Thursday, November 8, 2007 47 Comments

How Dawkins got pwned (part 7)

(See parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.)

Part 7 is actually the actual conclusion to this monstrous piece. Even better, next week I'll try to answer some of the very cogent questions that have built up in the comments.

At the risk of sounding like Maya Angelou, the only way to end is to return to the beginning. Our beginning is of course Professor Dawkins, and that little blind spot in the back of his head which we've learned to call Universalism.

Let's not forget what makes Professor Dawkins so pwned. The great exploit is that the good professor genuinely believes that he subscribes to no belief system at all. As Sam Harris puts it:
We should not call ourselves atheists. We should not call ourselves secularists. We should not call ourselves humanists, or secular humanists, or naturalists, or skeptics, or anti-theists, or rationalists, or freethinkers, or brights. We should not call ourselves anything.
In other words: the only pattern that describes our beliefs is reason, reality, or truth. Thus no additional label is necessary. There is no word for people who believe that a dropped stone accelerates at 9.8 meters per second squared. Why should there be?

If you're right, of course, you're right. However, it is not difficult to see the potential for arrogance and intolerance in any such reluctance to self-label. No 13th-century Frenchman would have labeled himself as "a Catholic." He did not call himself anything, any more than Sam Harris. His beliefs were universal - that's what catholic means. But were they true? Certainly not by Sam Harris's light.

Admittedly, this "No Logo" approach - which I suspect Professor Dawkins is a little too sharp to fall for - is preferable to the appalling coinage bright, which suggests that anyone who disagrees is not only ignorant but also stupid. 21st-century fanaticism really knows no shame.

But even the term atheist defines a belief system as an absence of creed - and thus of credulity. (If you're an atheist, as I am.) Thus it is essentially the same sort of evasion. The atheist label serves as a token of agreement between Professor Dawkins and his burgeoning legion of followers that the only pattern which describes their collective beliefs is that they have escaped from - or at least failed to succumb to - one particular barbaric, medieval superstition. While this may be correct, it's hardly modest.

Let's say there are two kinds of belief systems. A class A belief system propagates nothing but an accurate perception of reality. A class B belief system propagates fictions, distortions, contradictions, and/or other general nonsense. Since no one has any conscious desire to believe in nonsense, it's hard to see how any class B belief system can survive unless it can disguise itself as a class A belief system. (I see no reason to think there has ever been any such beast in the wild as a class A belief system.)

The hack that has exploited Professor Dawkins is almost too simple to work. It's truly elegant. When I was 17, I found a setgid violation on a SunOS kernel profiler and used it to find the address of my U area, which I could zero from the console debugger, giving my shell process root. I found this terribly cool. Then I showed it to an older hacker, who must have been all of 21 (Tom Lawrence? Is Tom Lawrence in the building? I think he worked at SGI for a while...) and he showed me how he'd used a link editor on the kernel objects to construct a version of SunOS (bootable from the console debugger) with a disabled setuid() function, on which all processes were unavoidably root. Trust me - this was much, much cooler. But it wasn't as cool as "atheism."

By sacrificing a single metaphysical construct - "God" - this new release of Christianity, Universalism, has constructed a convincing case (at least it seems to convince Professor Dawkins) that it has transitioned from a class B system to a class A system. And how has it done this? Simply by pointing to its predecessor, and noting that the former is class B. Well, duh.

Everyone knows that Western thought today, even in its most fashionable incarnations, has Christian roots. But somehow, most of us think it's possible to escape the implications of this connection by simply denying the Christian label, and adopting a metaphysical doctrine - atheism - which is repugnant to the unwashed who have not made this great leap. The result is that we land in "No Logo" nirvana. We are the enlightened ones. Hail us!

Imagine if I tried the same with Nazism. I could march around in a brown leather uniform all day, waving a swastika banner and condemning the filthy Zionist-Bolshevik hordes. When questioned by the usual voices of decency, I could respond that:
  • I'm not a Nazi. In fact, I oppose Nazism. So I'm not a Nazi.
  • I'm half-Jewish. The Nazis would never have me. So I'm not a Nazi.
  • Nazis believe in the leadership of Adolf Hitler. I don't. So I'm not a Nazi.
  • My inverted swastika is actually a Hindu fertility symbol. So I'm not a Nazi.
Etc, etc, etc. How much ice do you think this would cut with the diversity committee? But somehow, when the creed is Christianity rather than Nazism, it can be ditched as easily as a Muslim's wife. Just say: "I'm an atheist, I'm an atheist, I'm an atheist." And no one will ever be able to accuse you of being a religious fanatic, at least not without substantial preparatory explanation. What more perfect cover story for an actual religious fanatic?

Anyway. I apologize if I'm getting a little repetitive here. I don't think this trick can be analyzed too many times. I grew up as a Universalist myself, and there's nothing like finding one of those Brawndo moments in one's own head, especially after 30-plus years of believing any such mental baggage was reserved for one's lessers. "But Brawndo has electrolytes." And so it does.

This poor little blog cannot possibly hope to topple or even shake the great Gibraltar that is the Universalist church. But what I love about exploring Universalism, what makes it so fun for me, is that there's a genuine sense of newness to it. The anaesthetic that the Universalist brainworm secretes, euphoric though it is - who can deny the believer's genuine joy? - conceals all kinds of fascinating adaptive structures. With the magic sunglasses, these pop right out in living color, and you can see them every day on the front page of the Times. It's like going on a galactic mission to Planet Earth. America the home of the free and the brave, and Plainland the home of the Universalist corporate theocracy, are the same physical place. But you can be excused for wishing you hadn't left your spacesuit back on the ship.

Anyway. To continue the discussion from part 6, we were talking about governments. Or as we say when we use the magic sunglasses, sovcorps.

The fundamental problem of modern history is to understand the great massacres of the 20th century. To at least the first approximation, any general theory of modern history must be a theory of democide.

I've expressed this before, but let me state it more bluntly: the cause of democide is democracy. The democides of the 20th century - plus one important adumbration, the War of Secession, the first modern total war - can only be understood as a consequence of the victory of democracy. And therefore of the defeat of the Concert of Europe and the Holy Alliance.

Needless to say, this belief is the polar opposite of Universalist doctrine. Of all Universalist cult words, there is perhaps none more holy than democracy. And these days the especially daring may make so bold as to praise Enoch Powell, but no significant political intellectual at least in my lifetime has tipped much hat to Wellington, Metternich or Castlereagh. I always liked Shelley's verse:
I met Murder on the way -
He had a mask like Castlereagh -
Very smooth he looked, yet grim;
Seven blood-hounds followed him;

All were fat; and well they might
Be in admirable plight,
For one by one, and two by two,
He tossed them human hearts to chew
Which from his wide cloak he drew.
The latter stanza is doggerel, but the former with its cute anti-sightrhyme is really memorable. Which is a shame in a way. Because if anyone's philosophy came flanked by murderous hounds, it was Shelley's revolutionary democratic nationalism. Whereas all Castlereagh's reactionary monarchism produced was European peace and prosperity for most of a century. But why should history be sane?

Of course, Universalists have their own theory of democide. In the Universalist narrative, the cause of democide is dictatorship, or more precisely autocracy.

I have been unable to determine the exact meaning of this word. However, it seems to be the case that a sovcorp is either a democracy, or an autocracy. I've certainly never heard of any regime that was both democratic and autocratic, or any that was neither. So presumably they are antonyms. However, a common synonym for the former is self-government. Since this is also the literal meaning of the latter, we can see that we're on some tricky linguistic ground.

So we have two theories of democide to compare: the reservationist theory (mine), and the Universalist theory (everyone else's). If popularity is your ruler, the answer is obvious. But in that case, surely there are other blogs you could be reading.

In questions of this appalling magnitude, I find the best way to "overcome bias" is often to find perspectives which seem to make each answer obvious. Once we recognize that both A and B are obviously true, and A is inconsistent with B, we are in the right mindset for actual thought.

From the reservationist perspective, democracy is obviously the cause of democide - because the Age of Democracy is also the Age of Democide. The last major outbreak of indiscriminate mass murder in Europe was the massacre of Beziers in the Albigensian Crusade, which is easy to explain as a breakdown in military discipline, and whose memory also has suspicious links to the anticlerical Black Legend.

This was in 1209. (Possibly some nasty things also happened in the Thirty Years War. But defenestration is not democide. Nor is famine or the pest. And even if we admit that the Sack of Magdeburg was no picnic, it was again a failure of discipline - the opposite of Eichmann.)

Then, 780 years later, the association between popular government and democide opens with the French Revolution (if not with Cromwell's plantation of Ireland), and continues to pop up everywhere. Every sovcorp which has ever committed democide has claimed to be the one true representative of the People. Black Legend notwithstanding, significant cases of monarchist mass murder are hard to find. (For example, most of what you know about the so-called "Inquisition" isn't true.)

Furthermore, before our great Age of Democracy, it was widely assumed that progress would simply continue and civilization would only get more civilized. The famous example is Gibbon, from his General Observations:
It is the duty of a patriot to prefer and promote the exclusive interest and glory of his native country; but a philosopher may be permitted to enlarge his views, and to consider Europe as one great republic, whose various inhabitants have attained almost the same level of politeness and cultivation. The balance of power will continue to fluctuate, and the prosperity of our own or the neighbouring kingdoms may be alternately exalted or depressed; but these partial events cannot essentially injure our general state of happiness, the system of arts, and laws, and manners, which so advantageously distinguish, above the rest of mankind, the Europeans and their colonies. The savage nations of the globe are the common enemies of civilized society; and we may inquire with anxious curiosity, whether Europe is still threatened with a repetition of those calamities which formerly oppressed the arms and institutions of Rome. Perhaps the same reflections will illustrate the fall of that mighty empire, and explain the probable causes of our actual security.

The Romans were ignorant of the extent of their danger, and the number of their enemies. Beyond the Rhine and Danube, the northern countries of Europe and Asia were filled with innumerable tribes of hunters and shepherds, poor, voracious, and turbulent; bold in arms, and impatient to ravish the fruits of industry. The Barbarian world was agitated by the rapid impulse of war; and the peace of Gaul or Italy was shaken by the distant revolutions of China. The Huns, who fled before a victorious enemy, directed their march towards the West; and the torrent was swelled by the gradual accession of captives and allies. The flying tribes who yielded to the Huns assumed in their turn the spirit of conquest; the endless column of Barbarians pressed on the Roman empire with accumulated weight; and, if the foremost were destroyed, the vacant space was instantly replenished by new assailants. Such formidable emigrations can no longer issue from the North; and the long repose, which has been imputed to the decrease of population, is the happy consequence of the progress of arts and agriculture. Instead of some rude villages, thinly scattered among its woods and morasses, Germany now produces a list of two thousand three hundred walled towns; the Christian kingdoms of Denmark, Sweden, and Poland, have been successively established; and the Hanse merchants, with the Teutonic knights, have extended their colonies along the coast of the Baltic, as far as the Gulf of Finland. From the Gulf of Finland to the Eastern Ocean, Russia now assumes the form of a powerful and civilized empire. The plough, the loom, and the forge, are introduced on the banks of the Volga, the Oby, and the Lena; and the fiercest of the Tartar hordes have been taught to tremble and obey. The reign of independent Barbarism is now contracted to a narrow span; and the remnant of Calmucks or Uzbecks, whose forces may be almost numbered, cannot seriously excite the apprehensions of the great republic of Europe. Yet this apparent security should not tempt us to forget that new enemies, and unknown dangers, may possibly arise from some obscure people, scarcely visible in the map of the world. The Arabs or Saracens, who spread their conquests from India to Spain, had languished in poverty and contempt, till Mahomet breathed into those savage bodies the soul of enthusiasm.

