Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Ok, so some of you will be wondering where the weekly Friday cure song reviews have gone… and indeed I took a few weeks off for the holidays.

But I have also decided since the Platonist deals more with other types of issues, that the best place to put these reviews is on the long-neglected reviews blog that I stared a while ago, and which is reachable by link at the lower right of this page – ideal reviews!

Anyway, that’s where they will be in the future!

Cheerio – trivium


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Ok, so I don’t get to post here much now that I am taking an active role in a new programme with 1500 students, where I am one of their principal professors.  It’s fun, but between that and trying to maintain a new book series, new journal, and keep at the leading edge of my global age/professional cohort for research (which is basically required to advance), well, I don’t have much extra brain juice to spend even 20 minutes doing a post here.  It’s sad in some ways, but that’s the stage of life I’m at.  If only I had two selves, one which could maintain a fun, fulfilling professional life, and one which could spend the time writing what I think might actually be the most useful to help move society in the right direction (i.e., things like I write on this blog).

But I wanted to duck in here for a minute and share some of the fruits of my research and thinking over the last 20 years–addressed specifically to the question of how we create an ideal world.  The way is becoming clearer every year.  I think that social science/humanities/arts is actually at a pretty exciting crossroads right now.  We’re learning a lot of stuff, relatively quickly.  There are a lot of useful debates opening up.  If your field seems dry, you’re asking the wrong questions and/or following the wrong debates.

So, without further ado, here’s The Platonist’s list of the 10 things we need to do to create an ideal world.  Note:  this will still not make you happy.  That can’t be automatic in a system which must, by default, also maximize your free will.  But it will maximize your odds of being happy, while maximizing free will (this is seen as requisite to fulfilliment, and meaningfulness, if not happiness).

1.  Population reduced to 1 billion.  This good round number was the population of Earth in 1900, when there were vast swathes of wilderness, but still many populous cities – the best of both worlds.  If we had population 1 billlion, this would mean

a) Environmental problems?  Instantly solved.  We could all basically pollute quite a lot, burn all the wood, burn fossil fuels (cleanly), and have room for all the wind and solar power generators we wanted.  Plenty of space for large animals to roam.

b)  Economic problems?  Also largely solved.  See no 2. Below.

How to do this?  As I have noted elsewhere:  simple:  ensure the birth rate goes just below 2.2 per woman, and viola.  Within a hundred or two years, population can be brought to 1 billion.  How to ensure this rate?  For one thing, education already brings the rate to this level or below, so just keep increasing access to education globally.  Secondly:  a light tax can be introduced, where people with more than 2 kids pay a little more.  On average, this would be all that’s needed.

2.  Have housing regulations changed, so that large, American-style homes are normative.  Tear down old c19th century tiny urban houses.  And stop building tiny new ones.  This solves the following problems:

a)  If all houses were large, the price of housing automatically falls, so that large houses are ‘average’ priced.

b)  Research shows that if people own their own homes, they have more capital.  Crucially, middle-class people have a higher propensity to spend than the wealthy, b/c they have little to save.  Thus, they spend more.  Good for the economy.

c)  Research shows that if people have larger homes, they spend more – they fill their houses with stuff.

d)  Research also shows that if people spend more on stuff for their homes, the price of stuff falls.

3.  At the same time, get rid of planned obsolescence.  Have people buy longlasting, beautiful things.  I’ve written a post about this.  No need to drive business by ‘tricking’ people into buying light bulbs with deliberately fragile filaments.  Find other business models.  If light bulbs can be built which last 100 years (viz, some of Edisons’), then do it!  And people just need to find another industry.  Philips can move into something else.  Making quality goods, for one thing.

4.  Conduct research to minimize the price that people pay for necessities (food, electricity, phone service), to maximize people’s additional revenue to spend on fun things, i.e., vacations; home improvement, books.

5.  Make work humane.  As noted on this site, people could work 20 hours/week (which gives you a sense of having something to do, and a purpose), and earn just as much, given the level of automation now possible, and productivity.  I think many people would find a 5 hour day, 4 days/week, to be a fine full time job.

6.  Conduct research into minimizing income inequality.  Optimize the system so that there is innovation, entrepreneurialism, incentive, but make being ‘filthy rich’ redundant.

7.  Oh and, democracy must be normative, and universal, as the only gvt which actually responds to the people.  All non democratic governmental forms have led to totalitarianism, and are far less good than democracy.  But, continue developing safeguards to keep wealth and corruption from being too rampant.  This can be improved.

8.  Continue the ‘war on ageing.’  If people had centuries, the world would be far less of a rat race.  People could have a totally more relaxed attitude towards life.  They could take it slow.  War would become even more ridiculous.  (Note:  democracies don’t fight each other, as a rule; so if all were democratic, this would be the end of war–this is basic political science).

