20160413 Variations on a theme of Adam Smith

Re: 20160413 Variations on a theme of Adam Smith

Postby tahanson43206 » Mon Mar 13, 2017 4:53 pm

20170313 Every now and then the columnist George Will mentions Adam Smith in one way or another.

The latest example is an Opinion Forum piece entitled "New school aims to preserve our self-evident truths"

http://www.dispatch.com/opinion/2017031 ... ent-truths

In the article, Mr. Will includes mention of the "Wealth of Nations" along with the Federalist Papers as examples of writings that not everyone needs to read, but that "someone" should.

The article overall is concerned with the opening of a new institution of higher learning.

Begin Quotation:
A primary mission of institutions of higher education should be the transmission of civilization's intellectual patrimony.
End Quotation.

In the context of The Knowledge Forum, I am interested in Mr. Will's theme as a reminder that while Dr. Dartnell's opening book (in what I hope will become a shelf full of follow on publications), Dr. Dartnell's index does not mention schools, colleges, university or any other similar organized institution for collecting and propagating knowledge, let alone values. His explanation for limiting the scope of this first volume to a reasonable size certainly justifies the omission, but it seems to me that a follow on volume might profitably address the challenges of building (or re-building) social institutions after the global structures stop working. Because I am interested in the successful development of communities away from Earth, the topic of building social structures with the people who are available seems worth addressing.

Elsewhere in this forum, Dave Z has introduced an update on research into use of DNA (or a similar long lasting chemical structure) to hold information, and thus serve as a long lasting repository of human knowledge. It seems to me that the challenge of educating the younger generation after a collapse would be much less difficult if all of human knowledge that can be collected into DNA (type) repositories were so collected, reproduced, and distributed to sites around the globe for two purposes. First is the higher order purpose of preserving human knowledge. Second, and the one that might help to generate funds to support the initiative, would be to make the repositories available to local communities to study while civilization still exists.

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Re: 20160413 Variations on a theme of Adam Smith

Postby tahanson43206 » Wed Mar 15, 2017 1:55 pm

20170315 On Inability to Repair an HP2605 Printer

Dr. Darnell's book "The Knowledge" is designed and constructed to assist persons who are attempting to rebuild civilization after a collapse.

In thinking about "The Knowledge" in the context of an HP 2605 printer which no longer prints red tones, I have come to the realization that civilization exists in the mind, and as human beings live out their lives, they achieve the mental capacity of which they are capable, if conditions are right, and then fade out until their achievements and capabilities become distant memories. If such humans were so inclined, and if they had the ability and the means, they might have recorded some aspects of the mental models they had created in a non-perishable medium or perhaps more than one.

The HP 2605 printer was first placed on the market in 2006.

Begin Quotation from Query on Google:
Amazon.com: HP Color LaserJet 2605dn Printer (Q7822A#ABA ...
https://www.amazon.com/HP-LaserJet-2605 ... B000FBWL2O
Rating: 3.7 - ‎91 reviews
Amazon.com Product Description The HP CLJ2605DN Color Laserjet Printer is an ... For APO/FPO shipments, please check with the manufacturer regarding warranty and support issues. ... Date first available at Amazon.com, April 27, 2006 ...
End Quotation.

According to: https://www.fixyourownprinter.com/ the HP2605 is not yet discontinued, but I suspect the website is not updated to show current information. I find it hard to believe this model of printer is still being manufactured.

Regardless of the state of manufacture of this particular printer, my reason for opening this message is primarily to call attention to the fact that the ability for a printer such as this one to come into existence is a consequence of the happy coincidence of a gathering of human beings who hold mental models in the tenuous structures of their brains that allow and enable that to happen. The ability of a human being downstream to maintain such a complex system of components is dependent upon both a partial mental model of the printer, availability of documentation passed along from the original designers and builders, and availability of components to replace ones that have failed.

I'm making a gigantic leap here: In thinking about the challenge of reconstructing correct mental models of found advanced technology, it occurs to me that survivors will (in general) be unable to reconstruct those mental models, even if they were able to do so earlier in their lives. The key for success (it seems to me) is for survivors to undertake development of mental capabilities in the children who might be available at the beginning of the time of difficulty, and certainly in those who will (hopefully) come along later.

And the thought above leads me to the observation that education of children today does not explicitly anticipate development of the ability to create correct mental models as described above.

My guess is that those who are involved in education (around the world) today are working primarily from rote patterns they learned from elders, whether live or via transmitted materials such as books.

There is an advertisement on public television in the United States these days, which calls attention to the observed fact that the education systems in wide use in the United States today were developed in the 1800's. The advertisement calls for an update of the practice of education at the high school level, and offers a name of an organization dedicated to this undertaking.

