Thursday, December 20, 2007 35 Comments

Neocameralism and the escalator of massarchy

It is very hard to show that any new form of government is superior to that practiced now. It is even harder to show that any new form of government is superior to any practiced ever.

Nonetheless, unless these problems are not just hard but actually unsolvable, innovation in the form of government is possible. It is worth noting that government in history has ever encouraged its subjects to believe that it could be innovated away. Which is a rather straightforward explanation of the fact that few have ever believed it possible. Which does not make the proposition true, but does suggest one way in which it could be true.

Certainly, the very idea of innovation in government should not frighten you. If it does, there is no point at all in thinking about government. This is conservatism to the point of mental disorder. I simply cannot contend with it, and I refuse to try. If you cannot set yourself outside your own beliefs and prejudices, you are not capable of normal civilized discourse.

Today's post, despite its precious, neologistic title, is about one of our favorite subjects here at UR, democracy. Most people are conservatives with respect to democracy. They like it, they want to conserve it, they consider it sacred and holy and good.

And perhaps, of course, it is. I mean, even Churchill - hardly history's picture of a democrat - said, "democracy is the worst possible form of government, except for all the others."

Of course, Churchill also drank a fifth of Scotch every day. Perhaps he was drunk. Perhaps he was wrong. Perhaps he was lying. Perhaps he was both wrong and lying. Perhaps he was so lying, so wrong, and so drunk that he actually turned out to be right. Perhaps he was an Armenian. Perhaps...

As Jimmy Cliff put it in The Harder They Come, who can know this thing? So why shouldn't we take a minute or two, and actually think about it? (Google Analytics, which I certainly trust no more than I trust Churchill, informs me that the average time per page on UR is four minutes. Which means either that our average reader is a faster reader than me, or that a lot of people are going "Hm," and then skimming. Or both.)

Surprising as it may seem, there's actually is an easy way to show that any new form of government Y is superior to today's brand X. Simply present a convincing picture of Y, then present an egregious escalator by which Y devolves into X. An egregious escalator is a sequence of historical events, each of which is in some way egregious - demented, fraudulent, retarded, barbaric, predatory, psychopathic, or otherwise nasty - by which one thing turns into the other. Since no number of wrongs can make a right, X must be more egregious than Y, which makes Y superior to X.

Of course, we are making large, broad judgments here. It is impossible to entirely eliminate all forms of nastiness from every human affair. On the other hand, if you can't just agree that Nazism and Communism were nasty, you must get water on the brain every time it rains. Any fool can keep an open mind. UR's readers do not strike me as nonjudgmental people.

Also, the procedure above is a bit too direct for me. To avoid pressing political hotbuttons, and to make the argument more modular, I prefer to show that Y can devolve into Z, and Z is equivalent to X.

So we'll start by showing that neocameralism can devolve, through a series of nasty steps, into a system called massarchy. Massarchy is of course our Z. But we will not spoil our suspense by considering it further.

Note that the steps in an egregious escalator need not be inevitable, or even plausible. They just need to be undesirable, ie, egregious. The only axiomatic assumption we have made so far is that nastiness obeys a total order - if B is more nasty than A and C is more nasty than B, C must be even more nasty than A. If you differ on this, we have different definitions of nasty - to say the least. And I must ask you to take with your nasty, and somewhere else click.

So, for example, if an egregious step is absolutely physically impossible, we don't care at all. We can just introduce aliens into our Gedankenexperiment. They can fly in on their big silver Frisbees and fuck all kinds of random shit up.

Let's start with my ideal world - the world of thousands, preferably even tens of thousands, of neocameralist city-states and ministates, or neostates. The organizations which own and operate these neostates are for-profit sovereign corporations, or sovcorps. For the moment, let's assume a one-to-one mapping between sovcorp and neostate.

Let's pin down the neocameralist dramatis personae by identifying the people who work for a sovcorp as its agents, the people or organizations which collectively own it as its subscribers, and the people who live in its neostate as its residents. Secondary corporations which it sponsors are its subcorps. Nonprofit organizations which operate with its permission are its suborgs. Illegal organizations are illorgs.

Residents fit into two classes: patron and dependent. Dependents are not legally responsible, and are under the authority of their patrons. There is no dependent without patron, although subcorps or suborgs may act as patrons. The neocameralist state is not a charitable organization, but it has no reason not to tolerate a genuinely apolitical charity.

Since patrons generally act in place of their dependents, we need not consider the latter from a political perspective. So any politically relevant person P, with respect to any sovcorp S, can be marked or unmarked with three bits of state: subscriber, agent, patron.

For example, it is generally unhealthy to have a large quantity of patron-subscriber overlap. When a sovcorp's patrons and subscribers are the same people, the conflict of interest is inherent. Actions which harm most or all subscribers may turn out to benefit some or many patrons. Do you want to go there? You don't. (But perhaps we'll see what happens if you do.)

Every patch of land on the planet has a primary owner, which is its sovcorp. Typically, these owners will be large, impersonal corporations. We call them sovcorps because they're sovereign. You are sovereign if you have the power to render any plausible attack on your primary property, by any other sovereign power, unprofitable. In other words, you maintain general deterrence.

(Sovereignty is a flat, peer-to-peer relationship by definition. The concept of hierarchical sovereignty is a contradiction in terms. More on this in a minute.)

The business of a sovcorp is to make money by deterring aggression. Since human aggression is a serious problem, preventing it should be a good business. Moreover, the existence of unprofitable governments in your vicinity is serious cause for concern, because unprofitable governments tend to have strange decision structures and do weird, dangerous things.

