Sunday, January 20, 2008 62 Comments

How to defeat the US government: summary

I thought it'd be fun to write a quick summary of the last three posts.

We start with the perception that USG, or Washcorp, is a problem. Its problem is that the interests Washcorp serves seem quite a good match for its own. They do not seem to match the interests of the residents of the territory Washcorp owns, central North America or Plainland. (Using these neutral names helps us separate ourselves from symbolic emotional attachments, which also serve Washcorp's interest.)

The predictable result of this divergence in incentives is that Washcorp has become quite large, inefficient and intrusive. And it continues to grow. This bothers some of us. If it bothers you, please read on.

The traditional remedy is to persuade Plainlanders to use their collective democratic powers to elect a politician, such as Ron Paul, who promises to restructure Washcorp so that the result does in fact serve their interests. The typical promise is to replace the existing organization, which is the product of informal political evolution, with the formal design specified by the literal text of the Constitution.

There is no reason to think this remedy is effective. There are many reasons to think it is not. Thinking deductively: even if Dr. Paul is elected, the White House's influence on the executive branch is small, its influence on the judicial branch is only effective after decades of continuous control, and its influence on the legislative branch is nil. (Elections can also replace the Congress, but incumbency rates indicate that this is extremely difficult, and partisan transitions seem to have minimal effect - perhaps due to the iron triangle effect.) Thinking inductively: all previous democratic attacks against the civil service, press and universities have failed, often with high backlash. Of course, if the remedy is ineffective, any energy invested in it serves the interests of Washcorp.

I propose a different strategy: persuading Plainlanders that Washcorp is totaled. It neither serves their interests, nor is realistically reformable. Their only practical option is to liquidate it. The only practical way to liquidate Washcorp is to spin off its 50 local subdivisions, or "states," by restoring their sovereignty. If the new nations agree to honor Washcorp's financial obligations, the transition can be relatively seamless. The obvious historical analogy is the liquidation of the Soviet Union, which I think most people would agree was a good thing.

For better or worse, Washcorp remains a democracy. If enough of its voters decide that it is totaled, they certainly have the power to liquidate it. In fact, because Washcorp is far more responsive to direct and instantaneous polls than indirect, periodic elections, sufficient public support for liquidation will probably cause it to liquidate itself. The liquidation of the Soviet Union did not follow elections. It preceded them.

Liquidation has one obvious advantage, which is that if it succeeds it is very hard to reverse. Given the historical evolution of Washcorp as it is today from what it was in 1789, I find this advantage quite compelling. Restoring the Old Republic has a nice sound to it, but the Old Republic developed - not without collateral damage - into what we have now.

It also has an obvious disadvantage. The proposition that Washcorp is totaled strikes most Plainlanders today as even more implausible than the proposition that they need to vote for Ron Paul. It seems impractical to persuade more than a small minority of Plainlanders to vote for Ron Paul. Persuading them to liquidate Washcorp must be even harder.

But is it? If you, dear reader, agree that Washcorp is totaled, you must agree that persuading anyone to agree with this proposition means persuading them to agree with the truth. Furthermore, you must agree that persuading Plainlanders to vote for Ron Paul means persuading them to agree with a fiction. Therefore, we must choose between propagating an unlikely fiction, and an even more unlikely truth.

Both problems are hard. But I suspect the latter is easier.

The fact that Washcorp is totaled is not only difficult to grasp, but extremely large. Clearly, it cannot be explained in a TV ad, or any other superficial means of communication. To succeed, this strategy requires a very high percentage of Plainlanders to accept factual propositions that they cannot verify personally, value judgments that contradict their traditional assumptions, and philosophical arguments that they have neither the capacity nor the training to follow.

But the same can be said of their present belief system. To believe that Washcorp is not totaled, a Plainlander must accept numerous unverified facts, judgments and arguments. This process is called trust. It is perfectly normal and healthy.

At present, most Plainlanders feel that Washcorp is a productive institution which serves their interests, and whose occasional errors are correctable. They believe this not because they have thought the question through themselves, but because they have (quite sensibly) delegated it to credible information sources, whom they trust.

Their error is that these organs - press, universities, etc - are not in fact independent of Washcorp. Indeed, they are arguably the most influential power structures within it. At least if we define influence as control over policy, and we define "within" according to reality rather than symbolism.

If this analysis is accurate, Washcorp can be defeated by the following steps:

One: construct an information source more accurate than Washcorp's official organs.

Two: there is no two. If the argument above is correct, the rest will happen on its own.

First, if we are correct that Washcorp is pernicious and irreparable, and our information source is accurate, it must produce the same conclusion.

Granted, the proposition that Washcorp is totaled is not an "objective" result. It is neither a pure matter of fact, like the half-life of carbon-14, nor a product of irrefutable argument, like Darwinian evolution. Like any other meaningful conclusion about human society, it depends on facts, arguments, and subjective judgments. It is not a proof, but a perspective.

However, the same can be said of the proposition that Washcorp is not totaled. Since this proposition is false, it is likely to depend on incorrect facts or invalid arguments, and indeed it does. Refuting these will leave the surprised reader unusually open to new judgments.

There is no reason that a new, more accurate source of facts and arguments cannot also supply this demand. The mainstream organs which Plainlanders trust today produce a vast quantity of perspective, which seems objective only because it is conventional. If our new source can break this trust, it can remove the mainstream's camouflage and compete on a level field.

Therefore, after step one (actually building the new authority), our only problem is to persuade most Plainlanders to accept it as accurate - or, at least, much more accurate than the authorities they presently trust.

Assuming a generally uncensored Internet, this problem solves itself. While most people are not capable of sustained analysis, they are quite capable of assigning personal credibility. If the new authority is genuinely more accurate than the official organs, it will attract the support of the smartest and most credible people in society. As this 1337 attracts followers, the normal forces of intellectual fashion will do the rest.

We are left with step one: creating an accurate information source.

Why do the press and universities produce inaccurate information? The problem is not that their employees are not extremely intelligent, knowledgeable, and even well-intentioned. The problem is that they are also ambitious. Their first deception is always of themselves.

Within the mainstream organs, employees who propagate "progressive" perspectives, which lead Plainlanders to perceive Washcorp as a benign institution whose errors can be corrected, tend to outcompete employees who propagate "reactionary" perspectives, which represent Washcorp as pernicious and incurable. Washcorp creates this Darwinian pressure by subsidizing the universities, supplying the press with informal confidential information (leaks), and forming its policy around the preferences of both (influence). Subsidies, leaks and influence will naturally favor the friends of Washcorp, creating a selective bias. This bias is subtle, but not new. Over time it has produced some quite remarkable perspectives.

Of course, our new authority must be absolutely independent from this system. This means it must ascribe zero trust - neither positive nor negative - to the products of the mainstream. This contradicts Wikipedia's policies. Thus the new authority - which I've called Revipedia - can be expected to contradict Wikipedia. It also has a much harder problem to solve than Wikipedia, because it must examine every question on its merits without trusting authority.

If this problem is solvable, I suspect it can only be solved by deploying the full intellectual capacity of the Internet, and applying it in a structure which is not consensual but adversarial. Revipedia maximizes accuracy and credibility by presenting the strongest arguments, on every controversial subject, from every point of view. Moreover, it presents them separately but comparably, eschewing Wikipedia's unreadable and easily-gamed "he said, she said" style.

Strong arguments can only be produced by editing. A strong system of adversarial arguments demands editors who not only disagree with each other, but do so in a structured and predictable way. An unedited argument, or one edited by unsympathetic editors, is not an argument but a strawman. It adds no credit to its competition. And the difference can only be discerned if the sympathies of the editors are known.

Thus, strong adversarial arguments can only be constructed by a system of formal factions. Nothing of the sort exists at present, either within the mainstream organs or outside them. While this does not demonstrate that this design can create a public information authority of unprecedented accuracy and credibility, it certainly does not refute the proposition.

Furthermore, if there is an error in the argument above (which is certainly quite complex, and largely deductive rather than empirical), it may follow that Washcorp is actually benign, or that it is pernicious but a strong information authority is insufficient to defeat it. However, this does not imply that such an authority is undesirable. It's hard to see how it could be.

Since neither Revipedia nor anything like it exists, I conclude that someone ought to build it. I'm afraid my plate is full. But is yours? Imagine being the Jimbo Wales of the next century. It won't be me. It could be you.

62 Comments:

Blogger Joe said...

There's p2p wiki project that allows conflicting branches to be resolved (or not!) based on the reputation of the nodes pushing them - it is called bouillon p2p wiki.

January 20, 2008 at 3:42 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

If only they could keep their server up!

P2P is quite unnecessary unless you are either dealing in illegal content, or have some kind of gargantuan load.

And reputation graphs are overgeneralized - the right structure is hierarchical. I have never seen a nonhierarchical reputation system that worked and I don't expect to. Human social patterns are always hierarchical.

January 20, 2008 at 3:49 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

Until someone builds the perfect software platform for managing adversarial knowledge-seeking, you could begin by being more responsive to people who raise criticisms of your postings in the comments. For instance, here's something I said a few months ago, which was not answered as far as I know. I only mention this because you're making the same point above that I was replying to back then, namely falsely identifying the political left with the state and the political right with resistance to the state. This ignores the entire antiauthoritarian left, which, as I've said elsewhere, has done a hell of a lot more to interfere with abuses of state power than libertarians.

January 20, 2008 at 6:42 PM  
Blogger Justin M. Keyes said...

mencius: i don't have anything valuable to add, i just really like your blog.

mtraven: semantics, man.

January 20, 2008 at 10:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I like your blog too, Mencius.

It's smart, weird, funny and very well written.

January 21, 2008 at 2:20 AM  
Blogger baldvin said...

Since neither Revipedia nor anything like it exists, I conclude that someone ought to build it. I'm afraid my plate is full. But is yours? Imagine being the Jimbo Wales of the next century. It won't be me. It could be you.

Working on it, I'll get back to you when I'm ready ;)

January 21, 2008 at 1:15 PM  
Blogger Leonard said...

I find the general idea of trying to use the net to further state abolition plausible and agreeable. So, I like the idea of Revipedia. But while I agree that it would be a tool of abolition... it's just not enough.

It seems to me that there is only one way to undo a demotic state: to have the amount of consent-withdrawal to be more than the amount of consent. As things stand, there's about 30% of the population actively employed by the state, or directly its clients. Opposed to them are 1% or whatever of people who are radical libertarians.

The state manufactures consent. This is the primary function of its payroll and its social spending: to create client classes and to create court intellectuals. Seems to me, then, that at its simplest there is only one way to undo a demotic state: to have the amount of consent-withdrawal to be more than the amount of consent. And that is a tall order. In fact it seems to me that manufacturing consent-withdrawal will be necessary. This requires that the amount spent on consent-withdrawal be similar in magnitude to that spent on manufacturing consent. How are you going to focus 1/3 of the GNP into actively anti-state institutions? You're not.

