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Monday, February 20, 2017

The Luddites Were Right

No one argues against the idea that automation improves our lives. Clearly, automation improves our lives. The very fact that 7 billion people are all living better lives today than ANYONE did when there were only 1 billion people alive (1804), speaks to that. But, similarly, no one can argue against the idea that automation takes jobs. In 1804, when the earth's population was 1 billion, everyone between the ages of roughly 8 years old and dead worked a minimum of 6 days per week, 12 hours per day. There were no 40-hour work-weeks, no retirements, precious little time spent in education, and child labor was the norm. The population is now 7 billion. If everyone were correct about how technology and jobs interact, then all 7 billion of us would still work our 6-day per week, 12-hour per day jobs from the age of eight until death, with essentially no breaks for education or retirement, just like we did in 1804. But, we don't do that. We can now afford to have child labor laws, education that takes 30% of the population out of the workforce for decades on end, retirement, and a 40-hour work week, headed towards a 30-hour work week. In fact, the very fact that this isn't what we do now is precisely why we call machinery "labor-saving." Machinery saves labor. That is, the Luddites were correct. Machinery takes jobs, and doesn't give back as many jobs as it takes. The Luddites were wrong on one point - machinery doesn't hurt us, it helps us. They were right about the other point. The number of jobs relative to the population size do, indeed, go away as a result of machinery.
In fact, computers, in the form of robots and other automation, are taking jobs at an increasing rate, and are making jobs at a decreasing rate. One-half of the population has an IQ below 100. Their jobs are generally simple to automate. So, machinery is eating the low-IQ jobs. The few jobs machinery creates are jobs only high-IQ people can perform. The new, few jobs cannot possibly be done by one-half of the population. Indeed, even many jobs requiring high-IQ are disappearing. For instance, the computer industry does not need nearly as many server admins per server or computer techs per desktop machine as it did 20 years ago. As computer design improves, the need for all those highly intelligent support people disappear. The same future looms for lawyers and doctors. Well, and pretty much everyone else. So, one way or another, at least one-half of the population, possibly more, is being rendered completely unemployable. Unfortunately, these people still need food, clothing, housing and medical care. They also need self-respect. Automated machinery is the new slave labor. It doesn't need food, clothing, housing or medical care. All the profit the machinery produces goes to the person who owns the machines. That person will become very wealthy, everyone else will not. Thus, the income gap will steadily increase. As Hans Rosling has pointed out, increasing income inequality is not necessarily a bad thing, unless there are unemployable people who do not get the food, clothing, housing and medical care they need, or the self-respect every person deserves. If there are such people, then something has to be done to get them the basics they need, including basic self-respect. You may not like the idea of universal basic income. You may be strongly opposed to the idea of taxing robots. You might (correctly) argue that a tax on automation is a tax on efficiency, and efficiency is how we got to be rich. Taxing efficiency does not seem a very bright idea. Strong arguments can be made against both of the above ideas. But, if you dislike these ideas, you have to come up with an alternative way to take care of the people who can no longer be employed. The machines have eaten their jobs. This group will have smart people, stupid people, capable people, deficient people, but they will all have one thing in common - they cannot be retrained to take the jobs that are left, either because they can't be retrained or because there simply aren't enough jobs left. These unemployable people will need help. Either they need help now, or they will within a decade or two. The pool of unemployables will grow every year. The next unemployable person could be you. The next unemployable person could be your child. Or your grandchild. Or your nephew, your niece. So, consider carefully how you want this problem handled.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Pledging Corporate Allegiance

It is a commonplace in Catholic theology that there is no necessary disagreement between being a Catholic and being a patriot. Following the example of Socrates, who chose death rather than disloyalty to the state that had raised and nurtured him, Catholic theologians have long held that we have a Catholic duty to be patriots.

But that raises an interesting question. If we owe loyalty to a country because of the laws and benefits it gives us, a la Socrates, then do we owe loyalty to a corporation for all the laws and products it gives us?

For it is certainly the case that corporations give us at least as much in this culture as our country does. Sure, the country lays down basic laws (speed limits, zoning ordinances and the like), but corporations also lay down laws concerning how to handle their products. If we don't change the oil in our cars according to the owner's schedule, the product will wreak it's due punishment on us as surely as the state would for violating a speed limit.

