Saturday, September 8, 2007 33 Comments

Mediocracy: definition, etiology and treatment

Fabian Tassano has coined the interesting noun mediocracy, which he gives two meanings: "(1) the rule of the mediocre; (2) the triumph of style over substance."

His book of the same name - which for some reason is almost impossible to get in the US, and I am grateful to the author for sending me a review copy - is a comprehensive and witty dictionary of British mediocracy, specifically in its New Labour flavor. If you've ever been east of Nantucket, or you've read Peter Hitchens' Abolition of Britain, you may be aware that the old country has experienced something of a political transition in the last 50 years. One special feature of the new British regime is a vicious hatred of excellence and exclusiveness, perhaps best typified by the egregious educrat Tony Crosland, who once said "if it's the last thing I do, I'm going to destroy every fucking grammar school in England." Since history is always fascinated by destroyers, I wouldn't be surprised if Tassano's label has some legs.

Of course we have mediocracy on our side of the pond as well, though the blend is slightly different. Americans call it political correctness, a cumbersome phrase with no redeeming qualities. The British Fabian associations may be slightly off, but surely "mediocracy" is better than "PCism," with its paucity of declensions and its odd Trotskyist overtones. Besides, dissident terminology needs to be refreshed regularly, as society comes to associate it with the figures whom the authorities present as typical dissidents. Such hooligans are invariably unhip, so their terms become unhip. And so does anyone who uses them. And it's the task of all dissidents, left or right, right or wrong, to be cooler than the State.

In any case: I am supposed to be reviewing the book, not the word. And I recommend both. Each page in Mediocracy is its own soundbite, with its own Orwellian ort of mediocratese, defined by the author and illustrated with a quote or two from some ennobled mediocratic ass. The effect is half Devil's Dictionary, half diversity workshop, half Lingua Tertii Imperii. Suitably repackaged and miniaturized, I feel, it could be quite the hit on the Harry Frankfurt cash-register market. (If you need a preview, Tassano's blog has exactly the same format.)

Tassano's thesis is that the modern English language is contaminated with "inversions and deceptions," aka, built-in lies. In UR's doxology of corruption, we'd call this wholesale disinformation. Of course Mr Blair also had some thoughts on the matter.

A good example is the mediocratic definition of the word radical. Tassano's old definition is implying a break with prevailing intellectual or moral conventions. His new, or inverted, definition, is criticizing bourgeois concepts such as individuality or privacy. He comments:
Mediocracy, like 1984's Oceania, requires its audience to believe in a continual need for ideological battle. Although the war has been won, and everyone has absorbed the required beliefs, the fight against the former enemy (capitalism, Christianity, conservatism, etc.) can never cease. Any sign of resistance must be treated as proof that the enemies of mediocracy are still powerful.

Under mediocracy, the 'discoveries' of modernism - reflexivity, secularism, loss of the self, social construction, etc. - have been fully assimilated. Yet mediocratic culture continues to assault the straw man of traditionalism, who can somehow never be quite dead enough.

It is important that critique of the non-mediocratic continues to carry the 'radical' label, however much such critique has become dogma.
Now, this is very true, and not unenlightening. Perhaps there's a slight percussive quality to 160 straight pages of it. But anyone who's not a Landwehr veteran has spent his or her entire educated life in a mediocracy. And there is no reeducation without repetition.

However, while reading Mediocracy I realized that I had a simple editing suggestion, which perhaps could be applied in a new US edition. It can be expressed as a simple vi command: %s/medi/dem/g. This should be applied to the covers, front matter, and all text. I feel it would spice things up a little and make for better talk-show coverage.

So, for example, the above would read:
Democracy, like 1984's Oceania, requires its audience to believe in a continual need for ideological battle. Although the war has been won, and everyone has absorbed the required beliefs, the fight against the former enemy (capitalism, Christianity, conservatism, etc.) can never cease. Any sign of resistance must be treated as proof that the enemies of democracy are still powerful.

Under democracy, the 'discoveries' of modernism - reflexivity, secularism, loss of the self, social construction, etc. - have been fully assimilated. Yet democratic culture continues to assault the straw man of traditionalism, who can somehow never be quite dead enough.

It is important that critique of the non-democratic continues to carry the 'radical' label, however much such critique has become dogma.
Because - what does mediocracy call itself? What do mediocrats call themselves? Why not take them at face value? If you are criticizing some philosophical system, religious doctrine, alien sci-fi cult doxology, etc, why not do it the courtesy of using the name it uses for itself?

