Home > Uncategorized > “Who will own the robots?”

“Who will own the robots?”

from David Ruccio

I’ve been writing for some years now about the emergence of new technologies, especially automation and robotics, and their potential contribution to raising already-high levels of inequality even further.

The problem is not, as I have tried to make clear, technology per se but the way it is designed and utilized within existing economic institutions. In other words, the central question is: who will own the robots?

If capital owns the robots, even if their development and use increases labor productivity, the returns mostly go to capital and the workers (those who are left, in addition to those who have been displaced) are the ones who lose out.

But you don’t have to believe me. That’s the conclusion of a recent piece published in Finance & Development, the research journal of the International Monetary Fund.

The authors, Andrew Berg, Edward F. Buffie, and Luis-Felipe Zanna, designed an economic model in which they assume robots are a particular sort of physical capital, one that is a close substitute for human workers.* They also consider three versions of the model: one in which robots are almost perfect substitutes for human labor; another in which robots and human labor are close but not perfect substitutes (i.e., “people bring a spark of creativity or a critical human touch” that cannot, at least for the foreseeable future, be replaced by robots); and a third in which they distinguish between “skilled” and “unskilled” workers.

In all three cases, output per person rises—but so does inequality. As the authors explain for the first version:

If we assume that robots are almost perfect substitutes for human labor, the good news is that output per person rises. The bad news is that inequality worsens, for several reasons. First, robots increase the supply of total effective (workers plus robots) labor, which drives down wages in a market-driven economy. Second, because it is now profitable to invest in robots, there is a shift away from investment in traditional capital, such as buildings and conventional machinery. This further lowers the demand for those who work with that traditional capital.

But this is just the beginning. Both the good and bad news intensify over time. As the stock of robots increases, so does the return on traditional capital (warehouses are more useful with robot shelf stockers). Eventually, therefore, traditional investment picks up too. This in turn keeps robots productive, even as the stock of robots continues to grow. Over time, the two types of capital grow together until they increasingly dominate the entire economy. All this traditional and robot capital, with diminishing help from labor, produces more and more output. And robots are not expected to consume, just produce (though the science fiction literature is ambiguous about this!). So there is more and more output to be shared among actual people.

However, wages fall, not just in relative terms but absolutely, even as output grows.

This may sound odd, or even paradoxical. Some economists talk about the fallacy of technology fearmongers’ failure to realize that markets will clear: demand will rise to meet the higher supply of goods produced by the better technology, and workers will find new jobs. There is no such fallacy here: in our simple model economy, we assume away unemployment and other complications: wages adjust to clear the labor market.

So how can we explain the fall in wages coinciding with the growing output? To put it another way, who buys all the higher output? The owners of capital do. In the short run, higher investment more than counterbalances any temporary decline in consumption. In the long run, the share of capital owners in the growing pie—and their consumption spending—is itself growing. With falling wages and rising capital stocks, (human) labor become a smaller and smaller part of the economy. (In the limiting case of perfect substitutability, the wage share goes to zero.) Thomas Piketty has reminded us that the capital share is a basic determinant of income distribution. Capital is already much more unevenly distributed than income in all countries. The introduction of robots would drive up the capital share indefinitely, so the income distribution would tend to grow ever more uneven.

The only difference in the second case (in which robots and human labor are close but not perfect substitutes) is that wages eventually rise (after, say, 20 years, when the productivity effect outweighs the substitution effect)—but by then it’s too late (as capital continues to have a higher share of income, although not as much as in the first case). And, in the third case, the growing gap between labor and capital (as in the other models) is exacerbated by growing inequality between skilled and unskilled workers.

In all three versions of the model, then, most of the income goes to owners of capital (and, in the third version, to skilled workers who cannot easily be replaced by robots). The rest get low wages and a shrinking share of the economic pie.

And the authors’ conclusion?

We have implicitly assumed so far that income from capital remains highly unequally distributed. But the increase in overall output per person implies that everyone could be better off if income from capital is redistributed. The advantages of a basic income financed by capital taxation become obvious. Of course, globalization and technological innovation have made it, if anything, easier for capital to flee taxation in recent decades. Our analysis thus adds urgency to the question “Who will own the robots?”

