Commentary

FREED Technology – Economics and Social Good of Decentralization

In 2001 I started a Peer to Peer (P2P) company, RazorPop, that used the Internet to free media from the control of giant entertainment conglomerates and give the power of choice back to consumers.  Since the late 90s there have been waves of Internet decentralization with terms like P2P, Saas (Software as a Service), cloud computing, and now blockchains.

The utilitarian nature of technology leads to an ongoing process of creative disruption.  Accelerating returns can quickly create monopolies.  Competitors out innovate them or disaggregate the business or technology.  The market becomes redefined.  And the cycle starts anew.

Technology being evil was first attributed to Microsoft, and then in addition and more recently, Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon.  The evil refers to the inevitable problems of such monopolies. As the companies focus on revenues they increasingly lock in their business ecology, including customers, platform, technology, and data.  Despite their size, actual innovation slows as resources are redirected to reinforcing the market and existing products.  Both overtly and indirectly monopolies co-opt government, inhibit natural creative destruction, and crowd out actual and would-be competitors.  Economically this effect is called the monopoly rent.

Monopolies are contrary to the social good of a free and fair market, whether they’re tech or not.  It’s why technology should be freed and decentralized.

Chris Dixon has an updated take on decentralization for cryptonetworks in Why Decentralization Matters. Here is a key excerpt.

Decentralization is a commonly misunderstood concept. For example, it is sometimes said that the reason cryptonetwork advocates favor decentralization is to resist government censorship, or because of libertarian political views. These are not the main reasons decentralization is important.

Let’s look at the problems with centralized platforms. Centralized platforms follow a predictable life cycle. When they start out, they do everything they can to recruit users and 3rd-party complements like developers, businesses, and media organizations. They do this to make their services more valuable, as platforms (by definition) are systems with multi-sided network effects. As platforms move up the adoption S-curve, their power over users and 3rd parties steadily grows.

When they hit the top of the S-curve, their relationships with network participants change from positive-sum to zero-sum. The easiest way to continue growing lies in extracting data from users and competing with complements over audiences and profits. Historical examples of this are Microsoft vs Netscape, Google vs Yelp, Facebook vs Zynga, and Twitter vs its 3rd-party clients. Operating systems like iOS and Android have behaved better, although still take a healthy 30% tax, reject apps for seemingly arbitrary reasons, and subsume the functionality of 3rd-party apps at will.

For 3rd parties, this transition from cooperation to competition feels like a bait-and-switch. Over time, the best entrepreneurs, developers, and investors have become wary of building on top of centralized platforms. We now have decades of evidence that doing so will end in disappointment. In addition, users give up privacy, control of their data, and become vulnerable to security breaches. These problems with centralized platforms will likely become even more pronounced in the future.

 

https://frd1.us/Decentral

 

 

Posted by Marc Freedman in Articles, Commentary, Economics, Entrepreneurs, Philosophy, 0 comments

Is it too late to stop the virus killing American democracy?

The Trump-sponsored Nunes memo that alleges an FBI and Justice Department anti-Trump bias represents the latest Republican break with reality when:

  • Their heads were appointed by Trump.
  • The departments are typically staffed by Republicans
  • The FBI influenced the presidential election in Trump’s favor with Comey’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s emails.
  • The GOP was the law and order party.

It’s Trump’s latest inept and corrosive attack on our democracy, this time to deflect attention away from the Russian investigation.

It’s a part of a much larger puzzle.  This isn’t a typical meme or swing of the political pendulum.  A fundamental change started 30 years ago when the extreme far right was infected with a certain anarchy.  The infection mutated outside the normal bounds of political convention.  American politics had no immunity.

Its goal was not to take over  government but to destroy and remake it.  The virus was unbound by tradition.

As a result, the infection spread over the years.  It leaped from person to person, from group to group.  It expanded its sphere from haters to the fearful to the docile.  It bulldozed facts, science, truth, moderation, cooperation, bipartisanship, and outsiders.  It took over the party where it started. With the normal checks and balances dissolved, the virus infected the government itself.  Yesterday it was local and state government. Today it’s the FBI.  Tomorrow the press.

