Thursday, May 29, 2008 67 Comments

OL7: the ugly truth about government

Last week, dear open-minded progressive, we worked through a clean-room redesign of government. The result had no resemblance to present institutions - and little resemblance to past ones. Should this surprise you? Do you expect history's fruits to be sweet?

Today we'll look at what those fruits actually are. Perhaps you didn't spend your eleventh-grade civics class hanging out behind the goalposts smoking cheeba. (If you are still in eleventh-grade civics class, it's much more exciting if you're stoned.) Perhaps you even read the Times on a regular basis. (The Times is even more awful when you're stoned.) Perhaps you assume, by default, that the vast parade of facts poured into your head by this and other such reliable sources must constitute at least a basic understanding.

You would be incorrect in this. And we have a Mr. Machiavelli, who is to government as Isaac Newton is to physics, Barry Bonds is to baseball, and Albert Hofmann is to LSD, to tell us why:
He who desires or attempts to reform the government of a state, and wishes to have it accepted and capable of maintaining itself to the satisfaction of everybody, must at least retain the semblance of the old forms; so that it may seem to the people that there has been no change in the institutions, even though in fact they are entirely different from the old ones. For the great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances, as though they were realities, and are often even more influenced by the things that seem than by those that are.
So, for example, the Roman Principate, and even to some extent the Dominate, preserved the forms of the old Republic. If Rome under Augustus had had a New York Times, it would have been full of the doings of the Senate and the consuls. The Senators said this. The consuls did that. When in reality, everything that mattered went through Augustus. If the entire Senate had fallen through a manhole in the Forum, nothing would have changed - except, of course, that the illusion of the Republic could no longer be maintained.

(The Romans even had a word for a monarch - the good old Latin Rex. No Roman emperor, however dissolute, autocratic or hubristic, ever adopted the title of king. "Emperor" is simply an anglicization of Imperator, meaning "Commander" - ie, a general.)

Often when the illusion ceases to delude anyone, it persists as a linguistic convention - especially on the tongues of officials. So in British official language one still may speak as if the Queen were the absolute personal ruler of the UK, when in fact she has no power at all. No one is confused by this. It is just a quaint turn of speech. Still, it has its effect.

Power is a shy beast. She flees the sound of her name. When we ask who rules the UK, we are not looking for the answer, "the Queen." The Queen may rock, but everyone knows she doesn't rule. Parting this thin outer peel, we come on the word "Parliament," with which most of us are satisfied. This is your official answer. The Queen holds nominal power. Parliament holds formal power. But does this tell us where the actual power is? Why should we expect it to? Since when has it ever?

Power has all the usual reasons to hide. Power is delicious, and everyone wants it. To bite into its crisp, sweet flesh, to lick its juices off your lips - this is more than pleasure. It is satisfaction. It is fulfillment. It is meaning. The love of a bird for a caterpillar is a tenuous and passing attachment next to the bond between man and power. Of course power, like the caterpillar, may have other defenses - poison-filled spines, and the like - but why not start with camouflage? Why look like anything more than a stick or a leaf?

Of course, as a progressive, you have all sorts of ideas about where power is hiding. It is in the hands of the corporations, the crooked politicians, the bankers, the military, the television preachers, and so on. It would be unfair to denigrate all of these perspectives as "conspiracy theories," and it is also unfair to denigrate all conspiracy theories as false. Lenin, for instance, was a conspirator. So were Alger Hiss, Benedict Arnold, even Machiavelli himself.

Nonetheless, the best place to hide is usually in plain sight. For example, Noam Chomsky once wrote a book called Manufacturing Consent, which argues that corporations exercise power by controlling the mass media. The phrase is borrowed from Walter Lippmann's Public Opinion - a book which every progressive will do well to read. La Wik has a fine summary:
When properly utilized, the manufacture of consent, Lippmann argues, is useful and necessary for modern society because "the common interests"—the general concerns of all people—are not obvious in many cases and only become clear upon careful data collection and analysis, which most of the people are either uninterested in or incapable of doing. Most people, therefore, must have the world summarized for them by those who are well-informed.

Since Lippmann includes much of the political elite within the set of those incapable of properly understanding by themselves the complex "unseen environment" in which the affairs of the modern state take place, he proposes having professionals (a "specialized class") collect and analyze data and present the conclusions to the decision makers. The decision makers then take decisions and use the "art of persuasion" to inform the public about the decisions and the circumstances surrounding them.
Who is Lippmann's "specialized class?" Is it Chomsky's corporate CEOs? Rupert Murdoch, perhaps? Au contraire. It is folks like Lippmann himself - journalists. (Lippmann described his analysis and persuasion agency, somewhat infelicitously, as an "Intelligence Bureau.")

Thus we have two candidates for who is "manufacturing consent." It could be the corporate executives to whom the journalists report. Or it could be the journalists themselves, in plain sight. Or, of course, both - in the true Agatha Christie style. As political detectives, we may ask: which of these parties has the means, motive, and opportunity?

But I am getting ahead of myself. Starting from the usual first principles, we are attempting to understand our system of government. What one word, dear progressives, best describes the modern Western system of government?

You probably said "democracy." If you got two words, you might say "representative democracy." So our progressive scratch-monkey, Mr. Stross, explains the success of democracy in terms of its supposed advantages, here. (He actually comes surprisingly close to the truth - as we'll see in a little bit.)

Words mean whatever we want them to. But if we interpret the phrase representative democracy to mean a political system in which power is held by the representatives of the people as chosen in democratic elections, the United States is a representative democracy in just the same sense that the Roman Empire was a republic, the United Kingdom is a kingdom, and the Chinese Communist Party is communist.

In fact, dear progressive, you fear and loathe democracy. Moreover, you are right to do so. Representative democracy is a thoroughly despicable system of government. It is dangerous and impractical at best, criminal at worst. And you hate it like the poison it is.

But you don't hate it under this name. You hate it under the name of politics. Think of the associations that the words political, partisan, politician, and so on, produce in your mind. You say: George W. Bush politicized the Justice Department. And this is a brutal indictment. If you hated black people the way you hate politics, you might say George W. Bush negroized the Justice Department, and the phrase would carry the same payload of contempt.

Similarly, when you hear antonyms such as apolitical, nonpartisan, bipartisan, or even the new and truly ludicrous post-partisan, your heart thrills with warmth and affection, just as it would if you were a racist and you heard the words Nordic, Anglo-Saxon, or amelanistic. And as it does when you hear the word democracy. You certainly would never say that George W. Bush democratized the Justice Department.

And yet, when you hear the phrase "apolitical democracy," it sounds slightly off. Can we have democracy without politics? Representative democracy without politics? What would that even mean? That there are no parties, perhaps? So let me get this straight - two parties is good, one party is bad (very bad), no parties at all is - even better? La Wik has a curious page for non-partisan democracy, in which some of these issues are explored, in the typical disjointed and unenlightening manner.

This is simply one of these contradictions that we find in the modern, progressive mind. You have probably wondered, idly, about it yourself. Since, as we've seen, progressivism is an essentially religious movement, the mystery of politics, that necessary evil of democracy, slides neatly into the same lobe of your brain that was in less enlightened days reserved for the great questions of theology. How can God be three persons at once? A wondrous mystery indeed.

Two fresh yarns in the Pravda illustrate the irony beautifully. In the first (which we've linked to before), our brave reporter is positively amused to find a native tribe so benighted that they might imagine they'd be better off without democracy. In the second, our fearless correspondent is shocked that, in darkest North America, the savages are so backward and credulous as to entertain the preposterous belief that counting heads amidst the mob is a sensible way to select responsible public officials.

Let's probe a little deeper into this mystery. If the actions of our democratic governments are not to be ascribed to the venal machinations of politicians, who is responsible for them? Who, in the ideal apolitical, nonpartisan, or post-partisan state, calls the shots? We are back to the basic question of power, which Lenin once summarized as "Who? Whom?" (This made more sense in English when we still used the word "whom." What Lenin meant was: who rules whom?)

So if politicians should not rule, who - dear progressive - should? If we continue our pattern of two-word answers, the answer is: public policy.

To the progressive - rather ironically, considering the history - Lenin's question is completely inappropriate. You reject the idea that government means that "who" must "rule" "whom." Rather, you believe that government, when conducted properly in the public interest, is an objective discipline - like physics, or geology, or mathematics.

It does not matter "who" the physicists, geologists, or mathematicians are. There is no German physics, liberal geology, or Catholic mathematics. There is only correct physics, correct geology, and correct mathematics. The process and criteria by which physicists separate correct from incorrect physics is quite different from that for geology or mathematics, and none of these processes is perfect or works instantaneously. But all have an obvious tendency to progress from error and ignorance to truth and knowledge.

Needless to say, if the United States were blessed with a Department of Mathematics - honestly I'm not sure why it isn't, but we can rest assured that if this wrong is ever righted, it will stay righted - it would be thoroughly inappropriate and irresponsible for George W. Bush to "politicize" the Department's deliberations on topology, computability, game theory, etc.

Public policy, of course, must not contradict physics, geology or mathematics. But these are not its main linchpins. When we look inside the magic box of public policy, we see fields such as law and economics and ethics and sociology and psychology and public health and foreign policy and journalism and education and...

And when we look at the history of these fields, we tend to see one of two things. Either (a) the field was more or less invented in the 20th century (sociology, psychology), or (b) its 20th-century principles bear very little relation to those of its 19th-century predecessor (law, economics). We saw this two weeks ago, for example, with international law. But again, I am getting ahead of myself.

As a progressive, you regard the fields of public policy as more or less scientific. The 20th century is the century of scientific public policy. And just as there is no German physics or Catholic mathematics, there is no German public policy or Catholic public policy. There is only public policy. There is no "who." There is no rule. There is no world domination. There is only global governance.

So we see why it's inappropriate for George W. Bush to "politicize" the Justice Department. It is because the Justice Department is staffed with legal scholars. Is George W. Bush a legal scholar? Is a boar hog an F-16? When politics intrudes on the realm of science, it's more than just a violation. It's a kind of rape. One is instantly reminded of the Nazi stormtroopers, dancing around their flaming piles of books. One, if one is an American, is also reminded of the mindless jockery that ruled one's high-school years. Do you, dear progressive, have any hesitation about picking a side in this dispute? Of course not.

Thus we see the fate of representative, political democracy, which survives as a sort of vestigial reptile brain or fetal gill-slit in the era of scientific government. In classic Machiavellian style, the form democracy has been redefined. It no longer means that the public's elected representatives control the government. It means that the government implements scientific public policy in the public interest. (Public policy is in the public interest by definition.)

We may summarize the whole in Lincoln's concise phrase: government of the people, by the people, for the people. All governments are of the people (they also provide animal control). The people being what they are, by the people turns out to be a bad idea. But we can still have government for the people, which gives us two out of three, which ain't bad. Since it is both of the people and for the people, and demos after all just means people, we can keep the good old word for our modern, scientific democracy.

You may already know all this, but perhaps it's worth a brief tour of how this system evolved.

The basically criminal nature of the old, political form of democracy has been discovered and rediscovered many times in American (and before that, of course, British) history. In his American Creation, the popular historian Joseph Ellis summarizes the Founders' judgment on democracy: "an alien, parasitic force." This of course would be their judgment as of the 1790s, not the 1770s, at which point they had had plenty of experience with said parasitic force. Any premodern history of the period - I recommend Albert Beveridge's four-volume life of John Marshall (I, II, III, IV) - will show you why. There is a reason you didn't learn much about the First Republic in that eleventh-grade civics class.

The Second Republic, or Constitutional period, saw a return to government by enlightened aristocrats, first under the Federalists and later under the Jeffersonians, who rather cleverly rode a wave of mob agitation into office and then ruled in a distinctily Federalist style (a trick that would later be repeated). This era of good feelings lasted until the election of ur-politician Andrew Jackson, who among other works of genius invented the spoils system - the unabashed selection of political loyalists for government jobs.

The following period of political turmoil, while distinguished by occasional flashes of sanity (such as the best system of government finance in history) and ameliorated by gridlock between North and South, which preserved a remarkably small and simple Washington, degenerated into the mass military insanity of the 1860s. Many Northern intellectuals, such as Henry Adams, had assumed that the defeat of the Slave Power would heal all the woes of the Federal City and transform it into the shining light it was meant to be. Au contraire.

Instead, in the Union period or Third Republic, what was by 20th-century standards a remarkably limited government, but by 18th-century standards an almost omnipotent one, fell into the hands of ethnic machines, corrupt politicians, quasicriminal financiers, sinister wire-pullers, unscrupulous journalists, vested interests, and the like. History, which of course is always on the side of the winners, has written this down as the Gilded Age.

For all its faults, the Gilded Age system created perhaps the most responsible and effective government in US history. Architecture is always a good clue to the nature of power, and Gilded Age buildings, where they still stand, are invariably decorative. The country's prosperity and productivity was, of course, unmatched. Its laws were strict and strictly enforced - nothing like today's festering ulcers of crime were imaginable.

An English journalist of Tory bent, G. W. Steevens, wrote an excellent travelogue of Gilded Age America - Land of the Dollar. (It's very readable, especially if you don't mind the N-word.) Steevens, in 1898, was unable to locate anything like a slum in New York City, and his intentions were not complimentary. It's an interesting exercise to compare the hyperventilations of a Gilded Age social reformer like Jacob Riis - the title How The Other Half Lives may ring a bell - to the world of Sudhir Venkatesh. Riis's tenement dwellers are sometimes less than well-scrubbed. They can be "slovenly." They drink a lot of beer. Their apartments are small and have poor ventilation - ventilation, for some reason, seems to be a major concern. All these horrors still afflict the present-day residents of the Lower East Side, who are hardly in need of anyone's charity.

But the Gilded Age political system was, again, criminal. In other words, it was democratic. The old American system is probably best compared to the government of China today. While they evolved from very different origins, they have converged in that universal medium, corruption. Government serves as a profit center, but (unlike in neocameralism) the distribution of profits is informal. The dividends are fought over with a thousand nontransparent stratagems. Since China is not a democracy, vote-buying is not practiced there. It was certainly practiced here.

And the bosses and plutocrats were not, by and large, cultured men. Sometimes I feel this is the main objection of their enemies. The American intellectual aristocracy simply could not tolerate a world in which their country was governed by these corrupt, boorish thugs. So, as aristocrats will, they plotted their revenge.

I mentioned "reform" earlier. And Machiavelli, if you scroll back to the top, uses the same word. Of course, he simply meant "change the form of." He implies no connotations. But notice, dear progressive, your associations with the word "reform." Like "nonpartisan" and all those other good words, it is connected with the happy part of your brain. La Wik's reform page is not bad.