The assumption about the unequal distribution of capital income is, in fact, the appropriate one for the existing set of economic institutions. As the authors understand, the only way to change their dystopian prognosis is to fundamentally change the distribution of capital income.

And, if we’re going to be honest, the only way to do that is to eliminate the private ownership of the robots and the rest of capital.

*The model is also based on the presumption that all markets, including the labor market, clear, that is, they assume away unemployment and other such “complications,” which turns out to give those who deny the negative effects of robots and automation their strongest possible case.

  1. September 14, 2016 at 12:56 pm

    Increased education will yield a gradually declining biological population that makes way for a growing mechanical population adapted to hot desert Earth. Robots will efficiently mine the sea floor once the ocean has boiled away, for example.

    Economic models will finally be accurate when mechanical life is programmed as modeled.

  2. September 14, 2016 at 1:24 pm

    David Ruccio sums up the arguments well. Time for a guaranteed minimum income and further , the re-structuring of the economics model that exacerbate inequality. The late Robert Theobald’s’ Guaranteed Income and the Ad Hoc Committee on the Triple Revoloution date from the 1960s , as well as the National Committee for Guaranteed Income I founded with Robert Theobald ( http://www.hazelhenderson.com ).
    Today , with business models of most big social media companies based on taking users’ free information and selling it to data brokers and advertisers, we also need an extension of English law of Habeas Corpus(1215) to include ownership of our brains and their information output. I have proposed a new ” Information Habeas Corpus ( see my articles on http://www.ethicalmarkets.com ).

  3. John Pennington
    September 14, 2016 at 6:29 pm

    I’m skeptical about a guaranteed minimum income, but I think it’s time to reduce the standard work week to no more than three days. This would have the effect of reducing unemployment and homelessness.

  4. Jeff
    September 14, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    “The only difference in the second case (in which robots and human labor are close but not perfect substitutes) is that wages eventually rise (after, say, 20 years, when the productivity effect outweighs the substitution effect).”

    I believe that there is an error here that starts with the assumption that capital owners increase consumption. What I would expect to happen is that capital owners will consume only an irrelevant additional amount over what they consume now and eventually the downward pressure on consumption combined with sustained interest rates under 1% will create a 1929-style crash. Assuming no new New Deal and no revolution, we would settle into an “equilibrium” around a third world lifestyle such as you see in third world sweatshop countries today.

    • September 15, 2016 at 2:13 pm

      The assumption that capital owners increase consumption is more accurate than you give credit to. Take Michael Jordan’s yacht/ship. That one conspicuous competitive consumption expenditure is beyond the ability of a hundred thousand normal people.

      Total consumption is shaped like a champaign glass — the top 1% holds far more than a single percent in the stem. If the bottom 85% of humanity were to simply disappear, the decrease in capitalist harm to Earth would not be sufficient to stave of environmental collapse.

  5. September 15, 2016 at 1:56 am

    You are absolutely right to identify that this unavoidably takes us into eliminating private ownership of robots and AI. This is also essential to ensure that we can assert some degree of control and planning over the development of AI and its intrinsic potential to pose an existential risk to humanity. It’s especially important to recognise that a guaranteed basic income (however funded) is not enough here, because – as these authors note – significant advances in robotics will greatly worsen inequality. Robotics and AI are perhaps the clearest case now emerging of why we need to accept that addressing inequality must explicitly allow for limiting the upper end of the distribution, not just pulling up those at the bottom. Add in the existential risk dimension, and this becomes a point of huge significance.

    Needless to say, a whole lot of people are not going to like this one little bit…

  6. September 15, 2016 at 4:34 am

    “Guaranteed income”, if it is not just another name for what every society ever has had – some targeted form of “welfare”, if the true, morally obligatory solution, a guaranteed JOB is not meant —- If the UBI (universal basic income) / BIG (basic income guarantee) is meant —- is a really, really, stupid and bad idea. But it is completely unworkable. It’s halfway between that – stupid, bad and unworkable, and pure evil, because it contains a return to slavery. This combination of obtuseness and evil is quite comparable to slaves and abolitionists having the Bright Idea to get rid of Slavery: By making everybody a Master! But as the means of production of dumb ideas were not so advanced back then, nobody proposed that. Takes a long period of intellectual fermentation and a much richer world – for people to become so completely divorced from logic and reality that they could support a UBI.

