Wednesday, September 5, 2007 55 Comments

A general theory of corruption

Corruption is any human action that is not what it appears to be.

You fold a benjamin in your passport and hand it to the Ruritanian douanier. To anyone behind the yellow line, the douanier is ensuring that your presence will not endanger the peaceful citizens of Ruritania. To the two of you, the douanier is imposing a Ruritanian entry tax. And only the douanier knows he has to kick back half that tax to his boss, and another third to the shop steward.

The government of Ruritania builds a space shuttle so that it can build a space station. It builds the space station, then maintains the shuttle so that it can maintain the space station. Even better, the station is an emergency destination in case there are mechanical problems with the shuttle, and the shuttle can evacuate astronauts in case of an accident on the station. Even better, the intricate and incredibly expensive custom components that comprise these systems are produced by a large industry spread across every province in Ruritania, but especially concentrated in the electorally important provinces of Mexas, Guatifornia and Floruba.

The Ruritanian people come together and, acting as one, decide that all Ruritanians will, in future, be philosophers. To this end it drafts all Ruritanian philosophers into the Ruritanian Peace Force, which will organize and undertake this glorious task. The philosophers, of course, are reluctant, because all they want to do is sit around in togas and conduct symposia in their leafy academic groves. However, they are Ruritanian patriots and they reluctantly accept their temporary commissions as colonels in the RPF, whose commitment to peace is legendary. Each colonel is assigned to a military district, where he works closely with the Laputanian assistance mission. (The Ruritanian people are deeply thankful to the citizens of Laputania for their unflagging commitment to stamping out the gangs of bandits and terrorists behind the occasional disorders in a few isolated, backward areas of Ruritania where no one would ever want to go, anyway.) A peaceful solution to the terrorist problem, of course, can only be obtained through education. To this end the philosopher-colonels are empowered by the Ruritanian people to employ all resources at their command in the glorious task of educating every young Ruritanian as a philosopher. And so on. You get the point.

We see that there are lots of kinds of corruption, but they all have one thing in common: deception. Actually, I prefer that glorious Soviet word, disinformation. Since there is no corruption without disinformation, any theory of corruption is a theory of disinformation.

Disinformation is Burnham's formal meaning. The douanier is checking your passport, the space shuttle is maintaining the space station, the Ruritanian tots are learning Plato. Sure.

What any theory of corruption has to explain is how disinformation can succeed in the real world. How does disinformation outcompete information? For any item of disinformation, there is an item of true information which contradicts it. Since few people want to admit to themselves that they believe, or still worse repeat, a lie, one would expect disinformation to have a hard time surviving, much less propagating itself.

I don't think corruption can exist without the following two factors:

One, the real or informal action generates some relative advantage, as compared to the formal action that it pretends to be, to one or more of the parties involved.

Two, an open recognition of the informal action would generate some relative disadvantage, as compared to the maintenance of the formal pretense, to one or more of the parties involved.

Consider the case of the Ruritanian douanier. If the entry tax is acknowledged and formalized, the receipts from this tax will inevitably disappear into the treasury of Ruritania, from which it will be stolen by someone else entirely. The douanier, his boss, and the shop steward will receive no payment at all. Worse, the nosy foreign advisors who are constantly bedeviling the patriotic civil servants of Ruritania will wonder why it employs this weird tax, which probably incurs a high Laffer overhead due to its discouragement of tourism and commerce.

One way to understand the process of corruption is to look at how corruption develops in a self-regulating, valuable eleemosynary institution managed on the rotary system. In other words: in the liberal democratic state.

The general form of disinformation in a corrupt democracy is the proposition that the state exists only to serve its citizens. As the public choice economists described in exhaustive detail - and as purged prewar antidemocrats such as Michels, Mosca and Pareto observed first - the democratic state's motivation to fulfill its formal eleemosynary function ("government for the people, by the people, of the people") is weak. And its opportunity to transform itself into an informal lucrative institution is high. Since its motive is obvious and its propensity is notorious, we should expect the uncorrupt democratic state to be quite the rara avis.

Let's look at some of the patterns that democratic corruption can take.

The simplest form of corruption is direct private taxation by government employees. I favor the Spanish word for this practice: la mordida, or the bite. If the bite stays entirely with the biter, we have simple mordidism.

Simple mordidism is a characteristic of extremely weak states. If the state is not politically powerful enough to at least generate centripetal revenue flow, it's barely worthy of the name. States which exhibit simple mordidism tend to provide poor customer service.

A more advanced form of corruption, and a more common one, is complex mordidism, as demonstrated by our Ruritanian douanier. The profits of graft flow upward in a pyramid, complementing or even replacing the formal taxation system. Complex mordidism is more stable and pernicious than simple mordidism. It's an institution in its own right. It's impossible for anyone in the pyramid to avoid the professional necessity of stealing.

Nonetheless, it remains a characteristic of weak states. Because the source of the revenue stream in mordidism is the public, its disinformation has trouble defending itself from public opinion - when the cops take tips, pretty much everyone knows it. Mordidism is highly vulnerable to undercover investigation, and a state with an honest, loyal, and unhampered law enforcement and judiciary arm can easily root out and destroy it.

When most people - such as my favorite NGO, Transparency International - use the word corruption, they tend to mean only mordidism. By this standard, corruption is rare in First World democracies. However, I think my broader definition is more useful, because other forms of corruption can be even more inefficient. After all, mordidism is just unstructured, unpredictable taxation. If it was lethal to all productive enterprise, there would be no such thing as Italy.

In First World democracies, the primary form of corruption is patronage. In a patronage system, the state creates unnecessary work, or venal offices, as a way of rewarding its political supporters. (In its mildest form, necessary work may be distributed to employees who are selected for political reasons, but the result is the same: inefficiency.) Patronage is not a democratic invention - Louis XIV sold venal offices - but the democracies have certainly raised the art to an unprecedented level of sophistication.

The most primitive form of patronage is retail patronage, in which successful political organizations allocate jobs directly to their supporters. The classic form of retail patronage in the US was the spoils system, which is now mostly extinct, although various forms of it still exist in the murkier depths of closed-shop unions. "Pork" in modern US politics is also a form of retail patronage.

The modern democratic state runs on wholesale patronage, in which the state creates and/or supports entire industries - as in the case of the Ruritanian aerospace industry. The advantage of wholesale patronage is that, compared to either mordidism or retail patronage, it seems extremely hygienic. However, it is also far more scalable than retail patronage. Wholesale patronage can easily corrupt a country's entire economy.