Politically, the deepest roots of the present regime are found in the Liberal Republicans and the Mugwumps of the early Union period. The cause they are most associated with is civil service reform, which removed the President's power to staff the civil service and replaced it with competitive examinations - which tended to select, of course, scions of said aristocracy.

La Wik has many other discussions of early progressivism: the settlement movement, the Fabians, the muckrakers. You were probably exposed to large doses of this in your 11th-grade civics class. (If you are still in 11th-grade civics class, take an extra hit for this material. You'll need it.)

It is interesting to go back and read, say, Lincoln Steffens, today. Unfortunately Google Books has failed us on his Shame of the Cities, but here is a sample. And Steffens' Autobiography (really a series of rants drawn loosely from his life) is easily obtainable. What comes through is, most of all, a tremendous sense of smugness and arrogance. Steffens, for example, will be talking to Teddy Roosevelt. A close personal friend. But the Pres doesn't always take Steffens' advice. He compromises, sometimes. That's because he's weak, or ignorant, or corrupt, or maybe all three.

Steffens' tone only works if you think of him as the underdog. But underdogs are infrequently found in the Oval Office, and hindsight indeed shows us that this underdog won. Which makes him the overdog. And while its long-departed ghost is easily recognizable in the rhetoric of, say, a Michael Moore, a brief glance at Steffens' work will show you that nothing like the political tradition he is attacking exists in the world today. (To the extent that there are ethnic political machines, they are firmly in the hands of Steffens' successors.)

Whereas Steffens' tradition has flourished. He was the mentor, for example, of Walter Lippmann. If you traced the social network of modern journalism, all the lines would go back to Steffens and his cronies. And the lines lead overseas, as well: Steffens went to Russia in 1919, and he loved it. As he wrote in 1930:
Soviet Russia was a revolutionary government with an evolutionary plan. Their plan was not by direct action to resist such evils as poverty and riches, graft, privilege, tyranny and war, but to seek out and remove the causes of them. They were at present only laying a basis for these good things. They had to set up a dictatorship, supported by a small, trained minority, to make and maintain for a few generations a scientific rearrangement of economic forces which would result in economic democracy first and political democracy last.
"Economic democracy." Contemplate this concept, dear reader. Whatever "economic democracy" may be, it certainly has nothing at all to do with the practice of entrusting control of the state to elected representatives.

Steffens then allows Lenin, whom he is interviewing, to deliver a few paragraphs on the necessity of murdering the bourgeoisie, and finally delivers his famous line:
"So you've been over into Russia?" asked Bernard Baruch, and I answered very literally, "I have been over into the future, and it works." This was in Jo Davidson's studio, where Mr. Baruch was sitting for a portrait bust. The sculptor asked if I wasn't glad to get back. I was. It was a mental change we had experienced, not physical. Bullitt asked in surprise why it was that, having been so elated by the prospect of Russia, we were so glad to be back in Paris. I thought it was because, though we had been in heaven, we were so accustomed to our own civilization that we preferred hell. We were ruined; we could recognize salvation, but could not be saved.
Indeed, what Steffens calls "applied Christianity," and UR readers will recognize as our good old friend, creeping Quakerism, is seldom far beneath the surface in his work. I think you get the drift, but let us summarize. (Note that "propaganda" is not yet a term of abuse in 1930.)
In Russia the ultimate purpose of this conscious process of merging politics and business is to abolish the political state as soon as its sole uses are served: to make defensive war abroad and at home and to teach the people by propaganda and by enforced conditions to substitute new for old ideas and habits. The political establishment is a sort of protective scaffolding within which the temporary dictatorship is building all agriculture, all industries, and all businesses into one huge centralized organization. They will point out to you from over there that our businesses, too, are and long have been coming together, merging trusts into combines, which in turn unite into greater and greater monopolies. They think that when we western reformers and liberals resist this tendency we are standing in the way of a natural, inevitable economic compulsion to form "one big union" of business. All that they have changed is the ownership, which they (and Henry Ford) think is about all that's wrong. Aren't they right to encourage the process? Aren't we wrong to oppose it?
Note this recycling of ideas through Russia. There is nothing Russian at all about the dream Steffens is purveying. It is all in Edward Bellamy. From day one, a substantial and influential section of the American intelligentsia were the patrons, intellectual and political, of the Soviet Union, which spent all eighty years of its life manfully trying to implement Bellamy's vision.

Imagine how, say, libertarians would react if Russia decided to turn itself into a libertarian utopia. Imagine how easily they might come to overlook the matter if achieving the libertarian utopia turned out to involve, oh, just a little bit of good old Russian-style killing. In self-defense, of course. Libertarians believe in self-defense. Don't they? And besides, we're just killing government officials... and so on.

Your understanding of the bond between the American aristocracy and the Soviets has been distorted by both right and left. The left has done everything possible to bury their complicity in the monstrous crimes of their Slavic epigones. The right has assisted them by misrepresenting the structure of this complicity, which was never - even in such clear-cut cases as Alger Hiss - a simple matter of treason. The American side was always the senior partner in the marriage. The prestige of their distinguished Western patrons was a key ingredient in the Soviet formula for legitimacy and internal control, and the growing staleness of the alliance contributed far more, I think, to the Soviet collapse than most today admit.

Anyway, let's briefly finish up our origin myth, which ends, of course, in 1933. An excellent history of the period is supplied by the historian (and Progressive) James Truslow Adams, who followed his four-volume March of Democracy with two volumes of yearbooks, written every year and not (so far as I can determine) edited afterward, covering each year to 1948. This provides a pleasant hindsightless feel found in few other treatments of the period. In his history of 1933, Adams reports:
Nothing much was known about Roosevelt, except his smile. As William Allen White wrote at the time of his inauguration, "we are putting our hands in a grab-bag. Heaven only knows what we shall pull out." With the disingenuousness apparently required of a Presidential candidate, his campaign speeches had not disclosed his real views...
Well, that's putting it mildly. In fact they had disclosed other views, which were not his real views. (As Marriner Eccles put it, "given later developments, the campaign speeches often read like a giant misprint, in which Roosevelt and Hoover speak each other's lines.") Apparently White, for some reason, knew the story behind the script. Of course, if you don't believe in democracy, there is no reason not to treat it with contempt.

Adams, with only a mild glaze of sycophancy, reports the results:
[FDR] was, in fact, with the help of what he considered the best expert advice, although always making final decision himself, trying experiments, and occasionally he frankly said so. In these experiments he has been motivated by two objects - one the overcoming of the depression, and the other the making over of the economic organization of the nation, the latter being what he called in his campaign speeches "the New Deal." It is this which appears - it is too soon to speak positively - his chief objective, and it is difficult as yet to judge what his conception of the new society may be. In his first year he has shown enormous courage but has, apparently, not seldom changed his point of view, as well as his advisers.

As the latter loomed large in the administration, to a considerable extent displacing the regular Cabinet in public sight, the so-called "brain trust" requires some comment. Of recent years college professors have been more and more frequently called into consultation as "experts." Hoover made frequent application to them when President; Roosevelt did the same as Governor of New York; and foreign governments have done likewise. However, they have never been so in the forefront of affairs as since Roosevelt entered the White House, and this, together with the vagueness of what the "New Deal" might signify, helped to hinder the restoration of confidence. The lack of ability to foresee the future, to say nothing in too many cases of the absence of personal integrity, had indeed thrown the "big business men," the bankers and captains of industry, into the discard, but on the other hand the American has never had much belief in the practical ability of a professor, and the "experts" have disagreed among themselves as notably as doctors are said to do.

Moreover, Roosevelt chose many of his advisers from the distinct radical or left-wing group, the names of most of them being utterly new to the public. At first among the chief of these appear to have been Professor Raymond Moley, Doctor R. G. Tugwell, and A. A. Berle, Jr., all of Columbia University, New York. In the summer of 1933 there were added to these and many others Professor G. F. Warren of Cornell, a leading advocate of the "commodity dollar," and Professor J. H. Rogers of Yale. At least twenty or thirty others could be mentioned. It is to the "brain trust" that we owe the carrying out of the vague "New Deal," or as a great admirer of the President prefers to call it, "the Roosevelt Revolution." What the final result may be, no one can yet say, but as we shall see at the end of the chapter, they have presented a staggering bill for the American citizen to pay.
Indeed. I doubt there is a more succinct history of the birth of "public policy." I date the Fourth Republic and the Progressive period to 1933.

We can read this story in two ways. We can read it as the coming of modern, scientific government in the United States. Or we can read it as the transfer of power from political democracy to the American university system - which, just for the sake of a catchy catchword, I like to call the Cathedral.

Albert Jay Nock had no doubts on the matter. Allow me to reproduce a section of his diary from 1933:
29 October -- And so Brother Hitler decides he will no longer play with the League of Nations. This leaves the League in "ruther a shattered state," as Artemus Ward said of the Confederate army after Lee's surrender. "That army now consists of Kirby Smith, four mules, and a Bass drum, and is movin rapidly tords Texis."

30 October -- Public doings in this country are beyond all comment. Roosevelt has assembled in Washington the most extraordinary aggregation of quacks, I imagine, that was ever seen herded together. His passage from the scene of political action will remove the most lively showman that has been seen in America since the death of P.T. Barnum. The absence of opposition is remarkable; Republicans seem to have forgotten that the function of an Opposition is to oppose. I say this in derision, of course, for our politics are always bi-partisan. I have talked with many people; no one has any confidence in Roosevelt's notions, but the "organs of public opinion" either praise him or are silent; and no one expects that Congress will call him on the carpet. The only certain things are that his fireworks will cost a lot of money, and that they will enlarge our bureaucracy indefinitely. Most of the big Federal slush-fund that the taxpayers will create next year will go to local politicians, nominally for "improvements," unemployment or what not, but actually for an increase of jobs and jobbery. This ought to build up a very strong machine for the next campaign, as I am convinced it is meant to do - and all it is meant to do - and no doubt it will. I notice that the new move of juggling with the price of gold has been turned over to the R.F.C. instead of to the Treasury; thus making the R.F.C. a personal agent of the President.

31 October -- To my mind, there was never a better example of getting up a scare in order, as Mr. Jefferson said, to "waste the labours of the people under the pretence of taking care of them." Our improvement, such as it is, was under way in June, and there is no evidence whatever that Mr. Roosevelt's meddling has accelerated it. One is reminded of the headlong haste about framing the Federal Constitution, on the pretext that the country was going to the dogs under the Articles of Confederation; when in fact it was doing very well indeed, as recent researches have shown. All this is a despicable trick. The papers say that in this business of meddling with the gold market, Roosevelt is influenced by the theories of Irving Fisher. It reminds me that when I was in Europe I heard that one of Hitler's principal lieutenants is a chap that I used to know pretty well; the only name I can think of is Helfschlager, and that is not right. His family are the big art-dealers in Munich - Hanfstängl, that's it. I got well acquainted with him in New York, and saw him afterward in Munich, and came away with the considered belief that he is a fine fellow and uncommonly likable, but just as crazy as a loon. I have long had precisely that opinion of Fisher. Therefore if it is true that Irving Fisher is to the front in America and Helfschlager in Germany, I think the future for both countries looks pretty dark.
Don't miss La Wik on Irving Fisher. The page demonstrates the dichotomy perfectly.

So, as so often here on UR, we have two ways to see reality. Either power has passed into the hands of the Cathedral, or it has disappeared and been replaced by mere science. "Public policy." Of course, you know what I think. But what do you think?

If we can conceive the Cathedral as an actual, non-divinely-inspired, political machine for a moment, suspending any resentment or reverence we may feel toward it, not assuming that the policies it produces are good or bad or true or false, we can just admire it from an engineering perspective and see how well it works.

First: if there is one pattern we see in the public policies the Cathedral produces, it's that they tend to be very good at creating dependency. We can observe the dependency system by imagining what would happen if Washington, DC, out to the radius of the Beltway, is suddenly teleported by aliens into a different dimension, where its residents will live out their lives in unimaginable wealth, comfort and personal fulfillment. We here on Earth, however, see the Federal City disappear in a flash of light. In its place is a crater of radioactive glass.

What would happen? Many, many checks would no longer arrive. Children would go hungry - not just in North America, but around the world. Old people would starve. Babies would die of easily preventable diseases. Hurricane victims would squat in squalor in the slums. Drug companies would sell poison, stockbrokers would sell worthless paper, Toys-R-US would sell little plastic parts designed to stick in my daughter's throat and choke her. Etc, etc, etc.

Washington has made itself necessary. Not just to Americans, but to the entire world. Why does Washington want to help the survivors of Cyclone Nargis? Because helping is what it does. It dispenses love to all. Its mission is quite simply to do good, on a planetary basis. And why does the government of Burma want to stop it? Why turn down free help, including plenty of free stuff, and possibly even some free money?

Because dependency is another name for power. The relationship between dependent and provider is the relationship between client and patron. Which is the relationship between parent and child. Which also happens to be the relationship between master and slave. There's a reason Aristotle devotes the first book of the Politics to this sort of kitchen government.

Modern Americans have enormous difficulty in grasping hierarchical social structures. We grew up steeped in "applied Christianity" pretty much the way the Hitler Youth grew up steeped in Hitler. The suggesting that slavery could ever be or have been, as Aristotle suggests, natural and healthy, is like suggesting to the Hitler Youth that it might be cool to make some Jewish friends. Their idea of Jews is straight out of Jud Süss. Our idea of slavery is straight out of Uncle Tom's Cabin. If you want an accurate perspective of the past, a propaganda novel is probably not the best place to start. (If you want an accurate perspective of American slavery, I recommend Eugene Genovese's Roll, Jordan, Roll, which is a little Marxist but only superficially so. No work like it could be written today.)

Legally and socially, a slave is an adult child. (There's a reason the word emancipation is used for the dissolution of both bonds.) We think of the master-slave relationship as usually sick and twisted, and invariably adversarial. Parent-child relationships can be all three. But they are not normally so. If history (not to mention evolutionary biology) proves anything, it proves that humans fit into dominance-submission structures almost as easily as they fit into the nuclear family.

Slavery is an extreme, but the general pattern is that the patron owes the client protection and subsistence, while the client owes the patron loyalty and service. The patron is liable to the public for the actions of the client - if they offend, he must make amends. In return, he has the right, indeed the obligation, to regulate and discipline his clients. He is a private provider of government. Thus Aristotle: slavery is government on the micro-scale. Heed the Greek dude.

So comparing the social paternalism of Washington to the classical relationship between master and slave is not at all farfetched, or even particularly pejorative. And if it is pejorative, it is because the 20th-century imitation often seems to resemble less a functional paternal bond than a dysfunctional one: less parent-child than parent-teenager. With many of Washington's clients, foreign and domestic, there is plenty of subsistence and even protection, but precious little loyalty, service, discipline or responsibility.