You seem to think that your revised wiki is enough. I don't see it. Contrary to your suggestion, "lysenkoism" (official untruth) does not seem to be particularly problematic for the state. While it is true that a few policies might be undone by having to correspond to reality more closely (i.e., maybe "affirmative action" will go down), most of the state's policies do not rest fundamentally on facts. Rather they rest on opinion, on basic human prejudices, on unverifiable facts, etc.

Consider our Iraqi adventure. Fundamentally it based on the following idea: they are them, and everyone not-us is dangerous, and we can mitigate danger by attacking first. This is the most basic human nature, quite hardwired by eons of evolution as apes, and inescapable. There's no fact that will refute it.

Let me put it another way. You can currently point at "facts" in wikipedia at are not true, for some things, that might change a minor govt program here or there. But let's think about what Washcorp does that you might want to abolish. For simplicity let's analyze it by money spent. (Presumably consent is manufactured in proportion to spending levels on things.)
Here's the wiki on the budget:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_federal_budget%2C_2008

What fact can Revipedia print that would destroy consent to the payment of interest on national debt? What fact can Revipedia print that would destroy consent to military spending? What fact can Revipedia print that would destroy consent to payments of Social Security? What fact can Revipedia print that would destroy consent to Medicare and Medicaid?

The imbalance between the ability to manufacture consent, and the inability to manufacture withdrawal of consent, is what lies behind my intuition that bankrupcy (or its fiat-currency relative) will be necessary before anything serious changes in Washcorp.

January 21, 2008 at 1:15 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

I haven't forgotten you, Baldvin! I am just very bad with my email. Yet another reason why I shouldn't be Jimbo Wales, whom I don't think is quite so reclusive and eccentric.

mtraven, I haven't forgotten you either! I am really totally lame.

My answer is that Universalists think like the bumper sticker I saw recently in SF: it said "I love my country, but I fear my government." I don't think the owner was thinking of DHS or HUD. The part of the government they fear is the part controlled by their enemies. The part they love is the part they think of not as the State, but as "society." Progressive support for the State is not a passion, as it was 75 years ago, but an apathetic reflex. This is good! Nonetheless, it is there and it will not just go away.

Leonard, you raise excellent points. But there is a simple way to deal with folks who are dependent on Washcorp: send them home and keep paying them. How many USG employees do you think would be willing to retire, right now, on half or 3/4 pay? By and large, these people freakin' hate their jobs.

The same certainly goes for the national debt, Medicare, etc. Washcorp cannot be liquidated by a taxpayer revolt. In fact, the process probably involves up-front costs. Fortunately, an open-loop fiat currency, while not at all healthy, is a tool as well as a problem to be solved.

The problem with Lysenkoism is that it is delegitimizing. It's like finding out that the King was the son of a stablehand and a scullery maid - it taints the whole concept of monarchism. If the State is founded on crime, it cannot be the same thing as "society."

Take the conflict between human biodiversity and "diversity." The partisans of the latter cannot just retreat. They are backed up against the sea. "Sorry, we lied" is not an acceptable answer, and it will not save anyone's career. It's this kind of situation that tends to produce discontinuous changes in political systems.

January 21, 2008 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger Leonard said...

there is a simple way to deal with folks who are dependent on Washcorp: send them home and keep paying them.

This might work for some philosopher king placed in charge by some miracle. But it rather puts the cart before the horse. How could we possibly get Washcorp to agree to do it?

Many of those dependent on Washcorp really are dependent, for their current quality of life (Social Security) or medical care, welfare check, etc. Obviously with these people you cannot "send them home" -- they already are there. Cutting them to half or three-quarters of their current pay will not be possible without demonizing them to a remarkable degree.

As for those "working", sending them home would work, but they (and others) would not accept it. They are the very classes hotly targetted by court intellectuals as vital, and in fact many of them are worshipped as such. (See for example the soldier-worship paraded at NRO.) They buy into it. So in part their pay is not monetary: it's status. What you are proposing is, in essence, to be reasonably generous on money-pay while cutting their status to zero (as superfluous), and even sub-zero (inherent in recognizing that they have been leeches for their entire antecedent career). Do you think they will accept that? I don't. Not without active reprogramming.

I disagree with your estimate about how people dislike govt jobs. Some do hate theirs, and perhaps that would be enough, along with money, to get them over loss of status. But I know a fair number of govt-employed; it's impossible not to in Washington, where I used to live, and even in Baltimore (they commute, crazy as it seems). These folks like it sometimes and dislike it others, but mostly seem to like it about as well as I like my private market job.

One caveat here is I tend to know the better educated drones, and for that matter, the more personable ones. So my sampling is obviously unscientific, anecdotal, and skewed. Got data?

January 21, 2008 at 2:17 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

MM does seem to give too little focus on how much the government spends on what. He gives a lot of focus to foreign aid, but barely any to Social Security or Medicare and doesn't seem to care about the Military Industrial Complex (I like the updated MICFiC: "military-industrial-congressional-financial complex").

You know "I love my country, not my government" was a right-wing slogan. Saint Max on a stick, I miss the nineties.

I also don't believe Lysenkoism is nearly the problem you believe it to be. Everybody knows now that we were bamboozled into the Spanish American War and the Vietnam War, we know about Venona and how Duranty was full of it, it just doesn't matter. People do not trust the government, poll numbers show its approval ratings to be on a secular decline much to the consternation of "responsible centrists". The media is similarly disrespected, "dead trees", "talking heads", "missing white woman" and so on.

Are the domain names uberfact.org and revipedia.org? What is the difference between them?

January 21, 2008 at 3:23 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Mtraven remarks that the "antiauthoritarian left... has done a hell of a lot more to interfere with abuses of state power than libertarians."

I question whether there is such a thing as the "antiauthoritarian left." My observation is that the left, when it prevails politically, is ALWAYS authoritarian. Such "antiauthtoritarianism" as it exhibits is ordinarily a posture taken for the purposes of attacking authority that happens to be exercised inconveniently to the purposes or ends of the left. Mtraven, in his linked post, mentions the ACLU. If this is an example of the "antiauthoritarian left," it perfectly illustrates my point.

The ACLU likes to portray itself as an advocate of our civil rights as guaranteed under the Bill of Rights, but upon examination we find it is curiously selective in which rights it defends. There is much defense of the First Amendment prohibition of religious establishment, to the extent that the ACLU is stalwart against such things as Christmas crêches in public parks, prayers before high school football games, and other minor manifestations of religious sentiment having any connection with a governmentally-sponsored function, never mind that these hardly rise to the historic standard of religious establishment the Framers of that amendment hand in mind, namely that prevalent under the Church of England. On the other hand, the ACLU has almost nothing to say about freedom of religious exercise, unless it is (for example) on the part of practitioners of voodoo who wish to sacrifice chickens or goats in violation of local animal-cruelty ordinances.

Similarly, the ACLU has sedulously avoided Second Amendment cases, despite meticulous historical documentation that thid amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms. The ACLU is all over Fifth Amendment cases that involve self-incrimination or supposed cruel and unusual punishments, but has nothing to do with cases under the takings clause. The ACLU was missing in action on the infamous Kelo case, the outcome of which vested in government an authority to take a property from its owner and award it to another private party purely on the basis of political favor - an authority forbidden to English monarchs under Magna Charta!

Moreover, the ACLU has been in the forefront of a movement to create new "rights" for some citizens at the expense of the rights of others. As envisioned by the Framers, a "right" under the Bill of Rights reflects an absence of or constraint upon government authority. Government cannot, for example, place prior restraints upon the press, cannot restrict the free exercise of religion, cannot quarter troops on a private property without the owner's consent, cannot search or seize private property without a warrant from a court, and so forth.

Under the expansive definition of "rights" advocated by the ACLU (and other exemplars of the "antiauthoritarian left"), a person has a right to buy goods or services, be hired by an employer, rent from a landlord, or purchase a house from its seller, without discrimination on the grounds of race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, etc. Such alleged rights differ from those asserted by the Bill of Rights in that they do NOT simply reflect an absence of or constraint upon the authority of government. They are created at the expense of the rights of vendors of goods and services, employers, landlords, and sellers of real estate to do business with the trading partners of their choice.

Not incidentally, they create a huge new set of occasions for lawsuits to be filed by those who claim to have been discriminated against versus those they claim to have discriminated against them. The likely targets of these suits are inevitably owners of private property or operators of privately-held business.

Is it just a coincidence that the ACLU was founded by Roger Baldwin and other sympathizers of socialism? The "civil liberties" they seek to defend all seem to strike either against mediating institutions such as Christianity, the patriarchal family, and other centers of what Albert Jay Nock identified as "social power" - or against some aspect of rights in private property.

Viewed in this light, the ACLU is hardly "antiauthoritarian," but rather is a strategic instrument of the left to attack and defeat potential citadels of resistance against the imposition of the left's will through the state. Its existence is merely evidence that the left's control of the state is not yet complete, and that there is significant opposition to the leftist program from non-governmental sources that have not been reduced either to subservience or insignificance.

The ACLU is purely an expedient to help in accomplishing leftist goals. When it has served its purpose and "the brave new world begins/ where all men are paid for existing, and no man must pay for his sins," it will be discarded by the left as the empty shell it will then be.

January 21, 2008 at 4:45 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

My observation is that the left, when it prevails politically, is ALWAYS authoritarian.
That is true. It is also true of the right. The government is an authority and expecting it to not act in an authoritarian manner is like expecting a cat to bark.

The ACLU certainly has sordid origins and connections to communism, but I think it is serious about protecting individual rights. It has defended extremely unpopular people like the KKK, neo-nazis and Larry Craig. It has done some crap stuff too though.

January 21, 2008 at 6:40 PM  
Blogger Studd Beefpile said...

People are biologically programmed to express dominance by reordering the lives of others. How will reason (represented by revipedia) ever triumph over this basic biological fact? Thinking we can reason rather than engineer away this flaw strikes me as new socialist man ver 2.x.

January 21, 2008 at 6:48 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

I question whether there is such a thing as the "antiauthoritarian left."

Then you are ignorant. The left-anarchist movement is 150 years old. I, personally. question whether there is such a thing as the "antiauthoritarian right", since the right is, by definition, the party of tradition and authority.

My observation is that the left, when it prevails politically, is ALWAYS authoritarian.
Well, anybody who "prevails politically" is going to be authoritarian in the broad sense of that word, again by definition, since prevailing politically is equivalent to exercising authority.

The ACLU likes to portray itself as an advocate of our civil rights as guaranteed under the Bill of Rights, but upon examination we find it is curiously selective in which rights it defends.

The ACLU is a private organization and is under no compunction to defend all rights equally. The interpretation of the 2nd amendment, contrary to what you say, is open to a great deal of divergence, with the maximalist position is well-represented by other organizations.

On the other hand, the ACLU has almost nothing to say about freedom of religious exercise
Manifestly untrue.