(Nuclear deterrence (mutual assured destruction) is only one small class of deterrent designs. To deter is to render predictably unprofitable. Predictably unprofitable violence is irrational. Irrational violence is certainly not unheard of. But it is much, much rarer than you may think. Most of the violence in the world today is quite rational, IMHO.)

General deterrence is a complex topic which deserves its own post. For the moment, assume that every square inch of the planet's surface is formally owned by some sovcorp, that no one disagrees on the borders, and that deterrence between sovcorps is absolute.

This does not solve the problem of constructing a stable sovcorp. The central problem of governance is the old Latin riddle: who guards the guardians? The joint-stock corporate design solves the central problem by entrusting guardianship in the collective decisions of the corporation's owners, voting not by head but by percentage of profit received.

The joint-stock model is hundreds of years old. It is as proven as proven can be. Anyone who questions its potency in producing profit and annihilating waste and graft might as well believe in the international Jewish conspiracy while they're at it. (I mean, anyone can be a world socialist. Isn't it much cooler to be a National Socialist? Did you ever know anyone who got kicked out of high school for believing in the UN?)

However, in the sovereign context, the corporate joint-stock ownership and decision structure faces serious challenges which do not exist for a conventional secondary corporation.

In the conventional secondary corporation, the control of the owners is unchallenged and unchallengeable, at least as long as the sovereign's rule of corporate law is functioning properly. The corporation is incorporated under the oversight of a sovereign protector, or sponsor. This is what makes it a secondary corporation.

The sponsor of a secondary corporation manages the relationship between owners and directors, and directors and managers. The ideal sponsor does not tolerate any hanky-panky in these relationships, and nor does it insert its own weird ideas about how the company ought to be run. The owners are in absolute control of the directors, the directors are in absolute control of the managers, period.

In a properly sponsored corporation, whatever the details of its organizational structure, authority flows in one direction. It does not go around and around in a big tangle, it does not reverse its course like a tidal river or a broken sewage valve, it certainly does not ferment in big lagoons like industrial pig waste.

No. Not just in a properly sponsored corporation, but in any healthy corporation, primary or secondary, power flows down and profit flows up, and this flow never stops in either direction. Think of the two paths as xylem and phloem, arteries and veins, water and sewer, etc, etc.

As Bernard Bailyn points out in one of his footnotes, classical political thought concurred in considering imperio in imperium, ie, internal subauthorities powerful enough to resist or even control the center, a political solecism. In case you are not too special to have ever worked in a cube, you are probably aware that imperio in imperium is a solecism in Powerpointia as well. One small difficulty, however, is that imperio in imperium means basically the same thing as separation of powers. Hm.

Internal management in modern Western corporations is pretty good. At least by the standards of modern government, imperio in imperium is nonexistent. (It should not be confused with the normal practice of internal accounting, which does not in any way conflict with an absolute central authority and a single set of books.)

In a secondary corporation, external management - the top two layers, shareholder to director and director to executive - are and must be regulated, or at least overseen, by the sovereign sponsor. As one might expect, external management these days is not as healthy as its internal counterpart. Boards are infested with inside directors, voting is intentionally obfuscated, CEOs and CFOs often manage to cheat shareholders. While I am hardly an expert in the subject, from my casual standpoint it doesn't look like American corporate law and governance deserves any grade above a C. Perhaps some commenters will beg to differ.

Still, the US is almost certainly the most efficient, least corrupt sovereign sponsor in the world today. Wall Street has one regulatory mechanism which actually works, and forces managers to act in the interest of investors. This is the takeover. One can separate sponsors into those which generally allow takeovers, and those which generally don't. As a very broad statement, the latter are not to be trusted. And America is the original home of the takeover.

In the context of sovcorps, the idea of a takeover starts to sound suspiciously like violence. Which we thought we had eradicated, permanently, for good. But violence is hard to eradicate. If you suspect that you may not have gotten rid of it, you probably haven't. So it's worth taking another look at the fascinating problem of sovereign corporate governance.

Briefly, there are two options for sovcorp governance on a neocameralist patchwork planet. One is cross-listing and the other is cryptogovernance. In cross-listing, sovcorps list on each other's secondary exchanges, taking great care to select only the most reputable sponsors, and demanding a backdoor in which they can switch sponsors at the slightest hint of weirdness.

Cross-listing can probably be made to work. However, it is dangerous as a single line of defence. For an ideal sovcorp, it should be combined with some degree of cryptogovernance.

Cryptogovernance is any system of corporate government in which all formal decisions are endorsed and verified cryptographically. A sponsor can still be very useful for cryptogovernance, but it is not required. Shareholders in a cryptogoverned corporation - known as subscribers - use private keys to sign their contributions to its governance. They may or may not be anonymous, depending on the corporation's rules.

If you are an American, have you ever wondered what the letters SA, or similar, which you see all the time in the names of European companies, mean? They mean "anonymous society." If this strikes you as weird, it shouldn't.

(Unfortunately, in the wonderful real world of today, anything even remotely resembling anonymous cryptogovernance is known as "money laundering" by our friends in Washington. Therefore, I do not recommend you run out and try it. If you do, you certainly should not use real money. The first rule of the successful reactionary: never annoy authority.)

The neat thing about cryptographic government (which is actually much easier than it sounds - we're talking a few thousand lines of code, max) is that it can be connected directly to the sovcorp's second line of defense: a cryptographically-controlled military.

Cryptographic weapons control, in the form of permissive action links, is already used for the world's most powerful weapons. However, there is nothing in principle preventing it from being extended down to small arms - for example, with a radio activation code transmitted over a mesh network. Military formations loyal to the CEO will find that their weapons work. Rebel formations will find that theirs don't. The outcome is obvious. Moreover, the neocameralist state has no incentive to deal kindly with traitors, so there is no way for an attacker to repeatedly probe the system's weaknesses.

