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Mentat

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  1. I played WoW from just before Burning Crusade until the very end of Pandaria. I started off with a Warrior toon, soon ditched him for a Warlock because Warriors sucked at solo adventuring (back then) and eventually ditched the Warlock for a Death Knight when Wrath of the Lich King came out. The Death Knight (a female forsaken called Invernalia, which is Spanish for Winterfell), became my main (and only, as I never kept up with more than one toon). I sunk a lot of hours into the game (there was a way of seeing how many, but I think I'd rather not know...). I was in a Guild and we raided 5 days a week from 22:00 to 00:30. We were not very successful, but we were serious, and one was expected to show up for the raid with full stacks of consumables and having read/watched the guide to the bosses. Eventually I simply decided it was taking up too much of my time and depriving me of sleep I needed if I was to get up early to go to work the next day (I also didn't really like the direction the plot was taking, with all the Horde leaders breaking bad and having to be taken down). I told my guild I was giving up raiding, but I'd still be around to help with dungeons and stuff, but for some reason, I just never logged back in to the game after that last raiding night. It was a clean break. I don't know what you mainly got from the game, but tabletop RPGs like D&D and rogue-like computer games definitely scratch that itch for me and aren't so much of a time sink.
  2. Yes, I'd agree with this. People often confuse the way things are with the way they should be. I can't agree. I can go out to town (or go on Amazon) and buy loads of consumer goods from all around the world at affordable prices. If you know of any way to do it more efficiently, you're missing out on a patent. Now, I agree there are two big problems with this: one is that producing lots of cheap goods raises serious issues of sustainability and waste that the market is ill-equipped to deal with, the other that efficiency is an economic quality, not a moral one (I can afford to sell even cheaper goods by paying my workforce less, but that's not something I should be doing), and many of the problems you point out (such as outsourcing to countries with less strict environmental and labor regulations) are very real... but I find it very hard to believe that a more efficient way to produce and distribute cheap consumer goods than capitalism currently exists, if only for the reason that it would have displaced capitalism already. Nowadays everyone earns money (which is to say, benefits) from other people's work. Now, I agree that some people seem to be benefiting far more than would appear to be fair, but establishing what everyone's fair share should be is a very tall order.
  3. This is very interesting, but I'm not sure I'm understanding it properly. Money is just something you can freely exchange for commodities (which is the whole justification of its worth and value). If I lease you a warehouse and tools in exchange for monthly payments and a financial institution loans you the money so that you can buy them yourself (and pay off part of the loan plus interests monthly), is it really that different? Now, there are certain financial operations that can be performed with money but not with physical commodities, which might be where you're getting at (I'm mainly thinking of those which allow a financial institution to lend money far above their actual liquidity). I don't see the Industrial Revolution (or any technological advancement, really) as an intrinsic feature of Capitalism. I just believe we use whatever technology is available at the time and place to produce goods in the most efficient way possible. 19th century capitalists had steam engines and coal, so they used steam engines and coal. If they'd had fission reactors and replicators, they would have used that instead. If we blame Capitalism for the negative effects of technological development it seems like we should also give it credit for its benefits. You win on left-wing one-upmanship
  4. I'm a big fan of both the EU (for other reasons as well as it's very generous contributions to Spain) and of public spending. One of the goals of public spending in a democracy should be to reduce interpersonal and inter-regional inequalities. Very true, and I've seen it used in many different ways (often in the same thread). When I use the word, what I mean to say is an economic system characterized by the existence of a currency, private property, trade as the main means to acquire goods and services and freedom of enterprise. This last one is probably what you refer to as "investments that are determined by private decision". I'm not sure about this. When you say pre-capitalist society feudalism comes to mind, and when you say post-capitalist, Star Trek does. What economic system exactly are you talking about? I'm not sure I agree. Mass production is a result of applying technology and industry to traditional production methods, rather than an inevitable consequence of an economic system. It is also the most efficient way to produce goods and services for a large number of people (whether essential or not). Capitalism strives for efficiency because it's economic and it produces profits, but public spending should also strive for efficiency (because public funds are scarce with regards to the many public goods and services people need). Now, there are two questions here. One is if a certain good (Mobile Phones, Cars, Cat Fountains...) should be produced in the first place. Any good you choose would be up for debate, but if the final consensus is that it should be produced, then (provided it's a consumer good and not a Hadron Collider) I contend it should be mass produced (so that it is produced in the most efficient way and so that it can be made available to as many people as possible rather than to some lucky few). The other is if the way we're producing it is sustainable, as well as efficient (and if the answer is no, then laws should be passed to make sure it is made in a sustainable way, even if it's not as efficient, or not at all). Depending on how essential of a good it is and how inefficient a sustainable way of production is, the government could consider subsidizing it. There are lots of non-essential goods (like fantasy books, video games, holidays in Italy, a bottle of good wine...) that give me a great amount of pleasure and happiness. I won't say they're worth a climate hecatomb, but I will say my life would be sadder and greyer without them. We could probably agree on taxing property over a certain threshold, taxing the negative externalities of production/consumption and strong labor laws that protect workers.