For anyone who is interested in learning more about this initiative, the web site is: http://xqsuperschool.org/

It would seem to me that the pace of recovery from a global disaster will be influenced by the quality of thought put into building educational systems, primarily for young people, but secondarily for older persons who have not had a new thought in years, but who remain capable of growing new neurons and establishing new neural networks.

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Re: 20160413 Variations on a theme of Adam Smith

Postby tahanson43206 » Sun Mar 19, 2017 8:08 pm

20170312 Page 638-657

In the opening sequence of Part Third, Mr. Smith presents arguments in support of the conclusion he reaches on page 657:

Begin Quotation:
We must carefully distinguish between the effects of the colony trade and those of the monopoly of that trade.
End Quotation.

I find Smith’s arguments in opposition to monopoly persuasive, while noting that he concedes that individual merchants have most certainly profited as a result of the policy. His argument persuades me that everyone else is decreased in benefit as a result, including England itself, other nations, and most certainly the colonies.


I am interested in the subject of taxation, looking forward to a set of economies located away from the Earth, and exchanging digital files with the Earth and each other.

I have posited the existence of atom assemblers, and further posited that such machines would be both slow and distributed widely among the population of the remote communities.

Today, I am interested in considering the subject of taxation, which is most certainly going to be needed in order for communities to attend to needs which are shared in common by residents, such as maintaining supplies of water, healthy food, clean air and a myriad of other needs.

To prepare, I took a quick dive (via Google) back to Roman times, where I refreshed my knowledge of taxation as practiced in the years when Rome was ascendant.

At the stage upon which I will focus today, Rome was able to secure its income by taxing its provinces, and the way it appears to have done that is by appointing an individual to collect the desired taxes from each province. That individual then secured contractors to carry out the work of extracting “contributions” from citizens. Apparently it was common for these contractors to extract a share of the citizen “contributions” to meet their own needs, with a bit of padding.

In 2017, in the United States, I observe that while the need for tax income to various governments is still very much with us, the means of extracting contributions from citizens is (generally) accepted, in the form of sales taxes, income taxes and property taxes.

In remote communities, there very well might be similar systems in place.

The question I have is on how any tariffs might be imposed upon incoming our outgoing transmissions to or from the Earth or other remote communities.

It seems likely to me that the cost of building and maintaining transmission facilities would fall into the “common” category for communities, while it might well turn out that on Earth, non-governmental agencies might have the wherewithal to build and maintain such facilities. That might especially be the case if the entities managing the facilities are in position to serve as agents for remote communities, and thus to secure a percentage of trade value for products exchanged.

I am thinking of Edward Lerner’s InterstellarNet, without the aliens.

With regard to atom assemblers, and management of taxation, it seems to me likely that it would be common practice to trust the citizens to ask for sales tax, and to pay whatever amount is collectively chosen without quibble.

At the same time, it would seem to me a matter of some public concern how digital files are handled, if the communications facility is indeed a public facility.

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Re: 20160413 Variations on a theme of Adam Smith

Postby tahanson43206 » Sun Mar 26, 2017 6:15 pm

20170326 Reference #1 Pages 657-672

The major themes of these pages of Mr. Smith's discussion are further disapproval of the mercantile system, and in particular the way in which that system benefited particular business people while causing injury to the Nation as a whole, and to the colonies who were forced to endure the monopoly of trade created by the Act of Navigation,

and ... a remarkable discussion of the factors in play at the time of writing, when the North American colonies were actively engaged in separating themselves from the British Empire.

I decided to close this segment on page 672, because on that page Mr. Smith wrote words that I find prescient.

Begin Quotation on page 672:
From shopkeepers, tradesmen, and attornies(sic), they are become statesmen and legislators, and are employed in contriving a new form of government for an extensive empire, which, they flatter themselves, will become, and which, indeed, seems very likely to become, one of the greatest and most formidable that ever was in the world.
End Quotation.

In looking forward, toward a time when communities will come into being at great distances from the planet Earth, I think that the many examples Smith cites of European colony making show clearly that the Greek model is superior in every way to the Roman, so long as the Laws of Physics as interpreted by human kind do not support the Roman model of brute force imposed upon the colonies.

Smith has been railing against monopoly of trade for the first half of this book, and it would not surprise me if he continues his tirade to the very end. Thus I am persuaded that as we humans look forward to a time when communities exist away from the Earth in numbers, and potentially of great size, that the inevitable temptation by some humans to try to impose monopoly upon others should be identified as they come into being, and firmly shriveled before they gain strength.