This edit is congenial to almost all of Tassano's definitions - even democracy itself:
The theory of democracy is that everyone's view is given equal weight. In practice, if no genuine alternatives are offered, the weight of each voter's view is zero. In a democracy, the political elite proceeds largely as it wishes, with the electorate's contribution limited to derision.

Some organisations in a democracy may have sufficient financial power to put the case for mildly dissenting viewpoints which, not surprisingly, tend to be biased towards a particular group of constituents (eg, smokers). 'Making things more democratic' comes to mean 'eliminating the influence of such organisations', thus eliminating the only significant source of real diversity.
Can you tell what this passage said before the search-and-replace? And does it matter?

Now, I'm pretty sure Tassano does not agree with this. I get the impression that he thinks what most people think: that mediocracy is a corruption of democracy, not the real thing, just a kind of voodoo zombie impostor which has hijacked the good name of true democracy.

However, let's look at what we know. What we know is that all democracies in the world today are mediocracies. We know that past democracies contained non-mediocratic elements. We also know that they contained aristocratic elements that today's mediocrats consider non-democratic. And we know that in mediocracy's Russian cousin - people's democracy - many people who criticized the regime phrased their criticisms as ways to restore socialism, to make it truer to its own socialist ideals. Which turned out to be rather beside the point.

It strikes me that the simplest interpretation of these facts is that democracy is a degenerative political condition, a pure and unmitigated evil. This doesn't mean that there are not worse systems of government than democracy. Nor does it mean that all the entirely unrelated features of healthy societies that have somehow become associated with this management selection algorithm, such as freedom and law and iPods, are bad. All it means is that, if the Duke of Wellington were still in charge, Britain might be a much more pleasant place today.

(Certainly its crime rate would not have risen by a factor of 47 during the 20th century - that's not 47%, folks, that's 4700%. I also suspect it might still have its Empire, its industries, etc. Of course, today's Britons are well-trained to believe that all these changes were for the better, or at least inevitable. But I suspect the Englishmen of 1907 would have begged to differ.)

What is mediocracy, anyway? I think an accurate definition is "coherent democracy" - that is, a democratic political system which has succeeded in fully coordinating its public opinion, generally through a cradle-to-grave information system in which the perspectives of official and quasiofficial educators and journalists become synchronized. Since educators and journalists educate and inform the next generation of educators and journalists, it's not too hard to see how this might work. It's the political equivalent of a laser. A small amount of political divergence survives in today's mediocracies, but it's negligible by historical standards.

Specifically, the mediocracy we have today is best characterized as a nontheistic theocracy. Its official tradition is the modern descendant of Calvinist Protestantism I call Universalism. The cultural ancestors of the Universalists have been called Progressives, Fabians, Unitarians, Evangelicals, Nonconformists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Quakers, Chartists, Methodists, Dissenters, Puritans, Roundheads, etc, etc, etc. Any good Anglican, from any date between 1660 and 1960, would have identified the current Archbishop of Canterbury as a hardcore Dissenter or "low church" man, and they would certainly accept this as final and conclusive evidence that the conquest of Britain by Massachusetts is complete.

If this theory is correct, Universalism is the legitimate modern heir of an old and very respectable stream of thought, which has produced an enormous amount of cultural value. So perhaps the problem is simply that, while Evangelicals and their doctrines are a healthy ingredient in a healthy society, it's bad news when they achieve total dominance.

So, as a critic of mediocracy, it's very natural to think that the obvious solution is "uncoordinated democracy" - that is, democracy in which there are actually meaningful, substantive divisions and fluctuations in popular political opinion, and in which such fluctuations, expressed electorally, can actually result in actual, significant changes in government personnel and procedures.

There are two problems with this solution.

One, it's extremely obvious. People have been trying it more or less continuously for the last 50 years, and mediocracy continues its advance. Perhaps this is because wishing that public opinion were X, whereas it is actually Y, does not constitute a procedure for converting Y into X - even if X is right and Y is wrong. Furthermore, mediocracy is very good at defying public opinion - for example, on immigration. It can do this because it knows that time is on its side. Public opinion in a mediocracy always converges on official opinion. Sometimes this process is slow, but I know of no exceptions.

