Thursday, November 1, 2007 123 Comments

How Dawkins got pwned (part 6)

(See parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.)

At this point we've established, at least to my satisfaction, that (a) there is such a thing as Universalism; (b) Universalism is an educationally-transmitted tradition that works just like any theistic religion, and is best understood as a descendant of Christianity; (c) Professor Dawkins is (despite his occasional twinges of conscience) operating as a vector of Universalism; and (d) orthodox Universalism insists on some rather unsupported conclusions about biology, and some theories of history and politics which seem less than parsimonious.

This is all very well and good. But it hasn't brought us that much closer to constructing a way of thinking which is thoroughly non-Universalist, from which we can look back at Universalism and evaluate it aesthetically as a whole. Is Universalism basically normal and healthy, with a few historical quirks? Or is it basically weird and creepy, with a few redeeming graces?

This is obviously a subjective judgment. It's obvious what I think. But I cannot change anyone else's opinion by just repeating my own.

Rather, I think the only way to evaluate Universalism is to construct a reference ideology so foreign to Universalism that the Universalist immune system does not attack it, because it does not recognize it as comparable to any past or present enemy. By imagining the perspective of someone raised to believe in this ideology - which I've called neocameralism or formalism - you can start to assemble your own picture of what Universalism might look like from the outside.

In the last two posts I synthesized a bit of neocameralist history. This week, we'll do a little "political science" - a singularly inapt name for the logic of law and power.

Universalism, again, is a mystery cult of power. Its supreme being is the State. And all of the Universalist mysteries - humanity, democracy, equality, and so on - cluster around the philosophy of collective action. Christianity has been a state religion since Constantine, of course, but it always also included magical and metaphysical mysteries, which the advance of science has rendered superfluous at best, embarrassing at worst. So Universalism, unlike its ancestors, is not concerned with the Trinity or transubstantiation or predestination. But its political mysteries remain chewy enough to delight the most hypertrophied of mental mandibles.

We want to avoid all this. Therefore, we have to build a new language which describes the logic of collective action in a way that does not remind us of Universalism. We'll retain the Universalist legal or political terminology only in cases where the old word is (a) precisely defined, and (b) has no positive connotations.

Essentially, formalism is a system of collective action in which the only sin is to break your own promise. Neocameralism is formalism on a political scale.

Formalism starts with the idea of an agreement. When you are party to an agreement, you promise others that your future actions will follow some pattern. For example, you may promise to paint Joe's house, as long as Joe promises to pay you for the job. You and Joe may also agree on how unexpected events, disputes, and so forth, will be handled.

The concept of property emerges naturally from formalism. You and Joe agree to be neighbors, rather than enemies. You construct an agreement which draws an imaginary line on the ground, and keep your respective cattle on your respective sides of the line.

Another concept that will emerge in any system of agreements is the corporation. A corporation is just a named pattern of agreement. If you and Joe construct a shared sheep-dip, it may be easiest to describe this virtual entity as a corporation, and describe its agreements with Fred's Pesticide Supply as agreements between two parties - rather than between you, Joe, and all the owners and employees of Fred's. Without this level of indirection, agreements would balloon to incredible size through cascading inclusion.

This model of labeling and indirection can be applied to even the most trivial cases. Instead of dealing with Joe, you can deal with JoeCorp, whose sole owner is Joe. There is really no use in constructing a system of agreements which does not recognize virtual entities.

Neocameralism deals with the special case of sovereign corporations, or sovcorps. A sovcorp is a corporation which is not dependent on any other power. To make agreements with other sovcorps, it must ensure that it is not in the other sovcorp's interest to break those agreements - otherwise, it will probably do so. How it achieves this is the problem of security.

Universalism, of course, has its own word meaning "sovcorp." In fact, if you discard every doctrine or mystery of Universalism except for those which determine what a legitimate sovcorp is and whether or not it's righteous, you'll find that you still have most of it left. As Hume noted, righteousness is not susceptible to logic. We cannot disprove Universalism by describing its political doxology as weird. We can only attempt to construct an alternative system from which Universalism may strike us as, in retrospect, weird.

First, you and I are not sovcorps. We are people. We may be employees of sovcorps. We may be customers of sovcorps. We may even be slaves of sovcorps. Depending on the exact details of the relationship, some or all of these words may apply. However, if you make your home on a patch of land owned by some sovcorp S, it is certainly fair to describe you as a tenant of S. And anyone reading this today is certainly a tenant of some sovcorp - in my case, Washcorp.

Therefore, from the perspective of a tenant, we can ask: what makes a sovcorp good or bad?

This question is too abstract to be useful. To sharpen it slightly, we should place it in terms that are both relative and personal. We can do this by saying: given two sovcorps S and T, identical except in feature F, would you, dear reader, rather be a tenant of S or of T? For example, would you consider moving from T to S to take advantage of F, or from S to T to escape from F?

This approach leads us to two orthogonal criteria for judging sovcorps. A sovcorp should be judged by its stability, and by its actions.

We cannot assess a sovcorp without assessing its stability. If it fails to maintain security, the consequences are likely to be appalling. Transitions of power at the sovereign level, while they certainly may replace a worse sovcorp with a better one, can result in an arbitrary level of collateral damage. While it is always in the winner's interest to seize the territory and its occupants intact, as both constitute capital, tactical considerations may demand devastation.

There are certainly cases in which a tenant may favor war or revolution. However, there is no reason to support a violent transition in power unless (a) that transition is likely to succeed, and (b) its destination is preferable to its origin, counting all tactical devastation. Neither of these tests is anywhere near positive in the West today, so I don't find these cases interesting. And unless the tests are met, a tenant should always prefer a stable sovcorp (longevity can be easily assessed with a prediction market) to an unstable one.

Note that stability replaces the Universalist mystery of legitimacy. Legitimacy is an outlier in Universalist political doxology: it dates back to a pre-Universalist era which had far more in common with neocameralism. Universalists have no moral explanation of why any ruthless armed gang which seizes control of a historically-significant territory should be termed a government, develop the mysterious grandeur associated with this word, and be entitled to its seat in the United Nations. Apparently that's just the way it is. Can you say "epicycle," boys and girls?

Given stability, we arrive at a second criterion, which that a sovcorp should be judged by its actions. As tenants, we can have no possible reason to care who is running the sovcorp or why, except inasmuch as this contributes to its stability.

For example, if I live in Plainland, do I have any good reason to care about the identity of the administrators or the owners of the sovcorp that owns Plainland? They could be Plainlanders. They also could be from Deutschland, Thailand, or Somaliland. As a tenant, what matters to me is not who they are, but what they do. It will probably be cheapest for the sovcorp to employ Plainlanders as its low-level functionaries, but for executives and owners this is quite irrelevant. And using foreigners as executives has its own advantage for the sovcorp - they are far less likely to become involved in conflicts of interest.

When we consider other elements of sovcorp design, therefore, we will consider them only inasmuch as they affect the actions and the stability of the sovcorp. For example, is the rotary system a desirable feature in a sovcorp? Perhaps, but only if it makes the sovcorp more stable or its actions more desirable.

In my opinion as a tenant, there are four characteristics which describe the actions of the kind of sovcorp I prefer. Bear in mind that, since the first function of a sovcorp is security, its most desirable attribute is stability, and there is no stability without security, authentic security motivations justify exceptions to any of these principles.

One, the sovcorp respects all agreements between itself and its tenants. A good sovcorp employs an external arbitrator which resolves all disputes that may result from conflicting, confusing or poorly-drafted agreements. It accepts the arbitrator's judgment as final.

Two, the sovcorp can enforce any agreement between its tenants. Since the sovcorp needs a security force to protect itself against other sovcorps, it must maintain unchallenged military control of its territory. It can - and should - allow tenants to invoke this power in their own agreements. For example, I can agree with Joe that if he pays me to paint his house, but I don't paint his house, Washcorp will descend upon me and give Joe his money back. As a tenant, I have no reason to prefer a sovcorp which does not provide this service.

Three, the sovcorp does not artificially restrict its tenants. In other words, it maintains Pareto optimality. For example, I have no reason to prefer a sovcorp which does not allow me to wear red clothing, because my garish garb cannot harm Joe or anyone else. (Point two can be seen as a special case of point three - a sovcorp that does not enforce tenant agreements cannot be Pareto optimal, because any sovcorp has this capability.)

Four, the sovcorp does not tax its tenants, except as needed to secure its territory. And this is not a tax, but a security fee. A sovcorp should not be profitable. It should exist to protect and serve, not to harvest and render. Obviously, one reason to move from S to T may be that T has lower taxes - as long as these are not so low that security is jeopardized.

Now: which of these things is not like the other?

Obviously, as a tenant, I prefer all four of these features. But if I have to give up any one, I will give up the fourth. Giving up any of the other three involves at best major weirdness, and at worst a bullet in the head. Giving up profitable taxation involves, essentially, a rent increase.

A profitable sovcorp will attempt to maximize revenue. In other words, it will try to hit the top of the Laffer curve. Given that all sovcorps in the world today, and almost all in history, operate as revenue maximizers, this should not be too frightening or controversial.

There are three major reasons why profitability is a desirable feature in a sovcorp, despite its obvious disadvantage from the perspective of the tenant.

The first is that a profitable sovcorp is a more stable sovcorp. A sovcorp that is not maximizing revenue is leaving money on the table. Attackers can use the prospect of capturing this revenue stream to capitalize their attempts to defeat the sovcorp. The promise of loot has been an essential motivator in many invasions and revolutions. The miracle of capitalism allows the attacker to deploy this resource before it is even captured. If the defender cannot do likewise - because it is in some way bound to not maximize revenue - the advantage shifts to the attacker.

The second is that the nonprofit sovcorp is actually a general case of the profitable sovcorp. This is easy to see. If the nonprofit sovcorp were to go profitable and maximize its revenue, it would increase every payment P made by its tenants from Pn, the nonprofit fee, to Pp, the profitable tax. It can easily duplicate the effect by going profitable anyway, and treating (Pp - Pn) as a dividend payment or rebate. This is Pareto-optimizing, because the recipient of this dividend can treat the right to receive it as a share, and sell the share.

The third is an argument I made in this post: that the advantage of profitability, from the tenant's perspective, is that it creates a coherent management objective. Profitable corporations tend to provide better customer service, because coherently managed organizations tend to be more efficient. This is why you never see the National Hamburger Society on the list of restaurants at the next exit.

Of course, a sovcorp is not a restaurant. We can reasonably ask whether it should be efficient. As tenants, would we prefer to live in a territory managed by a sovcorp which has coherent corporate goals, and achieves them at minimum expense? Or one whose owner is slow, bumbling, and harmless?

In my view, once you get to the point where it is preferable for a sovcorp to be inefficient, you are already into war-or-revolution territory. A sovcorp should be inefficient only in doing evil. If it's in the evil business, it has already violated one of the major criteria, and it's hardly worth debating its efficiency.

Once we've decided that our sovcorp should be both profitable and efficient, we are into very familiar territory. We know a lot about how to design profitable, efficient corporations.

A profitable, efficient sovcorp has two forms of capital. The first is the territory it owns. The second is its reputation. It protects these not out of the goodness of its heart, but for financial reasons - which, unlike the hearts of corporate managers, are extremely reliable.

So, for example, the sovcorp does not renege on its agreements with its tenants, because the capital value of a territory in which the rule of law holds is much greater than one in which it doesn't. Prosperity flees uncertainty, and sovcorps profit by taxing prosperity. And it is quite unheard of for corporate executives to intentionally drive their own stock price down.

Thus, a profitable, efficient sovcorp should obey the first three rules above (and not, of course, the fourth). The problem would seem to be solved.

We would expect a profitable and efficient - and hence desirable - sovcorp to look very much like today's private, non-sovereign corporations. That is, we would expect them to distribute their revenues as dividends to a set of voting shareholders, who choose a board in voting by shares, which chooses a CEO, who has complete management authority.

And yet today's sovcorps look nothing like private corporations at all.

They are not in any way profitable. They are renowned not for their efficiency, but for their inefficiency. They are managed by byzantine networks of conflicting committees and books of procedure. Their managers do not have hire and fire power. Their customers are part of their executive selection process. They do not come even close to Pareto optimization. There is really no resemblance at all. The only thing today's "governments" have in common with the sovcorp design above is that a "government" is, without question, a sovereign corporation.

So this analysis leaves us with three interesting questions.

First, why did this simple design process produce a sovcorp architecture so different from the one that history has bequeathed to us?

Second, how do shareholders maintain control of a sovcorp, when there is no higher sovereign authority to enforce the corporate charter? Why won't the managers just perform an autogolpe? And who decides whether a security exception is "authentic?"

Third, how does understanding Universalism help us answer the first and second questions?

123 Comments:

Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

Why would a corporation naturally emerge in a formalist system? Why couldn't Joe agree bilaterally with Fred and hide the complexity without forming a corporation with me? He agrees with Fred and I agree with him about pesticides. Why multiply entities without necessity? Or is there a necessity that I am not aware of?

There are many arguments for NOT forming a corporation, though. The Pareto-optimal allocation of resources that the market guarantees under ideal conditions is no longer guaranteed within a corporate structure.

November 1, 2007 at 5:25 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

You are running two separate arguments in this series: a takedown of Universalism, and a promotion of Formalism.

The former, I read with interest; the latter, I see as a distraction.

You do say that the purpose of developing a Formalist vocabulary, at least in this entry, is to have the frame of reference to critique Universalism. But didn't you set out, in Dawkins 1, I believe, to show how Universalism is morbid to its host? This should be enough to show Universalism as "basically weird and creepy, with a few redeeming graces."

November 1, 2007 at 6:56 AM  
Blogger brendon said...

i second what pa said. like dwight macdonald, when you say, 'no', you're right. when you say, 'yes', well...

the reason 'formalism' is a rather arid enterprise is that it assumes one can choose one's gov't just like shopping at a store. this is ridiculous for so many reasons, but let's start: 1) most people have weird attachments to their families, friends and countries, and so are reluctant to leave their fatherlands, even if they suck. 2)sovcorps often make it hard for people to leave their fatherlands, *especially* if they suck (east germany, etc). and 3) a working sovcorp will have working borders -- unlike, say, Washcorp -- and so will tend to keep out those who want to leave sucky sovcorps.

