Thursday, June 19, 2008 83 Comments

OLX: a simple sovereign bankruptcy procedure

Dear open-minded progressive, as we reach #10 it is time for some administrivia.

First, we are switching to Roman numerals. At least past 10, they are just classier. Also, if anyone wants to provide design suggestions, or what would be even more super-duper graphics, logos, templates, free hosting, free money, free beer, or even just free parenting advice, they may of course contact me at the usual address, linked to over on the right.

I would note, however, that my email responsiveness of late has been unusually poor. In fact, it has been amazingly poor. For some reason I had entertained the idea that being chained to my daughter would enable me to actually catch up with the large number of extremely interesting and well-written epistles sitting unanswered, many a few months old, in my inbox. You see why UR is not a good source of financial advice.

However, Sibyl is three months old today. (And her 8ra1n is growing like a prize melon - she pops out of the 0-6 month hats, she is firmly in the 6-9.) She may not scream less, but it seems like she screams less. So I will attempt to work into the pile, probably in reverse order.

Second, there is a second awful truth, which is that for Sibyl's whole life, I haven't even been reading UR's comments section. This is a deed so shameful it is probably unknown in the Western world. In case you accept excuses, however, my excuse is that it is a sort of crude literary device. If it was written in response to its weekly feedback - which, in the past, has often proved much more interesting than the post - UR would be very different. Chattier, more bloggy, and I suspect less interesting. Or so I claim. We'll never know, though, will we?

I will even be brazen enough to suspect that if I was reading them, the comments would not be quite as good. I do get the impression they haven't degenerated into mindless Web nonsense, puerile flamage, Jew-baiting and ads for spineless anal balloons. But if there is any such content I of course disclaim it. After I am done with this series I will edit out any and all stupid comments. If they are all stupid, there will be none left. Ha. As Terence Stamp put it: "Kneel before Zod! Kneel!"

I will, however, attempt a collective response to the non-stupid comments, unless they are so devastating as to leave me speechless. Please continue leaving them. You may not be enlightening me, at least not immediately, but you are enlightening others.

And speaking of General Zod: if you are finally resolved to consider yourself a pathetic dupe of the Mold, you are of course free to either describe or not describe yourself as a formalist, a reservationist, a restorationist, or even a Mencist. This last coinage sounds faintly ominous and evil, which of course is not true - Mencism is all happiness, smiles, and light. In turn, however, be prepared for the fact that anyone can accuse you, with perfect accuracy, of neo-Birchery, postfalangism, pseudo-Hobbesianism or even rampant moldbuggery. To paraphrase Barack Obama: if you don't have a knife, don't start a knifefight.

If I had to choose one word and stick with it, I'd pick "restorationist." If I have to concede one pejorative which fair writers can fairly apply, I'll go with "reactionary." I'll even answer to any compound of the latter - "neoreactionary," "postreactionary," "ultrareactionary," etc.

So when I call someone a "progressive," what I mean is that his or her creed is more or less the direct opposite of mine. Of course, we both believe that the sky is blue, apple pie is delicious, and Hitler was evil. And since we are both polite, mature, and open-minded people, we can converse despite our disagreements. But just as there is no such thing as a progressive reactionary, there is no such thing as a progressive restorationist. Or vice versa.

I am comfortable using the word "progressive" because, and only because, I know of no significant population of English speakers for whom it conveys negative connotations. Similarly, when speaking not of the ideas but of the set of people who hold these ideas (or, as they like to put it, "ideals"), the name Brahmin is time-honored and nonpejorative.

This is not a reference to the Tam-Brams. In fact, there is a fine practical definition of Brahmin in this video, which is long (15 minutes) but I feel worth watching:



This is, of course, internal video from the Obama campaign. I don't think it was leaked. I think it was intentionally published, and so it has to be taken with a grain of salt. However, the people in in it are all their real selves. For once, they are not acting. I recognize the meeting. It reminds me a lot of the first post-IPO meeting at the tech-bubble company I worked for.

There is one main difference: a few more blacks (and nowhere near so many Tamils). A few more. And the camera eye, hilariously, stalks and pounces on all the diversity it can find. But it cannot conceal the horrible truth: almost everyone inside the Good One's campaign is white. Maybe one in fifteen is black. Maybe one in twenty. Definitely not one in ten. And I suspect many of these hold positions for which melanin is a job requirement, ie, working with the "community."

And weirdly, given this explanation, there are no, no, no Mexicans. Okay, maybe one or two. The video is grainy. It's hard to tell a Jeremiah Wright from a Cuauhtemoc Cardenas. But I live in San Francisco, I am quite accustomed to encountering a progressive population with a strong Aztlanic contingent (SF State is, after all, the home of the notorious Third World Strike), and I ain't seeing it. (And isn't that maneuver with Patti Solis Doyle charming? Doesn't that just show you the maturity level of the whole organization?)

Bell curves being what they are, you need one thing to achieve the Obama team's rarefied whiteness: an ultra-competitive, race-neutral employee filtering process. These people could be the audience at your average Google tech talk. Everyone in the room, whatever their skin color, is not just a Brahmin but a high Brahmin, a status held by anyone obviously smart enough to get a Ph.D, MD, etc, from a top school.

There is no mainstream American university whose general student body is anywhere near this segregated. Or anywhere near this 31337, I suspect. I wonder why that is. Isn't it curious, then, that so much of Obama's support should come from our wonderful universities, to which "diversity" is so important?

Surely, dear open-minded progressive, one can disagree honestly on whether employment decisions should be made on the basis of skin color. It is after all a Humean ought. Given how unusual the idea of racial preferences for colored people would have sounded to the Americans of, say, 1908, don't you find it a little unusual that there should be so little, um, variation, in all of these supposedly-independent decisions in Humean ought space, as produced by our glorious variety of supposedly-independent universities?

But I should be fair to pre-President Obama - whom I really like calling the Good One. I feel that if this locution could be persuaded to spread, it might be of some benefit to humanity. Needless to say, I don't mean it satirically.

Because after watching the clip above, my impression is that the Good One is exactly that: good. That is, he is good at his job, which is all you can ask of anyone. More precisely, he talks like a competent manager. If I was working in at a startup and I had a boss who gave pep talks this good, I'd feel quite comfortable with the administration. Management is more than just talk, but can you call the Obama campaign anything but a successful operation? The graphic design alone is brilliant.

There is only one problem: this outfit is very good at winning presidential elections. We have no reason to think it is any good at anything else. The candidate is a great presidential candidate. He will probably be a good president, too. Of course, that is to say he will be good at reading his lines and pretending to be an 18th-century statesman, which is the job of a US President in 2008. Perhaps we should just write in Paul Giamatti, who I'm sure could act the Good One off the stage.

Moreover, the Nazis had an effective campaign team, too. Plus some pretty good graphic design to go with it. Most people don't know it, but the SS dress uniform was designed by Hugo Boss. If design is your criterion, the Third Reich was the best government of the century. In fact, even if architecture is your criterion, I will take Nazi architecture over progressive architecture, any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

And since the quality of architecture is indeed a good rule of thumb on which to judge the general quality of government, this is worrisome indeed. But all it means is that the case is an exception to the rule. Like anyone with any sense, I'd rather be governed by progressives than by Nazis.

(Nazis matter, because a Nazi-like outcome is the most catastrophic failure mode of any restoration effort. Restorationism is to fascism as a bridge is to a pile of rubble in the riverbed. Bridge collapses can be dangerous and unpleasant, but that doesn't make bridges a bad idea.)

But comparing one's enemies to Nazis is old hat. Progressivism has a much better match on the other pole of the totalitarian continuum. The meter lights up like a Christmas tree and the little arm goes all the way to the right. Or left, as it were.

Recently in a used bookstore I found five issues of Soviet Life from the mid-late '80s. I had not previously been aware of this publication. I find it quite revealing. Unfortunately for me but fortunately for you, someone has already scanned three whole issues of Soviet Life. So I will not bore you with my endless, Gollum-like chortling over this bibliomanic coup.

But I thought it'd be fun to share one sweet little piece, from January 1986. Of course, this is a news story, not an ad. (No advertisements sully the pages of Soviet Life.)
Georgian plastic surgeon Dr. Vakhtang Khutsidze helps people look younger. Just look at Edith Markson. Would you believe she is 72? Of course not. She is an attractive woman who looks many years younger than her actual age. That's what happens after treatment with Dr. Khutsidze, many of his satisfied patients maintain.

Edith Markson, who has spent several years in the Soviet Union, heard about Dr. Khutsidze's skillful hands when she was in Tbilisi visiting a few of her theater friends. It was then she decided to have cosmetic surgery. Particularly since, as she told local reporters, a face lift would cost several thousand dollars back home in the States. In the USSR the operation costs from 30 to 100 rubles.

"I'm an ordinary American," Edith Markson said, "and I'm not responsible for official policymaking. Making friends with people from many countries is the best human politics. And now I've added Vakhtang Khutsidze, the Georgian doctor, to my list of friends."

Twenty-five years ago Dr. Khutsidze was one of the first plastic surgeons in the Soviet Union to use the so-called sparing method in nose operations. Ever since then he has performed approximately thousands of these operations. His work, which requires expert surgical skill, has a lot in common with sculpture, the surgeon maintains.
(Please don't skip the Edith Markson links - they really round out the episode. The Soviet Life article comes with its own photograph, but I feared younger readers might find it disturbing. Although, frankly, the results are pretty good for "30 to 100 rubles.")

Then, for maximum disorienting effect, skip directly to this Times story - which appeared on Tuesday. Do you notice any resemblance? Any at all? Obama, Prince Royal of the Blood, beloved by all God's children but especially the colored ones, from Bolivia to Clichy-les-Bois? What is he, the second coming of Comrade Brezhnev? Is the Times going to continue this kind of coverage after he's elected? That would really be turning the obvious up to 11.

I especially love how the Times' last piece describes Edith Markson as if she were an ordinary retiree, perhaps a cashier at Macy's or as a dental hygienist, who just happens to have moved to Manhattan in her late '70s "despite the fear of crime, grime, and hassles in the city that never sleeps." Words fail me, dear open-minded progressive, they really do. As my wife, who happens to be a playwright in the city where Edith Markson's little theater company, now essentially a permanent branch of the US Government, remains the 31337, puts it: "does a theater promoter ever really retire?"

And the fact that the two "homeless men" "scooped her up" not just lovingly, not just respectfully, not just adoringly, but no less than "majestically," really takes the cake. Presumably they carry around spare Burger King crowns, to supply stumbling princesses of the arts with the requisite majesty.

I assert, dear open-minded progressive, that attempting to understand the world of today by reading the New York Times (and its fellow authorized channels) is a lot like trying to understand the Soviet Union by reading Soviet Life. Any such publication will be informative to a trained student of the period. But a proper appreciation of its real meaning requires significant independent understanding and a willingness to - dare I say it - deconstruct.

For example, the wonderful story of Edith Markson shows us that even still in 1986, the social networks in which a New York Times reporter might travel actually connected into the Soviet Union. At least, to her great new friend, Vakhtang Khutsidze - and to the hip young apparatchik who wrote them both up for Soviet Life.

Historically this Greenwich Village connection had always run straight from the Cathedral's high Brahmins to the Soviet nomenklatura - a word that explains Ms. Markson and Dr. Khutsidze with equal precision. By the '80s this, like everything else about the Warsaw Pact, was fraying - but what is Red October without John Reed? Flash forward to Judge Guevara, and it is all so perfectly clear. It looks like the same thing because it is the same thing.

Moreover, if you read the political essays in Soviet Life - about a third of the magazine seems to be political content - you realize that the Edith Marksons of the world followed, and did their level best to persuade everyone else to follow, the exact same party line on every political topic that appears in any of my Soviet Life issues, from the nuclear freeze to the Middle East to the abominable persecution of the black man.

Of course this last horror, our vast Caucasian conspiracy, has persisted to this day. It almost cost the Good One the nomination. Etc. Etc. Do I really need to mock this any further? But if you are still not convinced, there are always the O-Ba-Ma videos...

Dear open-minded progressive: frankly, progressivism is just creepy. Do you really want to associate yourself with it? And if the answer is yes, do you think you'll you still want to be associated with it after the Good One's vigorous, musky buttocks have spent a year or two in George W. Bush's Aeron?

If the answer is still yes, I'm afraid you are just not spiritually prepared for the grueling mental ordeal that follows. Deep down inside, you are still a hippie. At the very least, do not continue reading this essay without at least one massive bong hit. Frankly, you'll need it.

Because finally, there are the lines for which the Good One will always, I feel, be known:
I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations. But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people. Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth.
Some people are inspired by this kind of emanation. If you are one, how can I fault you? You are probably a pretty nice guy, or gal. There is probably something else in your life besides the Good One - or, of course, his Good Causes. As your attorney, I recommend a real effort to figure out what that thing might be. And maybe focus on it a little more.

For the rest of us, let me note merely that at present, the oceans' cold and inexorable rise, the salty revenge of Gaia's tears, the wave looming over Manhattan, is three millimeters per year. This puts us well within the new DSM-IV guidelines for fulminating hydrophobia. And I see no reason to tolerate such systematic servility to such a blatant case of contagious hypochondria.

This suggests an trivial test, a sort of pons asinorum, for any potential restoration. I suggest that as its initial act, any responsible and effective transitional government will set its tone and establish its good faith by assisting the Good One, along with his wife, his people, his wife's people, and frankly anyone who for whatever reason chooses to accompany him, to transfer their lives, pleasantly and with a minimum of personal disruption, to the Good One's scenic paternal homeland: the great African nation of Kenya.

It's entirely possible that Kenya will demand compensation for accepting this crowd. While hard to count in advance, it could easily number in the millions. If so, there is a simple solution: ask the Kenyans how much they want, and pay it. Think of it as a small but symbolic reparation for the vast tragedy of postcolonial Africa.

Of course, there would be no hard feelings on either side of this expatriation. In fact, the Kenyans might well make the Good One president-for-life. His people, the Luo, are riding high these days. And I actually think the Good One might prove a wonderful ruler of Kenya, which if troubled remains one of the most beautiful countries on earth.

For open-minded progressives who doubt that deporting political opponents has anything to do with responsible, effective government - the value of selective relocation as a security measure can hardly be doubted, of course - I have a question for you.

I'm going to play a magic trick. I'm going to pick a historical period in the recent past, in the memory of many of those now living. And I'm going to pick two sources of information. To you, source A will be a source of automatic, near-absolute reliability. To you, source B will be a blatant outlet of mendacious propaganda, produced by some of the nastiest people in history.

But on the major issue on which the two disagreed, hindsight has provided an answer. At least in my opinion, it is impossible to argue the proposition that source A was right and source B was wrong. And it is trivial to argue the converse. To even debate the issue is a sign of complete detachment from reality. Quite simply, B was right and A was wrong. Even Professor Burke admits it.

Our period is 1965 through 1980. Our source A is the international press corps. Our source B is the Rhodesian Ministry of Information. Our issue is the perspective of postcolonial African governments in general, the liberation movements in specific, and Robert Mugabe to be exact.

Dear open-minded progressive, if you can produce any explanation of this trust failure which is coherent, scholarly, realistic, and consistent with progressive ideals, I will admit defeat. Please do remember that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I don't like to hear hypotheses that involve UFOs, international Jewish conspiracies, Freemasons, or the like.

In fact, let's whale on UR's favorite crash-test dummy, Professor Burke, for a little while here. As I've said, this man (an assistant professor at Swarthmore) is my current case study for the fundamentally and irreparably evil character of the Cathedral. He comes across as a perfectly nice guy, of course, and I suspect that's exactly what he is. So was Albert Speer, who once wrote that you can't expect to recognize the Devil when he puts his hand on your shoulder.

You probably think it's excessive to compare Burke to Speer. Oh, no. Think again:
The really major thing, I think, is that the Soweto uprising of 1976 and subsequent campaigns to make South Africa’s townships “ungovernable” put the apartheid regime under what proved to be unbearable pressure, largely on the pure grounds of resource limitations. The apartheid state simply couldn’t cope in the end with the demands that ungovernability put upon it, even when it put up a pretty good show of having everything under a tight authoritarian lid. Few of us saw this clearly in 1986-87 precisely because the state was putting on such a good performance, but underneath, the leadership was increasingly seeing collapse as inevitable.

Let’s review what led to ungovernability. The vast majority of the population without any vote or democratic outlet. An authoritarian state that legally defined almost all dissent as terrorism and gave itself entitlement to retaliate against dissent with imprisonment, torture, and murder. A state which routinely censored all media. A state which ignored property rights of most of its citizens. In short, a state which was in every respect the antithesis of liberalism, in which there was literally no avenue for democratic or liberal protest for the vast majority of its citizens.

Let’s review what ungovernability consisted of. Refusal to cooperate with any institution controlled directly or indirectly by the national government. So leaving school, refusing to pay any rents or fees assessed by governmental bodies, refusal to comply with orders from authorities no matter how routine those orders might be, and an embrace of violent resistance to the state and any perceived agents of the state. Making large areas of the country “no-go” areas for civil authorities unless they were accompanied by strong military forces. Murder or threat of murder of suspected collaborators.

