Equality – Freedom Mapping

Here is my equality-freedom mapping, or ethical-freedom mapping from 1994, which I described in an earlier post called Afta’ NAFTA the Occupy Disasta’. The idea behind the mapping is to parametrize all types of political regimes (hierarchies, economies) on the basis of two parameters: equality and freedom.

Equality can be thought of as the magnanimity of the social contract (“welfare”) within a regime, and freedom can be thought of as the lack of restraint on individuals by government (“liberty”).

Equality (ethical) - Freedom Mapping

          equality (ethical) – freedom mapping                     (MG,Jr. 1994)

A National Students’ Recovery Bank

Many self-occupied people are growing apprehensive about the potential disruption of their business activities, their family routines, and their leisure by the massed marches and encampments of the Occupy Wall Street, and now Occupy Public Spaces movement. Let’s just call it the Occupy Movement, or OM (“Om manipadme hūm”).

It is obvious that much of the energy and vibrancy of the OM comes from its young adult participants. Many of these are students, or former students, who have painful amounts of debt for education loans, which are difficult to pay off since good-paying skilled employment is not widely available. The laws establishing the federally-funded student loan programs prevent student borrowers from shedding this debt by declaring bankruptcy, so these debts are albatrosses (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner) aborting careers or impeding their progress.

It is my belief that such debt should be cancelled, or at least partially cancelled and refinanced on much easier terms. This is, after all, what was done to “recover” the Savings and Loan Industry (1989) and the commercial banking industry (2008) after their respective bankruptcies. This same model was applied in Europe earlier this fall to stabilize the currency (the Euro): German Chancellor Angela Merkel forged an agreement with the European banks to write off 50% of the Greek debt, in exchange for recapitalizing these banks from the public coffers (mainly German) for the remainder.

Would cancelling student loan debt, or refinancing it on much gentler terms, solve Occupy Wall Street? That is to say “make it go away” as so many ruffled as-yet-uninundated petty bourgeois wish? No, but it would address the problems of a sizable portion of those in the OM. The complete solution to making the OM history is to undo thirty years of neo-liberalism. If one were to try to put that goal into a list of “action items” or “demands” it would stretch beyond the horizon, certainly one of the reasons the people of the OM have not been willing to be corralled by a few specific demands. What’s wanted is a transformation of political economy worldwide, and that must begin with a major shift of global public consciousness: how we think about society, economics, and “progress.”

Still, our inability to solve the root problem of generating popular prosperity globally, and quickly, should not prevent us from solving one small local manifestation of that problem, since we can. In this spirit, I propose the establishment of a National Students’ Recovery Bank, and I make my case in the following article.

A National Students’ Recovery Bank
21 November 2011

I believe this is a matter of inter-generational solidarity, and I hope you find the idea worthwhile enough to recommend it to others.

Rima LXIX — Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer

Rima LXIX — Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer (1836-1870)

Al brillar un relámpago nacemos,
Y aun dura su fulgor cuando morimos:
¡Tan corto es el vivir!

La gloria y el amor tras que corremos,
Sombras de un sueño son que perseguimos:
¡Despertar es morir!

Rima LXIX — Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer (a translation)

In a stroke of lightning flash life births anew,
Yet before its aura fades death will ensue:
Life as brief as breath!

That glory and those loves we grasp onto
Are shadows within dreams that we pursue:
Waking is our death!

Afta’ NAFTA the Occupy Disasta’

I began writing political essays during the 1992 US presidential campaign. My first readers were members of a small local 3rd party discussion group. Writing was my way of clarifying my understanding of what the group was showing me about the American public mind. I then recycled my own analysis of these currently popular political attitudes into newsletters for the group. This effort only lasted for about six weeks, after which I focused all of my political energy into the tasks of the unionization group (Society of Professional Scientists and Engineers) at my place of work.

Three of my political essays from 1993-1994 seemed worth saving: “Life Among the Entitled”, “Don’t Get Passed”, and “An Ethical-Freedom Mapping of Political Hierarchies”, and I’ve collected them into one document.


“Life Among the Entitled” includes a comparison of Japanese industrial expansion onto mainland Asia during the 1970s and 1980s, to American de-industrialization — “outsourcing” — as facilitated by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was signed into law in 1994. I repeated the essence of this discussion in my just posted article on the Occupy Wall Street movement, “From Social Contract to Occupy Wall Street” (see Swans.com, 7 November 2011). A quip in 1994 was “afta’ NAFTA disasta'”, meaning an expected major loss of jobs in the United States, which Ross Perot predicted would be such a southward rush that it would create “a great sucking sound” in the American heartland. In 2011 we can see the fruition of US de-industrializaion: Occupy Wall Street.