November 1, 2007 at 7:58 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

First, why did this simple design process produce a sovcorp architecture so different from the one that history has bequeathed to us?

Because history has bequeathed us architectures based around real people rather than homo economus. Real people have all sorts of moral beliefs that make the sovcorp architecture you describe impractical. They want things like wealth and income redistribution, support or opposition to religion, exploration of the earth and space, the conquest of other nations, support of the arts and sciences, highways, health care, welfare, social security, seatbelt laws, wars on pornography and drugs, protection of the environment, etc.

Howard Roark and Tony Soprano might be happy in your capitalist's paradise, but everyone not as talented and powerful as them probably would not be.


Second, how do shareholders maintain control of a sovcorp, when there is no higher sovereign authority to enforce the corporate charter? Why won't the managers just perform an autogolpe? And who decides whether a security exception is "authentic?"

Maybe they could have some sort of document -- call it a Constitution -- that explicitly limits the powers of the government while simultaneously installing checks and balances within it. Then, every few years -- say 2, 4, or 6 -- all the citizens would have the right to vote for (almost) whomever they want. This would keep the politicians from doing anything overtly unpopular.

Third, how does understanding Universalism help us answer the first and second questions?

It doesn't, because you seem to be grouping every moral belief that you don't share -- many of which contradict others you don't share -- under the same label. Some of these may be "memes" that would not exist if not for Christianity, but most probably fall under human nature. We are not blank slates and we have all sorts of fears and desires that are probably innate.

November 1, 2007 at 8:10 AM  
Anonymous Randy said...

To follow along with the comments above, I don't see that the tenants or employees of Washcorp have much to say about its decisions. While I find it useful and accurate to think of the government as a corporation, I don't see much point in attempting to define how it could be "better". The class A and B shareholders of Washcorp act in their own interests, not mine. Nonetheless, I find the topic fascinating and am looking forward to the next installment.

November 1, 2007 at 8:35 AM  
Blogger Byrne Hobart said...

Daniel

It hides complexity with abstractions, and distributes risk. It's just easier to think about a steel-making corporation than it is to think about a set of individuals, operating in their capacity as steel-makers.

November 1, 2007 at 11:21 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

I'm going to comment again because there is just so much I disagree with. I'm not trying to pick on you, but you're so wordy that I'm having trouble picking up precisely what you're saying (and you haven't addressed my repeated questions.) I wonder, could you give a concise definition of Universalism; i.e. a definition delineating the beliefs it encompasses, without any interesting but tangential diversions into history, real or alternate or reliance on anecdotes or vague language? Who, precisely, is a Universalist? Does Universalism encompass Republicans and Democrats, Communists and Fascists?


orthodox Universalism insists on some rather unsupported conclusions about biology, and some theories of history and politics which seem less than parsimonious.

What makes a particular strain or sect of Universalism "orthodox?" How can something be orthodox when there is no book or creed to be orthodox about? Is this merely a "no true Scotsman" fallacy? What is a "non-orthodox" Universalist?


It seems to me that every time you bring up someone as being a Universalist (Powers and Dawkins being the only examples I can think of) it turns out that they don't really believe what you claim Universalists believe.

Finally, it's not enough to prove that there are those who want to shout down any discussion about race and aptitude. That's an interesting conversation in itself, but unless you are saying that such a belief is identical to Universalism, it's not sufficient to demonstrate that Universalism exists.

November 1, 2007 at 12:29 PM  
Anonymous randy said...

JA,

I see evidence that the Universalists exist and that they exercise considerable power in the withholdings section of every pay stub. There are other things, like the propensity of Washco to involve itself in foreign wars, social restructuring, etc., but the pay stub is the big one for me.

November 1, 2007 at 1:31 PM  
Anonymous George Weinberg said...

Several comments,
Essentially, formalism is a system of collective action in which the only sin is to break your own promise.

I suspect you're a Tom Lehrer fan. But although we can agree lying is a sin, I can't imagine living in a moral system where it's considered to be the only sin, or even the worst sin. There are too many awful things one might do to expect people to promise not to do each one individually.

And unless the tests are met, a tenant should always prefer a stable sovcorp (longevity can be easily assessed with a prediction market) to an unstable one.

I think this is in some ways misleading. Talking about a corporation as if it were an individual is always at best an approximation. I think "pure revolutions" (tenants taking over ownership of a sovco) almost never happen. Rather, revolutions are almost always at least partially power struggles within a sovco. For example, one possible objection to your alternative history of Plainland is that in many ways the American Revolution was less a power grab by the colonists than a reaction to an attempted power grab by the crown; the colonies had been largely autonomous since their inception. Either viewpoint is is an oversimplification if presented as the whole story, of course, but the point is that it may be a good thing for the tenants if they have the ability to "tip the balance" in the case of power struggles with a sovco, even if we agree it's probably for the best if they couldn't actually take it over.

As tenants, we can have no possible reason to care who is running the sovcorp or why, except inasmuch as this contributes to its stability.

This isn't true at all. First, as JA points out, people care about all sorts of things that H. eco wouldn't. There's no reason why they should feel a need to justify why they care about them. Second, one can't know for sure what anyone will do, but who they are can provide a clue. In particular, under some circumstances it may be that one will quite rationally believe that he will be more likely to be fairly treated by people with whom he shares some sort of group identity.

One last thing: from the point of view of a "tenant", a sovco's limited powers of obeservation and enforcement are often a good thing. For example, real estate, cars, and other easily visible forms of wealth are taxed, as is productive activity involving transactions, but concealable wealth and productive personal activity generally are not. I believe this is because the taxing the second sort of activity is effectively impossible, for now. The state would gladly tax you for unclogging your own drains, rather than allowing you to cheat it out of the plumber's income tax, if only it could reliably catch you in the act. In some way's it's an advantage if the state is blind, weak, and stupid.

November 1, 2007 at 1:44 PM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

randy:

I see evidence that the Universalists exist and that they exercise considerable power in the withholdings section of every pay stub. There are other things, like the propensity of Washco to involve itself in foreign wars, social restructuring, etc., but the pay stub is the big one for me.

But who are they? Surely the leftmost 30-40% of the country opposes a lot of those foreign wars and the rightmost 30-40% oppose a lot of the social restructuring. By not being precise in his definitions, MM is somehow implying (unless I'm greatly mistaken) that both of those groups are Universalists.

November 1, 2007 at 3:06 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

Byrne,
That's only one way to do it. Even in my very short initial post, I proposed an alternative that does not involve virtual entities and is actually much better aligned with human thinking patterns.
It is far easier to think of a person than of some virtual entity. In Canada, the anthem is copyright her majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Highways are her property. Customs duties are collected on her behalf. What's the problem with that arrangement?
The problem with virtual entities is that their attached reputation can only be net positive. If it is worse than neutral, then the identity is simply discarded and a new set of incorporation papers are filed.
I think that the only benefit of virtual entities is that incentive alignment and financial integrity require that they disclose everything the government wants to know for efficiently taxing it.
Structures built around bilateral agreements between individuals in which only debts are public information are no more complex than corporate structures. If these are correctly structured, the alternative is not one virtual entity versus many individuals, but one virtual entity versus one individual.
If you want pooled reputation, you can still do better than a classical capitalist corporation with employees, shareholders and managers: you can operate a franchise.
McDonald's would be far less effective if McDonald's restaurants were not individually owned but managed by employees of some gigantic coproration.

JA,
You're completely wrong. The reason why history resulted in something different than the desires of MM is precisely that. Evolution has no criteria other than stability. MM does. Life has no reason whatsoever to be pleasant. Many pre-conditions for MM's fantasies are simply not there, but rational economic actors are not on the absentee list. Homo economicus is what evolution produces, by definition.
The problem with MM's fantasies is the fact that he stubbornly refuses to accept the fact that evolution cannot be won. There is no such thing as undefeatable military or police power. The reason is information (and the lack thereof). If Fnargl is not omniscient, he's not omnipotent either, finger-snap or no finger-snap.
I not only want the government to be inefficient in taxing me, I will force it into inefficiency by denying it crucial information about my finances and deliberately misleading it using the services of a competent accountant. And so does everybody else. There is no way to tax me (or anybody else) consistently at my Laffer-optimum, because I won't reveal it. Nor does anybody else. Our ability to do this is one of the best evolved ones, because the selective pressure is and has always been brutal.

MM,
I'd join the choir of criticism for putting waaaay too much effort into thinking about how the world should work at the expense of understanding how it actually works.
It doesn't matter that you think that wars and revolutions suck. They sure do. But dismissing that possibility as uninteresting solely on the basis of that?! Violence is always the result of someone lacking information. If everybody knew everything, there would be no violence, because all knew in advance who shall win. Sure, that would be very pleasant. The problem is, of course, that there are HUGE incentives preventing this situation from ever materializing. Bluffs will be made and occasionally called. It's only rational.

November 1, 2007 at 3:15 PM  
Blogger Byrne Hobart said...

It is far easier to think of a person than of some virtual entity. In Canada, the anthem is copyright her majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Highways are her property. Customs duties are collected on her behalf. What's the problem with that arrangement?

Do you read the Wall Street Journal? Today they had a great front-page article on James Cayne, CEO of Bear Stearns -- he likes golf, bridge, losing billions of dollars, and smoking weed. I would much rather pick up the phone and say "Byrne Hobart, Bear Stearns Associate," instead of "Byrne Hobart, representative of weed-smoking septuagenarian party boy, at yer service!" A corporation helps us separate private lives from public lives. If you want to know what it's like not to do so, consider 'branded' folks like actors and sports stars. What kind of hell must it be to consider every decision in light of what Snickers' ad chief will think of it?

The problem with virtual entities is that their attached reputation can only be net positive. If it is worse than neutral, then the identity is simply discarded and a new set of incorporation papers are filed.

That is true. But individuals can still have a bad reputation, and it's not like people get especially mad at oil deposits or factories, so they're the issue. If you keep the same people, those people keep their reputation; if you use new people and keep the same hard assets, the entity doesn't deserve a bad reputation.

If you want pooled reputation, you can still do better than a classical capitalist corporation with employees, shareholders and managers: you can operate a franchise.

Which is roughly what lots of companies do. Roughly to the extent that an individual has an impact, they'll get credited -- Hollywood is a franchise-operator in the sense that, if you want to know who played a certain part, or did the lighting, or gaffed, or whatever, you wait for the credits; studios just handle distribution and finance. And some financial firms operate this way, too; if you invest with Fidelity, you're hopefully investing with the manager first and the corporate parent second.

If corporations aren't a useful abstraction, I would be interested in knowing why they're common. My guess is that if you're right, they exist because of either taxes or lobbying scale.

November 1, 2007 at 3:26 PM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

First, why did this simple design process produce a sovcorp architecture so different from the one that history has bequeathed to us?

For the same reason no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.

Second, how do shareholders maintain control of a sovcorp, when there is no higher sovereign authority to enforce the corporate charter? Why won't the managers just perform an autogolpe? And who decides whether a security exception is "authentic?"

They can't, or not permanently. They will, eventually. The real owners, whoever they are.

Third, how does understanding Universalism help us answer the first and second questions?

It doesn't. Understanding history and human nature does.

November 1, 2007 at 4:13 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

Byrne,

I don't read WSJ regularly; I live in a very different part of the world. Of course, in a world with no virtual entities, you'd pick up the phone as "Byrne Hobart, at your service." If someone called you, it's because s/he wanted to deal with you for some reason.

You should not be able to separate your private life from your professional one either, because if you can, you may do all sorts of evil things as a faceless corporate droid.

But this is all hypothetical, so far. Let's get down to earth and talk about something where you could actually compare true free market to corporate capitalism as they exist today: retail.

The capitalist way of doing retail is WalMart and A&P. Although it is a common mis-belief that it is the peak of retail efficiency, it is, in reality, vastly inferior to the bazaars of Central Asia. Here's an example: If you want to buy something FAST, and willing to pay for the privilege, in a Bazaar, you go to the first stall selling the stuff and buy it without much haggling over the price. That's it. If you have plenty of time, you can shop around, haggle more and bargain harder. You'd spend more time, but get the same stuff for less money than in the previous case. Beats WalMart or A&P hands down. Same goes for the assortment of available goods, and many other aspects of retail.

Even if you compare bazaars in a poor, doubly land-locked country like Uzbekistan to the capitalist retail chains of a super-rich country, like the U.S., the higher efficiency of the bazaar is obvious.

Of course, the complexity of deals at a bazaar is mind-boggling, but a customer who just wants to buy stuff sees nothing of it. And of course, a stall owner would introduce himself as himself. "Doniyor Kattaev, at your service, my friend! Whaddaya wanna buy today, sonny? Wanna taste these fine pumpkins? Yummy, eh? Five thousand, this one, only for you!"

So, you ask, how come that you have WalMarts and A&Ps instead of bazaars? What is their advantage? If there was no coercion, there would be none. But, you see, bazaars are hideously difficult to tax at their Laffer-optimum. Noone knows how much stuff has been sold at what price. At WalMart, however, in order to prevent employees from stealing, prices are uniform for large groups of customers (typically for all of them) and everything is centrally accounted for. Thus, it is a sitting duck of a target for taxation. And that's why strong governments prefer WalMarts to bazaars and corpoprations over free enterprise in general.

November 1, 2007 at 5:01 PM  
Anonymous Randy said...

JA,

But who are they?

Good point. Personally, I like the term Progressive better than Universalist because it does in fact encompass both the groups you mention. The political center has been decidedly Progressive since the 19th century and becoming more so with each passing decade. At this point, I would say that "they", the class A shareholders of Progressives R Us, include the top echelons of the government, the military, the major corporations, the educational system, the media, the unions, and many international players. These are the people who have the major equity positions. All major decisions require input from them all. The class B shareholders rely on them and support them. The class C shareholders just pay the bills - and somehow delude themselves into believing that the country is theirs.