For example, when we describe government actions as "creating jobs," we are speaking in the language of wholesale patronage. The modern omnipotent state can create as many jobs as it wants. It can command businesses to hire an extra worker for every position, whose task will be to stand next to the existing employee. Government actions that increase efficiency actually tend to destroy jobs. Which may be why these actions are so rare.

The problem with wholesale patronage - and the reason it was perfected only in the 20th century - is that it depends on an extremely ambitious level of mass disinformation. Radio and TV were a critical aspect of its breakout. Persuading Ruritanians that they needed to put a Ruritanian on the moon, an awesomely costly and absurdly pointless endeavor, was as much of a breakthrough in public disinformation as in aerospace engineering. It was the pinnacle of 150 years of evolution in Ruritanian patronage technology.

Now, of course, we've moved on. Clearly the most advanced form of wholesale patronage in the world today is environmentalism, or what might be called ecopatronage. Raise your hand if you know someone who owes his or her job to the environmental movement. Raise your other hand if you know more than five such persons. Ecopatronage is especially excellent because it creates not just jobs, but high-status "professional" jobs. And lately it has metastasized, creating entire "green industries" which seem to have nothing at all to do with the State. If only.

Of course, good customer service requires some level of environmental law enforcement. I have no desire to find blobs of mercury floating in my milk. I think it's nice that I can take a boat out on any river in the US and not have to worry that when I light a cigarette, a slick of volatile petrochemicals will ignite and incinerate me in a great gout of flame. And so on. However, I don't think it is too cynical of me to feel that the production of thousand-page "environmental impact statements" for new buildings in existing cities has a slight odor of travail artificiel. Who knows what these documents say besides "pigeons will fly into it," but I suppose they must say something.

Therefore, when we argue about the percentage of ecopatronage in modern environmentalism, we have, as the proverb goes, established the principle, and are merely negotiating the price. Again, motive, propensity and opportunity are all quite evident.

Another form of high-tech modern patronage is edupatronage, in which the state funds and encourages the strange practice known as education. In the last 60 years, the traditional fields of art and science have been thoroughly assimilated into higher edupatronage. The quantity of art and science produced by the edupatronage machine is mind-boggling by any historical standard. Its average quality, of course, is extremely low. While it's hard to speculate on the product of these weird divergent curves, it's clear that edupatronage absorbs a large number of very intelligent citizens, whose labor could produce many useful goods and services if returned to the productive economy.

Edupatronage is especially nifty because it kills two birds with one stone: it simultaneously produces patronage jobs, and propagates the disinformation that these jobs are essential. Of course, an effective edupatronage system can produce all kinds of disinformation, and thus protect all kinds of corruption. The relationship between edupatronage and ecopatronage is quite symbiotic, for example.

It is not quite patronage per se, except in the sense that it creates the profession of suffering for pay, but another form of corruption that's quite common in modern democracies is pseudocharity. The formal meaning of pseudocharity is that the state is maximizing aggregate utility, by transferring resources from those who need them less to those who need them more. And it may well be doing exactly this. However, the actual reason for the prevalence of pseudocharity is that it's a perfect way for the state to buy votes. Pseudocharity also tends to be delivered in kind rather than in cash, providing abundant opportunity for patronage proper.

It's always easy to distinguish pseudocharity from actual charity, because pseudocharity strives to create dependency whereas charity strives to avoid it. Pseudocharity will go almost all the way toward making charity a legal right, but it will not go all the way, because if charity rights were true property, the recipients would feel no political obligation to their masters.

For example, rights to future Social Security payments could easily be converted to Treasury obligations and simply given to the recipients. Rights to free medical care could become diagnosis-triggered payments which the recipient could spend on either expensive, painful and ineffective heroic measures, or on a last vacation to Tahiti. Either of these transformations would be Pareto-optimizing and eliminate large Federal bureaucracies and political constituencies, which is probably why I've never heard anyone even suggest them.

If you feel that tax revenues should be used for charitable purposes, there is a simple way to accomplish this. Securitize the tax revenues as a Treasury bond, and give the bond to the private charity of your choice. Any other approach is probably a form of pseudocharity, even if that is not the intent. (It's almost never the intent.)

Of course, one invariant in democratic disinformation is the proposition that the rotary system is an infallible prophylactic, or at least the best available prophylactic, against corruption. As we've seen, to describe this proposition as implausible is to describe the Pope as Catholic. All of today's democratic governments originated as minimalist eleemosynary states whose only formal purpose was to protect their citizens and enforce the law. All are now unapologetic tax maximizers, most of whose activities can be described as patronage and pseudocharity.

Why is this not surprising? It's not surprising because the idea of limited government is inherently implausible. Note the suspicious passive voice in "limited." Who is doing the limiting? Government is sovereign by definition. Who can force it to limit itself? The Pope? How many divisions does the Pope have?

During the Second Republic period (1789-1861), the US Federal government remained quite small, though some of its military and financial ventures were nontrivial. This may be partly explained by its legal formula of limited government. But the Supreme Court under John Marshall discarded the theory of enumerated powers quite early. Probably a more parsimonious explanation is the structure of political factions in this period, which opposed aristocratic centralists against populist decentralists, the latter being generally triumphant. The invention of populist centralism toward the end of the Second Republic, culminating in Lincolnian Unionism, terminated small government in America. Anyone who thinks he can uninvent this idea, or any idea for that matter, is smarter than me.

In general, I think, the error of the libertarian minarchist is to believe that making the state weaker is an effective way to make it smaller. Since most of the activities of the informalized pseudo-eleemosynary state constitute corruption, and since it's actually harder for a weak state to control corruption, the means is inappropriate to the end.

Similarly, the state that does not maximize tax revenue provides, in the revenue it foregoes for eleemosynary reasons, a juicy target for political factions who would redirect that revenue to patronage or pseudocharity. Foregone revenue can be redefined as revenue distribution to those who benefit from low taxes. And the ratchet pattern of tax increases across democratic history testifies to the comparative strength of corruption, as opposed to eleemosynary rectitude, as a principle of political organization.