Its existence is merely evidence that the left's control of the state is not yet complete, and that there is significant opposition to the leftist program from non-governmental sources that have not been reduced either to subservience or insignificance
Well, let's see. The current right-wing administration has dispensed with habeas corpus, permitted itself unlimited power to wiretap, invented all manner of extra-constititutional powers such as signing statements, employed and defended the use of torture. The ACLU fights against these abuses of power, although it does committ the unspeakable assualts against liberty of keeping creches out of the public parks and prohibiting private businesses from racial discrimination.

The only conclusion a sensible person can reach is that people who spend more time worrying about the ACLU than worrying about the Bush administration are not seriously interested in promoting liberty. The ACLU has done plenty to restrain rights abuses of both Republican and Democratic governments. What has the "antiauthoritarian right" done to restrain its allies in the Republican party? Jack shit, that's what.

The ACLU is purely an expedient to help in accomplishing leftist goals.
So why did it defend the right of Nazis to march through Skokie, taking a large funding hit in the process? Must be a devious leftist plot.

January 21, 2008 at 8:19 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

mtraven, for right-wing alternatives to the ACLU you should check out the Institute for Justice and the Rutherford Institute.

January 21, 2008 at 11:19 PM  
Blogger Leonard said...

I also don't believe Lysenkoism is nearly the problem you believe it to be.

I want to strongly second this opinion. People don't care about facts, per se. Consider the current crop of neocons, and the Iraq war. It was as close to objectively wrong as anything we're likely to see in politics: no WMDs, not greeted as liberators, not short, not cheap, etc. So, how does your prediction that "lysenkoism" is political poison match the result?

Not only are we still in Iraq... but people are now starting to come around to the idea that it's not so bad, that the "surge" is working, etc. Consent is being managed for the election. After the election we can expect Iraq to heat up as they ease up on it.

The neocons who perpetrated the WMD hoax? Still have their jobs, the pundits. A few of them maybe took a small reputation hit, but it's remarkable how little their reputations have been affected. The political leadership has mostly moved on, but I think only partly for political reasons. Certainly they have not been disgraced.

Now, let's say Revi takes off, and you've actually got the truth out there, although contended. Do you really think this will make any difference? Some, slight difference, maybe, on the issues where Washcorp is furthest from reality. This challenges Washcorp's power not a bit. Those who were wrong either change their minds, and get a pass, since "their intentions were good", or else, they just... don't.

On the latter, consider that many politicians publicly don't believe in evolution, even though they are educated men. Does this hurt them? Well... they don't think so, obviously.

Now, there is one way in which "lysenkoism" is politically poison: it is when a voter feels a politician has lied to him about something that voter actually cares about. You can lie all you want about evolution, and I don't care -- it has very minor effect, and I can easily educate my own child. If you give me liberty, I'll vote for you. (Ron Paul is apparently a creationist.) But if you promise something and don't deliver it... then I'm mad. This is hypothetical for me since the men I vote for never win. But imagine a politician promises, oh, say, "no new taxes", then raises taxes. This causes fury, and will be punished.

And here we return to my idea that bankrupcy (or, again, the own-currency inflationish equivalent) is necessary to break Washcorp. Even if you pay off social security recipient with newly printed $10000 bills, if you stiff them in purchasing power, not dollar numbers, you are now a "lysenkoist" to them and will be repudiated. People hate eating cat food.

January 22, 2008 at 8:19 AM  
Blogger Dan Weber said...

... elect a politician, such as Ron Paul, who promises to restructure Washcorp so that the result does in fact serve their interests.

Which candidates this electoral cycle haven't promised to "make Washington serve the public's interest?"

Seriously, when I read that section, I thought it came right out of a John Edwards speech.

January 22, 2008 at 9:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous Coward said...

Mencius,
I fail to see how Revipedia is immune to subversion. That is, given the relatively strong anonymity the internet provides, how would you prevent one faction from sending individuals to infiltrate rival factions, gain status among its constituents, and ultimately influence their beleifs in a way beneficial to the infiltrating faction?

As far as I can tell, Revipedia would be a mere proxy of IRL. I don't have a better solution, though.

The way I see it, the problem of generating reliable information is the same as answering the question "who will watch the watchmen?" I'm not a philosophy buff so maybe I'm ignorant of the answer.

Anyway, I just thought I'd say that while I don't agree with every point of your posts, I'm a fan of your blog - especially you're writing style's attention to diction.

January 22, 2008 at 10:00 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Mtraven, I'm glad you brought up the ACLU's defense of neo-Nazis' purported right to march through the predominantly Jewish neighborhoods of Skokie, Illinois. This is an example always used by defenders of the ACLU to illustrate the proposition that rights are not always exercised by socially respectable, well-mannered people, and that the civil liberties of all are upheld at the cost of upholding those of persons who behave in a manner most people find repellent.

Why is not the same logic applied by the ACLU to prohibitions under so-called civil rights laws of private discrimination (not only on grounds of race)?

For example, it seems to me perfectly rational that a business catering to the homosexual community in , say, Provincetown, Mass., should wish exclusively to hire gay employees. Their right to do so, of course, can only be upheld at the cost of allowing a retailer in, say, Dothan, Alabama, to refuse to hire a flaming poofter to wait upon his clientele of hardshell Baptists. Similarly, it seems to me that a Jewish entrepreneur reasonably might not want to hire a skinhead adorned with swastika tattoos, but his right to refuse employment to such a person must coexist with the ability of an anti-Semite to refuse employment to Jews.

A proper understanding of the function of markets makes it clear that in the great majority of cases, discriminating on purely invidious grounds against prospective customers, employees, or tenants is irrational and harmful to the business of the merchant, employer, or landlord, since he is excluding from consideration a segment of the market with which he might profitably deal. Market incentives should be sufficient to overcome most invidious discrimination. We might well presume that such invidious discrimination they do not overcome is either founded in invincible ignorance or has some rational basis. Statutory prohibition is in any event not warranted.

Statutes forbidding private discrimination have made hash of rights of free association that were taken for granted before they existed. They have also created circumstances that offer real conundrums to any court before which they might come. Two recent examples have arisen in a city near where I live, in which there is now a large Somali immigrant community, mostly Sunni Muslim.

Muslim taxicab drivers at the regional airport have repeatedly refused to carry passengers they suspect of carrying alcoholic beverages or of being gay, or who are accompanied by dogs. Muslim cashiers at local supermarkets have refused to ring up purchases of customers if they include pork or beer. Note that these people are not self-employed, but work for others. In a better world their supervisors should have no trouble telling such people that when they refuse lawful work that legitimately falls within the scope of their jobs, they will be fired. However, the employers are afraid that if they do fire them, they will be accused of religious and/or racial discrimination!

But the employer can't win. Since an employee acts as his employer's agent, at least some of the discrimination practised by these employees could conceivably result in liability not to themselves, but to their employer, for discriminating on such grounds as religion or sexual orientation. I know of no such suit now in the courts but it is only a matter of time before one is filed.

One does not need to sympathize with any kind of invidious discrimination to see that laws against private discrimination have mainly created legal mischief. Not only do they not expand liberty - because the purpoted rights of one group of people have been created at the expense of another group - but they have abridged liberty by forcing a great many normal business activities to be undertaken in a condition of omnipresent fear of litigation and liability.

I'll conclude by noting that not all forbidden discrimination is purely invidious or irrational. Employers are, for example, forbidden from enquiring prior to employment into an applicant's medical condition, on the grounds that such enquiries presume an intent to discriminate against the handicapped (and handicaps can include alcoholism or drug addiction). Some employers get around this by requiring a physical examination after making an offer of employment, which is permitted, or drug testing at periodic intervals after hiring, though these of course are added expenses to the employer. It is impossible to get much more than a start and end of employment date and a job title when enquiring of an applicant's previous employers, because they are now all afraid of potential liability for speaking frankly.

Some years ago one of my businesses hired a man for duties including warehousing, a job that required lifting cartons of books weighing up to 40 lb., and use of hand trucks or pallet jacks for larger loads. What we did not know - because forbidden to find it out by questioning the man at the time of his application - was that he had experienced two prior soft-tissue back injuries, both of which ended in protracted workers' compensation claims at his past two employers. Within six months of coming to work for me this man suffered another such injury and was promptly idled for more than a year, this time at the expense of my insurance.

Assuming his claim was legitimate, what good did the anti-discrimination statute do him? Had we known, my business would not have offered him the job that he represented himself as fit to do, and he'd have been spared an injury. On the other hand, had his claim been one in a series of attempts to defraud workers' comp (as I suspect it was) both the carrier, and my business's experience rating, would have been spared an expensive encounter with a scoundrel.

I can, in conclusion, view prohibitions against private discrimination as supported by the ACLU only as tools with which to harass private enterprise and the owners of private property, objectives which one suspects Roger Baldwin and the other socialists who founded it saw as central to their ultimate purpose.

January 22, 2008 at 12:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I fail to see how Revipedia is immune to subversion.

Exactly. If wiki was suborned and coopted, why won't this be?

That said, there is a tremendous public appetite for the truth. Everyone knows the government lies and that neither academics nor the media can be trusted. But if the people had the truth, would that be enough? I'm not sure. The people in the USSR knew they were being lied to, but it didn't fall apart for 70 years. Indeed, I wouldn't say the USSR fell apart because the people suddenly realized that Communism was "a lie" and the truth was out there. The USSR fell apart because the Politburo got tired of lying and wasn't willing to shoot people any more (in contrast, the PRC leaders remain happy to lie and happy to grind people under tank treads if they have to).

What is the mechanism for making the Brahmins tired of lying? How do you make the politicians, the academics, and the press all say (simultaneously), "this sucks, we quit, someone else take over"?

January 22, 2008 at 12:28 PM  
Anonymous TGGP said...

Anonymous 22, 2008 12:28 PM, I agree with you on the USSR. Bryan Caplan takes the same tack here.

Bush promised "no nation building" and "a humble foreign policy". Many Presidents have campaigned on shrinking the government or something like that, including FDR as Mencius loves to point out, but even Reagan never did that. The Democrats won the midterms because they were supposed to end the war, but they haven't done a damn thing.

For more on just how succesful the Iraq war promoters have been despite being so wrong while the people who were correct have gone nowhere, see this from Radar.

My guess is that the ACLU does not consider "economic liberties" to be "civil liberties" and fully accept current notions about the 14th Amendment ending state's rights/federalism. Kip Esquire seems to accept the latter idea and so insists that Ron Paul is not a libertarian at all but a "neoconfederalist", though as someone who wishes to replace the Constitution with the Articles of Confederation I suppose that describes me much better!

January 22, 2008 at 1:44 PM  
Anonymous Rigitaeda said...

This is all about black people, isn't it?

January 22, 2008 at 1:52 PM  
Anonymous PA said...

How do you make the politicians, the academics, and the press all say (simultaneously), "this sucks, we quit, someone else take over"?

Some, like L. Auster, say that this is already happening:

Muslim immigration + creeping Sharia.

January 22, 2008 at 4:17 PM  
Blogger George Weinberg said...

