporations are out for money and will cut corners if they can, and
>for this I do believe in the necessity of a strong, vigilant government,
>but one with a limited scope of what its purposes and powers are.

>Your meme is that government is a spiffy tool for remaking society in the
>that you believe it should resemble.
I'm sorry I gave you this impression. It is not my meme ...

>Government is force, my friend.
I agree. But all that force does not come from the barrel of a gun. Look
at how Daley ran Chicago to see how powerful memes can be ... Look at how
the Kennedy's control the Massachusetts electorate. Oh ... and isn't
Massachusetts latin for "Gee this is a great piece of land. Wonder why
noone lives here?" Wasn't that how the Massachusetts Bay COMPANY picked
their name?

>To say that government should take from A and give to B is to say that
>someone should, by force if necessary,
Force is only necessary to maintain the meme "Rule of law". Government
exists to administer the "Rule of law". Systems of government determine
WHERE the law comes from.

>rearrange the world as you see fit, and to this end you will empower
government with >as much discretionary power as is necessary.
>You categorically deny that this centralization of power in government
hands is >something to worry us, saying that China and Russia, all those
slaughtered by well->meaning social reformers just trying to make a perfect
I don't remember saying that. I will say that if you want to industrialize
your third world country sometimes its easier to kill the peasants instead
of educating them. That's the difference between Russian communism and
Indian socialism. I contend that I am less worried about government
control then corporate control because I have more input to government ...
although corporations certainly are trying to limit the impact I do have.
If Tony Hall <my congressional rep.> can convince 10 mudwumps to vote for
him with a campaign ad espousing rhetoric like the above OR he can convince
me to vote for him by pissing off the special interest that would pay for
that ad whats he going to do? So why do you think I am more worried about
corporate interests than the laws Tony Hall enacts?

>, are negated because it hasn't happened in
>Switzerland or Canada yet. Who has the meme that is inapable of
Please explain to me how communism/socialism leads to death and destruction
again ...I'm afraid I still don't see a cause and effect.
>> >or that empowering government and reducing the sphere of freedom
>> by
>> i>ndividuals can or does lead to a totalitarian state, of whatever
>> What freedoms are we talking about here? Freedom is definately a meme
>> worth exploring since it seems to me that the U.S. is currently in a
>> where some animals are more equal than others... Freedom itself is not a
>> definite term ... I am free to kill myself with tobacco ... but where?
>> am free to practice my religion ... but not sacrifice my children ...
>> less YOUR children. I have the right to bear arms ... but
>> kind. Ultimately these decisions come down to a non-rational value
>> judgement - meme territory. It is in our best interest to have the
>> affecting the decision to be as responsive to rational argument as
>> possible.

>Here we part ways. Those who say "Gosh, we don't even know what freedom
>really *means*...." are invariably doing so as a segue to a proposition
>more government power and authority. I believe in the Bill of Rights, as
>in the common-sense, 'this-is-what-it-obviously-says' version. I believe
>in the fairly simple notion that you should be able to do pretty much as
>you please, so long as you don't harm someone else in the process.

I am sorry that I tried to convince you that the Bill of Rights is a
conflicting set of principles. You obviously have a deeper understanding
than I do. How do you feel about school prayer <Ammendment 1> ... or does
that conflict with states rights <Ammendment 10>? Should the south been
allowed to secede under Ammendment 10? Ammendment 2 says "the right of the
people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." Shouldn't I be
allowed to own nuclear weapons if I can build 'em? How do you feel about
RICO and the weakening of Miranda <Ammendment 4>? You talk about a waste
of government money ... how much do we pay for the supreme court anyway?

>And while I do love philosophy and a little hair-splitting once in a
while, I
>don't extend the definition of 'harm' to include secondary or dirivative
>effects, such as "Well if you do marijuana you are in a way hurting the
>rest of us, because we're deprived of your productivity, plus you're
>a bad example to kids, so we're going to lock you in jail, since you're
>harmful..." or "you owning a gun is harmful to the rest of us, even if
>you're not a criminal and have never harmed or threatened someone with a
>gun, because even the knowledge that there's a gun around is 'harmful' to
>my wife's peace of mind, so we're confiscating your firearm." or "Even
>though you're viewing that pornography in the privacy of your own home,
>the very presence of such prurient material in our community is harmful
>our children and the entire social fabric, so we're taking you're books
>and giving you a citation..."

That's cool. I want to open a porn shop 100 feet from your kid's school.

Have you ever read 1984?
Do you think you can control a populace by manipulating language? Have you
clearly defined the terms and objectively checked the facts of your

While you may be unsure of what freedom is, and feel the need to give
government full rein just in case some injustice or disparity may need to
be corrected by our
undoubtedly benevolent keepers/overseers, I know full well what it is. If
you read the writings of the forefathers, you'll find that freedom is a
fairly well-thought-out and popular 'meme'.

really depends on your agenda. The government is the largest <only?>
impediment to the second amendment. But, I'm not sure of the rest.

>> >They decry the inhumanity forced onto workers in capitalist systems by
>> >making them mere 'cogs in a machine' while failing, refusing, to
>> >the quality of life to that of, say, a 17th-century farm worker, who
>> >blessedly safe from capitalism yet had a lifestyle few would envy.
>> Is the economic system a zero sum game? If so then how do we distribute
>> resources? Who was more miserable: the 17th century farm worker was
>> off than the 19th century factory worker? The beauty of technology is
>> the delta between the lifestyles of the rich and the poor has become
>> less in the first world ... but at what cost to the rest of the world?

How do we 'distribute' resources? So it's 'our' money now? You speak as
if there is no such thing as rightful ownership - that everything should

Perhaps not everything ... but maybe the Tsongas forest in Alaska, the
offshore oil reserves, the forest in Oregon and Washington.

by right go into the communal pot, to be divided up by the wise, sagacious
government officials. I'm not a socialist, sorry. You may consider
free-market capitalism a 'pathological meme' but it is far superior (IMHO)
than any socialist country I have thus seen or heard about. Granted, the
world would perhaps (!) be a better place

Again relative to what ... I'm not socialist and I'm not capitalist ...
because to claim you are one or the other is to in a sense deny your free
will <such as it is ...>

if everyone were *voluntarilly* socialistic, but government-run socialism
is not quite voluntary, is it?

And neither is govt. run capitalism ... look at the history of the labor

Again, it comes down to compulsion.

Government by definition will always compel someone. - Hobbes Leviathan
something about Nasty, Brutish, Short.

We're pretty far from the land of Jello by now. You're welcome to the last
word. Hope you stick around 'till school gets back in and the group gets
REALLY busy.