FORWARD BASE B

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Tag Archives: monopoly

Comments Make Top-Down Journalism Obsolete

On news sites anymore, I skip articles with a gnawing sense of annoyance when I find they have no comments section.  Articles are limited in length and I find there’s no one person that knows so much that other people out there can’t expand on their points and further illuminate the topic.  Even where commenters are hysterical and stupid I get a valuable sense of the mood of the readership.
Comments serve as quality control.  I notice articles that lack a comment section are often opinion pieces with some wordy and smug aristocrat blowing wind out of their ass without having to face the contemptuous criticism they deserve.
When an article is poorly written, commenters point out the problems and shred it to pieces.  And when it’s well written they analyze and expand beyond what any one person has time for.

I often see the comments attract people far smarter and more experienced than the author. The very word “journalism” sounds like something limited to an age before the internet got big. That’s because the author of an article is no longer an authority talking down to the masses. They’re now just an OP that starts a discussion thread. It’s a good public service to start a thoughtful thread that attracts smart commenters, but it’s no longer a pulpit to form others’ opinions for them.
My parents still e-mail me articles from mainstream publications that either have no comments, or its obvious they didn’t read the comments section, where the piece they found value in is convincingly trashed and refuted by dozens of thoughtful people, or at least greatly refined and improved on.

Journalism remains as a sickly presence on life support mainly because older generations are stuck in their habits. But just as actual printed newspapers are disappearing, journalists recognized by society as ceremonial caretakers of truth with “expert” opinions will also phase out.
In a high-information world everyone can see the man behind the curtain and comments make it painfully obvious that average people on the street are often more knowledgable than the sheltered pets that write for big-name gatekeeper institutions. Well-connected mediocrities that have always hidden behind these information monopolies will not survive the transition.
Soon, only those who earn audiences will have them. There still are and will be gatekeepers—but they will only maintain their influence by maintaining their quality standards and jealously guarding their credibility.

I often hear disgust about comments and it’s true mob rule is no good. But the OP always gets to speak first without interruption even if there’s a crowd of thousands. I also find there is a natural justice in commentary. A low quality click-bait article attracts low quality commenters. A thoughtful piece tends to attract top notch analysis while the nature of its content weeds out people who just want to troll or scream in ALLCAPS.
The mob aspect of comments means it is a tool that has its proper uses. I might start out reading an article with its comments and later look up facts and numbers to see if what people are saying makes sense. I might find both the article author and the people are on the wrong track and come to my own conclusions. The psychology of why so many people are mislead creates interesting questions in itself.

The way crowdsourcing has developed through mediums like comments and wikis demonstrates how internet enables new ways of benefiting from the wisdom of the crowd while avoiding the downside of mob rule.
I suspect that the crowd structures we now use for navigating a broad range of opinions, or looking up facts will eventually prove useful to states that will be increasingly pressured to discover means of administration faster and more nimble than traditional bureaucracies.

Rockefeller: Oh the Joys of Deregulation

Railroads, factories, refineries…In the 19th century it became possible for a few people to control a few critical chokepoints of commerce and exploit them for all they were worth.

To some, these people were “captains of industry” to the worker on the street they were often known as “robber barons.”
Once one of them dominated a key commodity or transport system they could wield monopolistic powers with impunity.

Many people believed that “free” markets would naturally lead to the optimal public good, the regulations that could have stopped the near destruction of competition in the economy didn’t yet exist.

John D. Rockefeller grew up poor in rural America, his father absent most of the time womanizing and plying money-making schemes, his mother overworked at home on the farm.
Because they never knew when people would come calling to collect debts incurred by the father, they always had money in reserve and kept close track of finances.

When Rockefeller got his first job in Cleveland he started keeping a personal ledger poetically named “Ledger A” that he used to keep track of every penny that passed through his hands.
To put this worship of order and precision in perspective, Ledger A became Rockefeller’s personal Rosebud, a sacred artifact he later had locked away in one of his private vaults.

It was with this methodical spirit that Rockefeller continued to accumulate wealth and assets. He saw commerce itself and the accumulation of capital as a sacred mission.

