Thursday, June 26, 2008 96 Comments

OLXI: the truth about left and right

Dear open-minded progressive, perhaps you were horrified by OLX.

I mean, I did propose the liquidation of democracy, the Constitution and the rule of law, and the transfer of absolute power to a mysterious figure known only as the Receiver, who in the process of converting Washington into a heavily-armed, ultra-profitable corporation will abolish the press, smash the universities, sell the public schools, and transfer "decivilized populations" to "secure relocation facilities" where they will be assigned to "mandatory apprenticeships." If this doesn't horrify you, I'm not sure what would.

And do I even mean it seriously? Or am I just ripping off Daniel Defoe? Dear open-minded progressive, perhaps you have come to realize that your narrator is not always a reliable one. He has played tricks on you in the past. He will probably do it again. The game is deep, and not for the unwatchful.

The first thing to remember is that by even reading these horrible, horrible things, you have demonstrated exactly how open your mind is. You are in the 99.99th percentile of open-minded progressives. You are certainly one of the most open-minded people in the world. Your only conceivable worry is that your mind is so open that your brain has fallen out. Obviously this is a real danger. But life is dangerous.

The second thing to remember is that no one else endorses this plan. Or even anything close. In the political world of 2008, restorationism is completely off the map. It is off the table. It is outside the room. It is outside the building. It is running stark naked and crazy through the woods. In a word, it is pure moldbuggery.

And because at present we do live in a democracy, this means it is not dangerous. At least not at present. It could become dangerous, of course - perhaps if UR was as popular as Stuff White People Like. Which it ain't, and which it won't be. But what better reason to keep an eye on it?

The third thing to remember is that the whole plan of restoration through national bankruptcy is predicated on the assumption that the bankruptcy administrator - the nefarious Receiver - is responsible, effective, and not least sane. Clearly, if he or she turns out to be Hitler or Stalin, we have just recreated Nazism or Stalinism. Even if you agree with me that Washington is the malignant tumor of the ages, morally, intellectually and financially bankrupt, dead in the water and drifting toward Niagara, you can't cure cancer with cyanide and LSD.

And the fourth thing to remember, dear open-minded progressive, is that if perhaps you can be convinced that some things you used to think were good are actually evil, you can be convinced that some things you used to think were evil are actually good. After all, you do have an open mind. No sensible mind is very open on this side of the skull, though, and for good reason. If there is a crack, it is a narrow one. What hopes to fit it must fit a postcard.

So let's swing straight at the ball: the problem of political alignment. Should you be leftist, a rightist, or a centrist? Perhaps we can answer the question from first principles.

Suppose a great wind whips us into space, and sets us down on an Earthlike planet, Urplat, which is completely foreign to us. We quickly discover that Urplat has a democratic political system just like ours. Moreover, Urplat's political thinkers are always squabbling, just like ours. And even better, an Urplatian position in this longstanding conflict can be described usefully by a single linear dimension, just like our "left" and "right."

However, the political axis of Urplat is transformed in some unknown way from ours. Its poles are not left and right, but M and Q. You have no way of knowing how M and Q might map to Earth terms. MQ could be left-right, or right-left, or some other weird thing.

What you know is that M and Q are contradictory principles. Each is some fundamental understanding of human society which indisputably contradicts the other. Of course, it is possible for any person to maintain some combination of M beliefs and Q beliefs - most simply, by using the M-principle to understand one issue and the Q-principle for another. This creates the weird phenomenon of a continuous dimension between M and Q, when the question obviously has a fundamentally boolean quality.

Furthermore, M and Q can be easily misapplied. And either can be combined with any sort of venal or sadistic nastiness. Thus, evaluating the actions of individuals who claim to follow the M or Q principles is not a straightforward way to evaluate the choice between M and Q.

We know there is a choice, because we know that at most one of M and Q can be good and true. We must therefore conclude that the other is evil and wrong. Of course, both could be evil and wrong. If we find that one is evil and wrong, we should do another checkup to ensure that the other is good and true. But if we find that one is good and true, the matter is settled - the other is the dark side of the force.

Moreover, the choice matters - because on Urplat, humans have special Jedi powers. Only we can wield the weapon of the Urplatin Jedi, the Iron Mouse. And it takes both of us - you, dear open-minded progressive, and me the closed-minded reactionary. If we can agree, we can either end the conflict permanently in favor of M or Q, or any mixture of the two. Any dissent will be promptly silenced by the Mouse.

So what criteria can we use to decide between M and Q? The many followers of each great way, of course, are lobbying us with beluga and Porsches and blondes. Or at least the Urplatin equivalent of these fine goods. Nonetheless, we are stern, and will choose only the truth.

A simple test (a) might be to take a vote. If more Urplatins prefer M, their planet will be governed for the indefinite future on the M-principle. If they favor Q, likewise.

But, frankly, this is shite. If Q is evil and the Urplatins vote for Q, we have just condemned them and their children to a world of infinite suffering. Past Q-ist movements have perhaps been tempered by a modicum of M, mere personal decency, or mitigating venality. But if we enforce Q with the Iron Mouse, there will be no escape. If Q is wrong, wrong shall result. You may not have a problem with this, but I do, and it takes both of us to move the Mouse.

And is there any way in which we can guarantee that the headcount of Urplatin supporters corresponds to the absolute truth or falsity of M or Q? Answer: no. Many, perhaps even most, of the Urplatins are dumb as rocks. Therefore, this test is not useful.

A simple way to fix the test - (b) - is to restrict the vote to Urplatins who are at least as smart as whichever of the two of us is dumber. That way we cannot possibly agree to describe any voter as "dumb as a rock." The description is inherently insulting to one of us.

So we are only considering the view of smart Urplatins. Even better, if we see a difference between smart Urplatins and dumb Urplatins, we can penalize whichever principle, M or Q, is popular with the dumb ones. If we see that Q is generally believed by the smarter Urplatins and M is more popular with the dumb ones, we pretty much have the answer. Right?

Okay. Let's assume Q is the smart position and M is the dumb position. We know one fact about Urplat. Does this tell us that Q is good and true, and M is wrong and evil?

At the very least, this proposition depends on the intelligence of Urplatins. If a dumb Urplatin has an IQ of 80, in Earth terms, and a smart one has an IQ of 120, we can pretty easily see that on any question on which they might disagree, the latter is more likely to be right.

Or can we? How do we know this? And is our result the same if the IQs are, say, 120 and 160 respectively? What about 160 and 250? Surely it is neurologically possible for an Urplatian to have an arbitrarily high intelligence, at least as measured by any human scale.

And if the proposition is true for stupid = 160 and smart = 250, it means that an Urplatin with an IQ of 160 can be fooled by whichever of M or Q is evil and wrong. If so, one with an IQ of 120 can surely be fooled. Since one can never be so stupid that one can't discover the truth by throwing darts, it is therefore possible for the Urplatins of IQ 80 to be right and those of IQ 120 to be wrong, which violates the proposition. So we cannot learn that M or Q is right or wrong, just because the smart Urplatins follow Q and the stupid ones cling to M.

However, this fact does tell us something: Q is more competitive than M.

Think of Q and M as two populations of parasites, competing for a one population of hosts. Ignoring the fact that Urplatins can harbor a mixture of Q and M perspectives on different subjects, or simply not care, simplify the problem by imagining that each Urplatin has a boolean flag: Q or M.

Although neither Q nor M may have any central organizing body responsible for the propagation of Q-ism or M-ness, if there was such an intellectual central planner, it would choose the smart hosts over the less-smart ones. If you're a sexually transmitted virus, you want to be in a promiscuous gay host, preferably an airline steward. If you're an intellectually transmitted principle, you want to be in a smart and loquacious host, preferably a university professor.

We expect to see some corollaries of this Q-M asymmetry, and we do. If smart people are more likely to host Q, we'd expect Q to be more fashionable than M. If you want to get ahead in life, acting smart is always a good start - whether you're smart or not. If smart people tend to host Q, hosting Q is a great way to look smart.

Q becomes a kind of social lubricant. Anywhere, any time, the best way to meet and mate with other young, fashionable people is to broadcast one's Q-ness as loudly and proudly as possible.

Also, if Q is more competitive than M, we'd expect to see Q progressing against M over time. Again, this is exactly what we see. The M-Q conflict is at least a hundred years old, and when we exhume the frozen thoughts of century-old Q-ists from dusty old libraries, their specific beliefs would put them deep in the M range - often at extreme M levels - if they lived today.

But does any of this answer the question? It does not. At least one of Q or M is darkness. But we cannot tell which.

If Q is the dark side and M is mere sanity, we see immediately what Q is: a transmissible mental disease, which spreads by infecting education workers. If Q is mere sanity and M is the dark side, this same system is in the business of overcoming superstition and leading the people of Urplat, despite the ancient prejudices to which they stubbornly cling, toward the truth. And this is certainly how Q-ists see the matter.

And if they are both evil? But this is difficult to imagine. If both M and Q are dark, there must be some truth which contradicts them both. And it must be less successful than either M or Q.

To a Q-ist, the situation makes perfect sense. The progress toward Q is the slow and painful victory of good over evil. Evil has many advantages, because it can avail itself of evil strategies, whereas the good restrict themselves to achieving good ends by good means. However, the truth has a great advantage: it rings clear, like a bell. No lie can fake it.

There is just one small problem with this explanation. We would expect M to disappear much more quickly than it already has. If M is a lie and it is socially disadvantageous to express it, why, after 200 years, do we still have M? All the cards are stacked against it.

Whereas if Q is a lie and M is the truth, we have all the ingredients for an eternal soap opera. Q has the snaky suppleness of mendacity, its tasty apple flavor, its stylish and sinful delights. M has the rigid backbone of a truth that can be suppressed, but never quite crushed, that reappears spontaneously wherever men and women, often of the socially awkward subspecies, have the misfortune to think for themselves.

We've constructed what Professor Burke would call a "narrative." But, compared to the level of tough thinking that we'd need to actually demonstrate that Q is the dark side and M is the light, our narrative has the strength of tissue paper. It is enough for suspicion, and no more.

Therefore, we need to pull the veil aside and (c) look at what M and Q actually mean.

Note that we are still on Urplat - we are not claiming that M and Q correspond to right and left, or left and right, or anything of the sort. We are just devising abstract meanings for M and Q that could, on this imaginary planet we've made up, correspond to the facts we've stipulated: M and Q can coexist, M and Q are contradictory, and Q is consistently more fashionable than M.

Our definitions of M and Q revolve around the ancient Urplatin word nomos. If you are for M, you are for the nomos, which makes you a pronomian. If you are for Q, you are against the nomos, which makes you an antinomian. The contradiction is obvious.

Let's start by explaining the nomos and its supporters, the pronomians.

The nomos is the natural structure of formal promises around which Urplatins organize their lives. To a pronomian, any Urplatin should be free to make any promise. In return, he or she can expect to be held responsible for that promise: there is no freedom to break it. All promises are voluntary until they are made, and involuntary afterward. A pair of reciprocal promises, a common phenomenon on Urplat, is an agreement.

The details of individual promises and agreements are infinite, and constantly changing. But the high-level structure of the nomos is a consequence of reality, and it changes little. To demonstrate this point, let's derive the nomos from pure reality.

First, Urplatians are not robots. They breed in families, just as we do. An Urplatian family is based on two agreements: one between the parents of the little Urplatian tyke, and one between the child and its parents.

To a pronomian, the relationship between parents and children is simple. The agreement has only one side. Children promise their parents everything, including complete obedience for as long as the parents require. Parents need make no promise to a newborn infant, because an infant is helpless, and cannot compel any concession. If they choose they can emancipate the child when it comes of age, but if they choose they can require it to serve them all their lives. They even hold the power of life and death over it, again until they relinquish this power. (The pronomian supports both prenatal and post-natal abortion.)

Note that this regime - which does not exactly match the family law of, say, California, but is more or less an accurate description of the situation in early Rome - is optimal for the parents. In other words, parents can have no reason to prefer a legal system which gives them less power over their children. If they want to relinquish this power or even assign it to others, nothing is stopping them.

Note also the asymmetry of the agreement between parents and child. By recognizing the helplessness of the infant, we recognize that it has no choice but to accept any definition of the relationship that its parents may propose. The agreement is a promise in one direction because the child has no power to compel any reciprocal promise.

The pronomian sees these kinds of patterns everywhere in the nomos. There is only one nomos, because there is only one reality. The parameters of parenting do not change. The power dynamics are known. The answer is final.

If men and women, not to mention children, were in all cases honest and trustworthy, they could cooperate without a structure of formal promises. Since they are not, they benefit from formal promises and mechanisms for enforcing those promises. But - to the pronomian - this structure is no more than a recognition of reality.

One of the simplest patterns of agreement is property. Property is a system in which one Urplatin claims the sole power to dominate some good - play with a toy, drive a car, fence off a plot of land - and all other Urplatins promise to respect that right. As with the relationship between parents and infants, the origin of property is the balance of power. In a world which contains no property agreements whatsoever, Urplatins can construct a property system based on the reality of current possession.

Another key pattern is the proprietorship. The marriage we saw above is a simple case of partnership. In general, however, a proprietorship exists whenever multiple Urplatins decide to work collaboratively on a shared enterprise.

There are two ingredients to a proprietorship: collective identity and fractional ownership. Collective identity allows the proprietorship to act as a unit, to make and collect promises of its own. Fractional ownership divides the enterprise into precisely-defined shares, which in an anonymous proprietorship can be traded as property. (It's probably best not to define your marriage as an anonymous proprietorship.)

The natural structure of a proprietorship is that ownership, benefit, and control are synonymous. Ie, if you divide the enterprise into a hundred shares, each share owns a hundredth of the business, receives a hundredth of the profit, and exercises a hundredth of the decision-making power. Of course, it is possible to construct a system of agreements which does not follow this pattern, but in most cases there is no need to. Again, the nomos is not prescriptive; these structures emerge as natural patterns of agreement.

But the most important structure in the nomos is the hierarchy of protection. Protection is what makes all these promises work.