We are now in a position to understand the relationship between Washington and Rangoon. Rangoon (I refuse to call it "Yangon" - the idea that a government can change the name of a city or a country is a distinctly 20th-century one) refuses to accept the assistance of the "international community" because it does not want to become a client.

You'll find that any sentence can be improved by replacing the phrase "international community" with "State Department." State does not impose many obligations on its clients, but one of them is that you can't be a military government - at least not unless you're a left-wing military government with friends at Harvard. The roots of the present Burmese regime are basically national-socialist: ie, no friends at Harvard. Burma cannot go directly from being an enemy to being a rebellious teenager. It would have to go through the helpless-child stage first. And that means the end of the generals.

(One reason the Jonah Goldbergs of the world have such trouble telling their right from their left is that they expect some morphological feature of the State to answer the question for them. For anyone other than Goldberg, Stalin was on the left and Hitler was on the right. The difference is not a function of discrepancies in administrative procedure between the KZs and the Gulag. It's a function of social networks. Stalin was a real socialist, Hitler was a fake one. Stalin was part of the international socialist movement, and Hitler wasn't. But I digress.)

What, specifically, will happen if Burma admits an army of aid workers? What will happen is that they'll make friends in Burma. Their friends will not be the people in power - not quite. But they will probably be close to it. Thus the ties between the "international community" and all kinds of alternatives to the generals will be strengthened. Since the latter's position is already precarious at best, much better if a few of the victims have to eat mud for a month or two. They will fend for themselves in the end. People do.

And why is Washington playing this game? Just because it does. In that golden city are armies of desks, each occupied by a dedicated public servant whom the Cathedral has certified to practice public policy, whose job it is to care about Burma. And he or she does. That's what Washington does. As George H. W. Bush put it, "Message: I care."

When our patron's suffering clients are actually American citizens, this pattern - as Nock predicted, correctly - generates votes. Before the New Deal, vote-buying in America was generally local and informal. Retail, you might say. After 1933, it was wholesale.

But however much of a client it becomes (I really can't imagine the generals can hold out that much longer), Burma will never export electoral votes. Statehood is unimaginable. So why does Washington continue to molest the generals, in pursuit of the love and fealty of the Burmese people? Just because it does. There is adaptive value in "applied Christianity." That adaptive value derives from its domestic application. There is little or no adaptive value in restricting the principle to domestic clients, and it involves a level of conscious cynicism which is not compatible with the reality of progressivism. So the restriction does not evolve.

Thus the neo-Quakerism which supplies the ethical core of progressivism, and is evangelized with increasingly relentless zeal by the Cathedral's robeless monks, is completely compatible with the acquisition and maintenance of political power. Not only does the design work - I find it hard to imagine how it could work any better. Which does not mean that "applied Christianity" is evil, that the Burmese generals are good, or that their suffering subjects would not be better off under Washington's friendly umbrella.

Second, let's observe the relationship between the Cathedral and our old friend, "democracy." Since 1933, elected politicians have exercised minimal actual control over government policy. Formally, however, they have absolute control. The Cathedral is not mentioned in the Constitution. Power is a juicy caterpillar. Maybe it looks like a twig to most of us birds, but Washington has no shortage of sharp eyes, sharp beaks, and growling bellies.

We can see the answer when we look at the fate of politicians who have attacked the Cathedral. Here are some names: Joseph McCarthy. Enoch Powell. George Wallace. Spiro Agnew. Here are some others: Ronald Reagan. Richard Nixon. Margaret Thatcher.

The first set are politicians whose break with the Cathedral was complete and unconditional. The second are politicians who attempted to compromise and coexist with it, while pulling it in directions it didn't want to go. The first were destroyed. The second appeared to succeed, for a while, but little trace of their efforts (at least in domestic politics) is visible today. Their era ends in the 1980s, and it is impossible to imagine similar figures today.

What we see, especially in the cases of McCarthy and Powell (the recent BBC documentary on Powell is quite good) is a tremendous initial burst of popularity, trailing off into obloquy and disrepute. At first, these politicians were able to capture large bases of support. At least 70% of the British electorate was on Powell's side. This figure may even be low.

But Powell - Radio Enoch aside - never had the tools to preserve these numbers and convert them into power. Similar majorities of American voters today will tell pollsters that they support Powellian policies: ending immigration, deporting illegals, terminating the racial spoils system. These majorities are stable. No respectable politician will touch them. Why? Because they cannot afford to antagonize the Cathedral, whose policies are the opposite.

Recall La Wik's simple summary of the Lippmann system:
The decision makers then take decisions and use the "art of persuasion" to inform the public about the decisions and the circumstances surrounding them.
Of course, all politicians in all Western countries depend on the official press to promote and legitimize their campaigns. Powell and McCarthy had no direct channel of communication with the Powellists and McCarthyists. They had to rely on the BBC and on ABC, NBC and CBS respectively. It's rather as if the US attempted to invade the Third Reich by booking passage for its soldiers on the Imperial Japanese Navy.

The OP (known to most bloggers as the "MSM") is part of the civil-service complex around the Cathedral - call it the Polygon. An institution is in the Polygon if it defers to the Cathedral on all disputable questions. Because to a devotee of the Cathedral, its perspectives are beyond question, no two devotees can disagree on any serious matter - unless, of course, both sides of the disagreement are represented in the Cathedral itself. And the Cathedral is not exactly noted for disagreeing with itself. At least, not from an external perspective.

You will not see the Times attacking Harvard, for example, or the State Department. They all have the same ant smell, as it were. The Times is not formally a government institution, as the BBC is, but it might as well be. If American journalism were coordinated into a Department of Information - as it was in World War I and World War II - and journalists were granted GS ranks, very little in their lives would change. As civil servants, they would be exactly as immune to political pressure as they are at present, and they would have exactly the same access to government secrets that they have at present.

The Cathedral's response to these dissident politicians thus took two forms, one fast and one slow. Both would have been effective; together, they were devastating. First, the "art of persuasion" - more dramatically known as psychological warfare - convinced their supporters that the politicians themselves were sick, awful, and weird, and so by extension was anyone who followed them. Second, the Cathedral itself adapted to the doctrines of Powell and McCarthy by making opposition to them an explicit tenet of the faith.

Since the Cathedral educates the world's most fashionable people, and since it holds power and power is always fashionable, Cathedrism is fashionable more or less by definition. Of course, if you were fashionable, you knew instantly that Powell and McCarthy were on the slow boat to nowhere. But the unfashionable are always the majority, and they are not unfashionable because they choose to be. They are unfashionable because they can't pull off fashionable.

As it became clear to all that Powell and McCarthy were "not done," their fans disappeared. Their bases of support had been a mile wide and an inch deep. Their attacks on the Cathedral were pathetic and doomed, like taking on the Death Star with a laser pointer. Personally, both men were mercurial and unstable - Powell was a genius, the last real statesman in British politics, while McCarthy was an old-school hard-drinking politician with Roy Cohn on his team - and it is no surprise that none of their colleagues emulated their suicidal bravado.

As for the second class, the Thatchers and Nixons and Reagans, in terms of their own personal outcomes they were smarter. They attacked the Cathedral not across the board, but on single issues on which their support was overwhelming. Sometimes they actually prevailed, for a while, on these points - Reagan got his military buildup, Thatcher got deregulation, Nixon defeated North Vietnam.

Of course, the Nixon administration also created EPA, initiated the racial spoils system, and imposed wage and price controls. Thatcher got Britain inextricably into the EU. And so on. These semi-outsider politicians provide a valuable service to the Cathedral: while opposing a few of its policies, they validate all the others as a bipartisan consensus, which everyone decent is obligated to support. They thus do the heavy lifting of persuading their supporters, who probably wouldn't read the Times even if they did trust it, to change with the changing times. And the times are always changing. And we just can't not change with them, can we?

To the extent that democratic politics still exists in the Western world, it exists in the form of the two-party system. The parties have various names, which they have inherited from history. But there are only two parties: the Inner Party, and the Outer Party. It is never hard to tell which is which.

The function of the Inner Party is to delegate all policies and decisions to the Cathedral. The function of the Outer Party is to pretend to oppose the Inner Party, while in fact posing no danger at all to it. Sometimes Outer Party functionaries are even elected, and they may even succeed in pursuing a few of their deviant policies. The entire Polygon will unite in ensuring that these policies either fail, or are perceived by the public to fail. Since the official press is part of the Polygon and has a more or less direct line into everyone's brain, this is not difficult.

The Outer Party has never even come close to damaging any part of the Polygon or Cathedral. Even McCarthy was not a real threat. He got a few people fired, most temporarily. Most of them were actually Soviet agents of one sort or another. They became martyrs and have been celebrated ever since. His goal was a purge of the State Department. He didn't even come close. If he had somehow managed to fire every Soviet agent or sympathizer in the US government, he would not even have done any damage. As Carroll Quigley pointed out, McCarthy (and his supporters) thought he was attacking a nest of Communist spies, whereas in fact he was attacking the American Establishment. Don't bring a toothpick to a gunfight.

McCarthy never even considered trying to abolish the State Department - let alone State, Harvard, the CFR, the Rockefeller Foundation, and every other institution in the same class. By my count, if you lump all his efforts together with the entire phenomenon of McCarthyism, you get about 10 milli-Hitlers. (And not even Hitler, of course, succeeded in the end.)

An essential element in the "art of persuasion" is the systematic propagation of the exact opposite of this situation. Devotees of the Inner Party and the Cathedral are deeply convinced that the Outer Party is about to fall on them and destroy them in a new fascist upheaval. They often believe that the Outer Party itself is the party of power. They can be easily terrified by poll results of the type that Powell, etc, demonstrated. There are all kinds of scary polls that can be conducted which, if they actually translated into actual election results in which the winners of the election held actual power, would seriously suck. That's democracy for you.

But power in our society is not held by democratic politicians. Nor should it be. Indeed the intelligentsia are in a minority, indeed they live in a country that is a democracy, indeed in theory their entire way of life hangs by a thread. But if you step back and look at history over any significant period, you only see them becoming stronger. It is their beliefs that spread to the rest of the world, not the other direction. When Outer Party supporters embrace stupid ideas, no one has any reason to worry, because the Outer Party will never win. When the Inner Party goes mad, it is time to fear. Madness and power are not a fresh cocktail.

And thus we see the role of "democracy" in the Progressive period. Stross says:
Democracy provides a pressure release valve for dissent. As long as the party in power are up for re-election in a period of months to (single digit) years, opponents can grit their teeth and remind themselves that this, too, shall pass ... and wait for an opportunity to vote the bums out. Democracies don't usually spawn violent opposition parties because opposition parties can hope to gain power through non-violent means.
This is the theory. But since elected politicians in the Cathedral system have, as we've seen, no real power, what we're looking at here is not a pressure release valve, but a fake pressure release valve. The regular exchange of parties in "power" reassures you, dear voter, that if the State starts to become seriously insane, the valve will trip, the bums will be thrown out, and everything will return to normal.

In fact, we know exactly what Washington's policies twenty years from now will be. They will certainly have nothing to do with "politics." They will be implementations of the ideas now taught at Harvard, Yale and Berkeley. There is a little lag as the memes work their way through the system, as older and wiser civil servants retire and younger, more fanatical ones take their place. But this lag is getting shorter all the time. And by the standards of the average voter forty years ago, let alone eighty, Washington already is seriously insane. What is the probability that by your standards - as progressive as they may be - Washington forty years from now will not seem just as crazed? Fairly low, I'm afraid.

And this brings us to the third point about the public policy apparatus: while appearing unconscious of its audience, it adapts to it. This is the most incriminating point, because there is no good explanation for it, and the trend is quite ominous if projected outward.

Take the recent decision of the California Supreme Court, who have just discovered that the state's Constitution allows people of the same sex to marry. As a matter of policy, I have no objection at all to this. Quite the contrary. I think it's an excellent and sensible policy. I do, however, have an interest in where this policy came from.

This is what, in the 20th-century progressive public-policy world, we call "law." The craft of the lawyer used to be the craft of discovering how the words of a law were intended, by the officials who ratified the law, to imply that one's client was in the right. I think it's fairly safe to assume that the drafters and ratifiers of the California Constitution and its various amendments had no such understanding of their work. (Try reading the actual decision. It's a fascinating hunk of boilerplate.)

Nonetheless, the drafters wrought better than they knew. The practice of drafting laws which are vague to the point of meaninglessness, then empowering "judges" to "interpret" them, is simply another way of abolishing politics. Congress legislates this way all the time. All they are doing is to transfer the power of legislation to a more private body, which is not subject to public scrutiny and the other painful woes of politics. The great thing about the gay marriage decision is that no one in California has any idea who made it. I think there are nine people on the California Supreme Court. Who are they? How did they get their jobs? Who the heck knows? No one seems to care at all.

The US Constitution was the first and greatest offender in this department. Its drafters did not even agree on such basic matters as whether a state could leave the Union. In practice, it made the Supreme Court the supreme legislative assembly, which over the last 200 years (mostly over the last 50) has created a body of decisions, perfectly comparable to Britain's unwritten constitution, that we call constitutional law. The idea that this legislative corpus can be derived in some mystical, yet automatic, way from the text of the Constitution is preposterous, and no one holds it.

Instead we have the Living Constitution, which always seems to live to the left. I've never heard anyone, not even the most deranged fundamentalist, propose reinterpreting the Constitution to provide rights to fetuses, an obvious corollary of this approach - if the Inner Party and the Outer Party were symmetric opposites, and the "life" of the Constitution was powered by political democracy.

Of course it is not. It does not rest in formal interpretation of texts. It rests in ethical judgments. It is the job of the legislator to make ethical judgments, and the California Supreme Court is doing its job. It's a pity it has to carpool with such a large bodyguard of lies, but that's the modern world for ya.

And we know where these ethical judgments come from. They are Inner Party judgments, and the Inner Party's ethics are Christian, Protestant, and Quaker in their origins. Fine. We all need ethics, and "applied Christianity" will do as well as anything else. What interests me is when these ethical judgments come about.

Imagine, for instance, that the California Supreme Court had decided in, say, 1978, that it was unethical - I mean, unconstitutional - for California to prohibit its male citizens from marrying each other. Is this a thinkable event? I think not. And yet the court's writ ran just as far and was just as powerful in 1978 as in 2008. And ethics, surely, have not changed.

The Living Constitution does not adapt with changes in ethics. It adapts with changes in public opinion - as long as that public opinion is shifting in the direction of "applied Christianity." Public opinion was ready for abortion in 1973 - barely. It was ready for gay marriage in 2008 - barely. It was not ready for gay marriage in 1973. What will it be ready for in 2033? One can see this as a noble concession to the great principle of democracy. One can also see it as the Cathedral getting away with whatever it can get away with, and nothing else.