Perhaps the nastiest bit of democratic disinformation is the association of democracy with social harmony. In fact, the conflict between political factions is a form of ritualized warfare any way you slice it, and it doesn't take much to degenerate into actual combat. The American Founders actually thought they had designed a factionless, semidemocratic republic. Um, sure. The real miracle of American democracy is that it's produced only one major civil war.

My conclusion - which is why I'm a neocameralist - is that the sovereign eleemosynary institution is the political equivalent of the perpetual motion machine. The real choice is not between the eleemosynary state and the lucrative state, but between the informal lucrative state and the formal lucrative state.

In the formal lucrative state - by definition - we see no systematic mordidism, patronage or pseudocharity. The formal lucrative state is managed by and for its shareholders. Any sort of corruption comes straight out of their pockets, and they have no reason to tolerate it.

What I haven't explained, however, is why the formal lucrative state is any better than its unfortunate democratic competitor at maintaining this formalism. The fact that mordidism, patronage and pseudocharity are very rare in private corporations does not demonstrate that these phenomena will be equally rare in sovereign corporations. They are also rare in private eleemosynary institutions, and for the same reason: because they are prohibited by law, and the law is enforced by the chartering sovereign.

The essential question is whether a sovereign lucrative institution - an animal which has never existed in history, although some approximations have approached it - can remain formal. As we've seen, reason indicates that a sovereign eleemosynary institution cannot regulate itself and prevent corruption, and history gives us no cause to doubt this conclusion. Next week, we'll try to figure out whether shareholders can maintain control of a sovereign corporation, or whether it is likely to suffer the same fate of being seized informally by its management.

(And yes: I am aware that mercury sinks in milk. It's a metaphor, dammit.)

55 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

First: James Buchanan has created a scientific theory of corruption (mostly of the simple variety), as a part of his Public Choice theory, in which he proves its economic sense. It is available on-line.

Practical use of the corruption was first made, as far as I know, by the famous Irish king Conchubar. He became a king on a temporary basis, but managed to become extremely popular and to retain his rule, ousting King Fergus.

It isn't easy to find on internet how he managed to become so popular - probably because it is not very complimentary for Celts. He had two simple methods:

1. He stole as much as possible from one half of people, and gave it to the other half (leaving a substantial portion for himself).
2. Any woman who wanted to get married had to sleep with the king first.

The enduring popularity of Bill Clinton suggests that the old tried and true methods work even today.

Baduin

September 6, 2007 at 3:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PS. No true Celtic king would forget to pay his druids and bards, so that they would persuade his subjects how good a king he was.

Baduin

September 6, 2007 at 3:18 AM  
Anonymous Randy said...

And there it is...

Question though, who would the shareholders be if not those who currently profit from the corruption? How would these continue to profit if the corruption were eliminated? That is, is there any part of the current revenue stream that does not come from corruption?

September 6, 2007 at 8:53 AM  
Blogger brendon said...

actually, i spent a year teaching high school in what your favorite NGO considers to be the most corrupt country on the planet (this country is now under military rule and might have improved somewhat in the rankings but is still very low).

from what i saw, corruption (the li'l mordidism variety, of course) had some deep cultural factors such as a narrow sense of moral obligation and a widespread acceptance of cheating as a normal means to get ahead. if your formal lucrative neocameralist state -- whatever it precisely is, and i don't really know -- were imposed on them overnight, somehow i don't think corruption would be much improved....

September 6, 2007 at 9:10 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Persuading Ruritanians that they needed to put a Ruritanian on the moon, an awesomely costly and absurdly pointless endeavor, was as much of a breakthrough in public disinformation as in aerospace engineering.

If the Ruritanians want to put a man on the moon, is it disinformation simply because some in the government are encouraging the project merely to funnel money to their voters and financial backers? Similarly, if the American people want public education and social security, how can you call it corruption?

Pardon me for being blunt, but it seems to me that your definition of disinformation is "convincing the public to hold opinions that I do not share." Now if these were facts in question -- suppose the moon landing was in fact faked on Rollywood (that's the Ruritanian Hollywood, of course) stage, then we would have some real disinformation.

Patronage in a democracy is only corruption if the people don't support it. If global warming is a big lie foisted on the people, then environmental patronage (and I have neither hand raised btw) is indeed a form of corruption. If global warming is true -- or if it's simply a false belief -- then there's nothing corrupt about it.

September 6, 2007 at 9:22 AM  
Blogger James said...

MM,

This is a good theory of corruption. Do you think it is possible to devise a system to minimize or check corruption in general? I'm thinking maybe something in game theory to keep people from cheating, but I am interested in any ideas you have. Do we wait for our government to fall into complete ineptness before we do something to check the corruption?

James

September 6, 2007 at 9:33 AM  
Anonymous Randy said...

JA,

Re; "Patronage in a democracy is only corruption if the people don't support it."

I have to disagree. The key is in your use of the phrase "the people". Democracy is the rule of "the majority", not "the people". It is entirely possible for a majority to participate in a patronage scheme, and Social Security is an excellent example. Patronage is corruption, no matter how many people participate.

September 6, 2007 at 9:39 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

I see your point, randy. But if we follow your logic to its extension, there can be no government at all. Our host appears to believe that the purpose of government is to maximize profits, but what of the faction of citizens who would prefer other things (like the moon landing or peace) to profits at all costs?

September 6, 2007 at 10:20 AM  
Blogger Byrne Hobart said...

Atheist:

Your thinking here is muddled. If the government can sacrifice profit to pursue goal X, why couldn't it maximize profit and let a non-government entity pursue goal X? Wouldn't that make us better-off?

Or do we want a moon landing, social security, etc. etc. only so long as the cost to us is minimal?

September 6, 2007 at 10:41 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Byrne Hobart,

If the government can sacrifice profit to pursue goal X, why couldn't it maximize profit and let a non-government entity pursue goal X?

That's the question, isn't it? Is the purpose of government merely to maximize profit, or does it have other roles as well? I'm not sure I can convincingly argue that government should have the right to tax you to pay my social security, as that's an "ought" question rather than an "is" one, but I believe the social security system provides a benefit to the country as a whole.

As you allude to, some of the functions currently performed by government -- especially those referred to by MM as patronage -- probably wouldn't succeed as private ventures. If Social Security were privatized and/or made completely voluntary, there would not be enough contributions for it to work. The question, then, is whether it's in the country's best interest to have Social Security or not.

