Monday, December 26, 2022

Review of Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World by Bruce Schneier

This review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Book Club Event = Book List (05/06/2023)

Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“The biggest cost is liberty, and the risk is real enough that people across political ideologies are objecting to the sheer invasiveness and pervasiveness of the surveillance system.” – Bruce Schneier, Chapter 7: Political Liberty and Justice, Page 107


“The perfect enforcement that comes with ubiquitous government surveillance chills this process.  We need imperfect security – systems tat free people to try new things, much the way off-the-record brainstorming sessions loosen inhibitions and foster creativity.  If we don’t have that, we can’t slowly move from a thing’s being illegal and not okay, to illegal and not sure, to illegal and probably okay, and finally to legal.” – Bruce Schneier, Chapter 7: Political Liberty and Justice, Page 115


“Privacy is an inherent human right, and a requirement for maintaining the human condition with dignity and respect.  It is about choice, and having the power to control how you present yourself to the world.” – Bruce Schneier, Chapter 10: Privacy, Page 148


Review

Overview:

Technology has provided enormous benefits.  Devices containing lots of personal data has been life-transforming.  The problem are the threats possessed by their surveillance.  Technology has enabled governments and corporations with the capacity for mass surveillance.  An intimate form of continuous surveillance.  Governments, and corporations gather, store, and analyze a lot of data.  Often without consent, or knowledge that they are doing that.  Profiles of individual attributes are built from the data.  When data is collected and used within its service, to provide a better serve, people do not mind.  Using data within the context of collection and is transparent makes it acceptable.  Data collection is objected when the data is bought and sold without knowledge or consent, and used outside their context.

Mass surveillance has dangerous implications for it allows discrimination on any criteria, and can be used to control what is seen, what can be done, and what is said.  Digital mass surveillance created a panopticon.  When individuals think they are being monitored, they change their behavior.  Data from surveillance is stored forever, which can be used as evidence against the individual later.  Even the contemporary legally accepted values, can change their status in the future.  In this way, many governments have persecuted people based on their past views and values, even if they have changed them.  This surveillance comes without giving citizens an effect means of opting out, and without meaningful checks and balances.  Making people less safe, and less free. 

 

Tracking Technology:

It used to be difficult to retain a lot of data, and too difficult to sift through the data to find meaningful information.  Early digital information products threw away most of the metadata that was created.  But with technological improvements, the ability to save and sift data have improved.  Reducing their costs, and increasing their effectiveness. 

Communication devices connect individuals to a variety of people with ease and speed.  To do that, the device needs to be tracked.  Tracked everywhere.  Which means that the device knows more about the individual than the individual, because the device does not rely on human memory. 

To obtain the intimate data before cell phones required the use of private investigators.  An obsolete profession because of the data tracking on the phone.  Cell phone data can be used by a variety of professions, and can obtain historic use of that cell phone.  To know where the phone has been, where it was, and who was around it.

Data is a byproduct of everything a computer does.  Recording their every operation.  Even without using the device, the device creates data about where the individual is, those near the individual, recording the interactions with others. 

It is uncertain which technology products will make it, but what is certain is that they will create a lot of data.  They can be used to provide a variety of life and world changing applications, but will record everything about the individual.  Due to technological ability, secrets are harder to keep.

Intrusive surveillance systems tend to be hidden.  They tend to be in the background, which makes them easier to ignore.  Even if an individual tries to opt out of services that have surveillance, data is still being collected on them when they interact with others who are being monitored. 

Internet anonymity is nearly impossible against ubiquitous surveillance.  A single mistake in protecting the identity, permanently attaches the identity to the anonymous provider.  Even trained government agents with resources have a hard time maintaining privacy and anonymity. 

 

Governments:

Government went from collecting data on a few necessary people to as many people as possible.  This was due to the reduction in expense of surveillance.  Limited resources and risk of discovery limited surveillance.

Part of the reason why cell phone data is being taken by governments, is claim about protecting everyone from a variety of dangerous elements.  Mass-surveillance programs are justified by trying to relieve the fear.  In an effort to protect against various malicious actors such as terrorist, should not come at ignoring the costs of police or government tyranny.  Just as bad would be to ignore malicious actors when trying to protect against government overreach.  The problem is trying to focus on a single threat, especially the rare but dramatic threats, while not considering the many more frequent banal threats.

There are situations and contexts in which governments should conduct surveillance or sabotage.  There are cases in which access to citizen’s private data is used to solve crimes and make people safer.  This power should be given, but without the ability to abuse it.  People need security provided by government, and security from government. 

Another government defense for collecting the data, is that they collect only metadata.  Not the words spoken, but the numbers of the interacting individuals, including the date, time, and duration of the call.  While data provides the content, metadata provides context.  Metadata can be very revealing, especially in aggregate.  Targeting a single individual makes the contents important, but a population makes context important.  With enough metadata on an individual, contend is not needed.

NSA successful surveillance comes from targeted surveillance rather than mass surveillance.  With mass surveillance, there are many false positive threats that are flagged by the system.  Each threat requires massive efforts in investigation, time, and money.  Which prevents searching for actual threats.  By trying to seek out all threats, very few threat are actually prevented.  Ubiquitous surveillance and data mining cost taxpayers’ money without rewards of finding the dangerous criminals.  Money that is not being spent on more proven surveillance programs.  Surveillance and data collection are valuable tools, but needs to be limited and targeted. 

Mass surveillance and data mining are more suitable for social control, as governments can discriminate between individuals and groups based on their various beliefs and associations.  Data mining works with well-denied criminal profiles, such as credit card fraudsters and political dissidents.  False alarms under authoritarian rules are not as costly, because of the fear instilled by charging innocent people. 

Espionage used to be about spying of government on government.  As perpetrators no longer belong to any particular government, and can be anywhere, governments monitor everyone.  Domestic and international surveillance.  Government espionage on other governments is a military mission during peacetime and wartime which is target and can act as a stabilizer by reducing uncertainties about other governments intentions. 