    A common theme of UBI child-crusaders is that it would separate the link between working, a job and income. Great: Well that’s what slavery does. Read the Cornerstone Speech. Read historians of slavery. Read philosophy, like Hegel – the Master/Slave dialectic – most modern historians of slavery, like David Brion Davis for one get the importance of the philosophy.

    The only way real guaranteed income could possibly work is if it were pure playacting. The “income” spent by recipients either goes to labor or capital. Either to people working for you (= then enslaved to the recipients), or robots. The robots are owned by the rich ( = worsened status quo of slavery to the rich) or the public, the state, The third, only non-slavery, good option … is nothing but playacting. The gubmint gives you $ and then immediately takes them away (in taxes, in robot fees)

    Why bother? If it were common knowledge that it was playacting, why would anybody bother? If it weren’t, it would be tremendously unstable. The people who understood what was going on would concoct some BS & get the rubes to cut their own throats. (I.e. privatize the robots). A sensible society would make robots public and their services free or very low price. (As Ruccio suggests)

    For all its faults the Marxist tradition (& that of “continental” philosophy) is of enormous value. Some of the above was suggested by an observation of Hilferding. Comically, Chomsky & Varoufakis have come out as (tepid, but muddle-headed) guaranteed income child-crusaders. While pomo Slavoj Zizek, sometimes lampooned by Chomsky(ans) as a woolly pomoer, argues against it, with perfectly clear logical Marxist-derived arguments.

    Realistically this guaranteed “income”, for all, for nothing can only make inequality worse. That’s why so many non-stupid, predatory billionaires support it. Read Lem’s The Futurological Congress – that’s a world it would build.

    The “income” (hah!) from the UBI, BIG etc would go immediately to the robot-owners.
    Ruccio’s title goes to the heart of the matter: Who will OWN the robots? Look, we already have “the robots” – technology is quite advanced enough to make everyone’s life much, much better. We have already had the smart, evil, rich saboteurs take the robots away, get the rubes to cut their own throats. That’s what the end of the postwar golden age was. Burn me once, shame on you, burn me twice, shame on me.

  7. September 15, 2016 at 7:10 am

    Help me out here. As I understand it capital is something (physical, financial, some other durable) from which revenue is expected. Capitalism in a nutshell. If a member of say American society has $500,000 in capital (bank accounts, 401, etc.) s/he can expect about $10,000 per year in revenue at maximum. Perhaps as little at $0 per year. For this slob her/his job (if have one) is what they live on. For Charles Koch revenue from capital is at minimum $10,000,000 per year (educated guess since none of the financial records for Koch or his companies are public). Quite a difference. For me this is crazy. Such differences in income make all comparisons and discussions moot. How can the playing field be made more level, not totally level, mind you. Money is power. Differences in income mean differences in power. And differences in income this large mean very large differences in power. How can a democracy function. let alone survive with such massive differences? But I don’t believe a UBI is an answer. In my view the answer is for governments to begin acting like an adult and reinstate tax rates and structures like Ike’s and hire 1000 new IRS agents to collect those new taxes and all the other uncollected taxes owed. And redistribute the taxes collected the old fashion way through medical, food, shelter subsidy programs, lower taxes for the less well off members of society, and government sponsored public works to provide good paying jobs for more people. The glitch in the plan is of course our “elected” representatives who don’t even know what adult behavior is, much less how to perform it.

    • September 15, 2016 at 2:34 pm

      Vote every last representative out of office. Do you remember when your middle school civics teacher explained to the class why the house of representatives has the shortest term? Two years. Remember? It is because US representatives are in charge of the budget. If your elected representative spends too much money and your taxes go up for something unwanted, one can vote that representative out. Pronto.

      This simple idea was worked out in the US constitution 240 years ago ±. It stands as an uncanny intergenerational communication of a subject that encompasses modern basics of the information-age. The idea of a balanced budget fits in here because US national founders have directly communicated reasonable and salient information to the present across time at a moment of dire need in the information age.

      Deficit government spending destroys democracy by avoiding discomfort to voting taxpayers. Elected representatives are thus able to spend freely on group-think purchases from crony capitalists. Voter retribution is side-stepped and grateful campaign contributors buy electoral victories that turn two years into a career for life. Democracy is destroyed in this way; government spends imaginary money on real and often secret things intelligent people wouldn’t pay for.