Socrates had the benefit of living in a simple world, wherein no corporate entities existed. Chesterton lived in England, where the international corporation really got established, but his life was not nearly as dominated by international corporations as are our own. Given that most of the original US colonies were founded by corporate business entities, did the British colonists properly owe loyalty to corporation before country? Given that most US laws are put into place through the lobbies of corporate America, do we owe loyalty to business corporations first and foremost, for having conceived and pushed through the great bulk of our laws?

When the international corporation that has paid my mortgage, fed and clothed my family and bought my car requires me via its by-laws or internal policies to do something that is contrary to the laws of the country I happen to currently reside in, which loyalty should hold sway, and why? For, certainly, the business corporation has fed and clothed me at least as much as the state - probably more so. Am I being unpatriotic when I quit my company for a higher-salaried position in another business entity? Am I disloyal when I whistle-blow on my company to the state? Am I a traitor, a treasonous individual, when I choose Walmart vs. Kroger as the patron who feeds and clothes me in exchange for my monetary allegiance?

If I am not a traitor by switching allegiance between corporations, why am I not? Given how intertwined corporation and country are, and apart from the paperwork, how is changing countries different from changing corporations?

At the behest of various corporations, our forefathers gave up allegiance to their home country in order to immigrate to America. Is their decision to switch country allegiance a sin, a moral shortcoming, a lack of virtue? What would be wrong with us switching national allegiance according to how we like different sets of national laws in the same way that we switch allegiance to which cars we drive or which supermarkets we frequent or which house we choose to buy and inhabit?

Why should choosing national allegiance be so much more of a difficult thing than switching allegiance between sports franchises? In such a world, would we look down upon or punish people who wanted to join our team?

Given our current economic and legal situation, in what does patriotism consist?

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Trump Lied, America Cried

Notice the nearly complete lack of overlap between the presence of unauthorized immigrants and actual, you know, crime. It's almost like Americans are responsible for most criminal activity, not illegal aliens. The data for the cities with the most illegal immigrants comes from a Drudge link to Pew Research. The numbers on the most dangerous cities comes from this link:

All Roads Lead To Rome

At the beginning of the video, a minute-and-a-half long, the Pope cites the fact that the majority of the earth’s inhabitants profess some sort of religious belief. 
This, he said, “should lead to a dialogue among religions. We should not stop praying for it and collaborating with those who think differently.” 
The video goes on to feature representatives of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, who proclaim their respective beliefs in God, Jesus Christ, Allah and Buddha.
Some people are upset that Pope Francis recently taught yet another truth of the Catholic Faith: all religions ultimately lead to God. Many Catholics mistakenly believe this is an error. It is not.

Keep in mind that Jesus Christ is THE path to God - no one can come to the Father except through Christ. Likewise, the only way to fully know Christ is through the Catholic Church. But the point the Pope wanted to stress was simple: all roads lead to Rome.

Every pursuit of truth, no matter where it starts, if followed deeply enough, leads to Catholic Faith.

When I taught RCIA, I used the example of math to show how this worked.
When we are first learning math, we begin with arithmetic and progress through algebra, geometry, trig, calculus.

So, let us keep that in our hands as we recall some basic truths:
  1. All creation was made for, by and through Christ,
  2. The heavens, in fact, all created things, are telling the glory of God.
  3. Thus, anyone who starts to believe in God as a result of observing the natural world (as pagans do), has come to believe in God through the evidence provided by Jesus Christ.
That conclusion is a point of Catholic Faith. If you accept the first two points, you cannot deny the conclusion. Now, there are three ways to know God:
    1. Nature - the heavens are telling the glory of Christ. 
    2. The prophets - Adam, Abraham, Moses, etc.,
    3. Christ Himself. 
The natural world is not a person, so it doesn't explain much beyond "God exists and He rewards those who love Him." That's why pagan religions tend to have a lot of empty spots.

Prophets are persons, so they explain Who God is much more thoroughly, but like a matchmaker describing the Bridegroom to the Bride, even the prophets cannot explain all of it.