Larry Auster, probably the most imaginative and interesting right-wing writer on the planet, who also happens to be a converted fundamentalist Christian with all the theopolitical baggage that you, dear open-minded progressive, would expect from such a person, has a good term for this: the unprincipled exception. Briefly, an unprincipled exception is a policy that violates some absolute principle of ethics held by the policymaker, but is not openly acknowledged as such a violation.

For example, dear progressive, why is racism wrong? Racism is wrong because all humans are born simply as humans, having done nothing right or wrong, and it is incompatible with our deeply-held ethical principles to mark these newborn babies with indelible labels which assign them either privileges or penalties which they have not earned. Such as the privilege of being able to drink at sparkling-clean water fountains marked "Whites Only," or the penalty of having to go out back to the horse trough.

We hit that one out of the park, didn't we? Okay. So why is it ethical to label newborn babies as "American" or "Mexican," due to nothing but the descent and geographical position at birth of their parents, and give the former a cornucopia of benefits from which the latter is barred - such as the right to live, work, and drink from drinking fountains in the continental United States? What makes Washington think it is somehow ethical to establish two classes of human, "Americans" and "Mexicans," based only on coincidences of birth that are just as arbitrary as "black" versus "white," and treat the two completely differently? How does this differ from racism, Southern style?

You think this is ugly? Oh, we can get worse. Let's suppose the US, in its eagerness to treat these second-class humans, if not quite as well as possible, at least better than we treat them now, establishes a new guest-worker program which is open only to Nigerians. Any number of Nigerians may come to the US and work.

There are certain restrictions, however. They have to live in special guest-worker housing. They have to go to their workplace in the morning, and return before the sun sets. They may not wander around the streets at night. They must carry special guest-worker passes. Obviously, they can't vote. And they are strictly prohibited from using all public amenities, including, of course, drinking fountains.

Is it a more ethical policy to have this program, or not to have it? If you think no Nigerians could be found to take advantage of it, you're quite wrong. If you have the program, should you cancel it, and send the Nigerians home, to a life of continued poverty back in Nigeria? How is this helping them? On the other hand, our program has all the major features of apartheid. And surely no-apartheid is better than apartheid.

There is a very easy resolution to this problem: adopt the principle that no person is illegal. This rule is perfectly consistent with "applied Christianity." It is taught at all our great universities. It is implied every time a journalist deploys the euphemism "undocumented." And I'm sure there are dozens of ways in which it could be incorporated into our great Living Constitution. There is only one problem: the people are not quite ready for it.

But perhaps in thirty years they will be. Perhaps? I would bet money on it. And I would also bet that, by the time this principle is established, denying it will be the equivalent of racism. Us old fogeys who were born in the 1970s will be convulsed with guilt and shame at the thought that the US actually considered it ethically acceptable to turn away, deport, and otherwise penalize our fellow human beings, on the ridiculous and irrelevant grounds that they were born somewhere else.

So the Cathedral wins coming and going. Today, it does not suffer the political backlash that would be sure to ensue if the Inner Party endorsed opening the borders to... everyone. Still less if it actually did so. (Unless it let the new Americans vote as soon as they set foot on our sacred soil, which of course would be the most Christian approach.) And in 2038, having increased North America's population to approximately two billion persons, none of them illegal, and all living in the same Third World conditions which it has already inflicted on most of the planet, our blessed Cathedral will have the privilege of berating the past with its guilt for not having recognized the obvious truth that no person is illegal. Ain't it beautiful?

It is. But I have been talking about this Cathedral thing for long enough that I'm not sure you believe it really exists. Well. Do I have a treat for you.

It's not news that I believe the Cathedral is evil. And since it's 2008, you'd expect evil to have not only a name, but a blog. And sure enough it does. Evil's name is Timothy Burke, he is a professor of history (specializing in southern Africa) at Swarthmore, and his blog is Easily Distracted.

The great thing about Professor Burke is that he appears to have a conscience. Almost every post in his blog can be understood as a kind of rhetorical struggle to repress some inner pang of doubt. He is the Good German par excellence. When people of this mindset found themselves in the Third Reich, they were "moderate Nazis." In Czechoslovakia or Poland they "worked within the system." Professor Burke is nowhere near being a dissident, but there is a dissident inside him. He doesn't like it, not at all. He stabs it with his steely knives. He can check out any time. But he can never leave. His position is a high one, and not easy to get.

The entire blog is characterized - indeed it could serve as a type specimen for - the quality that Nabokov called poshlost. Simply an embarrassment of riches. I am saddened by the fact that, as a new parent, I cannot devour the whole thing. But as a case study, I have selected this. The whole post is a treat, but I am especially tickled by the line:
I am drawn to procedural liberalism because I live in worlds that are highly procedural and my skills and training are adapted to manipulating procedural outcomes.
"Manipulating procedural outcomes." My entire post - maybe even my entire blog - reduced to three words. If you want to know how you are governed, this is it: you are governed by manipulating procedural outcomes. It's perfect. It belongs on someone's tomb.

But don't even click on link if you are not prepared to work up a little steam. Barack Obama's handling of his grandmother was brutal, perhaps, but it really has nothing on the job Professor Burke does on his mother-in-law:
When I talk to my mother-in-law, I often get a clear view of its workings, and the role that mass culture (including the mainstream media) play in providing fresh narrative hooks and telling incidentals to its churnings. In the last two years, for example, every time I talk to her, she wants to return to the story of Ward Churchill. Or she wants to talk about how terrible crime is. Or about the problem of illegal immigrants. And so on. These are immobile, self-reproducing, stories. Their truth in her mind is guaranteed by something far outside the actualities and realities that compose any given incident or issue.
"These are immobile, self-reproducing, stories." I desperately, desperately, want his mother-in-law to find this post, read it, and slap Professor Burke very hard across his overgrown thirteen-year-old face. But I doubt it'll happen.

"Their truth in her mind is guaranteed by something far outside the actualities and realities that compose any given incident or issue." Can even this awful sentence do justice to the twisted mind of Timothy Burke? To the Cathedral as a whole, on which he is just one small gargoyle on a minor, far-flung flying buttress? Dear open-minded progressive, I invite you to read this post - or anything else on Professor Burke's remarkably revealing blog, if you remain undecided - and ask yourself again:

Do I trust the Cathedral? Do I consider it a source of responsible, effective public policy? And, in the long term, is it secure?

Next, we try and figure out what to do if the answer turns out to be "no."

67 Comments:

Blogger AMcGuinn said...

I'm afraid you're going to get hammered again by those pointing out that the powerless "outer party" has managed to invade Iraq, legalize torture, etc. etc. etc.

To me, neoconservatism is a faction within the Cathedral, no less progressive than the rest, and the past few years do not contradict your thesis. But I don't think you've ever said so, and have implied the opposite, claiming the Cathedral's forces have merely sabotaged GWB's foreign policy on the ground, which seems a rather weak rearguard action for an all-powerful force.

Can you clarify?

May 29, 2008 at 3:45 AM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

Your first link, to 'last week' points to your blog instead of a specific post.

May 29, 2008 at 4:34 AM  
Anonymous Lawful Neutral said...

And in 2038, having increased North America's population to approximately two billion persons, none of them illegal, and all living in the same Third World conditions[...]

Is this a serious prediction or a joke? Does MM himself know which? I have trouble telling what's satire here and what's not. Maybe I'm just dense, maybe that's the whole idea, but there's a quote circulating in signatures on the D&D 4th edition gossip message boards that I can't resist repeating:

"Irony is dangerous, both because it can be mistaken, and because it allows you to disavow responsibility." -- Elliot Wilen, TheRPGSite

Next week, we'll try and figure out what to do if the answer turns out to be "no."

Please tell me we're not buying the Gambia.

May 29, 2008 at 4:34 AM  
Anonymous Lawful Neutral said...

amcguinn:
I'm afraid you're going to get hammered again by those pointing out that the powerless "outer party" has managed to invade Iraq, legalize torture, etc. etc. etc.

The really big one here is the Iraq war, and that's easy enough to jimmy into the grand theory if you want. There're probably plenty of ways to do it, but I'd say the Twin Towers attack got the hoi polloi's blood up to the point where they wouldn't be satisfied without a big war. The Cathedral rules by guiding and shaping the masses, in the long run it's unassailable, but in the short run it can be beat - see McCarthy, Thatcher, and all those other examples MM mentioned.

Bush went up against it on the issues you mention, and it's utterly obvious he'll be remembered as fondly as Nixon, or even McCarthy, and his deviant policies will be tidied up in a year or two. Meanwhile, we all get a nice lesson about futility of (unrighteous) war and the danger of voting the wrong way. Did the Outer Party really win here? Maybe they just provided the illusion of opposition. Maybe not, but it's easy enough to see it that way if you want to.

May 29, 2008 at 5:00 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Another link issue: In your list
"ethnic machines, corrupt politicians, quasicriminal financiers, sinister wire-pullers, unscrupulous journalists, vested interests, and the like" the "vested interests" link points toward "The Gilded Age", which is later repeated in the next sentence.

Perhaps you meant to point towards "Robber Barons" or "Railroads" or the like?

May 29, 2008 at 5:00 AM  
Anonymous baduin said...

You don't understand Lenin's question. It is not: "who will rule whom?". It is "Who will defeat or kill whom?".

As to Bush: He is a true believer of the Cathedral, although, of course, a bit old-fashioned. Read his many speaches about the flame of freedom! - Pure Whig.

Speech

"their people, not in controlling their lives and feeding their resentments. And we have confidence that people share this vision of dignity and freedom in every culture because liberty is not the invention of Western culture, liberty is the deepest need and hope of all humanity. The vast majority of men and women in Muslim societies reject the domination of extremists like Osama bin Laden. They're looking to the world's free nations to support them in their struggle against the violent minority who want to impose a future of darkness across the Middle East. We will not abandon them to the designs of evil men. We will stand with the people of that region as they seek their future in freedom. (Applause.)"

He also supports immigration etc.

The only fraction more powerful than Cathedral are Goldman&Sachs, with friends and relatives. Incidentally, money people support now Obama.

May 29, 2008 at 5:58 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Baduin --

The $$ folk have always supported Obama.

Lawful Neutral --

4th Edition rules (it's amazing that combat runs so smoothly; in other 4e news -- Keep of the Shadowfell is set in Winterhaven, which is a city in Polk County, Florida -- a former stomping ground; tee hee). Other than that, we're buying Cuba, not Gambia. :)

MM --

about "manipulating procedural outcomes" -- It's a great description of what governments do -- especially with regards to the Cathedral / public policy driven government (Habermas has a pretty extensive treatise on this found here (as must as I hate quoting Marxists, he seems to get the structure of government pretty damn down pat).

But how would a neocameralist state manage it (as it would probably need managed)?

May 29, 2008 at 8:40 AM  
Blogger Leonard said...

lawful neutral, that is not a joke, if you take MM at his word: we know exactly what Washington's policies twenty years from now will be. ... They will be implementations of the ideas now taught at Harvard, Yale and Berkeley. Open immigration is exactly what the left now believe in. And this includes most libertarians, who are the only real intellectual counterweight the right has against progressivism. So the right does not even have its normal intellectual allies in this fight, and enters the Thunderdome of consent manufacture with one hand tied, as it were. All it has is voters who like America as it is, and don't want to mess with it -- but they can be educated.

Look how close they got last year to a second big amnesty for illegals, and that in spite of the huge majorities against it. I mean, we call it a landslide when a presidential candidate wins the popular vote by, say, 60%-38%, as in the case of Nixon beating McGovern, Reagan vs Mondale, FDR vs Landon (who?). These events are said to provide power and legitimacy to the winner. So how are we to understand 70% majorities being (almost) overridden?

On the other hand, the existence of the Net changes the power dynamic in ways that I'm not sure MM has really thought out enough. Clearly he grasps the potential, as in his proposals for uberfact, revipedia, etc. But I'm not sure he completely grasps how much even the current patterns of use are unhooking people from the MSM. Put differently: intellectuals now have the option to take the red pill, and some of us are biting down pretty hard already. This is a completely new thing in the world, at least since the era of mass media started w/ radio. There's a reason for the rapid ascent of the Cathedral into the center of power, and mass media is it. (Something I'd like to see MM give more thought to: the connection between information distribution modes and power.) IMO, the net on the whole is revipedia in everything except being one-stop, and in being at a fairly early stage of development.

If there's anything that can stop the opening of America's borders to any and all, it is a phase transition in politics brought about by the demotic masses unhooking themselves from the blue pill (it's really more of a blue intravenous feed, constantly dripping reality in whether you like it or not. If this doesn't happen, and pretty soon, then I don't see why MM's prediction should not come true. 30 years is a long time.

Of course, the bit about "all" 2 billion Americans in 2038 living in poverty is wrong. Those of us currently here will continue to do what we do, producing wealth and building it for ourselves. We'll only be impoverished a bit by the additional demands for police, schools, prisons etc. Immigrants largely pay for themselves; I expect high-IQ East Asian immigrants (which we'd get many more of both absolutely and proportionately with open borders) will easily pay for themselves. And the conditions won't be completely third world; look at LA's Mexican slums now and that's pretty much what it will be. Having rule of law in the overarching society makes a great deal of difference, even in inner city zones without it.

The danger, of course, is that the progressives will destroy the rule of law, in part via the unlimited immigration that they will bring in. But I think it will take a lot longer than 30 years to destroy the law.

May 29, 2008 at 8:55 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Leonard -- Mass media was in full swing with newspapers -- they've marched in lock-step since at least the Civil War.

Your point about distribution and power is an interesting one, though. I think it's a mutual growth -- the politicians realize that media gives them power at the same time that media recognizes that politicians will do what they want. Win-win.

May 29, 2008 at 9:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the other hand, the existence of the Net changes the power dynamic in ways that I'm not sure MM has really thought out enough.

They'll just have their own version of this, but it will be directed against "racists" (i.e. people who resist immigration), global warming deniers, etc.

Of course, the bit about "all" 2 billion Americans in 2038 living in poverty is wrong. Those of us currently here will continue to do what we do, producing wealth and building it for ourselves. We'll only be impoverished a bit by the additional demands for police, schools, prisons etc.

Very droll. Hope it works out that way, but I am doubtful, not least because the Cathedral intends to confiscate your wealth and redistribute it to the new citizens (who, after all, will vote in favor of such "economic democracy").

Immigrants largely pay for themselves

Wrong.

Having rule of law in the overarching society makes a great deal of difference, even in inner city zones without it. The danger, of course, is that the progressives will destroy the rule of law, in part via the unlimited immigration that they will bring in. But I think it will take a lot longer than 30 years to destroy the law.