The one difficulty with cryptographic weapons control is that it fails, and devolves into simple military rule, if the authorization keys are kept anywhere near the weapons. Weaponholders can gather unlocked or noncryptographic weapons secretly, and use them to arrest the keyholders - for example, the directors of the sovcorp.

The solution is simple: keep the sovcorp's directors, or whoever has ultimate control of the highest grade of military keys, outside the sovcorp's neostate. Even if the CEO himself rebels, along with all of his subordinates, any formation loyal to the directors can defeat them. The result is internal military stability.

This result does depend on the planetary neocameralist patchwork. If this degrades, perhaps thanks to mergers and acquisitions, into a few giant megasovcorps, it will be at risk. How does the neocameralist patchwork avoid this horrendous fate?

One way is for subscriber covenants to prohibit chain states, or suspicious combinations of shares that might result in a chain state. However, since in a cryptogoverned state the subscribers hold absolute power, they cannot be forced to obey these covenants. They can sell every share in the sovcorp to Google if they like. Leading to a terrifying new era of permanent global Googocracy. Yikes! Me not like so much.

The solution here is the patrons. The key is that the less monopoly power a sovcorp holds, the more it has to fear competition, and the lower its primary rents ("taxes") will be. In other words, if its patrons do not have the practical option of switching to a competitor, it will be possible to extract more money from them.

(A rational monopoly neostate still has no motivation to personally abuse its patrons. It would always rather tax than abuse, and why not just forget the abuse altogether? And once you do this, all you have is a baroque tax structure, which is abusive in itself. So this will go as well. Of course, if some patron is causing a security problem, abuse is assured.)

Therefore, just as patrons prefer a neostate which maintains the rule of law and does not make sudden, unexpected demands on their person, they will prefer a neostate that requires its subscribers to show that they are individual private investors who are not residents. If the sovcorp fails to enforce this restriction, it will be treated like any neostate in which a breach of legality occurs - instant real-estate price collapse. (No, not every resident needs to flee with children and suitcases for the sovcorp's subscribers to taste the pain. There is pretty much no way to spin a collapse in the price of your only capital asset as management success.)

This covenant effectively acts as a poison-pill defense, preventing acquisitions friendly or hostile. A truly hostile attacker, who uses fronts to purchase shares, will find that the value of the purchased business is much lower than the price paid, because the acquisition is illegal by the neostate's own internal law. So the mechanism requires no external enforcement. It works by deterrence, like any other effective defense.

The cost of the covenant is that, since it eliminates the takeover as a guarantee of effective governance, it requires active participation of the subscribers in corporate control. Of course, the subscribers will probably find it desirable to nominate independent proxies. Aside from takeovers, proxy voting does not really work in any corporate governance system in the world today, but I feel this just reflects incompetent regulation on the part of sponsors. It could work, it should work, and in the absence of takeovers, subscribers will have an incentive to make it work.

So we have constructed what I think is a reasonably convincing stable sovcorp, and by extension a stable design for a planetary patchwork of sovcorps. There are still a few little loopholes we have not covered, but hopefully the commenters can describe them.

Now let's break one of our neostates - call it "New Frisco" - and try to make it into a massarchy. Whatever that is.

The first step is simple. The CEO of New Frisco's sovcorp, Friscorp, manages to find some way to hack the directors' keys. As a result, she becomes an absolute monarch - not CEO, but Queen of New Frisco. Friscorp, it is her. She unifies ownership and control in a single person. No leader in the English-speaking tradition has been this powerful since Elizabeth I. At least.

If the Queen is acting in her own best interest, she will end the experiment here. She is now the sole subscriber of her own sovcorp. She is also the sole director. The original subscribers have been thoroughly pwned by her egregious hack, whatever that may be (perhaps the aliens helped). They now have no role to play. They can curl up in a ball and cry. Waah.

Therefore, the Queen's best decision is to sell New Frisco to a new set of subscribers, using the usual IPO process. As part of any such IPO, she will almost certainly have to resign. She is not exactly what you'd call trustworthy. Would you hire her? I wouldn't hire her. And hopefully this new sovcorp, which to honor the utter blandness of government in the neocameralist era we'll call Nextcorp, will come with a new set of encryption routines.

However, she does not do this. This is not because she is acting in her own best financial interest. This is because she is an ironclad bitch and she loves power, and no amount of cash can substitute, in her own personal opinion, for the sheer awesomeness of being Queen of New Frisco. I mean, it's not like she's short of money, anyway.

However, the Queen fails to notice something else, which is that the encryption keys that control her military are compromised. Just as she hacked the directors, her generals hack her. They cannot obtain the keys, but they can break the system so that no keys are needed to operate their weapons. While no other neostate in the world will allow the sale of more weapons to a failed neostate whose military control framework has broken down, the generals of New Frisco have all the weapons they need for the moment. They certainly have enough to arrest the Queen and have her shot at once, which they do. New Frisco is getting ugly.

The generals are now in command. New Frisco becomes a classical military despotism. Probably at this point it becomes difficult for patrons to leave New Frisco. It certainly becomes difficult for them to leave with all their assets.

In theory, it is possible for normal social existence and economic activity to continue in a basically normal way under a classical military despotism. Portugal under Salazar, Spain under Franco, Mexico in the Porfiriato are all good examples. Military rule, or militarchy, is still one of the closest governmental forms to neocameralism, and if there was such a thing as a stable militarchy it would be quite satisfactory.

