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Feb-16-2011 23:02printcomments

Public vs. Private: The winner is...

For those who doubt this thesis, a real world experiment is about to take place; AOL recently bought the Huffington Post for $315 million.

Public private

(CALGARY, Alberta) - The battle between public and private is the most destructive theme running through our society. Now, in the centenary of Ronald Reagan’s birth, the mythology is being goosed by the manufactured mythology of Reagan himself.

As Bob Herbert writes in the NYT (Feb 15): “He was a tax-cutter who raised taxes in seven of the eight years of his presidency. He was a budget-cutter who nearly tripled the federal budget deficit.”

He was seen “as someone committed to the best interests of ordinary, hard-working Americans. Yet his economic policies, Reaganomics, dealt a body blow to that very constituency;” Herbert quotes Mark Hertsgaard, who wrote On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency who said: You cannot be fair in your historical evaluation of Ronald Reagan if you don’t look at the terrible damage his economic policies did to this country.

Herbert concludes that “when all is said and done, it is the economic revolution that gained steam during the Reagan years and is still squeezing the life out of the middle class and the poor that is Reagan’s most significant legacy.”

And in this corner…

Microsoft started the encyclopaedia Encarta in 1993 after purchasing non-exclusive rights to the Funk and Wagnalls Encyclopaedia. In the late 1990s Microsoft bought Collier’s Encyclopaedia and New Merit Scholar’s Encyclopaedia. None of these print editions survived long thereafter. It would not be fair, however, to blame Microsoft; it was the online revolution. All surviving print encyclopaedias have struggled financially and have had to produce online editions.

At the end of 2009 Encarta was finished.

In 2001 Wikipedia was launched and in eight years put Encarta out of business. Microsoft had thousands of employees, billions in assets and had spent hundreds of millions on the project. It had professional writers and editors, all of whom were well paid. At its peak the complete English version contained about 62,000 articles.

At Encarta’s demise Wikipedia had millions of articles in more than 200 languages—three million in English alone (today about four million).

Private is not better than public—except in small relatively isolated instances, which is exactly what Adam Smith was talking about in the 18th century when he coined the term “Invisible Hand”. That term was co-opted by the rich and powerful to justify to ordinary people why they were poor and it was good for them that the rich had no compunction to share.

There is disagreement on Reagan’s motivation. Was he a willing pawn of the rich and powerful as he promoted such laughable policies as the Laffer Curve? Or was he unwittingly dense and bought into the mythology of free enterprise, with no clue as to the impacts of his policies?

Public vs. Private Motivation: The third force

There are believed to be two main human drives: The first is biological—food, water and sex. The second drive is external—the rewards and punishments the environment delivers for behaviours. The model of our society is based on this last drive. But there is a third, ignored drive.

Psychologist Harry Harlow

In 1949 psychologist Harry Harlow at the University of Wisconsin planned some experiments on learning using Rhesus monkeys. He put them in cages along with a puzzle to see how they would do with it. But, an amazing thing happened. On their own, with no encouragement or input from the experimenters, the monkeys began playing with and solving the puzzles. In his notes, Harlow wrote: “Solution did not lead to food, water or sex gratification.” There was no external punishment and reward system at play either which prompted Harlow to posit a third drive: “The performance of the task provided intrinsic reward.” The monkeys solved the puzzles simply because they enjoyed solving puzzles.

Harlow called this an “intrinsic motivation”. But if it was real, how did it compare to the other two drives? He assumed that if he rewarded them with raisins, they would do even better at solving puzzles.

When he set up a raisin-reward system he found the monkeys made more errors and were less successful in solving puzzles, overall. Harlow wrote: “Introduction of food in the present experiment served to disrupt performance, a phenomenon not reported in the literature.”

He concluded that “It would appear that this drive…may be as basic and strong as the [other] drives”. Then he dropped the experiments and moved on other interests.

Harlow’s work was ignored until Edward Deci took it up again in 1969. In a series of experiments he varied the procedure. In some cases people were given the puzzles to solve and that was all. In other cases, people were given money for solving them. In a third scenario, he paid the subjects, but near the end of the experiments he announced that the project had run out of money and he couldn’t pay them any more for solved puzzles.

The real focus of the test was that after they had solved the puzzles he left the room for eight minutes telling them he had to input the data into the computer (1969, room-filled mainframes) and would be back in a few minutes. What he really did, though, was go to another room and watch the subjects through one-way glass. While on their own, the subjects whiled away the time playing with the puzzles--entirely on their own. Here’s what he observed.