Where you (and probably all of the commenters and MM) and I disagree is whether "best interest" is defined strictly financially or if it's thought of more broadly. Personally, I'm happy to live in a country where there is some sort of safety net for the poor, the sick, and the elderly, and the voters, at least through the present day, agree. Most of our citizens were thrilled and proud that our country sent a man to the moon. Most think we should actively fight terrorism rather than simply accepting attacks as the statistically insignificant happenings most of them are.

I think the issue that we are dancing around here is that people are not wholly rational, self-interest maximizing automatons. We have compassion for the less fortunate, yearnings for space exploration, awe for the olympic games and stately government buildings and museums. Most Americans think that the government should be involved in some or all of these things, and see being forced to pay for the things we don't particularly support as part of the cost of being American.

I don't think I'd like to live in MM's utopia, but I'm pretty happy as an American.

September 6, 2007 at 11:17 AM  
Anonymous Randy said...

Jewish Atheist,

I think the solution is to separate voluntary and involuntary government services, as the only way to remove corruption is to remove the use of force. Social Security and Medicare could easily be made voluntary. Infrastructure would be a little more difficult but with the use of fees, tolls, and technology such as ez-pass, no longer impossible. Police and fire services could be made voluntary by requiring insurance payments up front or a bill after the fact. Education could be made voluntary by simply disbanding the current system. Defense could be made voluntary by requiring a registered vote. Those is favor of a particular war and/or maintenance of a standing army would be required to pay up or volunteer. You get the idea.

September 6, 2007 at 11:29 AM  
Anonymous Randy said...

P.S. No, I don't think that the above is politically feasible. As long as people believe that the use of force will work in their best interests, they will continue to use force. But it is a use of force, and the result is corruption. Your name implies that you are at least some manner of athiest. So what's the point in pretending to believe the propaganda when all the evidence points in a different direction?

September 6, 2007 at 11:43 AM  
Anonymous m.c. said...

This is a f'n magnum opus. Just an awesome array of body blows to the bloated carcass of the modern state.

September 6, 2007 at 7:36 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

Interesting essay as always, but I think you are coming at the problem from the wrong end. The mystery to be explained is not corruption, but its opposite. Why are people sometimes honest? Why do some people some of the time serve the purposes of the institutions they are part of, rather than their own? The default human stance (the default biological stance, actually) is self-interest, so if people are doing things that are not obviously in their self-interest, that's the interesting thing that needs to be explained.

We have a good theory about how looking out for number one can expand to looking out for number 1/2 (a parent or child) and number 1/4 (a sibling) via kin selection. We know that ants and bees serve the interests of the colony or hive because they've got an even greater degree of gene sharing. But how do you get the unrelated human bees in the corporate hive to serve the common interest? That's much harder. The fact that it happens at all is an achievment of institutional design. The fact that it happens in an extremely imperfect way, with actors at all levels pulling in their own direction as well as the common one, is a fact of life.

Defense patronage is a huge money sink, but it did give us the Internet. As for ecopatronage, I think you overestimate the current size and importance of it. Compared to other forms its a drop in the bucket, and in my opinion it ought to be increased by a huge factor, since there are real problems to be solved by it, and private interests do not seem adequate to the magnitude and importance of the tasks. Almost all science is done via government patronage, and while this is not without its flaws nobody has proposed a better system.

I am amazed at your picture of corporations as free of corruption (in your sense). There is not much opportunity for employees to skim money, but there is enormous political maneuvering at the managerial level. Every manager is concerned not merely with serving his departmental function but increasing his headcount and budget. Keep in mind that while corporations have an external market discipline to keep them vaguely honest, the internal world of a corporation functions along the lines of a feudal society, with a combination of top-down authoritarianism and overlapping fiefdoms. Here's a nice general theory of institutional capture, in this case applied to political parties but it's the same anywhere. Again, the thing to be explained is not corruption of institutions, but how institutions can work at all. I grew up in Chicago, where at the time there was a sort of perverse pride in the semi-institutionalized patronage system of city government, so perhaps that explains my point of view.

September 6, 2007 at 7:46 PM  
Anonymous TGGP said...

Public Choice has changed a lot since the old days. Wittman and Caplan are on the forefront. You can read about these changes from an Austrian perspective here.

By the way, MM, since you stopped replying in the threads preceding this one I have declared myself the victor in all our disputes. It is the true Austrian way.

September 6, 2007 at 9:17 PM  
Blogger Gojomo said...

Tenuous: "We see that there are lots of kinds of corruption, but they all have one thing in common: deception."

My understanding is that corruption is at its worst where it is most open: cultures where everyone expects it, and exerts no effort to conceal or spin it. So deception is only essential to corruption where there is a strong cultural mores against it.

Missing: another form of corruption large enough in modern democracies that it deserves a slot in your taxonomy is protection-money: "we're about to consider this extremely expensive-to-your-industry legislation, would you like to exercise your first-amendment rights to fund our political operations?"

Brilliant: "It's always easy to distinguish pseudocharity from actual charity, because pseudocharity strives to create dependency whereas charity strives to avoid it." Securitizing social security obligations and unencumbered diagnosis-triggered cash payments are incisive, illuminating ideas.

Dubious: "[M]ordidism, patronage and pseudocharity are very rare in private corporations." Somewhat more rare than the public sector, perhaps, but there's still enough in the way of kickbacks, nepotism, managerial rents, employee theft, etc. that 'very rare' is a stretch. Perhaps it's just as common but kept controlled at a smaller scale, because the private incentives for "minding the store" are more acute.

September 6, 2007 at 10:35 PM  
Anonymous TGGP said...

How could I have forgotten to link to that great Theodore Dalrymple piece on The Benefits of Corruption?

September 7, 2007 at 7:29 AM  
Anonymous Randy said...

Gojomo,

Re; "...deception is only essential to corruption where there is a strong cultural mores against it."

Sounds right. And as JA pointed out, a significant percentage of the population of the United Stated actively supports patronage, believing themselves to be the beneficiaries.

September 7, 2007 at 9:00 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

brendon,

The cultural factors behind Third World corruption are huge. Huge, huge, huge. I don't need to tell you this.

However, history did not - contrary to popular belief - begin in 1950. And the history of the Third World before 1950 suggests that it's easy for a determined government to eliminate most forms of mordidism.

One simple approach is just to employ international experts, rather than local citizens, as high-level civil servants. Rather eliminates all the cultural factors. Not every village policeman can be a foreigner, but if government is clean at the top level, and if its authority is unchallenged, eradicating petty mordidism is not difficult.