A protector is an enforcer of promises. For some promises in some contexts, protection is not necessary: the cost of breaking any promise may exceed the gain to the promisebreaker. For example, someone who has a reputation for breaking promises may have trouble forming new agreements. This is an unusual condition, however, and not to be relied on. In many contexts - eg, "insider trading" - a broken promise can be worth all an individual's reputation and more.

By definition, above the top level of the hierarchy of protection there is no protector. That top level, therefore, consists of unprotected authorities - typically proprietorships, but sometimes persons. These unauthorities have no authority which can settle their disputes. They must resort to war, which in Urplatin is called the ultima ratio regum - ie, the last resort of unauthorities.

Unauthorities do, however, make promises to each other. For example, an unauthority must possess an area of land to which it maintains exclusive control - an undomain - because its operations must be somewhere. (If it lacks an undomain, it is subject to the protection of some other unauthority, and thus cannot be an unauthority itself.) The undomain of the unauthority is its property because, as described above, all others have agreed to respect it. But it has no protector other than itself.

The key to success as an unauthority is to ensure that no other unauthority has a positive incentive to violate its promises to you. For example, disrespect of property rights - invasion - is the simplest form of unprotected promise violation. To prevent such assaults, an unauthority must maintain the military and political strength to make the assailant regret the decision to attack. Any less punishment is inadequate; any more is vindictive.

An unauthority makes a crucial mistake when it relinquishes the responsibility of protecting itself to another, stronger unauthority. If unauthorities cooperate against a common threat, they should cooperate for a limited time and a specific reason, and their league should be a league of equals. For an Earth example, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Romania make a good defense league. Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and England do not make a good defense league, because the best case of the relationship is that the first three have become protectorates of the last. Ie, they are already halfway to being its property.

Every Urplatin living within an unauthority's undomain is its client. To be the client of an undomain is to promise it absolute and unconditional obedience. No unauthority has any use for internal enemies. Moreover, an unauthority cannot be compelled to respect any promise it may make to its clients - there is no force that can compel it. Clients must rely on the desire of the unauthority to maintain its reputation for fair dealing.

Fortunately, an unauthority is a business by definition - its undomain is capital, on which it naturally desires a maximum return. Its return on the property defines the value of the business, and is defined by the value of the subrights to the same property that it concedes to its clients. If its actions decrease this valuation, the unauthority's own stock goes down. And property in a lawless and mercurial undomain is certainly worth less than property protected by an unauthority which is careful of its reputation.

On the same principle, because an unauthority maintains exclusive control within its undomain, it can and should enforce the promises that its clients make to each other. As we saw in the case of the parents, maximum promise enforcement is optimal customer service. Since the better the customer service, the higher the value of the property, and the higher the value of the property, the higher the value of the undomain, a prudent unauthority will do its best to uphold the nomos.

So, for example, A may promise to B that he will serve B faithfully for the rest of his life, and B may have him whipped if he disobeys. In fact, since parents own their children, A may consign his child C to this same relationship, and so on through the generations. B, of course, presumably makes some promise in return for this remarkable concession.

That's right: we have just reinvented hereditary slavery. We have also reinvented absolutist or "divine-right" monarchy, the jus gentium, and in fact a whole menagerie of blasts from the past. We start to see why not everyone wants to be a pronomian.

(It is a separate discussion, really, but while we're talking about hereditary slavery I can't resist mentioning this book. If your knowledge of the "peculiar institution" is derived entirely from Uncle Tom's Cabin, perhaps it's worth reminding you that Uncle Tom's Cabin was a propaganda novel. It's not quite like getting your views on Jews from Jud Süss, but... and if you prefer modern sources by respected academics, try this remarkably un-presentist presentation, whose agreement with the Rev. Adams is quite impressive.)

Now, let's look at the antinomian side of the ledger.

As you may know, antinomian is actually an English word. (And nomos is Greek. Okay, I lied. But I warned you.) It is usually applied in the archaic sense of religious law, but the derivation is sound, and the word is defensible in the present day.

An antinomian is anyone who seeks, consciously or unconsciously, to disrupt or destroy the nomos. He is a breaker of oaths, a burner of deeds, a mocker of laws - at least, from the pronomian perspective. From his own perspective he is a champion of freedom and justice.

I admit it: I am a pronomian. I endorse the nomos without condition. Fortunately, I do not have to endorse hereditary slavery, because any restoration of the nomos begins with the present state of possession, and at present there are no hereditary slaves. However, if you want to sell yourself and your children into slavery, I don't believe it is my business to object. Try and strike a hard bargain, at least. (A slightly weakened form of pronomianism, perhaps more palatable in this day and age, might include mandatory emancipation at twenty-one.)

So my idea of the antinomian perspective will be a little jaundiced. But I'll try to be fair.

Perhaps the most refined form of modern antinomianism is libertarianism. Libertarianism is a fine example of the antinomian form, because the elements of the nomos that it attacks are specified with the elegant design sense that one would expect from the founder of modern libertarianism - probably the 20th century's greatest political theorist, Murray Rothbard.

Rothbardian libertarianism rejects two aspects of the nomos. First, it rejects the entire concept of the unauthority - in Earth-speak, the principle of sovereignty. Rothbardians are called anarcho-capitalists for a reason: they deny the legitimacy of the state, unless operated according to strict Rothbardian principles. Note that they do not require, say, Disney to operate Disneyland according to libertarian principles. This is because, to a Rothbardian, Disney's title to Disneyland is legitimate, whereas (say) Iceland's title to Iceland is not.

Rothbard has an intricate system, borrowed originally from Locke, for determining whether or not a title is legitimate. To say that this system is unamenable to objective interpretation is to put it mildly. But the titles of existing unauthorities all appear to be illegitimate. This makes libertarianism a revolutionary ideology. Since its antinomianism is so restricted and its lust for blood is minimal, however, it is not an especially dangerous (or effective) one.

Antinomians who reject sovereignty have two main alternatives. Either they support private, amorphous, and even territorially overlapping "protection agencies" (a design whose military plausibility is, to put it kindly, small), or they believe that government is legitimate if and only if it obeys a set of "natural laws." Again here we see the proximity to the pronomian. But the Rothbardian concept of natural law misses the Hobbesian fact that in the true nomos, there is no party that can enforce a state's promises to its clients.

This matters, because legalism without sovereignty has a simple result: the personal rule of judges. The error is to imagine the existence of a superhuman legal authority which can bind a state against itself, enforcing a "government of laws, not men." As the bizarre encrustations of precedent that history builds up around every written constitution demonstrate, this is simply a political perpetual-motion device. All governments are governments of men. If final decisions are taken by a council of nine, these nine are the nine who rule. Whether you call them a court, a junta or a politburo is irrelevant.

Since I am a bit of a geek, though, the Rothbardian interpretation that interests me most is his approach to contract law. Note how Rothbard rejects the idea of binding promises, and is forced to construct impossibly elaborate structures of property rights. If I promise to paint your house, I have really sold you a title to a paint job, and if I do not then paint your house I am guilty of theft for having stolen said paint job. I think.

The Rothbardian design breaks down completely in a frequently-mentioned exception, the case of insider trading. Here is a randomly-Googled example of the kind of Jesuitic Talmudry to which libertarians resort when confronted with this problem. To a pronomian, the answer is simple: if you are to be given material non-public information, you promise to go to jail if you disclose it. Note that this is exactly how it works now. (Note also that to anyone who has ever had a real job, the idea of legal insider trading is transparently ridiculous.)

The tactical error of the libertarian, Rothbardian or otherwise, is to believe that the state can be made smaller and simpler by making it weaker. Historically, the converse is the case: attempts to weaken an unauthority either destroy it, resulting in chaos and death, or force it to compensate by enlarging, resulting in the familiar "red-giant state." The pronomian prefers a state that is small, simple, and very strong. It respects the rights of its clients not because it is forced to respect them, but because it has a financial incentive to respect them, and it obeys that financial incentive because it is managed responsibly and effectively.

All things considered, however, libertarianism is a mild, innocuous form of antinomianism. Let's skip immediately to the writer who may be the most popular philosopher on earth today, Slavoj Žižek. Here we see antinomianism in an almost pure, indiscriminate form, as in this lovely passage:
The Benjaminian "divine violence" should be thus conceived as divine in the precise sense of the old Latin motto vox populi, vox dei: NOT in the perverse sense of "we are doing it as mere instruments of the People's Will," but as the heroic assumption of the solitude of sovereign decision. It is a decision (to kill, to risk or lose one's own life) made in the absolute solitude, with no cover in the big Other. If it is extra-moral, it is not "immoral," it does not give the agent the license to just kill with some kind of angelic innocence. The motto of divine violence is fiat iustitia, pereat mundus: it is JUSTICE, the point of non-distinction between justice and vengeance, in which "people" (the anonymous part of no-part) imposes its terror and makes other parts pay the price - the Judgment Day for the long history of oppression, exploitation, suffering - [...]
The anonymous part of no-part. The big Other. Listen to this scoundrel, this charlatan, this truly evil man. Or buy his book, with its lovely cover. You won't be the first. If I, dear open-minded progressive, ever become as popular on America's college campuses as Slavoj Žižek, you may feel free to expend as much concern over my "secure relocation facilities" as Professor Žižek's rusty old guillotine, which has lost not a drop of its eternal thirst.

Did I mention that I'm not an antinomian? From Rothbard to Robespierre is a long leap, no doubt, but we can observe some commonalities.

Antinomians believe that the present state of affairs is unsatisfactory. So, of course, do I. The nomos is horribly corroded and encrusted with all sorts of gunk. However, the pronomian's goal is to discern the real structure of order under this heap of garbage, scrape it down to the bare skeleton, replace any missing bones, and let the healthy tissue of reality grow around it.

To the pronomian, this structure is arbitrary. Weirdly-shaped borders? Leave them as they are. High taxes? All that tax revenue is paid to someone, who probably thinks of it as his property. Who am I to say it isn't? There are some property structures, notably patent rights, which I (like most libertarians) find very unproductive. If so, the government needs to print money and buy them back. Fortunately, it has a large, high-speed intaglio press.

The pronomian seeks to restore the nomos, whose outlines are clear under the mountain of byzantine procedure, wholesale makework and vote-buying, criminal miseducation, and other horrors of the liberal-democratic state. The antinomian sees many of the same horrors. But he does not share the pronomian's goal: minimizing the reallocation of property and authority. Where the pronomian simply wants to replace the management, reorganize the staff, and discard the inscrutable volumes of precedent that have absconded with the name of law, the antinomian wants to destroy power structures that he conceives as illegitimate.

And, of course, he wants to rebuild them according to his ideals. Unless he is a complete nihilist, which of course some are. But it is the destructive tendency that makes antinomianism so successful. The utopia is never constructed, or if it is it is not a utopia. Success is a precondition to utopia, and success involves achieving the power to destroy.

The most common species of antinomian is, of course, the simple anarchist. The most bloodthirsty and intrusive states of the 20th century were based on a philosophy - Marxism - which saw itself as fundamentally opposed to government. People really did believe that the socialist paradise would be something other than a state.

Near where I live, on one of the most fashionable shopping streets in the world, is an anarchist bookstore. On its side wall is a mural. The mural contains two slogans:
History remembers 2 kinds of people, those who kill and those who fight back.

Anarchism strives toward a social organization which will establish well-being for all.
I am flabbergasted by how revealing these slogans are. History, at least when written by honest historians, remembers one kind of people: those who kill. It also notes that those who kill always conceive of themselves as "fighting back." As for "a social organization," it is simply our old friend, the State.

Thus, anarchism defines itself: it is an attempt to capture the state, and its juicy revenues, through extortion, robbery and murder. When it succeeds, it will distribute the loot among its accomplices, and "establish well-being for all." At least in theory.

As we've seen, the one thing an antinomian cannot abide is a formal and immutable distribution of the revenues of state. He must constantly redistribute, he must wash his hands on the stream of cash, giving to Peter and taking from Paul, or his supporters have no reason to support him. In other words, he is basically a criminal.

Why is antinomianism, this criminal ideology, so popular? Fashionable, even? Why is it such a good fit for Q? Because people love power, and any movement with the power to destroy anything, or even just "change" it, has just that: power.

Antinomianism allows young aristocrats to engage in the activity that has been the favorite sport of young aristocrats since Alcibiades was a little boy: scheming for power. According to this article, for example, there are "over 7500 nonprofits" in the Bay Area, "3800 of which deal with sustainability issues." These appear to employ approximately half of our fair city's jeunesse doree, occupying the best years of their lives and paying them squat. Meanwhile, container ships full of empty boxes thunder out the Golden Gate, along with approximately two trillion dollars a year of little green pieces of paper. However, if you're 23 and all you care about is getting laid, interning at a nonprofit is definitely the way to go.

Amidst all this appalling nonsense, productive people keep their heads down and manage to engage in a few remaining productive pursuits. The nomos endures. Nor, not even if the Good One is elected, will the guillotine and the tumbrils reappear any time soon.

But antinomianism leaves its scars nonetheless. Almost literally.

The simplicity and flexibility of the nomos creates, or should create, an endless stream of "diversity" in the best sense of the word. It's almost impossible to imagine the variety of schools, for example, that would spring up if all parents could educate their children as they saw fit. Structures of voluntary agreement tend to rely heavily on mere personal decision, and the products and services they create tend to embody personal style. For example, one of the many reasons that Belle Epoque buildings tend to be so much more attractive than postwar buildings is, I think, that signoff on the design was much more likely to be in the hands of an individual than a committee.

Antinomianism, with its love for reaching into these structures of private agreement and breaking them to serve some nominally noble purpose, has the general effect of replacing individual decisions with committee decisions, personal responsibility with process, and personal taste with official aesthetics. The final stage is the worst form of bureaucracy - litigation, an invisible tyrant whose arms wrap tighter and tighter around us every year. This is sclerosis, scar tissue, Dilbert, Brezhnev, boredom and incompetence for everyone everywhere.