[...] Europe is now divided into twelve powerful, though unequal, kingdoms, three respectable commonwealths, and a variety of smaller, though independent, states; the chances of royal and ministerial talents are multiplied, at least with the number of its rulers; and a Julian, or Semiramis, may reign in the North, while Arcadius and Honorius again slumber on the thrones of the South. The abuses of tyranny are restrained by the mutual influence of fear and shame; republics have acquired order and stability; monarchies have imbibed the principles of freedom, or, at least, of moderation; and some sense of honour and justice is introduced into the most defective constitutions by the general manners of the times. In peace, the progress of knowledge and industry is accelerated by the emulation of so many active rivals: in war, the European forces are exercised by temperate and undecisive contests. If a savage conqueror should issue from the deserts of Tartary, he must repeatedly vanquish the robust peasants of Russia, the numerous armies of Germany, the gallant nobles of France, and the intrepid freemen of Britain; who, perhaps, might confederate for their common defence. Should the victorious Barbarians carry slavery and desolation as far as the Atlantic Ocean, ten thousand vessels would transport beyond their pursuit the remains of civilized society; and Europe would revive and flourish in the American world which is already filled with her colonies and institutions.
Only a few years after Gibbon wrote these words, barbarism erupted in the heart of Europe - not among the Uzbecks and Calmucks, but in Paris herself. The City of Light became the City of Terror. Naturally, the tragedy is celebrated to this day.

Of course Gibbon agreed with Burke about this. (He also famously wrote that "if a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world, during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus [ie, the Antonine period].") Basically, everyone sensible agreed. However we may perceive it today, in its own wake the French Revolution was no more considered defensible than the Third Reich is today.

From the 1790s through the 1820s, the word revolution actually had negative connotations in the King's English. If you had invented some new steam gizmo, you would be no more likely to describe it as revolutionary than a modern inventor would be to describe her work as fascist. ("My new fascist programming language - with really strong typechecking.") Even if all you meant was that your gizmo went around in circles, you'd probably find some different word.

For example, note how Shelley denounces the Liverpool regime in Masque of Anarchy - he accuses it of being anarchy under a mask of law. Actually suggesting that law was bad and anarchy was good would have been too much even for Shelley. (Anything that was too much for Shelley was too much for anyone.)

I don't find the links from Robespierre to Stalin and Mao particularly debatable. As for Hitler, the Jacobins and Nazis were both violent, charismatic street-gang movements with aggressive utopian ideals and a penchant for paranoid conspiracy theories, whose popular base was concentrated in the lower middle class. Ie: Hitler was practically Robespierre 2.0.

The great Carroll Quigley's observations about democracy and the Great War are also quite pertinent. From Tragedy and Hope, Quigley's criminally underread history of the century:
The influence of democracy served to increase the tension of a crisis because elected politicians felt it necessary to pander to the most irrational and crass motivations of the electorate in order to ensure future election, and did this by playing on hatred and fear of powerful neighbors or on such appealing issues as territorial expansion, nationalistic price, "a place in the sun," "outlets to the sea," and other real or imagined benefits. At the same time, the popular newspaper press, in order to sell papers, played on the same motives and issues, arousing their peoples, driving their own own politicians to extremes, and alarming neighboring states to the point where they hurried to adopt similar kinds of of action in the name of self-defense. Moreover, democracy made it impossible to examine international disputes on their merits, but instead transformed every petty argument into an affair of honor and national prestige so that no dispute could be examined on its merits or settled as a simple compromise because such a sensible approach would at once be hailed by one's democratic opposition as a loss of face and an unseemly compromise of exalted moral principles.
Quigley is of course describing the phenomenon known as jingoism. Compared to its 1914 incarnation, jingoism is a pretty minor problem these days. My guess is that we have the decline of political democracy, and the rise of bureaucratic democracy, to thank for this.

One thing most people don't know about the Great War is that all sides were democracies. There were no "absolute" governments in Europe in 1914. Recognizable democratic politics existed in every country. Calling Wilhelmine Germany in some way autocratic because Germans did not elect the Kaiser makes no more sense than calling the US autocratic because Americans do not elect the Supreme Court, or Europeans the European Commission.

(Which is not to say it makes no sense at all. But it makes the notion of a war for democracy risible. Much as 25 years later, the next war for democracy resulted in the enslavement of half Europe and most of Asia. Could I make this stuff up?)

In jingoism we see the Concert of Europe's last gasp for political oxygen. Reactionary aristocrats toward the end of the Belle Époque found that jingoist nationalism was their only way to compete for public favor with the socialists, whose program of plunder had obvious democratic appeal. The three classical traditions of Continental reaction - Legitimism, Orléanism, and Bonapartism - wound up congealing into a single shrunken and unattractive mass, in the shape of the anti-Dreyfusards, which combined the worst features of Bonapartism and Orléanism. It's hardly surprising that the defenders of Esterhazy have drifted out of historical respectability.

If we are looking for an objective definition of democracy rather than a moralistic one, there's no way we can stick with the Western distinction between representative democracy and the more malignant 20th-century forms, people's democracy and folkish democracy.

The idea of representation is implicit in the symbolic doxology of all these regimes, even to some extent in divine-right (as opposed to propertarian) monarchy - which is perhaps best seen as a sort of proto-democracy. Symbolically, the democratic State represents the General Will, the aspirations and needs of the entire community. The link between State and People is axiomatic in all democracies.

Like sausage, the rituals by which this submission is established and renewed rarely reward excessive inspection. Hitler loved his plebiscites, the Americans demand a two-party circus, the Europeans have parliaments and proportional representation, the Soviets got along fine with just one party, the East Germans had various toy oppositions, etc, etc, etc. Frankly, if there is a major categorical distinction here, I just ain't seeing it.

The distinction between political and apolitical democracy does not strike me as terribly significant. In fact, the latter is probably preferable. Certainly all modern democracies have delegated most important tasks to apolitical bureaucrats. As James Burnham pointed out 65 years ago, the administrative relevance of elected officials in the Western democracies is steadily decreasing. The insane orgiastic elections of the American 19th century are gone.

The difference between liberal democracy and totalitarian democracy is much more relevant. But it is a matter of the State's actions, not its management structure. I certainly favor liberal if not libertarian government, and I despise the tyrannical megastate. But I see no reason at all why the electoral structure of a democratic state should have much bearing on whether it is liberal or tyrannical.

The EU, for example, has little more in the way of electoral politics than the Soviet Union, but it is a much nicer place to live. I suspect the main difference is just that the former is in Western Europe and the latter was brought to us by Russia, a great and beautiful country, but never one noted for its appreciation of personal independence.

From a practical political perspective, the problem faced by all democracies is the same. The regime's survival is dependent on its popularity. Its military is only a backup, and probably will not be willing to resist any serious popular protest. Therefore, to establish any stability, the democratic State must manage public opinion. This is also known as manufacturing consent, and it typically involves a substantial system of official or quasiofficial education and/or journalism.

So a good way to see which faction holds real power in a democratic state is to look at which can get its people into influential roles in education and/or journalism. For example, if anyone reading this still retains any doubt in the matter, this algorithm shows us that the Republicans are the real party of power in the US, and the Democrats are a toy or decoy opposition. Statistics show that the vast majority of political contributions from educators and journalists in the US go to Republicans. Obviously this is why political opinions in the US are constantly shifting to the right. An amoral young political entrepreneur will "lead" this shifting moral Zeitgeist, and adjust his positions to be mainstream at such time as he expects to contend for office. This may be why so many young American intellectuals support torturing terrorists who refuse to accept Jesus as their personal savior.

Once we understand jingoism as a symptom of democracy, and once we realize that the structure or even existence of a democratic political system is not terribly important, the inference from democracy to democide starts to approach the obvious level. It is the Eastern totalitarian democracies of the 20th century that seem more the rule, and the Western liberal democracies more the exception. And we begin to suspect that the West is liberal despite democracy, whereas the East was totalitarian because of it.

You will find people who don't smoke and get lung cancer. And you may find non-democratic states which go off the rails and engage in mass murder. But generally, wherever you find the effect, it's not hard to guess the cause. Smoking obviously causes lung cancer, and democracy obviously causes democide. Duh.

But then we look at the Universalist theory of democide - and we see an equally obvious answer, which strikes us as much simpler. It certainly demands no long essay to explain.

We all know this theory. It tells us that democide is the result of evil dictatorships. When we look at the Age of Democide - discounting occasional moments of military exuberance, such as the strategic bombing of Japan and Germany - what we see is very clear. We see that mass murder is practiced by dictators, such as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Saddam, Pol Pot, etc, etc, etc. Meanwhile, under representative democracy, we see peace and prosperity. Ergo, democracy is the cure for democide, and absence of democracy is the cause. Duh.

Of course, my reservationist opinion is that this argument seems simple and obvious only because we know it so well. ("But Brawndo has electrolytes!") But at least we have the contradiction, and it puts us in the right mood for actual analytic thought.

Our goal in this last part of the Dawkins essay is to understand Universalism, and to see it adaptively - to explain why it has outcompeted all the other crazy things people could believe, but don't.

Explaining Universalism's historical roots and sectarian pedigree is always interesting, but it always carries a slight hint of eau de McCarthy. The history of the thing (once again, I recommend McKenna's Puritan Origins of American Patriotism) helps us sort up from down and get some idea of what questions to ask. But fundamentally - as some commenters have observed - the history of Universalism tells us no more than we learn by knowing that political party X is descended from Nazis, or Communists, or whatever. Like its biological counterpart, memetic evolution can cover an impressive distance in a short time. (Consider the Socreds.)

So the question is: why is Universalism so successful? Why are so many Americans and Europeans these days Universalists? Especially so many smart, well-informed, talented Americans and Europeans? And why does the intensity of Universalism seem to be growing?

(If you doubt the latter point, I have two words for you: Operation Wetback. If you need three, try Louise Day Hicks. Professor Dawkins' shifting moral Zeitgeist may deserve some more prosaic name than the Spirit of Time, and its morality is arguable as morality is. But it's pretty hard to say it ain't shifting. And yes, that bit about torturing terrorists for Jesus was satire.)

The critical issue, I think, is the relationship between Universalism and the State.

As I said in a previous post, this is at least as close as the connection between malaria and the mosquito. You can imagine something like Universalism whose transmission vector was not the State. You can also imagine something like malaria whose transmission vector was, say, the tick. But it's hard to imagine anyone calling it "malaria."

Even closer is the relationship between Universalism and democracy. These phenomena have quite clearly evolved together. At this point we are talking about multiple features of the same organism - more like the relationship between malaria schizonts and trophozoites. (Okay, yuck. But remember, folks, this is just an analogy.)

Whatever the details of the lifecycle, it seems pretty clear that one of these beasties is the chicken and the other one is the egg. Thus, picking one at random, let's start with democracy and explain why Universalism is so successful in a democratically managed sovcorp. (A fun exercise would be to take the opposite path, and explain why democracy is so successful in a sovcorp whose tenants are Universalists.)

Our goal is to understand Universalism from a historical perspective which is completely non-Universalist. While it was certainly not utterly free from democratic cant, the Burkean Europe that the Congress of Vienna tried to create, and did to some extent and for some time create, is certainly as close as we can come to such a perspective. It certainly beats the next competitor, the Antonine Rome of Marcus Aurelius.