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Re: 20160413 Variations on a theme of Adam Smith

Postby tahanson43206 » Mon Apr 03, 2017 2:50 am

20170402 Pages 673-693

In the conclusion of Part Third of Chapter Seven, Mr. Smith continues his criticism of the mercantile system and of monopolies, giving numerous examples of how they have generally acted to benefit a few at the expense of the colonies, and even at the expense of the home countries, taken as a whole.

It would appear that the matter of the North American rebellion had not yet reached a conclusion as this chapter was written, because Mr. Smith was still considering the question of how the North American colonies might be represented in Parliament. I was taken, in particular, by the suggestion that representation might be granted based upon the proportion of the tax contribution to the Empire might be delivered by particular regions in the colonies.

As it turned out, nearly a decade later, the Americans decided to base representation upon a hybrid of geography and population, without regard to taxation or any other measure of contribution to the whole.

On page 688, in the midst of another of the many campaigns Smith has launched against the merchants who have collectively created and driven the mercantile system, Smith made what I see as an observation worth noting:

Begin Quotation:
In almost all countries the revenue of the sovereign is drawn from that of the people. The greater the revenue of the people, therefore, the greater the annual produce of their land and labour, the more they can afford to the sovereign. It is his interest, therefore, to increase as much as possible that annual produce.
End Quotation.

These words remind me again of a reflection that has waxed and waned in my thinking over the years. The United States Internal Revenue Service, like Caesar's tax collectors and all other similar organizations, is chartered to collect as much revenue as the laws of any given time permit from citizens and non-citizens alike, without regard to how income is earned or what is bought or sold.

It has occurred to me more that a few times, that the Internal Revenue Service would do well to encourage the ability of everyone it considers suitable to pay taxes, to increase that ability. Instead, in a poor substitute, the United States and the various subordinate government entities try to implement half-hearted programs such as the Small Business Administration and many others.

In what I consider an “ideal” world, for every IRS employee devoted to collecting taxes, there would be an employee dedicated to assisting each and every taxpayer to increase earnings through a combination of services that are today scattered across the landscape at great expense and (as nearly as I can tell) little positive effect.

To paraphrase Smith, in the quotation above, it is in the interest of the Internal Revenue Service, therefore, to increase as much as possible that annual produce, not by trying to squeeze every last legal penny from the hapless citizen, but by helping that citizen to increase earnings over time.

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Re: 20160413 Variations on a theme of Adam Smith

Postby tahanson43206 » Mon Apr 10, 2017 2:53 pm

20170409 Pages 694-717

In a rousing Chapter VIII, "Conclusions of the Mercantile System", Mr. Smith continues his criticism of the mercantile system and of monopolies, giving numerous examples of how they have generally acted to benefit a few at the expense of the many. In this chapter, Mr. Smith includes some remarkable examples of laws passed (presumably by Parliament) to invoke severe penalties on violation of what we in 2017 would regard as Intellectual Property rights.

As just one example, laws were passed to penalize those who encouraged an "artificer" to leave Britain to work in another country, but the laws extended to the artificers themselves:

Begin Quotation:
If any artificer has gone beyond the seas ... He likewise forfeits to the king, all his lands, good and chattels, is declared an alien in every respect, and is put out of the king's protection.
End Quotation.

The penalties for violation of Intellectual Property are a bit less severe today, but my guess is that the venom on display here is very much still alive in 2017.

Chapter IX takes up agricultural systems. Hopefully there will be some relief from the stress of dealing with the bad behavior of manufacturers and merchants in Smith's time.

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Re: 20160413 Variations on a theme of Adam Smith

Postby tahanson43206 » Sun Apr 16, 2017 7:49 pm

Re: 20160413 Variations on a theme of Adam Smith
20170416 Pages 718-746

In Chapter 9, Mr. Smith describes a theory of Economics which (apparently) originated in France, and which took the point of view that all value in an economy arises from agriculture. Mr. Smith (apparently) approves of some elements of the theory, but he gently and courteously disagreed with others.

For example, Mr. Smith and the advocates of a theory developed by a Mr. Colbert, differ on the classes of society which might be consider 'productive".

Mr. Colbert and his followers (apparently) considered agricultural workers to be productive, but artificers and manufacturers NOT. I agree with Mr. Smith in his position, that artificers and manufacturers are indeed productive members of society.

However, in 2017, with the economy dominated by fantasy, I am impelled to recognize that in THIS age, at least, wealth does not seem to be measured in the terms that Mr. Smith and many of HIS followers have assumed. Mr. Smith made the point multiple times in the first half of his book, that the wealth of a nation should be measured in its annual production of goods and services, and NOT by the amount of particular commodities that might be found in the geopolitical boundaries of a particular nation.

