Choose a topic

.. Epistemology
Language and thought

.. Art
Fake art

.. Cognition
General Artificial Intelligence
Observing My Experience

.. Epistemology
Consciousness defined
Dialectics and Evolution
Intentional Stance
Training vs learning
What is a Vegetable?

.. Epistmology
Dire Warnings

.. Evolution
Life is Amazing
What is a Species?
Why are Tropical Birds So Colorful

.. HUM
A Mind

.. Society
Adversarial Legislatures
Cut Energy Use
Emotional Plague
Improving Democracy
Jesus and the Money Changers
Merry Christmas
Misinformation and disinformation
Moral Hazard
Red flags
Red Rover Red Rover
Reusable Bags
Sleeping in a tent
Social Media

Culture is Ordinary

AI and Art
Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
Excellence is a Plateau
Is this picture real?
NonFungible Tokens
Public Art
Tearing Down Statues
What is Art?
Working With Reality

Artificial Intelligence and the Collingridge Dilemma.
Bird Brains
Bounded Rationality
Competence Without Comprehension
Consciousness is More Like Fame Than Television
Developmental Processes
Emergence and Cognition
Gender dysphoria
I Lost My Knife
Incomplete Information and Stories
Intelligence and Motivation
Is free will an illusion?
Natural Law
Necessary Illusions
On Affordances
Pencil and Paper
Post Phenomenology
Reflective Equilibrium
Return of the Law of Forms
Shifting Meanings
Structures of Understanding
Taking Things on Faith
The Hard Problem
The I Love You Gesture
The Imagined Order
The Phenomenology of Swim Bladders.
Thinking about medical procedures
Thinking About Risk
Underdetermination and Redundancy
What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
What Does Google Know?
What is going on?

A Country Is Not Like A Company
Alternate ideas lying around waiting for disaster
Blood and Money
Can Capitalism Survive?
Do Our Minds Own Our Bodies?
Everyday Communism
Invisible Hand
Job Creators
Job Destroyers
Money and Value
Money is Different
National Accounts
Necessary Production
Paper Wealth
Post Capitalist Society
Profit Motive Fails
Rentier Capitalism
Social Wealth vs Surplus Value
Spending Money Into Existence
The Metaphysics of Money
The Ontology of Debt
Thinking about Money
Wealth is What Money Buys

Blowing Up Pipelines

Absolute Knowledge
I do not know everything
Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics
Rethinking Knowledge
Rethinking Knowledge
Semiotics and Body Language
The Curious Ineffectiveness of Facts
The Past and the Future.
Uncertainty and Unpredictability
Whatever happened to The Truth?

Body Plans
Competition and Cooperation
Dr Malthus would be pleased
Error Correction
Evolution Defended
Evolution is not Religion
Evolution of Cars
Forces of Nature
Is Natural Selection Obsolete?
Politics and Evolution
The Evolution of Purpose.
The Problem with Natural Selection.
The Source of Bad Behavior
Thinking about Tails
Why Does a Leopard Have Spots?

Free Speech in the age of Twitter
Freedom and Badness
Freedom and Morality
Freedom From and Freedom To
Freedom in the Age of Convoys
Libertarian Coercion

10 Views of Landscape
Affect and Effect
I pay rent.
Listening to Corn
The Reform vs Revolution Paradox
What is Public Schooling For?

Levels of Abstraction
Levels of Abstraction and Minds
What is a newspaper?

As Much As Possible
Zipfs Law

Emotional Plague
Memes: Imitated Behavior.
The Problem with Memes
What is a replicator?

Beyond Rules Based Morality
Freedom and Morality
Moral Realism.
What do we owe animals?


Maps and Territories
Metaphysics Without Absolutes
Philosophy Buds
Sincerely Held Beliefs
Sorites Paradox
Stereoscopic Vision and The Hard Problem
The Gorilla in the Room of Science
The Purpose of Science
What is Going On?

If It Walks Like a Duck
Right Wing Freedom
The Sovereign Citizen
Tyranny of the Majority


Constructed Life
Correlation Wins
Quack Doctors
The Great Shattering
The Material Space
Thinking about Interconnection
Too Small to See
Watching Pigeons
Weirdness in Physics

A Job
A society needs a government.
Babies and Bathwater
Belly of the Beast
Cultural Appropriation
Drag Story Tellers
Family Values
Governance and Power
Griefers and Misinformation and Disinformation
I Distrust the News
Inclusion and Christmas
Its a Free Country
Life Extension
Moral Decline
Open Society and Falsification
Parents, Children, and Community
Rethinking Rights
Rules in a Knife Fight?
Sex and Gender
Should We Go to Mars?
Social vs Individual Responsibility.
Society and The State
Society evolved
Spheres of Influence
The Care and Feeding of Free Speech
The Collingridge Dilemma
The Common Good
The Dual Meaning of Power
The Homeless
The Problem with Hedonism
The Rule of Law.
Thoughts on Justice
To the Moon
Trial by jury
Virtue Signalling
We Live in the Present
What is to be said?
What made freedom a bad word?
Why is there a shortage of nurses?
Work - Productive, Useful, Worthless, and Bad.

Implications of Very Productive Technology
Modest Proposal
Problems with Universal Basic Income
Tormenting Unlucky People
Why there are oligarchs

Why there are oligarchs

Do we need them?