(The nice thing about both these periods is that they were both relatively non-Universalist, yet relatively acceptable to Universalist taste. You simply can't argue that Castlereagh had anything in common with Hitler. He would have had Hitler horsewhipped. The thought of Stalin in the presence of Aurelius is similarly comical and depressing.)

We can construct a complete non-Universalist narrative of the State, therefore, by pulling out the good old what-ifs, and imagining that instead of decaying into nationalist democracy the Concert of Europe had advanced into neocameralism.

Let's review the neocameralist theory of the sovcorp for a moment.

A sovcorp is a corporation that owns a populated territory, and is not dependent on any other power to enforce its claim of property. A planet whose surface area is divided among multiple sovcorps is a stable property system if and only if no sovcorp can profit by attacking another. This can be assured by a variety of means - military deterrence or compellence, collective security, etc, etc. Tall fences make good neighbors, but a nuke or two doesn't hurt neither. Rationally managed sovcorps are especially good at deterrence, because the game theory is much simpler if you assume rational actors.

(The basic difference between neocameralism and anarcho-capitalism is that I don't think this sort of self-enforcing property model scales militarily, at least not anywhere near to the level where individuals are sovereign. I mean, someone is crazy here, and I don't think it's me. But then I wouldn't, would I?)

Assuming military stability, the essential property of a stable neocameralist sovcorp is that its revenues are formalized and distributed equally among its shareholders, who own and manage it in proportion to their holdings. An immutable corporate charter sets the sovcorp's rights and responsibilities, and prevents a majority of shareholders from abusing a minority, eg, by confiscating their shares.

And who ensures that the corporate definition is immutable? Again, there is no such thing as a self-enforcing law. The ultimate decision algorithm in every dispute is always military. Fortunately, obeying simple rules is what military men do best. If the Schelling point of simple, precise formal law fails, there's always my favorite gimcrack technical solution - cryptographic weapon locks. In the 21st century, there's no reason every rifle - even every bullet - can't have one.

My belief is that, except for the minor matter of taxation, which will go to the Laffer maximum and stay there, a neocameralist sovcorp's interests are perfectly aligned with the interests of its tenants. Specifically, a profitable, efficiently-run sovcorp - even in the degenerate and undesirable case of a single global monopoly - will operate a libertarian government which maintains Pareto optimality. My reasoning is that any Pareto inefficiency represents an uncaptured tax, which affects the Laffer curve but generates zero revenue. Basically, the territory and residents of a sovcorp are its capital, and a well-run corporation, sovereign or otherwise, treats its capital the way the way Mother Teresa holds a baby bird.

So we can imagine a coherent alternate history in which the States of the Concert of Europe converted themselves into neocameralist sovcorps, by formalizing their revenues, dividing them into shares, and ceding management to the shareholders. Essentially, from the perspective of a monarch, this is like converting a family business into a public corporation. History shows that it's possible to run a sovcorp as a family business, but it doesn't really demonstrate that it's a good idea.

If I'm right that a shareholder-controlled sovcorp is stable, this would almost certainly have averted the democides of the 20th century. So why didn't it happen?

The answer, unfortunately, is that I don't think it was a realistic possibility.

The problem is that it's one thing to suggest that an informal business be formalized, and another to do it. And it's even harder in a sovcorp. Even if the idea is obvious and available, which in 1815 it clearly was not, there are many cases where it may be simply impossible.

No European monarchy was ever anything like "absolute." The so-called Age of Absolutism is misnamed - as the book behind the link demonstrates elegantly.

First, "absolute" is in any case a pejorative slur. A better word would be coherent. A coherent enterprise can coordinate all of its actions through a single central decision process. (This does not mean that a coherent sovcorp needs to engage in economic central planning.)

Second, coherence was not a quality but an aspiration of the old European monarchies, and a distant aspiration at that. Probably the most coherent 18th-century sovcorp was the Prussia of Frederick the Great, but to call even Prussia absolutely coherent would be stretching the term. The weakness of the French monarchy is adequately demonstrated by the circumstances of its collapse. The same goes, although much later, for the Russians. And so on.

So the monarchies of old Europe were both informal (with no clear equity structure) and incoherent (with no clear management structure). Imagine the task of formalizing an informal, incoherent monarchy. Being a minister at the Bourbon court was not an easy job - especially when you realize that at the time, there was actually no such thing as bourbon. I think if I had Necker's job, I'd want to come home to a nice tall mint julep every night.

In the neocameralist scheme, we can distinguish four clear aspects of sovereign corporate governance. One is revenue: how is the sovcorp's cash flow handled? Another is law: what promises has the sovcorp made to its tenants? A third is power: who controls the administrative apparatus of the sovcorp? A fourth is operations: who works for the sovcorp?

A well-managed sovcorp is a single accounting entity which collects and distributes all revenue centrally, and which treats all payments as formal obligations.

A well-managed sovcorp obeys all its own laws, and binds itself with new laws only when it is satisfied that it will not have to break them. It keeps a public list of these laws, and it does not bind itself to obey any unwritten rules that are not laws.

A well-managed sovcorp is managed by the holders of the equity tranche of its securities, like any normal corporation. These shareholders make the management decisions because they have the highest exposure to risk and reward. (Although it is not utterly ridiculous to give votes to debtholders as well.) The shareholders are precisely defined and publicly listed, their shares are fungible, and voting is by blocks of shares.

A well-managed sovcorp distinguishes between its shareholders and its employees. The latter work at the sovcorp's administrative pleasure and can be dismissed at any time upon notice from the board. Any overlap between employees and creditors is coincidental and irrelevant. The same goes for any overlap between employees and customers.

Needless to say, no sovcorp in history has fit this profile. And France in 1788 was very, very far from it. In fact, it was a morass of venal offices, scheming factions, diverted revenues, etc, etc, etc. The Bourbon regime of 1788 may not have been doomed by the Zeitgeist to destruction, and it may not have been a nightmare of proto-Nazi tyranny. In fact, it wasn't either. But to call it well-managed would be going way, way too far.

When a sovcorp has an informal creditor structure and an incoherent power base, the two tend to overlap and interact in a very ugly way. Factions are constantly scheming for money and power. Some may have more money than power, some more power than money. Historically, telling people to stop scheming is not an effective way to stop them from scheming.

The natural path of development for a malstructured corporation is to become more malstructured. The informal structures of money and power are no less real for their informality. Their complexity tends to increase over time.

The typical mechanism of complexity collapse for a sovcorp is for an incoherent power base to break down into incoherent management, which works at cross purposes to itself. Incoherently managed organizations tend to operate by process rather than initiative, using procedural orders instead of Aufragstaktik or "mission orders." The resulting codes of procedure snowball into a giant mass of red tape, and the organization becomes paralyzed.

If the sovcorp does not have a central balance sheet, its revenues will be diverted not only by its power base, but also by its employees. The result is that employees effectively become creditors. Exactly the same can happen with customers, who will always take anything they are given. The result is that the whole elegant structure of the owner-controlled corporation devolves into a homogeneous, disorganized mass of so-called "stakeholders."

So, even if my contention that the neocameralist sovcorp is stable is correct, it is not the sort of stability that acts as a strong attractor. A slightly malstructured sovcorp will not tend to fix itself. It will tend to become even more malstructured.

This perspective lets us see democracy from a neocameralist perspective.

A modern democracy is nothing more and nothing less than a very malstructured sovcorp. Its basic problems are that its power base - its voters, who are at least in theory the owners of this collective enterprise - is completely deformalized. Voters cannot sell their shares, nor does a share guarantee an equal percentage of government revenue. New shares are constantly being issued to children of citizens and immigrants, a process with no relationship to any sound governance practice. The confusion of customers and shareholders is complete.

As a consequence, the sovcorp develops an incoherent management structure marked by constant factional tensions, overgrowth of process, etc, etc. It also develops an overgrowth of employees, who are thinly disguised shareholders - aka, "jobs for the boys."

Worst of all, this management structure often has very little local incentive to treat the sovcorp's capital properly. Decisions that damage overall capital may generate revenue for a certain subset of shareholders, and not for anyone else.

The danger is especially acute when some shareholders are insecure. Violent conflict over the direction of sovcorp revenues is not at all impossible. Here we start to see the roots of democide. When management is incoherent, sovereignty itself becomes nebulous. Which parts of Washcorp wanted to invade Iraq, and which parts didn't? The question is easy to answer: look at the changes in revenue flow as a result of the decision. While the decision to invade Iraq was a rare example of coherent (if not intelligent) management in Washcorp, it is not difficult to see which agencies supported it and which didn't. They match the prediction.

In other words, we have left the simple world of corporate governance and entered into the hairy world of public choice theory. Neocameralist corporate governance has grave difficulty in explaining why a sovcorp would want to massacre its tenants. Public choice theory is only too glad to oblige.

Finally, when we see a democratic sovcorp as a profoundly mismanaged sovcorp, we start to be able to understand why Universalism is so darned successful.

Once again, Universalism is a mystery cult of power. And when we look at Universalism's mysteries - equality, social justice, peace, and so on, we see something I find very interesting.

We note that all of these mysteries serve as excellent excuses for why an individual should (a) break the law, (b) revise the law, (c) revise the distribution of property, or (d) organize with others to achieve (a), (b), or (c).

In a formalist society, there is one rule of social good behavior: obey the law. In a Universalist society, there is an enormous panoply of political mysteries, all of which can be deployed in the service of power. Since gaining power is always advantageous to the individual who gains it, it is advantageous to just about anyone in a Universalist society to be as Universalist as possible.

The result is that, as in decadent cultures throughout history, the principal occupation of talented and energetic young people is not productive effort. It is scheming for power.

For example, consult this Washington Post article. I'm sure none of the individuals the reporter profiled, and precious few like them, think of themselves as scheming for power. However, they are all so eager to work for NGOs that they have driven salaries down to the bare minimum required to purchase Ramen noodles and happy-hour cocktails.

NGOs have the N in their acronym for one reason: because their general mission is to affect government policy, the beast being too paralyzed in process to make its own decisions. The term "paragovernmental" might be more appropriate. Essentially, these young people are all drones working for the State. They are certainly not producing goods or services.

Why are they so interested in this so-called work? Perhaps it's because their country's productive industries have been paralyzed in red tape to the point of complete Dilbert-Brezhnev Office-Space syndrome. But it may also be because they are paid not just in money but in power - the power to influence policy, to "change the world" - and this power translates to social status. Which, not to be too blunt, gets you laid.

Needless to say, a well-managed sovcorp has a minimal capacity to compensate its employees by paying them with power, not money. This is because it has a coherent decision process, which cannot indefinitely expand the supply of decisions. It also maintains Pareto optimality, so it does not intrude on its customers' private decisions. Someone always has to be CEO, and his or her balls or ovaries will no doubt sink and become plump. But in the neocameralist world, there is a bounded supply of policy, and the bound is small.

The natural endpoint of compensation in power is pure camp-guard sadism. However, before this point is reached, an infinite number of regulations can be written. No doubt they will be.

It gets worse. Because the obvious question is: in a democracy, why do voters put up with this?

After all, at least until the democracy reaches its degenerate terminal state, there are always far more tenants who are not employees of the sovcorp than those who are. Surely the mere tenants can react, and use their democratic rights to keep their sovcorp from metastasizing endlessly in the fashion described above? But for some reason, they don't. Even when they live in a country with a long tradition and an ironclad legal guarantee of "limited government."