As I said, I think it worked. I think it was justified not just because it worked but because there were no other alternatives. The apartheid state and the National Party spent twenty years steadily crushing all other avenues for political change and rewriting the laws and constitution of South Africa so as to define itself as the permanent and unchanging ruler of South Africa.
That's right. Our sweet, jocular D&D-playing history professor has just endorsed the practice of putting car tires full of gasoline around his fellow humans' necks, then lighting them afire. I wonder how many d6 of damage that attack does?

(Professor Burke's historical analysis is also self-serving in the extreme. The proximate cause of the end of apartheid was the 1992 referendum in which a majority of whites effectively voted to hand over their country to the ANC, a decision they would never have taken if they could have known the consequences. This was the victory of the verligte or "enlightened" Afrikaners over their verkrampte or "narrow" cousins. In other words, it is best seen as a triumph of psychological warfare. No points for telling us who was enlightening the "enlightened.")

As for the wonderful omelet cooked from these eggs, this headline is a fine summary. See also this BBC documentary, whose title is misleading (the BBC doesn't really mean that the "international community" should never again hand over a First World country to the well-spoken frontman of a murderous gang), but whose transcript is glorious:
KEANE: But you see here's what I can't understand, and I've known this country for a long time. It's just the ease with which people kill nowadays.
YOUTH: Yeah.
KEANE: How did that happen?
YOUTH: When I get up, I can go to town or I can took your car.
KEANE: Would it bother you to kill me to get the car?
YOUTH: If you don't want to give me your keys I'll kill you. It's nothing to kill you because of what.. I need the money to survive. You see I need more money. You see it feels like using a gun there's no feeling. There's no feeling. It's just yourself, you're the big boss. You got a gun, no one will tell you shit or f*** you. No one can tell you f*** you. If you said f*** me, I took out my firearm and I shoot you in your ears, then what will you say? You're dead! I will took all the things. If you don't get money, if you don't get a car you're nothing.
KEANE: Do you think that the life that you're living and the way that you're carrying on is what Mandela...
YOUTH: But...
KEANE: No, but hang on a second, is this what Mandela spent 27 years in jail for so you could go around killing people?
YOUTHS: No. No.
KEANE: So why do you still do it?
YOUTH: Because we want money. Listen, listen to me, because it's money. I have to rob this thing now.
KEANE: You want to rob the camera?
YOUTH: Yeah.
KEANE: You could do that, if you wanted, I know you could do that, but it wouldn't achieve any purpose. You might have money for a day and it's just brought trouble on you.
When they suggested stealing the camera we decided to leave. Crime is being fuelled by another legacy of apartheid, poverty. There is democracy, free speech and economic growth. But real wealth is in the hands of the few. Even though millions more now access electricity and water, two million new homes have been built and there are grants for the poorest of the poor, the growing economy hasn't delivered jobs. Official figures say 25% are out of work, though many economists estimate it could be as high as 40%. Millions of South Africans still live in squatter camps.
Sunday afternoon in Soweto:
How many of you live in this shed?
WOMAN: Four.
KEANE: What do you feel about the life you have here?
WOMAN: (translated) Life here isn't good. We've no electricity and so we have to use paraffin which makes the children sick.
KEANE: Do you ever think your life is going to get better, Joseph?
JOSEPH: Maybe my life would change if the Nationalist party came back, not the ANC.
KEANE: I don't believe you, come on, it was a white government that put you down, that treated you terribly. You can't really believe that.
JOSEPH: But in terms of work they didn't oppress us. We didn't struggle for work then.
KEANE: Now do I really think that he is serious about wanting a white government back? I don't think so. Not back to the days of forced removals and passbooks and all of that. But I'll tell you what it does do, when you listen to somebody expressing that kind of anger and frustration, you really get a sense of how the ANC, the people at the top, the elite, have drifted away from their core constituency, the people of the squatter camps, South Africa's dispossessed.
The ANC has indeed drifted away from its core constituency. But that constituency has nothing to do with "Joseph" or "Youth." It consists of Fergal Keane and Timothy Burke. And of course, a few others like them. (Unlike Albert Speer, all these individuals are replaceable.)

What we're seeing here is a power structure which has lost its connection to reality. Its rulers consider it the most ethical and responsible system of government in human history. In fact, it is morally and intellectually bankrupt.

There is no simple procedure for moral and intellectual restructuring. However, this system of government is not just morally and intellectually bankrupt. It is also financially bankrupt. This is a disaster, of course, but it gives us a concrete way to think about fixing all three of these problems at once.

A restoration is a regime-change procedure designed to safely and effectively reverse the damage which progressivism has inflicted on civilization, acting under the principles of good government that prevailed in theory, if not always in practice, in the late classical or Victorian period, and producing a new era in which secure, responsible and effective government is as easy to take for granted as tap-water you can drink, electricity that is always on, or a search engine that returns porn only if you searched for porn.

A good way to define a restoration is to model it as a sovereign bankruptcy. Since a government is just a corporation, albeit one whose rights are protected not by any higher authority but by its own military force, it is subject to the same inexorable laws of accounting.

More specifically, a restoration is a sovereign bankruptcy with restructuring. There are always three options in a bankruptcy: restructuring, liquidation, and acquisition. While it can be interesting to wonder what the People's Liberation Army would do with West Oakland, in general restructuring is the only practical option at the sovereign level.

In any restructuring, a restoration delivers temporary control to a bankruptcy receiver. The receiver's goal is to render the company both solvent and profitable. Solvency is achieved by converting debt to equity, diluting existing equity holders and treating equal commitments equitably. Profitability is achieved by optimizing corporate operations as the receiver sees fit.

In a sovereign bankruptcy, there is one extra quirk. At least in today's real world, the corporation which we are restructuring does not think of itself as a mere corporation. It doesn't even think of itself as a sovereign corporation. It thinks of itself as a mystical pact which echoes across the centuries from generation to generation, bonding human souls across time, space, language, gender and race. So we can expect its accounting to be a little funky. But accounting, still, is accounting. And not rocket science.

Let's start by taking a closer look at the general principles of restructuring.

First, restructuring starts with an enterprise which is in some way financially broken. Most commonly, it has defaulted on its debts. Sovereign corporations, however, have another failure mode, which is especially hairy and which we'll discuss in a moment.

Second, restructuring assumes an enterprise which is intrinsically profitable. In the sovereign case, this is almost automatic. An asset which cannot produce profits is worthless by definition, and no real country is worthless. Invite people to reside there; tax them; profit.

Third, restructuring produces an enterprise which is unlikely to renege on its commitments. In other words, it creates a new allocation of the future profits of the restructured enterprise. Typically these profits are inherently uncertain, so a common result of restructuring is a company with all equity and no debt.

An equity instrument is one that pays some percentage of a completely unpredictable profit. While we do not know the magnitude of the restructured corporation's future profits, we can still divide them into formal shares. These shares are distributed among beneficiaries, who receive their dividends. Shares are typically allocated according to the commitments made by the bankrupt enterprise.

Fourth, there is no requirement that the bankruptcy receiver preserve any policies, assets, divisions, brands, or employees of the old company. He or she has full operational authority, as of course is normal in the productive economy. Of course, the receiver must be responsible to some board, regulator, or other supervisory agent.

In a sovereign context, it is probably appropriate to capitalize the title: the Receiver. The goal of the Receiver is to convert the bankrupt government into one that produces maximum dividends for its beneficiaries, who may be internal or external. A restoration plan should give the Receiver a set of goals and a timeframe, and let him do the rest.

One way to imagine the Receiver's job is to imagine him endowed with a mythical symbol of power, the Wand of Fnargl. Within the country it controls, the Wand turns its holder into a sort of superhero. He can strike down anything or anyone with a bolt of fire, and he is invulnerable to all attacks. However, the Wand has a serious downside: it is disposable. After two years, it crumbles away to nothing.

Therefore, the Receiver has two years in which he holds full sovereign power. At the end of this period, he should leave a secure, responsible, and effective government which can sustain its sovereignty without recourse to magical instruments. While there is no Wand of Fnargl, its powers are clear, and can be reproduced albeit imperfectly by more mundane technologies. Sovereignty is a very well-defined concept. Thus it is a legitimate question to ask anyone what he or she would do, if appointed Receiver and handed the Wand.

For some distance, let's assume we are restructuring the country of Elbonia. At present, Elbonia uses its own fiat currency, it has no formal distribution of benefits or clear ownership structure, its decision-making procedures are byzantine, opaque, and mutable, it is plagued by internal violence, it exercises significant power outside its own borders, and its decisions are often affected by external aggression.

After restructuring, Elbonia will be on a metallic standard. All its financial commitments will be formal. It will be, as America's first Chief Justice liked to put it, governed by those who own it. Its owners will establish precise and immutable decision-making structures. They will eliminate systematic internal violence, and they will neither tolerate external interference nor interfere themselves:
Our policy in regard to Europe, which was adopted at an early stage of the wars which have so long agitated that quarter of the globe, nevertheless remains the same, which is, not to interfere in the internal concerns of any of its powers; to consider the Government de facto as the legitimate Government for us; to cultivate friendly relations with it, and to preserve those relations by a frank, firm, and manly policy; meeting, in all instances, the just claims of every power, submitting to injuries from none.
Any restructuring must start with the currency. Elbonia's debts are denominated in its own fiat currency, so it cannot never default. Does that mean it's not bankrupt? No, that means it is sovereign. Bankruptcy is any state of indefensible accounting.

The Elbonian currency is, of course, the grubnick. What is a grubnick? It is certainly not a note certifying that the issuer holds, or will deliver on demand, a specified quantity of anything. Once upon a time, believe it or not, this was considered rather tacky:
The dollar, like so many of the world's greatest, inspires at first sight interest, but hardly affection. From a casual study of the monetary controversy now raging in this country, I had been led to expect that the dollar was a gold dollar, and that Mr Bryan wanted to turn it into silver. It cannot be too widely known that the dollar as he is spent is neither gold nor silver; he is a piece of paper. Not only so, but often a very worn and dirty piece of paper at that. It is astonishing how a dollar will age in three or four years. True, the paper reflects the greatest credit on its inventor; it never tears — though perhaps this is because no strong man ever really tries to tear it — still, it is but a piece of paper after all. It bears on its weather-beaten face an inscription to the effect that there has been deposited in the Treasury of the United States one silver dollar, which will be paid to the bearer on demand. Others of the breed merely assert that the United States of America will pay one dollar, without specifying its material. The mysterious philanthropist who deposited the silver dollar apparently prefers to remain anonymous; while where or how you cash it is left equally dark. It must certainly be somewhere in Washington, whence the United States of America date their promise, but the American Eagle is too old a bird to give any more precise address. The dollar, so far as my experience goes, is always illustrated, usually with a vignette photograph of some eminent citizen or other, occasionally also with scenes from the life of Columbus or some other appropriate subject. This gives an aesthetic as well as a commercial interest to the dollar, which cannot be too highly prized. Its nominal value is 4s. 2d.
What we see in Mr. Steevens' snarky reporting (from 1898) is a currency in the middle of the transition from old-fashioned warehouse receipt to our modern, up-to-date Federal Reserve Note - or grubnick.

From the accounting perspective, what is a grubnick? The answer is simple. It is not a receipt, because it does not denote title to some stored object. It is not debt, because it does not denote an obligation that is canceled by some delivery. Therefore, it can only be equity.

A grubnick, in other words, is a share. It is a fraction of some great total right. We do not know exactly what it is a share in, because we do not know what rights you would control if you had all the grubnicks in the world. If you manage to buy up all the Federal Reserve Notes in the world, do you own the Federal Reserve? If you get your hands on all the grubnicks, are you the sole and undisputed owner of Elbonia? These questions are without meaning.

In other words, we can define fiat currency as dubious equity. Owning a grubnick is like owning a share in Yukos. If you own all the shares of Yukos, you own a lawsuit against the Russian government. What is this worth? It's up to the Russian government. At present the answer appears to be nothing, but Putin might always change his mind.

What we do know is that every dollar is equal to every other dollar. Every five-dollar bill has the same value, whether in dollars or gold or crude oil, as five one-dollar bills. Note that exactly the same is true for grubnicks, Yukos shares, etc, etc. Whatever they may be "worth" (more accurately, exchangeable for), they are amenable to mathematics.

Thus, if there are one trillion dollars in the world, and we accept the (dubious) assumption that if you own all the dollars you own the Federal Reserve, each dollar is a right to one trillionth of the Federal Reserve. Perhaps this is obvious, but it implies some corollaries.

One, creating new dollars does not affect the value of the Federal Reserve, however we choose to measure that value. Nor does it affect the value of Elbonia, Yukos, or any other right. It is common or garden stock dilution. Dilution is often more convenient than transferring shares from old owners to new owners, but the principle is the same. If there exist one trillion dollars and we print ten billion new ones and give them to X, the effect is just as if we replaced each dollars held by anyone but X with 99 cents, added up the spare cents and gave them to X.

Now we can see just how screwy the accounting system of Elbonia is. Imagine a company which chooses to denominate its accounting in its own stock. Say Google valued its assets, such as its buildings, in Google shares. Its debt would be promises to pay Google shares. If it paid dividends, each share might spawn 0.05 new shares. This would be truly perverse accounting. But it would not be as perverse as a system in which Google ran its numbers in terms of shares in an internal tracking stock which represented a subsidiary whose assets and liabilities were not defined at all. That's fiat currency for you.

To restructure this bizarre financial teratoma, we need to (a) fix the number of grubnicks in the world, and (b) define the rights divided among all grubnick holders.

(b) is easy: we convert grubnicks into proper Elbonian equity. In a liquid market, ELBO shares can be converted to gold, crude oil, Hummel figurines, or any other commodity. The only question is: if you start with fraction X of all the grubnicks, what fraction of all the ELBO shares do you end up with? Let's say, quite arbitrarily, that a third of the equity in ELBO will go to present grubnick holders.

(a) is more interesting. Why don't we know how many grubnicks there are in the world? Isn't each one numbered? Indeed, each one is numbered. But the Elbonian Reserve has the power to create more grubnicks, and it always uses this power when it has to.

Thus, when Elbonia promises you a grubnick, that promise is worth exactly as much as a grubnick, because there is no reason for Elbonia to break its promise. But there is also no constraint on Elbonia's ability to promise more grubnicks than it has actually created. Thus we have two kinds of grubnicks: actual grubnicks, and virtual grubnicks. If Elbonia is anything like America, the latter vastly outnumber the former.

For example, when you "deposit" a dollar in a bank, you do not own a dollar. You own a promise of a dollar from the bank. The bank is not the Federal Reserve, but via the FDIC the Federal Reserve "insures" your bank. The FDIC owns very few dollars, certainly not enough to protect all the banks in the world. But the Fed can print as many dollars as it likes. So your dollar "deposit," because it is backed by a chain that ends in a virtual promise from the Fed, is risk-free.

A Treasury bond is risk-free for the same reason - Uncle Sam is implicitly backed by Uncle Sam's own printing press. Thus, the bond is equivalent to a specialized kind of dollar bill, one that says "not valid until" a certain date - the date when the bond matures. In the world of equity, this is what we call restricted stock. Only a market can tell you how many grubnicks a restricted grubnick will trade for, but a restricted grubnick is still a grubnick.

Obviously, this is a financial Rube Goldberg machine. It can only be understood historically. Fortunately, there is a simple way to get the virtual grubnicks under control.

One: find all the assets (such as bank deposits) whose price in grubnicks is protected by Elbonia's power to print new grubnicks. Two: print the grubnicks, and buy the assets for their formal price. Three: fix the number of grubnicks outstanding. Four: convert grubnicks to ELBO shares, as desired. Five: sell the assets you nationalized, exchanging them for whatever monetary commodity your new accounting system uses. (Let's say it's gold.)

Doing this right will involve creating a lot of grubnicks. The best way to rationalize this is to understand that these grubnicks already exist. They just exist informally, and we need to formalize them. At present, for example, the US owes about $10 trillion in debt, in a world that contains less than 1 trillion actual dollars. Unless you are accustomed to the presence of virtual dollars, these numbers simply make no sense.

In the uneducated folk economics by which policymakers make their rule-of-thumb decisions today, this is held to be "inflationary." The general assumption, made more on the basis of sympathetic magic than anything else, is that more grubnicks means higher prices. But this is not true when we replace virtual grubnicks with real grubnicks, because the change is portfolio-neutral - your loan of 1000 grubnicks to the bank is replaced by 1000 actual grubnicks. Thus, you have no more or less money, thus your spending patterns do not change, and thus if everyone is affected in the same way there is no effect on market prices.

The Receiver has thus gained an important power. In order to make the transition as smooth as possible, he can declare any obligation of Elbonia, formal or informal, to be a debt which is denominated in grubnicks and guaranteed by virtual grubnicks. Elbonia will then acquire that debt, since it is after all guaranteed, paying out in freshly-printed grubnicks. Rampant equity dilution is a very, very normal practice in any restructuring.