      A balanced budget was accepted as a fact of life by the writers of the US constitution. The remedy for excess spending remains the ballot box. US founders knew there would be times when major improvements cost more than the annual taxes could afford. A ballot proposal to create a public bond to finance a large project is an exercise of democracy. Exercise of democracy as a continuous act that includes examination of bond proposals. That is a constitutional expectation of a balanced budget. Current budgetary practices by the house of representatives is contrary to this expectation and thus destroys democracy. Therefor, a totally new congress is high priority.

  8. Rhonda Kovac
    September 15, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    This all harks back to Marx. The issue is ownership of wealth–not just for robots and other technological advances, but for all the different forms of wealth in an economy. The great proportion of what should redound to public benefit is now instead going to the top. A deeper, more general, more permanent solution wresting wealth from the rich is what is needed.

    • September 17, 2016 at 3:14 pm

      Would you add a little to your insight here? I have been attempting to work on countervailing the tendency of wealth to centralize and become private profit at the expense of the environment, public benefits and democracy.

      • Rhonda Kovac
        September 26, 2016 at 7:55 am

        I am not a Marxist, but I imagine, as did Marx, that some very radical political, as well as economic, change is required. With the rich in effective control of the political process, it’s hard to see how any policy enacted through that process will get through, or if it does will do anything but scratch the surface–and, at that, only temporarily. (For example, the minimum wage has been gutted over the years through the deliberate neglect of its keeping pace with inflation.)

        We can propose sensible measures–either specifically regarding capital distribution, or more generally regarding principles of wealth ownership–until we are blue in the face, but they will not see the light of day so long as politicians suffer a worse fate at the hands of the wealthy for interfering with their wealth than they are rewarded for serving the public.

        Some kind of Constitutional level overhaul is required. However, (in the U.S.) Constitutional amendment is in the control of the State legislatures, which in turn are in the control of the rich.

        So, it seems, we are really talking revolution.

      • January 12, 2020 at 2:47 pm

        My perspective is purposeful evolution that reaches escape velocity. Revolution has been limited up to now by understanding. Consider the opening drawing at constituentassembly.org that site has a companion at autonomousDemocracy.org

      • Rhonda Kovac
        September 26, 2016 at 8:04 am

        My apologies. In my last comment, please read “any policy correcting the wealth imbalance will make it through that process” in place of “any policy enacted through that process”.

  9. September 15, 2016 at 10:35 pm

    I agree with most everything said by everybody. Taxes on super-rich should be raised to Eisenhower level, and money used for noble purposes. I can add – have read many years ago that the assets of the Walton family are equal to total assets of lower-asset 30 percent of the USA population.

    But how about the $500+ billion that we annually throw out in trade, about $200+ to $300B of which go into China’s armed forces? Beats taxes. And no economist worries that the overall trade balance of a country is its “common good,” so we are experiencing a traditional “tragedy of commons.” Meantime your representatives sequester the USA armed forces.

    Thank God, I am not an economist. I am an engineer-economist who builds tools.

    • September 15, 2016 at 11:01 pm

      Do you support presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein’s proposal to close all US foreign military bases and cut military spending 50%?

  10. September 16, 2016 at 1:38 am

    I would rather close AEA and fire 50 percent of academic economists, including the author of such a proposal.

    • September 17, 2016 at 3:18 pm

      The idea here is that the US has 850± foreign bases while the rest of the world has 33±.

      Additionally, the US has used those bases to kill 20-25 million human beings since 1945.

  11. September 16, 2016 at 2:24 am

    Saving not so much on their salaries as on avoiding their recommendations. From 1992 to 2015, the USA lost on trade deficits 11.2 TRILLIONS. (P. Buchanan)

  12. September 16, 2016 at 10:45 pm

    I agree with Vladimir agreeing with almost everything said by everyone here on loss to robots of income from jobs – apart from the solution being taxation of the rich (which they will object to and avoid) to finance a basic income for everyone. As Rhonda says, “A deeper, more general, more permanent solution wresting wealth from the rich is what is needed”.