November 1, 2007 at 5:06 PM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

jewish atheist: I wonder, could you give a concise definition of Universalism; i.e. a definition delineating the beliefs it encompasses, without any interesting but tangential diversions into history, real or alternate or reliance on anecdotes or vague language? Who, precisely, is a Universalist? Does Universalism encompass Republicans and Democrats, Communists and Fascists?

Universalism is a combination of Progressivism and Globalism.

Their highest belief is the Equality of Man, aka the Blank Slate, which means Universalists reject genetic differences in either individuals or groups. Race is a social construct. All policies are driven by the underlying assumption that all people share the same values, want the same things, and are equally capable and worthy. They believe, in sum, that their beliefs are universal.

Universalists worship the Holy Economy, whose highest values are Free Trade and Mass Immigration, even in those cases where they aren't necessarily valuable. Since all humans are equally capable and worthy they must be permitted to migrate whereever they please - for their own good and for the good of the Holy Economy. No person is illegal. Borders are arbitrary lines on a map.

Universalists are governed by Political Correctness, the mostly unwritten and ever-progressing Zeitgeist that shapes their thoughts and behavior. Those who question Universalist beliefs or violate PC are branded heretics and ostracized.

Republicans or Democrats can be Universalists. Communists (international socialists) are. Fascists (national socialists) are not.

Universalist heresy follows.

I think it unfair that Mencius repeatedly mentions Universalism's Christian roots but does not mention the more recent and more substantial Jewish influence. After all, the most significant empirical result of Universalism is the destruction of the White race and its Christianity. Most White Christians would not follow such a belief system if they knew this but they remain ignorant due to a constant stream of inverted reality ("diversity is a strength") from the MSM, including Hollywood, and most of the rest hesitate to speak out due to the strong disincentive PC provides ("what are you, a racist?").

Universalists are often inconsistent. Many are in fact hypersensitive to genetic differences, favoring special privileges to non-Whites. Many make exceptions and favor isolation or nationalism in certain cases, eg. Third World indigenous people, Israel.

Universalism is perhaps best defined by Political Correctness, even though its rules are by nature contradictory and volatile. By this definition most of the Western world is Univeralist, or at least cannot escape its influence.

November 1, 2007 at 5:33 PM  
Blogger Studd Beefpile said...

Universalists worship the Holy Economy, whose highest values are Free Trade and Mass Immigration, even in those cases where they aren't necessarily valuable.

Given that MM is a good Austrian, and how inefficiently and frequently Universalist governments meddle with markets, this claim is pretty hard to sustain. In fact, most people I would classify as Universalists are downright hostile to markets. You could make a claim for free movement of people maybe, but definately not free trade.

November 1, 2007 at 6:18 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

mm: Universalism, again, is a mystery cult of power. Its supreme being is the State.
So why not call it "Statism", which, while almost as big and vague an ideological umbrellas as "Universalism", at least doesn't confuse state-worship with various beliefs about equality or human rights which are logically independent.

Where do groups like Amnesty International and the ACLU fall in your scheme? They are pretty solidly universalist in terms of cultural biases and ideology (I should think), yet their mission is to impose checks on state power. You can argue about whether they do this consistently or effectively, but that's besides the point. Noam Chomsky, who I thought was one of your prototypical Uniersalists, is also an anarchist.

The thing is, I've spent pretty much my entire adult life around Cambridge and San Francisco, which I would suppose to be suppurating cesspools of Universalist memes, but I don't think I've ever encountered anyone who worships at the altar of the state. Certainly there's plenty of people willing to enlist the state in support of whatever cause or ideology they think just, plenty of people eager to get the state to support their particular research program, etc. But not one who treats the state as a good in itself, or as something that should always be obeyed, or as a particularly moral institution. Perhaps I don't hang in the right circles.

And all of the Universalist mysteries - humanity, democracy, equality, and so on - cluster around the philosophy of collective action.
And what are corporations then? (Answer: insitituions capable of taking collective action -- no more or less mysterious than any other).
Essentially, formalism is a system of collective action in which the only sin is to break your own promise.
I don't understand what you are trying to say here. "Sin" is a moral term and bears almost no relation to "a system of collective action", as I understand the term. Microsoft or the US Government are institutions of collective action, existing within and constituting systems of collective action. They commit all sorts of sins, as defined by their own rules or those of others.

November 1, 2007 at 8:00 PM  
Anonymous tggp said...

Your contractarian position reminds of of Benjamin Tucker, Kevin Carson and whoever runs againstpolitics.com. I myself find it far more sensible than any Rawlsian, utilitarian or natural law nonsense.

Taxation rates are nowhere near the Laffer Curve peak in the US. No serious economist would say they are, just political hacks. I don't think countries like Maoist China were there either, a lot of money got wasted because of their silly ideology. They're closer to it nowadays.

Your idea sounds like proprietary government. Peter Leeson of the Austrian Economists explains why that idea won't work here.

Dawkins was a bad example and parts 5 and 6 shouldn't have even kept the HRDGP name.

Real people have all sorts of moral beliefs that make the sovcorp architecture you describe impractical. They want things like wealth and income redistribution, support or opposition to religion, exploration of the earth and space, the conquest of other nations, support of the arts and sciences, highways, health care, welfare, social security, seatbelt laws, wars on pornography and drugs, protection of the environment, etc.
As David Friedman explains, neither anarchy nor minarchy is necessarily libertarian. If people really want to prohibit others from smoking pot that badly, a profit-maximizing firm could do their bidding. Economists just estimate that the utilitarian efficiency (with perhaps dollars substituted for utils to make it effective) is too low for that to be the result.

tanstaafl, provide a quote in which a Universalist worships "the Holy Economy". From what I've read, most of the people Mencius would consider prototypical Universalists prize "democracy" over markets. You might think that's odd since the one issue the majority of the population differs from the status quo more than any other is in urging immigration restriction, but Universalists aren't the clearest of thinkers and like to define "democracy" in a non-value free manner which entails various aspects of "social justice". Also, while perhaps this belong in a previous post, the definition of an externality is an effect on a third party to a transaction, which poisoned Chinese goods do not qualify as (unless they get dumped in a water supply or something). The person who uses them was a party to the transaction. Perhaps you could argue that the dog didn't buy his petfood, but the issue of what owners can do to their dogs is a whole 'nother bucket of worms. Also, Mencius did discuss the Universalist nature of jews in the United States in posts like this one. I find it funny that you consider support for Israel to be a Universalist tenet when Mencius claims Palestine is the pearl of Blue Government while Israel is one of the last bastions of Red Government (despite the fact that academics prefer the latter to the former by more than 2 to 1). Since tanstaafl is so worried about White Christians I suspect he's a racist anti-semite of some sort, but I don't hold that against you. I do hold your economic views against him though.

I'd like to make a prediction that before this blog shuts down Mencius will renounce his talk about Bush being the Rebellion while the Times is the Empire. He'll be behind Pajamas Media bloggers in this though.

November 1, 2007 at 10:06 PM  
Blogger Alan said...

You can't mention Hume's ought and then five paragraphs later say the consequences of instability are 'appalling.' It doesn't work. Results in lots of death? Okay. Something that a large majority would unprefer? Sure. Appalling? Nothing is appalling per se. Appalling to whom? And why does their appalledness motivate us to act?


Regarding Homo Economicus. H.E. is a true description of the hominid property right instincts. It fails only to describe the equally important fairness instinct. As such it could be fixed easily at any time.

This talk about (non-fairness) moral preferences being somehow outside H.E. is unfortunately simple nonsense. All such things can be quantified in dollar terms. The fact that scientism chooses to deny such things instead of trying to buy them is simply a facet of its failure to perform its purpose.

Stated again, H.E. most certainly includes moral preferences, but for some stupid reason economists refuse to include them in the models.


Byrne,
We must always remember that corporations are virtual, that is, nonexistent. Taxing them or letting them vote is as insane as giving them health insurance. "Legal persons" is an inherently contradictory statement. Yes, it's much better to say, "Microsoft's new policy...(whatever)" than to use the name of the current monarch of Microsoft. But in certain cases it's absolutely vital to remember that Microsoft does have a monarch, of whose property the entire enterprise is.

I'm a little concerned that MM thinks that voting is fine in corporate structure but an abstraction of violence in our political system.


Daniel,
The point of thinking of how the world should work, as MM has tried (but failed) to make clear, is that it lets you analyze the real world rationally. Once you have a full and consistent ideal of what you would like, you can logically compare it to what you have. Generally you're very surprised at how fucked up what you have really is.

I've done this before, and I assume MM has also done it, so we're aware of the benefits. Then, your objection tells me that you probably haven't. Don't knock it till you've tried it - or at least studied it thoroughly.

May I ask why you're responding to JA? While I agree with what I understand, phrases like, "You're completely wrong," are tags that mean you're not particularly interesting in being convincing. Thus, curiosity.

Though; man, nice point about bazaars vs Wal-Mart! Totally new way thought for me. I would think, though, that if the taxing restrictions were listed, Wal-Mart and bazaars would exist side-by-side. Wal-Mart is cheaper for quick buys and more consistent, but crap for quality, selection, atmosphere, value, and personality. So I guess not Wal-Mart, since they compete on value. Target maybe? I think bazaars on the roof of Target would be both hilarious and awesome.

tggp,
Include in your Laffer curve calculations the cost of losing office. It's a bit fuzzy due to unknowns but it works anyway.


Also, just to note to everyone, the quickest way to a formalist state is simply to make the vote sellable. Tons would be donated or sold to things like the New York Times, and the status quo would proceed with minimal disruption...at first.

November 1, 2007 at 10:27 PM  
Anonymous randy said...

Alan,

The point of thinking of how the world should work... is that it lets you analyze the real world rationally.

Interesting statement there. It seems like an accurate view of the progressive mindset. Personally, I think that the way to analyze the world rationally is understand how the world does work, and then decide on a personal course of action. For example, my understanding is that human beings are by nature selfish and manipulative, so I don't see much point in spending time and resources trying to achieve some ideal meta-community. It seems more practical to be fair but guarded in my dealings with others. To me, the contract, not the commune, is the basic building block of morality.

November 2, 2007 at 12:52 AM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

tggp, you be as pedantic as you like with your interpretation of externality. I believe I got my point across.

Support for Israel is not a Universalist tenet. It is an attitude inconsistent with Universalism that is typical of Universalist neocons.

The link you provided to Mencius' opinion on how Jews relate to Universalism was informative. He wrote:

There is certainly no denying that the injection of smart Jews into the Brahmin caste made it all the more successful, which presumably has contributed to the incredible arrogance with which it bestrides the world today. But I simply do not see the Jewish asabiya, which is why I will continue to lay the whole trip on the Calvinists.

Well then. Focusing just on the 20th century, what he doesn't see is (quoting Derbyshire's review of MacDonald):

the anti-Darwinian movement in the social sciences (most particularly the no-such-thing-as-race school of anthropology associated with Franz Boas), the prominence of Jews in left-wing politics, the psychoanalytic movement, the Frankfurt School of social science (which sought to explain social problems in terms of individual psychopathology), the “New York intellectuals” centered on Partisan Review during the 1940s and 1950s, and Jewish involvement in shaping U.S. immigration policy.

Would this qualify as Jewish asabiya? I wonder how many of the non-Jewish bankers and media moguls are Calvinists?

Of course Jews have strong asabiya. It is just politically incorrect to point it out, which is not a coicidence.

In contrast consider Whites. They are a good example of a group that has weak asabiya. In PC-governed minds Whites are the only ones who can be called "racist" simply for expressing concern about the survival of their race.

November 2, 2007 at 4:08 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

All [Universalist] policies are driven by the underlying assumption that all people share the same values, want the same things, and are equally capable and worthy.

No quarrel with that. Except, as L. Auster stresses, this is also the essense of GW Bush's grand strategy in the Middle East.

Thus, it's hard to understand the visceral loathing that the American Universalist Party, the Deomcrats, and especially their leftie/fundie grassroots have for the Iraq war in general, and Pres. Bush in particular.

So shouldn't they "like" him, the way you like your water-carrying idiot?

The Bush Derangement Syndrome just feels too intense to be explained as a mere intra-sectarian rivalry.

PS: great and truly original points about bazaars vs. Wal-Mart.

November 2, 2007 at 4:53 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

JA wants to know what exactly Universalism is. While it's not unreasonable to ask for precise definitions, it's also a bit like a fish demanding to know what exactly is water. JA is a Universalist, so from his point of view, Universalism is basically common-sense, normalcy, taken-for-granted decency. He sees himself as the reasonable one, suffering the company of people outside of his frame of reference: strange ones like MM, Taanstafl, etc. But he wouldn't frequent this blog if he weren't also fascinated by these deconstructions of his Left/Liberal world-view.

But to someone who thinks outside of Universalism's world-view, it's pretty clear what Universalism is. Like a quiet dissident, captive in all forms but in mind under Communism or under Dhimmitude, the non-Universalist sees virtually everything in the official culture as an usurpation of what's good and right by this alien and powerful ideology.

Just one small example: this morning's Yahoo home page. The headline: "Why women are paid less / Undercover researchers spy on men and women in salary negotiations. Gender gap?"

A perfectly legitimate and even urgent concern to a Universalist.

But wierd and creepy to a non-Universalist, because:

1) Who Cares. A non-U sees this as a manufactured "crisis," so typical of Universalism's MO. After all, why care, what this generic woman makes in relation to her abstract male colleague, especially given that it's unlikely she's destitute or starving.

2) Comon Sense. Men tend to marry up. So it's likely that her husband is the primary breadwinner (who actually feels the urgency to hard-negotiate a salary), letting her be more relaxed about whjat she makes, and focus more on a pleasant work space or flexible hours. And this doesn't even take into consideration biological differences that govern aggressiveness in bargaining, willingness to work more hours, pregnancy, etc.

I juast wrote a lot of words about a spec of cultural minutia to show somewhat impressionistically what Universalism is.

Start noticing headlines on Yahoo, and you'll start noticing one manufactured (or Universalist-cherry-picked) crisis after another.