As different countries are using cyberweapons against others, makes it important to remove vulnerabilities.  Vulnerabilities risks that others can discover it, and use it against the users.  The difference between cyberespionage and a cyberattack depends on their disruptions.  Both require breaking into another country’s network.  That is illegal under each country’s laws, but countries are doing that to each other constantly.  Cyber-attacks on infrastructure should be recognized as an attack on the country, and subject to international law standards. 

Everyone uses the same networks, which means that perpetrator communications use the same circuits as social media.  Companies store the data in various places internationally.  Difficult not to collect information on the innocent, non-targets, because of these networks.  As everyone uses the same networks and with similar capabilities, it is not possible to choose to weaken or protect specific networks of enemies or allies.  Vulnerabilities used by intelligence agencies to spy, is also used by criminals to steal information. 

US feared purchases of technology equipment from international suppliers because of a security threat, that the foreign government created a backdoor to the equipment.  It turned out that the NSA has been doing that to other governments. 

Within the US, there is no legal defense for intelligence-related whistleblowing.  Those on trial for leaking classified information, are even prevented from using terms and claims during the trial.  Those on trial are not allowed to make their case.  Government whistleblowers should be protected, just like corporate whistleblowers, as they provide an additional oversight mechanism.

NSA has made sure that nobody understands its legal authorization, while purposely misrepresenting themselves in court.  Those who can access the documents, and the expertise to understand them, are lobbied by the NSA.  The NSA uses different definitions for surveillance.  NSA claims not to collect data on myriads of Americans, because the data is not seen by human beings.  Even though algorithms go through the data in various ways, and are used for policy implementation. 

 

Corporations:

Private corporations control where people gather online, and are gathering information about the individuals for their own benefit.  Companies can categorize and manipulate people based on all the information they gather.  Manipulation that is mostly hidden and unregulated.  Much of the invisible surveillance is allowed because laws have not kept up with changes in business practices. 

Corporate surveillance tends to be agreed with.  Not because it was an informed decision, but because the product offered has value but is attached to the surveillance.  That is not really a choice, because its either surveillance or nothing.  Surveillance has become a business model because people get free content, and it’s convenient.  Opting out of many of the digital tools is not possible, because they have become necessary for career and social life.  The choice is not between surveillance or no surveillance, but who gets to spy on the individual.

Companies and data brokers track what individuals do on the internet.  Companies can get permission to track you in other websites through third-party cookies.  Giving access to third-party used to have limited applicability, and laws that enabled the loss of privacy when sharing the data were acceptable.  But third-party parties now have access to a variety of information, while the same laws allow the lack of privacy. 

Many companies make their business through selling advertisement space.  As companies have made their customer into a commodity through data that is bought and sold.  The consumer has changed, to those willing to buy the data.  Individuals have become products.  Companies need to collect far more data than before because the value of the data has been reduced, effecting advertising.  Detailed consumer profiles were valuable, but have become common.  To keep the value of the data, companies need to collect far more data than before, which is an increased cost to users of the interest.

Users of digital content providers cannot request more security for their content.  They have no rights to do so.  Users do not even have the right to find out what outsourcing companies that the content provider is using.  There is no recourse to companies deleting data, and giving government access to the data.  No way to take the data to another service. 

Technological progress should not be inhibited for they provide many benefits, but the harms should be minimized.   Liabilities for privacy violations would provide more responsibility for companies to protect customer data.  Businesses use surveillance because of profit and lack of regulations.  Collection and use of data should be regulated, and data retention costs increased. 

 

Government and Corporations:

NSA utilized the surveillance networks of corporations.  NSA even forces internet companies to give the NSA data on many people, in secret.  To obtain the data, the NSA sometimes hacks corporations without permission, sometimes corporations work willingly with the NSA, sometimes the corporations are legally compelled to cooperate. 

Running a business means that the FBI and NSA can use the business as a tool for mass surveillance.  The NSA can even force the business to change the business’s security system.  All this is done in secret, which the business is forced to keep secret.  As it is difficult to shut down large businesses or parts of the business, the NSA basically control the business.  Governments and corporations tend to resist transparency laws. 

The NSA has even purposely weakened American companies; security, for NSA surveillance.  NSA has deliberately created backdoors into encrypted software.  Creating backdoors makes the software very vulnerable because there is no security in only the government utilizing it. 

US companies are harmed competitively by NSA surveillance.  US companies are less trusted, and therefore do not purchase US technology and network equipment. 

 

Psychology, Liberty, and Ubiquitous Surveillance:

The cost of the invasiveness and pervasiveness of the surveillance system is liberty.  Without any privacy, there is a lack of liberty.  There are many examples of authority figures using some pieces of information about a disapproved individual, or group, to have them arrested or worse.  With enough data, evidence of guilt can be found on everyone.  Ubiquitous surveillance means everyone has the capacity to be considered a lawbreaker, depending on police inclination.  Where everything that the individual has done is stored, which can be used as evidence against the individual later.  Especially in countries with vague laws, such as the US. 

Police are usually prohibited from using general warrants that allow them to search for anything.  General warrants can become extremely abusive, and used for social control. 

What is wrong changes over time.  Surveillance can be misused by the authority in power, even if nothing wrong is being done.  Fashionable political claims during a time when they acceptable, can be used against those individuals in the future.  Any action can be used against the individual at an indefinite future, because the evidence is stored indefinitely.  Records have become permanent. 

Government censorship enabled by surveillance stifles freedom and the circulation of ideas.  When people know that someone, like the government is watching, they self-censor.  People are less likely to discuss seemingly forbidden topics.  Not only can government technology provide surveillance, but also citizens.  As citizens can discover and report others, as they might obtain penalties if they do not report.  

Hard to think and act individualistic when the individual is being monitored.  Fear and threat of reprisal, even potential future reprisals, makes people conformist and compliant.  Society stagnates when individuality cannot be expressed, when nothing outside the norm is acceptable, when power is not questioned.  Lack of individuality means less freedom.