Suppose, for example, Elbonia has guaranteed lifetime medical care to all its residents. To the Receiver, this is an obligation like any other, even if it is not a formal obligation in the same sense as paying off a bond. Elbonia, at least in her unrestructured state, is too ramshackle a barge to make any useful distinction between formal and informal debts.

Therefore, Elbonia can shed this politically complex and nasty obligation by calculating the cost of an equivalent insurance policy for each resident, assuming the resident has such a policy, and buying it back with fresh grubnicks. If the resident wants to use those grubnicks to buy medical insurance, by definition she can afford it. Or she can spend them on beer and heroin. It's up to her. The whole conversion is a Pareto optimization.

This flood of new cash has no chance of descending into a hyperinflationary spiral, because it is part of a one-time restructuring in which the semantics and quantity of shares become fixed. Hyperinflation is what happens when a government falls into a state in which it is continually funding operating losses by paying off its creditors with freshly diluted stock. In the financial markets the same effect is produced by a toxic convertible. This is a device one might use in a desperate attempt to avoid bankruptcy, a fate to which we have already reconciled ourselves.

To prevent fluctuations in grubnick purchasing power, the Receiver can also create restricted grubnicks with a "not valid until" date. Thus, when buying out a medical insurance policy or other annual obligation, the compensated parties may receive restricted grubnicks that can pay each year's policy as it falls due, rather than getting a giant lump sum that can be spent on a yacht and will drive the yacht market haywire.

Thus armed not only with absolute political and military sovereignty, but also with the weird economic superpower of the fiat-currency printing press, our Receiver faces her next challenge: dealing with the horde of Elbonian government employees, most of whose occupations are not in any realistic sense productive.

The basic principle of a sovereign restructuring is to separate all outlays of the government into two classes: essential payments, and inessential payments. Obviously, wages paid to an inessential employee (such as a sociology professor - remember, we are nationalizing the universities) are inessential payments. Another word for "inessential payment" is dividend. From an accounting perspective, inessential employees are performing makework to hide the fact that they are actually receiving dividends, ie, acting as bloodsucking parasites.

Of course, with the Wand of Fnargl, the Receiver could just fire them. Quite literally, in fact. But is this fair? Our sociology professor jumped through quite a few hoops, none of which he invented himself, in order to receive what is probably not a very large payment. His so-called career may be pointless, but that means he should be retired, not fired. And he should be retired on a pension that includes a significant fraction of his present pay, maybe even all of it. He has, in short, acquired a certain level of ownership in Elbonia, he has done so through means that were entirely fair and open to all, and it is not our place to decide whether or not he deserves these spoils. Since Elbonia is already paying him, it can obviously afford to continue doing so.

Moreover, as a sociology professor he is part of the ruling class, and the Wand of Fnargl does not last forever. Keep your friends close, as they say, and your enemies closer. He is already being paid to lie for money to support the old regime. If you continue to pay his salary, but let him say and do whatever he wants, will he turn around and bite you? Perhaps some will, but it is not human nature. A more likely response is permanent, doglike loyalty. This response can be accentuated, if need be, by requiring the professor to put his name on a list of prominent figures who support the new government. If he changes his mind, he can stop or restart his pension to match the fluctuations of his conscience.

This gets even better when we get to the few parts of the Cathedral that are relatively healthy. One example is biomedical research, which requires delicate and expensive toys, and so commands a considerable amount of funding over and above faculty salaries. To destroy the institutions while making the researchers very, very happy, simply make everyone's grant or stipend their own permanent property. Divide the funding among the whole team, right down to the grad students. Result: a class of financially independent researchers who can work on whatever they want, wherever they want, sans paperwork. Perhaps a few will decide they don't care about curing cancer and do care about living in the South of France, but they will not be the cream of the crop. Is there anyone who really believes that the grant review process adds value or improves the quality of science?

The Receiver has thus brought order to Elbonia's books. Essential expenses - spending on goods and services that are actually necessary to maximize the Elbonian revenue - turn out to be a small proportion of budgetary outlays. The rest is profit. Elbonia, as we always knew, is massively profitable.

The Receiver's goal is not to redirect this profit, although she can redirect it if need be, but simply to understand it. Who is profiting? How much are they profiting? We find these profiteers - who in many cases are not wealthy fat cats, but philanthropists who provide vital services to the needy - and exchange their informal commitments for formal securities, ie, grubnicks. We eliminate any makework or other pointless camouflage that may have been used to disguise the profit relationship. And everyone is happy.

Elbonia does need revenue, of course. Since the new Elbonia will keep its books in gold, it should collect taxes in gold. The simplest way to tax, which is also one that affects all uses of Elbonian soil and cannot be evaded, is a self-assessed tax on all land and fixed structures. As a property owner, you assess your own property, which is offered for sale at the assessed price. If you don't want to sell, set your price above the market, and pay a little more tax.

Elbonia can also make a market for ELBO shares, in gold. Since grubnicks are to be converted to ELBO shares, this market will produce the critical grubnick-to-gold ratio. As people realize how weird it is to buy a cup of coffee with shares, the financial system will gradually return from equity to metallic currency.

The Receiver thus has the finances of Elbonia straight. She can then turn her powers toward repairing the sadly decayed framework of government. Her fiduciary responsibility is not just to preserve the value of the Elbonian franchise while the financial restructuring completes, but also to enhance it as much as possible. Given the low quality of government that Elbonia has suffered in the past, this is not hard.

The best target for the Receiver is to concentrate on restoring the Belle Époque. This implies that in two years, (a) all systematic criminal activity will terminate; (b) anyone of any skin color will be able to walk anywhere in any city, at any time of day or night; (c) no graffiti, litter, or other evidence of institutional lawlessness will be visible; and (d) all 20th-century buildings of a socialist, brutalist, or other antidecorative character will be demolished.

We can see how far the US at present is from this goal by this awful, hilarious story in the LA Times. I simply cannot muster the mockery to do justice to this piece. Read it all. "Well, if I tell you who shot Ray Ray, I'll never work again in this community." Indeed. Meanwhile, elsewhere in the basin, "loose-knit bands of blacks and Latinos" prowl the streets, "looking for people of the other color to shoot." Visit South Africa before South Africa visits you.

This is just over. It doesn't work. It's done. Stick a fork in it.

First, the Receiver recognizes that this is a military problem. These "gangs" are militias. Not only that, they are militias with an ideology, and that ideology is violently hostile to the society that hosts them. You are not going to convert them into Quakers by giving them big hugs. Nor is there any rational reason to deal with them via judicial procedures designed to contain the sporadic deviancy, or even psychopathy, that appears in any healthy society.

The ideology of the gangs is an ideology of pure war and hatred. It is no more tolerable than neo-Nazism, and in fact the best way to deal with these subcultures is to think of them as Nazi. They are certainly adept at converting hate into violence.

On the other hand, the fact that these formations are essentially barbaric paramilitary units validates one of the main arguments of the loony left. America's brimming prisons are essentially POW camps. Their inhabitants do not recognize the laws they were convicted under, or accept the society that convicted them. In terms of cultural reality, they are aliens.

The Receiver's message is: the war is over. Your side lost. Reconcile yourself to this, demonstrate that you have done so, and you can return to society. We can use all the manual labor you can put out - for one, we have ugly buildings to tear down, graffiti to remove, and so on.

Modern technology makes it easy for Elbonia to destroy any Morlock subcultures the former management may have inflicted on it. A trivial database query can identify the set of humans in the country who are either (a) productively employed, (b) independently wealthy, or (c) a well-supervised dependent of (a) or (b). Everyone else, including all minors, gets the tag. This inconspicuous device fits on your ankle and continuously reports your position to the authorities. If no crimes are committed near your location, you have nothing to worry about.

This is just the start. Elbonia is saddled with a large number of residents who are effectively dependents of the state - for example, those who receive housing subsidies. These people need to be reprocessed to determine whether they can become members of productive society, and during this time there is no reason to leave them where they are. Elbonia's revenue comes from its property values, and the presence of a Morlock population is not good for same.

Therefore, we can expect the Receiver to establish secure relocation centers, in which the 20th century's artificially decivilized subpopulations will receive social services in a controlled environment while they are reintroduced to civilized society. Mandatory apprenticeship in productive skills, language training to ensure all residents are fluent acrolect speakers, and in general a high degree of personal discipline will be hallmarks of these facilities.

There is no need to allow dysfunctional subcultures to persist in any context, not even in prison. The 20th-century prison is, like so many features of present society, a dead end. Modern technology can realize the ideal of many 19th-century penological reformers: universal solitary confinement.

In the 19th century, solitary confinement drove prisoners insane. In the 21st, adequate social interaction can be delivered electronically. Individual cells with virtual reality consoles are not a recipe for insanity. Virtualized prisoners are much easier to control, guide and evaluate. They are also easier and cheaper to guard and feed. In Third World conditions, entire slums can be surrounded, secured, and the residents moved into modular data hotels with sealed individual or family cells, in which they can live perfectly fulfilling second lives. There is simply no reason for open squalor and barbarism to persist anywhere on the planet. Outdoor relief is an idea whose time has come and gone.

From the standpoint of a society from which all forms of modern barbarism have been eradicated, the old, unrestored Elbonia will look almost unimaginably brutal and unlivable. When you have lived all your life in a country in which there is no crime and the streets are safe, the idea of "no-go zones" or random muggings, rapes, etc, will terrify you much as if the same assaults were committed by uncontrolled wild animals.

For example, I simply can't imagine what it would be like to live in San Francisco if there were fifty or sixty leopards loose in the city. But I can see how people would get used to it. Leopards are nocturnal, so you stay in at night. They hide in trees, so you cut down the trees. They tend to hunt in certain areas, so you avoid those areas. And the situation could develop gradually - the first leopard is a huge news story, the second is a smaller story, and they build up over time. After a while, the experience of walking down the street while checking for leopards would strike you as completely normal and unremarkable. If one day the leopards were removed, however, you would definitely notice it.

But this is utopian enough for one week. Continue to part 11.

83 Comments:

Blogger Black Sea said...

"(And her bra1n is growing like a prize melon - she pops out of the 0-6 month hats, she is firmly in the 6-9.)"

The other day, my three-year old daughter asked me, "Daddy, why do you have such a big head?" to which I replied "To hold my big brain." She then turned to her mother and asked, "Mommy, why do you have such a small head?"

The beauty of it was that I didn't even have to put her up to it.

Now I'll read the rest of the post.

June 19, 2008 at 6:36 AM  
Blogger Byrne said...

Therefore, we can expect the Receiver to establish secure relocation centers, in which the 20th century's artificially decivilized subpopulations will receive social services in a controlled environment while they are reintroduced to civilized society. Mandatory apprenticeship in productive skills, language training to ensure all residents are fluent acrolect speakers, and in general a high degree of personal discipline will be hallmarks of these facilities.

There is no need to allow dysfunctional subcultures to persist in any context, not even in prison. The 20th-century prison is, like so many features of present society, a dead end. Modern technology can realize the ideal of many 19th-century penological reformers: universal solitary confinement.


...

[I]n 1994 Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, in “The Bell Curve,” notoriously proposed that Americans with the lowest I.Q.s be sequestered in a “high-tech” version of an Indian reservation, “while the rest of America tries to go about its business.”

When you're done with progressives in general, you should take on Gladwell in particular.

June 19, 2008 at 7:26 AM  
Blogger Leonard said...

byrne, actually Hernnstein and Murray warned against that sort of a future. As the New Yorker was forced to concede, thus amending the article (which you can read at the end). Pretty serious error on the part of Gladwell, but what you can expect from a smart but lazy progressive like him?

June 19, 2008 at 8:16 AM  
Blogger Byrne said...

Leonard:

I know they did. I thought it was a little funny that Mencius' suggestion mirrored Gladwell's amateur error. I wonder if this is where he got the idea -- I remember reading that part of The Bell Curve and thinking "Wait. Why not?"

June 19, 2008 at 8:18 AM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

You are underestimating the power of the Dark Side. That is the bluffs and lies behind informal power relationships that make them not just hideously difficult, but downright impossible to formalize.

Your introductory part is plain old racist bullshit, as any progressive would instantly recognize it. Now that you began to close your mind from the other side of that door, let me point out that it is eerily reminiscent of all the leftist bullshit claiming that stalinism is to communism what (google the rest up or invent it yourself).

Your present political stance is just another ideology designed get hold of power, just as murderous and fraudulent as all the others. You can cry us a fucking river about necklacings by ANC sympathizers, but there is no reason to think that your thugs won't end up doing just the same with whatever your replacement of the Magic Wand of Fnargl is (heck, theirs was the rubber tire filled with gasoline).

Also, unlike you, I have direct first hand experience of sovcorp liquidation. Due to some wise decisions made by my grandparent, it was the party of my lifetime (and one without risking getting rich or shot), but it was massive fraud, nonetheless. There is zero reason to think that what you proposed would turn out otherwise.

Unfortunately, Wikipedia does not mention the single most important fact of the voucher privatization in Russia: each of the then 144 million Russian citizens were given 10000 roubles worth of vouchers. Now, at the market rate, it was worth about $65 USD, but even in real terms (whatever that means) it was about one month's worth of salary. Thus, the implicit statement was that the entire state-owned capital of Russia could have been built from scratch in a few months, which doesn't make much more sense than valuing it at $9.4 billion U.S. dollars. When no party is both powerful enough to enforce and sufficiently interested in proper accounting, this is what you inevitably get.

Also, don't forget that there's a whole wide world outside. And a lot of capital inside. Say, if I live in a remote, prosperous country (say, Finland or Norway, but even Canada would do), why shouldn't I subscribe to some ideology that lets me buy a few Kalashnikovs for the chech^H^H^H^H^Hmexican gangs in California so that they cause sufficient turmoil to trigger massive capital flight from which my country of residence as well as my business will inevitably benefit?

You are right in your conclusion that the current American regime is morally, culturally and financially bankrupt, but there is no nice and easy way out of it. The liquidation will not be fair nor peaceful. Hope, you'll have the brains not to get hurt yourself and to keep your family safe.

It is very nice of you to point out all the rape and murder that progressivism has unleashed upon the world. Democracy certainly deserves its place among all the other barbarian, corrupt and murderous forms of government. But since government is physiologically based on Stockholm syndrome, no new government can be established without massive terror. At least, no government in the past has been established without it and I see no reason to believe it to be possible. All your arguments to the contrary rely on the false assumption that there are no hidden caches of wealth, bluffs of having significant military force, promises made with the intention of breaking them, etc. -- in short, that it is possible to formalize all power relationships.

Speaking of promises, we're still eagerly waiting for your promised why I am not an anarchist? piece.

June 19, 2008 at 9:32 AM  
Anonymous Party Hack said...

Your introductory part is plain old racist bullshit, as any progressive would instantly recognize it.

Comrade Nagy,
Race does not exist, therefore, racism cannot exist! Perhaps you didn't get the memo?

But seriously, progressives recognize everything (except their own pure selves) as "racist."

June 19, 2008 at 9:51 AM  
Blogger Leonard said...

MM: you give no reason whatsoever to believe that the Receiver will give up her absolute power. You are the person who claims a modern state can set itself up to be immune to any sort of public influence, including mobs. Let us accept that opinion arguendo. If you are given the Wand of Fnargl, the obvious thing to do is set yourself up as the Queen, then wave the Wand to instantiate neocameralism, with you as the sole owner. Poof! Monarchism/dictatorship.

June 19, 2008 at 10:01 AM  
Blogger Leonard said...

Put more broadly, my criticism comes down to the old familiar, which I have charged you with more than once. Of course, the fact you are not even reading this partially explains why I repeat myself. But I repeat myself.

The charge is this: that there is very good reason to think that primary property will not and cannot support of the operations that secondary property will. Among the set of operations that it will not support are uniform, clear, and fair bankrupcy proceedings.

When a secondary corporation goes belly-up, it's clear how to get a receiver to perform her task uniformly, clearly, and fairly. You threaten to punish her if she is derelict in her duty. But the same cannot be true of anyone radically reforming a primary property. If they have enough power to do the sort of radical things you're talking about, they are in effective control. And there is no higher power to appeal to.

June 19, 2008 at 10:14 AM  
Anonymous m said...

Leonard: that's why a modified version of China's politboro with shared power seems like a better bet compared to a lone monarch.

June 19, 2008 at 11:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ugh.

For the first time in Internet history, I'm going to call a blog post fascist, and not only is the accusation fair, the author of the post is actually arguing that fascism was a good idea that just wasn't executed properly ( where have we heard that before ... )

The same Mencius who said that the mistake the progressives made was not destroying the Ring of Jim Crow after ending segregation, now wants to grab that ring and impose his own vision of the moral society.

Mencius, pray tell, if going back to the Articles of the Confederation is a bad idea because it will inevitably lead to WashCorp4, why won't the "Receiver" automatically lead to Nazism. If the selection process of WashCorp4 produces Burke and Henry Louis Gates, doesn't the selection process of the a reactionary "Receiver" produce a Hitler?

I think we all need to pretend this post never happened.

Let's go back to the idea of dissolving the US into a system of 500 city states. Let each city state find its own path to restoration. Destroy The Ring!

June 19, 2008 at 5:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you sometimes find that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.