Most observers interpret bureaucratic sclerosis as a sign of a government which is too powerful. In fact it is a sign of a government which is too weak. If seventeen officials need to provide signoff for you to repaint the fence in your front yard, this is not because George W. Bush, El Maximo Jefe, was so concerned about the toxicity of red paint that he wants to make seventeen-times-sure that no wandering fruit flies are spattered with the nefarious chemical. It is because a lot of people have succeeded in making work for themselves, and that work has been spread wide and well. They are thriving off tiny pinhole leaks through which power leaks out of the State. A strong unauthority would plug the leaks, and retire the officials.

Outside the Communist bloc proper, of course, the ultimate in power leakage and resulting bureaucracy was India's infamous Permit Raj, which still to some extent exists. Needless to say, if the subcontinent was run on a profit basis, the Permit Raj would not be good business. In fact, quite amusingly and with no apparent sense of irony, our favorite newspaper recently printed an article in which the following lines appear:
Vietnam’s biggest selling point for many companies is its political stability. Like China, it has a nominally Communist one-party system that crushes dissent, keeps the military under tight control and changes government policies and leaders slowly.

“Communism means more stability,” Mr. Shu, the chief financial officer of Texhong, said, voicing a common view among Asian executives who make investment decisions. At least a few American executives agree, although they never say so on the record.

Democracies like those in Thailand and the Philippines have proved more vulnerable to military coups and instability. A military coup in Thailand in September 2006 was briefly followed by an attempt, never completed, to impose nationalistic legislation penalizing foreign companies.

“That sent the wrong signal that we would not welcome foreign investment — this has ruined the confidence of investors locally and internationally,” the finance minister Surapong Suebwonglee said in an interview in Bangkok.
The ironies! Of course, perhaps it is not so ironic after all, as perhaps the main reason that the old China Hands, the men (such as Owen Lattimore) who by "manipulating procedural outcomes" gave China to Mao, thought the Communists were the shizzle is that they were obviously so strong. America could really do great things in Asia with the ruthlessly indoctrinated divisions of the PLA on its side, as opposed to Chiang Kai-Shek, who looked like his main interests were opium and little boys.

After fifty million deaths and the annihilation of traditional Chinese culture, what still remains is that strength. There is not much antinomianism in China, which has reduced its totalitarian pretensions to one simple and easily-obeyed rule: do not challenge the Party for power. The result, though profoundly flawed, is the most successful capitalist country in the world. All things considered, it is certainly one of the best to do business in - as the article describes.

And there is another effect of antinomianism: this.



"That's how we do it out here, man!" In my primitive search of the Pravda, I find no evidence that this happened. Therefore, I must conclude that it did not, and the video is faked.

Because imagine the breach of the limes between barbarism and civilization that this would represent! If you could show this video to an American of 1908, he would simply conclude that civilization has collapsed. It has not. It lives. 580 is safe, mostly. I think. This sort of thing simply can't happen.

But it can, and it can go on for quite a while without (probably) affecting my life (too much). Nonetheless, it is not getting better. It is getting worse. And nobody is proposing anything like anything that would fix it - except, of course, for me. And I'm crazy.

So Q, of course, is left, and M is right. That is, M - pronomism - is the essential principle of the political right wing. We very rarely see this principle in anything like its undiluted form. But still: why dilute it? Why look around for partial fixes? Why not cure the problem in one step?

Pure Toryism of this sort has a hidden advantage: it is a Schelling point. True, it is very difficult to persuade people to abandon all of the different strains of antinomianism that have nested in their brain, each of which assures them that a simple restoration of the nomos, with sovereign bankruptcy and a plenary Receiver, is unthinkably "fascist."

However, the eternal problem in organizing any kind of reactionary movement is that if you can get two "conservatives" together in a room, you can generally persuade them to form three political parties. Dissidents by definition are people who think for themselves. They do not have the advantage of the Q-virus, which pulls them all together around the Good One. And like normal people, they tend to disagree.

This is why the search for the essential principle, the nomos, the philosopher's stone of the right wing, matters. If you can persuade those who distrust the system as it is to discard everything, liberal or conservative - not just "diversity," and the Good One, and police who hug criminals, but even the Constitution and the Flag and the World Wars and Democracy and the Pledge and the Bill of Rights and all the rest of that stale mythology - if you can talk your audience down to the bare metal, convince them that their political system is scrap, that it is not even remotely recoverable, and then present them with a single principle of government that is at or near this level of simplicity, you'll have a group of people who are all on exactly the same page.

This, in a word, is organization. And organization is what gets things done. Continue to part 12.

96 Comments:

Anonymous m said...

I think China's way is a lot more realistic: seize power in the name of the people and keep power in politboro or committee form. Note that Europe is also trending in this direction, although it's self-destructing due to the progressivism virus (mainly immigration and international relations) to get there.

June 26, 2008 at 5:54 AM  
Blogger Leonard said...

"Unauthority" is a damned stupid made-up word. In my English (and the Queen's), "un" means negation, and yet you mean a type of authority. Same for "undomain". It means a domain, not a non-domain.

Let me suggest a simple substitution here of "ur" for "un", so that we have "urauthority" and "urdomain".

June 26, 2008 at 7:51 AM  
Blogger Gerard said...

Speaking as one who has read the entire series in one 24 hour period, I have to say that I don't think the MQ sequence is working for your benefit.

It's a tempting device, but I find it does not induce reading but scrolling. You might want to recast the entire passage.

Just a style point, of course, but as we all know "It's the singer not the song" or "The slinger not the schlong."

June 26, 2008 at 8:24 AM  
Blogger Leonard said...

MM, your understanding of anarchocapitalism is rather weak. So, let me hit on a few points.

an unauthority must possess an area of land to which it maintains exclusive control - an undomain - because its operations must be somewhere.

I.e. to you urauthorities are states, full stop. But it is simply, and obviously untrue that an agent must have exclusive control of an area of land in order to operate somewhere. I don't. You don't. And yet we operate. For example you write long screeds about this and that. I criticize them. We can do things that are illegal; this proves that we are not under the control of the US government. And, most importantly, even though both of us usually forbear from doing so for obvious reasons, we can both enforce our will against other people. In fact we can exert a certain level of force against the US Government itself. Of course we cannot beat it, but that's not at issue. The point is the USG does not have "exclusive control".

As for insider trading and its relationship to libertarianism... well, Rothbard was a smart guy, but his version of anarchocapitalism was IMO a bit lacking. If you have to get everyone to agree to libertarian ethics beforehand, it's not going to fly. Much less keeping them agreeing to it. The same criticism holds even stronger for minarchists and other statist flavors of libertarian. In any ideology which depends on natural law, there are always problems found at the edges of it. I.e., rights of children, fetuses, animals. Definition of boundaries -- is it "trespassing" for me to turn a light on if the photons released are flowing onto your land? How about a high-powered laser? And yes, property rights in information.

IMO most ACs today are more in the mold of David Friedman. In his formulation, law itself is something the market can and will provide. It's not fixed by any "natural law", or any other preexisting concept of law that everyone has to agree to. Although, in my opinion human moral sentiments do underlie a hazy sort of natural law and will always be present in any legal corpus found in AC, and probably any legal corpus found anywhere.

The handling of insider trading in AC is quite easy. There are many of your urauthorities in AC (we usually call them "protection agencies"), many of which are available to any given client without having to move. Thus, urauthorities compete to provide the best service, just as Allstate competes with State Farm competes with Progressive, etc. Among other ways in which urauthorities compete, will be the corpus of law they provide. So you can expect that any particular law which a large number of people (as weighed by ability to spend) want, would be available from some protection agency, or many if it was very popular.

Any corporation would be a fool to go with a urauthority which allowed insider trading. This would be non-negotiable for them. So, laws against it would be common -- for urauthorities they use.

But what of random workers? Don't they choose their own urauthority? (Yes, they do.) Wouldn't they get their own urauthorities that say it's OK to do whatever you want with your employer's information? Well, no. Although such law might exist, all corporations would simply make it a condition of employment that employees use urauthorities which enforce laws which legally recognize corporations, which make theft, assault, etc. illegal, and which make insider trading a crime.

See? No mention of "natural law" there. The law is simply what the market demands, regardless of "ethics" or "morality".

I note that you seem to understand the value of competition in reigning in your urauthorities, which is one reason why you advocate a world of 50000 neocameral city-states, and not just one big one. Well, I am taking that same logic and pushing harder.

It's also worth thinking about what would happen to a full neocameral world as liberal-minded people (in the broad sense) got rich and died, and left foundations holding stock in neocameral states. Some of these foundations would not profit-oriented. Some of the neocameral states would let them exist. So they'd grow ever richer... eventually one of them, or maybe even just a rich individual, would get enough stock in a neocameral state to control it. What then? They could lower taxes...

June 26, 2008 at 8:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone see that video before it got removed? What did it show?

June 26, 2008 at 9:26 AM  
Blogger Byrne said...

Unauthorities do, however, make promises to each other. For example, an unauthority must possess an area of land to which it maintains exclusive control - an undomain - because its operations must be somewhere. (If it lacks an undomain, it is subject to the protection of some other unauthority, and thus cannot be an unauthority itself.) The undomain of the unauthority is its property because, as described above, all others have agreed to respect it. But it has no protector other than itself.

This is not necessarily true. For example, consider two unauthorities: Strangelove Security Services stashes nuclear devices in various ships and aircraft, all of which spend their time wandering around areas in which they have the privilege to do so. When a Strangelove client has a particularly intractable dispute, Strangelove's boats, planes, etc. pay a visit, and if that doesn't work they unleash their weapons.

But then consider JT's House Of Mauling. It consists of a server, somewhere, which includes a secure money transfer mechanism allowing anyone to bid on the physical harassment of someone else: they give the zip code of the victim, and the total compensation for the deal, and anyone in the area who has expressed interest in such activities can be automatically contacted by JTHM for details on meting out punishment.

SSS and JTHM can clearly operate in overlapping territories, and even serve the same customers -- one delivers wholesale destruction, and the other sells retail. And there's no reason JTHM wouldn't call on SSS for some services, or vice versa, if those services weren't appropriate to the company's specialties, but were still necessary.

June 26, 2008 at 9:43 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Hell, if we're going to just stereotype the two sides, let's hear it from a progressive's perspective:

There are two political factions, A and B. Members of A believe that all persons have certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Members of B believe that might makes right, or more precisely, that God (the old one or the new one, Freemarket) gives might to those who are right.

Over time, group A has been steadily making progress against group B, largely because of advances in technology that revolutionized the nature of "might." The mighty of the past dominated the unmighty with their superior weaponry, nutrition, and training. Today, the mightiest might is all but useless against the commoners while the average might is more than sufficient to hold off the mightiest indefinitely, or at least long enough to make their conquest unprofitable.

As faction A continues to add new members, largely by expanding the definition of "person," e.g. by including the poor, and blacks, and women, and even homosexuals, faction B must struggle to keep up, admitting defeat over and over again, and taking the previous generation's A beliefs as its own while digging in its heels. Faction B's beliefs, then, are always a generation behind the times, so it's no wonder that most of the smart people side with faction A. People who side with faction B, on the other hand, must believe in the face of overwhelming evidence, that it's possible to move backwards, and that backwards is better. And even worse for B, as A continues to advance, the number of people who would benefit by going backwards (i.e. siding with B) gets smaller and smaller.

Faction B constantly argues that faction A's methods are inefficient and unjust, but that argument has no effect because it begins from a premise that faction A explicitly rejects -- that the powerful deserve the lion's share of the resources.

In foreign policy, faction B follows its might-makes-right philosophy, while faction A annoyingly insists on treating foreigners as "persons." Often, faction B will be able to get a war rolling anyway, either by starting it when A's not paying attention (faction A, being unobsessed with might, are not the war nerds faction B members tend to be) or by pretending that the war is justified under faction A beliefs, for example to liberate foreign persons from foreign might. Occasionally, of course, such justifications are true, in which case there is a war if B wants one (WWII) or not if B doesn't (Rwanda.) (It's harder to convince B that a war defending "persons" is worthwhile unless it's clear that the war will also further B's might.)

June 26, 2008 at 9:49 AM  
Blogger Leonard said...

MM: you like formality. Well, let me put my criticism of your lazy dismissal of anarchocapitalism a bit more formally.

I start with this: that all men have the capacity to exert force against each other. This is true almost regardless of how they are organized or regimented. Only by physically locking each man down can we prevent him from being able to attack others, and exert influence thereby.

You are a formalist. So, if you recognize the anarchic power of each individual man, you should assign him some level of ownership of whatever state supervenes. Yet, you do not. Rather, in your formulation shares in the corp have no relationship to the population. I claim this violates your stated credo, that "ownership, benefit, and control are synonymous".

It seems to me that a formalist should recognize individual power, and therefore incorporate something akin to one-man-one-vote, for at least a minority influence on the urauthority's decision procedures.

June 26, 2008 at 10:17 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

Re. JA's progresive perspective:

All fine and good, except for how the progressive paradigm works in prective. Which is as follows:

Powerful Members of group A wish to improve the station of people hitherto not classified as people. However, they pursue this mission not at their own principled sacrifice, but on the backs of Powerless Members of group B.

An ur-example of this is the Boston judge who ordered cross-town school bussing for the working class Irish while enrolling pulling out his his two daughters fronm the public school system and enrolling them in a private school.

Some cynical Powerful Members of group B have learned to play this game, and have jumped on group A's bandwagon, at least rhetorically.

Examples of this are the GWB Compassionate Conservatives and the Republican open-borders lobby.

June 26, 2008 at 10:48 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

pa:

One point I agree with MM about is:

Thus, evaluating the actions of individuals who claim to follow the M or Q principles is not a straightforward way to evaluate the choice between M and Q.

It's just as true of A and B.

June 26, 2008 at 11:57 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

After this fairly straightforward response last week's comments I call shenanigans that Mencius isn't reading the comments.

More later,
M

June 26, 2008 at 12:30 PM  
Anonymous Solar Union said...