  5. It doesn't seem obvious to me, but maybe I'm missing something or I'm simply not as well informed as you are. We're definitely not on the same page here. My understanding is that countries like the UK, France and Spain (which is where I live) are indeed capitalist societies where the capitalist tendencies of an unbridled free market are moderated by the social influence of the state. They represent the kind of place where I'm reasonably happy and like to live in, and also the kind of place where I personally find Capitalism not only acceptable but useful. In Spain (which I hope is reasonably similar to France), electricity is produced and sold by private companies (though currently the price of electricity is a problem, and Podemos, which is the party I voted for in the most recent general election, is proposing revising the regulations and creating a public energy provider, which are both policies I'm sympathetic too), I buy my food in the local coop supermarket (though I have plenty other choices, none public owned but all affected by different EU and Spanish regulations, of course), my water from a company originally established by the local government of my town which now has both private and public ownership, I bought my house from its previous owner with a mortgage from Deutsche Bank (we negotiated the price) and I buy medicines at the nearest chemist (which in Spain are privately owned businesses which require a public licence and will sell some medicines at a fixed price, and other medicines and health products at whatever price they decide). To me, all these represent a reasonably balanced coexistence of Capitalism and Social Democracy. I'm sure we could agree on many left-wing policies that would limit some of the worse effects of capitalism, redistribute wealth more fairly with a more progressive taxation system and ensure that the less favoured in a society are well taken care for. We probably wouldn't agree that private property is theft or on the abolition of free enterprise.
  6. I'm not saying that economic power and influence is not a thing, as I'm very aware it is, but in a reasonably healthy democracy (as I believe most European countries to be), it certainly shouldn't be the end-all of political decision making. A government might refuse to make a decision because of bribes or promises from wealthy people or corporations if they block it (though this is a crime in my part of the world), but it's far more likely that they don't because they don't personally believe in it, because they believe it's inferior to some other option, because they don't think its the right moment, because they believe it would be unpopular with their electorate, because of some legal issue (they don't have a sufficient majority, a different measure must be passed first, that power has been devolved to regional governments, it would go against EU regulations). Economic interests often compete with each other (if I allow Rich Man A, who owns a factory, to dump toxic water in the sea, it might bother Rich Man B, who owns the nearby hotel resort on the beach) and many groups of people have powerful collective interests that influence political decision making despite their lack of economic power (pensioners, unions, civil servants). Finally, it has been proven quite conclusively that global warming is in fact very bad for the economy, so there's good reason for the wealthy to help fight it rather than do their best to exacerbate it. All that said, I'm not denying the existence of economic interests or the fact they have sometimes acted nefariously (as in oil companies trying to influence climate research). This should not be overlooked and measures should be taken to ensure it doesn't happen again. I believe this analogy is lacking. Capitalism (as in the existence of a currency, private property, trade, and the right of enterprise) needs balancing out by a strong and stable social democracy that looks out for the rights of its citizens and prevents wealth inequality and abuses, but when it is, I believe it can potentially fight effectively against climate change. That it isn't is worrying, but pointing at Capitalism as the only (or even main) cause for this I believe is inaccurate. That rock is also providing considerable value. Capitalism is very good at providing lots of people with reasonably priced commodities (not only expensive iphones, but electricity, food and water, books, housing, medicines). Our life would be much more miserable without them, and while we all might have to accept a certain degree of misery in the name of our survival, I'd rather it was the least misery possible.
  7. I dislike neoliberal ultra-capitalism and wouldn't want it even if the climate was peachy, but I think the kind of social democracies that currently exist in Europe possess plenty of tools (many of which aren't being used) to heavily penalise (to the point of making them uneconomical) business models that are not environmentally sustainable and subsidise, promote (or even undertake) environmentally friendly business initiatives. I'm no big fan of the authoritarian socialism that exists in countries like China, but it also possesses the tools it needs to fight climate change (and again, fails to use them to the extent that it should). I think far stronger international cooperation (maybe creating an international organisation which can implement and fund environmental policies across borders) and a national political will to de-carbonise completely should be the first order in the fight against global warming. You're not the first to propose the end of capitalism as the solution to climate change, but the will to enact such a radical proposal is clearly not there if far less radical proposals (which might not be the panacea, but would definitely help) aren't being implemented.
  8. Right, It's hard for me to determine where some civilizations end and others begin, as I don't think they correspond perfectly with political regimes. Would you consider the British Colonial Empire pre-WW2 part of what is currently the British civilization? Regardless, my point is that hegemony and influence (specially when it's exerted by force or the threat of force) over one's neighbors is not a criteria I'd necessarily consider as a marking of a great civilization (unlike international cooperation). I'm not sure I'd agree with Aging population (it's easy to import outsiders into a civilization, if the will is there) or degrading social norms (as social norms evolve continuously), but I'd definitely agree with the other three. Are you familiar with any measurements of their regression? What would you say was their golden age?