A simple answer is that this small problem can be solved with the easy approach of vote-buying. In other words, the democratic masses can be converted not into employees, but into creditors of the sovcorp. Of course, this creditor relationship should be kept informal - otherwise, the creditor may just sell her formal negotiable asset, and her vote will not stay bought. Ideally, the sovcorp should provide the creditor not even with money, but with services, which can be very easily withdrawn if votes are not forthcoming. This makes a mockery of Pareto optimality, but it's great for maintaining continuity of government.

However, the question remains unanswered. Men vote not for bread alone. They also vote with their hearts. And the system of democratic government, as described above, is so utterly loathsome that I can't imagine anyone being persuaded to vote for it.

Also, neohominids have collective social instincts that override their personal interests. Everyone in a modern democracy, while doing his or her little bit to go to the box and support the State, is confident that their fractional management decision is leading the sovcorp in a direction that will enhance peace, freedom and prosperity.

But if you can convince people that democracy is the cure for democide, rather than its cause, you can convince anyone of anything. Historically, democratic voters have made many decisions that they thought would lead to peace, freedom and prosperity, and instead led to war, slavery and poverty. Why should it be otherwise? I don't have a magic oracle of truth in my head. Do you? Does anyone else?

The trouble is that, while war, slavery and poverty are in general bad things, they may well be profitable for some. Especially in small doses. And if you can create a feedback loop by which Universalism causes war, slavery or poverty, but does so in such a way as to reward those who practice and promote Universalism, you have a loop that can continue indefinitely.

Take, for example, the "peace process" in Israel and Palestine. Now 60 years old and counting. How confident are you that this "peace process" is not, in fact, the cause of this similarly unending conflict? It certainly generates a very comfortable living, full of meaning and importance and not a few frequent-flier miles, for all those involved. Why shut it down?

And this, in my opinion, is why we have Universalism. We have Universalism because it is adaptive in a democratic sovcorp. Similarly, Universalism (and its ancestors) create democracy, in much the same way that they create "peace processes." The whole thing is an artifact of sovereign corporate governance gone horribly awry.

In short, the adaptive function of Universalism is to glorify and expand the modern democratic sovcorp. Of course, it has no purpose in any moral or metaphysical sense. It just exists.

Universalism is the latest, greatest incarnation of Bertrand de Jouvenel's Minotaur. It can also be seen as a perfectly distributed conspiracy, a la H.G. Wells, with no central structure at all. And finally, it provides a complete explanation of Robert Conquest's three laws of politics:
  1. Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.
  2. Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.
  3. The simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies.
In short, the thing is a menace. It's probably too late for Professor Dawkins. But perhaps it's not too late for the rest of us.

47 Comments:

Blogger Aaron Davies said...

Wonderful stuff as usual. Two questions, one specific to this post, one more general:

First, if neocameralism is an unstable equilibrium, how do you propose to sustain such a state, given that you've managed to bring it into being?

Second, what do you think of the Baroque Cycle? It occurs to me that from a reservationist point of view, it's something of a Universalist Quo Vadis.

November 8, 2007 at 8:08 AM  
Anonymous Thibodeaux said...

"In the 21st century, there's no reason every rifle - even every bullet - can't have [cryptographic weapon locks]"

Except that rifles and "bullets" (presumably you mean "cartridges," as bullets are simply lumps of metal) are not 21st century technology. They are mid-19th century technology and can be fabricated from scrap metal by prisoners.

You might as well say there's no reason every brick can't have a weapon lock.

November 8, 2007 at 10:29 AM  
Anonymous Moorlock said...

Let's see... have there been any recent examples of nations being run as businesses by monarchs with few fillips to Universalist falderol?

November 8, 2007 at 10:29 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

To Moorlock's question - there is a more recent (and much more decent) example than the Congo of a nation being run as a business by a monarch. Liechtenstein fills the bill. In fact, the reigning prince, Hans-Adam II, won a referendum just a few years ago that essentially enabled him to rule as an absolute monarch, with the ability to dismiss his ministers at will.

November 8, 2007 at 10:56 AM  
Blogger Byrne Hobart said...

A well-managed sovcorp is managed by the holders of the equity tranche of its securities, like any normal corporation. These shareholders make the management decisions because they have the highest exposure to risk and reward. (Although it is not utterly ridiculous to give votes to debtholders as well.) The shareholders are precisely defined and publicly listed, their shares are fungible, and voting is by blocks of shares.

That doesn't really make sense. It used to work that way, because a sole proprietorship is 100% owned by the founder, and people prefer to issue debt rather than equity. But it's a historical accident that equity has voting rights and debt doesn't -- and it leads to perverse incentives, because with a leveraged enough capital structure, equity is a high-strike American call and debt is a pair of European calls (a long position in a low-strike call (representing the possible repayments) and a short position in a higher-strike call (representing the cap for those repayments), which means that equity benefits from, and debt suffers from, higher volatility.

Instead, a sensible structure would give votes to stakeholders with the highest cost of leaving, or to the highest bidder.

November 8, 2007 at 11:22 AM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

Another reason for cryptographic weapons locks not to be effective is the same that prevents DRM from ever being implemented properly: incentive incompatibility.

One of the dirty little secrets of our world is that PAL codes on nukes tend to be set to 000000000000.

November 8, 2007 at 11:45 AM  
Blogger Max said...

As expected, a jolly good essay! I was enlightened further by following your orgy of links, but alas you have a broken one: the Washington Post article is a 404.

November 8, 2007 at 12:01 PM  
Blogger Black Sea said...

Nicely done. In the words of Gaff, from Blade Runner, a film denigrated by some, but not by me:
"You've done a man's job, sir."

Let me share an embarrassing, but I hope revealing anecdote. Not being particularly a student of history, I'd not given much thought to the frame of mind, the worldview, which once legitimized and rationalized such now- ridiculed principles as primogeniture and the Divine Right of Kings. To the extent that I ever thought about them, which was little, I wondered, as one is instructed from childhood to do, how it was that pre-Enlightenment Europeans could have been so deluded as to swallow - and what's worse, to establish a system of governance based upon - such nonsense.

Here's the embarassing part.

I one day happened to be reading something or other, in which the author pointed out that these "beliefs" were simply cultural conventions that usually averted what would otherwise have been the nasty, fratricidal bloodletting that would have inevitably begun once the Warlord-in-Chief (a.k.a the Divinely-Ordained King) had died or faded into senescence.

And then, as they say, the scales fell from my eyes. Though I felt more than a little chagrined for having failed to realize this on my own.

These principles were, to use your term, simply adaptive fictions, about which the unwashed masses were of course often skeptical, and in which, quite probably, most courtiers, lords, and princes believed much as we might today believe in Manifest Destiny.
In other words, while we might or might not REALLY believe in it, we would trumpet it when it suited our purposes, and once the term had fallen out of fashion, we might call it something different (like "Freedom Agenda") and trot it out once more.

The ramshackle set of polite conventions known as the Divine Right of Kings held together, to the extent that it did, simply because the consequences of not pretending to believe might lead to a social order of the sort found in post-Soviet, pre-Taliban Afghanistan, andthis prospect gave even 12th Century peasants, courtiers, princes and lords, pause for thought.

Today we have democracy, our contemporary equivalent. Precarious, fallible, and constructed on pillars of ignorance, envy, and hypocrisy as it undoubtedly is, it serves the very same, very necessary function of legitimizing transfers of power which would otherwise be revealed for the nasty little turf fights and gang wars that they really are. And just like our medieval equivalents, we can cast a dubious eye upon democracy, while still trembling at the "deluge" of its alternatives. Which, as you so rightly point out, we are very much instructed to do. (I mean to tremble at or contemptously dismiss its alternatives. We are not often encouraged to cast a dubious eye upon democracy.)

In a democracy, no matter how much you may hate what your government is doing, you are always, ever so slightly, implicated in its inadequacies, its failures, its deceptions and its misdeeds. After all - and you will be reminded - you "chose" it.

Of course, part of the trick here is linguistic, that is, to persuade you (the citizen) that "you" in the singular is somehow subordinate to, or interchangable with, "you" in the the plural.

Does this explain why we've never in English, and unlike so many other languages, adopted two standardly-accepted variants of the word "you" simply to differentiate between the singular and the plural. To do so would be both simple and logical, after all.

Perhaps it's all to do with the status of English as the language of democracy.

November 8, 2007 at 12:07 PM  
Anonymous randy said...

Re; "From a practical political perspective, the problem faced by all democracies is the same. The regime's survival is dependent on its popularity."

True, but in our heavily populated world, you could replace "democracies" with "governments" and the statement would still be true. So it seems to me that Formalism can only exist if the wildly popular belief in demotism is undermined or suppressed. I don't see that happening - except perhaps in the aftermath of precisely the calamity we wish to avoid.

November 8, 2007 at 12:36 PM  
Blogger Studd Beefpile said...

You clain that the Stalinist USSR, the later USSR, Imperial Germany, modern America, and 19th century America are all equally democracies because they all claimed to be carrying out the will of the people and had to manage public opinion, but this makes no sense. All governments everywhere have to manage public opinion because no government ever has enough soldiers to enforce everyone of its edicts. Given their ever increasing expenditures on bread and circuses, I find it difficult to accept that the Princeps was uninterested in the opinions of the mob and an even harder time seeing Stalin worrying over opinion polls. It seems more likely that governments worry about opinion in correlation with how likely it is they will be overthrown, not in correlation with any particular ideology.

Second, you claim that it is foolish to associate despotism with mass murder becuase of the great number of murderous democrats, but your association of murderous states and the 20th century is equally false. Killing people and taking their stuff has traditionally been the state's most profitable business. Again, the Triumvers were quite fond of executing their enemies and appropriating their property, and it was usually popular with the Mob. You cite the Albigensian crusade as a breakdown in discipline, but it is hard to argue that the whole enterprise wasn't motivated by the desire of northern nobles (particularly the king) to extend their domains. Plunder only stopped being a significant part of a soldier's pay with the rise of professional armies in the 18th century.

I would argue what has changed is the size and reach of the state. In a small state with a small population, the gains from plundering your fellow citizens are much smaller than in a large state and the consequences more observable. Again, look at Rome. When it was small popular politics consisted of conquering neighbors. The bigger it got, the more inward the plundering turned. When Europeans and Americans could expand outward easily, they did. Redistributive politics begin to rise in America exactly when the frontier began to close (the last land run was in 1895). Technology is also important. Hacking people to death with swords is hard work, shooting them is easy. Gassing them is even easier. Eichman was able to kill millions becuase industrial society gave him means (and supported large, dense populations) efficient enough to do so.

The violence of the state in the 20th century is not some new and interesting phenomenon, it is simpky traditional behavior writ large.

November 8, 2007 at 12:58 PM  
Blogger Conrad H. Roth said...

"No 13th-century Frenchman would have labeled himself as "a Catholic." He did not call himself anything, any more than Sam Harris."

Quite untrue. See here.

November 8, 2007 at 1:02 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

On the subject of cryptographic weapon locks - like all of the other supposed high-tech gadgetry that has been proposed to assure that firearms won't be misused - the main problem is that retrofitting all the existing firearms that don't have such things has to be on a par with restoring the contents of Pandora's box to their confinement. How many millions of Kalashnikovs, and how many billions of rounds of 7.62X39mm cartridges, must there be in the world? And they keep well!

Not only are breechloading firearms mid-19th century technology, there are many mid-19th century firearms that are still mechanically functional and in proof. I own a number of them, including a pair of Hollands and a pair of Woodwards. Anyone who wants to force me to adapt them to some sort of cryptographic device may find himself facing their business ends.