November 2, 2007 at 5:20 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

Men tend to marry up

I meant to say "women tend to marry up."

November 2, 2007 at 5:22 AM  
Blogger Aaron Davies said...

The thing is, I've spent pretty much my entire adult life around Cambridge and San Francisco, which I would suppose to be suppurating cesspools of Universalist memes, but I don't think I've ever encountered anyone who worships at the altar of the state.

It's not so much "worship" in the way a classic Fascist might understand it, as an assumption that the State is the best way to get things done. The astonishing number of people who want to turn over the health-care industry to the government, centuries' evidence of incompetence notwithstanding, is a good example.

November 2, 2007 at 6:29 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Let's compare Universalism to Christianity. If you were to pick an arbitrary Christian, I could tell you with high confidence that they believe that Jesus was God, he was resurrected, charity is a good thing, etc. If you pick an arbitrary Universalist, I can't think of anything I could say with high confidence. You (all) say that Universalists believe that we all are created literally with equal potential and I look around and see almost nobody that believes such a thing. You say that they are globalists and I see an enormous percentage that are either anti-globalisation or apathetic on the subject.

Some of you appear to use Universalism as a proxy for liberal, while others seem to argue that virtually all Americans are Universalists. Some argue that Universalists worship the state, but then I see progressives as being the least nationalistic people in the country. Others say they worship the economy, but that strikes me as a better description of MM's fantasy country than ours.

The only consistent definition I can find for Universalism that doesn't disintegrate the moment I look at a supposed Universalist is "having moral beliefs and/or desires other than libertarian ones." So Ralph Nader, George Bush, and Joe Stalin are all Universalists. Kind of seems like a useless term to me.

November 2, 2007 at 6:42 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

If it helps, MM wrote recently: "Some other current labels for [Universalism], more or less synonymous, are progressivism, multiculturalism, liberalism, humanism, leftism, political correctness, and the like."

November 2, 2007 at 6:53 AM  
Blogger Alan said...

randy,
I don't see how what you're doing is different from what I'm suggesting.

"For example, my understanding is that human beings are by nature selfish and manipulative"

So, you've constructed an ideal human and found that the actual human is selfish and manipulative by comparison.

I prefer to say lying sack-of-shit hypocrites, but same diff, eh?

(Possibly relevant: I don't think humans are naturally hypocritical. I think we are unique animals in that we can fail at being ourselves.)

The difference that I'm seeing that's probably confusing you is that the model of humans as non-hypocrites comes to us naturally. However, an ideal society does not, since we're all steeped so deeply in crypto-Calvinism.

At least, I personally have to go to a lot of effort to find out what I really value in my sovcorp. (Cancorp, incidentally.) To be precise, I have to watch MM go to a lot of effort to find out what I value in my sovcorp. I also have to enjoy this.


To me, the contract, not the commune, is the basic building block of morality.

(So you like formalism then?)

And to me, the basic block of morality is non-contradiction. It's been nice meeting you.

November 2, 2007 at 7:01 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

pa:

If it helps, MM wrote recently: "Some other current labels for [Universalism], more or less synonymous, are progressivism, multiculturalism, liberalism, humanism, leftism, political correctness, and the like."

But how does he reconcile that claim with the notion that people as diverse as communists and George Bush are Universalists?

November 2, 2007 at 7:24 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

But how does he reconcile that claim with the notion that people as diverse as communists and George Bush are Universalists?

I'd guess that is't a difference of degree and faction. Maybe as follows: the Communists were a branch on the Universalist tree that failed for two reasons: bad economic premises and clumsy propaganda.

And GWB is a decadent branch that internalized Universalist attacks agains it -- or alternately, a Universalist usurpation -- of a political party that is historically associated with non-Universalism / Traditionalism.

And I think MM would argue that these two branches, Commies and GWB, grow from the same tree: Christianity, by way of Calvin.

November 2, 2007 at 7:46 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

Sorry about the confusing paragraph. I meant:

And GWB is a decadent branch of a political party that is historically associated with non-Universalism. He either internalized Universalist attacks agains his party, or alternately, he is a Universalist saboteur of that political party, a scion of GHW - New World Order - Bush.

When you think of it, GWB has a lot more more in common with that Ur-Universalist, Ted Kennedy, than he does with more genuine non-Universalists such as Tancredo and Santorum.

November 2, 2007 at 7:58 AM  
Blogger drank said...

Even if you compare bazaars in a poor, doubly land-locked country like Uzbekistan to the capitalist retail chains of a super-rich country, like the U.S., the higher efficiency of the bazaar is obvious.

It's a pithy and thought-provoking idea, but I'm just not buying it.

Not to detrail the discussion here, but your average WalMart store stocks 120,000 items. I can walk into a typical store, find one of them, compare all of the products of that type the store has in stock, pay for it and leave in about 15 minutes. Third world bazaars are charming, but by any reasonably definition of efficiency (output per unit input, right?), they are hopelessly outclassed by WalMart.

I challenge you to buy 3 days worth of groceries at WalMart and then do the same at your favorite Uzbek bazaar. Please report back to us in detail on how much time and money you spent in both cases!

November 2, 2007 at 9:47 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

This may be neither here nor there, but how many of the 120,000 items stocked at WalMart do you actually need ?

November 2, 2007 at 9:59 AM  
Blogger Aaron Davies said...

Let's compare Universalism to Christianity. If you were to pick an arbitrary Christian, I could tell you with high confidence that they believe that Jesus was God, he was resurrected, charity is a good thing, etc. If you pick an arbitrary Universalist, I can't think of anything I could say with high confidence.

Charity seems the obvious one to me, along with some amount of accompanying government compulsion. Two of the essentials of Universalism seem to me to be that altruism is a moral obligation and that government force in support of altruism is necessary and proper. The target of the altruism can vary--creed, race, country, and class have all been popular in the past--but most forms today seem to be targeting the whole world.

November 2, 2007 at 10:13 AM  
Blogger Alan said...

The entrance cost to dealing with a bazaar are high. You have to actually form relationships with the dealers to get good deals.

On the other hand, you now personally know your suppliers. I challenge you to get anywhere near the quality and service from WalMart that you can get through a bazaar, plus you can still haggle for a good price - lots of dealers will even be disappointed if you don't.

From what I know, then, your three days of Uzbek groceries will be better quality, lower price, and will come with added personal values...provided you have already provided the upfront investments.

If you haven't, then of course WalMart will win on all counts.

But WalMart's target demographic has far more time and personality than money. It would never be able to out-compete a bazaar in a fair fight.

I'm just not sure how the overhead of management stacks up against the inefficiency of decentralization. This could potentially be an issue for some products. Could also be countered by the freer market - WalMart's supplier squeezing ends up being counterproductive.


Regardless, I would guess that there is someone for each of the 120,000 items. The pressures to keep stock rolling are certainly high enough.

For each person asking "Who actually buys this crap?" the answer is never, "No one." At least, not for long.


Apparently I enjoy sidetracking the discussion.

Really, this linear comment system blows. There's obviously several conversations going on, they should be separated and could easily be. See uberfact or duelnode for inspiration.

November 2, 2007 at 10:26 AM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

Drank,

Unfortunately, I cannot take up your challenge, because Uzbek bazaars are 4 timezones to the East and WalMarts are 6 timezones to the West from where I live. Getting to either would take about a day and a thousand dollars. Proving my point is not worth that much, sorry.
Also, if I lived in Uzbekistan, I would probably not shop for three days in advance. What's the point? I want my groceries fresh!
Finally, I have no idea how many items are on sale at the larger bazaars in Tashkent, but just by the look of it the assortment is much richer than that at WalMart. If something is physically available in Uzbekistan, costs less than, say, $500/item and there is genuine demand for it, it is available at the bazaar. More expensive items are not sold at the bazaar, because the government won't let that happen.

Also, it is not the average customer for which the bazaar really shines (though WalMart does definitely not outclass a large bazaar even in the typical case, believe me). It is accomodating the unusual, where the bazaar really kicks WalMart's ass.

November 2, 2007 at 11:13 AM  
Blogger Aaron Davies said...

Really, this linear comment system blows. There's obviously several conversations going on, they should be separated and could easily be. See uberfact or duelnode for inspiration.

Me, I'd be happy with Usenet. Can't beat the interface....

November 2, 2007 at 11:19 AM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

Alan,

Actually, the upfront cost of dealing at the bazaar is not that high. First, you go there with a local, haggle a little longer at some of the stalls to make sure the owner remembers your face and you remember his/her name, and keep your eyes and ears open (for prices, mostly). Let's say, you spend about one hour of your time (and it's a lot of fun, too, not wasted time at all).
On the next day, you can already do better than at WalMart, and your shopping experience will only improve over time.

As for sidetracking online discussions, the guys in Tashkent are already coding up something very-very similar to Uberfact (and we'll get to Duelnode, too, in due course). It will be called "thiblo" (Thinkers' Blog) and we are hoping to lure over UR early next year. It is being developed with direct input from MM.

Outsourcing software development for our own projects was among the reasons for visiting Uzbekistan.

November 2, 2007 at 11:33 AM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

George Bush is a liberal globalist-neocon Universalist.

Strictly defined Universalism is the intersection of Progressivism and Globalism, loosely it can be seen as the union of the two.

The linchpin is an extreme position on human equality. No Universalists don't believe everyone is identical, they just believe everybody should be. For Progressives it is mainly a hypocritical crusade against Whites in favor of non-Whites, in the interest of righting past wrongs. For Globalists it is mainly a deluded view of workers as portable, interchangable cogs, in the interest of getting rich.

Worship of PC and the Holy Economy (aka Mammon) are corollary. This can be seen even as a compromise between the two sides. There's no doubt Progressives are mostly concerned with PC, Globalists with the Holy Economy. But they certainly back each other up. It turns out PC is a wonderful tool to guide the masses and suppress resistance, and mass immigration is a wonderful tool to quite literally replace Whites with non-Whites.

November 2, 2007 at 1:13 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

Tanstaafl

What do you mean by "quite literally replace Whites with non-Whites"?

I don't quite understand. Literally, replacing means removing one and putting the other in the same place. Now, that is not happening and is not being seriously considered.

If you mean "taking their jobs", then you're wrong, because either the immigrant will come or the job will go. Clearly, the former is preferable.

November 2, 2007 at 3:50 PM  
Anonymous Lloyd Mintern said...

I liked the part about the cattle. The rest of it resembles a pile of . . .

November 2, 2007 at 6:00 PM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

The flood of immigrants to the West (US + Europe) is literally replacing White Westerners. See Old Atlantic Lighthouse for details. I'll summarize:

Western White birth rates are at or below replacement. Non-white birth rates are generally above it, immigrant or not. Non-Whites over time will outbreed Whites whereever they share space.

The Holy Economy is clearly a giant Ponzi scheme and a continually rising population helps fuel it. The mass immigration and erasure of Western borders its worshipers demand will doom the White race to extinction.

There is no sane reason for the West to accept the rest of the world's excess population. The only reason it happens is because the Universalists dictate it. And not only are Whites being replaced, they are funding it through social programs and taxes.

"They only come here for jobs" is a Universalist fallacy. The streets of my SoCal town are full of pregnant Mestizos pushing baby strollers with multiple toddlers in tow. Clearly none of these "undocumented workers" are actually working.

Likewise the idea that either immigrants will come or jobs will go. The jobs that can be offshored already are. To the point where we are quite vulnerable to extortion by likely enemies. The remaining jobs the Universalists want to bring in "cheap" labor for, but as I've said before the labor is only cheap if you ignore the hidden costs.

November 2, 2007 at 8:05 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

Tanstaafl,

The answer to the rhetorical question of the linked article is, of course, a resounding yes. On my books, a policy is racist if it seeks advantage or disadvantage to some people based on their race (or ethnicity, in a more general sense). That said, I hold some of the policies practiced under the umbrella of AA racist, as well.

Why is racism bad? Because racist policies are not Pareto-optimal. Whether or not average intelligence (whatever that is) correlates with race, race-based selection for intelligence-requiring positions is worse than intelligence-based selection.

Also, I cannot see any legitimate reason for a white (or black or blue) person to worry about the race of others in the country in which s/he lives. You should be preoccupied with your own birth rate, not that of others. Also, if you genuinely believe that there is some genetic reason for white females to have below-average birth rates, you should seriously consider mating with a more fertile female, if you care that much about reproducing your own genes. :-)

November 3, 2007 at 1:53 AM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

I cannot see any legitimate reason for a white (or black or blue) person to worry about the race of others in the country in which s/he lives.

I can. Race is nothing but a very extended family. If humans are all one big family then your race is like your immediate family. Do you trust and have more in common with your family, or strangers?

After all the moaning all these years about the unfair treatment of minorities you think it doesn't matter if Whites become a minority? Why is that? Do you think Whites are the only race capable of mistreating minorities? Have you followed the news from Zimbabwe?

A deracinated world is a utopian fantasy. The only deracinated race is Whites, and if it stays that way the only White genes to survive will simply be absorbed into other races that are not deracinated. Racism itself will continue because it's part of human nature. Or just nature, where it's called speciation.

November 3, 2007 at 12:37 PM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

Racist policies are not Pareto-optimal. That's a good one. Is MS-13 Pareto-optimal?

November 3, 2007 at 12:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is racism bad? Because racist policies are not Pareto-optimal.

That doesn't seem to bother the Japanese or the Koreans. Also my guess is that non-Chinese (especially white Euros) will never occupy more than a very, very tiny fraction of the PRC workforce, despite all those palefaced Nobel-prize winners.

November 3, 2007 at 2:01 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

There are few things more pathetic than paranoid white racists. The reason for this is simple -- it's only the bottom rungs of society that are threatened by immigration. Elite whites are doing just fine and will continue to do so. So the white racist is declaring himself a creature of the lower orders, despite belonging to the dominant race, to be threatened by illegal Mexican fruitpickers and dishwashers, and simultaneously trying to build solidarity with elite whites by pretending that the threat to their meager livelihoods is the equivalent of an existential threat to Western civilization. Good luck with that. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, George Bush, and people of that ilk have a lot more common interests with the wealthy and powerful of other races and nations than they do with you.