It seems to me as if making sure the facts are all properly verified and arranged in a useful fashion is more an administrative problem than a technical one. No doubt it's possible to do considerably better than mediawiki, but it seems to me that it should be good enough if you can get the content. I don't see how you can guarantee quality content other than having the administrators being very restrictive as to who can submit and edit articles. If you have ideas as to how content quality guarantees can be built into the system I'd be interested in hearing them.

I looked at conservapedia briefly yesterday. The quality of writing struck me as being rather poor, and there are serious problems with the content as well. I get the impression that "conservative" in this context primarily means religious, and the contributors are attempting the impossible task of asserting that their own religions are true while avoiding the implication that contradictory religions are false.

January 22, 2008 at 6:17 PM  
Blogger chairmanK said...

says michael s.: I question whether there is such a thing as the "antiauthoritarian left."

says mtraven: Then you are ignorant. The left-anarchist movement is 150 years old. I, personally. question whether there is such a thing as the "antiauthoritarian right", since the right is, by definition, the party of tradition and authority.

I sympathize with mtraven. I wish that more people were exposed to left-anarchism. Antiauthoritarian leftists are such extremists that they regard the ACLU to be a gang of collaborators with the State. Once you start thinking of the ACLU as a bunch of rightists, you're well on your way towards some truly dangerous thinking. Ask yourself: What sort of radical worldview might there be to the left of Proudhon? Once you adopt this perspective, dismantling Washcorp hardly seems extreme at all.

January 22, 2008 at 6:55 PM  
Anonymous PA said...

I wish that more people were exposed to left-anarchism

Pardon a naive question, but how do you not go from left-anarchism to rampaging boys with AK-47s in Toyota pick-ups?

January 22, 2008 at 7:08 PM  
Blogger chairmanK said...

pa said: Pardon a naive question, but how do you not go from left-anarchism to rampaging boys with AK-47s in Toyota pick-ups?

Haha, I was expecting this. I never said that it would be good to implement left-anarchist ideas in the real world. (Well, if you're the warlord in charge of the boys with the AK-47s, it might be good for you...) However, I do think that keeping such ideas in circulation prevents scleroticization of political discourse. Regardless of who is doing the threatening, I encourage relentless threats to the State.

January 22, 2008 at 8:24 PM  
Blogger chairmanK said...

fuck, I just made up a word, didn't it? I meant "sclerosis".

January 22, 2008 at 8:25 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Some, like L. Auster, say that this is already happening:

Muslim immigration + creeping Sharia.

In America there aren't nearly enough Muslims, and even in Europe the issue is overblown.

Regarding Ak-47's in pickups, the politics of "left" and "right" don't really apply in Somalia (though they did use to have a communist dictator) and there aren't any self-described anarchists there. However, there are many indicators that Somalia is better off stateless. It seems bad by our standards, but in many respects is doing better than its neighbors that retain central governments.

January 22, 2008 at 8:36 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

Michael S, I'm not particularly interested in defending the ACLU's conception of rights vs. yours, except to note that they are different and there is no a priori reason why yours should be preferred. I find the libertarian view of property rights to be simplistic, but I got tired of arguing about it a couple of decades ago. And I don't necessarily agree with the ACLU on everything they do.

One of the nicely different things about this blog is that its owner doesn't seem to put much stock in rights, preferring instead to think in terms of real-world power. So I bring up the ACLU as an example of a group on the left that has done more to actually interfere with abuses of state power than anyone on right (and thanks TGGP for those pointers to organizations that do sort of the same thing from a right or libertarian pov -- interesting and somewhat pleasing, but I don't think it alters my point, those organizations are much newer and smaller than the corresponding leftist groups).

Meanwhile, here's another example, picked pretty much at random from the ACLU site, of how they fight the combined abuses heaped on individuals by governments and private interests, which reminded me that that was also what was going on in the Jim Crow south, and was the reason the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. Happy MLK day to all.

January 22, 2008 at 9:09 PM  
Anonymous PA said...

Chairmank: I'm glad that to you left-anarchism is a means to keeping the state honest rather than an end in itself. I can go along with that.

TGGP: I'm not so sure that the issue is overblown. Birthrates, immirgation, a bottom-to-top fanaticism, and a tacit support by a sclerotic Brahmin class count for a lot.

Besides, haven't you been following the Steyn affair in Canada, where extra-judicial Musilm bodies have de-facto judicial powers? Minneapolis taxicabs? British speech codes? impotent parisian police?

Maybe the issue is overblown (I hope it is) but it's certainly risen to the level of where sleeping with one eye open is not counterindicated.

January 23, 2008 at 5:11 AM  
Anonymous Randy said...

Step 1; Find a way to get people to lose faith in government. At best they will then downsize it significantly. At worst, they will stop buying into the propaganda that allows it to grow. Revipedia might do the trick. But given human nature, I suspect that counter propaganda, truthful or not, would be more successful.

January 23, 2008 at 5:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

tacit support by a sclerotic Brahmin class count for a lot.

Elite support for muslim immigration in Europe is not "tacit" any more than elite support for Hispanic immigration is in the USA. As it says at GNXP, "Elites on the Left co-opt Muslims as tools in their own conflicts and culture wars with the Right, high and low. If Muslims serve as the new revolutionary class then it is in the Left's interest to promote them and encourage the perception of the power of this constituency, as well as to facilitate its mobilization under the leadership of individuals with whom other segments of society can negotiate."

Divide et impera. This game is not new.

January 23, 2008 at 6:16 AM  
Blogger Sally said...

Musing over why your post reminds me of Flatland ...

January 23, 2008 at 10:09 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Mtraven, I agree with Mencius that concern with "rights" is much overblown, but I do not think concern with liberty is.

The reason the left tends towards authoritarianism is that it prefers equality to liberty. In any question where liberty is opposed to equality, the left will invariably side with egalitarianism enforced by state power at the expense of liberty. Statutes forbidding purely private discrimination are illustrations of this preference.

Egalitarianism swims against nature's powerful current. It sounds very noble to say that all men are created equal, but in real life people are quite unequal in natural ability, drive, and luck. Given a little liberty these inequalities will manifest themselves in hierarchical patterns, as Mencius has correctly observed. Elites develop even under the most egalitarian and left-wing governments, e.g., the nomenklatura in the old Soviet Union, the "Gang of 4" in Maoist China, etc. - and invariably are more perverse and abusive than are the elites in freer and less egalitarian countries.

I suggest that egalitarianism is mostly a stratagem employed by a rising elite faction (Pareto's foxes) against an older and vulnerable elite faction (Pareto's lions). History is replete with examples.

We may consider the War Between the States as one. The present orthodox portrayal of that conflict is that it was a noble crusade on the part of the virtuous North to free the poor oppressed slaves from their vicious Southern masters. Yet there is another way to look at it, which is that it was a conflict between an industrial elite and an agrarian elite (just as, for example, the struggle over the Corn Laws in Britain was). The difference was that here, the industrial elite was able to make common cause with a handful of intellectual abolitionists, as well as a larger number of free white laborers who detested and feared potential competition of black labor (slave or free), and to portray itself as championing the interests of the wretched slaves.

Thus, instead of achieving a simple parliamentary defeat for the landed elite, followed by a long slow decline into agricultural depression, as happened in Britain after the repeal of the Corn Laws, the industrial elite here was able to enjoy an absolute victory over its agrarian rivals, looting their assets and reducing them to immediate poverty, disfranchising them and setting their former slaves as satraps over them during the Reconstruction. But it is a perilous thing to be the non-elite tools of a triumphant elite faction. The salad days of the newly-freed slaves ended as soon as it was no longer convenient for the Northern industrial elite, its victory assured, to be saddled with them as allies. The South reduced to an economic backwater, Southern blacks were abandoned by their fair-weather friends in the North within a decade to the mercy of a vengeful and humiliated local white population,. Ninety years of Jim Crow followed.

Discussion of these kinds of issues is a persuasive reason for the Revipedia concept proposed by MM. You will not, I suspect, see the perspective I have advanced above presented in Wikipedia or in recent academic historical or economic treatment of the period. Yet it is there, for those who have the curiosity to find it, in such once well-known works as Claude Bowers's "The Tragic Era."

Am I alone in suspecting that one of the reasons for the broad abandonment of the classical education in the latter half of the twentieth century is that it, too, presents a narrative that doesn't suit prevailing ideological assumptions and prejudices? Consider the modern idolatry of democracy, which MM has so ably attacked. The Greek and Latin classics present us with a very ambivalent description of its consequences amongst ancient peoples who were every bit as intelligent and civilised as we are today, if not more so. Yes, there is the famous panegyric to democracy in the Funeral Oration of Pericles - but there is also a record of the tumults, disruptions, and oppressions with which Athenian democracy abounded, and of its inglorious end in the days of Demosthenes and Eubulus. Similar patterns may be discerned in the history of the Roman republic, in which the plebs were constantly used as a bludgeon to advance the interests of unscrupulous politicians, who were often as not renegade patricians like the Gracchi or Clodius Pulcher. I cannot speak for anyone else but surely in my case such reading as I made of the classics when in school and college imparted to me a thorough understanding of the power of demagogy, and scepticism about all the usual platitudes we hear about democracy and equality.

In any event, if there is some "mechanism for making the Brahmins tired of lying," it has to be within the realm of ideas. Ideas, as Richard Weaver famously said, have consequences. We are living today with the consequences of ideas that have been fashionable for most of the past century. If we wish to have different consequences, the first step find a way to put different ideas before the intellectual and chattering class from which the dominant elite (Brahmins) is drawn, in the hopes that at least some of these people will start to question conventional wisdom. It will be a slow process, at least as much so as was the Gramscian "long march through the institutions" behind that conventional wisdom.

January 23, 2008 at 10:51 AM  
Blogger TGGP said...

mtraven:
I'm not sure about that example. I hate the TSA as much as the next guy, but the airline also had a problem. I agree that saying that arabic = terrorist propaganda is massive dickery, but if their passengers actually feel that way it would make sense to have that kind of a policy. If the guy already bought his tickets unaware that he couldn't wear the shirt, I think he's got a good case against them, but I don't think people should be able to wear whatever they want on an airlines planes. If I wore a shirt that said "Kill all niggers" or had a pornographic image on it, I think you'd agree that they could say that would bother passengers and I don't have a right to wear it on their plane. What is and is not offensive is inherently subjective and so would be left up to the airline.

pa:
I'm not so sure that the issue is overblown. Birthrates, immirgation, a bottom-to-top fanaticism, and a tacit support by a sclerotic Brahmin class count for a lot.
How high are their birth-rates and immigration compared to the pre-existing societies? How fanatical are they? Few prophets of Eurabia actually look at the data. I have told Lawrence Auster about that GNXP post several times and he has had nothing to say about it.

Besides, haven't you been following the Steyn affair in Canada, where extra-judicial Musilm bodies have de-facto judicial powers? Minneapolis taxicabs? British speech codes? impotent parisian police?
I discussed attacks on free speech, including in Canada, here. It's misleading to think of it as a muslim thing. I also don't care about taxis.

randy:
Find a way to get people to lose faith in government.
All polls show a secular decline in that. Fat lot of good it has done.

