[FoRK] The Baseline

Stephen D. Williams sdw at lig.net
Wed Jun 30 20:43:55 PDT 2010

On 6/30/10 5:55 PM, Marty Halvorson wrote:
> Stephen D. Williams wrote:
>> On 6/29/10 1:19 PM, Marty Halvorson wrote:
>>> Stephen D. Williams wrote:
>>>> Seems like these should be a good start:
>>>>     * Clean, safe, & functional living space
>>> According to the State Police, my son's biological mother provided 
>>> just that.  She has multiple arrests, and multiple felony 
>>> convictions for domestic abuse.  Definitions of those words are 
>>> required.
>> Indeed.  Current laws, customs, and interpretations are still bad.  
>> Much better than when I was first divorced, but still bad.  For one 
>> thing, joint custody, physical and legal, should be the default, and 
>> basically required unless there is a significant reason otherwise.  
>> And in her case, it sounds like there was plenty that was 
>> significant.  Courts still favor the mother blindly far too much of 
>> the time.
> I wasn't to clear I guess.  My son is adopted.  He was taken from his 
> biological mother because of abuse and neglect.  The reason he was in 
> the care of his biological mother was because he ran away and when the 
> police retrieved him, he made a totally unfounded complaint against my 
> wife and I.  I can say that because that's what the Department of 
> Adult Protective Services determined.

My adopted step-son was eventually diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, 
after many years of speech therapy (didn't speak until 4, after 
significant speech therapy), "occupational" therapy, etc.  We had a big 
problem with Virginia not wanting to mainstream him, etc.  Yet he was 
one of the first to go to college and hold down a job for an extended 

> I'll ask again what constitutes clean, safe, and functional?

It would take a bit to precisely describe what I think it should consist 
of.  I don't think any of it is that controversial.

>>>>     * Food
>>> What kind of food?  Macaroni and cheese, Twinkies, and all other 
>>> kinds of "junk" food?  While my son was at his biological mothers, 
>>> he mostly ate what I would call junk food.  When he came home, he 
>>> complained bitterly about his diet while there.
>> There are of course two levels: calories and nutrition.  They have 
>> different urgency, but both are important of course.  Short term vs. 
>> long term to some extent.
> So what you're saying is food is part of the "baseline" and it doesn't 
> really matter what kind of food?

No, I said that the 'two levels" have different urgency.  Just as 
aesthetics of food does, which is also important at a certain level.

>>>>     * Basic business and exercise acceptable clothing
>>> Mostly agreed.  Climate appropriate clothing for sure.
> To amplify a little, climate appropriate clothing could for some 
> climates imply no clothes at all.  e.g. In northern New Mexico, many 
> of the communes in the 70's were "clothing optional" for those times 
> of the year when it's hot.  i.e. clothes are not really necessary 
> depending on where one lives.

I completely agree.  Climate and activity appropriate clothing.  
Clothing optional even, if you prevent the potential issues.

>>>>     * Health care
>>> Agreed.
>>>>     * An education past high school
>>> Why?  Many children, especially those with severe learning 
>>> disabilities, can not, and should not, reasonably expect to succeed.
>> An education past high school for those who are capable.  Most are.  
>> And willing, however willingness should be encouraged strongly.
>> I dealt directly with "learning disabilities" in multiple cases, 
>> including volunteering to teach severely mentally deficient students 
>> when I was in school.  (In our school in small town Ohio, they had 
>> their own classroom in the same building.)  In the end, there are few 
>> with "disabilities" that are permanent and cannot be overcome.
> Yes, but some disabilities are permanent.  My son, for example, 
> started life as a cocaine baby, with fetal alcohol syndrome.  He will 

Of course.

> never be other than "learning disabled".  My other son (who has the 
> same mother and a different father) also has learning disabilities.  
> They both have problems because of the alcohol their mother consumed 
> while they were in vitro.
> Just so you know, teaching a child with learning disabilities is 
> nowhere near as difficult as being with them 24/7.  Especially when 
> two of the disabilities are reactive attachment disorder (i.e. the 
> boys never attached to either my wife or I), and ADHD.  ADHD because 
> of the alcohol consumption and reactive attachment because they were 
> removed from their mother.  RAD means that the child only requires 
> reinforcement from himself for anything he does.  The equivalent of 
> not having a sense of right and wrong.

That's tough!  Thanks for being there.

>>>>     * Internet
>>> What is so important about the Internet that it's a requirement for 
>>> "baseline" living?
>> Key to all knowledge, more or less.
>> Access to communication, social interaction, business interaction, 
>> government access, finances in an efficient way, etc.  It is now a 
>> requirement for any fully functional independent person and will 
>> continue to become more so.
>> There is no real reason for people not to have access.  Bandwidth is 
>> plentiful and cheap.
> That depends entirely on where you live.  I'll ask again, why is 
> internet access so important for "baseline" living.

See below about "baseline".