November 3, 2007 at 2:21 PM  
Anonymous PA said...

There are few things more pathetic than paranoid white racists. The reason for this is simple -- it's only the bottom rungs of society that are threatened by immigration.

This is the most cynical, wormy thing ever written on this blog.

How 'bout this: There are few things more pathetic in 1939 than paranoid French nationalist. The reason for this is simple -- it's only the Jewish elements of society that are threatened by the invasion.

November 3, 2007 at 2:35 PM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

it's only the bottom rungs of society that are threatened by immigration

What a relief it must be to think you will not be affected. I can assure you that my employment is not threatened by "illegal Mexican fruitpickers and dishwashers". Nevertheless the health, wealth, and safety of myself and my family are impacted. Tangibly. If it doesn't affect you yet, hooray for you.

Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, George Bush, and people of that ilk have a lot more common interests with the wealthy and powerful of other races and nations than they do with you.

Yes, it's clear they think that. If when you said "bottom rungs" above you meant anyone below these people then you and I have nothing to disagree about. Except maybe your hypocritical claim of superiority.

November 3, 2007 at 3:21 PM  
Blogger baldvin said...

Daniel,

Even if you compare bazaars in a poor, doubly land-locked country like Uzbekistan to the capitalist retail chains of a super-rich country, like the U.S., the higher efficiency of the bazaar is obvious.

Suggesting that the bazaar is more efficient seems to be analogous with suggesting that individual manufacturing of cars is more efficient than production lines.

The actual product of retail is the deal. And while in the bazaar they are manufactured one-by-one, taking the time of both the seller and the buyer, in Wal-Mart, deals are manufactured like cars on the production line: they offer an item for a certan price for the whole country, then they half if month by month...

So, I think there are interpretations of "efficiency" where higher efficiency of the bazaar is at least not "obvious".

(There are many other things that make me, personally, more comfortable to visit a Wal-Mart like shop than small shops. For example when I buy just about anything in a small shop here, it has disgusting smell because they smoked in the small shop. Bread. Toilet paper. Everything. Tesco, the local Wal-Mart here, is actually better.)

November 3, 2007 at 3:22 PM  
Blogger Black Sea said...

Re: The opinion that Central Asian bazaars are more efficent than Wal -Marts, I think the most useful point was just made by baldvin: more efficent in what sense, and for whom?

I suppose that if you're in New York today and about to negotiate a complex business transaction in London tomorrow, then flying there First Class and arriving sharp and well-rested is more a more efficient means to your end (negotiating the best deal) than doing so in Coach.

If you're looking for a physical and psychological challenge, but you're in no particular hurry, then rowing a 14-foot boat to London is more efficient than taking either First Class or Coach.

Until one define's precisely whose goals are being advanced (the producers? the distributor? the buyers? the sellers?) and what those goals are, it's not really very meaningful to talk about which retail distribution method is more efficient. And iIf all of these parties' interests were more effienctly advanced by transactions made in bazaars, then we'd probably see a lot more bazaars and far fewer Wal-Marts.

Despite my personal dislike of many of Wal-Mart's questionable - if not illegal - business practices, I still don't see any convincing argument that Central Asian bazaars are more efficient in terms of cost to consumers than are large-scale retail giants.

November 4, 2007 at 8:10 AM  
Blogger baldvin said...

Black Sea,

while it would probably be more comfortable to sit back and relax, accepting that your post supports mine, there is one sentence in yours that I'd like to question:

And iIf all of these parties' interests were more effienctly advanced by transactions made in bazaars, then we'd probably see a lot more bazaars and far fewer Wal-Marts.

Daniel's main point was that since Wal-Mart is more easily taxable, the interest of the government is that the market is dominated by them, and not bazaars. And I agree with Daniel on this totally.

It might be much better for us if there were be more bazaars, might be not, the only thing I had argument with is the obviousness of better efficiency...

November 4, 2007 at 10:49 AM  
Blogger mtraven said...

This is the most cynical, wormy thing ever written on this blog.
Why, thank you. The analogy you offer is not very apt, unless you really think that Mexican immigration is in any way analagous to the Nazi invasion and occupation of France. If you think that, there isn't really much hope for you. The Nazis were not sneaking across the border to get jobs as dishwashers and gardeners.

I should perhaps clarify that I am trying to explain certain phenomenon that I'm sure you are all aware of, like the fact that "Black pride" is an acceptable slogan while wearing a "White pride" t-shirt will get the wearer shunned in polite society. You could say it is due to evil universalist propaganda designed to make whites feel ashamed of themselves, but I'm looking for deeper, more structural explanations.

Let me try again. Various ethnic groups have organized themselves around a group identity -- Jews, Irish, Italians. As they get assimillated, ethnic organization and identity becomes less important. Italians don't bother with it much except on Columbus Day, excepting Tony Soprano and his crew.

The two most fundamental racial groupings in the US, white and black, have a different story. Blacks, for whatever reason, have not in general been able to assimilate as successfully as white ethnics. And whites do not have the problem of assimilation, they are what is to be assimilated into. So "black pride" persists, while "white pride" just sounds off, as if the powerful are pretending to be the persecuted. As a consequence, it's only the non-powerful whites who gravitate to this movement.

Of course, almost everyone is vulnerable to economic downturns and other catastrophes. When this gets worse, more people will be looking around for someone to blame. You racialists will be in an enviable position then. Hope you are ready for new members. The Nazis made good use of the horrific economic conditions in Weimer Germany to attract support.

There was a saying, from earlier in the history of European politics, to the effect that "antisemitism is the socialism of fools". The same could be said of today's racialism and anti-immigration, with the added sad twist that the dream of a non-foolish socialism was torpedoed by subsequent history. Where a non-fool should place their political chips these days is a question with no good answer.

November 4, 2007 at 10:59 AM  
Blogger Black Sea said...

Well, to continue the admittedly minor level of dispute, I suspect that you and Daniel are correct in believing that the government prefers large retail corporations because they are more easily monitored for tax purposes.

What I would contest is the argument that the succes of Wal-Mart relative to a local bazaar, or of Home Depot compared to Joe's Hardware, is primarily a reflection of this state preference.

People shop at mega-stores because they believe that they get better value there as compared to the alternatives. In America, these alternatives include the equivalent of Central Asian bazaars in the form of Saturday farmers markets and roadside fruit and vegetable stands scattered here and there. Admittedly, I don't know how these operations are regulated and some of them probably aren't regulated at all. But I don't believe they are few and far between primarily because the government prevents their expansion or drives them out of operation with regulations and red tape.

More people don't shop at these venues simply because they don't want to. Like it or not - and as I've said, I'm no fan of Wal-Mart - such stores do satisfy a very large segment of the retail market. I see no reason to believe that such consumers would prefer to do their shopping in a bazaar.

Among other things, particularly in places like Uzbekistan, the food in the bazaar is sometimes adulterated with stuff like shredded plastic (in the cheese), brick dust (in the sauasages) and shoe polish (used to keep the black olives looking nice and black).

There is something to be said for standardization, regulation, and economies of scale.

November 4, 2007 at 11:22 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

On the point that government prefers large retailers because they can more easily be monitored for tax purposes - well, yes and no. Consider the current suit by the state of North Carolina against Wal-Mart, which is alleged to have used real estate investment trusts to have shielded income earned at its stores in that state from state taxes. This kind of manipulation would have been impossible for a smaller retailer.

What is certain is that the higher taxes are, and the more extensive regulations are within a jurisdiction, smaller businesses are less well able to survive there than larger ones. Furthermore, there is an observable pattern in some highly regulated industries, on the part of larger players, to encourage regulatory authorities to adopt rules with which they can comply relatively easily, but that will make life more difficult for their smaller competitors. Smaller businesses fight back using the strength of their numbers to hold onto their own rent-seeking opportunities. In my state, for example, retail liquor businesses have managed to forestall deregulation allowing for the sale of wine and strong beer in supermarkets.

It is important to note that there are diseconomies as well as economies of scale. My experience in banking is that banks intermediate in size between community banks and the large multi-state chains have a difficult time. They are no longer close to their customers in the way smaller banks are, but they are not large enough to enjoy the efficiencies of a Bank of America, U.S. Bank, or Wells Fargo. It is not at all atypical to see a regional banking company having, say, $500 million to $1 billion, in this situation. The usual denouement is sale to a large chain.

November 4, 2007 at 11:43 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

That last sentence should have read "...having, say, footings of $500 million to $1 billion..."

November 4, 2007 at 11:46 AM  
Anonymous tggp said...

Kevin Carson has written a lot about how government helps Big Business against smaller operations that would naturally be more efficient. I can't say I agree with him, but he makes some interesting points. One of them is that the construction of roads by the government is a massive subsidy to out of the way places. If businesses had to pay the full cost of having their goods shipped, locally produced things would be much more competitive. Large businesses are also more able to shrug off regulations, licensing and dealing with red tape. Gabriel Kolko wrote about how the "Progressive" era was actually the product of moneyed interests in "The Triumph of Conservatism" and the less radical Dean Baker has written a book that can be read online for free called "The Conservative Nanny State" which makes some of the same points. Unfortunately, Baker doesn't actually want to abolish those subsidies but add some "good" ones while calling the opposition hypocrites.

November 4, 2007 at 1:10 PM  
Anonymous PA said...

My invasion of France analogy was not off -- as far as I know, gentile Frenchmen had little to loose under German occupation. The disaster was mainly for the Jews. This parallels your earlier point that immigration is a disaster only for bottom rungs of society.

I think it's a human universal, not just a white-nationalist thing, to desire to live and work among one's co-ethnics, send your kids to schools with people like oneself, and so on. So mass immigration that involves different races is a disaster that, like rising seawater on the Titanic, first affects the "steerage classes" but certainly doesn't stop there.

I'm not a "white nationalist" and I don't wear "white pride" T-shirts. But I deal with TV commercial in which a white doofus is shown up by a smarter black guy by watching as little TV as possible. I keep a watchful eye on my elementary school kids' materials lest my taxmoney-supported educators decide to pull a University of Delaware on them. I pay more rather than less for my mortgage, and in a few years, if trends continue, I may have to pay for two private school tuitions.

And I despise Universalist dogma, aka Political Correctness, as I despised lies I grew up with in my native Communist country.

November 4, 2007 at 1:20 PM  
Blogger Justin Johnson said...

As someone who works in a fortune 500 company, I observe that UR is ascribing qualities to non-sovereign corporations like efficiency that simply don't exist in anything like an ideal form. For all that government is reputed to be inefficient, I haven't seen private corporations to be noticeably moreso. Try firing someone in a fortune 500 company. Watch a multi-million dollar IT investment fail for committee-style planning and departmental infighting. Talk to the target of a hostile takeover about corporate security.

The question isn't why sovcorps today are so far off the ideal. The question is how is the ideal not irrelevent in the light of continual human practices that undermine the ideal in *every* instance.

November 4, 2007 at 1:35 PM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

mtraven: You racialists will be in an enviable position then. Hope you are ready for new members. The Nazis made good use of the horrific economic conditions in Weimer Germany to attract support.

If you aimed this slur in part at me then I can tell you your effort to read my mind isn't working. I'm not, as you assume, looking to wield power over others. I'm looking after and advocating my own interests, to not have destructive power wielded over me.

Universalists are right now making good use of PC and globalization to enrich themselves. Whether this produces horrific or even wonderful economic conditions is moot. What will trump any economic conditions eventually are the horrific social conditions we are already reaping as a result of mass immigration. The empirical results of open borders - gang violence and crime, disease, illiteracy, poverty, ethnic and racial friction - aren't good for me or my family, much less for the Holy Economy.

November 4, 2007 at 7:46 PM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

You can, by the way, continue to pretend that only poor ignorant Whites can be racists, but it won't serve you very well to understand what's going on in the world.

I no longer care if someone calls me a racist. The word has no power over me. Likewise Nazi. I am neither poor nor ignorant and I can assure you that neither are all the non-White racists around me.

November 4, 2007 at 8:15 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

PA: I think it's a human universal, not just a white-nationalist thing, to desire to live and work among one's co-ethnics...
Yeah, right, that's why everyone wants to leave multiethnic cities like New York, LA, and San Francisco, and move to Bumfuck, Idaho where they can live among people with a uniform albedo.

November 4, 2007 at 8:19 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Justin Johnson made a point that I consider to be the central point of disagreement between Mencius and myself. Mencius seems to think that the economic problems of agency have been solved almost perfectly in public corporations and I don't think so.
I actually suspect that we will need to incorporate thermodynamics in order to understand the general tendencies towards degeneration among complex functional systems, even those that like organisms and organizations utilize self-repair and massive redundancy.

November 4, 2007 at 10:00 PM  
Anonymous PA said...

Yeah, right, that's why everyone wants to leave multiethnic cities like New York, LA, and San Francisco, and move to Bumfuck, Idaho where they can live among people with a uniform albedo.

Those who live in NYC or LA are either young/childless, or can afford "uniform albedo" neighborhoods and schools.

Interesting that you'd mention Idaho, which is getting an influx of middle class people who are leaving LA no doubt because of the awful southern California weather.

November 5, 2007 at 6:29 AM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

Most don't go so far. They just find the nearest suburbs. US cities used to be majority White and their economies were perfectly healthy, now not and not.

mtraven has apparently never heard of White Flight, or perhaps thinks all those people fleeing cities are racists who only imagine they are in danger. Something must make them defy Pareto-optimality with a long commute.

November 5, 2007 at 11:59 AM  
Anonymous invisible lizard said...

There are few things more pathetic than paranoid white racists. The reason for this is simple -- it's only the bottom rungs of society that are threatened by immigration.

Aren't people who like low density levels, easy access to wide-open spaces and non-lengthy commutes also threatened by mass immigration? You also have failed to explain the anti-immigrationist policy of those high-IQ Japanese.

C.Van Carter may have had it right: "libertarianism is applied autism".

November 5, 2007 at 1:02 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

"In America, these alternatives include the equivalent of Central Asian bazaars in the form of Saturday farmers markets and roadside fruit and vegetable stands scattered here and there."