We last saw this in the 1930’s. All that’s left is the naked ambition of the Boy King, the craven acceptance of enthralled acolytes, and the tyranny of the mob.

How do you explain the unchecked success of an infection that’s spanned an entire generation? Is it just a natural political mutation that incubated in the right brew of schemers, money, and power.

Perhaps.  If you’re willing to settle for an easy and neat answer.  The one they want you to have.

But I see order, the blueprint of a 30 year old plan.  This virus is brilliant, a feat of social, political, and information engineering that predicted the future that we’re at today.

Is is the inevitable endgame of unrestrained capitalism? …

A plutocratic takeover that germinated in the 1970s military industrial complex? …

The fruition of a Russian KGB operation hatched amid the deaththroes of the Soviet Union?

Or something else?

Is it too late to kill the virus when you don’t know where it came from and it’s already killing its host?

 

https://frd1.us/FAVirus

 

 

Posted by Marc Freedman in Articles, Commentary, Current events, Donald Trump, History, Philosophy, Republicans, 1 comment

Trump & The Tax Bill, the Present That Keeps Giving

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is the ‘win’ that wasn’t.  The legislation was promoted with proven lies and failures (trickle down).  It could have been fact-based and middle class-supportive.  Instead it’s a donor giveaway that transfers money from the have-nots to the already haves (corporations and the wealthy).

Lyin ‘Donald had a chance to deliver on his promise to support the people, even if it hurt himself.  Instead, to no one’s surprise, it benefits the rich, wealthy companies, and Trump.

It’s a cunningly crafted Trojan horse.  The lower and middle class  benefits are illusory.  Their tax benefits expire after a few years, while the giveaway to the rich is permanent.    When the $1.5 trillion deficit comes due the GOP already has said it’s prepared to go after social benefit programs.

A review of how much the bill benefits the 1%:

  • 25% – Promised. Trump said the bill would hurt him. So the majority of benefts would have benefited the middle class.
  • 82% – Actual bill.
  • 1oo+% – After 2025 when the middle class benefits expire.

#ThankyouTrump. You could have helped the people or even your core voters.  But you didn’t.  And a majority know it.

Instead you gave us this wonderful gift for people to remember you by.  In case they miss your hourly tweets.   It may be a win for your fellow Republican lawmakers and donors now.  But this trillion dollar giveaway will be an eternally shiny present for the Democrats at election time later this year and beyond.

 

https://frd1.us/TaxBillPresent

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Marc Freedman in Articles, Commentary, Donald Trump, Economics, Republicans, Thank you, Trump, 0 comments

The Inconvenient Truth

… or Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire and Fury.

David Brooks writes about inconvenient observations and the Michael Wolff book in The Decline of Anti-Trumpism.  A few excerpts follow.

First, people who go into the White House to have a meeting with President Trump usually leave pleasantly surprised. They find that Trump is not the raving madman they expected.

Second, people who work in the Trump administration have wildly divergent views about their boss.

Third, the White House is getting more professional. …

This isn’t just a struggle over a president. It’s a struggle over what rules we’re going to play by after Trump. Are we all going to descend permanently into the Trump standard of acceptable behavior?

Mr. Brooks, let’s look at what you wrote.  The President isn’t a raving madman.  Some people in his administration like him.  And some are getting work done.   I’ll even add that I’m sure his family loves him.  Plus certain crowds still adore him. I’ll even grant that clinical narcissism may not be as bad as psychopathy.

They said the same about Hitler and Caligula early on during their reigns. Aren’t YOU the one setting the bar low here?  Are you truly willing to settle at this point?

