Barlow essay on Burning Man and Schwartzenegger

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Barlow essay on Burning Man and Schwartzenegger

Postby jeffreybenner » Tue Oct 28, 2003 9:27 am

I encourage you to read, and comment on, this beautiful John Perry Barlow essay about Burning Man and the recent election of a new governor in California. It was put on the web by Chaffyn and comes from a mailing list that Barlow broadcasts from on occasion:

http://www.wf.net/~aardvark/ee/000hold/barlow01.htm

Follows are my comments on the essay:

Even if a few thousand Burning Man cultural creatives had given up their projects to work as activists against Schwartzenegger, would it have made it any difference? I see the election out there (I'm not a Californian) as a prime example of a meme infestation run wild. I agree that it made no sense to elect Schwartzenegger, but in the current American wounded psyche, the archetypal figure of the Wounded Hero which Schwartzenegger represents is too compelling for most of our fellow primates to ignore.

Black Rock City is a real community. The third largest sometimes city in Nevada, it is a true "transient community" to paraphrase an idea predicted thirty years ago by Alvin Toffler, and is a fitting child of emergent post-industrialism. It is a place that would not exist were it not for the single-minded year-long efforts of several thousand crazy people.

Calling Black Rock City as Barlow does a "self-ghettoizing refuge" denigrates the positive role that ghettos play in many minority cultures. For Jews the ghettos of Eastern Europe were despite their dark origins places of protection, of formation of cultural identity, and true focal points for their history and language. Cultural creatives form a minority in this North American political culture, and Burning Man represents a way to gather forces toward a focal point, to form thousands of new networks of interrelationships which otherwise might not have existed.

If the creative energy of Black Rock City is dissipated and lost when the participants leave for the larger circle of mainstream primate society, then indeed it may have just been a fun week-long diversion. But I don't think that is happening. I am not an expert in this, but it appears that the Burning Man meme is increasingly infecting a variety of metropolitan cultures and art communities, and may also be becoming a magnetic organizing influence on the national scene as well, drawing together to a tighter network cluster and building stronger nodes of cultural creative energy.

feel free to forward, so long as my email address stays glued to the post.

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Postby Alpha » Tue Oct 28, 2003 10:15 am

First I find out that Brad Templeton is a long-time burner (and e-playan! Hi Brad!).. now John Barlow. Is Gilmore a burner, too? Next I'll find out that Richard Stallman and the whole FSF clan are playa diehards, too!

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Postby Alpha » Tue Oct 28, 2003 10:16 am

Speaking of Stallman, you'll see from his web site (http://www.stallman.org/) that he is doing exactly as Barlow suggests.
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Postby KellY » Tue Oct 28, 2003 5:47 pm

Barlow does write an excellent essay, and I agree with many of his points. I think he undersells how transormative experience Burning Man can be ( not always, alas): opening people's minds and unleashing creative energies, not just for next year's playa project but in the world outside. Also, it's damn important to feed one's own soul, even more so in hard times. I'm reminded of the big party scene in Matrix ll: sure it would have been more practical to have the population of Zion working every possible moment on the city's defenses, but you also have to remind yourself what it is your fighting for in the first place, beyond mere continued existence.
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Postby rogue agent » Tue Oct 28, 2003 6:29 pm

I think Larry & the BMorg have anticipated Barlow already. Larry's "stages of Burning Man" essay & the BMorg's support of regional Burn communities seem targeted directly at exporting not just the ecstatic experience but piggybacking a political/cultural movement through it into the "default world".

The whole idea's so new that I don't think it's percolated very far into the minds of most Burners, but it's clear to me that, for better or worse this is where Larry & the BMorg want to steer us all.

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Postby Isotopia » Tue Oct 28, 2003 6:34 pm

I think that in some ways Barlow is making a leap in his logic assuming that folks on the playa somehow represent this homogenous mind-set. He makes his points marginally although some of what he scribes really does ring true. But to assume that what we do on the playa somehow extends to what we do during the other 51 weeks of the year is an assumption that I'm just not convinced he's made a case for.