These make-shift markets are by no means equivalent to Central Asian bazaars. Some of the trading domes at Bukhara's bazaars are over 500 years old! Even the newer bazaars in Tashkent are built of reinforced concrete and reveal quite a bit of civil engineering considerations. If you are interested, I can show you some satellite pictures of bazaars in Uzbekistan. It ain't no Saturday farmer's market! Proper bazaars require quite a bit of investment in material, legal and social infrastructure that is continually sabotaged by the modern state.

You may have never been to a Central Asian bazaar, but it is a far more permanent and complex edifice than your typical Wal-Mart. In a traditional bazaar, there are facilities for logistics, quality control, dispute resolution and arbitration, security, customer service, etc. But there are no corporate structures and very few, if any, employer-employee relationships. People there represent themselves and deal on their own behalf.

As for regulation, standardization and economies of scale, you're quite wrong, Black Sea.

Yes, adulteration sometimes happens in the bazaar, and the perpetrators are usually caught sooner or later. However, I can assure you that pretty much all of the food you find in large American supermarkets is adulterated. Actually, that was among the primary reasons why I moved from the US to Canada -- edible food is hideously expensive in the States and very scarcely available. That white liquid sold as "milk" (having three expiry dates printed on the packaging for three different states!) does not taste and physically behave like milk. It's fake, plain and simple. Same goes for that sticky substance sold as "bread". Why does everything supposedly made of meat have a taste of corn syrup? And don't even get me started on fruits and vegetables that all taste like water, because they are regularly automatically(!) sprinkled by tap-water in order to look nice and fresh. This practice is expressly forbidden in any decent bazaar and one may lose their rental right for the stall if caught doing so. Many things may be inferior in Uzbekistan, but food quality is not among them.

At traditional bazaars, standard scales for retail and wholesale purposes are to be found in every trading dome and it is in the bazaar operators' best interest to keep them accurate (and so they do). Bazaars are typically much larger than WalMarts or A&P's, so economies of scale are in their favor.

November 5, 2007 at 2:01 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

JJ,

I agree with you: traditional corporate structures are inefficient monstrosities most of the time, because they are, essentially, planned economies.
Except for cases where (and as long as) technology is sufficiently immature that there are huge economies of scale (and hence it is super-beneficial to amass capital), corporate capitalism and free market economy are incompatible.

November 5, 2007 at 2:16 PM  
Blogger baldvin said...

Daniel,

could you help me see how technology of car manufacturing could mature enough that economies of scale disappear, and making cars one-by-one by individuals become competitive?

November 5, 2007 at 2:58 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

Just a few pictures:
Chorsu, Tashkent's largest and busiest bazaar. It even has a subway station with an exit right in the mids of the stalls.
Oloy, one of the oldest bazaars of Tashkent, which has even been plundered by Tamerlane. Despite of this, its edifices are mostly new and it is now catering to the local upper-middle class and the expats, having the reputation of being one of the most expensive bazaars. Hence, the language of business is typically Russian and, increasingly, English.
Medieval trading domes in Bukhara. Now mostly catering to tourists.

You're welcome to find these (and other) bazaars in Google Earth. They are quite a sight from above, too, believe me.

November 5, 2007 at 3:01 PM  
Anonymous invisible lizard said...

Yeah, right, that's why everyone wants to leave multiethnic cities like New York, LA, and San Francisco, and move to Bumfuck, Idaho where they can live among people with a uniform albedo.

FUN FACTS ABOUT IDAHO
(...)
A lot of you own your own businesses or have dreams to be an entrepreneur. The Kauffman Foundation, a nonprofit entrepreneur organization, recently reported that Idaho is among the top five states for entrepreneurial activity.

• Idaho consistently ranks No. 1 in the country for patents per capita. Last year, the percentage of patents by companies other than Hewlett-Packard and Micron rose by nearly 40 percent. Patents ranged widely across many industries, from sporting goods to aerospace, from agriculture equipment to semiconductors.
• The state benefits greatly from its tech and entrepreneurial industries. More than 70 percent of our exports are tech products. High-tech wages are twice the state average, and high-tech industries tend to provide better health-care benefits than other industries.
(...)
I'm not sure about "Bumfuck, Idaho", but the State of Idaho seems to be doing fairly well.

November 5, 2007 at 3:09 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

Baldvin

Sure! The size of the future's car manufacturing shop will be that of today's car repair shops. Its automated tooling will be sufficiently sophisticated to assemble a customized new car from scrap metal and some liquid supplies (resin components, oil, paint, etc.) with minimal human intervention, based on digital blueprints. The owner of this thing would be the only human being required for its operation.

It would produce a car if and only if there is explicit demand for it. The time new cars spend assembled but not taken into use (as dead capital, basically) is dramatically cut. Cars are manufactured in the nearest location to the customer, thus cutting transportation costs (it is always cheaper to transport information than material and it is cheaper to transport raw material than fragile end-products).

I admit, that I have not invented the above fantasy myself. It was explained to me at a Toyota plant in Canada and this is the direction where Toyota is heading (it is already largely a franchise, not a traditional corporation). Seeing that plant was a defining moment for my world view.

November 5, 2007 at 3:21 PM  
Anonymous George Weinberg said...

A lot of Americans seem to prefer bland food. For example, you can get what I consider to be good beer if you want it, but it's all craft brews an imports, the only domestic beers that sell in major quantities is this flavorless stuff made from rice instead of barley. It's not just that people aren't willing to pay extra for the "real stuff", they actually prefer the rice beer.

Oh well, to each his own.

One reason farmer's markets are allowed to exist is that food isn't subject to sales tax anyway. In the bazaar, how does the state go about wetting its beak?

November 5, 2007 at 3:33 PM  
Blogger baldvin said...

Daniel,

OK, I get it.

(Though I can't avoid thinking that it was Mao Zedong who invented this: furnaces for all villages! It didn't work pretty well though, but maybe just the Great Leap Forward is to blame, the direction is good! :) ).

November 5, 2007 at 3:39 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

GW,

The government taxes (or in some extreme cases collects) stall rent. State-operated bazaars are not uncommon in Central Asia. Neither now, nor historically. But even if they are privately or municipally operated, the state takes its cut from the rental fee.

I guess, there is a solution for taxing bazaars at their Laffer-optimum without installing Big Brother-style surveillance apparatus. Here's how I would do it: stall rental rights will be traded as property, with publicly announced prices, set by the owner. Anyone offering that price is entitled to the transfer of rental rights (the owner should, however, be allowed an upwards revision, once receiving an offer). The rental fee is calculated as a fixed percentage of the rental right price.

This is a non-trivial administrative burden, given the huge number of stalls at the bazaar, but modern computing machinery can obviously pull this task. This explains why the above described construct does not exist (yet). I expect to see such arrangements within my lifetime.

November 5, 2007 at 3:45 PM  
Anonymous Otto Kerner said...

Getting back to the subject of MM's post, I wonder how salient the concept of "sovereignty" really is in this framework. The concept of "not being dependent on other powers" is a continuum, and a vague one at that, since no one can operate completely independently by other peoples' opinions, and everyone who is alive acts independently in some respects. The rest of this post seems to use "sovcorp" to mean basically "an organization that owns an area of land", with the caveat that this means ownership in the sense of effective and stable control, rather than some theory of moral ownership. However, this is not a clean distinction either, since a large part of maintaining stable control is convincing your neighbors and other interested parties that your possession is right or, at least, not very objectionable.

November 5, 2007 at 5:18 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Why a security-focused government shouldn't try to be profitable/efficient: See Systems of Survival by Jane Jacobs.

The set of ethics that has evolved to optimize security is very different from the set that has evolved to maximize profit. The two sets are incompatible, and attempts to mix them or misapply will likely produce things like the Mafia, the Communists, or the Nazis (pace Godwin).

It may be possible to design a new system that does not fall into this trap. But it is not easy. Such a system must take into account such things as human nature, formal correctness, and the inherent sub-optimality of the world.

Chris

November 5, 2007 at 5:33 PM  
Blogger Black Sea said...

Daniel,

We seem to be arguing apples and oranges. I thought the issue was the efficiency of bazaars as a form of retail outlet, and now we're discussing their architectural and structural merits. I undestand that your point is that these are substantial, well-established (and interesting) operations, but again, that just doesn't necessarily mean that they're highly efficient.

I mentioned farmers markets not because they resemble the physical form of a C. Asian bazaar, or because they're as exotic or alluring as bazaars might be, but because, as retail outlets, they consist of a large number of individual operators selling from booths and stalls, in contrast to a large corporation like Wal-Mart.

I never meant to suggest that shopping at a Wal-Mart was aesthetically preferable to, well, anything. I'm just giving the devil his due in acknowledging that Wal-Mart is quite efficient in satifying the consumer demands of a large segment of the market. As for economies of scale, a traditonal bazaar may be larger than an individual A&P; obviously, it is not larger than the entire corporation, and that is where the economies of scale take place.

Wal-Mart offers a particularly striking, though somewhat ruthless example, of how an enormous corproation can bargain down prices from a manufacturer in a way that no purchaser in a bazaar
is EVER going to be able to do.

As for regulation, well, the food at A&P may contain a lot of corn syrup, but at least I know it's there, as compared to the shredded plastic and shoe polish, which won't be on any ingredients label in a bazaar, though it may be there as well.

With regard to the "bazaar experience," it's true that I've never been to Uzbekistan. I'm basing my comments on having lived for four years in Turkey. As much as I might enjoy strolling through - if not Central Asian, then Turkish - bazaars, I'm still just not persuaded that they're more efficient as retail outlets. Though, to go back to an earlier point, we'd have to define "efficiency" in more precise terms to really get anywhere with this question.

Perhaps food quality in the bazaars of Uzbekistan is more rigorously enforced that in Turkey (again, I have my doubts, but . . . ). In any event, all of the examples I cited came from incidents regarding food sold in Turkish bazaars, and I can tell you that people in Turkey who can afford to generally prefer to buy name brand foods in grocery stores bearing a startling resemblance to those found in the States. Turks themselves have doubts as to the quality of some (not all) foods sold there.

I suppose the larger point I'm trying to make - if there is one - is that we often attribute the success of businesses we personally dislike to malign forces, rather than acknowledge that these businesses generally succeed because they do in fact satisfy a segment of the market.

I don't want to live in a mobile home. I hope I never have to. I don't particuarly enjoy seeing them as I take a scenic drive through the rolling Appalachian hills. But the reason that mobile homes are there is because a lot of the people who live there have examined the options and concluded that a mobile home offers them the best value for their money. This may represent a failure of the aesthetic sensiblity, but these tricked-out trailers are, by their lights, a genuinely better deal than the alternatives. I suspect that the proliferation of Wal-Marts, Costcos, and Sam's Clubs is explicable along similar lines.

Anyway, I'll enjoy taking a look at your pictures.

November 5, 2007 at 6:29 PM  
Anonymous tggp said...

invisible lizard, if you had read many of mtraven's previous comments or his blog, you would know he is most certainly NOT a libertarian.

chris, I think I'd take the mafia. They supply me with cool things like bootleg alcohol, gambling and easy-access loans.

mtraven, people are moving from diverse/urban areas to unsettled homogenous places. See here.

November 5, 2007 at 7:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two points in response to the article:

1) Given the existence of nuclear weapons, a sovcorp does not need a military budget remotely close to that of another sovcorp to defend itself. There is not going to be another WWII-style war decided largely by which side can turn out quantities of tanks, aircraft, and ships. Therefore, profitability is not important for stability.

Actually, this was true even before the nuclear era, because capitalist virtues are not military virtues, as somebody else already pointed out. A truly capitalist country would lose every war, because it's not in anybody's personal best interest to fight heroically.

2) Competition is more important than profitability in determining how efficient a corporation is. I base this on my personal experiences working for various government agencies, large corporations, and small corporations. The post office is not profitable, but is more efficient than the Fortune 20 company I work for now, which is more efficient than another government agency I used to work for, which had no competitors ("if the customer's upset, so what?"). All are less efficient than smaller corporations that have many competitors.

In a profitable corporation, the profit motive to perform well only applies to the stockholders and upper management, who are not the people who do most of the actual work, and who have no idea what's actually going on in the corporation, especially in the absence of competitors obviously eating their lunch. Most people, in both profitable and non-profitable corporations, are working to fulfill achievement measures which would not be unfamiliar to a Soviet factory manager.

The most important thing is whether there is a "natural selection" mechanism to get rid of inefficient corporations. In the case of a sovcorp, there isn't one, short of revolution or occupation, neither of which would result from non-extreme inefficiency (think Zimbabwe, not the US - except that even in Zimbabwe incompetent leaders seem to hold on to power year in and year out), so if you end up with Kim Il-Jong as your sovcorp CEO, you're screwed, whether it's "profitable" or not.

Democracy is the closest thing I know of to a mechanism for providing some measure of competition for leaders of countries, which is probably why it's been so successful. In non-democratic sovcorps, a bad hire like Hitler, Mugabe, or [communist leader of your choice] is really hard to get rid of.

And regarding the argument about immigration in this thread, I see that Econ 101 has driven some people mad. Hint to the pro-immigration side: culture matters, people are not substitutable, and not all people are created equal. Econ 101 arguments are totally irrelevant, and when immigration restrictionists use them, they are mostly just covering up their true motives, because they don't want to look racist.

c23

November 5, 2007 at 7:32 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

The phenomenon of white and middle-class flight to the suburbs is real enough, but for the major cities it is more than balanced by the influx of young singles, dinks, and the like -- the so-called creative class. I'm sure rural Idaho has its charms, but areas like that are not the engine of creativity, productivity, and culture. Around where I am (San Francisco) the flight to the burbs is motivated not by the desire to get away from the darkies but because city life is priced out of reach for most people -- that means that more people want to live there than can afford to. The long term trend is definitely towards urbanization, although it's so high (80% by the census definition) that it may have topped out.