The man is not well.  He’s doing damage to the norms of the office and the country.  He’s co-opted the cowardly GOP.   This isn’t a typical Administration or political process.  Even your own colleagues remain alarmed where a recent selection included Paul Krugman’s The Worst and the Dumbest, Nicholas Kristof on Trump’s Threat to Democracy, and the New York Times editorial Is Mr. Trump Nuts?

The GOP has weaponized politics through media and message control and thirty years of continual lies … and you’re worried about whether Wolff’s book is too lowbrow with gossip that contains the truth?

The inconvenient truth is that it’s been and still is a critical, clear, and present danger.  The problem is not, as you write, the anti-Trump movement is suffering from insularity.  It’s the challenge of continuing to reach, motivate, and mobilize Americans.

The fight for #TheResistance is just starting. Let’s worry about standards and lowbrow books after the battle’s been won.

 

https://frd1.us/FAFireFury

 

 

 

Posted by Marc Freedman in Articles, Commentary, Current events, Donald Trump, Republicans, 0 comments

The Quality of Overcoming

Once upon a time there was a narcissistic populist who trumpeted his mental stability and intelligence.  He charmed the populace and rose to run a kingdom that was the leader of the world.  He had exquisite tastes and demanded luxury. He ran up extravagant personal bills that were paid by the people.

He had no government experience.  He said whatever was on his mind, made impractical promises, reversed all his predecessor’s policies, and enacted tax cuts that increased the deficit.  He had no military experience but liked to play the role.  He glorified violence, surrounded himself with military trappings and generals, and threatened his rivals.

No, this is not Lyin’ Donald.  This ruler was Trumpier than Trump with four wives and slept only three hours a night.  He didn’t just threaten but killed Senators.

The emperor was Caligula, as recounted by Nicholas Kristof in There Once Was a Great Nation With an Unstable Leader. Kristof’s conclusion is that Rome survived, as will America.

To me, the lesson is that Rome was able to inoculate itself against unstable rulers so that it could recover and rise to new glories. Even the greatest of nations may suffer a catastrophic leader, but the nation can survive the test and protect its resilience — if the public stays true to its values, institutions and traditions. That was true two millennia ago, and remains true today.

Of course.  We shall overcome.  In one year or a hundred.  In Trump’s world or another.  By definition.

Is that all?  The end of the story?  Is it sufficient for you to resign yourself to the natural arc of time, knowing that Trump and his legacy will be swept away … at some point, just like Caligula?  Are you satisfied to feel injustice, but stay in your comfort zone and accept current events as fate?  Trump, the GOP, and their plutocratic bosses hope you are.

Or are you ready to take control of your life and be a part of, and not just observe, history?

For those of us here, now, is not the quality of how we overcome more important than our endurance?

How do you want to be remembered in 10 years or a generation from now?

What is your commitment and role in #TheResistance?

 

https://frd1.us/FAovercome

 

Posted by Marc Freedman in Articles, Commentary, Donald Trump, History, Republicans, Resistance, 0 comments

Engineering Tribalism

For the past two years President Trump has revived tribal identity politics with his brand of American nationalism.  After the Presidential race in Nov. 2016  termed it a “Slide”, attributed it to Trump’s choice of policy, and asked if it was inevitable.

This month David Brooks called it a “Retreat“.  He makes the point that tribal politics rises and falls with societal externalities and institutions, and such civilizing forces are weaker than they have been in the past.

Brooks resorts to false equivalence, which misses the asymmetry, a clue to what’s happening.  He writes about campus extremism on the left as if students who fight to control a classroom are comparable in any way to a President and Republican Congress who control an entire country.

Brooks pins overly broad labels.  He claims that “we’ve regressed from a sophisticated moral ethos to a primitive one,” which insults most Democrats and some Republicans and conservatives who do place country above party and tribe.

Both Nyhan and Brooks are missing the bigger picture – the cause.  Trump is the current end of a long process, not the beginning.  The rise of identity politics is not the result of a broken economy, declining social networks, or a romantic return to primitive times.  People don’t regress naturally or on purpose.