I know a lot of people who've been heading to the playa for years and yes, a good number of them involve themselves for many months ramping up to the Big Event. But to almost categorically suggest that this is the only thing we do with the time available to us is, well, presumptuous. There's a tendency to eschew isues here on the e-Playa that are political and all and I'm certainly guilty of it as well but I'm NOT convinced that we represent this demographic that pulls our head out of the sands only to invest our energies into getting ready for the playa. Case in point (albeit a weak one) is remembering seeing a large number of people at several of the local anti-war demos here in SF. They were burners I recognized from the playa and from other pre-burn events around The City. They weren't all just carrying signs and shouting silly outdate hippie-ass slogans. A good number of them were trying to register voters, passing out literature, etc. which suggests to me that on some level there is a good deal of very active and robust political activism that's being done by many folks who happen to also like going to the desert once a year to go...camping.
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Postby Isotopia » Tue Oct 28, 2003 6:38 pm

[duplicate post removed by Isotopia who is more fucking beautiful in drag than Kinetic II will ever fucking be in this lifetime FYI.]
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Postby Bob » Tue Oct 28, 2003 10:16 pm

It's "Schwarzenegger".

Wonder whether Barlow ever looked into the (old) eplaya. Quite a political rainbow of opinion, and not just on the election.
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Postby Isotopia » Tue Oct 28, 2003 10:20 pm

I have his personal e-mail addy if you're interested in engaging him further.
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Postby Bob » Tue Oct 28, 2003 11:21 pm

Yeah, right. As if I'd want to talk to a former Dead lyricist about reality.
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Postby Isotopia » Tue Oct 28, 2003 11:39 pm

<HOWLING!!!>
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Postby TawnyGnosis » Tue Oct 28, 2003 11:50 pm

I met Barlow this past summer when he came to LA to speak at the Gathering of the tribes. He was an interesting and articulate guy, and I liked many of his ideas as I do in this essay.

The problem with it though has already been pointed out, that Burning man really isn't aiming to be a singular ecstatic moment in time but something explicitly aimed at changing the culture at large( ie. bigger regionals). I also agree that he lumps burners into a singular category as well which is obviously not the case.
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Postby aforceforgood » Wed Oct 29, 2003 12:12 am

I agree with a lot of what he has to say, and understand his viewing Schwarzenegger with a jaundiced eye, but really, the reason he got elected is pretty obvious-

a) people were tired of politics as usual- what were they going to do, elect another career politician?

b) Our other choices were to elect a bigot who would've handed California to Mexico on a silver platter, or another career politician.

c) We had a governor who needed firing. If Schwarzenegger starts fucking up, then we'll fire his ass too, in effect having the runoff election Camejo wanted. But it would be hard to fuck up worse than Davis. If all he does is veto all the pork-barrel crap the legislature is so fond of passing, I'll consider him at least a partial success.
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Postby Isotopia » Wed Oct 29, 2003 1:12 am

c) We had a governor who needed firing. If Schwarzenegger starts fucking up, then we'll fire his ass too, in effect having the runoff election Camejo wanted. But it would be hard to fuck up worse than Davis. If all he does is veto all the pork-barrel crap the legislature is so fond of passing, I'll consider him at least a partial success.


And therin lies the crux bucko. Wait and see in the next few years when both parties throughout the US start using this as a tool to usurp the result of popular elections to push an agenda - even a marginal (possibly radical) agenda - by threatening to initiate a recall campaign against a duly elected governmental official. Arnold may very well sail through his entire term unscathed by all of this but there's gonna be a whole slew of other elected politicos - and their support base - who're gonna suffer in the wake of what we've wrought here in the Golden State. No matter how you look at it it's a recipe for further polarity and alienation and cynicism of people towards the election process. Make no mistake about it. As goes California (and New York and Florida) so goes the rest of the country and a good number of us are gonna be wondering how to get Pandora's ass back into the box.
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Postby Bob » Wed Oct 29, 2003 1:53 am

affg -- I can't really disagree with your three points, but still reiterate what Iso says --

and which reflects what you've recently posted about the media --

We could have ended up with a legitimate governor, elected legitimately. Instead we have the best governor Hollywood could offer. He has no less and no more apparent capability than Woody Harrelson.