Didn't you read today's post? They have already destroyed the "rule of law" for all practical purposes. The law does not rule, unelected judges rule, i.e. all members in good standing of the Cathedral. ("The practice of drafting laws which are vague to the point of meaninglessness, then empowering "judges" to "interpret" them, is simply another way of abolishing politics. Congress legislates this way all the time. All they are doing is to transfer the power of legislation to a more private body, which is not subject to public scrutiny and the other painful woes of politics.")

How do you think you're going to keep your wealth when it can be confiscated any time that "public use" or "public necessity" or "economic democracy" or "environmental security" requires it?

May 29, 2008 at 10:41 AM  
Anonymous Lawful Neutral said...

G.M. Palmer:
4th Edition rules

Glad to hear it. I haven't tried it out yet, but my group's planning to hit the Shadowfell in a week or two.

Leonard:

that is not a joke

I don't know; 2 BILLION people is ridiculously, insanely huge. The US population in 1978 was 222 M, today it's 300 M and change. Let's round in your favor and call that 50% growth. Now let's go big and say the country grows at double that rate, and it's still only 600 M in 2038.

2 billion is a lot of people; barring a total-war-style national mobilization, I don't see how the infrastructure to support them could possibly be set up in time. Roads, schools, housing, policing... It'd be a disaster beyond belief.

Additionally, where are these 1.4 B coming from, anyway, and why? Sure, with totally open borders many, many immigrants would want to come, but after the first few hundred million, it starts to look less attractive. Wages would obviously be bid down hard, generous government entitlements wouldn't be feasible anymore, and the aforementioned infrastructure bottleneck would get pretty glaring. Long before 2 B, it's no longer worth leaving the slums of Bombay.

May 29, 2008 at 10:46 AM  
Blogger Leonard said...

GMP -- mass media for proles is what I meant. I don't consider newspapers mass media in several important respects, that are pertinent from the POV of MM's critique of government, that is, from the POV of manufacturing consent.

For example, newspapers cannot reach the illiterate at all, nor do many people have much interest in reading. Reading is harder work than many people want to do for entertainment. But perhaps the most important way in which print fails as mass media is that when you read a newspaper you decide what to read. You can just read the comics, if none of the articles appear to be interesting. There's a little bit of "push" power there, but not very much. Whereas, radio requires the listener to change the channel to avoid hearing something, and there may well be nothing else better on anyway. There's a lot of power there to push ideas on the listener.

That said, certainly print does count as mass media in other ways. I think what we're talking about here is not a boolean yes/no, but rather a spectrum of mass medianess, where at one end there is personal, one on one conversation, and at the other end a fully immersive cinemascope 3D smellovision matrix holodeck broadcasting the exact same dreck to everyone in the world, simultaneously, whether they like it or not. Newspapers sit on the right hand side of this spectrum, radio much to their left, then further left again a big step to movies and another smaller step to TV.

May 29, 2008 at 11:06 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Leonard --

What I meant was that mass media and their manipulation of public policy began with the newspapers at least as early as the Civil War.

May 29, 2008 at 11:16 AM  
Blogger George Weinberg said...

Not too much new this week, and still some of the same stuff missing. For example, the idea that the Cathedral got first abortion and then gay marriage legalized is supported by the fact that the Cathedral wished it and it was done. But that leaves unanswered the questions of why and how.

U.S. Supreme Court Justices are nominated by the President, confirmed by the Senate, and retain office for life. At first glance, it seems the Cathedral should be unable to control who gets appointed to the SC or what they do once they get there.

May 29, 2008 at 12:27 PM  
Anonymous foo said...

MM seems to do much better with description than prescription.

What I'd like to see is a short pause in the Open Letter to systematically address substantial critical comments people have been making in the Open Letter posts(only the descriptive ones not the ones about Formalism).

The overarching concept seems basically sound, but for rigor's sake I think there should be some more touch ups, corrections, rejoinders and possibly retractions of various subclaims.

I liked the part about State influence in the cyclone wrecked nation. When I saw that in the Times I thought "the leader doesn't want them messing with his power base" so I am rather pleased to see this idea confirmed and expounded upon.

Even if this whole blog had no other merit it serves as an excellent means of arousing a passionate curiosity in History.

I hope the dire predictions don't come to pass. How could a white male who is not interested in getting on the power train survive without emigrating? Even that would seem to only postpone problems. Hopefully China and Russia will enjoy even greater economic growth and the subjects there will receive more non-political liberty. This would make moving there more palatable. I don't see the UAE being able to retain true independence if Whiggery continues to gain power as MM thinks.

May 29, 2008 at 2:12 PM  
Blogger Leonard said...

lawful: I agree that 2B is insanely huge, but so what? I think 2B may be on the high end, but i can easily imagine 1B, and certainly even a mere 500M would drastically change the electoral map of the US.

I disagree that we can't handle that -- we could. So long as there is money to be made, Americans will find a way. The question, to my mind, is more about where the breakeven point is, where the marginal immigrant is so impoverished by competition that his lot here is the same as it was back home.

But we have two things here, that they don't have back there: a lot of capital, and even more importantly, the rule of law. Contra anon up there, and maybe also MM, we've only begun to brush the surface of the derangement that is possible. Kelo-style state grabs aside, property titles are still secure. Outside of certain urban abandonments, the state still does a decent job at crime prevention, detection, and punishment. Etc, etc.

Anyway, I think the article you need to read here is this one: http://www.reason.com/rb/rb121605.shtml
It's a discussion of a study from the World Bank, "Where is the Wealth of Nations?: Measuring Capital for the 21st Century", which makes estimates of the contribution of natural, produced, and "intangible" capital to the aggregate wealth of nations.

The findings are interesting: most of the value of living in the first world is not due to natural resources (good farmland, timber, oil, metal ore, etc.), or even already-produced capital (factories, etc). It's "intangible" capital, that is, living under the rule of law in a stable economic system with freedom of contract.

Obviously, per-capita physical capital would decline precipitously with 2B new immigrants. But the rule of law can be scaled.

Oh, and for anon, this quote: On the World Bank's rule-of-law index, the United States scores 92 out of a possible 100. The Swiss are even more law-abiding, achieving a score of 99 out of 100. By contrast, Nigeria's rule-of-law index score is a pitiful 4.8; Burundi's 4.3; and Ethiopia's 16.4. The OECD's average score is 90, while sub-Saharan Africa's is 28. The World Bank is part of MMs polygon, so take this cautiously. But nonetheless, there's still a heck of a long way down for America.

May 29, 2008 at 2:58 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

George --

One name: Robert Bork

Don't diddle the Cathedral.

May 29, 2008 at 3:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But nonetheless, there's still a heck of a long way down for America.

And we falling quickly. The rate accelerates with each 3rd worlder who arrives. The usual suspects are overjoyed, of course.

May 29, 2008 at 4:27 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

K.

How many "3rd worlders" are committing crime v residents since before 1810?

Stats or it didn't happen.

May 29, 2008 at 5:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

U.S. Supreme Court Justices are nominated by the President, confirmed by the Senate, and retain office for life. At first glance, it seems the Cathedral should be unable to control who gets appointed to the SC or what they do once they get there.

Are you kidding? They usually can't even get to the nomination stage unless they are members of the Cathedral themselves, and if they do they are laughed off the stage (think Harriet Miers). The "serious" candidates for a SC slot all went to Ivy League or equivalent madrassas and were seasoned in academia and government judicial appointments. Such a person is most assuredly going to be a member of the Cathedral and share its worldview. If perchance they are not, then members of the Cathedral in the Senate will stop them!

Indeed, it is hard to think of a process more perfectly designed for Cathedral control than appointment to the Supreme Court.

Contra anon up there, and maybe also MM, we've only begun to brush the surface of the derangement that is possible. Kelo-style state grabs aside, property titles are still secure. Outside of certain urban abandonments, the state still does a decent job at crime prevention, detection, and punishment. Etc, etc.

State power is not used arbitrarily because it does not have to be. There is no necessary relation between the "rule of law" and effective crime prevention / detection / punishment. They did a pretty good job of that in the old USSR, after all. The bottom line remains, however, is that the "rule of law" is not particularly meaningful if it means the rule of unelected judges not subject to public scrutiny and the other painful woes of politics. And it does!

Oh, and for anon, this quote: On the World Bank's rule-of-law index, the United States scores 92 out of a possible 100.

Heh. The Cathedral grades itself on its conformity with its own rules, and you're surprised it gets an A? If "rule of law" meant "the extent to which our legal system discovered and applied the intent of the law, especially as embodied in the Constitution", then I don't think 92 out of 100 would be the grade.

May 29, 2008 at 7:22 PM  
Blogger John S. Bolton said...

One answer to the question of why and how, would be much as may be implied in the post: the gifted and power-greedy go for always as much power as can be got away with in a given time and place. On this assumption, one would predict a quite frantic preoccupation among the mighty, with quality of population; how to degrade it. Hitler wasn't on the right, except relative to the commies Int'l Soc'm, unless the essence of political differences is hereditarian vs. anti-hereditarian. If America is Whigsrael, a fallback for such and such gentry, what was Britain doing in Florida and West Florida and other surrounding territories, protecting their fallback lands? How embarassing it would be if documentation surfaced to that effect.

May 29, 2008 at 8:14 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

A few minor points:

"...the idea that a government can change the name of a city or a country is a distinctly 20th-century one."

Not really. Have you ever heard of Aelia Capitolina? (It's what the emperor Hadrian re-named Jerusalem after razing what was left of it by the clemency of Titus.)

"The roots of the present Burmese regime are basically national-socialist."

Burmese politics since World War II seem to me to be largely a series of conflicts between left-wing factions. The granddaddy of them all was the "Anti-Fascist Organization," later re-named the "Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League." Such stereotypical pieces of Bolshie cant as those names ought to suggest a great deal. Aung San's Burma Independence Army descended originally from efforts by the Japanese to recruit an anti-British force with promises of delivering Burma from the Raj, but by 1944 had made common cause with the "Anti-Fascist" groups and switched sides. The BIA/BNA is probably best seen as making alliances of expediency, but, again, it is telling that its core members dubbed themselves the "Thirty Comrades."

U Nu, Burma's first prime minister, according to his Wikipedia entry, "co-founded with Thakin Than Tun the Nagani (Red Dragon) Book Club which for the first time widely circulated Burmese-language translations of the Marxist classics. He also became a leader and co-founder of the People's Revolutionary Party (PRP), which later became the Socialist Party, and the umbrella organisation the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League (AFPFL)..."

The supposedly democratic rule of these persons and parties ended in 1962 with Ne Win's coup-d'état which "pursued policies under the rubric of the Burmese Way to Socialism." This "embodied both Marxist and Buddhist influences" and "rejected the 'bourgeois' belief and practices of 'social democrat parties' that 'socialism' could be reached through 'Parliamentary methods;." It further held that "though there was much to be learnt from the doctrines of Marx, Engels, and Lenin it did not regard them as 'gospel' unlike Communists..." (phrases in double inverted commas quoted from La Wik.)

Th Burmese Socialist Programme Party established itself as the one legal party in 1964 and ruled as such until 1988, when a crisis overtook it and the brief promise of multi-party elections was momentarily brought forward. This was put paid by another military coup by the so-called State Law and Order Restoration Council. That body, with its rather stern-sounding name, was later re-branded the State Peace and Develoipment Council. "Law and Order," one supposes, sounded too 'fascist' - "Peace and Development" much more fashionably left-wing.

It is no doubt true that the present regime in Burma has no friends at Harvard. That does not make it "national-socialist." Its pedigree is much closer to Stalinism than it is to Nazism or Fascism properly so called. Industry is still nationalized, and the military gets most of its weapons from Russia, the Ukraine, China, and India - all but the last formerly or currently Communist countries, the last a country with a strong tradition of socialist politics.

"Andrew Jackson, who among other works of genius invented the spoils system, the spoils system - the unabashed selection of political loyalists for government jobs."

Actually, the credit for invention of the spoils system should probably go to Sir Robert Walpole, who filled his government with "placemen," loyalists given patronage - offices and emoluments - in return for their loyalty. Eric Towers writes:

"During the long years when Walpole was in office, the cascade of golden guineas was directed towards the Whigs who supported him, as was proper and practical. Yet even with the vast bounty of government at his disposal, he could never quite stop the elbowing and shin-kicking. However large the patronage, it was never enough to satisfy all who expected a share. The Whigs whom he could not oblige with salaried posts, minor jobs for their friends, or parsonages for their poor relations, regarded his neglect of their interests as adequate reason for trying to supplant him so that the spoils could be redistributed in a way they thought more equitable."

Here is a perfect picture of the spoils system in operation, and all its attendant political problems, a century before it was introduced by Jackson in the United States.

Jackson's success in manipulating it was not as great as Walpole's, probably mostly because he did not have the same temperament or skill, but also because he had less to offer - no parsonages for poor relations, nor knighthoods, baronetcies, and peerages for superannuated legislators. I have often wondered to what extent the U.S. Constitution's prohibition of grants of noble titles, and the First Amendment's non-establishment clause, reflected a distaste amongst the Framers for the use to which peerages and prelacies had habitually been put by Walpole and his successors as instruments of political patronage.

May 30, 2008 at 3:07 PM  
Blogger George Weinberg said...

I'm not disputing that "the Cathedral" had some role in, for example, the torpedoing of Bork's nomination, but it's not clear to me how much power it really has or how it effectively weilds that power. No doubt most senators and federal judges are graduates of elite schools, but it's quite possible to graduate from a school without adopting the political philosophy of its professors. Also, it's fairly common to hear attitudes expressed like "the school was great when I went there, but since then the crazies have taken over". Given that federal judges are elected for life and senators are nearly always reelected, how can anyone compel them to do anything?

May 30, 2008 at 3:07 PM  
Blogger Leonard said...

George, there's a very interesting interview w/ Harry Blackmun that rewards close reading, I found linked off his wiki page. (You can read it here.) It's not a complete answer to your question, but it does help reveal a lot about the man's mindset. Here's a guy that got appointed to the Federal bench by Eisenhower, then raise to the Supremes by Nixon. So, you'd think conservative, and intellectual, right? But no, not either, really. The guy is surprisingly unintellectual, particularly for a man who had spent so much time at Harvard. And not conservative either.

Here's an intriguing quote, from page 15:
I'll never forget one time when Justice Black [was listening to] Erwin N. Griswold [who] was solicitor general, former dean of Harvard Law School, and it had to do with the First Amendment. And Black, in his canny way, stopped the SG and said, "Mr. Solicitor General, I don't believe you have read the First Amendment. Let me read it to you." And so he read it. "It says that 'Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech.'" He said, "Doesn't that mean what it says?" And I, sitting over in the junior chair, wondered what Mr. Griswold would say.... he said, "Oh, Mr. Justice, you know as well as I know that the words 'Congress shall make no law' mean 'Congress may make some law.'" I was ready to head for the hills. I wondered what I gotten into down here when words that seemed so plain were interpreted with an opposite meaning. But there was a lot of humor in it, and, of course, Justice Black had nothing more to say. I thought it was an excellent response to a very difficult question.
Emphasis is mine. You can see a glimpse here into the man: willing to set aside the plain meaning of the Constitution because men more socially certain than he were joking about how they flout it. And he thinks such behavior excellent!