At best they will then downsize it significantly. At worst, they will stop buying into the propaganda that allows it to grow.
History has proved you wrong.

michael s:
The reason the left tends towards authoritarianism is that it prefers equality to liberty.
I agree, though I think there are additional reasons. Would you agree that the right tends towards authoritarianism? If so, why?

You will not, I suspect, see the perspective I have advanced above presented in Wikipedia
Wikipedia is not supposed to engage in issues of whether the war was noble. It also notes the "Corrupt Bargain" and persecution of blacks in the post-Civil War south.

If we wish to have different consequences, the first step find a way to put different ideas before the intellectual and chattering class from which the dominant elite (Brahmins) is drawn, in the hopes that at least some of these people will start to question conventional wisdom.
I doubt it will happen, and ideas are mostly excuses anyway. I'm more interested in finding ways to escape their grasp and letting their system collapse without being caught in the cross-fire.

January 23, 2008 at 12:56 PM  
Anonymous Randy said...

tggp,

Its really hard to tell just how much good it has done. The problem is immense, but how much bigger would the problem be if people weren't starting to lose faith in government? For one thing, we'd probably already have universal healthcare. I don't expect any trend in the other direction until the crash, but slower growth in government is better than faster growth.

January 23, 2008 at 1:10 PM  
Blogger Studd Beefpile said...

The reason the left tends towards authoritarianism is that it prefers equality to liberty. In any question where liberty is opposed to equality, the left will invariably side with egalitarianism enforced by state power at the expense of liberty. Statutes forbidding purely private discrimination are illustrations of this preference.

ANY political philosophy not dedicated first to liberty will eventually destroy liberty in pursuit of its other goals. Divine kingship, traditionalism or any other you care to mention all suffer from this syndrome.

January 23, 2008 at 1:10 PM  
Anonymous Randy said...

SB,

Agreed. But is there such a thing as a "political philosophy" that is dedicated to liberty? Libertarianism, for example, is more of an anti-political philosophy, if you know what I mean. Just as well to say that all political philosophies are inherently opposed to liberty.

January 23, 2008 at 1:23 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

TGGP asks, would I agree that the right tends towards authoritarianism?

As someone noted earlier in this discussion, all political points of view tend towards authoritarianism, when in authority. I do not think that the right tends as much towards authoritarianism as does the left, principally because it is not so thoroughly entrenched in authority as is the left, and also because the right is less ideologically coherent than the left. Virtually all the left accepts as givens at least some of the assumptions and prejudices of socialism. On the other hand, the right is a Duke's mixture of religious and social conservatives, free-enterprisers and free-marketeers, advocates of a strong military, old-fashioned isolationists, libertarians, and others. There is little on which these people agree other than their common distaste for the left. It is hard to coordinate the dissonant viewpoints of such a turba philosophastrorum into a consistent ideology such as that on which the left broadly agrees. Indeed, some spokesmen of the right, such as the late Russell Kirk, repudiate ideology entirely. Accordingly, despite the authoritarian instincts of some on the right, rightists are - at least in the Anglophone world - less effective authoritarians than are leftists.

There is, of course, in the natural hierarchical order in which free societies organize themselves, when unimpeded by levelling measures imposed by the state, a different KIND of authority than subsists under the left. This is what Albert Jay Nock distinguished as "social power" in contradistinction to "state power." Another term for it might be Hayek's "spontaneous order." In such a society these natural hierarchies have authority that does not require the direct compulsion of the state. Children are subject to their parents, employees to their employers, tenants must pay rents on the terms set by their landlords, debtors are obligated to their creditors, residents of a neighborhood must maintain good will with their neighbors, people who belong to voluntary associations of various kinds must follow their rules, and so on. The state acts only as a neutral arbiter in those few cases where it has authority to do so, and then only when people fail to behave as they are expected to do. To preserve the "pax regis et regium," it also is acknowledged as the sole legitimate enforcer of criminal laws against serious transgressions such as theft, rape, or murder. In these its authority is plenary and may encompass the power of life and death.

So, obviously there is authority in my sketch of a "right-wing" society, and to the extent that it exerts compulsive rather than merely suasive force, it is authoritarian. Nonetheless, far more is dealt with through moral suasion and "social power" under such an arrangement than by the compulsive power of the state. It is far better that people behave themselves properly because they believe it is meet and right so to do, or failing that, because they do not wish to lose the good will of their fellows, than because they fear the power of the state.

January 23, 2008 at 2:10 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

The reason the left tends towards authoritarianism is that it prefers equality to liberty

"the left" values both equality and liberty, which have to be balanced against each other. Radical extremes of wealth are are not conducive to liberty.

Egalitarianism swims against nature's powerful current.

Swimming against nature's currents is what humans do, through their social and political institutions. Most of what humans do is "unnatural" in your sense.Seeing a doctor is unnatural. Joint-stock corporations are unnatural. Going to the opera is unnatural. Or, if you prefer, all of these things are natural in the sense that humans are part of nature and so are their activities. But humans value and practice equality, at least some of the time, so...

Elites develop even under the most egalitarian and left-wing governments, e.g., the nomenklatura in the old Soviet Union, the "Gang of 4" in Maoist China, etc.
If you think those regimes were in any way egalitarian then you are extremely confused. Bolshevism had the idea of an elite baked into its founding principles. Lenin was not too kind to leftists.

January 23, 2008 at 9:34 PM  
Anonymous Randy said...

Re; "Radical extremes of wealth are are not conducive to liberty."

Right. And the solution is to concentrate radical extremes of wealth in the hands of the political class. Talk about your self serving doctrines...

January 24, 2008 at 3:32 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Mtraven, my point (in which I agree with Tocqueville) is that liberty and equality are conflicting rather than harmonious desiderata. I further disagree that "radical extremes of wealth are not conducive to liberty." Our society is far from exhibiting the radical extremes of wealth that, for example, Victorian England did - yet I have little doubt that there was more liberty in Victorian England than we have in twenty-first century America. It has been said that a law-abiding person born into a middle-class British family in, say, 1840, and dying in 1910, might live his whole life without encountering an officer of government more exalted than the postman. If you believe, as I do, that liberty is the relative absence of state power from the lives of ordinary citizens, the Victorians had real liberty compared to us.

When I speak of nature I mean human nature. Going to the doctor, or to the opera, are parts of human nature. The first egalitarian was Procrustes, who stretched the extremities of the short and lopped off those of the tall so they would fit his bed. This is clearly against nature, either human or not! All efforts at forcible egalitarianism are Procrustean and unnatural.

Political and economic egalitarianism are twisted extensions of the Judeo-Christian notion of equality before the judgment of God. As MM has shown in great detail in a number of his previous posts, the modern secular religion - call it ultracalvinism, universalism, transnational progressivism, or what you will - is a descendant of the radical Christian left of the post-Reformation period. It is, as Santayana observed, Puritanism stripped of its Christianity, so that only its smug fanaticism remains. It was these particular aspects of Christianity that so frustrated Carlyle and Nietzsche. They prompted the thought of Maurras - with which I sympathise - that the principal value of Catholicism was that it restrained and subdued the reading of egalitarianism into Christianity, better fitting it as an instrument of social discipline.

As for Bolshevism and Maoism, certainly they were egalitarian in theory, as is evident from a reading of Marx. OF COURSE they were elitist in practice - my point is that they couldn't help but be. The attempt to accommodate unequal human nature within the egalitarian theory of Marxism is what produced the tragedies of these communist states. Egalitarian leftism gave us the guillotine and the Gulag. Quite fittingly, too, for the only condition in which all men are equal is death.

January 24, 2008 at 9:20 AM  
Blogger mtraven said...

Mtraven, my point (in which I agree with Tocqueville) is that liberty and equality are conflicting rather than harmonious desiderata.

They are partially conflicting which is why they have to be balanced, as I said. Tocqueville's view is considerably more nuanced than yours, here's a page found from 10 seconds of Googling, for instance. "Harmonious desiderata" is the most pretentious phrase I've read today, and misses the point entirely. Of course liberty and equality are in conflict, or tension. We seek to balance them.

Our society is far from exhibiting the radical extremes of wealth that, for example, Victorian England did

Oh? Could have fooled me. There is less starvation on the bottom end, but still roughly the same orders of magnitude difference between top and bottom, if I had to guess.

I have little doubt that there was more liberty in Victorian England than we have in twenty-first century America....It has been said that a law-abiding person born into a middle-class British family in, say, 1840, and dying in 1910...

Why do you limit your analysis to the middle class? The lower classes in Victorian England faced the workhouse, among other assaults on human dignity. Where do you think Marx got his ideas about the immiseration of the proletariat? Even the middle classes had a fair chance of ending in debtor's prison.

If you believe, as I do, that liberty is the relative absence of state power from the lives of ordinary citizens

I don't. Liberty is the ability to do what you want, and the state can be a hindrance or a help, as can any other institution.

When I speak of nature I mean human nature. Going to the doctor, or to the opera, are parts of human nature.

So is a desire for equality. So is genocide, for that matter. Anything humans do is manifestly part of human nature. Humans have lived in societies with varying degrees of equality, implemented in a variety of ways. "Equality" obviously also has many different meanings. People aren't identical, and it's only your cartoon version of equality that would try to make them so.

That is not to say that humans are infinitely malleable. Some sociopolitical arrangements are probably not compatible with human nature. But to say that all efforts to realize any type of equality fall in that category is ridiculous.

If you're going to start citing actual fascists like Maurras, maybe it's time to stop the conversation and just acknowledge that we are on opposite sides of a great divide, unbridgeable by argument. I am still entertained by people like you and MM who seem to combine libertarian values with a fondness for the most outrageously murderous forms of state power, but the novelty value is starting to wear off.

January 24, 2008 at 10:03 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Mtraven, I am not fond of 'outrageously murderous forms of state power.' I'm in favor of reducing state power and substituting Nock's social power for it, wherever possible.

Randolph of Roanoke was right when he said, "I am an aristocrat. I love liberty and I hate equality." People are inalterably unequal and no decree of the state can change this.

The ancient castes of India - the Brahmins (given to scholarship and priesthood - the Ksatriya (given to war and lawgiving) - the Vaisya (given to commerce and industry) - and the Sudra (concerned only with the satisfaction of their own appetites) - describe different human types that we can recognize in our daily lives. The error of the Indian culture was to make them rigidly hereditary. The West had an hierarchical society, but one that was always open to upward movement on the part of people who possessed superior intellect, drive, or just plain luck. Mediæval and early modern England may seem to have been a tremendously class-ridden society. Nonetheless, Dick Whittington was a young man with no particular prospects but became a very rich merchant and Lord Mayor of London, whether or not his cat had anything to do with it. Wolsey was a butcher's boy and rose to be a prince of the Church and the king's first minister. Nelson was the son of an insignificant clergyman and received what has been described as a "broken" education. Despite this he rose to flag rank and was elevated to the peerage. There are countless examples.