In other news....

Stop me if you've seen this...

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52 Most Dangerous Liberals in America
http://www.conservativebookservice.com/bookpage.asp?prod_cd=c6219
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Postby Kinetic II » Wed Oct 29, 2003 2:19 am

After seeing that last post, I'm sending a nice donation to the Democratic National Committee: http://www.democrats.org/

Hillary dangerous? Yeah, right. I smell fear in the air. And it's coming from the Republican camp.
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Postby Bob » Wed Oct 29, 2003 2:45 am

http://www.reseauvoltaire.net/bushregimedeck.html

Les 52 plus dangereux dignitaires américains
Le jeu de cartes du régime Bush


Le dessous des cartes de l'administration Bush révèle une équipe qui conduit une « révolution néo-conservatrice » en rupture avec l'histoire et les valeurs de son pays.
George W. Bush s'est emparé du pouvoir avec la complicité de la Cour suprême et malgré les suffrages des électeurs ; un système de surveillance de chaque citoyen a été mis en place avec l'USA Patriot Act ; les militaires ont été autorisés à intervenir dans la vie politique intérieure ; un appareil de propagande a été constitué ; le pays a renoncé au droit des peuples à disposer d'eux-mêmes et s'est engagé dans des campagnes coloniales en Afghanistan et en Irak.
Ce n'est plus d'un simple changement de politique dont il s'agit, mais d'un nouveau régime qui menace les libertés sur le sol américain et la paix internationale.
Reprenant les théories philosophiques de Léo Strauss, Alan Bloom et Samuel Huntigton, qui servent de références à cette administration, nous avons classé ces personnalités en quatre catégories correspondantes aux couleurs des cartes.


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Postby TestesInSac » Wed Oct 29, 2003 10:30 am

Kinetic II wrote:After seeing that last post, I'm sending a nice donation to the Democratic National Committee: http://www.democrats.org/

Hillary dangerous? Yeah, right. I smell fear in the air. And it's coming from the Republican camp.


All radicals are dangerous, and Hillary plays the role of left-wing radical convincingly. If your first knee-jerk is to donate to the DNC, don't bother coming to CA; it's still essentially a one party state, which makes your response irrelevant.

I, for one, hope that moderates like Schwarzeneggar and Riordan are harbingers of reform for the CA GOP. If they are, maybe the GOP nationwide can dump the fundamentalists and get back to the liberty, fiscal restraint and minding our own damn business emphasis that Barlow mentions.
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Postby blyslv » Wed Oct 29, 2003 10:42 am

Everything I learned about twirling and dosing I learned at Grateful Dead concerts.

I sent the essay to my big brother, who regularly agrees with Rush Limbaugh. He said it was the most fair and balanced thing I'd sent him in a long time.

Eh, I agree with Sting <cringe> "there is no political solution."
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Postby Patience » Wed Oct 29, 2003 10:49 am

aforceforgood wrote:
a) people were tired of politics as usual- what were they going to do, elect another career politician?


If by "career politician" you mean someone even vaguely qualified to govern the state of California, then hell yes! The pejorative term "career politician" is a pejorative device used by unqualified candidates who want to put a positive spin their lack of experience and knowledge of the workings of government. It's pure bullshit, and it doesn't change the fact that we still have absolutely no reason to even suspect Arnold is capable of doing the job the voters elected him to do.
b) Our other choices were to elect a bigot who would've handed California to Mexico on a silver platter, or another career politician.