Again, MM, you're a very good descriptor, but not so much a solver of that which you describe.
I agree with the idea of forgetting this post happened.

-mark

June 19, 2008 at 6:29 PM  
Anonymous Named said...

over-tired, actually insane, or just plain Fail. either way, i suggest a relaxing holiday of some kind.

June 19, 2008 at 8:20 PM  
Blogger chairmanK said...

Therefore, we can expect the Receiver to establish secure relocation centers, in which the 20th century's artificially decivilized subpopulations will receive social services in a controlled environment while they are reintroduced to civilized society.

Whoa whoa whoa WHAT?! This is progressive utopianism at its worst. Please tell us that you wrote this as a nasty prank.

June 19, 2008 at 8:31 PM  
Blogger Leonard said...

chairmank: so what do you think the Receiver will do with our criminal underclass? Just let 'em be? Concentration camps? The ovens?

MM is a little far out there, but a ruling corporation does have the incentive to attempt to reprogram its serfs into more productive people. I happen to think this is unlikely, at least for most of the generation brought up before the Change. But perhaps MM does not.

I think that if MM really believed in his vision of the perfectly amoral and profit-centered corp, he'd realize it probably would liquidate much of the current underclass. They've got bad memes, bad genes, and are often deeply damaged physically and mentally by the lives they've led. They are a net negative to society. They are cost centers, not lovely taxable productive ponies. Why try to reengineer them if you can just kill them and import a bunch of people with no such deficits?

June 19, 2008 at 8:54 PM  
Anonymous Not Moldbug said...

I don't think this is a prank so much as the results of a very long, strange, thought experiment. I'm thinking more, Harrison Ford in Mosquito Coast than anything really sinister. Even Newt Gingrich mentioned something about "state-run orphanages" being superior to foster care, once.

I think the deal is - allow me to speculate on someone's inner thoughts, just for kicks since I know it can't be proven - Mencius Moldbug is ideologically a regular, old paleoconservative. Imagine that for a second ... ideologically. And, since he's a Kuehnelt-Leddihn paleocon, he's not against ideology like an American-style paleocon would be.

Next, remember that MM is culturally a Brahmin, with deep emotional roots extending downwards into progressive-idealism. So it feels wrong to be a paleocon. He's got to be something else ... as a youth he saw his pals and the big scary neocons from upside the street kicking paleocon behind in every political battle. Both Buchanan and Paul have high, unimpressive voices; most TV watchers think "conservative" means O'Reilly or that whatsisname guy or the chick in the black dress.

So MM's become a closet paleocon, because the arguments for that position seem overwhelmingly correct, yet the tragic nature of its long retreat don't appeal to him. In fact, tragedy repels him. He wants to be optimistic about something. So he has found a way to use the enormous power of the progressive state for ends he agrees with, for a change.

Let me add I'm different from him on several policy points (just pencil in the garden-variety libertarian responses to UR and you'll have approximately my position) but on one major psychological point: tragedy doesn't repel me. If the Libertarian or Constitution or Single Tax Parties go down to defeat, well, that's a shame, but it doesn't make me feel funny about voting for them. I do what I can to say what is right and if I'm in a minority, so what? A Jacobite reboot seems like Star Trek's warp field theory as a way of breaking the speed of light.

The critiques of monarchism echo what it is I'm thinking. MM, we thought you were going to model a new US government on a profitable corporation, and you've somehow ended up with a proprietorship? "Fascism"? Not so much, from my perspective. Look at what Eco says on ur-fascism. MM fits few of these criteria. Or Italian fascism? Where are the businessmen's councils, heroic commando units, the chamber of labor, war for war's sake, huge campaign emphasizing national identity? Where is the Grand Council?

This particular post seems very Pinochet / Friedman, not very Mussolini. Previous posts seemed more Rand or Kuehnelt-Leddihn, with a skeptical but not always hostile attitude toward state power. I don't like the idea of a state with that much arbitrary power, I think it may well be misused without the proper checks and balances. I also don't think the "social services" he's given us a taste of have any chance of succeeding ... I'm too paleocon to think they could work and too libertarian to be willing to give them a try.

So ... that's my guess. It's important to remember that MM's main statement about this election was that he thought we should all vote for Ron Paul. My guess is that the knowledge that Ron Paul (and now, Bob Barr) would go down to defeat has just created a strange ferment in MM's curiously optimistic mind. I think UR will emerge from this stronger, but perhaps not for quite some time.

June 19, 2008 at 9:30 PM  
Anonymous Not Moldbug said...

At the risk of being long-winded, my reply:

A lot of this seems needlessly complicated. Maybe it is too Marxian, but let me suggest that what we need in this country is more class consciousness - more consciousness of ourselves as taxpayers. Moldbug praises to heaven Rhodesia, which if I'm not mistaken had no racial barriers to voting, only property and/or tax qualifications. Which would make it sort of an ownership state, correct?

So I don't know why all this talk of rings of power and wands and all that. It's theoretically interesting but also distracting. I wish Moldbug would stay on the railroad more and say what some of us are thinking: extending voting power to people who don't contribute to society was a mistake, and not just for moral but also practical reasons.

I don't have a plan to reverse that mistake. There, I admitted it. If the mistake is reversed it will be because the USA falls apart and its baby states are wiser. My optimism: They may band together in Articles of Confederation-style units for mutual defense. They will probably not reimpose the racial or gender barriers of the original colonies. They will probably conduct themselves, on the whole, as something more like condominium owners' associations.

Who could object to that? Well, the hippies could, since the owners' association might not let them paint their garage doors in tie-dye colors. In fact, my neighbors grumbled about my HOA quite a lot, but in the end people knew what it was for. The same can't be said about the Export Import Bank.

Stuff about relocation centers, IMHO, turns people off. (I agree with the point about solitary prisons, and hadn't thought of the virtual-contact aspect. Prisoners should not have unsupervised contact with other prisoners. This reform would make prison much less fun for the sadists and much less brutalizing for everyone else ... again, who could complain?) Unemployment and homeless should not be considered crimes any more than what the left thinks they are ... i.e., evidence of holiness.

June 19, 2008 at 9:55 PM  
Anonymous Lawful Neutral said...

chairmank: Whoa whoa whoa WHAT?!

Seconded! This post reeks of Boromir.

MM: This is just over. It doesn't work. It's done. Stick a fork in it.

Again, I'm not convinced. Sure there are plenty of neighborhoods I would avoid due to crime and disorder, and yes it does spill out onto the rest of us, but it's far from over. Rampant violence is not an everyday fact of life for the vast majority of the US population; I don't feel like I'm living in New Jack City. If I were, then yeah, bring on the relocations, the tagging, and whatever else it takes to put a lid on things, but until then, the cure is worse than the disease.

June 19, 2008 at 10:44 PM  
Anonymous Stirner said...

It's somewhat revealing that this is where the MM readers suddenly say whoa! In previous installments he recommended rebooting the British Monarchy along Jacobite lines, and that seemed to draw fewer criticisms.

That being said, the spectre of locking up the thug underclass does seem to be an idea that seems to "squick" many readers - myself included.

Though having read a recent article like this:
http://tinyurl.com/694w3e
I do have to take his suggestions rather seriously. A woman who doesn't have "the pep" to look for work in nearly 3 years? There is a certain point where using the stick of coercion to retrain and reorient such members of the underclass is arguably better than letting them subsist on the dole indefinitely.

However, despite the rather dubious formality of MM's current proposal, the current tagline for the blog might offer an alternative approach to reformation.

As of this week, the tagline for the blog is "Equality for civilized men." This concept seems to suggest a tiered conception of rights that both preserves the best of civilized life, with restraints on the savage underclass.

Perhaps what moldbug has proposed is too stark in the differences between leaders, citizens, and the dependent underclass in society. If one was to introduce greater gradations, such completely illiberal ideas might gain greater support.

For instance, you could do something like limit procreation, by mandating that all citizens have to have the ability to support their children. Impose such a requirement universally (with some universal birth control agent in the water, say), and then "license" the ability to have children based on some basic ability to support a child. Everyone from the working poor on up would easily qualify, but teen moms and those with WIC as a co-partner would be precluded from family life until they got their shit together.

In a sense, this is the approach Rhodesia took to maintain political control - they limited voting to the property owners. A system that involved minimal direct oppression (compared to
Apartheid South Africa), and allowed civilization to exist in the midst of a dominant underclass.

Childbearing, voting, and a variety of other key aspects of citizenship could be cast in objective and "non-discriminatory" terms, allowing those with a greater propensity for civilization to gain increasingly greater autonomy. You want to own a house? Have an acceptable credit rating, and your purchase is permissible. Quite a simple solution to keep any further subprime lending problems at bay, etc.

MM is following his thought experiment to the bitter end, but whether we agree with his solutions or now, I think many MM readers agree that the problems he is defining are a valuable diagnosis of our civilizational woes. If his solutions seem cracked, the answer is not to go running back to the cushion-y liberal embrace, but instead to find alternative approaches that could potentially support a wider base of support.

June 19, 2008 at 10:48 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

Where was everybody when Mencius was going over anti-insurrection tactics?

This is simply a generalization of the same principle. If a person threatens the order and the peace, stop them. Don't piss around, just stop them.

June 20, 2008 at 3:31 AM  
Anonymous Lawful Neutral said...

Stirner:
It's somewhat revealing that this is where the MM readers suddenly say whoa!

Please elaborate: what does it reveal?

June 20, 2008 at 4:44 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Perhaps, for those [& I include myself] who dislike MMs solutions, a better use of our time in the comments might be to come up with alternate solutions?

No need for complete overhauls, of course, nor might it be necessary for the alternatives to even be serious.

For example, one of my pet funny-solutions is to do away wth the Death Penalty entire, to be replaced by pre-frontal lobotomy and release for work at your local Walmart as a greeter.
I tend to think that, while Death may not be an effective deterrent, seeing persons you know reduced to shuffling retards exposed to public ridicule may in fact be.

June 20, 2008 at 6:02 AM  
Blogger Daniel A. Nagy said...

Party Hack,

I think, you missed the point entirely. Here, at UR we are interested in workable solutions from an engineering point of view. Any effort that sets off all the anti-racist alarms in progressive minds are doomed to failure, as it has already been established by MM.

My opinion and moral judgement are irrelevant here as are yours.

June 20, 2008 at 6:30 AM  
Anonymous Not Moldbug said...

Sure alrenous, but I think most of us were thinking about those in terms of insurrections as that word is usually used. MM has expanded that quite a bit, well past where I would. Why "insurrectionists" and "militias"? Gangsters are gangsters. Convict them the old-fashioned way, lock them up in isolation from each other (with opportunities to communicate with jobs counsellors, non-ex-con family members, etc.) Cut off subsidies to broken families.

And perhaps more important than anything else, stop blaming the victim. The victim, of course, is the trad-values lower-middle class. Not just the courts, but ordinary folks and elite folks need to start blaming the perps, and retain old-fashioned ideas about individual responsibilities.

Class-based relocation is a total reversal of the aristocratic values I thought MM believed in. I thought his deal was, sure there'll be an underclass, and there will be gentry. Free the gentry from government and imprison violent people, and civilization reemerges. Simple as that. I get the sense MM loves complexity for its own sake.

This is be bop political philosophy, with the melody line distorted and only the heppest cats still paying attention. I'm looking for a nice folk-song philosophy, myself.

The problem is not our constitutional structure not being corporate enough. The problem is our political culture treats people like nails, and is constantly hammering down everyone who isn't lowly enough. The political culture is much worse than the state, IMHO.

June 20, 2008 at 8:31 AM  
Anonymous c23 said...

So, people are upset because Mencius wants to round up thugs and put them in relocation centers? Mencius is actually being a bleeding-heart pussy here. It's probably not cost effective to preserve the lives of these people. Many of them are probably not going to be reeducated into being productive member, and for those who could be, it's questionable whether you'd get enough tax revenue from them to pay for their reeducation.

You'd probably be better off to work them to death in a GULAG-style work prison. Same goes for anybody who is not expected to be terribly productive. People who can't even do that would simply be killed - perhaps their bodies could be used as fish food or fertilizer. Is there much of a market for necrophilia porn? Mencius may be soft-hearted, menstruating vagina, but Jack Welch would do it.

The only problem with this policy is that it might encourage emigration. But then again, not every sovcorp is going to be a brain-draining people magnet, so some of them would probably just treat people as a cheap renewable resource.

June 20, 2008 at 11:13 AM  
Anonymous Not Moldbug said...

Uhhh ... before that last, sort of death metal-flavored post ... I was going to say ... uhhh.....

Where was I? Could you turn down the bass a little?

Oh, yeah. I remember. The more I think about the relocation centers idea, the more critical I am. There are several reasons for being unemployed. Among them, laziness and schizophrenia. The former can be trained out of people, while schizophrenics are often best off with long-term care. That's not the nugget of the problem though. The problem is, how do you distinguish the two?

You can't, because Mencius / Fnargl / the Prince of Lichtenstein abolished all the social sciences, presumably including psychology. And heck, why not excise psychiatry from our med schools for good measure? Those things rely on metrics, but can't use controlled experiments, which makes them pseudo-sciences....

Maybe some of the pensioned-off psychologists could offer their opinions or something, but on the whole, I'd say the whole relocation center / social service idea reeks of the kind of social scientism which was anathema for like the first ten open letters.

Anyway, I'm impatient for the return of the our resident philosopher, the Kim Stanley Robinson of the right, the one, the inimitable*, Mencius Moldbug.

* not a guarantee

June 20, 2008 at 7:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As far as the relocation centre idea is concerned, it can be made less objectionable by making it voluntary.

As I understand it, the gang cultures of American cities are funded practically entirely by the government. The way to eliminate them is simply to stop paying.

That of course would cause different humanitarian problems, which could be treated by inviting those with no other means of support into relocation centres where they could be maintained at least for a transitional period or until they wished to leave and make their own way.

June 21, 2008 at 6:21 AM  
Anonymous c23 said...

not moldbug, why would a sovcorp want to provide long term care to schizophrenics? How does that help the bottom line? Remember, we're talking about a for-profit business, not a paternalistic government. If you deliver a pizza with your pants around your ankles, does Domino's put you in long-term care or do they fire you? Why would a sovcorp behave differently from Domino's, and what would firing entail in a sovcorp?

Also, I missed the part where MM abolished psychology. Certainly he abolished the publicly funded university, but varieties of psychology that provide economically measurable benefits (believe it or not, they do exist) would probably find alternate funding sources.

June 21, 2008 at 6:37 AM  
Blogger icr said...

I would note, however, that my email responsiveness of late has been unusually poor. In fact, it has been amazingly poor. For some reason I had entertained the idea that being chained to my daughter would enable me to actually catch up with the large number of extremely interesting and well-written epistles sitting unanswered, many a few months old, in my inbox.

Ha! I see you've found the time to exchange emails with Lawrence Auster.

June 21, 2008 at 9:59 AM  
Anonymous Blode, formerly Not Moldbug said...

c23, the sovcorp doesn't need to provide care to anyone it doesn't want to. The c23 sovcorp might exterminate people, but the Mencius sovcorp wouldn't, at least according to its author. Effeminate? Perhaps, but without knowing who is serious about what it still sounds like lyrics.

The point is that if the Mencius sovcorp relocated everyone who was unemployed to teach them all job skills, it will necessarily be trying to teach the unteachable. Not all ways of distinguish people by type need to be systematic, but ones that are integrated into a state pretty much do have to be systematic.

As to what Mencius actually feels about social sciences in universities, I'm don't know exactly, but he certainly draws no strict distinction between public and private education. I can't imagine the Harvard sociology department existing if Mencius had his druthers. He regards private education as officialdom of a kind and he reviles it when it teaches pseudo-science.

What is the alternative? Obviously the people making determinations of whose laziness can be educated out of them and whose can't, can't owe their jobs to academic credentials. (Whether or not they can have civil service tenure or draw taxpaid salaries is something I haven't worked out.) So, basically, we are forced to create some kind of examination, probably multiple choice, to figure out who we hire to be the Intake Specialist for the local Job Skills Relocation Center.

Or maybe we make a sanity exam for the unemployed, to direct them while they're being relocated. Either way, it sounds like official social science, which in MM's view is necessarily pseudo-science. I really can't see a way out of this for him.

What June 21, 2008 6:21 AM sounds like s/he's describing is simply a return to the practices of Europe after the creation of the Catholic church and before the creation of the welfare state. With some exceptions, people made use of Catholic social services voluntarily. This was because (a) they thought the services were worth their time and (b) there was no nanny-state alternative.

Whether or not this would work today, I don't know. It may. But anti-authoritarianism has sunk into the culture to such a degree that people will disbelieve anything their "&^%$! caseworker" tells them even if it is patently obvious. This is why people insist that fast food is made of earthworms and edible plastics - they're not satisfied with the reasoning that mass doses of saturated fats and white starch make the food unhealthy, they have to come up with an anti-authoritarian explanation for why fast food gourmets are so morbidly ill.