Democracy, liberty, freedom, and progress are lost under ubiquitous mass surveillance.  Dissent and forms of lawbreaking can be ways to improve society.  There were many activities that were once considered terrible, but have become socially acceptable.  Perfectly enforcing prior laws using mass surveillance would have meant that there would have been no time for citizens to consider those prior wrong acts as acceptable.  There would have been no period when those acts would have been illegal, but become tolerable, and then acceptable and legal.  A process that takes a lot of time.  Deviation creates progress.  Creativity is fostered by the lack of inhibitions in interactions not on the record. 

Privacy is needed, even for those who have nothing to hide.  Nothing wrong is done during the routine daily basic tasks.  Privacy enables the individual have a choice, the power to select what information can be shared with whom.  Nothing wrong with not sharing information given the context, such as seeking alternative employment without advising current employer.  Nothing wrong in seeking private places for reflection and conversation.  Privacy is a human right that gives humans dignity and respect.  Ubiquitous surveillance means that the individuals has not power to control what and how their information is shared. 

Research indicates that those under even the perception of constant surveillance makes people less physically and emotionally healthy.  Surveillance that threatens the sense of oneself.  Context matters for violations of privacy, for depending on what is found and by whom determines the damage done.  The damage for privacy violations is higher for marginalized groups, and those in the public’s attention.  Surveillance effects more those who are not in favor with those in power.

Security and privacy is usually associated by a trade-off, but that precipitates in inappropriate evaluations.  That to get either security or privacy, the other must be sacrificed.  This is a false trade-off.  Costs of insecurity tend to be real and visceral, while costs of privacy loss are vague until faced with its aftereffects.  There are security measures that do require a reduction in privacy, but others do not.  Door locks and fences are for security and privacy.  People become vulnerable without privacy, making people feel less secure.  Privacy is enabled by the security of personal spaces and records.  Even the U.S. constitution recognizes privacy as a fundamental right along with security. 

Security and surveillance do have conflicting designs requirements.  Making a system more secure, makes it harder to surveil, and vice versa.  Not possible to create surveillance capacity for only appropriate people.  Security protects information flow from damaging attacks of theft and destruction, of all users. 

 

Caveats?

The book acknowledges a paradox within tracking.  Referencing the ability to track every individual continuously, but also with government’s inability to catch threats using mass data.  A resolution to this paradox might be practice, as it takes time and practice using the algorithms to find the threats.  But this ability then leads to the threats against innocent people.

 


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What are the benefits of technology and surveillance?
•What are the consequences of technology and surveillance?
•What data do governments and companies collect?
•How did technological evolution change how surveillance is conducted?
•How is data gathered?
•When is data collection and use acceptable?  When are they not acceptable?
•How is mass surveillance used on a population?
•How do people behave when they are being surveilled?
•What happens to currently acceptable claims with surveillance? 
•How can people protect themselves against surveillance?
•How to obtain anonymity?
•What is metadata? 
•Is tracking needed?
•What is the different between targeted surveillance and mass surveillance?  How effective is each?
•How is government on government espionage used?
•What are cyberattacks?
•What are the implications of everyone using the same networks?
•What are the consequences of whistleblowing?
•Does the NSA collect data on Americans? 
•What surveillance choice do individuals have when trying to use corporate products? 
•Who is the consumer of corporate products?
•Why do companies need to collect more and more data on the individual?
•How to determine advertisements value?  How did that value change? 
•How is the NSA involved in corporate security?
•What is a panopticon? 
•How is privacy and liberty connected? 
•How does surveillance change what people say and do? 
•How do previous illegal acts and claims become legal?
•What is the purpose of privacy? 
•What are the health implications of surveillance?
•Should surveillance be accepted even with nothing to hide?
•What is the security and privacy trade-off?  

Book Details
Publisher:         W. W. Norton
Edition ISBN:  9780393352177
Pages to read:   280
Publication:     2016
1st Edition:      2015
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall           5


Friday, December 23, 2022

Review of Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason by Michel Foucault

This review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Genre = Psychology
Book Club Event = Book List (05/20/2023)

Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“Leprosy disappeared, the lepe vanished, or almost, from memory; these structures remind.  Often, in these same places, the formulas of exclusion would be repeated, strangely similar two or three centuries later.  Poor vagabonds, criminals, and “deranged minds” would take the part played by the leper, and we shall see what salvation was expected from this exclusion, for them and for those who excluded them as well.” – Michel Foucault, Chapter 1: “Stultifera Navis”, Page 7


“But if knowledge is so important in madness, it is not because the latter can control the secrets of knowledge; on the contrary, madness is the punishment of a disorderly and useless science.  If madness is the truth of knowledge, it is because knowledge is absurd, and instead of addressing itself to the great book of experience, loses its way in the dust of books and in idle debate; learning becomes madness through the very excess of false learning.” – Michel Foucault, Chapter 1: “Stultifera Navis”, Page 25


“The chimeras are transmitted from author to reader, but what was fantasy on one side becomes hallucination on the other; the writer’s stratagem is quite naively accepted as an image of reality.  In appearance, this is nothing but the simple-minded critique of novels of fantasy, but just under the surface lies an enormous anxiety concerning the relationships, in a work of art, because the real and the imaginary, and perhaps also concerning the confused communication between fantastic invention and the fascinations of delirium.” – Michel Foucault, Chapter 1: “Stultifera Navis”, Page 29


Review

Overview:

Society has ways to provide a contrast between the wanted values, and the unwanted.  Needing the presence of an insistent and fearful figure, that is kept at a sacred distance.  Salvation comes through exile, through abandonment.  The position of the excluded used to be occupied by those with leprosy.  Although leprosy disappeared, the social infrastructure of exclusion did not.  The position of the excluded was been taken up by the poor vagabonds, criminals, and deranged minds.  During a time when reason was becoming the ideal virtue, unreason became the threat.  Madness assumed the form of non-reason.  The opposite of reason.  Each existing in relation to the other.  As they provide each other with a contrast. 