However, in TODAY's world, it appears to me that the great preponderance of "wealth" exists in the form of faith held by (a sufficient number of) people that stock created out of thin air by entrepreneurs will have value in the future.

I am attempting to understand how economies work TODAY, and appreciate very much the care with which Mr. Smith described the economies of his day, and preceding centuries.

It seems to me that most stock held by stock holders today is NOT backed by anything material at all.

An entrepreneur such as Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk or a myriad of others is definitely producing something of value, but their financial advisers have been able to council them on how to create a structure of imaginary future earnings which ordinary people are willing to buy on faith, in hopes that the (perceived) value will continue to rise, so that the stock might be sold to someone else at a net profit in the future.

I am now imagining that every baby born into the world might be recognized as the basis of a future earnings capability, and stock might be created out of thin air on the strength of the potential for each individual.

Thus, in this vision, every person born into the world of 2017 might "inherit" substantial "wealth" as a consequence of an "enlightened" policy.

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Re: 20160413 Variations on a theme of Adam Smith

Postby tahanson43206 » Sun Apr 23, 2017 4:57 pm

Re: 20160413 Variations on a theme of Adam Smith
20170423 Pages 747-765

At his point in Reference #1, Mr. Smith opens a new "Book"

Book Five

Of the Revenue of the Sovereign or Commonwealth

Chapter 1

Of the Expenses of the Sovereign or Commonwealth

Part 1

Of the Expense of Defense

In this part of the chapter, Mr. Smith reviews the development of military activities over multiple continents. He considers societies of hunters, people he calls husbandmen who raise flocks, those who settle in locations to raise crops, and those who are advanced enough to support classes of people who perform such non-farm activities as artisans and manufacturers.

For each stage of the development of organization of societies, Mr. Smith describes the nature of the military organization with respect to the question of cost to the sovereign. It is when it is necessary to maintain a standing army that a society must fund the soldiers and sailors and their supplies, and since there were no republics in Smith's time, he considers funding a standing army as the responsibility of the sovereign.

In the course of the discussion, Mr. Smith describes education “imposed by the state upon every free citizen”.

Begin Quotation:
In all the different republics of ancient Greece, to learn his military exercises, was necessary part of the education imposed by the state upon every free citizen.
End Quotation.

As a citizen of the United States in 2017, and “veteran” of a both public and private education carried on in the United States in the 1940's, 1950's, 1960's and even to a lesser extent later, I do not recall experiencing or even hearing about any expectations on the part of the country with regard to my education, or to the education of any other person.

Now, in 2017, it seems to me that education is in massive disarray in the United States, and there are vigorous arguments about what subjects should be taught, and more energetically, how learning should be measured. Yet, at the same time, anecdotal reports indicate that individual citizens are transitioning out of the varied educational processes with widely varying capabilities. It is quite common to read that colleges and universities are unable to work with incoming students because their performance is so far below “normal” expectations.

It turns out that the disarray we observe in the United States is intentional.

From this reference: http://education.stateuniversity.com/pa ... ation.html

Begin quotation:
In San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriquez, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 held that education is not a "fundamental right" under the U.S. Constitution
End Quotation.

It seems to me that while the preference of the Founders of the United States was that States should have responsibility for education, the practical consequences have not resulted in an optimum situation in 2017. Over the years the Federal Government has attempted to bring some order to the chaos that prevails, but from my observation, those efforts have not succeeded at an optimal level, either for individual citizens or for the nation as a whole.

While there very well be changes to the Constitution that may seem more important, I think that the example of expectations of citizens noted in ancient Greece might well serve as a guide for proposing a Constitutional Amendment to insure some more modern expectations.

Beyond the immediate circumstance, however, and thinking ahead to the constitutions that will be adopted on Mars, the Moon and other locations away from Earth, it seems to me that defining expectations for performance of citizens in those fundamental documents would serve those communities well over time.

Further on in this Part of the Chapter, Mr. Smith considers the challenge of maintaining a viable standing army in times of peace and plenty. This state of affairs would seem likely to prevail in a community away from Earth, where a false sense of security due to distance from the Earth or other communities might easily lead citizens to conclude that maintaining readiness for military conflict is unnecessary. However, in the Universe we inhabit, that attitude seems to be to be unwise. I would counsel any such community to maintain military readiness despite decades or perhaps even centuries of freedom from annoyance by humans or aliens. Still, human nature being what it is, I am doubtful of such wise counsel lasting long as the generations replace each other.