Pathetic, really. This is caliber of man we're talking about -- surely a man to be swayed by the society he keeps as he seems to have nothing but the deepest respect for authority and no ideas of his own.

May 30, 2008 at 7:06 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Mr. Machiavelli, who is to government as Isaac Newton is to physics
In his Discourses he promotes a republic over a principality, with checks and balances and a tripartite structure (or separation of powers). All that seems to contradict your previous post about good governance. I guess he was no Newton then!

Albert Hofmann is to LSD
Inventor? What a poor analogy.

preserved the forms of the old Republic
I'm quite surprised you didn't link to GNXP on that.

If Rome under Augustus had had a New York Times, it would have been full of the doings of the Senate and the consuls
You should provide some evidence for that. Why should we simply accept such a hypothetical on your say-so?

No Roman emperor, however dissolute, autocratic or hubristic, ever adopted the title of king.
Though some were declared gods.

Still, it has its effect.
Which is?

The Queen holds nominal power. Parliament holds formal power. But does this tell us where the actual power is?
Define those three concepts so that we may better distinguish them.

The love of a bird for a caterpillar is a tenuous and passing attachment next to the bond between man and power. Of course power, like the caterpillar, may have other defenses - poison-filled spines, and the like - but why not start with camouflage? Why look like anything more than a stick or a leaf?
A caterpillar is a living being with reasons to evolve defenses. Power is an abstract concept possessed by people.

the crooked politicians
But not non-crooked politicians? I don't know of any "progressive" that would believe such a thing.

the bankers
I think Austrian economists and anti-semites are more likely to latch onto that.

even Machiavelli himself
He entered government the years the Medicis were overthrown, so he acted openly rather than conspiring. He was tortured for conspiracy but did not confess and was ultimately released. So apparently you are more skeptical of his claims than his torturers!

Noam Chomsky once wrote a book called Manufacturing Consent, which argues that corporations exercise power by controlling the mass media
According to its Wikipedia page it claims there is no conscious design on the part of the corporations but as a result of market selection those that prioritize profit over accuracy will thrive (on that point I agree with Megan McArdle against Glenn Greenwald). It also claims that news organizations fear getting "shut out" by the government in favor of other outlets. That is the same argument you use about "protected sources". His big case study is the NYT's coverage of East Timor (just as Lippman's was the NYT's coverage of Russia), so at least both of you agree that newspaper is full of it!

It is folks like Lippmann himself - journalists.
Lippman fairly explicitly rejects that idea. He says journalists are not capable of understanding everything they report on. The expert technocrats are supposed to analyze information that they can in turn pass on to journalists, Congressmen and heads of various departments.

his analysis and persuasion agency
I don't recall them being dedicated to persuasion, it was just assumed that because of their authority people would accept whatever they said. They also seemed to play a more passive kind of role with people asking them for their judgment.

the United States is a representative democracy in just the same sense that the Roman Empire was a republic, the United Kingdom is a kingdom, and the Chinese Communist Party is communist.
The elected officials in the U.S can do damn near whatever they want to. Can the British monarchy say the same? It is hard to take your hyperbole seriously.

Think of the associations that the words political, partisan, politician, and so on,
The self-described "progressives" I come across hate David Broder and Brooks for their odes to non-partisanship and centrism. They think the Republicans in office now are simply scum and it is right to hate them and stymie them wherever possible because they are on the other side. The reason Paul Krugman gave for supporting Hillary Clinton was because she was best for dirty partisan fighting. Obama's "progressive" supporters claim he's basically bullshitting. Their views of him are thus like Steve Sailer, except that for some reason they believe he'll change race-based affirmative action to class-based.

You certainly would never say that George W. Bush democratized the Justice Department
The officials aren't directly elected, so it wouldn't make much sense to say that. The reason he is said to have politicized it is that he has encouraged it to prosecute Democrats.

In the second
Couldn't resist linking to Alex Tabarrok there. His book on courts even refutes the ideas of Alex Tabarrok.

To the progressive - rather ironically, considering the history - Lenin's question is completely inappropriate
That sounds odd since many progressives of the past thought quite highly of Lenin. Steve Sailer frequently uses that quote as an example of what politics will be like after massive immigration changes the electorate to consist of people outside the political traditions of England. The diversicrats fully embrace that paradigm.

Rather, you believe that government, when conducted properly in the public interest, is an objective discipline - like physics, or geology, or mathematics.
I think all the po-mo folks would reject that. For example, that Dartmouth teacher shocked that her students disagreed with her was pushing just that form of "science studies" that rejects everything you just said.

When we look inside the magic box of public policy, we see fields such as law and economics and ethics and sociology and psychology and public health and foreign policy and journalism and education
Is there a department of economics, ethics, sociology, psychology, public health or journalism? What determines whether or not something is in the magic box?

Either (a) the field was more or less invented in the 20th century (sociology, psychology)
The term "sociologie" was first used in 1780. It was re-introduced in 1838 by Auguste Comte. Max Weber, Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner were sociologists of the 19th century. Karl Marx as well.

(b) its 20th-century principles bear very little relation to those of its 19th-century predecessor (law, economics)
Given the active nature of legislatures, law has surely changed quite a bit, though law professors are still quoting Blackstone. Economics still holds the principles of the past though. See Paul Krugman on Ricardo. They use more mathematical models now (though that is declining in favor of Freakonomics type stuff), but they are basically formalized version of what in the 19th century was expressed in natural language.

We saw this two weeks ago, for example, with international law
Stephan Kinsella claims international law has hardly changed at all here.

It is because the Justice Department is staffed with legal scholars
What? I thought it was staffed with practicing lawyers. Because of how many politicians have law degrees, it's not actually that far-fetched to expect them to have some understanding of what the the DoJ does.

There is a reason you didn't learn much about the First Republic in that eleventh-grade civics class
What reason is that?

For all its faults, the Gilded Age system created perhaps the most responsible and effective government in US history
In what sense was it superior to the First or Second Republic? And why isn't the Second Republic split into different periods for the Federalists and Jackson? And why isn't the Third split to reflect the presence and absence of the spoils system?

competitive examinations - which tended to select, of course, scions of said aristocracy
That's funny, because the Chinese system of mandarin examinations is usually used as an example of meritocracy squelching aristocracy. The American mandarin system did so well from scions of East European shtetls that Harvard resorted to quotas to keep them out.

But underdogs are infrequently found in the Oval Office, and hindsight indeed shows us that this underdog won
The classic examination of course is Gabriel Kolko's Triumph of Conservatism. I got a little bit of that perspective in my high school history class through After the Fact.

a brief glance at Steffens' work will show you that nothing like the political tradition he is attacking exists in the world today. (To the extent that there are ethnic political machines, they are firmly in the hands of Steffens' successors.)
The Daley machine still runs Chicago. I don't think Kwame Kilpatrick (who will likely be out of office soon) can compare. I am reminded though of Mao's hatred of bureaucracy, which he didn't realize was the inevitable result of communism. Speaking of bureaucracy, as a heads-up to readers of my blog I've started James Q. Wilson's "Bureaucracy: What Government Agencies Do And Why They Do It" and it seems pretty interesting and explicitly contrasts itself with the Public Choice approach of economists that I'm more used to. I hope to have a more substantive review of Wilson than I did for Lippman.

The left has done everything possible to bury their complicity in the monstrous crimes of their Slavic epigones
Don't forget the Jews!

never - even in such clear-cut cases as Alger Hiss - a simple matter of treason
How was Alger Hiss not committing treason?

The American side was always the senior partner in the marriage.
What does that actually MEAN?

The prestige of their distinguished Western patrons was a key ingredient in the Soviet formula for legitimacy and internal control
The absolute power of the Soviet government and their control over information sounds similar to your neo-cameralist ideal, so why would that matter?

the Soviet collapse
I don't think I'll ever get sick of linking to Bruce Bueno de Mesquita on just that.

Apparently White, for some reason, knew the story behind the script
Or because he was a Republican he expected no honesty from a Democrat.

I date the Fourth Republic and the Progressive period to 1933.
That's rather unfair to Teddy and Wilson, who were more closely associated with the Progressive Era.

Or we can read it as the transfer of power from political democracy to the American university system
Or the enlistment of academics by politicians, which would seem to be the most straightforward interpretation. Did FDR actually lose any power?

First: if there is one pattern we see in the public policies the Cathedral produces, it's that they tend to be very good at creating dependency
What does your example of gay marriage have to do with that? Or the sabotage of wars that you accused them of two posts ago?

What would happen?
I can't believe you actually believe in the rest of the paragraph.

Washington has made itself necessary
I think most libertarians would disagree. It is Unnecessary But Inevitable. And you are even limiting the subject to Washington. State and local governments can and do handle basic stuff like policing and trash disposal.

Because dependency is another name for power.
That means you must accept the progressive indictment of corporations as power-hungry entities that make consumers dependent on them by providing lots of neat stuff.

Which is the relationship between parent and child. Which also happens to be the relationship between master and slave.
Throughout most of history resources flow from parent to child throughout their whole lifetime, even in the case of grandparents unable to produce nearly as much as they could when they were younger. In contrast, resources flow from the slave to the master. That's why masters are willing to fork over a lot of money to purchase the slave.

State does not impose many obligations on its clients, but one of them is that you can't be a military government - at least not unless you're a left-wing military government with friends at Harvard.
That statement seems completely at odds with the history of U.S foreign aid. Mubarak is still the second biggest recipient after Israel. Musharraf never got cut off. The Cold War was full of anti-communist military governments receiving aid from the U.S.

The roots of the present Burmese regime are basically national-socialist: ie, no friends at Harvard
Burma doesn't sound any different from the other Third World Liberationist governments (it is even explicitly Marxist and has roots in a group called the Anti-Fascist People's Freedom League formed in part by the Communist Party) that you claim owe their independence to friendship witht the Polygon/Cathedral. The only communist government that even seemed to make a pretense of rejecting nationalism was Russia. The rest are all nationalist as fuck. A good example against your theory is Slobodan Milosevic. During the Cold War he was a communist in good standing with the Kremlin. Afterwards he was an awful nationalist the international community had to get rid of. What changed? Nothing about Milosevic. It was just that he no longer had a superpower that could prevent Uncle Sam from bombing him.

Stalin was part of the international socialist movement, and Hitler wasn't
What about Mussolini?

There is little or no adaptive value in restricting the principle to domestic clients
Foreign aid is extremely unpopular with voters, but they are also extremely deluded about how much foreign aid there is (they think we can increase social spending and reduce taxes by reducing foreign aid to 5 percent of the budget, when it is about 1 percent currently).

So the restriction does not evolve.
Comparing all the money the government doles out internally to externally, I'd say the restriction has evolved and is in vigorous health.

Joseph McCarthy
Who was it that McCarthy was investigating when he crashed and burned? Oh, yes, it was the Army! The stronghold of Red Government, locked in a Civil War with the Blue Government and its allied Cathedral!

Enoch Powell
The guy who looked to the Soviet Union for salvation and thought his country's greatest enemy was America (which of course in your view makes him an ultra-American progressive). He also became an anti-imperialist and sided with Eisenhower in opposing any response to Nasser's seizure of the Suez canal and denounced MPs that demanded inhumane methods to suppress the Mau-Mau rebellion (his speech on that lines up quite well with your ultra-American rebel sympathizer archetype). Real righties of the non-libertarian sort can't forgive him for his assault on psychiatric institutions. He also disdained Western military commmitments East of the Suez as delaying freedom for the indigenous peoples from Russian and Chinese power (which of course to you indicates that he is actually on the side of the Russians and Chinese). He thought that the greatest service he performed for his country was preventing it from sending troops to Vietnam. How was he not a tool of the Cathedral? He doesn't seem any better than the Lew Rockwell paleolibertarians you denounce as having sold out to the left. (for those interested in that topic see this).

Spiro Agnew
I fail to see how he was much different from Nixon. As governor he campaigned in favor of racial integration (foreshadowing Nixon's own involvement in affirmative action). He was considered a moderate Rockefeller Republican (he was actually put on the ticket in exchange for Rockefeller dropping out of the primary race), not a full-throated right-wing opponent of the Cathedral.

Ronald Reagan. Richard Nixon. Margaret Thatcher
All of them won re-election. Reagan and Thatcher were both succeeded by members of their party. Nixon seems the odd man out, since there liberals who consider him to be more left-wing than Carter or Clinton.

little trace of their efforts (at least in domestic politics) is visible today
Nixon introduced affirmative action and the EPA. His domestic efforts survived, they just don't make any sense if you consider him an arch-righty opponent of the Polygon. He almost seems like the opposite of Enoch Powell! I don't think the U.K nationalized many entities that were privatized by Thatcher (though according to the Great Global Warming Swindle she is responsible for that meme as an effort to promote nuclear power). Tax rates in the U.S didn't rise back to pre-Reagan heights (though after cutting taxes he also raised them later). Industries deregulated stayed deregulated, though arguable Carter deserves more credit for that. There was lots of stuff his supporters expected from him that he didn't accomplish, but there it's questionable whether he had much interest.

Their era ends in the 1980s, and it is impossible to imagine similar figures today
You underestimate the imaginations of the irrational. Lots of people seemed to think that Sarkozy would be the second coming of Thatcher but for France.

the recent BBC documentary on Powell is quite good
What I watched seemed rather sympathetic. Logically, the BBC must be an enemy of the Cathedral.

Similar majorities of American voters today will tell pollsters that they support Powellian policies: ending immigration, deporting illegals
As much as I wish that were so and acknowledge that on no issue are the elites more divided from the general public than on immigration, The People are still stupid fuckers who should not be exalted, even on that issue. They'll agree to vague stuff about illegals, but if you don't mention the word "amnestry" and ask if they want illegals who are already here to perhaps pay a fine in order to stay or gain citizenship, in many polls they say yes. To that I say fuck the people, DEPORT DEPORT DEPORT.

Why? Because they cannot afford to antagonize the Cathedral, whose policies are the opposite
Way to ignore the cheap labor lobby, which is quite distinct from the Cathedral.

Powell and McCarthy had no direct channel of communication with the Powellists and McCarthyists
Didn't they have outlets like National Review (or if that's too late Reader's Digest, the Chicago Tribune, Human Events and The Freeman)? Political parties had media organs at least since the previous century.

An institution is in the Polygon if it defers to the Cathedral on all disputable questions
Were the "liberal hawks" that supported the invasion of Iraq then outside the Polygon? Or do you think the Cathedral took both sides on Iraq? Is Hillary Clinton outside of it for dismissing economists that criticize her gas-holiday plan as elitists?