Two, it simply assumes, without any evidence or reasoned thinking at all, that democracy is a good thing. Of course, everyone believes democracy is a good thing. But is this a good reason for believing anything? I believe Professor Dawkins has a few thoughts on the subject.

If you accept the theory that public opinion is always wise opinion, you are forced to accept not only democracy, but also mediocracy. If you don't, how can you believe in democracy? Democracy as a modern political system is always associated with Universalism and its ancestors, and unbelievers in Universalism have tended to express their distaste for it in terms both pungent and prescient. This does not make democracy wrong, but it don't make it right, neither.

The term I prefer for uncoordinated democracy is ochlocracy - that is, mob rule. If you think "real democracy" is a good thing, you might want to look through its history a little, making some effort to distinguish between reality and lipstick. Ochlocratic elections, for example, are almost always associated with paramilitary violence. Most people know that the US Civil War was a breakdown of electoral conflict into war proper - but how many of us have heard of the Republicans' paramilitary arm, the Wide Awakes? In fact, mob violence was a ubiquitous feature of American democracy from its birth to the New Deal (when it became mediocratic).

Mediocracy is a problem, no doubt. But it is not the worst thing in the world. One of the main problems with mediocracy is that it depends on centralized control of public information, a control which is rapidly evaporating with phenomena such as home schooling, Blogger, YouTube, etc. Military-grade hatred is not at all hard to find in today's mediocracies. It is only confined to a marginal fringe by the inertial remnants of old-line journalism, which are rapidly evaporating. And the official universities, which were once at least bastions of moderation, have evolved - for very sensible adaptive reasons - into Universalist madrassas at best, and Petri dishes of Chomskyite political hydrophobia at worst.

Ergo, I conclude, mediocracy is an extremely dangerous condition in need of urgent treatment. If it survives in its present state, the future holds nothing but Brezhnevist sclerosis, possibly with newer and better iPods. If nothing else, its financial system is quite unsustainable. If mediocracy collapses and we see a new birth of Internet-powered ochlocracy, Chomskyites will be fighting white nationalists in the streets. And the latter, being better armed and trained, will almost certainly prevail. Do you want this? I'll bet some UR readers want this. I don't.

So what is the treatment? I find that people who grew up believing in democracy have a strong urge to separate solutions into two categories: democratic and nondemocratic. Of course, there is nothing wrong with a democratic election in which the People express their realization that they have been duped, suckered, and taken for a two-hundred-year ride, but that ride is over, finito, done. But - if you agree with me that democracy is the problem, not the solution - there's also nothing wrong with a military coup in which the military expresses this same realization.

Perhaps the great tragedy of democracy is that mob power became identified with political power at exactly the last point in history at which mobs were militarily relevant. In the age of the machine gun, the military is at all time sovereign whether it likes it or not. As long as it acts in a unified and disciplined way, it can do whatever it wants. As the experience of China shows, it's by no means always a mistake to fire into a mob. If the sovereigns of the Concert of Europe had realized that technology was on their side, the murderous degringolade of the 20th century might never have happened.

However, neither democratic or nondemocratic means can terminate mediocracy without a clear and effective program for the new regime. The method matters less than the endpoint. As a maximalist program, of course, I recommend full neocameralism. However, there are many ways to manage a state that involve neither neocameralism nor democracy - Singapore and Dubai being excellent examples.

The most important realization is the fact - elegantly demonstrated by proto-neocameralist city-states such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai - that politics is not necessary to a free, stable and productive modern society. This proposition has not been demonstrated above the urban level, which is one reason that a new regime should move aggressively to decentralize, dissolving national and transnational political bodies in favor of independent cities or regions.

Eliminating politics is not a trivial operation. The goal of politics is power, and for a fairly long transitional period after the abolition of democracy, large numbers of people will continue to harbor the hope that they can achieve power by focusing and controlling public opinion, in the old mediocratic style. While preventing this is ultimately the task of the security forces, there is no need to make their job any harder than it needs to be.

Therefore, the sine qua non of any regime change whose goal is to defeat mediocracy is the complete defeat and liquidation of the old mediocratic power structure. There is absolutely no need to restrict freedom of speech, or any other personal freedom. The problem is entirely organizational. Disestablishment of the Universalist information organs is sufficient.

Mediocracy can be defeated by one principle of good government: separation of information and state. The state must care what its citizens do. It has no good reason to give a rat's ass what they think.