    But the issue is not as simple as the ownership of wealth, Rhonda. It involves what is meant by ownership, what is meant by wealth, what is wealth for and who is going to do the jobs necessary for the maintenance of, not just the robots, but the living wealth of Nature and Humanity? Life and robots require inputs and outputs in order to work, and economics even now is about finding and practising reliable and efficient ways of managing that.

    When I was an apprentice scientist I participated in selection off the best choice of symbol to represent the then-new transistors. Like a Chinese symbol, our British choice was a stylised icon of how the transistor was constructed, which at the time was like a sandwich with wires at top, bottom and side. This was rapidly overtaken by the development of photographic printing of transistors, with the former layers arranged like interlocking fingers: more nearly like the original American symbol representing a point contact on a slab, so in the end that is the symbol we use now. But why I am telling this story is to emphasise that words are not merely symbolic – empty of meaning like mathematical symbols – but are more like computer icons, triggering memories of meaning either directly, via metaphors, or by a process of elimination – like fitting a piece of jigsaw by its shape when the context is all blue. My point, in short, is that words like ‘own’ and ‘wealth’ do not simply mean what our own differing memories happen to suggest; they were originally chosen as iconic of something else, most commonly another word, Here I suggest ‘own’ was derived from ‘one’ and ‘wealth’ from ‘health’, as in heal or ability to make whole.

    Our present concept of right to ownership seems to derive from John Locke’s “Two Treatises of Government”, where he argues that [in what he then saw as the virgin land of America] a person is entitled to hold as much land as he has cleared and made productive, and enjoy the livelihood he has won, if as much is left for others to do the same. The problem in this is the definition of personhood. Aristotle saw a person as the head of a household. The problems by Locke’s time were inheritance and the status of the heads of large estates; in ours it is the heads of governments and large corporations. To avoid these, the convention governing rights of ownership now written into law is that corporations (including private estates but not governments) are deemed to be persons, despite these being potentially immortal, and governmental in the sense of financial holding companies controlling productive ones. Given the tragedy of the commons in both senses – the lack of legal protection of [e.g. native American] common ownership and the impoverishment [no worse than that of private creation of dust-bowls] by overuse of pastoral land formerly provided for common use in consequence of deprivation of agricultural allotments – is that really the best choice of legal convention to determine who owns what?

    Briefly, so I can go on to an alternative to financing basic incomes by taxation, I want to suggest that wealth is more than sufficient input to meet human needs – at both macro and micro levels: more than sufficient resources in nature and more than sufficient individual access to them. The purpose of wealth is, I suggest, to enable humans to actually DO what we need to do, or which is worthwhile doing (including looking after and improving ourselves, our families, our homes and the facilities of our local communities).

    So, do we have to earn our keep and be taxed (by governments or insurers) to support those who don’t? When one has more than one needs the obvious alternative is to share the surplus with those who don’t, but those who have earned their keep aggrieved not only by taxation but what (not seeing the financial “elephants in the room”) they see as “free riders” (Cf. Mt 20:1-16). “Those who don’t work won’t eat”, they say. But this is to neglect order of events in the Benedictine context in which this was first said. The monks were first given a living and a home, and if, ungratefully, they refused (as against became unable) to do their share of the work, only then was the gift withdrawn. But isn’t this what happens in all our live? We start as infants, being given the means to become able to earn our keep. As of now, employers or traders expect us to give them our work or goods, to pay us what they owe in monetary IOU’s, and for traders to accept these in payment for goods. But what difference would it make in practice if they paid us first, so we owed them work?

    It would make this difference: that employers would have to write their own IOU’s. As of now, until something saleable has been produced, employers borrow money from the banks in the belief they it is a good owned by the banks and not a credit limit on their freedom to write IOUs (in the form of, e.g. cheques or debit card transactions), for work supplied by their employees and goods supplied by the wider community. The banks in fact limit the supply of what they call credit on the basis of the credit-worthiness of individuals and businesses or the potential of business plans, claiming they will honour the IOUs they supply by payment in goods they haven’t got, as analysis of banking procedures reveals and Prof Werner has conclusively demonstrated by observing the practice. So what difference would it make in practice if business was conducted with credit cards rather than debit cards subtracting credit created by fictitious (to put it kindly) indebtedness to banks?