A "career" (read: actual) politician would do fine, over a guy whose best asset is his ability to flex.
c) We had a governor who needed firing. If Schwarzenegger starts fucking up, then we'll fire his ass too, in effect having the runoff election Camejo wanted. But it would be hard to fuck up worse than Davis.


This is not exactly a sound reason for electing Schwarzenegger, rather a reason to elect someone. As such it doesn't really require a response, but let me just say this:

California's economy has taken a nosedive with Gray Davis in office. This is unquestionably true. But guess what? The U.S. economy as a whole sucks right now! Unemployment is up 10 percent nationwide since Bush took office. Inflation rates are up. The federal budget, $280 billion in surplus when Bush took office, is now over $300 billion in deficit.

Of course California's economy is in the toilet. Welcome to Bush's America, pass the bullets.

Perhaps we recalled the wrong "career politician."
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Postby BlueBirdPoof » Wed Oct 29, 2003 11:00 am

Because I can't say "Don't blame me, I voted for the porn star" it's obvious that I followed a faulty political stratagy.

I can't wait for Arnold to follow up his inaugeration with strapping a 5 gallon bucket onto his back and fighting the fires himself. Now that's declaring a state of emergency.

And I find the "It's Burning Man's fault" idea a little weird. Whatever our energies it charges or uses, would we really be political monks if we weren't on the Playa. There's plenty of other ways to fritter away your energies, if that's what you wish to do.[/u]
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Postby Alpha » Wed Oct 29, 2003 11:01 am

Patience wrote:Perhaps we recalled the wrong "career politician."


werd!
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Postby TestesInSac » Wed Oct 29, 2003 11:19 am

Patience wrote:California's economy has taken a nosedive with Gray Davis in office. This is unquestionably true.


While the (bubble/new) economy was up, the Dems, and CA in general, pushed enormous and permanent spending increases. When the bubble burst, the permanent spending increases still had to be met.

Meanwhile, certain environmental and social policies (again, spread the blame) have been enacted, with others planned, that couldn't help but depress the job market. And CA's unemployment rate is higher than the nation at large partly because of it.

Patience wrote:But guess what? The U.S. economy as a whole sucks right now! Unemployment is up 10 percent nationwide since Bush took office. Inflation rates are up.


[edited out work-induce foul mood]That figure has no credibility with me, because it's not only misleading in terms of the meaning it might convey, it's also misleading in terms of what forces were behind it. Unemployment nationwide stands at 6.1%. That's simpler to say, but not as shocking as your statement.

Inflation, BTW, is so low that the Fed is worried a bit about it.

Patience wrote:The federal budget, $280 billion in surplus when Bush took office, is now over $300 billion in deficit.


Can't fault that, and I can't call Dubya a fiscal conservative.

patience wrote:Of course California's economy is in the toilet. Welcome to Bush's America, pass the bullets.


But I can certainly fault this. The bubble/new economy headed south Apr 2000. Disingenuously, demagogue Dems faulted Bush's talk of recession in Oct 2000 for it. The truth is, bubbles burst and most of the US was responsible for its inflation in first place. Some of us knew (1997, irrational exhuberance) and didn't get burned.

It's possible that some of Dubya's actions have prolonged the jobless aspect of the recovery, which is widely regarded to have begun after Nov 2001. But those that don't need to use the economy as a political football readily admit that the Fed and Congress all have at least an equal share of influence with the Oval Office, and part of that's what the Constitution calls for.
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Postby stuart » Wed Oct 29, 2003 11:41 am

excuse the shot-gun effect.

we did elect a career politician in california; his name is pete wilson. He is just wearing the Arnold puppet at the moment.

As far as the unemployment reported at 6.1% that number sure seems not too bad. Unfortunately, that statistic is horribly outmoded, especially in this economy. That number has no reflection on underemployment nor does it take into account folks who have been out of work so long that they no longer show up on the roles because they are no longer eligible for benefits. For a more accurate view on how we are doing take a look at household bankruptcy claims.