Those who had never been paid, played with the puzzles on their own longer than those who had been paid. His conclusion was contrary to conventional wisdom. “When money is used as an external reward for some activity, the subjects lose intrinsic interest.” He likened money to caffeine where it can give a short term boost. Think about workers on a job site. At first a job is different and interesting. They might not do it for free, but the money is not the prime motivator. After awhile, however, the intrinsic motivation wears off and money becomes the prime motivator.

Deci concluded that people have an “inherent tendency to seek out novelty and challenges, to extend and exercise their capacities, to explore, and to learn.” The amazing conclusion he reached is that “Nobody was expecting rewards would have a negative effect.”

The third force

Private acts tend to be driven by the first two drives. Public acts tend to be driven by intrinsic motivations. No matter how much money the Encarta people (writers, editors, software engineers) were paid, they were no match for the thousands of Wikipedia volunteers who worked for free.

The Wikipedia volunteers worked at their articles and editing because they wanted to. They weren’t doing it for money, hell, not even for status or recognition—there are no bylines in Wikipedia.

Ariana Huffington

Think of how curious and fascinated infants and young children are by the world around them. But our dysfunctional society soon knocks that out of them. We put them in schools which, for most children are not fun as the daily activities are ruled and regimented. No wonder our society is broken.

For those who doubt this thesis, a real world experiment is about to take place.

AOL recently bought the Huffington Post for $315 million. But look at two things about HP: The first thing is it is written almost entirely by volunteers. They have bylines, but they are writing for free because they want to write.

The second thing, then, is money. Are HP writers still going to be passionate about their subjects if they know that incremental profits are going to go to distant shareholders somewhere? Will they continue to write for free? The experiments I’ve mentioned so far suggest they will not. HP will have to hire writers and that point they are no longer HP; they will be just like any other media group.

One last comparison: There are many news websites around and Salem-News is probably the most sophisticated in many ways. I’ve been writing here for two years and, like all the other writers, I receive no money for my effort. I write because it has value to me. It’s not about the money which, of course, is the fundamental dysfunction of our society: Our society is all about or even only about the money.

The capitalist model, for all its inhumanity to man was, until, recently, at least functional. It is now obviously broken beyond repair. Only the wealthy and the Republican ideologues may resist this conclusion.


Daniel Johnson was born near the midpoint of the twentieth century in Calgary, Alberta. In his teens he knew he was going to be a writer, which is why he was one of only a handful of boys in his high school typing class — a skill he knew was going to be necessary. He defines himself as a social reformer, not a left winger, the latter being an ideological label which, he says, is why he is not an ideologue. From 1975 to 1981 he was reporter, photographer, then editor of the weekly Airdrie Echo. For more than ten years after that he worked with Peter C. Newman, Canada’s top business writer (notably on a series of books, The Canadian Establishment). Through this period Daniel also did some national radio and TV broadcasting. He gave up journalism in the early 1980s because he had no interest in being a hack writer for the mainstream media and became a software developer and programmer. He retired from computers last year and is now back to doing what he loves — writing and trying to make the world a better place

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Anonymous February 18, 2011 1:32 pm (Pacific time)

Lets just do it this way...I have permission from Gordon.

Re: quick prediction
Saturday, February 5, 2011 12:35 PM
Add sender to Contacts
just got back in..huge snow storm

i am out cruising in an MB 4wd...

driving around everyone

good guess u are right


In a message dated 2/5/2011 2:01:09 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, writes:

Hey...if you didnt mind, I wanted to throw a prediction your way and see what ya think. I will keep it brief. Egypt uprising was planned/instigated, or at least the elite DID see it coming.
obama supports omar, and israel supports murabak...Egypt will accept neither because israel/u.s. is supporting them. THen comes in the 'new and improved' dictator, Elbarbadei (yet another globalist)...THe people will accept him, and he will get away with things for a few years as easily as obama has been doing.
Oh, and more control from the IMF banksters. Of course.
I give it a 50/50 chance that the muslim brotherhood could be israeli birthed. Its their M.O.
Have a great weekend, I am not into the superbowl so will probably go get this years food garden tilled up and ready. I am glad Oregon is not getting that midwest weather..
Take care Gordon.