“Don’t Get Passed” is a short meditation on the most popular goal of Americans when seated behind the steering wheels of their automobiles: don’t get passed!

“An Ethical-Freedom Mapping of Political Hierarchies” is a short discussion of ideal anarchism, and my presentation of a map, or graph, which displays the wide variety of political hierarchies that history has shown are possible, as characterized by two parameters: freedom and equality. In the article, equality is called “ethics” or the “ethical dimension”. This ethical dimension could also be taken as some indicator of the magnanimity of the social contract within the political entity being mapped. In an earlier post (about the Swans.com articles of 7 Nov 2011) I stated that political stability is a reflection of the balancing of political freedom and the social contract.

I should make a 3D map by adding a “political stability” axis out the the plane of the equality-freedom map. It may be that the peak of political stability is in the “parliamentary” and “populist” regions of the equality-freedom map, and falls off in every direction from there.

Dusting off these nearly 20-year-old essays, I am struck by how clearly my father foresaw the economic decline that would follow from NAFTA and American de-industrialization, and whose human face we see today as the Occupy Wall Street movement. I also notice how I always gravitate toward the socio-political dyad of “freedom and equality”, or equivalently “political freedom and the social contract”, to characterize and understand political fairness, which may be another name for political stability.

Airliner Fuel Tank Explosions

In 1996, the central fuel tank in a Boeing 747, flying as TWA Flight 800 from New York City to Paris, exploded a few minutes after takeoff, and the airplane broke apart and fell into the sea close to the southern shore of Long Island, with all lives lost. The cause of the disaster was eventually attributed to a spark in the central fuel tank, issuing from electrical wiring for the fuel metering gauge, whose insulation had cracked over time.

At the time, I wondered if the explosion could have been a natural phenomenon, basically could lightning have been generated inside the fuel tank while the airliner was climbing from sea level to 8000 feet (2400 m)? I spent a great deal of time during the next ten years working on a physics model that might answer that question. By 2006, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) had arrived at its conclusions about TWA 800, and new rules for the installation of aviation fuel tank flammability reduction (“inerting”) systems were being issued for US carriers.

Also in 2006, Airbus Industries was introducing the A380, its massive double-decker passenger transport. This airplane was built to European safety standards, which did not call for active fuel tank flammability reduction systems. The NTSB and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) tried to influence their European counterparts to follow the American lead on the issue of fuel tank safety, but the Europeans resisted. The Europeans believed the design of the A380’s fuel tanks was sufficiently different from those of the much older Boeing 747s and 737s, so that the A380 would not experience the same catastrophe. It was also obvious that adding fuel tank flammability reduction systems decreased an airplane’s fuel efficiency (by increasing weight) and profitability (by increasing the purchase price and decreasing the maximum payload).

However, if natural “lightning in a tank” was physically possible and the A380’s fuel tanks were sufficiently large for this phenomenon to take place in them, then even the elimination of interior wiring for fuel gauges would not eliminate the hazard of a spontaneous fuel tank explosion in the A380.

I was never able to quantify the physics sufficiently to specify if and when “lightning in a tank” would occur, and I never found publicly available information of the designs and sizes of A380 fuel tanks, so the questions posed remain open. To be clear and avoid being alarmist, let me say that both the quantitative implications from my physics theorizing and the evident fuel tank safety record of the airline industry since 1996 both show that natural “lightning in a tank” is extremely unlikely, and it may well be impossible.

The best way to know for sure would be to do an experiment duplicating the climb to altitude by TWA 800. Subject an instrumented duplicate of the TWA 800 central fuel tank with the same fuel-air-water fill, and at the same initially heated state, to a simulated climb that matches the dynamic conditions of TWA 800: the nonuniform heating and cooling of the outer walls, the atmospheric pressure changes, and the same degree of mechanical agitation. Measurements of the amount of spray electrification inside the tank would then show how strong of an electrical effect can be generated by an exterior combination of thermodynamic and mechanical energy flows into the tank walls (and vent pipe).

I wrote a report for a general audience in 2006 describing the overall picture of what I had learned about airliner fuel tank explosions, and the corresponding safety regulations at that time. It was turned down for Internet publication because of fears that it might be too alarming without provable basis. I don’t think the article was unreasonable, you can judge for yourself.