In fact, one way we can see that today's Third World states are best understood as informal mechanisms for distributing power and revenue, rather than for producing optimal government, is that they uniformly eschew the practice of employing international managers, which was once quite common.

September 7, 2007 at 9:22 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

JA,

As usual, you ask great questions:

If the Ruritanians want to put a man on the moon, is it disinformation simply because some in the government are encouraging the project merely to funnel money to their voters and financial backers?

It is, and here's why.

The essential bit of disinformation is why the program happens. Why did Ruritania put a man on the moon?

The answer a Ruritanian man of the time, living in a culture of Ruritanian nationalism in which not only he but his great-great-grandparents were steeped to the marrow, would have given: because the Ruritanian space program makes Ruritania a stronger and better nation, it advances the progress of science, and it stimulates the economy. Seeing this, the wise leaders of Ruritania have chosen wisely to pursue it.

In my opinion, Beatrice, our mythical reservationist alien, would have reported the pattern of causality differently. She would have said that the Ruritanian space program exists because it strengthens the power of the Ruritanian government, increasing its prestige and allowing it to dole out jobs to a wide variety of politically important constituencies.

Surely it's possible that I am wrong about this, and that Beatrice would agree with Ruritanian public opinion as described above. If so, no: the space program is not patronage.

But when you say:

Patronage in a democracy is only corruption if the people don't support it.

I disagree. Because there is a right and a wrong, and if the people - whether majority or minority - are wrong, it does not magically turn disinformation into information. It just means that the people have been successfully deceived.

If global warming is a big lie foisted on the people, then environmental patronage (and I have neither hand raised btw) is indeed a form of corruption. If global warming is true -- or if it's simply a false belief -- then there's nothing corrupt about it.

Except for "if it's simply a false belief," I agree completely. But I would say that if it is a false belief, it's the very definition of disinformation.

Disinformation does not imply conspiracy. The myth of global warming does not have to be concocted consciously by a secret cabal of environmentalist Jews who cackle madly as they imagine the tremendous profitability of their alternative-energy startup, which converts little Christian boys to ethanol. It is sufficient for it to be a myth - if it is.

In other words, for corruption to exist, it is necessary and sufficient for there to be a feedback loop between the production of disinformation, and the revenue it produces. As long as this loop is operational, the mechanism by which it works is irrelevant. The effect is the same.

And, since humans are very good at detecting liars and phonies, we should expect the most effective disinformation to be propagated by people who believe it sincerely. Thus, it is unreasonable to associate disinformation with conscious, volitional conspiracy.

September 7, 2007 at 9:50 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

mtraven,

I am amazed at your picture of corporations as free of corruption (in your sense). There is not much opportunity for employees to skim money, but there is enormous political maneuvering at the managerial level. Every manager is concerned not merely with serving his departmental function but increasing his headcount and budget.

Oh, indeed. I have seen this in every corporation I've worked for.

But there is also an equal and opposite force acting against this, which is that everyone in every corporation I've worked for was aware of one fact: the goal of the entire enterprise was to maximize the price of the stock.

Humans are not perfectible and no institution can perfect them. However, when you see the way a government department works and you compare it to a corporation, you see the difference.

Every agency in the US federal government would collapse in a spontaneous orgasm if a Washington Post reporter were to describe it as "as efficient as Intel." I have some knowledge of how Fedco operates and I have some knowledge of how Intel operates, and let me tell you, I don't consider "as efficient as Intel" a compliment. But relatively speaking...

As for ecopatronage, I think you overestimate the current size and importance of it. Compared to other forms its a drop in the bucket, and in my opinion it ought to be increased by a huge factor, since there are real problems to be solved by it, and private interests do not seem adequate to the magnitude and importance of the tasks.

How many Americans do you think should owe their jobs to environmentalism? I'd be surprised if the number, today, is less than 5 million. Should it be 10? 20?

Almost all science is done via government patronage, and while this is not without its flaws nobody has proposed a better system.

I have one: go back to the way it was done before 1940. I believe there was a certain amount of science in this period...

September 7, 2007 at 10:03 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

JA,

If Social Security were privatized and/or made completely voluntary, there would not be enough contributions for it to work.

Actually, if Social Security were privatized, it would be illegal. You can't operate any investment system that pays returns directly out of contributions. So, in a sense, I suppose you're right!

But, in general, we can divide all the activities you mention into two classes: (a) charities, and (b) property rights.

For example, in my book (not in the Supreme Court's, though) people who have contributed to Social Security are the equivalent of bondholders. They have a property right that needs to be respected, and this has nothing to do with whether they are rich or poor.

Converting this property right into a negotiable instrument (such as a Treasury bond) is a Pareto optimization, which means that it benefits the Social Security recipient and harms no one at all. I can't see how anyone could oppose this.

But wait: our senior could then sell her bond, spend the money on Southern Comfort, and live in horrendous squalor the way they did in the 19th century, before we had civilization.

This is why the world needs charity. Now, one may think that charity should be entirely voluntary, or one may think it should be funded by tax revenues. Presumably you believe the latter. Ergo, found the Old People's Foundation and give it a few T-bills courtesy of the American People.

It is very easy to get the state out of the patronage business. But, as we see, it doesn't happen. Why not? Because patronage works.

And it's the whole mystical doxology of nationalism - One Nation Undivided, Liberty And Union Forever, Democracy and Community and The Flag and Apple Pie - that protects it.

September 7, 2007 at 10:15 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

TGGP,

Thanks for linking to the Dalrymple post! It's a good one indeed.

I apologize for my occasional tardiness in responding to comments, but I should state my policy, which is that comment threads for posts that aren't on the front page are closed. If we haven't agreed by then, we probably won't. But I will get to the others...

September 7, 2007 at 10:16 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

gojomo,

My understanding is that corruption is at its worst where it is most open: cultures where everyone expects it, and exerts no effort to conceal or spin it. So deception is only essential to corruption where there is a strong cultural mores against it.

But it is still concealed. It is just concealed very lightly and ineffectively. No one, however, will ever give you a receipt for a bribe. Plausible deniability is always maintained. As soon as you formalize informal payments, they will be captured by the formal government.