I nailed it on Feb 5. This happens all the time to me, but this one was perfect (pat on back), because I have learned the globalists/elite, I know who they are, and what they do. And article like Daniels, only makes it easier for the elite, that is why I get so passionate when I post. I wish Daniel would deal with his own country, you handle yours, I'll handle mine.

stephen February 18, 2011 1:25 pm (Pacific time)

I was wondering if salem-news archives any of these posts? If not, I can prove what I am about to say thru sent emails in my inbox with dates etc. About 2 days after the egypt uprising, I gave my strong opinion on what was really going on. Most thought I was crazy and ignored. After writing many webmasters, only one agreed. Gordon Duff. He wrote me back, and said quote "good guess, u r right". He was the ONLY one. Well, this article link below, shows that I was spot on, every single detail, even down to names. I posted my prediction several times on salem-news. Here is the link,

Hank Ruark February 18, 2011 1:18 pm (Pacific time)

"Anon": Yrs to Daniel 9:03 reveals very meaningful language and other confusions. You might wish to consult qualified professional for help.

Hank Ruark February 18, 2011 1:15 pm (Pacific time)

Etruscan: Yours re brain involvement right on point; watch for coverage soon from some years of reading and study in this area. Disclosure: first prompted by discovery of left-eye nerve involvement. Re most other comments here so far, would help if those-speaking would read plain straight-English writing done very well on complex topic. The obvious surface-understandings and lack of insight is appalling vs the piece itself. Re Reagan, yours is absolutely correct statement; ten years and five-ft. shelf of studies, books, reports --and some personal contacts with key persons-- allows me to endorse yours. Great work, Dan. We disagree on some measures re American impacts, but on factual presentations you win prizes.

Anonymous February 17, 2011 10:22 pm (Pacific time)

Daniel..your 9:03 response. Ask a question, and put it online, but say its rhetorical, and dont want a response? The fact that my response is the foundation of
everything your article talks about is irrelevant? Oh, I see, I did not mis-spell a word that time, so..use your spin on something else.
why not debate the facts I give? Because you cant. I would destroy you.
You are misleading people, and hurting the country I care about, in hopes we can turn it around through truth. If Tim wants to let you continue, fine, but I wont, and I will continue to post.
Just wondering do you feed, clothe, and house yourself? DO you have a job? Nobody will pay you to write, so just wondering where you get money to survive. I will share the same info, and even go first. I also, again, will go completely out of my way for an honest debate. I want to save my country, and if discrediting you so that Tim will wake up and see the truth will help..I will do it.
Seems you wont.

Go for it! 

stephen February 17, 2011 9:29 pm (Pacific time)

speaking of failed businesses.. the U.S. postal service is bankrupt,(fed-ex is doing fine) medicare and medicaid are bankrupt, social security is bankrupt, the U.S. government is bankrupt (admitted by geithner), and now they want to switch to a world currency to keep the scam going. Both canadians and those in the U.S> are going to other countries for medical care. Private businesses did not have a printing press to keep their business going for decades. WHile all the fiat currencies, including the U.S. dollar, the canadian dollar collapse, I hold silver/gold which has quadrupled in price over the last 10 years. Watch silver hit $50 an ounce before summer, and gold to hit 2000.
Watch gas prices go to 4-5 dollars a gallon by summer.
Each canadian, man, woman and child, owes the bankers 17,000 dollars. A country with a population less than california. And that debt number is growing massively, and quickly. THe bankers that own the U.S. own canada too.

What's your point Stephen? If you want to expand on your economic theories, I suggest you write an article and send it to Tim. If he likes it, he'll run it. I am not going to serve as your  megaphone to change the topic. 

stephen February 17, 2011 9:03 pm (Pacific time)

Daniel..I thought so. darkness always hated light.

Considering that my article has exactly nothing to do with your conspiracy theories, what would be the point of a debate? That's a rhetorical question, so don't bother retorting--I do not want to start a conversation on this irrelevant topic. If I ever write a piece on the Fed, then...

Jon February 17, 2011 6:27 pm (Pacific time)

Oops! Correction, the vast majority of private businesses do not succeed, they just continue to come back, generally improved in some way so as to meet changing market demand. Thankfully, otherwise what would life be like then?

Jon February 17, 2011 6:23 pm (Pacific time)

Why does any private business, small, medium large, fail? Why do the vast majority of them suceed? These are not difficult to answer from a historical perspective, though doing an economic post mortem is not for the inexperienced, though how they foolishly try. Most learn from their mistakes, ergo, the advantage one has as being a "doer" versus those that are on the sidelines. Can you deny that reality?