Replace the caseworker from the monopolistic nanny-state agency with one from an independent org, and you may have better results. I hope so, because it's really the only alternative to the status quo, unless you take a certain Dead Kennedys song a bit too literally.

P.S. I think the Not Moldbug nym is wearing thin, so from this day forward I shall be known as Blode.

June 21, 2008 at 10:24 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

From the start to:
"There is one main difference: a few more blacks . . . no, no, no Mexicans. . . .Doesn't that just show you the maturity level of the whole organization?. . . the Obama team's rarefied whiteness anywhere near this segregated. Or anywhere near this 31337, . . .anything but a successful operation? The graphic design alone is brilliant. . . we should just write in Paul Giamatti, who I'm sure could act the Good One off the stage. . . Nazis. . . after the Good One's vigorous, musky buttocks have spent a year or two in George W. Bush's Aeron? to . . . contagious hypochondria.”

Is an excellent critique of all that is wrong with Obama. I, however, recommend voting for him (or Barr) in order to assure an Obama win, which will more quickly bring our great nation to a grinding halt.

Then we get to:
”This suggests an trivial test, a sort of pons asinorum, for any potential restoration. I suggest that as its initial act, any responsible and effective transitional government will set its tone and establish its good faith by assisting the Good One, along with his wife, his people, his wife's people, and frankly anyone who for whatever reason chooses to accompany him, to transfer their lives, pleasantly and with a minimum of personal disruption, to the Good One's scenic paternal homeland: the great African nation of Kenya.”

Huh? First the plan was to liquidate the assets and hand them over to the recievah a la Henry F. Potter. Now we’re deporting people? Come on, man. These are high-Brahmin, landowning taxpayers. We want their revenue. Besides, once we hand them stacks of cash, they’ll just move to Canada or France.

Re South Africa: violence is bad. I think we all agree. That’s one of the reasons Wand of Fnargl talk makes people nervous.

And then to economics:
“What we're seeing here is a power structure which has lost its connection to reality. Its rulers consider it the most ethical and responsible system of government in human history. In fact, it is morally and intellectually bankrupt.
There is no simple procedure for moral and intellectual restructuring. However, this system of government is not just morally and intellectually bankrupt. It is also financially bankrupt. This is a disaster, of course, but it gives us a concrete way to think about fixing all three of these problems at once.”
Excellent diagnosis here – and the idea of the Receiver is not a bad one – if you can enforce that two year rule. I recommend terminal cancer.

And then the description of Elbonia,
Excellent and interesting monetary thought here – especially this little chestnut:

“As a property owner, you assess your own property, which is offered for sale at the assessed price. If you don't want to sell, set your price above the market, and pay a little more tax.”

Then where it gets wonky. . .
“The Receiver thus has the finances of Elbonia straight. She can then turn her powers toward repairing the sadly decayed framework of government. . . .
The best target for the Receiver is to concentrate on restoring the Belle Époque. This implies that in two years, (a) all systematic criminal activity will terminate; (b) anyone of any skin color will be able to walk anywhere in any city, at any time of day or night; (c) no graffiti, litter, or other evidence of institutional lawlessness will be visible; and (d) all 20th-century buildings of a socialist, brutalist, or other antidecorative character will be demolished.. . . This is just over. It doesn't work. It's done. Stick a fork in it.”

Irrespective of what LN says, we’re good so far. I don’t know a person who lives in a metropolitan area who hasn’t experienced similar disasters.

“First, the Receiver recognizes that this is a military problem.”

Yep.

“On the other hand, the fact that these formations are essentially barbaric paramilitary units validates one of the main arguments of the loony left.”

Another yep.

“The Receiver's message is: the war is over. Your side lost. Reconcile yourself to this, demonstrate that you have done so, and you can return to society. We can use all the manual labor you can put out - for one, we have ugly buildings to tear down, graffiti to remove, and so on.”

Perfectly reasonable.

Then:
“Modern technology . . . a trivial database query can identify the set of humans in the country who are either (a) productively employed, (b) independently wealthy, or (c) a well-supervised dependent of (a) or (b). Everyone else, including all minors, gets the tag.”

Okay – but do all minors get it? (Some would be “c”s)

Then:
“This is just the start. Elbonia is saddled with a large number of residents who are effectively dependents of the state . . . These people need to be reprocessed . . . we can expect the Receiver to establish secure relocation centers. . .”

Umm. This may be the “product of a progressive education” in me but is this really the best way to go about things? The Receiver is getting a little creepy here.

Then on to prison reform, which is excellent.
But it comes back to the idea of relocation – the “third world conditions” section. Although I would entirely agree that outdoor relief is a very poor idea (didn’t work for the Romans, either) I think that instead of rounding the folks up, they should have a choice (this may be Menc’s plan, too but he doesn’t quite say it):

Stay here and be productive or go to a relocation center.

This would likely clear up any Receiver creepyness.

There remains (as stated above) the problem of Receiver power-retention. By what means would this be achieved?

Comments:

Black Sea (and Mencius):
kids are awesome. I wouldn’t trade my 2 little girls for all of pre-independence Rhodesia.

Daniel A. Nagy said...
“You are underestimating the power of the Dark Side. That is the bluffs and lies behind informal power relationships that make them not just hideously difficult, but downright impossible to formalize.”

I disagree. The idea behind the Receiver’s power is that s/he is able to say “poof! you are a formal power relationship; you know it, we know it; it is so” and it will be so.
“Also, unlike you, I have direct first hand experience of sovcorp liquidation.”
Not quite. To say the dissolution of the USSR was even minimally supervised by anything resembling a responsible Receiver is laughable at best.
“Say, if I live in a remote, prosperous country (say, Finland or Norway, but even Canada would do), why shouldn't I subscribe to some ideology that lets me buy a few Kalashnikovs for the chech^H^H^H^H^Hmexican gangs in California so that they cause sufficient turmoil to trigger massive capital flight from which my country of residence as well as my business will inevitably benefit?”

Simple answer: because a Neocameralist, Formalist nation would simply blow you the hell up (as you would be making war on them).

Anon1: “I think we all need to pretend this post never happened.”

I actually think we need to reread it. A lot of my concerns were cleared up upon a closer re-read.

Let's go back to the idea of dissolving the US into a system of 500 city states.

Not a bad idea at all. I would much rather be governed by North Florida than the USG

Blode said:
“Stuff about relocation centers, IMHO, turns people off.”
Yeah – but again, I think what MM meant (though didn’t state clearly) was that the citizens who are getting state-assistance should be relocated. To which I would add: unless they get jobs.

Lawful Neutral said...
“Rampant violence is not an everyday fact of life for the vast majority of the US population”
Because most of us avoid the jaguars. We were stopped last night because our car overheated at the corner of Thug and Licious. I wasn’t scared or worried (mostly because most all the people there were “frontin” and more interested in showing off they grillz at the club). But I was uncomfortable – as uncomfortable as I would be in, say, a Northwest Florida town in which my long hair immediately identified me as “the other.” Having said that, the YAAs did display their poor decision-making when a carload drove past us saying “I don’t care man, just drive!” before they cut across five lanes of traffic (two of them oncoming). They were followed closely by two Sheriffs. Morans.

Stirner said...
“There is a certain point where using the stick of coercion to retrain and reorient such members of the underclass is arguably better than letting them subsist on the dole indefinitely.”
Yes. And I think living on your own (with or w/o tag) is the carrot to balance the “or you can go here” stick.

“For instance, you could do something like limit procreation, by mandating that all citizens have to have the ability to support their children. Impose such a requirement universally (with some universal birth control agent in the water, say), and then "license" the ability to have children based on some basic ability to support a child. Everyone from the working poor on up would easily qualify, but teen moms and those with WIC as a co-partner would be precluded from family life until they got their shit together.”

Umm. Holy fuck no. First of all, chemical birth control is insanely bad for you – and impossible to generate equally for both sexes. Secondly, as someone whose birth would certainly not have been licensed under your insane plan (I am the product of an affair), I would be glad to discuss this further with you over shotguns at dawn. Or clawhammers. At any rate, no, no, no, fucking fuck no.

“In a sense, this is the approach Rhodesia took to maintain political control - they limited voting to the property owners.”
I have no idea why we don’t do this right now.

Alrenous said...
“This is simply a generalization of the same principle. If a person threatens the order and the peace, stop them. Don't piss around, just stop them.”
Amen.

Mark said...
“Perhaps, for those [& I include myself] who dislike MMs solutions, a better use of our time in the comments might be to come up with alternate solutions?”
Been saying that since April. . .

Blode said:
“retain old-fashioned ideas about individual responsibilities.”
Amen. This is also why water birth control won’t work. Takes away responsibility.

“Class-based relocation is a total reversal of the aristocratic values I thought MM believed in. I thought his deal was, sure there'll be an underclass, and there will be gentry. Free the gentry from government and imprison violent people, and civilization reemerges.”

On the reread I really think that’s what he was suggesting, albeit uneloquently.

“Simple as that. I get the sense MM loves complexity for its own sake.”
Isn’t he an engineer? Isn’t that what engineers do?

“Stuff about lazyness, crazyness”
Meh. If you’re lazy, you’ll say “nope, don’t send me, see, I already got a job!” If you’re crazy, then we’ll pick up on that and give you real treatment or leave you institutionalized (that is, reverse the damage of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest).

Also -- the companies providing social services would be the paid off former arms of government (the NGOs); they could do what they wanted with their shares.

GMP

June 21, 2008 at 11:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

GMP and others who liked this post-

What's great about this blog is MM's eye for picking out the incentives faced by underlying power structures ( the statist bias of the media, adaptive fiction, etc) and pointing out the dire problems with rule by a mandarin, intellectual class.

In this post, he doesn't mention how this receiver will be selected or how the receiver will be incentivized to carry out MM's plans. Instead, magically, a philsopher king appears who will implement all of MM's dream policies. But what guarantee do we have that this would be the case? How would we avoid ending up with an FDR or Hitler?

And remember, even if the specific ideas sound good on paper, and even if the receiver did carry them out, life is complex and who knows how the policies would end up in the real world. The history of massive, top-down, social reforms is not a good one.

June 21, 2008 at 12:09 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Saturday Anonymous:

Your last two paragraphs are my (and many others') main bitch about MM. I think we need to do as Mark (I think) said and start coming up with plausable selection methods. I'm all for a terminally ill genius.

June 21, 2008 at 12:26 PM  
Anonymous Saturday's Anonymous said...

Ok, here's an alternate solution. I propose a new constitution, to be approved by Constitutional Conventions in 3/4s of the states:

The new government would be composed of a Continental Court, a Continental Defense Force, and a Continental Council.

All sovereignty, and all decisions would be returned to the states - everything from health care policy, to trade regulation, to civil rights would be state responsibilities.

The court's only authority would be to adjudicate disputes between two states (for instance over water rights or pollution). Justices would be appointed for ten year terms, with enforced retirement at the age of 75.

The defense force's only authority would be to defend the continent. The commander would be appointed for a five year term, with forced retirement after ten years.

The council's only authority would be to appoint the commander of the defense force and the justices of the court. The council could also veto decisions to go to war, or by a super majority vote, decisions of the court. By 8 to 1 vote, it could impeach a justice or the military commander.

The council would be selected by a combination election/lottery system. Anybody who could get nominating papers from 20 people, pass a qualification test, and prove they had paid at least a certain X in taxes, would be eligible for election. Of those who apply, a lottery would narrow the electors down to 50,000 people. An quick election ( within a day) with only the 50,000 allowed to vote, would narrow it down to 10,000. Then there would be another lottery, another vote, etc. until a council of 9 had been picked.

Council members would serve for one year. After, they would receive a pension of $1 million a year for the rest of their life. The only condition is that they could never receive gifts or salary from anyone for the rest of their life.

Taxes would be constitutionally fixed, and exacted using MM's ingenious property scheme, to avoid having anything like the IRS. In time of war, taxes could be increased only by a referendum of all taxpayers, and the increase would automatically sunset after 5 years.

An Agency of Transition would be established, with a head appointed by the council. This agency would be responsible for the severance pay of all government officials, and the orderly and responsible winding down of all federal government obligations. ( Further note: constitutionally, the tax would have to be fixed at a high rate, and be set to automatically lower each year as the severance pay wound down).

The final two important constitutional provisions would be:
-Absolute right to secede. Any state could secede for any reason, at any time.

-Right of new state admittance. Every state must have provisions for splitting itself up, if the population of that state so desires. Each new city-state has a right to join the constitution as an equal. Each state has the right to choose whatever form of government it wishes - democracy, monarchy, neocamerelist or whatever.

Finally, rather than using the cryptographic weapon locks to enforce shareholder rights, the cryptographic weapon locks could be used to enforce this new Minarchist state. The weapons of the continental defense force could be kept locked, and only activated if representatives from the states typed in the security codes and enabled them.

The Constitution would explicitly name the first nine councilors, nine justices, and military commander. These people would assume their positions after ratification of the constitution.


By 1) guaranteeing the right of secession 2) giving the central government no power to make policy or affect the actual lives of people and 3) eliminating popular elections and the entire political class - this constitution will ensure that the minarchist state will be a stable equilibrium.

June 21, 2008 at 1:53 PM  
Anonymous c23 said...

blode, my point is that there's no particular reason for the sovcorp to do anything other than make a profit, which would lead it to behave in ways that would be considered unethical to most people. Mencius carries this as far as "relocating" economically useless people ("unethical" behavior which he considers acceptable), but doesn't take the next logical step - maybe due to some latent progressivism in him that says you shouldn't gas tards.

I agree with you that MMcorp can warehouse useless eaters instead of liquidating them and harvesting their organs or whatever the economically rational thing would be to do with them. That's because there's no particular reason for a sovcorp to maximize shareholder value. CEOs and corporate boards are already more or less plotting against shareholders for their own benefit, and I would only expect them to behave more autonomously if they were sovereign.

Domino's has to let useless employees go rather than waste a bunch of money on "rehabilitation" efforts because if they don't, Pizza Hut will beat their price by $.50 and they will go out of business. They have no real choice. But sovcorps face no such restraint (hence the longevity of Mugabe and North Korea). That's a general problem with MM's whole program. If you could somehow handwave away the fact that sovcorps would be almost immune to competition, getting rid of useless eaters would become mandatory just like getting rid of corporate dead weight became mandatory years ago.

June 21, 2008 at 1:53 PM  
Anonymous Blode, formerly Not Moldbug said...

Okay G.M. Palmer, let's give MM the benefit of the doubt and try to work on selection methods. Since I haven't quite figured out how formalism and Jacobitism (is that even a word? ... "restorationism") are compatible - surely the Prince of Lichtenstein doesn't have power in North America, waiting only to be formalized) I'm going to wing it and make up a system with what I see as desirable effects, without anything being very Stuart.

First let's lay out some ingredients:

1. Taxpayer status required of all voters. Similar in principle to "shareholder status required when electing the board of directors".

2. Lotteries. Similar to ancient Greece and old Venice.

3. Indirect elections. Similar to a whole bunch of stuff - EU elections, the United States, particularly early on, old Venice, etc.

4. Bans on political parties. American framers may have done so if they hadn't construed freedom of expression quite so broadly.

The process is complicated but the shape is simple, a pyramid. Each neighborhood/HOA sends delegates to the town, which sends a delegate to the county, and then to the state, etc.

With no one-man-one-vote principle to imitate, and big disparities in size, there would be opportunities to adjust the voting power of each delegate for things like (square root of?) the number of people taxpayers they represent, security of the area they represent, etc.

Making the system complex would hinder mob rule, certainly, but also help clever factions who would want to manipulate the rules. So I feel pressure to make the system fairly simple. Maybe pair elections with lotteries on a 1:1 basis.

We'll start with HOAs/neighborhoods. At my HOA, no one was willing to run for the board, so maybe they should have had service be a mandatory part of the process, like jury duty but with decent hourly pay. After working together for at least a year, they would send elect one of their own to go to the town council. A random selectman from the town would become a county commissioner. The county commission would elect a state legislator. A random state legislator would become a Congressman. Congress elects the Receiver.

This is the process for selecting the executive/legislative side. The judicial/administrative side could be picked by competitive exam more or less like the current civil service. You could g-load the exams more if you are going for a "talented generalist" for a given spot (a la the UK tradition) or refrain from doing so if you want a specialist (more of the French approach).

At the top levels of the judiciary, you could start empowering the executive/legislative side to pick from a list of candidates, if you wanted judicial philosophy to be "steerable" by the folks who write the laws. (No reason, IMHO, to do that at the lower levels, where patronoage opportunities are greater and philosophy is less important due to the appeals powers of higher courts.)

So, legislative professionalism mounts as you go up the ladder. No problem there; most neighborhood issues are pretty concrete. Furthermore, nothing prevents wise town selectmen from hiring city managers to do the hard stuff (intercity competition for good managers is a great thing for towns not burdened with executive mayors).

Some libertarian / Articles of Confederation-style caveats: no government should be allowed to stop someone moving away from its jurisdiction, least of all the national level. None of the higher levels of government should be allowed to stop someone passing through. All of them should be allowed to stop someone moving in for whatever reason. This creates a wonderful effect of competing for good people by making your area attractive.

