Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The "Centrist" Politics of a Robot Cultist (Response to MA Part Two)

I wrote:
I… am an advocate of guaranteed basic income to subsidize peer-to-peer formations of citizen life, criticism, creativity, commerce and as a necessary redistributionist intervention in the ongoing process of wealth-capture and wealth-concentration by the already wealthy by means of automation, outsourcing, crowdsourcing, creative/genomic commons-enclosure and so on. I have sometimes called this position "pay-to-peer," and I defended a version of it on a panel at the Fourth Congress of the US Basic Income Guarantee Network in 2005 with James Hughes right next to me at the conference table.

Michael Anissimov responded:
"wealth-capture" -- oh no! You make it sound like making money is inherently bad. I'm not a libertarian, and I laugh at Ayn Rand, but neo-socialist terms like this are pretty funny. If you were in charge of Obama's campaign strategy, he would have gotten completely owned in the election. Obama's triumph is a triumph for the *centrist* (center-left, really) politics that I adhere to.

It is an interesting thing that Anissimov construes my concerns about wealth-capture by elites as hostility to "making money" in general, thereby confusing stealing money with making it in a move that is well-loved by market fundamentalists.

Michael is quick to insist as he always does when he is demonstrating himself to be a right-wing tool that he isn't, after all, a right wing tool: "I'm not a libertarian," he declares immediately and emphatically. (How many of your colleagues are libertarians, Michael, and why would that be, I wonder? But no matter.) "I laugh at Ayn Rand," he assures us. (Do you laugh at yourself when you sound like her? But no matter.) And then, of course, quite characteristically, he proceeds to indulge in a little Red Baiting of me (like any good progressive surely would under the circumstances...). I wonder if Michael thinks Jerome Guillet is a "neo-socialist," too, for writing this?

Certainly, it is rather amusing to say the least that Michael thinks a vulnerability to the charge of "socialism" could have won the Presidency for McCain-Palin, given that the right-wingnuttosphere loudly and interminably and preposterously howled and continues howling about Obama's so-called "socialism" to absolutely no effect in any case, and for rather the same reasons and with much of the same idiocy and inelegance as Michael exhibits himself in taking up their tired tricks and directing them my way.

Of course, I quite agree that President Obama is a center-left politician, which is why I make that very point here on the blog endlessly. I do happen to think Obama is a center-left President open to pressure from his left (FDR's "I agree with you, now make me do it" is the key thing to bear in mind with Obama), and hence the greatest enabler of a truly progressive and emancipatory politics of any American President in generations.

As for Michael's "adherence to" what he imagines "centrist" politics to consist of, I recommend that interested readers read his defense of "Bell Curve" formulations of intelligence and dismissal of demands for caution and sensitivity on such questions as "political correctness," read his celebration of the "fact" that the Star Wars missile defense system "works," read his explanation (scroll down for his comments on a fine post by Jamais Cascio to which, as it happens, I responded at the time with this) about why people who are "serious" about climate change and comparable planetary problems should devote their efforts to creating a Robot God who can solve our problems for us rather than to, you know, actually solving our problems. There is surely more of that kind of thing aplenty for them as has the stomach for it, but I will admit that digging around for this stuff makes my brain bleed (as Atrios likes to say, the stoopid, it burns us!) after a while.

By the way, since the jumping off point for this discussion of contemporary politics was a reference to my advocacy of a basic income guarantee, I do think I should point out that I don't consider the achievement of a planetary non-means-tested guaranteed basic income practically possible however desirable I think it is for the reasons I often discuss. I do think negative-income tax schemes (Jimmy Carter toyed with this notion and it is still bouncing around inside Washington), expansions of public grants for open source intellectual work (the liberal think-tank Center for American Progress has generated some interesting position papers with concrete policy implications along these lines), as well, of course, as perfectly legible progressive agitation and organization for expansions of healthcare and welfare benefits funded through a more progressive system of income and property taxes constitute the terrain on which the practical proximate struggles that might eventuate one day in something like a basic guaranteed income are actually taking place in my view.

The basic income guarantee is an idea that permits me to clarify for myself and frame for others a larger progressive agenda -- the perennial progressive project to end slavery and conscription, including wage-slavery and conscription-via-precarity, conjoined to newer concerns with pernicious anti-democratizing wealth concentration via automation, crowdsourcing, IP-enclosure and so on, attentive as well to proper excitement about the emerging and consolidating emancipatory force of proliferating p2p-formations.

But I am far from mistaking BIG-advocacy for education, agitation, and organizing on the left wing of the possible.


jimf said...

> Michael is quick to insist as he always does when he is
> demonstrating himself to be a right-wing tool that he isn't,
> after all, a right wing tool. . .
> "I laugh at Ayn Rand," he assures us.

Not in public, he doesn't. He wouldn't dare, given
his constituency.

Michael Anissimov said...

Hey, hey, hey --

Yes, intelligence has a normal, or bell curve distribution. But just because I agree with that doesn't mean that I agree with the book "The Bell Curve", which I haven't even read.

I didn't say that Star Wars "works", I was just celebrating a successful test of the missile shield. Since we ALREADY wasted so much money on its anyway, it might as well work. I haven't seen Obama objecting to such tech development.

Yes, I think that creating superintelligence is the most leveraged way to solve the world's numerous problems.

Dale Carrico said...

Maybe your positions pass muster as centrist, after all, on some construal that varies from my own. I am content to let the writing speak for itself, to leave it to the readers to discern the pattern that worries me or not. I would certainly be well-pleased to find that you were not a right-wing tool, after all. Nobody deserves such a fate.