However, militarchy is not stable. The problem is that the generals can only rule for as long as the soldiers are willing to follow them. And also there is the question: which generals?

The difference between militarchy and neocameralism is that militarchy is informal. The only way to know who the soldiers will follow is to have a coup and see what happens. Ambiguity of power raises its ugly, ugly head.

If they are acting in their best interests, therefore, the generals will do what the Queen should have done, and get out while the getting is good. They should construct a new subscriber structure by issuing shares, probably pro-rated by rank, to the entire military. The military can then sell those shares, probably gradually over time, and neocameralism reasserts itself.

However, they do not do this. Perhaps they are ignorant, or pigheaded, or something. These conditions have certainly been noted in military men. So the egregiousness continues.

The generals therefore take the second best option, and convert their militarchy into an oligarchy. The present government of China is an excellent example of an oligarchy. An oligarchy is an informal system of government in which militarchy has broadened to include all influential individuals in the state. When soldiers govern, the distinction between soldiers and administrators disappear. The oligarchical system of sovereignty works by convincing potential leaders that they are more likely to succeed by staying in the tent, rather than outside of it. Any one-party state is essentially an oligarchy.

In its modern form, at least, an oligarchy tends to take the form of a hierarchical pyramid with not one leader, but a committee, council or parliament, at the top. Like all governments, it distributes its profits in the form of power and money. Some people like power, some prefer money. You certainly cannot buy the former with the latter - at least, it is never a simple transaction.

Everyone in a oligarchy is always jockeying for position. The informal personal conflicts within an oligarchy can often be poisonous, but at least they are political only in the sense of "office politics." That is, they do not involve the banner-waving tropes of mass politics. So oligarchies, too, can be quite satisfactory places to live and work.

All of today's governments, whether proto-neocameralist such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai, or post-democratic as in the US and Europe, contain significant oligarchical elements. That is, their decisions are affected by many people who often have no formal decision-making position, or whose formal position inadequately describes their real influence.

For example, the Western bureaucratic system operates under the delusion that there is some distinction between "political" and "nonpartisan" government. The latter can therefore be conducted by permanent officials who are unaffected by elections, as well as by NGOs which are not even formally part of the state. As long as the system can sustain the illusion that the political officials are making all the real decisions, and the nonpartisan ones are only carrying out technical directives, the present Western model combines some of the political advantages of massarchy with some of the administrative advantages of oligarchy.

Massarchy becomes necessary because oligarchy is unstable. Once we enter the oligarchical phase, it become clear to everyone anywhere near New Frisco that its power base (which would be its subscriber base, if formality had not broken down) is expanding at a rapid and uncontrollable speed. Therefore, the patrons start to get in on the action. They are, after all, right there. And they are no more noble than anyone else.

Massarchy is any system of government in which those who hold power are confirmed by the allegiance of the masses, or at least some segment of them. Political power is always hierarchical, and political leaders and factions always gain power by building a critical mass of supporters, or clients. The rise of massarchy under the Gracchi marked the beginning of the end of the Roman Republic.

An interesting question is why, considering the ineffectiveness of unprofessional mobs in combat against professional soldiers - especially in the modern military era, but the profession of soldier is hardly new - popular mass is at all relevant. Why does it matter who has the biggest mob? Doesn't it just boil down to who has more divisions?

It doesn't. And the reason it doesn't is that soldiers don't just follow their generals. They tend to have personal connections in one mob faction or another. Thus, the size of the mob indicates the number of divisions who are likely to agree with it. Soldiers, like everyone else, want to be on the winning team, so the headcount of the mob becomes a Schelling point.

Massarchy is best defined as a system of government in which the opinions of residents are captured and controlled by one or more political factions. One easy way to capture a resident's opinion is to dangle the possibility of plunder generated by political cooperation. Especially when said plunder is distributed in the form of both power and wealth - for example, in the form of government jobs - opinion, responding to the great human capacity for flexible self-interest, will swing in its favor.

The inevitable consequence of massarchy, therefore, is a strange systematic distortion of popular opinion, in which residents (perhaps at this point we had better call them citizens) adopt not those theories of government and society which are most accurate, but those which are most likely to win power. These tend to be those theories which tend toward expanding the State, increasing its revenue and authority, etc.

In a massarchy, expansive theories of the State tend to prevail over contractive theories, through the natural process of political entrepreneurship. If you are a leading supporter of an an expansive theory of government and your faction gains power, you are likely to get a job out of it. If your faction holds contractive theories and it wins, there are more likely to be layoffs. Thus, if the probability of victory is equal, you are always better off joining the expansive forces. Thus expansive forces tend to win, another good reason to join them.

Remarkable as this may sound, massarchy demands that every adult citizen of a state support some political faction and maintain some theory of government. You can eat cheese, you can even be a connoisseur of cheese, without knowing anything about how cheese is made, having some opinion of who should and should not be making your cheese, etc, etc. In a massarchy, everyone is expected to be a cheesemeister. If they fail at this task, the result is bad cheese. Fortunately, most of today's massarchies do not actually inflict government cheese on most of their citizens, but the fate is not difficult to imagine.

It is only natural that in a massarchy the most influential individuals become those who influence public opinion. The course of future decisions in a massarchy will be set by its journalists and professors. Those who wish to "change the world," ie, exercise power, will aspire most to these roles.

The aphorism that academic politics is "so bitter, because the stakes are so small" is an easy misapprehension of this situation. Actually, academic politics is the most important thing in the world. In policy debates in a massarchy, the only card that trumps Popular Opinion is Science, and this card is not infrequently played. Massarchy corrupts science just as it corrupts popular opinion: by favoring the victory of views which lead to more expansive programs of government, regardless of their accuracy.