>>>>     * Outdoor play / exercise space (parks, trails, sidewalks)
>>> Mostly Agreed.  That's one of the reasons I live on the bank of a 
>>> (mostly dry) river in a rural area.  I don't believe sidewalks are a 
>>> requirement.  For that matter, neither are parks and trails.
>> Sidewalks are a requirement if you would otherwise be landlocked by 
>> busy highways that are too busy and narrow to traverse by foot.  I 
>> have run, biked, and inline skated thousands of miles along highways, 
>> country roads, city streets, etc.  Where I am right now, there are 2 
>> roads, one of which is barely safe to drive on and impossible to walk 
>> safely along: There is no excess road past the lines on the narrow 2 
>> lane road with constant traffic, with ditches and other impassible 
>> obstacles.  Only an expert runner wanting to get a cross-country 
>> workout could safely run that road without getting a broken ankle or 
>> run over.
>> Parks are required if all land is privately owned and off limits.  
>> Trails are required if roads are hostile to pedestrians / bikers or 
>> natural areas would be off limits or too dangerous otherwise.  If 
>> you're in Arizona and you want to stop along a highway and just go 
>> walk through the desert, you don't really need a park.  If you're in 
>> the Bay Area, you're not allowed to be anywhere you don't own that 
>> isn't a park except the Bay itself and beaches (which are more or 
>> less all park).
> So what you're saying is a qualified requirement?  e.g. I don't need 
> sidewalks or parks because of where I live.  I don't even have a paved 
> road to my house.

If you live where you can walk, run, roam, work, learn, and thrive 
without roads, sidewalks, parks, etc. then great.  In essence, you then 
have roads, sidewalks, trails, and parks everywhere.  When the landscape 
is filled with places you can't go legally or safely, you need to define 
a little space to simulate such an open environment.  Not too confusing: 
Think in terms of "I want to be able to walk or ride my bike to *."  
Many urban areas have spent decades inching toward this.  Where I've 
lived in Virginia and California, they are well covered.  In Ohio, they 
just build roads, etc. big enough that usually you can travel next to 
them fine.

>>> As a list of requirements for "baseline" living, your suggestions 
>>> strike me as elitist.
>> Elitist?  You agreed with most of these points, didn't you?
> No. Mostly agreed means I agree with the basic idea but not the 
> implications.  i.e. I only fully agreed with health care.
>> I'm not making a list for just surviving, but for thriving, or at 
>> least having what it takes to do so.
> What I disagree with is the absolutist quality of the list.  I 
> believed you were saying these are the minimum requirements for 
> survival.  And they clearly are not.  Therefore, your points can only 
> be taken as an elitist attitude toward survival.  You didn't define 
> that "baseline" meant "thriving" and "having what it takes to do so" 
> in terms of survival.

Heck no, to survive you hardly need anything.  There probably is some 
value in defining a "survival" level, but that wasn't useful to my 
purposes yet.  This subthread started in my musing about a "Productive 
efficient designed community" which started when I was thinking about 
creating a Silicon Valley-like environment that didn't have 2 bedroom 
bungalows that cost $1.2M and/or extensive commute times.  I.e. start 
with cheap land, build cheap but attractive and functional housing, 
infrastructure, business, etc.  A "special economic zone" of some kind, 
but not socialist or government owned or anything like that.  More 
toward Galt's Gulch, but starting with practically free wasteland (a la 
Las Vegas), etc.  (See that message.)

So the idea was that the community should achieve a baseline of 
"benefits" that each working person could secure for themselves and 
their family with something less than 100%+ of their effort.  In other 
words, the goal of the community would be to be ever more efficient at 
delivering those basics so that people would have some kind of surplus 
of time, resources, and energy to put toward some kind of goal.  
Preferably some of that toward constructive goals.  Some communities and 
whole countries achieve this now.  The point was to use all known best 
practices to do it deliberately, and preferably better.

The unwritten observation that I had in mind is that many people in most 
areas, especially urban areas, spend years living on the edge in terms 
of money, free / recharge time, etc.  I myself spent years driving 100 
miles a day in severe traffic.  I'm not talking about someone who works 
as hard as they can to accomplish a much greater goal than survival, but 
people who are making minimum wage or are spending almost all of their 
waking time, getting ready for work, commuting, working, etc. and have 
no bandwidth left over for raising children, self-improvement / 
recharge, etc.  I explicitly defined thriving in terms of more than 
neutral or resource-sink survival, more than freezing your education at 
an 8th or 10th grade level so that you could do a menial job, and more 
than being a human robot.

So the baseline is my conception of what it takes to allow people to be 
a healthy, self-improving, fully functional (economically, academically, 
participating in government / self-governing, aesthetic, creative, and 
(preferably)/or contributing) individual.  I'm not interested in 
generating "projects" for more sheeple.  *Live or don't live, there is 
no get by.*  In some sense, I am also working toward what it would take 
to make nearly everyone happy.  Not simply having more money or 
whatever, but a setup to enable more to be more mentally healthy and happy.

Now, among other things, JB seems to think I was trying to somehow give 
everyone everything they could ever want which A) is impossible as he 
points out: people will always want more than they have and B) is not at 
all what I want to create.  My point was to allow people to easily get 
at least the baseline, i.e. a comfortable living feature set way beyond 
survival but still limited, with something less than 100% of their time 
and effort.  The point is to get them to a point where they could, if 
they were capable and desired, contribute to something greater than 
paying for the house or getting to work.  So, in the end, I want people 
to want and be able to strive to get more than they get now.

JB insists that A) I cannot define a reasonable baseline for thriving in 
such a society and B) that there is no way to construct a society that 
could reach my goal of making it reasonable to achieve that baseline for 
virtually everyone.  I disagree, although I'll dig when I have time to 
find and try to solve the mysterious yet glaring flaw he sees in my 

>> sdw
> Peace,
> Marty 


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