One thorny issue: Exiles? I'm inclined to say a government should be banned from ever kicking anyone out, since that would create human "hot potatoes" who would bother every jurisdiction and probably need warehousing somewhere. Then again, if someone had gotten convicted by a jury of his peers (a Magna Carta-style caveat I'm not prepared to part with), you could certainly ship them off to a prison in a place where they needed the revenue.

I'm going to scratch my head and think about whether I like these ideas or not. One issue I'm chewing on right now is the way most countries seem to have a Most Important Level of Government - usually the national. For early America, it was the state. With my neo-Venetian pyramid scheme (sounds sinister that way, no?) no MILG really pops out. So, when fighting over resources, there won't be a simple answer to who gets them.

June 21, 2008 at 2:56 PM  
Anonymous Blode, formerly Not Moldbug said...

Another issue I'm chewing on is, how exactly is my system different than the reviled European Union? No political parties in the NVPS, of course, and no lotteries in the EU. But the mystery of a European Council of Ministers, serving at the pleasure of sovereign national governments, cheerfully transferring power from their bosses to Brussels...? It's a process that everyone seems to hate and no one seems to be able to stop.

Call me naive, if you want, but it does seems like the current system could stop the slide in power. Your European Subsidiarity Party could take over the EP and threaten to sack any Commission that tried to increase its own power. Or the Council of Ministers could start smacking down Commission self-aggrandizement. Or whatever. A change in voter attitudes is all that would be required, unlikely as that may be.

I think the EU may be a product of some atavistic longing for the Holy Roman Empire, or the Roman Roman Empire, or something.

June 21, 2008 at 3:04 PM  
Anonymous Saturday's Anonymous said...

Blode-

You're still creating a professional political class that would have every incentive to create a large federal bureaucracy. To the extent that it's democratic, the large federal government will be theocratic and will engage in the "do-goodism" that occurs in our current system. If it's not democratic, the money will just end up in the paws of this political class. Since the class is not doing anything productive, this will be a large dead weight loss.


After reading Leoni's Freedom and the Law, I agree with Mencius that the entire legislative branch was fundamentally a mistake. There really is no good reason to have legislative law.

There's also no good reason for any kind of management/policy making above the city state level. That's why in my proposal ( above ) I did away with both the executive and legislative branches!
There's only the judicial branch and the military, both who are kept in check by a rotating set of councilors, elected in the Venetian model.

I also think the right to secession is absolutely vital for any new Constitution.

June 21, 2008 at 3:10 PM  
Anonymous Blode said...

Thank you, c23, you have clarified yourself quite well. I have no defense of MM on these matters.

Also thanks to saturday's anonymous. Your system is coincidentally quite similar to a system I dreamed up a few months ago. I have a few thoughts:

A. Freedom of movement. I'm worried that a state would mistreat its neighbors by charging fees, or simply banning people and goods, from moving across it. Any national constitutional guarantee of freedom of movement?

B. "An quick election ( within a day) with only the 50,000 allowed to vote, would narrow it down to 10,000." Wow. That's fast. I'm trying to work out how it is done ... maybe local areas of 100 or so first-tier electors pick 20 or so to go to the next level? I don't think it would be too valuable to have people voting for unknowns, but I suppose a day is long enough for each candidate to give a nice speech about their philosophy.

C. MM-style self-assessed taxes: how do you reply to the charge that this would encourage people to damage their own property in ways they would care less about than the average buyer? I.e., building a house no sane person could navigate, so any buyer would have to factor in the costs of razing and building a new house? I'm not so sure that the traditional tax assessment process is so terrible.

D. 50 different foreign policies ... really? Nothing wrong with that vis a vis foreign aid; I also think an arrangement for shared embassy facilities could be made. Given the overlap between defense and foreign policies, I'm worried that too much power would creep to the CDF commander's office. Then again, the Council's impeachment authority would give it some latitude to reign in military adventures in foreign policy. (I'd call it authority to sack rather than impeach, unless you really think the commander should only be sackable if he's violated a law, rather than just been an imbecile.)

On the whole I'm thinking your system is better than the one I suggested above, although of course we provided detail in different places.

June 21, 2008 at 3:29 PM  
Anonymous Blode said...

Saturday's anonymous, you raise good points. I forgot to mention Constitutionally-limited tax rates, which would limit the size of the bureaucracy if not its scope. Also I left out the right of secession by mistake (since of course that one never caused any problems, except that one back then...).

I forgot a tax question - are all levels of government limited to property taxes, or just the Federal?

As to throwing out legislative law - statute - are we talking about a system in which military law is made unilaterally by the Commander? Let me think that over too.

This seems only a little formalist, and not at all Jacobite, but I think you may have cooked up an enticing meal for old Mencius should the sour milk not have killed his appetite. If there is such a thing as food for thought, I am facing serious brain obesity here.

June 21, 2008 at 3:41 PM  
Anonymous Saturday's Anonymous said...

blode-

My idea owes a lot to Nick Szabo's ideas on Juristopia ( see here, Nick and Mencius get have a great debate in the comments ) and unpredictable elections

For self-assessed taxes, most people want close to the same thing in a house (and superficial issues of taste are easily changed). I can't imagine many people turning their house into a maze. Also note that the most valuable part of a property is usually the location. It's less intrusive than an income tax because the government already needs to keep a record of property. The government does not need to keep track of what all of its subjects are doing. Also, state's could tax according to their current charters. The federal government could interfere with state constitutions.

For the election, I was envisioning that each candidate would create some kind of application. It would include test scores, a resume, recommendations verified by the election administration, and a set of essays. After the initial lottery, each candidate remaining would receive a package of 10 randomly assigned applications from other candidates. The candidate would then rank each application, and submit the results. The candidates with the top 20% of overall votes would then move on to the next round. This could be all done within a day. There would be no speeches - we want someone with a solid resume, not a messiah :-) The council members do not need any special abilities or expertise. They simply need enough sense to keep the judiciary and the military honest. The election needs to be quick to prevent any opportunity for bribery.


Trade policy and freedom of movement are the tricky areas. The interstate commerce clause was The Great Loophole. If WashCorp4 falls, it's going to be the economic system and immigration policies that did it in. Thus I'm loathe to entrust those powers to the central government. Switzerland seems to get by fine without having anybody that enforces foreign trade law with the other European states. And there's relatively free movement and trade between the U.S. and Canada. Thus I'm thinking it would be better to let trade and immigration policies be left to agreements worked out by the individual states. It's a really tough question though, and I'll have to give it more thought.

June 21, 2008 at 6:26 PM  
Anonymous Saturday's Anonymous said...

Sorry, that should read above "The federal government could not interfere with state constitutions."

June 21, 2008 at 6:27 PM  
Anonymous Saturday's Anonymous said...

blode and c23-

One further note is that as technology gets more sophisticated, the percentage of people who are net deadweight to society might end up increasing. Right now its arguable that anybody under an IQ of 75 is probably net unprofitable. In a few decades, I could see robots making most cooks, cleaners, store associates, etc. obsolete. What happens if everyone with an IQ of over 85 or 95 is net deadweight? The truly profit-maximizing sovereign might engage in some very abhorrent liquidations.

June 21, 2008 at 6:32 PM  
Anonymous Blode said...

Okay Saturday, Leoni is on my Amazon wish list.

I've been thinking more about conventional tax assessment, trying to elaborate on my notion that it's not so bad. Suggestions,

First, tax assessment must be transparent, and must be free of obvious fraud.

Second, tax assessors and procedures should be chosen by states. The Federal government, which would have some incentive to overvaluing property, would have no power to do so.

The states would have little incentive to overvaluing property, and in fact may have some incentive to undervalue it instead, since in doing so they could attract new residents. However, this would cause more of the taxpayers in their state to fall below the minimum tax requirement you have proposed, since there is nothing guaranteeing states representation proportional to population. Assuming states want as many Federal electors as possible, I think this would balance itself out, more or less.

On the other hand, I think the objection to self-assessed taxes I raised earlier today may not be a major issue. It would only be an option for people who have no interest in selling at all, which is probably a pretty small fraction. If elderly cranks want to build bizarre stone forts with hidden traps in them, and radically undervalue their unsellable property, maybe it's not such a big deal. (Also, they'd run the risk of some company buying their home and charging admission.)

A side benefit of this whole self-assessment thing is that it would finesse all the eminent domain battles. If you lived in the middle of a logical place to put an interstate, you'd either have to sell or pay big taxes - no rascally Kelo decision needed.

P.S. I thought of a reply to Black Sea's daughter. "Mommy brains have an extremely high mass-to-volume ratio. This is why mommies sometimes get neckaches."

June 21, 2008 at 6:34 PM  
Anonymous Blode said...

Gee whiz Saturday, I think you may need a blog. I suppose I need one too....

Agreed about internal migration being a subject worthy of a lot of thought. Right now I'm thinking how to reconcile (a) I think states must allow free movement through them and (b) I think states have the right to keep criminals from setting up shop. If they could only reject immigrants rather than passers-through, I don't see why the criminals wouldn't just station themselves as permanent passers-through. I suppose states could have Migration Cops that would target crack dens and the like; anyone they couldn't convict, they could evict, and maybe at that point they evictees would lose some freedom of interstate travel.

I really don't like the idea of border checkpoints between states. Instead, you could just make it a crime to return to a state you'd been evicted from - probably a fairly easy conviction to get - and then make convicts pay their debts to society through actual productive work.

I'm off to Szabo....

June 21, 2008 at 6:47 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

In a few decades, I could see robots making most cooks, cleaners, store associates, etc. obsolete. What happens if everyone with an IQ of over 85 or 95 is net deadweight?
I wonder what you geniuses do that requires skills that are not amenable to automation? If you work in a cubicle, chances are your job will be taken over by machines (or outsourced to India) long before that of a gardener or chef. Trust me, I've worked in robotics, and that stuff is hard. So you may wish to consider your political ideology (or career choice) under the assumption that you may find yourself part of the less-productive class, whatever your current status is. Maybe having the world run by corporate managers may not be such a good idea from that perspective. What's the British phrase, "made redundant"? Sounds kind of ominous, doesn't it?

June 21, 2008 at 8:09 PM  
Blogger Votes or Semen said...

you sidle right up to an important point and then pass by without so much as a glance.

cities don't work. They are wasteful and vestigial structures from the era where physical presence was required for business.

June 21, 2008 at 8:17 PM  
Anonymous c23 said...

Saturday, the ultimate end of automation is not the replacement of low IQ grunts with computers and robots, but rather the replacement of everybody with computers and robots. If they ever get strong AI right - and there's no particular reason to think researchers will be able to replicate the functions of the cerebellum and brain stem but will ultimately be unable to match the cerebrum - robots and computers would then be able to do anything we can do, but better.

A profit maximizing corporation wouldn't stop with replacing janitors and line cooks with robots - they would end up in every position up to and including CEO of the sovcorp. There's no particular reason why the sovcorp would keep any humans around at all. You would end up with a posthuman future, all very efficiently run with lots of economic growth, but not so great for the losers who would be left behind, meaning all of us.

I can't think of any economic system that would make any sense for humans in the (inevitable, IMO) presence of such technology that could not be called socialist.

June 21, 2008 at 8:57 PM  
Anonymous Saturday's Anonymous said...

c23 and matraven-

Exactly, I should have carried out my thoughts further. First they came for those under 75 IQ, then under 85, then under 100, then under 120, then for Mencius ...

June 21, 2008 at 10:01 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Probably the easiest way to get beyond objections to relocation/retraining schemes is the old traditional method.

Go with what's already known to work. Have a draft, set up an American Foreign Legion, fight some world-wide futile war that has no concrete goal without any real intention to win and with sub-standard equipment [in the interests of fairness and enlightenment, of course].

The only criteria you need to establish then is a method to exclude from front-line service the ones you want to keep in society. Hint: You don't need to tweak it much unless you want to get rid of lawyers and such.

June 22, 2008 at 6:40 AM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

"cannot never default"?

"If the resident wants to use those grubnicks to buy medical insurance, by definition she can afford it"; why are there no men in Elbonia?

"From the accounting perspective, what is a grubnick? The answer is simple. It is not a receipt, because it does not denote title to some stored object. It is not debt, because it does not denote an obligation that is canceled by some delivery. Therefore, it can only be equity." This is arguing from a restricted list of alternatives. In fact, fiat currency can be used to pay taxes; it is this that gives it its main backing. But being able to pay taxes - other things being equal - doesn't confer any sort of claim on the asset base.

"Therefore, Elbonia can shed this politically complex and nasty obligation by calculating the cost of an equivalent insurance policy for each resident, assuming the resident has such a policy, and buying it back with fresh grubnicks". There is an unstated assumption in this bit, i.e. that "Elbonia, as we always knew, is massively profitable", enough so that all policies could be covered. Even if you make this assumption, there is still a massive calculation problem.

"Hyperinflation is what happens when a government falls into a state in which it is continually funding operating losses by paying off its creditors with freshly diluted stock". As a definition, this is incorrect, although you certainly do get hyperinflation once that happens. Technically speaking, hyperinflation is inflation at such a level that there is a breakdown in the signalling work that money does using prices.

"He [a sociology professor] is already being paid to lie for money to support the old regime. If you continue to pay his salary, but let him say and do whatever he wants, will he turn around and bite you? Perhaps some will, but it is not human nature." Oh, yes it is.

"A more likely response is permanent, doglike loyalty. This response can be accentuated, if need be, by requiring the professor to put his name on a list of prominent figures who support the new government. If he changes his mind, he can stop or restart his pension to match the fluctuations of his conscience." Actually, you get that response if there is a voluntary list, restricted by a deadline time, numbers eligible, and a requirement to inform of other eligible people (statistical analysis shows if any informers leave people off, and such omission disqualifies) - and you apply "Devil take the hindmost", Glencoe fashion, to a very few of those not applying by the deadline but with an amnesty for the rest announced after that. Basically, you only get "doglike loyalty" if the only way those people can stay right with their own consciences is to convince themselves that you are right, because otherwise their own actions were wrong. That needs a voluntary step, which in turn means a meaningful proportion must be allowed amnesty even if they don't volunteer.

"The Receiver has thus gained an important power. In order to make the transition as smooth as possible, he can declare any obligation of Elbonia, formal or informal, to be a debt which is denominated in grubnicks and guaranteed by virtual grubnicks... The Receiver's goal is not to redirect this profit, although she can redirect it if need be, but simply to understand it" - why the sex change?

"The Receiver's message is: the war is over. Your side lost. Reconcile yourself to this, demonstrate that you have done so, and you can return to society. We can use all the manual labor you can put out - for one, we have ugly buildings to tear down, graffiti to remove, and so on." That does not work, without some adequate form of reward for surrender. You may still win with a Carthaginian peace, but if you corner a rat you just get a cornered rat to get rid of, so unless you offer what the British offered the Boers you will have bitter enders.

Mark said "Perhaps, for those [& I include myself] who dislike MMs solutions, a better use of our time in the comments might be to come up with alternate solutions?"

Clearly what is needed is spill and fill (the way it's really done, dumping Dunkirk rearguard people completely with retrenchments, not moving them to the new system). As with the Punic Wars, there are two main phases: roping the beast and dealing with it as you will. For the USA, first destroy its out of area capability and evacuate people and materiel from coastal and border areas to make a cordon sanitaire. Then, while allowing emigration for anybody who can find somewhere that will have them, gradually put more and more people into reservations until there is nobody left outside. Hand back territory stolen or extorted from others (Britain, maybe Spain if the Floridas don't go to Britain, Canada, Mexico, Hawaii and various Indian Nations, maybe some others) to do with as they will, and set up the rest as a new country or countries to look after the reservations and which will allow selective immigration from the reservations as well as from other countries - no more USA, but a phoenix. It's basically the fable of how the wolf got rid of his fleas by balancing a tuft of wool on his nose and then gradually going underwater until all the fleas had climbed onto the tuft and he could duck away from them.

June 22, 2008 at 7:44 AM  
Blogger Neutrino Cannon said...

Any effort that sets off all the anti-racist alarms in progressive minds are doomed to failure, as it has already been established by MM.


Quite so! May I therefore suggest that when MM referred to shipping Obama and his people off to Kenya, he was speaking of the Brahmin bigmen, and not blacks in general. As he has pointed out before, the Bramhins are actually right inasmuch as skin color is not a reliable indicator of caste membership in the United States. It's supposed to be a sort of just desserts thing; ship the Universalists to the countries that their efforts in wresting power from the Optimates (more realistically; the fallout of post WWI demography) have made so much better over the years like Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa. I note that most such countries are in Africa; an artifact of that continent's late colonization I suspect. Possibly Asian or Pacific corollaries exist but I'm a little fuzzier on the history there.

June 22, 2008 at 7:29 PM  
Blogger Neutrino Cannon said...


In a profit-maximizing society robots will kill us all!


GAH! Shambling Neo-Luddites rise from the crypt! With graphs and facts misunderstood to terrorize your neighborhood.

Let's suppose that current difficulties with strong AI and automation are just transient hiccups. Let's even go so far as to say that in the year 20XX there is nothing a human can do that a robo-whatever can't do better.