    It would make this difference. Governments, social workers, housewives, students etc who are not producing saleable goods would be able to first buy what they need to function, then pay later by doing necessary work they have become capable of doing. There would be no need for governments to tax first to pay later; no need for pensioners to save first or rentiers to push up the price of homes by buying to let to have have an income later, though there is probably a need to facilitate the voluntary work which many pensioners and ageing rentiers already want to do insofar as they are able. Banks would be able to continue to provide the services they are already equipped to do, without the expenses of head offices, investors, executive wages, insurance activities and gambling on stock exchanges. Traders would continue to restock as commodities were actually bought.

    As far as I can see, the one valid objection to this is that raised by Calgagus. My answer to him is that voluntary work is not slavery, and the issue of motivation – by prizes for good work already done rather than bribes hoping to attract good workers to sometimes nefarious enterprises (like the teaching of neo-classical economics?) is a side of the story I can only mention here. Likewise the issues of responsibility for and repayment by right use of credit, and stakeholder management of companies and communities; given largely automated mass-production of resources: redeployment of redundant manpower to relocalisation of urban living to facilitate care of neighbours and the natural environment; timesharing between “national service” in rational, largely automated mass production of resources and humanly satisfying development of local care and maintenance facilities and experimental, scientific, technical, design, art, crafts and market gardening activities producing goods primarily for local markets. In answer to Calgagus’s verdict on UBI, the problem is not the logic of credit based living but the reality that most people lack the imagination and/or the experience to see what needs doing. Honourable employers can deserve to be rewarded for encouraging them to join in work worth doing.

    Let me finish with a case history which seems to justify Calgagus’s scepticism. Five people live in a rented property with a decent-sized garden: a father, mother, son, daughter and a boyfriend. Their garden has become disgracefully overgrown. Because they can’t be bothered to look after it?

    Not really. It is not as simple as that. The father, though working intermittently, is in poor health. His wife has about three jobs caring for others as well as him, trying to make ends meet. The son is working, able to contribute something financially but rarely home. The daughter, though out of work, is depressed because she has lost her paid job, and the mother doesn’t want to make matters worse; the house being rented, she sees it as the owner’s responsibility and in any case they haven’t any gardening tools. The owner is an old man who let the property to obtain an income, and perhaps should have written garden maintenance into the terms of the tenancy. However, this is the root of the real problem. Even with three of the family working they cannot afford a house of their own at market prices inflated to between five and fifty times their reasonable value by investors in property [real estate] with more access to credit than common sense. Being forced into tenancies at rents sufficient to both pay down fictional loans and give others a living leaves hardworking citizens resentful rather than grateful for having use of a home.

    None of this would needed if instead of a Universal Basic Income paid for by taxes one had Honest Money, as in a credit card with a generous limit, wherewith repayment of reasonable levels of expenditure can be in conventional IOU’s for work done, by community approval of projects provided or satisfactorily completed, or by recognition of self-employment in educational or care work, jobbing and occasional work as need arises. With more credit freely available to them than they need, but responsibility for repaying what they have already acquired, the rich won’t need to have their wealth wrested from them, Rhoda; what they don’t have good use for they’ll be glad to give away.

  13. September 17, 2016 at 7:03 am

    Rhonda (apologies for the ‘Rhoda’ above), in the above essay towards your call for “a deeper, more general, more permanent solution” I’ve focussed on the empirical solution of Honest Money, merely mentioning the environmentally necessary cultural changes this makes possible, spelled out in the Christian tradition seen in the Acts of the Apostles, the Rule of St Benedict, the Aristotelian theorising of Aquinas, Baconian analytical/synthetic empirical science, the economic insights of the artist Ruskin, Chestertonian Distributism and Schumacher’s “Small is Beautiful”. But I began by suggesting the theoretical underpinning of this. I called it Complex Truth back in 1983, when my post-Thatcher economic analysis (as an information scientist intrigued by the Hypergeometric Function, who had read Keynes alongside Indian library scientist’s “Colon Classification”) came together on discovering psychologist F R Leavitt’s communication Diamond and seeing its form (long familar to me from basic electrical theory as Wheatstone’s Bridge) as a minimal “theory of everything”.

    Before discovering Tony Lawson and half Indian philosopher of science Roy Bhaskar, almost the only help I have had in formulating this came from my late and much lamented Distributist friend, Stratford Caldecott, who by chance was familiar with eminent engineer Arthur M Young’s “Geometry of Meaning” (hence my seeing the economy in terms of PID control theory) and saw parallels with my thought in this and the systems theories of Frijof Capra, “author of the Tao of physics”..