Actually, it's interesting to think about the future of cities, independingly of the stupid racialism. I see two opposed forces -- on the one hand, urban living is much more energy efficient and as peak oil hits we will see more people and activity moving back to urban centers from the auto-dependent suburbs. On the other hand, remote collaboration technologies make it easier to work from home and less important to live close to an econmic center. It's hard to say which of these trends will be more significant in the long run, but I'd put my money on the former.

invisible lizard asks:
Aren't people who like low density levels, easy access to wide-open spaces and non-lengthy commutes also threatened by mass immigration?

Low density levels and short commutes are incompatible. High density is high density no matter which races are involved.

You also have failed to explain the anti-immigrationist policy of those high-IQ Japanese.

I don't believe I claimed to, I was writing strictly about the US. The Japanese (and almost all other countries) are far more ethnically homogenous than the US, so ethnic solidarity is stronger through all social strata. The US is a nation of immigrants, which is another reason the attempt to create a bogus "white" ethnic identity fails.

November 5, 2007 at 8:53 PM  
Anonymous tggp said...

mtraven, in terms of interstate migration, places like New York and California have been losing out. The only reason their total populations haven't been decreasing is because of the influx of foreigners. There are plenty of poor people who live in big cities. The "pricing out" you refer to is finding a good neighborhood in a big city, and a good neighborhood is largely a function of the neighbors.

November 5, 2007 at 9:23 PM  
Blogger baldvin said...

"The Japanese (and almost all other countries) are far more ethnically homogenous than the US,"

Ouch! This is why we had (have, will have) all these wars here in Europe, since we are ethnically homogenous, I guess ;).

November 6, 2007 at 12:01 AM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

Econ 101 arguments are totally irrelevant, and when immigration restrictionists use them, they are mostly just covering up their true motives, because they don't want to look racist.

You don't need a college degree to look at what's happening to this country and realize it doesn't make sense. Not by any official, politically correct explanation. Mass immigration is most definitely not beneficial for most of the natives.

Likewise you don't need a degree in economics to realize the economists apologizing for the status quo are full of shit. It doesn't matter how intellectually stimulating their justifications are.

If anything when you have a degree you tend to think you're on board. One of the in crowd, not the unfortunate and uncouth "lower rung". You have no need for a "bogus ethnic identity". You're identity is smart rich guy.

I don't feel that way, and I suspect you don't either c23. Based on mtraven's comments however we can be pretty sure that's how some people see it.

You provoke an interesting question. I agree that Whites are generally afraid to be called racists. I think it's clear the La Raza-ists are not. In fact no anti-racist I'm aware of calls the Latinos on their racism.

So the question is: why? How is it that Whites are the only ones who can be racist (if not being ridiculed for imagining their identity) yet Latinos, Blacks, Asians, Jews, just about everybody else can not only have an identity but actively and openly seek to benefit their group, all without ever being called racist?

I never gassed any Jews, never killed any Indians, never owned any slaves, and neither did any of my ancestors. Yet the anti-racists hang those things around my neck, ironically because of the color of my skin. How upside down this world is.

November 6, 2007 at 12:08 AM  
Anonymous invisible lizard said...

invisible lizard, if you had read many of mtraven's previous comments or his blog, you would know he is most certainly NOT a libertarian

The argument for unlimited growth is intrinsically libertarian. Advocacy of massive or essentially uncontrolled immigration is the position of either a libertarian or a deranged leftist with a lust for destruction.

Funny that no one has brought up the liberal Putnam's study on the destructive effect of diversity on social capital. Putnam, of course, thinks this will all work out in the long run based on the construction of some kind of New Multiculturalist Man.

http://dowblog.blogspot.com/2006/10/bad-news-for-diversity-mongers.html

Bad news for diversity mongers. Recent research by the influential political scientist Robert Putnam, of Bowling Alone fame, shows that the more diverse a community is, the less likely its inhabitants are to trust anyone.

PC to the core, Putnam delayed publishing his research until he developed proposals to ostensibly compensate for the negative effects of diversity. It "would have been irresponsible to publish without that," Putnam assures us. Isn’t it nice to see academics zealously pursuing the truth?

In the face of diversity, people tend to "hunker down" and surround themselves entirely with the familiar. "We act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it’s not just that we don’t trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don’t trust people who do look like us," Putnam says.

Putnam adjusted his data for distinctions in class, income, and other variables but still reached the "shocking" conclusion that untrammeled ethnic diversity, rather than fostering cohesion, is a breeding ground of distrust that spreads like an aggressive cancer, destroying the body politic. "They don’t trust the local mayor, they don’t trust the local paper, they don’t trust other people and they don’t trust institutions," said Prof Putnam. "The only thing there’s more of is protest marches and TV watching."

Putnam found that trust was lowest in Los Angeles, that heaven on earth for mulitcultists everywhere, but that his findings were also applicable in South Dakota.

My libertarian friends ought to pay particular heed to these findings. As they don’t seem to be interested in protecting home, hearth, and nation from desecration and destruction, let me focus for just a brief moment on the god they do worship—the market. The fact is that a free market exists as part of social framework. While that framework needs a system of law to protect property rights, enforce contracts, prosecute practitioners of fraud, etc., it is also dependent on a rudimentary level of trust among the populace. If that trust is undermined, the foundation supporting the entire edifice crumbles, with the state being the institution forcefully putting the house back together.

Putnam’s response to his own findings likewise demonstrates the utter bankruptcy of the modern, liberal mind. A classical liberal like John Stuart Mill knew that free institutions are "next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities." But speaking of immigration, Putnam says "that immigration materially benefited both the 'importing' and 'exporting' societies, and that trends have 'been socially constructed, and can be socially reconstructed.'"

Putnam went on to say that the host society should actually conform to mindset and needs of the alien. "What we shouldn’t do is to say that they [immigrants] should be more like us. We should construct a new us."
(...)

The parallels to Stalin's New Socialist Man project seem pretty clear:at the least lethal end of the spectrum Lysenkoism wasn't shelved until 1965. I think the US has become enough of a police state already and that's why I haven't been there for over four years.

November 6, 2007 at 12:57 AM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

Putnam's study many be an accurate description of American communities, but it falls flat on its face for places like Toronto (where, according to Census 2000, the majority of the population was born outside of Canada).

As for Soviet attempts at constructing a new super-ethnic identity, mocked homo sovieticus by the liberal intelligetsia, I would definitely not call that a complete failure. The benefits of thinking about Russian-speaking folks of varied ethnic backgrounds as "us" are still with us, despite of the dissolution of the Union. The trust relationships reinforced by that common identity quickly propelled homo sovieticus to the positions of upper- and upper-middle classes in the post-soviet market economy. The advantage over the fragmented ethnic, religious and racial identities is increasingly clear.

November 6, 2007 at 2:17 AM  
Anonymous Cranky Matron said...

mmmm, last time I checked, most of Toronto's "vis-min" population was Asian, and I think it's pretty well-established that Asians (specially the East Asian variety) tend to blend rather easily into a Western city without turning it into a latter-day Detroit.

I don't think the same virtuous pattern would hold if Toronto were subject to the same demographic influx as Los Angeles, for instance.

November 6, 2007 at 2:37 AM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

I think the US has become enough of a police state already and that's why I haven't been there for over four years.

A police state of the mind approaches quickly, yes. You can hardly state certain basic facts without fear of losing your livelihood if not your life.

I would disagree however that we have a physical police state. We are in fact heading in the opposite direction. Non-whites are fed a constant poisonous diet by our media that they can do no wrong and Whitey is to blame for all their problems. The police are generally overwhelmed by the increasing violence, much of it brought by immigration.

We may arrive at a physical police state. But it seems we'll have to go through a general collapse to get there. More likely the anti-racist thought police will develop into physical gulag-style police first. Then the collapse and a more traditional police state.

Such are the joys of diversity.

November 6, 2007 at 2:38 AM  
Anonymous Cranky Matron said...

I also don't understand what is so "bogus" about the existence of a white ethnic identity. It's been around since long before my great-grandfather's day, you know. 'Tisn't something David Duke invented out of thin air.

I suspect people perceive white nationalists as being low-income dirty yokels partly because that's how the media portrays them (and aren't we all a little susceptible to those influences?) and partly because mass immigration really HAS impacted those folks the most.

Middle-class and wealthy white folks can run away to more ethnically copacetic areas, (and they are, in droves) or at least shell out money for private-school tuition if they're obliged to stick around the big city.

It would be unseemly for them to complain about their relative good fortune. And they've spent many, many years under the tutelage of a Universalist ideology, which further inhibits that sort of conversation.

Poorer, working-class types, not so much.

To me, the worst thing about Universalism is its relentless destruction of cohesive communities that were built around a lot of shared cultural and ethnic bonds.

The constant white flight is really the most terrible from a cultural standpoint, IMO. It disrupts intergenerational family relationships, turns too many people into mere transients, and makes us ever-more-dependent on the State and its corporate tenants instead of each other.

Yeah, to my mind, that IS the death of Western civilization.

I'm a third generation of white flight, and I must say, I wonder whether my children will ever have a place to call their Own.

If that's racist, then OK.

November 6, 2007 at 3:04 AM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

CM,

Whatever. It still disproves Putnam's conclusion.

Actually, I have yet to meet a person, who would not hear his native language spoken by passers-by on Yonge street after a hour of walking. I don't even know if "minority" is a good term for describing any particular ethnic group in Toronto, since there is no clear "majority" to speak of. There are all sorts of visible and invisible ethnic groups in Toronto and they tend to get along really nicely.

I miss thee, Toronto!

November 6, 2007 at 3:12 AM  
Blogger Black Sea said...

mtraven said:

"There are few things more pathetic than paranoid white racists. The reason for this is simple -- it's only the bottom rungs of society that are threatened by immigration."

Well, among other things, if these losers are actually "threatened" by immigration - and apparently you think they are - then their opposition to immigration isn't "paranoid," it's rational.

You have a weird (it seems to me) approach to this issue, which is that these people are either (a)flat out, delusional racists, or (b) members of the lower social orders who, despite their dim-wittedness, accurately recognize that their lives are being adversely affected by immigration but who should know their place and keep their mouths shut. Anything else just calls attention to their repulsively prole-like nature.

I think the argument surrounding immigration often loses sight of the fact that the main issue (for me anyway) is not whether the US allows immigration per se, but whether it does so through a legal, and legally-enforced system, or just shrugs its shoulders and says, "You know, these people are flooding across our borders and there's nothing we can do about it." I've used this analogy before, but favoring the enforcement of speed limits doesn't mean that one opposes the use of automobiles.

mtraven said:
"The phenomenon of white and middle-class flight to the suburbs is real enough, but for the major cities it is more than balanced by the influx of young singles, dinks, and the like -- the so-called creative class. I'm sure rural Idaho has its charms, but areas like that are not the engine of creativity, productivity, and culture."

The Richard Florida thesis; highly suspect.

http://www.vdare.com/sailer/brookings.htm

November 6, 2007 at 3:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

tanstaafl said:


So the question is: why? How is it that Whites are the only ones who can be racist (if not being ridiculed for imagining their identity) yet Latinos, Blacks, Asians, Jews, just about everybody else can not only have an identity but actively and openly seek to benefit their group, all without ever being called racist?


The idea is that whites have the power, so only their racism matters. Everybody else is just a helpless widdle minority who are trying to find some way to cope with white privilege, or whatever. But this argument is losing whatever merit it had as whites become a minority, and start to act like it (still in the early phases, but we can see it coming in the non-white-nationalist white nationalism of the growing immigration restrictionist movement).



I never gassed any Jews, never killed any Indians, never owned any slaves, and neither did any of my ancestors. Yet the anti-racists hang those things around my neck, ironically because of the color of my skin. How upside down this world is.


Another ironic thing is that the people who put an end to slavery and the Third Reich had attitudes toward race that would be called racist today - those people were a lot more racist than I am. But nobody compares people who still think like 1940s Americans to the people who won WWII - they are compared to the Nazis instead.

c23

November 6, 2007 at 4:50 AM  
Anonymous tggp said...

invisible lizard, mtraven is indeed a left-winger. I don't think he argues for "unlimited growth" either, you are just assuming things. I had a post on Putnam's diversity study here and since the newspaper's site no longer carries it I have hosted Steve Sailer's review of Richard Florida's book here.

The trust relationships reinforced by that common identity quickly propelled homo sovieticus to the positions of upper- and upper-middle classes in the post-soviet market economy.
Weren't they already the upper and upper-middle classes of the actual (not post) soviet economy?

tanstaafl, regarding the police state, you really need to read up on Sam Francis' concept of "anarcho-tyranny". It sounds like it would be right up your alley. Mencius has discussed it before here.

Regarding Toronto, it is clearly a case of genuine multiculturalism rather than the biculturalism typical of southern California. I discuss that in my Putnam post.

November 6, 2007 at 9:28 AM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

tanstaafl, regarding the police state, you really need to read up on Sam Francis' concept of "anarcho-tyranny". It sounds like it would be right up your alley. Mencius has discussed it before here

Yes, Francis spoke truth, but I find the tyranny of the moment completely outmatched by the anarchy. He predicted the tyranny would come to dominate. From what I said above you can see I agree.

As for MM's take, this post, for example, brings me back to my objections with to his view of Universalism:

Note that this is a very different theory of "violence" than the prevailing progressive-idealist or ultracalvinist view, which of course is basically Christian, and attributes all violence and other bad behavior to the fact that not everyone is Christian enough. Of course our ultracalvinists generally do not put it this way, being not Christians but crypto-Christians.

And goes on to say:

In my opinion, tyranny is best seen as a sort of static civil war.

He got the consequences right, but appears to dissociate them from Universalism. That makes sense, because if Christianity drives Universalism then the "violence" he transfers to the Middle East and dances around abstractly surely does not spring from an excess of turn-the-other-cheek Christianity.

But in fact, the violence which interests Francis (and myself) would seem to spring more from the eye-for-an-eye mode of thinking. Eg. reparations and reconquista. They are the very real consequences of the Civil Rights crusade and the immigration invasion, both of which are most certainly attributable directly to the Universalists.