Not only is the slide to tribalism not inevitable, it’s also no accident.  It’s been precisely engineered over the past 30 years.  It’s the intentional, cumulative, and tuned result of the GOP weaponizing politics through media and message control.  When you define reality you can manufacture fear, shrink the world, and force such a retreat.

It’s good marketing (for them) …  basic brainwashing (see Orwell) …  and a necessary ingredient to get a population to vote against their own interests and transfer ever more power to the plutocracy and their corporate proxies.

 

 

https://frd1.us/FAtribes

Posted by Marc Freedman in Articles, Commentary, Reality, 0 comments

Is the G.O.P. T.O.X.I.C.?

I wrote about the hijacking of the Republican party three years ago in Grande Old Party, I Hardly Knew Ye.  Here are a few excerpts:

I remember the GOP positively as a teen as the party of economic opportunity.

According to Bring Back the Party of Lincoln,  the change in the GOP isn’t new.  Republicans are historical flip-floppers.  Author Heather Cox Richardson concludes:

Twice in its history, the Republican Party regained its direction and popularity after similar disasters by returning to its original defense of widespread individual economic success. The same rebranding is possible today, if Republicans demote Reagan from hero to history and rally to a leader like Lincoln, Roosevelt or Eisenhower — someone who believes that the government should promote economic opportunity rather than protect the rich.

Change is inevitable, especially amid a changing electorate that reduces the Republican power base every year.  The only question is when.

While anything is possible, it’s unlikely to happen soon.  The Super Recession was nearly as bad as the Depression.  It had no effect on the party.  There have been various Republican branding initiatives.  They’ve gone nowhere.  The party has virtually shut down Congress.  Not a budge.  And there is no savior in sight.

Instead the party has used its power to enfranchise its legitimacy by redrawing voting maps and giving the rich even more influence.  It’s drawn the Democrats far right of where they were 30 years ago, thus providing far less GOP maneuvering room.

I suggest nothing is going to happen until the party runs out of all its tricks and loses both houses of Congress and the Presidency at the same time and that’s probably 20 years away at best.

It’s now three years later.  A new GOP President promised Main Street populism.  Did he lead the party and reinvigorate it?

Of course not.  Trump is no Lincoln and didn’t keep that and many other promises.  Lyin’ Donald and his billionaire cabinet are the embodiment of protecting the rich. Republicans own all 3 federal government branches.  Trump’s ratings are the lowest of any modern President at this point in their term.  Trump’s brand is toxic. And the GOP has embraced him, making that stain theirs as well.  A Democratic whiplash appears increasingly likely in the midterms with a Democratic presidency in 2020 a good bet.

When will the GOP return to being the party of Lincoln? Apparently they’re still not toxic enough.  Based on the 2017 Tax Bill, there’s no hint of change yet.  We’ll check back in another four years.

Posted by Marc Freedman in Articles, Commentary, History, Republicans, 0 comments

Thank you, Trump

#ThankyouTrump While we all knew Trump’s presidency would be a disaster – and it is – there is much to be thankful there.  We only learn when we’re tested and the limits are pushed, which they surely have. This isn’t politics as usual.  It’s a generational aberration.  So we’re learning and thanking him for a lot.

Trump’s lack of experience, maturity, manners, dignity, grace, class, professionalism, empathy, truth telling, business sense, negotiation ability, self-awareness, and critical thinking (one could go on, but I’ll stop here)  has tested – and in many cases redefined – politics, the Presidency, and our culture.  If Americans want to be FREED, it’s imperative that all free thinkers learn from this painful experience.

We’ll update this list with your suggestions, corrections, data, and comments below or sent to us.

The Bottom Line

  • What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  While the country regresses in the short term, we believe that Trump’s extremism ultimately provides a superior environment for real change – sooner rather than later – compared to a Clinton presidency … that is if Americans don’t continue to be vigilant, engaged, and politically active.

