Thursday, September 24, 2015

Deconstructing the Pope

Hi! Happy Wednesday!

The Pope is visiting America this week and much is being made about it in the media.

I thought this would make an excellent teaching moment about deconstructing the Pope. Not me. I'm not deconstructing the Pope. I'm deconstructing the people who are deconstructing the Pope.

There are two reasons I'm not deconstructing the Pope:
  1. Anti-atheist banality. An anti-theist like myself picking on the Pope? Like that hasn't been done a million times. 
  2. Solutions. Irreni World Scale is about solutions, not punditry. 
What solution? you ask? This is a perfect teaching moment about thinking in world scale. The Pope is discussing global topics such as climate change and capitalism.

So let's dig in, shall we?

Today I'm deconstructing a WCGO Chicago radio podcast. The program is called "Coffee and Markets" and is a prime-time morning-drive talk show. Further, the hosts and the guests are decidedly conservative. I can't really say I have any agenda with conservative vs. liberal on this topic of speaking in scale. Liberals and conservatives alike happen to both be egregiously bad talking about scale. The only reason I'm picking on this show is it happens to be the one I was listening too.

You can listen to the show here:
 Below are just some of the talking points:


The Pope states that capitalism promotes a throw-away society.  The capitalist counter argument is that it is that people are free to do things wasteful. However, markets encourage people to do things efficiently. Capitalists economy are more efficient than socialist economies because  they make more profit by using fewer resources. The efficiencies in capitalist economies are much higher than socialist economies to generate more profits.

That capitalist economies are more efficient in manufacting is irrelevant when it comes to the waste of capitalism.. Planned obsolescence is wasteful.  Cars up until the Japanese started competing with US auto makers were made to fail. An automobile that lasts 100 years means a consumer is not buying an automobile for 100 years. Can't have that. Ideally in capitalism a car should break down every year so you have to buy another car every year. That's how capitalism works. That's wasteful. Where is the capitalism in selling products that are permanent and not consumed? Capitalism promotes consumption because increased sales comes from selling more product. Totally wasteful. The wasteful scale of consumer consumption wasting our resources far outstrips any efficiencies of manufacturing gained by capitalism. The only proof you need is the obesity epidemic in this country. We are eating ourselves to death as consumers buying every increasing amounts of high-fat, high-calorie food.

Capitalism lifts the poor. 

The capitalist argument is that the output that comes from capitalists economies enables ordinary and even the poor compared to socialists economies and even  prior to the industrial revolution.

The problem with this argument is treating capitalism as if there are no other forces working in society.

Like say, I don't know, public education. Public education that is government run and owned.

Capitalism lifts the poor is at best a half-truth. That makes this half-lie.

Capitalism as an idea doesn't work in a vacuum. Capitalism cannot take all the credit nor can capitalism take all the blame. Capitalism is just one of many ideas at work in our economy. Talking about capitalism as a factor in isolation is naive at best, dishonest at worst.

I did a study once on a different topic: capital punishment. A simple question was asked: does killing people deter crime? Does the death penalty prevent people from committing crime?

You know what the answer was? We don't know. Why? Because there are too many societal factors at any given time so as to be able to isolate the one variable: capital punishment. The only thing we know for sure is that crime correlates to poverty.

So how is that if we cannot determine if the death penalty works because socially isolating the variable is impossible then there are people who go around giving capitalism credit for everything? It doesn't scale. You cannot isolate capitalism from public education, Democratic governments and social welfare so as to "know" economic success is solely attributable to capitalism. People who do this are either arrogant or dishonest.

Capitalism is only compared to a set of fixed historical systems.

A zero-sum game is a fallacious argument of scale. What is mind-boggling about capitalists arguing ideas of types of government as a zero-sum game is the cognitive dissonance.  In the very same interview noted above the economist argues that people who do not understand wealth typically do so because they treat wealth like a zero-sum game. Yet he treats models of government as a zero-sum game where the only ideas are socialism, communism and capitalism. So here is someone who knows the scale pitfall of a zero-sum game argument and yet makes the same zero-sum argument about ideas for government. The Pope is not limiting himself to just ideas of the past. The Pope even states we need a new path forward. And yet the fellow in the interview puts the Pope in that box historical.  Ideas are not a zero-sum game. Further the definitions of socialism, communism and capitalism have evolved over time and each generation of these ideas needs a fresh set of arguments.


Innovation made possible by capitalism has lifted in the poorest of the world.  No one gets small pox today because of capitalism.

Two things about the American economy  I can assure all capitalists will agree on. First, is that America has a terrible track record of building democracies in other countries, a requirement for capitalism. Second, is that American innovation is far superior to anywhere else in the world where capitalism exists.  Japan and Korea do not innovate as well as America. And Canada? And Australia? Do these countries innovate as well as the US? If not then capitalism cannot be the only factor for innovation and perhaps not even the major factor.