Madness provides an inaccessible mystery, making others curious about it.  Madness appears to be a very arbitrary phenomena, that debases the human to a primal animal.  Haunted by one’s own nature.  Madness depends on perspective, for someone’s fantasy, is another’s hallucination.  What is real to some, is imaginary to others.  Madness values knowledge, but cannot control the secrets of knowledge.  Cannot reconcile the absurdities of knowledge, and find a way to proceed.  Madness developed by an excess of false learning, a punishment for disorder.  Desperate passion can lead to madness.  Excess disappointment loses the object of affection, means having nothing to prevent a fall into a void of delirium.  Madness can be tamed, and appear to be in control of one’s faculties.  Disguised in the ambiguity of reality and illusion.

 

Madness Managing:

Some cities provided a budget for the care of those deemed to have a madness, but were normally just thrown in prison.  Some cities took the mad in as they were interested in cures that would provide miracles.

There were various public rituals involved in exclusion of the mad.  Delivering them to sailors, made sure of their removal, but also provided a potential of a watery grave.  Water as a purification symbol.  An uncertain fate, as every departure potentially the last. 

Work was assumed to be an ethical exercise and moral guarantee.  Prisoners who could work were released, not because they could be useful, but because they submitted to the ethical pact of human existence.

Confinement became the normal treatment for economic measure and social precaution.  Madness has become a mental illness, and separated from society.  Communication with those who have a madness, has been delegated to those dealing with diseases. 

 

Caveats?

The book is difficult to read.  The transitions between claims are poor, by moving too quickly between different ideas, sources, and topics.  Many references are esoteric.    


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•Why do societies exclude certain peoples?
•Why was madness excluded?
•What is madness?
•How can someone develop a madness?
•How to differentiate between what is real and what is illusion?
•Why does madness fascinate?
•What does reason have to do with madness?
•What are the passions of madness?
•How does is knowledge used by madness? 
•How did societies treat those with a madness?
•What determined whether the mad would be locked up or set free from confinement?
•How is madness treated? 

Book Details
Publisher:         Vintage Books [Random House of Canada]
Edition ISBN:  9780679721109
Pages to read:   295
Publication:     1973
1st Edition:      1961
Format:            Paperback 

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    2
Content          2
Overall           2






Monday, December 19, 2022

Review of The Evolutionary Transition To Capitalism edited by Kazimierz Z. Poznański

This review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 

Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“Evolutionary economics assumes that most of the information useful in economic processes is possessed by individuals in a form that makes it impossible to communicate it accurately to others.  In other words, it is impossible to provide it fully and/or in a timely manner.” – Kazimierz Z. Poznański, Introduction, Page x


“Economic systems within which organizations operate have the same general (rather than specific) purpose as organizational routines – namely to provide for cost-effective information processing.” – Kazimierz Z. Poznański, Introduction, Page xi


“The inversion reflects the simple fact that economic organizations, seen as sets of routines, can be productive only if their internal – mostly informal rules are not damaged.  Organization memory, which is usually retained through routines, can be overloaded with signals and damaged by excessive change.” – Kazimierz Z. Poznański, Introduction, Page xiv


Review

Overview:

The general purpose of organizations within economic systems is to provide for cost-effective information processing.  Economic processes depend on making use of information possessed by individuals.  Information that is difficult to communicate accurately, fully, or in a timely manner.  This tacit information means that proper utilization and implementation is best left to the individuals themselves.  Information by individuals is used to reduce uncertainty within decision making.  Problems within economic life come about through scarcity of information. 

Economic organizations are productive through a set of routines that maintain the information needed for production.  Damaging those routines leads to a decline in productivity.  Too much change damages the routines, as individuals cannot readily adept their knowledge to the different informational signals.  Too much change is counterproductive to developing alternative behaviors.  To maintain productive capacity, change needs to be gradual rather than drastic. 

During the 20th century, there were nations transitioning from socialist economic systems to capitalism.  Many economic failures during the transitional phase occurred because there were too many changes and reductions of existing institutions and policies.

 

Economic Perspectives:

This book utilizes evolutionary economics.  Under the evolutionary economics approach, economic systems are judged to be more or less efficient given their informational costs.  Lower costs tend to be under voluntary market systems, but even under such systems there are huge costs.  The evolutionary approach sees the state as opposing markets, a source of market failures, and that the state does not have a monopoly to remedies for market failures.  Regulations shifts the bargaining power towards less efficient decision makers.

The evolutionary approach is contrasted with the neoclassical approach.  The neoclassical perspectives see change happening quickly, without problems as the rational agents can adept to their new situations.  The neoclassical problem is how to set prices right to enable optimal choices using the complete and cost-free information.

 

Caveats?

This book is generally difficult to read.  Some economic assumptions, and their policy consequences are inappropriate.  The authors favor market over state decision makers, and therefore do not see the value in government institutions.  




Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•How should economies transition?
•what is socialism/communism?
•What is capitalism?
•Why are there organizations?
•What is evolutionary economics?
•What is tacit knowledge?
•ow can tacit knowledge be shared?
•Why do economic problems occur?
•What is the experience of the socialist nations that were transitioning to capitalism?
•What is the neoclassical view on change?