Ultimately, the Bride can only know the Bridegroom, through meeting Him. Only Christ Himself reveals the fullness of Himself.

Theology is formal science just like math. Since we have now laid out the basic truths, we can marry these truths to the formal science of math and see how all of it ties together:
  1. Pagans only understand the theological equivalent of arithmetic, and nothing beyond it.
  2. Islam is a haphazard conglomeration of Judaism, Christianity and paganism. It can get to theological algebra. It knows that God is All-Merciful, All-Compassionate. It knows that Mary is a sinless virgin mother. It knows Christ is sinless and the Judge on the Last Day. Islam knows that we are to submit ourselves totally to God, become a "slave of Christ" as Paul says, although Muslims would say "Allah" instead of Christ. But beyond these basics, Muslims cannot go. 
  3. The Jews understand geometry, they first gave us the theological measure of the universe. They know God is the Lawgiver, that God does not deceive, that He wants us to choose life, so that we and our descendants might live. Through the Jews, God revealed the importance of liturgy,  even though the Jewish liturgy was just "practice" and has no real effect. They taught us the central truth that is monotheism. 
  4. Non-liturgical Christians, like the Protestants, can do trigonometry. They know God is three Persons in one divine Substance, but they don't get any farther. They have two sacraments,baptism and marriage, but they don't understand very much about either of them. They don't understand liturgy at all. So, we can say they know a lot about triangles, but they don't know much about other geometric shapes or how everything fits together. 
  5. Liturgical Christians, such as the Eastern Orthodox and the Coptics, have access to the full spectrum of liturgical and sacramental life. Through the power of the seven sacraments, they plumb the measure of the infinite Godhead, doing the equivalent of single-variable calculus. That is, they understand how the Son works (to teach us), how the Spirit works (to sanctify us), but they don't fully understand how the Father works (to govern us).
  6. Only Catholics can plumb the divine infinity to its depth, only Catholics have mastered not only calculus but all the other branches of the theological spectrum as well. We understand, as fully as men can, the relations between the Father, Son and Spirit, we understand the full spectrum of how He has always intended to govern us (Father), to teach us (Son) and to sanctify us (Holy Spirit).
Thus, it is not that all the other religious faiths are wrong. Rather, none of the other faith systems can provide the comprehensive knowledge of Christ that only Catholic Faith can.

All religions, pursued deeply enough, lead to Catholic Faith.
The study of truth always leads to Truth.
Every ladder we climb, every road we walk, leads us to Rome.

That's why the Pope wants dialogue among religions. He wants the various peoples to help each other forward on the journey to Rome. We are supposed to help him get that done.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Porn and Rape

A lot of Catholic commentators want to connect porn and rape. I understand their wish, but it ain't happening.

Consider the facts:
On August 6, 1991, Berners-Lee posted a short summary of the World Wide Web project on the alt.hypertext newsgroup, inviting collaborators....By January 1993 there were fifty Web servers across the world; by October 1993 there were over five hundred... The Web was first popularized by Mosaic, a graphical browser launched in 1993 by Marc Andreessen's team at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)...

Now, look at this:

Given the explosive growth of the internet and the access to free porn that it makes available (statistics here), can anyone honestly argue that the incidence of rape increases as porn use increases? Seriously?

Two of the greatest doctors of the Church would take issue with the argument many modern Catholics make. As St. Augustine pointed out

“If you do away with harlots, the world will be convulsed with lust.”
and St. Thomas Aquinas agreed:
Prostitution in the towns is like the cesspool in the palace: take away the cesspool and the palace will become an unclean and evil-smelling place.
Their opinion was given well before erotic imagery was widely available, yet their point seems to be borne out in today's rape-porn statistics. As porn use increases, rape decreases.

Sorry if you find this offensive, modern Catholics, but that appears to be the reality. Being Catholic is all about being in contact with reality. Stop pretending something is true when we know perfectly well it isn't.

If we, as Catholics, wish to argue against porn, we will have to find a better argument than "It causes rape!" Because it doesn't cause rape. In fact, it arguably reduces rape, as our own theologians predicted it would.