Is capitalism compatible with religion? Capitalism requires a pluralist society that promotes religion by not adhering to a single religion.

This argument undermines itself. Capitalism requires a pluralistic society not the other way around. Secularism should be given  credit for America's economic achievements today, not just capitalism in isolation.

Being poor.

The capitalist argument is there is no institution in history that comes close to capitalism success at inspiring multitudes of strangers from different countries and with different talents to cooperate for the betterment of humanity and the nature environment. Thus lifting all boats worldwide.   People who don't understand the economy assume a zero-sum game when it comes to the poor. Capitalism argument that the people who do not know anything about economics shouldn't make pronouncements about the economy. . You want to be poor in America and not in Ecuador.
“This report gives evidence on how to achieve societal well-being,” Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, said in a statement. “It’s not by money alone, but also by fairness, honesty, trust, and good health.”
Otherwise this argument is identical to the argument  above where capitalism lives in a vacuum taking all the credit.

I pointed out above the secularism is a prerequisite for capitalism to flourish.

Most anthropologists will tell you that capitalism is not the fundamental underpinning of our economy and overall way of life, public education is. Capitalism is secondary to public education and public education did not come from capitalism, but religion.

The Protestant movement inadvertently created public education. You need to read the bible to be a protestant. This means all protestants must be taught to read and write. Thus public education was born. 

Public education and secularism underpin capitalism and are a foundation that capitalism must be built upon. Public education can be argued is far more fundamental to our economy.

War on Poverty

The conservative view point is we have spent 20 trillion dollars in the war on poverty and haven't moved the needle on poverty. We've created inter-generational poverty. People are better off working. People are too lazy to get a job because the government is giving free handouts over a long haul. Conservative view point is that success and getting out of poverty only requires a high-school diploma, a job, get married and have children.

There are so many problems with this argument it is hard to know where to begin.

  1. Financiers are rigging the game. Everyday people like you and me cannot change financial regulation to get rich the way financiers can. Cheating is resulting in a huge re-distribution of wealth going on in this country where the middle-class is being destroyed.
  2. Automation is eliminating high-school jobs. Menial labor is now the domain of robotics, computers and automation. 
  3. Global workforce. The Internet has made global communication and a global workforce the norm. Americans are now competing with low-wage workers all over the world. 
  4. Jobs are limitless is a fallacy. This is probably the biggest fallacy every conservative believes. If only people would go out and look for a job there a limitless jobs out there waiting to be filled. 
  5. The 1980s called and they want their joke back with respect to mom, dad and the kids. In a single decade the US economy went from a single-parent to a dual-parent income norm required for the middle-class. Unless one is upper-middle class one cannot afford to live in the US in the middle-class with one working parent. Conservatives arguing for re-establishment of a two-parent family are holding Americans hostage to a norm that has only been around since 1980: middle-class requires two incomes.
  6. Middle-class status is superior to happiness overall is a fallacy.  See the Times report: Dysfunctionally, unhappy, miserable marriages are why people get divorced in the first place. Conservatives want women in particular to go back to being forced into a patriarchy economy.   

Thinking in scale.

What's absolutely crucial to deconstructing the arguments in the radio interview and understanding why these arguments are fallacious is having a solid perspective of  scale.

Joan Fedor said it best, "The biggest threat to democracy today is over-simplified solutions to complicated problems."

This is an argument of scale. That things are complicated is a argument of scale. Just giving credit to capitalism or just blaming capitalism in isolation is an over-simplified evaluation by orders of magnitude. This applies to the Pope as well for just blaming capitalism in isolation. These over-simplified evaluations  are the biggest threat to capitalism and democracy today. Therefore it is fair to say that all the arguments deconstructing the Pope in the radio interview noted above are all fallacious for the very same reason, over simplification. Because the arguments are all over-simplified that makes these arguments the worst threat possible to capitalism itself. Demagoguery of ideology is dangerous albeit religion or any other idea.

All the above arguments promoting capitalism discount every other factor in human history that has promoted human betterment, especially public education. We humans inadvertently stumbled upon public education. And yet, Capitalism gets all the credit for America's success today.

The Irreni solution today was a teaching moment to deconstruct in scale. I've made arguments of scale to get you to think in scale. Society is complex. Anyone boiling society down to a trope such as "capitalism" doesn't know what they are talking about. Full stop.


Demand Irreni World Scale!

Think disruption!

Empathy for all!

Moral relativity: think it, breath it!

Prove it or lose it!

Conversations equal consensus! 

Welcome to the 21st century!

Scale your empathy, scale the world! 

Find your tribe!

Be sexy people!

The future is coming! 

Innovate at a rapid pace!

Slow speed ahead!

Well come! and well met!

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