Tom, re: environmental legislation that was passed that you feel, and I do see your point, has hampered business in california. The solution is clearly to enact sensible, sustainable policies globally. Any business needs be to be accountable for ALL the costs of doing business. If this involves downstream healthcare costs due to polution or occupational injuries or increased insurance costs due to environmental instability, so be it. All costs need to be properly internalized in order to have a truly fair marketplace. It does not help the world if Ca passes no dumping laws if those businesses can just hop the border and dump elsewhere.
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Postby TestesInSac » Wed Oct 29, 2003 12:20 pm

stuart wrote:we did elect a career politician in california; his name is pete wilson. He is just wearing the Arnold puppet at the moment.


<snicker> That could be. OTOH, Bustamante is just Richie Ross's puppet.

Stuart wrote:As far as the unemployment reported at 6.1% that number sure seems not too bad. Unfortunately, that statistic is horribly outmoded, especially in this economy. That number has no reflection on underemployment nor does it take into account folks who have been out of work so long that they no longer show up on the roles because they are no longer eligible for benefits. For a more accurate view on how we are doing take a look at household bankruptcy claims.


Agreed that the nominal unemployment rate lacks detail. OTOH, it's been lacking detail for some time, and is still a useful barometer. RE: household bankruptcies, I can't see using a measure of <u>personal irresponsibility</u> as a barometer of the health of the economy. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but in times past people either learned how to conserve or they died of starvation.

Stuart wrote:Tom, re: environmental legislation that was passed that you feel, and I do see your point, has hampered business in california. The solution is clearly to enact sensible, sustainable policies globally.


Re: sensible. How likely is any radicalized political process to come up with anything sensible? Precious little of this world now has any sense of balance, if what we see from their and our mass media are to be believed.

Re: global. Any enforceable global policy implies the will and ability to enforce such policy. That will mean, initially, regular Gulf War styled incursions.

Re: sustainable. I claim that our ability to properly take care of our environment is dependent upon our having the money to do so. Since having the money depends upon a healthy economy, I submit that a healthy environment either requires a healthy economy, or it requires that we not be here at all.
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Postby Don Muerto » Wed Oct 29, 2003 12:32 pm

TestesInSac wrote:RE: household bankruptcies, I can't see using a measure of <u>personal irresponsibility</u> as a barometer of the health of the economy. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but in times past people either learned how to conserve or they died of starvation.


Jeez Tom. You act like we don't live in a competitive economic system. Nobody is <u>trying</u> to lose, but losing is built into the system and los<u>ers</u> are inevitable. I am not saying that the individual bears no responsibility within the system, but its not a level playing field from the word go, and again, there *have* to be losers in a capitalist system. It's incredible compassionate of you to prefer them to die rather than lean on the tax base for a semi-fresh start. Would you care to repair to the library for a warm glass of infant's blood?

Sorry, but "in times past" people also held others as slaves, beat/killed their spouses and progeny with impunity, and burned people at the stake.
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Postby TestesInSac » Wed Oct 29, 2003 12:53 pm

Don Muerto wrote:
TestesInSac wrote:RE: household bankruptcies, I can't see using a measure of <u>personal irresponsibility</u> as a barometer of the health of the economy. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but in times past people either learned how to conserve or they died of starvation.


Jeez Tom. You act like we don't live in a competitive economic system. Nobody is <u>trying</u> to lose, but losing is built into the system and los<u>ers</u> are inevitable. I am not saying that the individual bears no responsibility within the system, but its not a level playing field from the word go, and again, there *have* to be losers in a capatalist system. It's incredible compassionate of you to prefer them to die rather than lean on the tax base for a semi-fresh start. Would you care to repair to the library for a warm glass of infant's blood?

Sorry, but "in times past" people also held others as slaves, beat/killed their spouses and progeny with impunity, and burned people at the stake.


My point isn't that people should die of starvation. Rather, 99.9% of the personal bankruptcies I've seen were as preventable as traffic accidents, which also seem to be inevitable for some reason. Famine/crop failure/starvation in the past, OTOH, was truly inevitable, and people either planned for it or died.