9.  Agree on ways to raise collective IQ.  One of the greatest causes of inequality now, with the meritocracy that has to be (meritocracy is def. part of the ideal world – you need a sense of competition, to create meaning), is that there is such a gulf in human IQ.  We need to make the bell curve narrower, and ideally raise our intelligence so that more people have 160 IQ or above.  When you have this intelligence – the world is infinitely exciting and interesting.  As a rule, the ‘profoundly gifted’ have more fun.  Not just b/c they are at the far extreme of the bell curve.  But because they see the universe in so much complexity, and yet can grasp the overarching symmetries, that existence itself becomes beautiful.  A Beautiful Mind = can readily see/grasp/create a Beautiful World.

10.  Promote humanism, justice, beauty, truth – the Platonics – as ideals.  However you like.  But a world without them, is just a mechanical, and a drab world.  The world of the beat poets, the nihilists.

a)  This includes, having architecture be beautiful again.  When artists create beauty, and harmony with nature, they create the deepest peace that people can ever know:  why are the cathedrals so inspiring; the monasteries?  They follow these ideals.

This is all I have time for, but, it’s a recipe which, if followed, would lead us closest to the most ideal world we know how to create.  In fact, this wouldn’t look too different from Gene Roddenberry’s vision for Star Trek:  only:  in the last 50 years, we have become far, far more articulate about how to get there (viz, the list above – almost none of which R could have said, certainly not with the confidence we can say now).



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The new precariat

Here’s a book review:


The book suggests that there are now 5 classes:

1. Plutocrats (those with capital)
2. Salariat (those which have some permanent decent salary)
3. Free-ranging ‘Proficians’ (a few who can get work by having very in-demand skills, and get paid above average)
4. Old Working Classes (a few left over)
5. Precariat: People who bounce in and out of benefits (welfare) schemes.

And it doesn’t mention in the guardian write-up, but also there are structurally unemployed; people who are on benefits permanently, so these should be 6.

But what’s so sad about the precariat, is that it’s the creation of the new system which parcels up jobs into pieces, and makes it very difficult to get a permanent job (i.e., to become part of the salariat) in any field, whether teaching, lawyering, doctoring, professoring, librarianing, officeing, all of the jobs that used to be normal middle-class jobs, have been broken up (by managers who saw that this saved costs – benefits aren’t necessary, or can be lower, and salaries can be lower: if you get 3 people to do the work of one former full-time person, the full-time person would have merited a higher salary after some years, than 3 part-time people whose wages never increase and/or who aren’t ever around long enough for this to happen).

The precariat has happened to us, while we have allowed managers everywhere to adopt the new strategy, based on supply-side logic. That’s what too much supply-side gets you. What about demand side? People have to have money to spend in the economy? So far the logic is, that as long as a few plutocrats and salariatarians(?) have it to spend, this will be good enough; I suggest that indeed we need to think about demand side, or else we’ll never fully recover from 2007; but that is another story.


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Edit:  ok, so this post was done in a bit of a ‘ranting’ mood, when my wife and I were trying to find something to do, or somewhere to go, in rural Belgium, which did not cost 100 Euros for the family, between gas and/or restaurant fees.  Note at the end I begin to reiterate what I have said in other posts, which is that I am very fond of many things European, enough that I’d rather live here than in North America.  But anyway, take the first part of this as shorthand, which tries to make a number of points quickly, without pausing to be nice; I had a lot to cram into this one post, and b/c I write for a living I have relatively little time to devote to this sort of post, so I had to do it fast… anyway, it’s not at all intended to be rude, as you’ll see if you get to the end, but instead to get European continentals (who whether they wish to believe it or not can be just as smug and culture-o-centric as anyone…) to think beyond some of their cherished stereotypes of North Americans.  (It also should have the effect of causing American liberals to look beyond some of their stereotypes of the ‘European person’ as a liberal person’s Jesus figure.., and realize, in other words, that some of the things they continually criticize in the American right’s economic policies might actually be empowering their own lifestyle, to a degree that they could never realize until they lived in Europe, and found that much of what they hold dear cannot exist here due, I think, to relatively rigid continental modes of thought, which could use some shaking up.  And finally, Hey, I’m a progressive, I shake things up, whether it’s in the U.S. or Europe, so it’s good for everyone to get the cobwebs out.)