Massarchies also seem to develop large extra-governmental agencies which are not formally part of the State, but nonetheless are influential in setting policy. In the early phases of a massarchy, formal administrators can exercise enormous amounts of power. However, this attracts the jealousy of other administrators. The compromise is often to adopt a formal process by which decisions are made. The result of the process is typically determined by extra-governmental players which succeed in presenting themselves as impartial experts.

The modern massarchy senses public opinion largely through the mechanism of polling, ie, random sampling of its residents' opinions. Before polling was technically practical, it relied on the more primitive system of periodic elections. Officials produced by these elections still exist, and are often still relatively influential. However, for obvious reasons, they are only in a position to influence policy for such time as polls confirm their popularity.

In future, periodically elected politicians in a massarchy will probably become completely symbolic, as they largely have in the EU. Polling is quite sufficient for a stable massarchy, and much less subject to strange feedback effects. The State simply has to be able to track the polls and not deviate too far from them, or its security will be at risk.

Fortunately, since the State controls its citizens' education in a massarchy, its risk of losing control over public opinion is minimal. Massarchies can thus be relatively stable for long periods of time. However, they tend to deteriorate over time, due to the permanent "leftward" bias that favors expansive over contractive theories of government. And if the State does lose control over the mass mind, an accident which can happen due to the extremely low and continually degenerating quality of government that massarchy provides, it can degenerate into the only worse form of government, brutarchy.

A brutarchy is a massarchy in which public opinion is not merely molded by "education," but actually compelled by brute force. In this extremely nasty and unstable structure, public opinion turns against the State, and its system of indoctrination is not sufficient to turn it back. The residents are permanently disenchanted.

However, because violence prevents them from expressing their actual opinion on the nature of the State, residents of a brutarchy can never be absolutely sure that most other residents of the brutarchy agree with them. Their collective opinion remains unknown and cannot be verified. It is thus of no military significance. The security forces, which typically include a substantial plainclothes contingent, remain in power. When this situation breaks down (one recalls the East German crowds chanting Wir sind das Volk!), the brutarchy falls.

Note the considerable difference between a militarchy and a brutarchy. It is easy to confuse these forms, but it is also unforgivable. A militarchy, whose political power is unquestionably rooted in the barrel of the gun, need not bother itself with propaganda. It need not care what its residents think. As the Duke of Wellington put it: pour la canaille, il faut la mitraille. (Note that mitraille means grapeshot - a machine gun is la mitrailleuse, a later invention, but one which I'm sure would have delighted the Duke even more.)

A brutarchy knows that if its soldiers ever learn that its residents despise it, they will refuse to shoot into the mob and instead overthrow the regime. Thus, the difference between militarchy and brutarchy is the loyalty of the army. In a militarchy, the army's loyalty is to the regime, the Leader, the junta, or even just the military itself. In a brutarchy, the army is loyal to the People - a cult which your average militarchy works very, very hard to discourage.

Brutarchy is nasty not only because it does nasty things, but also because it is very difficult for anyone in a brutarchy - even the nominal leader or leaders - to defuse and rewind back toward a healthy neocameralist model. The trope in which more expansive theories of the State tend to defeat less expansive ones does not lose its power with the transition from massarchy to brutarchy. These theories tend to simply detach from reality, and the mental world of a brutarchy is a world of lies and delusions, even more than in a massarchy. Returning to stable government without some kind of violent upheaval becomes almost impossible.

To me, at least, the most perverse fact about massarchies (including brutarchies) is simply that the first distortion they must bring their residents to believe, whether by "education" or by compulsion, is that massarchy is the optimal form of government. A massarchy which fails in this task is not stable. It remains after all a massarchy, and its residents will terminate it.

We have yet to demonstrate that this "massarchy" thing is the same form of government that most of us were brought up to call democracy. But this post is getting long. And perhaps readers find the point obvious and uncontroversial. If not, I hope they will say so...

35 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

An excellent essay, I thoroughly enjoyed it. When are you publishing the book? :-)

December 20, 2007 at 3:23 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Surprising as it may seem, there's actually is an easy way to show that any new form of government Y is superior to today's brand X. Simply present a convincing picture of Y, then present an egregious escalator by which Y devolves into X. An egregious escalator is a sequence of historical events, each of which is in some way egregious - demented, fraudulent, retarded, barbaric, predatory, psychopathic, or otherwise nasty - by which one thing turns into the other. Since no number of wrongs can make a right, X must be more egregious than Y, which makes Y superior to X.
I disagree. A series of things undesirable alone can in concert produce something desirable. What law of nature says this cannot be? A saying from a parent to a child that still believes in Santa Claus?

Moreover, the existence of unprofitable governments in your vicinity is serious cause for concern, because unprofitable governments tend to have strange decision structures and do weird, dangerous things.
I think that mostly depends on whether your fence is good enough.

Most of the violence in the world today is quite rational, IMHO.
Bryan Caplan seems to disagree.

Still, the US is almost certainly the most efficient, least corrupt sovereign sponsor in the world today.
I thought Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, New Zealnd, Switzerland and Ireland were all giving it a run for it's money nowadays.

This is the takeover. One can separate sponsors into those which generally allow takeovers, and those which generally don't.
Didn't Giuliani perp-walk Milken, and he's now threatening to become president? It's a good thing Spitzer's star has lost his shine.

Military formations loyal to the CEO will find that their weapons work. Rebel formations will find that theirs don't.
Reminds me of Varicella, which you really should check out.

This result does depend on the planetary neocameralist patchwork.
I thought both an understanding of economics and evolution would have trained you to think on the margin and imagine how this patchwork could incrementally come about. World government and international socialism have never been accomplished either, maybe they would work out fine.