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Re: 20160413 Variations on a theme of Adam Smith

Postby tahanson43206 » Sun Apr 30, 2017 6:42 pm

Re: 20160413 Variations on a theme of Adam Smith

20170430 Pages 766-779

Book Five

Of the Revenue of the Sovereign or Commonwealth

Chapter 1

Of the Expenses of the Sovereign or Commonwealth

Part 2

Of the Expense of Justice

In this part of the chapter, Mr. Smith reviews the development of the judicial function over multiple continents. He considers societies of hunters, people he calls shepherds, those who settle in locations to raise crops, and those who are advanced enough to support classes of people who perform such non-farm activities as artisans and manufacturers.

Mr. Smith must be growing on me as the months go by. I found this chapter thoroughly enjoyable. The challenge of creating a judicial system that can stand up to arbitrary authoritarian impulses of the native human are just as much with us today, in 2017, as they were in Smith's time, and have been over the entire evolution of the branch we occupy.

What is more, both in the disaster recovery Dr. Dartnell is attempting to address with "The Knowledge", and the circumstances of future communities established away from Earth, the challenge of creating a fair and responsive judicial system will be just as vital as it is today.

On page 767, Mr. Smith comments upon the inequality of human beings that stands in such obvious contrast to the noble words of the US Declaration of Independence.

Begin Quotation:
...give some men some superiority over the greater part of their brethren, seem to be four in number.
End quotation:

The four are: body and mind, age, fortune and birth.

As I consider Smith's argument, which seems (to me at least) to accurately capture what I understand to be the age in which he lived, it seems to me that over the two centuries since, a combination of factors have altered the importance of the four factors with respect to each other. While some areas on Earth contain cultures which are almost exactly as Smith describes them, it seems to me that some cultures in Europe, the United States, Canada and perhaps a few other regions have made considerable progress in reducing the importance of birth. Certainly the technological age in which we now reside renders age of little value. We are in a time when the wealthiest persons on the planet are comparatively young.

It would be my guess that while physical body remains of some significance in the acquisition of "superiority", it is the mind that has the potential to shape the environment so that individuals are accepted as "superior" to others.

Smith brings up this topic in the context of the necessity for a system of justice, and primarily (as I read his words) in support of maintaining the wealth of those who are already wealthy.

After a lengthy discussion of various failed systems for compensation of judges, Smith closes with words I find of long lasting value:
Begin Quotation:
The regular payment of his salary should not depend upon the good-will, or even the good economy of that power.
End Quotation.
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Re: 20160413 Variations on a theme of Adam Smith

Postby tahanson43206 » Sun May 07, 2017 7:49 pm

Re: 20160413 Variations on a theme of Adam Smith

20170507 Pages 780-818

Book Five

Of the Revenue of the Sovereign or Commonwealth

Chapter 1

Of the Expenses of the Sovereign or Commonwealth

Part 3

Of the Expense of public Works and public Institutions

Article I

Of the public Works and Institutions for facilitating the Commerce of the Society

In this part of the chapter, Mr. Smith provides a view of his time which features canals, carriages and coaches, sailing vessels and other technologies which were state-of-the-art, in the context of their funding on behalf of the sovereign and the people taken as a whole. His discussion of the difference in performance between private enterprise and public commissions seems (to me at least) a bit dated, because over 240 years, there seems (to me) to be a tradition of American performance of public functions that is generally of a high order. This difference may well be due to improvements in systems of public accountability, but it is possible it is also due to a general acceptance of responsibility for the commons which may not have been as strong in Smith's time. Certainly there are still examples of individuals who do not value the commons, and find it perfectly acceptable to discard trash without regard for where it lands, but it seems to me there are plenty of individuals who try to avoid littering or polluting the air or water.

Smith's discussion of taxation methods to support public infrastructure is probably timeless. We are still arguing about who should pay for roads, clean water, clean air and countless other public benefits.

Smith's discussion of various kinds of organizations attempted before and during his time ought to be instructive in 2017, as a reminder of systems of organization to avoid, such as that of the East India Company, which Smith faults for administration of forts and other protective devices in the place of the sovereign. It seems to me that in 2017, such examples of merchants attempting to protect their undertakings themselves, instead of depending upon the armed and legal forces of their respective Nation States are very rare, if any exist at all.

Smith closes this Article with consideration of four activities he appears to consider suitable for organization as joint stock companies: banking, insurance, transportation and water supply. As I look out at the world of 2017, with its myriad of corporate activities, I concluded that over time the disadvantages of this organization type must have been successfully addressed.

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