You need to check your stats, Jon. The vast majority of businesses fail. Restaurants, for example, last an average of six months. There are millions of businesses in existence, but there is no sign of the tens of millions that failed to reach that status quo.

The two main reasons for business failure are undercapitaliztion and inexperience. Neither of these applied to Encarta. Do you have an alternate explanation? 

stephen February 17, 2011 4:43 pm (Pacific time)

The federal reserve act of 1913, gave an elite few, complete control over the U.S.
90% of the presidents since then have been owned by them.
Including Reagan. Altho, like Eisenhower, and JFK, among a few more, did try to make people aware of what was really going on. These elite few used the U.S. to build its world empire, financed both sides of WW2, which led to the zionists to start israel, the beginning of taking over the middle east. They dont care much about canada, canada isnt even a country. There are a few states in the U.S. that have more people. But canadians mostly went along, and paid their taxes. And, Canada, like Britain were used to test the ideas of the elite. health care, draconian legislation, controlling mainstream media etc. So, in conclusion, unless you are aware of these people, who control all mainstream media, especially in canada and britain, you really know nothing at all. By the way, these people are eugenicists.
Ooops, forgot, Australia is also in the britain/canada group.
If daniel wants to debate me on this, i am willing to pay the long distance phone call, record our converstation, and put it on youtube...anytime.

DJ: No thanks. 

Hank Ruark February 17, 2011 9:48 am (Pacific time)

Friend Dan et al: This one not only beautifully done but profoundly informative, unchallengeable on facts, summaries and conclusions. What you write from your long and hectic life experience here parallels and even illuminates mine own...and reflects the driving force for any serious professional writer. S-N does excellent and very broad community service in publishing the wide variety found in our columns, and readers worldwide are coming to find its content well worth time and effort for full exploration and application. Thank you for setting and maintaining a standard for many of us.

Jon February 17, 2011 9:05 am (Pacific time)

Obviously liberals, oops, progressives, do not like Reagan, but so what! They also don't like the free market system, why? Number one reason is because they have failed to enjoy the top benefits capitalism has provided for those who are talented enough to work hard and go earn their "own way." If these people took the time to count their blessings, for all what they have is because of the free market system. Writing the above article and it's delivery system, who and what created that? Or most anything else that you interact with in your life, e.,g. , food, clothes, healthcare, tech, most anything. What they "do not have" is why they don't like the system. They are a growing minority, that's for sure, but still a tiny minority that will never change a system that they cannot successfully even compete in. Currently we are seeing a movement to end the unlawful behavior of unions, a collective bargaining system that was great at one time, but has now warped into a leftist political propaganda machine donating hundreds of millions (worker's dues, often via taxpayers) to causes that nearly 45% of their members disagree with. It's ironic in that the leftists who are controlling the national treasury have caused this situation, which will insure their own demise. Gotta love the irony. Just watch Wisconsin today, and other states that will soon follow. America will be better off, we are coming back! BTW, it was a republican congress during the Clinton Administration that kept the Reagan's success going. Clinton cannot point to one economic policy that he created, he simply signed the conservative-created bills he was provided with. We now see what happens when progressives run the show, and the voters have been taking action.

I'm sorry you didn't understand the article; as a result, you can't refute it, just deny it! Hint: Why did Encarta, a well funded, highly capitalistic endeavor, not survive?

Jon February 17, 2011 9:03 am (Pacific time)

President Reagan's accomplishments during 8 years as California's governor and 8 years as President of the United States were outstanding, unparalleled. He managed to run an administration that inherited a 10.8% unemployment rate and a 22+% prime lending rate that overcame such horrible economic obstacles. In time over 21 million jobs were created during his administration, and our military defense was re-built up, which no doubt helped bring down the world's greatest threat: the Soviet Union. Sure there were deficits, but look where he started. Much revenue was invested in R and D, and we are living well off those R and D investments. Look at what has happened in the last 2 years with the current policies. Policies coming from people who have no real business experience and who ignore past economic models that have been successful. Mr. Herbert's record of accomplishment's are stunningly just the opposite.

Etruscan February 17, 2011 7:47 am (Pacific time)

This is an excellent article, and I agree with your analysis of the Reagan Administration. Another motivating factor may be the arrangement of the brain itself, although I can't say how well this would apply to lower primates. The subconscious mind lives to solve problems. It can't stop doing that, that's why we dream at night, so the subconscious can have meat to carve. The subconscious mind rules our behavior, although its effects are filtered by the conscious. The behaviors you've described might be driven by the natural problem-solving tendencies of the subconscious.

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.