This principle implies a number of specific rules, such as separation of church and state, separation of education and state, separation of science and state, separation of art and state, etc. If we apply the same "strict scrutiny" presently given in the US to the first of these, we end up with a system in which the state is entirely out of the business of managing public opinion, thus breaking the feedback loop of mediocracy.

Furthermore, in a regime change, the only goal of the new regime is stability and success. The new regime is establishing law in a lawless state, in which law has degenerated into a morass of ritual and procedure. If it was concerned with following the rituals and procedures of the old regime, it would not be a new regime.

Therefore, it is justified in seizing, and either dissolving or privatizing according to its best judgment, all subsidized or officially supported information organs of the old mediocracy, including universities, newspapers, TV and radio stations, schools, etc. Probably the first option is the safest. Most of the real estate of the top mediocratic universities is centrally located, and quite valuable. Redevelopment options will not be hard to find.

In a post-mediocratic state, education is a purely parental responsibility. Young people will learn whatever their parents choose to teach them, or have them taught, or expose them to. Official involvement in this process, even in the form of subsidies, is unthinkable. Likewise, journalism is a purely private function. When the state discloses information, it does so under the equivalent of Reg FD, releasing all information to all bloggers at the same time. There are no press conferences, leaks, unofficial sources, off-the-record conversations, etc, etc. Modern government has no need for even quasiofficial information organs. As for the broadcast spectrum, it should be turned off and resold for peer-to-peer networking.

Of course, perhaps there are other ways to defeat mediocracy. If anyone can suggest any, I'd be curious to hear them.

33 Comments:

Anonymous Randy said...

Re; "The state must care what its citizens do. It has no good reason to give a rat's ass what they think."

I agree, but this is an ought statement. Unfortunately, the state has a very good reason to care what its citizens think - to maintain the revenue stream. People who are not taught to think of productivity as a virtue will not produce as great a revenue stream. People who are not taught to believe in the meta-community will not contribute to the revenue stream that sustains it.

Were it not for the revenue stream, the state would have little reason to exist at all. But as long as the possibility of the revenue stream exists, the state will exist. And whatever state exists will care deeply about what its citizens think.

September 9, 2007 at 5:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doesn't it seem that every Western state is actively pursuing policies of elect-a-new-people, all under the pretext on non-discrimination? England and Sweden, both in their own ways, are leading the way.

That, anyway, seems to be the most important development of Western history since WW2. It's as though a demonic force had taken over our civilization.

- SJ

September 9, 2007 at 6:07 AM  
Anonymous Zetji said...

do you think a limited democracy that avoids conflict of interest would work?

essentially, only those who were footing the tax bill would get a vote.

Those on the public dole get no vote.

Government employees get no vote.

Lawyers have a huge conflict of interest since they make their living directly off the law and thus have a huge interest in creating complex unneeded laws. Given how lousy rule by lawyers has been, i'd say under a no conflict of interest democracy they wouldn't get a vote or be allowed to hold non-judicial jobs in government.

Other tax paying citizens would have their vote prorated if some of their income comes directly from the state. For example, part of my income is derived from Labor & Industries medical claims paid by the state. If 10% of my income in a year came from L&I, then my vote would only be worth .9

Or if someones employer derived 50% of its income from state contracts, then there vote would only count for .5

There still would be openings for corruption, but I think the overriding interests of an electorate composed only of those footing the governments bill would keep said government on a very short leash.

While this wouldn't smash the democracy you detest so much, i think it's an easier sell, and would destroy enough of the dangerous excesses of the modern state.

September 9, 2007 at 12:30 PM  
Anonymous TGGP said...

Mediocracy seems too much of a catch-all for things Tassano dislikes.

Chomskyites and white nationalists won't be fighting in the streets because A: they aren't that numerous or courageous and B: they don't live on the same streets.

I remain unconvinced that the media is an arm of the government. Your desire to end leaking reminds me of, say, a Manhattanite's desire not to pay rent. I don't think restricting the flow of information there will be any more successful than the fight against file-sharing, and would likely require scrapping the First Amendment.

September 9, 2007 at 1:42 PM  
Blogger Studd Beefpile said...

Perhaps the great tragedy of democracy is that mob power became identified with political power at exactly the last point in history at which mobs were militarily relevant. In the age of the machine gun, the military is at all time sovereign whether it likes it or not. As long as it acts in a unified and disciplined way, it can do whatever it wants. As the experience of China shows, it's by no means always a mistake to fire into a mob. If the sovereigns of the Concert of Europe had realized that technology was on their side, the murderous degringolade of the 20th century might never have happened.