You will not see the Times attacking Harvard
How much would you be willing to bet that someone cannot find them doing just that?

The Times is not formally a government institution, as the BBC is, but it might as well be
Now you're starting to sound like paranoid conspiracy theorists, though of course Burkeman1 is taking the opposite view on the issue than you.

Second, the Cathedral itself adapted to the doctrines of Powell and McCarthy by making opposition to them an explicit tenet of the faith
So are Eric Alterman and Matthew Yglesias out for wanting to get rid of race-based affirmative action? The real beneficiaries would of course be Asians, which is fine by me.

fashionable
Define fashionable.

But the unfashionable are always the majority
If you mean to imply that the majority are reliably right-wing in any sense, that's simply laughable.

Nixon defeated North Vietnam
Putting him on the opposite side of Enoch Powell on that issue.

Of course, the Nixon administration also created EPA, initiated the racial spoils system, and imposed wage and price controls
Which is why I think of him as a leftist and in no sense an opponent of the Polygon.

And so on
What about Regan? You forgot to mention his amnesty.

while opposing a few of its policies, they validate all the others as a bipartisan consensus
You really need to sum up the policies that fall on one side or the other of the ledger to see which one is greater. That's what causes me to consider Nixon to be wholly on the other side (even on Vietnam, a war establishment liberals got us into, he was just angling to withdraw under the best circumstances).

Sometimes Outer Party functionaries are even elected, and they may even succeed in pursuing a few of their deviant policies
Once again I'd like to see that quantified before you bandy about this talk of "few".

The entire Polygon will unite in ensuring that these policies either fail, or are perceived by the public to fail
How was that the case for Reagan or Thatcher?

They became martyrs and have been celebrated ever since
I don't recall any of them being celebrated. The folks that happened to were the ones in front of HUAC (McCarthy was a senator, not a house member) which was founded in the Roosevelt administration.

His goal was a purge of the State Department
Attacking the Army was a pretty dumb way of going about that.

the State Department - let alone State, Harvard, the CFR, the Rockefeller Foundation, and every other institution in the same class
You repeated State, and the rest aren't government organizations so he would have no authority to abolish them.

But power in our society is not held by democratic politicians
I guess I just imagined that Iraq war they carried out.

indeed in theory their entire way of life hangs by a thread
I don't think there are many polls that support a sort of Maoist purge of the intellectuals.

But since elected politicians in the Cathedral system have, as we've seen
No, as you've asserted.

we know exactly what Washington's policies twenty years from now will be
Then you should be making a killing at InTrade or longbets.org

They will be implementations of the ideas now taught at Harvard, Yale and Berkeley
Were those universities preaching Charles Murray's ideas on welfare reform (which in fact formed the basis for what occurred under Clinton)? Were they saying that bussing was a stupid idea that would ultimately fail in the face of popular resistance? Really, the failure of old liberalism and the rise of neoliberalism that causes "progressives" to pine for the 50s (though as Brink Lindsey points out conservatives do the same thing).

Take the recent decision of the California Supreme Court, who have just discovered that the state's Constitution allows people of the same sex to marry
What does that have to do with increasing the power of the Cathedral? I do oppose same-sex marriage, but it's mostly a non-issue to me.

The craft of the lawyer used to be the craft of discovering how the words of a law were intended
Even originalists don't believe that. It's original meaning, not original intent. Lysander Spooner was pushing just that distinction in the ante-bellum era. If you'd like to make an actual legal argument based on the text of the California Constitution, you're welcome to do so. I haven't read it so I can't really say.

The practice of drafting laws which are vague to the point of meaninglessness
I think the real problem is that they're too long to read. Then of course there are Executive Orders and signing statements that we aren't even allowed to read for national security reasons.

which is not subject to public scrutiny and the other painful woes of politics
According to Wikipedia the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court along with two Associate Justices were removed by the electorate in 1986 for opposing capital punishment. (speaking of which, when it was banned as unconstitutional, were the Ivy League colleges preaching that it be brought back? possibly Cass Sunstein who thinks liberals should consider it obligatory)

Instead we have the Living Constitution, which always seems to live to the left
The creation of substantive due process in Dred Scott might be considered an exception, as with the extension of the concept to economics rights with Lochner.

propose reinterpreting the Constitution to provide rights to fetuses
Then you haven't been reading perhaps the person most opposed to living constitutionalism I've come across.

They are Inner Party judgments, and the Inner Party's ethics are Christian, Protestant, and Quaker in their origins.
I don't think Oliver Cromwell favored abortion, gay marriage or the separation of Church and State.

It adapts with changes in public opinion - as long as that public opinion is shifting in the direction of "applied Christianity."
So I just imagined that they reinstated the death penalty after four years?

One can also see it as the Cathedral getting away with whatever it can get away with, and nothing else
What the Cathedral can and cannot get away with seems quite pertinent to the question of whether democratically elected officials hold power.

probably the most imaginative and interesting right-wing writer on the planet
If that were true, it would be quite sad indeed. I tried talking with him for a while, but he flat out told me that his way of thinking would not permit any fruitful communication. He reminds me of the most po-mo of leftists, which is not surprising given the intermingling between post-modernist science critics and anti-Darwinists like himself.

fundamentalist Christian
The Catholics at WWWTW seem much more interested in the text of the Bible than him, and Catholics don't even read the thing in preference for the teachings of the Church.

I would bet money on it
Then do so. Since I take into account the cheap labor lobby and you don't, I believe instead that authorities will simply look the other way and permit illegals to work "off the books". People to the south of the U.S will have a much easier time immigrating than people far away who have to cross an ocean and don't have a large network of support.

It's not news that I believe the Cathedral is evil
You're an atheist, why do you even believe in the concept of "evil"?

Ward Churchill
To play Devil's Advocate for Burke, Churchill was actually fired for plagiarism.

how terrible crime is
Continuing to do so, crime plummeted in the 90s. The main reason for the crime that currently exists is the criminalization of activities that were previously legal (I refer of course to the Drug War). Why is it that you never touch on that particular subject? And were those all powerful universities responsible for it?

May 30, 2008 at 9:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

George, the Cathedral doesn't have to win every battle, because it is confident that over the long term it will win the war. It dominates the means by which belief systems are generated and propagated; the institutions that could generate and propagate a competing belief system to the Cathedral are weak if they exist at all.

How can the Cathedral can "compel" Senators and judges to do anything? For one thing, a great many Senators and judges are members of the Cathedral - they fully share its belief system and its goals! No doubt there are some who don't fully share the Cathedral's ideology, but go along with it from social pressure or from desire for future patronage. As an aspiring judge, do you want to get nominated and confirmed to a higher post, or do you want to be branded an "ultra-conservative extremist" and have your nomination blocked?

A ruling ideology does not usually "compel" people to do things in the crude sense you perhaps mean here. Didn't even work that way in dictatorships. Most people are happy to go along to get along, and smart people who see where the power is and want personal advancement will behave accordingly.

Incidentally, whenever you see the Post or NYT talking approvingly about a Senator or judge (even a SC Justice) having "grown in office", it means that person is adjusting his views in a Cathedral-approved manner. Good Senator, have a biscuit!

It is fascinating to see how much TGGP can read and not understand...

May 31, 2008 at 8:40 AM  
Anonymous Patrick said...

Mencius-

For all its faults, the Gilded Age system created perhaps the most responsible and effective government in US history

Wait a second. I thought you said that democracy was the very worst government, and that the civil service state was an improvement (though still bad)?

I can see the Gilded Age government as being better simply because it was limited.

May 31, 2008 at 9:29 AM  
Anonymous Patrick said...

tggp-

The elected officials in the U.S can do damn near whatever they want to. Can the British monarchy say the same?

The Crown still has the formal power to make treaties and dissolve Parliament. They never actually use it.

I've worked in DC and I agree with Mencius. The Iron Polygon rules, and elected officials are only a small component of this.

A great book is "The Power Broker" by Robert Caro. He shows just how much more powerful the civil service and NY Times is than the elected officials. It also shows how they came to have so much power.

Also, even though he passed a few tax cuts, Reagan was completely ineffectual at actually reducing the size of government. Instead, it continued to grow during his term. Today, Reagan and Bush are viewed as discredited right-wingers. But if you compare his actions, both are to the left of Woodrow Wilson. The goal posts continue to be moved.

May 31, 2008 at 9:50 AM  
Anonymous loki on the run said...

You have written a lot of words. I am reminded of Pascal.


He who desires or attempts to reform the government of a state, and wishes to have it accepted and capable of maintaining itself to the satisfaction of everybody


It is not clear to me that this last is anyone's actual requirement, certainly not a requirement of those who would capture government.

May 31, 2008 at 10:27 AM  
Anonymous loki on the run said...


We hit that one out of the park, didn't we? Okay. So why is it ethical to label newborn babies as "American" or "Mexican," due to nothing but the descent and geographical position at birth of their parents, and give the former a cornucopia of benefits from which the latter is barred - such as the right to live, work, and drink from drinking fountains in the continental United States?


Muslim women have won the right at Harvard, I believe, to exclude males from the gym during certain hours.

The ancestors of the current citizens of the US (for the most part, ignoring illegals who got in under amnesty) paid for the benefits their offspring currently enjoy. If people from other countries want to enjoy the same benefits, perhaps they should pay as well. Perhaps the asking price should be USD500,000.

You're not that smart, are you?

May 31, 2008 at 10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"U.S. Supreme Court Justices are nominated by the President, confirmed by the Senate, and retain office for life. At first glance, it seems the Cathedral should be unable to control who gets appointed to the SC or what they do once they get there."

The Justices go to dinner parties, socialize, have daughters that they want to marry off well. They do not want to be thought of as knuckle dragging troglidites, hence, abortion, gay marriage, open borders.

May 31, 2008 at 1:32 PM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

I am, unfortunately, not as confident as MM about the abolishment of this most hateful of institutions (citizenship), which, both historically and functionally is the dual, the twin sister of slavery.
Yet, I am already betting money on it, because I do think that the world will be a much better place without it.
MM's predictions about 2B people and third-world conditions are obviously wrong. Is Toronto with it's over 50% first-generation immigrant population a bad place? Is it a crime-infested third-world slum? Or is it a prosperous, tolerant city and a great place to live?
Currently, Canada has about 33M residents. It could easily sustain a few hundred millions more. Actually, I think it would be a better place, if the population density got a bit higher and you wouldn't need to travel hundreds of kilometers to get someplace else from where you are living.
The free movement of goods, people and capital is the only good thing about the EU. Actually, it is so good that it outweighs all the horrible things like CAP, industrial subsidies, import duties, corrupt bureaucracy, etc.
All economic theory is telling us that the benefits from free migration far outweigh the problems caused by it. It frees up (or more precisely: creates) more than enough resources to deal with the latter.
The concept of citizenship based on birthplace, ancestry and ethnicity is not only morally abhorrent (and yes, those who support it are racist nationalist fascists -- there's no excuse for it), but also economically unjustified. And it is because of the latter that there will always be sufficient resources to finance the fight against it (since the returns are immense). Heck, even MM is willing to bet money on it (or so he says).

June 1, 2008 at 4:50 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

Daniel's view that citizenship and national identity are "abhorrent" strikes me as being at odds with universal human norms throughout history.

Also, it's not too surprising that a non-native Torontonian -- just someone who lived there for some time and enjoyed it -- isn't too respectful of Toronto's historic identity.

What I find "abhorrent" -- or maybe this is too strong a word; let's try "funny" -- is a position that historic nations should be dissolved due to the fact that their structures inconvenience someone's peddling of wares.

June 1, 2008 at 7:04 AM  
Anonymous m said...

Mencius, when are you going to compile your ideas into a book? (hopefully one without all the meandering and tangents though =) ) I'd buy it...

June 1, 2008 at 8:38 AM  
Anonymous picklefactory said...

MM:
>> It's not news that I believe the Cathedral is evil

tggp:
> You're an atheist, why do you even believe in the concept of "evil"?

This is precisely what I thought after finishing this.

What exactly about the Cathedral/Polygon is evil?

The fact that it isn't 'Type 3'?

MM, maybe you should replace evil with 'inefficient' or 'suboptimal' or 'error-prone' or something that can be evaluated in a quantitative way.

June 1, 2008 at 1:43 PM  
Anonymous Lawful Neutral said...

Our nuturant parent in Washington Of course, they'll filter out any "obscene" content; we can't make the taxpayers fund that kind of trash, can we?

Do you suppose hate speech will count as "obscene"? How long before we count extremist politics, sedition, and inaccurate and dangerous rumors? Nobody's censoring anything; you're perfectly free to spend $80/mo. to access whatever content you want. Why would you want to do that, friend citizen? Are you a terrorist, or just some kind of pervert?

I'd say that's an awfully good move for the Cathedral to make. Was it here that I read the prediction that the internet would be tamed by giving it away free? Of course, it's just a proposal, and putting the porn genie back in the bottle is an extremely tall order. I don't really see this happening, but it's a scary thought, eh?

June 1, 2008 at 3:46 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

"No Roman emperor, however dissolute, autocratic or hubristic, ever adopted the title of king" - well, there was always Hannibalianus, nephew of Constantine the Great, but he didn't make it to emperor. And don't forget, some emperors might also have been rex sacrorum.

June 1, 2008 at 7:05 PM  
Blogger John S. Bolton said...

Free movement of people capital and goods across national boundaries didn't turn out so well for France in 1940. If one just wants to strike pseudo-moral poses though, the capital that turned out to be tanks, the people who turned out to be enemies, and the goods that turned out to be stolen, can all be ignored. Unless that is, the free movement of ideas turns out to be intolerable for such as would applaud the criminal penalties for expression of patriotic ideas in the internationalistic EU.

June 1, 2008 at 7:11 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

re: Rex v Imperator

The whole point is the "idea" of freedom/self-determination is so powerful that even the most Imperial Emperors (say Eglabalus) didn't dare refer to themselves as "Rex."

I.e. people will let you do anything to them if'n you use the right words.

June 1, 2008 at 7:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nothing wrong with atheists believing in evil.

What about the Cathedral is evil? Its goals and its methods. They're not just inefficient and suboptimal, they are also evil.

June 1, 2008 at 9:16 PM  
Anonymous Lawful Neutral said...

Darn it! Why do I keep screwing up the tags? I previewed it and it looked fine, but when I posted it, disaster!

June 1, 2008 at 9:22 PM  
Anonymous picklefactory said...

Nothing wrong with atheists believing in evil.

What about the Cathedral is evil? Its goals and its methods. They're not just inefficient and suboptimal, they are also evil.


Sure -- but why is it ALSO evil?