Missing: another form of corruption large enough in modern democracies that it deserves a slot in your taxonomy is protection-money: "we're about to consider this extremely expensive-to-your-industry legislation, would you like to exercise your first-amendment rights to fund our political operations?"

Oh, yes. But on the other hand, the actual amounts of money extracted in political contributions are surprisingly small. The real damage is in the legislation, which may be expensive to your industry but is probably quite lucrative to someone else's.

September 7, 2007 at 10:24 AM  
Anonymous TGGP said...

In fact, one way we can see that today's Third World states are best understood as informal mechanisms for distributing power and revenue, rather than for producing optimal government, is that they uniformly eschew the practice of employing international managers, which was once quite common.
When the Brits owned the place, Brits were in charge. Now that the wogs have taken over, its staffed by wogs. Don't get me wrong, I think the Brits were great at governing and I'm glad I live in a former colony of theirs, but it never got them hired by foreigners.

I disagree. Because there is a right and a wrong, and if the people - whether majority or minority - are wrong, it does not magically turn disinformation into information.
By implying that it can be wrong to support something, you seem to indicate that you believe in some objective moral truths. I would be quite disappointed in you if that was indeed the case.

How many Americans do you think should owe their jobs to environmentalism? I'd be surprised if the number, today, is less than 5 million. Should it be 10? 20?
It is not my impression that a significant portion of Americans owe their jobs to environmentalism. We often forget that more money is spent advertising toothpaste than funding political campaigns because we find the latter especially disturbing. What kind of jobs or organizations would you suggest we look at to get some numbers?

The real damage is in the legislation, which may be expensive to your industry but is probably quite lucrative to someone else's.
I believe I mentioned John Lott's Freedomnomics here before, which puts forth decent evidence that contributions don't have much of an impact on legislation, the legislators really believe the crap they create is best for the country.

September 7, 2007 at 12:47 PM  
Anonymous Matthew C. said...

The answer a Ruritanian man of the time, living in a culture of Ruritanian nationalism in which not only he but his great-great-grandparents were steeped to the marrow, would have given: because the Ruritanian space program makes Ruritania a stronger and better nation, it advances the progress of science, and it stimulates the economy. Seeing this, the wise leaders of Ruritania have chosen wisely to pursue it.

In my opinion, Beatrice, our mythical reservationist alien, would have reported the pattern of causality differently. She would have said that the Ruritanian space program exists because it strengthens the power of the Ruritanian government, increasing its prestige and allowing it to dole out jobs to a wide variety of politically important constituencies.


I'm not sure that this is a question of a "right" and "wrong" answer.

I see value in both answers to why there is a space program.

However, Beatrice's answer has the advantage of being in alignment with economic knowledge and cross-cultural inquiry, while the "man of the time" explanation is clearly more limited. If we can get people to even think about Beatrice's explanation, and give it a measure of consideration, we will see more support for formalist government and less for nationalist mythopoetic government. I'm not sure it is necessary or even possible to prove that Beatrice is "right", only have people begin to hear and think about those heretical Beatrice thoughts. . .

September 7, 2007 at 12:58 PM  
Anonymous George Weinberg said...

Well, if I were a space alien I suspect I'd be even less confident of my ability to explain human motivation than I am now. But it seems to me that the American space program was largely a reaction to the Soviet space program, at least up until the moon landing. This would suggest to me that the American motivation was similar to the Soviet motivation, whatever that was.

September 7, 2007 at 4:34 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...


How many Americans do you think should owe their jobs to environmentalism? I'd be surprised if the number, today, is less than 5 million. Should it be 10? 20?

The total US workforce is around 150 million (thanks, Bureau of Labor Statistics!). Are you suggesting that 3.3% of the workforce owes their jobs to environmentalism? Seems extremely unlikely to me, no matter how you define it.

I have no particular opinion on how many people should be employed in environmental work. I do believe the government should be putting considerably more resources into alternative fuels research and the like. It's odd, because this is the sort of thing that ought to be fundable by private industry (unlike basic science), but it isn't.

go back to the way it was done before 1940. I believe there was a certain amount of science in this period.
Not nearly as much as there has been since. Basic science, like clean air, is a classic public good.

The influence of government funding on science and technology has not been all good of course, but anyone using the Internet should be ashamed to diss government supported research in the general case.

September 7, 2007 at 6:37 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

Matthew C,

Well put - I can't know what Beatrice thinks. I just think the exercise of trying to figure out what she thinks is a useful one.

George,

I think history will see the Soviet, especially post-Stalin, and American systems as far more similar than they do now, and I think the same can be said for their space-program motivations. Both systems placed a very high value on prestige, and on bureaucratic power, although they expressed it in very different ways. Possibly the most parsimonious way to explain why the space programs happened is to say that no one in the American or Soviet governments had the power to stop them.

September 8, 2007 at 11:23 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

mtraven,

As it so happens, my mother worked for many years at the Department of Energy, specifically in policy and budget, specifically in the area of alternative energy. While she drives a Prius to this day, her views on DoE's alternative energy program are, as far as I can tell, no different from mine. It's possible that some of the programs are useful, but there is absolutely no way to tell which, and who gets the money is a function of power and very little else. In fact, it's quite possible that there are deserving programs which are not being funded at all. A few billion dollars a year go down this drain, and have for quite some time.

Since 1945, a very large quantity of science has been generated. I am less certain about the quality. As for the Internet, if the government nationalized soap, there would be no private soap.

Now, it's possible that - me being a Brahmin and all - the number of friends and relatives of mine involved in the environmental business is disproportionate.

According to this old OTP report, in 1996 the environmental industry employed 1.3 million Americans. I'd expect the business has expanded considerably since then, and they seem to have a narrower definition of the field than me - for example, they include very few government employees, there is no mention of "ethanol" in the entire document, etc, etc.

September 8, 2007 at 11:41 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

tggp,

By implying that it can be wrong to support something, you seem to indicate that you believe in some objective moral truths. I would be quite disappointed in you if that was indeed the case.

No, but I do believe in objective facts, and it is wrong to support something if your support is based on facts that are inaccurate.

September 8, 2007 at 11:43 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

To be honest, this post was a bit disappointing. I think, there is much more to corruption than what it explains. First off, it takes two to tango. This post attempts to take account only of one side; the one that is "taking bribes", although in my opinion the other side is just as important. Second, it only talks about corrupt government, whereas any organization, where there is the slightest discrepancy between the interests of the individuals in it and the organization as a whole is vulnerable to corruption.