Book Details
Publisher:         Westview Press
Edition ISBN:  9780813322711
Pages to read:   237
Publication:     1995
1st Edition:      1995
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    2
Content          2
Overall           2






Friday, December 16, 2022

Review of The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates Wealth and Inequality by Katharina Pistor

This review was written by Eugene Kernes  

Book can be found in: 
Book Club Event = Book List (02/25/2023)

Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“Decoding capital and uncovering the legal code that underpins it regardless of its outward appearance reveals that not all assets are equal; the ones with superior legal coding tend to be “more equal” than others.” – Katharina Pistor, Chapter 1: Empire of Law, Page 5


“Realizing the centrality and power of law for coding capital has important implications for understanding the political economy of capitalism.  It shifts attention from class identity and class struggle to the question of who has access to and control over the legal code and its masters.” – Katharina Pistor, Chapter 1: Empire of Law, Page 8


“The social costs pf enclosing knowledge can be huge, because control over knowledge is monopolized even though it could benefit everyone without taking anything away from the inventor.  And yet, states have supported the enclosure of knowledge and left it to the code’s masters and official agents in paten offices to police its borders with only sporadic court oversight.” – Katharina Pistor, Chapter 5: Enclosing Nature’s Code, Page 115


Review

Overview:

Capital is the combination of assets and laws.  Assets can be transformed into capital by the power of the law.  Capital is coded in law, and depends on the legal framework.  Legal modules can give a comparative advantage to some asset holders over others.  What these modules do is determine the assets priority, durability, universality, and convertibility.  Priority ranks competing claims.  Durability adjusts the claims through time, while universality adjusts claims through space.  Convertibility allows the conversion of private credit claims into state money on demand.  Changing these attributes means changing how wealth is distributed, changing who benefits.  

Control over the legal code is power that determines how resources are allocated.  Determining wealth based on how assets are legally coded.  For those who have wealth, when that wealth is threatened, the laws can be changed to give them an advantage.  To protect the interests and benefits of some groups over others.  Assets are not equal, for those with superior legal coding have more rights.  Although under the guise of legal equality, some assets are “more equal” than others.  The defense for this, is that all of this is legal.   

 

Capital:

Capital is not just money.  More than the exchange of goods in a market economy.  Capitalism is a market economy in which some assets get privileged over others.  Guilds were dismantled in favor of competitive markets, but the new businesses have resorted to guild-style practices. 

Capital is made from an asset and the legal code.  An asset is anything that can potentially provide an income in the future.  The law turns the assets into capital which has a tendency to create wealth for its holder(s).  Capital is the value determined by expected monetary income.  Capital creates and protects wealth.

Capital can come from physical property, intellectual property, even nature.  What can be turned into a patent are things that are novel, useful, and improvements.   Patents are a form of monopoly.  Monopolies create gains for the few, while costing the rest.  What they try to do is balance everyone’s costs and benefits. 

A clean title to land means having no competing legal claims.  In that way, a buyer knows that the property is enforceable.  Liquidity of an assets depends on its legal coding.  Less legal obstacles means that the assets can more easily be converted into cash. 

Incorporation means to create a new person.  A legal personality.  Prominent features of corporations are entity shielding, loss shifting, and immortality.  Entity shielding distributes pools of assets, to different creditors.  Loss shifting changes who bears the risk of the firm’s negative consequences.  Immortality is made possible, because to end a corporation would require a bankruptcy proceeding, or a voluntary dissolution by shareholders. 

 

Law:

The legal code underlying the code of capital, depends on its enforcement by a state.  Although lawyers use legal modules to empower assets with attributes for their clients, states enforce these laws.  Expansion and fall of capital depends on how the law is written.  There are various legal modules in which capital is coded, such as contract, law, property rights, corporate, and bankruptcy law.  Taking away or adding modules can make or lose wealth. 

Legal coding does not only enable price discovery, but also determines the value of assets, creation of wealth, and distribution of wealth.  The laws define what an asset is, and what can be done with the asset.  When expected returns fall behind wanted returns, asset holders can enforce their legal entitlements. 

Democratically governed societies guarantee equality before the law, but not everyone can make good use of the laws.  Lawyers use modules to turn ordinary assets into capital.  The legal coding protects the assets from ordinary business cycles, providing longevity to wealth, that sets up sustained inequality. 

Firms can go to domestic or foreign laws, thereby choosing which laws apply to them, and seeking those that provide the greatest benefits.  The legal code’s power depends on even a single state’s willingness to enforce it.  If the threat of enforcement is credible, then there will be voluntary compliance without the need for mobilization. 

All contracts are inherently incomplete, because no party can anticipate all contingencies, and the effort would be too costly.  Lawyers can be seen as transaction cost engineers by navigating complex regulations and avoiding unnecessary costs, or they can be seen as rent seekers.

The allocation of property rights determines who is to incur the costs of change, and thereby enable a process of negotiation.  An efficient outcome can be achieved through negotiation process, if there were no transactions costs.  The initial allocation of property rights matters because there are many transaction costs. 

 

A Coordination Game:

Economic success of nations depends on how they utilize law for social ordering.  Law, as a restraint on state power, was claimed as a reason for the rise of the West.  During the 1980s, many nations provided economic and legal reforms which prioritized markets over government in allocating economic resources.  Clear property rights and credible enforcement were meant to allocate the scarce resources to their more efficient owner, benefiting all. 

But it was state’s willingness to enforce the private coding of assets in law that enables the legal privileged of priority, durability, convertibility, and universality.  Capital is dependent on state power, and legally privileges some assets which provides a comparative advantage in accumulating wealth to their holders over others. 

Contracts and negotiations can happen even them being enforceable in a court of law.  There is no need for formal law enforcement when everyone knows who has better rights.  As long as everyone adheres to established norms, there is no need for a complex legal system, and enforcement powers.  But trade and commerce go beyond established norms, requiring social ordering for dealing with strangers.  Property rights are a solution of a coordination game. 

With the scale of social relations, people can now negotiate on large stakes without even meeting people.  This was enabled by coercive enforcement that makes people commit to their arrangements.  Law has enabled decentralized, private enforcement that enables collective expectations while limiting deviant behavior. 

The erosion of the legitimacy of states is a structural bias within the legal code of capital, that undermines the very thing that capital depends upon.  Courts discover the meaning of property rights by observing actual practices, rather than by their preconception.  Businesses are insisting that disputes are settles out of court, which in irony makes them more vulnerable.  They both depend on the authority of state law, but also avoid courts.  