November 8, 2007 at 1:30 PM  
Blogger Byrne Hobart said...

Michael S

I assume the enforcement of gun locks would take the form of sanctions against non-lockers. There's almost certainly a Coasian solution to this, since we'd probably be better off collectively given fewer un-locked guns per individual

November 8, 2007 at 1:34 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

"... the administrative relevance of elected officials in the Western democracies is steadily decreasing."

An apparent counterexample is the ability of the US president to give important positions, such as head of FEMA, to cronies.

You might argue that Bush is not his own man, and I would be inclined to agree. But I find it hard to imagine that things would have gone the same if Bush/Cheney had not won the Republican nomination - not to mention the difference if the Democrats had won.

November 8, 2007 at 1:53 PM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

MM, you continue to neglect the Globalist half of Universalism. You write wonderful paragraphs full of historic vignettes, and yet never account for the money that makes the world go 'round. Without funds to propel them a collection of false and destructive ideas like Universalism would go nowhere.

The extreme atheism you describe is called nihilism. A rational man need not fear faith. Gödel, for example, showed that mathematics is not just formalism, it requires intuition. A mathematician of pure reason is incomplete. Likewise any man.

You continue to root Universalism in Christianity, and your arguments grow increasingly lame. The word catholic for example. Previously you cited Calvinism, or crypto-calvinism. Your claim that Dawkinsian atheism is "linked" to Christianity is tautological. If you can link such opposites, such antagonists, then virtually everything is linked to Christianity, thus Christianity can be blamed for everything. Dawkins is a Universalist thus Christianity is to blame for Universalism. QED.

In previous "links" of this sort you emphasized the "non-theistic" aspects, but continued to smear Christianity by using the naked word. Now you see the non-theism as "denial". Even Universalist atheism is nothing but crypto-Christianity!

Ahem. Christianity is not like Judaism. A non-theistic Christian is a walking oxymoron, an atheist Jew a commonplace. More on this point below.

There are at least two words more holy to Universalism than democracy. They are equality and economy. The former is their main cover, from which springs their calls for democracy and for redistribution. All of it is false. They want the masses to believe these things but they themselves do not. Concerning economy however they are deadly serious. Hardly a nightly newcast goes by when the good Universalist mouthpieces inform the masses of the state of the Holy Global Economy. The MSM literally marinates us in our marching orders. "Thou shall support mass immigration for the good of the economy." The worship of Mammon is not a Christian franchise, though I'm sure you could "link" it to Christianity. Hmmm. Can anyone think of a small and exclusive group whose faith in God may have waned but whose lust for Mammon remains legendary?

It is useful to keep in mind the difference between the Universalists at the top, the "ruling caste" you have called them, versus the Universalist-influenced masses. The masses certainly do jump like little puppets, but with pained expressions on many of their faces. They know, at a certain level, they say and do what they do not believe or want.

I'm not sure why you avoid the Globalist half of Universalism and its Holy Global Economy. Perhaps your heritage gives you pause to follow a path that inevitably will require you to speak the dreaded J-word. But you seem a mature and even-handed enough intellect to face the facts without transforming into a Nazi. Even though that's what some will call you the second you broach the subject. I certainly have not become one, I simply refuse to remain silent about what is so clearly not spoken about only because to do so would be to violate PC, ie. the Universalist code of conduct.

The implication of Christianity, on the other hand, evokes hardly any response. No ridicule. No venom. This contrast, as I mentioned in the previous thread, might serve as yet another hint as to whether Universalism is more fairly described as a sect of Christianity (as you have), or an outgrowth of Zionism.

November 8, 2007 at 2:23 PM  
Blogger George Weinberg said...

Does this explain why we've never in English, and unlike so many other languages, adopted two standardly-accepted variants of the word "you" simply to differentiate between the singular and the plural.
"You" used to be plural.Albion's Seed refers to the southern "y'all" as a redundancy, although I think it just reflects the fact that they liked to keep the distinction and "you" has effectively become singular.

Personally, I'd like to see a less ambiguous "we".

November 8, 2007 at 2:26 PM  
Blogger George Weinberg said...

No doubt everyone has beliefs which the future will prove to be false, but in some cases one clearly ought to know better. The more hostile atheists seem to be under the impression that theists believe all sorts of fucked up things because the Bible says so, but I'd doubt that's true in any practical sense. Most young earth creationists probably wouldn't benefit in any tangible way from an understanding of evolution, for example.

More to the point, theists are much more likely to search the scriptures for quotes to justify norms they've gotten from who knows where than to actually try to use scriptures to answer questions about right and wrong. As I mentioned before, if it wasn't obvious before Prohibition that Christian politics have nothing to do with the Bible, it certainly should have been after.

November 8, 2007 at 3:24 PM  
Blogger Black Sea said...

Well, as a Southerner, I'm all for the elevation of "y'all" into the standard lexicon. However, I suspect that my fellow countrymen, particularly those that decide such matters, may have certain objections.

November 8, 2007 at 5:22 PM  
Anonymous tggp said...

No 13th-century Frenchman would have labeled himself as "a Catholic." He did not call himself anything, any more than Sam Harris. His beliefs were universal - that's what catholic means.
There was a time when the majority of Christians were Arian, as opposed to Catholic. That happened as early as the 4th century. Monophysitism and Nestorianism popped up as other prominent heresies in the 5th century, which still have adherents today. The Oriental Orthodox diverged in the 6th century and the Great Schism is usually dated to the 11th. At the same time, Christians were also aware of Jews and Muslims, so they did not literally believe their faith to be universal.

But even the term atheist defines a belief system as an absence of creed - and thus of credulity. (If you're an atheist, as I am.) Thus it is essentially the same sort of evasion. The atheist label serves as a token of agreement between Professor Dawkins and his burgeoning legion of followers that the only pattern which describes their collective beliefs is that they have escaped from - or at least failed to succumb to - one particular barbaric, medieval superstition. While this may be correct, it's hardly modest.
It means they are not theists. They don't believe in God. They do not use the term to indicate Universalism, that's what "secular humanism" is for. There are even many who argue that one can be an atheist and a Hindu or Buddhist at the same time.

Imagine if I tried the same with Nazism. I could march around in a brown leather uniform all day, waving a swastika banner and condemning the filthy Zionist-Bolshevik hordes. When questioned by the usual voices of decency, I could respond that:

* I'm not a Nazi. In fact, I oppose Nazism. So I'm not a Nazi.
* I'm half-Jewish. The Nazis would never have me. So I'm not a Nazi.
* Nazis believe in the leadership of Adolf Hitler. I don't. So I'm not a Nazi.
* My inverted swastika is actually a Hindu fertility symbol. So I'm not a Nazi.

I always knew you were really a Nazi, moldy.

The fundamental problem of modern history is to understand the great massacres of the 20th century.
Wrong. According to Greg Clarck, there has only been one significant event in recorded history: the Industrial Revolution.

I've expressed this before, but let me state it more bluntly: the cause of democide is democracy.
Your explanation is a stretch, just like that of your Universalist opponents.

From the reservationist perspective, democracy is obviously the cause of democide - because the Age of Democracy is also the Age of Democide.
Haven't you ever heard of the distinction between correlation and causation? Or ex post hoc ergo propter hoc? You haven't even established those insufficient conditions!

which is easy to explain
Lots of things can be explained away by one dedicated to do so. Explaining your beliefs to a fallible human is not a substitute for having accurate beliefs.

whose memory also has suspicious links to the anticlerical Black Legend.
Ooh, suspicious links, lets discard that uncomfortable evidence. And we'd better ignore Africa Addio and Carlyle because they're racist. Then we'd better ignore the writings of privileged European aristocrats only interested in creating a legitimizing ideology. Weak, weak, weak.

Possibly some nasty things also happened in the Thirty Years War.
Understatement of the fucking year. It can be considered a genocide of the German people on the part of the French.

Furthermore, before our great Age of Democracy, it was widely assumed that progress would simply continue and civilization would only get more civilized.
Isn't that in accordance with Demonic Males, War Before Civilization and so on? I discuss how things have gotten more civilized in Hey, just why am I not a Hobbesian? It's not just Pinker saying this, Greg Clark has demographic data from England showing how high the risk of death from homicide was before civilized bourgeois genes won out.

My guess is that we have the decline of political democracy, and the rise of bureaucratic democracy, to thank for this.
Your patches are as transparent as that of the Universalists. The modern United States is surely more democratic than the Soviet Union, communist China or Nazi Germany were, yet you ascribe the violence of the latter to democracy they didn't have and the peace and prosperity of the former to the lack of what it actually does have. Simply laughable.

Calling Wilhelmine Germany in some way autocratic because Germans did not elect the Kaiser makes no more sense than calling the US autocratic because Americans do not elect the Supreme Court, or Europeans the European Commission.
The neolibertarians at Samizdata really annoy me on that issue, among others. I still think it's indisputable that the Central Powers were less democratic than the Allies, and among them Russia was less democratic than the Western nations.

n jingoism we see the Concert of Europe's last gasp for political oxygen. Reactionary aristocrats toward the end of the Belle Époque found that jingoist nationalism was their only way to compete for public favor with the socialists, whose program of plunder had obvious democratic appeal.
It's not the fault of the underclass that they commit all those crimes. They're oppressed, discriminated against, deprived, society's to blame. Those poor Old Regime fellows couldn't help their behavior either.

If we are looking for an objective definition of democracy rather than a moralistic one, there's no way we can stick with the Western distinction between representative democracy and the more malignant 20th-century forms, people's democracy and folkish democracy.
I disagree. One party states are quite different from two or multi-party states. Perhaps an initial stage of democracy in a very illiberal country will result in a one-party state, but afterward it's not a democracy. One man, one vote, one time.

divine-right (as opposed to propertarian) monarchy - which is perhaps best seen as a sort of proto-democracy.
The democratic classical civilizations preceded the divine right era of the middle ages, so proto seems the wrong term. The Stooges were proto-punk because punk wouldn't be created until later.

Frankly, if there is a major categorical distinction here, I just ain't seeing it.
How about the transition of power from one coalition to another without the collapse of the state? Seems an important distinction to me.

Certainly all modern democracies have delegated most important tasks to apolitical bureaucrats.
Can these bureaucracies declare war? Can they set the tax rate? Can they nationalize? They are even limited in their spending to what the legislature and executive will give them. What is it of importance that they actually do?

The EU, for example, has little more in the way of electoral politics than the Soviet Union, but it is a much nicer place to live.
The EU does not have as much influence over its member states as the Soviet Union did over its. When politicians started running on the platform of moving more in the direction of the EU it dissolved. Bruce Bueno de Mesquita explains here.

I suspect the main difference is just that the former is in Western Europe and the latter was brought to us by Russia, a great and beautiful country, but never one noted for its appreciation of personal independence.
I will grant you that point.

So a good way to see which faction holds real power in a democratic state is to look at which can get its people into influential roles in education and/or journalism.
I know that most rank and file journalists identify as Democrats, but I've heard that most newspaper owners are Republicans. Does anyone have data on this?

You will find people who don't smoke and get lung cancer. And you may find non-democratic states which go off the rails and engage in mass murder. But generally, wherever you find the effect, it's not hard to guess the cause. Smoking obviously causes lung cancer, and democracy obviously causes democide. Duh.
The connection between smoking and lung cancer actually required some scientific backing with statistics and other such evidence based things that you hate. You have not established that democracy is responsible for democide, especially considering how rare democracy was throughout history and how common democide was at the same time.