Let me try another question: is a society that is not a type-3 society by definition governed by something evil?

Is anything less than a type-3 (scare quotes) "utopia" evil?

June 2, 2008 at 3:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

why is it ALSO evil?

If you have to ask that, you must be one of the "progressives" that MM hopes to deprogram. =)

In my view, it is self-evident that much of what the Cathedral has done, and much of what it wants to do is evil. The "progressive" position on almost any issue is the embodiment of what the Cathedral wants to achieve. You pick the issue, and I'll tell you why the goals and methods of the Cathedral are evil. At minimum, one should note that literally no "progressive" goal can be achieved without increased government control over the individual, increased government intrusion into individual life, and increased government theft of the individual's resources. If you don't see that as evil, then we'll have to agree to disagree.

June 3, 2008 at 7:25 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

The Cathedral is evil (as opposed to neutral or good) because it is concerned with itself and harms those that are not itself.

D&D terms are fun for explaining good v evil because they're one of the few sets that discusses things in non-religious terms :D

(Come on, Lawful neutral, help a D-brother out).

T'wit:

Good -- concerned with "the other," often before (or at least in conjunction with) "the self"

Neutral -- not concerned with "the other" over "the self" but not actively engaged in harming "the other"

Evil -- concerned with "the self" over "the other" and actively engaged in harming "the other"

The Cathedral is utterly against the well-being of "the other" (so not good) and seeks only to continue its own existence and (could be neutral) but actively engages in the destruction of the other (ergo, evil).

A neocameralist institution would be inherently good because (in MM's ideal world) it would have to count not the best interests of profit but the best interests of profit that will encourage the greatest productive amount of residency -- i.e. they can't engage in harming "the other" because at any time "the other" could become "the self."

Peace,
Michael

June 3, 2008 at 8:41 AM  
Blogger Aaron Davies said...

It is fascinating to see how much TGGP can read and not understand...
I concluded a couple weeks ago that TGGP is wrong on everything in detail, while mtraven is wrong on everything in general.

June 3, 2008 at 3:01 PM  
Anonymous picklefactory said...

anonymous: The Cathedral is evil because it's self-evident that its goals are evil!

Uh huh. And I'm supposed to be the pseudo-Christian, woo-woo progressive around here. Okay.

Hey, do progressives want to remain in Iraq or not remain in Iraq? I'd prefer we left Iraq or that we weren't there in the first place. And no, I don't Love Teh Troops (borrowing an IOZ-ism here) -- it just seems pointless to save a country by blowing it up.

If it's a progressive goal, does me wanting that we not kill Iraqis make me evil? Or maybe it's not a progressive goal at all, despite some progressives out there calling for it loudly for a while. Maybe not spending all that money on wars would somehow increase governmental control over our lives.

Help me out here, I'm new to this stuff. Certainly reading this blog has gotten me thinking in new and interesting directions, even if I haven't yet achieved the awesome mental powers of a sooper genius. :)

Removing tongue from cheek, GM Palmer/Michael, your explanation is much more interesting.

June 3, 2008 at 5:26 PM  
Blogger Brian H said...

There's a morals-prediliction approach I find revealing; http://www.yourmorals.org/

Take 5 and do the survey. Then I'll give my take ...
_______

The priorities of progressive/liberal persons and conservatives are different in a number of ways. The lib has one standard that rules all others: hurt no-one's body or feelings. The con values stability, authority, and group tradition equally.

The lib refuses to accept any action or position or statement which involves hurting others, and refuses to participate. The underdog is assumed to be in the right, and the state system and any large profit-motivated organization in the wrong, and worthy of un-person labelling and treatment. Any who do not agree must be ipso facto evil, because they countenance hurting people. Self-defense is no excuse.

The con, in the extreme, values the system beyond any particular individuals in it, and can readily apply force in its defense.

Libs are in fact lousy administrators when they gain control of systems, because of their assumption that they victimize their publics. Their (personal) truly enlightened stewardship is necessary to prevent this.

And so on.

June 3, 2008 at 6:07 PM  
Anonymous Lawful Neutral said...

G.M. Palmer:
Come on, Lawful neutral, help a D-brother out

OK, from the D&D 3.5 SRD, on good and evil, we have:
Good characters and creatures protect innocent life. Evil characters and creatures debase or destroy innocent life, whether for fun or profit.

"Good" implies altruism, respect for life, and a concern for the dignity of sentient beings. Good characters make personal sacrifices to help others.

"Evil" implies hurting, oppressing, and killing others. Some evil creatures simply have no compassion for others and kill without qualms if doing so is convenient. Others actively pursue evil, killing for sport or out of duty to some evil deity or master.

People who are neutral with respect to good and evil have compunctions against killing the innocent but lack the commitment to make sacrifices to protect or help others. Neutral people are committed to others by personal relationships.


It seems clear enough to me; especially compared to the law-chaos thing, which made sense in Moorcock's stuff and Warhammer, but is usually pretty goofy in D&D (see MM on 'chaotic good'). It's also pretty obvious that the overwhelming majority of humans and human institutions (including the Cathedral) would be neutral by these definitions.

The whole "is the Cathedral 'evil'" discussion is awfully Talmudic, though. It's a tiny detail, and I guarantee MM was being either imprecise or figurative. If an atheist materialist said, "Bismarck has sold his soul," we would understand it was just a metaphor. If a paladin in full plate were to wander the halls of the State Dept. spamming detect evil, even MM would have to admit he wouldn't get many hits.

June 3, 2008 at 9:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In fact, the progressive goal in Iraq - defeat for the United States and victory for the insurgents - is most definitely evil, just as it was evil when the progressives actively sought US defeat in Vietnam. Leaving Iraq will result in mass slaughter, just like it did in Indochina after we left there, but hey that evil can be glossed over because it will all be blamed on Bush and Cheney.

June 3, 2008 at 9:45 PM  
Anonymous Patrick said...

Since someone brought up Iraq -

Mencius has used anti-colonialism as an example of progressives advocating a policy that made life worse for a lot of people. I was tending to agree until I came across a recent article which talked about the role of the British Raj in India in creating policies that lead to massive famines:

... we now know that famines are not naturally occurring phenomena; they can largely be averted, or at least minimized, if authorities intervene swiftly and decisively ... C. Walford showed in 1878 that the number of famines in the first century of British rule had already exceeded the total recorded cases in the previous two thousand years. But the grim reality behind claims to “good governance” truly came to light in the very decades that Ferguson trumpets. According to the most reliable estimates, the deaths from the 1876–1878 famine were in the range of six to eight million, and in the double-barreled famine of 1896–1897 and 1899–1900, they probably totaled somewhere in the range of 17 to 20 million. So in the quarter century that marks the pinnacle of colonial good governance, famine deaths average at least a million per year.
source

If true that puts the British Raj in the same category as Mao, Stalin and Hitler. The democratic Indian government - warts and all - looks a lot better than the colonialist government that caused such massive famine.

June 4, 2008 at 12:53 AM  
Anonymous picklefactory said...

The priorities of progressive/liberal persons and conservatives are different in a number of ways.

A very thoughtful and interesting site -- I enjoyed taking those very much. Thank you for pointing it out.

The lib refuses to accept any action or position or statement which involves hurting others, and refuses to participate.

I believe this is just as extreme a position as your extreme con, who values the system above any person.

Now that I think about it, my experience is that valuing a system above individuals is a Cathedral-esque trait whether you identify "lack of harm" or "system/authority" as more important. I can think of whole squads of libs/progs that do a lot of system-valuing, even if they would never say so out loud.

Leaving Iraq will result in mass slaughter, just like it did in Indochina after we left there, but hey that evil can be glossed over because it will all be blamed on Bush and Cheney.

I believe this is known as the "Pottery Barn Theory of Imperialism", as one of our valued legislators once put it.

Invading in the first place involved the mass slaughter of innocents and it doesn't seem that anything significant has been accomplished as a result of that -- but as you seem to be saying, two wrongs don't make a right, huh?

The whole "is the Cathedral 'evil'" discussion is awfully Talmudic, though.

Well, I don't know, he seemed pretty definite about pointing out some banal Swarthmore professor's blog as the very face of evil. Maybe he was being tongue-in-cheek, but it's obvious that some of you out there don't think so.

Anyway, I find nothing in this discussion so far to convince me that the good/evil discussion is any less silly and inapplicable to the actual world and its shades of grey that it has always been.

June 4, 2008 at 5:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Late Victorian Holocausts is tendentious Marxist drivel. Davis is a socialist who hates capitalism, America, cities, and all the things that go with them. He uses environmentalism as a vehicle to advance his socialist agenda, and LVH is a perfect example of this technique. His data and methodology are profoundly suspect.

If true that puts the British Raj in the same category as Mao, Stalin and Hitler.

Except for the minor issue of intentionality. Mao, Stalin, and Hitler actively intended to kill millions of people, the British Raj did not. Calling famines in India a "Holocaust" a la Hitler is simply preposterous.

June 4, 2008 at 10:04 AM  
Anonymous Patrick said...

Anonymous-

Wikipedia puts the famine deaths at 7-8 million. Not as high Davis's numbers, but stil high. Another famine in 1943 killed 3 million. Since independence, they have had no famines.

I take Moldbuggian view that you can only judge a government by what it does, not its intentions. Many people who do evil deeds believe they are doing good. The Cathedral believes it is doing good.

When the government 1) sets taxes so high they cannot build up a store for food for hard times 2) when the hard times come fail to provide aid and 3) then blame the deaths on an unavoidable Malthusian crisis, its actions are blamable and a black mark against imperial rule.

June 4, 2008 at 10:51 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

The disconnect here is the idea that one should judge governments and people by the same standard. This is, of course, impossible.

Intentionality has to be taken into consideration when judging the actions of people. If I were to give an M&M to a kid because I figured the kid liked candy and he died from PeanutDeath(tm), I wouldn't be guilty of murder -- just being nice and unfortunate.

The government, however, has a lot more questions to answer -- why were you giving out M&Ms in the first place? Did you know they weren't safe? Didn't you already do DNA testing on the child? Shouldn't you have known? Which is why governments should be in the business of doing as little as possible -- non-intervention is the way to go.

The even greater reason you can't judge a government on intentionality is because a government isn't one person -- sure, Hitler said "let's kill us some Jews!" but other folk had to carry out the orders -- intention didn't matter. What did matter (and the only thing that can matter when judging a government) is the end result.

GMP

June 4, 2008 at 11:45 AM  
Blogger George Weinberg said...

Since independence, they have had no famines.

This indicates to me that, however inefficient it may be in other ways, India's government has made avoiding famine a major priority. I think this is a general characteristic of functioning democracies: flawed as they are in many ways, that they won't allow massive starvation to happen, somehow they will get people food. A government solely concerned with profit, or even one that insists on uniform enforcement of laws no matter what, will quite possibly allow large numbers of people to starve.

I've said before and I'll say again, if a neocameralist regime were instituted in a modern third world country, most likely it would conclude that in order to maximize profits large portions of the population should leave or die, the sooner the better. There is just no way that that would be acceptable in today's world.

June 4, 2008 at 1:21 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

George --

If it wouldn't be acceptable in today's world, the NC government wouldn't do it -- as its primary concern is profit and its continued existence.

June 4, 2008 at 5:05 PM  
Anonymous Patrick said...

g.m. palmer -

If neocamelism requires a majority of countries to be Universalist in order to keep the neocamelist government from engaging in morrally repulsive actions, that's a major strike against neocamelism. What if MM's dream came true and every country turned neocamelist? Might we see a massive genocide or expulsion of the low IQ populations?

I think neocamelism could work well where there is 1) low exist costs and 2) a population with high human capital potential. In that case, profit maxmization would require making the country a desirable place to live, thus perfectly aligning the interest of the government with the people.

In a monopoly, or semi-monopoly situation, or if there is a population with low human capital potential, I think the government incentives would be very different.

June 4, 2008 at 7:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wikipedia puts the famine deaths at 7-8 million. Not as high Davis's numbers, but stil high. Another famine in 1943 killed 3 million. Since independence, they have had no famines.

Wiki also says there were famines before the Brits took over, so famines weren't something peculiar to British rule. 1943 was during wartime when normal transportation was disrupted. In fact, there have been famines in the area formerly controlled as British India, which includes more than just modern-day India. In effect, much of the reason India does not have a famine problem is because it does not include Bangladesh.

I take Moldbuggian view that you can only judge a government by what it does, not its intentions.

Then, writ large, you should prefer the Third World to be under colonial rule rather than "independent".

When the government 1) sets taxes so high they cannot build up a store for food for hard times 2) when the hard times come fail to provide aid and 3) then blame the deaths on an unavoidable Malthusian crisis, its actions are blamable and a black mark against imperial rule.

It is preposterous to judge colonial regimes by 2008 standards. The British government did not give a sh!t about its own people in the capital city of its Empire - it let them die in the street like dogs! - there is no reason to expect that they would have exerted themselves elsewhere to do things they would not do for the people of London.

If you look at the overall record, from (say) 1800 to 1945, there really isn't any doubt that the peoples of Africa and Asia were better off under European colonial rule than they were as "independent" countries. That's even including those Indian famines.

The disconnect here is the idea that one should judge governments and people by the same standard. This is, of course, impossible.

Um, but governments consist of people.

The even greater reason you can't judge a government on intentionality is because a government isn't one person -- sure, Hitler said "let's kill us some Jews!" but other folk had to carry out the orders -- intention didn't matter. What did matter (and the only thing that can matter when judging a government) is the end result.

Are you serious? The intentions of Hitler (and Stalin and Mao etc etc) absolutely mattered! Do you actually claim that the Holocaust would have happened anyway if Hitler didn't actively intend that it should happen? Or that the Holocaust wouldn't have happened if Hitler had intended it but "other folk" in the regime had defied him? Either claim is absurd.

There is a fundamental moral difference between (a) I hate you so I shoot you, and (b) you die from natural causes and I don't take any action to help you. The law recognizes such distinctions. Such distinctions are valid when applied to governments as well as individuals. Intentions matter, not just outcomes.

If neocamelism requires a majority of countries to be Universalist in order to keep the neocamelist government from engaging in morrally repulsive actions, that's a major strike against neocamelism. What if MM's dream came true and every country turned neocamelist? Might we see a massive genocide or expulsion of the low IQ populations?

"Neocamelist" - Is that a camel that wears a stylish leather jacket as it fights its computerized overlords?

June 5, 2008 at 12:10 PM  
Blogger American Monarchist said...

Your blog is fascinating and enlightening. And here I thought I was the only Jewish reactionary Jacobite out there.

June 7, 2008 at 3:16 PM  
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January 31, 2009 at 10:05 PM  
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February 12, 2009 at 1:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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March 2, 2009 at 10:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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March 6, 2009 at 6:28 AM  

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