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Re: [ontolog-forum] Self Interest Ontology

To: "'[ontolog-forum] '" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, <doug@xxxxxxxxxx>
From: "Hans Polzer" <hpolzer@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Wed, 06 Jun 2012 21:49:36 -0400
Message-id: <01a701cd444f$cb571740$620545c0$@verizon.net>



The main counter to this tactic of enlisting the power of government is to reduce and focus government power to a few “essential” domains, such as common defense, external affairs (i.e., State Dept.), a judicial system, and a monetary system (or at least some regulation of the monetary system to reduce fraud and speculation). The more government gets involved in other domains, the easier it is for the dominant/ascendant parties you refer to tilt the playing field in their favor by influencing government behavior in those other domains. However, outcome-based ethicists don’t like this focus on a few simple behavioral rules  because that allows for unequal results for similar efforts in a broad range of domains of human endeavor, and doesn’t handle tragedy or unfortunate events well. I’m reminded of Davy Crockett objecting to Congress voting federal funds to provide disaster relief in the early 1800’s for those impacted by a flood, if I recall correctly.


The bottom line is that we will always struggle with the right yin/yang balancing act between regulations/laws that assure broadly desired outcomes and rules/laws that focus on equal treatment of people and institutions (no matter the outcome resulting from such equal treatment by the law/force). This is further complicated be law/force). This is further complicated by the problem of the commons and externalities resulting from individual/institutional behavior but not readily dealt with via agreements (i.e., contracts) among individual interacting parties, such as pollution, infrastructure, etc.).


The key problem is that there is usually a mismatch in incentives between those who benefit from some regulation vice those who are adversely impacted by the same regulation. The negative impact is usually diffuse and relatively small as seen by the broad population, while the beneficiaries are usually relatively few and stand to gain significantly from the regulation. That makes it hard to argue against the regulation. This happens inside institutions of all sorts as well. SOPs and employee guidebooks rarely get smaller over time. Every rule and process put in place is there for a reason, but the cost to the institution of each such rule/process is rarely documented/analyzed or periodically reviewed. So older institutions tend towards being less competitive/effective in their chosen domain over time (after some initial learning curve), and lose out to new competitors – unless protected by the established government, or have some “near death” experience that shakes up them up enough to re-examine how they are doing business (and what business/domain it is really in).


One mechanism that I have seen work is to create some kind of “ombudsman” and “outsider self assessment”  institution that encourages internal negative feedback signals and periodic or event/criteria-driven candid self-examination of accreted rules/regulations/processes. If this is accompanied by greater focus on regulation/rule costs to society (facilitated by an “ombudsman” social networking function), in addition to the traditional focus on the benefits of the same (for which focused advocacy groups already exist), I believe you will see fewer laws/regulations passed that tilt the playing field to favor any particular group or institution. But if there is significant government involvement in some domain of human endeavor, there will always be strong motivation for participants in that domain to influence government/force in their favor (and attack/neutralize such counteracting mechanisms). And from the government/force perspective, the rules/laws will be viewed with a focus on their benefits and their negative impacts minimized/discounted.




From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Rich Cooper
Sent: Wednesday, June 06, 2012 4:03 PM
To: '[ontolog-forum] '; doug@xxxxxxxxxx
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Self Interest Ontology


John and Doug,


John wrote:


Just note that article I sent about the South Sea Bubble.  Shortly after they got their stamp of approval from the King, they lobbied to cripple the competition by forbidding any stock to be traded unless the corporation had a charter from the King.


That tactic – enlisting an established power of force to limit competition – seems to be repeated throughout history when any faction (corporate, NGO, political crusade, populist movement …) becomes strong enough to enlist the contemporary form of force (government, king, dictator, politician, …).  By eliminating competition, the ascendant group makes their position more secure. 


If this one tactic could be nullified, i.e. if ascendant groups could be prevented from complete dominance, then the remaining individuals could opt out of any proposed plan to deny them their equal justice. 


Does anyone have suggestions on how to nullify the ability of the top to compel the remainder into their plan?  That is what Friedman’s “Power to Choose” is actually about.  Forget the politics he espouses and just consider the opt-out tactic.  If that could be put into an amendment to the constitution, and enforced in nearly every case, it would put a stop to lots of this hijacking of public interest and public funds in the service of private interests. 





Rich Cooper


Rich AT EnglishLogicKernel DOT com

9 4 9 \ 5 2 5 - 5 7 1 2

From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of sowa@xxxxxxxxxxx
Sent: Tuesday, June 05, 2012 8:07 PM
To: doug@xxxxxxxxxx; [ontolog-forum]
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Self Interest Ontology



> John emphasizes that lobbyists enhance the perceived self-interest of
> their corporations by writing (laws and) regulations to harm their
> competition.

Just note that article I sent about the South Sea Bubble.  Shortly after they got their stamp of approval from the King, they lobbied to cripple the competition by forbidding any stock to be traded unless the corporation had a charter from the King.

Corporations have been doing that even before Adam Smith was born.  Those are the kinds of shenanigans that destroy the efficacy of the "invisible hand".  When the South Sea Bubble burst, the difficulty of forming new businesses prolonged the disastrous effects.

Big business is the natural enemy of small business.   Government has a tendency to take the side of big business because they give bigger "campaign contributions".  But when  you weaken the elected government, there are no barriers of any kind to stop big businesses from becoming the worst imaginable kind of de facto government.

Have you ever heard of the company towns run by mining corporations in the 19th century?  Just listen to the song "16 Tons".  That is called laissez faire.  That is why the Republicans passed the anti-trust laws.


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