In our society there are some people who are poor because of some great catastrophe with which they had nothing to do - but far more who are poor because of their own stupidity and self-destructive behavior. The egalitarian apparatus of the social democratic state is largely devoted to the bootless effort of trying to raise the latter class from the degradation that any objective observer would see has been brought on by its own folly and vice. Such egalitarianism serves only to reward the undeserving at the expense of the industrious. Its raison d'etre is, I suspect, mostly the buying of underclass votes by an ascendant left-wing eliite.

Benjamin Franklin observed long ago that he is a governor who can govern his passions, and he remains a servant who only can serve them. This fundamental truth explains almost all social and economic inequality. The attempt to undo what human nature has made, whether on the part of the Jacobins, the Bolshevists, the Red Guard, or the Khmer Rouge, has resulted in a far more murderous exercise of state power than anything I have ever advocated or proposed.

January 25, 2008 at 12:59 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

I've gotten exceedingly bored with this discussion about liberty vs. equality, especially since Michael S. won't respond to my points, preferring to make stirring speeches in defense of the Hindu caste system. If there's an interesting discussion to be had on these issues, we aren't having it. Of course the relations between these political abstractions have been discussed for hundreds of years, and I doubt either of us has much new insight to offer.

So forget the philosophy and let's look at some data. Here's a scatterplot of Gini coefficient vs per-capita GDP. Several interesting things pop out of this. The first, of course, is that the US is an outlier, as it is in many other aspects. Most rich countries have a relatively equitable distribution of wealth, while the US has a distribution more similar to countries with a third of its GDP.

Of course, a graph like this can show a correleation between equality and wealth, but it doesn't tell us which direction the causality runs. Still less does it tell us whether equality is morally desireable or promotes fine sensibilities. Still, it suggests that those who really put a high value on inequality, and find the US doesn't have enough of it, should relocate themselves to somewhere else (South America looks promising), where their natural aristocratic natures will propel them to the top of the social pyramid.

January 25, 2008 at 7:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

those who really put a high value on inequality, and find the US doesn't have enough of it, should relocate themselves to somewhere else (South America looks promising), where their natural aristocratic natures will propel them to the top of the social pyramid.

Those who really put a high value on inequality, and find the US doesn't have enough of it, don't need to relocate to South America. These are exactly the people who are bringing South America here.

January 25, 2008 at 7:49 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Perhaps some definition of terms is advisable at this point.

Equal treatment under law is not the same as eqalitarianism or levelling. It is both practical and desirable that there should be one criminal and civil law for all persons. Whether rich or poor, male or female, regardless of one's religion or ethnicity, one is equally forbidden to murder one's fellow man, to stiff one's creditors, etc. I have no argument with this.

Egalitarianism is the unequal treatment of individuals to bring about an equality of their conditions. Examples are graduated ("progressive") income taxes, taxation of inheritance, the race or sex quotas in hiring or school admission euphemistically called "affirmative action," and so on. I oppose such practices.

If Mtraven has read my remarks as a stirring defense of the Hindu caste system he has not read very carefully. As I observed, the great error of the Hindu caste system was that it was rigidly hereditary.

I referred to it to illustrate the point that unequal individuals exhibit different character traits that resemble the archetypes of the Hindu castes. Some are scholarly and spiritual, "Brahmins" in the archetypal sense (not Mencius's sense of the term!). Others are natural soldiers or governors, archetypally Ksatriya. Still others seem to have the archetypal knack for commerce and industry traditionally assigned to the Vaisyas. At the bottom of the heap are the Sudras, whose concerns never rise above the immediate satisfaction of instinctual appetites for food and sex. If one prefers not to use the Hindu terms, they have their parallels in the ancient European estates of clergy, nobility, burgesses, and peasantry.

The brutal fact is that some people are natural peasants. Egalitarianism can take the form of trying to uplift them, which is futile and frustrating, or to chop down those with higher natures to their level, which is cruel and unjust.

There is no doubt that the lower classes in the past had in their numbers some individuals with higher potential who were hindered from rising by social institutions and the general scarcity of resources. This, however, does not validate what Mtraven has referred to Marx's "ideas about the immiseration of the proletariat." Indeed, the laboring class in free economies has risen far above the condition to which Marx thought they were eternally condemned by capitalism.

The reason for this has not been egalitarian social legislation, but rather the increased productivity of labor. The wage of labor has risen in tandem with the marginal product of labor.

A consequence of this is that the number of people in poverty who have the potential to rise out of it has been greatly if not entirely reduced. The poor of today are not the poor of yesterday. When unemployment is 4 or 5% the character of the unemployed is different from that in the depression of the 1930s, when unemployment reached 25%. Then there were many unemployed people who were perfectly capable of productive and even highly skilled labor who simply didn't have jobs (and, BTW, the New Deal didn't put many of them back to work - by 1939 the unemployment rate was still at 19%). Now, however, many of the poor and unemployed are simply people who can't hold jobs because they are too stupid, lazy, or sociopathic to get them, assuming they even try.

What is the point of egalitarian efforts on behalf of such people (natural Sudras, Nietzsche's "bungled and botched," Mencius's Dalits and Helots)?

I am persuaded it is mainly a cynical scheme on the part of an ascendant elite (Mencius's Brahmins) to use them as a political bludgeon against the remains of the older elite (his Optimates) and their middle-class sympathizers (his Vaisyas).

Mtraven accuses me of failing to respond to his points. Our dialogue migth be more productive if he would avoid cheap rhetorical tricks such as accusing me of 'citing actual fascists like Maurras.' First, if the word 'fascist' is to be used with any precision of meaning, rather than as a mere pejorative epithet, Maurras was not a fascist. He was a Catholic reactionary, which is a considerably different creature. Second, I did not say I approved of everything Maurras believed. I observed that he was right in holding that one of Catholicism's virtues was that it restrained the unwarranted reading of egalitarianism into Christianity. This is true, even if you don't like Maurras. One does not find figures like Jan van Leyden, Lilburne, Socinus, Priestley, and others in the proto-Universalist lineage within Catholicism. They were all on the far left of Protestantism. Universalism, as Mencius has pointed out in previous posts, completed what they started by stripping the last vestiges of theistic belief from their philosophy, leaving the framework of secular egalitarianism that is the governing ideology of our time.

January 26, 2008 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger mtraven said...

Whether rich or poor, male or female, regardless of one's religion or ethnicity, one is equally forbidden to murder one's fellow man, to stiff one's creditors, etc.

The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.
-- Anatole France

What is the point of egalitarian efforts on behalf of such people (natural Sudras, Nietzsche's "bungled and botched," Mencius's Dalits and Helots)?

Let's grant that there is a wide gamut of human abilities and temperament. That says nothing at all about how wealth should be distributed r what the role of the state should be. You can't make everyone into a genius, but there's no reason you can't give everyone a better standard of living than they could have in a state of nature. And in fact this is what every industrialized country does. We don't like to see people starving in the streets, and a large class of people without health care is dangerous even to the rich, who whatever their exalted rank still live in the same physical world as the poor. Thus every civilized country forcibly redistributes some wealth from rich to poor. This is not "levelling" in the sense you mean it, it does not make everybody the same, nor is it intended to.

Maurras was not a fascist. He was a Catholic reactionary, which is a considerably different creature.
He was an anti-semite, Vichy collaborator, extreme nationalist, and supporter of Mussolini and Franco. Close enought to fascism for me.

one of Catholicism's virtues was that it restrained the unwarranted reading of egalitarianism into Christianity.

Yes, things were so much better when the only people who could read were priests and monks (the Brahmins of the Christian world), before Protestantism and the printing press led to our sorry modern world.

Your side has been losing for 500 years. Modernity is a done deal, things are moving on and there's a world of actual problems out there that are not likely to be solved by pining for some vanished hierarchy.

January 26, 2008 at 2:13 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Mtraven, we see the results of universal suffrage democracy most recently in Kenya.

We see the results of levelling egalitarianism in Cuba as it still is, in Cambodia, China, Russia, and so forth, as they were in the not too distant past - all disasters.

If my "side has been losing," do you think what has happened in these places demonstrates that your side is winning?

I do not apologize for the character of Maurras - I point out that he had one useful aperçu. This becomes a basis for you to use guilt by association as a device to attack my entire series of posts. The name of Joe McCarthy is anathema to the left, but his favored technique is in active use by it. I shall forbear to say anything about your approving citation of Marx.

Why not try to address these questions:

1) Has the standard of living of more people been raised a) by improvements in productivity or by b) redistribution of wealth? Provide support for your conclusions.

2) Do you agree or disagree that elements of the lower class have repeatedly been used throughout history as proxies or tools of one elite faction in its conflict with another elite faction?

These may be useful points of departure for further conversation.

January 26, 2008 at 4:32 PM  
Blogger mikes2653 said...

I suppose I should add to my questions to Mtraven (or anyone else who cares to address them) -

3) Is the current distribution of wealth in the United States at the point of Pareto optimality? If not, on which side of that point does it lie? Why do you think so?

No mawkish, tear-jerking responses - hard economic reasoning, please.

January 26, 2008 at 4:57 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

Mtraven, we see the results of universal suffrage democracy most recently in Kenya.

Democracy has not worked out very well in Kenya. Regrettable, but it seems to do tolerably well in other countries. Any honest evaluation of democracy has to be done without picking and choosing data points, and with comparision to other systems.

We see the results of levelling egalitarianism in Cuba as it still is, in Cambodia, China, Russia, and so forth, as they were in the not too distant past - all disasters.
Seems to work out OK in, say, Sweden, or the US in the 50s and 60s where we had a wealth distribution much more similar to other industrialized countries. See above.

If my "side has been losing," do you think what has happened in these places demonstrates that your side is winning?

"Your side" is against modernity itself, and appears to be against every historical movement since 1789 (or, given your remarks, since the start of the Reformation). This seems stupid to me, the world goes as it goes and you can't turn back the clock. That doesn't mean that every product of modernity is a good thing.

I do not apologize for the character of Maurras - I point out that he had one useful aperçu.

Alright, citing Maurras does not make you a fascist, or even someone who necessarily approves of fascists. But your arguments would be stronger if you could bolster them with the opinions of less reprehensible characters.

I shall forbear to say anything about your approving citation of Marx.

That's good, because my "approving citation" was just to mention that he had observed the conditions of the poor in industrial England. I don't think even the staunchest anticommunist could disapprove of that.

1) Has the standard of living of more people been raised a) by improvements in productivity or by b) redistribution of wealth? Provide support for your conclusions.

Why must it be either/or? In fact, as I've said in my last two postings, the countries with the highest standards of living have both high productivity and a high degree of equality (which is partially realized by redistribution).

2) Do you agree or disagree that elements of the lower class have repeatedly been used throughout history as proxies or tools of one elite faction in its conflict with another elite faction?