It seems to me that the only principle of nomianism is that might makes right -- agreements are to be kept only because either one party to them has the power to unilaterally coerce compliance, or a third party has the power to do so and is interested in doing so. If the antinomians manage to seize power by assembling a coalition of weaker people whose collective power is greater than that of the formal authorities (or "unauthorities"), what grounds are there -- from a nomianist perspective -- for doing so? As far as I can tell, there are none. The antinomians are acting in a perfectly legitimate nomian manner, even if they claim to be doing otherwise.

Ken MacLeod's "true knowledge" may be of interest here.

June 26, 2008 at 1:59 PM  
Blogger Byrne said...

Solar Union

That criticism applies to any kind of interaction. Obviously, the more powerful party can compel the weaker party, whether this is compelling that party to make good on a deal or to recite from the Little Red Book.

It is ridiculous to presume that every exercise of power is self-justifying.

June 26, 2008 at 2:08 PM  
Blogger Independent Accountant said...

MM:
Have you ever read Earl Mandell House's "Philip Dru Administrator", 1912? You might get something out of it.

June 26, 2008 at 2:15 PM  
Anonymous Ian said...

Anon asked:
> Anyone see that video before it
> got removed? What did it show?

Yeah - I'm curious also.

MM stated:
> Antinomianism allows young
> aristocrats to engage in the
> activity that has been the favorite
> sport of young aristocrats since
> Alcibiades was a little boy:
> scheming for power.

I wondered for years why the brightest, most hip and with it, most up-and-coming, and most ambitious young folks were the ones mouthing off about "equality" the most. Surely, they were the ones who had benefited from the current political/economic system the most. Surely, they were the ones who are best posed to advance steadily and lawfully within the current system as it stands. And, surely, any political system that actually created political- and economic-"equality" would take almost all the power, money, and "vibe" of recent Ivy league grads and distribute it among folks in the shantytowns of Sao Paulo, Lagos, Jakarta, etc.

It took me a while to realize that, as MM says, what these young progressives want is more "equality" for themselves (especially vis the existing corporate and Government leaders they are constantly criticizing (and especially vis the old-money, old-power Optimate caste - oil company and Haliburton execs, Cheney and Rumsfelt, etc)). The young progressives don't want to slowly slog their way up through the ranks of the middle managers at General Motors - they want to be suddenly catapulted from the middle of the social pyramid to the top, as they feel befits people of their ubermench-ly intelligence and competence, the way the Jacobins and Bolshiveks suddenly were. If only there was more "equality", that's of course what would happen - and "equality" is only moral, you know.

I have come to the conclusion that Politics is about the struggle for simple worldly political and economic power - almost always for more for oneself and one's social group - period. No matter what compassionate and utopian rhetoric a person or group employs, that's pretty much what it always boils down to.

Byrne challenged:
> It is ridiculous to presume that every exercise of power
> is self-justifying.

In a way though, that's all political and economic power are - self-justifying power. It's nice to assume that they can be strongly tied to morality, but, as a religious person, I would say that is confusing the transcendent realm (where compassion abides) with the worldly realm (which, in way, is simply about Hobbsean, surivival-of-the-fittest political-and-economics struggle). There can be a middle ground, of course, where worldly pure selfishness is informed by and tempered by such compassionate "spiritual" values as keeping ones word, not being unnessessarily aggressive, etc. But I think it helps to see that power and spirituality/compassion are really two separate things.

It's sort of like how modern progressives, having dispensed with the transcendent or collapsed it into the material, distort our ultimate "spiritual" equality into an impossible imperative for worldly political, economic, intellectual, moral, etc. equality. And, as Balzac said, "equality may perhaps be a right, but no power on earth can ever turn it into a fact" - but they sure can make people's lives hell trying.

June 26, 2008 at 2:35 PM  
Anonymous Blode said...

In foreign policy, faction B follows its might-makes-right philosophy, while faction A annoyingly insists on treating foreigners as "persons." Often, faction B will be able to get a war rolling anyway, either by starting it when A's not paying attention.... - Jewish Atheist

I don't really buy the oft-restated assertion that "in the bad old pre-equality days, lots of people didn't count as people". Bigotry does not necessarily entail dehumanization; it often does, especially in recent history. The idea that if you look down on someone, you must treat them as a non-person, is a fairly recent invention, and misunderstands the kingdom-as-family models common in history.

Still though, you've got me curious ... do you think the people responsible for the Iraq war are generally anti-immigration?

June 26, 2008 at 3:13 PM  
Anonymous Blode said...

Summary of the video, for those not so lucky as me (?):
It is a bunch of folks driving their cars around in circles on the freeway. Seriously. I believe the maneuver is called a "cookie", and that it was invented by a secret cabal of Goodyear and Firestone as a way of shoring up demand.

Midway through, a gent in a baseball hat declares that this, apparently, is the way they do "it" around there, which makes perfect sense to me, because I cannot even conceive any other way of doing "it".

I think the deal is, someone is suggesting that a bunch of cool gangstery types take over the freeway (it's probably Los Angeles; it didn't look much like Niagara Falls or the Klondike) and expropriate it for use by the emancipated proletariat as an arena for cyclical recreational transport.

June 26, 2008 at 3:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JA -
I found your re-imagery remarkable. To wit:
There are two political factions, A and B. [...]

Over time, group A has been steadily making progress against group B,

Your vision includes a time element, and a growth element, notably overtaking what you've termed "the Mighty".

The mighty of the past dominated the unmighty with their superior weaponry, nutrition, and training. Today, the mightiest might is all but useless against the commoners while the average might is more than sufficient to hold off the mightiest indefinitely, or at least long enough to make their conquest unprofitable.


There isn't really much of a sense of moral rightness to this. Oh, you have the nod to "life liberty and pursuit of happiness" at the top, but you swiftly abandon it for the pursuit of power. Its the moral vision of a cancerous growth.

At least MM gives the nomos as a basis. What lies beneath your faction A?

-Mark

June 26, 2008 at 3:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The antinomians are acting in a perfectly legitimate nomian manner, even if they claim to be doing otherwise.

Because, as the nomians claim, following the principles of the nomos is the Natural Order of Things.

The nomians are correct, but the antinomians want to subvert in order to control.

-Mark

June 26, 2008 at 4:00 PM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

blode:

Still though, you've got me curious ... do you think the people responsible for the Iraq war are generally anti-immigration?

Responsible as in Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz? Nah, I don't think they're particularly anti-immigration. Their voting base is, though.


Mark:

There isn't really much of a sense of moral rightness to this. Oh, you have the nod to "life liberty and pursuit of happiness" at the top, but you swiftly abandon it for the pursuit of power. Its the moral vision of a cancerous growth.

No no no. Those are two separate threads. One is the basis for progressive morality -- the idea that all people have certain rights and that the powerful aren't necessarily more deserving of wealth than the unpowerful. The second is a response to MM's observation that progressivism continues to advance, generation after generation. I think that is a direct result of technology.

June 26, 2008 at 8:05 PM  
Anonymous asciilifeform said...

Here is where the entire thesis begins to wobble:


I admit it: I am a pronomian. I endorse the nomos without condition. Fortunately, I do not have to endorse hereditary slavery, because any restoration of the nomos begins with the present state of possession, and at present there are no hereditary slaves.


Somehow, now (as opposed to, say, 1850, or 1950) is the perfect time to slam the brakes on Whiggery. I dare say this smacks of "I've got mine, now...," Mr. Moldbug.

The (enormously entertaining) series begins by pointing out the folly of Left Wing theories of "scientific government," only to propose a similarly formal (and similarly incomplete) replacement for said theories.

The fallacy of viewing government as an engineering problem is that every conceivable solution screws someone over. When we ask for a stable system, we are really asking for a recipe for successful permanent subjugation - of whomever; an end to the music in a game of Musical Chairs. And naturally , you will hear few complaints from those already seated.

June 26, 2008 at 9:08 PM  
Blogger mtraven said...

You've certainly found a good foil for yourself in Žižek, much better than Chomsky or that humdrum Swarthmore assisstant professor.

"However, for Žižek, the rule of the law conceals an inherent unruliness which is precisely the violence by which it established itself as law in the first place." (from the Wikipedia article)

That sounds about right (a rather trite sentiment for such an apocalyptic thinker, actually). Violence was used to establish current property rights and is presently employed by the state that defends them; I see no particular reason that this process should suddenly stop.

If the worst effect of antinomianism you can think of is doing donuts on the freeway, I really think civilzation can weather it. Somehow it survived white teenagers drag-racing from the 50s and onwards, and even greater challenges.

June 26, 2008 at 10:36 PM  
Blogger John S. Bolton said...

The "pinhole leaks" of power to lots of local unworthies would not be accidental, but a feature of the system: power-sharing to reward the faithful, power-greedy types who are thus both neutralized and kept on board.

June 26, 2008 at 11:14 PM  
Anonymous Solar Union said...

byrne:

It is ridiculous to presume that every exercise of power is self-justifying.

But why should we presume that any exercise of power is self-justifying? The pronomian answer seems to be that it is just a reflection of reality that the strong dominate the weak, and that at a base level there is nothing to be done but to accept this. At higher levels, the exercise of power can be justified by an appeal to stability, but it seems strange to import utilitarianism (a Whig philosophy) at this point.

The place where this is particularly problematic in MM's explanation of the nomos is his discussion of the ownership of children by their parents. In childhood, this can be a simple recognition of reality. The child can offer no effective resistance to the parent's use of force. But what is the justification for extending this one-sided "agreement" into adulthood? Every second trailer park has its case of a 12-year-old boy who has killed his abusive father. Can pronomianism defend on its own terms the use of force by, say, the urauthority, to protect one-sided agreements when the party that imposed them no longer can do so?

Let me say that I am not, in MM's terms, a Progressive, and I'm not defending the impulse to "seize power in order to do good," by which he defines Progressivism. But I don't see any grounds by which a pronomian can consistently, on his own terms, criticize Progressives. To look at it from another perspective: in what way were the Bolsheviks different from any other self-interested urauthority, and how, other than in rhetoric, which I hope we can agree to dismiss as meaningless, was the Russian Revolution different from a sovereign bankruptcy using the Wand of Fnargl? In what way is Lenin a worse Receiver than Charles Edward Stuart, and by what consistent criterion is this determined?

June 27, 2008 at 6:40 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 27, 2008 at 7:34 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

JA -
The second is a response to MM's observation that progressivism continues to advance, generation after generation.

How about this then - you observe that 'faction B' is always a generation behind 'faction A' and that B embraces A's views of that generation before. So far so good.

Yet the troubling part is 'faction A' is constantly calling B names like 'fascist', etc.

If B's are all 'fascists', then what are A's? Advanced fascists?

June 27, 2008 at 7:43 AM  
Blogger Byrne said...

Solar Union

I was criticizing your earlier assessment that, because all pronomian systems require the exercise of power, they are all designed to protect the interests of the powerful. I think a more careful formulation might be that they are designed to protect the owners of assets, and that power is an asset. But in the present political climate, it's an asset that is earning a subpar return. Imagine having a monopoly on law enforcement and defense, over 300 million of the most productive people on earth -- and it has accumulated losses of over $9 trillion, with no end in sight.

The point is that one can establish a system that is profit-focused, not power-focused, by treating power as a source of profit rather than some mystical trust or absolute good (or absolute evil, for certain libertarians). It would make the power business a whole lot smaller (there's no reason a defense/adjudication company would want to get involved in the education business, or in selling underfunded annuities on layaway).

Can pronomianism defend on its own terms the use of force by, say, the urauthority, to protect one-sided agreements when the party that imposed them no longer can do so?

I'm not sure what the pronomian party line is, here, but I must point out that state intervention in the name of protecting children offers lots of what Leo Strauss called "retail sanity and wholesale madness".

In what way is Lenin a worse Receiver than Charles Edward Stuart, and by what consistent criterion is this determined?

Again, I don't speak for MM or the other pronomians, but I think the criteria might be:

* That Lenin is not shaping the country up for shareholder control, but is running it for other reasons.

* That Lenin is unable to convince people to stick around, and in fact must use force to keep them from patronizing other urauthorities.

MM boiled a whole lot of messy non-reasoning about the State into a single criterion: fidelity to promises. You seem to be claiming that the essential process here is the boiling-down, not what you end up with, and you've thus reduced a single principle to no principles at all. The Bolsheviks do not run their state like a business, a trust, or a competitive monopolist -- they just run it badly, and they do not accept defection to other purveyors of the same product. People would pay to get rid of them; I think the minimum criterion for a pronomian state is that people ascribe a positive monetary value to rule-by-them versus rule-by-nobody.

June 27, 2008 at 7:57 AM  
Anonymous Solar Union said...

Byrne:

The point is that one can establish a system that is profit-focused, not power-focused, by treating power as a source of profit rather than some mystical trust or absolute good (or absolute evil, for certain libertarians). It would make the power business a whole lot smaller (there's no reason a defense/adjudication company would want to get involved in the education business, or in selling underfunded annuities on layaway).


That's fine, but then the only criticism of Lenin's urauthority is that it's not run as profitably as it could be. But what's your basis for making that criticism? It's Lenin's urauthority, not yours. He owns it, and its residents, and can dispose of them however he likes. You can criticize it on any number of bases, and indeed you should, but not, as far as I can see, on any that follow from what MM laid out above.

Let me try this another way. I see perfectly well the ways in which MM's imaginary Stuart Restoration is a "successful" restoration, and Nazi Germany is a "failed" restoration, but I can't find any difference between the two that's a matter of political theory or a principle of governance, rather than simply MM's preferences in how an absolute authority ought to run their private state.

I get the feeling that we're talking past each other here. I think it may be that I am questioning whether total concentration of political power is a good thing, and that you are accepting total concentration of political power as a given, and discussing how that power ought to be used?

June 27, 2008 at 8:23 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Mark:

Yet the troubling part is 'faction A' is constantly calling B names like 'fascist', etc.

Take a person P. If that person is the type to throw around wildly inapplicable labels, every person to the right of P is a fascist and everyone to the left is a communist.

