Anthroposophy and Ecofascism

An in-depth study of the links between Nazism and Anthroposophy by the Institute for Social Ecology with a lot of interesting bits in there.

In fact Weleda supplied naturopathic materials for ‘medical experiments’ (i.e. torture) on prisoners at Dachau.

Jazz and popular music are often scorned at European Waldorf schools, and recorded music in general is frowned upon; these phenomena are considered to harbor demonic forces. Instead students read fairy tales, a staple of Waldorf education. Some sports, too, are forbidden, and art instruction often rigidly follows Steiner’s eccentric theories of color and form. Taken together with the pervasive anti-technological and anti-scientific bias, the suspicion toward rational thought, and the occasional outbreaks of racist gibberish, these factors indicate that Waldorf schooling is as questionable as the other aspects of the anthroposophist enterprise.

And if you choose to follow the wikipedia trail lots more weird things, such as this guy:

And lots of nazis and fellow travelers or intellectual precursors in there, like this guy:

Karutz war ein deutscher HNO-Arzt und Ethnologe

That combination of professions is extremely sketchy. German Wikipedia neglects to mention this particular bit (weird how that keeps happening):

Karutz was more openly antisemitic than many of his anthroposophist colleagues. He denounced the “spirit of Jewry,” which he described as “cliquish, petty, narrow-minded, rigidly tied to the past, devoted to dead conceptual knowledge and hungry for world power.”

Well worth a read and not so long as you would think. A lot of the page consists of notes and comments.

Chasing down noise complaints for the construction site next to our house

The construction site that surrounds our house has started a bunch of space heaters this week. The devices had been there for a while but only started being annoying now that they’re turned on. These things run day and night, they make a ridiculous amount of noise (some 60 dB at our window) and because they burns diesel oil they also pollute and stink up the entire courtyard.

One of two running in the courtyard but there are more across the complex of Viktoria Versicherungen

We are used to some noise and annoyance during the day time with this construction site. Some of the noise we went through was truly unbelievable and for some periods we have received a reduction in our rent. We thought that with most external construction being done, we would finally be able to get some peace but now these things are running and will probably run all winter.

The effect they have is to force us to keep our windows closed on one side of the house. You can hear a faint droning even with the windows closed and having the windows open is extremely unpleasant.

The Site

I went to the construction office first. There a man told me he would look into it. After returning from work in the evening of course the heaters were still running and the man had not done anything. When pressed, he said they were allowed to do this (not true) and these would run all winter.

Our Landlord

First point of contact in these is of course our landlord who is our point of contact for the construction site. We’ll see what they will do for us when they take a look at this issue in the coming week. Maybe things will resolve themselves.

The city

Not wanting to leave things to chance, we also wanted to have the city check this out and resolve this issue. We are measuring 60 dB and we have a source that says only 40 dB is allowed at night (which would make sense).

Let’s go over the steps you can take in such a case and whether the local government can do anything for you in such a case.

The first step in such a case would be to call the Ordnungsamt. The Berlin service number can connect you with them but they will tell you that it’s not their deal and refer you to the Umweltamt. This is the first time I heard that this Amt exists.

Finding somebody to talk to at the Umweltamt was a bit of a challenge. Both of the contacts given to me did not pick up their phone (nobody in the city government seems to pick up their phone) but their central desk also told me to get lost and referred me to the Senate for UVK just like the Berlin service number did.

SenUVK has a special entry point for noise from construction sites with a phone number, e-mail address and web form. The webform seems to be broken because after submitting it twice both times it shows an error and does not e-mail me a confirmation of my complaint. The phone number is supposedly open between 9-11 every day to accept complaints but calling that I could reach nobody there. Both of the people given to me as a contact by the Umweltamt were of course not reachable by phone.

This being 9 in the morning as per the phone number opening times, I thought I might as well drop by there to see what’s going on. I only live a ten minute bike ride away.

I knew the SenUVK office at Am Köllnischen Park but I was told to go to Brückenstraße 6 around the corner. There I went into one building and could not find anything other than generic offices. I was going to give up but I walked up the street towards Jannowitzbrück and found another number 6 entrance to what seems to be known as the Jannowitz Center.

The ground floor of that building was a construction site. Next to the elevator it did find a plan of the SenUVK offices that listed Baulärm on the fifth floor. I took the elevator to the fifth floor only to find another construction site. Then I went down and asked the construction workers whether the entire building was a construction site. They said, nah, floors 7 and so and so are not. So I went up to the 7th floor and found the Pförtner there who referred me to room 191 on the 2nd floor.