Years ago it seemed like Second Life was rife with libertarians claiming to be for free markets and against taxation (men with guns coming to take your money) and against regulation.
Ayn Rand was sacred almost to them.
They were saying that there never has been a free market because government has always intervened in various ways, but we should strive towards a free market in principle.
I was arguing that in principle there cannot be a free market because markets tend to concentrate all wealth in a few hands.
The argument is pretty simple. In any transaction, the person with more money or power has an advantage and over time that advantage grows so that a few people become very rich and most become poor in comparison.
At the time I read of a computer simulation that demonstrated that.

Lately I read an article by Philip Rosedale, the founder of Second Life about a simulation he wrote recently that demonstrates the idea graphically. The article is here:
and the simulation is here:
(he even shows his code:-) The simulation starts with many equal participants (represented by colored disks on the screen) that move about at random and collide with each other.
At each collision a fair transaction occurs. He tells us:

To make these transactions random and unbiased, imagine it goes like this: Pick a random amount of money that is less than the amount held by the poorer of the two. Then flip a coin to determine who gives that amount to the other. That’s all there is to it."

But there is a subtle asymmetry in the situation. He puts it this way.

"Specifically, the problem is the requirement that the amount of money to be risked (or gained) is no more that the balance of the poorer person. What this means is that the poor can gain no more than their own value in a transaction, where the rich stay rich because no one transaction will measurably decrease their spending power. Putting it another way: all else being equal, the person with more money going into a transaction will (statistically speaking) come out on top. "

Rosedale was inspired to do his simulation by an article from Scientific American that is found here:
The article is long and pretty detailed but clear. At the end it gets into some simple math.

In an extension of the simple model Rosedale worked with, the researchers

had each agent take a step toward the mean wealth in the society after each transaction. The size of the step was some fraction chi (or "chi") of his or her distance from the mean. This is equivalent to a flat wealth tax for the wealthy (with tax rate chi per unit time) and a complementary subsidy for the poor. In effect, it transfers wealth from those above the mean to those below it. We found that this simple modification stabilized the wealth distribution so that oligarchy no longer resulted.


the researchers biased the coin flip in favor of the wealthier individual by an amount proportional to a new parameter called zeta. What they found is that in their model if zeta was greater than chi"
. . . The inclusion of wealth-related bias also yields - and gives a precise mathematical definition to—the phenomenon of partial oligarchy. Whenever the influence of wealth-attained advantage exceeds that of redistribution (more precisely, whenever zeta exceeds chi), a vanishingly small fraction of people will possess a finite fraction, 1 - chi/zeta, of societal wealth.
The onset of partial oligarchy is in fact a phase transition for another model of economic transactions, as first described in 2000 by physicists Jean-Philippe Bouchaud, now at Ecole Polytechnique, and Marc Mezard of the Ecole Normale Superieure.
In our model, when zeta is less than chi, the system has only one stable state with no oligarchy; when zeta exceeds chi, a new, oligarchical state appears and becomes the stable state [see graphic on webpage].
The two-parameter (chi and zeta) extended yard sale model thus obtained can match empirical data on U.S. and European wealth distribution between 1989 and 2016 to within 1 to 2 percent.
. . . .A state with zeta less than chi is not a partial oligarchy, whereas a corresponding state reversed [that is, zeta is greater than chi] is.
. . . A plot of 14 countries served by the European Central bank in the chi-zeta plane shows most lie near the diagonal. All except one (the Netherlands) lie just above the diagonal indicating they are just slightly oligarchical. It may be that inequality naturally increases until oligarchies begin to form, at which point political pressures set in preventing further reduction of equality.
. . . The mathematical models also call attention to the enormous extent to which wealth distribution is caused by symmetry breaking, chance and early advantage (from, for example, inheritance).
And the presence of symmetry breaking puts paid to arguments for the justness of wealth inequality that appeal to "voluntariness" - the notion that individuals bear all responsibility for their economic outcomes simply because they enter into transactions voluntarily - or to the idea that wealth accumulation must be the result of cleverness and industriousness.
It is true that an individual's location on the wealth spectrum correlates to some extent with such attributes, but the overall shape of that spectrum can be explained to better than 0.33 percent by a statistical model that completely ignores them. Luck plays a much more important role than it is usually accorded, so that the virtue commonly attributed to wealth in modern society - and, likewise, the stigma attributed to poverty - is completely unjustified.
Moreover, only a carefully designed mechanism for redistribution can compensate for the natural tendency of wealth to flow from the poor to the rich in a market economy.
Redistribution is often confused with taxes, but the two concepts ought to be kept quite separate. Taxes flow from people to their governments to finance those governments' activities.
Redistribution, in contrast, may be implemented by governments, but it is best thought of as a flow of wealth from people to people to compensate for the unfairness inherent in market economics.
In a flat redistribution scheme, all those possessing wealth below the mean would receive net funds, whereas those above the mean would pay. And precisely because current levels of inequality are so extreme, far more people would receive than would pay.

Sounds pretty close to a UBI to me.
And as a good friend points out to me, the UBI isn't really a challenge to capitalism per se. It seems to be rather a tool that can be used to make it so oligarchs don't emerge.
My hope is that it's an idea that would be corrosive to oligarchs.
I expect them to resist.
What do you think?

Star I present regular philosophy discussions in a virtual reality called Second Life. I set a topic and people come as avatars and sit around a virtual table to discuss it. Each week I write a short essay to set the topic. I show a selection of them here.

I've been thinking and reading about philosophy for a long time but I'm mostly self taught. That is I've had the good fortune to read what interests me rather than follow a course of study. That has it's limits of course but advantages. It doesn't cost as much and is fun too.

My interests are things like evolution and cognition and social issues and economics and science in general.