Not to toot my own horn, but I started out in poverty few Americans ever really see. Being a starving student was a huge step up for me, and I couldn't understand why other students let their cars or their need for new clothes or whatever drive them into personal bancruptcy.
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Postby Don Muerto » Wed Oct 29, 2003 1:04 pm

Sorry if I misread your post. It struck me as incredibly callous and I posted in anger.

However, I wonder just how many personal bankruptcies you have actually witnessed, whether these were small or big time, and whether the 99.9% you state has any bearing on what is really going on in the world at large. It *seems* as if you are basing a pretty far-reaching political philosophy upon a small pool of personal experiences. I think closing corporate tax loopholes and bankruptcy protections would put a lot more cabbage in the coffers than going after folks who consume beyond their capacity to earn.

It seems to me that your goal of fiscal responsibility for the individual could also be addressed by reining in the credit card companies that start handing you your own personal debt kits the day you turn 18, or the advertising industry which teaches us that we are what we buy.
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Postby TestesInSac » Wed Oct 29, 2003 1:30 pm

Don Muerto wrote:Sorry if I misread your post. It struck me as incredibly callous and I posted in anger.


No worries, I come across like that because I am a bit like that, Malthusian and Darwinian processes being philosophically linked to my view of markets and people.

Don Muerto wrote:However, I wonder just how many personal bankruptcies you have actually witnessed, whether these were small or big time, and whether the 99.9% you state has any bearing on what is really going on in the world at large.


8 or so, all small-time, students and a girlfriend, and yes, I think it is representative, the sample size notwithstanding. I've seen students let cars do it to them, a girlfriend let costumes and vacations do it to her and an acquaintance let gambling do it him, and they were all preventable. I think it's possible to be a victim of circumstances and be forced into bankruptcy, but I doubt it's the norm, and I haven't seen an example of it.

More than a political philosophy, it's a personal practice. If I consume something, I'm responsible for making sure the trade is fair. If I evade (via bankruptcy, for example) compensating the provider of whatever I've consumed, I've cheated them. If people are cheating business that way, then business and government turns around and cheats everyone that way, who wins?

Moreover, I see the system as being built from the ground up, rather than top-down. If the individual is prone to evading responsibility, then the institutions and businesses those individuals form will be prone to evading responsibility. And to me, claiming that it's the guy that handed you a credit card who's responsible for your debt is preposterous.
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Postby Don Muerto » Wed Oct 29, 2003 1:41 pm

TestesInSac wrote:8 or so, all small-time, students and a girlfriend, and yes, I think it is representative, the sample size notwithstanding.


I think that sample is so small as to be meaningless.

TestesInSac wrote:More than a political philosophy, it's a personal practice. If I consume something, I'm responsible for making sure the trade is fair.


Eh? Fair? Profit is 'unfair.' Is everything SOLD at a fair price? Not by a longshot. People don't amass fortunes off 'fair' business practices (if there is such an animal.)

TestesInSac wrote:If I evade (via bankruptcy, for example) compensating the provider of whatever I've consumed, I've cheated them. If people are cheating business that way, then business and government turns around and cheats everyone that way, who wins?


The slippery slope, apparently.

TestesInSac wrote:Moreover, I see the system as being built from the ground up, rather than top-down. If the individual is prone to evading responsibility, then the institutions and businesses those individuals form will be prone to evading responsibility.


It could just as easily be top-down, or a cycle with mixed responsibility. Frankly, since the institution outlives the individual, I have trouble rationalizing how the next generation begets responsibility dodging in the companies that pre-exist them.

TestesInSac wrote:And to me, claiming that it's the guy that handed you a credit card who's responsible for your debt is preposterous.


Stated that way, of course it is. What I was suggesting is that we could change some business practices that directly contribute to fiscal irresponsibility and our society would be none the worse for it. There *are* good reasons we don't give knives to toddlers.
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