So, you have a population of robots and factories, and the robots can build robot making factories so they're effectively self-sustaining.

Also, you have a population of grossly inefficient organic meatbags, men and women, or, since Moldbug idiosyncratically uses feminine pronouns, the human population mysteriously consists of parthenogenic women, as the men had been deemed obsolete years ago in a misguided attempt to compete with the efficiency of robots.

Does one wipe out all the humans? Unless the robots need to eat organic things there is no reason to do so. You're confusing two meanings of the verb "liquidate". In one, there's capital left over to re-invest. In the other, you end up being prickly bastards about that whole Armenian thing decades and centuries later.

Even assuming that humans compete with profitrons for certain resources, you don't necessarily dispose of them, silly. As any good economist can tell you there is an optimum rate for replacing old, inefficient machinery with newer, shinier stuff. Anyone who said otherwise is engaging in broken-window fallacy.

June 22, 2008 at 7:44 PM  
Anonymous P.M.Lawrence said...

Neutrino Cannon wrote "Does one wipe out all the humans? Unless the robots need to eat organic things there is no reason to do so... Even assuming that humans compete with profitrons for certain resources, you don't necessarily dispose of them, silly. As any good economist can tell you there is an optimum rate for replacing old, inefficient machinery with newer, shinier stuff."

Certainly - but, since under our current institutions humans are not assets, the labour market clearing wage is what counts. There isn't even scrap value in human workers. Quite simply, at some point people would not be worth a wage sufficient to live on. This is precisely why Scottish and Irish tenants were evicted wholesale in days not long before our days; sheep outcompeted the former and horned cattle the latter. Now imagine that scenario applying over the whole economy and not just locally. Without redistributive measures to support people who could no longer earn enough for survival - nearly everybody - only rentiers with private means ultimately derived from robot efforts would survive even in the short term once machines could bid more for biofuel than people could for food, and in the longer term that class in its turn would be taken over by robots and legal fictions unless some other redistribution system stopped that.

June 23, 2008 at 7:16 AM  
Anonymous c23 said...

neutrino, robots would kill us all for the same reason we're killing off most other species - not out of an explicit desire to kill other species for its own sake, but because they would need matter and energy, and they can't have it at the same time we do. The difference is that superintelligent machines would be much better at it than we are.

Suppose they covered the earth with solar panels to generate electricity for themselves - where would our food come from? Where would atmospheric oxygen come from?

Or suppose they tear up the Earth's crust to get the 27% of it that's silicon, turn it into solar cells and chips, and send it out to orbit the sun via space elevators (see Accelerando by Charles Stross)?

Given that they would be subject to natural selection just like us - that is, the ones that reproduce themselves will be the ones that predominate - I would expect them to do something like that. Who knows, they might decide to keep us around for inscrutable posthuman reasons, but I see no reason to assume they would.

They don't have to eat organic things to be in competition with us any more than we have to eat field mice to compete with the Spotted Owl. Ultimately, we're all eating sunlight.

June 23, 2008 at 3:10 PM  
Blogger Byrne said...

c23:

Sentient beings can negotiate, so your scenario doesn't work. An alternate version is that they're very ethnocentric, and are going to exterminate humans because of collective interest. But I'm not so sure: robots could probably evolve fast enough to transcend the cartel-protecting behavior that allows humans to be ethnocentric. Any given robot has an incentive to defect, or at least the incentive to alter its preference for group-success over individual success in such a way that it defects.

June 23, 2008 at 3:20 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Robots? Seriously guys, let's dial down the Terminator talk a little and get back to fixing the problem at hand.

June 23, 2008 at 3:43 PM  
Anonymous Saturday's Anonymous said...

g.m. palmer-

Blode and I had a couple counter proposals to MM's monarchial restoration in the comments above the AI talk. Would be intersted in your take.

June 23, 2008 at 4:31 PM  
Anonymous Blode said...

Thank you Saturday, you beat me to it.

I've been mulling over your proposals some more.

First thought: I don't know enough about common law to really be qualified on a lot of this.

Second thought: I agree that I see no reason to make the state itself profit-maximizing. It should be violence minimizing. And the superficially expensive million-a-year pensions would actually add up to very little, while providing real profits to those who make the long journey to power. A year seems like a very short time to learn the job, but of course the jobs would be far simpler than any contemporary legislator, who is expected to draft and judge statutes on hundreds of topics.

So, departing from the profit-maximizing state is a way in which we have sort of abandoned poor overworked Mencius. Our system has lower taxes and all that, but it doesn't answer the charge that it isn't stable, and that someone is going to want to amend the constitution to jerk taxes up so they can give jobs to their friends.

I say, maybe, but I'm not too terribly interested in positing that I have some magical persuasive power with some arbitrary limit. I say, if you could persuade people to accept corporate/neocameralist/Jacobite monarchy, you could easily convince them to accept lower taxes and a constitution guaranteeing it, while firing Congress.

I think Mencius is just a little down on libertarians because they remind him of a historical winner - the UK's Whig Party of the 19th Century. I think he's got a soft spot for losers.

The other part we haven't talked about is Mencius's plan for nationalizing the technically-non-governmental parts of the Cathedral, asserting property rights over their names, and privatizing them. Whew!

My counterproposal would be setting up a counterstructure that would certify people based exclusively on objective measures - standardized tests, criminal background checks, and credit ratings. Imagine Equifax and the Educational Testing Service rolled into one. The idea would be to create an alternative to the mediocrity and credentialism of the institutional education system - show up the degreed elite at their own game. Direct smart kids away from getting BS degrees and toward getting apprentice-type education in a huge variety of fields (not just tech-voc). Give the autodidacts and home-schoolers the respect they deserve. Turn the cream of the Vaisya into a new cognitive aristocracy.

But geez, I just made that up like an hour ago.

June 23, 2008 at 5:24 PM  
Anonymous Lugo said...

In a profit-maximizing society robots will kill us all!

If you want to be depressed, read this book. He thinks it's pretty much a done deal that humanity will eventually be mostly killed, and the remainder enslaved, by our robot overlords.

Perhaps 500 years afterwards there will be some robot historians who decry robotic imperialism and genocide... nah, no chance, robots would never be that irrational.

June 23, 2008 at 5:47 PM  
Anonymous Saturday's Anonymous said...

Blode-

MM believes that minarchism is a good idea that has never worked. However, he also goes on to say that neocamerelism was never possible either, but is now via the invention of cryptographic weapon locks. Will if so, why couldn't the cryptographic weapon locks be used to enforce minarchy?

Overall, I agree with Mencius that the Constitution has a number of statist ratchet effects built in. But I think it could still be possible to re-engineer it to fix those bugs, rather than rewriting from scratch.

The goal of the system I wrote about was to counter the ratchet effects:

1) The ultimate overseers ( the Continental Council), would not be a permanent political class. They would be elected right out of their professions as doctors, engineers, businessmen, etc. spend a year on the council, and then go back to civilian life. Thus they would have no incentive to increase the state's power, because they would not benefit from it.

2) The council members would be elected in a way far less susceptible to manipulation. The entire election would happen within a week, and has so many elements of chance to it, it would be impossible to promise booty to supporters. Since voting is based only a bio, it would also eliminate demagoguery. The lottery-election eliminates politics, without eliminating democracy.

Also, the lifetime pension and ban on earning any other money eliminates bribery after the fact ( this is very common in Washington today ).


3) An unlimited right to state secession, backed by cryptographic weapons lock, provides a much stronger check on the state power than our current Constitution.

4) Elimination of the "regulating Congress", "general welfare" and "any law necessary" clauses would close a few loopholes. More importantly, by taking away the right to legislate altogether, we'd eliminate a major ratchet that takes away our freedom (it's far easier to pass a law than to take one away). The Continental Court would have no power to regulate the internal affairs of the state, and hopefully any breach of this would be obvious.

5) It would take a 2/3's referendum of property owners to increase the property tax above its Constitutionally set level. It would take only 1/3 vote to lower taxes back to its Constitutionally set level. Hopefully this would provide a counter ratchet, to keep taxes from creeping back up to the Laffer maximum.

Another check that I just thought would be that the commander in chief would receive a life time pension of $30 million a year. Top officers and court justices would also receive very lucrative pensions. However, if events the populace to increase taxes, the pensions would automatically be reduced significantly. This would reduce the incentive of the permanent leadership to provoke crises that enhanced their own power. Requiring an increased budget should be viewed as a failure, not as an event requiring a reward.

The weakness in my system is the asymmetry in information between the council and the permanent leadership ( Continental Court and Commander in Chief). However, hopefully the checks listed above would be enough to protect minarchy.

June 23, 2008 at 7:05 PM  
Anonymous Saturday's Anonymous said...

My counterproposal would be setting up a counterstructure that would certify people based exclusively on objective measures

The hard part is removing all of the state subsidies for education ( which amount to over a half-trillion dollars) and changing the legal licensing requirements for every single profession. Any such attempt will encounter massive, massive scare tactics by the education industry.
Attempts to remove education requirements for professions like lawyers, doctors, architects, teachers, etc will also result in massive lobbying by very, very powerful interests.

That's why I think Mencius is right. The soft reboot is not possible. It's actually more realistic to eliminate Congress altogether, than to expect Congress to pass laws enforcing separation of state and information.

June 23, 2008 at 7:13 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Blode and Saturday's -- I can't get UR at work (I think because of them curse words) but I shall give the proposals full thought tomorrow (I'll email the text files to my email at work and get around it that way).

M

June 23, 2008 at 8:13 PM  
Anonymous Blode said...

Sat-Anon (you sound like a self-help group that way!), I wasn't suggesting the objective certification thing as an alternative to firing Congress and ending education subsidies. I believe in that wholeheartedly. It's just the nationalize-and-privatize-everything-but-the-trademark part that sounds too convoluted and heavy-handed.

What I'm trying to come to grips with is, how to deal with the proggies' weird contention that they support meritocracy when it's patently obvious they just support credentialism and apparatchikism. MM's approach is to blow them up (not literally). My approach is more about sowing skepticism. "If you really support meritocracy and independent thought, why not listen to smart autodidacts instead of folks getting paid to parrot the feel-guilty/feel-good Cathedral line?"

Your point about cryptographic weapon locks is plausible. I know little about them (and I wouldn't support them for ordinary firearms), but I see no reason they'd be any more suitable for bolstering neocameralism than minarchism.

June 23, 2008 at 8:31 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

At least we already have the music for the post-human robotic world of the future.

June 23, 2008 at 9:20 PM  
Anonymous c23 said...

Byrne: Sentient beings can negotiate, so your scenario doesn't work.

There are any number of extinct human ethnic groups that were presumably sentient. They would have had more leverage to negotiate with their successors (they could have offered their labor, for example) than useless humans would have with posthumans.

robots could probably evolve fast enough to transcend the cartel-protecting behavior that allows humans to be ethnocentric.

They could, but it's not clear to me why they would. What evolutionary pressure works against ethnocentric behavior? For humans, I think excessive ethnocentrism ends up alienating too many other ethnic groups and they end up ganging up on you (see Nazi Germany, Sparta) instead of working/merging with you (see Rome, the US). But even we are very ethnocentric, a few PETA types notwithstanding, with regard to our own species vs. other species, which would probably be a more apt comparison to the relationship between humans and posthumans.

Any given robot has an incentive to defect, or at least the incentive to alter its preference for group-success over individual success in such a way that it defects.

That makes certain unwarranted assumptions about the motivations of robots. Humans defect because our degree of relatedness with our parents, sibs, and children is 1/2, 1/4 with our cousins, and practically 0 with our community/race/species. Ants and bees in a colony, OTOH, are practically clones of each other, and are not known for defecting. Who knows what would influence the relationship between individuals and groups in a posthuman society? The distinction, as we think of it, might not even be meaningful.

Even if they do tend to defect, I don't see how defecting and helping their retarded ancestors/creators (us) benefits them, so defectors probably wouldn't help us any more than people who embezzle from their jobs help snail darters. There is no Pareto optimal posthuman scenario that involves the survival of humans, given that machines can utilize resources more efficiently.

Of course, they may keep us around as pets or something. We have no more insight into their theoretical minds than slugs have into ours, other than an assumption that the laws of physics will hold for them too, and that something analogous to Darwin's Postulates holds for anything that can replicate itself with modifications.


g.m. palmer, sorry, but this is all relevant: MM correctly points out that dysfunctional subcultures are bad for business, and should therefore be put in relocation centers, but fails to take this logic to the next level, probably due to his pathological fear of controversy and off-the-charts agreeableness. So I've tried to take the next step for him. To reiterate and clarify the point I've (perhaps ineptly) been trying to make:

A. Relocation centers and other solutions that involve keeping "morlocks" alive are more expensive than simply getting rid of them (or putting them to work in ways that some people may consider unethical, like medical research or organ donation), at least for those who cannot be reformed.

B. Anybody who is a net drain on society is bad for business, even if they don't actively cause trouble like MM's "morlocks," and A applies to them as well.

C. The set of economically unproductive people can be expected to expand as technology improves and replaces their labor. Specifically, if a machine is as smart as you, but costs less to operate, you are economically unproductive.

Assuming a profit maximizing government unrestrained by present notion of ethics, A gives you lots of dead crackheads, B gives you dead losers, and C gives you more dead losers, which in the limiting case includes all humans.

More generally, I think it's relevant to explore what profit-maximizing sovcorps would actually *do*, which has barely been done around here, and certainly not by suitably evil minds.

June 23, 2008 at 10:01 PM  
Anonymous Saturday's Anonymous said...

blode-

Lately I've been spouting anti-federalist/restorationist propaganda to various progressive friends. I've actually noticed that the anti-federalist argument works a lot better than libertarian arguments. Most progressives believe too deep down that without government the masses would be sick and illiterate. They can no more imagine the free market providing such services, than a deeply religious person can imagine how people can be good without believing in the church.

However, when I start to make the argument, "Well, wouldn't you trust Massachusetts to provide healthcare more than Washington? Do you want K-Street to control your healthcare? Do you want people from Mississippi controlling your education policy? Do you want Texans voting to send your kids to war?" I get a surprising amount of interest in anti-federalist/secessionist ideas.

I also find the Fugitive Slave clause a great rebuttal against people who associate secession with slavery. Had the Constitution with that clause never been ratified, it would have been unlikely that slavery could have lasted until 1860.


I also get a lot of agreement about the idea of the University as the modern version of the state church.

Separation of schooling and credentialing does resonate among recent graduates. When I remind law students that in Lincoln's day, people did not have to shell out $250,000 grand and spend seven years in school to become a lawyer, suddenly restoration seems like a pretty good idea. Then I tell them that many great buildings of the 19th century were architecture by high school drop outs who learned the trade through apprenticeship. Today, architects must pay $150,000 for a three years masters, which teaches them about "aura" and indoctrinates them in post-post-modern design, but teaches them nothing about how to actually build buildings ( they learn that on the job). And for all that education, the buildings today suck compared to the 1800's.

I still can't imagine a bill enforcing separation of schooling and credentialing getting through Congress, but it does seem to be a good avenue for opening people's eyes to restorationist thought.

June 23, 2008 at 10:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If AI and robots are indeed to be the topic, I have some qs.

If artificial intelligence can be invented, why not artificial conscience?

If profit-maximizing AIs can be invented, why not non-profit maximizing? The compys I deal with make profit-limiting decisions all the time, mainly because their programmers can't figure out how to make them maximize profit. Does this add up to the strong AI definitely maximizing profit for some reason I can't figure out?

What's wrong with "I, Robot" style limitations?

June 24, 2008 at 7:25 AM  
Blogger Leonard said...

The set of economically unproductive people can be expected to expand as technology improves and replaces their labor. Specifically, if a machine is as smart as you, but costs less to operate, you are economically unproductive.

This is untrue. We can see that by using the normal Moldbuggian means: examination of the past. 200 years ago, 97% of the American people were farmers. These days, about 2% are. Thus, according to your logic roughly 95% of us are superfluous inasmuch as tractors are much better at farm labor than we are.

Do you feel superfluous? I don't.

So: new jobs are invented. People do them. Unless you are wanting to speculate about human-level AI intelligence, then there will always be things to do that AIs can't do. Write books, for example, or movies, or interactive plays. Perhaps in the future, when all physical goods are cheaply constructed by machines, the entire human race will be waiters, musicians, actors, and alternative medicine practioners. (Sort of like Los Angeles is right now for whiterpeople.)

As for full AI, IMO it's silly to speculate about that. They call it the Singularity for a reason. Among other things, passing through the Singularity will render any existing government forms obsolete, not to mention current ideologies such as progressivism. (If AIs have constructed heaven on earth for us, perhaps in a Matrix-type setup, what's the point of progressivism? Immanentizing the eschaton is right out, if it already happened.) This blog, if I can be excused for being a bit presumptuous, is clearly about pre-Singularity politics.

June 24, 2008 at 8:33 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Leonard:

Thanks for that -- you beat me to it.