The person with the keys

On the second floor I found a very long office corridor where everything seemed to be more or less operational. I walked all the way to the end and after some turns found the office numbered 191 which of course was closed. Not to be dissuaded that easily, I started knocking and opening the doors in that corridor which were labelled Immissionsschutz.

Then some schmuck came to me and asked me what I was doing. I told him the reason and he said he couldn’t help me and that he found it unangenehm that I just walked in like that. I told him that I found it unangenehm that the web form was broken and nobody here was picking up the telephone. The guy clearly didn’t bargain for any of this and made away quickly before I could show him the true meaning of the word unangenehm.

Then a man arrived to work at the 191 office who was actually helpful and filed my complaint. It turns out that space heaters for construction sites only get a permit when there is a pressing technical need for them which is extremely rare. This construction has already taken very long and we would really want to finish it, is not enough reason it seems. The waterpump that we could hear pumping and hissing at regular intervals at night we could probably also complain against. We’ll see next week what comes from this complaint.

He confirmed also that they were having issues with the phone line and that they are not the people maintaining the web form.

If this person is to be believed, this construction site is doing whatever it wants because the act of following up on these breaches is so incredibly difficult and time consuming. He said they can press on this complaint and check the permits but in the end there’s only so much they can do as well.

Local Government IT

After the broken web form I also was kinda intrigued what kind of systems they would have there at the Senate’s offices. The guy filled in the complaint details into the editable fields of a MS Word template. That’s it. That’s about the level of where we are at when it comes to local government automation.

I know these problems up close and they are difficult to solve even if you have access to best in class tools. But with those kind of tools at least you have a fighting chance. If you work in government without in-house IT, where you can’t procure anything useful, you don’t have credit cards and even if you found something useful you couldn’t use it because of fears around Datenschutz, there is no way you are going to get anything done.

Most of these problems could be solved by deploying Airtable and Zendesk, but they of course won’t be allowed to do that. I don’t have to mention that local government being ineffective benefits companies doing construction without following any of the rules.

Most of the time, elites do what they want, influenced by their own ideological commitments and powerful lobby groups. In times of crisis, when people do pay attention, they can be manipulated pretty easily by the media or other partisan sources.

You don’t add much to your understanding of the world by finding those with low IQs who can’t do cost-benefit analysis and adding them to the conversation.

Of course it still makes sense to defend yourself, but if you have any idea how software functions, it should be obvious that the number of known and unknown vulnerabilities in our devices number in the thousands and a lot of them are and remain exploited by all kinds of organizations.

Why would any device that you own not be fully infiltrated if a mid to high level service had an interest in it?

Tram lines

Looking at this map of expansions we may have a tram line in front of our house in the near future.