This particular point is a bugaboo of you and MM, and not something I recall registering an opinion, and I'm not sure what it has to do with this discussion. I suppose the dynamic has occured, but it doesn't seem to me as big a driver of affairs as you two imagine it. In the US, both the elites of both poltical parties use and manipulate the lower classes as it suits their purposes.

Two examples come to mind, not that they prove anything one way or the other:

- the Republican party has made use of Christian fundamentalists as a voting block, while mostly not implementing their desired programs. Now they are faced with an insurgent force within their own party (in the person of Mike Huckabee), to their distress and my delight. This exploiting stuff is trickier than it looks, apparently.

- back in the 1960s, blacks were demanding civil rights. I suppose some elite whites might have cynically exploited this movement to gain power for themselves, but Lyndon Johnson, in contrast, sacrificed his political future (and severely weakened the Democratic party by writing off the South) to do the right thing.

3) Is the current distribution of wealth in the United States at the point of Pareto optimality? If not, on which side of that point does it lie? Why do you think so?

Wrong question to ask. If wealth is undifferentiated and the standard definition of Pareto optimality is taken literally, then the current allocation is optimal by definition -- because any redistribution would make somebody else worse off. If you consider the actual differential utility of wealth, then of course it is not optimal.

Take the 25 richest Americans, take half their wealth away, yielding $250B. Redistribute that to the rest of us, that's about $830 apiece, while Bill Gates will be left with $30B and Michael Bloomberg (at the low end) with $5B. Can you doubt that net human utility will be improved?

Note: I am not necessarily suggesting we do this, so don't get started picking apart this propasal, its purpose is just to demonstrate that if you want to talk about optimality of wealth distributions you have to have the right tools to ask the question, and Pareto optimality is not the right tool.

As a matter of fact I am currently trying to extract some grants from foundations set up by the #1 and #3 guys on that list, so I'm willing to grant some upside to vast concentrations of wealth.

January 27, 2008 at 10:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Take the 25 richest Americans, take half their wealth away, yielding $250B. Redistribute that to the rest of us, that's about $830 apiece, while Bill Gates will be left with $30B and Michael Bloomberg (at the low end) with $5B. Can you doubt that net human utility will be improved?

What a repulsive and immoral suggestion. Would you regard it as "optimum" and "improving of net human utility" if we took half your wealth away today and gave it to "the poor"? Somehow I doubt it.

January 28, 2008 at 10:23 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Apropos of Marx's observations on the supposed "immiseration" of the laboring class, he witnessed the industrial revolution at its beginning and, as he usually did, came to the wrong conclusion. Drawing on a series of errors made by previous economists - Adam Smith's labor theory of value, Thomas Malthus's gloomy predictions about overpopulation, and David Ricardo's extrapolation from Malthus, the "iron law of wages" - he concluded that the working class was forever condemned to a miserable existence, and that the reason for this was that capitalists were expropriating the surplus value of labor.

As a matter of fact we know that the standard of living of the laboring class rose steadily through the latter half of the nineteenth century and well into the first half of the twentieth, long before any eqalitarian social engineering measures were imposed by the state. I would hope we can agree that life expectancy is a reasonable measure of well-being. By far the greatest advances in life expectancy were brought about by simple public health measures such as sanitary water supplies and sanitary sewerage. Of course these came at the taxpayers' expense, but they were unarguable purchases for the public good rather than transfer payments, forcible redistributions of wealth from one class of people to another.

The effects of forcible wealth redistribution belie the claims made for its benefits. As I noted earlier in this series of posts, the New Deal did little to reduce unemployment. By 1939, the U.S. unemployment rate was still in the high double digits despite FDR's redistributive programs. It only began to fall as the country geared up for war, and obviously during the war low unemployment reflected the absence of a huge number of men of military age from the work force.

Similarly, LBJ's Great Society and "War on Poverty" did not help the poor to better themselves. Instead it created a huge dependent class, in which generation succeeded generation on the dole. No program could have been better designed for this purpose than AFDC. In the mid-1960s Daniel Moynihan expressed concern about the deterioration of the black family when the illegitimacy rate among blacks reached 30%. As the program continued, that rate exceeded 70%.

On the taxation side, let us recall that the estate tax was supposed to prevent the accumulation of great concentrations of wealth in few hands. As the existence of people like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates proves, it has not succeeded in this purpose. Indeed, if fully examined, the consequences of estate taxation have been to facilitate rather than discourage such concentrations. The reason is that the floor above which the estate tax becomes effective is sufficiently low that it affects many people whose wealth is really rather modest and tied up in illiquid assets such as small businesses and family farms. The tax creates a need for liquidity in estates that is the objective of the estate planner after all options for nontaxable gifts to potential legatees have been exhausted. It is true that probably very few small businesses or family farms have had to be sold out of estates, as is sometimes alleged. The reason is that they were sold long before the decedent's death, as part of a plan to generate the necessary liquidity to pay taxes at rates of up to 55%.

I have a long familiarity with the local banking community where I live, and have seen the effects of sales brought about in view of estate taxation. In one nearby town, where forty years ago there were four locally-owned banks, there are now none. All of them were sold to national or regional chains. This pattern is evident across my state, as well. The usual buyer for a privately-held business when it is put up for sale is not another small businessman, but a larger, and often very much larger business.

Neither is the pattern confined to banking. Some years ago I read a study of farm ownership in Iowa. It indicated that in 1970, more than 80% of farm land in that state was cultivated by owner-operators. By 2000, less than 50% was. Substantially accounting for this is the near impossibility of passing farm lands from generation to generation. Their present prices render these estates taxable, and there is not enough liquidity in them for the heirs to retain the lands and still pay the tax. Consequently, they are sold, typically to large agri-business, which lets them to tenants to cultivate.

When we examine all these redistributive programs we find a common failure to work as advertised. Nominal back-to-work programs like those of the New Deal failed to put people back to work. Nominal anti-poverty programs like the Great Society instead perpetuate poverty and dependence. Taxes nominally designed to prevent the accumulation of great wealth drive small community banks out of business and facilitate their acquisition by great national chains like Wells Fargo or U.S. Bank, or take farm land out of the hands of owner-operators, forcing its sale to corporations in the business of modern-day latifundiary agriculture.

It would be charitable to call these phenomena "unintended consequences." I am not sure how unintended they are. What if they are not? Cui bono? Of course, to the U.S. equivalent of the old Soviet nomenklatura, of Djilas's New Class, of Mencius's Brahmins.

On the point of Pareto optimality, of course a taking of wealth from one party to the primary benefit of another need not necessarily leave the first party less well off. It may benefit that party indirectly in some way or another. Expenditures on public education, for example, theoretically may benefit even the childless if we consider an educated citizenry to be a public good (though I do not believe American public education has done very well at accomplishing this). Failing all else, a person from whom wealth has been taken to provide public charity may feel some moral satisfaction as a result. It is really not fruitful to discuss redistributive programs at this level.

We may, I think, arrive at a better understanding of them by looking at acknowledged measures of social well being, such as rates of employment.

Based on a survey of rates of employment, I consider that the United States has overshot the mark of Pareto optimality, but not as badly as the European social democracies have. Economically freer countries, such as Hong Kong or Singapore, have lower unemployment than does the United States, though not by much (perhaps 1%). On the other hand, French and German unemployment has ranged between 8 - 12% during a time when U.S. unemployment has ranged between 4 - 5%.

This suggests that going further in the direction that social democrats seem to want - more redistribution, more forced egalitarianism - will move the U.S. economy further away from the point of Pareto optimality rather than closer to it.

The malicious suggestion that people who think we have not enough inequality in the United States ought to look to South America as an example is based on a complete misreading of the nature of poverty in Latin America. Inequality in Latin America is not a consequence of the rich having too much, but of the poor having too little.

The remedy is not redistribution of the wealth of the Latin American rich, but the freeing of the Latin American economies. These economies are hamstrung by the legacy of statism and dirigisme that ultimately traces back to the Spanish Bourbons, and through them to the centralizing policies of their French cousin Louis XIV. It was France, of course, that gave us the word "bureaucrat."

On this point the works of Hernando de Soto (the economist, not the explorer) are of illustrative value. See his "The Other Path" and "The Mystery of Capitalism: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else."

As for being against every historical movement since 1789, not so! I have no real trouble with the U.S. Constitution of 1789 other than that it has not turned out as the Framers expected. As prophecy, the "Federalist" is on the order of the Rev'd William Miller's prophecy that Christ's second coming would take place on October 22, 1844 - it is another "Great Disappointment."

Why this is, is a question I won't try to address here. The Old Republic - a patrician polity in which the franchise was limited to a tax- or property-qualified electorate - worked pretty well. The quality of men in public life has declined with every extension of the franchise. Can anyone seriously maintain that Clinton and Bush II are people of the same calibre as Washington, Jefferson, or Madison?

The United States has only had universal suffrage since 1966, when the last tax qualifications for voting in state or local elections were struck down by judicial fiat (the 24th Amendment forbade them only in Federal elections). Our experiment with universal suffrage, then, is only two years newer than Kenya's. Give it time and it will come just as severely a-cropper.

January 28, 2008 at 10:59 AM  
Blogger George Weinberg said...

Michael, you need your own blog.

January 28, 2008 at 2:20 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

This discussion has gone on too long and exhausted my interest; I seem to recall I the original topic that got me into this was the respective roles of the right and left in defending against authoritarianism. The issue of economic equity is rather tangential. Just two points and I think I'm done:

On the point of Pareto optimality, of course a taking of wealth from one party to the primary benefit of another need not necessarily leave the first party less well off....It is really not fruitful to discuss redistributive programs at this level.
You were the one who brought up Pareto optimality (assuming mikes2653 is you), which by itself has nothing to say one way or the other about the redistribution of wealth. If you are optimizing only over money, all distributions are Pareto optimal. If you factor in the fact that people actually care about (and thus gain utility from) the welfare of others, you can show that sometimes redistribution is necessary to achieve optimality, and that furthermore there is a public goods problem and that voluntary redistributions will not achieve optimality. Or so a glance at an undergraduate econ text tells me, I don't put much stock in this sort of argument myself, but you opened the door.

The Old Republic - a patrician polity in which the franchise was limited to a tax- or property-qualified electorate - worked pretty well. The quality of men in public life has declined with every extension of the franchise. Can anyone seriously maintain that Clinton and Bush II are people of the same calibre as Washington, Jefferson, or Madison?

I suggest that you repeat to yourself a few hundred times, "correlation is not causality". Quite a few things have changed since the time of Washington and Jefferson.

January 28, 2008 at 9:59 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Mtraven, of course correlation is not causality. You have not asked me to establish causality in this case, nor have I previously tried, but there is plenty of testimony to support the view that loosening standards for exercise of the franchise led to a decline in the quality of men in public life. As just one witness, let us consider John Randolph of Roanoke, who saw these effects at first hand and was eloquent in his denunciation of them in his speeches at the Virginia Convention of 1829-30.