Like most progressive folks in the US, I spent most of my conscious life under the assumption that Europe was of course culturally more progressive than the US.  Because Europeans are generally quite socially liberal, and because some European countries have laws in place which tend to favour working moms, and working people in general, together with liberal views on healthcare, the environment etc., one gets the impression that European culture and society in general are not only liberal, but innovative, and interesting.  Based on the fitishization that Americans do of “European” food, furniture, clothing, cars, etc…, one would imagine that when one came to Europe that one would find fashion-forward trends in clothing, housewares, restaurants, eating habits, Eco/Green items, etc.  And based on the worship that American greens have of European green-ness, including the environmentally friendly laws that Europeans are supposed to have in place, against things like GMOs, nuclear power, and the like, one would imagine that coming to Europe one would find people who are super green, super aware, and super into green eating., etc.

I have had these ideas from the American media and advertising, and they were generally confirmed from the vegetarianism and progressivism that I found while living with British and German students for a few years in England during and after undergrad, and I found that they were also somewhat confirmed from living in Barcelona.  There were cool and hip and progressive stores and magazines, and other cultural forces at work in Barcelona, but not much of this anywhere else in Spain – but I figured that, hey the Spanish are Latins after all, and so surely the northern Europeans, such as the Dutch, Scandinavians, Germans, etc., would be that much more Green and progressive, right?

Well, imagine my surprise when I move to Holland and find that, au contraire, the Dutch are at least 10 years behind the Americans and Canadians in terms of progressive culture.  For one thing, the Dutch eat horribly.  Totally blandly. (more…)

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So, After thinking about it a bit more, I’ve realized that I really have no idea what will happen if I change the site name here, and besides, all of this was written under the heading “The Platonist.” Thus, we’ll keep it “The Platonist,” with the understanding that “The Idealist” might be a future incarnation – perhaps something bigger and better. You’ll notice of late, that there have been fewer posts, and that is because I’ve been very busy on my book and some supporting material, meaning that I’ve been too braindead to type for The Platonist–any time I could use typing here, I’ve been opening my word files for my other things instead. So it’s good – I’ve been very productive lately, just not in this forum. The hope is, that the book and accompanying articles will help to further my academic position, and make it so that I can spend more time writing on these issues, but hopefully in an even more effective format, so that I can help to bring some of these ideas not merely to a web forum, but to some of the people who are really in a position to change things for the better – if only the issues we discuss here were brought more keenly into focus for them. So, wish me luck, and I’ll keep you posted. Cheerio, – trivium.

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So “the platonist” has been up and running now for a year, and that’s always a good time to reflect on the state of things.  I for one can say that it’s been very useful for me to put so many of these ideas that have been running around my head into (virtual) concrete form.  For one thing, I had no idea that so many of the ideas that I have have been so connected, in so many ways.  This has really helped me to see “the matrix” that binds them all together, if you will, thus revealing strengths, weaknesses, and leads that would never otherwise have been reavealed.  So for me, this has been fabulous.

As for our reading public – well, we have gained a few devoted fans, and been a place of at least momentary interest for a few thousand individuals over the past year, so that’s definitely something.  Hopefully, you have found this place to be somewhat inspiring, and occasionally enlightening; perhaps even adding some sense that you weren’t quite as alone as you previously thought.  For me, there have been a few moments when some kind people took the time to register their pleasure at having found someone who put into words exactly what they had been thinking or feeling.  That’s the chief reward for me, and so hopefully in this second year we can expand our reach, and connect with more people.

In an effort to do that, I am making a move towards populism by changing the site’s name.  I have learned since my utter newbie days of webmastering that a name such as the platonist will strike the vast majority of readers as somewhat esoteric and off-putting, even though it does describe well what we do here.  Perhaps, too, Platonism is just too limiting of a concept for what we do here, because we do aim to be as inclusive and universal as possible.  While Plato may have been the grandfather of idealism as a defined intellectual system, it is best, of course, if no one in particular owns idealism – idealism strives to be, and is best when it is, universal.

Thus, the name change to “the idealist,” — the site thus becomes more universal, less proprietary, less ivory tower perhaps, and hopefully more accessible–without of course diluting anything that it stands for.  In a sense, then, we’ve evolved – moved out of our shell, and now feel more confident to embrace a broader readership, a broader public.  This, at least, is the ideal – let me know what you think.


-the idealist.

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Why do people like Tolkien’s Middle Earth so much, and why do people like Star Trek so much?  And, for that matter, why do they like Star Wars so much?  These are clearly the top 3 fictional universes that were created in the 20th century; they are very much alive in the mentality of my entire generation.  In many countries of the world, they are perhaps the core mythology of thinking people under 50–more than any religion.  These universes are, in Lennon’s words, “bigger than Jesus,” and inspire much more, seemingly longer-term, devotion than any rock band, including the Beatles.  And they look to be equally captivating for the generation just now coming to consciousness.  So, why? 

Pundits have speculated endlessly, and you usually get the following answer:  They deal with issues of “good vs. evil.”  And they pose moral quandries. 

Well, yes, but then again, so have about 1,500 other fictional universes.  So that can’t be it. (more…)

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