That's got nothing to do with this discussion, though.

June 27, 2008 at 8:35 AM  
Anonymous Solar Union said...

Taking another tack. I understand the results that MM would like to see. What I don't see is a political theory that justifies those results. MM posted what looks like a political theory above, but it's one that justifies practically any result. If all this is just about MM's personal preferences, I should probably just shrug my shoulders and say, "well okay, then."

June 27, 2008 at 8:42 AM  
Blogger Leonard said...

Can pronomianism defend on its own terms the use of force by, say, the urauthority, to protect one-sided agreements when the party that imposed them no longer can do so?

Well, I think the idea is that the balance of power is still as it was originally. It is not one individual's power vs another individual's. Rather it is one individual plus the state vs another individual. Clearly, whichever side the state sides with wins, and will always win. This is the reason why the pronomian state is so stable: nothing is more powerful than the state and so the power relationship in any agreement that is formed can never change.

Of course, the implicit assumption here is that the state chooses sides in every single agreement or imposed relationship. This is stupid and silly, but it does appear to be how MM is thinking: "maximum promise enforcement is optimal customer service". Obviously I disagree, and this gets back to the matter of individual power. Individual humans do have some power, even vs the state. Most particularly, against a profit-maximizing state an individual always has the threat of acting in a manner that will reduce profits. Of course the state can always threaten dire consequences, but only up to a point. How about inflicting torture and death for failure to design an integrated circuit quickly? Think that will work?

Otherwise the solution to the conundrum about slavery (not to mention many other problems) is clear enough: the state should not allow the creation of "agreements" involving people making slaves. Mind you, it should do this not because of any silly notion that slavery is wrong or anything like that -- it cares naught for wrong and right. But it should do it to maximize profits.

June 27, 2008 at 8:46 AM  
Anonymous c23 said...

I don't think pronomianism captures the essence of the Right. Where's the respect for identity and tradition? Suppose a pronomian government flooded the US flooded the country with a few billion brown-skinned, non-Christian immigrants (which they would probably do if it sought to maximize its tax base)? Do you think Pat Buchanan and Lawrence Auster would prefer it to our current government?

Also, I don't think government interference in things like child slavery is necessarily antinomian. Just make it part of the deal that if you are a subject of a particular state, you emancipate your child at 18. It would be perfectly formal. Most, if not all, current laws, including the ones that piss off libertarians and conservatives, could probably be justified in a similar way.

BTW, I'm not trying to come out against child slavery. I once came up with the idea of buying and selling options in children, so you could invest in those who are likely to grow up to be productive. The best implentation I could come up with was to have a contract between investors and parents such that investors get a certain percentage of the child's income, and hope the child doesn't leave their parents out to dry. A friend who's more familiar with the law said that the courts would probably let them weasel out of it. But in MM's world, you could freely invest in children. Result - Idiocracy doesn't come true. Child slavery is awesome!

June 27, 2008 at 9:18 AM  
Blogger Byrne said...

c23

Milton Friedman explored something similar to the child-option thing, as an alternative to scholarships: pay for someone to go to Harvard, in return for which you get 10% of his income forever. I definitely think it's a good system.

We're able to do that on a larger scope, of course: the US government owns some common stock, subordinate to certain preferred shares, in my income: they get a small fraction of it if it's low, and up to about 50% if it gets higher. Similarly, you can buy a fraction of the output of a large number of productive individuals by investing in stocks, or a larger fraction of the productive ability of a small group by investing in startups.

It's a useful way to think about the world: you start to wonder if income taxes can be opposed on 13th amendment grounds, for example.

June 27, 2008 at 9:23 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

Where's the respect for identity and tradition?

Exactly. In trying to define political thought linearly, Mencius is setting up his model along the Legitimacy - Rebellion axis. Meanwhile, there is a whole different axis out there: the Particularism - Universalism axis.

Respect for identity and tradition, a Right province, shows a perticularist orientation, completely independent of the Nominalism axis.

June 27, 2008 at 10:01 AM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

Dear people who think TGGP might be a Mencius puppet because no one else is that long winded.

I humbly press the submit button.


Leonard, I always wanted to say this to someone, and now I'm going to not because I think you deserve it but to see what happens.

Your refutation of Mencius' anti-anarchism cant is weak and generally beside the point. If you want to do it properly, see below. (By all means attempt to reverse this if you can. Note that I'm anarchist but not anarcho-capitalist or anarcho-socialist)

Also, there is natural law. It's self-ownership.

"To a pronomian, the relationship between parents and children is simple. The agreement has only one side. Children promise their parents everything, including complete obedience for as long as the parents require. Parents need make no promise to a newborn infant, because an infant is helpless, and cannot compel any concession.

And this is why Mencius is not libertarian, or more precisely, anarchist.

The child has not promised anything of the kind, (how do you extract such a promise from a pre-language infant?) and indeed even if they can somehow be twisted into promising implicitly, they're doing so under duress, which means it's not voluntary and thus not valid.

For instance, as soon as the child understands contracts, (which is actually very early) you could contract with the child to promise eternal slavery or else toss them on the street to starve.

Uhhh... About that.

"In other words, parents can have no reason to prefer a legal system which gives them less power over their children."

Except that you generally want capable and well-adjusted children, both for your gene's success and so other people's children aren't running interference. Laws such as these are very much contradictory to this goal, because humans can tell that it's corrupt, and it causes them significant stress, even as their material self-interest drives them to take advantage of it.

For instance, it's in your material best interest to lie like crazy, just as politicians, lawyers, and marketers successfully do. But you don't, because you just prefer to not be a liar. You just prefer the situation where you can be honest.

Similarly with slavery. People just prefer not to use it, though it's hard not to abuse it if they can.

And anyway, as Mencius mentions, the structure is to some degree natural. There is no need to reinforce it with legal sanctions.

Conversely, automatic legal slavery is very much not natural, due to A: a small child's inability to follow orders and B: the grown child's ability to ignore their parents. To reverse the second case requires violent force.


Hereditary slavery:

A charming thing about the fact that children aren't responsible to their parents is that it kills hereditary slavery. Because yes there aren't slaves at the moment, but both of us see no particular reason to stop a person from selling themselves into slavery.


Anarcho-Capitalism:

If unathorities exist, then they cannot form valid contracts, for the same reasons that children are not responsible to their parents. If they cannot form contracts, they do not in fact have any rights.

Poof. Anarchism.

Either contracts can be enforced without violent monopolies, or they're basically a legal fiction.

Even if I assume I made a mistake, my unathority (Canada) has no nomial recourse to e.g. tax me, because my birth does not constitute a contract granting them that right. Births cannot coherently constitute arbitrary contracts without constituting every possible contract. Canada is able to define such a 'contract' only because no one who could stop them cares to do so.

As I mentioned before, humans are much happier when might does not make right. The fact that nearly all tax-funded institutions are basically the opposite of what they're supposed to be supports this.


We have separation of church and state because the state corrupts the church.

We want separation of education and state because the state corrupts education.

When do we admit that the state simply corrupts and realize we also need separation of state and security?

One of the things I don't understand is this obsession with having defense agencies associated with specific turf. This is unnecessary, and would be detrimental to a free market in contract defense. If your defense agency breaks its contract, you can transfer to a different one. Obviously, such a useless defense agency would rapidly lose custom and go bankrupt.

There's no need to move, any more than there's a need to move if you change your cell phone provider, which is another network that requires companies to allow competing capital over their turf.

There is still the question of what happens if a large violent monopoly attacks a collaboration of defense agencies.

First, one word: Nukes. Mencius has already touted this as the solution for inter-unathority relations.

Second, I don't know if you've noticed, but we seem to have solved the invasion problem. WWII really was the war to end all wars, at least in the first world. We're all Switzerland now. I'd really like to know why that is.

Third, I don't honestly see any a priori reason why such a collaboration couldn't be effective. Certainly there may be practical obstacles, but that just means that Anarchism is a futuristic political system that doesn't work without, e.g., the internet.

"The error is to imagine the existence of a superhuman legal authority"

Are humans moral, or not? If not, then we probably shouldn't have a government, because a priori it will be headed by an evil person.

Similarly, all of our moral outrage against the breaking of contracts is just hypocritical self-interested propaganda. Antinomialism is, in fact, the real natural situation, and if we want the legal system to represent it...well I guess we're doing a good job.

If humans are moral, then we have a candidate for a super-legal authority.

I also have a second candidate; logical consistency. A logically consistent formalism is the very opposite of the rule of judges. I would submit that you're using this goal anyway to analyze whether the legal system is valid.


I'm actually a fan of physical patents. What's wrong with Apple having exclusive right to make iPhones?

Intellectual property is broken because we treat it like physical property. For instance, you cannot steal an idea. If you take my idea, I still have it. Also, if you vandalize my iPhone I can buy another but if you vandalize my ideas I cannot re-buy into them.


I do like this idea that we shouldn't try to reorganize ownership. If anarchistic theory is correct, it should self-correct anyway with simple fixes like making taxation contractual instead of illegitimate. If the free market isn't being actively suppressed, it will find a way.

Realize this; the free market is people. It is people finding solutions to problems that they have. If e.g. government inefficiency is a problem, then it will be fixed, if you let people go about fixing it.


This is actually two of the reasons I like this blog, possibly the two main ones.

Mencius is aware of the actual issues, and brings them up with clarity.

Mencius is nothing if not thought-provoking.

Also, Mencius' history is way, way better than mine, but his logic, while very good, is still a lamb to my slaughter. I get to learn and feel superior at the same time! It's a win win! I must be a white people.

If I could get Mencius to listen to one criticism, it would be that if I didn't already agree with him, a lot of what he said would appear to be nonsense.

I have to supply my own evidence, which is contra to Mencius' stated goals.

"As we've seen, the one thing an antinomian cannot abide is a formal and immutable distribution of the revenues of state."

"Why is antinomianism, this criminal ideology, so popular? Fashionable, even? Why is it such a good fit for Q? Because people love power, and any movement with the power to destroy anything, or even just "change" it, has just that: power."


The first is essentially a definition rather than a insight. While it technically is supported by the article, here's the chain of logic:

The only way to support property rights is through an unauthority.

A powerful unauthority will always protect property rights.

Antinomians practice antinomialism for the purposes of acquiring wealth and/or power. That is, provisionally destroying property rights.

This means Antinomians view a powerful unathority as an obstacle.

Additionally, a unauthorities are the only institutions that can be completely welched without going under.

Antinomians therefore cannot abide a powerful unauthority, and instead seek to take it over.

Let me know if you think an open-minded progressive is going to engage in this chain or if they're simply going to say that it's wrong.

The second quote begs the question so hard that I think it popped.

So, Q is fashionable because people love power, and that's why Q is in power.

Oh god it hurts to even type it out.

Nevertheless, I know what he meant. No one who doesn't already agree with him will.

There's also the problem that you'd have to be a retard not to know that Q just means liberalism. He's very clearly assuming the antinomian connection, rather than actually proving it.

"Antinomianism, with its love for reaching into these structures of private agreement and breaking them to serve some nominally noble purpose,"

These are far from obvious consequences of the simple doctrine of antinomianism. Why do the purposes have to be noble? The breaking is supported but not obviously so. (It does so to reallocate resources.)

You can test my little theory by asking an open minded progressive, "Why do people become antinomian?" Their answer will be orthogonal to the things Mencius says here.

For the interested, the nomos is the single principle of self-ownership, from which you can derive a full set of ethics, which I've done here.

June 27, 2008 at 10:08 AM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

Mencius considers those other features of the right, like particularism, as dilutions and generally orthogonal to the main axis.

Most probably anyway.

June 27, 2008 at 10:14 AM  
Anonymous Half Sigma said...

This blog would have a lot more readers if the posts where shorter. No one would be reading the Stuff White People Like blog if each post were as long as a short book.

This is meant as serious advice for increasing your readership.

June 27, 2008 at 10:21 AM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

But he would alienate his current readers, if I'm any indication. (I may not be.)

June 27, 2008 at 10:30 AM  
Anonymous c23 said...

byrne, Friedman's idea for college funding is a good one, but it does not do anything to increase the birthrates of the kind of people who could even dream of going to Harvard (except in that new graduates wouldn't be crushed by student loans when they're still in their reproductive years, since it would spread the pain throughout their working life).

June 27, 2008 at 10:31 AM  
Blogger Leonard said...

Suppose a pronomian government flooded the country with a few billion brown-skinned, non-Christian immigrants (which they would probably do if it sought to maximize its tax base)?

I agree with your main point, which is that neocameral states would want immigrants, and not care about culture. These two things combined would make most conservatives unhappy.

I would quibble, though, that a neocameral regime would not concentrate on brown-skinned immigrants. Rather it would select immigrants by IQ, skills, and education, regardless of skin color. Also, I have the feeling that a neocameral regime would not want to let in too many immigrants of any given race/religion/ethnicity, at least if those attributes were different than the regime's apparat, because doing that would tend to raise policing expenses. It's cheaper to police a working class that "looks like the world".

Combined, these two aspects of immigration policy would, at least, have the effect of defusing the cultural impact of the immigration wave.

However, in a world full of neocameralist states, any given state is going to work awfully hard (i.e., give up a lot of profits) to attract immigrants. So, the problem of immigration only really applies to the first few large neocameralist states.

It's unlikely that the USA will be the first neocameral government the world sees. Rather more likely it will be last. The pioneering, if it happens at all, is going to be small countries, autonomous regions, leased areas, etc.

June 27, 2008 at 10:47 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

Rather it would select immigrants by IQ, skills, and education, regardless of skin color.

The idea that states today desire high-quality smart immigrants strikes me as somethign of a propaganda piece. First-world states have plenty of native-stock IQ.

What they want is a menial labor force. And if their children are unlikely to rise to white-collar, so much the better for the capitalists.

That said children will be more likely to be a burden rather than an asset (since second-generation laborers aren't as eager to labor as their immigrant parents did) so much the better for leftists, who want the socialist voters.