Realizing that drilling for oil itself tended towards booms and busts, Rockefeller had the brains to focus on refineries that could bring in steady profits whether or not there were localized surges or shortages.

He also leveraged his growing economy of scale to get discount rates from the railroads which allowed him to sell his product cheaper than the competition. Soon everyone had to push for these discounts or go out of business. To a few victors who could push the railroad transport prices lowest went the spoils.

This price war over the railways is why today we have interstate commerce laws. Because Rockefeller could use railroads to help him sell more cheaply than the competition wherever he went, no one else stood a chance.

State governments and the feds tried to make regulations to prevent companies like Standard Oil from operating across state borders without having to answer to any set of local laws. Soon,companies had to operate under the laws of a single state.

Standard Oil simply split up into nominally separate companies, one for each state and all were governed from a seemingly innocuous holding company.

As government continued to try to restrict the reach of robber barons, men like Rockefeller kept finding ways to honor the letter of the law while circumventing its spirit.

Rockefeller responded to concern over the growing size of his company by maintaining every appearance of competition.
Companies he bought out would keep their old names and management. No one would even know anything had changed except for a few people at the top of the hierarchy.
He also allowed an insignificant sliver of the industry to remain somewhat independent so he could always make the claim that some competition existed.

Because of these stealthy tactics, few people realized just how big Standard Oil had become until it was too late. Whereas other Robber Barons liked to behave like celebrities, Rockefeller kept quiet operating largely behind the scenes. He didn’t truly become a household name until long after he had taken over.

Perhaps more than anyone, Rockefeller invented the modern corporation with its precisely organized state-sized bureacracies.
Because Rockefeller found himself in charge of so much, much of his effort was spent simply figuring out how to delegate tasks.

He also invented much of the modern corporate culture even becoming one of the first executives to organize much of his social life around holes of golf.

Like many magnates of his time, Rockefeller seemed to feel a certain tie to a homeland and people that today’s borderless tycoons would be hard-pressed to understand.

That Rockefeller retained some kind of moral vision and notion of a higher purpose even as he gained absolute power seems unthinkable after all the horrors of the 20th century and the dominance of disconnected kleptocrats in the 21st century.

It truly is amazing in retrospect that he actually tried to build things and give back to the society that gave him his wealth rather than relentlessly hoarding everything he had by running his operations out of multiple countries.

Indeed in the 21st century, today’s Robber Barons have transcended obsolete nation states.
They play the laws of one zone against the other for their gain much as Rockefeller once did with the laws of different U.S. states.

As unpopular as the notion of some kind of world governing system is, some kind of international commerce system may become necessary to stem the depredations of billionaires who reap all the benefits of playing a game of arbitrage within the current decrepit and outdated international system: If one nation objects to being exploited by them, they simply take their money somewhere else with a government more amenable to their desires.
If particular countries try to enforce regulations, elites can simply split different operations into different countries all under different names just like Rockefeller used to do in the states with bits and pieces of Standard Oil.

In our age of multi-national corporate entities effectively acting outside of the laws of nation states, we would do well to pay attention to the lessons we can learn from men like John D. Rockefeller.

Source:
Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller Sr.

What The Hanseatic League Tells Us About The Present

When governments grow weak, commercial organizations tend to fill the void.

Across a vast region along the Baltic Sea with few strong central authorities in the middle ages, merchant guilds banded together for strength and security until they were effectively their own state with their own military.

Indeed, they clashed with actual kings and princes and because they monopolized trade through the entire region, they usually won.

It was only when centralized government became strong again and the modern concept of a nation-state began to form that the Hanseatic league went into decline.

In our own time:

If I were to ask “Who is the most powerful man in this room?” The answer is not necessarily obvious.

Jobs obama zuckerberg silicon valley dinnger

Presently, we see a weakening of both the physical powers and legitimacy of the state. And predictably, we see a corresponding rise of commercial entities as they increasingly exert control over the state itself or take over functions (i.e. space exploration, education) that were previously the preserves of central state power.

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