In his letter from Paris to Dr. Brockenbrough, he contrasted the old days favorably with current conditions at home, speaking of

"...the good old Virginia gentlemen on the assembly, drinking their twenty and forty bowls of rack punches, and madeira, and claret, in lieu of a knot of deputy sheriffs and hack attorneys, each with his cruet of whiskey before him, and puddle of tobacco-spittle between his legs..."

And we have come a ways further down the primrose path since then!

Indeed this discussion has wandered from its original point of departure, but the issues on which it touches are, I think, central to the arguments that our patient host MM has advanced on repeated occasions.

January 29, 2008 at 12:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,充氣娃娃,免費A片,AV女優,美女視訊,情色交友,免費AV,色情網站,辣妹視訊,美女交友,色情影片,成人影片,成人網站,A片,H漫,18成人,成人圖片,成人漫畫,情色網,成人交友,嘟嘟成人網,成人電影,成人,成人貼圖,成人小說,成人文章,成人圖片區,免費成人影片,成人遊戲,微風成人,愛情公寓,情色,情色貼圖,情色文學,情色交友,色情聊天室,色情小說,一葉情貼圖片區,情色小說,色情,寄情築園小遊戲,色情遊戲,情色視訊,情色電影,aio交友愛情館,言情小說,愛情小說,色情A片,情色論壇,色情影片,視訊聊天室,免費視訊聊天,免費視訊,視訊美女,視訊交友,視訊聊天,免費視訊聊天室,AIO,a片下載,aV,av片,A漫,av dvd,av成人網,聊天室,成人論壇,本土自拍,自拍,A片,情境坊歡愉用品,情趣用品,情人節禮物,情人節,情惑用品性易購,生日禮物,保險套,A片,情色,情色交友,色情聊天室,一葉情貼圖片區,情色小說,情色視訊,情色電影,辣妹視訊,視訊聊天室,免費視訊聊天,免費視訊,,視訊聊天,免費視訊聊天室,情人視訊網,視訊交友90739,成人交友,美女交友

November 6, 2008 at 2:36 PM  
Blogger 信次 said...

情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,情趣,美國aneros,rudeboy,英國rudeboy,英國Rocksoff,德國Fun Factory,Fun Factory,英國甜筒造型按摩座,甜筒造型按摩座,英國Rock Chic ,瑞典 Lelo ,英國Emotional Bliss,英國 E.B,荷蘭 Natural Contours,荷蘭 N C,美國 OhMiBod,美國 OMB,Naughti Nano ,音樂按摩棒,ipod按摩棒,美國 The Screaming O,美國TSO,美國TOPCO,美國Doc Johnson,美國CA Exotic,美國CEN,美國Nasstoy,美國Tonguejoy,英國Je Joue,美國Pipe Dream,美國California Exotic,美國NassToys,美國Vibropod,美國Penthouse,仿真按摩棒,矽膠按摩棒,猛男倒模,真人倒模,仿真倒模,PJUR,Zestra,適趣液,穿戴套具,日本NPG,雙頭龍,FANCARNAL,日本NIPPORI,日本GEL,日本Aqua Style,美國WET,費洛蒙,費洛蒙香水,仿真名器,av女優,打炮,做愛,性愛,口交,吹喇叭,肛交,魔女訓練大師,無線跳蛋,有線跳蛋,震動棒,震動保險套,震動套,TOY-情趣用品,情趣用品網,情趣購物網,成人用品網,情趣用品討論,成人購物網,鎖精套,鎖精環,持久環,持久套,拉珠,逼真按摩棒,名器,超名器,逼真老二,電動自慰,自慰,打手槍,仿真女郎,SM道具,SM,性感內褲,仿真按摩棒,pornograph,hunter系列,h動畫,成人動畫,成人卡通,情色動畫,情色卡通,色情動畫,色情卡通,無修正,禁斷,人妻,極悪調教,姦淫,近親相姦,顏射,盜攝,偷拍,本土自拍,素人自拍,公園露出,街道露出,野外露出,誘姦,迷姦,輪姦,凌辱,痴漢,痴女,素人娘,中出,巨乳,調教,潮吹,av,a片,成人影片,成人影音,線上影片,成人光碟,成人無碼,成人dvd,情色影音,情色影片,情色dvd,情色光碟,航空版,薄碼,色情dvd,色情影音,色情光碟,線上A片,免費A片,A片下載,成人電影,色情電影,TOKYO HOT,SKY ANGEL,一本道,SOD,S1,ALICE JAPAN,皇冠系列,老虎系列,東京熱,亞熱,武士系列,新潮館,情趣用品,約定金生,約定金生,情趣,情趣商品,約定金生,情趣網站,跳蛋, 約定金生,按摩棒,充氣娃娃,約定金生,自慰套,G點,性感內衣,約定金生,情趣內衣,約定金生,角色扮演,生日禮物,生日精品,約定金生,自慰,打手槍,約定金生,潮吹,高潮,後庭,約定金生,情色論譠,影片下載,約定金生,遊戲下載,手機鈴聲,約定金生,音樂下載, 約定金生,約定金生,開獎號碼,統一發票號碼,夜市,統一發票對獎,保險套, 約定金生,約定金生,做愛,約定金生,減肥,美容,瘦身,約定金生,當舖,軟體下載,汽車,機車, 約定金生,手機,來電答鈴, 約定金生,週年慶,美食,約定金生,徵信社,網頁設計,網站設計, 約定金生,室內設計, 約定金生,靈異照片,約定金生,同志,約定金生,聊天室,運動彩券,大樂透,約定金生,威力彩,搬家公司,除蟲,偷拍,自拍, 約定金生,無名破解,av女優, 約定金生,小說,約定金生,民宿,大樂透開獎號碼,大樂透中獎號碼,威力彩開獎號碼,約定金生,討論區,痴漢,懷孕, 約定金生,約定金生,美女交友,約定金生,交友,日本av,日本,機票, 約定金生,香水,股市, 約定金生,股市行情, 股市分析,租房子,成人影片,約定金生,免費影片,醫學美容, 約定金生,免費算命,算命,約定金生,姓名配對,姓名學,約定金生,姓名學免費,遊戲, 約定金生,好玩遊戲,好玩遊戲區,約定金生,線上遊戲,新遊戲,漫畫,約定金生,線上漫畫,動畫,成人圖片, 約定金生,桌布,桌布下載,電視節目表, 約定金生,線上電視,約定金生,線上a片,約定金生,線上掃毒,線上翻譯,購物車,約定金生,身分證製造機,身分證產生器,手機,二手車,中古車, 約定金生,約定金生,法拍屋,約定金生,歌詞,音樂,音樂網,火車,房屋,情趣用品,約定金生,情趣,情趣商品,情趣網站,跳蛋,約定金生,按摩棒,充氣娃娃,自慰套, 約定金生, G點,性感內衣,約定金生,情趣內衣,約定金生,角色扮演,生日禮物,精品,禮品,約定金生,自慰,打手槍,潮吹,高潮,約定金生,後庭,情色論譠,約定金生,影片下載,約定金生,遊戲下載,手機鈴聲,音樂下載,開獎號碼,統一發票,夜市,保險套,做愛,約定金生,減肥,美容,瘦身,當舖,約定金生,軟體下載,約定金生,汽車,機車,手機,來電答鈴,約定金生,週年慶,美食,徵信社,網頁設計,網站設計,室內設計,靈異照片, 約定金生,同志,聊天室,約定金生,運動彩券,,大樂透,約定金生,威力彩,搬家公司,除蟲,偷拍,自拍, 約定金生,無名破解, av女優,小說,民宿,約定金生,大樂透開獎號碼,大樂透中獎號碼,威力彩開獎號碼,討論區,痴漢, 約定金生,懷孕,約定金生,美女交友,約定金生,交友,日本av ,日本,機票, 約定金生,香水,股市, 約定金生,股市行情,股市分析,租房子,約定金生,成人影片,免費影片,醫學美容,免費算命,算命, 約定金生,姓名配對,姓名學, 約定金生,姓名學免費,遊戲,約定金生,好玩遊戲,約定金生,好玩遊戲區,線上遊戲,新遊戲,漫畫,線上漫畫,動畫,成人圖片,桌布,約定金生,桌布下載,電視節目表,線上電視, 約定金生,線上a片,線上a片,線上翻譯, 約定金生,購物車,身分證製造機,約定金生,身分證產生器,手機,二手車,中古車,法拍屋,歌詞,音樂,音樂網, 約定金生,借錢,房屋,街頭籃球,找工作,旅行社,約定金生,六合彩,整型,水噹噹,貸款,貸款,信用貸款,宜蘭民宿,花蓮民宿,未婚聯誼,網路購物,珠海,下川島,常平,珠海,澳門機票,香港機票,婚友,婚友社,未婚聯誼,交友,婚友,婚友社,單身聯誼,未婚聯誼,未婚聯誼,婚友社,婚友,婚友社,單身聯誼,婚友,未婚聯誼,婚友社,未婚聯誼,單身聯誼,單身聯誼,婚友,單身聯誼,未婚聯誼,婚友,交友,交友,婚友社,婚友社,婚友社,大陸新娘,大陸新娘,大陸新娘,越南新娘,越南新娘,外籍新娘,外籍新娘,台中坐月子中心,搬家公司,搬家,搬家,搬家公司,線上客服,網頁設計,線上客服,網頁設計,網頁設計,土地貸款,免費資源,電腦教學,wordpress,人工植牙,關鍵字,關鍵字,seo,seo,網路排名,自然排序,網路排名軟體,

January 31, 2009 at 10:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

徵信, 徵信, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 感情挽回, 婚姻挽回, 挽回婚姻, 挽回感情, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信, 捉姦, 徵信公司, 通姦, 通姦罪, 抓姦, 抓猴, 捉猴, 捉姦, 監聽, 調查跟蹤, 反跟蹤, 外遇問題, 徵信, 捉姦, 女人徵信, 女子徵信, 外遇問題, 女子徵信, 徵信社, 外遇, 徵信公司, 徵信網, 外遇蒐證, 抓姦, 抓猴, 捉猴, 調查跟蹤, 反跟蹤, 感情挽回, 挽回感情, 婚姻挽回, 挽回婚姻, 外遇沖開, 抓姦, 女子徵信, 外遇蒐證, 外遇, 通姦, 通姦罪, 贍養費, 徵信, 徵信社, 抓姦, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信, 徵信公司, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信公司, 徵信社, 徵信公司, 徵信, 徵信公司, 女人徵信, 外遇

徵信, 徵信網, 徵信社, 徵信網, 外遇, 徵信, 徵信社, 抓姦, 徵信, 女人徵信, 徵信社, 女人徵信社, 外遇, 抓姦, 徵信公司, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信公司, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信公司, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 女人徵信社, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 女子徵信社, 女子徵信社, 女子徵信社, 女子徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 征信, 征信, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 征信, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社,

March 2, 2009 at 10:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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

徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社, 徵信, 徵信社

March 2, 2009 at 10:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

~「朵語‧,最一件事,就。好,你西中瀟灑獨行。

March 6, 2009 at 6:16 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home