June 27, 2008 at 11:00 AM  
Blogger Leonard said...

pa, we're not talking about states today, who have every incentive to attempt to let in new citizens who will vote progressively. Nor are we talking about states containing vast patronage organizations devoted to shepherding dependent citizens through life, cradle to grave.

We're talking about neocameral states, which are (at least according to MM) completely insulated from popular opinion. These states gain nothing from letting in voters, of any kind, because there is no voting. And they would never allow in non-productive citizens -- quite the opposite; they'd be looking for ways to exclude them if outside, and deport or just kill them if already inside. (Depending on how educable such people were, and how easily they might be replaced by more profitable immigrants, a neocameral state might also attempt to reeducate them towards production.)

Neocameral states will want the most productive workers possible, because they generate more taxes. Remember that a neocameral state, like modern states, effectively owns all of its subjects. The difference is the neocameral state is sharply focused on maximizing revenue. More people is more taxpayers, so a neocameral state will want to increase its population almost without end. They'd only stop when a marginal subject is revenue-neutral for the state. So, if they have a whole world full of deranged progressive democracies to draw from, they will first let in the most productive immigrants, as fast as they can build the infrastructure necessary. (Which should be pretty fast indeed.)

June 27, 2008 at 11:21 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

When do we admit that the state simply corrupts and realize we also need separation of state and security?

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

We admitted it several scores ago. We then, however, scuttled it.

June 27, 2008 at 11:35 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Alrenous -- 1/2s is certainly wrong about post length. And I do believe you're mostly right about the "already agree with Mencius" tack. I think it could be better stated that these posts are for former or nearly former progressives -- people who have become disillusioned with the system (like Mamet, for instance) but are still drifting around trying to see the alternatives -- Menc is good for showing them why they were right to feel wrong about being a progressive.

June 27, 2008 at 11:41 AM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Leonard sez:

Neocameral states will want the most productive workers possible, because they generate more taxes. Remember that a neocameral state, like modern states, effectively owns all of its subjects. The difference is the neocameral state is sharply focused on maximizing revenue. More people is more taxpayers, so a neocameral state will want to increase its population almost without end. They'd only stop when a marginal subject is revenue-neutral for the state. So, if they have a whole world full of deranged progressive democracies to draw from, they will first let in the most productive immigrants, as fast as they can build the infrastructure necessary. (Which should be pretty fast indeed.)

Which is why I still think Cuba is the best place to Experiment (Haiti and the DR aren't bad choices either -- and for more developed nations I would recommend Ireland and Iceland). You could ship infrastructure supplies from the US, have 11.4 million laborers, and build a tech/tourism empire in a matter of months. Heck, it wouldn't even cost you much as long as you were willing to take expat $$$. As far as nation-building revenue streams go, Cuba's it.

June 27, 2008 at 11:51 AM  
Anonymous c23 said...

Leonard, the immigrants would necessarily be non-white because the majority of productive workers in the world are non-white, especially the ones who are looking to emigrate. I'm not saying that a neocameral government would purposely attract non-white immigrants because they're non-white, just that that's the way it would work out. Admittedly, the term "brown-skinned" was poorly chosen because there would be lots of East Asian immigrants, but the point remains that the current population of the US would be severely outnumbered by foreign immigrants, so conservatives would deplore the pronomian government.

It's true that the immigrants would be drawn from various cultures, but that would just make the entire country look like New York. Conservatives (at least of the paleo variety) hate New York and do not want this country to be like New York.

It's really weird that a correspondent and self-proclaimed fan of Lawrence Auster like MM would equate pronomianism with the Right. Auster always says that the defining characteristic of the Left is their belief in equality, so the defining characteristic of the Right would be the belief in, um, not equality (Auster's better at criticizing the Left than coming up with alternatives).

June 27, 2008 at 11:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Auster's better at criticizing the Left than coming up with alternatives

Auster does in fact offer solution to the problems he describes.

June 27, 2008 at 12:43 PM  
Blogger Leonard said...

c23, I think that the stream would be a lot whiter than you do, but then that's in part because I think that East Asians are in the midst of the "bleaching" process, much as Italians, Irish, etc. in history. 100 years from now, or even 50, they'll be "white", too. (All to the good, IMO.) But I agree with you that conservatives would deplore the sheer levels of immigration that a lone neocameral state would achieve. Even if they all came from just Europe, they'd still grumble about people speaking French in the street.

On the other hand, I think that immigration (into a lone neocameral state in a disfunctional world) would be one of the few places paleoconservatives would dislike neocameralism. They'd certainly like the safe streets featuring no black men doing donuts, the squeaky cleaniless and general lack of squalor, religious and educational liberty, state-supported work ethic and childbearing, etc. I think they'd support the thing strongly, on net.

June 27, 2008 at 12:50 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

Palmer

Yes, I like that. Nearly former progressives.

Because, the thing is, changing your mind is a voluntary process, which means that before you are convinced you have to agree to be convinced.

The only time you're ever going to get anything out of MM is if you already have doubts.

Being open-minded is not enough, you have to be actively looking for alternatives.

June 27, 2008 at 1:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Which is why I still think Cuba is the best place to Experiment (Haiti and the DR aren't bad choices either

It remains as laughable as ever to think that one could create a neocameralist paradise out of three Caribbean hell-holes that have languished for centuries under vicious dictatorships of various sorts. Hello, slight human capital problem? Why do you think ANY of the current inhabitants would agree with the premises of neocameralism? If productive and profitable nations could be made out of these cesspools, it would have been done long ago.

Iceland and Ireland, eh, at least those people have lived in a decent, productive, functional society, and are educated and literate, so you have a better foundation if you can convince them to cast off the mental chains of their progressive habits of thought.

June 27, 2008 at 1:48 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

I've been neglecting to comment, just as MM has been neglecting to read them, but I thought I'd point out that there are people who support a rather Rothbardian anarcho-capitalism that accept slavery contracts. Walter Block discusses such a Libertarian Theory of Inalienability here. Rothbard himself thought parents could neglect their children and let them starve and that children did not become self-owners until they elected to leave home (thereby homesteading themselves). I support MM's view on both pre and post-natal abortions here.

I also thought I'd let people know that MM and I have been arguing about "social science" in the comments of this GNXP post.

June 27, 2008 at 2:09 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Laughing Anonymous,

Perhaps you missed the part about free and unrestricted immigration of talented people. Who wouldn't want to move to Cuba? Haiti and Cuba are hellholes because they have been woefully mismanaged. The State can simply say "whoever wants to leave can leave and whoever is skilled and wants to come can come" -- I imagine you could even pay for tickets and severance packages for those leaving -- say a budget of 50 billion? You could give each leaver $5,000 for getting the hell out of your country. Why wouldn't it work?

June 27, 2008 at 2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps you missed the part about free and unrestricted immigration of talented people. Who wouldn't want to move to Cuba?

ROFLMAO! To ask the question is to answer it. What talented person would want to move to those hellholes, even if they were "under new management", unless and until the existing population of ignorant, unproductive savages had been exterminated, enslaved or deported (processes which would not exactly inspire confidence in the good intentions of the new management)? And how do you expect the ~10 million people who already live in each of the countries in question to react to the news that they'll be under new management? Management that prizes profitability and that will give short shrift to useless mouths?

You could give each leaver $5,000 for getting the hell out of your country. Why wouldn't it work?

Where are they gonna go? Why will their destination(s) accept them? What are you going to do if they don't want to go?

Why do you even want to start your utopia already in the hole by 10 million useless mouths?

Free and unrestricted immigration is the hobby horse of so many libertarian imbeciles. Free and unrestricted immigration would be the doom of any neocameralist regime just as it would any libertarian regime or indeed, of any regime whatsoever. Free and unrestricted immigration in practice only brings in exactly the people you don't want (contrary to the idiotic dogma of the Wall Street Journal, the White House, and other propagandists).

June 27, 2008 at 3:39 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

I find it amusing that MM has time to read and comment on other blogs but not his own.

This may be because, and here I don't necessarily include myself, the intellectual firepower here is far less trivial.


Next, Cuba. This is what science is for. Let's try it and find out.

Give me Cuba and absolute power. I'll need an army and 5-6 years and I'll show you what to do with a country full of near-negative human capital.

(First and maybe second year I'll be floundering around going "Durr?" and I'll take a normal presidential term after that. Then I'll go up for re-election, though hopefully by the owners rather than the populace.)

The fact that we can't even attempt this experiment, not with Cuba nor even with a small town in Canada, suggests that those is power know full well how it would go.

June 27, 2008 at 3:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know you like amusing links, so I suggest you emend your essay to link the "no one cures cancer with LSD" to Carcinoma Angels by Norman Spinrad. A summary is available at Wikipedia.

June 27, 2008 at 3:53 PM  
Anonymous PA said...

the intellectual firepower here is far less trivial.

The intellectual firepower here is petty impressive, but it can also drift toward insipid nerdorama. The best discussion at UR stay tethered to the real world and don't drift off into speculations on post-human robotics.

June 27, 2008 at 4:19 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

More exact analogies between states, even a Cuban Alrenous-archy, and families.

Should citizens have a say in public policy?

Well, should children be the ones to decide the house rules?

Are citizens really like children? How much do children know about parenting? How much does a plumber know about governing?

This is probably why we have the phrase, "Don't tell me how to do your job." The person who provoked this comment likely implicitly thinks, "But I tell pols how to do their jobs all the time."


The best discussion at UR stay tethered to the real world and don't drift off into speculations on post-human robotics.

Yet another good reason for MM to ignore his own comment section.

June 27, 2008 at 4:45 PM  
Anonymous c23 said...

Intellectual masturbation about the details of governments that will never exist in a million year = real world.

Intellectual masturbation about the interaction of said goverment with world-changing technology that has a chance of existing in our lifetimes = irrelevant tangent.

I get it now.

Leonard, you're just plain wrong that paleocons would approve of such a government. Just ask some if you don't believe me. Paleolibertarians don't count.

June 27, 2008 at 5:03 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

First, your idea that they won't exist is mere opinion.

Next, the point of deriving government from first principles isn't always to build a working government.

The point is to compare an ideal government to actual existing governments. The result, as expected, is appalling.

Discussion of of speculative technology has neither first principles purity nor diagnostic virtue, though is still good exercise for the brain.

June 27, 2008 at 5:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you are a tosser of the highest order

June 27, 2008 at 5:39 PM  
Anonymous Blode said...

Oh, yeah, anonymous, I totally agree. Somebody is a real big jerk! I'm not saying who it is, but he's a total bastardhead of the lowest caliber. Or something.

Anonymous people are weird.

June 27, 2008 at 6:03 PM  
Blogger Leonard said...

c23, are you a paleocon? I suppose it is possible we have no paleocons here at all, but it would be nice if we did, so we could just ask one or two how they feel.

June 27, 2008 at 6:47 PM  
Anonymous Blode said...

From alrenous:
As I mentioned before, humans are much happier when might does not make right. The fact that nearly all tax-funded institutions are basically the opposite of what they're supposed to be supports this.

Can you rephrase that? I'm lost.

These are far from obvious consequences of the simple doctrine of antinomianism. Why do the purposes have to be noble? The breaking is supported but not obviously so. (It does so to reallocate resources.)

You're right. I think Moldbug means modern, organized antinomianism, which always attracts people through glittering generalities about social justice. Old-fashioned banditry was quite antinomian; pirates used to refer to death as their trip to Hell, etc. That's just very out of fashion in a progressive-idealist world.

byrne and Solar Union, will you explain what you mean by "self-justifying"? I'm getting tripped up because the word "justify" has two nearly opposite meanings ... something like "to say something is just which is really not" and "to make something actually just". So I get lost quickly in your argument.

June 27, 2008 at 6:55 PM  
Anonymous Blode said...

I wish I were more of a paleocon so I could answer c23's question. Hmm. I tend to think they would like it more than most any status quo government, because the neocameral state wouldn't be putting its fingers in their little cultures and neighborhoods and the like. Immigration authorities would keep allowing in all sorts of foreigners, but never ones likely to become wards of the state.

And when they did move in, they wouldn't threaten existing neighborhoods through court-ordered integration or any of that. Whether they'd threaten the existing culture, in the minds of paleocons, I don't know for sure.

Question: How would a neocameral state deal with a population of Amish, or Russian Old Believers, or something like that? Those folks are about as paleocon as you can get, even if they don't know it, and I don't think their existence hurts productivity too terribly much. If you go into their towns and bulldoze everything, it may hurt national morale enough to hurt productivity.

That's the kind of freaky thing about the neocameral state that makes the sort-of-paleocon in me nervous ... you sort of need a propaganda machine to make sure everyone would be so sad that if you were killed/bulldozed/assimilated unto nothingness, they would lose a day of work due to sadness, or else hit themselves in the thumb with a clawhammer or something. Obviously few people shed a tear for a crackhouse getting levelled, and lots of people would shed a tear for the Amish getting thrown into busses or whatever (I would), but certain reactions are surprising. (How many tears would you expect to be shed for Mumia if the case were only hypothetical ... no hindsight? I would have guessed wrong.)

The goal of minimizing violence and allowing freedom - via state-level profit maximization - seems predicated on everyone viewing certain potential incidents in a predictable way. If your Fnargl decide only to enslave unpopular people and make them work in coal pits, it doesn't seem like that would hurt morale too much.

And, the self-assessed property taxation scheme I've been previously enamored of seems to mean that, if you want to live somewhere permanently, as a firm community like paleocons love, you've got to be pretty productive so you can assess your property highly and afford the taxes. So a development company could buy out the Amish pretty easily, just by buying saying every fourth Amish house and thereby altering the character of the community so the rest would leave.

So c23 and Leonard get kudos for asking a toughy.

June 27, 2008 at 7:15 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

As I mentioned before, humans are much happier when might does not make right. The fact that nearly all tax-funded institutions are basically the opposite of what they're supposed to be supports this.

Two principles. First, humans are moral.

Second, taxes are immoral.

I believe both are true but can't conclusively prove either.

Let me play out a scenario applying both the principles.