Highlights for Radical Markets

Private property would become public to a significant extent and the possessions of those around you would, in a sense, become partly yours.
Although at first blush you might assume that the auction would allow the rich to buy up everything of value, reflect for a moment. What do you mean by “the rich”? People who own lots of businesses, land, and so forth. But, if everything were up for auction all the time, no person would own such assets.
George was more concerned about inequality than were the conservative followers of Smith, and he recognized that private property could stand in the way of truly free markets.
That paper was published in 1961. Its title, “Counterspeculation, Auctions, and Competitive Sealed Tenders,”
We were promised economic dynamism in exchange for inequality. We got the inequality, but dynamism is actually declining.
Because of these limitations, moral economies can feel constraining and antiquated when confronted with large-scale market societies. Unable to account for the needs of those far away, they may become hostile to outsiders and intolerant of internal diversity, fearing it will erode group values.
The economic wisdom of left and right did not cut to the core of the tensions in the basic structure of capitalism and democracy. Private property inherently conferred market power, a problem that ballooned along with inequality and that constantly mutated in ways that frustrated efforts by governments to solve it. One-person-one-vote gave majorities the power to tyrannize minorities. Checks, balances, and judicial intervention limited such tyranny, but did so by handing power to elites and special interest groups. In international relations, efforts to enhance cooperation and cross-border economic activity empowered an international capitalist elite that disproportionately benefited from international cooperation and faced nationalist backlash from the working class.
Joan Robinson
Beatrice Webb
the common ownership self-assessed tax
That is why governments often take the lead, using the power of eminent domain to create new commercial or residential districts. But eminent domain is often unfair and always politically controversial.
The wealthy were rewarded for doing nothing. Poor people who needed land had to pay vast prices to obtain it or else starve. Critics attacked these circumstances as perverse, and portrayed the rich, in fiction and nonfiction alike, as parasites (sometimes literally, as in Bram Stoker’s Dracula).
Walras believed that land should be owned by the state and the rents it generated should be returned to the public as a “social dividend,” either directly or through the provision of public goods.
Socialists agreed on only one point: that traditional private property and the inequality of its ownership posed significant challenges to prosperity, well-being, and political order.
In 1942, the prominent conservative economist Joseph Schumpeter predicted that socialism would ultimately replace capitalism.21 His view was that most economic activity in capitalist economies took place in corporations and that a corporation is just a bureaucracy in which “management” at the center issues orders to various workers. From this vantage point, it was a small step to an economy in which each industry was dominated by one or two gigantic corporations, with government regulation to ensure that they do not abuse their monopoly power, an outcome not much different from the central planning of socialism.
Most mainstream economists even today continue to assume that bargaining eliminates the monopoly problem.
Most of us think of the liturgy as the words chanted by members of a religious community. But the term originated in ancient Athens where it meant roughly “public works” and referred to the responsibility of the roughly 1,000 wealthiest citizens to fund the operations of the state, particularly the army and navy. How did the Athenians determine which citizens were the wealthiest? According to Demosthenes, any member of the liturgical class could challenge any other citizen he believed was wealthier to antidosis or “exchange.”36 The person being challenged would have to either assume the liturgical responsibility or exchange all possessions with the challenger. The system gives everyone an incentive to be honest despite the burdens of the liturgy. If you falsely claimed to be poorer than the top 1,000 so as to avoid the liturgical burdens, then you could end up being forced to exchange your possessions with someone who is poorer than you are.
Furthermore, control of everything would be radically decentralized; a COST thus combines extreme decentralization of power with partial socialization of ownership, showing that they are, perhaps surprisingly, two sides of the same coin.
As previously noted, our proposal would redistribute roughly one-third of the return on capital and thus would reduce the income share of the top 1% by 4 percentage points, or roughly half the difference between recent levels and the low points in the 1970s.
One cannot develop an attachment to a car that one uses for a few hours, and no one seems the worse for this. Fetishistic attachment to a privately owned automobile—an extremely expensive durable asset, which even enthusiasts seldom drive for more than an hour or two per day—is, thankfully, becoming a thing of the past.
As the economy grows, the revenues generated by the COST would be redistributed back to citizens, just as employees who own stock in their employers benefit when the employer’s profits increase. From Friedrich Engels to George W. Bush, commentators and politicians have argued that owning a share in the national capital stock, usually through the stock market or a home, could help stabilize politics and enhance support for policies that raise the value of the capital stock, a position supported by some research.
Building on Samuelson’s ideas, economist and political scientist Mancur Olson argued that small groups of well-organized special interests can use expenditures, lobbying, and other forms of political action to persuade the government to act in their interest rather than for the
public good.29 Much of the public ignores complex issues, like bank regulation, while the banks who can profit from government fund lobbying organizations that control the agenda. Many economists are cynical about collective decision-making because it seems so easy to manipulate. But not all of them view it this way. Again, enter our hero
First, a passionate minority can outvote an indifferent majority, solving the problem of the tyranny of the majority. Second, the outcome of the vote should maximize the well-being of the entire group, not the well-being of one subset at the expense of that of another.
Despite centuries of progress, markets for public goods are hopelessly deficient. If we are right about QV, then it should bring markets for public goods in line with markets for private goods, with incalculable benefits for all citizens.
QV would offer citizens the chance to feel their voice had been more fully heard, both helping them win on the issue most important to them and reconciling them to the losses they suffer. These features are much like the social effects of market economies for private goods. Because citizens tend to resent and feel coerced by rationing in planned economies, they experience the abandonment of planning as a blossoming of freedom, as was so clear with the collapse of communism in the 1980s and 1990s. When people have the freedom to choose what to spend their money on, they are afforded a sense of dignity and responsibility for the things they have and choose to forgo. A political culture based on such a market mentality could give people a stronger sense of dignity and responsibility in politics.