A rational monopoly neostate still has no motivation to personally abuse its patrons.
Did you ever read this paper I pointed out from Peter Leeson?

It could work, it should work, and in the absence of takeovers, subscribers will have an incentive to make it work.
Sounds a bit too New Socialist Man for me.

NGOs which are not even formally part of the state
How are they government?

An interesting question is why, considering the ineffectiveness of unprofessional mobs in combat against professional soldiers - especially in the modern military era, but the profession of soldier is hardly new - popular mass is at all relevant.
They can still cause a lot of problems. According to Stefan Molyneux when Canada didn't seem to be increasing agricultural subsidies at a pleasing enough rate to the farmers, they got on their tractors and started blocking up the highways, and when the authorities tried to arrest them they swallowed the keys. A lot of daily life depends on people not being awful dicks willing to fuck everyone's shit up.

strange systematic distortion of popular opinion, in which residents (perhaps at this point we had better call them citizens) adopt not those theories of government and society which are most accurate
I would think it strange if people had accurate beliefsin that area. Why should they? While we're on that subject, you can find the latest issue of Critical Review here at my blog.

massarchy demands that every adult citizen of a state support some political faction and maintain some theory of government.
In America the majority are apathetic non-voters, and the State seems to get on just fine with that state of affairs.

Massarchy corrupts science just as it corrupts popular opinion: by favoring the victory of views which lead to more expansive programs of government, regardless of their accuracy.
Are you willing to put your money on the line against climate science?

The modern massarchy senses public opinion largely through the mechanism of polling, ie, random sampling of its residents' opinions.
What do you think of Politicians Don't Pander?

In future, periodically elected politicians in a massarchy will probably become completely symbolic, as they largely have in the EU. Polling is quite sufficient for a stable massarchy, and much less subject to strange feedback effects. The State simply has to be able to track the polls and not deviate too far from them, or its security will be at risk.
Bad example.

However, because violence prevents them from expressing their actual opinion on the nature of the State, residents of a brutarchy can never be absolutely sure that most other residents of the brutarchy agree with them.
Tullock discussed this.

December 20, 2007 at 11:15 AM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

According to those in control of the West democracy is only something that select non-White people deserve, and only outside the West, for example in Africa or Asia. Nowhere do Whites enjoy it and even where their government is supposedly based upon it. Our plutocrats use their academy and media to openly manipulate public opinion, and ultimately disregard the will of the majority if it still doesn't match theirs.

Immigration and Iraq provide the starkest examples of the ruthlessness and hypocrisy of these plutocrats. In both cases their mouthpieces tell us the non-Whites deserve the democracy we Whites supposedly enjoy. But in both cases a democratic majority opposes the status quo. The undeniable empirical result - the slow motion ethnic cleansing and genocide of Whites - contradicts all the lofty ideals.

Theorizing about new forms of government is futile if you do not acknowledge the monstrous reality of the way things currently work.

December 20, 2007 at 12:50 PM  
Blogger James said...

MM,

Clearly you have put a lot of thought into this, but I still don't have a clear picture of how a sovereign corporation would actually function. Who selects the management and how? Who is a shareholder and does voting work the same way as it does in secondary corporations? Are the sponsors like the board of directors? While I don't understand the structures of your new form of government I found your argument that massarchy promotes larger government and less freedom over time to be spot on. It succinctly explains what is happening in our government now. Perhaps the best way to explain neocameralism is to write a neocameralist constitution, something brief that formalizes powers and responsibilities for the major players in government.

December 20, 2007 at 1:04 PM  
Anonymous richard said...

Mencius--
The primary purpose of a government is to provide security, both internal and external. Your hypothetical states achieve the first via a handwave ("general deterrence") and the second via a technological solution of empirically untested merit (cryptographic weapons locks, down to the small arms). This may be a problem: if the massarchies, etc. are better than sovcorps at providing security, it doesn't matter if they're worse at everything else.

The closest real-world analogue I can think of is the Italian city-states of the late Renaissance. These were frequently trading powers, indicating that someone may have been trying to maximize revenue. However, they notably failed on the deterrence front against neighboring monarchies (would France be considered a type of militarchy?).

How does your model deal with a Louis XI, or worse still, a Napoleon?

December 20, 2007 at 1:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A series of things undesirable alone can in concert produce something desirable. What law of nature says this cannot be?

Bingo tggp. I was going to say exactly the same, but you beat me to it. It's an entertaining and thought-provoking post, but the argument it ostensibly makes doesn't hold up because of this.

December 20, 2007 at 1:53 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Nowhere do Whites enjoy it and even where their government is supposedly based upon it.
I'd like to see you argue Bryan Caplan on that point.

Our plutocrats use their academy and media to openly manipulate public opinion
I don't see what's undemocratic about that. It would be rather sill to expect anything otherwise.

Immigration and Iraq provide the starkest examples of the ruthlessness and hypocrisy of these plutocrats. In both cases their mouthpieces tell us the non-Whites deserve the democracy we Whites supposedly enjoy. But in both cases a democratic majority opposes the status quo.
I'll give you immigration, not Iraq. The People, may they be given a good swift kick, supported the Iraq war.

December 20, 2007 at 9:29 PM  
Blogger Alisdair said...

tggp I am no expert on the USA but in the UK democracy is a joke.

In 1995 3/4 of the population wanted the bring back the death penalty. The politicos of course know best. (www.deathpenaltyinfo.org)

Same story on the EU enlargement, immigration, self defense, human rights legislation. It goes on and on. I know that revolutions often spawn terror, but the idea of a few politcos dancing from lampposts is attractive.