Say you are given the opportunity to steal $1 billion from Bill Gates. No one will blame you, an indeed some will praise you.

Does Gates deserve it? No.

Do you really want to do it? No, because it would mean you're a thief, and you don't want to be a thief. Only a very few people don't care.

Will you do it anyway? Probably. The temptation will be sublime.

Will the money, analogous to tax money, make you happy? No, it will not. Every time you look at that figure in your account, you will feel a twinge of conscience. You will get material things at the expense of the things that matter.

I submit that child-slavery is so obviously repugnant that you can't help but rebel against it even as you take advantage of it. We remember what it was like to be a child. The parent cannot dissociate from the victim.

The other thing about doing immoral things is that it corrupts. Paying taxes is obviously repugnant. Therefore, taking tax money should cause corruption.

Tax funded institutions are almost all corrupt.

Foreign aid? Nothing to do with aid and the target audience isn't foreign.

Social Security? Nothing to do with society and harms security.

Healthcare? Yeah we need a separation of state and healthcare. Canada's is socialized and people die on the waiting list. The US system is even more fucked up.

Welfare? Reverses the incentives to get out of poverty.

Education system? Indoctrination system that discourages creativity and curiosity.

US Department of Defense? Attacks people; has almost never met an enemy on native soil. Provokes attacks of self-defense.

Homeland security? Stated purpose harms security and has nothing to do with homelanders. Actual actions for the security of those in power against homelanders.

EPA? Yeah as you can find on unenumerated, we fixed acid rain. The system could easily be adapted to CO2 within two years if the EPA was actually about protecting the environment.

...Universities?

...Research grants?

I wouldn't have put so many examples but I was having fun.

June 27, 2008 at 7:49 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

So I don't know how many of you have seen WALL*E yet, but apparently the credits designers and Mencius feel the same way about architecture.

Once the humans are rebuilding Earth you can see that all the buildings are quite clearly Belle Epoque-style, sitting in bright contrast to the industrial wasteland of Earth they returned to.

Another interesting thing -- apparently Pixar now has enough money that they can give a big FU-Q to Globocongolomotron-type corporations (which, oddly enough, as satired would include not only Microsoft and Wal*Mart but Apple and Disney, too).

At any rate:
Alrenous et al, I'm glad you understand the logic behind Cuba as a choice. If Saturday's Anonymous hadn't been so engaging I would have written Anons off completely.

June 27, 2008 at 8:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Give me Cuba and absolute power. I'll need an army and 5-6 years and I'll show you what to do with a country full of near-negative human capital.

Hey, knock yourself out. Castro has been trying that formula ("I have an army and lots of good ideas!") for ten times as long as you propose, and it has gotten him exactly nowhere. He has, after 50 years, what you would have after 5 years - a prison full of sullen, cowed and worthless slaves.

You people who want to experiment on Cuba and Ghana and such places suffer from the same delusions as the US educational establishment and numerous other Marxist-dominated organizations (including, ironically enough, the nation of Cuba). Namely, that human beings are infinitely malleable, and any two large groups of human beings will be essentially identical physically, mentally, and psychologically. Thus, to you, it doesn't matter if you start with ten million Cubans, ten million Haitians, ten million Americans, ten million Zulus, ten million Japanese, ten million Irish, or ten million Icelanders. Neocameralism, in your view, would have an equal chance of success for each group (no real difference between 'em, y'see), and you would have an equal chance to convince each group of the rightness of your cause (infinitely malleable, y'see). I view these assumptions as simply absurd, and thus the conclusion that Cuba (!) could be completely remade along neocameralist or even libertarian lines in 5 years as nothing less than preposterous.

On the other hand, you wouldn't be the first despot to subject a bunch of hapless peasants to crazy ideas. I dare say you'll find Cuba no better suited to MM's ideas than El Supremo found Paraguay suited to Rousseau's ideas, but he had fun trying and so will you if you get the chance.

US Department of Defense? Attacks people; has almost never met an enemy on native soil.

You regard these as negatives? They are a sign of basic competence if you ask me. A military that only fights on its own soil is inept to say the least.

June 27, 2008 at 9:43 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

Castro has been trying that formula ("I have an army and lots of good ideas!") for ten times as long as you propose, and it has gotten him exactly nowhere.

1. That Castro has good ideas is pretty speculative.

2. If he really has absolute power, which I seriously doubt, then all we've proven is that he's a bad manager.

You see, I don't have ideas, good or otherwise. I have goals. I use ideas as tools to achieve these goals. I've found that this makes me an order of magnitude more effective.

Second, I actually doubt that Castro really gives a shit about Cubans. If he did, then he would regard the sullen slaves as a failure and at least attempt to fix it. More likely he's just enjoying the power and lack of accountability, and spends his time politicking to remain powerful.

Namely, that human beings are infinitely malleable, and any two large groups of human beings will be essentially identical physically, mentally, and psychologically.

That would be an idea, not a goal. If it works as a tool, I'll use it. If it doesn't, I'll use something else.

I haven't read the rest of your post but I bet I can use it all to prove my point, just as I did now.

Thus, to you, it doesn't matter if you start with ten million

Conflation. You're saying it doesn't matter what I start with because I think they're all the same.

I'm would say it doesn't matter because I'll adapt to local conditions. The goals are primary, not my perceptions.

I view these assumptions as simply absurd,

It's probably a good thing I don't hold them, then!

So, err, you're giving me the green light on the Cuban thing?

could be completely remade along neocameralist or even libertarian lines in 5 years as nothing less than preposterous.

Certainly those are my ideals but would not be my goals. My goal would be profitability, and secondarily upholding the values of my cattle - the populace. Happy people are productive and need far less supervision.

Actually, the whole point of the experiment is to prove that formalism leads to profitability. I will obtain profitability, but will I have to discard formalism?

Anyway, you still haven't addressed the fact that while we can get funding for particle accelerators, we can't do a control experiment for nomianism by, you know, testing it on a city somewhere. By consent, of course.


US Department of Defense? Attacks people; has almost never met an enemy on native soil.

You regard these as negatives? They are a sign of basic competence if you ask me. A military that only fights on its own soil is inept to say the least


And my point is that it's not the department of defense. It's the department of offense. You haven't disagreed with my main point. But I'll humour you...

So, you have a nice reliable method of deciding which of these deathfests are necessary and which are total wastes of domestic lives? Similarly, the algorithm can tell when these parties of agony at the neighbours can end?

No, the most competent army never fights at all. And if they do, they don't start overseas. They start by razing the invading/threatening army and then razing the supporting bases. If they can't raze the invading army, then they probably also can't win in the foreign theatre. Home field advantage, if nothing else.

Thinking about terrorism.

"We need to stop some terrorists that are operating out of your country."

"Well, you can't come in!"

"Yeah, that wasn't a request. You can cooperate or we can assume you're harboring them. We come in with your blessing or over your body."

However, for this to happen, you have to have some actual terrorist attacks. A single data point is not a trend.

June 27, 2008 at 10:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The GXP thread was fun & interesting. Comparing the timeframes to this Soviet program described in the video now.

-Mark

June 28, 2008 at 6:20 AM  
Anonymous c23 said...

blode, good point about how a neocameral government would be less intrusive towards paleocons than our government is. However, it may have some (non-do-gooderish) incentives to interfere with them. For example, look at the current Muslim boycott of Denmark over cartoons depicting Mohammed. A neocameral government would find the boycott bad for business, and would have an incentive to shut the cartoonists up.

More generally, it would have an interest in making sure its citizens got along. If you make a racist, sexist, or homophobic comment in the workplace, you are liable to be fired - granted, that's mostly because they don't want to get sued, but they also just want everybody to get along so things run smoothly.

Alexander the Great tried to unite Persia and Greece, going so far as to strongly encourage his men to marry Persian women, for similar reasons.

leonard, I'm not a paleocon, but I'm probably the closest thing that you'll find around here.

June 28, 2008 at 5:17 PM  
Anonymous m said...

I want to second anonymous's following two points:

- "Free and unrestricted immigration is the hobby horse of so many libertarian imbeciles. Free and unrestricted immigration would be the doom of any neocameralist regime just as it would any libertarian regime or indeed, of any regime whatsoever. Free and unrestricted immigration in practice only brings in exactly the people you don't want (contrary to the idiotic dogma of the Wall Street Journal, the White House, and other propagandists)."

- "You people who want to experiment on Cuba and Ghana and such places suffer from the same delusions as the US educational establishment and numerous other Marxist-dominated organizations (including, ironically enough, the nation of Cuba). Namely, that human beings are infinitely malleable, and any two large groups of human beings will be essentially identical physically, mentally, and psychologically. Thus, to you, it doesn't matter if you start with ten million Cubans, ten million Haitians, ten million Americans, ten million Zulus, ten million Japanese, ten million Irish, or ten million Icelanders. Neocameralism, in your view, would have an equal chance of success for each group (no real difference between 'em, y'see), and you would have an equal chance to convince each group of the rightness of your cause (infinitely malleable, y'see). I view these assumptions as simply absurd, and thus the conclusion that Cuba (!) could be completely remade along neocameralist or even libertarian lines in 5 years as nothing less than preposterous."


How about this for an assumption, guys: government does not exist in a vacuum. All governments in the history of the world have grown corrupted and eventually disappeared; what has survived afterwards is the people themselves, their values, religion, intelligence, aggression levels, etc. Mix very different groups together on a large scale and you end up with endless friction, higher security and capital costs, lower social capital, mutual distrust, etc etc etc. Look to LEBANON (large influx of Shiites destroyed their historical role as the jewel of the Middle East) or TURKEY (incrementalism against their unnatural separation of church and state) as perfect examples.

June 28, 2008 at 6:42 PM  
Anonymous Blode said...

I wish moldbug would talk more directly about immigration. Neocameralism seems to be neutral or positive toward it while moldbug himself said somewhere that he wants basically to ship home as many helots as possible (I can't find it; my bad but I'll keep trying).

My guess is that profit-maximization is more of a guideline, and less of a rule, than moldbug is really letting on. Let's say your big government-business thingamajig see two different highly profitable strategies and can't predict which is more profitable. Or, one has a higher expected profit but a much higher standard deviation as well. In that case, they could simply use - for want of a better word - conservative principles to help decide.

So, if somebody says "A goldmine can be made in profits with cheap, imported labor" and another person says, "Maybe, but they may revolt and burn down our lovely factories, while there is at least a silvermine in more reliable, though pricier, domestic labor".... Your neocameral decisionmaker certainly has some latitude for decisionmaking.

Moldbug's goal is the minimization of violence. His overall strategy to get to that goal is stability. "Profitable statism" (my phrase) is simply an underpinning of the stability, and IMHO it is too big a part of his focus (though it is an undoubtedly interesting part). He maintains that attempts to conventionally build support for shrinking government have had their shot and can be judged failures, but I'm willing to give them another decade or so of web-based political discourse before I'm going to call them dead.

June 28, 2008 at 7:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That Castro has good ideas is pretty speculative.

No more so than that you do.

If he really has absolute power, which I seriously doubt, then all we've proven is that he's a bad manager.

All we've proven is that you don't understand his goals.

You see, I don't have ideas, good or otherwise. I have goals. I use ideas as tools to achieve these goals. I've found that this makes me an order of magnitude more effective.

I hope you have impressed yourself with such glib weaselry, because you sure haven't impressed me.

There is no dichotomy between "ideas" and "goals". A goal is a future condition that does not presently exist except in your mind. Ergo, it is an idea. Your "goals" are your ideas about how you want the future to look.

Anyway, for nearly 50 years, Castro has had goals, and has used ideas as tools, and has had an army to back him up. There is no reason to believe you'd be an order of magnitude more effective at achieving your goals with respect to Cuba than he has been.

Second, I actually doubt that Castro really gives a shit about Cubans. If he did, then he would regard the sullen slaves as a failure and at least attempt to fix it. More likely he's just enjoying the power and lack of accountability, and spends his time politicking to remain powerful.

It's not clear that you give a shit about Cubans, either. You just want 10 million lab rats to play with, and for some unknown reason you think Cuban rats will submit gracefully to being used to test your outlandish theories and to achieve your goals.

It is entirely possible that Castro has achieved the most that can be achieved given the human and material resources at his disposal, and therefore he has done all the "fixing" he can do.

That would be an idea, not a goal. If it works as a tool, I'll use it. If it doesn't, I'll use something else.

It is not a tool for you to use or not use. It is your basic assumption, whether you know it or not (and apparently you don't). If you did not think Cubans were essentially identical to any other group of 10 million humans, and did not think they were malleable, then you would not even be talking about using them as instruments for achieving your goals. You would be looking for a better group!

I haven't read the rest of your post

Your reading comprehension seems pretty poor, so I don't think it would benefit you if you did read it.

I'm would say it doesn't matter because I'll adapt to local conditions. The goals are primary, not my perceptions.

You can either admit that you have to make major changes in Cuban culture, psychology, and personality (among other things) in order to achieve your goals, or you can admit that your goals are unachievable with Cubans (in which case, why bother?). Your call.

It's probably a good thing I don't hold them, then!

Yes, you do. Or you wouldn't even be talking about Cuba.

My goal would be profitability, and secondarily upholding the values of my cattle - the populace. Happy people are productive and need far less supervision.

If you want a profitable population that needs minimal supervision, you would never in a million years start with Cubans! Good God, these people have been the exact opposite of profitable and personally autonomous (i.e. not needing supervision) for the past 50 years! And you think you're going to turn that around in 5 years? That's crazy! You would only think that if you assumed human beings were infinitely malleable, as I said.

And my point is that it's not the department of defense. It's the department of offense. You haven't disagreed with my main point. But I'll humour you...

Do you think such sophomoric wordplay is meaningful? I personally think it should be called the Department of War, though it would not change anything about its nature or function to change its name. It certainly would not in any way negate its defensive function if it only fought "away" games and never "home" games.

So, you have a nice reliable method of deciding which of these deathfests are necessary and which are total wastes of domestic lives?