    I am writing this now because yesterday I chanced on a copy of Capra’s book “The Turning Point”, and found at pp. 312-6 a Chinese version of my Complex Truth.

    The international interplay among these traditions is extraordinary; Ghandhi’s Indian philosophy was apparently inspired by a Chesterton newpaper article, and conversely, Schumacher’s eventual Distributism was inspired by Burmese Buddhism. If my line of thought owes much to the Indian S R Ranganathan, I am positively delighted to find I am not alone in my conclusions. In their own language it seems the Chinese reached them long before me. Given the major role in international economics the Chinese are about to play, perhaps it it is time Western economists went back to school and studied their way of thinking instead of trying to teach them.

    I was icultureglobal interpaly in all this is extraorddina

    • September 17, 2016 at 7:05 am


    • robert locke
      September 17, 2016 at 7:39 am

      ” Given the major role in international economics the Chinese are about to play, perhaps it it is time Western economists went back to school and studied their way of thinking instead of trying to teach them.”

      At the University of Hawaii, which pioneered the teaching of World Civilizations, where the Journal of World History was founded, under the late Jerry Bentley’s editorship, and where The journal on Chinese philosophy was founded by Roger Ames, they have been doing this for decades. I spent thirty years of my life in this environment and learned a lot from my colleagues, some of which I have mentioned on this blog, But no dialogue has ensued. Wake up, it’s a big world out there and has been for a long time.

  14. September 18, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    Bob, would you be interested, then, in helping me lick these turbulent blog outpourings in pursuit of paradigm change into an essay fit for the wider audience of an RWER paper?

    • robert locke
      September 18, 2016 at 1:10 pm

      I think the person who could help us a lot in helping us to ‘study” their way of thinking is Roger Ames. I knew him in the 1990s before I retired but have not kept in touch. I’ll try to contact him on the subject.

  15. September 18, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    Garrett asks Vladimir: “Do you support presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein’s proposal to close all US foreign military bases and cut military spending 50%? … The idea here is that the US has 850± foreign bases while the rest of the world has 33±. Additionally, the US has used those bases to kill 20-25 million human beings since 1945”.

    St Paul’s advice at church this morning (1 Tim 2:1-8) “is that, first of all, there should be prayers offered for everyone … especially for kings and others in authority, so that we may be able to live religious [grateful?] and fervent lives in peace and quiet. To do this is right, and will please God our saviour, for he wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth”.

    So we prayed together for our Queen, and remembering Syria, for Asad and Putin. Sounds like we should have remembered Vietnam and Iraq, and prayed for the US President too. May God have mercy on those who provoke and retaliate with wars, and inspire in them the courage to seek kinder, more intelligent solutions to their problems.

  16. September 19, 2016 at 4:52 am

    Maybe 850 seems a bit too many and so on. But you do not understand the alternative. It would be bad for everybody. Lefties will not escape too. As Nadezhda Mandelstam said, they take a comb and cut off everybody who gets higher than it. Everybody with a brain is a permanent threat. The people close to Stalin still were deadly afraid of him – therefore he was poisoned.

    Just a week or two ago, one of big men in North Korea was shot – by an anti-aircraft gun, like sipai in Indiaa in the XIXth century.

    Nadezhda Mandelstam was the wife of Osip M, great poet, one of heads of Acmeist school of poetry. He called Stalin mustache “cockroach’s”. Was arrested, transported to Far East, got mad and died during transportation. Nadezhda was arrested too, of course.

    To add insult to injury, prior to the arrest Stalin made a phone call to Boris Pasternak. He and Osip were two poets of almost comparable level. (I preferred Pasternak though.) Stalin asked – is Osip a great poet? Pasternak praised him, but moderately, I believe. Next night, Osip and Nadezhda were arrested.

    I’ve read recently a mystery novel about Mafia. It turns out, when they kill each other, families are spared. South American drug cartels and Stalin – that is different.

  17. September 19, 2016 at 5:09 am

    Even before Stalin, in the 1920s, some Gulag places had a separate building with millions of bedbugs there. If somebody had to be punished, they brought him or her there for some time.

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