It is refreshing that your post distinguishes between bribery and corruption (like you, I loathe TI's simpleminded approach that actually carries a huge load of disinformation) in that not all corruption is bribery. However, it fails to acknowledge that not all bribery is corruption.

When discussing corruption and freedom with westerners (mostly those with strong Universalist beliefs), I often ask them the following question:

"When facing an official, who is enforcing some rule that is disadvantageous to you, would you like to have the option of bribing your way around it?"

It is very entertaining to watch them explaining how a society in which you do have this option is somehow less free than one in which you don't.

I think, that any theory of corruption purporting to be general must have at least something to say on this issue.

You also fail to account for a very special kind of corruption, which I would call "byzantine corruption", in whose golden-domed capital I started typing my comment. Using your terminology, it's a highly evolved form of complex mordidism, which is quite stable and able to defend itself against undercover investigations and any kind of law enforcement. It has the following essential elements in addition to those you already mentioned describing complex mordidism:

1. If you do everything by the law, you are never forced to pay bribes.

2. Doing everything by the law is expensive and often downright impossible.

Basically, when the pyramid of complex mordidism reaches the legislation, laws are passed in such a way that reinforces this form of corruption. Since practically everybody is breaking the law, there is, of course, no unhampered and honest law enforcement, nor is it even possible. The state is, by some measure, weak, but it turns people into accomplices in crime, which is actually a very strong bond. To the point when people are willing to fight for it.

September 9, 2007 at 6:10 AM  
Blogger mtraven said...

It's possible that some of the programs are useful, but there is absolutely no way to tell which, and who gets the money is a function of power and very little else. In fact, it's quite possible that there are deserving programs which are not being funded at all.
I don't doubt it. Politics plagues government funded research like it does everything else. But so what? You have to demonstrate, not that government funding of alternative energy is imperfect, but that some other system would be better (in this case, better at solving society's energy problems before we are fucked beyond all possibility of recovery).

Since 1945, a very large quantity of science has been generated. I am less certain about the quality.
True enough, but one way to get quality is to generate a large quantity and let the cream rise. Not necessarily the most cost-effective, to be sure.

As for the Internet, if the government nationalized soap, there would be no private soap.
This is a manifestly wrong argument. There were numerous commercial computer networks (Compuserve, AOL, Prodigy) around in the 80s and 90s. The Internet has killed them all (I guess AOL is still around, but does anyone care about it?) This happened for numerous reasons, but primarily because it was designed around open standards and interconnectivity, and that's a direct result of its birth and nuturance in the world of government-sponsored research. No private corporation would have designed the Internet -- instead, they designed private networks and tried to lock each other out.

The Internet is the best possible argument for a mixed economy.

...there is no mention of "ethanol" in the entire document
I thought it was evident to all that the ethanol program is an agricultural subsidiary that has absolutely nothing to do with the environment.

September 9, 2007 at 1:29 PM  
Blogger Faré said...

@MM: thanks a lot for this post. I love your blog. You inspired me this post on corruption.

@mtraven: you're right that any theory of society should start by explaining how we're not jungle hunters or troglodytes anymore, and instead cooperate in complex societies - but in as much as this doesn't happen through politics, your remark doesn't in anyway contradict MM's theory of how politics work in negative sum games.

@mtraven: On the other hand, you're succombing to the classic accounting fallacy by ascribing the creation of the Internet to public funding.

September 9, 2007 at 4:03 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

Daniel,

You're right - both of these cases fall under the mordidism category, and both could have benefited from more exploration. See also the link to the Dalrymple article that TGGP posted, which describes your form of lubricating corruption quite well.

September 9, 2007 at 6:24 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

Politics plagues government funded research like it does everything else. But so what? You have to demonstrate, not that government funding of alternative energy is imperfect, but that some other system would be better (in this case, better at solving society's energy problems before we are fucked beyond all possibility of recovery).

I disagree - I think that it is you who have to demonstrate that this system, imperfect as it may be, has a positive cost-benefit balance.

Again, public goods - which I acknowledge exist; consider asteroid defense! - are eleemosynary ventures by definition.

If you think that private interest in alternative fuels is insufficient to fund all the promising research - which strikes me as improbable, at least in today's world - perhaps you think that tax revenue should be devoted to the purpose.

But, again, this can be done without corruption by issuing Treasury bonds which represent the revenue stream you want to donate, and simply giving them to the eleemosynary institution (ie, nonprofit) of your choice. The difference is that this is a one-off operation, and does not require yearly lobbying. Efforts to eliminate corruption can be refocused on keeping the nonprofit clean - which we know how to do, pretty much.

True enough, but one way to get quality is to generate a large quantity and let the cream rise. Not necessarily the most cost-effective, to be sure.

You're assuming that the cream is what rises. In my experience it's often another substance entirely.

This is a manifestly wrong argument. There were numerous commercial computer networks (Compuserve, AOL, Prodigy) around in the 80s and 90s. The Internet has killed them all (I guess AOL is still around, but does anyone care about it?)

Compuserve et all were really servers, not networks. A better comparison is DECnet, or whatever the heck it was called.

As for open standards, since I am not a believer in "intellectual property," you cannot dent my armor there.

I thought it was evident to all that the ethanol program is an agricultural subsidy that has absolutely nothing to do with the environment.

It is, but that's the real meaning. I was referring to the formal meaning. I think most of the green programs have nothing to do with the environment in the same sense, although the corruption is usually not quite so glaring.

September 9, 2007 at 6:34 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

I think that it is you who have to demonstrate that this system, imperfect as it may be, has a positive cost-benefit balance.

Well, it's your blog and you can set the rules of discourse -- but I'm just arguing for the status quo, whereas you are arguing for a radical and untried restructuring of everything. Practically, that puts the burden of proof on you. I feel positively Burkean.

Again, public goods - which I acknowledge exist; consider asteroid defense! - are eleemosynary ventures by definition.

Waitaminit. Eleemosynary == charitable. Public goods are only charitable goods in the absence of institutions with responsibility for providing them, such as governments. So this strikes me as an attempt to win the argument, such as is, by tweaking definitions.

If you think that private interest in alternative fuels is insufficient to fund all the promising research - which strikes me as improbable, at least in today's world.

We might be at the point now when that is the case. So let's pretend we are having this argument ten years ago.