Airliner Fuel Tank Explosions

The information in the article, about commercial passenger aviation fuel tank safety regulations and practices, was accurate as of the beginning of 2007. I have not followed developments in the regulatory arena since then.

The good news is that economical flammability reduction systems were developed (even by 2006, as described in the article), and their deployment, both as upgrades to older airliners and original equipment in new ones, is a major safety enhancement for the commercial passenger aviation industry.

Political Freedom, the Social Contract, and Occupy Wall Street

On November 4, 2011, I put some thoughts about democracy into a short comment, which I posted at the web-site of Louis Proyect, a writer I respect.

The Unrepentant Marxist

The thread into which I placed my comment was a heated discussion between Marxists about the pros and cons of one Marxist academic and media hound called Zizek, and his recent article “Is Democracy the Enemy?”

My first reaction was: democracy is only the enemy if the people are your enemy.

Later, I was reminded of some important history (noted below), and from this, and also reflecting on my own biases that show up in my writing, arrived at a conclusion about what “democracy” really means, or at least what it really should mean.


November 6 is the 20th anniversary of the end of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, which itself was declared dissolved on December 26, 1991.

Here is a discussion about this at RT TV:


Two quotes from the show that I particularly liked:

“There are more communists in Berkeley than in Poland” — by a Communist Party official in Poland in the 1980s.

“The social contract was broken…” hence the people lost faith in the Communist Party (from the 1970s) and finally the state (the USSR).

I view Occupy Wall Street (OWS) as a popular reaction to “the social contract was broken” (from 1981 on) in the USA (as with the similar popular protests in the Euro-zone these days).

The Communist Party had ceased to be the exclusive holder of power in the USSR after 1989; Gorbachev had introduced/allowed multiparty parliamentary politics, though the CP retained much control. So, the USSR was a multiparty democracy between 1989-1991.

An interesting conclusion of the panel in this show was that the end/”collapse” of the CP/USSR was a contingent event, not an inevitable one. Had Gorbachev acted differently, there might still be a multiparty democratic USSR.

I think the social contract, and political freedom are the two essentials for any ideology to enjoy enduring popular support. Democracy is a political form that can facilitate the operation of the first and the experience of the second. But a hollow democracy, as we are increasingly experiencing here in the USA, is a form without substance if “the social contract is broken” (government fails as the steward of popular social goals and benefits), and if popular (as opposed to elite/insider or corporate) “political freedom” is disconnected from political power, so the “general will” (Rousseau) does not affect the course of government. Democracy alone, as an empty formalism, is not the real issue, but “democracy” spoken of as a label for an integrated procedural complex that expresses the social contract and mediates real political freedom.


I am pleased to announce the Internet publication of two articles, which connect history to current events (OWS) and also probe the connection of our interpretations of current events with our own self images (OWS and Libya). I took my time to include a good amount of historical data in these articles, and to write them so they unreel smoothly. Also, I aimed for informative works instead of polemical ones.

Political Belief and Self Image: Aron, OWS, And Libya
7 November 2011

From Social Contract to Occupy Wall Street
7 November 2011

The article on political belief was inspired by my experiences arguing my case for support of the Libyan Revolution. I was led to do a great deal of reading, from early this year, and the incubated pondering on this topic was applied to describe how a personal self conception could express itself publicly as “political belief”, and how such subconscious extensions of personality can clash emotionally in what should be even-tempered discussions of political facts. I illustrate the general ideas with three examples: 1950s Cold War political argumentation among French intellectuals, the thinking of people in Occupy Wall Street (OWS), and the arguments pro and con over the Libyan Revolution.

What is Occupy Wall Street (OWS)? In order to know that, one has to understand where OWS comes from, that is to say what is it about conditions today that have led so many people to manifest as OWS? Part of my research to answer these questions was to review the history that led to the economic conditions of today. My views on OWS are presented in both articles, the second article being an effort to show the details of the shift from the 1945 international consensus for social contracts, to the post 1970s dissension of neo-liberalism and widening income inequality.

My own article on OWS is an attempt to provide a “complete package” in the sense of including discussion of: “where did OWS come from?” and “what are OWS individuals thinking?” with “how is OWS affecting mainstream/corporate political opinion?” plus “what public policies would answer OWS grievances?”, with a listing of some Internet resources presenting pertinent economic data.