Except that generals rely on the same means to control armies as politicians do to control states. When the USSR collapsed, the Generals ordered the troops in to stop it, and Yeltsin stopped them. In China there is no way the CPC's 4 million odd troops could control the 1.5 billion Chinese if the latter were marching in the streets.



do you think a limited democracy that avoids conflict of interest would work?

Zetji, while I think this is good policy to pursue generally, it is politically and practically difficult to implement. For one, the Democratic party is almost completely dominated by groups with conflict of interest (see the 2002 election and civil service protection). Second, it's easy enough to say "tax eaters can't vote" but the problem of precise definition remains. Civil servants and dole recipients are one thing, but what about the employees of Lockeed Martin? The stock holders of LM? The spouses of the aformentioned?

September 9, 2007 at 2:01 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

On the subject of "Political Correctness, a cumbersome phrase with no redeeming qualities," a friend of mine, a Serb fluent in several other Slavic languages in addition to his own, once told me that the origins of the expression were Russian and dated from the period of Stalin's pre-WWII purges. "Politically correct" described the behavior one had to display in order to avoid being liquidated.

I have no idea whether this is accurate, but if so it supplies the concept with a suitably sinister background.

September 9, 2007 at 2:17 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

Michael S.,

"Politically correct" is certainly a Russian phrase. In fact, I'm pretty sure it entered the English language through the CPUSA.

September 9, 2007 at 6:00 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

randy,

Your mileage may vary, but my impression is that most peoples' productivity is not greatly improved by indoctrination that exhorts them to be productive. In fact, I've often observed the converse.

"No good reason" is indeed an ought statement. What I meant was "no effective reason," meaning that public indoctrination campaigns are unlikely to be profitable for the lucrative state.

Admittedly, this is contradicted by the experience of Singapore, which is very fond of public education. But Singapore is also not run for profit, and this is not the only element of the Singaporean system that strikes me as economically questionable. It also has a lot to do with the cultural realities of that city-state in specific, eg, the historical disharmony between Malays and Chinese.

September 9, 2007 at 6:05 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

Except that generals rely on the same means to control armies as politicians do to control states.

Well, yes, at present: this is a big problem. Will the troops fire into the crowd? Or will they turn their guns around?

The problem can be solved with the use of digital security systems, not unlike the PALs used on nuclear weapons. These can make it safe to employ foreign mercenaries, a traditionally dubious form of military manpower, but one with a very good history of effective crowd control. Again, this is just part of the general trend of military automation which tends to vitiate "people power."

September 9, 2007 at 6:09 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

Mediocracy seems too much of a catch-all for things Tassano dislikes.

Perhaps a little, but the theme of Orwellian language is unifying.

Chomskyites and white nationalists won't be fighting in the streets because A: they aren't that numerous or courageous and B: they don't live on the same streets.

A: they will be. B: the former have Priuses and the latter have F150 X-Cabs. So they'll get there.

I remain unconvinced that the media is an arm of the government. Your desire to end leaking reminds me of, say, a Manhattanite's desire not to pay rent. I don't think restricting the flow of information there will be any more successful than the fight against file-sharing, and would likely require scrapping the First Amendment.

The guilty party in the case of a leak is not the reporter, but the leaker. Leaking is a violation of your employment contract. Without a hostile judicial system in the Nixonian sense, "plumbing" is actually quite doable.

A better analogy is insider trading, which is exactly the same thing. In both cases, it may be necessary to accept criminal liability, or at least a very large bond, as a condition of employment. Corporate officers today already do.

September 9, 2007 at 6:14 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

anonymous (SJ),

You don't say! I hadn't noticed any such thing. Maybe I'll think about it and get back to you.

September 9, 2007 at 6:15 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

zetji,

It's an interesting idea, but I see two problems. One, it can be very hard to define formally who gets what from government policies. And two, suffrage has a natural tendency to expand. Restricted suffrage systems in the past have had a fairly poor life expectancy, probably because any politician who opposes suffrage extension and loses can expect to suffer for it - no pun intended.

September 9, 2007 at 6:17 PM  
Anonymous TGGP said...

Perhaps a little, but the theme of Orwellian language is unifying.
True enough, though it is disturbingly reminiscent of the Lakoff-inspired "framing" mania that took over the Democrats when they had been performing poorly in the polls. They were already ready to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but the GOP just did too good a job of embarrassing itself in the past few years.