December 21, 2007 at 5:18 AM  
Blogger George Weinberg said...

It seems to me that the whole argument for neocameralism is in a sense putting the cart before the horse. If the world were divided into many small countries with free trade, easy travel restrictions, and relatively low barriers to migration, then it shouldn't matter much what form governments take. It will become obvious that, in order to keep their productive citizens as citizens, it will be necessary to keep them satisfied.

I think in the US intrusiveness of government in general has largely been a result of increasing authority at the national level. Jurisdiction shopping among states is still possible, but it doesn't do much good. I think the primary goal of the EU is to prevent effective jurisdiction shopping among the countries of Europe.

December 21, 2007 at 8:09 AM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

"Stop the jurisdiction shopping!" Sounds like a great globalist slogan. The primary goal of the EU is to make life easier for the plutocrats - which by the way involves genociding the native Europeans.

Here's democracy not working in the EU.

December 21, 2007 at 1:52 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

"jurisdictional shopping" is related to what Cato and I refer to as "policy competition".

December 21, 2007 at 6:09 PM  
Blogger Studd Beefpile said...

> Tanstaafl

What possible benefit could the plutocrats gain by killing off their current, very compliant populations and replacing them with a younger, angrier, less compliant population that will almost certainly violently rebel the second they think they can win? Almost by definition, any european plutocrat would prefer the conmfortable statist 1970s world to the coming globalized one, becuase the lack of competition meant they could rake off more for themselves without anyone noticing. That goes double for open borders. You don't need to elect a new people when the one you have already believes your nonsense.

December 21, 2007 at 9:48 PM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

You put your finger on it. The best way to lack competition is to eliminate it.

December 21, 2007 at 10:51 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

I think the primary goal of the EU is to prevent effective jurisdiction shopping among the countries of Europe.
Say what? Are you under the impression that before the EU, it was easy to change your citizenship or residence from one European country to another? It is much, much easier to change jurisdictions now than it was before the EU. The price for this freedom is that there is less variance between countries.

And why would that be "the primary goal" of the EU?

December 21, 2007 at 11:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mtraven:

The EU doesn't prevent jurisdiction shopping by preventing migration, but rather by homogenizing all the jurisdictions. If there's no difference in law between Greece and Poland, there's no jurisdiction shopping.

December 22, 2007 at 12:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What possible benefit could the plutocrats gain by killing off their current, very compliant populations and replacing them with a younger, angrier, less compliant population that will almost certainly violently rebel the second they think they can win?

The brahmins in Europe are doing the same thing there that the Brahmins here are doing - bringing in swarthy helots to keep white Vaisyas and Optimates in check. It is even easier there than here because white Europeans are even more race-whipped than American ones (difficult to believe but true).

December 22, 2007 at 6:12 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

Do the Brahmins realize that by replacing white O-Vs they are not ruining their own habitat?

I can't imagine that they'd want their grandchildren to have to huddle in gated communities.

Is there some suicidal impulse directing the Brahmins?

December 22, 2007 at 6:20 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

I meant "they are ruining..."

December 22, 2007 at 6:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The true Brahmins already are essentially completely isolated from the lower castes.

Read this:

http://www.amazon.com/Natural-History-Rich-Field-Guide/dp/0393324885/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1198345387&sr=1-1

As one reviewer says, "the rich tend to socialize amongst themselves, and experience a sort of social isolation, going to the same restaurants, vacationing in the same spots, dating other "suitable" rich people, intermarrying amongst themselves. Through all these behaviors, they slowly dissolve anything they have in common with most other people, so being rich can be lonely."

December 22, 2007 at 9:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, pooh, that link didn't work.

The book is Richard Conniff, The Natural History of the Rich.

December 22, 2007 at 9:47 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

The true Brahmins already are essentially completely isolated from the lower castes.

No doubt they are, but even rich, isolated people might like leave their houses, walk through the city, go to the store, live in a country where every face isn't opaque and menacing in its alienness.

And this doesn't even account for non-rich Brahmins. Don't they too pay mortgages and use public schools?

So, I am still trying to figure out this objectively suicidal Brahmin impulse.

December 22, 2007 at 9:55 AM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

From a Conniff reviewer: He notes that the rich, as well as animals, know that power, control of resources and social dominance is what it's all about, despite any of their claims to the contrary. One must be confident, have good posture, walk straight, look people right in the eye, go directly after what one wants, and remember it's all about winning-winning-winning. The richs' influential friends, big houses, glamorous hobbies are all signs of dominance, as is a single-minded determination to impose one's vision on the world.

Too bad he didn't write another book about the sycophants of the rich, the wanna-be plutocrats. I'm curious if there are any biological analogues for the bogus rationalizations favoring mass immigration put forth by our pundit class, despite the increasingly obvious awful consequences.

December 22, 2007 at 10:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Conniff has a whole chapter on the sychophants of the rich! He compares them to the baboons who use their lips to pick the burrs off the hindquarters of the dominant baboon.

December 22, 2007 at 5:11 PM  
Blogger Tanstaafl said...

lol

That's it, it's on my list.

December 23, 2007 at 9:14 AM  
Blogger Ashen Man said...

pa - To attempt to answer your question:

Brahmin castes naturally adhere to some kind of universalist philosophy - that is their purpose in the social organism, to connect the society to a sense of the universal beyond the limitations of its own particularities. Indian brahmins, as I understand it, are far more likely to be found studying the advaita vedanta which claims to be the universal core of all religions, than to be, say, sacrificing goats down at the Kalighat with the common folk.