Law evolves based on every case, with amendments in response to changing norms or political preferences.  Different societies can have different legal needs, and therefore different laws.  Static laws fail to reflect social changes, nor do they respond to the changes. 

 

Caveats?

The book references that law gave rise to capitalism, but acknowledges how law has been used historically.  That means that law has been intertwined with power before.  The power of law has been used and misused by various production methods, not just capitalism.

There is an acknowledgement that the meaning of capital is ambiguous.  There are many ambiguous terms found in the book, but when they are attached to capitalism, they obtain a negative attribute.  Devaluing those who appreciate capitalism, for its positive attributes.  Mostly the negative views about capitalism are brought up, rather than considering the benefits of capitalism, and how the negative consequences of capitalism can be error corrected.

An example of an ambiguous term is free trade and free markets.  The author takes that to mean lack of laws, and there are economists who would agree with that.  But the term meant no monopolies, as in everyone can participate in exchange no matter where they are from or the products they offer.  Market exchange is still regulated in free trade, just cannot restrict who buys or sells.  


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•What is capital?
•What are assets?
•Why is capital coded in law?
•What attributes do legal modules bestow?
•What power does the legal code have?
•Why change the law?
•What is a corporation?
•What happens to capital with the erosion of legitimacy of states?
•How do laws evolve and get interpreted? 
•How did the Maya see their land?
•Under feudalism, how could land be transferred?
•How did Europeans change the code of capital on the First Peoples land?
•How did property rights spread?
•What is Coase Theorem? 
•What can be coded into capital?

Book Details
Publisher:         Princeton University Press
Edition ISBN:  9780691208602
Pages to read:   239
Publication:     2020
1st Edition:      2019
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall           5






Monday, December 12, 2022

Review of The Sovereignty Wars: Reconciling America with the World by Stewart Patrick

This review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Genre = Politics
Book Club Event = Book List (04/08/2023)
Intriguing Connections = 1) To Cooperate Or To Defect?

Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“The three core dimensions of sovereignty are authority, autonomy, and influence.  Authority refers to the state’s exclusive and legitimate right to make rules.  Autonomy refers to its ability to make and implement decisions independently.  Influence refers to the state’s effective capacity to advance its interests.” – Stewart Patrick, Chapter 1: Introduction, Page 12


“While such trade-offs can be real, their gravity is often exaggerated.  Too great a defensiveness against any perceived losses of U.S. sovereignty-as-autonomy or U.S. sovereignty-as-authority can be counterproductive if it deprives the Unites States of the opportunity to exercise its sovereignty-as-influence – that is, to shape its destiny in a global era.” – Stewart Patrick, Chapter 1: Introduction, Page 13


“Sovereignty brought welcome order to Europe.  Beyond ending the wars of religion, it allowed the emergence of a stable “society if states” whose members recognized each other’s legitimate rights and (increasingly) resolved differences through diplomacy and international law.  Sovereignty did not eliminate war.  But it reduced its frequency and ferocity by narrowing its causes and moderating its conduct.” – Stewart Patrick, Chapter 2: There’s No Place Like Home, Page 33


Review

Overview:

Sovereignty enabled different states to recognize each other’s legitimacy.  Sovereignty is the ability to shape the state identity.  Usually seen as zero-sum, whether a state can or cannot make certain decisions.  When sovereignty is threatened, conflict ensues, with many claims made to defend sovereignty.  But sovereignty has multiple dimensions, and trade-offs between them are positive-sum.  The aspects of sovereignty are authority, autonomy, and influence.  Authority is the ability of the state to legitimately make rules.  Autonomy is the ability to make and implement decisions independently.  Influence is the capacity of the state to advance its interests.

States can advance their interests and values through international institutions and treaty obligations, or through state efforts and more flexible cooperative arrangements.  It can be desirable to voluntary trade an aspect of sovereignty for another aspect because of the superior benefits.  Defending an aspect of sovereignty can be very counterproductive.  Governments have been making trade-offs between the sovereignty aspects.  International obligations would require trading off autonomy, the freedom of action, for influence, the benefits of cooperation.  Many global issues cannot be resolved with just state efforts.  Changing and trading sovereignty enables for more effective use of sovereignty, and facilitates adjustments to different contexts.

 

The Act of Sovereignty:

Recognition of state sovereignty changed how political agents interact with each other.  Credit for the sovereignty movement usually goes to the Peace of Westphalia of 1648.  Before sovereignty, personal bonds defined political relations, and a complex system of overlapping authorities and jurisdictions.  Sovereignty brought order to Europe, ended various wars, and enabled conflict to be resolved through diplomacy and international law.  What sovereignty did was legitimate the rights of state relative to other states.  As other states recognized each other’s legitimacy.  Bringing about a stable society of states. 

Sovereignty has 5 characteristics which are: 1) Supreme political authority within a given territory, which includes the only accepted use of armed force.   2) International legal recognition, as the states mutually recognize their political independence.  3)  Autonomy in policy choices without external intervention.  4) Interdependence influence such as controlling cross-border flows.  5) Rule by consent of the governed, as people have delegated some of their power to chosen agents.  

Sovereign authority is malleable, as authority can be aggregated by states, and shared through international administration.  Authority is not absolute and unitary.  Authority claims are not fixed, but evolve with state functions.  To protect sovereignty, a state can optout of participating in treaties, or gain special privileges.

 

U.S. Sovereignty:

Transnational threats require international cooperation, but America takes a narrow self-interested posture.  United States has been a global leader since WW2, but has relegated the responsibility.  U.S. had a large role in the development of international cooperation, but also very defensive about its sovereignty.  Using international law to make others behave more predictably, with appropriate enforcement, but resists subjecting themselves to the same constraints.  A hypocrisy that makes Americans within the U.S. be seen as benevolent, while seen by foreigners with skepticism. 

America needs to figure out a balance between independence and cooperation.  To consider what commitments, and constraints it is willing to accept for a more rule-bound international order.  What is needed to is understand how to shape America internally, while advancing interests globally. 