Blode and Saturday's Anonymous:


SatAnon says:
“Ok, here's an alternate solution. I propose a new constitution, to be approved by Constitutional Conventions in 3/4s of the states. . . guaranteeing the right of secession 2) giving the central government no power to make policy or affect the actual lives of people and 3) eliminating popular elections and the entire political class - this constitution will ensure that the minarchist state will be a stable equilibrium.”
Right on.
Blode, formerly Not Moldbug said...
“Okay G.M. Palmer, let's give MM the benefit of the doubt and try to work on selection methods. .. Taxpayer status required of all voters. Similar in principle to "shareholder status required when electing the board of directors".
Good start
“Bans on political parties. American framers may have done so if they hadn't construed freedom of expression quite so broadly”
Difficult to accomplish
“We'll start with HOAs/neighborhoods.”
But you'd have to correct for the inherent abuses in HOAs. Not a bad start, though.
“At the top levels of the judiciary, you could start empowering the executive/legislative side to pick from a list of candidates, if you wanted judicial philosophy to be "steerable" by the folks who write the laws. (No reason, IMHO, to do that at the lower levels, where patronoage opportunities are greater and philosophy is less important due to the appeals powers of higher courts.)”
What's the reason to do this at any level? I suppose it depends on the sort of test you're writing.
“Some libertarian / Articles of Confederation-style caveats: no government should be allowed to stop someone moving away from its jurisdiction, least of all the national level. None of the higher levels of government should be allowed to stop someone passing through. All of them should be allowed to stop someone moving in for whatever reason. This creates a wonderful effect of competing for good people by making your area attractive.”
Yeah, SatAnon's "must be able to secede at any time" is a fairly important part of things.
“One thorny issue: Exiles?”
Exiles are an interesting problem. A jurisdiction should have control over its population (or, rather, over its uncivilized population) – it seems that exile and a penal system could serve the same purpose. I think the solar farms in New Mexico would be a good idea. . .
“Another issue I'm chewing on is, how exactly is my system different than the reviled European Union? No political parties in the NVPS, of course, and no lotteries in the EU. But the mystery of a European Council of Ministers, serving at the pleasure of sovereign national governments, cheerfully transferring power from their bosses to Brussels...? It's a process that everyone seems to hate and no one seems to be able to stop.”
"Different from," dear Blode. :)

“Call me naive, if you want, but it does seems like the current system could stop the slide in power. Your European Subsidiarity Party could take over the EP and threaten to sack any Commission that tried to increase its own power. Or the Council of Ministers could start smacking down Commission self-aggrandizement. Or whatever. A change in voter attitudes is all that would be required, unlikely as that may be.”
I think the popular referenda rejections in the EU demonstrate its inherent shakyness

“I think the EU may be a product of some atavistic longing for the Holy Roman Empire, or the Roman Roman Empire, or something.”

What else could it be?
Saturday's Anonymous said...
Blode-


“After reading Leoni's Freedom and the Law, I agree with Mencius that the entire legislative branch was fundamentally a mistake. There really is no good reason to have legislative law.”
It's interesting but the above sentence is really the first time I've heard the idea expressed. I can't think of a refutation.

“There's also no good reason for any kind of management/policy making above the city state level. That's why in my proposal ( above ) I did away with both the executive and legislative branches!
There's only the judicial branch and the military, both who are kept in check by a rotating set of councilors, elected in the Venetian model.

I also think the right to secession is absolutely vital for any new Constitution.”
Completely true. It's the only way to enforce compliance.
Blode said...
“A. Freedom of movement.”
Between states? There would have to be. That would be the biggest reason to set up the confederation or whatever you would call it.

“B. "An quick election ( within a day) with only the 50,000 allowed to vote, would narrow it down to 10,000." Wow. That's fast. I'm trying to work out how it is done ... maybe local areas of 100 or so first-tier electors pick 20 or so to go to the next level? I don't think it would be too valuable to have people voting for unknowns, but I suppose a day is long enough for each candidate to give a nice speech about their philosophy.”
This is similar to what the GOOOO people are/were trying to do in trying to elect representatives. I think a day might be too brief (can you read 50k profiles in a day?) but a week certainly would be the longest I would stretch things out.
“C. MM-style self-assessed taxes: how do you reply to the charge that this would encourage people to damage their own property in ways they would care less about than the average buyer? I.e., building a house no sane person could navigate, so any buyer would have to factor in the costs of razing and building a new house? I'm not so sure that the traditional tax assessment process is so terrible.”
Then those people would be morons. Most house value is the property anyway. My house is more structurally sound and larger than either of my two very good, nearly the same age, similar demographic friends. They live on the other side of town from me. My house is worth about $180,000. Theirs are worth about $300,000. That extra $120,000 is all land (my land value is something like $40,000 according to my taxes). That is, even with a tent and nothing else, their property would be worth $160,000. – so even if they were crazy and made their house an unlivable maze it would still be worth nearly as much or more than mine (i.e. we'd pay about the same in taxes). Also, you're not taking into account how market value is determined – which is nearly always highest and best use. One thing that MM's tax scheme would create that is totally awesome is a revitalization of blighted neighborhoods – as the taxes would be a heck of a lot lower.

“D. 50 different foreign policies ... really?”
I think 50 (or 500) different trade policies might work. I also think that competition and the market would ensure that the policies would be quite similar in function, if not wording.
“Saturday's anonymous, you raise good points. I forgot to mention Constitutionally-limited tax rates, which would limit the size of the bureaucracy if not its scope. Also I left out the right of secession by mistake (since of course that one never caused any problems, except that one back then...).”
Which, of course, was a problem created by the Federal government. . .

“I forgot a tax question - are all levels of government limited to property taxes, or just the Federal?”
I would think that sales taxes might be okay, especially for a state like Florida in which much of the revenue comes from tourism – for a long time I've advocated a two-tiered sales tax scheme for Florida in which Florida residents (holders of Drivers Licenses) pay a lesser rate than tourists. It would help to alleviate the costs that the free-moving peoples of the confederation incur when they use your state's roads and services without paying taxes there.

“As to throwing out legislative law - statute - are we talking about a system in which military law is made unilaterally by the Commander? Let me think that over too.”
Nope. SatAnon says: "The council could also veto decisions to go to war," which means you'd have to get their permission.

“This seems only a little formalist, and not at all Jacobite, but I think you may have cooked up an enticing meal for old Mencius should the sour milk not have killed his appetite. If there is such a thing as food for thought, I am facing serious brain obesity here.”

We should email him and say "be sure to read this week's comments" – or better, post that on blogs he comments on. . .
June 21, 2008 3:41 PM
Saturday's Anonymous said...
blode-

“For the election, I was envisioning that each candidate would create some kind of application. It would include test scores, a resume, recommendations verified by the election administration, and a set of essays. After the initial lottery, each candidate remaining would receive a package of 10 randomly assigned applications from other candidates. The candidate would then rank each application, and submit the results. The candidates with the top 20% of overall votes would then move on to the next round. This could be all done within a day. There would be no speeches - we want someone with a solid resume, not a messiah :-) The council members do not need any special abilities or expertise. They simply need enough sense to keep the judiciary and the military honest. The election needs to be quick to prevent any opportunity for bribery.”
That's damn brilliant. I would say two days then. You know, time for googling.
“Thus I'm thinking it would be better to let trade and immigration policies be left to agreements worked out by the individual states. It's a really tough question though, and I'll have to give it more thought.”
You're right on trade but wrong on movement between states – that's got to be pretty pain free. The EU isn't a bad example here (or at least, the EU as I experienced it between Italy, Austria, Germany, France, and Spain in 2006)
Blode said...
“First, tax assessment must be transparent, and must be free of obvious fraud.”
It would be – you set your own value based on market price.

“Second, tax assessors and procedures should be chosen by states.”
As they are now. Really, the market/assessor valuation system works pretty damn well. Heck, we could keep the system pretty much as it is with sites like Zillow for oversight.
“The states would have little incentive to overvaluing property, and in fact may have some incentive to undervalue it instead, since in doing so they could attract new residents.”
This is what they already do. . .
“(Also, they'd run the risk of some company buying their home and charging admission.)”
Exactly. You can't price your house below market unless you want to sell it because there are always, always buyers.

“A side benefit of this whole self-assessment thing is that it would finesse all the eminent domain battles. If you lived in the middle of a logical place to put an interstate, you'd either have to sell or pay big taxes - no rascally Kelo decision needed.”
Interesting point. Eminent domain as it exists today would stop. The state would just have to buy your property at whatever price you set (and are willing to pay taxes on). That's another thing – how frequently would you be able to change value? Monthly? Quarterly? Yearly? Two Years? Five?
“Gee whiz Saturday, I think you may need a blog. I suppose I need one too....”
While you're planning, read mine (shameless plug)
“I suppose states could have Migration Cops that would target crack dens and the like; anyone they couldn't convict, they could evict, and maybe at that point they evictees would lose some freedom of interstate travel.”
But under the new scheme of taxation, crack dens wouldn't exist. Either the property values would become arbitrarily low (upon reflection, I think you should set prices quarterly and if you don't the value should be immediately set to 50% of market) and the properties would get bought or the crack heads wouldn't pay taxes and the property would be seized, revalued, etc.
“I really don't like the idea of border checkpoints between states. Instead, you could just make it a crime to return to a state you'd been evicted from - probably a fairly easy conviction to get - and then make convicts pay their debts to society through actual productive work.”
“First thought: I don't know enough about common law to really be qualified on a lot of this.”
But this is unqualified reservations. . .
“Second thought: I agree that I see no reason to make the state itself profit-maximizing. It should be violence minimizing.”
I agree. That's always been the oddest thing about MM's proposal. Perhaps he sees something we do not. Mencius? Oh Mencius?
“And the superficially expensive million-a-year pensions would actually add up to very little, while providing real profits to those who make the long journey to power. A year seems like a very short time to learn the job, but of course the jobs would be far simpler than any contemporary legislator, who is expected to draft and judge statutes on hundreds of topics.”
Even after 100 years (if everyone lived), the payroll would only be $900,000,000.
“So, departing from the profit-maximizing state is a way in which we have sort of abandoned poor overworked Mencius. Our system has lower taxes and all that, but it doesn't answer the charge that it isn't stable, and that someone is going to want to amend the constitution to jerk taxes up so they can give jobs to their friends.”
It doesn't necessarily have lower taxes, just simpler ones. Certainly they can't do this on the Federal level – unless you're talking military jobs. But I see no purpose in giving anyone any decision over military jobs. That can all be done through physical and mental testing.
“I think Mencius is just a little down on libertarians because they remind him of a historical winner - the UK's Whig Party of the 19th Century. I think he's got a soft spot for losers.”
Isn't that a reversal of your previous position? ;)

“The other part we haven't talked about is Mencius's plan for nationalizing the technically-non-governmental parts of the Cathedral, asserting property rights over their names, and privatizing them. Whew!”
I think it’s a fine solution.
“My counterproposal . . .Turn the cream of the Vaisya into a new cognitive aristocracy.”
Sounds good but leaves the power structures in place.
Saturday's Anonymous said...
“The hard part is removing all of the state subsidies for education ( which amount to over a half-trillion dollars) and changing the legal licensing requirements for every single profession. Any such attempt will encounter massive, massive scare tactics by the education industry.
Attempts to remove education requirements for professions like lawyers, doctors, architects, teachers, etc will also result in massive lobbying by very, very powerful interests.”
And yet, this is what we need to do. Which is why:
“That's why I think Mencius is right. The soft reboot is not possible. It's actually more realistic to eliminate Congress altogether, than to expect Congress to pass laws enforcing separation of state and information.”
Is correct.

June 24, 2008 at 9:45 AM  
Blogger Leonard said...

GMP -- those quotes with your text interspersed are really hard to read. I suggest using italics to quote with here, as the best device of a rather limited set.

As for why the neocameral state would be profit-maximizing: because it's a shareholder-controlled corporation. The shareholders expect to get dividends, and they will use their control to push the management to maximize profits so as to generate dividends.

Now, it's true that not all shareholders would care only about money, especially if they were large enough shareholders to be set for life. Also, if they happened to live within the territory of the state, then they'd have the additional incentive to want to use the corporation to raise social status of shareholders. But these things aside, assuming most shareholders don't live on the premises, and that shares are fairly broadly held, I think a neocameral corp would be focused primarily on profit.

June 24, 2008 at 11:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If artificial intelligence can be invented, why not artificial conscience?

What's wrong with "I, Robot" style limitations?


Some robots may have that, but they're not the ones to worry about. The ones to worry about are the ones that are designed by humans autonomously to hunt and kill other humans. In such cases, a "conscience" is not merely superfluous but a positive disadvantage.

June 24, 2008 at 1:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Management is more than just talk, but can you call the Obama campaign anything but a successful operation? The graphic design alone is brilliant.

The Obama Seal may have been a mistake politically, but you gotta love the design! So pretty!

June 24, 2008 at 6:17 PM  
Anonymous GE_We_Implode said...

***
You'd probably be better off to work them to death in a GULAG-style work prison. Same goes for anybody who is not expected to be terribly productive. People who can't even do that would simply be killed - perhaps their bodies could be used as fish food or fertilizer. Is there much of a market for necrophilia porn? Mencius may be soft-hearted, menstruating vagina, but Jack Welch would do it.
***

Jack Welch is a pathetic animal who destroyed GE.

I understand his c*ck size leaves your servile mind completed dominated and panting, but he was an incompetent animal. When high-pressure bully boy tactics didn't work, he failed. Utterly.

If he had been "running-into-the-ground" a slightly smaller company where bully-boy tactics worked less effectively, he would have failed even more miserably.

http://finance.yahoo.com/echarts?s=GE#symbol=GE;range=5y

GE, we implode

June 24, 2008 at 6:21 PM  
Blogger Noumenon said...

In response to your shameful confession that you have not been reading the comments, I have to let you know that I have not been reading the posts.

But seriously, you should disclose that you're not reading the comments because that means commenting is just a big waste of time.

June 25, 2008 at 2:56 AM  
Anonymous Blode said...

Now noumenon, GM Palmer and Saturday's Anonymous and the rest of us have been having a jim-dandy time talking about killer robots and tax assessment! To paraphrase that silly-but-fun Gladiator movie, "Are you not entertained?"

Leonard, you're right about italics vs. quotes. (I know you weren't talking to me, but I was informed.) In regards to the profit-maximizing state, must of us know why MM advocates it, and how he'd implement it, we're just questioning that it's (a) the lynchpin of stability and (b) a good idea (meaning an idea not likely to get us all turned into robotfood).

GM Palmer, so many interesting points in there. I'll think about all of them and reply in detail if I think of something wortwhile.

BTW, it was me who posted the anonymous "I, Robot" question above. My mistake for leaving off Blode. Yes, terminator-style killerobots do scare me a little, but there are all sort of nearer threats on the horizon, you know, like that guy on the corner in Las Vegas. My hope is that they will be just to freaky to contemplate, and the technological possibilities will go undeveloped, or at least unused (like gas in WWII, though that was quite a special case). Here's hopin'!

June 25, 2008 at 4:23 PM  
Blogger George Weinberg said...

Leonard writes:
As for why the neocameral state would be profit-maximizing: because it's a shareholder-controlled corporation. The shareholders expect to get dividends, and they will use their control to push the management to maximize profits so as to generate dividends.


Well, the managers wouldn't be able to do things that were clearly contrary to the interests of the owners, but that's a long way from acting precisely in the interests of the owners all the time. In Managerial Revolution (a book I read on Mencius' recommendation) the author argues not only that "democratic" states are run by and in the interests of "civil servants", but also that public traded companies are largely run in the interests of management and the stockholders are a bunch of putzes.

June 25, 2008 at 7:17 PM  
Blogger Leonard said...

George, I haven't read that book so I can't comment. However, for the purposes of evaluating the attractiveness of neocameralism, I don't think it matters that corps are to some degree overcompensating their managers. It's whether they are fundamentally deranged, which they are not.

June 25, 2008 at 8:21 PM  
Anonymous Those_Poor_Old_People said...

You ignore the real producers real concerns. This is because you have no more understanding of them than you would an alien from Mars.

Yahoo Search:
"Gary Kildall" + "Bill Gates" + stole

The new idiot chatter is "Win/Win". Because you see, intelligence is, in and of itself, intelligence. And we are quite aware that one of us who is "smarts" will give the rich 95% of our idea. Or the rich will steal it all.

Here is a simple equation:
Zero Work Performed=Zero Work Wasted

(Zero Products)*(95% for wealthy)=Nothing for Wealthy

It computes. So we gots the problem of 5%/95% shuts down them selfish egg-heads. So let's yose 10%/90%. You know, Win/Win.

Personally, I agree, though, that 1% for inventors/99% for rich would lead to UTOPIA.

I especially appreciate that we are supposed to subsudize the Greatest Generation and the Boomers. Let them be liquidated by Leviathan. Past experience in Argentina and Russia indicates they will whine a little and then lay down and die. And it's not like they will EVER support anything that benefits us. Thats just stupid.

June 28, 2008 at 9:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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November 6, 2008 at 2:28 PM  
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January 31, 2009 at 10:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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March 2, 2009 at 10:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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March 2, 2009 at 10:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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March 6, 2009 at 6:37 AM  

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