A: they will be. B: the former have Priuses and the latter have F150 X-Cabs. So they'll get there.
You're starting to sound like the SPLC. These types of groups have been declining in size and importance for years. There just isn't that big a supply of Abbie Hoffmans or Timothy McVeighs. You get angry young men willing to shake things up during demographic bubbles, and we are past that.

The guilty party in the case of a leak is not the reporter, but the leaker. Leaking is a violation of your employment contract. Without a hostile judicial system in the Nixonian sense, "plumbing" is actually quite doable.
Unless you know who the leaker is, how are you going to go after them? How is the situation different from file-sharing? It's all just the transmission of information.

September 9, 2007 at 8:52 PM  
Anonymous randy said...

Mencius,

Re; Productivity and indoctrination.

I would say that exhortations to be productive are often ineffective, but that regimentation is extremely effective. Spend a few years in the public school system and goal oriented routine becomes habit. Its defenders call it socialization, and find it necessary, because... well, that's just the way the world "is". Is this belief valuable to the lucrative state? Absolutely.

September 10, 2007 at 2:30 AM  
Blogger Booklegger said...

... separation of education and state, ... etc. If we apply the same "strict scrutiny" presently given in the US to the first of these, we end up with a system in which the state is entirely out of the business of managing public opinion, thus breaking the feedback loop of mediocracy.

Well, except insofar as the private market is probably utterly incapable of overcoming the problems of human capital, without using slavery. Not for nothing, but my dead ancestors fought to preserve slavery inter alia, and I don't think we should hand them victory in death that they couldn't win fair and square in life.

September 10, 2007 at 12:38 PM  
Blogger chairmanK said...

I don't understand why you say that there is no politics in Singapore. This is like saying that Chicago under boss Daley's Democratic political machine had no politics. The authorities in Singapore are successful because they have a mastery of politics - cultivating constituencies with pork, astroturfing consensus, destroying opponents, etc.

September 11, 2007 at 10:23 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

You're starting to sound like the SPLC. These types of groups have been declining in size and importance for years. There just isn't that big a supply of Abbie Hoffmans or Timothy McVeighs. You get angry young men willing to shake things up during demographic bubbles, and we are past that.

The demographic bubble is a good point - but the McVeighs are out there. Just wait till they learn how to use Internet Explorer. And Hillary is President.

Unless you know who the leaker is, how are you going to go after them?

Subpoena the journalist.

September 11, 2007 at 3:34 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

randy,

I would say that exhortations to be productive are often ineffective, but that regimentation is extremely effective. Spend a few years in the public school system and goal oriented routine becomes habit.

You must be thinking of a different public school system than the one I spent a few years in! It used to be that schools were good at installing goal-oriented routine, and I think in a world of purely private education they would be again. After all, parents want exactly the same thing, and for good reason. But now they're pretty good at installing spitball and table-football skills.

September 11, 2007 at 3:36 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

chairmanK,

I don't understand why you say that there is no politics in Singapore. This is like saying that Chicago under boss Daley's Democratic political machine had no politics. The authorities in Singapore are successful because they have a mastery of politics - cultivating constituencies with pork, astroturfing consensus, destroying opponents, etc.

It's an excellent point. What I mean is that there is no political conflict - Singapore is a one-party state, even far more so than the US or Europe. The fact that it has preserved the legal forms of democracy in many ways, and that it has achieved this result through a mastery of politics, does not change the result.

There is also politics in Singapore in the sense of informal backroom politics - the regime's corporate supporters are by no means shareholders. But their interests, nonetheless, seem pretty well aligned.

September 11, 2007 at 3:38 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

booklegger,

Well, except insofar as the private market is probably utterly incapable of overcoming the problems of human capital, without using slavery. Not for nothing, but my dead ancestors fought to preserve slavery inter alia, and I don't think we should hand them victory in death that they couldn't win fair and square in life.

I suspect you have an interesting point, but I'm completely unable to parse this. Perhaps you could rephrase?

September 11, 2007 at 3:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There still seeems to be confusion about McVeigh's alleged racism or WNism. Gore Vidal coresponded with him for three years and found no evidence of this;also see the exhaustive biography of McVeigh, American Terrorist.

McVeigh's brief association with the KKK and his other associations with a similar group may have been because he thought they were the only opposition to federal tyranny. I may be wrong, but I don't recall the "left" expressing much criticism of the Feds re Waco and Ruby Ridge.