The purpose of the ksatriyas/optimates is to defend the existence of the particular polity. The purpose of the vaisyas is the creation of wealth, which requires the defenses - of borders, of internal law & order, etc. - provided by the ksatriyas.

This should all fit together nicely, as long as everyone sticks to their jobs. But when brahmins start butting into politics and the economy, converting their elite spiritual philosophy into a political ideology, an obvious tension arises. Brahmins can sell their universalism, as an ideology of political liberation, to sudras/helots and dalits - who to them represent 'the other' and thus an opportunity for the negation of their culture's narrow particularities (hence, 'diversity') - and thus form an alliance against the middle castes.

But why would they want to, when it means living in an increasingly unsafe and impoverished polity?

Well, partly, our brahmins hate the middle classes just that much. Their hateful snobbery in that regard knows few apparent limits, whereas their snobbery with regard to the lower classes takes the form of pity and a condescension that could never even imagine them as rivals.

The other side of the problem is that their post-Christian egalitarian ideology brings with it a deep sense of guilt for being on the top of the pile. They cannot admit that a caste/class sytem exists and they're on top of it. They are not permitted the sense of spiritual elitism which is natural to a brahmin caste. Brahmins are supposed to understand that they are the spiritual intellectuals of society and that most people will adhere to particular cultural and political forms rather than universalist philosophy. But their egalitarianism absurdly forbids them to think of themselves as anything other than common people; they then feel morally obliged to enact a totalitarian transformation of society according to univeralist principles, which should be merely the esoteric philosophy of a priestly elite. Thus the insanity of a state run on an anti-power ideology, an economy run on an anti-wealth one.

And to bring this back to the vicinity of the subject of Mencius' post, this is one of the biggest problems with democracy- brahmins are supposed to be in the religion business, not the government one. Security is the business of ksatriyas/optimates, and the economy is the business of vaisyas.

The caste system: a place in the natural order for everyone, and everyone in their place.

Before I finish, this brings to mind one of my major problems with ideas like necameralism or anarcho-capitalism: the subordination of the principle of sovereignty to the economic realm; the ksatriya to the vaisya – another inversion, another form of degeneration, certain to end in disaster. I consider the sovereign principle a thing-in-itself, not reducible to economics. This is undoubtedly too mystical a proposition for most of you, but then I am of an unusually brahminical temperament.

December 23, 2007 at 12:31 PM  
Anonymous PA said...

I enjoyed your explanation Ashen Man! Looks like either the Optimates had abdicated, or the Brahmins had grown too powerful.

December 23, 2007 at 3:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Well, partly, our brahmins hate the middle classes just that much. Their hateful snobbery in that regard knows few apparent limits, whereas their snobbery with regard to the lower classes takes the form of pity and a condescension that could never even imagine them as rivals."

Spot on. Ruling US brahmin sentiment on college campuses says that while underclass criminals may rob or stab you, that is quite a minor crime compared to something awful, like living in a suburb or not appreciating modern art. Middle class existence is "hypocritical" ... the brahmins never explain exactly what is hypocritical about having an intermediate income level, they just KNOW it is hypocritical, because hypocrisy is the default leftist put-down. Their echo chamber is loud enough that they never have to question their mindset; they just KNOW people from the middle states and the middle income levels are greedy, worthless, and forgettable.

December 23, 2007 at 5:13 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

"Since no number of wrongs can make a right, X must be more egregious than Y, which makes Y superior to X."

This is a very weak argument, because, in the observable reality, every change of the system of government is egregious. For instance, it would be fairly easy to demonstrate with an argument like this that state socialism, as practiced by the communists in Eastern Europe is superior to liberal democracy, because the latter actually emerged from the former via fraud, violence, barbaric predation, etc.

In XIXth century France, regime changes were all fraudulent, violent and generally criminal in their nature. Both Revolution and counter-revolution were guilty of some very nasty crimes. That actually disproves your claim that the relation of being nastier is somehow transitive.

From an anarchist PoV, every system of government is essentially criminal and thus it is not surprising that any substantial change is brought about with fraud and gang violence. Extortion, counterfeiting, highway robbery and ponzi-style investment schemes are criminal activities even if they are called taxation, inflation, customs duties and social security. BTW, I am still waiting for your promised "why I am not an anarchist". Just because Chomsky also calls himself one?

As for cryptographic weapons locks, they won't work. For the same reasons that DRM won't work. Weapons with easily circumventable crypto-locks are cheaper to produce and they fetch a higher price in the free market. Thus, manufacturers won't put much effort into making them work, because the asymmetrically informed customer can't verify them anyway. There is some evidence that PALs haven't worked particularly well for nukes either.

December 23, 2007 at 6:53 PM  
Anonymous Randy said...

Ashen Man,

"...the insanity of a state run on an anti-power ideology, an economy run on an anti-wealth one."

Great line.

December 24, 2007 at 6:21 AM  
Anonymous Randy said...

Daniel A. Nagy,

"Extortion, counterfeiting, highway robbery and ponzi-style investment schemes are criminal activities even if they are called taxation, inflation, customs duties and social security."

And another great line.

December 24, 2007 at 6:25 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Daniel, MM is not an anarchist because he wants an institution with a monopoly on force and lawgiving. He thinks there are economies of scale when it comes to that sort of thing, with the individual being too small and most nations larger than a city too big. In his early essays on formalism he says that libertarians regard state property as illegitimate, whereas MM regards all property as legitimate and just wants to formalize it.

December 25, 2007 at 12:19 AM  
Blogger 信次 said...

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January 31, 2009 at 10:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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March 2, 2009 at 9:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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

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March 2, 2009 at 9:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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March 6, 2009 at 6:54 AM  

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