As sovereignty has three dimensions, for the U.S. this means difficult trade-offs between defending the U.S. constitution, protecting U.S. freedom of action, and having control over outcomes.  Historically, there were times that the U.S. has exercised restraint which facilitated security and economic stability, which also helped legitimize its own power and leadership.  The U.S. has historically integrated itself international systems of rules for its own interest.  America has gained special privileges within international rules to keep their sovereignty. 

 

Caveats?

Examples of the aspects of sovereignty come primarily from the U.S. experience.  Other states are referenced, but not enough.  The aspects of sovereignty can be applied not only to states, but also to personal and business experiences.  For individuals and businesses delegated certain decisions for cooperative benefits.  

The book references many U.S. politically sensitive issues, which can make it hard to read parts of the book given the reader’s prior thoughts about the issues.  As the author recognizes the sensitivity of the issues, some claims are counterproductive such as seeming readiness to dismiss claims that others find legitimate.  The dismissal of certain views can make the reader defensive. 

U.S. history is generally well represented, but world history seems to be lacking.  Prioritizing sovereignty aspects and what they have enabled.  But the features were available before sovereignty as well.  The source of sovereignty might have enabled further promotion of legitimacy and negotiation ability, but those tactics have existed much earlier.  


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What is sovereignty?
•Is sovereignty zero-sum?
•What are the aspects of sovereignty?
•What did sovereignty enable?
•What is the origin of sovereignty?
•Can sovereignty be traded?
•How do international institutions change sovereignty?
•How does sovereignty change?
•What is U.S. stance on sovereignty?

Book Details
Publisher:         The Brookings Institution
Edition ISBN:  9780815731597
Pages to read:   264
Publication:     2018
1st Edition:      2018
Format:            Hardcover

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    4
Content          5
Overall           5






Friday, December 9, 2022

Review of How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

This review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Book Club Event = Book List (03/25/2023)

Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself.  Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.” – Dale Carnegie, Page 5


“When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic.  We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.” – Dale Carnegie, Page 13


“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” – Dale Carnegie, Page 52


Review

Overview:

Communication and people management skills are need regularly by everyone.  Knowing how to appropriately interact with other people, can help get what the individual wants.  Other people want the same as the individual, to consider and obtain their own wants.  By becoming interested in what others wants, they become interest in the individual.  Making the focus not on personal accomplishments and wants, but the wants of others.  Genuine interest in other individual’s values.  Providing others with sincere appreciation for their values.  Coercive dominance tactics can make people do what someone else wants, but these tactics have undesirable repercussions.  The only way to get anyone to do anything, is to make them want to do it.  Only by giving what the other individual’s want, can the individual get anything.

Humans are emotional, and emotions override logic.  Humans have a variety of seemingly superficial motivations.  Emotions tend to make criticism counterproductive.  Criticism can make the other individual defensive, and seek to justify their behavior.  Criticism can be dangerous because it wounds the other individual’s sense of worse, and arouses resentment.  Criticism can make oneself feel better, but make the other individual’s position less bearable.  What happened cannot be undone.  Rather than condemn someone, try to understand them.  Find out the reasons for their behavior.  Seeking to discover their values encourages sympathy, tolerance, and kindness.   

 

How To Interact:

To be in a conversation, means to also be a listener.  Inquire about topics that the other individual would like to respond to.  To get them to talk about themselves.  Discuss the topics in terms that the other individual would understand.  Discussions take effort.  That effort needs to be praised.

The best arguments are those that are avoided.  Better not argue with those who the individual needs.  Better not to tell them if they are wrong.  Show respect for other individual’s views. 

Disagreement should be welcomed, for they help discover errors and provide the opportunity to correct the error before more serious problems arise.  Admitting one’s own errors, makes others less defensive.  Make sure to listen, and build bridges of understanding rather than putting up barriers of misunderstanding.  Acknowledging errors accomplishes more than trying to defend them.  Even within disagreements there are can be areas of agreement.  Claim to consider the claims of the opposition, and actually consider them.  Their claims can have information that is needed for one’s own claims.   Provide space to consider the different sides, before taking any action.  Need to manage one’s own emotions, and avoid trusting first impressions.   

 

Caveats?

The book is full of examples and stories, but does lack systematic explanations of the content.  Many ideas presented are intuitive claims, that many fail to adhere to.  What the examples and ideas do, is facilitate reflection about one’s own behavior, and how that behavior can be adjusted to improve interactions with others.

The focus of the book is about creating supportive relationships, by establishing behaviors that coordinate expectations.  The examples provided have a survivorship bias, for the examples are only discussed when the ideas have worked.  Not mentioning the various ways in which the same ideas have failed.  Knowing what conditions and contexts are needed for the ideas to succeed or fail, would have provided an understanding on what to facilitate and avoid. 

Many of the ideas in the book have become very popular, but also overused.  They had a loss of meaning due to their misuse.  The consequences of the ideas have changed due to changing cultural features. 

Although the author recognizes the value of disagreements, but the claim given is to avoid them.  Ignoring problems does not make them go away.  People learn through error correction, but the ideas given are to avoid giving anyone anything but positive feedback.  The messenger of the problems might not feel they are being heard if their claims are ignored, thereby contradicting the supportive relationships that the author wants to build.

Being supportive can have consequences, which are not shared in the book.  The behaviors and ideas in this book appear to be beneficial, and without trade-offs.  They can make the individual sacrifice for others, without any reciprocation.  Also, being supportive of a given individual’s values, can create disagreements with other peoples’ values.  


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•When are communication and people management skills needed?
•How to make friends?
•How to influence people?
•What do other people want?
•Can coercive dominance work?
•How get anything that someone wants?
•How are people motivated?
•What impact dos criticism have?
•How to have a conversation?
•How to have a disagreement?
•How do individuals learn?
•What does a smile do?
•How to divide credit of an idea?