And why does the intensity of Universalism seem to be growing?
I would actually like some sort of index to measure it. I have the same problem with people who tell me "religious zealotry" is growing in the United States.

Whatever the details of the lifecycle, it seems pretty clear that one of these beasties is the chicken and the other one is the egg.
No it isn't, they could both be eggs of an as-yet unidentified chicken. Correlation versus causation, not that you've rigorously established the former.

My belief is that, except for the minor matter of taxation, which will go to the Laffer maximum and stay there, a neocameralist sovcorp's interests are perfectly aligned with the interests of its tenants. Specifically, a profitable, efficiently-run sovcorp - even in the degenerate and undesirable case of a single global monopoly - will operate a libertarian government which maintains Pareto optimality. My reasoning is that any Pareto inefficiency represents an uncaptured tax, which affects the Laffer curve but generates zero revenue. Basically, the territory and residents of a sovcorp are its capital, and a well-run corporation, sovereign or otherwise, treats its capital the way the way Mother Teresa holds a baby bird.
Sounds to me like you are imagining something aesthetically pleasing to your sensibilities and then explaining how it results from a value-free process. That leads to error.

So we can imagine a coherent alternate history in which the States of the Concert of Europe converted themselves into neocameralist sovcorps, by formalizing their revenues, dividing them into shares, and ceding management to the shareholders.
We can imagine all sorts of crazy things, Universalists do it all the time.

No European monarchy was ever anything like "absolute."
But aren't there relative degrees to which a monarchy may be absolute? Can't we compare what happened in the more absolute monarchies compared to the less absolute ones?

Probably the most coherent 18th-century sovcorp was the Prussia of Frederick the Great, but to call even Prussia absolutely coherent would be stretching the term.
So was it a preferable place to live in than England or the Austro-Hungarian Empire?

Incoherently managed organizations tend to operate by process rather than initiative, using procedural orders instead of Aufragstaktik or "mission orders." The resulting codes of procedure snowball into a giant mass of red tape, and the organization becomes paralyzed.
I haven't read it but I believe this is just what James Q. Wilson discusses in Bureaucracy.

A modern democracy is nothing more and nothing less than a very malstructured sovcorp.
Moreso than 18th century France?

In a formalist society, there is one rule of social good behavior: obey the law.
Where do formalists stand on Legal Realism and Natural Law?

For example, consult this Washington Post article.
I would if the link worked.

They are certainly not producing goods or services.
Where do they get their funding from?

It gets worse. Because the obvious question is: in a democracy, why do voters put up with this?
Bryan Caplan gives the obvious answer: the voters are idiots and bad policies are popular.

After all, at least until the democracy reaches its degenerate terminal state, there are always far more tenants who are not employees of the sovcorp than those who are.
We've passed that point in a certain sense according to this. I believe Sweden has been well past it for quite some time.

A simple answer is that this small problem can be solved with the easy approach of vote-buying.
Give up the self-interested rational voter hypothesis.

And the system of democratic government, as described above, is so utterly loathsome that I can't imagine anyone being persuaded to vote for it.
There is something wrong with your imagination. Arguments from ignorance or incredulity are weak.

Everyone in a modern democracy, while doing his or her little bit to go to the box and support the State, is confident that their fractional management decision is leading the sovcorp in a direction that will enhance peace, freedom and prosperity.
Most people don't vote and confidence in government isn't all that high.

The trouble is that, while war, slavery and poverty are in general bad things, they may well be profitable for some.
Or the trouble is that voters are stupid and choose policies that don't result in benefits. Democracy would actually be more functional if people were selfish.

Take, for example, the "peace process" in Israel and Palestine.
Why do you still use that example? Your idea that Palestine is the "pearl of the blue empire" was already demolished and I told you about it. Is anything getting through your skull?

Moorlock, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita has a good explanation of why Leopold was so good to Belgium and so bad to the Congo here.

A non-theistic Christian is a walking oxymoron, an atheist Jew a commonplace.
Many people have claimed to be atheist Catholics. They have even become archbishops.

The MSM literally marinates us in our marching orders.
GOD FUCKING DAMN IT STOP FUCKING SAYING "LITERALLY" WHEN YOU FUCKING MEAN NOT FUCKING LITERALLY AT ALL! GRAH THAT PISSES ME OFF!

The worship of Mammon is not a Christian franchise
We're heading into No True Scotsman territory here. Read this.

This contrast, as I mentioned in the previous thread, might serve as yet another hint as to whether Universalism is more fairly described as a sect of Christianity (as you have), or an outgrowth of Zionism.
Zionism really post-dates the Dreyfus affair, and the roots of Universalism go at least as far back as the French Revolution, which itself pre-dates jewish emancipation. It's not complicated why we don't attribute Universalism to the jews, and I say that without a drop of jewish ancestry as far as I know.

November 8, 2007 at 8:07 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

Others have made a variety of objections to which I must agree (Esp tggp's point about correlation not proving causation and your failure to show even the former), but I had to jump on this passage:

NGOs... The term "paragovernmental" might be more appropriate. Essentially, these young people are all drones working for the State. They are certainly not producing goods or services.
"paragovernmental" is a good word, but your logic in the last two sentences is faulty. There are many other options besides "working for the State" and "producing goods and services", and working at an NGO is one of them.

Why are they so interested in this so-called work?...But it may also be because they are paid not just in money but in power - the power to influence policy, to "change the world" - and this power translates to social status. Which, not to be too blunt, gets you laid.
No doubt true, but not a very interesting point. Everyone is out to get laid, and everyone is out for power in some form or another.

Needless to say, a well-managed sovcorp has a minimal capacity to compensate its employees by paying them with power, not money.
Has their ever been a corporation, sovereign or otherwise, that did not include a hierarchy of power? In the sovcorp, will people not be jockeying to ascend the management ladder and become regional vice-president in charge of drainage, or whatever? If not, why? Why is the sovcorp different from all other known large-scale organizations?

The natural endpoint of compensation in power is pure camp-guard sadism.
Yes, there is a clear path from writing white papers on energy policy to working at Dachau.

How monumentally silly.

November 8, 2007 at 9:38 PM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

tggp: Zionism really post-dates the Dreyfus affair, and the roots of Universalism go at least as far back as the French Revolution, which itself pre-dates jewish emancipation. It's not complicated why we don't attribute Universalism to the jews, and I say that without a drop of jewish ancestry as far as I know.

You quibble over labels. The sentiment of Zionism far predates Dreyfus. It certainly isn't any less valid to associate with Universalism than Christianity is. The Globalist neocons, for example, are Zionists. Even many Progressives are strong supporters of Israel. That some aren't does not contradict the view of Universalism as an alliance or overlap between Progressivism and Globalism.

Winston Churchill's view in 1920 traced the dealings of those he called "International Jews" back to the French Revolution. You may want to read what he said.

No it isn't complicated why some wouldn't associate Universalism with Jews. Jews immediately associate any criticism with gas chambers. Non-Jews are for the most part governed by PC. Both will avoid it. I was hoping here among such sparkling intellects we could discuss it like big boys, and especially since MM seems convinced that some other religion, Christianity, plays such an important role.

To ruminate on the structure and history of power in our world and not mention nor account for Jewish power is about as ridiculous as painting pictures of roses and never using the color red. Then when someone asks about it, you say "oh, I don't see any red roses".

It reminds me very much of when I talk about the costs of immigration and someone says, "what costs, everything is wonderful". Ignorance, denial, whatever it is, it doesn't address my points. As you yourself said, "Arguments from ignorance or incredulity are weak."

November 8, 2007 at 11:08 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

I concur with George about "we".

Also, I think that in our linguistic pursuit we may stumble upon something fundamental. In every language that I know, "we" means two very different things:
1) me and you (singular) and, perhaps, others.
2) me and others but definitely not you (either singular or plural).

The two meanings are very distinct, yet no language that I know of makes this distinction explicit (if anyone knows such a language, please let it be known). It begs the question: why?

November 9, 2007 at 1:35 AM  
Blogger George Weinberg said...

Or the trouble is that voters are stupid and choose policies that don't result in benefits.

Stupidity, though, is never a fully satisfactory explanation for anything. It may be the only answer one can get as to why a particular individual makes a particular random error, but when large numbers of people have the same sorts of wrongheaded beliefs, there must be something more. Someone or something is directly or indirectly persuading people.

November 9, 2007 at 10:08 AM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

Perhaps a fan of Mises here will comment on the $9T in US public debt and how that might be harmonized with MM's view of nations as sovereign corporations.

Who are we* borrowing from? Do we ever plan to retire that debt? To what extent do the desires of the creditors undermine WashCorp's claim to sovereignty?

*We the People

November 9, 2007 at 11:55 AM  
Blogger George Weinberg said...

But it's a historical accident that equity has voting rights and debt doesn't

No it isn't, there's a very good reason for it. Equity holders always have an interest in the company's profits, but debt holders don't except when there's a danger the company will be unable to pay its debts. And this is very rare, since unless it's pretty clear they can pay they won't be able to get loans in the first place.

November 9, 2007 at 3:25 PM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

Hmmm. Does Universalism have anything to do with the housing bubble? People so rarely default on their mortgage, I wonder how those wily crypto-calvinists arranged to create such a stampede.

Then again if Universalism has nothing to do with Globalism, nothing to do with the Holy Global Economy, and nothing to do with the importation of "cheap" foreign labor for the construction of houses it turns out we didn't need - well then I guess there's no connection at all. Problem solved.

Years ago Ben Wattenberg dismissed those silly "Anglos" who could see the US becoming a Third World nation. He called it instead the world's first Universal Nation. His name for it sounded so much better. Does he know his ideas have nothing to do with Universalism?

November 9, 2007 at 4:06 PM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

I just ran into a two part essay Auster wrote about Universalism almost three years ago. He doesn't use the U-word, but his title would seem to blame the usual suspects: How Liberal Christianity Promotes Open Borders and One-Worldism.

Several times he undermines the apparent meaning of this title. He cites, for example, Wattenberg's Universal Nation. A better example is:

The idea that there is some unlimited right of foreigners to immigrate into a country is not in Christianity. "Unconditional love"—particularly unconditional love for all foreigners—is strictly a New Age concept.

I think I understand now what's going on. It goes something like this:

This Universalism thing is happening. Can't deny it. OK. Christianity is to blame. Anybody is safe to say this because it is perfectly PC to pick apart Christianity. Besides, there are also sure to be plenty of Christians involved. The pope says blah. Christians believe blorp. But there are contradictions. Many of the beliefs and goals being attributed to Christians are alien to them. Then there's the destructive effect Universalism is having on the very Christians we're blaming it on. Whoops. Let's just say they're stupid or dishonest. By PC we can always say things like that about Christians.

Specifically Auster's out is to say these Christian Universalists are misguided by un-Christian "liberal" "New Age" principles. MM's out is to say it's "un-theistic" or "crypto" Christianity, or (in this essay) the Christians are so in "denial" they even pose as atheists.

It seems to me a more honest out is to not set aside red when you paint roses.

November 9, 2007 at 5:38 PM  
Anonymous tggp said...

You quibble over labels.
"How uncultivated you are, Yu! A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve. If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success. When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot. Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect."

The sentiment of Zionism far predates Dreyfus.
It doesn't matter if a sentiment existed, the Zionist movement started with Herzl. The emancipation of Jews that made possible Zionism is in large part attributable to Napoleon. Jews did not have the capability of bringing about things such as the French Revolution before, which is why it was instead blamed on Freemasons (before them it was supposed to be Jesuits who were behind everything).