"Necessary" is not the right metric, if you mean morally or legally necessary. One can certainly benefit from an unnecessary war. The US has done so repeatedly.

Some "away" wars are profitable. All "home" wars are a disastrous waste of resources, because they would never happen to a competent government.

Similarly, the algorithm can tell when these parties of agony at the neighbours can end?

They never end! International relations isn't a problem that can be "solved" and made to go away. Are you really so ignorant of history and human nature as to think that there will ever be an end to war?

No, the most competent army never fights at all. And if they do, they don't start overseas. They start by razing the invading/threatening army and then razing the supporting bases. If they can't raze the invading army, then they probably also can't win in the foreign theatre. Home field advantage, if nothing else.

A military that waits to be invaded is the very definition of incompetent!

June 28, 2008 at 9:15 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

Anonymous, your contempt for me only reflects badly on you.

And that's all I have left to say to you.

June 28, 2008 at 11:06 PM  
Anonymous Blode said...

All "home" wars are a disastrous waste of resources, because they would never happen to a competent government.

So what competent decision could the government of Belgium made in 1914 to avert war on their territory? Neutrality didn't save them. Alliance with the UK didn't save France. Invasion of Germany didn't save Russia.

What competent decision could the government of Denmark made in 1940 to avert war on their territory?

If you're making an exception for world wars and/or small countries, you should clarify.

June 29, 2008 at 6:27 AM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

So, Mencius says public policy is not scientific.

I agree with him.

Yet, I think we should test formalism on some country (Preferably a willing one.)

How does that work out?

Is Mencius saying that public policy can't be verified? Is he saying that it's not objective?

No, he's saying that it's not scientific, and exactly that it's not scientific.

You can verify it, but there's always an element of interpretation. No matter how many data or how many algorithms you get, you won't be able to accurately represent the conditions of society through math.

Thus, there is always a judgment call.

I get it now! That makes so much sense!

Science is useful to public policy but cannot be public policy.

June 29, 2008 at 8:23 AM  
Anonymous PA said...

Yet, I think we should test formalism on some country

Who is "we" ?

June 29, 2008 at 8:33 AM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

Society in general.

People who have access to the general body of knowledge.

June 29, 2008 at 10:04 AM  
Blogger master_of_americans said...

Let me see if I have this straight. "Nomos" is said to be based on binding contracts. Children are at the mercy of their parents and thus can be expected to agree to any contract their parents choose to force on them. However, as others have pointed out, newborn infants do not make promises, binding or otherwise. They just cry, and then you make a decision to do what they want or not. They promise nothing in return. Therefore, a promise of lifelong fealty must occur sometime after the child is born, when they become old enough to make a meaningful promise. I have no idea what that age is, but let's assume it is sometime shortly after the child can talk. We'll call this the "age of binding".

Thought experiment time: suppose you are a child being raised by your parents. They miscalculate your age of binding by a few days. During the gap, you are kidnapped by a pedophile, who forces you to pledge to perform sex acts for his benefit for the rest of his life. Twenty-five years later, you have grown into a strapping adult man or vigorous adult woman skilled in krav maga. Your deranged kidnapper is now a feeble old man. According to the terms of your contract, however, you are bound by law and honour, to continue being sexually molested by him.

A more perverse result from a legal system could hardly be imagine, no?

June 29, 2008 at 5:10 PM  
Blogger Leonard said...

MoA, you're thinking about contract in a modern way -- as something voluntary (and meaningfully voluntary) on both sides. But a pronomian explicitly does not require consent to have an "agreement" (hence scare-quotes). He merely examines the power balance. I have argued above that there are reasons why even a hardcore pronomian state would not allow slavery: it's economically inefficient. (Private slavery, I mean; everyone is to a degree a slave of the state.) Be that as it may, if it did, there would be no consent. Children would be assumed, by law, to be the property of their parents. Full stop. This is at age zero, or even before birth.

June 29, 2008 at 6:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what competent decision could the government of Belgium made in 1914 to avert war on their territory? Neutrality didn't save them. Alliance with the UK didn't save France. Invasion of Germany didn't save Russia.

You have to start the competence clock an appreciable time before the first enemy jackboot comes clomping down on your soil. The fact that Belgium was invaded does not mean that there was no policy that could have prevented it under any circumstances.

It certainly was not the French intention to fight WW1 on their "home soil" - enjoying that supposed "home field advantage" - as alrenous suggests would have been the "competent" thing to do. A simultaneous Franco-Russian offensive against Germany was the right strategy, though poorly executed.

What competent decision could the government of Denmark made in 1940 to avert war on their territory?

Again, the competence clock has to start well before 1940.

If you're making an exception for world wars and/or small countries, you should clarify.

Small powers obviously have less control over their future than large ones, and sometimes can wind up getting smacked no matter what they do.

I did have large powers in mind when I made that statement - powers that have a real choice between an offensive policy and a defensive one.

I have argued above that there are reasons why even a hardcore pronomian state would not allow slavery: it's economically inefficient.

Slavery is not inefficient under all circumstances. I dare say there is a price of oil at which slavery is economically efficient.

June 29, 2008 at 8:00 PM  
Anonymous Solar Union said...

Leonard
MoA, you're thinking about contract in a modern way -- as something voluntary (and meaningfully voluntary) on both sides. But a pronomian explicitly does not require consent to have an "agreement" (hence scare-quotes). He merely examines the power balance.

But power balances change, just as in MoA's example. The pronomian position seems to be that "agreements" (maybe we should call them uncontracts?) made under one balance of power are still binding when the balance of power changes completely. What's the justification for this?

June 30, 2008 at 7:14 AM  
Blogger Leonard said...

solar, as I explained above (June 27, 2008 8:46 AM): the power balance never changes as soon as the state puts its thumb on the scale.

Of course, this begs the question to a degree. Why should the state do that in literally every conflict? MM just says it will; my guess is that MM thinks things would be more stable that way.

I like "uncontract". Now, that's a correct use of "un"! It's a contract of sorts but... not.

June 30, 2008 at 7:31 AM  
Anonymous Solar Union said...

leonard:
solar, as I explained above (June 27, 2008 8:46 AM): the power balance never changes as soon as the state puts its thumb on the scale. Of course, this begs the question to a degree. Why should the state do that in literally every conflict? MM just says it will; my guess is that MM thinks things would be more stable that way.

Okay, yes. I understood that, but it's good for you to make it explicit. I guess my question is the same as yours: why should the state intervene? I don't get stability as a justification, because it's not a justification on purely pronomian terms: it imports utilitarianism.

If the argument is that urauthorities will do it because it's profit-maximizing, why do we assume that urauthorities maximize profit rather than something else? Is there any explicitly pronomian reason for them to do so? It seems like pronomianism-as-a-political-theory only holds together if you import the rest of neocameralism, but those features don't seem to have a necessary relationship to pronomianism.

June 30, 2008 at 8:45 AM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

Can't get ought from is. There's no real justification of any motivation.

Just for completeness, I mention that you can sometimes get ought-not from is.

June 30, 2008 at 9:19 AM  
Blogger Leonard said...

why do we assume that urauthorities maximize profit rather than something else?

Well, recall that MM is conflating urauthorities, and sovcorps. (MM has taken to "sovorg" for this, but I quite prefer the earlier neologism.) He is not drawing any distinction between them.

MM models the behavior of his neocameral "primary property" sovcorps on the behavior of the corporations which currently exist, that is, "secondary property" corps. And for these, we know that they are strongly profit-maximizing and not much else. There are some corps, i.e. Apple, that have at least a hint of ideological flavor to them. But I doubt even Apple shareholders would be willing to give up very much profit for anything intangible.

You are right, though, that profit maximization is a feature we should expect out of a neocameral corp, not necessarily a pronomian state. As I daid, MM thinks they are the same. But I think there are probably many possible "agreements" -- particularly uncontracts -- which a pronomian state would enforce (because it is ideologically committed to enforcing every single promise and unpromise, bar none), but a sovcorp would not (because they are not profit maximizing).

June 30, 2008 at 10:25 AM  
Blogger master_of_americans said...

Well, it does sometimes seem as if the description given is saying that pronomian "agreements" don't actually have to be voluntary. However, what Mencius actually says in so many words about it is this:

"The nomos is the natural structure of formal promises around which Urplatins organize their lives ... All promises are voluntary until they are made, and involuntary afterward."

Regarding the balance of power, it seems trivial to say that the balance of power always lies with person X (say, the pedophile from my previous example) if the state chooses to side with that person. Why on earth would the state choose to side with the pedophile in this case?

June 30, 2008 at 9:04 PM  
Blogger G. M. Palmer said...

Vaclav Klaus on environmentalism:

"I understand that global warming is a religion conceived to suppress human freedom," he told editors and reporters at The Washington Times. "It is used to justify an enormous scope for government intervention vis-a-vis the markets and personal freedom."

Not that it's terribly on topic but figured most of us would enjoy the read.

M

July 1, 2008 at 5:38 AM  
Blogger Leonard said...

Why on earth would the state choose to side with the pedophile in this case?

I don't think it would; a case like your former example could not happen because parents own children. However, we might imagine that a father, who according to MM owns his 10 year old daughter in toto, starts fucking her. So, it's close enough.

There's two answers there. One is, that stability is the most important thing ever, and therefore the property right in the girl must be honored. This is what MM is flirting with when he says: "The agreement has only one side. Children promise their parents everything, including complete obedience for as long as the parents require." I'm not really sure he's thought this through completely. Then again, he does make it clear that his idea countenances slavery, and he OK with that.

My answer is, that in fact there are natural rights of a sort based on our human moral instincts. Since pedarasty and incest are both revolting, it will be a crime in every state, no matter whether it is neocameral, pronomian, or socialist (including democratic). Yes, fighting crime does mean interference with the nomos, but that's fine, because it is the criminals that interfere with the nomos first.

Put another way, in my world, nobody has a right to fuck 10 year olds, full stop. This right is never owned by anyone other than possibly the 10 year old: certainly not a random stranger, not the parents, and not the state. A state that fails to protect children is a criminal state.

That's a moralistic view, that MM would dismiss as progressive, as antinomian. After all, the state is much more powerful than the girl; therefore it (or someone it assigns) must own the right to fuck her. That's the hard, cold, throbbing nomos. I don't understand why it does not occur to MM that the state might assign the right to the child herself, and thereby head off problems while maintaining the nomos. He seems to be mesmerized by the fact that absent the state, the girl would not own the right. But the state is not in fact absent.

I don't think any state could ignore our moral instincts. Once word got out that certain people were abusing children, and the state was on their side, there would be unrest, mass demonstrations, perhaps mob violence. Of course, the state could put these down, as MM likes to fantasize, with la machinegun. And that would almost certainly "work". The state would almost certainly maintain power. But (a) it would be costly, gunning down your capital. Would you burn a stack of $100 bills just to make a point? And (b), "almost certainly" isn't good enough... when you can have "certain" for just a tiny tweak in the law that barely affects anyone at all (incestual pederasty being highly deviant). As Moldbug himself said elsewhere: "Once people even start to see you as powerful, rather than responsible, a crack has appeared in your armor. You have enemies. And who wants enemies?"

There's also a second means to deal with bad law within a neocameral state: appeal to the stockholders. They are humans, not Fnargl, and therefore just as repulsed by incest and pederasty as anyone else. I think it's likely they would be willing to change the law if it someone got out of whack, based on the economic calculations in the previous paragraph, but also on simple humanism. They might take a tiny hit to profits, but that, I think, would be acceptable.

This demonstrates a second way in which I disagree with MM. In everything of his I have read, he treats the neocameral state as a pure profit machine, essentially devoid of any ideological content. But this, I think, is wrong. It is another example of treating the neocameral state as a simple extension of modern secondary corporations. Secondary corporations do approximate amorality, but that is because they are secondary: people understand that they should go to the state for justice, and corporations for profit. (And even so, people do attempt shareholder proselytization at times, with nonzero effect.)

BTW, there's one more way to deal with the problem of bad law within a world of many neocameral states: leave. (MM likes to imagine a world of 30000 neocameral states.) Competition in law provision basically smuggles popular morality into the amoral state, as a matter of profit maximization. A state that cannot control emigration must maintain a legal corpus that appeals to its citizens, else they will leave and go somewhere else where the law is more to their taste.

July 1, 2008 at 8:11 AM  
Anonymous All_Wars_Lose_Lose said...

I think we can pretty much break down who you are by two key rules that you scream and whine for endlessly:
1."Promises" are forever, regardless of their providence.
2.People who "will lose" shouldn't fight back.

And who believes, completely pationately, in these two nonsenses?

A pack of thugs that run around screaming and bullying others. Clearly they have what's they need to "wins". Of course, if the "losers" fight back, they take casualities... and if that happens enough, they all dead. And, of course, if the "losers" ignore the "wins" then the thugs can never turn their back, or they hang.

So you are, at heart, a thug. Really. That's it.

Fighting back doesn't have to win, all it has to do is credibly prove Lose/Lose. In fact, almost ALL wars against even much weaker powers are Lose/Lose. So I guess almost all wars are run by idiots.

July 1, 2008 at 6:21 PM  
Anonymous Lugo said...

My answer is, that in fact there are natural rights of a sort based on our human moral instincts. Since pedarasty and incest are both revolting, it will be a crime in every state, no matter whether it is neocameral, pronomian, or socialist (including democratic).

Just wait, my friend. It wasn't so long ago that you would have found widespread agreement that "natural law" prohibited homosexuality. Human moral instincts find homosexuality revolting, and therefore it will be a crime in every country, no matter what its form of government! In fact, wasn't so long ago that it was a crime in every country. Now things have changed, and I don't put any kind of perversion out of bounds on the basis of "natural" human repulsion. The day may yet come when we view homosexuality as a "conservative", old-fashioned form of deviance.

people understand that they should go to the state for justice, and corporations for profit.

Americans, at least, do not permit corporations to pursue profit in an unrestrained, amoral manner. Indeed, there is an increasing demand that corporations pursue "justice" of various kinds as well as profit.

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