Special thank yous

  • Activate the left.  Obama and Bernie excited millions.  But they engaged few who typically didn’t participate in voting and the normal political process.  It took the real horrors of Trump to do that, get millions marching in the streets, and create #TheResistance.
  • Accelerate social change. There have been and will be more significant social justice losses with Republicans in control of the federal government.  Those losses will eventually be reversed.  What is significant is that new change is already happening.  Consider #MeToo, the culture surrounding the harassment of women. Within a year Trump’s Neanderthal misogyny and his election gave rise to the next generation women’s movement.  You can draw a direct line from Trump’s rise to his pussy grabbing to the downfall of Fox’s Roger Ailes and Bill O‘Reilly to the disclosures bringing down many other political, entertainment, and business figures.
  • The rise of the common man.  While Trump as a billionaire is no more common than a US Senator, his election does give hope through one example that the country is receptive to candidates outside the normal political sphere, which is dominated by people who are typically male, white, straight, religious, and from the government or legal profession.

Everything old is new again

Thank you for the history lesson and reminders!

  • Rage rules. From an historical perspective, the past 50 years have been relatively sedate politically.  However earlier times have exhibited the mob mentality encouraged by Trump. Rage can be a powerful force.
  • Populism returns. Bernie Sanders’ rise signaled a return to populism.  Clinton’s campaign took notice and tacked to the left. However it was insufficient as Trump was able to take away geographically critical voters.  The combination of populism + rage + personality was just enough to beat sanity and experience.  This lesson isn’t new.  But it’s one Democrats often fail to embrace.
  • The limits of democracy.  Often a threat is insufficient.  It takes a generational attack on our institutions to see how fragile they are and not take them for granted.
  • The strength of democracy.  See above.  Trump’s blundering will affect government for decades.  But at the same time life (so far) has largely continued as normal.  The federal government was sufficiently robust and checked by state, and local government, patriotic federal government employees who placed country above party or Russian puppet, the media, and an active citizenry.
  • The Real Fake News.  Lies and fake news have been a part of politics forever.  It’s seen an asymmetric expansion on the right the past few decades as a part of the Republican toolkit (see Swiftboating and Truthiness).  Attacking legitimate media as cover for your own lies is natural, both as the next step in the evolution of this trend and Trump’s tenuous grasp of reality.  However Trump has reached a breaking point.   His lies now are so prevalent that they not only keep comics and the media busy on an hourly basis, they’ve also reached the limit where they severely damaged the credibility of anything the speaker and party says.

21st Century Rules

Donald, you, sir, are a trailblazer.

  • Connected America. Trump won the presidency by breaking the traditional rules that required government experience, expensive advertising, and extensive local ground organizations.   Instead he owned the mass, social, and partisan media and engaged a foreign government.  While it’s possible – though not clear – that mass media will be more balanced in the future, what is certain is that media, technology, and marketing are new and huge factors in the game of politics.

Could have been worse

  • Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) poster child.  Psychiatrists can’t ethically diagnose someone who is not a patient.  But his NPD affliction is clear to thousands of mental health professionals.  Millions of Americans now know what this sad disease looks like.
  • Not a true authoritarian (yet).  Many have feared the rise of totalitarianism and a strongman based on Trump’s rhetoric,  tweets, and inability to focus outside himself.  However this pathology – so far – appears to be more internally directed (see NPD above) than an externalized megalomania.

Lying to your own supporters

Not that they listen.  Or care. Or their media will cover or tell the truth about it.

Trump promised to support the middle class that was left behind by international trade, elites, and wealthy donors. Instead he proposed and enacted administrative rules and laws that were the total opposite.  Trump, we thank thee for these gifts.

They show your real truth and will eventually help FREE America.

  • They not only didn’t expand his core voters, but they also harmed the populist part of his base.
  • They drew overwhelming support from the Republican party, which makes both Trump and the party responsible.
  • They provide strong ammunition for future candidates that demonstrate Trump’s and the GOP’s true intentions.