From Vidal's article on McVeigh in the Sep 2001 issue of Vanity Fair:
(...)
Moderator: You say that Timothy McVeigh "was not deranged" and that he has has "no major mental illness". So why, in your view, would he commit such a terrible crime?

Dr. John Smith: Well, I don’t think he committed it because he was deranged or misinterpreting reality…He was overly sensitive, to the point of being a little paranoid, about the actions of the government. But he committed the act mostly out of revenge because of the Waco assault, but he also wanted to make a political statement about the role of the federal government and protest the use of force against the citizens. So to answer your original question, it was a conscious choice on his part, not because he was deranged, but because he was serious.
(...)
Vidal-The Turner Diaries is a racist daydream by a former physics teacher writing under the pseudonym Andrew Macdonald. Although McVeigh has no hang-ups about blacks, Jews, and all the other enemies of the various "Aryan" white nations to be found in the Patriots’ ranks, he shares the Diaries’ obsession with guns and explosives and a final all-out war against the "System." Much has been made, rightly, of a description in the book of how to build a bomb like the one he used at Oklahoma City. When asked if McVeigh acknowledged copying this section from the novel, Dr. Smith said, "Well, sort of. Tim wanted it made clear that, unlike The Turner Diaries, he was not a racist. He made that very clear. He did not hate homosexuals. He made that very clear." As for the book as an influence, "he’s not going to share credit with anyone." Asked to sum up, the good doctor said, simply, "I have always said to myself that if there had not been aWaco, there would not have been an Oklahoma City."

Recall that McVeigh had no reason to mischaracterize his views since he didn't fight the death sentence and seemed to embrace the prospect of martyrdom.

September 12, 2007 at 8:10 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

anon,

My expertise on the McVeigh case is not great. Unfortunately, while I love Gore Vidal to death, I can't say I completely trust him on everything, either. So...

September 12, 2007 at 11:45 PM  
Anonymous tggp said...

anonymous' take on McVeigh sounds the same as what I read in Reader's Digest. Vidal wasn't spouting bull.

September 13, 2007 at 10:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure when Tassano coined the term, but I hope it was before this, which was the first hit when I Googled the word:

Practical Project Management
CHAPTER 15
Working in a Mediocracy
Meilir Page-Jones

© Copyright 1998, Wayland Systems Inc. All rights reserved.

A “mediocracy” is an organization in which the mediocre prevails. Most people in a mediocracy are mediocre in both mind and soul, and most products of a mediocracy lack merit. Although a few individuals in a mediocracy may strive to rise above the second rate, their attempts are likely to be doomed by the prevailing ethos of their surroundings.

September 15, 2007 at 10:20 AM  
Blogger liminalcriminal said...

I'm concerned that de-statifying education-- leaving it up to ma and pa-- would do more to preserve mediocratic subject-world relations than to expunge 'em, given the domestic embeddedness of mediocratic injunctions. The main advantage of parental tutelage is its obvious and impeachable myopia, the same myopia that, at the state or institutional level, dissimulates authoritative universality: prejudice is more detectable in hereditarily suspect mouths than in statified infocircuits whose ubiquity almost disallows dissent. But it's strange that the gradual extirpation of mediocratic systems should depend on the abdication of educative agency to the virulently unreliable gestalt of family, whose very cohesiveness and structure derives from normative codes of mediocratic culture (or more strenuously doxological traditions). I agree wholly that adequation-- the raison d'etat of the mediocratizing engine-- is the most sinister function of pseudodemocracy, engendering a vast political silence that thinks it hears itself speaking, that confuses multiplicity for difference. Anyways, who will tell the parents what to teach their revolutionary progeny? And on and on...

September 18, 2007 at 12:23 AM  
Blogger Independent Accountant said...

In reading your piece I thought of two things. First, the 2006 movie "Idiocracy". That's where we're going. Get it in DVD. Have a laugh. Have a cry. Next the 1912 book, "Philip Dru, Administrator" by Earl Mandell House, advisor to Woodrow Wilson. It's about a military coup in the US. Ever since about 1981, I have believed the US is headed towards the rise of an American Napoleon. That's how I see it.
I have questioned any official US government pronouncements since May 1963 when we removed our Jupiter missiles from Turkey. Uncle Sam will create any news he wants, any statistics he wants.

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