Book Details
Publisher:         Gallery Books [Simon & Schuster]
Edition ISBN:  9780671027032
Pages to read:   264
Publication:     1998
1st Edition:      1936
Format:            Paperback

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    3
Content          3
Overall           2






Monday, December 5, 2022

Review of Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Pérez

This review was written by Eugene Kernes   

Book can be found in: 
Genre = Sociology
Book Club Event = Book List (02/18/2023)
Intriguing Connections = 1) The Persecuted and The Persecutors

Watch Short Review

Excerpts

“One of the most important things to say about the gender data gap is that it is not generally malicious, or even deliberate.  Quite the opposite.  It is simply the product of a way of thinking that has been around for millennia and is therefore a kind of not thinking.  A double not thinking, even: men go without saying, and women don’t get said at all.  Because we say human, on the whole, we mean man.” – Caroline Criado Pérez, Preface, Page 9


“The result of this deeply male-dominated culture is that the male experience, the male perspective, has come to be seen as universal, while the female experience – that of half the global population, after all – is seen as, well, niche.” – Caroline Criado Pérez, Introduction: The Default Male, Page 24


“When we exclude half of humanity from the production of knowledge we lose out on potentially transformative insights.” – Caroline Criado Pérez, Afterword, Page 288


Review

Overview:

Those who make decisions, design policies around their needs.  Creating a data gap about needs not their own.  That is what happens to women.  As men cannot relate to female experiences or have those personal experiences, they do not think about women’s needs.  Not a deliberate or malicious exclusion.  Men just do not think about women’s different needs, which includes biological and social needs.  This is the gender data gap, developed through the absent presence of women.  The silences have negative consequences on women’s daily life.  To rectify this data gap, to understand women and the female experience, all that is needed is to ask women. 

Valuable insights can be gained by including women in the production of knowledge, because they have different experiences.  Although women make up half the population, the female experience is niche.  The male experience and perspective is seen as universal.  The word man has become a reference to the human species.  Using the default male identity, many tools, medicines, and infrastructure have been designed using male averages.  The standard for human representation.  But women have different body shapes, chemistry, and use of infrastructure.  This difference has caused many women to be hurt by these designs.  The problem is the social meaning of the female body, not the female body itself.

 

Data and Gender:

Without considering the accounts and experiences of women, historical facts become distorted to convey half-truths.  The myths told affect how society sees itself.  Misunderstanding the data has negative consequences. 

Sex and gender are not the same, but are interrelated.  Sex is the biological characteristics.  Gender is a social meaning to the biological characteristics. 

Role models ted to be those who look like the individual.  While women tend to accept men as role models, men do not see women as role models.

Sexual harassment is not report for various reasons such as social, not knowing what counts as sexual harassment, the response from authorities, and not knowing what to do is something does happen.  Having a misogynistic culture prevent women from entering professions, rather than their lack of ability and want. 

 

Women and the Economy:

Women tend to do most of the invisible work.  Work that needs to be done, but is not paid.  Such as cooking, cleaning, and child care.  Men don’t tend to consider the invisible work done around men.  That unpaid work enables the men to go to paid work. 

Women’s unpaid work benefits society as a whole.  When governments cut public services, demand for the services does not cease.  The work is transferred to women, reducing their labor-participation rates, and GDP.  As unpaid work does not count in GDP, making a lot of productive effort to go uncounted for.  Need to start collecting data on who is impacted by the programs.

The gig economy has created ways to get around employers providing basic employee rights.  The workers have less rights to begin with, making harder for the workers to ask for more. 

Blind auditions are a tool used to prevent the people hiring from seeing whose auditioning or interviewing.  This process was used to get many more women into the New York philharmonic.  The blind audition made the process meritocratic. 

Meritocracy is usually a myth, but people believe it to be true even when reality does not fit.  A belief in meritocracy tend to make people biased against it.  Believing oneself as meritocratic, or as not sexist, makes people behave in ways that is less meritocratic, or sexist. 

 

Caveats?

The book is mostly about the negative consequences of the gender data gap.  Not much positive values of rectifying the data gap, showing the benefits of women’s experience.  The gender data gap is not new, with a variety of books which include data and information on women and other often marginalized groups.  There have been cultures and books that features women prominently.  By ignoring the data of these corrections of the data gaps, creates another data gap with the associated misrepresentations. 

Differences between women and men is expressed, but not the similarities.  There are activities and physical features that are similar, but they are not mentioned.  Advantages of men is expressed, but not the advantages of women. 

It was mentioned that asking women is a tactic that can remove the gender data gap.  The problem is that depending on the culture, asking women about women’s views and experiences can cause negative repercussions.  As the men can become stigmatized for asking about those different views. 

What is limited is an account of how redesigning everything to incorporate the gender difference would be like.  How society would function, and the female/male institutions would look like.  Historically, the reason for the uniform beliefs and implementations within institutions is that they are cheaper, as diverse changes are often too expensive.  This book shows that there is a lot of value added by women, but that would require change.  


Questions to Consider while Reading the Book

•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the author write the book?  Why do people read this book?
•What are some limitations of the book?
•To whom would you suggest this book?
•What is the gender data gap?
•How is the gender data gap created?
•What happens when women’s experiences are left out?
•What does it mean to see the male experience as the universal?
•What is sex?
•What is gender?
•What is sexual harassment?  What are uncertainties about sexual harassment?
•What happens in a misogynistic culture?
•What is invisible work?
•Who benefits from women’s invisible work?
•What is the gig economy?
•What are blind auditions?
•What is meritocracy?  Does the U.S. have a meritocracy?
•How is infrastructure design discriminating again women?
•How is tool design discriminating again women?
•How did women show men the power of the invisible work in Iceland?
•How does the U.S. married-couple tax joint filling penalize women? 
•How does women’s perspective impact profitability?

Book Details
Publisher:         Abrams Press [ABRAMS]
Edition ISBN:  9781683353140
Pages to read:   286
Publication:     2019
1st Edition:      2019
Format:            eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    5
Content          5
Overall           5