More

Additional articles in which we’re grateful for Trump.

 

 

Posted by Marc Freedman in Articles, Commentary, Donald Trump, Philosophy, Politics, Resistance, 0 comments

U.S. Economic Slavery Worsens

I penned the article on the Civil War below four years ago.   I asked when will we ‘make the US great again?’  and return to economic equality and a strong middle class.

Today little has changed.  Trump took that phrase for his own slogan.  His version of MAGA is a reversion to earlier times of straight white male supremacy like the Civil War era.  With Lyin’ Donald and the Republicans in control, economic slavery is only getting worse.

_____

The Civil War anew: U.S. economic slavery 150 years later

March 28, 2013

The New York Times commemorates the Civil War’s 150th anniversary with an ongoing series called Disunion.  The closed patriarchy of slaveowners clashed with the freedom and opportunity of the West.  The article Mitchel Thompson’s War by C Kay Larson documents the strong support for the war in the Union Midwest.

Slave ownership made for bad economics …

[F]uture governor Richard Ogilvy told how, as a young laborer in Kentucky, he could charge only $6 a month, lest he lose out to slave labor, which could be rented out at $75 a year.

… and bad culture.

Rev. Charles Beecher  said the question was not “ whether black men are forever to be slaves, but whether the sons of Puritans are to become slaves themselves.”

The country was growing up and recognizing the externalities of an unjust and imbalanced socioeconomic system.

Northwest Illinois farmers’ mantra became “free territories, free homesteads, and protection to free labor.”

Is it any different today as billionaire industrialists have created their own plantations of wealth, often squirreled overseas to save every last penny … where their enterprises are too big to fail … their jobs are guaranteed with golden parachutes … their adverse actions have no consequences?   Their money has bought the political power to increase their holdings at the expense of the rest of the country.  They’ve destroyed the middle class, weakened the social network, gutted job security, increased poverty, and cheapened life for those who are not privileged.

150 years ago:

[A] new Republican Party alliance was struck between Western free farmers and Eastern industrialists.

Where is the alliance, Republican or otherwise, that will break today’s slavery?

When will the technology and innovation industries meet their social obligations and join with the people to make the US great again?

Posted by Marc Freedman in Articles, Commentary, Donald Trump, Economics, History, Politics, Republicans, Resistance, 0 comments

Lyin’ Donald

… or The Non-Populist Populist

Ross Douthat writes “What’s particularly frustrating is that [the Republican tax bill] didn’t have to be this way”.  But isn’t that the point?  After almost of year of so-called governance has he not figured how Trump works and the GOP operates?

The Republican switch-and-bait that taxes the poor to give to their rich donors has been going on for decades. Trump acts based on his self-interest, as yet another purported billionaire, not the country’s – or even his base’s – interest.  Too bad his own voters never learned that for themselves.

Trump started out with great promise to support and empower Main Street and the middle class that was left behind by international trade, elites, and wealthy donors.  That populist message was noble, selfless, and admirable.  If he could deliver on it, he could build a true legacy with a wide base of support.  I personally would have celebrated and congratulated him.

But who’s kidding who?  This is Lyin’ Donald.  The tax bill is the purest expression of who he is.  He says  it would cost him a fortune.  He lied.  James Repetti, a tax law professor at Boston College Law School, said “This is a windfall for real estate developers like Trump.”  He and his cronies will expand their fortunes. Hugely.  An  estimate from the Washington Post counts that Trump will save $7 million per year.

Instead of being a force for social good, he followed the standard Republican gameplan to enrich the rich.  Instead of combating the power of the elites and income inequality, he only increased it.

Robert Reich posts a nice summary of Trump’s Top 20 lies in his New Year’s Update for Trump Voters.

Ross, don’t be frustrated.  Follow the money, not the tweets.

#ThankyouTrump

 

 

 

Posted by Marc Freedman in Articles, Commentary, Donald Trump, Republicans, Thank you, Trump, 0 comments