It certainly isn't any less valid to associate with Universalism than Christianity is.
None of us ever claimed it wasn't associated, Moldbug already claimed that Reform Judaism is thoroughly Brahminized and Universalist. He also notes that High Church christians in the past and Revelationists now are the opponents of Universalism. When you're done with that strawman, come back and we can have a discussion.

The Globalist neocons, for example, are Zionists. Even many Progressives are strong supporters of Israel.
The current politics regarding the State of Israel grant very little insight into the origins of Universalism, which as I mentioned, pre-date jewish emancipation.

Winston Churchill's view in 1920 traced the dealings of those he called "International Jews" back to the French Revolution. You may want to read what he said.
I have read it and discussed it at my own site and Robert Lindsay's. Note that Churchill discusses Zionism as being IN OPPOSITION to jewish internationalism in the form of Bolshevism. Your link is pretty crappy and cuts off large portions of the article. A better version is here. I don't know who is referring to as "Mrs. Webster" there though. Even granting the FR, you'd still have the issue of the Ranters, Levellers, Diggers, Fifth Monarchists and so on that MM has discussed in an England that was bereft of jews until Cromwell let them back in. We also had the U.S Civil War in which jews (who were admittedly lot more likely to be Sephardic rather than Ashkenazi back then) generally backed the very anti-Universalist Confederates, resulting in Ulysses S. Grant issuing General Order #11. Even now the most thoroughly Universalist part of the world is where Hitler was able to decimate the jewish population.

No it isn't complicated why some wouldn't associate Universalism with Jews. Jews immediately associate any criticism with gas chambers. Non-Jews are for the most part governed by PC.
You're going to have a hard case accusing MM of being PC. He's already in effect said that minorities serve as the Stasi of the Polygon. I'm friends with someone most would consider an awful Holocaust denier and an admirer of Henry Ford's anti-jewish writings. I've defended Charles Lindbergh for his claim that jews were pushing us into a horrible and unnecessary war and for accepting medals from Nazis and refusing to return them. Of course none of that sets off your alarm bells, but if someone says anything that might malign Christianity you go off, just like that guy who couldn't take it when I said "Polack", the fucking pussy. Even though I'm not Christian anymore I've defended it in my writings against atheists who try to make it look awful in comparison to their beliefs. That's because I can handle people pointing out the shortcomings of the adherents of beliefs I hold and the upside of adherents of beliefs I don't. In short, I'm interested in the truth but I don't think you are, and until then maybe you shouldn't be playing with the big boys.

MM seems convinced that some other religion, Christianity, plays such an important role.
Considering that a far larger portion of both the general population and Universalists are Christian, how important Christian movements were in the beginnings of Universalism when jews were hicks living in shtetls, how non-Universalist the least Westernized jews (Hasidics, Mizrahi) are, it makes sense. I'm not trying to exempt Jews from the Universalist brush, but it seems like you're trying to do that to Christianity, which just isn't going to fly here.

Ignorance, denial, whatever it is, it doesn't address my points. As you yourself said, "Arguments from ignorance or incredulity are weak."
I didn't use arguments from ignorance or incredulity, I did it with the common-sense notion of causality that an effect must occur after its cause, Universalism precedes jewish influence and infests jew-free places (like many oriental countries, if we consider communism a variety of Universalism). Typical of your arguments is repeating the claim that Universalists worship "The Holy Economy" without giving a single quote or link in support.

Stupidity, though, is never a fully satisfactory explanation for anything.
Sure it is. Why should I even expect people to have sensible beliefs in areas where they get no benefit from having them?

It may be the only answer one can get as to why a particular individual makes a particular random error, but when large numbers of people have the same sorts of wrongheaded beliefs, there must be something more.
Now you're bringing up the disctinction between ignorance and irrationality, which I meant to include under "stupidity". Bryan Caplan has discusses that fairly thoroughly.

Someone or something is directly or indirectly persuading people.
You are making an assumption that people don't normally believe idiotic things but that some nefarious force must trick them. People want to be tricked because they cherish their false beliefs. Fox News watchers and supporters of Bush believed wacky claims about Saddam's connections to al Qaeda or WMDs being found that FN and GWB never even made, because that's what they wanted to believe. The reason "democracy" is so popular is because of The People's Romance that holds that they can't be wrong and shouldn't be held accountable for their mistakes. Even Murray Rothbard and Ron Paul are vulnerable to it. Of course, telling people that they're stupid and it's their fault is not going to be a popular tactic.

Perhaps a fan of Mises here will comment on the $9T in US public debt and how that might be harmonized with MM's view of nations as sovereign corporations.
Lots of corporations have debt, but most have a plan to get rid of it. As MM has noted, democratic states are especially dysfunctional corporations.

Who are we* borrowing from?
It doesn't really matter.

Do we ever plan to retire that debt?
Governments do sometimes just repudiate their debt, and if that happens to us then we'll have left China holding the bag and have a bunch of laughs at their expense.

Hmmm. Does Universalism have anything to do with the housing bubble?
Yes, as Steve Sailer has written about.

I wonder how those wily crypto-calvinists arranged to create such a stampede.
I don't attribute to intentional malice what I can to ignorance, given how pervasive the latter is.

nothing to do with the Holy Global Economy
Give one quote or link to support the connection.

nothing to do with the importation of "cheap" foreign labor for the construction of houses it turns out we didn't need
I think the mortgage aspect is a more important area to look at. Federal Reserve policy is an obvious source. I'm also curious why there are scare quotes around "cheap". Are you referring to the social costs or externalities of this labor or denying that it is actually cheap in the normal sense of the term?

This Universalism thing is happening. Can't deny it. OK. Christianity is to blame. Anybody is safe to say this because it is perfectly PC to pick apart Christianity.
If you think Lawrence Auster is bound by PC to attack Christianity, I'd like to know what you're smoking so it can be eradicated for the good of humanity.

Besides, there are also sure to be plenty of Christians involved. The pope says blah. Christians believe blorp.
Sounds important to me.

But there are contradictions.
If you are more sensible than Lawrence Auster, that shouldn't pose a problem. Though I wonder why you keep trying to attribute it to Judaism when if anything their core beliefs are more like those of Muslims, the most anti-Universalist people on earth.

Then there's the destructive effect Universalism is having on the very Christians we're blaming it on.
Just like how blacks should oppose liberalism for destroying black communities during the Great Society, or how jews should oppose the high taxes they pay as the highest-earning ethnic group. Quit assuming the political behavior of people should make sense.

Whoops. Let's just say they're stupid or dishonest. By PC we can always say things like that about Christians.
Your aversion to criticism of one group strikes me as rather PC.

Specifically Auster's out is to say these Christian Universalists are misguided by un-Christian "liberal" "New Age" principles.
I don't hod you'd disagree with him, unless you were to say that these professed Christians are following authentic Christianity.

MM's out is to say it's "un-theistic" or "crypto" Christianity, or (in this essay) the Christians are so in "denial" they even pose as atheists.
Universalism in its latest incarnation tends toward atheism, but in the past it produced dissenting or low Church protestantism and Unitarianism. Rothbard has some good pieces on pre-millenial pietism that discuss the past and its link to the present. John Dewey is a good example who went from fundamentalist Christian to non-believer while remaining a Universalist the whole time.

It seems to me a more honest out is to not set aside red when you paint roses.
I've already linked to where MM discussed the prevalence of Universalism among jews (Hasidics and Mizrahi excepted), and Auster has discussed it here and here. Like the people who believe most of our budget is foreign aid, it might be pleasing to isolate the problem to jews so that the problem seems more easy to resolve, but unfortunately the rot is deep in Christians and crying about the mean things we say about it won't fix it.

November 10, 2007 at 2:51 PM  
Blogger George Weinberg said...

You are making an assumption that people don't normally believe idiotic things but that some nefarious force must trick them.

That's not what I'm saying at all. But you're not going to find the vast majority of people spontaneously acquiring the same belief which is obviously stupid. If people are unfamiliar with the evidence that the world is round, it's not too surprising that they believe the earth is flat. But things like concave earth theories (it's round, but we live on the inside) never become popular, because such a bizarre notion would never occur to most people in the first place.

It's easy to understand why people favor protectionist trade policies, for example. The arguments for them seem to make intuitive sense. But if you consider something like agricultural price subsidies, not only do they not make intuitive sense, I think most economists would agree they're a bad idea for essentially the same reason that a layman would: paying farmers not to produce in order to artificially raise food prices is probably not in the best interests of the typical American consumer.

I think you'll agree that most people have some beliefs that are not merely wrong, but also unsupported by their personal anecdotal experiences and counterintuitive.

November 11, 2007 at 1:28 PM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

tggp, as previously you assume you know me and my arguments better than you do. More than half of what you say, assuming I disagree, I in fact agree with, or do not see how it relates to my points. I will not waste time commenting on the bulk of it.

You talk of strawmen. Knowing that tactic is bogus, why do you resort to it so much?

Why do you act as if Herzl is the beginning of the sentiments of Zionism, why pretend that Zionism has only to do with the formation of and protection of Israel, and why act as if Jews being both for and against Universalism means they are absolved. By your logic Hitler is the beginning of the sentiments of anti-semitism, it had only to do with early 20th century Germany, and Whites and Christians are off the hook for Universalism because they are on both sides of it.

You claim I never provided even one link to support the idea of a Holy Global Economy. Well, it's on your news every night. Tune in. Read a paper. As for Jewish involvement, there's a link. I have provided this link several times and nobody, including you, has commented on it. You actually might read what I write before trying to ridicule me.

Obviously the Fed is complicit in the housing bubble. I provided a link several threads back you dismissed as conspiracy theory. "Jewish bankers and freemasons" as I recall. I posted it in regard to what MM called "reactionary", ie non-Universalist, history. It does a far better job of helping to explain the events it relates to than discarding it, for whatever prejudicial reasons, does.

The scare quotes around "cheap", as in "cheap" imported labor, are to emphasize the expensive nature of it when all costs are considered. You and I seem to disagree on that, with you getting all tangled in a narrow definition of "externality" apparently in denial of the idea I was trying to express. If immigrant labor is cheap, then I want to know where's my check? Where's my profit? Or is it uncultivated of me to ask?

November 11, 2007 at 1:29 PM  
Anonymous tggp said...

But you're not going to find the vast majority of people spontaneously acquiring the same belief which is obviously stupid.
To people who believe it, it's not obviously stupid.

It's easy to understand why people favor protectionist trade policies, for example. The arguments for them seem to make intuitive sense.
They never made any sense to me.

But if you consider something like agricultural price subsidies
Economists tend to lump protectionism and subsidies together. It generally makes the whole poorer in order to help certain producers outcompete foreigners.

I think most economists would agree they're a bad idea for essentially the same reason that a layman would
But laymen don't.

paying farmers not to produce in order to artificially raise food prices is probably not in the best interests of the typical American consumer.
Neither are a host of things they favor, but why should you expect them to have any idea what's best for the average american? When you ignore the simple idea that they're simply irrational you end up twisting yourself in knots.

I think you'll agree that most people have some beliefs that are not merely wrong, but also unsupported by their personal anecdotal experiences and counterintuitive.
I don't agree. I will agree to something like "nobody wins if nobody plays" though.