  9. Western hegemony is certainly on the decline, having reached its peak at some point during the end of the 20th century... but hegemony isn't exactly the same as civilization. Spanish hegemony peaked at the end of the 16th century, but I consider our current civilization far more advanced than that one. If you think that western civilization hit its peak and is declining I'd like to know by what standards or criteria. Citation needed? The alternative to this is Apple and Google being completely unaccountable for anything any individual uploads on Facebook or YouTube and Visa and Mastercard being completely unaccountable for anything their credit cards are used to pay for. This is a very liberal take (not one I'd share) and has its own serious problems. This is very anecdotal, but installing surveillance cameras in public spaces in Europe is extremely hard since the GDPR. In the village where I work local government wanted to install surveillance cameras to control fly tipping in a public space. We had to apply for permission from a regional body which finally denied it considering that the public benefit obtained from the surveillance cameras (less fly tipping) was not proportionate to the intrusion in individual privacy which would result in having surveillance cameras recording anyone entering this public space 24 hours a day. Any space where there are surveillance cameras operating has to have warning signals too. Technology is indeed not interchangeable with civilization, but it affects it greatly. The printing press, the Internet, fast means of transportation... they allow us to disseminate culture and knowledge in unprecedented ways. An advanced society doesn't necessarily have to possess advanced technology, but in my opinion it should value culture, knowledge, science and research highly, and do its best to make all of these available to as many people as possible. A society that possesses a lot of knowledge which is horded by an elite of individuals would not be as civilized in my books than a society that possesses less knowledge but does its best to make that knowledge available to all.
  10. That's a very odd measure of civilization. Wouldn't peak civilization be some point before the appearance of Homo Sapiens, then, rather than America just before the arrival of Columbus? Many large mammals went extinct in America as a result of the arrival of Homo Sapiens. I agree that pollution is bad and that respecting the environment is a sign of civilization (and not one we're doing particularly well at). That said, respecting the environment is not the same as lacking the means to damage it significantly.
  11. I can't compare our civilization with whatever comes after us, because I'm not a soothsayer. I hope we progress and manage to do better rather than succumb to our own flaws and climate catastrophe, but that's about it. I can, however, compare our civilization with what we know of ages past and, as far as I'm concerned, we're doing better. Calling it a pinnacle may seem like I'm glorifying our own culture or ignoring our glaring mistakes and shortcomings, but that's not the spirit in which it is intended.
  12. I kind of do, so either I made my point very poorly, I'm very stupid despite my choice of user name, or you are not as clever as you think you are. A vaccine was developed within a year and millions have been vaccinated. Though I do believe we have the chance to progress as a civilization, I would ask you to tell me if at any point in the past we would have done any better. Regardless, an anecdotal example of extreme stupidity proves very little. We could find one in any point in history where we cared to look.
  13. I'm sorry, Zorral, but, regardless of the misdemeanors of the wealthy leisure class, I basically don't agree with any of your points. Now I don't pretend to be a classicist, but... Literacy: All children nowadays are sent to school for a minimum of ten years, where they are taught language, maths, history, etc. A wealthy Roman child would have had a greek tutor to learn his letters, a poor child going to school nowadays has a bunch of university graduates to teach him several subjects. We are far more literate nowadays than in time of the Romans. Practice of literature and the other arts: Loads of people write nowadays, from tons of published novels to academic papers to blogs or posts on message boards. Simply the amount of published books nowadays compared with a civilization that didn't even know of the printing press makes this claim preposterous. We have loads of musical genres, from classical to rap, art styles as diverse as film, computer game design... We beat the Romans hands down. Practice of history as an occupation: We have universities that train academics in history (as a far more advanced soft science than existed in the Roman times). The Romans had none of that. It's hard to know exactly how many people took up history as an occupation back then, but it seems impossible it was more than now. Travel for learning: the current availability of easy means of transportation and existence of academic institutions which celebrate symposiums, student exchange programs, etc. makes this claim unlikely to impossible. The viewpoint that an urban life was superior to a rural one: That seems a matter of taste and preference rather than an indicative of civilization to me... An interest in learning about and consuming new foods: Again, the widespread availability of all kind of restaurants and cookery books (or YouTube videos) makes this exceedingly unlikely. I have Tikka Masala, Tinga de Puerca and Pasta Amattriciana in my cooking repertoire, and I'm a humble civil servant. A toleration for religious practices not one's own without being a fanatic about one's own spiritual preference: To me widespread laicism is a far better mark of civilization... The belief in 'style' and elegance in personal presentation: Again, I'm sure our fashion is far more diverse and elaborate now than in time of the Romans. We have skin creams, far better make-up, better and more diverse clothes, hairdressers and nail salons galore... A strong belief in the real good a fine education was to one's personal satisfaction, and that of one's class, one's community, one's nation: We have free public education for all, a middle class that widely attends university or some other kind of higher education... We also own no slaves, grant equal legal status to men and women, have curbed our imperialistic tendencies, etc. etc. etc. We are superior to the Romans in any measurable way. Not because we're 'better' than the Romans, but because we sit upon the shoulders of far larger giants.
  14. Surely we currently beat the Roman in most all of those criteria you list and that can be measured to any degree?
  15. By what possible measure would we consider pre-Columbian America or the late Roman Empire the hight of civilization?
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