Compuserve et all were really servers, not networks. A better comparison is DECnet, or whatever the heck it was called...As for open standards, since I am not a believer in "intellectual property," you cannot dent my armor there.
I think you missed the point (as did commenter Faré, who is a Lisp Machine fan and ought to know better). The thing to be provided is not networks or servers, but "consumer-level digitial communication". There were wholly private efforts to do this, which largely sucked. The Internet succeeded in this space because its roots in government and nonprofit research led it to become an open platform of a kind which private industry would never in a million years have come up with on their own. An instructive analog (ha!) is the old phone network, which fiercely resisted opening up to third-party phones and devices at the ends of their wires until forced to by a court order.

The Internet, despite having spawned a million libertarians, is the one of the best arguments around for the government taking an active role in shaping and defining a commons in which private enterprise can then operate.

September 10, 2007 at 10:30 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

mtraven,

Well, it's your blog and you can set the rules of discourse -- but I'm just arguing for the status quo, whereas you are arguing for a radical and untried restructuring of everything. Practically, that puts the burden of proof on you. I feel positively Burkean.

You may feel as Burkean as you like! Just don't get Hareian and we'll be fine.

Waitaminit. Eleemosynary == charitable. Public goods are only charitable goods in the absence of institutions with responsibility for providing them, such as governments.

But why are governments special? The purpose of the American Cancer Society is to fight cancer, the purpose of the American Asteroid Society is to fight asteroids. If the government is an eleemosynary institution, it's a charity too.

All I'm saying is that there should be a layer of separation between sovereign (self-securing) entities, and eleemosynary (charitable) ones, because when there is not such a layer, charity turns into patronage. This proposition is quite orthogonal to the proposition that tax revenue should be used for charitable purposes.

We might be at the point now when that is the case. So let's pretend we are having this argument ten years ago.

Given the success of the alternative energy programs of ten years ago - pretty much nada - I think it's hard to make a case that they were underfunded. Switchgrass, shmitchgrass. Fusion, shmusion. Ratholes everywhere.

The Internet succeeded in this space because its roots in government and nonprofit research led it to become an open platform of a kind which private industry would never in a million years have come up with on their own.

A: without IPR, everything is an open platform. B: since TCP/IP existed, c/o DARPA, it's pretty hard to use any real-world evidence to confirm or refute the proposition that without DoD, we would all be using X.500 or Bitnet or OSI or leased lines or some such horrible thing. Packet networking was there and people used it. Since there was no need to reinvent the wheel, you can't fault anyone for not inventing it.

I don't like the TCP side of TCP/IP, anyway. I think circuit networking, even with virtual circuits, is a crap idea. And I blame Uncle Sam. Put that in your long, fat pipe and smoke it.

September 11, 2007 at 3:49 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

Since there was no need to reinvent the wheel, you can't fault anyone for not inventing it.

But my earlier point was that private industry was trying as hard as they could to invent the square wheel, until they caught on that the government-made round ones were better. There's no way to know for sure that industry wouldn't have found their way to packet-switching in the absence of government, but I sincerely doubt it.

BTW, you might enjoy this talk.

September 11, 2007 at 10:32 PM  
Blogger Faré said...

@mtraven: once again, you're deep into the accounting fallacy.

Just because something WAS done by someone doesn't mean it wouldn't have been done by someone else. Cemeteries are full of indispensable people. And indispensable institutions.

September 12, 2007 at 7:58 AM  
Blogger Faré said...

And as for packet switching, if governments hadn't imposed legal monopolies (at Bell's instigation when its patent ended and it already lost 50% of market share), the idea of decentralized networks would have caught up faster.

September 12, 2007 at 8:11 AM  
Blogger Faré said...

And if governments didn't enforce intellectual property, companies would be less motivated to try create closed protocols.

September 12, 2007 at 8:17 AM  
Blogger Faré said...

@mtraven: while we're at it, here's my response to your "Burkean" stance: Conservatism is to Socialism what Stupidity is to Evil.

September 12, 2007 at 8:16 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

Faré: I don't believe I am committing the accounting or any other fallacy. It's my belief, based on far too many decades of experience around academic and industrial research, that even if computation had grown up in some sort of anarcho-capitalist paradise, the combined forces of corporate interests would never have come up with an open architecture like the Internet. I've already cited as evidence the closed networks that were being promoted as alternatives. Anyway, there is no way to prove what would have happened in a counterfactual world so I don't see much point in iterating over this point any more.

September 13, 2007 at 2:10 PM  
Blogger Faré said...

@mtraven: you precisely miss the whole point of any discussion regarding any human action: without considering counterfactuals, you cannot possibly compare the outcomes of the alternatives of a choice, and are thus in no position to tell that any alternative is better or worse than any other one.

By rejecting the examination of counterfactuals, You exclude yourself from rational debate, from rational behaviour, from morality, from economic calculation. You're just an animal.

Reaching an economic conclusion as you do (claiming that one alternative is better) without even considering the alternatives but making one-sided partial statements about what happened IS the accounting fallacy, in which you revel.

September 19, 2007 at 1:06 AM  
Blogger mtraven said...

Fare: OK, I'm an animal. But I seem to be somewhat more evolved than you, since you can't seem to understand plain English. I didn't say I wouldn't *consider* counterfactuals, I said you can't *prove* what would happen in a counterfactual situation. Big difference. In fact, I explicitly *did* consider the counterfactual situation of no government involvement in network development, and in my judgement there would not have been an open-architecture packet switched network. You may disagree all you want. But you keep bleating the same phrase over and over again, without understanding what I'm saying -- perhaps you should check yourself for a vestigial tail or other signs of devolution.

September 19, 2007 at 11:05 AM  
Blogger Faré said...

So you DID consider counterfactuals, after all? And you DID prove something about them? Yet at the same time, you seem to deny the very possibility that *I* could have proven something about them? Or at least, you do not care to address my arguments.

What principles did you use to achieve prove anything about counterfactuals? Did you at any point use a "conservative" principle? Can you state this principle?

Packet switching is the obvious way to time-share a physical line. How can you tell that no one possibly could have thought of it, save for the existence of a State Monopoly? Do you have any argument for that that is not one of the usual public goods fallacies?

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February 12, 2009 at 2:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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March 2, 2009 at 9:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! thanks a lot! ^^

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March 2, 2009 at 9:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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March 6, 2009 at 9:09 PM  

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