Yet such large-scale services at present are either provided by monopolistic corporations or by dysfunctional public authorities. Fear of the failures of these providers often leads us to wastefully retreat from public life behind the walls of our homes, our gated communities, our private servers, and our individual cars.
Wealthy countries, by definition, have a greater relative abundance of capital as compared to labor than do poor countries. It is thus natural that trade and migration should both benefit capitalists in wealthy countries and laborers in poor countries at the expense of laborers in wealthy countries and capitalists in poor countries.
Often it is in the rural and economically depressed regions where few migrants reside that opposition to migration is strongest.28 Workers in such areas see migration adding to economic vibrancy in other communities, but not in their own. They gain none of the ancillary social and cultural benefits that dynamic city-dwellers gain from migration, of increased variety in food, color in urban life, or exposure to other cultures that can expand career opportunities. Instead, they see the rest of their country moving in directions that distance it from their experience in ways that increase their isolation and consignment to the cultural periphery.
While migration offers enormous advantages to the migrants themselves and their families back home, to employers and owners of capital, and to the high-skilled workers who they complement and live among, migration offers few benefits to and imposes some costs on most workers in wealthy countries, who are already left behind by the forces of trade, automation, and the rising power of concentrated finance.
A political backlash against massive migration is not inevitable. Even in closed societies, migration receives political support as long as its benefits are widely distributed in a visible way.
Many of the sophisticated cultural elites most likely to object to this sort of unequal relationship should contemplate their own relationships to migrants. In our experience, most people living in wealthy cities who consider themselves sympathetic to the plight of migrants know little or nothing of the language, cultures, aspirations, and values of those they claim to sympathize with. They benefit greatly from the cheap services these migrants offer and rarely concern themselves with the poverty in which they live. The solidarity of such cosmopolitan elites is thus skin deep. But it is better than the open hostility many ordinary citizens of wealthy countries feel toward migrants.
Yet economic research suggests that diversified institutional investors have harmed a wide range of industries, raising prices for consumers, reducing investment and innovation, and potentially lowering wages.
A law firm that sued institutional investors, on the other hand, would be bringing a case against capital as a class.
The primary difference between the scenario we describe above and present practice, other than some advances in chat capacities, is that in the world we imagine, Facebook is open and honest about how it uses data and pays for the value it receives with money. The user’s role as a vital cog in the information economy—as data producer and seller—is highlighted.
The inability to earn money in these environments undercuts the possibility of developing skills or careers around digital contributions, as technoserfs know any investment they make will be expropriated by the platforms.
However, they have attracted only a few users with an ideological attachment to the idea. Most users prefer a network that is used by most of their friends and that offers higher quality services.
Unlike traditional unions, they combine labor stoppages and consumer boycotts—because, as noted, data laborers are simultaneously consumers. During a strike, Facebook would lose not only access to data (on the labor side) but access to ad revenues (on the consumer side). It’s as if autoworkers could pressure GM or Ford not only by stopping production but also by refusing to purchase cars. Also unlike traditional unions, which must struggle to maintain solidarity during strikes, the data unions could enforce the “picket line” electronically.
She realized, too, that in many ways her new cause, fighting to get her old life back, had given her more meaning and not just greater wealth than the past she idealized. She started to wonder what else might supply that meaning and whether her whole movement was not ultimately some sort of self-serving charade.
A COST on human capital might turn out to be politically popular because it penalizes the highly resented educated class and lazy people of all types, while rewarding ordinary workers for their labor.
It would be a mistake, however, to think that the current system is not coercive. In our current system, there is a wide gulf between educated elites whose native or acquired talents are highly marketable and those who have been left behind by changes sweeping the economy. The talented enjoy a kind of freedom, as they can select from among a variety of appealing jobs. These jobs allow them to quickly accumulate capital that they can depend on as they age, if they do not like the jobs that are available, or pick and choose among different levels of labor (part-time, enjoyable or rewarding but low-paying jobs in the nonprofit sector, etc.). Those with fewer marketable skills are given a stark choice: undergo harsh labor conditions for low pay, starve, or submit to the many indignities of life on welfare. Yet the waste of social resources when a talented person fails to realize her potential are far greater, and arguably their failure to work should be punished more harshly.
By giving every citizen a share of national wealth, a COST could make voters attend to the consequences of policies for a nation’s wealth and create a more cooperative spirit across class lines.
Moreover, some scholars have argued that by encouraging selfishness, markets undermine the trust that is necessary for markets to function.
Shalizi considers an estimate by Soviet planners that, at the height of Soviet economic power in the 1950s, there were about 12 million commodities tracked in Soviet economic plans. To make matters worse, this figure does not even account for the fact that a ripe banana in Moscow is not the same as a ripe banana in Leningrad, and moving it from one place to the other must also be part of the plan. But even were there “merely” 12 million commodities, the most efficient known algorithms for optimization, running on the most efficient computers available today, would take roughly a thousand years to solve such a problem exactly once. It can even be proven that a modern computer could not achieve even a reasonably “approximate” solution
But if robots can drive cars, they can also make purchase orders, accept deliveries, gauge consumer sentiment, plan economic operations, and coordinate this activity at the level of the economy. At this macro level, the role of artificial intelligence in reshaping social organization has—bizarrely—received little attention.