Why do you act as if Herzl is the beginning of the sentiments of Zionism
I explicitly denied that the sentiment began with him, only the movement.

why pretend that Zionism has only to do with the formation of and protection of Israel
That is the common definition, and I am unaware of any other, unless of course you mean the other areas that were discussed as possible homelands for the jews.

and why act as if Jews being both for and against Universalism means they are absolved
I never said they were absolved of their actions, I even agree with Solzhenitsyn that it would be best if both they and Russians admitted their culpability in the mass murders of Leninism. I just think they were assimilated by Universalism rather than being the originators of it, and that non-Jews played a huge role as well.

By your logic Hitler is the beginning of the sentiments of anti-semitism
Anti-semitism is a poor analogy to Zionism. Zionism is concerned with the establishment of a homeland for jews, more specifically in the Holy Land. Anti-semitism is merely antipathy for jews, which could result in merely avoiding interacting with them or saying unpleasant things about them. The Holocaust was an atypical manifestation of anti-semitism. Hitler might be considered the original exterminationist, though I would not be confident in that.

it had only to do with early 20th century Germany
I do think that America can't be tarred with that brush. The peasants have had much more than pitch-forks since the beginning and there have been no pogroms.

and Whites and Christians are off the hook for Universalism because they are on both sides of it.
They are not off the hook. I don't go in for group-responsibility, so I will merely say that the Christians and the Jews who pushed Universalism are responsible and hopefully will come to feel shame, and that trying to ward off speaking of this responsibility by crying bigotry impedes that necessary outcome.

You claim I never provided even one link to support the idea of a Holy Global Economy. Well, it's on your news every night. Tune in. Read a paper.
Pathetic. The world is not populated by clones of you, we do not see the things you see and when we do in a literal sense we do not do so cognitively. Point out something specific so we can see you interpretation, and I will offer my interpretation.

As for Jewish involvement, there's a link. I have provided this link several times and nobody, including you, has commented on it.
I had already read it a while ago. I've read "Kings of the Deal" as well, Sailer's theories on Jeurasians and a host of other things. I would prefer something other than Vanity Fair's ranking, but I don't doubt that jews are greatly overrepresented in positions of influence. They've got the highest verbal IQs, after all.

I provided a link several threads back you dismissed as conspiracy theory.
I hadn't seen the video and don't remember you posting it, so it was something else you said I was dismissing. Checking now I see we were talking about Dreyfus and the French Revolution. It was in this thread that I did so without you having posted that video. If you linked to it in an earlier thread, point out where.

It does a far better job of helping to explain the events it relates to than discarding it, for whatever prejudicial reasons, does.
I don't remember seeing or dismissing it, but I will state that there is a ton of crap on the internet it's not worth my time to view.

You and I seem to disagree on that
Actually I agree with you and I support immigration restriction. I would be willing to go for something like Lant Pritchett's Gulf State style guest-worker program, but what he sees as unfortunate concessions to the yahoos I view as essential.

with you getting all tangled in a narrow definition of "externality"
I think immigration has externalities, because they are not merely labor but people. Just like them, I prefer living in America to Mexico, and I think the reason the former is more liveable than the latter is not because of merely geography but that we were colonized by England and they by Spain (the effect of not wiping out the indigenous peoples on the social structure is also important). I don't think there are externalities from Chinese products, because I know what an externality is.

If immigrant labor is cheap, then I want to know where's my check?
You don't get a check because something is cheap, those who purchase it just pay less. Because you are experiencing negative externalities I would consider it reasonable that you be compensated by the beneficiaries though.

November 11, 2007 at 6:21 PM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

P.S. I have not previously read your blog tggp. I have been commenting on MM and your defenses of him here.

Now I have read a little and can say this. Some of what you write I can certainly agree with. Your support for Lindsay however I cannot understand, much less support.

Here's his racist view on Whites for instance:

Personally, I want to see Whites in the US go extinct or become rare as soon as possible. US Whites are just bad for America. My brother has already joined the US White Genocide cause by marrying a Vietnamese and having an Amerasian child. I salute him for this act of heroism.

Please respond and tell me if you agree with this. It may save me time in not having to consider your comments any more.

November 11, 2007 at 6:27 PM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

Checking now I see we were talking about Dreyfus and the French Revolution.

You and I have never discussed either of these subjects before this thread.

Pathetic. The world is not populated by clones of you.

Nor is it populated by clones of you. If you can't admit that the nightly news is mostly concerned with either directly or indirectly with "the economy" or that the Globalist rationale in favor of mass immigration is "the economy" then you and I are finished conversing, because I have better things to do than convince you of the obvious.

November 11, 2007 at 6:37 PM  
Anonymous tggp said...

Nor is it populated by clones of you.
That's why I would provide a link and my interpretation of it and then you would provide yours. Notice the symmetry?

If you can't admit that the nightly news is mostly concerned with either directly or indirectly with "the economy"
I thought we were discussing Universalism, not the nightly news. The nightly news will tell me about Britney Spears and Paris Hilton but I don't think that's particularly relevant. People want to hear about that and they want to hear how the stock market is doing.

the Globalist rationale in favor of mass immigration is "the economy"
I've heard a lot of different rationales. There is the claim that the diversity they provide (ethnic food, I guess) is valuable, they have "family values", it is horrible to have people dying in the desert or to separate children from their parents, it's just racist to try to keep them out, it just wouldn't be possible or would require a police state, they have human rights and "no one is illegal", our population is getting to old & tired and we need new blood to revitalize us, they are patriotic and will serve in our military and a host of others. Universalists tend to downplay the importance of economics. That wasn't always the case, but now it is. Economics is the one social science where righties have somewhat decent representation, where you will hear defenses of rational discrimination. You will find a lot more people willing to believe IQ varies by race in an economics department than elsewhere in academia. If "the Holy Global economy" was that important to Universalists we wouldn't have Griggs vs Duke Power and the ensuing anti-discrimination measures in employment. You could probably benefit from reading an econ 101 text.

By the way, I think you'll like this on the jews.

November 11, 2007 at 7:56 PM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

I agree with MM that Universalism is the faith of our ruling caste. I claim furthermore that it is not solely Progressivism, but Progressivism + Globalism. You appear only to be capable of denying this rather than refuting it.

November 11, 2007 at 8:47 PM  
Anonymous tggp said...

I started watching "The Money Masters". It quickly lost my interest, and I'm a Ron Paul supporter who wants to abolish the Fed! They oh-so-confidently claim that there will be an economic crash that will make that of 1929 look like "a picnic". Over a decade on, they look pretty damn stupid. They make a big distinction between "private" banks controlling the money supply versus "the people" (using Presidents and Roman Emperors as examples of the latter), even though it was Congress that created the Fed, the federal government that puts the chairman in place and despite their supposed "independence" pushes them to inflate. They confusedly denounce both inflation that devalues the currency and a monopolistic restricted supply (they act as if there was no downside to Julius Caesar making money plentiful), which is just plain contradictory. Inflation is everywhere a monetary phenomenon, it is caused by more plentiful money, simple supply and demand.

I agree with MM that Universalism is the faith of our ruling caste. I claim furthermore that it is not solely Progressivism, but Progressivism + Globalism.
What is Progressivism without Globalism? Anti-globalism? Even the anti-globalists are rather internationalist in their outlook, in a workers-of-the-world-unite sort of way. Progressive detractors of the World Trade Organization (I'm against it for the opposite reasons as them) want instead for a World Social Organization. Are they not Universalists?

You appear only to be capable of denying this rather than refuting it.
AHAHAHAHAHA! You give me vague, unsupported assertions and my critiques lack substance. I at least gave a link supporting my point that leftists had shifted from emphasizing economics to downplaying it (they also prefer fair trade to free trade and equality to efficiency more generally and think markets lead to the paradox of choice), you have yet to give me a link supporting your contention of Universalist worship of the "Holy Economy". Of course since we're taking about a neologism that MM came up with, it's damn hard to falsify anything we say.

November 12, 2007 at 12:13 AM  
Blogger George Weinberg said...

Me:
I think you'll agree that most people have some beliefs that are not merely wrong, but also unsupported by their personal anecdotal experiences and counterintuitive.
TGGP:
I don't agree. I will agree to something like "nobody wins if nobody plays" though.

Fair enough, I was wrong. But if public opinion changes fairly quickly and radically, doesn't it seem there ought to be some reason for the change?

It's conceivable that political and even scientific ideas change as arbitrarily as tastes in clothing and music, but it doesn't seem plausible to me. But hey, maybe I'm just wrong.

November 12, 2007 at 9:51 AM  
Anonymous tggp said...

But if public opinion changes fairly quickly and radically, doesn't it seem there ought to be some reason for the change?
What more specifically are you talking about? I think for something like the Iraq war the desire was lurking around (when I first heard about the 9/11 attacks it was from some people walking by who were talking about when we were going to attack Iraq), but the Bush admin made it more salient. If you're talking about immigration, that's the one issue where public opinion most diverges from political elites, so there isn't really a shift to explain. I guess you could wonder why we haven't raised a ruckus over the deceptions of the 1965 immigration act (and made good on a certain legislators promise to eat the paper it was written on if current events came to pass), but most people probably don't remember that and are fairly passive.

November 12, 2007 at 11:10 AM  
Blogger George Weinberg said...

I'm not talking about any specific event, I'm talking about as a matter of general principle. It seems to me that if public opinion changes quickly on some topic, any topic, there is probably some reason for the change. Not necessarily a good reason, maybe not even a reason that can be identified with confidence after the fact, but some reason.

November 12, 2007 at 1:17 PM  
Anonymous invisible lizard said...

tggp,
Why do you call "hooverhog" "someone most would consider an awful Holocaust denier"? Is it just the links, or has he been put on a SPLC hit list?

November 12, 2007 at 2:14 PM  
Anonymous tggp said...

I'm not talking about any specific event, I'm talking about as a matter of general principle. It seems to me that if public opinion changes quickly on some topic, any topic, there is probably some reason for the change. Not necessarily a good reason, maybe not even a reason that can be identified with confidence after the fact, but some reason.
And if I said that had never happened in the history of humanity and is therefore irrelevant, how would you reply?

invisible lizard, Chip Smith has been publishing revisionism since the days of the print incarnation of the Hoover Hog. He's friends with the jewish (not that it should matter, he would say) revisionist David Cole, he's about to publish a non-revisionist book by the revisionist Bradley Smith and he says he finds the accounts of revisionists like Rassier more plausible than the quasi-mythic ones of Wiesel. Guilt by association would nail him for many people, and his doubt, mild as it may be over the standard story of the Holocaust, would lose him for the rest. I referred to him once as a Holocaust revisionist and he said he is not well read enough to stake out a firm position but can be considered an armchair revisionist sympathizer, which to others translates as "awful Holocaust denier".

November 12, 2007 at 3:11 PM  
Blogger George Weinberg said...

And if I said that had never happened in the history of humanity and is therefore irrelevant, how would you reply?

That public opinion never quickly changes? I'd have to conclude that you're nuts.

Is the problem with the vague word "quickly"? I don't mean overnight, I just mean quickly enough that random independent opinion drift by individuals can't explain it.

November 12, 2007 at 3:36 PM  
Anonymous tggp said...

That public opinion never quickly changes? I'd have to conclude that you're nuts.
The obvious response when is to say the other guy is nuts for taking the contrary position.

Is the problem with the vague word "quickly"? I don't mean overnight, I just mean quickly enough that random independent opinion drift by individuals can't explain it.
It's certainly hard to define "quickly" and to say how we would expect things to change absent some factor, so specific examples would be nice.

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