"Minorities against the majority. Everybody's equal (but not really). Everybody grab what you want." That's the message our Universalist media pumps out. Is that more a Christian message, or more a Jewish message?

November 6, 2007 at 11:14 AM  
Blogger Victor said...

Interesting discussion. The bazaar tangent caught my eye.

I have never been to Uzbekistan, but I have been to the bazaar in Tel Aviv. It's a fun place, and I went shopping for produce there regularly. However, outside that, it wasn't very impressive as a retail model.

You could save money on produce because you cut the middle-man and bought directly from the farmer. When plasma TVs, computers, and high-tech shoes are lovingly hand-crafted on family farms, this might change; but until then, Wal-mart does deliver a better deal on almost any other kind of good.

Yes, we will probably have a functional equivalent of Star Trek replicators at some point, and coupled with fusion power, that will indeed transform the society and nearly nullify the economies of scale. Until that time, Wal-mart (or better yet, Costco, which treats its employees much better) beats the bazaar hands down for everything except seasonal fruits and veggies.

November 6, 2007 at 11:39 AM  
Anonymous George Weinberg said...

I thought the issue was the efficiency of bazaars as a form of retail outlet, and now we're discussing their architectural and structural merits.

I think the important point here is persistence. If you're buying goods at some temporary stand that wasn't there yesterday and won't be there tomorrow, then unless you are capable of accurately determining the quality of goods at the time of purchase or can somehow get a third party to guarantee their quality you have a substantial risk of getting ripped off. But if a vendor has been doing business at the same location for quite some time and gets most of his revenue from repeat customers, that fact is evidence that he sells quality goods. Different people have different tastes, of course, but nobody likes plastic cheese.

November 6, 2007 at 12:21 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

Black sea:Well, among other things, if these losers are actually "threatened" by immigration - and apparently you think they are - then their opposition to immigration isn't "paranoid," it's rational.
Losers are threatened by globalism and capitalism. As is anybody who works for a living and has a fungible job. It is not paranoid to worry about losing your job, or even to think that halting immigration is the best way to protect yourself, although I think that's mistaken. What is paranoid-racist is to go from that real concern to imaginary invasions, to visualize your precious self being swept away by a dusky tide of Otherness, to think that we are soon going to be living under La Raza or sharia law, or (for the traditionalists like Tanstaafl) to blame it all on the Jews.

As I said earlier, anti-immigration is the socialism of fools. These halfwits want to block only one of the global flows (labor) without doing anything about the other (capital). That's because brown people are easy to see and be scared of, but flows of money are too abstract. So if you block people from coming here for jobs, the jobs will go to the people, which of course is what's been happening. If you want to erect protectionist walls you have to do it right, and you would have had to do it decades ago. It's much too late now. Can you imagine putting high tariffs on Chinese manufactured goods? Wal-mart would have to raise their prices and that might precipitate a revolution.

November 6, 2007 at 1:06 PM  
Anonymous invisible lizard said...

Construction jobs and other non-tradable domestic services are not exportable.

If VAT and/or tariffs were instituted to replace the production destroying income tax the US economy might reindustrialize like it did in the period of transition from the Great Depression to the WW2 buildup. Not so dramatically, but some balance might be restored in the current account deficit.

November 6, 2007 at 2:53 PM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

mtraven: What is paranoid-racist is to go from that real concern to imaginary invasions, to visualize your precious self being swept away by a dusky tide of Otherness, to think that we are soon going to be living under La Raza or sharia law, or (for the traditionalists like Tanstaafl) to blame it all on the Jews.

Your arguments contradict themselves, and like so many others for whom reason and logic fail you resort to ad hominem far too often and easily.

You say the invasion is imaginary but in the very next paragraph acknowledge and excuse it.

I don't blame Universalism or its consequences all on the Jews. I make the point that they are at least as much if not more culpable for Universalism as the Christians Mencius repeatedly and solely blames.

It is an admittedly difficult argument to make, but only because of those who, like you, try to derail the discussion by spouting the PC line that any criticism of Jews is beyond the pale. Under Universalism's PC dogma Christianity can be blamed for virtually anything, even its own destruction, and with impunity if not praise. Meanwhile blaming Jews even for things in which they are clearly both proximate cause and benefactor immediately results in the anti-semitism card being played.

If anything that only drives home my point. Thanks for your help, once again, mtraven.

November 6, 2007 at 3:26 PM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

To be fair I should have said "arguably" rather than "clearly" above.

November 6, 2007 at 3:34 PM  
Blogger Black Sea said...

Well, I'll confess that I've just about exhausted my own interest in the bazaar debate. I'm going to toss out a couple more comments, and then I'll happily concede any point anyone wishes to make about Central Asian bazaars.

First, I still think there's too much imprecision (a debate of apples and oranges, as I said earlier) in this discussion.

For example, I looked at Daniel's photos of two Central Asian bazaars, and they are quite impressive (thanks, by the way). However, when I first read his comments on this issue, these were not the sorts of bazaars I was envisioning. I'm not blaming anybody here; perhaps this is due to my own ignorance of the region, or simple misunderstanding.

Nevertheless, falling back on my own experience in Turkey, I would guess that these enormous, ancient bazaars are "typical" of Central Asian bazaars in much the same way that the Chrysler building is a "typical" American office building. Yeah, in a sense, it is, but it would be awfully imprecise to imagine that most Americans work in a structure more or less like the Chrysler building.

At least in Turkey, most bazaars are in fact far much more like roadside stands or weekend farmers markets than the places Daniel was referencing. Many, probably most, open on a Saturday morning in a parking lot or other public space, and close at nightfall. Others are more permanent, but are effectively tucked in among retail stores and restaurants. I would imagine that the vendors come and go in much the same way that tenants of cheap office space in America do.

Under these circumstances, not all vendors are restrained in their dealings by the fear of losing their sales space. Adulterated or unacceptably products are by no means only sold in bazaars, but setting up a stall there is far cheaper than opening a grocery store, much less a chain of stores, and thus the finacial penalty for selling adultered food there is far less intimidating. People often choose to pay more in a chain store because they are actually afraid to buy food products in a bazaar or at a small shop.

The individual stall holder at one of these small bazaars is often struggling finanacially, and not very smart. Desperate, poor people sometimes do stupid and unscrupulous things. There are a lot of desperate, poor people in Turkey looking for a angle to work, and I think it may be the same (if not worse) in Central Asia.

The only bazaar in Istanbul remotely resembling the sort of place Daniel and George Weinberg are describing is the Grand Bazaar. There, in fact, the point of persistence, which they raise, is relevant. But then again, the Grand Bazaar is not the place to go for a good deal. As a tourist experience, yes. To stroll and shop if you have the money and time, why not? But nobody goes there to pick up a few cucumbers, a pair of socks, and a carton of milk.

Thus, I feel that we are again in the apples and oranges dilemma. It's rather as if I've set out to prove that "department stores" represent the highest form of retail distribution. When it suits my purposes, I cite the low prices of a department store known as Wal-Mart. And then, to demonstrate the superior customer service of "department stores," I make reference to the sales staff at Sax Fifth Avenue. Yeah, they are both "department stores" of a kind, but . . . I think you get my point.

I will try to make this my last word on bazaars. I appreciate Victor's expression of interest, but I fear this is a discussion of limited appeal to most.

November 6, 2007 at 3:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mtraven said

As I said earlier, anti-immigration is the socialism of fools. These halfwits want to block only one of the global flows (labor) without doing anything about the other (capital). That's because brown people are easy to see and be scared of, but flows of money are too abstract. So if you block people from coming here for jobs, the jobs will go to the people, which of course is what's been happening.


oh noes! The "jobs Americans won't do" will be done by third-worlders in the third-world instead of third-worlders in America! Whatever shall we half-wits do?

Actually, that's exactly what we half-wits are hoping for - because immigrants are not just "labor," but people, who bring along plenty of undesirable baggage with their labor.

Once again, Econ 101 arguments are completely irrelevant.

c23

November 6, 2007 at 6:36 PM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

If "immigration is the socialism of fools" I'm wondering who he thinks socialism is for.

November 6, 2007 at 7:37 PM  
Blogger Black Sea said...

"Socialism is nothing but the capitalism of the lower classes."
--Oswald Spengler

November 7, 2007 at 3:25 AM  
Anonymous randy said...

Interesting quote, black sea. I don't think the idea is applicable only to socialists though. It seems to me that voting is psychologically equivalent to buying a lottery ticket. Those who actually make millions, and those who actually set the course of the "nation", devote their lives to it.

November 7, 2007 at 4:51 AM  
Anonymous invisible lizard said...

James Q Wilson comments at length on the Putnam study:
Bowling with Others
(...)
“Shocking” is the word that one political scientist, Scott Page of the University of Michigan, invoked to describe the extent of the negative social effects revealed by Putnam’s data. Whether Putnam was shocked by the results I cannot say. But they should not have been surprising; others have reported the same thing. The scholars Anil Rupasingha, Stephan J. Goetz, and David Freshwater, for example, found that social capital across American counties, as measured by the number of voluntary associations for every 10,000 people, goes up with the degree of ethnic homogeneity. Conversely, as others have discovered, when ethnic groups are mixed there is weaker social trust, less car pooling, and less group cohesion. And this has held true for some time: people in Putnam’s survey who were born in the 1920’s display the same attitudes as those born in the 1970’s.
(...)

Putnam did a very careful study, I think we need more than personal anecdotes to prove Torontonian Exceptionalism. But then again it's probably useful to have some places like LA and SF and Toronto for those seeking anonymity and/or a childless lifestyle-it just seems to be socially destructive to try to replicate such communities across an entire country.

November 7, 2007 at 10:16 AM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

cranky matron fingered it above more clearly than Putnam or Wilson: To me, the worst thing about Universalism is its relentless destruction of cohesive communities that were built around a lot of shared cultural and ethnic bonds.

The constant white flight is really the most terrible from a cultural standpoint, IMO. It disrupts intergenerational family relationships, turns too many people into mere transients, and makes us ever-more-dependent on the State and its corporate tenants instead of each other.


The raw honesty of Carleton Putnam puts to shame the Universalist equalitarian ditherings of Robert Putnam.

November 7, 2007 at 10:51 AM  
Anonymous Randy said...

tanstaafl,

Just tried to follow the link to Carleton Putnam and found myself blocked because the site has "political extreme, hate, and racism". I just find it interesting that even internet filters have gotten into the game - and wondering what it takes to make such a list. I'll have to try the link again when I get home.

November 7, 2007 at 12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Carleton Putnam was a segregationist who specifically addressed "The Negro Question". When he was writing the word "multiculturalism" had not yet been invented.

November 7, 2007 at 12:07 PM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

Yes, I'm not surprised. Putnam's thoughts and speech are heresy to Universalism.

"The Negro Question" hasn't gone away. In fact we're now faced with "The Immigrant Question" which is very similar. The response from Universalists is also similar: Label all non-Universalist thought as crimethink and suppress it.

November 7, 2007 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger Black Sea said...

mtraven: "What is paranoid-racist is to go from that real concern to imaginary invasions, to visualize your precious self being swept away by a dusky tide of Otherness . . ."

Evidently, such nightmare visions are not the exclusive domain of "paranoid-racist" minds.

From an editorial in The San Diego Herald-Tribune:

"OK, you anti-immigration isolationist flag-wavers out there, let's assume for a minute that we do things your way and deny 12 million undocumented workers a reasonable path to U.S. citizenship. Let me tell you why that would not only be unfair, but also would affect your own interests.

First, forget the 1968 riots in Los Angeles, or the 1980 violence in Miami's Liberty City. You would be creating an underclass of alienated aliens like the Muslim youths that carried out the “French Intifada” in the suburbs of Paris in 2005 – only much worse."

The rest can be found at:

http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20070501/news_lz1e1oppenhei.html

Just to reiterate, this premonition of a "Hispanic intifada" comes to us courtesy of a writer arguing AGAINST the deportation of illegals.

November 7, 2007 at 3:44 PM  
Blogger Black Sea said...

Sorry, the address got cut off. Let me try again. Go here:

http://www.signonsandiego.com/union
trib/20070501/news_lz1e1oppenhei.ht
ml


Or here:

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/col
umnists/andres_oppenheimer/story/29
5183.html

November 7, 2007 at 3:49 PM  
Blogger George Weinberg said...

try <a href="url">link text</a>

November 7, 2007 at 4:16 PM  
Anonymous invisible lizard said...

As I have said before I haven't lived in the US for over four years and have no intention of returning (I'm only saying this to accomodate the "universalists" here who have an unseemly addiction to ad hominem), but I see nothing low-rent about a people resisting their dispossession and threatened absorption into an alien culture.This is exactly what the massively disproportionate(and largely illegal) immigration from a single neighboring semi-hostile country intimates.

For those who think that the traditional American majority has no culture of its own see Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America

November 7, 2007 at 7:10 PM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

Oppenheimer, the author of those columns, is a Latino Jew. The columns are datelined 6 months apart and are not the same. The difference in tone, pre rejection of the Senate's betrayal and post, are very revealing of the deception and ill-will in this fellow's head.

His argument boils down to: you should let us stay because we're so good for you, anyway there's alot of us, and we won't go peacefully, so you'd better just let us stay.

Well then, I guess we have no choice but to give these delightful people drivers licenses and make them citizens.

November 7, 2007 at 9:08 PM  
Blogger Faré said...

@jewish atheist

I failed to post a comment on blogger earlier, so I rewrote it as a post on my own blog.

In essence, Universalism can't be defined in terms of beliefs because it is not based on sentience. Instead you must think of it in terms of emotions, alliances, and anchors.

November 9, 2007 at 5:36 AM  
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Anonymous Charlotte said...

"Camp of the saints" is "appalling"? Why? It's pretty prophetic, far as I can see. Any country has a right to control who enters its border and replaces (yes, replaces) it's own inhabitants. Thousands of black Africans unloading on the shores of Malta? Riots in European cities? Why are they there if they hate the culture? Europeans who don't have a courage to defend themselves from parasites?
The only reason the book is "appalling" is because it's so true.

December 23, 2008 at 6:46 AM  
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